Z SQUARE 7, A B-29 TRUE STORY

S/Sgt Kenneth O. Eslick

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S/Sgt Kenneth O. Eslaick

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Click the camera for the Photo Album!

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S/Sgt Kenneth O. Eslick

 
Enlisted August 8, 1942
     in Butte, Montana
 

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The Gunner Badge

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Click the camera for the Photo Album!

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The plane, flying in the #3 position of the 2nd element was making a second pass on the target, Istres Le Tube A/D (airdrome) when flames were seen in the cockpit and along the #3 engine.  The plane momentarily held course then dropped down to the right.  The plane had been hit by flak.  It was observed to crash into a lake.  No parachutes were observed.


 Another witness states the flak hit in/near the right front side of bomb bay setting it on fire. As the plane turned out of formation he could see the entire area from the left side of the bomb bay out to the #3 engine on the right wing was on fire.  Again, no chutes were seen.  When the plane hit the lake (Lake Berre)  all he could see was a mass of flames.  The target airfield was located next to Lake Berre.

 The MACR contains no other statements about what happened. The crew list in the MACR has the entire crew KIA except for SSgt. Kenneth O. Eslick.

The MACR can be seen by clicking on the camera link for the Photo Album.

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15th Air Force

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97th Bomb Group

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341st Squadron

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Grandad really didn't like talking about the war. But here's what is known from various accounts from the family. The 'Angel' was on its 17th sortie and was making a second pass over the bombing target, by the second pass, the flak guns had dialed them in. When his plane was hit he remembered they went into a power spin. The centrifugal force pinned him against the fuselage so hard, he couldn't move his arms. Somehow he was able to reach lanyards to the door hinges and it popped open and shot him outside. He pulled his chute and all he could see below him was water. He maneuvered himself until he could see ground and landed. He said he didn't even have time to fold up his chute before he had a Luger in his back and was captured.

 

 

Crash of B-17 Fortress 42-3147

"Homesick Angel"

 

Date

Nation

Department

Unit

Macr

Mission

16-11-1943

USA

Bouches-du-Rhône

97eBG/341eBS/15eAF

1195

Airfield Istres-le-Tubé

Location

Pond Lavalduc - 4 km SSW Istres

Circumstances

Shot down by flak at 13:50 (engine # 3)

Comments

Off Depienne, Tunisia - Crash observed by 2Lt Norman F. Wagner and S / Sgt Samuel H. Jones - The wreck was allegedly abducted by U.S. authorities in the 70s, which may explain the common grave.

Sources

Footnote NARA / www.abmc.gov / Gravelocator / ArmyAirForces.com / JL Delattre (source: www.findagrave.com) / Larry Eslick

Dern Change

09.04.2013 = Add link newspaper article 08.06.2013 = Add link Aérostèles

 

Grade

Surname

Name

Post

Body

State

Place of Burial

Comments

S / Sgt

Charles D Jr

Atkins

MITV

USAAF

Deceased

Zachary Taylor Nat Cem.C1079 Louisville, Kentucky *

12128318 - Brooklyn, New York USA

2Lt

Leon E Jr

Case

Bomb

USAAF

Deceased

Zachary Taylor Nat Cem.C1079 Louisville, Kentucky *

O-728033 - Iron Mountain, Michigan USA - For Gravelocator, date of death: 24/04/52, but common grave

2Lt

Daniel E

Dustin

Nav

USAAF

Deceased

Zachary Taylor Nat Cem.C1079 Louisville, Kentucky / Sheridan Cam. Auburn, Nebraska USA *

O-671404 - Wichita, Kansas USA

S / Sgt

James M 'Jimmy'

Elliott

Mita

USAAF

Deceased

Fairview Cem. Phillipsburg, Kansas USA - 1.3.33.2 *

19102558 - 21 years - Born 28/08/1922 - McMinnville, Oregon USA - Son of Robert and Leora C. Elliott Elliott Gibson - Body found on 07/21/1944

S / Sgt

Kenneth O

Eslick

Mitg

USAAF

Prisoner

 

39609670 - Born 30/11/1918 - Creston, Montana USA - Son of Paul H Eslick and Myrtle Carpenter-Eslick; husband of Lavina Rost-Eslick - shrapnel during his parachute descent - Stalag 17B Braunau Gneikendorf - Died in 1998 (Lone Pine Cem)

T / Sgt

Leo F

Garrity

Guy

USAAF

Deceased

Zachary Taylor Nat Cem.C1079 Louisville, Kentucky *

33329686 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA - Bones found in August and identity plate 44

T / Sgt

Melvin E

Hertel

Rad

USAAF

Deceased

Cim Am Draguignan (83) A.1.13 *

38143522 - AM + OLC - Schulenburg, Texas USA - Body found on 08/12/1944

S / Sgt

Earl W

Large

MITD

USAAF

Deceased

Cim Am Draguignan (83) C.3.6 *

19086054 - AM 2 OLC - Oakland, California USA - Body found on 08/01/1944

1Lt

Richard A Jr

Packard

Pil

USAAF

Deceased

Zachary Taylor Nat Cem.C1079 Louisville, Kentucky *

O-735440 - Dayton, Ohio USA

2Lt

William D

Waters

CoP

USAAF

Deceased

Cim Am Draguignan (83) A.1.17 *

O-684585 - PH - Bridgeport, Ohio USA

 

 

 

 

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In the middle of the beautiful Austrian countryside of rolling hills and thick forest stood an ugly place—the notorious den of misery known as Stalag Luft 17-B.   Stalag 17B was situated 100 meters northwest of the village of Gniexendorf. This village is located six kilometers northwest of Krems, Austria.

Double rows of barbed-wire fencing surrounded the prison barracks and a dirt compound. Helmeted Nazi guards with machine guns manned towers at the edges, waiting to shoot dead any prisoner who crossed the warning wire that ran a few feet inside the fencing.

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Stalag 17B

He was signed into Stalag 17B with others then divided up to prospective outfits (army with army, air corps with air corps) for barrack assignments. During his internment these are some of the stories he told some of the family when he felt like talking about it. No timeline to them, just what was remembered.

 

During the war, rations were tight on both sides the guards didn't really eat any better than the prisoners. Trading with the guards for any extras was common practice. The soldiers had an upper hand on this because they received Red Cross parcels. Cigarettes, canned goods, and chocolate were hot items. Even though Germans had superior chocolate they couldn't get it, so Hershey bars were good trading stock. Another thing desired was a canned milk called 'Klim' (milk backwards) even tougher to scrounge because all canned goods were bayoneted at the chance to prevent hoarding for escape attempts.

 

He and a buddy were able to scrounge up some bread and potatoes and were in the process of cooking the 'spuds' up when an air raid siren went off. Everybody scrambled out the back door into a downpour and dove into the air-raid trench. But Grandad and his buddy decided, even with the real possibility they may be bombed, if they were 'gonna go, they were gonna go with something in their belly.' So they stayed and finished cooking, then enjoyed their bread and spuds while their shivering , wet comrades watched from the trench through the still open back door.

 

The food they were allowed to have, barely fit that description. He remembered 'soup' water with maybe a cabbage leaf or mysterious discarded animal parts; 'meat'. The bread they were given was a really dense, brown bread. It was so hard, he recalled the knife would 'squeak' as it cut through it. Some of the prisoners had lost teeth and become, as he put it, 'smooth-bores' and couldn't gnaw through it. Strangely, he actually grew to like it, he thinks because it may been the only thing to eat with any real nutritional value to it.

 

Some memories weren't as pleasant. Across the compound the Russian prisoners were treated terribly. The Germans would occasionally get a hold of live chickens. After butchering them, they would toss the offal (heads, feet and guts) over the barbed wire to the starving Russians for fun. Then they would  watch them; some would grovel and thank them for this bounty and others would be reduced to animals, fighting among each other for scraps of entrails.

In April of 1945, the Allies grew closer. The prisoners were then forced to march out on the run. They were caught up to and liberated, he thinks on April 17th. Grandad said the number 17 stuck with him through the whole ordeal. He flew in a B-17, signed into camp Nov 17th, and liberated April 17th.

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He was assigned a brief stint in Gowan Air Force Base, down the road a bit from me, in Boise where they put the flight crews together. He remembered seeing Jimmy Stewart there. When the crew was formed they all became close friends. Being given nine new brothers, it must have devastated him to lose this new family in one swoop. It must have been so painful. And then be a prisoner adding salt to those raw wounds. This was probably one of many reasons he rarely talked about the war. I can't even fathom what he felt.

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M1 Carbine

Here is also a interesting story that my uncle told me while I was in the process of doing this with you. Please refer to attached photo. The rifle, an M-1 Carbine, was purchased by a retired police officer at a gun show in Chicago, IL. He is a WWII history buff, when he got home he researched the name on the rifle and came up with My uncles name. He called him up and after talking and hearing my grandfathers story, he felt strongly that the rifle needed to come home and actions were took to get it there. The mystery is how it got from Tunisia, Africa to a gun show in Chicago, IL. Speculation is that after the plane and crew was presumed lost, somebody lifted the rifle before it could return back to Montana with what was left of my grandfather's personal effects. Grandad put his name on it so nobody would take it. Ironic, Ha!

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Sgt Eslick and Lavina newlyweds

 

Sgt Eslick was married after the war in May 1948 to Lavina. They had five kids. Lavina was a strong, beautiful woman and the love of his life. He passed away just shy of their 50th wedding anniversay.

 

He bought a tract of land up on a mountain and built a home. I guess he was cramped with too many people for too long and was just escaping bad memories.

 

He worked as a logger and in saw mills. Even rebuilt and restored a working sawmill from memory with no plans, just parts. This was for his own use and enjoyment. He was an amazing "tinkerer!" He restored a couple Model-T Fords, truck and roadster.

 



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This is notice of Sgt Eslick's death on May 18, 1998 as it appeared in the Missoula, Montana newspaper, The Missoulian.
 

Kenneth O. Eslick, 79, died Monday, May 18, at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

He is survived by his wife, Lavina Eslick of the family home in Bigfork; three sons, Larry Eslick of Polson, Paul and Kathy Eslick of Bigfork and Bryant and Diane Eslick of Marion; two daughters, Rebekah Eslick of Kalispell and Kathleen and Todd Harvey of Bigfork; 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services are at 2 p.m. Friday, May 22, at the First Baptist Church of Bigfork. Burial follows at the Lonepine Cemetery in Bigfork. Visitation is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 21 and Friday 9 a.m. to noon.

Arrangements are by the Johnson Mortuary and Crematory.

These two Headstones are located at Sgt Eslick's gravesite at the Lone Pine Cemetery, Bigfork, Flathead County, Montana. One was placed by Sgt Eslick's family and the other by the military. 

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The family headstone!

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Military headstone

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 .

S/Sgt. Kenneth O. Eslick was a waist gunner on the B-17 42-3147 'Homesick Angel' shot down over Istres, France on November 16, 1943. He was the only survivor but captured immediately and held Prisoner of War at Stalag 17b for over 18 months. A Memorial to the crew was erected last year in Istres. 

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Istres, France Crew Memorial

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The Crew Memorial at Istres, France

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The Crew Memorial at Istres, France

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My long shot paid off! I got a response from the author of the book! His name is Steve Birdsall, a prolific writer and film maker of WWII military aviation and strangely, Australian!

His response: "Happy to help. The photo turned up in the Australian War Memorial with no details about place or date. From the look of it, the B-17 landed at an advanced Allied air base in Italy – that’s a B-24’s wing in the foreground and a C-47 on the right. This is the one and only photo of 42-3147 in the collection."

He sent me a crystal clear version of the picture I was wondering about. I'm 1000% sure I'm romanticizing this but, the guy in profile beneath the wing, in my mind, resembles my Grandad. Maybe... :)

Just wanted to share in my excitement,
 
Ken Eslick

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A nephew of one of the crew passed along this conversation he had with Grandad. 

"Ken introduced himself as "Old man Eslick" and we talked for 15 minutes about his experiences, and he did not want to talk about some things. When he asked "Why" I was so interested in the crew, I responded that Leo Garrity was my uncle. I could hear him issue an audible sigh. Ken said "OK, I'll tell you this...." and with a slight moan he said "Leo was my best friend in the Army. We did everything together." "I miss him to this day...." 

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If more information becomes known about this plane and crew members, please contact Sgt Eslick's Family at this email address:  lkeeslick@gmail.com

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I would like to thank Sgt Eslick's grandson, Ken, for providing  this biographical information about his grandfather.
                                                               Frank Grube

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