War news came 71 years later
MONTGOMERY – “They came to me with stories of seeing the B-17 bomber crash,” said Marion McCormick, referring to a few elderly inhabitants of Zegveld, during her October 2015 visit to the Netherlands. McCormick spoke at the November 11 meeting of the Montgomery Area Historical Society.
McCormick plus five members of her family, represented Lt. Delmar Decker and nine others at the dedication of a memorial to her brother and seven others. Eight men were fatalities of the plane’s downing during WWII. In the wetlands near the town about the size of Montgomery, the American flag and Holland’s flag flew side by side while a band played the national anthems of both countries.
The crash that claimed the life of the Montgomery native occurred on Feb 21, 1944. German fighter planes shot down the ‘San Antonio Rose’ during its return base in England after a bomb ran over Brunswick, Germany.
At the time, the Netherlands was occupied by German forces. As a nine year old, one boy was in a field picking potatoes for the German’s when he witnessed the crash. Another witness said he saw a German take a ring from the finger of an American body and put it in his pocket. The two survivors of the 10 member crew were hunted down and imprisoned, along with a farmer and physician who aided them.
Later, Marion’s mother was in contact with one of the survivors who shared that he thought Lt. Decker was hit when bullets riddled the plane, and knew that only he and another crew member parachuted out.
McCormick said that, “After ‘Victory in Europe Day’ was declared on May 7, 1945, it wasn’t until August when the Americans recovered the bodies of my brother and other crew members. The army built two bridges to get heavy equipment to the crash site. My brother was identified by his dog tags and re-interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Avoid, France.”
All four of McCormick’s brothers served during WWII. In addition to Lt. Delmar Decker, Montgomery’s first fatality was the eldest brother, Lt. Aaron Decker, age 28, killed during the invasion of North Africa. In another part of the world, Paul Decker was serving in the Aleutians after graduating from Penn State University. Preparing to participate in the ‘Battle of the Bulge,’ Roland Decker was located and returned stateside.
Back home in Montgomery, “Mother held out hope Delmar would come home. My girlfriends and I listened to the short wave broadcasts from the International Red Cross and wrote down messages from the prisoners of war, all the time hoping there would be news from Delmar. My aunt Tiny used six carbon papers between onion skin paper, typing the news to mail to family members.”
Marion said it’s difficult for current family members to understand the way news spread during the 1940’s. The speaker also alluded to how those here on the ‘Home-front,’ coped with shortages caused by the war.
In 1948, the two brothers, Aaron and Delmar, were brought home and are buried side by side in Fairview Cemetery, Montgomery. There was finally closure for the family.