Emmet served as a Bombardier aboard a B-17F named Holey Joe. The plane earned its nickname during a raid on Lille, after which the bomber had to make an emergency landing at an airstrip near the Cliffs of Dover with two dead engines and two wounded crew. After surveying the damage their ship had absorbed, one of the crew exclaimed, "Holey Joe!" The name stuck.
This is a photo of 2nd Lt. Emmet Cook, taken in England in 1942.
In November 1942, "Holey Joe" and her crew were reassigned to General Doolittle's 12th Air Force in North Africa. On March 22, 1943, Emmet and his fellow crew were assigned to a replacement B-17 named Junior. Holey Joe was grounded with mechanical problems.
The day’s mission was a raid on the harbor at Palermo Italy. Emmet said, “Our crew was with the 352d Squadron of the 301st Bomb Group flying out of North Africa. [The raid] on shipping at the Palermo, Sicily Harbor...was my 32nd mission. Several ammo ships were blown out of the harbor.”
Junior and several of her crew would not survive the raid on Palermo. The B-17 was hit by flak. The bomber’s left wing caught fire and eventually tore-off, sending the plane into a spin. Five men including the pilot, co-pilot, engineer, radio operator and ball turret gunner were trapped and perished in the crash.
Emmet was able to bail out. “[I] had a rough landing in cactus as large as Texas cactus. [I] was captured by six goat herders, one with a gun. [They were] all very scared. The older one with the gun spoke broken English. He acted very nervous and scared. Later that evening they turned me over to the military.” The other two survivors included the Waist Gunner and the Navigator.
Emmet was incarcerated at Stalag Luft III, taking up residence in Block 108 in the North Compound. “I was impressed how well the senior RAF officers and USAAF officers were organized. I played on the championship softball team [and] did a lot of oil painting and cartooning in books. [I] ran about five miles every day, weather permitting, around the circuit. [I] stayed busy and in top physical condition despite the lack of food.”
The young Bombardier eventually joined the Camp’s Escape Committee and helped plan what would later be known as the “Great Escape.” Emmet recalled, “[My duties were to] map the camp and locate blind sports for gardens and a place to dispose of sand [from the tunnels.] [I] stayed busy working with Flight Lieutenant Brian Evans on maps. I thought [the escape] was a very dangerous idea and had it not been for an air raid that night in Berlin, causing the light to go out in the tunnel, the British would have emptied the camp. But, as it turned out, [the air raid] may have saved many lives.”
The following image shows the postcard Emmet mailed home to his mother in June 1943, informing her he was now a POW. The letter arrived home in Texas on August 30, 1943.
Emmet drew the Donald Duck image on the card. He told me that when the card reached the camp postoffice, other POWs were impressed with his creation and wanted copies made for their own use. Emmet said he drew many similar images in other men's YMCA diaries and postcards. Emmet was the creator of the design, which was soon adopted by many other kriegies as the camp's unofficial mascot. Any of the drawings signed "Mutt" were created by Emmet. Mutt was his camp nickname.
Emmet also drew a beautiful watercolor of the design in his YMCA diary and he created a patch using oil paints, which he sewed onto his POW jacket. I'll post images of both in the next day or two, as well as a Christmas card he made while in the camp and two black and white photos taken inside the compound.
One day a package arrived in the mail from Emmet. Inside was the postcard. I was quite surprised, floored actually, as I was not expecting it and he never told me the postcard was in the mail. When I phoned him to say thanks, he told me he knew I would treasure it - needless to say, I do. The postcard is one of my most treasured items and will never leave my collection.
Edited by disneydave, 25 June 2007 - 07:28 PM.