Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ira Weinstein, 445th Bomb Group, POW, Kassel Mission Survivor

Ira Weinstein at Thunder over Michigan. Ira passed away Jan. 24, 2016. He was 96 years old.
This was one of Ira's favorite stories:


The Watch That Went to War

 (copyright 2013, Ira P. Weinstein)
 
We finally got to the interrogation center at Dulag Luft, and this is where a story took place that I wrote up for the Eighth Air Force Bulletin.
Before I left, I had a cousin who was older than me, he was already flying his own plane, and he was my hero. His father and mother invited me to dinner, and he gave me a watch. It was a Longines Weems watch, which was the watch that all the commercial and other aviators wore. And he said, “I want you to take this. It’s a great watch for you, and you bring it back safe.” That’s the watch I wore on all my missions. So when we got to the interrogation center, they threw us all in cells, and first they’d run the temperature way up, then they’d turn it off, but I was only there two days as I remember, maybe just overnight. And then they brought me in to a guy to interrogate me. We had seen a movie that showed just what to expect when you were going to be interrogated, and it would be laughable because it was just like that if you weren’t so scared. They told us just give your name, rank and serial number. Don’t try and outsmart them or get in a conversation with them.
I stood my ground. Finally, he brings in a guy, and he says to me, “Lieutenant, you don’t have to tell me anything. I know all about you. Your mother is Lillian Seligman. She lives in Rochester, New York, with your sister. She lives at 47 Rutledge Drive. You were born and raised in Chicago. You worked for Goldblatt’s.” They had a dossier on me that was better than the Americans had; they knew everything about me. “You were with the 445th Bomb Group. Your mission was to Kassel. You were in the 702nd Squadron. Your squadron commander was Lieutenant Colonel Jones.” So I didn’t have to answer anything, I just kept giving them my name. “Now, all you have to tell us is, where were you flying that mission and what was your target?”
I’d say, “Name, Ira P. Weinstein, first lieutenant, 0694482.” So finally he got pissed off. Then he says to me, “You are not an American. You’re a German. Your name is Weinstein. You were my neighbor in Frankfurt. You’re a ‘shpy.’” If you’re a "shpy," you’re gonna get shot. I didn’t give. Finally, he calls in a guy. A guy comes in, about six feet tall, in a black body suit with a rubber hose. Then the interrogator’s asking me questions and this guy’s slapping that hose. But we saw that in the movie. I was plenty scared, believe me, I wasn’t going to laugh like I can now. And the interrogator finally says, “Well, if you don’t want to tell us what we want to know I’m going to have to turn you over to this guy.” I stuck with it.
Then they sent in a German officer in a flying suit with a lot of ribbons. He said, “Cigarette, Lieutenant?”
I said, “No, I don’t smoke.”
So he sits down on the couch. He says, “You know, you’re a flying officer. I’m a flying officer. I’d just like to talk to you about what it was like. Can we discuss it?”
I said, “No.”
“You know, we’re compatriots.”
“Sorry.”
So he left.
After I was interrogated, they took all our clothes off and deloused them, and they gave us a shower. As I was marching down this long hall on the way to the showers, before they took our clothes, another group was coming back, and a prisoner from New Zealand said “Hey Yank, if you’ve got anything you don’t want them to get, you’d better get rid of it now because they’re confiscating everything that’s on you.” So I took the watch off – it was on an expansion band –  and I threw it to him and said, “Here, you take the watch.”
“Okay.”
Two days later I’m in a boxcar in Frankfurt, in the marshaling yards, and the RAF comes to bomb the marshaling yards. It’s night, and the Germans lock us in the cars and they go to the air raid shelters. On the next track is another set of boxcars with POWs. There’s the New Zealand guy. He sees me. He says, “Hey, Yank, you want your watch back?”
I said, “Yeah.”
So he threw the watch through the slats – and I caught it. And I kept that watch all during the time that I was a POW and I brought it back. That story is in Roger Freeman’s book, and I wrote it up for the 8th Air Force newsletter, “The Watch that Went to War.”