______Interview with 'Woodie' Spears, Tuskegee Airman
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Spears: I flew this P-51C around the end of 1944. I was assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron from the 302nd Fighter Squadron, so I had to pick up my new plane from the sub-depot station in either North Africa or Southern Italy. When I saw the plane, I noticed it had the name “KITTEN” on the side of the nose. I believed this plane originally belonged to Charles McGee of the 302nd Fighter Squadron. I believe I know why he called it “KITTEN”, because the engines sure “purred” like one when I fired it up. I remember this plane well because I had a number “51” on the side of the plane, my plane was a P-51 with “51” on the side.
Q: Can you describe the loss of your P-51 named "Kitten"?
Spears: I was hit by German 88 guns during a mission over Berlin at 32.000 feet. That's almost six miles straight up! There was no way I could get back to Italy and make it over the Alps, so I had to crash land "Kitten" in Poland. I would have to be at least 18.000 feet to cross the mountains. I knew by the way my engine was sounding that I would be no way near 18.000 feet to make it home.
I turned 90 degrees west toward Poland and I landed near this river. The Germans were on one side of the river and the Russians were on the other side. Between the two of them they shot my plane to pieces. You see, when the P-51 Mustang is flying directly at you it looks like an Me-109 from certain angles. While I was flying down this river I could feel shells hitting the plane. I said to myself, well, I'm on this side of the river so the shells got to be coming from those Russians. Once they saw that I was an American they stopped firing at me. As I remember, I saw myself coming toward this runway. I said to myself that if I let the wheels down I could probable make a pretty good landing. I decided not to land because I did not want the enemy to use the plane. As I was in the process of putting the wheels up I hit the ground. I did not have enough power to work the hydraulics.
Surprisingly, it was Germans that came right away in a car. There were two officers and three enlisted men in Nazi helmets and they had their guns pointed right at me. I put my hands in the air and they motioned for me to come close. They could see that I had a .45 pistol. They made motions that they wanted that .45 on the ground, which I did. It seems to me that they were trying to be as nice as they could because they knew that the war was coming to an end for them, so they did not want to get too cruel. The Germans did know about the Geneva Convention which dealt with war crimes. They did not want to be involved in any war crimes. They sat me in the car and drove to their headquarters. I was interrogated by a German official who asked if could speak English. He asked me where did I come from. I told him. "I'm sorry, I can't tell you. I can tell you my name. rank and serial number." I said. "You know the Geneva Convention don't you. He said, "Yes", whenever he would ask me something. I would mention the Geneva Convention then he would say, "I'm sorry I ask," and that was it. They knew full well that any information they could get would be useless for them. I was only with them for three days.