HE WEARS A PAIR OF SILVER WINGS
“HE WEARS A PAIR OF SILVER WINGS”
1st . Lt. Edward Markewitz and the crew of Shady Sadie
Shady Sadie was the oldest aircraft in the 705th Squadron. Lt. Markewitz had piloted her over enemy territory on many of the 114 successful missions she completed. Based near Flixton Castle in the village of Bungay in Suffolk County, England, the 705th was part of the 446th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force.
With victory in Europe complete, many 8th Air Force heavy bomber crews prepared to return to the United States. On June 17, 1944 1st Lt. Edward “Louie da Finger” Markewitz, his air crew and ten member veteran ground crew lifted off from Shannon Ireland in Shady Sadie and headed towards Lagens Field in the Azores. Just before lifting off from Bungay several days earlier, Eddy took a few moments to send his wife Mary a Western Union telegram that simply stated, "Dearest sweetheart on my way home, all my love, Eddy Markewitz".
Several hours out a B-24 flying on Shady Sadie’s port side stalled out and plunged spiraling down into the ocean. 60 minutes later Sadie’s no. 3 engine lost oil pressure and was feathered. Navigator Lt. Elvyn “Shorty” de Chabert charted a course for an auxiliary field on the Northern Coast of Spain, some 275 miles distant. In an attempt to conserve fuel by lightening the overloaded Liberator, every unnecessary item in the plane was frantically thrown into the sea below. Markewitz skillfully coaxed the faltering aircraft ahead. Radio operator Sgt. Paul Pifer remembered: “After what seemed an eon to twenty apprehensive crewmen, we passed over the Spanish Coast to the designated landing site, right on the button as plotted by our navigator. With total aplomb and extraordinary skill, “Louie da Finger” touched down that B-24 with a textbook 3 point landing on a rolling sheep pasture less than the length of a football field. On impact, fifteen men in the waist rushed to the tail and the craft stopped short of a copse of trees buried up to the fuselage. What a remarkable feat by our pilot and co-pilot! No one suffered a scratch!”
The crew was greeted by twelve members of the nearby Spanish garrison. Thanks to the vivacious and fluent Spanish tongue of Puerto Rico native “Shorty” de Chabert, the soldiers wined and dined the crew at a local Cantina. “Several members of the crew suffered more from the effects of Spanish Anisette and green olives on empty stomachs than from the perils of our trip.” said Pifer. The crew was transported south to Vigo for two days. By train they were moved to Madrid where they were guests at the elegant Plaza Madrid Hotel, courtesy of Senior Attaché to Spain, Col. Johnson. Eventually they were flown back to their base at Bungay via Paris and London.
Pilot and aircraft commander, 28 year old 1st. Lt. Edward Markewitz was the “old man” of the outfit and highly respected and worshipped by those who entrusted their lives to him. He was typical of the citizen soldier who answered his country’s call in her hour of need. A first generation American, he represented the diversity of America’s ethnic background. Markewitz was born in Norwood, Massachusetts on May 24, 1917 but moved to Queens, NY when he was five. In 1942 he felt the strong pull of patriotism and volunteered for military service by enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He worked his way through the Air Corps training system and eventually completed B-24 pilot’s training. After flight crew assignment and final training, he and his new nine man crew departed for the European Theatre on October 10, 1944. The six foot tall, blue eyed Lt. Markewitz was affectionately nicknamed “Louie da Finger”, after a well known New York hood, whom Eddie could mimic in his own perfect New York accent.
Back in Bungay after their Spanish excursion, Eddie wrote his wife: .”.......We got back to the base yesterday. Two weeks ago we climbed aboard Shady Sadie and kissed this place good-bye. I thought. A matter of about twenty hours more and I'd have been back in the States but noooo! Every time I get out on the Atlantic ocean about half way between here and nowhere I lose and engine! Well, now I quit. They asked me over at ATC headquarters how I wanted to get home now, pick up another plane or what. Shorty, Harry, John, Paul and I were in the office. In unison we told him ‘BY BOAT!’”
They did return to the States “BY BOAT!”, aboard the Queen Mary with the rest of the 446th ground personnel, arriving in New York Harbor on July 11, 1945. Pifer attended college thanks to the G.I. Bill and became a doctor. “Shorty” de Chabert returned to his native Puerto Rico where he became a successful manufacturer’s representative. Lt. Eddie Markewitz would never fly or travel by air again. Honorably discharged on October 6, 1945, he returned to Queens NY. Later he moved to East Meadow on Long Island where he and Mary raised one child in postwar suburban bliss. Eddie became Clerk-of-Courts in Nassau County, NY. He passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on October 21, 1970. He was just 53 years old.
Raising families and getting on with their lives after the war left little time for re-unions, but occasionally two or three would get together at one’s home for a few days to reminisce about their wartime experiences. During one of Dr. Pifers visits to the de Chabert’s home in Puerto Rico in the 1980’s, “Shorty” ensured Pifer that “The skeleton of ‘Shady Sadie’ still rests in that sheep pasture in Northern Spain!”
The crew flew thirty combat missions during 200 combat hours above dangerous German occupied Europe. Day after day they carried the fight to the heart of the Nazi Regime and played an integral role in the final defeat of Hitler and the Axis nightmare. For their service they all earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and many other commendations. “He Wears A Pair Of Silver Wings” is respectfully dedicated to Lt. Edward Markewitz and the crew of “Shady Sadie”, who along with their compatriots in the 446th Bomb group, and the rest of the 8th Air Force, “did nothing less than save the world!”