Joseph Soukup, decorated World War II bombardier who flew over Germany, dies

Retired Baltimore County math teacher Joseph Soukup dies

Joseph Soukup, a retired Baltimore County teacher who was a decorated World War II veteran and prisoner of war, died of a heart attack Sept. 27 at Seasons Hospice at Franklin Square Medical Center. The former Carney resident was 95.

Born in Chicago, he was the son of Czech immigrants. His family relocated frequently during the Great Depression, and he attended 11 different elementary schools.

He graduated from Maple Town High School in Greensboro, Pa., and worked that summer in a coal mine before enlisting in the Army Air Corps.

After the outbreak of World War II, he was stationed in North Africa and Foggia, Italy, and became a bombardier and nose gunner on a B-17G bomber. Family members said his war record included nearly 50 combat missions.

He was credited with shooting down two German fighter planes, and with shooting down an additional plane that had been disabled by combat fire.

Mr. Soukup also bombed German-held oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania.

He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded by flak during a mission.

On Sept. 22, 1943, his plane, Strictly Baggage, was flying at 32,000 feet on a mission over Munich when it was hit by enemy fire. Mr. Soukup was trapped by the centrifugal force as the plane spiraled down. The plane exploded and Mr. Soukup was thrown free — he pulled his parachute's rip cord and landed. He was captured by German infantrymen as he hit the ground.

Six members of the 10-man crew survived the crash. Mr. Soukup was treated by a German medic for a broken femur.

He was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag Luft 4 in Poland. After a year as a POW, he was ordered to march as Soviet troops advanced on the camp. While marching, he escaped and hid in forests and fields for 23 days. He walked 150 miles.

"My father ate charcoal to stop dysentery," said his son, Curtis Soukup of Phoenix in Baltimore County.

He reached the Allied lines at Lauenberg, Germany, on April 17, 1945.

He left military service as a sergeant.

"The war was a defining moment in his life," his son said. "He was a teacher at heart and, if requested, he made himself available for interviews from students completing living-history assignments. He would share his experiences."

After the war, he earned his bachelor's degree in education at Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania, where he was on the football team. He also earned a master's degree at West Virginia University.

He met his future wife, Audrey Haddock, a former Army nurse, while in college. They married in 1947.

He worked a year for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, then became a mathematics teacher in Oakland in Garrett County.

He moved to Baltimore County in 1955 and taught math at Stemmers Run Junior High School and later at Middle River Junior High School. He had served as chair of its math department.

Mr. Soukup led family vacations in a Winnebago trailer. He traveled the West and enjoyed visiting national parks.

He was a fisherman and hunter. He was a Boy Scout Troop 772 committee member at Linden Heights Methodist Church. After retirement, he became a woodworker and maintained a workshop, where he created pieces for family and friends.

After living in Carney for many years, he and his wife moved to Oak Crest Village in Parkville.

Services for Mr. Soukup will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Oak Crest Village Chapel, 8801 Walther Blvd.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Grant Soukup of Middle River; two sisters, Martha Pierce of Erie, Pa., and Violet Geisler of Chicago; three grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. His wife of 66 years died in 2013.

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