City will honor WWII veterans, and record their stories
The city plans to honor World War II veterans in a special ceremony at City Hall Nov. 10, starting at 3 p.m.
Tom Beirne, one of the event organizers, has been reaching out to local veterans organizations to locate World War II veterans and to gather their war stories.
“The aim is to put together a program book with the names of all the World War II veterans still with us in Milford,” Beirne said. “I’ve heard the stories of a Navy gunnery mate who was off of Iwo Jima, a sailor who was part of an atomic bomb test and witnessed it from 10 miles away, and an Airborne soldier who was in the Battle of the Bulge.”
Beirne met with resident John Adams, who shared his story about the war. Following is a firsthand account of Adams’ service during World War II, as told to Beirne.
My military service started when I joined the ROTC at the University of Connecticut. At the start of the war I was activated and sent to Fort Devens, Mass., to be trained as a foot soldier. But, answering a call for volunteers to become pilots landed me in Texas attending flight school. Then an illness kept me out of training for a month and out of flight school.
Instead, I was trained as a navigator and on Dec. 13, 1943, found myself over Hamburg, Germany.
It was our 15th mission in the “Texas Longhorn,” our B-17. Our pilot was George Parker of Brady, Texas. On one of our earlier missions he gave his oxygen mask to our waist gunner, who had used all his own while firing his 50-caliber machine gun. Lt. Parker then got us back to England with only 15 minutes of fuel left and 100 holes in the plane.
But on this 15th mission “Texas Longhorn” did not make it back. We were hit and a fire started. Lt. Parker ordered a bailout. My responsibility was to open the escape hatch, but it would not release, so I kicked it.
It suddenly opened and I fell out.
I groped for the ripcord then pulled it. Nothing happened. I found the emergency shoot cord, pulled and it opened. I learned from another flight crew that the plane blew up after I fell out and there were no other parachutes.
I was knocked out when I hit the ground hard. When I woke, I found German police and a farmer and his family surrounding me. Their dogs had to be held back from getting to me.
The Luftwaffe took me into their custody for interrogation. I was then sent to Stalag Luft1 near Rostock, Germany. It was there that I spent the next 18 months.
The Germans notified the American War Department, which contacted my family and told them I was a POW and where I was being held. My mother sent packs of Lucky Strikes even though she knew I didn’t smoke. I used them to barter with the guards for food, toothpaste and whatever I could get.
Our food was mostly a wormy meal-like substance. For toilet use the first six months it was the woods behind the barracks. The Red Cross made the Germans put up enclosures. There were no showers or way to clean yourself. I wore the same clothes for the 18 months.
Heat, for what there was of it, came from a potbelly stove.
We tried to escape by twice digging tunnels, but they were discovered by the Germans.
We were freed by the Russians and, after a week in Paris, sent home.
Any World War II veterans who have not been contacted yet may call Tom Beirne at 203-878-7031.
Residents are invited to attend the ceremony.