SILVER SPRING, Md. (WDVM) — Adolph Chwastyk had two strikes against him growing up as a kid on a farm outside Princeton, New Jersey.
“Adolph was not a name that was popular even before Hitler came to power in Germany, said the 96 year old former B-24 bombardier who dropped bombs on German targets during World War Two.
Having a last name that sounded an awful lot like Swastika, the appropriated Nazi symbol, didn’t help matters when Ade, as he prefers to be called, became an aviation student after serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Army.
“At roll call, the drill sergeant would skip over my name,” said Chwastyk, who would pause, and say “Here.”
The ribbing continued when Chwastyk joined the 467th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force based in England.
Ade’s first mission came close to being his last. “We were turning to the left after I dropped our bombs on the Magdeburg Railroad Marshalling Yards, when all of a sudden we hit some turbulence at the exact time that the pilot cut down the speed of the engines,” said Chwastyk, “and we went into a flat spin.”
Ade’s B-24 Liberator heavy bomber fell at least 10,000 feet. He was thrown out of his seat behind the Norden bombsight in the nose of the heavy bomber and pressed against the side of the aircraft by extreme G-forces.
“My parachute was four or five feet away, but I couldn’t move,” said Chwastyk. Just before the bomber would have hit the ground and exploded, the pilot and co-pilot pulled the plane out of its death spin.”
“When we pulled out, I thought the wings were going to break off,” said Ade who had another close call on his second mission.
While crossing a narrow catwalk in the bomb bay checking for battle damage from flak [anti-aircraft artillery fire] from German 88-millimeter guns below, a piece of hot shrapnel came up through the open bomb bay doors and hit the main circuit breaker.
“It just melted in a spray of sparks right in front of me,” said Chwastyk, who thought, “Oh My God, We’re Done.”
But Ade’s bomber didn’t explode like one in the strike force that was hit in the bomb bay and broke apart.
Flak was very heavy on his third mission, and an exploding AAA shell caused Ade’s wingman to pitch up in the air while the flight engineer stood at the front of the bomb bay to make sure all of the bombs had dropped out and the bomb bay doors retracted.
Ade watched the airman tumble out with no parachute on and fall 22,000 feet to his death. “The plane went up and over and headed earthward,” said Chwastyk who said none of the other nine crewmembers “hit the silk” and parachuted from the stricken bomber.
When Germany surrendered on May 7th, 1945 — Lieutenant Chwastyk and his crew were about to takeoff from their base in England on their 15th mission.
We were in the plane, but I can’t remember if the engines were running or not. I don’t even remember the target, but I was elated. I wasn’t disappointed at all, not having to fly that mission, that last mission,” said Ade.
After the war, the former farm boy turned flyboy earned an electrical engineering degree from Rutger’s University and went to work at the Johns Hopkins applied physics laboratory where he made improvements to Dopler Radar that is used today to track weather systems like hurricanes before retiring in Silver Spring.