Fifty-six years have passed since I entered service to
my country--this will be to the best of my recollection as of Dec.
9th 1998. On July 21, 1942 I enlisted in the Army Air
Force--said my good-byes to family and my girl. I was shipped to
Keesler Field, Ms. Boy! was it hot there for a Yankee like me.
I completed aircraft mechanic school by December
and was promptly shipped to Seattle, Wa. for training on the B-17,
along with my good friend Eddie Pearce, who was to play an important
role in my life.
After completion of training on the B-17 we were
shipped to Las Vegas, Nv. for gunnery school. By this time I
should have had a hint to where we were headed--but we took things one
day at a time. I think it was some time in March 1943 when we finished
gunnery school and was shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah where we were
interviewed I was asked if I would like to go for Cadet Pilot
training. I thought it would be a step up the ladder so said o.k. They
sent me to a pool to wait to be shipped out. I waited a week and
nothing happened so I got itchy and asked to be sent on to where all
my friends had gone. They cut my orders for Ephrata, Wa. When I got
there all my friends from previous schools were there, including my
buddy, Ed Pearce. Finally they started making up bomber crews. I met
my pilot, co-pilot navigator and bombardier. They were all nice guys.
I was 22 at the time and both pilots were only 20. They made me 1st
engineer, Eddie Pearce 2nd engineer, Ray Leveille lst radio operator,
Cecil Holliday-ball turret gunner, George Jahnke the left waist gunner
and Fred Smart the tail gunner. The age of our crew averaged 20 years
old. Believe me, 1st phase training can be a KILLER. We lost
several crews before we advanced to 2nd phase training at Geiger
Field, WA. At Geiger we started the famous 390th Bomb. Group. After
the war it became the 390th Missile Group based at Tucson, AZ. We
earned two Presidential citations--one for the October 14 Schweinfurt
Raid. Third phase training was accomplished at Great Falls, Mt.
during the month of June 1943. At the beginning of July we were
scheduled to go overseas to England. We were to fly our planes to
Salina, Kansas: have a six day furlough to get home and be back and
have a new plane waiting for us to fly overseas. When we returned we
found we still had old 991, the plane we started with in 2nd phase
training--an early F Model. We did have four new engines. We loved
that old plane. It was built on Boeing jigs and flew real well. A
couple of days later we left Salina for Bangor, Maine. We got a call
by radio that the weather was bad over Bangor and to land at Syracuse,
N.Y. My girl was living there and I had just given her an engagement
ring while I was home-- so I got to see her again. After Syracuse we
flew to Bangor where someone cut our deicing boots even with a guard
on duty. I taped them up with masking tape and we flew to Gander,
Newfoundland where they were repaired. A couple of days later we took
off for Scotland. I remember topping off the gas tanks three times to
be sure we had enough fuel. We took off about 5:00 p.m.--about 2:00
a.m. our navigator got one three star fix. About seven a.m. he said we
should be over the coast of Ireland. We dropped down through the
overcast and there IT WAS! What a beautiful sight. We landed at
Prestwick, Scotland. We stayed there a couple of days before going on
to Framlingham, England. While in England we had lots of more
training--gunnery, formation flying, etc.
The first mission was Bonn, Germany on August 8, 1943.
Our pilot was stricken with a medical problem and we had to return to
base. After that they made our co-pilot 1st Pilot and we waited awhile
to get a replacement co-pilot. When we started flying again these
8-15-43--Airfield in France
9-6-43--Ballbearing plant Stuttgart, Germany
9-15-43--Paris aircraft plant 10-8-43--Bremen
We hadn't named our plane yet but
after about three missions we decided to call her "PATCHES' for
all the flak and bullet holes she sustained. The briefing of that
morning of Schweinfurt they said:--they know you are coming--GOOD
LUCK! If you knock out the target you will shorten the war by six
months. We were delayed by fog that morning. We were the lead ship
carrying the bomb sight. Right after we dropped our bombs we sustained
three direct hits with flak. We lost two engines and one shell went
right through #2 wing tank leaving a stream of gas behind us. As I
transferred gas and manned the top turret fighting off l09's we were
drifting back. Then we caught fire and had to bail out.
During the process I was hit in the right shoulder
by a piece of flak. When I bailed out my chute jerked me so hard that
when I landed I could not walk. I was immediately captured and carried
to a tool house that they locked me in. Some time later they came with
a truck and picked me up. I was glad to see the rest of my crew had
all survived. On that day we lost sixty out of one hundred bombers.
I was put in a field hospital a couple of days to be sure nothing was
broken I was given crutches and sent to Dulag Luft. I was put in
isolation for ten days and interrogated constantly -- gave the name,
rank and serial number despite their threats.
Later I was sent to Stalag 17B at Krems, Austria. I
think the uncertainty of what the next day would bring, along with the
starvation, cold temperatures, fleas, and the second Christmas of
still being there and constant threats of being shot was the worst. We
dug a few tunnels but somehow the guards always found out about them
so there were no escapes. We were there for twenty months until
our eighteen day MARCH west to Braneau, Austria. We were liberated on
April 5th by Gen. George Patton. My weight was down to about 114
pounds--we were always HUNGRY. At Camp Lucky Strike they tried to
build us up with frequent feedings.
I caught a plane to England and went back to my old
base to see my crew chief. It seems he waited on the flight line till
well after dark waiting for us to come back. Col. VonArb came out and
got him and told him we didn't make it. He was very glad to hear we
all survived after twenty months. I asked if I could get a ride home
on a plane. The C.O. said sure if you want to go to Japan. I said
"no thanks" and caught a hospital ship home from
I married Ginny on August 4, 1945.
"Patches", Crew, Prison ID card.