POW #3959

Memoir of a World War II Airman Shot Down Over Germany

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About the Book

In January 1943, not long after his nineteenth birthday, Ralph Sirianni was drafted for active duty by the U.S. Army. Ordered to the European Theatre of Operations in February 1944, Sgt. Sirianni served as the right waist gunner on a B-17. On his seventh mission over Germany, the plane—severely damaged by German fighters—crashed near Wildeshausen. With shrapnel in his legs and shoulder, Sirianni bailed out, and he spent the following 15 months in the infamous Stalag Luft I prisoner of war camp. This memoir offers harrowing stories of combat, including detailed descriptions of each of Sirianni’s combat missions; reveals the horrors of confinement and the despair of skin-of-the-teeth survival; and remembers camaraderie in the face of German abuse. Valuable for its vivid account of aerial warfare and imprisonment, this memoir is also a story of postwar reconciliation, both psychological and social. Appendices offer excerpts from Sirianni’s POW log book and pilot George McFall’s firsthand account of the ill-fated final mission.

About the Author(s)

Ralph E. Sirianni (retired) served as Director of Public Health for Winthrop, Massachusetts, and later as a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature. He is a member of Disabled American Veterans, American Ex-Prisoners of War and the 388th Bombardment Group (H) Association.
The late Patricia I. Brown was a retired lawyer and associate law librarian at Suffolk University Law Library. She is included in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bibliographic Details

Ralph E. Sirianni with Patricia I. Brown
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2297-5
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8427-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

1. From High School Quarterback to Aerial Gunner      1
2. Combat Training      14
3. Going Overseas      30
4. The Missions      43
5. Captured      66
6. Dulag Luft Interrogation Center      76
7. Stalag Luft I: The First Three Months      85
8. Stalag Luft I: Things Get Worse      103
9. Stalag Luft I: The Last Days      120
10. Going Home at Last      132
11. Revisiting Stalag Luft I Years Later      158
12. Searching for the Plane’s Crash Site      179

Appendix A: Ralph’s POW Log Book      197
Appendix B: The Last Mission as Told by the Pilot, Lieutenant George McFall      201
Index      207

Book Reviews & Awards

“[Sirianni’s] memoir offers unimaginable stories of air combat, delves into the despair of confinement, and relief of miraculous survival. He is often endearing when he recalls and remembers the camp’s camaraderie in the face of German abuse. … POW #3959, who had never written a book before, has given us a rare emotional and truly insightful glimpse into what it was like being shot down, captured, incarcerated, and surviving. His effort is especially welcomed since the book includes his personal drawings and post war photos of family and friends.”—AR Gunners Magazine