George Emerson, born near Boise, Idaho, on April 1, 1925, is currently a docent at Lyon Air Museum. This World War II veteran experienced near-death encounters as a tail gunner and prisoner of war (POW) in Germany late in the war.
In 1944, Emerson volunteered to join the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC), the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force. He trained in Amarillo, Texas, and received his gunnery training in Kingman, Ariz. He then reported to Avon Park, Florida., to join the rest of his crew in the 303rd Bomb Group, an Eighth Air Force B-17 Bomber Group. Following phase training in the southeast U.S., and having achieved the rank of sergeant, he shipped out for Europe as a B-17 tail gunner.
Emerson and the rest of his crew arrived in Molesworth, England, home of the 303rd, in November, 1944. Following further training, they flew their first combat mission on December 23, 1944.
During their 16th bombing mission on Feb. 9, 1945, the formation in which Emerson’s B-17 was flying took flak from enemy guns over Mannheim, Germany. A plane in the formation was hit and collided with Emerson’s plane, shearing off the tail section with Emerson in it. He was flung from the wreckage mid-air and parachuted safely to the ground. But he was immediately taken prisoner by civilians and handed over to local police, who in turn handed him over to the German military.
“I’d never had to fire my guns and there I was a prisoner of war,” Emerson recalls.
After spending time in an interrogation center and several prisoner of war camps, he was liberated along with thousands of other prisoners by the forces of Gen. George S. Patton on April 29, 1945, shortly before the war officially ended.
He returned home in June, 1945. Husband to wife Edmee, the decorated war veteran has five children and seven grandchildren.