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Chester J. Mann, Jr.
386th Bomb Group, 555th Bomb Squadron

Tech Sergeant Chester J. Mann bailed out of the plane called "Son-of-Satan" and became a POW. The picture below was taken before take-off on 18 Nov 44.

Chester Klier, 386th BG Historian, explains the group's mission number 294. On 18 November 1944, Captain Robert J. Owen, Jr. (buried Lorraine American Cemetery), Lieutenants Weston F. Melson (repatriated) and Roger L. Holm (repatriated), Staff Sergeants Thomas A. Price (buried Lorraine American Cemetery) and Robert R. Beegle (buried Ardennes American Cemetery) were killed in action.


High School graduation


Young Chester Mann


Telegrams to Chester Mann's mother about his status, first missing in action and then prisoner of war.


After liberation from the POW camp.


POW camp picture, used for ID.


Back in the US at hospital


Home with wife and nephew


Chester with nephew


The plane


The mission details


The "Black March" that Chester walked

Except from Barbed Boredom, a souvenir book of Stalag Luft IV by Charles G. Janis

THE BLACK MARCH

On February 5, 1945, the German camp officials were forced to evacuate Stalag Luft IV before the rapidly advancing Russian Army could reach the camp. This decision transformed the routine of camp into a bedlam of confusion.

Previous to the official declaration, rumors run rampant among the prisoners. Under the uncertain conditions and with no definite word, the men surrendered their rationality to wild conjecture. Some predicted a mass desertion by the Germans, abandoning the Kriegies to fend for themselves until they could be liberated by the Russians; or forced to fight their would-be liberators or possibly being backed to the wall and mowed down like just so much grass. At any rate, the Kriegies were left to draw their own conclusions us the frenzied guards and leaders scurried mysteriously about the camp. The suspense was finally relieved when, on the night of February 3rd, word was passed that the order for evacuation of camp had been received. The time designated was eight o'clock on the morning of the fifth. This news started an orgy of preparation for both the prisoners and guards.

Each prisoner hastily prepared for the trip. Some expected a march of a month or two at most, while others predicted a short jaunt of ten days. The camp was a beehive of activity as the prisoners raced about scraping together provisions for the march. Every scrap of food and clothing was packed. The Germans frantically organized schedules for the marching formations of all those physically able to move. The warehouse was opened and Red Cross food parcels were distributed to the Kriegies just before the March began. Only the hospital cases, along with a few padres were being left behind. They were left with no provisions and only the most meager rations.

February 5th dawned cold, wet and gray. The 'big day' had come, that mythical day all had dreamed about and planned for had finally arrived and it was a solemn one.

Prisoners were torn between elation at leaving the discomforts of camp and the uncertainty of prospects of hardships yet to be endured on the march.

It was a motley crew indeed that started out that day. Many of the Kriegies were wearing two or three complete outfits of pants, shirts and sweaters, and carrying several extra food parcels, which had been begged, borrowed or stolen from the Bed Cross warehouse.

At the onset of the march, the prisoners rejoiced in the mere freedom of motion after long months and, in some cases, years in the apathetic atmosphere of temp where no one indulged in exercise more strenuous than that required in attending to his daily needs. However, after a short time, muscles unused for long periods, collapsed under the strain of hours o£ marching in the cold, wet weather of the German winter. Bones and joints ached mercilessly and all were seized with fierce attacks of cramps when a halt was called and tired, pain-wracked bodies were finally allowed to rest. The menís distress was increased by the numbness and swelling of frostbite. And, due to the lack o£ sanitation facilities, the ever-present lice which infested every man, introduced typhus. Dysentery marched along with them to add more misery to the already unbearably miserable men. Some unfortunates were plagued with all simultaneously - men who straggled to keep up the pace with bodies weakened by the fevers of typhus, the bodily disorders of dysentery, the pains end cramps of frostbite and, exposure and complete fatigue. It was a fight uphill in a stiff wind all the way.


Where the plane crashed


Where several planes on mission 294 crashed

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