Orlando Friesen obituary photo
In Memory of

Orlando Friesen

August 29, 1923 - October 7, 2010


Orlando Harold Friesen was born August 29, 1923 in Mountain Lake Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota to Dietrich Ernst Friesen and Agatha Balzer. He was the second child of this marriage. His older sister is Hulda Hoffmeyer, nee Friesen, who is three years older. The Friesen family farmed in southeastern Minnesota. Orlando was born with red hair and later had a red beard hence his name that everyone knew him by as "Red". Growing up in Minnesota he attended Amber Lake District 21 school near Fairmont, MN from September 1929 until June 1937 (a one room...

Orlando Harold Friesen was born August 29, 1923 in Mountain Lake Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota to Dietrich Ernst Friesen and Agatha Balzer. He was the second child of this marriage. His older sister is Hulda Hoffmeyer, nee Friesen, who is three years older. The Friesen family farmed in southeastern Minnesota. Orlando was born with red hair and later had a red beard hence his name that everyone knew him by as "Red". Growing up in Minnesota he attended Amber Lake District 21 school near Fairmont, MN from September 1929 until June 1937 (a one room school house). He and sister walked to school even in the coldest of weather. As he got older he was allowed to take a .22 rifle with him so that he could trap and hunt and thus provide food for the table. He attended school through the 8th grade at which time it was necessary for him to begin working. As part of a farming family, Red was responsible at an early age for the Percheron draft horse team that they used to plow and harvest the fields. His great affinity with animals was evident throughout his life.
From June 1937 until November 1942 he worked as a truck driver, farmhand, mechanic, welder and equipment operator in the Fairmont area.
The following was written by him documenting his military service:
"I, Orlando Harold Friesen, enlisted in the Army November 4, 1942 at Fort Snelling near St. Paul, Minnesota.
A week of evaluation got me assigned to the Army Air Corps (The name later changed to the U.S. Air Force) I was sent to St. Petersburg, Florida for basic training. During six weeks of Basic I learned how to swear like the instructor and which foot was my left foot. My next stop was at Sheppard Air base in Texas. I went to Aircraft Mechanics School, then Aircraft Engine School in Baltimore, Md., and then on to Gunnery School at Tyndal Air Base in Florida.
I was then sent to Gowen Air Base in Idaho where our aircrew was assembled. There were four officers; the Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator, and Bombardier and six enlisted men; the Flight Engineer, Radio Operator. Ball Turret Gunner, Tail Gunner, and right and left Waist Gunners. In combat the Flight Engineer also was the Top Turret Gunner. My job was the Engineer and Top Turret. We did most of our flight crew training flying out of Gowen Air Base. This was to learn to function as a team, and a multitude of other things such as radio procedures, turret practice, fuel transfer etc. We also were able to get in a minimum amount of air-to-air target practice. Most of this was done while we were flying. The navigator was busy getting us to the right place, the bombardier was doing mock bomb runs, the pilot and co-pilot were learning all about flying a heavy bomber.
After 8 weeks of flying as a crew we were considered to be combat ready. We were issued a new airplane in Florida, and instructed to fly it to England. Our route was Miami to Belem, Brazil, then to Dakar, Africa; next stop was Marrakech in North Africa, then on to England. At this time we were assigned to the 392nd. Bomb Group. We were now in the war zone. The Germans were bombing targets in England most every night.

After a few days of final instruction we were sent on our first mission in an older combat weary plane that had patches on patches from bullet holes and flak. Flak is the product of exploding anti aircraft shells that explode in the air much like fireworks. The first mission was uneventful as we encountered little flak and no enemy aircraft.
Mission number two came a few days later. It was a very long mission to bomb Berlin. This was the fifth time the Americans had bombed Berlin. The Germans were waiting for us. The flak was so thick it was impossible to fly through it without hitting it or being hit by an exploding shell. We were on our bomb run when we took a direct hit on our number four engine. As soon as we got rid of the bomb load we were much lighter and were able to get back in formation for the trip back to England, but that was not to be. Sometime later German fighters attacked our formation and took out two planes that were helping to protect us as well as knocking out our number three engine.
Now we were in real trouble and a long way from home and all alone. At this point we had no injuries on board. Late in the afternoon a lone German ME-109 Fighter came into view out of range of our guns. I am sure he saw we were crippled decided to finish us off.
He came at us from the front and below with his guns blazing and did a lot of damage.
Our radio, electrical system and hydraulics were all inoperable. The turret I was in was jammed in a position that made it very hard to get out. I had to remove my parachute to get out then put my parachute back on. The pilot was injured; the co-pilot and the radio operator were dead. I could not help any of them----- It was time to bail out!
My avenue of escape was through the bomb bay doors. They were open because of the failed hydraulic system. We were very close to the ground and I pulled the ripcord as I went headfirst out of the plane. As the chute opened it snapped me into an upright position and my feet were tangled in the parachute shroud lines. I hit the ground in that position. I only remember three things in the next 8 days. #1 A German soldier put a wet rag on my face, #2 A room with very bright lights, and #3 Being in a railroad cattle car with other American soldiers. Eight days after I bailed out I was coherent enough to realize I was a POW in Stalag XVII B near, Krems, Austria. You may remember from your childhood history lessons reading about King Arthur's Castle on the Danube River. Stalag 17 B was across the Danube River from the castle, and on a clear day we could see the outline of the Castle.

Life in 17B was not quite like it was portrayed on TV:
The perimeter of the camp had two fences approximately 10 feet apart and 10 feet tall. At the corner of each compound there was a guard tower. A guard was in each tower and guards walked between the fences 24 hours a day.
The camp consisted of several compounds with six double barracks set end to end with a wash room between them. Each barracks housed 200 + POWs. The wash room was for washing and drinking water only. There was no hot water and no showers here. Once a month we were marched to a communal shower (one barracks, half at a time) for a two-minute shower. Toilets were outdoor type; six holes each, two to a compound. They were equipped with a terrible odor, lots of flies in the warm months and very cold in the winter months.
Sleeping bunks were four high made of rough cut lumber with a burlap pallet filled with straw that was host to a multitude of creepy crawlers. The Germans furnished a blanket to each prisoner. The bunks had a six-foot space between them. The eight men in the two bunks formed a small commune to help each other and to share our food rations, etc.
The Germans cooked the food in a central kitchen and it was delivered to each barracks half by a detail of men assigned from each barracks. It was delivered in a wooden tub about the size of a half-barrel. The ration per man was about the size of a #2 vegetable can once a day five days a week. Two days a week we had two meals a day.
On the days when we had two meals there was a meat ration for one meal. The last six months of the war meat became very scarce. One meal was always vegetables. It might be potato today and cabbage tomorrow or spinach or whatever was available.
Early in my confinement we received a half loaf of German black bread per week. As the war went on even that became a scarce item and the ration went to a loaf for six men then to eight and sometimes none. I have misplaced the recipe I had for German black bread. The main ingredient was Tree Flour (sawdust, yes sawdust!). It is no wonder Katherine did not care for the black bread.
Sometime after WW1 the International Red Cross signed many nations to a "Treaty for the Basic care of Prisoners of War" called "The Geneva Convention". The rules allowed the home country to send food and mail to be given to the POWs, with the Red Cross supervising the distribution. Each POW was supposed to get a 10-pound food parcel per week. I was never fortunate enough to get more than once a month and they completely disappeared near the end of the war. The food parcels contained a can of dried milk, a small can of cocoa, a can of Spam, two packs of cigarettes, a package of soda crackers, a can of liver pate and a Hershey Bar.
The Russians did not sign the Red Cross agreement and therefore any Russian POWs were at the mercy of the Germans. Part of the Geneva Rules specified that noncommissioned officers could not be forced to work. All of the American POWs in 17B were noncoms. A large Russian compound was next to the compound that I was in and the Germans used the Russians, not being a part of the Geneva rules, for slave labor.
The Russians were treated very badly. They were given less food than we were and forced to work. Many of them died. We could only watch in horror as a burial detail left the camp nearly every morning with those that had died in the previous 24 hours.
In March 1945 the Russian army began their siege of Vienna, Austria. Vienna was 50 kilometers east of 17B and at night we could see and hear shells exploding. The sky was a large red glow over the city. The Germans were getting very nervous and did not want to be captured by the Russians.
A short time later we were to begin a forced march away from the invading Russian troops. The trip was to take 22 days. We arrived at a forest where the trees had been cut down in a large square with trees left standing in the middle. It was called the Branau Woods. This was to be our home until we were liberated by the US 13th Armored Division.
The twenty-two day march was pure hell. The weather was cold and wet. Food was very scarce not only for the POWs, but also for the German guards. Most of us were wearing the clothes we wore when we were shot down. We were in poor physical condition, cold, hungry, and many were sick. Some days the German army vehicles would bring in some field rations. Drinking water was where we could find it, not very sanitary to say the least, and a source of diarrhea. There were casualties nearly every day.
When the 13th Detachment arrived they disarmed the German guards and they became POWs. Our POW camp leaders sent details of men out into the county side to look for food. The farms in the area had little to offer as the Germans had taken most of the food products away from the farmers already.
On the third day after we were liberated a small US army detachment arrived and we were to move again. We were taken to Branau, Austria nearby. The town had a large aluminum factory and this was the first time we were inside a building in more than a month, and it was dry. The next day an airlift began and we were transported by air to Camp Lucky Strike near Le Harve, France. The C46 planes could only transport about 40 men per trip. This camp and others like it were set up to take care of us POWs. There was food, shelter, medical attention, hot showers, and new uniforms.
After some medical evaluation we were to start our trip back to the USA. Approximately 900 ex-POWs were put on the USS Le June, a converted troop ship. I began to get seasick as I walked up the gangplank and continued to be sick the entire nine days it took to get to the US. We docked at Trenton, New Jersey and were taken to a nearby army base. I was given a 30-day furlough. My parents and the girl that was to become my wife were waiting for me when I got off of the bus. That was the most pleasant sight I had seen in a long time...
I used those thirty days to reorganize my life. Jackie and I were married July 15, 1945 while I was on leave. Jackie was a big boost to my morale and she is still the light of my life.
At the end of my furlough I went to Miami, Florida to a recuperation Hospital for some serious medical attention. I was in the hospital on VJ day. What a relief that was, we would not have to go fight the Japanese.
When I was released from the hospital I was sent to Truax Field near Madison, Wisconsin. I finished my three-year enlistment and chose not to reenlist.
I was discharged October 31, 1945, 2 years 11 months, and 27 days after enlistment. That was enough for me!
This is a true account of my life in the US Air Force more than a half century ago. I have purposely omitted some of the most gruesome details and the memories still made me shed some tears, and caused some sleepless nights."
His service records show these decorations and citations: Good conduct Medal; Purple Heart, European African Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal with one Bronze Star, Lapel Button, Two overseas Service Bars and American Defense Service Medal (with Foreign Service clasp) and World War II Victory Medal.
After the war he married Iris (Jackie) Lorain Brockman.
In 1994 he was contacted by one of his crew members and gave the following account of his post war life:
"Now a little about my life since our Kreige days:
I could not get back to the girl I loved fast enough and I married on July 15, 1945 we had dated since she was 14 years old. We have had a very good life together and enjoy each other's company every day.
I worked in Minnesota short time after being discharged in November 1945. At the tie it seemed there should be something better than mosquitoes in summer and snow and cold in winter. I spent the rest of my career life working for three heavy construction companies. The most recent job lasted 30 years. I retired in 1986. I went to auction school, and formed Colorado Auction Serviced that we operated for 7 years. We still have a storage business that is as demanding as a herd of milk cows.
Jackie is an exceptional artist and thru the years has been in the antique business, my secretary, bookkeeper, business manager, auction clerk and loving wife. Without her I would not have been as successful.
We have one daughter, Pat, married to John Salazar. John is a machine operator for Adams County. Pat is a Regional Director of Information for the U. S. Immigration Service. They have two sons, Alex who is 22 and Chris is 15. They are both cowboys with team roping being their specialty. They all live here with us.
My hobbies lie in the antique farm tractors and antique cars that I buy, sell, trade and restore..."
Dad continued on with his life until October 7, 2010 doing the things he loved and loving the family that had expanded to include a wife for Alex, Amy Lefforge and a wife for Chris, Tristan Wilson, and two fantastic great grand children, Talon Christopher Salazar, age 5 and Alyssa Addison Salazar, age 3. Sadly he will not be here when the new baby is born to Chris and Tristan in April 2011. But we do know that he is watching and protecting and guiding us every day.
He kept this handwritten prayer in his desk and repeated it every night to ensure we were blessed and safe.
"Lord, I love you and I need you in my heart and bless me, my family, my home and my friends. In Jesus name, Amen"
He truly believed that life is amazing, love is enduring and family is forever.

Arrangements under the direction of Olinger Andrews Caldwell Gibson Chapel, Castle Rock, CO.