A huge thanks to Connie Mikels Jacobsen for contributing this summary of her father’s experience in WWII.

Downing of B-17 #42-107175 by Germans on August 13, 1944 & Survival of 2nd Lt. George M. Mikels

As told by George Mikels to wife, Geraldine and other family members.

George Mikels was born on July 10, 1920 in South St. Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in St. Paul, and after moving to the Pacific Northwest with his family in 1936 lived in Portland, Oregon for the remainder of his life. The family name was changed from Mikacevich to Mikels in 1941. He married Geraldine Kane in May 1942. In March 1944, their first daughter, Gail Anne was born. They had two other daughters after the war, Connie and Patty.

On February 13, 1943 in order to come to the aid of the U.S. and allied forces in the fight against the tyranny in Europe of the German Nazis, Mikels entered the Army/Airforce. After initial training in Roswell, New Mexico he was stationed in Kimbolten, England where preparations were aggressively underway for the “Invasion of Normandy”.

According to John MacCarley, ex bombardier “SALVO MAC”, and historian for the 379th Bomb Group, “The time when your dad flew his missions was really rough. We lost quite a few men on August 13, 1944. It was what we called “bad luck day”.

Mission over Normandy – On August 13, 1944, 2nd Lt. George Mikels, bombardier with the 379th Bomb Group, 526th SQdn (B-17’s) and crew were flying mission over Normandy. They were flying in formation on a course at 180 degrees about fifteen miles west of Caen, France. According to Mikels, “Flak was first sighted a few minutes after we passed Caen. Groups ahead of us took evasive action, but our group did not. “Chaff” was not used to jam the enemy’s radar. The weather was clear. Flak was not heavy, but tracing. The flak ground installation seemed to be located at our turning point.” Note: See enclosed report.

Soon after this, they encountered a massive attack by the Germans. Their aircraft took a hit; Mikels was able to see (from the nose of the plane) that their aircraft was in flames. He made the attempt to walk back to the cockpit, but was unable to do so and could see that most of the crew, with exception of a gunner would not survive. At this point, Mikels and navigator, Don Ramage argued each telling the other to jump and get out. Mikels turned shortly after this and could no longer see Ramage and was then forced to jump. He landed on the ground in the vicinity of Caen. He did not incur injury of any kind. All of the crewmembers died at the time of the crash with the exception of Lt. Mikels and tail-gunner, Sgt. John F. Lynch. Mikels and Lynch were taken as prisoners of war each by separate German groups.

Having been separated from Lynch at the time of the crash Mikels was unable to gather information as to whether or not there were other survivors of the crew. Mikels, was not aware if there were other survivors or if Sgt. John F. Lynch had survived. Mikels was taken to a camp in Ste. Honorine in the locality of Les Hogues, where German SS were keeping U.S. and British prisoners. During the first several days of his captivity by the Germans he and other prisoners being held along with him were well treated. In addition to Mikels, other prisoners that were being held captive along with him were Spitfire Pilot Griffin Young from Winnipeg, Canada and Gordon Lafayette Bryant, U.S. Infantry Division, also a B-26 tailgunner Norman Thielen, U.S. Army air Corps Staff Sgt. and two others (unidentified).

On August 18th, several SS Panzer troopers broke into the stockade where they were being held in the region of Les Hogues. The men were obviously drunk and disorderly and Mikels knew that things would not go well. Mikels had struck up a rapport with the young Canadian officer Griffin Young during their days of captivity together. He tried to persuade Young that they should escape and try to hide, but was unable to convince him to do so.

At least in part, due to the intoxicated state of the SS troopers, Mikels was able to escape and run undetected to a nearby milkhouse. While hidden in the milkhouse the Panzer soldiers shot and killed the prisoners he had just been with. As told to his wife Geraldine, Mikels said that, “They were lined up along the wall of the barn and systematically shot in the head.”

The SS Panzer troopers soon realized that a prisoner was missing and they went to the milkhouse to search for him. Upon entering the milkhouse they slammed the large doors very hard and thus did not find Lt. Mikels’ hiding place behind these doors. They soon abandoned their search.

After the Panzer troops left the area Mikels was able to come out of hiding and rejoin his original captors. After traveling for sometime with the Germans, he came across two French boys, according to documents the boys’ names were Pierre and Gerard (not M. Gerard Laout). The boys gave him a sign, which he recognized as that of being offered help from the French resistance. The Germans again searched the area. He escaped a 2nd time from the enemy, this time by jumping into a large bramble bush and the Germans soon left the area. The two French boys returned towards dark with French clothing for Mikels to wear and a bicycle to ride.

The boys took Mikels to the village of Saint Sauflieu where the family of M. Rene Laout took him in. The Laout family along with other members of the French Resistance risked their lives to hide him. The Laout family members included M and Mme Laout and their five children. Mikels stayed with the family for approximately four days. At this time M. Rene Laout was Chief Gendarme of Villers-Bretonneux. During the day Mikels was kept hidden in the local jail in order to appear as a local prisoner and then spent the nights in the Laout family home. He posed as a relative of the Laout family, and also as one with diminished mental capacity so as not to reveal his inability to speak the French language. According to M. Gerard Laout, “One evening Germans entered their home to search it for a missing prisoner. Mikels was hiding in their upstairs bedroom at that time. According to M Gerard Laout, M. Rene Laout asked the Germans if they thought he would be so stupid as to be hiding an enemy of the Germans in his own home. At this the Germans left without searching the home. Mikels was aware that the Germans had entered the home and according to “M Laout, had been very frightened.”

In this collection you will see the personal account of M Gerard Laout who at the age of 12 years met my father, George Mikels in his own home as his parents protected this American soldier. Fortunately, the efforts of the allied forces were paying off. Paris was liberated on August 25th and the area of Amiens where the Laout family resided was liberated on August 31st. According to Gerard Laout, the Germans would surely have killed all the members of the Laout family if the liberation had not occurred when it did as they discovered after the war that they had been turned in by a traitor to the Germans. On August 31st, Mikels was able to leave San Sauflieu to join U.S. troops in Paris and then found his way back to London where he arrived on approximately September 2, 1944.

According to military records, Sgt. John F. Lynch survived his captivity by the Germans and spent a lengthy service in the U.S. Military. It is reported that he served in Korea and died in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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