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Anklam Raid

Annotation

Malcolm Hershel Higgins was born in April 1921. He was delivered by his grandfather. His father was a World War 1 veteran and he died a few months before Higgins was born. When Higgins was three years old his mother got remarried. The new dad was fantastic. Higgins went to school in Oklahoma. In 9th grade he was in Duncan, Oklahoma. He graduated high school in 1939 then went to work at a bowling alley. He also attended junior college. At about that time war talk was firing up. Higgins had no feelings of wanting to live with Hitler or Hirohito. In 1941 Higgins and a friend went to see a movie called Buck Privates. They knew the draft was imminent. They figured it looked like so much fun that they would join. At the time they could volunteer for which ever branch they wanted to go in. Higgins joined on 5 June 1941. His first assignment was at Kelly Field. Higgins went through boot camp and that was an awakening. He joined the service before the war started because he knew what had happened with the Great Depression before, and the military sounded like a great deal. They had gone through the dust storms in Oklahoma and now they were lined up to go to war. Higgins feels that the time period had conditioned people to fight the war. Things were so bad that the military felt like a step up. Higgins’ stepdad worked for the Goodyear Tire company. He made enough money to feed everyone. Gasoline was nine cents a gallon. It was a good life all the way up until high school. Higgins had great friends in high school. It was all and all a good growing up experience. No one had anything so everybody was in the same boat. Higgins felt like he was blessed in terms of the people he met and the people he grew up with. Higgins got free medical attention in the military. He had always wanted to fly since he was a kid. He figured that if he got into the Air Corps he could get into the flying game. They had around 200 hours of training before they got into a combat aircraft. To get those 200 hours it took about six months. The first military aircraft Higgins flew was in Boise, Idaho on a B-17-E. The training was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They had four hours in the air and then four hours in the classroom. Higgins was assigned to the 100th Bombardment Group as a copilot. He went through Phase 3 training in Sioux City [Annotators Note: Sioux City, Iowa]. They finished training but were brought back to Blythe, California to instruct new crews. Higgins picked up his crew and they went through some of the training again. Higgins got aerial gunnery training when he went through advanced training. He ended up in Kearney, Nebraska. They picked up a brand new airplane that they flew overseas then they went into a replacement pool.

Annotation

The first time Malcolm Higgins saw a B-17 he wondered how the heck it could fly. It was awkward when it was on the ground but once the wheels got off of the ground it had a grace all of its own. They called it a four engine Cub. The controls were heavy, but they got used to it. Higgins was in a state of wonder when he was going overseas. They left the United States from Bangor, Maine. They flew through Iceland and then Greenland. They began to wonder who they were going to be replacing. They had never been shot at so they wondered what combat was like. It was a new to the guys. There was never any thought about dying. Everyone knew what they were going to do. They were still living a happy life even at that time. They stayed in the replacement pool for about two weeks before the 351st [Annotators Note: the 351th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force] called for them. They went to Emden, England which is on the northern coast of England. Higgins was amazed that the guys could fly formation and keep their heads moving. In combat they did not watch the lead plane that much. Instead they were keeping their eyes peeled for fighters. They did not have too much resistance on their first raid. They dropped their bombs quickly and came back. When they returned they did not talk about the mission to guys who were not on it. Higgins would go straight to the debriefing room. He would pick up a cup of coffee and sit down and talk. Chatting with the officer before they talked to anyone else about the mission ensured that the officer was not going to get biased accounts. The guys who lost friends were very quiet. Higgins was always one who thought that when they were on the ground he wanted people to think he was the commander. When they got up in the air he wanted people to know he was the commander. Higgins did not care what his men said as long as they did their jobs. His crew was good. Higgins does not know whether or not they liked him. He contacted a crew member of his 55 years after the war and he told Higgins he was a good pilot. Higgins got his indoctrination on 9 October [Annotators Note: 9 October 1943] for the Anklam raid. They had them go in on their bombing runs at 13,500 feet. The ack ack [Annotator’s Note: antiaircraft fire] was not accurate but Higgins also ran into JU-88s which had rockets. It blew the fabric off of their plane. The tail gunner did not have a scratch on him. Another of their guys was wounded. The planes above them dropped bombs and they almost hit the guys below. The gunners with their 88 millimeter guns [Annotator’s Note: German antiaircraft guns] were extremely accurate. When they concentrated their 88mm fire it was tough. A lot of the planes at Schweinfurt were knocked down by 88s. At Anklam the rear end of Higgins’ plane was shot to pieces. His gunners noted that there were many holes in the plane bu the cockpit had not been touched. Once they left the target they saw they were running out of gas.

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They [Annotators Note: Malcolm Higgins and his crew] did everything they could do to keep their plane in the air after it was hit. They dumped everything out. They got to England and were able to land at a new base that had just been established. Higgins reported to his commanding officer that the plane was there and that everyone is ok. His commanding officer told him to get back to his original base. The commanding officer of the new base came up to him and said they were not allowed to take the plane. Higgins informed him that he had to get the plane back to his base. The commanding officer left to go call Higgins' commanding officer. When he went up to the tower Higgins and his mates got in the plane taxied and took off. Higgins buzzed the tower just to prove to the officer that the plane was still in flying condition. The plane was holding together alright even with all of the holes in it. The guys on the plane were laughing so hard that they did not notice the wind going through the holes in the plane. Higgins was awakened at about five in the morning and informed that his squad was going to be standing down that day. He went to the briefing room and was asked to fly as a copilot for the Schweinfurt mission. Higgins wanted to get his missions in and said he would be glad to do it. He was assigned to Lt. Crismon]. It was the only time Higgins ever saw the guy. It was one of those typical beautiful fall days in England. They could not see through the fog at there base. Higgins taxied in line to take off. They took off at one minute intervals when they had fog like that. Higgins gave it the gas and it started going. He was flying copilot for the first time in almost a year and made a mistake that almost killed them. Higgins saw the rate of climb indicator go down and he shook the wheel. He pulled the column back into his stomach. The pullout was so heavy the engines were struggling. Higgins got the plane level and turned it over to the pilot. It was kind of a bad start. They got into formation and joined 17 other airplanes. Only Ten of the planes actually bombed because the other planes bailed. They had very heavy losses during that week. They barely had anything left. Their P-47 escorts could just reach the coast before they had to turn around. They were fighting fighters the entire way in. They were in good shape until they hit the initial point. When they hit that they made the turn to go on their bombing run. An Fw 190 hit the number one and number two engines. The number one was gone immediately. They were losing oil pressure on number two. Crismon talked it over with Higgins and they decided to take a chance on it. They felt their bombs go and immediately he feathered the number two engine. They knew they could not make it to England so they headed for Switzerland. They had five German fighters following them. They could not get over 115 miles per hour airspeed. It was a very slow letdown. They alerted the crew to prepare to bail out.

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Crismon and Malcolm Higgins talked over what they wanted to do. Higgins told him to go down to the back of the plane and ensure the guys got out. Their communication equipment on board the plane was knocked out. Higgins had to walk through the area with the open bomb bay doors. The guys were stacked up at the door ready to get out. One of them got caught in the door and could not get out. Higgins pulled one of the guys back and grabbed him. They threw one of the guys out but they made sure he had his chute on. Higgins hit the slip stream and his right flying boot was ripped off. He had heard about pilots being strafed so he free fell for about 12,000 feet. He pulled the rip cord but nothing happened. Then his parachute opened. Higgins swung about three times and hit the ground. It was a close landing. When Higgins hit the ground he looked around and he was in the middle of a big field. Two figures approached him. One was carrying a rifle. Higgins stood up and urinated on his parachute so it could not be reused. He was captured by a Hitler Youth and a home guard. The older man had a rifle but the kid kept pushing him around with a luger. Everything was alright until Higgins tried to light up a cigarette and the kid slapped it out of his mouth. Higgins was a prisoner of war for the next year and a half. He had quite an experience as a prisoner of war. He was exhausted by the time he got to a bed. He slept like a rock. The next morning Higgins and two other Americans were put on a truck that took them into Frankfurt. They were put in solitary confinement. Higgins was in there for eight days. He was interrogated by a well educated German who spoke better English them him. Higgins gave his name, rank and serial number. He had trouble controlling his reflexes during the questioning. He did not tell him anything. Higgins went into the holding pen which was a staging area before they were assigned to a camp. He was there for ten days then put on a train going north. Higgins ended up at Stalag Luft III. The first prisoner he ran into was his old navigator from the 100th Bomb Group. He knew the ropes of the camp. The situation was better than what Higgins expected. He was interrogated by the American commanding officer. They interrogated everyone to make sure the Germans were not putting infiltrators in. Higgins was in the camp until January 1945. When Higgins got in there were eight guys in the room. When he left in 1945 there were 15 guys in the room. The food never increased. Higgins got a lot of potatoes and Red Cross parcels. Some of the guys were putting on weight so they exercised by walking around the perimeter. They dug tunnels and would dump the sand outside of the camp. They filled the walls and ceilings with sand.

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They [Annotators Note: Malcolm Higgins and his fellow prisoners being held in Stalag Luft III] got a chance to build their own theater there [Annotator’s Note: inside the POW camp]. The Germans provided them with tools under the condition that they could not use them to escape. They instead just used the tools to create other instruments of escape. They had good musicians at the camp and one of the guys did some composing. They always had good plays going on. The Germans would take interest in the plays. At about the time the Russians were making their way to the camp the guys were preparing for a Julius Caesar play. There were a lot of good times and the guys had a lot of laughs. Higgins was amazed that the American boys could keep their sense of humor through it all. Higgins believes that humor helped out a lot. Higgins read over 300 books in Stalag Luft III and he played a lot of Bridge and other card games. There were plenty of cards. They played with plastic decks to the point where the ink on the cards wore off. They played baseball, softball and touch football. They kept themselves in halfway decent shape. They thought the war was going well once they heard about the invasion. Every night they had to close the shutters. They were adjacent to the Great Escape British compound [Annotators Note: a large number of Allied prisoners in the British compound escaped which inspired the 1950 book and 1963 movie both titled The Great Escape]. The British guys had informed them of the tunnels so the Americans started digging tunnels like mad with the intention of getting caught to help the British. Higgins was there for Christmas of 1943. The guys would take their raisins and prunes to make wine. Higgins took one shot and decided there had to be better things in life than that but some of the guys got drunk. Some of the guys decided to jump over to the British camp. The British saw it and came over to the fence. The guards were yelling and shooting in the air. It took them almost six months to straighten everything out. The Germans finally checked everyone’s photograph to sort everything out. Anything they could do to keep the Germans on edge they did it. The Germans took everyone out into an open field and counted them. Machineguns were all around. It was a tense moment. The hardest part about being a prisoner of war was the confinement. They talked about women and food a lot. Inactivity was tough too. The guys were good at helping each other out. They kept busy getting ready to escape. They got mail constantly. They were allowed three cards and two letters that they could send. All of the letters were censored.

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Malcolm Higgins received messages from home [Annotator’s note: while a POW at Stalag Luft III]. His family found out through the grapevine that he was a prisoner of war. Higgins’ family got an official telegram from the war department three months after he was shot down. Food parcels came in almost as frequently as the mail. They contained useful things like toothbrushes and toothpaste. Once they began moving in January Higgins did not get any more mail. The Germans came running into their barracks and informed them that they would be moving in 15 minutes. They put everything they owned on and gathered up their personal effects. They lined everybody up by barracks. It was around 11 o’clock at night and there was already five to six inches of snow on the ground. They did not begin to move until one in the morning. They were in the south compound so they got to break trail for everybody else. The guys took turn breaking the trail. They marched for about 36 hours without rest. They finally stopped at a tile factory. It was about 100 degrees in there and the guys were sweating. They were told to move again and one of the American officers said they were not going to move. The Germans gave them a few hours. They ended up walking all the way to Spremberg. In Spremberg they were put into boxcars. There was not enough room for everyone to sit down so they took turns. One of the boxcars was used for guys to relieve themselves. After three days on the train they let the guys off. It was a tough time. They took the guys into Stalag VII-A near Moosberg. It was a bad place. The bunks were triple decked. They were stacked end to end with minimal room in between. The barracks were full of lice and fleas. The food ration was cut down to where they had very little food. They found out one of the guys in camp was a cook and they figured out the math that ensured caloric survival. It got so bad at Stalag VII-A that a bunk mate of Higgins from Stalag III-A got the idea to lay on the ground and sleep outside because the fleas and lice were so bad. They were in the tents when the lines moved over them. They were there from January to April [Annotator’s Note: 1945]. On 29 April it was Higgins’ turn to take a hot shower. They always had a cold shower in Stalag Luft III. Higgins wondered if they were going to get gassed but it was a real shower and it felt good. Higgins put on his flea infested clothes and started back. When they reached the gate a P-51 flew over. He did a slow roll and just as he popped out of it the shooting broke out as the lines converged. They ran into the compound and got out of the way. The lines moved over them. Higgins watched the guards intently. The Germans did not have any ammunition. According to the Geneva conventions as long as they had a guard out there the Germans could not fire. Higgins got to talk to Patton. He was going to jump up to say something to Patton but Patton told him to hold fast. It was ten days before Higgins got out and was flown to La Havre, France. They checked them over physically and doled out food carefully. They went through the repatriation process there. A couple of the guys ate themselves to death.

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After they [Annotators Note: Malcolm Higgins and his fellow newly liberated POWs] got through the food area they gave back their tray and walked around [Annotator’s Note: at the repatriation center in Le Havre, France after being liberated from the German POW camp]. If they wanted more food they had another line set up but it was more restricted. They kept the guys from killing themselves. GI food tastes incredible once you have been living off of Kriegie [Annotators Note: Allied POWs referred to themselves as Kriegie which is a shortened version of Kriegesgefangenen, the German word for prisoner of war] food. Higgins recalled getting a new bunch of repatriated POWs. They got one kid in who had never cooked before. They told him he was going to cook barley. The kid took a can the size of a one pound coffee can and filled it up with barley. He dumped it in the pot and realized that was wrong. The kid used every pot available and the guys were laughing. One guy was really proud of the cakes he made. After the lines moved past them, everything was ok. Some of the GIs threw K rations and loafs of bread to the prisoners. Higgins was out by 10 March 1945. He was excited that the war was ending. There was a lot of jumping up and down, yelling and screaming when they were liberated. Some of the guys picked up German flags. One of their guys had an American flag the entire time and they ran it up the flagpole at the camp. They wanted to move right away when they were liberated. Higgins came back on a Liberty ship. It was clean and there was plenty of room. The cook told them he would make anything at anytime so long as he had the materials. He made milk and eggs available to the guys at all times. It was tasty and nutritious food. Higgins got the chore of throwing garbage overboard. Every once in a while they had gunnery practice which was fun to watch. One of the guys fired a short round and the guys freaked out. It took them about two weeks to get back. They landed at a camp outside of Boston. They had arrived a little bit late but were presented with two options. They could have steaks or a phone call home. Everybody called home. Higgins told his girlfriend to get ready; they were getting married. Higgins landed on 6 June 1945 and was married by 23 June. He had a full church wedding. It was a joyous time. From there Higgins got a 60 day furlough and was sent to a rehabilitation center in Miami Beach, Florida. Higgins ended up with jaundice and had to go in the hospital for awhile. He was not allowed to leave until November. He got his official release from active duty in January 1946 then started writing universities to see if he could get into school. He ended up at the University of Nebraska. Higgins did not know anybody and he took his new bride with him. They spent four years at the University of Nebraska.

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Malcolm Higgins never saw the morale down within the ranks of the 8th Air Force. To him, morale was fine. Base activity was fine when no one was flying. Higgins was concerned with his plane more than anything else. The guys who worked on the plane worked their tails off to keep the plane up. Higgins had just gotten a 15 day furlough when he found out about Pearl Harbor. It was about 11 o’clock in the morning. Higgins was on his bunk listening to Glen Miller and waiting for the mess hall to open. Before that could happen his commanding officer came in and told him to report to MP headquarters because they needed guards. Everyone had gone off base because it was a weekend. Higgins found out about Pearl Harbor and realized his furlough was gone. He was sent to the other side of the camp with a .45 caliber pistol to guard that section. Everyone was busy. Higgins was notified after being on the guard duty for six or seven days that he would remain there. That did not fly with him because he wanted to fly so he signed up for flight training. Higgins rested for a couple of weeks so he could pass his physical. He had four hours on, eight hours off, seven days a week. A lot of the time those four hours would be from midnight to four in the morning. Higgins developed a method to stay awake during guard duty. He held a flashlight in his hand so that if he fell asleep it would fall on the floor and wake him up. Higgins believes that it is important to teach kids. He has been impressed by what kids know and what they ask. Higgins enjoyed talking to the kids. He likes to see the kids having fun but they have to learn. A lot of the kids are coddled too much in Higgins’ opinion. They need to be exposed to life by their parents instead of finding out about life later. Higgins believes that if museums do nothing else but warn people what can happen, then they will fulfill a purpose. Higgins notes that one cannot understand war unless they see it for themselves. Americans have no idea what would happen if our country was invaded. He thinks it’s a very good and very educational thing. Higgins thinks anytime politicians make war with another nation the politicians should slug it out themselves. He wants the fight to stop being put on the people.

Annotation

The first time Malcolm Higgins saw a B-17 he wondered how the heck it could fly. It was awkward when it was on the ground but once the wheels got off of the ground it had a grace all of its own. They called it a four engine Cub. The controls were heavy, but they got used to it. Higgins was in a state of wonder when he was going overseas. They left the United States from Bangor, Maine. They flew through Iceland and then Greenland. They began to wonder who they were going to be replacing. They had never been shot at so they wondered what combat was like. It was a new to the guys. There was never any thought about dying. Everyone knew what they were going to do. They were still living a happy life even at that time. They stayed in the replacement pool for about two weeks before the 351st [Annotators Note: the 351th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force] called for them. They went to Emden, England which is on the northern coast of England. Higgins was amazed that the guys could fly formation and keep their heads moving. In combat they did not watch the lead plane that much. Instead they were keeping their eyes peeled for fighters. They did not have too much resistance on their first raid. They dropped their bombs quickly and came back. When they returned they did not talk about the mission to guys who were not on it. Higgins would go straight to the debriefing room. He would pick up a cup of coffee and sit down and talk. Chatting with the officer before they talked to anyone else about the mission ensured that the officer was not going to get biased accounts. The guys who lost friends were very quiet. Higgins was always one who thought that when they were on the ground he wanted people to think he was the commander. When they got up in the air he wanted people to know he was the commander. Higgins did not care what his men said as long as they did their jobs. His crew was good. Higgins does not know whether or not they liked him. He contacted a crew member of his 55 years after the war and he told Higgins he was a good pilot. Higgins got his indoctrination on 9 October [Annotators Note: 9 October 1943] for the Anklam raid. They had them go in on their bombing runs at 13,500 feet. The ack ack [Annotator’s Note: antiaircraft fire] was not accurate but Higgins also ran into JU-88s which had rockets. It blew the fabric off of their plane. The tail gunner did not have a scratch on him. Another of their guys was wounded. The planes above them dropped bombs and they almost hit the guys below. The gunners with their 88 millimeter guns [Annotator’s Note: German antiaircraft guns] were extremely accurate. When they concentrated their 88mm fire it was tough. A lot of the planes at Schweinfurt were knocked down by 88s. At Anklam the rear end of Higgins’ plane was shot to pieces. His gunners noted that there were many holes in the plane bu the cockpit had not been touched. Once they left the target they saw they were running out of gas.
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