Flt. Officer Cornelius P. Gould, Jr.
October 21, 1921 – June 18, 1996
Unit: 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group
Captured: Dec. 2, 1944, Hungary
Prison camp: Stalag Luft I
Cornelius P. Gould, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was a member of the group known as the Tuskegee Airman (332nd Fighter Group). After his P-51 Mustang went down over Slovakia, he was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft I. After the war, he returned to Pittsburgh, where he met and married his wife, Phyllis, and had four children.
Stalag Luft I was a German World War II prisoner-of-war (POW) camp near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany, for captured Allied airmen. The presence of the prison camp is said to have shielded the town of Barth from Allied bombing. About 9,000 airmen – 7,588 American and 1,351 British and Canadian – were imprisoned there when it was liberated on the night of 30 April 1945 by Russian troops.
On 30 April 1945, the prisoners were ordered to evacuate the camp in the face of the advancing Soviet Red Army, but the Senior American Officer, Colonel Hubert Zemke, refused to give the order. After negotiations between Zemke and the commandant, it was agreed that to avoid useless bloodshed the guards would go, leaving the POWs behind. The next day, the first Soviet troops arrived.
The Soviet troops treated German civilians in the area badly, but American and Commonwealth personnel were treated with respect (the liberated POWs were careful to wear armbands on which their nationality was written in Russian). After initial concern they would be repatriated by sea via Odessa in the Soviet Union, the Russians eventually gave permission for the POWs to be evacuated by air.
Between 13–15 May, the camp was evacuated by American aircraft in “Operation Revival”. The British POWs were returned directly to Great Britain, while the Americans were sent to Camp Lucky Strike north-east of Le Havre, France, before being shipped back to the United States.
The last mission
“The day of December 12, 1944 was clear; there was no enemy action either from the ground or from the air. My problem was that I lost all the coolant of my engine. It came back over the plane from the area of the spinner. Pure mechanical failure. It had been raining quite a bit and there were a number of planes running up to part.
Elsberry was leading my B flight of 301st and did make several passes but it was beyond reason to try to get down and pick me up. I saw a farmer and also saw a little policeman ahead with his rifle as long as he was tall. For me that was it. Minutes after that German patrol came up. They took me to a small village. In the village I was surprised to find a couple of Czechs to speak very good English and learn from them that had worked in Detroit and other industrial areas before the war. These individuals stayed with me all the time while Germans got to act together to determine what they are going to do with me. After a number of telephone calls one of the patrols took off his pistol and put on a machine gun and motioned for me to come with him. The Czechs told me not to worry. I’d be all right. I found later what the purpose was. We were going to ride a motorcycle and they were riding behind the guard holding on it would be impractical to have his pistol with him. Same left the area where I landed and went on to a smaller town to a sort of local prison facility.
I was put into a room and a short time later the doctor came in. I learned from him, he spoke English, that he was Austrian, he wasn’t enthusiastic about being in a position he was. After he asked if I don’t have any physical complications. Later that day he brought me two bottles of very cold beer. That was the only contact with him.
Mission was to Blechhammer O/R. When I hit my problem was, we were 10 minutes from the Target area. Elsberry immediately turned around though we can hit back to Italy. At least got out of Germany. I did understand from some mechanic, that engine can be run for a while, when the oil is kind of frozen. I put the controls for oil as in manual and opened them wide. This worked for a while. When I got over Czechoslovakia, at the point I bailed out, I could see each propeller blade. At that point I decided to bail out or ride that thing down. I bailed out! Turning the plane upside down I kicked myself out of the cabin. And that was last time I saw that particular Mustang.
A few days later, the Germans had decided what they had to do with me. I learned later that there were at least 2 other German a/f camps not far from where I was in Czechoslovakia. The practice in Germany was that they had their own prison camps held by Luftwaffe and others by Wehrmacht.
After being in this small town in Czechoslovakia for a few days, they told me we were leaving. They did not say where. So we went to the railway station and got on a train. We headed to Vienna. Few Luftwaffe pilots got on the train and when they found out that I was there on the train, they showed up. I didn’t speak German; they didn’t speak English. We mostly did some signs. They were friendly.
In Vienna guards were lost. We wandered around – I saw a bit of Vienna, although destroyed by bombing raids. Another stop was Frankfurt am Main interrogation center Dulag Luft. From there I went to Stalag Luft I near Barth. With me there were only two other black pilots in camp. Alfred Q. Carrol Jr. from 301st FS (shot down on June 25, 1944) and Brown from 99th FS.”
Cornelius P. Gould Jr later became the Founding President of the Ohio Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and the author of Soldier Stories: Prisoner of War
Learn more about the 32 captured Tuskegee Airmen POWs.
Visit the Red Tail Virtual Museum to see Gould’s POW Identification Record, Western Union Telegram Missing In Action notification and Western Union Telegram Prisoner of War notification.
332nd Fighter Group
WWII – POW-Stalag Luft 1