October 1944. Wilbert ‘Curly’ Seibold was on board a B-17, on a mission in the skies over Germany during World War II. But this mission, did not go according to plan.
“He had a lot of experiences along the way. Sometimes it was pretty scary,” Bonnie Seibold, Curly’s wife, said. “He’d sit and tell the kids and myself.”
Curly, so called from the wavy locks on his head, grew up in Zanesville, Indiana. He was drafted in 1941 and joined the Army Air Corp as a gunner on a B-17.
“Part of his job was to pull pins on the bombs,” his son Paris Seibold said. “He was flying from London into Germany and Berlin and they told them before they left that half the planes wouldn’t come back. As a kid you’re thinking, 50 percent of the planes not coming back. That’s pretty scary.”
Now almost 97, Curly still reflects on that fateful day. Curly and his crew were shot down. They survived the plane crash, but were quickly captured.
“I was the last one they caught,” Curly said. “They took us to a barn and I told the pilot, I said, this looks kind of bad. It was a relief we didn’t get shot.”
They were then taken to a prison camp.
“He had brand new shoes on and [the German soldiers] kept pointing at his shoes and he was worried they’d take them so he took rocks and scuffed them all up so they wouldn’t take his shoes. A lot of prisoners didn’t have shoes and if they walked very far their feet would bleed,” Paris Seibold said.
In a journal, Curly recorded his memories of life in the prison camp. He even drew a map of the layout.
“There’s four lots with a bunch of barracks in them. The barracks I was in there were about 18 people in it,” Curly said. “There wasn’t much to eat.”
Curly and his crew tried to escape more than once.
“They were moving across Germany and planes would fly over and they didn’t know if they were enemy planes or friendly planes and everyone would hit the ground. A couple times he tried to escape as the planes would come over they’d hit the ground and they hid in a ravine and let everyone else walk by,” Paris said.
But, they got caught every time. Finally a note passed to a messanger, brought their saviors.
“I was lucky. I got through it pretty good,” Curly said.
Curly has a piece of his actual B-17 that crashed now moutned on a plaque. On his keychain, he also carries the dog tags he was given in the German prison camp. The two pieces of metal, barely attached in the middle, would be broken in half is someone died. One half would go to family and the other half would stay on the soldier, Curly said.
He’s proud to show that his tags are still in tact.