Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor and give thanks to veterans who gave service to the protection and preservation of our great country. On this Veterans Day I would like to honor the service of two heroic veterans who served this country in World War II. Lt. Joseph Milton Swartz and Lt. Emil Kantor both served together in the U. S. 15th Army Air Force, 460th Bomb Group from 1944 through 1945. The 460th was stationed on a hastily built air base known as Spinazzola in southern Italy with crude and makeshift living quarters for the servicemen. Pilot Emil Kantor and flight navigator Milton Swartz along with their crew flew the B-24 bomber “Liberator” on thirty-five sorties (missions) over Nazi German occupied territory. Their missions took them over the dangerous skies of Nazi occupied Europe, facing death form flak, enemy fights, and accidents. Each time these brave men entered their plane, they did not know what danger they faced, and always knew that like many of their fellow servicemen there was a chance they would not return home. Thankfully, they both did.
On one noteworthy mission flown on September 13, 1944, theirs was one of 20 planes from the 460th that participated in bombing the I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber plant located in Oswiecim, Poland. What they did not know was this plant was located only a few miles from the Auschwitz concentration camp. A small cluster of bombs intended for the plant fell instead on the Auschwitz Camp, giving the detainees a temporary and false hope that the Allied bombers were there to destroy the camp.
Fortunately, stories of their heroism in their many missions over those dangerous skies has been preserved and beautifully told in the book, Emil’s Story – Memoir of a WW II Bomber Pilot written by Linda Audrey Kantor.
On this Veterans Day we honor Emil Kantor and Milton Swartz as well as all veterans.