Pineland man survives being a prisoner of war, shares story 70 years later

PINELAND, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas man became a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II in his early 20's. 92-year-old John Booker left college in 1941 to volunteer as an air force pilot during one of largest wars in history. The former Pineland mayor told East Texas news how he was shot down, betrayed, became a prisoner, and finally returned back to East Texas.

In 1941, John Booker was accepted into flying school at the age of 20. His junior year of college took a back seat as he began a new life in the air force.

"About May of 1942 a bulletin came out seeking pilots to fly B17's in the 8th air force in England," Booker said.

Booker graduated flying school that year and became a pilot. He experienced his first bombing mission in France

"The war got rougher and rougher," Booker said. "1943 was a terrible year for the 8th air force. We were losing crews almost faster than we could replace them."

Casualties were happening all around and the German air force was getting closer to the combat Booker was leading.

"I was the lead crew, so I had to get out of there," Booker said. "We were about to get into a terrible mess. So, I put the airplane at a very steep dive."

Booker said all of a sudden they were attacked by three German airplanes over Holland.

"Without the intercom I couldn't control any of the fight," Booker said. "I could hear it going on but I couldn't see behind me. Most of the attacks were from the rear."

The run and gun battle continued until the young pilot was shot down.

"I got hit in the back, in the head and shoulder," Booker said.

After the bloody affair he and the 10 others in the plane landed safely. Booker said he was rescued by civilians who he believed would guide him to France. They were bike riding in what seemed to be the right direction, but it wasn't/

"I got put in a prison camp. I almost got away. I stayed loose for several days, then I got betrayed and they put me in jail," Booker said.

Booker remained in Germany during WWII as a prisoner of war.

He was finally able to return to East Texas in 1945.

"The greatest thing about WWII is how the nation came together and the patriotism that was everywhere," Booker said.

Booker finished his engineering degree, started a family and began work in Lufkin. In 1958, he moved to Pineland and was later appointed as the mayor. He held the position for two decades.

The former air force pilot said more than 70 years after the war he doesn't regret any of his experiences.

"I volunteered and that's what I meant to do," Booker said. "I'd do it all over again."

Booker retired from the reserves in 1962. He has survived many of the men who were in the plane with him that was shot down in Germany. The former prisoner of war said with veterans day approaching he's remembering all of the heroes he met.

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