of World War II. An American pilot, Lt. Henry Supchak, was about to follow his crew and bail out of his damaged B-17 bomber over Germany, when he realized that the plane was headed directly at a village. With just moments left to spare his own life, he got back in the pilot’s seat, turned the plane away from the village, and then bailed out.
Captured by the Germans, he was held in a nearby prisoners’ camp where a seven year old boy regularly delivered him food through a slat in the cement wall of his cell, he didn’t know why. Sixty years later he found out that the boy, Ander Haas, and his aunt had seen the plane veer away and save their village and then saw a lone figure jumping from the plane. Supchak, then 92, travelled back to the town and a hero’s welcome.
WWII hero’s reunion with child savior
By CYNTHIA R. FAGEN
May 27, 2012
It was July 31, 1944, and Army Air Corps pilot Lt. Henry Supchak was flying his 33rd bombing mission over Munich, Germany, when his B-17 bomber, nicknamed “Priority Gal,” was riddled by anti-aircraft fire.
Sputtering and billowing black smoke, Supchak knew the aircraft would never make it back to base in Bassingbourn, England, 650 miles away.
With two dead engines, the aircraft was plummeting fast—over Nazi-occupied Austria.
“I said, ‘Fellas get your chutes on!’ ” and ordered them to jump.
Alone now, with a two-inch piece of shrapnel dug into his right leg, Supchak desperately needed to get to his own parachute below deck. If he didn’t bail almost immediately, he would surely die.
“I had 90 seconds to get out,” Supchak told The Post.
He and daughter Elizabeth Hoban have written an account of those chilling minutes—and how a little boy helped save him from the harrowing aftermath, and again in adulthood—in the just released “The Final Mission: A Boy, A Pilot, and a World at War.”
“Don’t ask me why, but I looked out the windshield,” he recalled. The plane “was heading directly into the village. I wasn’t about to kill innocent people,” he said.
“I got back into the pilot’s seat, pulled all the levers and brakes, and cut the two [remaining] engines and forced the plane to go left so it would not go near the village” of Neustift.
Supchak bailed out, falling into the hands of brutal SS guards.
A 7-year-old shepherd boy named Ander Haas and his aunt had seen “the man who fell from the sky” turn his aircraft away at the last minute to save their town. They never forgot his heroics.
While a prisoner of the Nazis, Supchak had no idea that the boy sneaking life-sustaining food through a slat in the cement wall of his cell was the same boy who had witnessed his earlier valor.
Haas, who grew up to become a wealthy hotel owner, never forgot the unknown hero.
Several years ago, Haas hired a historian, who found the long-lost airman’s name through military records of downed American planes, but could not locate him.
Haas by then had assumed Supchak was dead.
Then, by chance in 2007, Supchak’s daughter Googled her dad’s name. To her surprise, up popped 2,000 hits. One was from the historian.
Three months later, at the age of 92, Supchak and his daughter made the journey back to the town and a hero’s welcome.
Supchak, the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, warmly remembers meeting the grateful shepard boy Haas, who now 68 and a grandfather.
“We stood there holding each other for four or five minutes. I don’t speak German and he doesn’t speak English, but I knew what he was saying: ‘You are the man who fell from the sky.’ “
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