A small piece of history in the Polish mountains - last flight of 'California Rocket'

in travelfeed •  14 days ago  (edited)

Last summer I spent several weekends in the Polish mountains. This year I gave up trekking in the high Tatras ... I chose rather walks in the lower parts of the mountains.

Today I will show you a beautiful corner in Gorce mountains, which also hides a small, war history.

Such "walks" also require effort, while allowing you to admire the lush nature - smell of the forest, colorful meadows and busy life of small creatures.

Sometimes I regretted being a large human and I can only observe this small, mysterious world from the side.

I found wild life there...

...and extremely busy residents who didn't even notice my presence.

I met a cute fire salamander, which is a symbol of the Gorce National Park. It rather didn't feel like chit-chat ;)

I also had the opportunity to observe the world on a macro scale. On the route of the tourist trail there was a wooden observation tower on Magurki, from which I could admire a beautiful mountain panorama.

On the route I came across an unusual monument, commemorating the last flight of the American bomber 'California Rocket', which crashed in this area in 1944. The machine belonged to the 15th Air Force, part of United States Army Air Forces, operating from Italy at the time.

On December 18, 1944, 'California Rocket' and other bombers took off from Italy to bomb German synthetic gasoline production facilities at Auschwitz.

During the flight over Hungary, the aircraft was damaged by enemy anti-aircraft artillery, as a result of which three engines stopped working. Return to the base in Italy wasn't possible, so the commander directed the machine to east, towards the Soviet army.

During the flight over the Gorce, the last engine stopped working and the ten-man bomber crew left the plane jumping on parachutes. Despite the shelling by German soldiers, 9 of them survived the landing. The commander, 2nd Lt William Beimbrink, jumped from the plane last - unfortunately his parachute didn't manage to open and he died. His body wasn't found, so for a long time it wasn't known what happened to him. Only 10 years ago, it was possible to reach an 84-year-old woman who found the body of William Beimbrink in 1944. She buried the pilot secretly, with the help of her husband.

The plane crashed in the woods on a mountain slope.

The crew of the aircraft was dispersed over a large area in difficult winter conditions. Some of them were injured. Within 30 hours of the disaster, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, assisted by partisans, found the airmen and hid them - partly in their own homes. Remember, that for such an act of courage they could be murdered with entire families by Nazis.

Finally the survivors were taken over by local partisans. In January, the Red Army offensive began, and the Americans, after many vicissitudes (almost were shot by the Soviets) arrived in Odessa. From there, through Istanbul, Egypt and Italy they returned to the United States.

Rescued pilots maintained cordial relations with the inhabitants and partisans who helped them in 1944.

In 1994, exactly in the place where the aircraft crashed, a sort of memorial was established - it's a fragment of the "Liberator" fuselage assembled using the original elements of this aircraft. The monument was unveiled by three members of the crew still alive at the time - Thaddeus Dejewski, Spencer Felt and Edward Sich. They were accompanied, among others, by local residents and Polish combatants.

Piece of history in the middle of the forest.

Flowers and candles - someone still remembers.

It was so long ago... yet it touched me deeply. Honor the fallen.

Thank you for stopping by and reading 🌻

All photos by @astinmin

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