15th Army Air Force
Date of Birth 7/17/1920
Entered the service 9/09/42
Honorable Discharge from Camp Atterbury, In. on 8/08/1945
Technical Sergeant, 352nd Bomb Squadron 301st Bomb Group
Battles: Sicilly; Naples-Foggia; Rome-Arno
Decorations and citations: Eame Theater Ribbon w/3 Bronze Stars per WD GO #33/45;
Air Medal w/3 Oak Leaf
Clusters & 1/Silver Cluster per GO #120, 122, 446/44 Hq 15th AF Purple Heart
His principal duty: Airplane Armorer Gunner, inspected, maintained and repaired all
aircraft armament including bomb release mechanism. Fired two 50 caliber machine
guns in combat.
Sgt. Cole was on his 48th Mission as a B-17 engineer with the 301st Bomb Group, 352 Bomb Sqd.
When his plane was crippled by Flak. the plane struggled on finally crashing in the Adriatic.
Three members of the crew were killed.
He was a prisoner of war for 14 months and liberated from Stalag with U.S. Forces in Belgium.
He had survived long mistreatment, including beatings by Gestapo agents and a forced run
through bayonets and rifle butts in which he was injured.
A 15th Air Force radio engineer, he was rescued by Italian fishermen in the Adriatic Sea in
Feb. 1944, after his B-17 bomber was shot down. He and other survivors of the plane crash
were brought to Verona, Italy at less than 40 miles from the Allied lines. There he was questioned
for four days and struck repeatedly by Gestapo agents for refusing to answer technical questions.
He was kept prisoner at Stalags at Frakfurt, Hanover, Stettin and East Prussia.
He along with 4,000 other men were jammed into two barges and forced to stand for 48 hrs.
while enroute to Whinemunds, more than 2,000 of the group including Charles Cole were shipped
in boxcars to Stettin where they were handcuffed in pairs.
They were forced to run 2 & ½ miles to Stalag near Stettin while German marines and SS troops
slashed and beat them with bayonets and rifle butts and vicious dogs tore at their legs. Sgt. Cole
sustained a dislocated shoulder and broken finger in the "death run" as it was called by surviving
prisoners, but received no medical treatment. He saw a Canadian solder survive the run despite
57 bayonet wounds.
Charles returned to Linton, where he drove a truck until 1950 when he met and married Thelma Squires, a widow and helped
raise her two children , Christine and Gregory as his own. They moved to Terre Haute where he was a Job Steward at the Eli
Lilly plant, while it was being built. He later worked for the Terre Haute newspaper, where he retired. His favorite pastime
was going for weekends to their camp site at Valley and Sream campgrounds, and taking his grandson Greg Jr. After his wife
Thelma died in 1978 his health began to fail and he passed away in 1983.