Aldon V. Dancak "Danny"
37th Squadron, 17th Bombardment Group
|March 31, 1981
To: Mr. Trevor Allen
Re: Jersey Bouncer III
Dear Mr. Allen:
I met you in Dallas, Texas at the 17th Bombardment Group Reunion which was held October 9-11, 1980. The reunion was a success and I plan to attend the one being held in Orlando, Florida in October, 1981.
I am one of the surviving crew members of Jersey Bouncer III #36, and was a member of the 37th Squadron and was stationed at Dijon, France. On Sunday, December 17, 1944, our crew flew our last mission (130) in Jersey Bouncer III #36 with inscriptions "Indifferent and Undecided" on the engines. Our target was a gun position north of Freiburg, Germany and take-off was 11:30 a.m. Target time and bomb-drop was at 12:30 p.m. with a perfect hit, but we encountered an intense barrage of "flak" from German "88" millimeters. We received a direct hit in our left engine and fuel tank. Our left engine was knocked out completely and we were on fire -- our pilot gave the order to "bail out" and those of us in the tail_ section got out in a matter of seconds. Our crew members were as follows:
Lt. Donald V. Leslie . . . . . . . Pilot
Lt. Merle C. Mays . . . . . . . . Co-Pilot
S/Sgt. Preston J. Firl . . . . . . Bombardier
S/Sgt. Aldon V. Dancak (Danny) . . Engineer
S/Sgt. Wayne S. Netherland . . . . Armored Gunner
S/Sgt. George Van Curren . . . . . Radio Operator
The crew members Dancak, Netherland and Van Curren bailed out at approximately 12,000-13,000 feet and as we were coming down in our chutes, we saw our plane make a slow turn to the left and the wheels came down but we never saw any other chutes open. The plane was on fire and burning and just before it hit the ground, it exploded and no doubt that Leslie, Mays, and Firl were killed instantly -- I guess we were lucky to have bailed out. We landed several miles from Freiburg in an open field. We were located by German civilians and captured by German soldiers. The normal interrogation, searching, solitary confinement, minimal food, practically no heat or lights and traveling on trains in box cars, spending nights in various jails and attempted attacks by the civilians were all part of the routines prior to arriving at Barth, Germany on January 22, 1945 at Stalag Luft I (Germany's POW Camp for Air Force personnel). We were assigned to North III Compound, Block 302, Room 11. The Compound was commanded by Lt. Col. Francis Gabreski (an Air Force ace). Twenty-four men were in each room and it was a very cold winter with several feet of snow all winter long, and the greater part of each day was spent in Air Raid shelters.
On May l, 1945, Col. Hubert Zemke (an Air Force ace) and the Camp Commander announced that United Nations Paratroopers were in Barth and made contact with the Russians, and on May 2, 1945, the Russians liberated our camp. I don't believe I've ever witnessed as much excitement, shouting, celebration and general confusion as this particular morning because we were FREE.
Practically all of the POW's (after liberation) ventured to the north side of Barth to view the Germans "Jewish Concentration Camp." It is a sight and experience of horror that I will never forget.
On May 16, 1945, we shipped out of La Harve, France, and arrived at Camp Patrick Henry in Norfolk, Virginia on May 24, 1945. I arrived home on June 3, 1945 for a reunion with my family and friends.
I trust that the above information will be helpful in the completion of your book on the 17th Bombardment Group. Please excuse the delay in providing this information, but if I can be of further assistance, please contact me.
Aldon V. Dancak (Danny)