S/SGT. GUS BUBENZER - MAY 27, 1944
The story begins on May 27, 1944 when he and Fred Strictland were scheduled to fly as gunners for Capt. Huff, the Pilot, and Lt. Lever, the Bombardier/Navigator. This would be Gus and Fred.s 20th mission, and the target would be the heavily defended marshaling yards at Amiens, France.
"We were flying an A-20 as part of the first box and had flown over enemy territory for about 15 minutes, when we ran into intense anti-aircraft fire. The barrage of flak was heavy and the very first shell exploded with amazing accuracy in our formation. Several planes were hit. Suddenly I realized that our plane had been hit. The right engine had been knocked out; the electrical and hydraulic systems were damaged and there was a fire in the bomb bay and the dead engine. I immediately reported the fires to the pilot. It was not possible to drop the bombs, because of the electrical failure. Capt. Huff still had control of the plane, but it was losing altitude fast. With the bombs still hanging in their racks, and with the fire still burning, Capt. Huff gave the order to bail out. Fred and I hit the silk. Lt Lever had difficulties exiting the aircraft because of some radar equipment installed in his compartment. Capt. Huff and Lt. Lever finally cleared the plane as it was descending toward the channel and they were picked up by the British Air Rescue. When I tumbled out of the lower exit, I was falling through the air flat on my back, spinning in a horizontal position due to the turbulence caused by other planes. I kicked my legs and flung my arms frantically to get off my back. Then I began to tumble. After I had fallen several thousand feet, I pulled my rip cord. As the chute popped open, one of the shroud lines slapped me hard across the chin. Now, suspended from my chute, I experienced a very pleasant sensation. I looked skyward for other chutes and saw one very high and felt sure it was Strictland. He must have opened his chute soon after leaving the plane. I was near the ground it seemed to be coming up very fast. I hit the ground with a heavy thud, and for a moment just sat there dazed. I was in an apple orchard and there was a farm house nearby. Soon I realized that I had to gather my chute and hide myself. When I tried to stand, I realized that my ankle was broken or badly sprained. I was gathering the chute and preparing to hide in the hedgerow nearby, when two Frenchmen approached.
I greeted them with my only three words of French, "Je Suis American," My French book came out of my pocket, and I pointed to the French version of "Is the enemy nearby?. They nodded yes, and pointed in all directions. Hurriedly they took my chute and pointed towards the hedgerow where I should hide then they were gone.
By now I could hear the Germans approaching the farm house on their motorcycles. I could hear them talking to the Frenchman. They would leave, but kept returning. By now the Germans were searching up and down the roads and in the fields. They searched the area for almost three hours. When the Frenchman thought the Germans had given up the search, he made several attempts to come to me. Each time he was signaled to return to the house. Eventually everything appeared to be safe and he came to my hiding place. After much confusion, I understood that he wanted me to identify myself. He pointed to the hour of six on his watch and then pointed in a southerly direction. I lay in the hedgerow wondering what he had meant. Near 6:00 PM, a young man appeared and I was helped into the cart and quickly covered. It was hot lying under the straw. Each time I would poke an air hole, the driver would quickly cover it up. After about a fifteen minute ride, we stopped in another apple orchard; nearby was a large pile of wood. The young man moved some wood aside and then some boards that covered a large trench. They helped me into it and replaced the board and piled the wood back on top of the boards. It was completely dark, but I had an old box to sit on. In hour or so I heard someone moving the wood. It was a young girl with a bucket of hot water to soak my ankle.
In France this time of year, it would not be dark until 10:30 PM. If they were going to move me, it certainly would not be until after dark. Although the sun was down, it was not dark when they came after me. Hopping on one foot, and with aid of two men, we made our way through the orchard, across the road and to a little farm house in record time. This was the last time I saw the young man or the elderly man.
Mme. Lelux helped me up the stairs to the room where I hid for the next two weeks. She was one of those brave French patriots who risked their lives to prevent my capture by the Germans. This area was one of the most heavily defended. The Germans with tanks, trucks and other vehicles passed by continuously. This woman found a shirt, pants and sandals for me and brought food upstairs, but she was always on the lookout for Germans. When they stopped, she gave them food and drink so they would move on quickly. I could not believe that with the enemy so near, she would risk her life and that of her family for an American airman.
After two week, my ankle would support my weight with the aid of a cane. Mme. Lelux said I must move to another hiding place now that my ankle was better. She and her horse drawn cart were waiting and she and an elderly lady took their seat in the front and a chair in the back was provided for me. Before turning off the main road, we were stopped by two German soldiers. She calmly gave them a reply and we were on our way again. We followed a narrow road through a wheat field and arrived at a farm house in the country. She bid me good-by, and headed back down the road.
It was here that I was given an I.D. card and told to masquerade as a deaf mute, since I could speak no French. By this time, my hair was quite long, making it easier to cut as a Frenchman. Mdm. Leus would return often to visit me. She would always say, "You will be home for Christmas."
I was here a month when the farmer returned home very upset and excited. I could not understand the conversation, but knew that something serious was involved. He had heard that someone had reported to the Gestapo that a parachutist was being hidden in the area. I was to move as quickly as possible. He had contacted another family and the next day a young man came to see me. He was my age and spoke some English. This was Maurice Quillien, and he had come to tell me he would be back the next day to take me to his parents who lived in Neufschatel..It was difficult to leave the Corroyer family. They bid me good-by with tears in their eyes.
We left, walking along the edge of the big wheat fields which brought us to the highway. We both climbed on Maurice.s bicycle and headed for Neufchatel. Near the edge of the town we stopped and Maurice let the air out of one of his bike tires to divert the attention of the Germans. He instructed me to push the bicycle, ignoring the guards. We arrived safely at his home. Here I met his father Jean, Mother Leona, and a brother Michel. I was with this family two months. That morning an English bombardier arrived at the Quillien home to be sheltered, also. It was necessary to evacuate from the home in Neufchatel because of many military targets and numerous bombings. We moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Adams at Menonval for two weeks, then to a small empty house belonging to Poteaux at La Broche-Menonval. About noon one day, three German officers and five soldiers came for the Adams horses. They ordered everyone out of the house. There were six escapees and five Frenchmen staying at the farm and all were made to show their I.D. cards. I had not been seen, so I hid upstairs. The false I.D. cards had paid off for the five escapees.
The military situation changed rapidly. The 7th Canadian Reg. liberated Neufchatel on Sept. 1, 1944. Soon after I was outfitted with a British uniform and a confidential pass and after a very emotional farewell, I departed for Dieppe, France, and then to London for interrogation and back to Saffron Walden, from where I had departed nearly four months ago. Only the rear echelon of the 409th remained, the Group having moved to France."