Staff Sgt. Loren Terrel Harman (35293192) was the waist gunner. He was born on 2 July 1925 near Nickletown, KS, son of Charles Leslie Harman (1896-1974) and Tressa Hattie (Terrell) Harman 1904-1963) of North Township, Woodson County, KS. The family moved to Coffey County and he attended high school in Burlington, KS for three years. Before his senior year, he went to Bloomingdale, OH to stay with a relative and get a job. However, on 7 October 1943 Harman enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Hays in Columbus, OH. After completing basic training at Jefferson Barracks, 22 miles south of St. Louis, MO, Harman was sent to Kingman, AZ for special gunnery training. From there, he went to Lincoln, NE where he was assigned to a B-17 crew. The crew was sent to Rapid City, SD to take advanced flight training. Later returning to Lincoln, the crew was assigned to a new four-engine B-17 bomber, in the spring of 1944.
The crew flew their new B-17 to Horham, England and assignment to the 335th Bomb Squadron, 95th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. Harman’s gunnery training was put to good use, as he was either a tail gunner or the ball turret gunner on most missions. His luck held out for a lot of missions. On one mission they couldn't get back to base and had to land in allied territory because of damage to the plane. On the crew's seventh mission, they had 37 holes shot in the plane and had the tires shot out. They had no choice but to land the plane on its belly on foam. Harman said they never lost a man on that mission. Another time they had heavy flak in the air from German artillery and one of the pieces came right through the glass and hit the machine gun that he was shooting. It slammed the gun back into his chest but he only suffered minor bruises.
Harman had flown in 20 missions by early 1945, been shot down or forced to land twice, and his crew was considered one of the best crews in the squadron. On 15 February 1945, a series of bizarre circumstances finally brought his luck to an end. Harman and his crew were considered one of the best B-17 crews and their aircraft was to be the lead plane on the bombing run on German industrial plants in and around Dresden, Germany. Since they would be the lead plane, a tail gunner was not needed because the only thing to shoot from the tail gunner position would be friendly planes. Harman was to be the ball turret gunner. However, one of the other crew’s tail gunners was injured in a freak accident. While sitting around the plane one of the crew accidentally leaned against a machine gun causing the gun to fire, hitting the tail gunner in the groin area. Naturally, he was out of commission and probably out of the war. Harman was then assigned to the aircraft of the injured tail gunner. Having to leave one of the best planes, he was assigned to another plane, "The Big Casino." This was a fresh and not very experienced crew. One of the other men on the crew was also assigned from another crew and would play a very important role in Harman surviving the mission at all. His name was Emery Hemingway. Emery was on his last mission before he was to be shipped back to the states. So he wasn't very happy to be assigned to this crew, as it was not very experienced.
Trouble started shortly after take-off on that fateful day. First, the flight indicator went inoperative, causing the “Big Casino” to lose the formation. Next, the number three engine failed, leaving only three good engines. Then the number four engine showed low oil pressure, so now it was down to two working engines. At this time, they were back in the formation but with only two engines they couldn't maintain their position in the formation and were starting to lag behind. At this point in the mission they lost contact with the formation again. Then just when they probably thought it couldn't get much worse, the number two engine developed an oil leak. With the number two engine feathered to help keep the plane airborne, the aircraft lost contact with the formation again. Talking over the intercom, the crew tried to decide what they should do. Harman and Hemingway voted to go back as they knew the plane was in bad shape and Emery said he sure didn't want his last mission to end badly. Most of the crew however voted to forge on and deliver the bombs to the targets. That turned out to be a very bad choice. As they flew on toward the target, the B-17 started to lose altitude at the rate of 500 ft. per minute. The pilot realized now that they were not going to make it to the target and they were too far into the enemy’s territory to make it back. With the plane losing altitude and the crew probably scared to death, Harman and Hemingway decided to parachute from the plane. The rest of the crew followed suit as they had two choices, jump or go down with the plane.
Harman came down in a stand of trees and his chute got hung up in one of the trees. He was hanging from the tree by his parachute. He cut himself out of the chute and dropped to the ground. He didn't know if the other men were okay or where they were, so he hid his chute and started looking for his other crewmen. He was eventually captured as were all other nine crewmen. They were taken by train to the interrogation center at Wetzler near Frankfort and then onto Stalag XIIID Nürnberg.
On April 4, 1945, the 1,875 prisoners at Nürnberg received word they would have to evacuate their compounds. Their destination would be Moosburg, another prison camp located 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Nürnberg. The column of POWs reached Stalag VIIA Moosburg on April 15, 1945, after a long 12 day march of avoiding allied bombers and fighters and the retreating German army.
Finally on the morning of April 29, 1945, Harman said they could hear the tanks coming from about 5 miles away. By noon Patton's Third Army stormed the gates and the Americans came in! The German soldiers threw down their guns and weapons and surrendered. The prisoners were all released and given food and help with their injuries. The German soldiers were all lined up and Patton's soldiers asked the prisoners if any of the guards were mean to them or hurt them in any way. If any guard was pointed out they were shot on the spot. Harman said that there were atrocities on both sides. He said most of the Germans treated them pretty well. A lot of the prisoners kind of protected the Germans because the war was over for them and they didn't want to see anymore killing. He said the Germans just threw down their helmets, belts, uniforms and other things and just started walking back to their homes. All the prisoners picked up things to take home with them, but most of it was taken away from them when they got on the ship to go home.
Harman had been a POW from February to the end of April and was now a free man. He went into the prison camp weighing around 160 pounds and at the time of his liberation he weighed only 107 pounds. He suffered from malnutrition and his teeth were in bad shape from loss of calcium, his hip had started to mend on its own and the doctors told him they had patients a lot worse off than him, with missing legs, arms, etc. so all in all he came through his ordeal as well as could be expected. He was on a plane out of Germany on May 15, 1945. He was taken to Camp Lucky Strike in LaHarve, France. Here, he was debriefed, deloused and given fresh clothes. Five days later on May 20, he was brought back to the States on the troop ship SS Marine Angel, docking in Massachusetts eleven days later.
For his service, Harman earned the Air Medal, with three clusters, for bravery above and beyond the call of duty; two bronze stars; the Good Conduct Medal and the P.O.W. Medal. He was discharged in November, 1945 and returned to his family in Kansas.
Harman went back to Ohio and married Erma Mae Merryman in January 1947. They had three sons, Dennis Alan, Thomas Loren, Larry Charles and a daughter, Judith Ann. He was a farmer in Indiana for a few years before going into the concrete business as a cement finisher. He finished concrete for around 40 years in Indiana and Illinois, until he retired in 1989 to Yates Center, KS. He was divorced and later married Barbara Jean Brewer in 1966. They had two sons, Brian and Brent.
Harman died on 25 August 1999 at his home in Yates Center, KS. He was later buried in section 6 of the Fort Scott National Cemetery, Fort Scott, KS.
As told by Dennis Alan Harman, Fisher, IL son of Staff Sgt. Loren T. Harman