Original U.S. WWII Stalag 17B POW Airman Survivor with Dedicated Kriegie Memories Book with Paperwork Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind grouping. Sergeant Orville C. Smith ASN 12167439 was a ball turret gunner aboard the B-17 "Lady Millicent" which was assigned to the 338th Bombardment Squadron, 96 Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. On April 8th, 1944 his plane was damaged and he bailed out over Germany. He was captured by locals and turned over to the Wehrmacht later being transferred to STALAG LUFT 17B in Krems, Austria. He remained there for over one year before a forced march back to Germany where he was liberated in late April 1945. During his time at STALAG LUFT 17B he was imprisoned with Ben H. Phelper who wrote the incredible book KRIEGIE MEMORIES which documented their time at the prison camp and of which fewer than a few hundred original copies were ever published.

Included in this incredible set are the following items:

- An extremely rare dedicated copy of KRIEGIE MEMORIES by Ben H. Phelper. Self published by Phelper and printed by Boulevard Press in Los Angeles, Cal., these books were given as gifts by Phelper to fellow POWs in Stalag 17B. The book measures 7-1/4" x 9-3/4" and has 60 pages of hand written text and photos.

Presented to "Smith, may you always be free and happy” on the second page and signed by "Ben". Printed in small numbers as a keepsake for friends, family, and fellow soldiers, one might expect that all copies were signed. A remarkable memento from the Second World War, dedicated to “all our buddies killed in action, by civilians or in the prison camps.”

The photographs in this remarkable account were all taken while interred. Phelper must have gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal his camera (almost certainly a Box Brownie). The text remains lighthearted throughout and we learn of many of the pranks played on German guards, hiding British pilots, complaints about the food and laundry, an account of the “Cardboard Playhouse”, the improvised theatre organized in camp. (Phelper notes in an aside that “some of the lads sure did look good when they made up as a girl. One had to look again to be sure they were in the right place.”) As the war drew to a close the Germans allowed music to be played a couple of hours a day and in January 1945 screened a couple of films. More typical events are recorded such as roll call, Germans puncturing tins brought in with Red Cross parcels, funerals for dead POWs, air raids, and as Allied gains continued, we learn of the constant fears of retaliation by the Germans. The camp was evacuated on 8 April, and prisoners were led through the Danube valley until the 25th when they established another camp at the fork of the Innes and Salzach rivers and stayed there until they were liberated a week later on May 2nd.

Ben Phelper was born in 1916, worked as an illustrator for Walt Dsney and learned to fly before the WWII. He joined the Army Air Corp as a lieutenant and was shot down on April 17, 1943 aboard a B-17 Fly Fortress. He was sent to Stalag 17B near Vienna, Austria where he was POW for the next 2 years until freed at the end of the war. While in Stalag 17B he was able to bribe guards to obtain a camera and film. The book is full of amazing photos he took, and along with the hand written text, a vivid portrayal of life in a German POW camp is presented. He published two other memoirs of Stalag 17B, “Shot Down” (1947) and “The Sweat Box” (1961). *Kriegie Memories* precedes both and is the scarcest of his works.

- Copy of his honorable discharge.

- Original photos of Orville Smith as a POW.

- Original newspaper article announcing the "good news" that Smith was not KIA and was reported as a POW.

- Other ephemera as seen in the photos.

- Copy of letter Smith wrote to the VA describing the injury he sustained to his feet from  baling out of the plane and his subsequent imprisonment. This letter is transcribed below and details some of his experience from bail out to liberation.

April 10, 1961
Veterans Administration
Paton Building, 107 Sixth Street
Pittsburgh 22, Pennsylvania
Smith, Orville

In your letter of March 16, 1961, you state that there is no relationship between my left foot condition and my service connected flat feet condition which you did service connect and awarded me 10%, or to my experiences as a prisoner of war.

I am going to write to you in detail as the incidents occurred as I feel the condition of my feet are service connected.

At Eco's Road, England, with the 96 Bomb Group, 338th Squadron of the Eighth Air Force and flying on a B-17 "Lady Millicent". We were on a bombing mission and on April 8, 1944 we were flying between Brunswick and Kassel, Germany, and before we got there we lost an engine over the channel and had to feather it; we could still maintain formation until we reached "IP" where we lost another engine due to flack, and had to turn back, couldn't maintain altitude, were told to bail out at approximately 2,000 feet over town of Vreden Germany approximately 3 Kilometers inside of German border, and parachuted to street of town.

Injured feet on landing on the ground and David H. Schwantes of our crew bailed out at the same time and landed the closest to me. He was the radio operator on the ship. I volunteered to serve in the lower ball-turret as was one of the more experienced gunners, and because of my six foot height, weighed approximately 175 pounds I had difficulty confining myself into his small space, and had to discard my GI shoes and arctics for a pair of English flying boots which were small for me and were wired for heat, and thus when forced to bail out and came in contact with the ground I had no cushioning or support.

As we landed we were apprehended by German civilians who took us and confined us to a one-room cell along with eight others. The next day they took us and put us on a truck and hauled to Munster at this place they searched us and took all of our personal affects, placed us in solitary confinement in a cellar for one day and night. I had to walk about three blocks to the jail, and when I got there I could hardly stand on my feet. My feat and ankles began to swell and became black and blue on the top and bottoms of my feet. No one even asked us if we were hurt so had no treatment for my foot condition.

We were put back on a truck and took us to a train terminal at Munster and placed on a train and were transported to Frankfurt, confined us in solitary confinement where we were interrogated for approximately seven days. Had no medical attention here either. At Frankfurt we leaded on a box car and transported us to Krems, Austria, which seemed it took about a week.

They served us one cup of coffee and one quarter loaf of bread during that trip which approximately 75 of us were crowded into a box oar. Arrived at the Prison Camp in Krems, Austria, I am still wearing these boots that I had borrowed and the soles were ripped right off the tops. lifter being there about a week, I awoke one morning with my left foot throbbing and paining me severely, I went to the dispensary as I awoke my friend David up and he said for as to see if there was a dispensary that sight do something for me. Sgt. Harry Vosie at the dispensary said I had an infection in my left foot as it was all red and blue streaks going up and around the soles and ankles. I soaked my foot far about three dal's. Then I pulled upward on my foot as he pulled downward and because of the extreme pressure we exerted together on the foot, the pus shot out of the foot into the basin. me foot became quite relieved and I could walk on it as I had been hopping on one foot prior to that time.

In prison camp we had no heat, nothing to eat from the date we arrived until the 6th of September, when we first received Red Cross parcels, except for breakfast, hot water, barley broth for lunch and hand tack and hot water for supper. At the compound each of us was to perform some duty as the days went by but because of my foot condition I wasn't able to carry tubs of water and things required of me. I spent the winter there until April of 1945 with no heat, and the Red Cross parcels were distributed once a month with one parcel to four men. For disciplinary action for someone who might not obey their commands, they would make all of us stand out in the cold in sub-zero temperatures for a day or more at a time for roll call. This standing in these temperatures was extremely hard on my feet. I suffered a great deal of pain in both of may feet. During this stay here I had no treatment of any kind.

On April 8, 1945, they gave us a choice of remaining at that camp or going as group on a march across Austria away from the Russians. We chose the latter, for the reason that at night we could see the big guns of the Russians flashing and knew they were close and would soon surround us. We began the march on April 8 - from Krems, Austria to Braunau, Germany, without food. We marched fifty minutes and rested ten minutes. There were eight groups of five hundred men. When we got to the Forrest at Braunan, I could hardly get on my feet, I bet I laid there for ten days before I could walk a little bit. I couldn't even crawl or walk down the hill to get water.

When we were liberated, this Colonel came in and wanted to know if anyone could walk to the trucks, they would take us to an Aluminum Factory where we would be under cover. I managed to get to the truck and stayed at this factory about three days. Then they flew me to Nancy, France and here they put us on a train and from here we went to LeHarve France. From LeHarve I came back to Norfolk, Virginia, and they gave me sixty days leave for  where I recovered pretty good. Then I spent 30 days at Atlantic City, convalesced from about July 1st to November 1st, I was given convalescent furloughs as my records had been lost, and was not fully discharged until the first part of November 1945.

Ever since discharge I have had trouble with both of my feet, that is standing, walking and lifting all have caused my feet to trouble me very much. I have worn cut several pairs of arch supports furnished me by the Veterans Administration when sent to Erie, but they never helped the cause. In fact, it just killed me to wear them. I had to miss work to go to Erie and my employer didn't appreciate this. Dr. Ring at the Buffalo VA Hospital, said there was no doubt in his mind, but that my left foot was injured when I baled out of the plane. It felt to me as if I had gone right through my shoes, and the soles were torn loose. If you do not feel that this is conclusive proof, I would be pleased to appear in person before Adjudication. Yours Truly, Orville C. Smith.
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