Paul Andersen was born in Redfield, South Dakota in 1917; one of six children born to August and Hedvig (Kollewe) Andersen. Both parents had immigrated separately from Copenhagen, Denmark and married in America. His father was a dry cleaner and his mother worked as a seamstress in Redfield. The children were growing up at home during the worst years of the great depression and Paul and his brothers interrupted their public schooling to take whatever jobs could be had to augment the family income. Paul laid out of school for one year, working at Montgomery Ward for 25 cents per hour. He later graduated from Redfield High School with the Class of 1937. He was working for the Redfield National Bank for $40 per month in September 1940.
Paul wrote of his experiences, I left my hometown to enlist in the Army Air Corps in September 1940 and went through basic training at Lowery Field, Denver, Colorado. I then went through the Air Corps Technical School at Fort Logan (also at Denver), completing the Supply and Administration Course in March 1941. After graduation, I was assigned to the Alaska Air Command at Ladd Field, Fairbanks, Alaska. Soon after World War II began, several of us at Ladd Field were sent to Nome, Alaska to assist in opening up an Air Base there. It was later designated Marks Field, named after Colonel Marks who was shot down while on a bombing mission out of Alaska against the Japanese fleet. After only a few months in Nome, My application for Officer Candidate School was approved and I received orders to attend OCS at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland and departed in July 1942. Thank God, I was not looking forward to living at Tent City in Nome, Alaska during the winter.
During his travels in 1942, Paul had become acquainted with a Miss Millie Metz, who was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. From that point on, they corresponded throughout the war.
Paul Andersen graduated from Ordnance Officers OCS and was commissioned Second Lieutenant, Ordnance Branch in December 1942. Then, with several others from his OCS Class, he spent several anxious months in the 18th Replacement Wing at Salt Lake City, Utah and on Temporary Duty at Fort George Wright, Washington, impatiently awaiting a permanent job. Finally, on April 17, 1943 he arrived at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, and reported in to his assignment, the 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy), a B-24 Liberator bomb group. He was further assigned as Ordnance Officer, 564th Bomb Squadron. Arriving at the same time on the same set of orders to the 389th Group, his classmates, 2nd Lieutenants Raymond Donahue, Sam Neiman and Paul Floyd, were assigned as Ordnance Officers to the Groups 565th, 566th and 567th Squadrons respectively. From April until early June, the group trained for combat at Lowery Field, Denver, Colorado.
Of that time Paul says, Bomb Squadrons were authorized an Ordnance Section of 29 personnel. When I arrived I only found two Ordnance men in the squadron, William E. Pasley and Clyde H. Morris. The rest checked in a few at a time, some had been trained at the Ordnance School, but most had no training or experience with munitions of any kind. We immediately set up a training program and it was amazing how fast they learned. Each of the groups squadrons had five 5-man teams well trained before deployment to England. The Ordnance teams, upon receipt of mission orders, loaded each of the designated aircraft with the correct type and number of bombs, properly fused them, and installed the arming wires.
On June 3, 1943 the 389th Bomb Group deployed from Lowery Field. The air elements arrived in England on June 11th and immediately dispatched a detachment to North Africa that began flying combat missions from Libya. Meanwhile, the ground elements of the group, including Lt Andersen and his Ordnance personnel, moved by rail to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and shipped from the Port of Embarkation on June 30, 1943 on the converted luxury liner, Queen Elizabeth. Sailing without protection of convoy or escort, they arrived six days later at the Pirth of Clyde, Scotland. They proceeded to an airfield at Hethel (SE of Norwich in Norfolk County), and were re-joined by the detachment of aircraft that had been sent to North Africa. Hethel would be the home base of the 389th Bomb Group Sky Scorpions for the remainder of the war, and from which they would fly 321 missions (including 14 from North Africa) and sustain the loss of 116 B-24s.
Paul says, We were alerted for our first mission at Hethel in September 1943. Things went along fairly routine for me until September 5, 1944. I had a good friend in the 389th Group, Captain Edward Appel, a B-24 pilot, who was also from Redfield, South Dakota. Ed was scheduled to fly his 30th and last mission, completing his tour of duty. I had gotten permission to go along as an observer. Captain Appel was designated as command pilot flying with Lieutenant Kenneth E. Frazees crew on a mission to bomb the railroad marshalling yard at Karlsruhe, Germany.
The aircraft did not return from the mission and officially little was known until the war was over. Afterwards, the Missing Crewmembers Report eyewitness stated that as the formation was nearing the target at 24,000 feet that the, aircraft left the formation between the Initial Point and the target with the number 3 engine smoking. After peeling off to the right, I saw him jettison his bombs. I then tried to contact him by radio but could not reach him. When I saw him last he was losing altitude but was under control.
In fact, a monstrous FLAK burst had knocked out both engines on the right wing, cut the rudder cables, caved in the windshield, and ruptured fuel cells were spewing out gasoline that could detonate at any time. Paul Andersen, with a shell fragment in his back, was the only one among the 12 men onboard that had been wounded. The bomb load was jettisoned and the crew threw all loose equipment overboard but within minutes the aircraft had lost altitude down to 10,000 feet and was dropping too quickly to hope to reach the front lines still 100 miles away.
Paul says, At about 4,000 feet, we were ordered to bail out (over Alsace, France, in the vicinity of Soultz, north of Hagenau). We did. When I finally got down from the tree that I landed in, I met Lt Charles Steinforth the Bombardier-Radar Operator of the crew. We tried to avoid capture but were soon caught. The first thing the German soldier in charge said to us was, For you da war is over. It was. We were held prisoner in a barn overnight. The next day we were marched to a German airfield and fed breakfast, the first food we had since being shot down. We were put on a train headed for Karlsruhe and while enroute I passed out from the pain of my back wound. A Nun (nurse) came and gave me a morphine shot. That was the only medical attention I received from the Germans at any time and eventually my wound healed by itself. On September 8th, I was taken to the interrogation center at Auswertestelle West, at Frankfort, Germany where I was kept in isolation for about a week and interrogated by some highly skilled professionals. It was amazing how much information the interrogators had documented on me and all the airmen that fell into their custody. On or about September 17, 1944, I was transferred to a transit camp, Dulog Luft, at Wetzler, Germany, processed as a POW and assigned and transferred on September 22nd to Stalag Luft 1, a POW camp at Barth, Germany. The camp was captured by the Russians on or about May 1, 1945. The day before the Russians arrived, the German guards had deserted the camp and we were free to rummage through the offices. I secured the record and photos of me as a German POW from the files and have kept them ever since. On May 15th we were evacuated by air to Camp Lucky Strike in France and on May 31, 1945, I was reported back under military control but remained there several more weeks.
On June 13, 1945 Paul Andersen was sent across the channel to Southampton, England and two days later he boarded an LST that was part of a large convoy that sailed for America. The convoy arrived at Norfolk, Virginia two weeks later and then he spent another 15 days there at Fort Patrick Henry awaiting orders. Finally, on July 16th Captain Andersen was back home from the war in Redfield, South Dakota.
After a long period of convalescent leave, recuperating at home, Paul Andersen returned to duty and then served his initial post-war assignment as a Transportation Officer at Turner Field, Albany Georgia (Nov 1945Aug 1946). He and Millie Metz were married there in the Base Chapel. Paul went on to serve in Automotive Maintenance, first at Barksdale Air Force Base and later at Goodfellow Air Force Base. After the establishment of the Air Force (in 1947) he was trained as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer and had assignments at various bases during the 1950s leading up to command of the consolidated aircraft maintenance operation at Goose Bay, Labrador in 1960. Two years later he was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita Kansas and was serving there as commander of a Strategic Missile Squadron when he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in February 1970.
Paul and Millie chose to retire to Austin, Texas where Paul soon began a second career, as a licensed realtor, with Nash, Phillips, Copus, the leading home builder in Austin at the time. In the 1980s he left NPC and then worked for Jim Morgan, for several years. He retired for the second time in the late 1980s and he and Millie have remained in the local area ever since. Their three children, two daughters and a son, long since grown up and educated, are now variously employed and living at College Station, San Antonio, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This month PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Chapter 1919s 92 year-old Life Member, Patriot Paul C. Andersen.