Wellington HZ355 from 429 Squadron
Posted 31 August 2008 - 08:34 PM
I grew up listening to my Uncle's stories and he has always been my hero! Recently he was interviewed by the Veteran's Project and they requested copies of documents. My mother found several old boxes of items that were buried in my Grandmother's house. GOLDMINE! I have been scanning like crazy.... My Grandmother kept just about everything....Letters, POW info, War Dept, Red Cross, Ration Books, notes on parcels she sent to the POW camps, etc...... The best find...a letter from the Belgium family including a picture of my uncle with them that took him in and led him on the Comet Line!!!! (Unfortunately in Paris a spy that infiltrated the underground turned him over to the Gestapo and he spent time in La Fresnes prison)....I could go on......
So you see I have a great start here but I have a lot of questions.
Born in Corning, Steuben County, NY
Went to Canada in August 1941 and joined the RCAF.
Sgt. Walter J. Mullaney (AKA: Pat, Tige)
Promoted to WO during captivity.
- texson66 likes this
Posted 31 August 2008 - 10:43 PM
“The first lesson is that you can't lose a war if you have command of the air, and you can't win a war if you haven't.” - General Jimmy Doolittle
Posted 31 August 2008 - 11:07 PM
I am trying to gather as much information as I can because a trip to my uncle is in a week and I want to be able to provide pictures, names, maps and more to him to gain more information. He is sharp as a tack and loves to talk! (Won't talk too much about La Fresnes Prison other than a few things or Buchenwald.) I located a picture of Prosper De Zitter the spy and a picture of the flat in Paris so I am hoping..... I also located more names of the people on the Comet Line!
This is very exciting!
Posted 31 August 2008 - 11:48 PM
My Uncle, Walter j. Mullaney, RCAF
(This is easier than I thought!)
Posted 01 September 2008 - 03:09 AM
Looking forward to reading more about your Uncle!
Posted 01 September 2008 - 03:28 AM
I added some photos of my Uncle into my Album. Telegrams, letter and newspaper articles. It's going to take me a bit to get "His Story" into order but I have a copy of an interview he gave to a Military newspaper that I can post soon. He was a Gunner on a Wellington Squadron 429 RAF.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 04:53 AM
you will enjoy your stay.... best krieg
... und mear.......
Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:15 AM
Edited by Skipper, 01 September 2008 - 06:29 AM.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 04:04 PM
Glad to meet you!
Here is some information...
Left Date June 11th 1943
Shot down 1:00am June 12 1943
First entry from Lost Bombers site:
"Serial Range HZ102 - JA645. 850 Wellington Mk.X. HZ355 was one of three 429 Sqdn Wellingtons lost on this operation. See: HE593; HF542. Airborne 2301 11Jun43 from East Moor. Outbound at 17,500 feet, shot down by a night-fighter (Ofw Reinhard Kollack, 111./NJG4), crashing in the vicinity of Ophoven (Limburg), 14 km ESE of Bree, Belgium. The three airmen taken prisoner initially evaded capture, until they were betrayed by a French traitor, whose actions signed the death warrants of the belghian civilians who were aiding the airmen in their bid to return to England. F/S R.C.Ellison KIA Sgt W.G.Bailey RCAF Evd Sgt H.E.Horton PoW Sgt E.C.Nicholson PoW Sgt W.J.Mullaney RCAF PoW "
"Serial range HZ351 - HZ378. 38 Wellington Mk.X. HZ102-HZ981 (513); JA104-JA645 (337). 850 Mk.111/X/X1/X111 delivered by Vickers (Squires Gate) between Dec42 and Aug43. For a full list of this large batch refer to Record No.6258. HZ2355 was one of three No.429 Sqdn Wellingtons lost on this operation. See: HE593; HF542. Airborne 2301 11Jun43 from East Moor. Shot down from 17,500 feet whilst outbound by a night-fighter (Ofw Reinhard Kollak, 111./NJG4) and crashed in the vicinity of Ophoven (Limburg), 14 km ESE of Bree, Belgium. F/S R.C.Ellison KIA Sgt W.G.Bailey RCAF Evd Sgt H.E.J.Horton PoW Sgt E.C.Nicholson PoW Sgt W.J.Mullaney RCAF PoW Sgt H.E.J.Horton initially evaded until captured 19Jul43 and interned in Camps L6/357, PoW No.398. Sgt W.J.Mullaney (promoted to WO2 during captivity) initially evaded until captured in Paris Jul43 and interned in Camps 4B/6G, PoW No.259891. Managed to escape during the March Feb45. Sgt E.C.Nicholson initially evaded until captured by the Gestapo, in Hasselt 22Jun43 and interned in Camps L6/357. "
From documents that I have (US Forces, European Theatre, May 3 1946)
The letter requesting information to find and reward worthy Belgium Civilians....
M. Giesbert Hubert Dexters, Rue du Village 25, Eisden (Province Limbourg) Belgium. (A teacher married to Eliza Wijnen)
Dr. Dexters (Albert) of Eisden
M. A. Lessen, Grand Route, Eisden (Lodged in house)
From a personal letter May 26 1946 (a picture of my Uncle with them while staying at the home DURING the escape)
Olympe Doby Biernaux (Wife)
Florent Biernaux (Husband)
Raymond Biernaux (Son)
Elaine Biernaux (Daughter)
16 Boulevard Thonissen
Hasselt, Belgique (Belgium)
From the website Comete Line
(They listed my Grandfather's birth and death instead of my uncles....my Uncle was a "Jr." My Uncle is alive and doing very well!)
Reception: Lucien Collin
Interrogation: AS (?)
Hosts: Biernaux, Bertels, Colemont
(Constant Bertels and Jacque)
Translated: (not the best!)
Mullaney was one of many Americans committed to the RCAF.
At the same time William Bailey, Sgt HEJ Horton and Sgt EC Nicholson, was taken by a section of the Secret Army of Hasselt (group HOORNAERT-DIRIX), Mullaney is supported with John Smith June 12 1943 by Mr. and Mrs. Florent Biernaux Hasselt, who host, give him civilian clothes and false papers.
The Belgium helpers and Mullaney, Horton, and Nicholson, as betrayed them by a french, were sentenced to death. Florent Biernaux reported that two team mates of Mullaney (Horton and Nicholson) were among Lucien Collin at 41 Rue du Demer in Hasselt when the Collin family was arrested June 18 1943. Lucin Collin recruited the Biernaux's is shot to Pappenweiler (Ludwigsburg) June 30 1944 at the age of 35 years.
Florent Biernaux leaves then 24 hours in Constant Bertels. Having found a new line where you can evacuate aviators, Olympe Doby (Biernaux) leads at Jean Colemont in Liege.
Arrested in Paris July 1943.
From Website belgiumww2:
I sent an email to them and just got a response. On the website it lists the allied airmen who Prosper de Zitter turned over to the Gestapo that was obtained from some Liberation Reports.
On the list it has
Email pretty much confirms that it is my Uncle but he forwarded my email to another person who has the reports....This person is the one that has my Uncle's information on the Comete Line website! So yes it is
When my Uncle was arrested in Paris and turned over to the Gestapo he went to La Fresnes Prison he was with 5 other allied airmen and one Jewish female Doctor. I have no names yet.
While in La Fresnes, he was with an Army Air Corps Captain from San Antonio, TX. (No name) He was interrogated for 13 weeks.
I will end for now and send another info response with the Interview from the "Bullseye" article on my Uncle.
I need to put together as much information this week as I can, a trip to my Uncle is next week and I want to show pics, names, maps and get more details as I can from him. (He will not talk much at all about Buchenwald. He was sent there as a punishment. I believe that he went there after escaping several times from the Stalags. He was released from La Fresnes by a High ranking Luftwaffe Officer. More info on that from the Interview article....)
I have been a busy little bee this past week....No sleep...scan, read and surf the web!
Posted 01 September 2008 - 04:13 PM
Posted 01 September 2008 - 04:27 PM
ps: I have opened this thread for you.
Edited by Skipper, 01 September 2008 - 04:42 PM.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 04:44 PM
I have merged postings from the newbie section with this one
Edited by Skipper, 01 September 2008 - 04:51 PM.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:08 PM
1) Your uncle + other airmen were betrayed by De Zitter (who a Belgian from Paschendaelle) in 1943. He was arrested on his way to Spain while in Paris and sent to the Gestapo HQ . After interrogation he was then sent to Fresnes until he was sent to Germany. This happened in 1943. He was sent to Stalag 4B ( Mulhberg), then stalag Luft 3 Sagan (the one from the Great Escape) and eventually evaded in 1945
2) Other airmen were betrayed 1944. These men were also taken to Fresnes and then to Buchenwald where they were eventually helped by a Luftwaffe Officer from the Dora base who demanded they were sent to a regular Stalag . I don't think your dad was with them as they were deported on August 1944, not in 1943.
Hope this helps.
Edited by Skipper, 01 September 2008 - 06:02 PM.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:32 PM
All I can say is WOW! My hands are shaking and I have tears in my eyes right now!
I have so many questions that I need to read all a bit and re-group myself!
I grew up with these stories and didn't realize later what really happened to him. I interviewed him in 2000 and we just tranfered it over to a file on the computer. I wasn't able to get very far in the interview but the Veteran's Project spent 8 hours with him. (they told me that usually the interviews last an hour).
Here is the Interview from the "Bullseye"
From my page 1
Interview from the "Bullseye" North Las Vegas, NV June 7, 1974 Vol. 28 No. 23 Article
Pages 4, 12 and 13
MAN ON THE RUN
BY COL. ROBERT LATIMER
A FORMER POW TURNS BACK PAGES OF TIME
Quiet men do not necessarily lead quiet lives. The case in point; MSGT Walter J. Mullaney, self-effacing veteran of 30 years who heads up the 474th Support Branch on the Nellis flight line.
Actually, however, his career through the dark days of World War II rivals any escape opus ever ground out by Hollywood. It includes a bailout from a riddled Wellington bomber behind the German lines, ghastly injuries, both aid and treachery from the Belgian underground, sojourns in some of the most notorious of Nazi prison camps, escape attempts and punishment, spies, heroes and terror.
Picture an unemployed 18-year-old New Yorker, fascinated by reports of the Russian attacks on Finland back in the late thirties. Unwilling to drone through the last two years of high school (when there was such exciting action going on elsewhere on the globe) Mullaney was attempting to join the Finnish Army (with no idea of how to go about it). Chance led him to the Niagara Bridge into Canada where he spent his last nickel paying the toll. Somewhere along the line, the 18 year old had heard that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was beefing up its then primitive fighter fleet, and brashly the unqualified Mullaney had resolved to give it a go.
Predictably enough, he was picked up on the road by Canadian Military police who gladly set him right on enlistment details. Finding him bereft of the slightest currency, the provincials saw to it that he was put up in a canteen overnight - until the recruiting office in Toronto opened in the morning.
Here he passed a medical exam which he characterizes as "brutal" before running into an unforeseen problem - the fact that he hadn't graduated from high school. "I was a bit dense in those days," the Nellisman admits. "It took me a while to recognize why the recruiting sergeant kept asking me over and over again if I was sure I hadn't graduated from High school. As a matter of fact, the RCAF was so hard up for healthy young troops then that they would have probably awarded me a doctorate in physics if that was what it took."
Accepted, Mullaney found himself a "pilot, under trained" which was the title all RCAF trainees carried in the early days of World War II. He was unpleasantly surprised when he was attached for six weeks to a guard unit, and rotated around various South Canadian bases, scarcely seeing an airplane. Disgruntled with all prospects for combat flying, he went over the hill at the urging of a friend from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The pair spent a week in the Missouri town before Mullaney thought better of the situation and apologetically returned to his duty station in Canada. There he found that he had been washed out from pilot training as a matter of routine, and that the only way he could..."
Edited by JMichel, 01 September 2008 - 05:46 PM.
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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:34 PM
get back in the RCAF's good graces would be to undergo nine months of disciplinary training. He could then resume his originally intended program. Such a wait palled on Mullaney, with the result that he pulled various strings and was assigned instead to gunnery training - a move which took him overseas on a Polish motor ship as fast as he could finish the gunnery school at Trenton, Canada. (His unauthorized vacation in the States was never mentioned again.)
Once again there was a detour in his career. Vexed, the young aircraftman second class was astonished to find himself assigned to the Coldstream Guards, instead of getting into the maelstrom of air-to-air combat over England. "Almost as if there was no war on," was Mullaney's bitter comment. He registered his gripes successfully enough, however, that after six weeks of show-troop duty with the Coldstreamers, he was sent to advanced gunnery school in Wales. From there through a variety of RAF bomb squadrons until he crewed up with his English pilot (already a veteran of 30 missions) at Eastmoor.
The RAF by then was mercilessly pounding the Ruhr Valley in Western Germany with everything it could put in the air. Mullaney, now 19, found himself assigned to the 429th Squadron flying one of the most unusual aircraft in combat history - the geodesic - structure Wellington bomber, a fabric-skinned twin engine bomber with a fuselage built something like a wire basket. In this relatively lightweight bomber, Mullaney flew 16 missions, taking savage attacks from Messerschmidt 109's of the Luftwaffe which made each sally into the Ruhr expensive interms of aircraft losses. Thoroughly sobered and subdued by the intensity of the Luftwaffe defense of their homeland, Mullaney nevertheless felt that the proverbial rabbit's foot was with him, and that he'd never go down in aerial combat. Time after time he came back to his British base simply because the fragile Wellington could absorb for more punishment with its basket weave frame than the newer monocoque types.
But on 11 June of 1943 his luck ran out. Jumped by two ME-110's obviously intent on the one hapless Wellington, Mullaney fought all the way back to eastern Belgium before the aircraft exploded under direct hits. The pilot was killed, and Mullaney, back at the gunnery window, took 34 shrapnel wounds from a single burst. Vaguely aware that other crewmen were hysterically bailing out, Mullaney jumped. The buckles on his chest pack harness battered his face as he hit the D-ring and on landing he picked up a bad sprain (plus assorted bruises.)
Temporarily, however, he was safe on the ground. He was not far from Liege, Belgium, and in territory where he knew there was an excellent Underground system dedicated to getting British aircrewmen back to their units. Keeping his fingers crossed, the injured Mullaney holed up in a field for two and one-half days, hiding from the inevitable Gestapo search for enemy airmen reported as downed in their area. The Gestapo didn't find the sick and hungry Irishman, but the Belgian underground's compassionate agents did - immediately identifying him as an American airman flying in the RCAF under RAF colors. They began setting up the intricate process which normally would have returned him to England rapidly and intact.
Bloody and barely able to walk, Mullaney was spirited from one house to another in a village by the Belgian agents, who told him that there were several choices. He could get out through Namur in about three months time, or take a chance at a five-day repatriation through Liege, where there were many more obstacles and constant danger of ..."
Edited by JMichel, 01 September 2008 - 05:47 PM.
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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:36 PM
detection. "I choose Liege of course," Mullaney said. "In truth it didn’t make much difference, inasmuch as nothing worked out the way I had hopes it would."
Concealment was an art with the Belgians, who literally buried him in a pile of drying beans on a farm during daylight, while awaiting arrangements to move on to Liege. The Nazis would search barns and houses, but not bean piles. Mullaney remembers that while buried in the dusty legumes he heard footsteps approaching. From an interstice between slack clumps of beans, the tense fugitive could see the legs of a stout peasant woman. She strode up to the exact pile in which he was coiled, and spoke in low tones. "American," she hissed. "I am called the Teacher. You will be brought to my house tonight. Do not fear." Then she sidled off. That night, the Belgian agents reclaimed Mullaney from his gritty cul de sac, and took him, as they advised, to a house owned by a citizen called The Doctor. While the doctor, an actual physician treated him for some of his infected and deteriorating shrapnel wounds, the American asked idly, "When will I move on to the Teacher's house?" Every member of the group stared at him. "Who is the Teacher?" One of them asked. When Mullaney recounted his experience in the bean pile, the assembled agents ran silently out of the house. Not a single member had ever heard of such a person! Up to that point, Mullaney had told none of his rescuers that he was an American. It's still a complete mystery.
Still bleeding from numerous wounds, and admittedly somewhat unsightly, Mullaney was passed along to Brussels, hiding several days in a basement with other fugitives. Then, he was trucked to Paris where fake identity cards were delivered to him. He used no less than five aliases in transferring from one link in the Belgian escape chain to the next. Along the line his wounds healed, he acquired a set of hand-me-down civilian clothes, and a burning desire to get back to his buddies in England. Always, there was the fear of the omniscient Gestapo, the Nazi-lover Belgian or careless moment which could give him away to be shot as a spy or at the least, to rot in a POW camp in East Germany. "I did a lot of growing up in those weeks,” is the way Mullaney is likely to describe it.
Barely trusted with a new confidence - winning problem to meet each time he transferred from one way station to the other on the Underground, Mullaney was losing much weight, and was chafing at the long hide-outs at one house after another. Particularly, he was chary of the agent who received him, along with five others, in Paris. Here, in a Parisian rooming house under still another name, he was told that the group (including a Jewish woman doctor whose ministrations had helped him clear up his maimed face and body wounds) would travel to Bordeaux, then Biarritz, melt into Spain, working up thru that mildly hostile country to Portugal and neutral Lisbon. Since (just across the channel) his own base was less than 100 miles away, Mullaney naturally simmered over the necessity for such a long, circuitous route - but he didn't argue. (As matters evolved, he might have been better off making a break for it on his own.)
Treachery was the last contingency Mullaney expected as he packed for the long jump South with the other five undergrounders. He didn't like the agent who was to get the six "passengers" under assumed names, on the first leg of the long escape circuit, by train, in disguise.
Treachery surfaced, however, almost immediately, as the Belgian agent led the group down a busy street toward the Paris Gare D'Sud railway station. Approaching the middle of the block, halfway along the short walk, Mullaney noted several men lounging..."
Edited by JMichel, 01 September 2008 - 05:48 PM.
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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:38 PM
against a wall, several others along the curb. Suddenly the agent dashed off around a corner, and the lounging men swiftly surrounded the surprised escapees, guns drawn. All were Gestapo, obviously alerted to the escape movement, and quick to manacle their prisoners together. Somewhat dazedly, Mullaney was marched into a waiting Nazi bus and shipped straight across Paris to the largest prison in the world - a huge French civillian penitentiary, incorporating no less than 5,000 cells. Taken over by the Germans as part of their panzer takeover of France, it had been converted to a Gestapo headquarters, with plenty of space to house 35,000 or more prisoners at one point. Even Mullaney, whose short-lived interests in the RAF had been handsome English girls and plenty of shooting combat, had heard of La Fresnes Prison. Now, he became one of thousands under the Gestapo thumb, in particular danger because he had been betrayed while wearing civilian clothes. He was therefore a prime candidate to be shot as a spy.
He was flung in a cell with an Army Air Corps captain from San Antonio, where he was held for 13 weeks of interrogation alternating with long periods of sheer boredom. Unable to speak any of the languages involved, Mullaney began taking French language lessons from Gallic prisoners, hour after hour, day after day, until he became reasonably proficient in the difficult phonetics. With the dread certainty that the Gestapo had every right to stand him up to a firing squad, he began planning escape. At no time did he divulge any of his plans to other prisoners, well aware that any of them could be an informant, or simply a captive who could bargain such information for a slightly better deal with the Gestapo.
Fate stepped in unexpectedly when Mullaney's section of the prison was toured by a high-ranking Luftwaffe officer. He told Mullaney through an interpreter that he should be a prisoner of the Luftwaffe rather than the Gestapo. Probably due to the unique rapport which seems to bind together flying personnel of all nations into a mystique all their own. Mullaney found himself suddenly moved to a Stalag at Frankfurt in Mid-Germany. He had been there only a few days when the giant raids of the American Air Corps on the manufacturing centers of Schweinfurt, and Regensburg took place. Such havoc was caused that the German POW command hastily evacuated its prisoners from angry Frankfurt before the civilian populace could wipe them out lynch-law style, and this move, accomplished in cattle car trains, transferred Mullaney to Stalag No. IV B at Muhlberg, Germany, a giant camp some 66 miles south of Berlin where no less than 22,000 prisoners were concentrated. He arrived there by cattle car October 1st of 1943, vastly more fortunate than his former companions still in Gestapo hands. (All along the way, Mullaney was interrogated by Gestapo experts.) The American found that the best defense was to play the role of a big, uneducated youth simply pleased with the excitement of the air war, and obviously unacquainted with war plans. (He got away with that for years.)
He remembers that the Luftwaffe stufefied their prisoners at Christmas of 1945 by serving them unlimited beer (paid for in American cigarettes through the Red Cross). As a sidelight, it is interesting to note that there was no beer at Christmas of the following year, when it was logically expected that the obviously beaten Teutons would curry favor with their erstwhile prisoners at every opportunity.
At Muhlberg, Mullaney began his escape plans all over again, the beginning of a long series of frustrations and disappointments which were to characterize many attempts to get away. Aided by the sheer size of the big Stalag population, Mullaney capitalized..."
Edited by JMichel, 01 September 2008 - 05:48 PM.
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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:39 PM
on the inability of Nazi guards to remember the names of so many "kriegies," and decided that his best opportunity lay in switching identity with one of the many prisoners working daily outside the barbed wire on agricultural details. Patiently, he squirreled away the only "currency" which a Luftwaffe prisoner could lay his hands on - bars of chocolate which were much in demand with Europeans everywhere. Some came from the Red Cross, more from the Germans themselves, others through barter. Eventually, Mullaney had collected 22 large bars of chocolate and a heavy New Zealand flying coat with sufficient inside pockets to hide them. With these assets, he switched identities with a cooperative fellow prisoner, and joined a work detail headed out the main gate.
"The unforseen impossible happened then," Mullaney relates. "On the way out of the gate, Dutch major hailed me. He wanted to chat because I was wearing a flying coat, while I was trying embarrassedly to excuse myself. Somehow, in trying to get away from his friendly overtures, a guard's attention was attracted. He came over, braced me, and opened my coat. Instead of escaping, I got a long tour in the cooler."
Not one to languish in tears, Mullaney did his time in the cooler, and spent the idle hours planning all over again. Now a closely watched suspect, he nevertheless contrived another identity switch, and this time walked out of the gate under the noses of super-twitchy Wehrmacht guards. The walk turned into quite an extended operation, inasmuch as with hundreds of miles of enemy territory in every direction but south, he trudged into Czechoslovakia, walking by night, hiding in the daytime, with another American Airman. The pair hiked all the way across Czech territory, bristling with Germans, and down through Hungary, heading desperately for Yugoslavia were Randolph Churchill, son of Sir Winston, was heading another underground for shot-down allies. Living off the land, nursing blistered feet, and losing weight daily, the two Americans stayed hidden, never daring to let another human see them, until they were certain they were in Marshal Tito's Territory.
It was in Yugoslavia that still another of the maddening bad breaks which stifled Mullaney's escape efforts reared its ugly hand. After many hundreds of miles of traveling on foot, hungry and weak, the two Americans stumbled upon what looked like a ray of hope - a small town which had a busy railroad station. Somehow, Mullaney learned that there were local trains which were not closely inspected, and by which it might be possible to ride into occupied France to the West. "Normally, the Germans paid no attention to the locals but combed through the long-haul express trains," Mullaney explained.
When the two climbed aboard the local, however, they found that they had walked into an unfortunate coincidence. Aboard the train, they were aghast to find, were several hundred British POWs who had participated in a mass escape at some other prison camp to the east, had been recaptured, and who had been loaded aboard this train. The purpose; slave labor to unload a Wehrmacht munitions and supply train which has broken down in the railway marshaling yard right there. "We had jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire" Mullaney remembers sadly. "Every man on the train was searched by Gestapo as they were ordered off to do the work, and of course, we were unmasked immediately. It didn't matter that we had escaped from Muhlberg NB way up in North Germany - so far as the grim guards were concerned, we were just two more POW's to handle."...
Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:41 PM
There on the railway platform, Mullaney saw a tragic incident. When the escaped and recaptured British prisoners were lined up, they were told by an English speaking Wehrmacht officer that they would unload the munitions from the broken down German train on a nearby siding. Oddly enough, the highest-ranking POW was only a corporal, who was rigidly against giving assistance to the enemy in any form (particularly in stevedoring the munitions off the trains for transshipment into combat.) He refused any cooperation at all. Frowning, the Wehrmacht officer informed him coldly that if he did not give the order to unload the train within one minute, the corporal would be shot. Again the corporal disdained the order and in view of many civilians, he was killed on the spot. Leaving the corpse where it fell, the German ordered the next ranking man to take charge. "He was a lance corporal, something like a private first class in our Army," Mullaney explained. "When he was located and brought in front of the German commander, the same order was repeated - turn out the Tommies for train-unloading or be killed. I was amazed when the lance corporal stolidly refused, after what he had just seen. This was pure, dumb courage in the raw. The Germans considered a minute, then shot him in the leg instead of killing him. The whole column was then ordered into a nearby barracks building where we were held overnight, and then routed back to Muhlberg and the cooler. I was heartsick and discouraged to care much what happened now."
"Maybe we should have delayed the escape until winter," Mullaney reminisced. "The Germans kept tight security during the summer months, when travel wasn't difficult, then slacked off on their watchfulness when the ice and snow came. Almost nobody tried to escape in winter, with every prospect of freezing out in the open."
Some of the months following are hazy in Mullaney's memory. He was sent TDY to this camp and that as the Germans made use of the enlisted POW labor at their command. In spring of 1944 he got a sort of wry amusement at finding himself "sent to the salt mines" near the Swiss border. Here, as slave labor, he found himself actually mining salt, a chemical red salt heavily used in German agriculture to make fertilizer. His husky build made him a natural for shoveling the crimson salt, which was transformed to brine, then to a rich fertilizing powder. Taking whatever came without breaking down, Mullaney saw another escape opportunity in the proximity of the mine to the Swiss border. First, however, he went through a hilarious experience which came when the slave labor prisoners noted that civilian miners on the Deutchsland payroll gat a certain amount of time off, proportionate to the number of hours they had worked. When the prisoner-miners asked for the same amount of time off, they were told that this was a benefit of union membership for civilians. Forthwith, the prisoners "joined the union" paying as dues two cigarettes per month and within that logical frame (to the German mind) they were able to bargain for the same benefits as the civilians. Working alongside union men brought a unique situation, good for many guffaws later on.
But Mullaney was only interested in escape. He made one attempt, climbing the barracks area fence, and running through the fields to a hill where he hid until dark. Forging his way to a nearby railroad yard, he hoped to somehow grab an ore car. He walked 28 kilometers through open fields with no navigational help, and was surprised when he came out within one-half mile of the town which was his destination. At the railroad yard, which weighed every boxcar carefully as the cars were joined into trains, he threw out enough chrome ore cans to compensate for his own weight. He had no idea..."
Edited by JMichel, 01 September 2008 - 05:49 PM.
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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:44 PM
of where the train was going when he eventually pulled out. When he recognized the Rhine River at a stop, he jumped off and ran across a dark field to hide. In the brush he tripped over a wire. Trains, bells, whistles… the wire tripped an alarm system and within minutes, he was a prisoner again. The Germans, by now well aware that Mullaney was a continuing escape problem wherever he was, were not-so secretly pleased when he fell ill, probably from contaminated water drunk on the latest escapade. He suffered from dysentery for several weeks, losing much weight. During this time he was sent to several different Stalags, a process which still amazes Mullaney inasmuch as there was no recognizable reason for the numerous moves.
His only successful escape attempt came so near the end of the European war that Mullaney admits that “perhaps I should have forgotten about it.” Again at Muhlberg, and with no idea of when the Third Reich would take its final tumble, he made still another break when transferred temporarily to another camp near Torgau. Central Germany, he found, was swarming with refugees pouring in from the East, civilian stumbling aimlessly away from the Russian hordes who were overwhelming their homelands. Hoping that the hopeless confusion would help, he changed identity for the ninth time; in this case with a prisoner captured in the Battle of the Bulge, again walked out the gate with a work detail, and when a guards attention wandered, he was off again – this time for Leipzig. At one time he was surrounded by a crowd of angry civilians who somehow had detected the fact that he was an RAF crewmember. “The krauts hated the RAF above all things, mostly for the bombing, of course,” Mullaney quotes, “Oddly enough, a German soldier protected me from them, long enough for me to get away.”
Footsore, unable to speak German, he got into Leipzig the night before President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Penniless, and this time highly unsure of what to do, he went straight through the German city, and into the woods. At first light, he was crawling up a hill when he heard gunfire ahead. Unaccountable he didn’t turn around and run. Instead he slithered to the crest of the hill and peered over – to find that he had unerringly traveled right into the command post of the 69th Division, U.S. Army, enroute to Torgau and at that moment, conducting a shootout with Wehrmacht stragglers trapped in a barn across the route.
It didn’t take the exultant Mullaney long to prove to suspicious American G.I’s that he was indeed an American. As a result, he was showered with gifts of the Magi; candy, razor blades, a pen – all items he had nearly forgotten. Swept up in the tide of conquest he went East with the Army rather than West, as the 69th Infantry, accompanied by the 9th Armored Division plunged toward the Elbe River and their ultimate rendezvous with the Russians under Marshal Khukov. Before he was ultimately liberated back to England, Mullaney had helped take a German town, watched American Army engineers build a bridge under mistaken fire from Russian groups across the river, and furnished Army commanders with a wealth of personal – experience information.
All in all, Mullaney was a prisoner for one year and 11 months, and lost some 65 pounds in undergoing his myriad escapes. “Don’t look at me as a good example of the luck of the Irish,” he summed up."
Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:51 PM
Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:59 PM
My page 4
Fate stepped in unexpectedly when Mullaney's section of the prison was toured by a high-ranking Luftwaffe officer. He told Mullaney through an interpreter that he should be a prisoner of the Luftwaffe rather than the Gestapo. Probably due to the unique rapport which seems to bind together flying personnel of all nations into a mystique all their own. Mullaney found himself suddenly moved to a Stalag at Frankfurt in Mid-Germany.
This I believe is the story that happened at Buchenwald in 1944, not in 1943 at Fresnes so I don't think your dad was helped by this intervention. There is a great documentary about that on History Channel called "shot from the sky"
Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:25 PM
When I spoke to my Uncle Walter he told me the following:
"The third escape he decided to go through Poland, the "Pritetee Marsh." There was rumors that there was a whole in the front there. He got to the marsh around March 1944. The other prisoner that he was with became very ill. They attempted to make it through the marsh but were captured by a German Patrol. Again he was sent back to Muhlberg. For punishment he was sent on a work party to a natural gas factory but it was bombed.
He made his 4th escape attempt from there, the gas factory, but was captured. His punishment was to be sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp for 11 weeks. When he left the camp he weighed 107 pounds. Life in the camp was unimaginable. The things he saw and what he went through are spoken of very rarely. He mentioned that there were women and children starving on the other side of the fence from where he was. He would throw food over the fence to them. He said that the Russian prisoners were treated horribly."
I asked him again on the phone about Buchenwald and he would only say that the pictures that I saw concerning Buchenwald is what it was like there. He told me that the Russian prisoners were treated the worse and got tortured badly. I remember him talking about a horse barn that was used.
I know he spoke of Buchenwald on the Interview with the Veteran's Project but I don't have a copy yet because I am still scanning docs, pics, etc. to send them to add to the collection and DVD. Once I get all of my docs done and sent to him then I will get a copy of everything, video and transcription. Can't wait!
I am trying to put together a timeline of events so I can research specifics. I sent an email to the gentleman that transcribed "The Buchenwald Report" and he sent me a list of names of the Allied Airmen that were sent to Buchenwald and my Uncle is not on the list but he requested more information from me on my Uncle and said that he would look into further information that he has. He said that not all of the Allied Airmen were listed in "The Buchenwald Report" since many were sent there for shorter amounts of time for punishment. Hopefully I can find some documentation.
I know I need to get some documents from the National Archives of London. That is where the Liberation Report is along with the Escape and Evasion Reports are.
I got information on the Biernaux family from the Comete Line website and from the personal letter but I don't know much about the other Belgium "Helpers" with the Comet Line.
I know Olympe and Florent Biernaux survived through the camps after being arrested but their son, Raymond was executed. Florent and Raymond were sent on the "Ghost Train" (which I don't know much about yet). Florent escaped off the train but Raymond did not. Their daughter Elaine, I don't know what happened to her. It does not say in the letter from Olympe after the war.
I would like to learn about them!
Who was the other Traitor? Was it Harold Cole? I read a bit about him.
Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:42 PM
I got the picture of Ofw. Reinhard Kollack, thank you for finding the information and sending it onto "Love Enigma" my friend.
I need an assistant!
Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:54 PM
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