Frank Burger's DNA
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June 22, 2009 – Frank Burger is a World War II veteran. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and went to boot camp at Camp Callan which was located in La Jolla, Calif. He was transferred to a base in the Pacific Northwest after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, and later joined the Army Air Corps. As part of the 15th Air Force, he flew combat missions from Italy into Germany during the war. On his ninth mission, Burger's plane was shot down over Vienna and he suffered shrapnel wounds in his legs. He escaped capture for three days, was jailed by the local authorities, and later turned over to members of an underground group who opposed the Axis. The Gestapo caught up to Burger in Budapest, Hungary, interrogated him and later sent him to a prisoner-of-war camp in Poland. He was later moved to a second camp because of his injuries. After eight months as a POW he was liberated by Russian troops on May 1, 1945. After retiring to San Diego, Burger became a National Service Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, working with other former POWs. He has served more than 500 former POWs obtaining compensation and providing counseling for them.
ABE SHRAGGE (Curator, Veterans Museum and Memorial Center): Now you were born and lived in a small farming community in Iowa, but joined the army in 1941 and came out here to Camp Callan. What was it like coming to a place like La Jolla, a place like the Torrey Pines bluff, did you ever see anything like that before? FRANK BURGER (Veteran): No, and I’d never seen the ocean. And that was really exciting to us landlubbers SHRAGGE: Where were you and what were you doing on December 7th 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked? BURGER: Well you know they always quarantine you, particularly in those days, and we found out that one way to get off the base was to join the church choir. Of course none of us could sing, but we joined the church choir anyway. We were just sitting down to eat in the afternoon when the report came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. SHRAGGE: What did you do then? BURGER: The radio put out information that we should stay if we weren’t on the base, we should stay where we were. So they called us in by companies, and we went in after dark. And we had to walk down and light a match to find where our barracks was because by that time they had blankets hung up over the windows and absolutely no light. SHRAGGE: But it wasn’t long after that that you joined the Army Air Corps. So off you went. Now you were part of the 8th Air Force, based in England, flying missions into Germany. BURGER: No, in Italy I was in the 15th Air Force. SHRAGGE: Ok, then flying that in from northern and eastern Europe from there on a B-24. BURGER: Yes. SHRAGGE: And how many missions did you fly before the next great event? BURGER: I got credit for nine. And if you made nine, then you were an old timer. SHRAGGE: And what happened then? BURGER: Well we got shot down over our target in Vienna, and we went in with a 4-engine bomber and came out with a 2, and both of them were on one side. So we weren’t going to be in the air for very long. The engineer was wounded pretty bad and we were going down so I put a chute on him and another guy and I dropped him out with instructions. Then we all jumped in our parachutes and we were pretty close to the ground, some of us, when we got out of the plane. SHRAGGE: Well you made it to the ground and then you were captured. BURGER: I got caught in Budapest, by the Gestapo. And from there, they sent me to a POW camp in what was part of Germany, in Poland about twenty-five to thirty miles from the North Sea. SHRAGGE: How long were you in that prison camp all together? BURGER: That one, I was only in about two and a half months and then they transferred me on a hospital train because I was suffering from shrapnel, in particular in my legs so they sent me to another camp up on the Baltic, then we were liberated by the Russians there on May 1st so I went down on October the 13th on a Friday, so I was actually a prisoner for about eight months.