Received: AIR MEDAL, 3 PURPLE HEARTS, PRESIDENTIAL CITATION
Job: Navigation Aerial
N.Y. CITY FIRE DEPT., COMMUNICATIONS DEPT.
Lt. Col. M. William Mark, USAF was (Ret.) of Forest Hills, N.Y. was
drafted into the Army August 1st, 1941. He took basic training and was
assigned to HQ Company, 44th Division at Ft. Dix, NJ, where he
"heroically defended a water tower against a feared enemy-invasion
of that unprotected state" after Pearl Harbor was bombed.
From there he was sent to the West Coast to afford protection of our
pacific shore. At the same time he attended radio school and became
competent in that instrument as well. After testing and transfer to Ft.
Lewis, he was assigned to the Air Force and Ellington Field, TX, for
training as a navigator and was then sent to Walla Walla, Wash., for
combat training on B-17s "gunnery proficiency was also an aspect of
training for crew members of the Flying Fortress", stated Mr. Mark.
Our shipment to the combat area took a tortuous turn. Instead of flying,
we convoyed through submarine invested waters. From there we were flown
to many spots until we reached Tunis in North Africa. There I joined
others, living in tents that were part of the 15th AF, 301st Bomb Group,
A typical eight hour mission consisted of three B-17s, fully loaded.
Some never made it back, some never even made it to the targets, some
even made it home on two engines. The Flying Fortress was a marvel of
On one mission, one of our gunners was badly wounded. My jacket helped
keep him warm and alive in those freezing temperatures. For me however
it meant a stay in a field hospital for two weeks. On Dec. of 1943 one
of our missions was to cross the Adriatic Sea through unexpected
weather. The group began to break up as we searched for the target. We
were down to two engines and little oxygen when we finally bombed our
target. I could do nothing more than estimate our position as we soon
began falling behind the other planes. "A break in the clouds
revealed snow-capped mountains, indicating that we were over Yugoslavia.
I charted a course home. My co-pilot came to check my work. He was so
frightened that he told me that he wouldn't let me in the life raft if I
had made an error. Luckily enough we were the only plane to make it
back". My co-pilot begged for forgiveness and asked that I serve
with him from now on.
Unfortunately on Feb 24, 1944, our luck did not hold. On my way to
Central Europe, we experienced enemy fighters. Since we were flying in
the outer flank, it was our duty to protect from the enemy fighter. But
they were to over whelming for us. Our B-17 was out of control and
burning, the pilot gave us the signal to bail out at 20,000 feet.
I was slightly wounded from fragmentation bursts and the parachute
harness nearly slipped off over my head during the descent but I managed
to pull the rip cord and float down safely into a snowy farm field.
Shortly after, the enemy home guard had surrounded me and eventually I
became a POW for 15 months at Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.
"The last days of my interment were especially terrifying",
stated Mr. Mark. Hitler had ordered that Jewish American POWs be
segregated and made part of his 'Final Solution'. It was a race between
fate and the Russian advance. I am happy enough to be here to tell you
of my story. A short time after the Russians freed us and fed us,
General Eisenhower had B-17s fly us out from a captured air field and to