"We were all from 18 to 21 years old," Jim Vaughn says. "And we were cocky. We felt we could win the war all by ourselves."
But they soon learned it wasn't that easy.
Nearly 70 years have passed since Air Force Staff Sargent Jim Vaughn's airplane went down in enemy territory. He brought his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids to an exhibit of World War II aircraft at Jabara Airport to show them the type of plane and share the story of a generation rapidly passing away.
"It's amazing and it's inspirational," Vaughn's grandson, Chris Brussow says. "I've heard it a couple times throughout my life, but everytime you hear a little bit more."
Vaughn was a member of ten-man crew aboard a B-24 bomber. His job was tailgunner. Their mission was to bomb a German airplane factory.
"Over the target we lost number three and number four engine," Vaughn says.
Hit by enemy fire, they had to bail out.
"We were still in the parachutes when it crashed. Well, here we were in the dead of winter in the Alps on February 22, 1944," Vaughn says. "It's not the best place to be.
Vaughn landed alone and walked for five days in freezing temperatures eluding capture, until he came upon a farmer in occupied Yugoslavia.
"They gave me black bread and water," Vaughn says. "It was the best meal I ever had in my life."
Some soldiers led him on foot to allied territory.
"We think we walked 700 miles," Vaughn remembers.
Some of the other crew members also made it to safety, but others didn't.
"When I got back to the states I could not tell anyone how I escaped," Vaughn says. "It was all classified as secret."
But now, at age 90, it's a story Sgt. Vaughn loves to tell--a story his family says younger generations need to hear before all the voices from the World War II generation go silent.
"We were the generation that saved the world," Vaughn says. "We've not accomplished a heck of a lot since then, but nevertheless we hope we salvaged enough for the U.S. to last forever.
The Wings of Freedom aircraft display continues at Jabara Airport for a couple more days. Find out more about it here.