Arnold E. Kauffman was born in New York City in 1922. He grew up in Yonkers and joined the New York National Guard in early 1941. After several months in the Guard, he volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps and on August 21, 1942, he entered active duty. He went through a succession of training courses including the Airplane Mechanics School at Amarillo Army Air Field in Texas, the B-17 Specialist School in Seattle, Washington and Aerial Gunnery School at Wendover, Utah. In 1943 he completed training on the Heavy Bomber, B-17, Flying Fortress.
A new heavy bombardment group, the 457th, was activated in July 1943 and Andy was assigned to it. He joined a flight crew of the groups 749th Bomb Squadron and was with them when the aircraft were ferried from Grand Island, Nebraska to Glatton, England. The groups B-17s were flown individually beginning January 17, 1944 and they had all arrived at USAAF Station 130, Glatton, by February 1st. The 457th Group then flew bombing missions without letup until April 20, 1945 when there were no more strategic bombing targets remaining as the war was drawing to a close. After a total of 236 combat missions, all while at Glatton, their only wartime home, the group was inactivated in August 1945. But Andy hadnt been there for all of it; after some early missions his aircraft went down in enemy territory and he spent the remainder of the war as a P.O.W.
Those early missions of the group included some in which the 8th Air Force sustained heavy losses, those being Oschersleben, Schweinfurt, Augsburg, the Big Week bombing of Berlin in March, Oranienburg, and others. Sergeant Arnold Kauffmans twelfth and last mission was number 23 for the group, and it was the deepest penetration mission the 457th had participated in as of that date, April 9, 1944, when the 8th Air Force sent 300 bombers to destroy a German fighter plane factory at Gydnia, Poland. Being such a long range mission, fighter escorts could not protect the bombers for the full distance to the target. The weather was clear, the bomb run was successful and the bombing results were reported as good despite moderate FLAK from the target area. It was the enemy fighters, hitting the bomber formation repeatedly before the target and on the way home that took the greatest toll. The 8th Air Force lost 32 bombers on the mission, three of those were from the 457th Bomb Group, two of the three were from the 749th Squadron, and one of those was aircraft #537, the B-17 Shepards Flock, piloted by Lieutenant Amos Shepard. Sergeant Kaufmann was the Left Waist Gunner.
(The following is believed to have been an eyewitness account of the loss of the B-17 from post-mission debriefing of the crews.) The plane (flown by Lt. Shepard) was hit by FLAK in the target area. At least one of the engines was out when he left the formation. Three parachutes were seen emerging from his plane. The plane dove down and leveled off and was immediately attacked by three FW-190s ..
(The 457th BG Association has an outstanding website. It has added information provided many years later by the co-pilot and the ball turret gunner, but these details, next following, were not known at the time back at the base at Glatton). All of the crew parachuted safely except the Aircraft Engineer. He was found dead with an open parachute. The Right Waist Gunner was injured in the upper leg by shrapnel but was able to abandon ship. He was later operated on in a German hospital and survived as a P.O.W.
Having parachuted safely, Sgt Kauffman was soon taken captive and his first stop was in Dulag Luft, the transit camp north of Frankfurt for initial processing as a Prisoner of War. He was then transported to Stalag Luft 17, a prison camp operated by the Luftwaffe for captured Allied Flyers located at Krems, Austria, northwest of Vienna. He was not, however, reported by the Germans as a P.O.W. as required by the Geneva Convention, so his parents had received War Department notification that his plane was missing but with nothing to indicate whether he was killed or had survived. And so it remained for several months, then in June 1944 the Kauffmans received a telegram informing them that a German short wave radio message had been intercepted that included the name of Sergeant Arnold E. Kauffman as a P.O.W., but cautioning them that it was not proof that it was true.
Meanwhile, Andy was spending the remainder of the war with the 4,300 other American Flyers, all of them NCOs, in Stalag 17 (real life setting for the 1953 movie, Stalag 17, starring William Holden) and on the other side of the fence, in the international compounds, there were 15,000 other Allied prisoners, it was a big place.
As the war was drawing to a close, Soviet troops were threatening from the east and the Germans made a vain attempt to keep the prisoners under their control. On April 8, 1945, 4,000 of the P.O.W.s were started out from Stalag Luft 17, beginning an 18-day march of 283 kilometers, to Branau, Austria. There were 900 men remaining who were too ill to make the march and were left behind in hospitals. The P.O.W.s averaged 20 kilometers each day. At the end of the day, they were forced to bivouac in open fields, regardless of the weather. The only food provided was barley soup and bread. They reached their destination, a forested area at a Russian prisoner of war camp four kilometers north of Branau. Upon arrival, the men cut down pine trees and built crude shelters for themselves. The German guards had little real means of securing their prisoners but no attempt was made to escape because it was apparent that the liberation forces were in the immediate vicinity. The camp was liberated on May 9th. Andy shipped out for home on May 20, 1945, arrived in the United States on May 31st, and on November 11, 1945 Technical Sergeant Arnold E. Kauffman was discharged at the Separation Center at Fort Meade, Maryland and returned home to New York City.
Arnold and Elizabeth (Betsy) Kauffman lived in Sun City, Georgetown since its early days and he joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart as a life member eleven years ago. Most recently, he helped start up our chapters monthly luncheon meetings in Georgetown. PATRIOT BULLETIN and Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot Arnold E. Andy Kauffman. Andy Kauffman passed away on July 31, 2016.