Fayetteville man is last surviving member of B-24 Liberator crew shot down in 1944

Veterans Voice

FAYETTEVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — There’s a good reason this poster welcomes you to Stan Stanley’s home and why this sign tells you who has parking privileges here. At age 100, Stanley is the last surviving member of a B-24 Liberator crew shot down during a bombing raid on Berlin in March 1944. He was 24 when it happened.

“We dropped our bombs, and as soon as we dropped our bombs, the number 3 or number 4 engine got hit by flack. I never saw the flack, but the sky was black. You couldn’t see nothing, just black,” Stanley said. “The next thing he said was ‘get ready for a crash landing.’ So we got ready for a crash landing.”

“I thought that was it for me,” Stanley continued. “I was praying and I thought that was it.”

Miraculously, all but one of the 11-man crew survived the crash.  

The B-24 went down in Nazi-occupied Holland. But before the Germans could reach the crash site, members of the Dutch resistance came to the rescue. The pilot, with both legs crushed and later amputated, was rushed to a hospital. The remaining nine, rescued by rowboat.

“That’s where the rowboat was. Took nine of us in there,” Stanley said. “They took all our clothes away, and gave us civilian clothes, wooden shoes. And we ended up in a houseboat in the middle of some body of water. We stayed there for nine days.”

So began a year of hiding in the Netherlands. Six of the crew tried to make a break for Belgium.  All six were captured and sent to POW camps. That left Stanely and two others to hold tight to their fake id’s, provided by the resistance and lay low and pray.

“The last place I stayed, we had a hiding place in a Cape Cod house, the first normal house that I saw,” Stanley said. “The woman had to move a dresser, then moved a couple of boards and she had a crawl space in there with a mattress and bedding for us. We heard the Germans go past the house about midnight every night there.”

There’s plenty of gratitude to go around in this story. First, Stanely’s gratitude to the courageous underground in the Netherlands.

“There’s nothing like the Dutch people for taking care of the people they love, you know?  I love them too. And I want to thank them very much for taking care of me, for all the time I was over there, for 13 months,” Stanely said.

When Holland was liberated and Stanley made it to safety at an English camp, he finally had a chance to call his family.  Until she heard his voice, his mom was convinced he was long since dead.  

Even on the convoy home to New York, Stanley saw German u-boats in the water and never felt he’d make it safely to shore until the convoy arrived at the Statue of Liberty.

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