Info from Jetty Cook (Biography: "The Path of a Warrior")
During our take-off on 20 July 1944, two engines vibrated so badly that we
thought they were going to shake off and we would have to abort the mission.
And we weren't even supposed to be flying that day. Do you believe in omens?
I have thought many times how grateful I am that you and the crew learned
how to jettison the ball turret after our belly landing at MacDill. After sitting
at that small door in the nose, muttering my most often used four letter word as I
really didn't want to do this, I made the mistake of swinging down and hanging
on with my hands instead of tumbling out. I was facing rearward when I let go
and suddenly the gaping hole where the ball turret had been was staring in my
face as I went by. Had it been there, I probably would not be writing this. I was
barely past the tail section when I pulled the rip cord. I was running towards
you when shots rang our. After hitting the ground, I started crawling, trying to get away when shots rang out again and the dirt kicked up in my face.
Writing this has brought back many memories, some of which have brought
pain and more than a few tears, especially for Alyne, who like the others at
home, had to endure the many anxieties and uncertainties that accompanied
the circumstances. I will close with our thanks for your locating us andhopefully we can see you and the others before too long.
Alyne asked that I tell you how much she appreciated your letter informing
her that you had witnessed my capture and that I had not been injured.
Sincerely and With Kindest Regards,
Following is Rusty's account of what occurred after he was captured.
"The day after my capture, I and other captured airmen were placed on a
train heading into Germany. We arrived in Cologne late in the evening where
we spent the night on a siding while the RAF pounded the rail yards around us.
We just sat there locked up all night while everything was exploding around
us. I'll never know how we managed to survive the night. We arrived in
Frankfurt the next day where we spent some time at the station right out in the
open. Needless to say, the German people were not very happy with us.
Between the rocks and sticks thrown at us by civilians and the spitting from the
Hitler Youth in their stove pipe pants, it was a miracle we managed to get out
of Frankfurt alive.
I underwent interrogation for a week at Oberursel then back on a train to the
Stalag Luft I POW camp at Barth (North2, Barrack 6, Room 6), Germany.
Wilbur Keck, who was my best man when Alyne and I were married at MacDill, was there also. He had been shot down over Leipzig and had to watch helplessly as his flight engineer was pitchforked to death by civilians before German soldiers could reach him. It
was very cold at Barth with the wind blowing off the nearby Baltic Sea. We
had little, if any, heat for our 20 man hut. The food was barely enough to keep
us alive. Many men got dysentery and other diseases because of the harsh
conditions and many didn't survive.
I'm enclosing a copy of "Behind Barbed Wire" by Morris Roy which describes
better than I can now the conditions at Stalag Luft I. He wrote it while he was
with me there, using scraps of paper, cloth, cardboard, or other material he
could find to write on. Then he had to hide it so the Germans wouldn't find it.
About one third into the book you will see a picture entitled "Winter in North
Compound II". The hut to the right was my 'home' for nearly 10 months. The ice
in the foreground was our cesspool which froze over during the winter, thank
I he beginning of the end of our 'vacation' at Barth began on May 1, 1945 when
two drunken Russian soldiers rode into camp on a jeep. We had to wait two
weeks before being flown out and those were very joyous yet restless days. Even
more so for those who had been here in prison for as many as four years. The
next day Mike Oliva and I decided to go into Barth and look around. The
Russians were looting and tearing things up pretty badly. Of course, we were
unarmed and we had no ID cards. Had we been armed, the situation would have
been worse. I still had my A-2 jacket and watch but I lost my watch to one of the
Russians but managed to get away with my jacket. We got out of there fast and
went back to camp.
Finally on May 15, 1945, I was flown to Camp Lucky Strike in France on a B-17
assigned to the 92nd Bomb Group! I returned to the States by ship and arrived
back in Greensboro, NC and with Alyne on June 20. After a 60 day leave and long
R&R in Miami Beach, I was assigned to Turner Field, GA as a B-25 instructor
pilot until I was discharged in 1946."
Rusty entered the University of North Carolina in 1946 and earned a Bachelor's degree in
Commercial Accounting in 1949. He was recalled to active duty in 1951 and served as a pilot on the staff of the commanding general of the Air Force Armament Test Center at Eglin AFB, FL until his release from active duty in 1953. He returned to his job with the
Burroughs Co. in Charlotte, NC, selling computer systems, primarily to the banking
industry. In 1966 he was transferred to Richmond, VA where he remained until retiring in
December 1986 after 38 years with the Burroughs Co.
He is very active in church work and takes a great interest in current events at local,
national and international levels. He says "If I had to name a hobby, it would be writing
letter to senators, representatives, and newspaper editors. And with such an abundance of
mismanagement and waste in government, I find myself writing quite often. Alyne is always
concerned that the FBI will knock on our door some day because of some of my letters."
Rusty and Alyne were married in March 1944 at MacDill Field shortly before the crew
departed for England. They still live in Richmond and have a son, David, a daughter,
Beverly, and five grandchildren.