Birthday: March 17, 1924
Birthplace: La Crosse, Wisconsin
Family: Clarence and Gertrude Muth
Branch: 15th Air Force
Unit: 451st Bomb, 727 Squadron
Rank: 1st Leutenant
Philip Muth was a celestial navigator of the 15th Air Force, 451st bomb Squadron, and 727th Squadron out of Italy. He was shot down on October 7th, 1944 over a refinery south of Vienna. It was his thirteenth mission.
"We were in second position. Out of the twenty-one planes that flew that day, we were the only ones hit. Five of the crew were killed instantly and we had blown two engines. Then we started to spiral. Since I was the navigator and I was near the front, the only way out was through the nose wheel opening. You had to pull a pin out of the hinges so that the doors would fall off. But because of the centrifugal force, I didn't fall out. Then the plane made another lurch and I fell out. Then as I was flying, the plane was flying right next to me so I had to maneuver my way away from it.
I had been trained in Oklahoma City by the `Human Bat' to do these maneuvers. The `Human Bat' preformed at local fairs. He would jump out of planes at 14,000 feet and do what you would now call, skydiving. And this was in the 1930's! I arched my back and moved my arms to stay away from the plane. It was neat! I had a free fall of 14,000 feet.
I was landing, the Germans were waiting with a jeep down below. I was the only one who landed with out a scratch. But I landed with only one hook, which is a lot harder then landing with two hooks or with a harness. Now when I landed I couldn't hear for a couple of hours. You see, they tell us to yell and shout and things like that to get your airways working again, but it didn't work. Now the Germans with the jeep came to meet me, and one of them pulled me down and we hid there, all five of us. They were protecting me because there was another squadron coming. To them it was an honor; no one here really knows that. It was camaraderie. They then took us to a suburb of Vienna. Now I was an officer so I got to eat with the German Luftwaffe officers. And then the next day we went on a partial tour of Vienna. Yep, they took us on a tour of the city."
"You have to understand that this was a technique that the Germans used, see if they softened you up, then maybe you would tell them more. The next day they took us on a train to Budapest. This train ride wasn't bad. There in Budapest I was put in solitary."
"It was like a regular prison cell just a little bit different like on the walls there would be writing like a name and then `I've been here five days' or 3 weeks or something like that and it would get you thinking. `How long would I be in here? Am I going to stay here that long?' It was a technique that the Germans would use. It played with your mind. Another thing that the Germans would do is they never built anything on a 90º angle. They had little inclines you see. And all the walls were colored. They were usually yellow but every wall was different.
Now I was in the regular Federal Hungarian Prison. It happens to still be operating today. Then they always started us with a routine, like when they fed us. Now after a while they would change it and it would really mess with our heads. Like one day we would eat four hours apart and then the next you could be eating like eight hours apart or three hours apart. It really messed with your mind. You didn't know what time it was. There were no lights and you barely saw the sun. The only way to keep your mind occupied was by thinking of building a house or something. It takes a long process. See, you start by digging a hole. Then you get the foundation. We even measured the square feet! It maybe took two or three days to do this.
We were then shipped by boxcars to Saigon. Now we were all crammed in worse then before, so half of us had to stand and half of us had to sit and then every so often we would switch. When we got there I was put with the British. I was very fortunate. Why you say? Because the war started in 1939, the British were there longer because some of them got held there before the war. We got tea! It was very nice. We got packages from the Red Cross that had supplies and other things in them. It wasn't that bad.
We didn't have to work there at all, but one day a guy came up to me and said, 'Hey, do you want to sign up here to go to school?' I said yeah sure, so I did, I went to school. We all went to school in Oxford. They had professors and everything. And then the YMCA brought in musical instruments and we had an orchestra. And then we had drama. We were good. Even some of the major German officials came to watch.
Now, in January of 1945, the Russians made a big drive on the Western Front. We had to walk to Nuremberg in the middle of winter. It was cold. But I had on nice British wool. At night we stayed in barns on the hay. There were only Americans in Nuremberg. I spent my Twenty-first birthday there as a P.O.W. So like a week before we saved up half pieces of bread or part of our rations for the day, and then on the special day we would have a bash.
Now while there, the Americans bombed during the day and the British at night, so then we all got moved to Munich area. I was in tent 7a. They had gravel floors for drainage. There were about 200 men per tent. there were poles holding up the tent that were about eight feet apart and five men had to sleep in between the poles. So they would switch off lying on their backs and on there sides.
One day we woke up and we didn't hear anything. The first flag that I saw was on a church steeple, it was a French flag. Then we saw an American flag and we were so happy. We all cried. Then we went outside and there were no German troops. It was real freedom. But we still couldn't leave; there were too many men. So we stayed. All of a sudden a truck came with a whole bunch of food and we ate and ate. Then we got so sick, oh did we get sick. We weren't used to rich American food. Then General Patton came in to the camp. Now he's a tall, stern man. But when he saw all his troops there he cried. So we all cried. I was six feet away from Patton and I saw tears came rolling down his cheeks."
Finally the men got to leave and go home. Trucks took them all to where the American planes were kept. After four or five days of hauling men from the Munich camp, they all got into C47 cargo planes and were taken to Camp Lucky Strike up near La Havre, France. There they waited for two weeks and then boarded a ship and headed for New Jersey. On the ship there were the top generals and officials of the American Army. "Since I was an officer I got to go on board (on the main deck)."
The family of the P.O.W.'s didn't get any information about their sons or husbands for months after the planes went down. Mrs. Muth hadn't known the status of her son for almost three months. After getting in touch with one of the generals she found out that he was safe and alive.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104