Frederick Stein Oral History
Frederick “Fritz” Stein was born February 5, 1917 to Frederick and Barbara (Muggli) Stein in Cold Spring, Minnesota. He graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville. He was drafted and went into service on March 1, 1942 after his brother, Roger, had already volunteered. Two of his younger brothers, Victor and Joseph, also served, interviews of whom are also in this collection. He initially trained as a Signal Corps radio operator for amphibious landing craft in Missouri, Massachusetts, Florida, and California, but transferred into the Army Air Corps and completed training as a navigator in California, New Mexico, and Texas. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he served on B-24 crews in the 453rd Bomb Group, flying 32 missions, including the D-Day invasion. For the last year of the war, he was a navigation instructor in Charleston, South Carolina for pilots set to serve in the Pacific. After his discharge in October 1945, he began working at the first National Bank in Cold Spring, from which he retired as President in 1990. He married Margaret (Bowers) Schwanki on October 15, 1957 in St. Boniface Catholic Church, and the two raised six children. He was a member of the Cold Spring Lion’s Club, Catholic Order of Foresters, Knights of Columbus, and the school board of the Rocori School District. He passed away on August 11, 2005.
Frederick Stein described his experiences as an Army Air Corps navigator during World War II. He began by summarizing the initial training he received at several bases around the United States as a Signal Corps radio operator for amphibious landings before transferring to the Air Corps. He then detailed the time he served on a B-24 crew in the 453rd Bomb Group in the European Theater, including camp life in England and some of the 32 missions he flew in over occupied France and Germany. Stein described four missions in particular: two to Friedrichshafen, Germany, one to southwestern France, and one to Brunswick, Germany when his plane had to make a crash landing when returning to England. He briefly discusses camp life and shared his thoughts on his commanding officers, including his group commander, the famous actor James “Jimmy” Stewart. Stein described his role as a navigation instructor in Charleston, South Carolina, for pilots training to serve in the Pacific as well. The interview concluded with his thoughts on the United States rebuilding Germany and Japan and his perspective on the Vietnam War and men evading the draft.
Interview by Lois Gaetz
St. Cloud State University, "Frederick Stein Oral History" (1990). World War II Veterans. 24.