Bill Fili- B-24 Engineer/ Top Turret Gunner, Ploesti Raid, POW

wbwbillfili_crew

Crew of the B-24 Liberator “Destiny Deb”, Mr. Fili is second from the right, ront row.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Bill Fili at the Reading Airshow in Reading, Pennsylvania. Mr. Fili was a Sergeant in the Army Air Corp in the Second World War. Like many other young men of his time before political correctness, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in late 1941, he wanted to go and “Slap a yellow Jap!” Mr. Fili was trained by the Army Air Corp to be a top turret gunner and an engineer of the new and mighty B-24 Liberator. His training took him to from places such as Florida and Brazil. After his training was completed he shipped out for Tunisia. In southern Italy an airfield was captured by Allied powers for B-24’s to fly out of. Mr. Fili and his fellow crew members flew in a B-24D Liberator which they affectionately named “Destiny Deb”. Mr. Fili was a member of the 15 AF, 450th Bomb Group. In all he flew 34 missions over Germany and other parts of Europe, which as he said “were all close calls”. As Mr. Fili stated, “1/3 of all casualties in Europe were in the Army Air Corps.” Mr. Fili’s B-24 “Destiny Deb” went out on its last mission on April 24, 1944 on a mission over the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Forced to bail out over Romania he was captured by the Germans who were waiting for him on the ground and was put in to a POW camp.
wbwbillfiliwwiiMr. Fili during WWII.

At the POW camp in Romania where Mr. Fili was being held there were many unsuccessful escape attempts. Prisoners tried to move from building to building. Some of Mr. Fili’s friends escaped, but said that the attempts were unsuccessful because those that did escape were recaptured because “they did everything we told them not to do”. Also, the Romanian people could tell Americans apart from the crowd by “the walk” that they had. A tunnel which had been dug by the prisoners was discovered by the Germans and was sealed off. Not long after all German soldiers were ordered to pull out of Romania. Mr. Fili felt “euphoria” at this news. The Germans refused to leave, because they were not properly prepared. They attempted to kill all of the POW’s, this lasted for 3 days. At the end of the 3 days none of the POW’s were killed. When it ended, all of the captured American POW’s were to be rescued.
Mr. Fili and his fellow POW’s received word from the 15 AF HQ that they were free and were to be rescued. Mr. Fili and the other former POW’s were located 400 miles behind the German lines. In order to rescue them, the bomb bays of B-17 Flying Fortresses were boarded up and used as transport planes. The B-17’s landed in a grass field near the airmen’s location. The B-17’s never shut their engines down. They carried 20 men per bomber. They evacuated 1120 British and American POWs over a two day period with zero causalities.
Once Mr. Fili was evacuated he and the other men he was with were sent back to bases in Italy then shipped back to the United States as fast as possible. Once back in the United States, because of his combat experience Mr. Fili became an instructor, until the end of the war. Like many who serve in the military Mr. Fili struggled while he was trying to rejoin civilian life, but eventually learned to cope.
Mr. Fili is a great guy, with amazing stories to tell. He is set on the education of the younger generations about what he and men like him did when the when duty and their country called to them. If you ever have the opportunity to meet and talk to Mr. Fili do not pass it up, it is a once in a life time experience to hear from one of America’s heroes.

wbwbillfili(current)Mr. Fili in present day, wearing his flight jacket and telling his story.

 

Image Credits: Mid Atlantic Air Musuem

http://www.maam.org/wwii/ww2_guests.htm

Comments

  1. Bill Fili’s B24 DESTINY’S DEB was a B24G 10NT 42-78170 not a B24D as quoted in the Narrative .

    • The Warbird Watcher Thanks for the correction Mr. John Page. After further researching, I found that the B-24G was actually the designation given to the B-24Ds airframes which were being constructed by North American Aviation (NAA) according to their 1942 contract. Some of the modifications which were added were 3 .50 cal machine guns in the nose as well as a Sperry ball turret. Thought this might have interested you. Thanks.

      -Tom Reilly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: