He joined the Army as a Tech Sergeant, working on planes on the Atlantic side of the war. His second day overseas, his crew was headed for Austria, one of the most heavily guarded enemy targets in Europe.
"The conditions were so extreme, so bad, I thought my chances of survival were very little," Kodet said. Flying directly into enemy fire, German missiles lit up the skies, breaking up American aerial formations.
"You could see them coming, little balls of fire every so often and I think that's what hit our ship," Kodet said. Their plane caught fire and spun into a dive. Of the ten-member-crew, only eight survived the impact. Without weapons, a pilot, or a captain, Kodet and seven other troops were captured by the Romanian Army.
"Well, the camp itself was terrible. There was rats running around all night long, and lice was terrible. You'd just be covered with lice," Kodet said.
Meanwhile, the war continued around them. The same types of missiles that shot down their plane often shook the ground near the camp. While air attacks were treacherous, Kodet being on the ground was even worse.
"We were under friendly fire from the British at night and Americans in the daytime. They finally moved us out of the camp because it was almost completely demolished. I think that's what actually saved my life. I never wasted any time running. If there was, we were escaping the bomb attacks and things like that, I moved," Kodet said.
Conditions continued to worsen. "There was hardly any food for anybody. Us or the Romanians. I don't know why, but we managed to survive. If you were not too proud to eat it, it was ok. I survived partially because I ate everything. I wasn't too proud to eat. If they had anything at all, I ate it," Kodet said.
That usually meant only water and a piece of bread. Sometimes, there'd be enough ingredients for soup; a meal he's tried to erase from his mind for 65 years.
"They'd just use everything. You could take, and look into your bowl, and see a couple of eyes even looking up at you. They used everything they could use," Kodet said.
Just when it seemed like there was no hope for the prisoners, Romania pulled out of their alliance with Germany. After five months in captivity, Kodet was released. "They opened the gates and told us we were on our own. That's exactly what happened, we were completely on our own," Kodet said.
Soon after Kodet was freed, German bombs destroyed the camp. Remarkably, men who were once enemies found themselves fighting together for their lives.
"An American Colonel and a Romanian pilot flew a Romanian fighter plane back to Italy and told them we were there. They came and picked us up in B-17 bombers, 20 airmen to a load. That's one of the things I'll never forget in my life. To leave Romania. It was just remarkable how fortunate I was to have things go my way. I think I had a lot of help from above. I sure had help from somewhere," Kodet said.
He made it back to America after surviving Hell, in time to see his son, Ed Jr., born a week later. "That's something else I'll never forget. That's pretty much my war story," Kodet said.
--Excerpt is by Karla Ramaekers, KeloLand. After attending the Honor Flight in 2009, Eddie was interviewed in an online video.
As Eddie Kodet's family desribes, "Eddie's military career began September 29, 1942, in Fort Crook, Neb. After training as an engineer and aerial gunner, he was given a combat crew assignment out of Clovis Air Base in New Mexico. Ten crew including Eddie were assigned a B-24 Liberator. Eddie flew many missions, but the most important was in April 1944, when the Allies determined it was necessary to attack the Ploesti Oil Fields. This mission as well as many others was not accompanied by fighter aircraft support. His plane took on flak and anti aircraft fire and went down over Bucharest, Romania. He was assaulted and captured on the ground and sent to prison camp. In the autumn of 1944 he was released when the Russians liberated Romania.
He took a boat from Naples, Italy to New York City and from there went to Minneapolis to stay with his wife just in time for the birth of their son, Edward Jr. on October 16, 1944, 30 years after Eddie's birthday. He remained in the service for one more year to undergo officer training and B-29 bomber training at the University of Urbana. He was honorably discharged in November 1945 and was awarded amongst many others: the Air Force medal for meritorious achievement, the Bronze Star for evacuating prisoners from a prison camp under fire in Bucharest and the Purple Heart for wounds received on a combat mission."
Note: Eddie Kodet from Belvidere, South Dakota, was at the Rapid City POW/MIA Recognition Day in 2009, along with members of the Black Hills Veterans Writing Group (Peter Dahlberg, Jerry Teachout, and Brad Morgan). Also present were fellow prisoners of war Harold Taylor, Charles Anderson, William Semlek, and Walter Mehlhaff.
He was with the Black Hills Veterans Writing Group in Rapid City on August 14, 2010, with a hundred people in attendance, including WWII POWs Harold Taylor, Charles Anderson, and Tom McDill. Sadly, Edward J. "Eddie" Kodet, Sr., died on August 29, 2010, at age 95.