Note attached by R. F.
Hanson: My letter to Ciano after reading his entirely false
and fictional account. I was surprised to read his letter and
Virgil Marco just added here and there to make what they must
have believed would be a great story.
El Centro, Cal
Mike; Virgil Marco in Texas sent me a copy of your
story "Bailing Out Over Belgium" 3 or 4 months ago, I have
been in touch with him for about 3 years, he initially contacted
me about information on Pete Clark . Since that time he has sent
me the address of Solomon, Pavelka and Chet Hincewicz. He is a
really dedicated researcher and has done a lot of such work in
getting such war information. I have since written back and
forth with Chet since then. In reading over your story I find
several points where I remember things differently; of course, I
realize that with the passing of the last 50 years, and the
exciting situation we experienced that memories can become
dimmed etc. So I will list these points and then discuss them
No. l - I was not on the bus with the rest of you.
No. 2 - Lt. Burtt was not injured. He was put into the
same cell with me for a couple of days in St. Gilles prison.
No. 3 - Chet never did go back to waist section.
No. 4 - Panic among the gunners. Only 1 gunner and 1
No.5 - Pete Clark was the Tail Gunner, not you, and I
am sure you remember this.
Regarding No. 1, I landed in a small Belgian farm
commune type settlement. They put me on a bike and escorted me
about 300 yards or so up to a farmhouse. Here they fed me and
put me in a suit of civilian clothes with red necktie. They ware
afraid of the Germans searching the area, so gave me a bike and
told me to follow a teenage lad on a bike. We rode an hour or
so, and at the edge of a town, I believe it was Huy, a man
stopped us for I.D. So that was it. I was hauled up the street
to police headquarters and interrogated. Then they took me down
to the basement and put me in a room, before long Gilsdorf,
the Co-pilot was put in with me. He was still in flight gear.
They obviously hoped we would get to talking. That night they
hauled us in a truck to Brussels and put us in St. Gilles
prison. I never saw Gilsdorf again, but was put into a small
cell with about 4 other guys who had been caught in civilian
clothes. I was held here for 6 weeks. But after 2 or 3 days
there Lt. Burtt was put into my cell, still in has flight gear.
They obviously were seeing if we were talking. He was only
there 2 or 3 days and I never saw him again.
Regarding No 2, because of what I just stated about
being with Burtt I know he was not injured.
As to No. 3 because of what happened to Chet, and
the quite short time between being set on fire and bailing out
there was not time. I recently contacted Chet about this and he
Regarding Point No. 4, it seemed strange that you
related such a story. In case you don't remember the only
gunner up there was Chet in the top turret, which is directly
above the radio room. A 20-mm shell apparently exploded just
outside the top turret, breaking all the plexi-glass bubble
away. Some of it must have struck Chet's head, because he came
kicking down out of the turret in sort of a temporary daze. So I
crawled up into the turret, find if that the plexi-glass was
gone and could not see because of the 185 mph wind, so came
down. The bomb bay was getting very filled with smoke so I
turned and told Pavelka, he told me to jettison the bombs, so I
did that. This fortunately left the bomb bay doors open so we
were able to get out later. All this smoke was apparently coming
from the fire in the left wing, because the only fire in the
bomb bay was a brief one when the hydraulic tank was hit and
fluid ignited. As far as me bailing out first, I did not.
Shortly the fire burned a hole in the left wall of the radio
room and a blowtorch-like jet of flame, as I remember, about 8
inches in diameter from the wing, shooting about 3 feet into the
room at that time. So I turned and hollered to the pilot that
the fire was there. When I turned back Chet had just bailed out,
and then I went, setting down on the catwalk and tumbling out.
As to Point No. 5, Pete Clarke was definitely the
tail gunner, and I don't think that the passing of time has
clouded your memory to that extent and I was amazed that you
would concoct such a story.
After a 6-week stay in St. Gilles prison I was sent
down with a group of others on a train down the Rhine river to
the Dulag you mention, apparently all P.O.W.s go through that.
From there I was put onto a train with a number of other
prisoners and after 4 days travel, we ended up in Northwest
Poland at Stalag Luft IV, a very new camp. In fact when we
arrived there, there were less than about 600 prisoners there.
After several weeks, one day another group of prisoners were
brought into the compound and I was very surprised to see
"Doodlebug" the Ball Turret gunner, Robert Hansen. He
eventually told me about the fateful day, and said that Clarke
had been asleep in the tail turret and never had fired a shot. I
can remember Chet, before he was knocked out, screaming over the
intercom "there comes one, get him Clarkey", but ...
Hansen said that he had broken an ankle when he hit the ground
and spent time in a hospital, and I imagine that is what
happened to you.
In talking with Chet recently, he did say that he
went into the bomb bay "to put out that hydraulic fire, but
I don't remember if he did or not. But at the time I jettisoned
the bombs there was no fire, only dense black smoke.
I hope all is well with you,
R. F. Hanson