DALLAS — Precisely 75 years ago, Stanton Rickey, a U.S. airman, was about to cross from Germany to Switzerland when German police officers captured him.
Six days earlier, on July 18, 1944, Rickey, a B-17 bomber pilot in World War II, had to bail out of his plane after it was heavily damaged while on a bombing mission over Germany. His plane lost two engines and was on fire by the time he bailed out.
Rickey, 98, calls himself “one of the lucky ones.” Five members of the 10-man crew died, and three others were wounded in the air battle. He parachuted into trees and evaded German forces for six days before being spotted by officers.
They turned him over to the military, who interrogated him and then sent him to Stalag Luft I, a prisoner of war camp. He would remain there for 10 months until liberated by Soviet troops on May 1, 1945.
Rickey said the prisoners in the camp had hope of rescue.
“We knew precisely what was going on every day. We had access to a secret radio, which would pick up BBC broadcasts,” he said. “We had a regular military organization within the camp.”
With access to a typewriter, a B-17 navigator with reporting experience would listen to the broadcast and write about the progress of the war to inform others in the camp. They were able to keep the radio, typewriter and updates hidden from the German soldiers holding them captive, Rickey said.
He said those reports made it clear that the Germans were being squeezed by Soviet troops advancing from the east, and American and British troops swooping in from the west.
“We knew it was just a question of time,” Rickey said.
Speaking last week on the anniversary of his plane going down, Rickey adds that his first child was born the day after he bailed out of the doomed B-17.
“Of course, because I was evading and in a combat situation, I never did get the word,” Rickey said. “I knew my wife was expecting.”
The news of his daughter’s birth was delivered to him in the camp on Dec. 24, 1944.
“I was handed a copy of a cable from the International Red Cross, who were kind of neutral in communicating between the combatants. It said ‘Daughter born … July 19, 1944. Mother and child doing well.’ That was the first time I had the news of the arrival of my firstborn,” Rickey said. “I knew something had happened, but I didn’t have any official word until six months later. It was Christmas Eve. It was a real Christmas present for me.”
Rickey, who lives in Dallas, would continue his military service after his World War II experience, serving in Korea and Vietnam. He retired in 1971.
On Saturday, retired Lt. Col. Rickey will be recognized for his service by riding with his wife, Addie Rickey, in the Krazy Dayz parade in Dallas.
Rickey will ride in the back of a 1967 Camaro convertible in the procession. Rickey’s grandson and son-in-law will carry banners in the parade stating the wars he fought in and identifying him as a POW.
Dallas resident Ron Post arranged for Rickey and his wife to join the parade after meeting them at the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day ceremony in the Dallas Cemetery.
“I was introduced as being a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. We got to talking and he said that he would like me and my wife to participate in this parade,” Rickey said. “I feel honored by him asking me to participate in this fashion.”
Post said he is equally honored to give the recognition to Rickey and other World War II veterans. He arranged for U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Bowerly to ride in the 2015 Summerfest parade.
“They are at life’s end, and we have only a short time to honor and thank those valiant men and women who served our country,” Post said.