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A memorable blood drive

February 8, 2011

Sam Wyrouck

BLACKFOOT — Sam Wyrouck flew 35 missions over Germany as a lower ball turret gunner in a B-17 during World War II.
Wyrouck, age 86, said he went into the U.S. Army Air Force after graduating from high school in 1943.
"The reason he made it back," said his wife, Eliose, "was because I prayed for him twice each day."
Wyrouck wrote about an unusual blood drive.
"My crew number 5383 was part of the 351st Bomb Group. During WWII, the Eighth Air Force was the thrust of the air war against Hitler's Germany. It was made up of about 36 bomber groups plus fighter groups.
"Each group was made up of four squadrons each with 12 bombers and 12 crews plus spares. (Sometimes there were fewer than 12.)
"There were four-engined B-17's and B-24's. Each put up three squadrons for a mission with the fourth standing down. This gave the standing down crews time to do personal things.
"On very occasional times, all four squadrons flew on what was called maximum efforts.
"When a mission was completed, returning bombers with wounded crewmen fired red flares so they had priority to land first. After each mission, there at the end of the runway were lined up the inevitable meat wagons.
"After that, bombers without battle damage landed next. Last to land were battle- damaged bombers so as not to mess up the runway for the rest.
"It takes time for all 36 bombers to get safely on the ground in the English weather and the short daylight time of winter.
"Other bomber groups in the area are also getting their planes down.
"Once when my crew was standing down and not flying that day, a collision and explosion happened in the fog nearly above where i was standing. Not many identifiable parts fell to the ground but an engine hit the ground about 50 feet from me.
"Another evening, when we of the 508th squadron stood down for that day's mission, some of us decided to go to the metal hut which was the base theater to watch a movie. Half way through the movie, it was stopped.
"A medic sergeant jumped up on the stage and said the following:
'The mission came in with eight wounded; we need eight pints of blood. As you know, we get blood plasma from the states but not whole blood.'
"The sergeant gave out a list of what type of blood and how many he needed.
He called out, 'corporal, you haven't given blood for some time, so how about you?'
"This went on for some time and then he said that the movie wouldn't resume until he had enough donors.
"All service people always know what blood type they have because it is printed on their dogtags.
"The sergeant got the rest of the donors and the movie resumed.
"That medic knew just about every one of the ground pounders' (combat flyer's term for non-flying personnel) blood type and their rate of donation.
When a day's mission returned, then the ground pounder's work began. They worked all through the night to fix battle damage, fill planes with gasoline, bombs, ammunition, oxygen and whatever needed to be done.
All this must be done before the mission starts. If the group was to fly that day, the flare from the control tower signaled, 'start engines' at about six or seven hundred hours (6 a.m. or 7 a.m.)."
Wyrouck said he did not give blood during WWII because combat flyers were not permitted to give blood because they may need that blood the next day.
Wyrouck's blood type is O positive, the universal donor.
"I gave lots of blood during my lifetime," Wyrouck said. "I got lots of calls at 2 a.m., asking if I would donate a pint of blood."

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