Although Sgt. Paul H. Moseley passed away at least 20 years ago, he recorded his account about being shot down over the Netherlands during WWII on a cassette tape that survives to this day.
Paul was born and raised on farmland that now runs behind Wal-Mart and extends over to the MoDOT depot on the west side of Missouri Highway 11 at the south end of Brookfield.
Although it has been edited for length, what follows is Sgt. Paul Moseley’s first person account of a mission that ended in a long and harrowing journey back home to Brookfield:
I went through basic training in Fresno, California...It was around the middle of December, 1943 when they shipped a bunch of us on a troop train to Lincoln, Nebraska for training at aircraft mechanic school. While we were there, they asked for volunteers to learn to fly. There were six to eight of us guys out of the 200 there who didn’t volunteer; we ended up being the guys they picked. They sent us to Fort Myers, Florida for flight training...After they sent us to Marchfield, California, we were formed into squadrons to fly B-24 [Liberator] bombers. We received more training at several different bases before we were sent to England by way of Brazil and Africa. We were in the 453rd Bomb Group, 732nd Squadron. [Although Sgt. Moseley recalls being a nose gunner, all of the caption information from photos of him at the time identify Paul as the right waist gunner.]
After a few training missions, we started flying all over Holland and France, as well as Germany. On March 28, 1944, on our fifth mission, we were sent to bomb a ball bearing plant in Memmingen, Germany. We ran into fighters, flack and everything else they could throw at us going in. And coming back out, without fighter escorts due to their fuel shortages, we got jumped by a bunch of ME-109s and JU-88 fighters carrying rockets. They tore us up; several of our bombers were blown out of the air right in front of our eyes. All we had was shell holes in our wing fuel tanks, and it was a miracle we didn’t blow up too. However, we did end up running out of gas. Our pilot told us we were going to have to hit the silk, so we bailed out over [German occupied] Holland. My feet hit the ground close to the Zuiderzee [a shallow bay in the North Sea to the northwest of the Netherlands]. As we landed—five or 10 of us got safely out of our bomber—we were picked up by a bunch of school children; they hid us, and that night we started making our way through the Dutch underground. We were told not to ask or remember the names of the places we were taken or the people who helped us [in case they were captured and interrogated]. The people in the underground who helped us would have been shot right on the spot. I had a back injury from when we bailed out, and there was a Dutch doctor with the underground who took care of me. Moving through the underground from the home of a woman and her little boy in Drachma, Holland to the attic over a grocery store in Guttensalag, Paul met with a threat of detection when the store owner’s 13-year-old son kept asking why he couldn’t go into the attic. After a couple of weeks, the store owners asked what I thought of letting their son know they were hiding me. I told them, “You realize that if he tells anyone, you will be shot. I’ll just be taken to a concentration camp.” Every evening, the boy would come up and visit with me for a while. One day, the boy told me he was going to have to stop visiting me because his teacher was becoming suspicious. He explained, “She thinks I’m speaking English a little too fluently.”
Page 2 of 2 - After a while the underground moved me to the home of two teachers. I then started traveling in Holland a little, dressed in Dutch clothing...I was told that if we were ever stopped, they would tell the Germans I was deaf and dumb. We were very fortunate that we were never stopped...As time went on, the Allies had landed in Normandy and were about to take Paris. The Dutch hiding us wanted to get us to Paris to reunite with American troops. But they didn’t reckon for a certain fellow who was supposed to be working for the underground in Antwerp. As we moved toward Paris by train, we were sitting elbow to elbow with German soldiers. When we got to Antwerp, they introduced us to this fellow who was very friendly. I thought it was strange because he was playing American music on the jukebox. He led us to a building and into a room with bars on the windows and electric lines attached to them. I said to another flier, “I think we’ve been had!” He disagreed. It wasn’t long before a couple of Nazi SS boys came in, rounded us up and took us to a truck with a canvas top. That SOB had sold us out to the Gestapo! I said to Mike, “Now do you think we’ve been had?” Before he could answer, a German soldier smacked him up side the head with the butt of a rifle.
We were imprisoned in Brussels where we met a lady from Belgium who was allowed to visit her husband. We told her what had happened, and she said she would let the folks in the Dutch underground know. A few days later, a bunch of German guards came in laughing. Somebody asked, “Fritz, why are you so damned happy?” One of the soldiers replied, “Oh, we have good news for you! Your redheaded friend in Antwerp got machine-gunned this morning.” They thought that was hilarious. So, the underground got the bastard who turned us in.