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1944 Aerial War Comes to Life in Radio Play

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2004 – World War II was a "radio war."

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Chuck Langdon displays some of the material he received as part of producing "The Albert Macuch Story" as a radio play. Photo by Jim Garamone

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Families tuned their huge Atwater Kent radios in to the networks CBS and NBC for the daily reports from the war zones. When important news came across, networks would interrupt their shows to report.

That's the feeling evoked in The Albert Macuch Story. "We wanted to capture the sound of the era," said Chuck Langdon, the producer of the compact disc.

Albert Macuch was a tail gunner aboard a B-17 flying out of England. On Nov. 16, 1944, his aircraft was shot down over Belgium. Macuch was a 21-year-old staff sergeant with the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, and the CD Langdon produced is his story of that time.

Langdon, president of the Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club, came upon the story by accident. Albert Macuch, who lived in central New York, spoke to a high school student about his memories of that day. Macuch died soon after, and his family found the cassette in Albert's papers. "They had never heard him speak of this experience," Langdon said. "He did not want to discuss this day. It was painful to him, and he wasn't a bragging type person."

One of the family members asked Langdon if he could make copies of the tape on CD for all the relatives. "As I listened to it, I thought, 'Here's a radio play,'" he said.

The family gave permission to Langdon to try to produce the play. At first, he didn't know how he was going to do it. He thought of using the reminiscences as the basis for a script with radio actors. "But when I heard him tell the story his voice inflection, the way he presented it -- it was just remarkable," Langdon said. "What it needed was a little polishing up and pacing, and adding continuous sound effects."

Langdon's concept was to put the listener in the situation, in the era. The opening is a good example. The piece starts with period big-band music interrupted by BBC news reports. This sets the era and place for the listener, Langdon said. Following the news reports is a bomber mission briefing and the sound of a B-17 cranking up. "Then Albert begins to tell his story," Langdon said. "There are no visuals, of course, in a radio play everything is in the mind."

Macuch tells the tale of the mission. He tells what happens as the No. 3 engine is hit and it becomes apparent that the plane isn't going to make it back to base. He tells how some crewmembers bail out of the plane and catch on fire from the flames of the engine. He talks about riding the plane down to Earth with just the pilot and himself aboard the plane. He describes his feelings as the pilot tries to land the B-17 in a Belgian field.

Macuch was badly injured in the crash. He was found by Belgian farmers and taken to American medics. "It is a personal account, and we checked out as much of the story as we could," Langdon said. The Internet provided some information to Langdon and his co-worker Lee Shephard. William Liket, a history buff living near the crash site in Reimst, Belgium, provided more information and photos. "We found much of what Albert said was right on the money," Langdon said.

Langdon said he is looking for other stories that can be turned into radio plays.

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