398th Bomb Group

A Guard With A Limp And Warm Smile

W. Dean Whitaker
Bombardier/Navigator, Newman Crew, 603rd Squadron

All these years, now over 50, I can still remember the face of the young, sandy-haired German soldier with a limp who saved my life. It would be years later when the truth of what happened to our crew members, after we parachuted, would come out. And those thoughts also haunt me.

We can all thank Bill Frankhouser for pursuing the story of what happened to our Newman crew on November 2, 1944. See “What Happened to My Comrades?” - Navigator Finally Comes To The End Of The Trail by William L. Frankhouser, Navigator, 603rd Squadron. But within the tragedy of that brutality, there was one who did the right thing. He displayed his humanity.

As I was descending in my chute, I could hear the sounds of gunfire from the ground and bullets whizzed by me. There were two civilians shooting at me but luckily I landed within 50 yards of an English PW camp. There were at least fifty in the camp that witnessed all this.

As I landed, a German soldier came out and made the civilians stop shooting. He was so young looking and had such a friendly face. Later he even gave me tea and crackers.

He handed me my life, and for that I want to thank him. If he’s still alive I want him to know I am grateful. The story of those atrocities should be told. They are part of history. But so is the story of a German guard with a limp and a warm smile.

Printed in Flak News, Volume 10, Number 3. Page 11, July 1995

There was a follow-up on this story. A few months after this story was published in the Flak News, W. Dean Whitaker received an e-mail from Halle, Germany, written by a news reporter who had researched the event. The German soldier’s name was Hermann Bohn, and he had died four years previously. The headline for the story by the reporter read “Human Gesture When Hate War Was Raging.” All made possible by a “a German guard with a limp and a warm smile.”

Abstacted from Flak News, Volume 11, Number 3, Page 10, July 1996 by Wally Blackwell

Printed in Flak News Volume 10, Number 3, Page(s) 11, July 1995;
also Flak News, Volume 11, Number 3, Page 10, July 1996

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