The Story of T/Sgt Jack D. Patzke, USAAF
Personal: Jack Donald Patzke, born 8 February 1924 at Cass Lake, Cass County, Minnesota, USA, of parents Frank Julius & Myrtle Bertha (Shively) Patzke. Killed on 8 May 1945 in Bavaria, Germany.
Service Information: Enlisted in the Army Air Forces (AAF) on 23 November 1942 at Portland, Clackamas County, Oregon, USA. Attained the grade of Technical Sergeant (Serial #19170297). Served in North Africa and Italy as a Radio Operator/Gunner on a B17G Flying Fortress Bomber (Serial #42-32014). Last assigned to the 15th Air Force, 99th Bomb Group (Heavy), 347th Bomb Squadron (Heavy). Was a Prisoner of War (POW) from capture on 30 April 1944 until he escaped on 5 April 1945. Killed by enemy gunfire on 8 April 1945. Body returned to Oregon about 1948 and buried in Linkville Pioneer Cemetery, Klamath Falls , Klamath County.
Story: On 30 April 1944, his aircraft, piloted by 1LT Harold Klein, flew from their base at Tortorella, Italy. Their mission was to bomb the aircraft/munitions plant at Varese in northeastern Italy. They first flew out over the Adriatic Sea to avoid enemy aircraft and flak. Upon approaching the mainland, they were met my German fighters (reported to be Messerschmitt ME110s). The aircraft’s right wing was reportedly struck by incendiary rounds and the fuel tank between the number 3 and 4 engines was ignited. Losing altitude and speed the pilot salvoed the bombs and the aircraft was abandoned. It fell near the city of Bologna (44° 46’ N, 11° 30’ E). All ten crewmen, plus a photographer, parachuted and were captured.
As Prisoners of War (POWs), the crew was transported to Stalag Luft III at Sagan (now Żaga ń, Poland) in then eastern Germany. They were kept in the western compound (American). The north compound (British) was made famous by the 1960’s Movie, The Great Escape, based on a true event (the Steve McQueen character was total fiction to spice up the film’s release in the U.S.).
In early 1945, when the Soviets were overrunning the east part of Germany, the POWs were moved to southern Germany (Bavaria). On April 5th, LT Klein reports that they were on a forced march, guarded by a few German soldiers, between Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Moosberg. Near the town of Berching, S/Sgt Joseph F. McGettigan (serial #13151792 – the aircraft’s assistant engineer/gunner), T/Sgt Patzke and an unknown fighter pilot escaped from the column. On April 8th, McGettigan and Patzke decided to swim across a river to what they believed was an American unit on the other side. The fighter pilot stayed behind because he was unable to swim. According to the pilot and other American witnesses in the area, upon arriving at the other side of the river, both airmen were shot to death by a German soldier.
T/Sgt Patzke’s body was reportedly buried nearby. He was later disinterred and moved to France and then to Oregon. The rest of the bomber’s crew was liberated at Moosberg on April 29th by units of General Patton’s forces. Because the bodies were not located right away, both McGettigan and Patzke were reported Missing in Action (MIA) on 30 April 1945 and declared dead on 1 May 1946.
To add more tragedy for T/Sgt Patzke’s family, on 5 May 1945 he lost two younger siblings. They were among only six Americans who were killed in the continental United States during World War II as a result of enemy action. They were a group of five children on a picnic outing with their new church pastor and his pregnant wife (Archie & Elsie Mitchell). They were at Gearhart Mountain, near Bly, Oregon, when the pastor went to park the car. Ms. Mitchell and the five children approached an object that had landed nearby, later identified as a Japanese balloon bomb. As the group investigated the object, the bomb exploded, killing the pastor’s wife and all five children. Included were Dick Patzke, 14 years old, and Joan Patzke, 13 years old. Both children are buried in the same Klamath Falls cemetery as their brother. A monument was later erected at the site of the explosion.
Even more ironic is the fact that Archie Mitchell married an older sister, Betty J. Patzke. They and their four children served as missionaries/health providers in South Vietnam. In 1962, Rev. Mitchell was kidnapped by the Viet Cong in front of his family. He was never heard from again.
gtferstl originally shared this to Ferstl Family Tree
05 Nov 2011 story
30 April 1944 to 8 April 1945 European Theater of Operations (ETO – Italy, Germany)
I am posting the above story as it was presented on the profile page of Jack D. Patzke on Ancestry.com. It was posted by Guy Ferstl and I put it on the:
“Oregon Blast 05 May 1945 – Mitchell – Family Tree”
Link below is for Ancestry.com users only.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan