Segment 6

Annotation

Herbert Heilbrun went through the cadets with Lyle Pearson. On 29 December, Heilbrun lost track of Pearson who was about to fly his fiftieth mission during the briefing. On his fiftieth mission, the target was Northern Italy. [Annotators Note: Heilbrun takes out his diary from the war and begins to read.] Over the Brenner Pass they began throwing 150mm flak and Heilbrun did not put on his flak suit or helmet. Pearson was shot down that day. Both wings were blown off the plane and it hit a mountain within 30 seconds. Heilbrun believes it is god’s will for these people to die and they are going to a better place. The pilots made two 360 degree turns then headed for the alternate target, Castle Delfranco. The men were in the flak for one hour and fifty minutes. Heilbrun flew all the way home in a sweat soaked flak suit in bad weather. Heilbrun used to find little sayings he posted into his diary. After he was married, Heilbrun would get a letter from 301st Bomb Group every month. People would write in looking for people or things. One man wrote in response to Heilbrun looking for former members of his bomb group. The letter describes a pilot who flew his fiftieth mission on 29 December and crashed and spent the rest of his time as a guest of the Third Reich [Annotator’s Note: slang phase for a prisoner of war in Europe] signed by Lyle Pearson. He had survived the war without Heilbrun knowing. Heilbrun called Pearson who lived in Minnesota. At one point they lived very close to each other, but never realized either one was alive. Pearson told Heilbrun how he could not jump out of the plane until his plane exploded. Pearson opened his parachute and passed out. He was taken to a cell where he was interrogated. The interrogators knew everything about Pearson and wanted more information, but Pearson only told them he was an Air Force Commander and his serial number. They threatened to shoot him and he still did not tell them anything. [Annotators Note: Heilbrun hands a photograph of himself and Pearson to the interviewer].

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