Merl Quincy Vanderhoof, Serial #36061472, POW #1866, was born 5 August 1921, and entered the service on 5 June 1942. He took Basic training Jefferson Barracks, MO and Engine School in St. Charles, MO. Merl worked in the engine repair, electric department, in Hill Field, Utah. He took gunnery training in Las Vegas, Nevada and flight training in Pocatella, Idaho on B-24s.
Merl got a new B-24D in Herrington, Kansas July 1943. He left the States 6 August 1943 and went to Gander Lake, Newfoundland, Preswick, Scotland, Casablanca, Morocco, Algeria, on to Benina Main Airfield, Benghazi, Libya. There he joined the 98th Bomb Group (H) 415th B.S. under COL. "Killer" Kane, leader on low level Ploesti raid 1 August 1943. Flew first raid 19 August to Fogia, Italy, light but accurate flak -- no fighters. Went in at about 24,000 feet most targets: North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Greece, Crete, Germany. Rhodes Island shipping on Mediterranean Sea. Later moved to Sfax near Tunis, then Brindisi, Manduria, later Lecce, Italy.
On 22 Feb. 1944 they helped the ground crew on daily inspection. The #3 engine had 150 rpm drop on right mag. They cleared it to 115 and decided it would clear on takeoff. Merl was supposed to ground the plane when the rpm drop was over 75 on any check out but they needed this raid, then 12 more and head for States!
The engine cleared all right but when the fighters hit on nose attack the plane caught a rocket in #1 so it was out, then the extra pull caused #3 to act up again. So Merl's crew ran on 2-1/2 engines (not nice) and was soon dropping behind. The fighters picked off the rear first so they knew when it was their turn. With controls out they left the ship at about 18,000 feet. Merl had to put his foot in one boy's belly to get him out, and then he helped Brinkman, as he had been shot in the calf of one leg. Then Merl dropped out and free-fell for about 3,000 to 5,000 ft. to catch Brink so he could help him. They landed in snow about hip deep. With civilian help Brink got to a doctor and his leg was fixed up.
Van spent two days in solitary then was sent by train to Dulag Luft Interrogation Center. The Germans knew more about the outfit then he did. Merl was then sent with 40 other men in a 40 x 8 boxcar for 8 days to Stalag Luft VI, Heydekrug, East Prussia. Heleft Heydekrug on 15 July for three nights, four days on a coal-boat ride to Stettin, then by train to Keifheidi, Germany, two men handcuffed together. Double-time five kilometers to Stalag Luft IV. 10 to 15 year-old Marines with dogs and bayonets all kept everyone moving. Machine gun nests alongside for stragglers. On 31 January 1945 Merl was sent by train to Nuremburg with two-night stop in Berlin to be bombed. Arrived Stamlager XIIID 8 February 1945. 20, 21 & 22 February, day-and-night bombing that flattened Nurenberg.
On 4 April 1945 march was started toward Moosberg. Strafed by two P47s on first day out. They put up a flag and after that had fighter escort on into Moosberg. Merl was liberated on 29 April 1945. On 10 May went to Camp Lucky Strike, then sailed for States. Merl finally reached home on 31 May 1945. Met Rosemary for first date 4 July and married her on 4 March 1946. They had two sons, Ronald and Quincy, and one daughter, Susan. Five grandsons, three granddaughters. Merl lost Rosemary 24 February 1998, after 52 years of married life.
Merl still owns a tire store, which he started 26 November 1945, he but does not work. After 54 years and countless hours, he kind of enjoys the FREEDOM.
"Please use your right to vote and elect someone to office that has our country's good at heart and not just out for his/her own power and greed. If we have another world war, it will put all the other ones combined to shame. Could be the end of the world. I'm ready if the Lord is ready for me."