COMMENTS & NOTES
LT GLENN W. DYE
ORIGINAL 100TH PILOT
CREW #25 A/C #42-30089 "SUNNY" 351st Bomb Squadron
1ST LT GLENN W. DYE P; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
2ND LT JOHN H. LUCKADOO CP: CPT 13 FEB 44 NOBALL #120 (see writings below)
2ND LT TIMOTHY J. CAVANAUGH NAV; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
2ND LT FRANCIS C. CHANEY BOM; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
T/SGT VICTOR R. COMBS TTE; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
S/SGT ELDER D. DICKERSON WG; KIA 8 OCT 43 (WITH CREW #22)
T/SGT GEORGE E. FLANAGAN ROG; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
S/SGT RICHARD B. COOKE BTG; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
S/SGT DONALD O. ELLIS WG; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
S/SGT LEROY E. BAKER TG; CPT 16 SEP 43 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC & La PALLICE (ST)
THIS WAS THE FIRST CREW OF THE 100TH TO FINISH A TOUR OF 25 MISSIONS.
On the way overseas with the original cadre, Glenn Dye caught a case of VD and was given sulfa drugs. The crew had to stay in Gandor for 2 weeks while Lt Dye was getting better. It turns out, that after two weeks he was still weak from the Sulfa drugs and John Luckadoo flew the crew to England.
Plane was named Sunny which was the nickname Lt Dye gave his son Glenn Dye Jr.
TIMOTHY CAVANAUGH AND FRANCIS CHANEY WERE BOTH KILLED IN A B-29 TRAINING ACCIDENT SHORTLY AFTER RETURNING TO THE STATES. ELDER DICKERSON, APPARENTLY A MISSION OR TWO BEHIND HIS CREW WAS KIA ON HIS 25TH MISSION WITH CREW #22, MURPHY AND THE PICCADILLY LILY.CREW
JOHN LUCKADOO WENT ON TO BECOME THE 351ST OPERATIONS OFFICER AND LATER THE 350TH OPS OFFICER ; FINISHING AS THE COMMAND PILOT WITH DeSANDERS ON 13 FEB 44 NOBALL. HE WAS A EYE WITNESS TO THE LOSS OF THE 100TH THOMAS MURPHY AND THE FAMED PICCADILLY LILY ON THE 8 OCT 44 BREMEN MISSION. MR. LUCKADOO PRESENTLY RESIDES IN DALLAS, TX.
John Luckadoo flew 21 Missions with Dye Crew, flew one as a formation officer after Dye became a lead crew. Did not like it and was moved to assistant operations officer of the 351st, indoctrinating new crews on base. When Capt. Alvin Barker goes down Capt. Tom Murphy over Bremen on Oct. 8, 1943, he becomes Operations officer of the 351st BS. A job he will keep until the Briefing for the first Berlin Mission in Nov 1943. The night before the mission, Maj Olli Turner came up to John in the officers club and tells him he is flying tomorrow. It was the 351st turn to lead so in most circumstances, the squadron C.O. flies the mission but Maj Turner ask John to fly the mission (not unusual for Ops officers to lead missions in place of Squadron C.O.). The next day 23 Nov 43 the crews were briefed for the very first mission to" Big-B" Berlin! Gen LeMay was quoted as saying that "if only one plane returns from the mission, it is a success". John was so PO'd at Maj. Turner that he went up to him after briefing and said, "you knew the target was Berlin when you asked me to fly lead? Well I'm going to be the "one" plane that returns and I'm going to kick your butt!" The planes took off and the mission was recalled due to weather. Upon returning to base, John went to Maj Kidd (operations officer) and requested transfer to another Squadron. The 350th BS had an opening at Operations Officer and he was transferred . John completed his missions with the 350th BS with Bill DeSanders in Alice from Dallas II on 13 Feb 44.
Just after John completed his tour of duty, Maj. Elton was in the Flak house in Feb 44 due to stress (john explained that there were two forms of strss, one from flying missions, the other from too long a time between missions and waiting to fly missions). He believed that Maj. Eltons was due to the stress of Command of the lack of flying missions. During this time, Col "Chick" Harding offered Capt. Luckadoo command of the 350th BS but he turned it down because he would have to fly more missions. Capt. Luckadoo returned to the States and went into Training Command at 3rd AAF.
Missions for John "Lucky" Luckadoo with Glenn Dye Crew and as Squadron Operations Officer
Date A/C # A/C Name Target
Jun 26, 1943 23307 Skipper LeMans
Jun 28, 1943 23307 Skipper St Nazaire (Flak City)
July 04, 1943 La Pallice
Jul 10, 1943 230089 Sunny LeBourget
Jul 14, 1943 230089 Sunny LeBourget
Jul 17, 1943 230089 Sunny Hamburg
Jul 25, 1943 230089 Sunny Warnemunde
Jul 26, 1943 230089 Sunny Hanover (Lucky flew as Formation Officer)
Jul 28, 1943 25865 Janie Oschersleben
Jul 29, 1943 25865 Janie Warnemunde
Jul 30, 1943 25865 Janie Kassel
Aug 12, 1943 230089 Sunny Wesseling
Aug 19, 1943 230089 Sunny Woensdrecht
Aug 24, 1943 230089 Sunny Conches
Aug 27, 1943 230089 Sunny Watten
Aug 31, 1943 230089 Sunny Meulan Les Merueaux
Sept 03,1943 (Sunny Shot Down with Lt Richard King Crew)
Sept.06,1943 230796 Sunny II* Stuttgart, Conches, Evreux Airfield (ST)
Sept 07,1943 230796 Sunny II* Watten-V-Weapons
Sept 09,1943 230796 Sunny II* Arth, AF
Sept 15,1943 230796 Sunny II Paris, AC Factory (Renault)
Sept.16,1943 230796 Sunny II Bordeaux & LaPallice
Oct. 08, 1943 23474 King Bee Bremen (flew as Command Pilot with Lt Beatty Crew)
Nov.19, 1943 231051 Goin Jessies Gelsenkirchen (flew as Command Pilot with Lt John Griffiin Crew)
Nov.26, 1943 23271 Nine Little Yanks Bremen (flew as Command Pilot on Lt Robert Hughes Crew) and a Jerk
Feb.13, 1944 237807 Alice from Dallas II Livossart & Bois Rempre (NO BALL-Rocket Site) Flew as Pilot, Bill DeSanders flew as CP, both men finished their tours of 25 Missions on this mission.
*Plane flew on these missions but cannot confirm 100% it is the plane Glenn Dye Crew Flew on those missions.
THE BREMEN MISSION
October 8, 1943
On this day 50 years ago, October 8, 1943 I looked Death in the face -- and survived. Our Group, the 100th B.G., was flying at 23,000 feet, which made us the low group in the Wing formation. I was leading the second element of the low squadron, otherwise known as the "Purple Heart Corner." My original crew had already finished their combat tour just three weeks before and I was on my 22nd mission with a new crew (Maurice Beatty) of the 351st Squadron.
The Group was led that day by Maj. John Kidd and Blakely's crew and our Squadron was led by Capt. Tom Murphy and Al Barker, the Squadron Operations Officer, in "Piccadilly Lily". As we approached the Initial Point just before turning onto the Bomb Run, we encountered extremely heavy flak and were attempting to take evasive action. This is quite difficult to do and still maintain a tight formation, which we were required to do for mutual protection as well as a tight bomb pattern. Bremen was being ferociously defended by everything the Germans could throw up at us. Some later described the flak that day as being so thick we could have "put down our wheels and taxied on it!". By this time, the Germans had perfected a technique of tracking our formation as to height and compass heading, and firing in "box volleys". This meant plotting our course, leading us by a mile or so and firing a series of anti-aircraft shells which varied in height and width to match our entire formation. This necessitated our flying directly through this holocaust with devastating results.
Not only was their anti-aircraft defense proving very effective against us, but they were also pressing their fighter attacks upon us by flying right through their won flak! This was some of the most persistent fighter resistance we had yet encountered and the first occasion in which they were flying on through their own defensive flak. As we struggled to maintain formation and try desparately to level up for the Bomb Run, while still fending off the fighters and withstanding the on-slaught of flak produced a high level of perspiration in all the cockpits, even though the outside temperature was about 60 degrees below zero. Finally on the Bomb Run, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a flight of 2 FW-190s were attacking us from 11 o'clock and level with our Squadron formation. Our gunners were pouring out lead as fast as they could to try and fend them off. Never-theless, they barreled right through the formation without waiv-ering and the lead pilot, either already dead or grossly miscalcu-lating, collided in mid-air with the "Picadilly Lily" directly in front of me. The FW-190 in the wing position flew right on across my top turret and actually scraped it as he went by.
Others in the formation were also taking devastating fire from flak and fighters and began falling out of formation like flies. I moved up to take over the Squadron as Murphy began spiraling down and then exploded shortly after about half the crew bailed out. Just after bomb release, Kidd and Blakely were shot out of formation as was Buck Cleven who was leading the high squadron. On the Bomb Run we lost fully two-thirds of the formation. Seeing that I was the only element leader left flying, I fired a rally flare as we left the target and attempt-ed to get the remaining ships into some sort of formation order to try and make it home.
By this time the 95th Group which was following us in the next wave of bombers was sighted and I succeeded in tacking onto it in place of their low squadron that they had already lost. In assessing our own damage, I discovered that we had received a flak burst on the plexi-glass nose and a big hole remained where the bomb-sight had been. This left a sizable hole which produced a rush of sub-zero air to push through the bombardier and navigator's compartment and straight on up into the cockpit. Even with sheepskin-lined flying boots over heat-shoes, I soon had both feet frost-bitten and could barely control the rudder pedals as a consequence. But our most immediate concern was trying to stay up with the formation despite the additional damage we had sustained to the No. 3 engine. By careful nursing we managed to keep from having to feather this engine, which would have caused us to lag behind the formation and not have the protection it afforded. As we began letting down from higher altitude, it began operating somewhat better so we were able to stay up with the others.
One of the stranger orders ever to come down to us from higher headquarters was the standard operating procedure by which every lead crew would be required to have it's co-pilot fly in the tail gun position, while a "command pilot" took over his place in the cockpit. Supposedly, the co-pilot was intended to act as a Fire Control Officer in this position as far as spoting incoming enemy fighters and calling for a concentration of firepower in that direction. Several glaring shortcomings were soon apparent in this order, such as (1) co-pilots had absolutely no training or experience with the 50 cal. Machine guns mounted in the tail, (2) they had no means of communicating with the gunners in the other aircraft, except by inter-comm to their own pilots who would then have to radio to the other planes and then have that pilot relay the information to his gunners, and (3) also to risk the costly flight training these men had received in this fashion raised serious questions of priority. On this Bremen raid, several co-pilots were occupying the tailgun position. Lt. Marshall Lee was in the tail of "Piccadilly Lily", was killed in action when this ship went down in front of me. In addition, Lt. Charles Via was also in the tail of the Group leader (Blakely-Kidd) and was severely wounded by a 20 mm. shell through his leg as well as by flak fragments. But he stayed at his post, was credited with two fighters and subsequently was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Although the official tally of losses on this raid was seven ships from the Hundredth, only five or possibly six planes actually made it all the way back to Thorpe Abbotts on that fateful day. The rest were either shot down, crashed or exploded in midair. For only six to fully survive out of a total of 18 planes the Hundredth sent out that day, only partially reflects the terrible price paid.-
On the other side of the coin, I had a strange experience some 5 or 6 years later when living in Denver. My wife and I were members of an organization who entertained foreign visitors from time to time, and we were asked to have a young German couple in our home for dinner. This very attractive couple turned out to be a German princess and her husband, who was the general manager of the Opel factory in Bremen at that time. As we sat on our patio after dinner and started to compare notes, it turns out that she, too, had very vivid memories of October 8, 1943. She told me that the British had kept them up most of the night before, bombing the city in single-plane raids. She was employed as an executive secretary to the plant manager of the munitions factory which we bombed that day! As she revealed her side of the story from being on the ground, I related some of the hardships we had experienced from about 5 miles up. It was, indeed, one of the eeriest feelings I have ever had to sit there and realize that previous enemies were now breaking bread together, under my roof.
…………………..JOHN H. LUCKADOO
THE COPILOTS OF THE HUNDREDTH
BY JOHN H. LUCKADOO
When Col. Darr "Pappy" Alkire, Commander of the 100th Bomb Group, had to notify his air crews in late January, 1943 that they were not certified as "combat ready" and therefore would not embark for overseas duty as anticipated, a number of repercussions were about to be felt. Not only were the crew members sadly disappointed, but were also being threatened with the prospect of being split up as a Group and parceled out as replacement crews in other outfits. Losses were beginning to mount in Groups which were already operational with the newly commissioned Eight Air Force in England. At this time the 100th B.G. was divided up and the crews sent to various locations for additional training to overcome their apparent deficiencies. Not only was the future of the 100th becoming in doubt, but morale was beginning to take a precipitous dive. Assigned the duty of checking out other crews for combat readiness, while not recognized as such themselves, began to take its toll.
It was at about this point that Higher Authority began to realize that the co-pilots of the 100th were accumulating considerably more time in the B-17 than many First Pilots who were being certified for combat. Consequently, the conventional wisdom was to replace ALL of the original co-pilots with recent twin-engine pilot school graduates. And so it was that nearly 40 members of the Class of 43-B at Moody Field in Valdosta, Ga. Were shipped to the 100th at Kearney, Neb. In early March, 1943, having just been declared multi-engine pilots on February 18th. However, as these new recruits began to fill the right-hand seats of the four engine giant of the Group, some of the crews readily accepted the inevitable while others developed and almost instant resentment that these new interlopers had broken up original crews While still smarting from not having been sent overseas immediately after finishing "phase" training some crews were determined to make life miserable for the latest additions to the crew rosters.
As the urgency for bomber crews escalated in the Eight Air Force, the decision to withhold the 100th from combat was finally reversed and, for better or for worse, in late May, 1943 the Group was released for embarkation. With scarcely 80 days in B-17s, these newly integrated co-pilots found themselves spanning the North Atlantic, combat bound. Many of us had precious little time at the controls of the aircraft and were sorely lacking in vital formation techniques and emergency procedures., particularly under fully loaded flight conditions. Confronted with these negatives, not to say the smoldering animosity of some of the other crew members, just managing to get to the combat zone presented some rather formidable risks!
In my own case, crew resentment at having to accept a green co-pilot in place of a favorite buddy who had been through the training phases. Proved quite contentious. But as we reached out intermediate point at Gander Lake, New Foundland, Lt Glenn W. Dye, the First Pilot, became hospitalized while we were awaiting favorable tailwinds to enable the 12-hour crossing of the Atlantic. When finally released from the hospital nearly two weeks later, the rest of the Group had already departed and he was actually so weal form sulfa treatments he had to be loaded into the airplane. The stark realization by the crew that the new co-pilot was going to have to get us to the combat zone, finally sunk in and the crew reluctantly began to function as a team.
Upon arrival at Thorpe Abbotts on June 15th, we were already two weeks behind the Group in becoming operational. As a result, Lt Dye became determined that he was going to complete his required 25 combat missions and return to the States as quickly as possible. From June 25th, 1943 to September 16, 1943 the 100th Bomb Group completed some 30 or more combat missions, of which Dye and his crew, with the exception of myself and S/Sgt Elder Dickerson, completed their tour of 25 combat missions. To my knowledge, this record of completing a combat tour in less than 11 weeks was never surpassed in the Eighth Air Force. Sgt Dickerson, a waist gunner, was flying with Tom Murphy in "Picadilly Lily" which was lost on the Bremen raid, October 8, 1943. It was Dickerson's 25th mission.
As combat experience increased and losses of original crews were sustained, the co-pilots of the Group were checked out as First Pilots as fast as possible and assigned replacement crews. On the Groups very first operational mission on June 25, 1943- Three members of the Class of 43-B were lost over Bremen.
F/O George W. Cox (KIA) (Schmalenbach crew)
F/O George Z. Krech (KIA) (Adams crew)
Lt Bluford B. Mullins (KIA) (Petrich crew)
During the month of July, 1943, 4 more co-pilots of this Class went down:
Lt Melville Guy Boyd (POW) (Pearson crew) July 4 LaPallice
Lt Archibald l. Robertson (EVA) (Duncan crew) July 10 Paris
Lt Carl F. Hudson (KIA) (Barnhill crew) July 18 Dickleburg
Lt William J. Styles (POW) Carey/DeSanders crew) July 25 Warnemunde/Keil
On the Regensburg shuttle mission to North Africa on August 17, 1943 the heaviest losses to date were sustained from this Class, a total of seven:
Lt James B. Evans (POW) (Van Noy crew)
Lt Walter B. Trenchard (POW) (Braley crew)
F/O John L. Williams (POW) (Hollenbeck crew)
Lt John O. Whitaker (KIA) (Knox crew)
F/O Richard l. Snyder (KIA) (Flesh crew)
F/O Joseph C. Harper (INT) (Oakes crew)
Lt Raymond J. Nutting (EVA) (Claytor crew)
A raid on Paris September 3rd produced four more losses of the co-pilot class:
Lt Jack C. Boyd (KIA)
F/O George D. Brykalski (KIA) (King crew)
Lt Charles W. Floyd, Jr. (KIA) (Barker crew)
Lt Eugene V. Mulholland (EVA) (Fienup crew)
On September 6, 1943 - three more on the raid on Stuttgart:
Lt William R. Freund (INT) (Turner crew)
F/O Harry F. Edeburn (KIA) (Reeder crew)
F/O John H. Thompson (POW) (Woodruff crew)
The month of October, 1943 accounted for the greatest toll of all. One was lost on October 4th on the raid on Hanau:
Lt Herbert E. Trent (POW) (Helstrom crew)
..continuing through the devastating maximum effort raids on Bremen on Oct 8th, Marlenburg on Oct 9th; and Munster on the 10th. Eleven members of the Class were shot down:
F/O James P. Thayer (POW) (DeMarco crew)
Lt Charles A. Via (SWA) (Blakely crew)
Lt Marshall F. Lee (KIA) (Murphy crew)
F/O Daniel Barna (POW) (Barr crew)
Lt Winston L. MacCarter (POW) (Fuller crew)
Lt Hoyt L. Smith (POW) (Biddick crew)
F/O John F. Stevens (POW) (Kiessling crew)
Lt Glenn E. Graham (POW) (Cruikshank crew)
Lt Maurice E. Beatty (KIA)
Lt John L. Hoerr (POW) (Brady crew)
Lt William M. Beddow (KIA)
As a consequence, out of the nearly 40 members of the Class of 43-B who replaced the original co-pilots of the 100th, only five completed their combat tours, they are:
F/O Charles A. Brooks January 14, 1944 No-Ball target (Reed)
Lt John H. Luckadoo Feburary 13, 1944 No-Ball No#120 (Dye)
Lt Edward K. Moffly Feburary 13, 1944 No-Ball No#120 (Carnell)
F/O Arch J. Drummond April 18, 1944 Berlin (Swartout)
2nd Lt Kenneth O. Blair CPT Transferred to 482 BOMB GROUP (Pathfinders)
In all, this class of pilots actually sustained approximately a 90% loss factor within the first four months the Group was operational. While many of the myths about the overall losses of the Hundredth are not supportable, it would certainly be interesting to compare the loss ratio of the Class of 43-B with any other group during a like period of combat.
John H. Luckadoo-temp promotion to Captain on 11 Feb 1944 O-798007
Major John Luckadoo
Interviewed on May 10, 2015 by Kelly Lambson for Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum
John Luckadoo, 93 years of age, United States Air Force. I was a B-17 pilot, Squadron Operations Officer in England with the 8th Air Force.
Tell me a little bit about what life was like for you Before the war say like 39, 40 before the attack on Pearl Harbor? Well prior to Pearl Harbor I was a hairy headed college student in my early well I was in my late teens and My best friend and I decided that America was going to become involved in a war. And we decided to go to Canada and join the RCAF a well Canadian Air Force and learn to fly. So that by the time America became involved we could transfer, we'd already have our flight training and we'd be a step ahead of all of our buddies, but I was a sophomore in college, at the University of Chattanooga, in Tennessee, when Pearl Harbor occurred.
So what happened after that for you? And what was the tone around your group of friends and what not? Well as I mentioned, my best friend and I had decided to join the RAF and we discovered quite surprisingly that it required parental consent because we were underage. And my friend Sully whose father had been wounded in World War I and died a horrible death of mustard gas was an only child. And he approached his mother and told her that what he wanted to do and she said well So if you feel like this is what you should do, then you have my blessing. And I pretty naturally or naively thought that well, I would approach my parents likewise and get the same result. I did from my mother but I did not from my father. My father thought I was idiotic and that it was a crazy thing to do and he said absolutely not. He would never give his consent. So my friend Sully went ahead and went to Canada and did get his training and qualified on Spitfire's and went through the North African Campaign and That's all another story, but we eventually actually got together in England during the war, which was quite an unusual thing to get to happen.
So you joined the aviation cadets? After that, after you couldn't get in. I did shortly after Pearl Harbor. Of course, when the United States did become involved it was obvious that we were all gonna be called up for military service if we were the proper age. And I was. So I wanted to learn to fly and did join the United States Army Air Corp, as it was known then, and was accepted as an Aviation Cadet. But because there were so many in the pipeline ahead of me they put me on furlough And for a couple of months and then finally called me. And I proceeded in early 1942, to Montgomery, Alabama to preflight training. Where I was selected as the wing adjutant of four thousand cadets. And we were there for six weeks. And then we proceeded to be divided up into various classes for primary training and sent to a primary training base, which I went to in Avalon Park, Florida, where I flew the old Steerman Yellow Peril, as it was called. The B- 17 that was built by Boeing. And actually, got my initial flight training there and was captain of my cadet class all the way through both in primary as well as basic and advanced. Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, attacked? I do, it was a Sunday afternoon that we got the news, and I was joy riding around the neighborhood with a group of my neighbor friends, when we heard it on the car radio. And just as Many people, particularly of my generation or my age, who had no conception of where Pearl Harbor was. But we did learn that it was in Hawaii and that it was a long way away. But still it was an affront and a direct attack on the United States and consequently We knew that we were in the war from that point on.
Why did you choose flying and not marines or something else? Why did you choose the flying? Well, flying appealed to me, of course. And since my best friend. Had gotten his flight training. I certainly thought i could do what he did and wanted to do the same thing. Flying in those days we naively thought was sort of glamorous and so it had a little more appeal from my standpoint and Slogging through the trenches or going to sea in the Navy or any of the other branches of the service. I never really considered any other services seriously. When you joined and you started going to train.
Tell us a little about that and was it hard? I had no difficulty whatsoever in mastering the technique required to fly the primary trainer and primary.
However when we got to Shaw Field South Carolina where I went for basic training. We got a much more powerful low wing airplane called Vultee BT-13. And it was 450 horsepower and we learned to night flight, and formation flying, and a lot of the other aspects. And I was having difficulty. Learning to really handle that airplane. It was handling me more than I was handling it. And we were allowed 12 hours of dual training to learn to master that particular type of aircraft. And proceed for the rest of the training. And I was approaching that 12th hour and I still had not sold all of it. When I had, at that point, I had a West Pointer who was my flight instructor. And he and I are really just didn't get along terribly well and I was not learning anything from him. But fortunately for me, and I think partially because I was the Capitan of the class, he stepped up and said, well. Before you wash him out, let me have him for 30 minutes. And if I can't get him through Then you go ahead and wash him out. Well, had I washed out, it have been something of a moral factor for the rest of the class I guess. I don't know this, but I think it probably would have been pretty natural for them to have assumed that. But he took me out, and he was a civilian instructor Had thousands of hours in this particular type of aircraft and he coud make it do anything. He was really superb and an excellent instructor. And he took me out, we went up and flew some dual Training for a few minutes and then he took me out to an auxiliary field. And he landed and he said I'm gonna get out and go over to that tree and smoke a cigarette. And if you can take this airplane up three times and circle the field and land it without killing yourself I'll pass you. So that was the gauntlet he threw down at me, and he went over and sat under the tree. I managed to get it around for three times, and make three landings, and he climbed back in the airplane and didn't say a word to me. They said, just motion for me to take it back to the base, which I did. And he passed me, otherwise I would've washed out in basic training.
Explain to someone who's never heard the term washing out what that means. Well washing out was that if you failed to solo or master the techniques of Flying a particular airplane then you were washed out or dismissed and sent to the infantry. So you were through flying training. Sometimes, if you were in pilot school and washed out, they would allow you to qualify for Being trained as a navigator or a bombardier and not washing completely out of the Air Force or the Air Corps.
Do you remember your first encounter with the B- 17? I don't remember it explicitly. I do recall That When 40 members of my graduating class were sent to the 100th bomb group, which later became known as the bloody 100th, they were stationed at that time. In Carney, Nebraska and all of the copilots in that group had accumulated more fight time in the B- 17 than most first pilots that were going overseas and they had given the group a mock Test flight to bomb San Francisco, which they had failed miserably. And therefore, they said, well you're not going overseas. But we are going to pull all of the copilots out and put these brand new graduated advanced students into the right seat of the B- 17. So, we were suddenly just stuck and this was less than 30 days out of flying school. It was an enormous airplane, quantum leap from the small twin engine AT 10s that we had flown in advance training So. It was a pretty rude awakening. Pretty shock that there was this huge four engine airplane with ten-man crew. Had 13 50 caliber machine guns mounted on it. And it was a war machine. It was known as the flying fortress and supposedly it could protect itself very adequately at high altitude and particularly in mass formation but it was virtually overwhelming We had no introduction to the aircraft, all 40 of us had no previous introduction to the aircraft at all. But some of us, and particularly in the crew that I was assigned to, encountered some pretty stiff resistance. From our resentment. Literally from the rest of the crew members because they had been all the way through their transitional training at B-17, preparatory to going overseas with the co- pilots that were pulled out. And to put a brand new, newly graduated shave tail in the right seat, some of them took a pretty dim view of it. And both the navigator and bombardier on the crew I was in were very disappointed. Because they really liked the copilot that they had that was taken away from them.
So what did you think of the B-17 when you first got your plane? What did you think of the plane overall? Fromthe very first time I ever got to fly it, which of course was at the behest of my pilot and he became my instructor. Because I had no other way of learning anything about the various mechanical, and electrical, and hydraulic systems. We had to do a lot of hurry up studying to learn how the airplane was put together, and how it operated and was supposed to operate, and what to do in emergencies And that type of thing. But from the very start, I was extremely impressed with the B-17 and its capability of flight, its handling characteristics. And I just thank my lucky stars that I had been assigned to fly A B-17 instead of a B-24.
And why is that? Well they were both comparable. The B- 24 was slightly faster. It had a speed wing. It was a boxy. We called it the boxcar, flying boxcar. It was not as graceful in flight as the B-17. And literally it did not withstand as much battle damage and still be flyable as the B17. But it did carry a heavier bomb load, it had a longer range. Was about five or ten miles faster. So it did have some advantages that the B- 17 didn't have. But I still preferred the B- 17 and still do to this day. What.
You mentioned a little bit, some of the good traits, but tell me some good traits of the plane and tell me some of the bad traits that. It might have had that you can think of? About the only bad trait that I ever encountered with the B17 was its tendency to drift on takeoff And this was an extremely critical, as far as having a full bomb load, and gas load, and taking off for a mission, and immediately transitioning to instrument flying, because of the weather. We were quite Shocked to arrive in England and discover that the weather was so miserable and awful. In many cases was the cloud cover was right down on the runway and so it necessitated our being able to fly instruments until we could climb up through the overcast and break out on top. And we had to do this quite frequently. In fact, more often then not. So we developed the technique of, and this wasn't taught us, but this was just something that my pilot and I had developed. And that is that Upon takeoff I would be assigned responsibility of keeping the airplane straight on the runway right down the center line and he would immediately go on to instruments so that he wouldn't have to be transitioning from visual flight to instrument flight. Because you have a tendency to get vertigo in that transitional process, and you don't know whether you're upside- down or downside- up. And consequently, we lost a lot of crews that didn't develop the technique that my pilot and I did. So, That was one of the characteristics that we had to overcome. Whether it was really a detriment or not, I don't know, because I think that probably any airplane, B-24 included, would suffer from the same thing.
How did you end up in Europe? How'd you get there and how did you end up there? We flew there. Eventually the group was released for combat training or our combat service and we were shipped out with brand new B17s We flew them to Newfoundland, Gander Lake, Newfoundland, and then from Newfoundland to Scotland across the North Atlantic, and landed in England and then proceeded to our base at Thorpe Abbotts.
Tell me about when you first got there, about those early missions where The British didn't want you to fly unescorted. Is that correct? It is correct. Yeah, tell me about that. We really as crewman had very little knowledge of the British attitude about how we were to be used as heavy bombers. They were desperate to have our support, and as a consequence, our group was sent to the combat zone really very ill prepared, very untrained. We had virtually no instrument training prior to going over. And so we had to teach ourselves and learn by experience which you have to learn pretty quickly or you don't survive. The British we learned much later were very adamant that having tried the daylight bombing The Germans were far too well- equipped and far too experienced. And they operated with air superiority, as we called it. They controlled the air spaces over occupied Europe, and the Head of the royal bomber command. Sir Arthur Harris was very vocal, we learned later. We didn't know this at the time, with our commander who would in the European theater was General Ira Aker and with the general of the air force who has Hap Arnold and trying to convince us that they should join the RAF and only doing night time bombing. Now, their night time bombing technique was vastly different from ours. We were going out in mass formations, for mutual protection. We were flying at much higher altitudes, from 25 to 29, 000 feet, as opposed to the REF, who were going out at night, single ships. They didn't fly in formation. You couldn't fly formation at night and so they were flying at lower altitudes from 12 to 15, 000 feet. And they were going in and bombing on path finder flares that they had proceeded to the group with and dropped those on the target and they would crisscross the target from various altitudes and various directions and bomb it that way. Our Air Force leaders maintained that this was saturation bombing, it wasn't strategic bombing. Where we were using the Norton bomb site and supposedly being much more particular in the targets that we bombed and the Damage that we were inflicting. We were both, of course intent on trying to break the German will to wage war. Both amongst the civilian population that supported the Nazis as well as the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht ground forces But still, how we did that and the master plan, was something that we were not privy to at all. We were simply told to go out and fly, we were told where to go, how to form up, and to Not drop our bombs unless we could visually identify the target. Well this caused us untold difficulty because often we would get to the target having fought our way all the way into across Germany and France to find that the target was completely obscured with clouds. And we would then have to divert to a secondary target. If that too was closed in, we had to bring our bombs back and drop them in the channel. Well, even though we got credit for combat mission by doing that, it was still very unsatisfying. And we knew that we'd have to go back the next day and subject ourselves to the same kind of dangers. And worse, because they would be better prepared for us the next time around.
When you finally got escorts, what kind of planes were escorting you? Initially, we were escorted only to the French coast, or the enemy cost by Spitfires. Of the RAF, and they were so limited in range that they were virtually ineffective. The first American escort that we have were P-47s, the Thunderbolt, and then we got some P-51s.And they too were limited in range. And it wasn't until well into my combat tour that they succeeded in arming those with drop tanks and extending their range. We also had some P-38s in the theater, that were supposed to escort us but very seldom did because they were much faster, they couldn't slow up enough to keep with us, they missed their rendezvous points with us, we're off in the knot and we just seldom saw P-38s.
How many bombs did you carry and what kind of bombs? We carried a variety of bombs, the B-17 could carry effectively about 6,000 pounds of bombs. Those could be 6, 1,000 pounds general purpose bombs like at the 500 pounds general purpose bombs. We also carry incendiaries, although they were lighter we would carry a lot more of them and we sometimes any personnel bombs but the B-24 by contrast could carry up to 8, 000 pounds effectively, so they were little more effectively from stand point of tonnage.
What were your targets? Our targets were varied, We bomb a lot of marshalling yards, rail road marshalling yards, electric plants, generating plants, chemical plants, manufacturing plants, such as ball bearing plants and aircraft plants We tried to bomb submarine pens because the submarine were such a menace in the North Atlantic and were sinking so much of our tonnage. But we were very ineffective with that because they had over 12 feet of concrete cover over their pens And we didn't have anything that was really too much more than dent it. We couldn't penetrate it. So we tried skip bombing into the throat of the pens and that was not effective either. So but our targets were generally manufacturing and The super structure of the Nazi machine. Electrical generating plants and marshalling yards and that sort of thing.
Did you have a name for your B-17? Okay, the name of the plane that we flew initially was called Sunny, S- U- N- N- Y. Which the pilot that I was assigned to named for his one son. He was married and had a kid And so he named the airplane for him, and that plane was lost when another crew was flying it, and the second plane that we got was Sunny II.
Tell me about the crew, get along with the crew, and were they good guys? Well, that's a good question, because We had no choice but to get along because we were encased in this fuselage going out and facing almost certain death. And every member of the crew had to depend on every other member to do their job. But as I mentioned earlier, The crew that I was assigned to, particularly the two officers, there were four officers on each crew. Pilot and copilot and the navigator and the bombardier. And the navigator and the bombardier were very close to the copilot that I replaced. And They didn't like me from the beginning. This got to be a little sticky, particularly when we debarked for overseas. We flew from Bangor Maine to Gander Lake Newfoundland and when we landed there we had to refuel. And we had to carry so much weight that unless we had a favorable tailwind we couldn't make it to Scotland. It was a twelve- hour flight over the North Atlantic and so we had to wait until the winds were just favorable before we could take off. So while we were waiting, The pilot I was assigned to took it upon himself to go across the base one night and he had a romantic encounter with a British WAFF and wound up in the hospital with a raging case of venereal disease. So the rest of the group proceeded to go on over. And we had to sit there for almost two weeks while he recovered in the hospital. And during that time it became more and more apparent that If we were gonna get across the North Atlantic, I was gonna have to fly the airplane. And sure enough, when he was finally released, because they only had sulfa then to deal with VD, he was so weak that we had to load him into the airplane. And so I call the Bombardier and the navigator aside. And I said, now you guys have given me holy hell up to now. But if I don't perform, we don't get there. But you, as the navigator, have got to hit landfall on the nose. Or I'm gonna throw your butt out of the airplane. Well that cleared the air a little bit because by the time we got to Scotland we were on a little better bases.
The anti aircraft fire and the flak. Tell me your first encounter of that, what was that like? You've heard about it. And you hadn't seen it yet, but describe that. The best word I could use to describe it would be petrifying. It was horrendous because as they fired these missiles up into the air and they exploded, they created a black puff. Fiery black puff. And you could see them all around them and the closer they got to the formation and to your particular aircraft. The shrapnel from that explosion just peppered the airplane, sounded like hail hitting the fuselage, because we had a metal fuselage and wings and you were defenseless against it. We could barely take any evasive action at all and still stay in formation so, we just had to sit there and pretty well take the onslaught of the antiaircraft And they were very adept. They had thousands of anti-aircraft guns protecting their targets and they could move them around on rail cars and on trucks. And so when we got to a specific target or en route to a target They could bracket us. And it was additionally thought that they could reach our altitude because we were flying. Of course we were on pressurized and we were flying it 25 to 29, 000 feet. But they reach our altitude very effectively, very easily and beyond. That was no problem for them. So as a result we actually lost as many airplanes to anti-aircraft as we did to fighters.
The 88 millimeter, was that the flak or was that separate? 88 millimeter In the aircraft? Well, that was a type of anti- aircraft. They had 88 millimeter but they also had 102 and 120 millimeter missiles that they were using against us.
Could the 88 millimeter even get to your altitude or would that Easily, easily. No problem. In fact, we learned later that they were radar controlled. They could pick us up and calculate how far in advance they had to fire the missile in order to be there when we arrived. And They had no difficulty, in fact, they had 12-year-old and 10-year-old Nazi youth just loading the guns because they were radar controlled, electronically fired, and they were just virtually automatic.
Have you ever encounter any German aircraft? We encountered plenty. The Me109 and the FW190 were their chief fighters against us. They were extremely effective, they were well equipped. Well- trained. They've been through the Battle of Britain, they had fought mostly on the Eastern Front, and been transferred to protect occupied France and Germany. They had aces that had, and they flew until they died. And they had their backs against the wall, they were protecting their homeland. And here we were, 3, 000 miles away, and they informed us in no uncertain terms that we were playing in their backyard.
How many planes were in your group? Was it, well our group actually consisted of four squadrons with 12 airplanes per squadron. Our normal formation for a mission, however, was only three squadrons of six ships each. So that was 18 airplanes. And then we had spares that would fill in the diamonds, or if we had anybody abort because of mechanical difficulty or any other reason. And they would fill in those spots, and otherwise they would return to base.
I'm gonna back up a little bit. When the mustangs finally arrived to be your escorts, how did that change things as far as when you bombed and how you bombed? Well, it only impacted how we flew our formations to the extent that Hopefully they could protect us and ward off the incoming fighters. However, they were so much faster than we. They had a limited amount of time that they could stay with us and then they would leave, and that's when the Luftwaffe would really pounce on us. The Luftwaffe also developed some techniques that were very devastating. One was initially the head- on attack. The 12 o'clock level, where they would get out in front of the formation in line abreast. Twenty or thirty of them and fly directly through the formation. And that was because at that time we were flying the B-17F which had no ability to fire directly forward. There was a window between where the upper turret and the ball turret could elevate and deflect And they would get right in that slot and just fly right through the formation. That was pretty devastating. They also were very effective in driving up behind the formation with their twin engine fighters, Me 110s and 210s. And lobbing rockets through us from the rear. And we couldn't reach them, because they were out of our gunner's range.
Can you share some of the stories of when you were being attacked from the front? What'd you see, what was it like? Well it was really scary. You didn't realize it but the closing rate between the fighters attacking you and the speed that which the formation was flying allowed only four seconds time lapse But their guns were effective on us. The rest of the time they under shooting or over shooting us. But they would just fly right directly through just like playing chicken. And they would fly directly through the formation and fishtail as they did and sort of spray the formation with their guns. But Those four seconds seemed like four years. It was an interminable period of time but we didn't realize that that was really what we were confronted with. All we could see was these flashes from their wings as they fired at us. And when you're looking right down the barrel of Of eight guns on each airplanes. It's pretty frightening.
So when you first started on your missions, and you're out there and you're encountering the enemy, the flak, the planes, did you ever think am I gonna make it to my 25 missions? Every time we went out. When you saw the damage that was inflicted by anti- aircraft and by the attacking fighters on the formation and on your own airplane to varying degrees. It was really very peculiar because in some cases some parts of the formation would receive concentrated fire and lot of damage where other parts of the formation would go practically unscathed and untouched and. Was a matter of luck, just pure luck as to whether you got back or not. And it didn't matter whether you were very skilled at what you were doing and how you were flying or not. But you had to have a guardian angel sitting on your shoulder.
Speaking of that, let's talk about October 8th. 1943 and that mission over Bremen? Bremen. Well that was the worse one that I flew and landed, combat tour of 25 missions. The crew that I had gone to Europe with had completed their tour. There was a standing operating procedure that when your crew led the mission, the copilot would be replaced by a command pilot who would be the commander of the entire formation. The copilot then would go back and fly the tail gun position. Well whoever dreamed that went up ought to be castrated because it was absolutely ridiculous to put a highly trained pilot in a tail gun position particularly owing to the fact that we had never fired a 50 caliber in our lives. My crew became a lead crew and so for five of the missions I either flew tailed gun or eventually I said, I'm not doing this anymore because I don't know what I'm doing and you were supposed to be the fire control officer for the rest of the formation. As far as the rear attacks were concerned. But you had no communication with anybody but the pilot over the intercom. And then he had to switch channels and radio the rest of the formation. Heck, by that time the danger was long past. So it was a, really a ridiculous, absolutely fool hardy idea that some arm chair general probably dreamed up. But any rate, after flying a couple of missions in the tail, I refused to fly anymore. And I said you can take my wings, or court marshal me, or do whatever you want to, but I'm not getting in the tail again. So the crew went ahead and finished their tour, and all except one gunner and myself, and they returned to the states as instructors. And so I still had the rest of my tour to fly. And on one of the first missions that I flew after they went home was this one to Bremen. And I was flying with a brand new crew that was on their first mission. And we were flying the, leading the low element of three airplanes in the low group, low squadron of the low group. That was called the purple heart corner because that was closer to the flak. And the fighters generally picked on the fringes of formation to try and Damage you enough to force you out so you couldn't keep up and then they could pick you off at will. But on this mission we turned on the initial point on our bomb run with 18 airplanes, and by the time we had dropped our bombs we had lost 12 out of the 18. The ship directly in front of me that I was flying on. I was right under the tail. I looked out of the corner of my eye and here came this flight of FW- 190s aiming right for us. And the lead plane impacted the plane in front of me. And they blew up, and so I ended up as the only flight leader out of the entire formation that was left flying when we dropped our bombs. So I fired a flare. And I lost an engine over the target from a direct flak hit. And I thought we're not gonna make it. We won't get back from this one but I managed to rally the five other airplanes that were still airborne and we tacked on to another wave of Bombers that were following us who had lost a complete squadron and we just filled in that squadron and left ditch and with their protection we managed to make it back, but that was probably the Nearest that I came to getting shot down.
Did any of those people in the other 12 planes, did any of them survive and make it after? Did they bail out or anything like that? Yes, out of the 12 that we lost right on the bomb run Several of those did make it back. But they were so badly shot up that they crash landed and the leader of the entire group landed at a. The copilot who was flying in the tail was badly injured. Took a 20 millimeter shell through his hip, and he was dying. And the crew barely made it back across the English coast. And they picked out an abandoned RAF field to land in And it only had one tree on the entire airport and they hit that tree. Just missed the cockpit by six inches.
That mission you were talking about, you explained to me how normally you're either getting just black because the German fighters don't fly when they're shooting up the flak at that particular day they're You had both fighters coming at you and flak. Yes. Normally, up to that time, when the fighters saw what our target was, the enemy fighters, the Luftwaffe, they would hold that because of the defenses, any aircraft defenses around the target. And not fly through their own flag because they could be hit just as easily as we if they did. But on this occasion, it was the first time we saw them actually attacking us right through the bomb run. And that was quite startling. They were not dissuaded from attacking us on the bomb run from then on through the rest of our combat.
Did you mention about, I know you mentioned about some people injured. In that mission, but did you mention the people that were injured in your plane? Yes, I had injured aboard my aircraft. I didn't have any fatalities, but I did have some injuries and I had the nose blown off of it with flak. And of course our temperatures at altitude were minus 50 to 60 degrees below zero. So I had to sit there for five more hours with my feet frozen to the rudder pedals. And I had to stay in frostbite in both feet. And that was the extent of my physical injuries during my entire combat tour.
When you're the nose got blown off your plane how'd you react to that and did the co pilot get hit with some flak? The bombardier did. Because he was in the nose. And that's his position. And he was badly injured, he wasn't killed but he was badly injured.
What did they say when you came flying in with that plane and the nose was off? Was it pretty rare to see a plane make it back with no nose. Well, it slows you up because of the wind resistance, but the cold, the bitter bitter cold blasts, Was devastating even though you had on heated boots and underwear and heavy sheepskin leather flying equipment. It's just very difficult to withstand that kind of torture. From the bitter cold that you have to endure for hours on end at high altitude.
Talk a little bit about how you got the attention of the other formation. You had mentioned that they didn't initially see you, but you got their attention. Yes, we had flares aboard that we could fire. To signal the rest of the formation that they should form on me. We also used those flares when we came back, if we made it back to the base to signify that we had wounded aboard before we landed so they'd be ready to take care of the wounded. Those were also used if you ditched in the channel in the North Atlantic. Fortunately, we didn't have to do that. But those are recognition flares. It's a gun that you fire a flare to attract attention.
So you'd mentioned you had an encounter with a German rocket plane or rocket ship or something. Well, we had a very brief encounter. I was flying back from a mission and it was my 23rd or 24th mission. I was almost through with my tour. And this was in late 1943. The Germans had developed a rocket ship called the Messerschmitt 163 that we had never heard of or had never seen, but we suddenly saw one dive through our formation. And didn't recognize what it was and didn't learn until we got back that they, intelligence had determined that they had perfected a rocket ship that could make one pass. They could climb up above the formation and dive through it and If they could take anything down well fine, if not, they had to go back and land. Because that was the extent of their range.
So it's pretty unique to see that? But that was the only encounter that I had. The Germans in 44 Developed a twin engine jet which was superior to anything that we had in the air force or that the British had. It was called a ME- 262. And I never saw one of those. But Had they been able to develop those and build them in quantity, the outcome of the war would have been quite different because we had nothing to compare with it.
So that first rocket plane was it called the ME 163? When did you learn that that's what it was? That you saw. In our deep briefing when we got back after the mission. Was there any other missions that you want to tell me about that were Memorable. I know you said all your missions are very memorable but was there any particular other stories that you think of? Well there was a time in November of 1943 when I had. When I came back from my Bremen mission they, operations officer of the 351st squadron had been in the plane in front of me that was impacted and blew up. So when I landed, the squadron commander. Met me and said, well where's Barker? Barker was the operations officer. And I said, well he's not gonna make it back because I saw them explode. He said, then you're the operations officer. So I became the operations officer of the 351st squadron at that point. About month after that, well it was about six weeks after that, I was in the Officer's Club one night and the squadron commander came up to me and he said, Lucky cut the bar off because you better go get some sleep you're flying tomorrow. And I said? He said, yeah, we're leading the group. And I want you to fly. Well, when the squadron was picked to lead the group, it meant that either the squadron commander or the squadron operations officer was the command pilot. In the lead ship, and I said, well, if we're leading, you ought to fly. You're supposed to fly. He says, yeah, I know, but I want you to fly. So I went to bed and got up the next morning, and went to the briefing, and here was General LeMay From third division headquarters, and I thought well, that's unusual. And so they pulled back the curtains, and here was a direct line to Berlin. And at that time, Goering had boasted that Berlin would never be bombed in the daylight. The British were bombing it at night. But it would never be bombed in daylight. Well this was a daylight mission to Berlin in November of 1943. And General LeMay said, you're the only group that's going to fly this mission. And instead of going in at the customary 25 to 29, 000 feet, we'd been, it's been forecast that all of Europe will be covered by solid cloud cast. And you're gonna fly just above the clouds at 12, 000. On your bomb run, you're gonna dive, penetrate the clouds and break out at 6, 000 feet over Berlin at high noon and bomb the Reichstag. Was a kamikaze mission. And so I looked up the squadron commander. And I said, you knew what this mission was and you're supposed to fly it. And LeMay says if they only get one ship over the target it will be a success. And I'm gonna be that ship. But when I get back, I better not see you. Well, he should have court- martialed me on the spot for insubordination. Of course, if he did, he would have to fly the mission. So he didn't. And we took off and climbed up through the overcast and broke out on top, and formed and hit the enemy coast. And they recall the enemy mission because the clouds had dissipated and our element of surprise was lost. So I landed and I went straight to the group operations officer and told him just exactly what had happened. And I said I want to transfer, I can't work for somebody like that. And he said well I don't blame you. But would you be the squadron operations officer of the 350th? And I said you betcha. So that's how I became the operations officer of the second squadron and I think probably I don't know of anybody else who was ever operations officer of two squadrons.
Wow. There's a term you said earlier, the Bloody 100th. How did that name come about? And why? Well it came about initially because in the early days when we only had the spitfires trying to escort and not doing At that time crew wasn't expected to last more than four missions. So the lifespan of a crew was expected to be four or few live more longer than that you were on borrowed time. But the group really got the reputation of being the Blood Hundredth because on the mission to Regensburg in August, August 17th of 43, which General LeMay led, We had sort of an unwritten code of the air that if you were so badly damaged that you knew you couldn't make it back to base, you could lower your wheels And signify to the Luftwaffe that you were surrendering. That was not established, it was just sort of the code that we thought would work and usually did. And they'd just escort you to the nearest base, and you'd be captured, and Become POWs. Well, on that particular mission to Regensburg the rumor got out that there was a crew from the 100th that lowered their wheels when they were shot up and when the fighters, the escort came up to lead them to the nearest Enemy field. The gunners shot the fighters down. And that's therefore, the 100th was a marked group as far the Luftwaffe was concerned. Well, they did an awful lot of research and discovered that the crew that claimed that this happened to was not even in the area but. This supposedly took place and it never did happen. But we got the reputation and we still have it to this day, never lived it down. So they tagged us as The Bloody Hundredth, and The Bloody Hundredth we are.
How did the war end for you? Well, my war ended when I completed my 25th mission, which was February 13th of '44, four months before D- Day. I knew that D- Day was going to be The invasion was going to take place and I really wanted to be a part of it. And so when I flew my 25th mission, the group commander said well I want you to stay and command the squadron. And I said, well will I still have to fly combat if I do? And he said well yeah, when you lead Well either you or the operations officer will be the command pilot. And I said, well what's my alternative? And he said, well, we can send you back to the states as an instructor. And I said, how soon can you cut my orders? I figured if I had just survived 25 with the Bloody 100th, I wasn't gonna push my luck any further. So that's when it ended for me personally. But when the war ended, of course, I was back in the States and ironically, one of the first things that happened to me when I got back was, I was assigned to an instrument pilot school down Bryant Texas to learn the fly instruments. And I said, for God's sake, I needed this before not after. But I created, I was stationed at McDill field, and created a combat crew inspection program to check out replacement crews that were going over. And Gave them some pretty rigorous check out to determine that they were combat ready or not. But we never got the benefit of anything similar to that before we went over.
And how long were you in the military then when you came back? You were in a long time Well in 1946 they, the Air Force became, 1947, became a separate service. And they offered certain reserve officers who could pass an examination A regular commission and I was in the first group to accept a regular commission. And they had a program that they instituted that as a regular officer. Regular Air Force Officer you could go to any college in America. On full pay and allowances, including flying pay. So since I had left college in my Sophomore year, I wanted to get my degree. And I said, well, I'll apply for that, which I did, and was accepted. And applied to Stanford, and they accepted my credits, and I was all ready to go. Back to college and never got any orders. So I flew down to The Air University in Maxwell,who administered the program and asked them why. I said I've been accepted and waiting to get my orders and they've never come, what's going on? And they said well, how old are you? I said I'm 26. And they said well, we have an age limit of 32 in this program. And I said okay, what's the problem? They said well the problem is that there's so many in the pipeline ahead of you that if they don't get in they lose out. I said, well, I see where that takes care of their situation, but it doesn't answer my need. How long will I have to wait? They said, well, it looks like just before your 32nd birthday. I said, you mean I'm gonna wait 12 years to go back and hit the books? And they said, yep looks like it. So I went back and I was stationed at Carswood Fort Worth at the time with eighth air force headquarters. And I decided that I could go back under the GI bill on my own as a civilian. So I submitted my resignation and got out of the Air Force and went back to college and got my degree.
Tell me about the visits you've made back over to Europe and what not in the last, I think you said you did this 60, What was it, 68? The 68th anniversary of D Day, but in 1950 when I graduated from college, my wife and I took a sabbatical. She had grown up in Europe. She was the daughter of a diplomat, American diplomat And so she was fluent in French and German and we decided that we would go to Europe. I had never set foot on the continent. All my tour had been before The invasion, so I really wanted to go back to Europe. So we did, on our own, and spent about three months travelling around in France and seeing the bomb damage that we had done, cuz it was only five years after the war. And through Italy and Spain and then came back to the states. But then in 2012, I was invited by the Greatest Generation Foundation out of Denver to accompany a group of 12 veterans to attend the 68th anniversary of the invasion. Of D- Day along with 12 Air Force Academy cadets, 2 of which were female and they were the same age then as we were when we were over there fighting the war and we went for a 12- day trip And then two years later, last summer, I was invited again to go back with a group of 28 D- Day veterans. And we got to Go to the ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary that was attended by 18 heads of state including the President of the United States, Queen of England, President of Russia, Chancellor of Germany and Queen of Belgium and Denmark and 18 foreign countries, and then we, Were billeted while we were there we were there for two weeks and for nine days we stayed with French families. And that was quite an experience particularly because the young couple that My travel mate and I were billeted with didn't speak a word of English. And they had been chosen from over 600 families that had applied to be our hosts. But they supposedly were selected Provided they spoke English and provided they could accommodate us on the first floor because we were all in our 90s or late 80s or early 90s and come to find out this young couple. They were delightful but didn't speak a word of English So we were really kind of nonplussed to communicate. But we worked it out because they had an iPad. And we could type in what we wanted to ask or say and punch a button and have it translate it for us. And they did the same in return and they could also do it on their rifles when they traveled around the countryside with taking us to various places that we had to go. Isn't technology great? When you can do stuff like- Well it is, and it was really remarkable because two years earlier when we'd been there, that wouldn't have been the case. It kind of makes us lazy in some ways because we don't learn the language but there's a way to communicate. Well it was just a life saver in our case though because the French were extremely gratified to and grateful to be able to express their appreciation for our liberating their country and saving their Their freedom.
Let's go over your awards and honors that you received. Well for completing 25 missions we got an air medal with three oak leaf clusters. And if you live through 25 you receive the distinguished flying cross. While I was in France last summer, I was very privileged to have received the French Legion of Honor.
A Presidential Citation, was that one? Yes, we had a Presidential Unit Citation given to the group, and we're entitled to wear that. Also the European Victory Medal and European Theater Medal and the American Theater Medal.
What would you tell younger people about war? This has troubled me since I've attained my I guess venerable age of 93, is that war is futile,foolish. There's no victors, there are only victims. And sadly There are occasions when if you are attacked or if you have to defend your homeland, your justified in resorting to battle. But actually, if you look at history and you go back To the beginning of time wars have not accomplished anything. And it's just so sad that it inevitable wipes out the prime generation of any society. So I am appalled that diplomacy fails to resolve differences and wars result. But. I'm certainly not a pacifist but by the same token I realize the futility of it.
What would you tell younger people about flying? Well I'm a great advocate of flying and I think that It is exhilarating. I flew several different types of aircraft, certainly propeller driven. I have since flown jets but not in the military and probably my most rewarding flying Was as a sailplane pilot, when I competed in sailplane contest without an engine. You get towed up to about 3, 000 feet and your peddling your skills against the elements and that's extremely challenging. And exhilarating and to hear nothing but the wind whistling over the canopy is just a thrill of a lifetime. So I think flying is a great discipline, but we're on the brink I think of. Probably as far as military aircraft and approaching if not attaining unmanned vehicles. I did get to fly a B-17 last year.
Yeah, tell me about that. Okay I was at my 70th group reunion. And they wanted to interview me for a documentary that was being made. And offered me a ride in a replica of the Memphis Belle. Which repeatedly was the first airplane or first crew to finish the tour in Europe. Actually it wasn't but that was the legend. And I said well, I'll be willing to be interviewed if you let me fly the airplane. And they said, okay. And I said, wait just a minute. I've been trying for three years to get someone to let an old duffer of 90 get his hands on the B- 17 again. And there's always been some last minute excuse that The FAA won't allow it or they got too much liability for insurance company to accept. Something like that and I don't want to get all the way to Savannah and then have you disappoint me. I said no we're gonna let you fly it. So by golly they did. We took off, and the pilot crawled out of the seat, and he said it's yours. So I really got my hands back on the controls of that sweet B-17, which I love, for about 20 minutes and flew it all around Savannah.
Tell me the story about the Enola Gay Well, I was stationed at McDill Field in 1945, latter part of '45 when they, and I had transitioned to B-29s In fact it was before the war was over in the Pacific. And I was just preparing to have to go fly another war in the Pacific in B- 29s when they called me one day and said we've got a ship we want you to take out to Peyote Texas. To the graveyard. And I went down and said okay and I went down and okay and looked up on the nose and here's the Enola Gay. And I thought my goodness, they're junking this? But yours is not the question of why in the military, it's to do or die so I cranked it up and I flew it out to Peyote and when I parked it there was a shiny, new B- 29 right next door to it. And I curled up in the cockpit and it had three hours and 25 minutes logged on it. It had been flown from the production line in Washington to Spokane to the graveyard. But ultimately the Smithsonian thought that the Enola Gay should be put on display. So they went back out and put it back together again and flew it up to Washington where it is today.
So I wonder how far it was dismantled by the time you realized. Well they don't risk dismantle them. What they do is they pull the props off and they drain all of the fluids. And they wrapped the engines in plastic and so it wasn't, and it wasn't there that long. I don't know really how long it actually rested there but it wasn't too long and so it hadn't begun. The worst enemy of course are the elements really Fuselage corrodes. The metal corrodes and the instruments deteriorate pretty badly. So that, if you wanted to refurbish it, you have to do a very thorough job of rebuilding the aircraft. And they didn't do that with the Enola Gay.