Four American Airmen Cross the Lines

The following POW repatriation reports were prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

They are courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Staff Sergeants Everett C. Shelby, Jr.
and Anthony T. Fryt

EX Report No. 51
9 December 43

Escape by Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr., 6954930, AC, 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 July 43
Date of capture – 18 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 6 November 43 at Villa Santa Maria
Previous interrogation – British 8th Army at lines – 12th Air Force
Arrived in USA – 7 December 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 511 Hobson Street, Weatherford, Texas
Age – 24
Length of service – 3 years, 11 months

Ex Report

Staff Sergeant Anthony T. Fryt – Engineer and Gunner, B-26
Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – Tail Gunner, B-26

Sergeant Fryt was engineer and gunner of a B-26 of the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron based at Djeida, south of Tunis. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – Flight Officer J. L. Weaver – returned to USA
Co-pilot – Flight Sergeant Theodore A. Helterbrand – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany
Bombardier – Staff Sergeant Joseph Teresi – returned to USA
Radio Operator – Staff Sergeant John C. Cannon – P/W Italian camp, unstated
Tail Gunner – Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – returned to USA

On 17 July 1943, the plane left its base to bomb a target in Naples. The target run was made and the plane was hit by flak from anti-aircraft batteries. The left engine was hit and was feathered but the plane began to drop in spite of the fact that the crew threw out everything they possibly could. They continued on for about 45 minutes and were forced to come down in the Tyrrhenian Sea some miles off Naples. They got out the life rafts and climbed on board just before the plane sank. Sergeant Fryt was suffering from cuts and bruises and had a wrenched knee.

Another B-26 from the same flight dropped a raft and the crew tied this one on to their own. They had a compass and paddled all night and the next day toward an island which they had sighted. On 18 July 1943 an Italian patrol plane circled over the airmen and shortly afterward an Italian seaplane picked them up and took them to Naples.

To Poggio Mirteto and Camp 59

After one night in Naples the crew was taken to Poggio Mirteto where they remained until 5 August 1943. There they were subjected to the same type of interrogation as other returned Ps/W have recorded. From Poggio Mirteto they were taken to Rome and after five days there Sergeant Fryt and other non-coms were sent to Camp 59 at Servigliano where they remained until 14 September 1943. Sergeant Fryt has nothing further to contribute to reports already received relative to conditions and treatment at this camp.

Escape from Camp and Return to Allied Lines

Dressed in his own uniform and having Red Cross packages of food and an Italian blanket, Sergeant Fryt and five others, including Sergeant Shelby, left the camp and headed toward the mountains. They were aided by Italian civilians who provided food and shelter; they avoided all towns and bridges and crossed streams by swimming. They kept largely to the hills and well under cover unless they were certain that civilians were friendly. For two weeks the six Americans traveled that way and then decided it was better to split up in small groups.

Sergeant Fryt stayed at a farmhouse about 11 days due to the fact his feet were in very bad condition. He was cared for by civilians and while he was with the farmer saw many German troops moving north. When the Germans became too numerous in this region south of Chieti, he decided to head south and east toward Casa de Frano and Cherni where he believed the Allied line to be. He reported that Germans were pouring into the neighborhood and were looting all of the homes.

Near Senela River he remained two weeks with an Italian family, hiding out during the day and getting food and shelter at night. They provided him with civilian clothes. At that time there was considerable Allied bombing of German positions around Cupelo and Monteoderso and environs. On the 4th or 5th of November the Germans began evacuating to a large degree. On the latter date Sergeant Fryt dodged about 125 Germans in groups and five mechanized pieces and made his way to the advance lines of the British 8th Army at Monteoderso. From there he was sent to Cuppelo and then took off on his own to Bari where he arrived 7 November 1943. From Bari he went by plane to Algiers and then to Lamarsa.

Sergeant Shelby’s Return to Base

After leaving the group about 5 October 1943, as described in the foregoing remarks of Sergeant Fryt, Sargent Shelby started off on his own. Italian civilians told him about German troop movements and he carefully avoided getting close to any towns or territory occupied by them. In Rapino, in the province of Chieti, he stayed for two or three weeks with a Czech doctor. When the Germans came to the neighborhood he took off to the mountains and stayed at Manappello in a cave with some sheep herders, from where he was able to watch the battle lines. After a few days he went to the Sangro River near Villa Santa Maria. At that time the Germans were blowing up all the railroad bridges and laying mines. He proceeded about five miles down the river and went up over the mountains. He found himself in the field of fire in the midst of an artillery duel between the English and Germans but he managed to reach a British outpost on 11 November 1943 and from there he was guided back to headquarters and taken in a jeep to Bari. He remained there four days before going to Tunis by air.

Staff Sergeant Albin S. Oblamski

EX Report No. 52
9 December 43

Escape by Staff Sergeant Albin S. Oblamski, 16009728, AC, 17 Bomb Group, 95th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 February 43
Date of capture – 17 February 43
Reported P/W – 12 March 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied Forces 20 October 43 at Casacalenda
Previous inspection – British O’s at Casacalenda; Am Lamarsa, 12th Air Force Headquarters
Arrived in USA – 11 November 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 1623 South 36th Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Age – 28
Length of service – 2 years, 6 months

Technical Sergeant Jesse E. Kirk

EX Report No. 53
9 December 43

Escape by Technical Sergeant Jesse E. Kirk, 6952090, AC, 17th Bomb Group, 95th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 February 43
Date of capture – 17 February 43
Reported P/W – 12 March 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 20 October 43 at Casacalenda
Previous interrogation – British O’s Casacalenda; Am. I.O. Lamarsa, 12th Air Force Headquarters
Arrived in USA – 11 November 43
Home address – Hamilton, Texas
Age – 22
Length of service – 4 years

EX Report

Staff Sergeant Albin S. Oblamski – Radio Operator and Gunner, B-26
Technical Sergeant Jesse E. Kirk – Bombardier, B-26

Sergeant Oblamski was radio operator and gunner of a B-26 of the 17th Bomb Group, 95th Bomb Squadron, which left its base at Telergma in Algeria on 17 February 1943 to bomb an airfield in Cagliari, Sardinia. The other members of the crew and the known information concerning them are:

Pilot – Captain Frank K. Walsh – P/W Camp 21, Italy
Co-pilot – 2nd Lieutenant (First name unknown) Yates – believed to have escaped
Bombardier – Sergeant Jesse E. Kirk – escaped and returned to USA
Engineer – Staff Sergeant Martin Hyrnko – believed to have escaped
Turret Gunner – Private Richard Mooney – escaped and returned to USA

As the plane approached its target it collided with another plane from the same group, damaging the left wing and cutting out the left engine. The pilot bellied in on one engine and brought the plane down about four miles from Cagliari. Sargent Oblamski suffered hand, back and head injuries. Before the plane was surrounded by armed civilians and one or two Italian soldiers, the bomb sight and IFF were destroyed. The Italian soldiers disarmed Captain Walsh and the civilians apparently wanted to help the American airman to escape. During the argument between the civilians and the soldiers, some more Italian soldiers arrived in a command car and the crew was taken to Cagliari where they were questioned thoroughly in regard to their base, the bomb load, training and other pertinent information.

To Poggio Mirteto and Camp 59

After one night at Cagliari the American flyers were taken to Poggio Mirteto where they were confined for 14 days and subjected to further interrogation. On 10 March 1943, the non-coms were sent to Camp 59 at Servigliano. Sergeant Oblamski read the same report as previous Ps/W at this camp in regard to treatment, Red Cross parcels, the lack of adequate bathing facilities and other matters. He knew of tunnels being dug but did not know of anybody escaping.

Evacuation, 14 September 1943

Sergeant Oblamski, dressed in his uniform and carrying three parcels of Red Cross food, left at 2030 with Sergeant Kirk from his own crew. The two met friendly Italians at Santa Maria who took care of them for a week and gave them food as well as civilian attire. From people in the neighborhood they obtained news of the Allied advance. They left the region and traveled for a night and a day until they came to a town near Ascoli where they stayed for 14 days. As the Germans were becoming too numerous in the vicinity, the two Americans decided to strike off for the hills. They hid out for two days near Trivento. While they were here an Italian told them about a group of American paratroopers who were not very far away in the mountains and offered to take the two sergeants there. They walked about nine kms. and found a second lieutenant and four enlisted men who told them that they had been dropped for the sole purpose of helping evaders and escapists. They had machine guns and other weapons. The only help they gave Sergeant Oblamski and Kirk was to head south and stay away from main towns and highways and not to travel more than three in a group. The two sergeants asked for maps, money and cigarettes but could not get anything. Sergeant Kirk felt that they were of no assistance and did not seem disposed to help.

They went back to Trivento where they met an Italian farmer who offered to take them through to the Allied lines provided they would give them Sergeant Kirk’s boots. After this deal was consummated the farmer decided not to risk the venture and then an old man, who was leading several Italian refugees, came along. The airmen decided to go through to the Allied lines with him. This man took them over a route which led to Petrella where they found the British 8th Army. From Petrella the American sergeants were sent to Casacalendo by the British and interrogated there in regard to tactical information. From there they went to Bara and to Taranto where transportation was provided for Tunis.

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