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Group History

Big Joe Armanini Interview

Big Joe Interview—NOTE:   QUALITY OF VIDEO IS TERRIBLE, WHAT IS TRANSCRIBED BELOW ARE PIECES OF PHRASES MESHED TOGETHER FROM WHAT CAN BE DECHIPHERED.

Video 1

Interviewee:  [First 40 seconds unintelligible] I say you ‘re a nice guy…

Interviewer:  [Something about when the plane hit the water] Some of the crew got out, plane went in and went down fast. So they moved everybody out of that nose. Yeah.

Interviewee: In fact Bill said.

Interviewer: The only things we can check, let me check if I have it here.

Interviewee: We came right into San Francisco when we landed.  We got about 32,000 feet. We came down and Jesus.

Interviewer: Tell me about Reed [Victory Reed Crew-Big Joes first Crew}

Interviewee: I met Reed at Salt Lake City, nice person.

Interviewer: Really?

Interviewee:  Nice guy you know.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Interviewee:  When we got together he was married, his father owned oranges.  What do you think we should do? And all the other guys were younger.  Let’s go do that, lets do this thing.  You guys are never happy you’re always pissed off.

Interviewer:  Did they paint the plane?

Interviewee:  Yeah, San Francisco.

Interviewer: Correct.

Interviewee:  Three commanders, everybody came in.  It scattered all over the place I’ll never forget the hotel there. Myself, my own mother.  Then we hit the town.  And then we had a mission over Santa Cruz where I was born, then we dropped some bombs, and then we landed in San Francisco.  Then we landed in Nebraska.

Interviewer: Turner.

Interviewee: He almost got arrested.  Jim Brown, myself, Joe Kelly, come out were just three guys.  I’ll never forget , Joe is hugging a tree I say “what the hell you thinking?” I’ll never forget the next day.  We flew there, then we flew to Iceland. Anyway, these guys 4,5 years I say you guys could just die.  Then I say “oohh.”  So then we took off and landed and we stayed over at Thorpe Abbott.  You can’t fish it was awful.  I’m trying to remember the first mission.  

Interviewer:  29th…

Interviewee:  Cause I went to gunnery school, I got real close.  By the time they crashed the plane.

Interviewer:  Peter Thrornhill, let me check that.

Interviewee:  I was a Major, I finished the tour.  In Connecticut and it was hot as hell and I went to go have a Budweiser because the war has been over.  So they said I’m going to meet General…California…my mother was fast,…couple hundred bottles of perfume.  That’s how I got back I mean.  Back to town.  Four guys.  Liverpool hotel.  So I said…when I get back to the states.  But I flew with somebody, a lieutenant, five guys on the plane.  I didn’t believe him, we were talking about the atomic bomb. Anyway so Connecticut.

Interviewer:  Tell me about…

Interviewee: Gunnery school, they were 42 and the sister was married to the movie actor.  I said I’d never forget that guy, the perfume.  So I’m down there I met a guy, on the bus, he had a son who was killed.  She said you know I was in service in the 100th and this was the kid’s mother talking to me. I said Taylor. It’s a funny thing.  I couldn’t get over that. 

Interviewer:  You remember that collision, that clash?

Interviewee:  You bank it and the thing lifts.  Back and forth.  Another one was …who got shot down in the practice mission.  I don’t know what it looked like, I took off put the guns down, never took off, it isn’t  thing, we took off, some of the guys wanted to fly.  Howard said to me “hey Joe.”  So we turned around and come back and I  said. This is on the fifth floor.  I didn’t think he had his guns with him.  We come lower and I didn’t see it.  Id never forget it.  Where the hell is it?  I cant think of the name.  I’ll never forget it.

Interviewer:  Yeah, last name is Flesher.

Interviewee:  I’ll never forget it, scared the shit out of me.  He came up on the side.

Interviewer: Yeah

Interviewee:  Poor guy, stories about him.  He landed his plane.

Interviewer:  What I heard it was the 40th mission and the navigator got out of course and they landed the B-17 he thought they were in Sweden but the navigator you wont see it in any history books.  I was going to ask.  This is Victor Read. Go.

Interviewee:  Throw the guns out Sergeant.  In his chest was a piece of flak.  Food. 

Interviewer:  Did he get it right after that point?

Interviewee:  He didn’t have to fly it wasn’t the court martial’s decision,  cause it was a volunteer.

Interviewer:  He got out though.  What point did you end up in Bard’s crew.

Interviewee:  He needed a bombardier, he missed the target by 6 miles.  In fact he was a swamper. He went to Stafford, he was a nice guy.  He has an oozy side.  We were good friends.  We had a mission.  That’s when Howard became the navigator of Sam’s crew.

Interviewer:  What

Interviewee: He got hit in the hand.

Interviewer:  How?

Interviewee:  We were flying over Paris, flying east, flak, stuck his hand out, blood all over the place.

Interviewer: You got to show me at some point, at the reunion in Fort Worth.

Interviewee:  That’s about the only time we’d get involved.  I was working at that time.  They say “hey.”  I’m at 60 sometime.  What the hell?  Comon pick it up for Christ’s sake.  For the kids.  My wife was…we planned trips to an Francisco three times because of the kids.  One time we were trying to fly to Italy because of my kids.  My kids are all over the place.  Really sweet person.  Scared about the vast people.  At the end of the station.

Interviewer: Really?

Interviewee: Yeah.

Interviewer: Splasher?

Interviewer:  He finished the missions, he was one of those ones that when the crew went down.

Interviewee:  Drink down like that. Sipping it.  No drink it.  You get the real flavor if you sip.

Interviewer: Tell me about Sam

Interviewee: Sam was smart, a brilliant person.  His brother was killed in a B-25.  He playing with the mule, he was just fantastic.  We all loved Sam, you couldn’t find a person nicer than Sam.  South of the…

Interviewer:  No but he rose up quickly

Interviewee: He was fantastic, all the way to Regensburg.  I fly.  You’re a first lieutenant.  My dad was born.  And as a matter of fact.  Where? I said “down in Africa?”

Interviewer: Did you get first lieutenant?

Interviewee:  Then to Marrakesh, nothing wrong about it. 15 days. P-52.  Bill and …was there.

Interviewer:  Jack?

Interviewee:  When you gunna drop those bombs? Cause there’s flak all over the place. It’s hot as hell.  You can get a little. So we stayed overnight.  Marrakesh, jeez.  Peanuts.  Where are the peanuts?  Typical French.  Like in Paris.  Nice town.  When I was in there…I said we have to talk about.  And so I said hey.  I see the sun.  Covered with flies…I bought a bunch of stuff there.  Anyway they’re outside the walls.

Interviewer:  Oh Lepers?

Interviewee:  They’re hideous sons of bitches…red blue all different colors.  So we went to the house.  Beautiful.  All tile, all glazed.  Anything that comes through the gate has to get 10%.  Now you’re going in there Joe.  We took off, I forget what day it was, at night.  And back into Thorpe Abbotts in the morning.

Interviewer:  Tell me about…

Interviewee: Everybody rushed to take the place.

Interviewer:  How much could you see from where you were in the high squadron?

Interviewee:  I would see a lot.

Interviewer:  Knox?

Interviewee:  Oh he is up ahead.  Biddie is up ahead.  We all left together.  Air Force base.  It was a beautiful day.  I was wearing slacks.  “Alright you!” Hey we just got back.  Catch a bus otherwise.  Other crap I’ve never heard of before.  We started  marching.  We didn’t have jumpers, we didn’t have anything. It was awful.  Typhoid shot.  Got pulled out of the barracks I was shaking so bad. Took me to the hospital.  Go to the bathroom.  I’m sorry.  Get out or I’m going to throw you out.  So he goes.  He’s a sergeant and you’re going to throw me out of bed.  I can get out of bed.  Two days later.  Every night.  Anyway I get to …paradise you couldn’t believe and they made a movie.  What’s your name.  We’re the lost battalion.  I’ll never forget it.  Alright.  Beat the hell out of you.  For an hour.  Nice guy, “forward march!”  So they guys walk right in to…”Can’t you obey orders?” I said…PE and PE you had to…So I never was last. The lower group. They made you do all the damn…And I was going to have to go back to base again. Alright…and you’re supposed to get off your bunk…you hadn’t made your bed yet.  I said no I don’t mind.  One was Joe and the other was…I can’t remember if you’re not quick. You’re sure.  No you guys are not going to make it.  So that was my day.  San Francisco.  So I went back.  4 or 5 weeks.  The world’s record.  It was 100 some thing degrees, we were wearing not summer clothes, it was hot as hell.  Have you ever been?  You took all your clothes off except your shorts.  It’s 130 degrees you got to get a cold towel.  

Interviewer:  Is that where you met Bill the first time?

Interviewee:  No, I met him the first time at bombardier school.  They’d come in and check it.  Because they didn’t know…the box. 

Video 2

Interviewer:  In this photo who am I looking at in this photo?

Interviewee: Me, Sanders, who’s this guy?

Interviewer:  Not S.R. Turner is it?

Interviewee:  No.  He probably had this made himself.

Interviewer:  Tell me about…

Interviewee:  It was overcast bad, and we wanted to be with the wave.  Two guys ahead of us.  100 mph.  And if one burst came up.  I said “Jesus Christ!”  We’re going to hit that right on the nose.  When are we going to drop the Goddamn bombs?

Interviewer:  And that’s that photo there?

Interviewee: He was supposed to be the cool one.

Interviewer: Well I guess…

Interviewee: He scared the hell out of me too.

Interviewer:  Some actions Joe.

Interviewee: I said it’s your fault.  Well its typical. 

Interviewer:  Oh great you so just happened to…

Interviewee:  A whack in the face and she started crying.

Interviewer:  What was that the Melody Club?

Interviewee:    Roast beef is their specialty.  Is this during the war or after the war.  

Interviewer:  Looks like a young lady gave you this invite.  And then you got two for the melody club.

Interviewee:  Every Monday you’d come down.

Interviewer:  Still looks the same though.

Interviewee:  I got pictures of me, coming down in fact.  We were all talking and the guy said…this is Milwaukee.

Interviewer:  John Gibbons.

Interviewee: I said what’s the date I don’t remember him from the 100th.  

Interviewer:  I don’t know why you didn’t meet John.  Then he flies February.  Good person, good people, he’s funny.  He is something else.

Interviewee:  He landed, came into the officers club. Great guy from Milwaukee.  I said you know, he said “I know” at 350 miles per hour.  

Interviewer:  How about that fighter that was coming in.

Interviewee: Gets back to base, at the bar.  Get smashed.  

Interviewer:  He was quite an ace…part of Wolf pack.

Interviewee:  Flying north.

Interviewer:  How about in your fighter?

Interviewee:  Coming straight in, the funny thing, no one got even touched not even scratched.  Flying from Nebraska …Salt  Lake City and just before we get to Salt Lake City…awful terrible thing.  

Interviewer:  Well they weren’t all pissed for nothing..

Interviewee: Engineer.   Open the bomb bay doors, lift the bomb up.  I’m not going to do it.  You’re in a fighter not a bomber.  I’d understand. Open up.  Now you’re the bombardier now God Damn it tell me when.  Steady, not yet, okay drop it.  And it lands in the damn river.  What the hell’s the matter with this guy? Plus the 100 pound bomb…he said Joe it’s just luck, I thought about what a jerk I was.  

Interviewer: Now when I looked at it, it looked like he flew some missions.

 

Interviewee:  Gunnery school, in fact they…

Interviewer: You lost 3 crews

Interviewee: Yeah, that’s when we fell behind.

Interviewer: It looks like you flew 5 missions and ended up on Bard’s crew.

Interviewee: You couldn’t believe it… it was just like the right thing.  

Interviewer:  Screwed up on the ground, because the German fighters were able to take off.  And go in there.

Interviewee:  Once we got over the coast.

Interviewer:  Then you came back and everybody came on it.

Interviewee: Of course everybody wanted to be on it.  Then they cancelled the mission, then I flew…I forget…Over the North Sea got to…missing the target, you couldn’t hit the target

Interviewee:  Tell me who you liked in the squadron…as the squadron CO how was Bill as the squadron CO?

Interviewee:  Very nice guy good sense of humor…Joe Kelly, I think I kind of pissed him off a little bit.

Interviewer:  Squadron commander then raked a wing

Interviewee:  I don’t know where he went off to, and after the war…

Interviewer:  Yes

Interviewee: But how? He was injured.

Interviewer:  In the 50s he went to the rank of full colonel and went on to Hughes Corp.  Became a general.  I think Bennet did, didn’t he?

Interviewee:  Yeah he was a general.

Interviewer:  Eagan? Yeah at the Pentagon, had a heart attack and passed away.

Interviewee: What happened to Sam Turner?

Interviewer:  I never saw him at any reunions I went to so its hard to get a run down…Air Force magazine, an article on him when he had to crash land the plane.

Interviewee:  He became a dentist after the war.  Just about two days before…Happy-go-lucky guy.  

Interviewer:  Ran off the runway one time.

Interviewee:  Had the billiards shot.

Interviewer:  Nobody was killed.

Interviewee:  They used to do that.

Interviewer: You were also there when Frank crashed. 

Interviewee: The rest of the way.

Interviewer: Right, yeah I know.

Interviewee: One went South, triangle.

Interviewer: I don’t know why they would use those short…what do you think?

Interviewee:  They’d use the short runway….

Interviewer:  Your first…what was September like you came back you’re now flying missions again.  Paris was one of them.

Interviewee: Paris was one of them I can remember blood, but I remember giving him an injection in his hand.   But I know..

Interviewer:  Coming back after your furlough…

Interviewee: God coming back you hear the phone calls, Jesus Christ.

Interviewer:  Very few…the crews that were left at that point.

Interviewee:  I remember the station…go to station and come back.  Sam and I…I don’t know anybody else…train station…I don’t remember what I flew after the 17th  

Interviewer:  Which one?

Interviewee:  A big explosion, I said I have to find out...I should’ve nailed it that one was my fault move more to the right I know where I’m going there was no air cover I know where he was going.

Interviewer: Hit with flak, a little bit low…bubbles did you know him?

Interviewee: Navigator, they’re all…

Interviewer: Who was your closest when you were over there?

Interviewee: Cadet school. 

Interviewer: Did any of the bombardiers like Douglas people?

Interviewee: He was in my graduating class.

Interviewer:  Hamilton.

Interviewee: Hamilton, I’d say 50 to… we were supposed to have the bombardiers 

Interviewer:  Why not?

Interviewee: Since he had military..

Interviewer:  About when you went to wing? Your job? That you picked?

Interviewee:  Flying box

Interviewer: Really? Right.

Interviewee: Big holes in the wing, gas…

Interviewer: Chopped up with your engines out

Interviewee: Unbelievable

Interviewer:  Now you had to go to the 92nd and fly 24s

Interviewee: Practice missions, those guys you know the bombardiers…target 

Interviewer: 92nd combat wing

Interviewee: The various wings

Interviewer: This will all start. The third air division, Eldon then Hall?

Interviewee: Who the hell is that?

Interviewer: When did that process start?

Interviewee: The next morning, we worked late sometimes until 9

Interviewer: If you worked till 8

Interviewee: You knew if you s=failed or if some guy screwed up. Bombardiers…

Interviewer:  Bombardiers of the different group?

Interviewee:  If you watched the land

Interviewer:  How many missions?

Interviewee: If he decided so

Interviewer: You didn’t…what pubs did you decide to go on?  What was the place close to Horum...what pubs were close in the area?

Interviewee: We didn’t drink that much the night before because you know when you have that Scotch

Interviewer:  It wasn’t drank yet

Interviewee:  I cant remember the towns we used to go to. I’d feel sorry I thought it was…And a lot of women were next to us. right next to the farms…a whole meal. Cigarettes.. 

Interviewer: Did you do your laundry all the time?

Interviewee: Guys were washing it in gasoline. but you didn’t need it all the time.  Boxing…SPAM...losts of gum

Interviewer: They still have SPAM. lots of gum chewing. And did kids come around d the base at that time?

Interviewee: Butter balls were popular..

Interviewer:  Forever yours. what did you like?

Interviewee:  The one I liked had peanuts. I still do…Peanuts…

Interviewer: Oh yeah

Interviewee: Little hearts… you still have that

Interviewer: Shooting the pheasants

Interviewee:  You had forests and ferrets, we’d shoot pheasants …I wouldn’t eat that…French toast

Interviewer:  They tell you if it was powdered?

Interviewee: How do you like that? Upside down..

Interviewer: Very dry humor

Interviewee:  He as quite a guy though I’d tell ya, he’d go visit all those guys. I wrote a terrific eulogy...I’m sad about him..

Interviewer:  Very tough

Interviewee: Used to call me a 70 year old woman

Interviewer:  Nashville.  Her son cam out to Nashville.  We didn’t expect either one. it was great to see them.. She’d been sick for a couple years. the daughters…its as just a wonderful thing.

Interviewee:  Christmas. I say we take double shots? 

Interviewer:  You have a big family?

Interviewee: My nephew married a Japanese girl in Hawaii

Interviewer: They’re gorgeous girls

Interviewee: My son married a Chinese girl…

Tape 3

 Interviewee:  …till you sign and report back to the office again.  And then it goes on to say “You’re lastly empowered to part your society to part your register.”  Ya know. Well I didn’t get in that…um….so I…and then you’re supposed buck in or you’re supposed to take buses…You’d have breakfast and then, and then you’d take a bus with a fifteen minute schedule to the various places they’d went to and then they’d give you the time you could leave to go to your….Sacramento or wherever the hell you’re supposed to go.  Courtly order…and what the hell that is… This really cracks me up…

Interviewer: What’s that?

Interviewee:  This is a taxi…

Interviewer:  Oh the taxi one?  The taxi ad?  Oh yeah that is the, uh, that is definitely the ad.  The old bears and stripes.  Cause I could just see somebody doin….taxi.  Ya know?

Interviewee:  The bloody Yanks.

Interviewer:  Yup.  The guy hanging out of the tail of the plane.

Interviewee:  Yeah (laughs) the guy lookin’ over here.

Interviewer:  Yeah the guy that’s sittin’ down there like “Uh wanna light my cigarette for me?  Uh um…taxi!”  Joe, question for ya:  Did they, uh, did you have ever missions during that time period where you flew with other crews or with other lead crews.

Interviewee:  Uh well I flew with Kid the last mission.  Kid and uh, Hardy.  That was the last mission flew.  Was there anybody else?  I can’t think of anybody else that flew.  We didn’t like to like to fly with anybody else.

Interviewer: Right.  I just figured since you were a lead bombadeer was there a thing where there was a call from…

Interviewee: Naw I was …. Flew with Sam when I became a lead bombadeer.  That’s the only guy I can think I started flying with.

Interviewer:  Cause interestingly enough, I’m missing three of his missions, and one of your missions has gone to Bremen.  And it doesn’t have it on his listing of going to Bremen that day.  That might be one of the  three missions that we’re missing out of his form fives.

Interviewee:  Cause I didn’t fly with anybody else.

Interviewer: Kay.

Interviewee:  I wouldn’t liked to fly.  The fact that’d I’d have to fly with Kid I didn’t like that either.  That has nothin’ to do with those Tokyo tanks, but I mean…I just,  ya know there’s a superstition ya have, ya know.  Stick with the guy that brung ya to the tents.  …the times of my mission.  He came back an each time he said, “well, our left engine wasn’t sounding right, and I didn’t want to go in and jeopardize the crew.”  The second time was something else.  Another time was something else.  And I think, Hurley, he was our engineer.  I’ll never forget: the guy walks away and he says, “there’s nothing wrong with these engines….that’s what….cure.”  I never forgot that.

Interviewer: Yeah, Hurley, he was your guy.  He was your head of engineering for the 349th, correct?

Interviewee: Never forgot that .   And we didn’t want to fly with…and then the last mission when we got hit with a piece of fack…flack, and he panicked, threw everything out.   Threw the guns out…you throw the guns out, you’re nuts.  Keep to defend ourselves.  And uh, so when he got finished he quit.  He didn’t fly anymore.  I wonder what happened to the guy….Married one of the wealthiest girls in southern California, still, in Orange County.  You know, all the…girls out there, she was 18 years old.  Couldn’t cook with a crap.

Interviewer: Didn’t have to with all that money.

Interviewee: None of them could.  We went to the pier, we all lived in the same house, ya know.  Four wives and four guys.  No, it was five guys, because four were married.  We…no…even less than that because Kelly and I weren’t married, and um, I had to cook.  And we’d cook spaghetti.  How do you cook the spaghetti?  How do you make that sauce? …didley squat.  …the funny thing about this, here’s a story about this.  At the …field, Joe, Kelly, and I got our shots.   And they wanted them cause typhoid is what it used to knock me flat on my back all the time.  And then I forgot, we were gonna say, Joe’d say, “Ya know one day we’ll sit in the bar, and get, feelin’ pretty good cause then we won’t, the shots won’t affect us.  So we around, 12 o’clock, said “I think we’ll go lay down first.”  So I go over to my barracks, Bill Q, and there’s my pilot and his wife in my sack.  And the co-pilot and his wife in the other sack.  And I said, “What are you guys doin’ here anyway?”  “We’re just so cold across the…” uh, they used to have to sleep over by where all the whores were across the street there.  What first was Utah and then over here was Nevada.  Nevada, just this line, it’s about this far, prostitutes, this side, saints.  And “ ya know, we just didn’t want to stay over there by ourselves.”  I said “oh good, just stay there.”  So I went back….stuck with the officer’s club.  Never forget…

Interviewer:  Who was your ground crew personnel?  What do you remember about those guys?

Interviewee:  They were great.  They were terrific.  Hurley…he kept those planes goin’.  Oh I’ll tell ya how they did…they were workin’ midnight in the rain and in all that crap to keep a plane….and were in the officer’s club drinking and we’re going to bed at whatever it was time and then the guys came by say “Time to get up.”  2o’clock in the morning , “Time to get up.”

Interviewer: Now, when he knocked on the door, what was his comment every morning?  Did he have any special saying?

Interviewee:  He’s say, “Lieutenant….time.”  That’s all he’d say is “Time.”  I said, “I was awake already…all I hear are those “putt putts” going on…they’re running the engines ya know.  I was wide awake.  First we’d go to breakfast, and then I’d come in the  room and say, the Dallas Cowboy’d say, “how do you like your eggs?”  I’d say “cooked.”  Boy well I know cooked but, over one side….one side lookin’ at ya, one side looking down….and then we’d go to briefing.  And then you’d look at the, they’d pull the thing back…curtain…and you’d see the big, long line o’em.

Interviewer: Anytime that you saw that big long line that you didn’t feel to good?

Interviewee:  No God… the last one, I said told ya I wasn’t gonna fly.  I was gonna go to Poland.  I was supposed to get a milk run, ya know, like eh, ya go across this channel, drop your bombs, come back home.  Yeah I’ll never forget it.  ...comes ya have to go.  I’m not flyin’ I…the guy promised me a milk run.  The last run for my 25th mission, I’m not going to fly to Poland for Christ’s sake and get shot down.  Bombed the target at 12,000 feet in the air raids there.  And major Bennett come and say, ”hey joe you gotta fly” so I said the colonel, “the hell [mumble]” . so I went back, I didn’t sleep at all that time. I’ll never forget, I got up, I didn’t talk to anybody, I didn’t talk to the colonel, I didn’t talk to kit, I didn’t talk to Crosby- was the navagator- [growl] I’ll never forget what they said, said to the PDI, “OK” that’s it, nothing else, and it tuned out to be a milk run. All it was, was one junker 80 out there 1000 yards away from us, we couldn’t hit em with the guns. Flying along side us like this, looking at us, we were going through the bay there, and we got the message that the target was overcast, and we couldn’t see the target, radar bombing, we came back, I was happier than hell we were finished. Sam was waiting for me, Tom was waiting for me make sure I was coming in, cuz they finished a few days before I did,  cuz they had flown separate missions, and that was it. I had my own, they gave you a shot of booze every time you came back, so they took them for the guys who didn’t drink, the teetotalers, said save it, we’ll drink it for you. I never had a drink, Saint Joe they used to call me. 

Interviewer: when you finished your 25 missions did you… you would’ve had a choice to go back to the states or stay in the ETO?

Interviewee: said what ya gonna do? I’ll. Stick around if I can, wasn’t flying any more missions, less I have to,  said well you could get a job at [wing?]. I don’t know whether he selected us by wing or division,  cuz both howard and I went together,  and coulda gone home too, but he didn’t fly home, he had a young baby go back to, but he stayed, then he got his majorship, then he left when we went from, before we went to the 13th calvary second combat wing,  and moretti came in, he became the wing navigator.

Interviewer: where was moretti from?

Interviewee: he was from either the 390th or possibly the 95th, I’m not sure. He flew with general [hummel?] all the way to Karachi then back to, I was supposed to fly, I said, “ hey! You been back twice1 I ain’t never been back” I said, “ you know, I’d like to at least go back visit my family before I go to Okinawa.” So he said ok gave me a leave. But the war ended when I landed in Connecticut, that was it, finito. 

Interviewer: so you never got a chance to get geared up for the b-29’s or anything?

Interviewee: oh no, I was happy as a clam the war was over. Took 2,500 guys to Beal, charge of a troop train,  all we could talk about, what do you want, some guys want a milkshake, all I wanted was a shrimp cocktail.  So we got to Chicago, we went to the hotel stevens, must’ve spent each guy a hundred bucks, crab cocktails, that’s all we had, crab cocktails or booze, wine or champagne, we missed the train,  so we had to pay our own way for the rest of the way.  It was a lot of fun, it was great to be back. 

Intertviewer: what do you remember most about the 13th combat wing? Being over at harrow? And how was [Douglas?]

Interviewee:  he was good to me. I can’t ask for a better commander. I told his daughter, “your father was really good to me”, he promoted me, he had me in for a Lt colonelship. If the war hadn’t ended, I’d have been a Lt Colonel. Said sorry joe, I’ll put ya in, but no more promotions, the war’s over.  He said that’s it, they stopped everything. And he said, I’ll never forget the guy, I used to send money home to my mother, but she used to put it in my bank account, and then I keep about half of it in England, pretty soon there was 1,800 bucks, I used to keep it in a safe, and when I came back from Scotland, one time we took a trip just to have 3 or 4 days off, said, “Joe we should take that money out the safe. Makes me uncomfortable having all that money there, if anything happen I’ll be responsible,” never forget, so I went down to the Barclay bank, had all the pound notes, I go in, there’s an old man in there like, had these green sleeves up to here, had the plastic vision on the hat like this,  so I put it in there and I left it there, so when I came back before I go back to the states, these guys used to make a lot of money gambling, blackmarket, whatever, you know. So when they came back to the states they had all these pound notes, they didn’t know what to do with these things, hadn’t paid any taxes on it, illegal money. So they’d go around say [audio breaks up] could only send 3-4 thousand back, but these guys had like 10,000 bucks they had made, selling crap, whatever they did, say I’ll give 3-4 hundred bucks to turn in, said how much you got, 1,800 [audio breaks up] screw ya [audio breaks up] but they’d pay ya, pay ya 1,000 bucks. What they would do, they’d confiscate your money, find out if you paid any taxes, find out how you gained it, how could you possibly make this money when the salary that you’d make, they wanted to know, black market, what’cha do. So they was really tough, put you in the pokey for that. But all these guys standing around with all this money, some guys would just leave it there. You know the funny thing is, you talk about money, you know the officer’s club would spend $280,000 at a crack just to buy booze just for the officer’s club, they had to scrounge around, cuz first of all you never got any burbon cuz it gotta come from the states, so you gotta go shops, and all the officers came out, everybody was looking, there was a big mark up on that, so they go to Scotland and try to buy you know, and they’d have to pay over price to buy this stuff, a liter, we’d say a quart of scotch was $14, that’s what we paid for it, almost 4 pounds, and these guys would go around and under the table in the commissary and they’d make money.

Interviewer: what were your thoughts on chuck harding?

Interviewee: he was a great guy, he liked me,  first of all he was a football coach [audio breaks down, something about football scores] was a calvary division in Arizona, and he was being transferred to someplace on the east coast, and he was in Chicago. The guy that flew him on a biplane all the way to his new assignment was chuck harding. It’s in that book [audio breaks up] and then went on to become the west point coach. [audio problems] the difference between him and regular commanders, he was strict, he was by the numbers, whereas chuck was like, “yeah, alright.” And he’d come over the officer’s club and open up the bar. 

Interviewer: yeah, there were stories about him playing the fiddle while fights were going on. Is that true or is that just legend?

Interviewee: I don’t know, I was there at the time, but I don’t know. I don’t want to repeat it cuz it’s not very flattering on him.  Joe Kelly was a boozer, and they used to call him crying Joe Kelly cuz he [audio issues + mumbling to imitate the guy] he went to Stanford, he was a pretty good guy, I liked joe, and they were both in the bar and they got pretty soused up, and they closed the bar, so they were talking about missions, and joe says, “ you know, why the hell don’t we go bomb berlin? Let’s… if we do that it’ll probably stop the damn war” said what the hell, they call the tower, prepare a b-17 such and such we’re taking off such and such, and the guys heard about it and you know they’re like, “are you serious?”  the tower was questioning the call from chip, but he’s “yeah we’re gonna go, get it gassed up, 500 lb bombs”  and then on the way to the tower to pick up the plane, called the SP, the SP, Mp’s caught em, said hey, chuck said wait a minute, we’re gonna fly. no no colonel, they cancelled the mission. The target is covered in clouds, can’t, allegedly that’s true. But I don’t believe it. 

Interviewer:  I heard somebody from the 95th came into the officer’s club and started a big row.

Interviewee: [audio issues] fights! There was a war on. The guy from the 95th, the colonel got into a fight out there, I’m telling you, it was a real knock-down, there used to be a lot of fights, get boozed up, assault one another, you know, short tempers. I never got in any altercations with anybody. We never had any fights between ourselves, these guys would show up from the 95th or whatever they come in, they would get hammered, colonels, majors knocking each other around, for what? Who knows? War fatigue possibly, a lot of things happened. Then one guy, cant think of the guy’s name, he went to London, he went into hyde’s park and he’s out there talking to the mushrooms, on the ground like this, he’s under the mushrooms, the MP’s found him, brought him back, shipped him out, a major I think he was, but he was talking to the mushrooms, he said, ”I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was just talking to the mushrooms.” He went bananas. And they’d get up to turn out the lights, take out a .45 you know [pew], last guy in was supposed to turn out the light, said, “get up turn out that light, it’s shining in my eyes.” BANG. Roof was full of holes, the rain come down, they’d move their beds around. If you put the holes, you suffer the consequences. 

Interviewer: you guys ever pull any pranks?

Interviewee: no we didn’t. all we’d do, new crew come in, we’d tell em how bad it was. Gonna get shot down, You’re lucky if you make it back your first mission. We’d psych em all out. We had guys who never got the chance to unpack, the guy came in, they flew a practice mission around base, came a back, became a copilot on one of them things, never came back. And all of his stuff was still packed. Lot a stories like that. Strange things happened. Like I say, I always kinda think of the 100th like a country club, in a way, with a serious nature to it, a lotta crazy things went on, it was just unbelievable. Jeffery came in, I think it all stopped. When we were first over there it was unbelievable. Bicycle races in the officer’s club, set the officer’s club on fire cuz it was the lousiest club in all of England, Bucky Elton, bucky goes down, where’s the bar? He say’s, “you know, we got the worst looking officer’s club in the whole united kingdom, all these guys got better clubs than we have, we oughta burn it down.” So he gets all the furniture, one big pile like this, puts the newspaper, sets it on fire, they had to call the fire department to put it out, he wasn’t court marshaled, old bucky. In 1987 he gave $5000 to the group. There was a lot of screwy guys. Like big pete, the song he’d sing, “ your ass is like a stovepipe honey darling” all these raunchy songs

Interviewer: you guys used to go to the officer’s club and sing all those wonderful lyrics?           

Interviewee:  we used to have a guy play the piano, he wrote a lot of the lyrics, I put a couple of them together [more tape problems] 

Interviewer: and then your plane was named after... was called torchy right?

Interviewee: our original plane was I’m Pissed Off, guys used to say, I’m pissed off all the time, what do you want to name the plane? I’m pissed off! Torchy was from jim browns wife, [tape issues] saved my life joe, but you almost killed me [tape issues] could have saved himself if he wanted to [tape issues] had his pencil in his hand like this, it was my fault really, we were flying towards paris, I said look at that damn plane out there, the whole engine is gonna fall off [tape issue] I thought the work we did was good, I thought we did great work there, Hogan [tape trouble] short term, trying to get the guys squared away

Interviewer: how’d you get them in shape? [tape trouble]

Interviewee: form those planes together, you fly a practice mission [tape trouble] tell em what the facts were, I tried to scare the hell outta them [tape continues to deteriorate, bet they never ran a cleaner tape on that camera] if you get 5 missions in, you count it as luck. Bernie was a pretty nice guy, but he was a movie actor [tape issues] Jeffery was a good commander, that’s what we needed, no kidding, no nothing, playing games here, we’re gonna get killed [tape issues]

[end of tape]