A son learns late in life about his bomber pilot father’s secretive, crucial role in saving POWs amid the mayhem of the last months of World War II.
Scientific writer Trimble learned the full story behind his father Robert’s flying missions at the end of World War II only in the last years of his father’s long life (he died in 2009 at age 90). However, the author always knew that his father, a captain and “regular guy” from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, courageously flew 35 raids over Germany and France in 1944 while an officer based in England. Yet there was more: Just before he flew his last B-17 mission in December 1944 and was handed a “Lucky Bastard” certificate to head home and see his wife and new baby girl, he was apprised of a new tour planned for him, supposedly “out of the combat zone.” As the Russians pushed back the front line, liberating German concentration camps, POWs were set loose amid the chaos, often harassed and worse by the Russians. Capt. Trimble, given an Office of Strategic Services passport and with little idea that he was actually going to work largely as a spy, flew into Poltava Air Base, Ukraine, headquarters of U.S. Eastern Command, which was once a Luftwaffe launch point but now served as a stopover base for Allied long-range bombing missions. During the next few tense months, under the resentful scrutiny of the Soviets, Trimble had to seek out American POWs, stranded flight crews and others he took pity on (a group of 400 deserted Frenchwomen), feed and shelter them, and arrange for their safe transport to Odessa and elsewhere. The enemy became the obstructionist Russians, who did not want the Americans snooping in their backyard. Ultimately, the American captain returned home shaken and traumatized from what he had witnessed.
A little-known set of moving adventures, well-researched and -presented.