B-24 Ser.No. 41-28733 MACR 5908 18.June 1944
For Immediate Release
Children’s author, Marilyn Jeffers Walton’s, seventh book has just been released. However this book, entitled Rhapsody in Junk—A Daughter’s Return to Germany to Finish Her Father’s Story, is not a children’s book. “Rhapsody in Junk” was the name of her father’s B-24 bomber that crashed in the woods in Germany in June, 1944. One airman was killed, and the other nine on the crew, including her father, were taken prisoners of war.
Before Walton’s father passed away in 2004, he had tried for years to discern what happened to his top turret gunner who was killed in action. When Walton’s father had a series of strokes, he passed the torch to her to continue his quest. That led to three years of world-wide research that eventually led her to the exact spot in the woods where the plane crashed. Walton made two trips to Germany, and she met the woman who watched her father bail out of the burning plane as it flew low over the thatched roof of the woman’s 1625 home. A German soap opera is now filmed in the historic home. The woman was just ten-years old when she watched the plane fly over, and as the local historian, she had written up the story of the crash in a book she had published.
The German press followed Walton and her search party into the woods, and the Cincinnati Enquirer covered the story when she returned. With the help of the local Germans in that small farming community of Wagersrott, close to Denmark, she found pieces of the plane that had been lying in the woods for over sixty years. One piece was a frayed black rubber patch that she brought back to place on the tire of the B-24 on display at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio. Every seam matched exactly, so she knew she had a piece of her father’s plane.
Walton obtained the Individual Deceased Personnel File for the gunner who was killed. With the help of an old German map found in the IDPF, and with the help of the locals, she found the German cemetery where the gunner had been left by his crewmates so long ago and saw the place her father had described to her so vividly.
A visit to Stalag Luft III in Poland, where The Great Escape took place in 1943, allowed Walton to find the route her father took out of the camp in the harsh winter of 1945 as Hitler had the camp evacuated when the Russians closed in from the east. She followed that route for over sixty miles through the twists and turns of rural German villages where her father had marched during the coldest winter there in fifty years. Along the way, she found the glass factory and the barns where the weary men had slept before continuing onward on what was called the Death March across Germany.
While conducting research for her book, Walton located the three remaining crew on her father’s plane, and she met them in Arizona at the Stalag Luft III Prisoner of War Reunion where they reunited after sixty years. Phoenix television reporters covered the event.
Walton also located the son of the Master Interrogator where her father had been interrogated in Germany after he was shot down. In a twist of irony, the son became a good friend of Walton’s and edited part of her book.
A 15-year old German boy, whom she knew only from email, was instrumental in helping Walton as he served as her interpreter and later traveled eight hours across Germany on a train to meet her and help her locate the plane. On the condition that he write up his visit with Walton and detail what he had learned, the boy’s teacher released him from school. Walton sent his article to Lt. General A.P. Clark, former superintendent of the Air Force Academy, in Colorado, Springs, Colorado, who wrote the foreword to her book. He had been a prisoner of war with her father. That article is now in the Stalag Luft III Clark Collection at the Air Force Library.
The book grew as Walton incorporated the wartime stories of not only several air crews, but the German people she met who were all caught up in the wartime dictates of Adolf Hitler. One account details a couple living through the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Part of the book has been excerpted for publication in Germany.
About the Book
This book is the culmination of three year’s of research in four countries. By meticulously combing the archive records in England, Germany, Poland and the United States, Marilyn Jeffers Walton has reconstructed the final mission of her father and his crew and located the German cemetery where one crewmate, killed the day the plane was shot down, was buried. She searched for and found the remaining men of the crew of “Rhapsody in Junk” and reunited them after sixty years. Interviews with the crew and fellow prisoners of war contributed puzzle pieces, put together bit by bit, that enabled her to find where they were captured and interrogated. By searching old records, letters, diaries and mission records, she was finally able to return to Germany and find the crash site of her father’s B-24 where pieces of the plane still remained. To her astonishment, she met the woman who watched her father bail out and saw the very field where he landed. During her return to Germany, she connected emotionally with the people of the peaceful farm community of Wagersrott where her father was taken prisoner over six decades before. In her quest to reconstruct the mission and her father’s prisoner of war experiences, Walton presents not only his story but the stories of the British and German people who both suffered greatly, all caught up in the dictates of a mad man. Revealed within the pages is a first-hand account of the bombing of Dresden from a German couple who survived it. Walton’s odyssey through Europe allowed her to discover the rich fabric of the people who endured and survived the war and to weave their stories into a multi-faceted mosaic that reflects the personal experiences of World War II.
About the Author
Marilyn Walton. is a graduate of The Ohio State University. She has written six books for children, including the successful Celebration Series for Raintree-Steck-Vaughn. Her book, Chameleons’ Rainbow, won a Children’s Choice award in 1986. She and her husband, a retired Miami University professor, raised three sons in Oxford, Ohio, where they currently reside. After locating her father’s crew and their relatives, she was instrumental in finding the crew families of the B-24, “Belle of Boston,” that crashed in England in 1944. She currently conducts World War II research to assist other families in learning the history of their fathers’ war experiences and in finding relatives of the crews. With 78,000 American World War II men missing in action, of which 38,000 are considered recoverable, she works with other researchers trying to locate the remains of these men so that they can finally be brought home.
Marilyn Walton is one of very few people to my knowledge who has immersed themselves in the POW experience to the point where they can write about it as if they had lived the experience themselves. Marilyn’s father was a POW himself, and his daughter has told the story of his life as a member of the “World War Two” generation with love, pride and sensitivity. Her research has been thorough and has brought her new friends who sixty years ago were under her father’s bombs.
I have had the privilege of watching Marilyn’s book grow as she uncovered aspects of her father’s experiences as a B-24 bombardier and built them into a rich document that will assist people to better understand our generation’s Great War for generations to come.
Lt. General USAF (Ret)
Superintendent of the U.S.
Air Force Academy 1970-1974
Author of “33 Months as a POW in Stalag Luft III-
A World War II Airman Tells His Story”
Brakes screeched in a symphony as pilots systematically released them. Planes lurched, and pungent clouds of blue smoke belched from their engines billowing forth to hover over the taxiway. The engines caught, and sputtering graduated to thunder. “Rhapsody in Junk’s” four weary engines bellowed as she lined up with the others behind the polka-dotted assembly plane which led the PFF plane upward.
All the planes from Horsham St. Faith that day were B-24s, designated as “heavies.” The darkness lifted by 4:30 a.m., and a partly cloudy morning shone through for take-off. By 7:32. a.m. the lead bomber of the 96th Combat Wing moved out. The hulking “Rhapsody in Junk” waited to swing around off the tarmac and onto the runway. She was eighth to take off in section one.
In turn, the plane pulled into position. In minutes, under Northrop’s control, the battered green plane would make the transition from bouncing all over the runway to drifting into the orderly formation where planes were staggered side to side and top to bottom. Once there, he would be alert to other planes in the wrong place in the formation. He would have to concentrate hard to keep his own plane from drifting, and like the squadron leaders, correct his position, which was made all the more difficult as he battled the prop wash of the other planes.
The frame shook as her slick tires, worn from far too many take-offs, clicked rapidly over the expansion joints of the runway past the red and blue marker lamps. With building speed vibrating her rivets against the ever-strengthening force of the wind, Northrop heaved the heavy into the sky. With an upward thrust, she was in the air lifting thirty tons of bombs, plane and men from the earth. Passing the control tower, “Rhapsody in Junk” was on her way. Behind her, twelve more planes in section two took their position in the macabre dance.
Northrop knew his job well, but it did not make it any easier. "Rhapsody" had seen too much combat action, and her engines had been revved up to their maximum peak so many times there was not much emergency power left in them. They would just barely permit Northrop to keep up with the formation as he kept them on maximum power.
The first plane leaving Horsham St. Faith that morning circled the field. Others fell in behind. Three at a time, planes moved off, and the pattern repeated itself as the continual line of planes corkscrewed upward into formation . . . . .
. . . . . . . . Up in the cockpit, Northrop understood the futility of their plight. He put the nose wheel down to surrender to the Germans, but beneath the smokescreen, they kept firing. Once down, he could not get the wheel back up, and it blocked the exit through the nose wheel hatch. He hit the bail out bell just outside the flak area. With just eighteen combat hours, the crew’s wings would be clipped, and they would spend the rest of the war on the ground as prisoners of war of the Third Reich. By the time the mission was concluded, Harold Flaugher would be dead.
Marilyn Walton is an extraordinary woman whose quest to retrace her father’s World War II footsteps, and those of his bomber crew, bridges a gap of over sixty years. Her indefatigable enthusiasm laced with quick-witted humor, attention to detail and endless compassion enabled her to not only bridge the time gap, but also create new cultural and personal bridges with all those individuals uniquely involved in her project.
Marilyn takes the reader from the United States and Mexico to Great Britain, Germany and Poland during the retracing of these footsteps from the beginning of the B24 crew training to the fateful day of Rhapsody’s demise over Germany in June 1944. The ensuing capture of the crew and the mysterious death of Sgt. Harold Flaugher are meticulously retold along with harrowing tales of forced winter marches which culminate in the jubilant release of all the POWs by Patton’s forces in April, 1945.
Marilyn’s life has undoubtedly changed dramatically through this endeavor as has the lives of all those she touched during the course of her travels and the research she undertook in compiling this interesting story.
Son of Hanns Joachim Scharff,
Master Interrogator of Dulag Luft
A tremendous read. In addition to writing an important family narrative, the author has produced a significant document to be added to the prisoner of war literature. It will certainly be a welcomed addition at the Air Force Academy. The book is an important contribution that offers an objective awareness of the human condition which is so often lacking in "there I was" accounts of the experience.
Duane J. Reed
United States Air Force Academy
A remarkable and singularly touching glimpse of human endurance and bravery. Marilyn Walton helps you discover a group of genuine heroes of WWII, the prisoners of war of Stalag Luft III. Be prepared to shed a tear or two as you accompany the Waltons on their search for what happened to her father and the crew of “Rhapsody in Junk.” This is a great read.
John E. Dolibois
Ambassador to Luxembourg
Captain, U.S. Army 1942-46
Interrogator of Prisoners
Nuremberg War Crimes Commission
Author of Pattern of Circles
An Ambassador’s Story