Most airmen such as Richard W. Burt simply recalled, "waiting several days at an abandoned Luftwaffe airfield" after being informed on 8 May 1945 that the war was over. The next day several C-47s landed and Richard Burt was loaded with other sick airmen bound for a hospital in France. Years later Richard recalled, "We all gave a cheer as we took off and said farewell to a nightmare that would continue to haunt us for many years to come!" 

Hundreds of returning veterans lined the portside of their troopships to catch a glimpse of the 151-foot Statue of Liberty as they sailed into New York harbor. For many of these servicemen the towering grey-green icon symbolized all that was right with America. Don certainly felt as much, as did countless others returning home for an extended furlough authorized to all repatriated POWs.

The airlift of recently liberated Allied airmen . . .


US Army soldiers returning from Europe, 1945

Russian artillery started to shell Berlin at the time Don and the other recovered men in his escape party were moving through the US Army's elaborate and complex evacuation and hospitalization systems. Two weeks later, on 7 May 1945, with Hitler dead and Germany in ruins, the once vaunted Wehrmacht surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies in Reims, France  as tens of thousands of Allied airmen waited to be airlifted to medical clearing stations in Belgium and France.