Raymond T. Walton, a former Iowa Farm Bureau Insurance executive, Deputy Attorney General for the State of Iowa, and a private practice attorney in Davenport, Iowa, passed away January 14, 2005, at the age of 83



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Raymond T. Walton, a former Iowa Farm Bureau Insurance executive, Deputy Attorney General for the State of Iowa, and a private practice attorney in Davenport, Iowa, passed away January 14, 2005, at the age of 83. After Ray’s death his family uncovered his personal World War II diaries dating from October 1944, when he was shot down near Cologne and became a prisoner of war, to his eventual liberation in May 1945 by Russia’s 3rd Ukrainian Army.

While his family was generally aware of these diaries no one had read them in their entirety or reviewed them with Ray. Now the full story of Ray’s escape from a stricken bomber and incarceration in a German prison camp is being made known.

Ray’s diaries are in three parts. He started to organize them into a single manuscript that, as some believe, he intended to title Men with Broken Wings. The first part, entered on a legal pad, is an account of a parachute escape from his B-24 Liberator. Next is a penciled diary written on discarded cigarette packages numbered 19 to 35 and 210 to 247. The final part of the journals is on a form supplied by the Swiss Red Cross. The parts somewhat overlap and fill the gap between pages 35 to 210 of the cigarette packages.

After the war Ray apparently transcribed his notes from the cigarette packages to the Red Cross forms and later to a legal pad, editing and typing a portion of the diaries while discarding some cigarette packages. Fortunately, a substantial portion of Ray’s diaries exist in their original form together with the typed transcripts.

Ray’s family is engaged in making their father’s chronicles available to individuals and organizations engaged in documenting the history of WWII. Michael J. Walton, Davenport, IA, is collaborating with Walton Mountain News to publish excerpts from his father’s diaries.

Ray’s account of his bail-out from a bomber in his 6th combat mission begins below. Future WMN releases will cover some of his POW experiences, including an unexpected encounter with Delmar, Iowa native John Powers, Magdalena Manemann Walton’s nephew and the wife of Raymond E. Walton, Ray’s uncle and namesake.

*****


On 14 October 1944 Cpl. Ray Walton, a B-24 waist gunner, participated in an attack on the railroad marshaling yards closely adjacent to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. Ray’s aircraft, #195 in the 579th Squadron under the command of 2nd Lt. T. G. Crenshaw, was struck by AA fire over the target and observed peeling out of formation with #4 engine smoking. One crew member egresses through the bomb bay but his chute failed to open. Two others were seen with chutes open. The following is Walton’s diary account of this event.

The group was thundering into Cologne at 20,000 feet and had just turned at the Initial Point when we received our first flak hit. The plan lurched crazily but stayed with our element and continued the bomb run. The I.P. was ten minutes from the target and the proper place to open the bomb bay doors. Due to some confusion when one of the ships up ahead had been hit we had opened ours prematurely. The radio operator always jumped down on the catwalk to check the bomb shackles once the doors were up. He must have been pitched out into space by that first burst.

For the next few fateful minutes the anti-aircraft batteries below seemed to zero in on us. The excitement within mounted as each hit whammed home, adding the sickening sound of tearing aluminum to the steady roar of the engines. The Liberator, so sturdy and dependable at take off in the morning was now a flaming shambles, crippled and falling back out of formation. Then the pilots’ tense voice broke into the interphone, clogged with panic stricken commands and counter commands. “Salvo the bombs and bailout…Salvo the bombs and bailout…Pilot to crew bail out!”

It was unbelievable, so unreal but still there was no reprieve, no alternative. Now the bailout buzzer was sounding its’ urgent warning throughout the ship. The small door between the waist and bomb bays had blown off. I could see that there was one 500 pound bomb left. The shackles were fouled. The bombardier and the navigator were crawling out of the tunnel from the nose. Up on the flight deck someone was wrestling with the engineer who had been off oxygen too long and was trying to get the bomb bay doors closed. If he had succeeded the men in front would have been virtually trapped because the hydraulic system was knocked out. There wouldn’t have been time to manually crank them up or get back to the rear escape hatch.

I had been watching parts of the plane whiz by my waist window so the pilots’ grim command didn’t take me completely by surprise. I pulled off my helmet, goggles and oxygen mask with one motion. The snaps on my flak vest wouldn’t yield to my anxious fingers but I finally shook my way out of it and hooked on my chest chute which had been hanging on my harness by one ring. Then I went back to help Davey the tail gunner out of his turret. One the way I knelt down and opened the escape hatch on the Liberator’s floor between the waist positions and the tail. Dave didn’t require help. He had performed a back flip out of his seat and while I was latching the door of the hatch he stripped off his armor and put on his parachute.

Now the three of us, Davey, Fred the other waist gunner, and I were standing over the opening looking down, down. Then there was an impasse. Who would be the first to plunge into the unknown? Dave and I pointed at each other, Fred at both of us. There was much shouting and meaningless gesticulation. But undecided this was no time for bickering. I took my position, standing on the rear edge of the hatch facing the nose of the plane. To abandon a stricken bomber this was a standard operation procedure. I had never jumped before; it was something you didn’t practice, too risky. In fact, you didn’t even plan on it unless you were a complete pessimist.

I dove out through the hatch, was swept up by the prop wash, and whipped into a crazy tail over teacups somersault. Down through the lower Squadrons I plummeted, rolled up in a ball with my arms locked around my knees. There were fleeting glimpses of B-24’s rushing by. In a fraction of a second I was far below them. I stretched out my arms and legs forming an X. This stopped the gyration and enabled me to float down through the sky in a leisurely free fall.

It was very quiet. The only sound was the wind softly whistling by. The deafening engine noise, the vibration, the crash of flak was a distant memory. Thought came clearly now. I said a prayer and thought about pulling the ripcord. I remembered the instructions. Bailing of a plane four miles above a target you delayed the opening of your chute to avoid frost bite, passing out from lack of oxygen, getting tangled up in propellers, or crashing into a vertical stabilizer. Also, a delayed jump gave the enemy on the ground less time to detect you and get a reception committee to the spot where you would land. The possibilities of a successful escape were enhanced.

At a briefing that morning we had been told there would be cloud cover at 7,000 feet. However, when I was enveloped by those clouds I decided the game wasn’t worth the gamble. Unable to see the ground below to judge how far away it was, or the speed at which I was rushing toward it, the thought struck me that maybe the clouds extended close to the ground. The temptation was too great. I pulled the rip cord.

Nothing happened, or it seemed that way. I wasn’t even conscious of a jerk or sudden stop but when I emerged from the clouds that beautiful canopy was wide open. I could have safely waited. The earth was still several thousand feet below. The contrast between hurling through space in a free fall and now decelerated by the open parachute gave me the feeling of being suspended in mid-air. My mind turned to an article I had read about a paratrooper caught in an unusual air current that prevented him from descending for a half an hour. Crazy thoughts come to mind!

This is really my day! It’s not enough to have the plane shot out from under me. Now I’m going to have to sit up here in the sky all afternoon for the edification of those none too happy burghers of Cologne down below.

But before I could pursue this thought any further it became obvious that failure to fall was not my problem. The city below was taking shape. I was drifting away from the target area which was now aflame. The Rhine River was to my left. I was coming down in the northern outskirts. Now I could make out the people racing down a road below, some on bicycles others on foot. Like Joe DiMaggio under a fly ball, they were intent on catching me where I landed.

There was a wooded sector over to the right. I yanked the shroud lines in an effort to slip my chute in that direction and almost spilled it. In a second I dropped a hundred feet before it billowed out again. This unnerved me. Before I could attempt something else the earth rushed toward me. It was a lot like shooting a landing in a light plane. I cleared a barn, then a fence, and now my feet were touching the ground. I was running the chute dragging along the ground in front of me. I crawled up the shroud lines; the umbrella collapsed. To use the term loosely, I had made a safe landing!

A throng of hostile faces surrounded me. A soldier prodded me with a rifle while another went through my pockets. I was unarmed but the search yielded a candy bar, I wished I had consumed it on the way down, a package of cigarettes which I needed badly, and an escape kit which it didn’t appear I had any use for. In fact, I shoved those escape lectures into the back of my mind when a little guy that looked like Benito Mussolini drove up and made German noises. I interpreted them to mean, “get the rope boys.” The cry for my head swelled into a chorus. I began to wish I had left my parachute behind when I jumped.

*****

The first selection from Raymond Walton’s Men with Broken Wings POW journals (Walton Mountain News, August 2008) provided an account of his parachute escape from a stricken B-24 Liberator bomber and capture by the German military near Cologne on October 14, 1944. At that time American forces and their allies were rapidly advancing on the Eastern and Western fronts threatening to overrun German cities in their paths. Mass evacuations were underway; public transportation was in a state of chaos.

In these conditions, Ray and some of his crewmen were transported by train to Oberhausel, an interrogation center near the city of Frankfurt for all American and Royal Air Force men shot down. Published below is Ray’s journal account of this event, later imprisonment at Dulag Luft at Wetzel, a holding camp, and ensuing imprisonment at Stalag Luft IV located near a small village, Kiefheide, Germany. Today Kiefheide is in Poland near the city of Tychowo, once part of Pomerania, the birthplace of Ray’s maternal grandmother.

There was an air alert when we arrived at the rail station so we went into the basement air-raid shelter. Along with civilians there were many soldiers with packs and rifles. I figured they were replacements, old men, young boys nervous recruits and battle weary veterans scraped from farm, factory and hospital to fill the ranks of the dwindling Wehrmacht. Our luck held; no bombers came that night.

After a two hours wait the train arrived and we were all herded into one small compartment. It was very crowded and people were making frantic attempts to get on. From front to rear they ran along opening each door trying to force their way aboard. When our guards would shove them out they would curse him for securing a seat for “American Luft gangsters” and denying a citizen of the Reich one. During the night this mad scramble reoccurred at each town. The anxiety of the passengers and would be passengers led me to believe that the allies were really rolling through the Rhineland.

Our guard told us we were going to Frankfurt. That name held significance for an Air corpsman and I looked forward with misgiving to our arrival. It took all night and five different trains to get us there.

We detoured around Frankfurt; it was probably too battered to get through. I think it had been bombed the previous day. We had acquired three RAF men earlier in the morning. One had broken his foot when he landed on a fence. Bailing out at night is rough proposition because it’s so dark you can’t know what you’re landing on. No transportation was provided from the Oberhausel rail station to the interrogation cventer. We had to take turns carrying the injured RAF gunner. It was a rough haul, about 2 miles up a gradual incline. My pilot [T.G. Crenshaw], who was a lot of man, must have carried him at least halfway.

On our arrival we were separated and put into solitary confinement. My small cell had a cot in it so I crawled in and fell asleep. Several hours later I was awakened by a guard who took me to the interrogator. I expected him to be pretty sly but was disappointed. I suppose he was overworked with the volume of airmen coming down and didn’t expect to get much information from a gunner. His method was routine. “Unless you can prove to me you’re an air crew man you will be sent to a work camp or possibly be shot as a spy,” he said. He seemed to have a list of our crew because he kept asking me if my pilot’s last name started with C and ended with W. Meanwhile, I chain smoked the tailor made cigarettes he offered me, repeating my name, rank, and serial number.

It was alarming the military information he knew and what he could tell you of your army career, but he wasn’t infallible. I shook my head sadly when he told me Sgt. Hammond had gone down with my plane. Hammond had trained with our crew in the States but when we arrived in England he was transferred to the 9th Air Force.

After we were interrogated and photographed we were moved to another compound. Here in one barracks were Polish airborne men, Privates in the paratroopers, Air Corps Colonels, French Thunderbolt pilots, Australians, Canadians, and Englishmen entirely of the RAF. You could wander about the room at will looking for buddies or exchanging tales. On the walls history was written. The names of famous bombers and crews like “Murder Inc.,” “City of Chicago,” and “Peace Terms” that had failed to return from missions.

The following morning 45 of us were marched down to the rail station, our destination Dulag Luft at Wetzel. During this day long trip I had a chance to view Germany and see the results of four years of bombing. Along the line I saw German men and women digging trenches along the rail line. I also saw bombed out factories and marshaling yards with rails twisted like pretzels. Along the siding were wrecked locomotives and burnt out box cars that had been caught in air raids or strafed with incendiary bullets.

We passed autobahns magnificently engineered military highways. Yet on the streets of small villages I could see ill matched teams and lonely old cows, not oxen, being used for drayage. Here was a nation with jet propelled planes in the skies and superb death dealing machines but a century behind in peaceful pursuits.

I could pick out the veterans of World War I hobbling along with the help of their canes. In Germany mangled and milling limbs were common among the male population. It should have been a grim reminder to them of their attempts to accomplish their “historic mission” during the last three generations.

At Bad Homburg, on our way to Oberhausel, I saw one of Germany’s WW II heroes. I could not help but feel sorry for him. He was dressed in a clean, well pressed green uniform and had a self-propelled wheel chair. His legs had been amputated at the hips. He looked very sad, I judged him to be about 18 years of age.

As we detrained upon arrival in Wetzel in the afternoon I thought there would be trouble as there was quite a gathering of people at the station. However, we marched through the town without incident. The factory there had been bombed the previous day. It had been hit pretty hard along with a few houses nearby.

Wetzel is located in a valley along a small river. Duag was located on a hill overlooking the town. It was a 45 minute hike from the rail station.

On arrival we were processed, that is duly registered, finger-printed and searched; we were deprived of much of our flying clothes and received in exchanged GI or RAF uniforms and shoes. We also were given our initial Red Cross parcel containing many necessities of prison life, underwear, socks, toilet articles and cigarettes. Next we were provided access to shower facilities. I was beginning to feel like a human being again.

While the pilot [Crenshaw], engineer [P.R. Rupp] and I were toweling one of the permanent prisoners came in calling my name. When I responded he said a man named Dave Lawler wanted to see me. He was in a departing formation and we’d better hurry. Lawler was our tail gunner; he must have recognized me when we were marched through the gate. Paced by the overjoyed pilot we threw on our clothes and rushed to the formation. I recognized Dave immediately in a RAF overcoat six sizes too large for him; Crenshaw spotted our right waist gunner Fred [J.E. Frederick]. As we cursed the Germans for preventing us from breaking into the ranks to shake hands with them they marched out the gate.

At chow formation we reconnected with our co-pilot [J.P. Jones], bombardier [W.S. Koenig] and Navigator [W.L. Thomas]. It was a happy family like reunion.

This accounted for the entire crew, except for our radio operator [C.R. Church]. Our anxiety over him dampened the good spirits finding 8 live members of the crew gave us hope. We spent that evening talking of the fateful day we were shot down, what had happened from then until now, and speculating on Church’s whereabouts. We didn’t want to believe he was dead. “Church is a resourceful guy; he might have evaded the Germans and escaped.” That’s what we wanted to believe… and we did!

The next day the pilot, co-pilot, bombardier and navigator were shipped out to the officer’s camp. Paul Rupp, our flight engineer, and I remained at Dulag for a week. We were lucky in this respect because Wetzel transit was the “Country Club” of German POW camps. Each day we greeted the new arrivals searching expectantly but in vain for Church. I was convinced he was back in France, Paul wasn’t so sure.

On the 25th of October Paul and I along with 86 other American airmen were moved out of Dulag. We were crammed into two freight cars that were refitted with benches, barred windows, and a reassuring POW painted in white on the roof. Our destination was Stalag Luft IV, a relatively new prison camp located 3 kilometers outside a small village, Kiefheide, Germany. The journey took four days.

In the course of our journey we passed through Essen, Berlin, and Stetten. The destruction the bombers had wrought was visible everywhere – bridges down, cratered factories, demolished trains, twisted rail tracks. In all the large marshalling yards slave labor was busy repairing bomb damage. The 4th morning at Stetten Yards we threw food and cigarettes to Russian women engaged in laying tracks. An infuriated guard fired into them when they gave us the V sign. He missed, deliberately I suppose, but they were certainly scared, and I don’t blame them.

“What a hell of a bunch of warriors to have captive women doing manual labor of this sort.”

That afternoon we arrived at Kiefheide. We were walked from the rail station to the prison camp flanked by well-armed guards leashed to howling, lunging German police dogs. Their aggressive disposition indicated they were pure Aryans, the dogs I mean. We were searched to the skin and sent to our respective lagers. I was sent to D lager and Paul B lager. Unlike many prison camps, each lager was separated so I did not see him again.

*****


Two previously published segments from Raymond Walton’s WW II journals entitled Men with Broken Wings provided his account of a parachute escape from a stricken B-24 bomber, capture by German military near Cologne in October 1944, interrogation at a center near Frankfurt, imprisonment in holding camp, Dulag Luft at Wetzel, and ensuing transportation to Stalag Luft IV, a prison on the Baltic Sea near the village of Kiefheide, Germany. In the following segment Ray gives an explanation of treatment afforded to POWs at Stalag Luft IV.

At Stalag Luft IV we were brought into the Vorlager where we were searched to the skin and then sent to our respective lagers. Stalag Luft IV was a relatively new camp containing 10,000 men. The Vorlager contained the hospital, warehouses for incoming parcels, etc. At the time there were 4 lagers each containing 2500 men. I went into D Lager and Paul [Rupp, flight engineer] B Lager. Unlike many prison camps, each lager was separated so I didn’t see him again.

The four original lagers were over-strength and there were two additional ones under construction. These not being completed, however, the group was split up and 22 men sent to each old lager. At the D Lager gate there was a reception committee. Half of the prisoners in the compound had turned out to make inquiries of the new arrivals. “When is the war going to be over?” “Has Cologne fallen yet?” “What hit you – fighters or flack?” “How are those jets?” “Where were you flying out of – Italy or England?” “What group were you in?” “Did you say the 448th?” “That’s my group.” “Has Tier finished up yet?” “How’s the flak at Hamburg?” “Were you flying the big ones?” “Forts or Libs?” “Libs – no wonder you’re here.” “I’m a Fort man myself.” “How’s things back in the states?” “Hey, Mack, what’s Churchill’s prediction?” Through this battery of questions we moved toward the camp office. I answered a few questions and vainly scanned the questioners for a familiar face.

The office along with the common room and cook house was located in the compound’s main building. Here we were briefed on the rules and regulations of the camp. We were also notified that we were now officially “Kriegies.” “Kriegie” being American slang for the German word for Prisoners of War, Kriegsgefangene. After being duly registered we were distributed among the ten barracks in the lager.

I was assigned to barrack three, room one. The barracks were dingy, typical German prison structures. One storied unfinished wood building, 40 x 160 feet, elevated several feet on stilt-leg foundations. The barracks were divided into twelve rooms. A dark, dank, dusty hall stretched down through the middle of the barrack. At each end there were double doors without windows. Forbidding as the place looked; it was a relief from traveling German railroads and sweating out those frequently bombed cities. Well, be it ever so humble, by comparison the G.I. barracks was a palace. I climbed the four rickety steps, went into the hall and entered room one.

Welcome to Kriegie University! It was a fitting introduction to room one. In a 24 x 60 foot space, twenty men lived not with, but on top of each other. I was the 21st member. Later the enrollment grew to 25. Eight double bunks were jammed into all of the available wall-space. Across the room from the door there was a large double window. Beneath the window in the space between the two outside wall bunks there was a four foot square table setting about three feet off the floor. There were five men hovering over it.

The top of the table had been removed and turned upside down. They were tracing a large scale map of Europe on the smooth under surface. It was colored with crayon and was a work of art. A long, crude table occupied practically all of the remaining space in the room. Three benches made up the rest of the room’s furniture. Shelves constructed from cardboard boxes cluttered up the wall. They contained food, cigarettes, books and various Kriegie paraphernalia. The room was illuminated by one small bulb in the center of the ceiling. For reflection the ceiling was painted white with a dye mixed from German bath powder and water. There was an intricate network of clothes lines woven about the higher reaches of the room. It reminded me of the backyard of a tenement house on Monday.



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