Norma Sue Stephenson, a resident of Humble, Texas, had her wish granted to travel to Italy to see where her husband, Victor Phelps,’ plane was shot down during WWII, thanks to our Houston, Texas chapter. Phelps flew 116 missions with the Twelfth Air Force’s 87th Fighter Group until his plane was shot down by the Germans in Italy near the Gothic Line on October 11, 1944. Phelps’ squadron had orders to bomb a bridge, but when the bombs didn’t release, he circled back for another attempt although he later told his family he knew his plane would be shot down. He bailed out of his P-47D Thunderbolt, nicknamed “The Nittany Nipper,” and as he was parachuting down, he could see German soldiers on one side and farmers with pitchforks approaching from the other side. Phelps hid on a nearby Italian farm until he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans. He was among the prisoners liberated by General George Patton’s army on April 29, 1945
Stephenson, who is 95, found out several years ago that there is a memorial at the spot where Phelps’ plane crashed after an Italian organization reached out to her grandson via Facebook. The Associazione Amici del fiume Senio (Friends of the Senio River Association) found parts from Phelps’ plane and put up a memorial at the spot of the crash. The organization, with the help of one eyewitness, was able to give his family photos and information they had never heard before. Like so many other veterans, Phelps, who passed away in 1976, did not talk much about his war experiences with his family.
Stephenson has wanted to visit the memorial in Italy ever since they found out about it. Her wish finally came true in late April when she and three family members traveled to Italy to visit the memorial and take part in a ceremony on that date. This date is important to the Phelps family as it is the anniversary of his release as a POW in 1945.