Eugene A. “Scotty” LaScotte
On June 22, 1942, Eugene and his two brothers each enlisted with high hopes of becoming pilots. On December 31, 1942 Eugene was called up and he entered into active service. He gave it his best shot in preflight school but unfortunately, “washed” out.
He was then transferred to a gunnery school where he completed his training on the .50 caliber machine gun. Not being a very tall person–only five feet eight inches–he was found to be best suited for the nose-gunner position in a B-24.
The new crew that he joined was formed in Fairmont, Nebraska on September 20, 1943. Eugene was now a member of the 15th Air Force, 485th Bomb Group / 828th Bomb Squadron.
On March 11, 1944 this recently formed crew went overseas and was eventually stationed at an airfield near Venosa, Italy. From there they would fly their numerous missions to places such as the marshaling yards at Knin, Yugoslavia (Croatia); Vienna Neustadt, Austria; and the dreaded Ploesti oil fields of Romania.
It was on his 24th mission, just after bombing the Titan oil refineries outside of Bucharest, Romania on June 28, 1944, that Staff Sergeant LaScotte and crew came under heavy attack by several enemy fighters. With their bomber now crippled and falling out of formation, the pilot and co-pilot had all they could do to keep it level. Being even more aggressively attacked as they flew alone, they knew they would never make it back to base.
Over the skies of Bulgaria, the signal to jump was given. All exited the craft but the pilot, who stayed behind and fought the controls to maintain a level flight for the safe departure of the others. The pilot bravely sacrificed his life that day so that the other nine could be spared.
Falling from the sky at an altitude of not much more than 500 feet, the crew suffered many broken bones on landing. Eugene, too, had broken the bones in one foot and had sprained the ankle of his other.
Within four hours of his jump, Eugene was captured by the Bulgarian army and sent to a POW camp at Shumen, Bulgaria. Over the next 10 days, the remaining eight members of his crew were also captured and were once again reunited at this camp. The camp, located on a bluff just outside of Shumen, was already overcrowded when they arrived and no medical care was available. This poorly run camp was rat and vermin infested. Clothing was what you had with you when you landed and they had no access to Red Cross supplies. POWs slept back to back on top of straw on the floor.
The 329 POWs that were held at this camp had a total daily dietary intake of less than 600 calories. Each POW was also given a total allotment of one quart of water per person per day, to be used for both hygiene and drinking. Dysentery ran rampant throughout the camp. Miraculously all POWs survived.
The Russians liberated the camp at Shumen on September 8, 1944. After being released, Eugene finished his service stateside and was Honorably Discharged on November 14, 1945.
Military service to his country: 2 years, 10 months, 14 days.
Submitted by his son, Mark LaScotte, March 10, 2007
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