News>The Real Hogan's Heroes visit 433d Airlift Wing
Story at a Glance
Although it has been than 60 years, Edward "Dosie" Dostie, a flight engineer, vividly remembers the day his aircraft went down, the events surrounding his capture, and his life as a prisoner of war and life in the Stalag 17B, just like it was yesterday.
Members from Hogan’s Heroes reunion tour and family members pose for a group photo on the front loading ramp of a C-5 Galaxy military cargo jet, May 2, 2011 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Hogan’s Heroes is a group of former American prisoners of war who, in 1943, were interned at the concentration camp known as Stalag 17B in Krems, Austria. Their visit is part of the group’s annual reunion that in 2011 celebrates their 67th year of liberation from the German Nazi forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez)
Prisoner of war, Joe Ortiz, a former ball turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator and vice commander of a POW group during World War II, receives a coin from Col. Kenneth D. Lewis, Jr., 433rd Airlift Wing commander, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, during the tour of the wing, May 2. Mr. Ortiz was assigned to the 392nd Bomb Group, 576th Squadron based in Wendling, England. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Minnie Jones)
(At right) Prisoner of War, Edward Dostie, a former flight engineer on a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II, poses with Tech. Sgt Michael Jones, also a flight engineer from the 68th Airlift Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. POW Vincent Pale in the background looks on. Both flight engineers swapped stories and experiences during the Hogan’s Heroes annual reunion held May 2, 2011 at the 433rd Airlift Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Minnie Jones)
Prisoners of War, Edward Dostie, former B-17 Flying Fortress flight engineer and (at left) Joe Ortiz, a former B-17 Liberator ball turret gunner, recall the days they were held as prisoners in one of the most infamous POW camps during World War II, Stalag Luft 17B, located in Krems, Austria. The World War II veterans took part in a tour of the 433rd Airlift Wing, May 2, 2011 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Minnie Jones)
by Senior Master Sgt. Minnie Jones
433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
6/7/2011 - Lackland Air Force Base, Texas -- by Senior Master Sgt. Minnie Jones
433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
5/13/2011 - Lackland Air Force Base, Texas -- Although it has been more than 60 years, Edward "Dosie" Dostie, a World War !! B-17 Flying Fortress flight engineer vividly remembers the day his aircraft went down over Germany. During his recent visit to the 433rd Airlift Wing, he recalled the events surrounding his capture, his life as a prisoner of war and life in the Stalag 17B, just like it was yesterday.
Like many of the missions that members of the 433rd participate in today, it was a voluntary war for Dostie.
"We guys flying, were strictly volunteer," said Dostie. He recalls the day, his B-17 Flying Fortress a four-engine heavy bomber went down over Germany. He never had to jump out of a plane before, but he did what he had to do in order to survive.
After he was captured, Dostie was first taken to Dulag, where he was processed and interrogated. It is estimated that 77,000 POWs were held in German prisoner of war camps, called Stalags, short for Stammlager Lufts, or prison camps.
After leaving Dulag, Dostie was then taken to Stalag 7A, a prison camp for Allied air force officers in Mossberg, Germany. He was later transferred by train to one of the most infamous World War II POW camps, Stalag Luft 17B, located in Krems, Austria, at the base of the Alps. That is where Dostie and his camp mates finally came to stay.
Stalag Luft 17B was surrounded by barbed wire, and contained about five wooden huts that housed about 200 men each. The prisoners slept in bunked-type beds that were stacked three high. Living conditions were poor, with insufficient heat, and inadequate latrines and baths. There was no hot water and very little food.
At one time, the camp held about 4,200 prisoners, all noncommissioned officers. The camp was so infamous that it was the basis of the movie "Stalag 17" directed by Billy Wilder, starring William Holden, as well as a television series, "Hogan's Heroes."But, unlike the well-known situation comedy the prisoner's lives in the camp weren't trouble-free.
When "Dosie" told his story, along with two other POWs from Stalag 17B, Joe Ortiz, a ball turret gunner, and Vincent Pale, a radio operator, both on the B-24 Liberator they seemed to focus on the positives and pluses of their experiences, not on the negatives. They recalled that, in order to pass the time, the men came up with things to occupy the days. They taught language classes, played baseball and held boxing matches.
"We created a theater called the Cardboard Playhouse. We would put on shows, we even had an orchestra," said Pale.
"The thing is, we were trying to show the Germans what we were like, and that they couldn't oppress us," said Dostie.
According to Dostie, some of the high points of the men's stay were the deliveries from the Red Cross that sometimes contained butter, chocolate, milk and cigarettes.
"If it wasn't for the Red Cross, we would never have made it," said Dostie.
In March 1945, the Russian troops were approaching from the east and the British and Americans from the west. From the camp, the men could see artillery flashes and hear bombing said, Pale. By this time, Germany was close to defeat. Then on April 8, the POWs were told by their captors that they had to evacuate the camp. About 4,000 men in different columns headed through the forest on foot. It was believed that the Germans wanted to avoid being taken by the Russians, who had a bad reputation of abusing German POWs, so they headed west toward the Americans.
Ortiz said, for the POWs, the bleakest point of their imprisonment was the time spent walking through the forest. The conditions were worse than living back at the camp, there was even less food, so they would scavenge what they could off the land. Some of the men were frostbitten, others were plagued with Dysentery.
"It was one of the coldest winters ever in Europe," said Pale. "At night, men would sleep in groups of threes, with one rotating to the middle every so often to keep warm."
After marching more than 280 miles, the men were told to make camp in Austria's Leach Forest.
Then, May 3, 1945, liberation day, the men saw armored tanks busting through the forests' tall trees coming toward them. Those tanks were driven by the 13th Armored Division of the 3rd Army. After about 10 more days in the forest, they were flown to camp Lucky Strike located just outside of Le Havre, France.
There, they were greeted with coffee and doughnuts and given a new set of clothes by the Austrian Red Cross. After spending several days recuperating at camp Lucky Strike, they boarded the ship, Marine Dragon, and headed for home.