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George H. Ratterman

George RattermanSubmitted by: John L. Nolan {Great Nephew}

George H. Ratterman born around 1898. George Ratterman served in World War 1 with the United States Army Air Corps. The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service

George H Ratterman joined the US Air Service and on 6/12/18 was assigned to the newly formed 96th Bombardment Squadron in the 1st Day Bombarment Group. This Squadron operated over the American Sector of the Front starting in mid May 1918.

When the St. Mihiel offensive began, the German railhead at Conflans was a frequent target for the 96th. On July 10th, 1918, the entire 1st Day Group was to make bombing attacks behind the German lines. The 96th’s target was Conflans. Due to very poor weather conditions, all units except the 96th decided not to fly. Six Breguet 14’s, each with their crew of two headed towards their target. Lt George Ratterman was in one of those bombers.

With no way to see the ground and primitive instrumentation they had no way to realize how strong the tail wind became, pushing them deeper into Germany than expected. Eventually the Squadron Commander, Major Brown realized they were not going to see their target and signaled for the Squad to turn back. Now the wind was in their face, slowing their progress back to the safety of France. One by one the Breguet’s began to run out of fuel. Each was forced to land. Each crew was unhurt, but all were captured.

All twelve flyers went through the same processing as all American Pilots received. First there was an initial debriefing at Rastatt Germany. Next was a more thorough and lengthy questioning in the castle at Karlsruhe. Finally they were moved to the POW camp at Villingen, Germany. This camp was for officer pilots only. They were treated relatively well and had surprising freedoms to interact , even being taken for walks about the countryside.

George just happened to be in with the Championship team of prisoner escapees. He was there with Lt.George Puryear, the first American escapee to return to allied lines. Lt. Edouard Isaacs, so obsessed with escaping so he could provide enemy intel to the Allies that he escaped repeatedly while incurring two broken legs, a concussion and deafness. Others were Harold Willis, Rowan Tucker and others. George escaped once for a few ours but was recaptured. He made no other attempts. He spent four months and a day as a POW, and was released by the Germans Armistice Day, 11/11/1918.

George returned home, went to George Tech where he was an All Century end. During WWII he was a civil engineer building airfields in North Africa where he was once again captured.

But that’s another war…..

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