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Hometown Hero: Philip Muth

Neenah man served as B-24 navigator and was captured by Germans 213 days before WWII ended. Continues to work for POWs.
(WFRV) NEENAH-Philip Muth has long retired from teaching. But at 90-years old, he continues to share his World War Two experiences with students, as he did during a recent visit to Neenah High School.

"You're not in the navy, you're not in the air force, you're not in the army," Muth said about being a prisoner of war.

Muth volunteered for duty after high school in 1943. He trained as a navigator in a B-24 bomber, despite very little flying experience.

"My father took me flying when I was six-years old. In a Tri-Motor. I don't know if people remember Tri-Motors or not. It was quite a vehicle," he remembers

Muth never dreamed that the experience would take him to Foggia, Italy, where his squadron would make runs at strategic targets in the south of France, oil refineries in Poland and to aid French resistance fighters. But on his thirteenth mission near Vienna, Muth's bomber was hit by enemy fire. Out of ten crew members, only Muth and two others parachuted to safety. He landed only after an extensive free fall.

"(Hmmm)…from 18-thousand feet to about three-thousand feet. Something like that," Muth said.

Muth landed safely but was immediately taken prisoner. An initial meeting with an SS officer was cordial. But at a second interrogation days later, with two other American soldiers, the SS officer revealed a darker side when one of the other soldiers made a snide comment.

"He walked around picked something off his desk, walked to my right, poked the object in the man's ear, he went screaming," Muth said. "The German officer then went back. Smiled and then gently went back to talking about good things again."

Muth spent the last 213 days of World War Two as a POW. His last prison camp was at Nuremberg, where prisoners were housed in small tents holding five men each, until being liberated by General George S. Patton.

"He actually cried. He's a tough man, very tough! But he could see the conditions we were in," Muth recalls.

Muth was freed in 1945 and continues to help veteran POW's and their families. He even wrote to the families of bomber crew mates killed before he was taken prisoner. The sister of one of the gunners met with Muth and heard about the gunner's final mission.

"She was happy, though. It's something for closure. I don't know. It's something human," he said.


Local 5's Terry Kovarik has the story.
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