I Got Shot Down

Seven airmen talk about the event none wants to experience.

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NAME: Feldweibel (Flight Sergeant) Oscar Boesch (Luftwaffe)
AIRCRAFT: Focke Wulf 190A-8
SHOT DOWN OVER: Garz, Germany

Our field was northeast of Berlin, near Garz, a little village about five kilometers west from the river Oder. Twenty-seven April [1945]. Russian aircraft were attacking the field, so three or four aircraft took off without any command and just tried to defend our airport. Everywhere you looked there were Russians but no formations; they were loose. Visibility was poor, clouds were all over. I noticed an aircraft coming head on, and I realized it was a Russian Yak 9. They were an excellent aircraft, like a Spitfire, and much lighter than the 190. The 190 had also excellent maneuverability, but the Yak could turn tighter because of the light weight.

At the same time we opened fire at a distance of maybe a mile or two miles, and of course at our speed it was a matter of seconds only. We wanted to bypass each other, but we brushed each other and our two craft disintegrated. Half a minute later I was standing on the ground with my parachute, looking up—it was so fast my brain couldn't fathom what happened. Debris [from both airplanes] was still raining down. I was injured; I lost my four front teeth bailing out. I fell into the tail section of my aircraft and injured my left knee—I tore a ligament.

I was just about half a mile from the fighting front. It was a very dangerous area. One minute later the Russians came from all sides. It was vicious; they tried to rip me from my flightsuit. I'm sure they would have killed me on the spot if [I didn't have] protection from a Russian officer, and I knew why he protected me, because for the next two days I was interrogated 10 times, every time by a different officer. Of course, the interrogation was understandable because they wanted to know where the defense of Berlin was. I didn't get a bite to eat and not a drink of water.

On the third day I was put in a horse-drawn wagon with two wounded [German] infantrymen and a guard and one driver. We must have lost our way because they unloaded us in a little meadow near a village. Just close by was a wooded area like a Christmas tree farm. We expected to be shot. The guard sitting with us was very tired and didn't pay any attention to us; he thought we cannot run away. I had the impression he was falling asleep and I backed away. I ran away—probably 100, 200 feet. It was a run for life or death. Lucky enough they did not search for me.

All over I heard the engines of the tanks and the Russian soldiers preparing for the Battle of Berlin. I knew of the railroad line to Berlin, and I [oriented myself] from the North Star so that I go south. I had to go through [an area along the railroad] about 400 kilometers from the Russian-occupied frontline [to get home to Austria].

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

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