Riverside resident Roland E. Stumpff flew for more than 68 years. He was a WWII B-24 bomber pilot who participated in the dangerous raids on the Ploesti oil fields. On his 13th Ploesti mission his aircraft was hit by flak over the target and lost two engines. With a wounded copilot he nursed his B-24 to dead-stick landing. He and his crew were captured and held in a Bulgarian POW camp.
When Bulgaria dropped out of the war in late 1944, he and more than 200 allied POWs eventually made their way to Istanbul and safety. In a little-known footnote to history, he and a handful of others volunteered to go back into Bulgaria with the OSS to identify and round up those guards who had mistreated prisoners. Through this team’s actions, some 135 were brought to justice.
After the war, he continued to fly with several Air National Guard units, including a stint flying F80 fighter jets with the New York Air Guard. He worked for Trans-Ethiopian Airlines, and eventually settled into a career as a mechanical engineer.
Roland added glider flying and soaring to his repertoire before finally folding his wings in 2010. He was a Colonel in the Confederate Air Force, where he worked on (and flew) aircraft that participated in their famous Missing Man formation.
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