Veteran Stories:
Harry Robert “Bob” Eager

Air Force

  • Harry Eager in British Columbia, March 22, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • Log Book of Harry Eager.

    Harry Eager
  • Log Book of Harry Eager.

    Harry Eager
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"When we parachuted out of the aircraft, had we been able to go for maybe another 10 minutes, we might have made it. But we landed behind thick German troop concentrations."

Transcript

My brother joined the air force and when he was doing his training in Virden, Manitoba, he used to come home on holidays or weekends and he brought a friend of his who was also a friend of mine by the name of Bill Rodgers. And they would do their homework, i.e., ground work for their air training and I was quite keen to follow in their footsteps.

Training started at Manning Depot and then we learned how to march and keep time and that sort of thing. And then we were transferred to Mossbank, Saskatchewan, where we did what they called tarmac duty and really, it was joe-duty: pushing barrels around of fuel and that sort of thing. But it was where I had my first flight in an aircraft and that was a thrill.

I didn’t graduate as a pilot so I moved on to become an aircraft navigator. And I was transferred to Europe in January of 1944. [A year later] we were flying over a very very difficult target which was called Merseburg. It was at a place called Leuna, which is near Leipzig [Germany]. And it was a big oil refining plant. So naturally, it was heavily guarded by anti-aircraft. Anti-aircraft was very very heavy that particular night and we lost an engine while we were over the target.

And as we flew away back on our homeward leg, the flight engineer discovered that not only had we lost an engine, we also lost most of our petrol. The main gas storage tank had been holed and we were rapidly running out of fuel. So we set a course for the shortest distance to our lines and we headed that way. Well, we got almost to safety but not quite. When we parachuted out of the aircraft, had we been able to go for maybe another 10 minutes, we might have made it. But we landed behind thick German troop concentrations and they were of the last remnants of their last big push, it was called the Ardennes Bulge. And we landed unfortunately behind their lines and were quickly captured. So that’s what happened on the night of January the 13th, 1945.

I was in a prisoner-of-war camp [Stalag XIII-D in Nürnberg, Germany] until VE-Day, plus. So that was May 8th I think, somewhere around there, of 1945. We were liberated by [U.S. Third Army commander] General George Patton, he of the famed pearl-handled revolvers. And he came into our camp riding on his Sherman tank with his revolvers brightly displayed. We were thrilled.

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