by Paul Roberts
Talk about a charmed life, Lt. Ted Borek, USAF, was a virtual candidate during World War II. After flying his very first mission over Germany and surviving the flak and Messerschmidts, the next day he embarked on Number Two. This time his B-17G Flying Fortress was severely shot up by anti-aircraft shrapnel, knocking out 2 of its 4 engines while bombing the Polish city of Stettin. They were forced to drop out of the squadron formation, losing altitude and running low on fuel, headed toward the North Sea for a possible ditching. Ted, the navigator, began to fly by pilotage, visually following landmarks as they limped along under 1,000 feet altitude. Finally entering Swedish air space and intercepted by 2 of the country’s fighter planes, they guided the 17 into a small air strip at Malmo, landing safely, to be interned in this neutral country.
Part of the charmed life was the fact that this mission was the pilot, Charlie Bailey’s very first flight for the 305th Bombardment Group. Plus the plane with its new crew hadn’t been ‘baptized’ with a motto and artwork on its nose, although it had been decided before they left. Charlie, while shooting craps in the Officer’s Club a few nights before had blown on the dice and invoked: “One time Baby, One Time,” and cleaned up. This was to be painted on their fuselage when they returned from the mission. Prophetically, the crew had done just that!
His career in the service started inauspiciously. Sent to Fresno, California for basic training, he travelled on a Pullman train, with all the luxury amenities that went with it, including being served in the dining room and sleeping in a comfortable bunk bed. Next was another Pullman cross country trip, back to the East coast, to Pawling, New York, to an intelligence school that been set up in a schoolhouse, to be taught code work. This had been decided during his first days as a draftee by an examiner, who determined that he had a good ear for music, thus a natural to learn cryptography, a military method of encoding outgoing messages and decoding incoming messages, using TOP SECRET Code books that were zealously guarded. After this another Pullman ride, going south to Miami. From there he wound up in Natal, Brazil, working as a code clerk for the South Atlantic Ferrying Wing headquarters. Three months later he was flying on a C-47, having been accepted for flying cadet training, headed for Mitchell Field, Long Island. After failing landing procedures on a training plane, he was transferred to Navigation school at the University of Miami.
Flying into Prestwick, Scotland on 6 May 1944 Ted was assigned to the 305th Bombardment Group. A week later he filled in for a sick navigator and was on his first bombing mission. Target, the synthetic oil plants in the Leipzig, Germany area. This was to be a gambled experimental attack, to cripple and deny the Germans needed fuel for their planes. The 305th was part of the Eighth Air Forces’ 800 plane armada, that would saturate bomb these targets with over 1,700 tons of 2,000, 1,100 and 600 pound bombs. Hordes of Messerschmitts attacked their formations while being challenged by the protective cover of American fighter planes. Hundreds of bomber gunners were simultaneously blazing away, their tracers lighting the sky and creating an awesome cacophony, both deafening and blinding. Ted’s plane did suffer some flak damage to its fuselage, which affected the flow of oxygen. Dropping down to 18,000 feet (from 30,000) they made their bomb run but dropped out of formation, and limped home, successfully landing. After the war ended, it was discovered that these bombings had a desultory effect on the Nazi’s capability of advancing the development of an atomic bomb when one of the victims was a building which was experimenting with heavy water, a major component in the manufacture of an A-bomb.
That was Ted’s baptism of fire, a rather shocking introduction to war, especially after all the luxuries he was exposed to going from post to post in the States. The following day he was scheduled for a bombing run on Poznan, in Nazi-held Poland, a ten-hour flight. The city was fogged in completely, so the secondary city, Stettin, on the Baltic Sea was attacked. His plane took some heavy flak, killing one of its engines. Then the second engine gave out. Losing altitude, they began to jettison anything that wasn’t tied down. To add to their predicament, they were losing fuel, down to 10 minutes, so no return to England. As was mentioned above, they were guided into the airport in Malmo. Later that day, three other damaged Fortresses landed at Malmo, making a total of 41 American internees.
At a hearing held at Loka Brunn, an internee holding camp, Ted was drafted, because of his shorthand background, to record an investigative military proceeding. One of the severely flak damaged B-17s that crash landed on Swedish soil was abandoned by its pilot and co-pilot in flight without telling the crew. Two of the crew were able to take over the controls and managed to crash land their plane, some of the crew injured and killed. His report was sent to the military section at the US Legation in Stockholm for further action, possibly a court-martial.
Shortly after, four internees were transferred to the American Legation in Stockholm, coming under the jurisdiction of the famed Count Folke Bernadotte, who was related to the Swedish king and later head of the Swedish Red Cross. A few years later he was assassinated while serving as a UN Peace mediator during the Israeli-Arab conflict. Working in the legation was never boring. One aspect was the encounters he had with Nazi spies and his typing reports that were passed on to the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) locally. They were the American intelligence agency with tentacles all over the world, even in neutral countries such as Sweden.
In the fall of 1944, Ted was repatriated to Scotland flying in a converted B-24 that was manned by US airmen, disguised as civilians. According to Geneva Convention protocol Ted was never to participate in any combat operations. In retrospect, it was probably a blessing, since the 305th was involved in several severe missions, including supporting the Normandy invasion, neutralizing V-weapon sites and airfields, attacking anti-aircraft batteries to cover the Market Garden airborne invasion of southern Holland, military targets in the Battle of the Bulge and supporting the airborne assault across the Rhine River. With these operations there was a price to be paid: the loss of many planes and airmen.
Coming back to the States he was assigned to the Ferry Squadron of the Air Transport Command. His first assignment was to pick up an A-26, a new attack bomber, to be delivered to a base north of Calcutta, India, in the CBI (China, Burma India Theater). It was an epic and kind of tourist flight, passing over, and landing in such exotic places as Morocco, Cairo, Jerusalem, Iran, Karachi, and the Taj Mahal in Agra. After this delivery, he was assigned to a returning B-25, and subsequently, to Newcastle Air Force Base in Wilmington, DE for briefing on the operation of the LORAN (Long Range Navigation) equipment, and a qualifying flight to Bermuda. This knowledge was put to use on his next ferrying flight in a C-54, a 4-engine cargo plane, back to India, except this was by way of the South Pacific. They flew over the ‘Hump,’ (the Himalayan Mountains) coming back, getting home in time for the celebration of VJ Day, the end of the war.
Ted went to LaSalle College and Notre Dame, getting a JD from Catholic University, all on the GI Bill of Rights. His entire career was spent in various divisions of the real estate industry, including the Home Builders Association and commercial real estate brokerage and management. In retirement in Leisure World®, he is extremely active: Villa Cortese Board of Directors; Building and Grounds Committee and Budget and Finance Committee. Not bad for a nonagenarian!
All photos courtesy of Paul Roberts – Resident of Leisure World® Maryland