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Our War Stories

A Bomber Pilot's Story

by Terry Plowman

     Memories of the day he was shot down during World War II haunted Warren MacDonald — until a surprising visit from a young man from Slovakia.

     The B-24 was ablaze. Two crewmembers were already dead. Seven others rushed to bail out of the bomber as it fell in a flat spin toward the town of Malzenice in Czechoslovakia. U.S. Air Force pilot Warren MacDonald tried to hold the plane stable while the crew parachuted away, then he climbed out the trap door above the flight deck. He crawled to the front of the fuselage, and, in the first parachute jump of his life, he leaped off the burning plane.

     As he floated down, MacDonald noticed what many in that situation have mentioned: intense silence.

     Details of that afternoon of Dec. 6, 1944, are etched in MacDonald’s memory — the bombing run over enemy territory, the inferno in the bomb bay, the concussion as his plane smashed into the ground not far from where he landed — and, of course, his subsequent capture by German soldiers.

     But little did MacDonald — today a resident of Rehoboth Beach, Del. — realize that memories of that day were also part of the lore of residents of the little town, who told and retold stories about the day burning warplanes fell from the sky.

     Those stories so intrigued Roman Kruty, of Malzenice (born in 1966, many years after the events), that he committed himself to finding out what happened to the airmen who drifted down on his town — and that commitment led to a new chapter in MacDonald’s memories of that day in 1944.

     In his daydreams, 5-year-old Roman Kruty struggled to guide his crippled bomber away from the town below. He would stay with the falling plane until he was sure it would not come down into the populated area, then he would jump clear and land on the soft earth just before the plane crashed. He would become a hero for sparing the village.

     Today Kruty, 35, jokes about his childhood fantasy, but he acknowledges that the World War II stories he heard as a child carved an indelible picture into his memory — a vision so real, that it became a subtle motivation for many of the things he did in his adult life.

     The stories remain so clear that Kruty can recount details some 30 years after hearing them: his father, then age 4, saying to Roman’s grandfather, "Look at the plane, how nicely it is shining," just before they saw the airmen bailing out; the rescued pilot (MacDonald), giving a piece of rubber oxygen hose to the boy, saying, "Someday you will be a pilot"; the captured American, tall and handsome, striding down the streets of the town in front of his captors’ rifles.

     Some of the details may have been embellishments, but they magnified the legendary status of the day the planes came crashing down near Malzenice. The pictures in Kruty’s mind were like "the best movie I have ever seen. But this was a real movie from real life," he says. "I wanted to talk to the actors and even meet them — the men from my childhood fantasy."

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This article and its photographs were originally published in the Fall 2001 issue
of Logbook magazine. This article and these photos have been reproduced on
this web site with the permission of David G. Powers, Editor.

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