V. C. GEORGESCU
Colonel William R. Cubbins
Dear Colonel Cubbins,
In the following I have tried to put together a few memories of events in 1944.
If I remember correctly, it was in July 1944 that your flyers bombed the
Bucharest marshalling yards, which in your style of carpet bombing also covered
our little prison in Calea Plevnei. An order came from the then Prime Minister
that I should be taken to shelter during the bombings. I refused unless all
the prisoners accompany me to the new railway building shelter. The Colonel in
charge reluctantly agreed and assembled all the prisoners saying that should
anybody leave the group in an attempt to escape,
Georgescu would bear the responsibility and as a result might well be shot.
The prisoners, among whom were several Russians, two British airmen and about
30 Poles, came to me and thanked me warmly for my attitude and swore that they
would not try to escape.
On our way to the new railway building shelter, through an alley of the
hospital area, there were several compounds of American prisoners. Our guards
escorted us to the shelter but I was lucky enough to have two guards who were
friendly and who allowed me to speak in a loud voice as I passed the barbed
wire where the American flyers came to listen to what I had to say. I was thus
able to give them the latest news and gradually more and more of them came to
hear what I had to say. I clearly remember telling them about the middle of
August 1944 that things were cooking and that it would not be long before they
were freed. It was around 18 or 20 August that I remember saying: "Boys, get
your whisky ready because things are going to happen next week" - and true,
At around 5.30 in the morning of 24 August two American officers came to my
cell. How they got there, I don't know, but they said: "We think we know who
you are and that you are on our side", to which I replied: "Yes". They then
said: "Until we hear from our base in Italy, we will consider you as our C.O.
and follow your advice". Colonel Gunn and Major Yager were the two officers
concerned and I invited them to come back at 9.30 and accompany me to the Royal
Palace. There I introduced them to General Sanatescu, the then Prime Minister,
Mr. Maniu, President of the National Peasant Party and the man who should have
been Prime Minister, to General Racovita, Minister of War, and to other
high-ranking officials. General Sanatescu immediately agreed that all the
American and British flyers were free as from that moment and said that they
were to travel, if possible, in open cars so that the population could see them
and possibly some of them inform their German friends that American troops were
driving in open cars in Bucharest.
I believe that Colonel Gunn went back to the lodgings of the highest echelon
flyers from where they subsequently all retrieved their belongings.
I asked that all the radio crew members should be assembled with their
equipment at the vaults of the National Bank where we set up our headquarters
as the Germans were continuously bombing the Royal Palace and creating havoc
with that beautiful building.
Major Porter, whom I had met that morning, accompanied Mr. Maniu and me to the
National Bank in one of
the royal cars. We were bombed along our way but luckily without a direct hit.
On our arrival at the National Bank, I asked the Governor to let us use the
vaults for the time being so that the radio men could set up their equipment
and endeavour to contact Bari or other bases abroad. That night I lost track
of what Colonel Gunn and Major Yager did.
At about 5 o'clock next morning we found out that none of the radio men had
been successful in contacting their Bari base as they did not have the
up-to-date code. I then drove in a royal car to my former prison where I knew
that my radio man Turcanu had his equipment stored when he was arrested in
July. I picked up the radio transmitter without difficulty, took it to the car
and drove back to the National Bank. On our way back we passed a shop which
had sold melons but which had been bombed with the result that hundreds of
melons were strewn all over the street. I told the driver not to mind them but
to accelerate and drive over them, which he did, and we got back safely to the
bank in spite of continuous bombing.
My associates had gone out at 5 o'clock to try to find Turcanu, my radio man.
He was ready at 6.45 and available to start his transmission to Cairo. He
remembered the code and we were thus able to alert Cairo of the urgency of
bombing the Baneasa and Otopeni airfields. The next day we gave them the
co-ordinates of the locations and on behalf of the King and the country,
requested them to destroy those two German-held bases as soon as possible as
they made life impossible to live in Bucharest. The King had already left for
his country place and was not available. I do not know what happened in Cairo
or at the U.S. Air Force HQ in Italy, but on the morning of 26 August I was
delighted to see the American bombers coming in over Bucharest and bombing the
hell our of Baneasa and Otopeni. There were 10,000 Germans dead and we had no
further bombing in Bucharest from those airfields.
This prompted Colonel Gunn and me to meet again and I introduced him to Captain
Bazu Cantacuzino, one of Pomania's best flyers, at Popesti-Leordeni. We then
had an excellent meal together at Capsa's. Colonel Gunn accompanied me to my
house and spent the night there.
On Sunday morning, after obtaining the necessary permission from the Ministry
of Air, we went to Popesti-Leordeni. Bazu thought that an old Hispano-Suiza
plane would be the best with which to fly to Italy with Colonel Gunn as it had
Pomanian markings. However they returned after a couple of hours as the plane
was not appropriate for the flight to Italy. Bazu then suggested that they
take his Messerschmidt 109 for that purpose. They managed to get through all
right although Bazu was scared that the U.S. Air Force might shoot them down as
they approached the Italian aerodromes.
A few days later General Sanatescu called me in and said:
have received a message to send back to Italy all the American flyers."
and crewmen totalling 1,200. Would you take care of that??
I replied that I would be very happy to do so. I was then a member of his
Some of the flyers were not in Bucharest whilst others had been hospitalised
and were unable to move. I insisted that the return of the flyers should take
place as soon as possible on account of the advancing Soviet Army, and for that
purpose I called in Colonel Dombrovsky, Mayor of Bucharest, and told him to
requisition all the buses in Bucharest so that they could be at the disposal of
the American flyers. Some of the buses had to be driven out as far as Sinaia,
Predeal, Timis and possibly Brasov to collect those prisoners who were not in
Bucharest. Those who were in Bucharest were driven to Popesti-Leordeni to
await the return of the buses from the country. According to Colonel Gunns
assessment, the Popesti-Leordeni airfield could just about take in a Liberator.
I was at the airfield to see the Liberators come in, pick up the flyers and
return them to Italy. It was wonderful to see the happiness and joy of the
flyers as they assembled and then entered the Liberators to fly back to Italy.
Arrangements had been made at Popesti-Leordeni to have beds and food available
for the men as they assembled. According to you and Colonel Gunn, all the
flyers were accounted for, even some who were outside Romania.
Several weeks later I had a call from the Royal Palace and was informed that
Generals Ira Eaker, Twining, Johnston and others were flying in to Bucharest to
thank H.M. King Michael, myself and the others who had helped in the return of
the American flyers.
It is important for you to know that as the return flights were taking place at
Popesti-Leordeni, Soviet ground troops were entering Baneasa and Otopeni, the
main Bucharest airports. However they had no idea at that time of the
existence of a third airfield near Bucharest which was for the use of the
Romanian fighter pilots (Popesti-Leordeni). I was later given to understand
that the Soviet High Command had looked with displeasure at my action to be
responsible for returning the American flyers so promptly to Italy.