Robert Mims' Story

Here is a video interview with Mr. Mims in August, 2007, when he was the featured speaker at the dedication of a memorial at Earls Colne to the Marauder crews stationed there during the war. And here is a video of the entire dedication ceremony. The videos were provided by a local newspaper in England, but is no longer available on their website. I was fortuate to be able to visit Earls Colne in 2008 with my sister and husband, as guests of the family that now owns the land and operates a business park on the site. Here's information about that visit.

mission drawing

This is Billy's drawing of the formation over Frévant on February 5, 1944, his 27th mission. He was in Enderton's plane, in between his friends Mims and Bryan. The photo at right, from Moench (p.143) shows Captain Bryan's plane in flames. Mims' plane went down just before Bryan's exploded. We think the plane in the blue box was Billy's, based on the above diagram and the description of the incident in the Journal.

Go to the Journal's description of the mission
Go to Mims' own description of the mission (from B-26 Marauder at War, by Roger A. Freeman, p.85-87; a PDF file)

 

Bryan's plane in flames

Here is a picture (from Freeman, p. 85) of Robert Mims' plane, the Swamp Chicken, after its right engine was shot off. There is another Marauder below it, trying to get out of the way of the crippled plane:

Swamp Chicken going down

Swamp Chicken's crash site

The top picture (from Freeman, p. 86) shows the Swamp Chicken still flying, but losing altitude rapidly; below, a reconnaissance photo taken a few days later, shows the crash site. Notice the well-worn track from the flak battery nearby.

Moench's description of the costly mission of February 5, 1944 (p.142) notes that 3 planes and 19 men were lost, along with 30 more planes suffering damage. He also notes that some parachutes were seen.

Mims, as it turns out, was not one of the parachutists. Brush, Vermillion and Miyo, his enlisted crewmates, did bail out; the first two men were captured, but Miyo eluded the Germans, found French resistance fighters and finally made an escape to Spain.[1] Jackson, the co-pilot, also bailed out, but his chute failed to open and he was killed. Mims stayed with the plane to make a crash landing, allowing a steady enough descent to permit his crew to escape. Amazingly, he survived, although he lamented his bad luck in choosing a field containing a flak battery to land in.

(This information is from Mims' description in Freeman. You can see a PDF copy of the account here.)

 

Mims wrote Billy a letter from a German prisoner-of-war camp (Stalag Luft 1 [2] later in 1944. The letter was dated May 16, but its postmark indicates that it was not mailed until July 31. Here is a transcription of the letter, from "Gefangennummer (prisoner number) 2624":

Hi, Bill--Guess you've heard. Tough luck. But I guess I'm lucky to be alive. After all, we can't ask for everything. I would have written before, but you know how it is; we have to take care of the folks at home first. John Brush is here. Leon Jackson is dead. Outside of that I have seen no one that we know. There is so little space here that I can't write much. Mother is writing to you immediately. And if any of old dead Mims' stuff is lying around, take care of it for me, will you. Did the orders for my medal ever come in? Check up for me, will you? My address is on the back of the letter. Drop me a line will you? Haven't had any mail yet. Give the boys my love, and I'll see you when it's over. Got quite a story to tell. Oh, It ain't true, Bill.[3] Best of luck--Bob.

To see a PDF copy of the letter, click here.

The letter makes no indication of Mims' location; he was probably prohibited from saying anything about that. The "Geprüft" stamp indicates that it cleared the German censors. It was also "passed" by the British censors. At least it did not cost him anything for postage, as "Gebührenfrei" (post-free) indicates.

At the right is a picture of Mims and his crew, taken on the occasion of their 50th mission (from Freeman, p. 87).

Brush, Vermillion and Miyo (back row, left to right) were with Mims on the February 5 mission, as was Leon Jackson (front row, right). Mims is in the center of the front row.

Mims' crew

Immediately below is a picture of Mr. Mims, taken at a reunion in San Antonio in September, 2008. The gentleman in the middle is George Listug, who was also a B-26 pilot, and the one on the right is Bill Gear, who was a tail gunner. Below this picture is one of him at another reunion, in 2009, this time in New Orleans, and flanked by Billy's children (my brother Steve, myself, and sister Joan). It was wonderful to get to meet him and his family, and we hope to see him at future reunions, where we'll take more pictures to add to this page!


[1] Moench has an account of Miyo's adventures on page 143. Here is an excerpt:

In Marauder Man tradition, S/Sgt. Miyo not only eluded the Germans but joined the Free French of the Interior (FFI) with the rank of Captain—uniquely thereby achieving the highest foreign grade of any person in the 323rd Group.

[from the postwar comments of Michael R. Miyo]:
"After I pulled the rip cord, there was a white flash in front of my eyes. Then I felt a jerk and fell through the branches of a tree before hitting the ground.

About an hour after I landed and while I was lying on the wet, snow-covered ground in a small woods, I heard German soldiers beating the bushes and hollering, "Hello, hello." Eventually, they came to within 15 yards of me but still didn't see me.

Hungry, wet and cold, on the second day of hiding I decided to come out of the woods and take my chances. Soon I saw this house standing by itself and elected to knock at the door. Fortunately, the residents, a Czechoslovakian farmer and his Polish wife, took me in and, for some two months thereafter, sheltered and fed me....

....[eventually] I was approached by a Frenchman ... and sworn into the FFI...."

[2] The following is the text of an article written by a war correspondent who was in Stalag Luft 1 with Mr. Mims and thousands of other downed Allied airmen:

Russians Liberate Stalag Luft 1
May 1, 1945

Allied Captives Rout Nazis

(Editors Note: Lowell Bennett, International News Service Correspondent, parachuted into German captivity December 3, 1943, when a British bomber from which he was reporting a raid on Berlin was shot down. Following is his first dispatch since his liberation from a Nazi prison camp at Barth, Pomerania. He now is in Paris, en route home.)

By Lowell Bennett
International News Service

BARTH, Pomerania, May 1, – (Delayed) – Nine thousand Allied air force war prisoners who were my companions in Stalag Luft No. 1 were liberated in time to go back to the war today and be in on the kill.These men, who for long months and years waited for this wonderful day, have taken more than 200 square miles of German territory, have linked up with the Russians and now are waiting to go home after their long exile.

ONE CASUALTY

The total casualties of their entire operation so far is one man killed.
During the past 12 hours they have seized their prison camp, captured three towns, an important airfield and flak school and large quantities of equipment and fuel. Moreover they have taken almost 2,000 German prisoners.
A junction has been established with the Russian forces battering westward from Stettin and our joint victory in Pomerania is being riotously celebrated.
The action began last night when the Germans began evacuating the camp.
The Nazis had received reports the advancing Russian armies had reached the nearby sea base at Greifswald.

TOWERS CAPTURED

Long rehearsed operations got under way. We were fully prepared for such an eventuality. The “kriegies” (our abbreviation for the unwieldy, tongue-twisting German word for war prisoners) captured the guard towers and the radio station.
Scouts were dispatched in every direction and fully armed skirmish and picket lines were established. Expeditionary forces were organized to seize the entire area.
Little opposition was encountered by the airmen who, operation on the ground for the first time, disarmed the Germans they encountered and swiftly captured 50 vehicles, thousands of weapons and 3,000 gallons of fuel.

FIVE CAMPS FREED

Five neighboring prisoner of war camps and a concentration camp in the vicinity were liberated. Quickly afterward the liberated airmen captured Barth's air base where they seized 14 planes intact and 16 others which were only slightly damaged.
This evening two of our scouts returned to camp with a Russian first lieutenant, Nich Karmytoff. Complete liaison with the Russians was quickly established.
At this writing, the forces are in control of 175 square miles of Pomeranian territory and have taken almost 2,000 prisoners.
Tell America that her “Kriegie” sons of Stalag Luft No. 1 are all right and are soon coming home.

[3] I was a little confused by this last sentence in the letter. When I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Mims, I asked him about it. It refers to the rumors the flyers often heard that, if they were captured, they would be wined, dined, and offered other luxuries, in order to get them to give information to their captors. He's telling Billy here that the rumor was false.

 

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