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Veterans Day Student Radio Production

Veterans

Raymond Walton '49, USAAF

November 2015


'Broken Wings'

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, KALA 88.5 FM will broadcast a special Veterans Day production featuring the extraordinary story of a St. Ambrose alum. SAU students will serve as voice actors for the 7 p.m. show.

The radio show will be previewed during a special reception Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. in the SAU Library.

Men With Broken Wings: The Story of Ray Walton, Prisoner-of-War features the wartime adventures of Ray Walton ’49, who prior to attending St. Ambrose College in his late twenties, was a prisoner of war deep in Germany during World War II.

Walton had served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a waist gunner on a B24 Liberator bomber. On Oct. 14, 1944, during a routine bombing mission, his plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire over the City of Cologne.

Excerpted from his diaries:
The plane lurched crazily but stayed with our element and continued the bomb run. [We were] ten minutes from the target and the proper place to open the bomb bay doors. Due to some confusion when one of the ships up ahead had been hit we had opened ours prematurely. The radio operator always jumped down on the catwalk to check the bomb shackles once the doors were up. He must have been pitched out into space by that first burst.

For the next few fateful minutes the anti-aircraft batteries below seemed to zero in on us. The excitement within mounted as each hit whammed home, adding the sickening sound of tearing aluminum to the steady roar of the engines. The Liberator, so sturdy and dependable at take off in the morning was now a flaming shambles, crippled and falling back out of formation. Then the pilot's tense voice broke into the interphone, clogged with panic stricken commands and counter commands. “Salvo the bombs and bailout…Salvo the bombs and bailout…Pilot to crew bail out!”

It was unbelievable, so unreal but still there was no reprieve, no alternative. Now the bailout buzzer was sounding its urgent warning throughout the ship. The small door between the waist and bomb bays had blown off. I could see that there was one 500 pound bomb left. The shackles were fouled. The bombardier and the navigator were crawling out of the tunnel from the nose. Up on the flight deck someone was wrestling with the engineer who had been off oxygen too long and was trying to get the bomb bay doors closed. If he had succeeded the men in front would have been virtually trapped because the hydraulic system was knocked out.

After somehow bailing out of the falling ship, Walton successfully deployed his parachute and floated to the ground. He was intercepted by German soldiers.
A throng of hostile faces surrounded me. A soldier prodded me with a rifle while another went through my pockets. I was unarmed but the search yielded a candy bar, I wished I had consumed it on the way down, a package of cigarettes which I needed badly, and an escape kit which it didn't appear I had any use for. In fact, I shoved those escape lectures into the back of my mind when a little guy that looked like Benito Mussolini drove up and made German noises. I interpreted them to mean "get the rope boys." The cry for my head swelled into a chorus. I began to wish I had left my parachute behind when I jumped.

While a prisoner of war, Walton kept a detailed journal of his experiences on discarded cigarette packages. Written in pencil, the diaries include not only the above account of his bailout and capture, but many amusing tales of camp life, and the interesting characters he met while a POW. He was eventually liberated by Russian forces at the end of the War in Europe, May 1945.

MORE LIKE THIS:About SAU Students, For Alumni, For the Neighborhood, Veterans Services and Recruitment

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