By Sidney Ukraine

Standing at the door was a young boy in a Western Union uniform. My mother never associated this with the hundreds of others who were getting  a telegram, all with bad news. This one was, “Your son Sgt. Sidney Ukraine is missing in action.”

A scream, “Not my son—couldn’t be—he does nothing dangerous.” She did not know that I was a gunner on a B-17 bomber and had already flown a goodly number of missions over German targets.

My mother’s screams alerted our neighbors and my sisters were summoned to calm her down. Off they all went to the synagogue to evoke the Rabbi’s help in their peas to God.

sidney ukraine 546th bomb squadron 384th bomb group MIA telegram

Left Waist Gunner Sgt. Sidney Ukraine of the 546th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group. (Photo courtesy of the 384thbombgroup.com)

Where was I? I was lying in my bunk enjoying time off while we were waiting for the weather to clear. Over England, over all of Europe, there was a low flying cloud cover. There was no way we could be able to find any targets. At base HQ the “target” teletype which announced the next day’s target details was repeating over and over, “Stand Down.”

A letter arrived from one of my sisters telling me that there was trouble at home. When my mother heard what happened to me, she forbade me to fly. So, after my 20th mission I wrote back that I was finished with flying—a big fat lie.

What happened to provoke the telegram? We had been on a high altitude mission when the ball turret gunner had trouble getting his turret aligned so he could get out. In order to help him I had to take off my gloves. I got severe frostbite. The pilot landed at the nearest airfield rather than take the time to return to our home field. I was taken to the hospital but they failed to notify my home field.

When I returned to my crew, we had a new pilot. He wrote home to his mother about the dangerous missions that were coming up, how he was so proud of his new crew, each of whom was an experienced combat veteran. Somehow his mother got the addresses of all the crew members. She wrote to each of them extolling her son’s leadership skills and commenting that they could only excel as heroic airmen with him in command. The door was opened; mother knew I had lied and that I was flying again.

I received another letter from home in which they commented on my desire to finish my tour of duty as a responsibility to my fellow crew members.

The letter arrived just before I finished my “30.” When I got home, their “war hero” was forgiven for his lie and the War Dept. was also forgiven.

For More on the 384th Bomb Group Check Out:


For More Stories from the 384th Bomb Group See:

LEISNIG – Witness to Disaster: Sergeant Marlyn Bonacker’s Short War

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