Before Flying Officer George Stanton joined the 309th Polish Fighter Squadron in England during World War II, he spent 18 months in a Russian slave labor camp in Siberia chopping down trees.
“I was born in Valmont, Poland in 1921. I came from a wealthy family. I was educated in a military school in Poland similar to West Point in this country,” the 89-year-old former fighter pilot explained.
“After the war started in 1939, the Russians marched in and occupied eastern Poland. Because I came from a well-off family, I was deported by cattle train to southern Russia. From there I was put on another cattle train and shipped further north in Russia,” he said. “I took a barge to the labor camp in Siberia where I spent the next one and a half years working as a lumberjack.
“The camp consisted mostly of young people who were taken prisoner by the Russians. There were not only Polish, but Lithuanians and Hungarians in the camp who were fairly well educated.
“Conditions were appalling. We worked 12 hours a day cutting trees with saws and axes. We got one kilogram of bread a day and two bowls of thin soup – one in the morning and one at night. I went to the camp weighing 175 pounds . When I got out I weighed 130 pounds,” remembered Stanton who now lives in Grove City, Fla.
“The only reason I was released was that Polish General Stravinsky made a deal with Stalin. He got Stalin to release the young Polish men so they could join the Russian army,” he said. “I was on my way by train to the Russian front when I jumped train and climbed aboard another train filled with refugees headed south and ended up in a town near the Caspian Sea.
“Eventually I joined a Polish partisan group and was taken by boat to Iran. I spent the next six weeks in Iran recovering and regaining my strength in a refugee camp where I did nothing but sleep and eat,” he said.
“When I got my strength back I was sent to Bombay, India and on to Cape Town, South Africa and finally ended up in Scotland where I joined the Polish Air Force. After learning English and a considerable amount of flight training I flew Spitfire fighters for the English from bases all around England” Stanton said.
“In 1944 I was assigned to the 309th Polish Fighter Squadron that flew out of Andrews Field, 25 miles north of London,” he said. “That’s where I started flying P-51 Mustang fighters.
“On many of the 40 combat missions I flew our squadron accompanied American B-17 Flying Fortresses on daylight bombing raids over Europe. At other times we flew ground support missions for the infantry,” Stanton said.
His flight log notes:
“Feb. 14, 1945: Frankfort, Germany.
“Feb. 19, 1945: Wesel, Germany
“Feb. 24, 1945: Kamen, Germany
Two missions come to mind after more than 60 years of the dozens he flew.
“I flew one of the longest missions ever made by a P-51, from Andrews Field in England to the Fuehrer’s mountain top retreat at Berchtengarden, Bavaria and back. We were in the air seven hours and came back to England on fumes,” he noted with a smile. “We accompanied a flight of bombers sent to flatten Hitler’s retreat.
“On another flight we made to Peenemunde (the German rocket center along the North Sea) I lost my engine. I was returning home after accompanying a group of bombers to the rocket base. I was flying over the North Sea when my engine cooling line burst.
“The engine over-heated and my propeller stopped altogether. I had to find an emergency landing strip in a hurry,” Stanton recalled. “I glided into Bardwell Bay Airport in eastern England without a hitch.”
After the war he married an English girl. For the next decade they operated a service station and garage in England. In 1956 Stanton moved to Canada and he and a second wife went into the building business up there. Later on they moved to Fort Lauderdale when he got a boat building contract with a firm on Florida’s east coast.
His oldest son is still in the boat building business in Canada. He builds harbor crafts and work boats primarily for government agencies in the United States and Canada. Stanton and his wife moved to Grove City in 1990.
He has three children. His two sons live in Canada and his daughter lives in Kansas.
Name: George Stanton
Hometown: Vilmo, Poland
Address: Grove City, Fla.
Entered Service: 1944
Unit: 309th Polish Fighter Squadron
Commendations: Polish Air Force Cross of Valor and several others he can’t recall.
Married: Dorothy Colton
Children: Andrew Stanton, Roger Stanton and Christine Keats
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, April 28, 2012 and is republished with permission.
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