Airmen who survived a midair explosion of their planes - like this B-24 over Germany - were sometimes able to safely parachute to the ground. Once there, a different fate could await them.
Six crewmen from "853" survived, but their futures included a new status - prisoner of war. Difficult as that was, statistics show POWs in Europe fared better (from a treatment standpoint) than POWs in the Pacific.
NARA provides more information about this plane and her crew:
"853" is a Douglas-Tulsa B-24H-15-DT Liberator, s/n [serial number] 41-28853, attached to the 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force.
Aircraft was flying lead for the 55th Bomb Wing on the 20 November 1944 mission to bomb Blechhammer, Germany with the 781st Bomb Squadron's commanding officer at the controls and the Group navigator in the plane.
The plane was hit by AAA [anti-aircraft artillery] between the #2 engine and the fuselage while over the target and the wing started to come apart as the crew bailed out. Five of the crew managed to parachute safely but six were trapped and killed.
Lt Col. Clarence J. Lokker - pilot (KIA) [killed in action]
Capt. Milton H. Duckworth - copilot (POW) [prisoner of war]
1st Lt. Joseph P. Kutger - navigator (POW)
1st Lt. Robert M. Hockman - bombardier (POW)
1st Lt. Grosvenor W. Rice - bombardier (KIA)
2nd Lt. Joseph S. Whalen - radar bombardier (POW)
T/Sgt. Lee R. Billings - engineer/top turret (POW)
S/Sgt. Edmund J. Miosky - radio operator (KIA)
Sgt. James A. Bourne - gunner (POW)
Sgt. Jack Rabkin - gunner (KIA)
Sgt. Paul H. Flynn,Jr. - gunner (KIA)
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Image online, courtesy NARA (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration).
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