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A Mission Remembered

On Sept. 27, 1943, en route back to England after a raid against Emden, Germany, a 91st Bomb Group B-17 nicknamed "Local Girl" was set on fire by an Me 109 fighter. Eight of the 10 B-17 crew members bailed out, but only six survived. One of the survivors was the radio operator, Tech. Sgt. Orlo Natvig. He landed in a small Netherlands town where the Germans quickly captured him. Natvig remained a prisoner of war until the end of World War II.

One of the propellers spun free from the crippled B-17 before the Flying Fortress crashed in a field. A German salvage crew found the propeller struck in the ground on William Ritsema's farm, located a mile from the crash site. A blade broke off when the Germans attempted to remove the prop from the ground and they left the remainder where it was. Later, Ritsema recovered the propeller and moved it to his yard.

In 1970 Natvig and another crew member visited the crash site and saw the propeller. On several occasions he hinted, unsuccessfully, that he would like to have it. Then, in 1980 Ritsema's son wrote to offer the propeller as a token of gratitude for what the Americans had done to free the Netherlands. After its arrival, Natvig had the cherished propeller mounted in the front yard of his home in Iowa and, later, in Arizona. There the propeller remained, a tribute to all former American prisoners of war, until his widow donated it to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 1997.

Click here to return to the WWII Prisoners of War Overview.