Humanity During Conflict: Mighty Eighth Airmen Interactions With Civilians and Soldiers in Europe.

Section III: Stories from Germany
By: Michael Elmore

Photo Caption: Photograph of John Thurmon in his uniform. John A. Thurmon collection | National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.

Bombing missions to Germany were some of the most costly that the Eighth Air Force took part in, as the German Luftwaffe fought hard to defend their homeland. Flying over the Axis powers’ heartland made it harder for the airmen that survived crashes and emergency landings to evade, as they had to deal with the German home guard and civilians incensed by German propaganda. John A. Thurmon was one of many airmen that had their planes shot down during the bombings of Berlin. Shot down on June 21st, 1944, Thurmon landed on the streets as the Eighth was still dropping their payloads. He was “rescued” by a German air warden who took him to a nearby jail, where he was held until the German army came to collect him.

Carleton Gillmore spent time in a German jail after he was captured, where he was interrogated extensively by the German officers. He was subjected to solitary confinement and witnessed firsthand how well German intelligence collected information on captured airmen. Gillmore provided a view of  an aspect of capture that seldom is shown in recollections of the war. Others were aided by the civilians who lived by the area that crews crashed. Villagers initially rescued Ivan Finkle and his crewmates before the police chief discovered the airmen. He alerted the German forces and got the airmen taken to prison camps.

Photo Caption: Photograph of Louis Loevsky in his uniform. Louis Loevsky collection | National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.

While some airmen were helped by the civilians they met in Germany, others had traumatic experiences. Sidney Brown was an airman that survived the Russelsheim massacre, providing a unique first-hand perspective of this harrowing event. His story is a cautionary tale of how the ravages of war can how the ravages of war can bring people to their breaking point. Louis Loevsky was another airman that found himself shot down in the heart of Nazi Germany. Being a Jewish-American airman,  he was fearful for his life when he was captured after landing in Berlin and hid his ethnicity during his time in Germany.


To read more about these veteran’s stories, click the link below.

Humanity During War Section 3