The article was originally published Oct. 17, 2009. Russell Boyko passed away in December 2013.
Sgt. Russell Boyko thought the smoke over Berlin was from anti-aircraft shells at first. It was his 17th mission and would have been his seventh over the burning Nazi capital. At 30,000 feet the smoke was near the ceiling of his B-17.
Boyko, who now lives in Upper Darby and attends Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Clifton Heights, was a waist gunner manning a 50-caliber machine gun. His plane was at the front of the formation. As they neared the city, the aircraft began to shake. Water had mixed with the anti-freeze causing an engine to lockup. With just three engines left his pilot chose to forgo the bombing run, break formation and return to Great Ashfield, England, the ETO base of the 548th Squadron of the 385th Bomber Group.
“Not very safe,” said Boyko.
A lone B-17 was extremely vulnerable to enemy fighters.Bomber formations were organized in a way to allow guns from many planes to be concentrated on an attacker. American fighter escorts, of course, would stick with the formation for as long as the gas in their tanks allowed.
“We came close to Bremen. I remember seeing a body of water. I don’t know if it was the North Sea or the Channel. I remember starting to have hope.”
He then saw a German plane with two engines in the distance. It would not have been a front-line fighter and did not attack. It did apparently report the bomber’s position. Nazi fighters soon arrived.
“I don’t know if they were Fock-Wolfes or Messerschmitts,” Boyko said. “They attacked our plane. Our plane went down in a dive.”
The pilot had given a pre-flight order to bail if such an event should happen, which the crew did. The other waist-gunner, Carter, was hesitating at the escape hatch. Boyko gave him a nudge and then followed him out at about20,000 feet.
Boyko said the directions they were given for a bailout were that a count of three before pulling the ripcord would allow them to clear the plane while a count of 10 would make it harder for the enemy to follow his path to the ground to capture him.
He said both he and the other gunner counted to 10 albeit it made little difference. About a half-dozen German militia and civilians managed to get a bearing on them. Boyko said his chute was blossomed on the ground and he had trouble unstrapping it. He heard a gunshot and heard a bullet whistle past his ear. There was a bit of woods a few yards away and he ran into it.
“The Germans kept the woods nice and clean,” he said.
He said a small girl saw him and started screaming. He found himself surrounded and surrendered. He didn’t have a gun and had no intention of resisting.
It was May 8, 1944.
The Germans fed them after surrendering.
“They gave us pea soup,” he said. “It was delicious. The lady was polite. I guess she worked for the Luftwaffe. I looked in her eyes. They were green like pea soup.”
Boyko’s next stop was a prison camp.
He said the camp had four “lagers”, or sections, with 10 barracks to a lager and 300 men to a barracks.
He isn’t sure where the camp was although it was near the North Sea.
“I remember the North Sea during a thunder storm. The lighting would come straight down. It wouldn’t fork like we are used to”.
Camp life was not like Hogan’s Heroes. Each barracks had only two doors at the front and the back. To get to roll call, men would try to beat the crowd by climbing out the large windows. The Nazis gave an order forbidding this. “One or two” who ignored it were shot, he said.
After six months, they heard Russian artillery. The Germans piled the prisoners into boxcars and sent them west. After a few weeks they heard the artillery again. This time the Germans didn’t use boxcars but had them walk.
During one meal break he saw a familiar face. It was Albert Goodman with whom he attended Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia.
“He was in the chow line ahead of me,” Boyko said. The meal was chicken. “He came back in the line. Is aid ‘Albert you are looking good’ and he was. He was in the ground forces not the air forces.”
Goodman was Jewish. Boyko asked if he said any prayers like the Our Father. Boyko said Goodman told him he said something like it.
Boyko said that during the walk he saw a large group of young girls in Ukrainian costumes but didn’t get a chance to talk to them. He said a few prisoners stole chickens for food. He said in April1945 they were told President Franklin Roosevelt had died. The prisoners went to attention out of respect.
Russell Boyko was freed on May 8. He was promoted to staff sergeant during his time in the camp. He lived in Southwest Philadelphia for 50 years attending Protector BVM, a church his mother was instrumental in starting, before it was combined with Saints Peter and Paul.
He would eventually work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard from which he would retire.
SB 76 Fails To Ease Tax Burden — Lisa Esler, who is one of our favorite people and is a Penn Delco school director, had a 14-minute interview, today, Nov. 30, with Gunther Rewind concerning SB 76. The proposed legislation would prohibit homes from being taxed to fund schools.
Lisa notes that this reform does not solve the tax burden issue and that state legislature is not interested in taking the simple, commonsense steps necessary to do so.
She says the prevailing wage mandate increases construction and maintenance projects between 10 and 30 percent and should be simple to repeal with an honest government. She notes unnecessary state mandates such as paid teacher sabbaticals. She points out the crushing $70 billion-and-rising pension shortfall. She mentioned how the right to strike by teachers inevitably means tax increases.
And while nobody should be taxed from their home, Lisa is 100 percent correct that Harrisburg is not serious about fixing things.
Leiper closed in January 2012. The existing building was erected in 1850 a year after a fire destroyed the original one built in 1819, the cornerstone for which can still be seen in an inside hallway.
Anyway, when the Archepachy acquired it, it was in bad shape. The hammer beams that supported the arches that supported the ceiling had pulled from the wall. The gaps were obvious. Consultants were advocating expensive and unattractive solutions which included removing the beautiful but heavy slate roof and replacing it with an ugly commercial, metal one.
Rhoads, who had done work for Saints Peter and Paul and who was picked to guide the process of upgrading the kitchen and HVAC at the new facility, had a notion that the beauty of the structure could be saved along with much money.
He researched the architecture and learned that the original builders neglected to install the necessary bolts fastening important uprights to the wall. These uprights connected the hammer beams to the interior corbels hence they supported the entire roof.
Rhoads realized that all that may be needed was jacking the beams back against the wall and installing bolts. He ran his idea by engineers and the Ridley code enforcers and got a green light.
Hence it was done, and a church and history were saved.
The church is named for the women who went to anoint the body of Jesus after his crucifixion and found the tomb empty, along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who prepared the Lord’s body for burial. The women who found the empty tomb are Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene and Martha, who were the sisters of Lazarus; Mary, the mother of James and Joses; Mary, the wife of Cleopas; Joanna, the wife of Chuza; Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee; and Susanna.
Bill Tyson, who is the director of marketing and communications for Penn State University, Brandywine Campus is the subject of the July 29 Delaware County News Network’s Profile of the Week by the always interesting Susan L. Serbin.
Frank C. Videon Jr. died June 12 at his home in West Chester following a long battle with stomach cancer. He was 70.
He was the proprietor of Videon Chevrolet in Newtown Square and was known for the friendly advertising rivalry with his brothers Wayne and Steve who had Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealerships in Newtown Square.
The ads would be full page on the back page of the County Press and often feature headshots of the other brothers on top of farm animals or childhood photographs of them.
As the advertising space rotated among the dealerships, Frank Jr. would find himself the subject of retaliation.
Frank ran the Chevy dealership until 2009 when General Motors forced him to close as part of the Obama restructuring.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Carol; his mother, Edna; daughters Tara, Tracy and Tami; and seven grandchildren.