World War II POW talks to Houston Junior ROTC before students view ‘Honor Flight’ documentary

wcrenshaw@macon.comApril 19, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A group of Houston County high school students had a movie-going experience like no other Friday.

About 300 Junior ROTC students saw “Honor Flight,” an emotional documentary of efforts to send World War II veterans to Washington to see the National World War II Memorial.

Before the film began at the Museum of Aviation, the students heard from Crawford Hicks, a World War II bomber pilot and prisoner of war.

Hicks, 92, who lives in Warner Robins, flew 10 combat missions on a B-17 before getting shot down over Germany. He was liberated when Gen. George Patton personally led troops into the prison camp where Hicks was being held.

“When we saw the American flag, we cried,” he told the students. “We were broken.”

He said all 10 of his combat missions were scary, but particularly the first one. German troops would shoot anti-aircraft flak that exploded in proximity of the planes.

“I was so scared I almost got sick,” he said of that first mission. “The thing that saved me is I had to fly the airplane, and I was so busy doing that I didn’t have time to be scared.”

They were generally treated well in prison camp, he said, except that they didn’t get enough to eat. Prisoners wrote and sang a parody of the song “Stormy Weather” that included the line, “I’m hungry all the time.” Hicks even sang it for the students, drawing a loud round of applause.

The event was organized by 8th District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, who also spoke to the students. He said his grandfather was also a B-17 pilot and POW.

“Six hundred seventy World War II veterans pass away every day,” Scott said. “That’s why this film is so important.”

The film depicts efforts of a Wisconsin community to raise money to send World War II veterans to see the memorial. It focuses on the stories of four veterans, with extensive footage from the war.

The students seemed to enjoy the film.

“It’s more powerful to hear it in their words rather than reading about it in books,” said John Hoffmann, a junior at Northside High School.

Immediately after the film ended, students lined up to shake Hicks’ hand, including Jennifer Colindres, a Warner Robins High School freshman.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said after speaking with Hicks. “I want to be like that some day and serve my country.”

Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit that works to send World War II veterans to see the memorial, as well as sending terminally ill veterans of other wars to see memorials of wars in which they fought. It focuses on World War II vets because of their age, and it expects to eventually transition into sending vets from other wars. For more information, visit www.honorflight.org.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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