Detroit veteran pilot reunited with his World War Two B-26

The Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida hosted World War Two veteran Barney Wasowicz in November to reunite him with his Martin B-26 Marauder, which he piloted during the war.

Barney, now 91, flew the aircraft on a total of 18 missions before being shot down by a German Focke Wulf 190.

Barney joined the US Army when he was 19 and completed the flight officer program. He went on to serve with the 386th Bomb Group, 55th Squadron and was based at Colchester, England during the war.

He flew several missions over Eastern Europe, then in January 1944 on his 18th mission, a German Focke Wulf fighter plane with 20mm cannons, fatally damaged his B-26. The German fighter had hit the radio compartment and rear cabin, which was set alight flooding the plane with smoke.

Barney hit the evacuation button so he and his crew could bail out. The button, he says, set off a loud alarm bell, and without access to the back of the plane, Barneylet the landing gear down so they could escape through the nose wheel, but that was stuck and wouldn’t lower properly.

Barney’s co-pilot jumped up and down on the wheel to force it down and open enough so they could slide out. They parachuted to the ground and were all captured by German troops. Barney sustained a week of interrogation by the Nazis, suffering sleep deprivation and starvation with only one bowl of soup to eat a day. They would also make the room temperature extreme from too hot to too cold, and being January this was unbearable.

Nevertheless, when the German’s could not get any information from Barney, he was transferred to Stralag Luft prison camp in Germany and remained there for two years until the end of the war, The Daily Courier reports.

The Soviet troops freed the 9000 men held at the camp at the end of the war. Barney recalls how an order from Hitler was found to kill of all the camp prisoners, but luckily this was towards the end of the war and Hitler had lost control and authority over his officers’ actions, so the order was never fulfilled.

After two months recuperation in Le Havre, France, Barney returned to the US to become a Detroit City firefighter. During his visit to the museum, Barney was taken on a flight over Prescott and stopped at Baton Rouge, Louisiana to see a Focke Wulf 190 which he had never seen before.

The B-26 is remembered as one of the most successful aircraft of World War Two. Barney remembers its sturdy build and resilience, which he believes saved his crew’s lives. He recalls how it was hard to fly, but that it served him well, with the cockpit actually being very comfortable.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE