Saturday, April 27, 2013

RIP Bob Cash, 492nd Bomb Group,

  Thanks to David Arnett of the 492nd Bomb Group Association for the information that Bob Cash passed away on April 23. Bob was a radio operator on a B-24 and a former prisoner of war. Ray Lemons of the Kassel Mission Historical Association set me up with an interview with Bob when I visited Ray in Dallas in 2010. Here's an audio excerpt from that interview with a transcript of that section:
  Bob Cash: We had marched, as I say, to the little community of Mehlbech and were starting back east again, and most of our guards, most all of them had abandoned us. And we were in a barn, and I couldn't go another mile. I was, my stomach was just killing me, and it was a combination of eating sugar beets and raw potatoes and everything raw, and I guess if I hadn't been so damn young, most of us would have died. But we marched out, three sets of German guards, and most of those old boys were older than we and maybe in their forties, up in their fifties, they were conscripts, they were just suiting up anybody, kids from 15 years old up, but we had marched to Mehlbech, and I told Ed, I said, "I can't go any further. I'm gonna just have to take my chances and if they push us on, they're just gonna have to shoot me, because I can't go any more."

   Well, he was, this was the day, about the day before we were liberated, and he was out foraging for food. And he'd gone to a farmhouse and they'd given him a little bread and turned him out, and he saw a chicken hatch over there and he went over there and thought maybe he could get some eggs or something like that, and he heard this tank fire. It was Monty's 11th Armored Division coming over the hill and they lowered that 88, you know, and he managed to jump out of that chicken shack just in time because they leveled it, they just blew it to pieces. And he rushed back and told me about that and I said, "My god, I wasn't that hungry." He was looking for something to eat. But when they did come over the hill and down into this little village, that was a second coming. I don't know how, how the guys spent five, six, seven years in the Pacific, there weren't any that long too in Europe, but I don't know how in the hell they stood that. Of course they were stationary most of the time, and if you're not, if you're dormant, you can last a long time. But put you out on a 800-mile march ...  I'm sorry, it's been 64 years ago ... 65 years ago  ...

   Aaron Elson: It's got to be like yesterday when you think about it.

   Bob Cash: Well, the thing that, the thing that got me, you wondered how come you got through something like that, and why the Lord allowed you to come home and get to your family and start your family and so forth, and so many of those kids never had a chance to do that.

   Aaron Elson: You must think about that ...

   Bob Cash: I think about it every day. Every day. And mainly my crew. A couple of years ago we were in, someplace up in Ohio, close to Trotwood, where my gunner that I saw laying there dead, his sister, he had two sisters and a brother that came to this, I invited them to come over and have dinner with us and so forth, I got their names, and we had a nice chat with them, you know. I couldn't tell them anything about Bill except that he was in the back end of the plane and that I did see him and that he must have died quick. And he rests in Liège.

   Aaron Elson: And his name was ...

   Bob Cash: His name was Bill Mendenhall. He was from Trotwood, Ohio, I think it was. We were in Dayton, that's where we had our, he wasn't too far from there, it was on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio.

   Aaron Elson: Who else was on the crew?

   Bob Cash: My crew members were Bill ... lord ... my tail gunner, the reason I think that plane blew up because it was hard for him to get out of that, he was a pretty chunky guy anyway, and when he got in that tail turret, you almost had to help him out. But he was from Denver, and his body was recovered almost three months after we were shot down, he had washed ashore in Osterdorp, Sweden, and he was identified and buried over there. And Osterdorp is right on the Baltic coast there. The other gunner, my nose turret gunner, he was a boy from Myrt, Mississippi, he was a country boy, too, and he's unaccounted for. My co-pilot's name was John Bronson, he was buried over there on the island north of, he was recovered and was buried over there on the island of not Rugen, but it was out off the north coast of Germany. This is between, an island, pretty good size island, that we had to fly over, it's not on that map, it's off the map, but it's a pretty good size island out there by itself and then you've got Sweden to the north.
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