August 17th, 1943. The "Dear Mom" , a B-17 fighter of the 94th BG, 146 planes were in formation
on a mission from England to bomb an airplane factory in Regensburg , Germany.
Above the town of Lummen
Belgium, the formation came under attack from the ground.
The "Dear Mom" was blown in half, killing all
front crew members instantly. The rear half began to float to the ground with only Arthur Macdonell, a Navigator of
MA. and James W. Tolbert, of PA. a tail-gunner, inside.
Macdonell and James W. Tolbert jumped from
the plane around the same time German fighter planes began to arrive in the area.
As told by James W. Tolbert:
"A fighter made a turn for me as I was hanging in my chute, and flew by me and dipped his wings. The dip is a sign
of respect, or a salute."
When asked how he knew this for sure, he explained: "The pilot came to
see me in the hospital. He shook my hand, and saluted me"
When James Tolbert landed, he had a
broken jaw, and injured ankle. The town was occupied by Germans, and the locals hated them. The towns
people quickly picked up James Tolbert, carrying him into a nearby tavern. The blood from the crash brought a priest
who read him his last rights. The priest was then given James Tolbert's survival kit, which included chocolate, rather
than let it go to a German soldier.
Soon, he was found by the German soldiers and put on a haywagon, where
he discovered Macdonell.
They were carted to a nearby hospital, and then to various P.O.W. camps.