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tegbridges 21st July 2011 21:23

Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944

On July 20, 1944, my father and four other Allied escaped POWs were rescued from a Partisan-held area in Yugoslavia known as the Woods of Bosut. It was west of Belgrade, in Serbia, near the border with Bosnia. The SOE's Bari headquarters carried out the rescue.

I am writing a book about my father's WWII adventures -- Richard Bridges, a B-24 pilot, was shot down over Wiener Neustadt, Austria, on Oct 1, '43, became the first American prisoner of war in Hungary and eventually escaped from his POW camp in Yugoslavia.

I have gotten good information on the 1944 rescue in Yugoslavia from UK Archives. I have only a brief account of the rescue from my father before he died in 2003. The landing ground reception was organized by SOE Cpt. Basil Irwin, who is now dead. (I have an oral interview he gave to the Imperial War Museum.) It was Major Basil Davidson who alerted the SOE of the existence of my father's little band. I have Davidson's two books on his time with the Partisans. (Davidson died last year.)

I believe that the pilots were Aussies or South African and belonged to Squadron 267, a transport unit that operated out of Bari.

I know that the Dakota that rescued my father landed at night on a big meadow amidst the woods. My father, as a Liberator pilot, provided word to the SOE that the site met the RAF's specifications.

I'd love to talk to an old Dakota pilot who might have flown a similar mission or find an account by one who did. How exactly did they land the plane on a foreign landing strip at night without lights? Did they make the landing with instruments? What steps did they take to avoid the nearby trees? Were these landings relatively routine or did they make the pilots nervous as hell? I'd like to provide a description of what it would have been like for the pilot to land that Dakota in the Woods of Bosut.

Can anyone help?

For other parts of the book, I have received wonderful help during the past couple of years from several fellows who were also B-24 pilots in my father's bomb group (the 44th).

My private e-mail is tegbridges@gmail, if you prefer to write me there.

I am writing the rescue chapter now and would be grateful for any assistance.

Thanks, Tyler Bridges

Dénes Bernád 21st July 2011 21:46

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944

Originally Posted by tegbridges (Post 131548)
Richard Bridges, a B-24 pilot, was shot down over Wiener Neustadt, Austria, on Oct 1, '43, became the first American prisoner of war in Hungary...

Can you give us the Build Number of your father's B-24?
Did the 'Liberator" crash in Hungary?


Pilot 21st July 2011 21:50

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
I have interview and former Yugoslav pilot who was officer in the formation of Draza Mihailovic during the war and he is also managed to safe a number of West pilots during the war. First at all they have landed in area far away from German sight. Second- in Partisans (later become NOVJ) as well Draza formations served a number of former Yugoslav airman and they know how to prepare airfield for landings. Third- the same place was marked with fire.

Most difficult was to get the falling airman as well Germans also run to get it on place of it landing. Second was problem to keep airman safe and in most cases they was keep in private remote village houses.

I have somewhere complete list of rescued Ally airman during the war over Yugoslavia but hardly that I could managed to dig out from chaos of piles....

Cheers :)

tegbridges 21st July 2011 22:46

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
The serial number for my father's plane, the Fascinatin' Witch, was 41-23811. It crashed somewhere south of Wiener Neustadt, near the village of Pilgersdorf, in Austria. I was just in Austria trying to find the crash site. My father evaded capture and surrendered the next day in Velem, Hungary.

tegbridges 21st July 2011 22:51

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
Dear Srecko:

My father's circumstance was different than the other pilots rescued from Yugoslavia because he was not shot down over Yugoslavia. He was a POW in Hungary until the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944. He -- along with the other Allied POWs in Hungary -- were transferred to Dulag 172 in Zemun, across the Sava River from Belgrade. He and four others escaped from there and were fortunate to find shelter with the Partisans until their rescue three months later. I doubt my father is on any list of rescued pilots since he wasn't shot down over Yugoslavia.

The night my father was rescued, the Germans were nearby. In fact, they had an armored train that fired shells at the landing ground in the woods.

I am still hopeful to speak to an old pilot or get a pilot's account of what it was like to rescue downed airmen or escaped POWs in Yugoslavia.

RSwank 22nd July 2011 00:59

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
The E&E reports for both Richard Bridges and Glenn Loveland (the man he escaped with) are available online at:

Click on the Digital Copies tab and enter:
Bridges, Richard
in the search box. You can save the resulting PDF report.

A Seach for:
Loveland, Glenn
gets the second report.

tegbridges 22nd July 2011 01:21

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
Dear RSwank:

I appreciate your taking the initiative to pass along the information on where I could find the E&Es for my father and Glenn Loveland. I actually obtained them a couple of years ago.

What I need now, as I mentioned, is help in getting a feel for what the pilots faced in landing their Dakotas at night on a foreign landing ground.



Alex Smart 22nd July 2011 01:51

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
Hello Tyler,
Yoy probably have this info already, but just in case.
The aircraft 41-23811 was hit by Bf109G-6 fighters of JG27/I , 3 crew killed and 7 pow according to Joe Baughers website.
Crew were:
P. 2Lt. Richard W. Bridges
CP. 2Lt. Delmar F. Phelps
N. 2Lt. Max A. Stiefel
B. 2Lt. William M. Schuler
E. T/Sgt. Robert L. Disalvio
RO. T/Sgt. Donald O. Bridges
BTG. S/Sgt. Kenneth O. Garrett
AE. S/Sgt. Jacob Rosenstein
G. S/Sgt. Charles M. Sasek
TG. S/Sgt. George W. Mercer
Garrett, Mercer and Rosenstein were the three killed. The remaining seven all became POW.
Were the two Bridges related ?
Also there was another death in relation to 41-23811. On the 18th March 1943 S/Sgt. Lucius M. Balsley was hit in the back while over the target. He died from his injuries on the 29th March 1943 and is interned at Cambridge plot D-6-69.
Joe Baugher's website; NARA pow lists; ABMC;; Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces vol 1&2.


tegbridges 22nd July 2011 01:59

Re: Dakota pilot, Yugoslavia, 1944
Dear Alex:

I appreciating you, too, taking the initiative. But I already had that information on my father's crew. I didn't know that a crew member (under a previous pilot) died aboard the Fascinatin' Witch.

I've been researching the book for more than two years and have dug up a lot of information, although a few specific documents detailing key events in my father's WWII service have eluded my grasp.


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