I Got Shot Down
Seven airmen talk about the event none wants to experience.
- By Phil Scott
- Air & Space magazine, May 2004
(Page 4 of 8)
When the war was over on the 8th of May, I was just east of Berlin. In the middle of the night there was a big, big bang—every cannon was fired. It was like World War III. After about a week I got away from the railroad track. I found a bicycle and the pain on my leg was horrendous because I had to pedal. On the way I found some rhubarb and some sugar molasses. I found maybe dirty water. From Leipzig to Munich I helped myself by hanging on with my bicycle on the American convoy trucks and I made that distance in about two days. I could not pedal anymore. The Americans were amused that this dirty man was hanging on and they let me.
I got through all the control points. When we came to Munich I lost my bicycle in the French Zone. The [French] soldiers took it from me. It was almost a fight. The soldiers put a pistol on my chest. I made it home on 18 May. It was my birthday. I was 21. I [had] lost 30 pounds.
NAME: Major Edward Izbicky (U.S. Air Force)
AIRCRAFT: F-86 Sabre
CONFLICT: Korean War
SHOT DOWN OVER: Yalu River Reservoir, near Kwan-Dong, North Korea
I was shot down by a MiG-15 in February 1953. We were on air surveillance, flying high CAP [combat air patrol] for fighter-bombers. All the -86s used to patrol up there to make sure nothing was going to shoot down our fighter-bombers. I parachuted into a village and the Korean Home Guard captured me and took care of my wounds. I got shrapnel in my back and left shoulder and a piece in my left wrist, and when I landed in a frozen rice paddy it busted my knees open. It was about 30 degrees below zero.
They turned me over to the Chinese, who had me blindfolded. The Chinese ate a lot of garlic so I could smell it on their faces when they came close to look at me. They hit me and kicked me, and they took me up to an air base in Manchuria, and there I met the Chinese pilot who said he'd shot me down. He shook my hand and thanked me. [The Chinese] trucked me blindfolded to an interrogation center and interrogated me eight, 10, 12, 15 hours a day for the first 30 days or so. They sentenced me to 100 years in solitary.
They were transferring me a week at a time or so to different parts of North Korea and had me isolated. Every so often I'd get interrogated. I faced three or more firing squads, and I dug my own grave about three times. I just took my time—it kept me away from interrogation. They pointed their rifles at me and they just went click, click, click—there were no bullets in them.
After they sentenced me, they put me in a box long enough to stretch my legs out. I had to lie down in it—there wasn't much room. I was in there for a week with no food or water, and then they'd take me out again to interrogate me and I wouldn't submit so they put me in there again. One guard seemed sympathetic. He sneaked me water every so often.
The war was over in July. They didn't tell me until August. They put me in a truck and drove me to a train station and put me in [a train for] Panmunjom. The last day they released prisoners was August 6th. I got out on August 5th.