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'Bud's Jacket': Woman From White Bear Lake Unveils Her Uncle's WWII Story With New Book

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's the kind of story movies are made out of.

In 1943, American bombardier Bud Wilschke's plane was shot down in France. For months, he moved across the countryside trying to escape enemy soldiers. It was an untold story until his niece in White Bear Lake found a box that documented his ordeal.

"For my Uncle Bud it was very traumatic," said Barbara Wojcik.

In May 1943, Wilschke's B-17 airplane was shot down. Six of his fellow soldiers died but he was able to parachute into the French countryside.

"When he woke up a farmer was standing about 10 feet away pointing a shotgun at him and asking him in French if he was American or German. He said 'I'm American,'" said Wojcik.

Thus began months of a cat and mouse game between Bud, the French farmers helping him, and German patrols.

"This is the loft where he was hidden the first night," said Wojcik while pointing at a picture she took during a trip to France.

Bud was given French clothes and even a French name. He and another American soldier were moved across the country, from farm to farm, trying to stay one step ahead of the Germans.

"He was missing in action for six months with no way to communicate," said Wojcik.

The army feared Bud had been killed in action and in the end they had to sneak across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, to be rescued.

"And then he sent the telegram to Rosemary," she said.

For Wojcik, this is a love story as much it is a survival story. Bud didn't really talk about what happened before he passed away. So it wasn't until Barbara happened upon a box of her uncle's memories that she learned the entire story. In it, she found newspaper clippings that show he proposed to his future wife Rosemary as soon as he was rescued.

"It's a fabulous story and I don't want the story to be lost like so many World War Two stories are lost," said Wojcik.

So, she wrote a book called Bud's Jacket. That's because the grandson of the first French farmer that helped Wilschke, returned his bombardier jacket 40 years later.

"This was a piece of the parachute that saved Bud's life," said Wojcik's husband Jim while holding a piece of the fabric.

With Barbara battling stage four breast cancer, Jim stepped up to help her finish the book. It's a story they hope inspires future generations.

"It was just a really exciting thing for me too to be a part of it," said Jim.

"They were kids. And trying to go through something like this for their survival, I think says something about their generation," said Barbara.

Barbara will have a book signing on August 6 at Lake Country Book Sellers in White Bear Lake. The signing will run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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