Seventy-five years ago, Ernest Merle Hancock joined the United States Army Air Forces.
The World War II veteran and Manassas resident told What’s Up Prince William about his experience.
In the years that followed his enlistment, Hancock embarked on several missions.
“We flew in such places as Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania,” the 94-year-old said.
Hancock, a technical sergeant, was a turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Flying Fortress.
Ploesti, Romania was the most difficult target.
“It was the largest oil refinery in the world, so it was better protected than anything else in the world,” Hancock said.
However, it was his 37th mission that changed the course of his military career.
On June 18, 1944, 200 German fighter aircrafts confronted Hancock’s unit.
“I was fortunate enough that I shot down three Focke-Wulf 190 and Me [Messerschmitt Bf] 109s, and today I hold a Silver Star for that,” Hancock said.
The attack forced him to parachute from 23,000 feet.
Soon afterward, the German Gestapo caught and interrogated Hancock, who was placed in the Stalag Luft IV Prisoner of War Camp.
As Allied forces made progress toward the camp in February 1945, the prisoners were expected to march until they were freed two months later.
Because of his bravery, Hancock earned the Silver Star, the third-highest honor for military members.
He received the Silver Star and a commending resolution from the Virginia General Assembly in March 2014.
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