Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WWII Service of Former RI Governor Bruce Sundlun is "Above and Beyond"


Years before he became Rhode Island's 71st governor, Bruce G. Sundlun experienced one of World War II's most dramatic escapes from behind enemy lines. Tim Gray Media and the World War II Foundation tell Sundlun's story in Above and Beyond: The Incredible Escape of Jewish-American B-17 Pilot Bruce Sundlun from Nazi-Occupied Europe in World War II. Filmed on location in Belgium, the documentary is narrated by Sundlun’s daughter, Kara, who traveled back to the village of Jabbeke in Belgium, to re-trace her father’s footsteps in World War II. Rhode Island PBS presents Above and Beyond both as part of our ongoing series of local documentaries, Rhode Island Stories, on Sunday, November 9 at 6 p.m., and as a prime time special on Monday, November 10 at 9 p.m. 

During overseas active duty beginning in June 1943, Bruce Sundlun, a Jewish-American college student, served as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the England-based 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force at Grafton-Underwood Air Base. Sundlun’s plane, the Damn Yankee, was shot down over Nazi-occupied Jabbeke, Belgium on December 1, 1943, after being damaged by flak and attacked by German fighter planes following the bombing of Solingen, Germany. It was the “Yankee’s” 13th mission over Europe. Five of the crew were killed, four others captured by the Germans.


After being smuggled out of Belgium on stolen bicycles and hidden by Catholic priests, and after six months' time cooperating with the French Resistance under the code name Salamander, Bruce Sundlun made several attempts to enter neutral Spain in an effort to escape back to England. However, after deciding that there was too much danger of capture or loss in the snowy Pyrenees, Sundlun made his way - once again on stolen bicycles - north-eastward across France where he finally escaped into Switzerland.

Before escaping into Switzerland, Sundlun had once again engaged with the Maquis (French Resistance fighters) in acts of sabotage against German Army units.

Upon entering neutral Switzerland, Bruce Sundlun was recruited by Allen Dulles, working out of the U.S. Embassy in Bern to reenter France under the auspices of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to act as a spy and bombardment spotter for the Allied invasion of Marseilles (Southern France) in August 1944.

Following WWII, Bruce Sundlun became a very successful businessman, advisor to presidents and the 71st governor of the State of Rhode Island.

Source: Tim Gray www.wwiifoundation.org

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