Pueblo County Military
Page contributed by Karen Mitchell.
Pueblo Chieftain 1-26-1991 - Princess Caradja, 98, Honored By Rescued Pilots - Princess Catherine Caradja of Romania talks with Lt. Col. Bill Feder at a special reception for the Princess held at the Holiday Inn.
In a room filled with veterans and wives who came to Pueblo on Friday to swap war stories, Romanian Princess Catherine Caradja, 97, talked of peace. "The question is not whether to keep world peace," said Caradja. "You - the United States - must stay free. There are dangers here. Save yourselves because that just may save the world."
Caradja knows about fighting for freedom. Her one-woman campaign against tyranny in her homeland has pitted her against such formidable foes as Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.
On numerous occasions, she placed the welfare of orphans and American prisoners of war above her own. "It's horrible to have seen so much," she said of herself.
Still fiery after nearly a century of fighting the good fight, Caradja gives away advice as freely as she does smiles.
"My only hope is you - the youth," she told a television reporter Friday. "Get up on your hind legs. We don't need a `me' generation. Love one another and obey the Lord."
The Romanian princess is in Pueblo this week as the guest of honor of the 376th Bomb Group and the Pueblo Historical Aircraft Society. She will speak to the sponsoring groups tonight at a banquet in her honor at the Holiday Inn.
In 1944, she became the patron saint of more than 1,400 American airmen when she saved them from both the Nazis and Communists.
"She's a symbol of courage of the civilian community who gave support to our military people in trouble at the risk of endangering their own life," said Ret. Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught of Washington, D.C.
Former Puebloan Evelyn Cebulski Stark, whose husband Cecil Stark flew in a B-24 during World War II, was one of the group of 40 who came to greet Caradja. "Do you know what that lady did?" she asked. "She went out and rescued injured crew members and hid them from the Germans."
Accompaning Caradja to Pueblo was Dorothy Britt, the wife of one of the airmen saved by the princess. Her husband, Richard Britt, was a crew member of a B-24 shot down on Aug. 1, 1943, over the oil fields of Ploesti. He and 110 other American airmen became prisoners of war that day in Nazi-controled Romania.
Children from the nearby orphanage, where Caradja cared for more than 3,000, ran to inspect the wreckage of Britt's plane, the "Chattanooga Choo Choo." Eight of the 10 crew members had fled on foot; Britt and another airman were left for dead. "Madam, one of the dead men is moving," a child reported to Caradja. She quickly organized a rescue. A hole was cut in the fuselage and a tree was cut down to be used as a lever to free Britt from the wreckage. Britt was burned from his armpits to his feet with gasoline that leaked from a wing tank. He was taken to the orphanage and nursed back to health under the supervision of Caradja. When he was able, Britt joined the 110 other prisoners of war who were living in a camp in the mountains established by Caradja to keep them from falling in the hands of the Nazis.
Within months, the number of raids continued over Ploesti and the number of POWs swelled to more than 1,400.
When the Germans were being driven out of Romania by the Russians, Caradja and Col. James Gunn masterminded a daring escape. Gunn, the highest-ranking POW, was smuggled out of Romania in a German-made airplane back to his home base in Italy. An American flag was painted under the fuselage to protect it from being shot down by friendly fire.
Days later, an armada of 72 B-17s returned to evacuate the POWs from Romania.
After the war, Caradja herself escaped from Communist rule and eventually came to the United States, where she waged a 35-year campaign to free Romania from the Communists.
Why did she help the Americans? "Because, you are still - in spite of everything - a very lovable country," Caradja said.
And Caradja - despite nearly a century of personal sacrifice - is still a very lovable and lovely lady. And she will be 98 on Monday.
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|© Karen Mitchell |