Sunday, November 27, 2011

Military Monday - A Harrowing Escape During WWII

Published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (date unknown)

I don't know if Edward Duquaine is related to my family at all.  The clipping was taken from a family scrapbook handed down to me.  I haven't made a connection yet, but it's possible that my husband's grandmother clipped the article because it was a heroic tale about a local boy.  We'll see what my research finds in the future!

Edward was born on March 6, 1921 to George and Mabel Duquaine nee Lhose.  He was released from the Army Air Corps on June 5, 1945.  He died of natural causes on August 25, 1998.  He is buried in Allouez Catholic Cemetery, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

"Bombardier Describes Flight Of Disabled Bomber to Safety

By Ed Arndorfer

The story of a crippled B-24 Liberator's nerve-wracking flight from Brux, Germany, to safety behind the Allied lines in Italy is told in a letter received recently by the wife of Lt. Edward J. Duquaine, bombardier on the disabled bomber.

Found Going Rough

'We were unable to keep up with the formation and found the going very rough, with the dead engine vibrating the ship tremendously,' Lt. Duquaine wrote. 'I salvoed the bombs after finding it impossible to follow the rest of the way into the target.  We flew off to the side, hoping and praying that enemy fighters would not find us.'

In the distance the crew could see the other bombers blasting away despite the hornet-like resistance of German pursuit planes.  Meanwhile, the pilot maneuvered far enough away from the objective and yet close enough to be in position to drop in on the formation when it headed for home.

However, that was not the case according to Lt. Duquaine. 'When the formation did return, we were unable to follow and found our plane straggling some 100 miles from Berlin.  I was really sweating over my map keeping track of our position, as I was bombardier and navigator on this trip.

At the half-way mark, a second engine lost all oil pressure and the wing began to shake so that the crew thought it would drop off.

'The pilot gave orders to prepare to bale out,' he related. 'Being over enemy territory, we waited a while longer. Then the propeller froze and once more the plane was in level flight.  The other two engines really had a load and we were flying over water and continually losing altitude.'

Now everything that was loose was tossed overboard, including flak suits and ammunition waist and top turret guns. 'In the excitement,' he recalls, 'one man accidentally threw away part of the radio equipment, and another the flares.'

All the while the Liberator was dropping slowly on two engines and oil pressure was beginning to oscillate on the third. They were winging along the coast, with low clouds making visibility poor.  A field was spotted, but it was decided not to land because Lt. Duquaine was certain it was a German base. Finally the Alp mountains were passed and Pilot Dennis Blackwell, Lyme, Colo., set the bomber down at an advance Allied fighter base without the aid of the radio and flora signals that had been heaved over the side in the confusion.  Lt. Duquaine said that previously he had noticed a fire and by the smoke was able to distinguish the direction of the surface wind.

'That base looked good to us, and if it was not for the advance of our Allied armies in north Italy, we would now be prisoners,' he averred.

Late at night the crew members returned to their base on a bomber which had landed to refuel.

Lt. Duquaine entered the service Oct. 16, 1942, and received his commission last Dec. 4 and Midland, Tex. He arrived overseas on May 1 of this year and since then has flown 40 missions. Recently decorated with the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster, he is the husband of the former Arivilla Challe, 700 St. George street, and the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Duquaine, route 6."