The ABCs of Lowell History: W is for Wisner

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

W is for Wisner, Allen and Marian

On February 14, 1944, Marian Reidsema married Allen Wisner. There was no extended honeymoon period for Allen and Marian. World War II was raging, and Allen was in the Army Air Corp.

Allen flew a P-38 fighter plane, which escorted bomber planes. Allen had flown fourteen successful complete missions when disaster struck. On June 26, 1944, while following his flight leader, Ray Allen, both planes were struck by enemy fire. Wisner’s plane’s oxygen and hydraulic line were set on fire.

With the fire in his cockpit, and while suffering burns, he was able to roll the plane over, necessary in a P-38 because of the rear stabilizer bar and bail out of the plane. His two conscious thoughts were, “Lord help me!” and “Judy I’ll be alright.” Judy was Allen’s nickname for his wife. Flight Leader Ray Allen’s plane also crashed.

Wisner landed unconscious, on the roof of a house, then slid off into a courtyard. He received first aid from nearby firemen. He was taken to a hospital where he landed, in Slovakia. He suffered from burns and a broken back. While Slovakia was a neutral country, he was classified as a Prisoner of War.

In August of 1944 the Germans took over Slovakia. This meant that now Wisner was behind enemy lines. The Slovak Partisans were very active and effective. Wisner credited a sympathetic Slovakian doctor and the hospital staff who protected him. After the German troops came to the hospital where he was, the doctor had him taken out and moved to a small hospital. Wisner was passed off as a civilian. The hospital staff hid the fact that he was an American serviceman. Later, again, German troops got near him, and the Partisan Underground took him to a hideout in the Carpathian Mountains. After two months his classification was changed from prisoner of war to evader.

Marian found out one week after the crash that Allen was missing in action. This was just four months after their wedding day. One week after that, with the help of the International Red Cross, she learned that he was a Slovak Prisoner of War and was injured and hospitalized.

Marian was a very strong woman. As Wisner was an evader, his condition and location were unknown for months. Wisner was able to get a couple of letters out through a Slovak representative who mailed the letters from Switzerland. These letters were uncensored and provided quite a mystery to Marian.

She used this time of the unknown future to pursue her schooling to become a nurse. A news article written after her graduation stated, “spurred on after her husband, a fighter pilot, was taken prisoner by the Germans,* Mrs. Allen Wisner redoubled her efforts to become a graduate nurse and was rewarded Friday with receipt of the highest honors in the current graduating class of 28 nurses at Blodgett hospital.”

After eight months of being a prisoner of war and an evader, with a lot of help, Allen Wisner became an escapee. Returning to the United States, he was able to reunite with his wife Marian and then return home to his family.

Allen and Marian lived their family life on 4 Mile Road and around the corner on Ashley Avenue, in what was once Moseley, in Grattan Township. They farmed and raised their four children. Marian’s nursing skills are remembered today. One remembered that as a child, she always hoped to have Mrs. Wisner as her nurse because somehow “Mrs. Wisner’s shots didn’t hurt.”

The Wisner story continues next week as “X Marks the Crash Site”.

*The newspaper stated that Allen Wisner was a German prisoner of war but he was actually a Slovak Prisoner of War.

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