OB Streeper from Chenoa, IL address our Guns Save Life family at the October 2012 GSL Meeting in Rantoul. If you missed this, you missed a fantastic presentation from a remarkable man.
Video is at the bottom of this post.
Owen B. “O.B.” Streeper
Silver Star recipient from WW II
Streeper enlisted as a young man in 1943 was assigned to the 461st Bomb Group, 767th Squadron.
He began his presentation by saying he had it “good” during that time. Unlike the ground troops, he slept in barracks, ate good chow and even got a couple of drinks of whiskey after each successful run. He also got one of those bomber jackets that the girls all liked. “Those girls would chase after us guys in bomber jackets,” he chuckled. “I wasn’t such a good runner and some of those girls might have caught me.”
Everything was great until a mission on May 27, 1944 when his plane, the Miss Carriage, was hit twice and caught on fire.
“It was a fine, warm fire,” Streeper noted wryly. The captain ordered the crew out over some mountainous terrain and they all made it out alive after uttering a few choice profanities.
The Germans caught many of the crew, but Streeper managed to evade capture despite being wounded by a piece of flak in his posterior.
He had his .357 Magnum pistol with 56 rounds of ammo, a Colt 1911 with 7 magazines and a crappy escape kit with $48 that he was told to trade for French Francs. “They wouldn’t lie to us, would they?” he asked.
They did have silk maps, but of course they had no contours. “It looks like you could just walk from here to there. Yeah, right.” Of course, the only problem was a mountain or two in the way.
He also had a “mickey mouse” compass and some morphine and pep pills.
In pain and wounded, Streeper said he was ready to find a village in order to surrender to the Germans. He found that village and an old gal shoved him into the underbrush when she heard the Germans coming.
She came back a while later with two young French girls and they helped him into a house. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Streeper joked.
A doctor of sorts took out the flak with a knife and a pair of pliers then they took him back out and put him in the underbrush again. Later that night, a drunk Frenchman on a stolen German motorcycle with a side car took Streeper down the mountain without using the headlight. “That was the most dangerous thing that happened to me – riding with that drunk, crazy Frenchman! It was the only time I thought I was gonna die!”
He explained that there were many factions of the French resistance including communists, fascists, and the Maquis – the mountain fighters. The Maquis were generally more trustworthy, but he said you trusted none of them any more than you had to.
Streeper said he moved around a lot, staying nowhere more than a couple of days for fear that someone would turn him in. One time he had a funny feeling about how one of the families was acting, so he left the barn and slept in the treeline nearby. Later that morning, German trucks appeared and were directed to the barn. The Germans ordered everyone out then tossed some grenades into the barn. Streeper had been sold out, but he was already safely gone.
Most of the Frenchmen helping him were good to him though. They even got him some new clothes. “I looked real sexy with those new clothes,” he chuckled.
Early on, the resistance people put him in several hiding spots as he healed from his injury, including inside a hole in the wall in a German-occupied building. “They put me in there with a gallon of water, a gallon of wine, some cheese and a loaf of bread. Then they bricked up the opening, hung a tapestry and put a chifferobe in front of the entrance. He was in that tiny spot for almost three days and he could hear the Germans talking as they walked down the hallway outside.
Lots of people, ranging from young to old helped shepherd him around, risking their lives and their families to do so. “At one time I was following a little girl on an alpine bike. My life was in her hands.”
After a while, he met up with some OSS people (Office of Strategic Services – the predecessor to today’s Central Intelligence Agency) who wanted him to do reconnaissance and other work for them. That led to a bunch of stuff Streeper didn’t really elaborate on.
He said the whole time he was there he kept very active. His life was complicated when an over-eager Frenchman blew up a bridge prematurely, leaving Streeper’s bag with his bomber jacket, pictures and personal effects on the other side. At that point, Streeper knew he was a dead man if the Germans ever caught him, so he began walking around with a pair of grenades in his pants as he was advised to not allow the Germans to capture him alive.
He explained that the young soldiers back then did all sorts of stuff to keep their sanity. Yes, he acknowledged that their bombing runs caused what’s known as “collateral damage” today, killing civilians. Did that bother him? “Hell no it didn’t bother me. We made good Christians out of the rest of them.”
To illustrate some of their sense of humor, he told the story of a mission when the bomb bay doors opened prematurely and one of the crew felt the call of nature. Streeper said he could see the man’s butt as he relieved himself a few feet away from Streeper’s ball turrent, splattering it with fecal matter. A short burst from the dual .50s ended that and the doors soon closed.
Later, after the OSS got him out of France following the news that the Germans were looking for him, Streeper made it to a base where he sent a telegraph home to his wife to let her know he was alive and well.
“ALL WELL AND SAFE. BIRTHDAY GREETINGS. ALL MY LOVE DEAREST. OWEN STREEPER”
The telegram arrived the day before her birthday and was the first news she received about OB’s condition since he was shot down. It was, as she described it, the best birthday present she ever received.
From the slide at the meeting: “Esther died July 1, 1995. Before her death she had the honor of returning to France in 1992, with Owen to see where his plane had crashed and to meet some of the people who helped him 48 years earlier. With great pleasure she was able to personally thank them for their part in his safe return.”
His discharge paper says merely that he evaded capture for 87 days after being shot down and rejoined the allies on August 22, 1944. He received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions during this time.
Editor’s Note: The imbed for the HD version of this video isn’t cooperating well.
We invite you to go full screen at 720p or higher for a much nicer version of the video. Video is in four parts or about one hour. Well worth the watch.
OB Streeper Video 1 of 4.
OB Streeper Video 2 of 4.
OB Streeper Video 3 of 4.
OB Streeper Video 4 of 4.