1st Lt. Leland Forsblad - Pilot / POW
323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group
A Distinguished Veteran
|Leland Forsblad signed up to join the US Army Air Corp on December 8, 1941, and soon began training at Lindberg Field, San Diego, where he flew the Ryan PT-21 and PT-22. He was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, and given a B-17 (specifications) called Anvil Chorus to ferry from the United States to England. He and his crew flew the plane south to Brazil, across the Atlantic to Africa, then north to England. After arriving at Bassingbourn, he and his crew were assigned a new B-17, which he called V-Packette. A V-Packette was a prophylactic kit that was given to enlisted crewmember to protect them from VD. He flew the plane on the same mission the Memphis Belle flew when it recorded its famous 25th mission, and the King and Queen of England came to the base to meet the Memphis Belle crew. Supposedly, the King and Queen wanted their picture taken in front of V-Packette, not knowing what it stood for. Through diplomatic persuasion, crewmembers and officials talked them into getting their picture taken in front of another B-17. While he was flying B-17E and B-17Fs for the 91st bomb Group, his brother, Lt. Richard W. Forsblad, flew P-51s with the 38th Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, and Richard was credited with one air-to-air victory.|
|Leland Forsblad signing "Full House - Aces High"|
|After the war, Leland Forsblad played professionally in bands, plus he wrote music, and musical scores, in Hollywood for four years. He worked with director Dick Powell, and wrote the score for the movie The Right Cross, starring Ricardo Montalban. He worked in film music with some success, but returned to Fresno, California, to start a teaching career. He has written over 1,000 choral, band, and orchestra scores for public schools, from the junior high level through college.|
On July 10, 1943, his crew was assigned to fly B-17F Stric Nine, OR-R, because their regular plane, V-Packette, was down for mechanical repairs. The target was the airfield at Villa Coublay, France, but complete overcast over the target forced the formation to abort the bomb run and return to Bassingbourn. Their number one engine was hit by flak, which caused the engine to dangle from the wing, and then it caught on fire. The fire extinguishers were also damaged and could not put the fire out, which eventually caught the wing on fire. Copilot John Bennett and pilot Leland Forsblad were the only crewmembers to bail out safely from the burning B-17 before it exploded. The plane went down in the Seine Bay, about 20 miles off Cherbourg.
He drifted for six hour in the waters south of the English Channel and was eventually picked up by a French fishing vessel that also had German guards aboard. He was captured and sent to Stalag Luft 3. He was known as POW 1743, and would spend 22 months as a POW before allied forces liberated the camps. The Americans were assigned to the central, south, and west camps, while the British were assigned to the north and east camps. There were many tunnels dug, and on one occasion, 83 POWs escaped, with 50 being killed, 20 captured and returned to the camp, and 13 escaping. The movie The Great Escape was based on this escape from Stalag Luft 3.
|The Accordion Radio|
The ranking American Colonel told me that I would not be one of the personnel to attempt an escape due to the fact I was a professional musician and was part of the moral boosters for the camp. I played in a band, and one of the instruments I played was an accordion. On one occasion, I was thrown in the cooler for a few days by the camp commandant after I played the American national anthem in the compound. The Germans had pretty good radio stations that gave out information on the status of the war. We heard one day on the radio that there was fighting near the west side of the Rhine River. A few days later we heard there was heavy fighting along the west side of the Rhine. The next day we heard there was heavy fighting on the east side of the Rhine. This told us the allies were getting closer. We also had our own radio, which we used to listen to the BBC. The Germans knew we had a radio, but they could never find it. We hid the radio in my accordion. We were forced to leave the camp and marched west 280 miles out of Poland due to the Russians getting close to Stalag Luft 3. We took the radio apart and gave pieces of the radio to different people to hide and carry. Once we arrived at our new camp, we reassembled the radio back in the accordion. The Germans never found it.
|Leland Forsblad is one of our Rogue's Gallery members.|
|(Thanks are due Leland for providing photos and stories)|
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