David Troup, 89, moved to Mishawaka at the age of one, it's a place he's called home ever since. But in the summer of 1942, Troup enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was soon deployed to the European Theatre. The stage was set for a scene the then 18-year-old would never forget.
Troup, a tail gunner onboard a B24 Bomber, was scheduled to fly 25 missions. Enemy fire over Holland one night in March 1944 meant he'd never make it back from his tenth.
"We often could not get the nose gear down. We'd have to kick it down and it didn't come down that day either,” Troup said with a laugh about a day that was anything, but funny at the time.
Troup credits a skilled pilot for landing the B24 in a cow pasture near Amersfoort, Holland. All ten airmen survived the crash and quite literally ran for the woods, but were soon after captured by German forces.
"I was up in Poland first and when the Russians came, we could hear the guns in the distance and so they took us out in boxcars to another camp,” Troup recalled.
For the next year, the 18-year-old was shipped between no less than four prisoner of war camps, including Moosberg in Germany.
"The captain would come in and the sergeant would holler ‘attention.’ They'd count you and sometimes one of the guys would hide and they'd keep us outside in the bitter cold, it was really something,” Troup added.
Those pungent memories are something Troup’s wife of 65-years knows her hero of a husband just can't shake.
"Sometimes you know it bothers him, he sits and has this stare to him and you know he's thinking just how lucky he is,” Marjorie Troup said.
That sentiment could not have been any truer than Tuesday afternoon at the South Bend Farmer’s Market Café when a dozen friends tossed a surprise birthday party for Troup.
"You have to think positive, I'm just glad to be alive,” Troup said with a smile.
In all, more than 80 planes were shot down by the Germans on March 6, 1944. Troup says all ten airmen onboard his B24 bomber were lucky enough to eventually make it home alive. Sad to say however, Troup is the last surviving member from his plane.
In effort to keep busy, Troup and his wife take frequent trips to Shipshewana where they visit yard sales and enjoy good bites to eat. The respected veteran also restores kitchen appliances and sells them on eBay.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, American World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 740 a day. In other words, of the 16 million men and woman that served our nation during that war, only 1.7 million are still alive to share their piece of American history.