John T. Palmer, Jr. 515th
by Jeff Palmer
Staff Sergeant John T. Palmer, Jr.
Staff Sergeant John T. Palmer, Jr. Army Air Corps, 15th Air Force, 376th Heavy Bombardment Group, 515th Bomb Squadron, 13 October 1942 - 24 September 1945. Shot down 28 December 1943 on the disastrous mission to bomb the marshalling yard at Vicenza, Italy. Of the seventeen B24s on the mission, ten were lost after being attacked by more than 100 German fighters. Palmer was a waist gunner on the plane piloted by Lt. Oscar Frechette. Palmer remembered a particularly harrowing bailout experience: "We had salvoed our bombs and were heading for the Adriatic when our plane caught fire in the bomb bay. I opened the escape hatch and locked it open. I was trying to call the crew up front to warn them of the fire, but was not getting through. The ball turret gunner, Sgt. Virgil Utley, not a regular member of our crew assumed I was afraid to jump and kicked me out of the hatch. I was still hooked up to the plane with heated suit, throat mike, ear phones and oxygen mask in place. All that ripped loose. I had snapped on my chute upside down and did not realize that I had done this. I kept feeling for my rip cord but could not find it. I must have been falling about 100 mph and knew that I was going to die. Finally I ripped off my mask and saw the ripcord on the wrong side." After pulling the ripcord Palmer landed safely but was taken prisoner along with seven of his fellow crewmen. Two crewmen were killed in the crash. Palmer and the other enlisted men were taken to Stalag XVIIb where they spent most of the remainder of the war until the forced march in the spring of 1945. They were liberated by Patton's troups on 3 May 1945 in the Weilhart Forest west of Braunau.