Editor's Note: Eastchester resident Mike Fix wrote the following article regarding this year's Grand Marshall of the Bronxville Memorial Day Parade, George Palmer.
The Bronxville Memorial Day Committee and Mayor Mary Marvin are pleased to announce that Mr. George B. Palmer, Jr., has been selected as the Grand Marshall of our Village’s 2012 Memorial Day Parade.
George’s life began on Dec. 2, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When Pearl Harbor rocked the American people into World War II, any young man who was healthy and of age was going to be drafted, so George decided to take matters into his own hands and enlisted in June of 1943 after having completed a semester at the University of Minnesota.
He was processed along with 300,000 more inductees during World War II at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, the equivalent of New York City’s Whitehall Street and his next stop was Jefferson Barracks, Missouri for basic training.
After three months, the young private moved onto Columbia, Missouri, at the University flying piper cubs and decided that navigation was what he wanted. He was classified at Ellington, Texas and sent to San Marcos, Texas for navigation school where he returned to Ellington and received his commission as a 2nd Lt., his wings and his navigation certification in April, 1944.
George traveled to Charleston Air Force Base where he met his B-24 crewmates. After practice bombing runs, the crew went to Mitchell Field, Long Island to pick up their plane and fly in a squadron of nine to Italy as part of the 15th Air Force under the command of General Nathan Twinning.
When he left Mitchell Field for Europe, he was converted to a Navigator/Bombardier. The flight with a squadron of B-24’s was a series of ups and down through Labrador, the Azores, Northwest Africa, Tunis, and final destination of Southeast Italy.
Palmer and his fellow airmen settled into their routine and became part of the 746th squadron flying their B-24’s over Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. On Sept. 1, 1944, Palmer and the rest of his squadron took off on Group Mission # 112 to Debrecen, Hungary. Over the marshalling area (a railroad yard) in Debrecen, flak hit Air Craft # 565, George Palmer’s.
It was the 10th mission of his and his fellow airman. Disabled, the plane began to spiral to the ground. As the plane descended into an uncontrollable flight toward terra firma, Palmer jumped, counted to ten and pulled his rip cord to open the chute.
Palmer was the last to parachute to the ground and was separated from the rest of the plane’s’ crew. When he hit the ground he was almost immediately captured and taken to a farm where there were other prisoners of war. Later they were moved by train to Budapest and moved to the city jail.
Shortly after, all were taken by railcar to Stalag Luft III at that time on the border of Poland and Germany. There he became 2nd Lt. George B. Palmer, Prisoner of War No. 7910. Most of the men that George traveled with were Americans and some personnel from the Royal Air Force. Stalag Luft III was the subject of the movie The Great Escape with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, David MacCallum, James Garner, James Coburn and Richard Attenborough.
After staying five months at Stalag Luft III everyone was marched sixty miles in the cold and chill of February 1945 and put aboard rail cars. There were fifty men per car and you had to take turns to lie down and sleep. After three days, the train of prisoners, ten thousand in all, arrived at Moosburg prisoner of war camp near Munich.
At Munich the prisoners were put into a giant camp of 100,000 detainees, not only from the U.S., but Brits, Greeks, and Indians. By this time, George had lost 45 pounds. After three months at Moosburg, in April of 1945, General George Patton’s Seventh Army arrived in tanks, trucks, and jeeps and liberated the camp. Within hours, Palmer stood proudly at attention in his barracks as Patton walked through his barracks and past him.
Shortly after the newly free George sailed on the USS Lejeune on May 20, 1945 home to the U.S. and arrived on Jun. 2, 1945. George spent a little more time in the service, went back to college, met his wife, married and decided to live in Bronxville which in his words, “had nice homes, good schools and an easy and short commute to New York City." He and Rosemary have lived in Bronxville ever since.
Mayor Mary Marvin said in picking this year’s Marshall and honoree, “we have picked George not only for his bravery as an airman, but someone who faced uncertainty, fear, and no hope with a resolute and strong behavior as a prisoner of war; that make us all very proud of Mr. Palmer."
"We are delighted to have him as a resident of our Village,” she continued.