Story of Honor
Stanley A. Clemenz, Navy Lieutenant (jg)
Engineering Duty Only (EDO), received a Direct Commission. Attended University of Arizona Navy Introduction School. Transferred to the 7th Naval District, Miami, Florida for duty as a Radio Communications Officer. Placed in charge of the installation and testing of Radio, Radar and Sonar equipment on newly constructed PT Boats, Sub-Chasers and Crash Boats. Transferred to Norfolk Naval Shipyard as a Communications Officer, installing and testing Radio, Radar, and Sonar equipment on Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships, Mine Sweepers and Supply Ships, including Hospital and Cargo Ships. Transferred to the Electronics Field Service Group at the Bureau of Ships, Washington,DC as a Field Service Engineer. Put in charge of the SOFAR (Sound Fixing And Ranging) project. This was a Research Project to attempt the transmission of sound thru ocean water for a great distance. From the test station on Eleuthera Island, British West Indies, we were able to transmit sound to the coast of Africa, over 2000 miles, with regularity. This SOFAR project was declared a success and the data generated by the project was used to construct an Air-Sea rescue system in the Pacific Ocean, which also proved to be a success. Transferred to MIT to study Electronic Radiation. Upon completion of the study at MIT, I was Transferred to work on Project CROSSROADS which was the first Atom Bomb Test (after Hiroshima and Nagasaki) at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. I worked in the Rear Echelon of Project CROSSROADS in the Bureau of Ships in Washington, DC as the Oceanographic Officer. My CO was Captain Roger Revelle, one of the foremost Oceanographers in the world and later President of Scripts Institute of Oceanography. It was my job to gather Scientific Data generated by the detonation of the Atom Bomb. This included measuring the height of the waves, measuring air pressure, gathering samples of marine life, vegetation, water, soil and air. After the test, the data and samples were shipped to various Universities for research, evaluation, study and reporting the results. I did not get to go to Bikini Atoll because I was scheduled to be put on inactive duty the same day of the Atom Bomb test. I always felt like I missed out on something big by not being able to go to Bikini. I remained in the Naval Reserve until 1958 at which time I was discharged. This ended my Naval Career. I was never in combat or harms-way because of the Engineering Duty Only (EDO) classification the Navy assigned to me when I enlisted. Change of classification was not negotiable. I enjoyed my time in the Navy and was able to take on cutting edge Technical responsibilities that Civilian Industry would have denied me at my young age. Thank you Navy. After the Navy, I spent 58 years as an Engineer on Missile and Space Programs and Shipbuilding. Northrop Grumman retired me at the age of 82.
Emerald Coast Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., 30 April 2008
I was one of the WWII veterans on Operation Emerald Coast Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. It was the best, well planned mission I ever participated in and all free to us. It went off like a smoothly well operated military machine. This was a good example of what a community can do when they are left alone to do a job for their fellow man with minimum interference. Representative Jeff Miller played an important part but it was from a high echelon hands off guidance perspective, as it appeared to me. No government funds were used in this operation. All funds were generously donated for the love of us WWII veterans, the "Greatest Generation." This Honor Flight was spectacular to behold, every detail was covered. There were a few unavoidable glitches, such as a traffic jam and hurry up and wait situations but being veterans we were there before, realizing things happen and went with the flow as Honor Flight handled it, which they did in a timely manner and smooth recovery. It was a delight to behold from a military perspective. Everyone of Honor Flight had an assigned task and did it well. Without mentioning any names, because I may overlook someone, the following recognition is appropriate. The guardians paid their own way and were terrific. They did an outstanding job taking care of us all day long even if we were crabby old men at times. They over looked that and carried on with perfection. We signed in, received our badges, went through security and had a light breakfast, courtesy of Verona's before boarding our big U.S. Airways A320 plane for Washington, D.C. The airline served a light snack which was good and plenty. There were 102 WWII veterans on board, including one Tuskegee airman and one lady veteran. We had mail call. Area school children made cards of thanks for each of us. The Ronald Reagan National Airport gave us a fire truck water salute upon arrival, spraying hundreds of gallons of water over the plane, an honor usually reserved for retiring pilots and dignitaries. We then proceeded through a highly decorated ramp on our way to the terminal. When we arrived in the terminal all hell broke loose. Hundreds of people were lined up waving flags, hollering, and shaking our hands as we moved down the concourse to our red, blue and white busses. The colored dot on our badges indicated which bus to board. As we proceeded to the WWII Memorial, the tour guide pointed out the Washington Monument, the Capital, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial. Upon arrival at the WWII Monument we noted the Florida pillar just left of the Pacific Pavilion. We noted the many features of the Memorial and were greeted by Senator Bob Dole. Arby's served us a delicious box lunch in a special tent just for us. The next stop was the Korean Monument which really impressed me, the troops with guns ready as if they are on the attack. These statues are made of steel and are very life like. Next stop was the Vietnam Memorial which is a huge black wall with the names of all the men etched thereon, 58,048 of them. I had a 2nd cousin by marriage that was killed there only 7 days after arrival in Vietnam. I found his name on wall 28, row 80 after using the lookup book. The next stop which is very close by was the Lincoln Memorial. Everybody is amazed by the statue of the seated Lincoln and several of his famous speeches depicted on the walls. The huge columns are also spectacular, each one representing a state. The next stop was the Marine Memorial with the Iwo Jima Monument. This is spectacular also and so real as the men raise the flag. The Marines in our group admire the work of art in the Monument and contemplate the moment. We then drove by the Air Force Monument and viewed the three contrails shooting toward Heaven which is familiar to us, having seen our Blue Angels do it at their shows. Our sight seeing is coming to a close as we pass Arlington National Cemetery and view it from two different sides. About 321,000 are buried there. The bus heads back to the airport. It is rush hour and the traffic is heavy. We arrive and head for security check. We are lucky and do not have to remove our shoes; however, they do frisk me, why I do not know. I think it was a WSRE pin on badge that showed up as out of limits for that type of object. Other people got caught for the same thing. Upon arrival at the concourse there was another celebration for us. Again hundreds of people lined up waving flags, hollering, thanking us for our service and shaking our hand. To me it was very moving. We then boarded the same type of plane that we went up to Washington in. On the way, the Marine Corps League made a special in-flight presentation which was well received by all. They also gave us veterans a commemorative Marine Corps League coin which is very beautiful, well designed. In about two hours, we were in Pensacola. The airport brought out their huge fire truck for us and displayed a large American Flag from the very top of the ladder. When we entered the terminal there were many people on each side of the fenced off concourse, a lot of relatives and friends and they gave us a heroes welcome, even had a band. They hooped and hollered until were all past. They handed out welcome home bags, filled with goodies of all kinds. To me again it was very emotional. We continued on down the escalator and on out to our cab and headed to Azalea Trace. WSRE Public Television and the Pensacola News Journal (Katie & Troy) were with us and covered our day. It was one of the most exciting and emotional events in my life. I am thankful that I was selected to go and I thank Emerald Coast Honor Flight for their generosity and personal efforts. It was amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Stanley A. Clemenz
George P. Brenner Col. (ret) USAF
Brief Military Bio
1942 - Enlisted in Army as an Aviation Cadet. Graduated from Randolph and Kelly (TX) as pilot; assigned to Air Transport Command; attended Northwest Airlines pilot school
1943-1945 Trained with NWA and Western Airlines in Alaskan Division; promoted to Capt. In 1944 flying C-47, C-46 and C-54 transports.
1946-1947 Assigned to Great Falls, Montana. Received Regular Army Commission. Duties: flying safety officer, chief pilot, squadron commander. Attended Air Tactical School in Panama City, FL
1948-49 Operations officer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Air lifted radar equipment to Dew Line. Became Detachment Commander.
1950-51 Attended University of Illinois briefly before going to Randolph for B-29 Combat Crew Training School.
1952-53 Graduated from Air Force Institute of Technology in Aero Engineering.
1953-58 Eglin AFB in charge of instrumentation of ranges and aircraft.
1959-61 Wash. DC Headquarters Air Research and Development Command in long range plans.
1962-65 Promoted to Col. Graduated from Air War College and Geo. Washington University with a
Master's in International Affairs. Assigned to Air Command and Staff College as Director
1966-69 Eglin AFB as Chief of Munitions Division – exploratory, advanced and engineering
development and production of non-nuclear munitions. Briefed at Air Force bases in Vietnam and Thailand on weapons in development.
Destin's Roger Krueger was never supposed to fly 51 World War II combat missions.
"You were only supposed to fly 25, then they sent you back (home)," Krueger, 84, told The Log. But as a tailgunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he found himself in high demand. "They were so short of tailgunners, they were taking men from different crews - I had five missions in (before) my own crew flew."
Next Wednesday, Krueger, accompanied by his son Tim, will be one of 100 Emerald Coast veterans flying free to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial. This will be the first Emerald Coast trip organized by Honor Flight, a 3-year-old program that flies American veterans to see the national memorials to the wars in which they fought.
Earl Morse, an Air Force veteran and a physician assistant at an Ohio Veterans Affairs clinic, organized Honor Flight for patients who were too frail or too broke to make the trip on their own. Because of their age, World War II veterans go to the head of the line when booking seats.
Krueger told The Log that after he was inducted into the Army in 1943, at the age of 19, he'd been sent to basic training in Miami, in a hotel that had "eight floors to go up and down and no elevators.
"I volunteered for gunnery school," Krueger said. "We found out rapidly you don't ever volunteer for anything."
Krueger said tailgunners were targets for German fighter planes that waited with the sun behind them so that they couldn't be seen until they attacked.
"They'd shoot the daylights out of you before you knew they were there," Krueger said. "They'd come in so close you could see where the paint was scratched off the airplane ... . It got kind of scary after a while."
Not everyone made it back. One entry in Krueger's palm-sized wartime diary notes that "Morefield's crew" crashed and burned during takeoff and that only two of the 11-man crew made it out alive.
Krueger tells of a bombing mission over Germany where 15 planes went down, and of seeing a neighboring plane blow up into "360 degrees of fire" when it was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. He said he's often wondered since then whether the German gunners had been aiming at his plane.
"It made me wonder how lucky I am to be here," Krueger said. "Sometimes you could hear the anti-aircraft fire rattle against the skin of the plane (but) we were far enough away it wouldn't penetrate."
Starting with an Easter Sunday flight in 1944, Krueger flew 16 missions out of England on a B-24 before being transferred to Italy, "just above the boot." He admits to getting airsick on the trip over, only to have the nurses on the flight start laughing at him, convinced he was faking.
"They had a hole in the window to stick the guns through," Krueger said. "I stuck my nose out just to get some fresh air."
Whether flying out of Great Britain or Italy, Krueger said, there were "pretty hairy times" - crash landing once; having to circle around and make a second run over a target; and coping with high-altitude temperatures that could drop to 60 below zero.
"Our oxygen mask would get vapor inside and it would freeze," Krueger said. "Your chin would be sitting in a little block of ice - you'd have to open your mask and dump it."
On one flight, Krueger said, another gunner was hit in the back, and when they tried to give him morphine, it was frozen solid. After that, Krueger said, the radio operator sewed the morphine supply into his uniform, under his armpits, to keep it warm.
By the time Krueger returned home, he'd accumulated a certificate of valor, a marksman medal for the carbine, an ETO ribbon with four bronze service stars, a distinguished unit badge and an Air Medal with three oak-leaf clusters. And despite the danger and fear, he accumulated his share of good memories.
"On the day you fly, you could order your breakfast," Krueger said. "If you wanted fried eggs, they'd be real ones, not powdered."
And there was drinking: "So many guys would go over there, next day they'd be dead, you took the opportunity ... . You hunted for the pub, had a good time looking for girls. I had my share of boozing, I'll tell you that."
There were friends, too, like the officer and banker's son who let his fellow fliers adopt his name and rank to stay in the room his family had permanently reserved at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.
"I was sitting there having a drink," Krueger said, "and in walks General Eisenhower. That kind of shook me up - MPs all over the place and I'm sitting there with the wrong uniform on."
Another friend, R.J. Maxwell, helped tide Krueger and his buddies over when money was tight: "We'd get down to the point we didn't have much money ... . He was experienced, did a lot of gambling. I'd give him money, he'd go get into a poker game, get us enough to have a good time."
Among Krueger's souvenirs are dogtags, photos, patches from his uniform, the "ruptured duck" medallion he received when he left the service and what he called a "short snorter bill," a greenback with foreign currency taped to it from his travels. His short snorter includes a British 10-shilling note, a pound note from the Bank of Scotland, a 100-franc French bill, a five-lira note from Italy, and bills from Egypt and Ireland.
Krueger said he hadn't been to any veterans' gatherings - "I've had the opportunities, but like most guys, (I) kind of want to forget the whole thing" — but he was looking forward to his Honor Flight. He said that although he donated to the World War II Memorial, he's never visited it.
"I just want to see what it looks like in person," Krueger said.
Tim Krueger said that his father had been waiting for a year to get into a "Lone Eagle" flight - a flight for veterans who don't live near an Honor Flight hub. However, Rep. Jeff Miller recently helped start a local chapter of Honor Flight, expediting the process for Krueger and others like him.
Tim Krueger will take the flight as the "guardian" to his father and three other veterans, all 82 or older: "I'm responsible for everything, and I mean everything, from making sure they're safe, carrying around some of their stuff, making sure they're drinking their water."
The trip will include not only the World War II Memorial but also a meeting with senator and fellow veteran Bob Dole, along with visits to the Korean, Vietnam, Lincoln and Iwo Jima memorials.
Carroll L. Dodds
When I heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I decided that I wanted to get into the war, but I wanted to fly. I had already soloed as a civilian pilot but, lacking a college education I was not qualified to get into the Aviation Cadet program so I went to Canada and enlisted in the RCAF. At the end of January, 1942 all United States Citizens serving in Canada were advised that they were required to return stateside or possibly lose their citizenship.
I returned and learned of a new program for Liaison Pilot Training to fly Artillery Officers to direct artillery fire against the enemy (at that time it was directed against Rommel's forces, in Africa. When the Germans were run out of Africa, the Liaison program was discontinued. All active duty personnel were given the opportunity to test for acceptance as aviation cadet trainees and I was fortunate enough to qualify.
I attended CTD (College Training Detachment) at Syracuse University, went through classification at Nashville Army Airfield, then on to Pre-Flight School at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. From there I was sent to Navigation School at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas and graduated as an instructor navigator. I was reassigned to Carlsbad, New Mexico for Bombardier Training and graduated as an Instructor Bombardier. I taught bombing to two classes of Chinese Cadets before reassignment to Yuma, Arizona for "BTO" (bombing through overcast) Radar Training. I received orders for assignment to "IFI-IFE" training (arming and de-arming the Atomic Bomb) and into the B-29 program but the War ended prior to my scheduled shipment. I accepted separation and returned home to Michigan. At the end of my terminal leave, I reenlisted in the permanent grade of E-7, enlisted pilot. I was assigned to Borinquen Field (became Ramey AFB), Puerto Rico. When enlisted pilots were phased out, I managed reassignment to a Search and Rescue Squadron as Radar Observer.
Upon reassignment Stateside, I was sent to McGuire AFB, where I became the first enlisted navigator in SAC. A personal conflict with the Squadron Navigator resulted in a reassignment to Carswell AFB as a Radar Gunner in the B-36 program. My next major assignment, at Altus AFB, was as a SAC Command Post Controller. From there, I went to Homestead AFB as a Wing Staff Gunner, training B-47 co-pilots to operate the ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) and the gunnery equipment. I devised and authored the Bomber Defense portion of the SAC Tactical Doctrine. When the B-47's were reassigned and B-52's cam in, I was retained as Wing Staff Gunner. I was able to analyze an operational problem with the Gatling Gun on the B-52 and designed a modification that corrected the problem. I was subsequently promoted to the grade of E-8.
When Homestead AFB received a squadron of KC-135 Tankers, I was given the responsibility of Area Refueling Coordinator due to my navigational background. I scheduled all air refueling for the Eastern Seaboard and the Bermuda Refueling Area.
I requested reassignment to Carswell AFB and duty as gunner on a B-52 Crew. When my required "time on station" was up, I requested retirement. I retired October 1, 1964.
Carroll L. Dodds
I enlisted in the Navy in 1944 after graduation from high school. After finishing boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill. I was sent to San Diego, CA for 16 weeks training to become a Hospital Corpsman. I was then sent to Camp LeJeune, N.C. Naval Hospital where I took care of wounded marines back from the Pacific. It was an honor to serve my country and doing so made it possible to further my career in the medical field as a laboratory tech. Dallas Rigby, PHM, 3rd. Class
PHM, 3rd Class
Clovis Joseph Barron
Born in Plaucheville, Louisiana on February 15, 1925
Graduated from Cottonport High School in Cottonport, Louisiana
Higher Education: 143 college credit hours
Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 at 17 years of age
Pensacola Beach, FL 32561
Upon graduating from high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was sent to "Boot Camp" in San Diego, CA. After boot camp, I wanted to get into aviation and volunteered for Aviation Ordnance training in Norman, OK. Following that, I asked for Aerial Gunnery training in Purcell OK; then on to operational training at NAS Jacksonville, FL. I started flying in Catalina's (PBYs) flying boats and also completed Bombardier training. After that assignment, I reported to NAAS Chincoteague, VA, for transitional training in Liberators (PB4Ys). I was assigned to a flight crew and later reported to Brazil to join VPB 107 which was part of Fleet Air Wing SEVEN. We began to participate in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) which meant flying quadrants over the middle and south Atlantic looking for German and Italian submarines and shipping. The flights were usually from 12 to 14 airborne hours with lay-over in Liberia, Azores, Ascension Island, the Bahamas and back to Brazil. My squadron sank more German and Italian subs and shipping than all of the other squadrons combined who were assigned to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). The other squadrons were stationed in the Azores and England.
The reason for our success was due to the weather and conditions in the north Atlantic where the other squadrons operated. There, the weather and sea conditions made flying difficult. Also the German Submarines had the same problem with the weather. The middle and south Atlantic weather and sea conditions were more compatible and the Germans weren't stupid. Therefore, our hunting was more lucrative.
I Hung Out of an Airplane:
While doing ASW work on patrol in the southern waters, we spotted a German submarine on the surface. Our aircraft was equipped with radar and we had picked the target up some distance away. I'm confident that we were too far from them for them to hear us approaching until it was too late. We started to strafe the sub while preparing to drop depth charges that was part of our arsenal. I was in the bow (in the front of the aircraft) turret with twin 50 caliber machine guns on either side of my head. The turret was called an ERCO Ball turret which meant that I moved in all directions with the turret and so did the guns. We were at about 500 feet altitude and I was firing both guns to the right of the aircraft. In order to keep the target in my gun sight, I had to increase the angle of attack. As I kept firing away, the turret was as far to the right as it would go. At that point, and due to the vibration of the guns firing, the turret door came open and jammed against the side of the aircraft and held there by the slip stream. My entire back was exposed and the only part of me still in the aircraft were my legs, neck and head. What held me in place was my seat belt which was wrapped around my legs above my knees. At this point the turret was locked to the right and could not return to the forward position. As the door was held firmly open and the turret motor, which developed 1100 pounds per square inch (PSI), could not move the turret in any direction. Incidentally, even if I could have extricated myself from the turret, my parachute and harness were safely inside the aircraft. All I could think of was the Number 3 engine churning about 6 feet behind me. If I had left the turret, that propeller would have made mince meat out of me. I think that was motivation enough for me to act and gave me the strength to do what I had to do.
In desperation, I wrapped my left arm around the sight bar, around the gun sight, so that my hand and fingers could reach the turret controls. I was then able to reach the control with my fingers and move the control to the left. With my right hand, I reached down toward the floor of the turret and found the small hand pump lever and started to pump. I tore the door completely off and moved the turret back into the aircraft; at the same time I was able to bring my body back into the airplane. I was told later that the whole episode took about 30 minutes. I have no recollection of that.
Sometime prior to this procedure, we managed to sink the sub, and drop life rafts to those who survived the attack. Like I said, I had very few recollections of what took place during those 30 minutes as my concentration was entirely focused on getting back into the aircraft safely. When I got back into the aircraft, and had gotten my wits about me, I looked down into the water and my legs gave way and I promptly fell down on the floor of the aircraft This was totally involuntary. It took a few minutes for my nerves to get back to normal. I suppose it took that long for the adrenalin to equalize.
When we landed, the pilot told me to get in touch with the metal shop, solve the problem as we would test that turret door the next morning. I had an idea of what to do, discussed it with the CPO in charge of the metal shop and he had it installed in the turret that night. The latch that we collectively conjured did the job. I don't have to tell you that I wasn't the bravest person when I fired those guns under similar conditions that had happened the day before. But, it had to be done.
That new door latch became standard on all of our aircraft, as per orders of our skipper, and the details were compiled and sent to the Bureau of Naval Aeronautics. They bought it and it became standard on all Liberators in the Navy.
Hanging out of an aircraft in flight is not the most fun a person can have.
As the war began to wind down, we were transferred to England where we joined the other squadrons in ASW work. We also participated in providing air cover during the invasion of Normandy providing us with an unparalleled view of the greatest accumulation of ships in history. A sight that I shall never forget. We also participated with the U.S. Army's 8th Air Force and the RAF in making bombing runs over German targets. That was where my bombardier training really paid off as I was able to use radar to locate targets when they were obscured by weather. In order to have radar, the Navy took the belly turrets out of the Liberators, which had been installed for the Army Air Corps, and installed radar domes for the Navy for the express purpose of locating submarines.
One more incident which I think is important. One afternoon in 1945 while we were relaxing in Mudville, as we called where we lived near Taunton in England, our pilot, LT. Pete Morgan, came to our Quonset hut and told us to get ready for a 5 day leave in London. I don't have to tell you that he didn't have to repeat himself. We caught the train in Honiton, a small town nearby and landed in the Regent Palace Hotel, in Piccadilly Circus in the middle of London. He had reserved one-half of one floor in the hotel for us. He had some influence in London and I think it was because he was married to a Hollywood actress named Yvonne De Carlo. While we were unpacking, he came to our rooms and told us to get down to the bar. We thought that he wanted to buy us a drink. When we got to the bar, it was packed shoulder to shoulder with people. After a bit, someone yelled for all to be quite. The radio was on and the Prime Minister came on. Mr. Churchill said. "The war between the Allies and Germany is over." Pandemonium broke out all over London as the news spread. VE Day, May 8, 1945, had arrived. Our radioman had been thrown out of more colleges in Europe than you can count and he knew his way around. We hired a taxi for five days, he got a case of scotch from his club and we simply went nuts with the rest of the Londoners.
After some time, we returned to the states, were given a 30 day leave and reported to Whidbey Island in Washington state to transition to a new Airplane called a Privateer. This aircraft was far superior to the Liberator. After 6 weeks of intense training, we reported to Alameda Naval Air Station near San Francisco, CA. We had drawn all of our gear, aircraft and were waiting further orders when we were told to hold fast. Our next mission was to provide air cover for the invasion on the main island of Japan. On August 14, 1945, President Truman ordered the A-Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. I feel that the President saved many, many lives (including mine) by his action. After a time we were reassigned to NAS Crow's Landing, near Modesto, Ca. and did some recreational and lose training while waiting to be discharged. My squadron, VPB 107 continued later to Alaska and I returned home.
I was home for a short time, when I told my mother that I would go back into the Navy. She couldn't understand why after all that I had been through. I explained that we would be back at war within 5 years. I was right as the Korean War broke out and I went through that. By this time I had invested 10 years of my life in the military and figured I'd go the limit and add 10 more towards retirement. So I retired after 20 years in Naval Aviation. While on active duty, I attended college whenever I could, mostly at night, and accumulated over140 hours of education. Upon leaving the Navy, I went to work for the Bureau of Naval Personnel as a Education Specialist working in a think tank. My main accomplishment there was being one of three people who brought the Electronic Warfare (EW) Rating in the Navy. The school is at Corry Station.
What the Honor Flight means to me:
To be selected one out of one hundred fellow WWII veterans from this area means a great deal to me and I feel honored and owe a debt of gratitude to the Marine Corps League and all of the contributors who make this possible. The WWII Memorial is one of the last memorials to be erected in our nation's capitol and to be able to participate in a visit with fellow veterans is an honor beyond what I have ever imagined. I can't find enough words to express my appreciation for those responsible for this extreme act of patriotism. I humbly appreciate their generosity. Very special thanks of gratitude are extended to WSRE for their super effort in preparing a documentary for posterity. All of the people involved are recognized by a "NAVY WELL DONE" for their input to making this effort the success, that, I'm sure it will be. Thank you so very much.
Clovis Joseph (Joe) BARRON
I would like to tell the story of the trials and tribulations that a World War II Veteran endured during that time in our Country's history. Read more.
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William A. Miller
I was drafted into the Army Air Corp in the latter part of 1942 out of Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. After a short time in what was supposed to be Basic Training ( Since I had 3 years of ROTC from City High School in Chattanooga, I spent most of the time teaching other soldiers how to read and write their name) I shipped out to England and was assigned to the 8th Air Force, 1906 Ordinance Ammunition Corp (Aviation) and stationed in Desboro.
Our group was in charge of receiving various armaments, fuses and Bombs. Most of the bombs we received were stacked along country roads, on farms, where the farmers pretty much ignored the presence of the stacks, and continued to plough the field's right up to the sides of the stacks. One happy aspect of working with the farmers is that we were able to have fresh eggs by trading cigarettes for eggs.
One of the best things to come out of the War for me happened in the summer of 1943 when I was sent to pick up two Officers at a pub called the "White Swan" in Market Harbour. On the way, in the middle of a Blackout, I went the wrong way on an English "Round-a-bout" and managed to end up in the middle of a "Que" of Royal Air Force personnel waiting for a bus. There, lecturing me on the proper way of navigating a roundabout was the prettiest WAAF in the RAF We continued to meet until on August 5, 1944 we were married. 64 years later she is still the prettiest WAAF I every saw and she is still lecturing me on my driving.
I have a lot of happy memories from this time and also a lot of sad memories. We never want to forget those who didn't return. I truly appreciate the Honor and Privilege of being included in the Emerald Coast Honor Flight
William A (Bill) Miller
Fred Baber joined the United States Marine Corps on Oct. 23, 1942. He went through boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina and was shipped to the Asiatic Pacific Theater of Operations from June 13, 1944 until October 25, 1945. He saw action in the following conflicts:
Kwajalein Feb 1, 1944-Feb 3, 1944
Saipan June 15, 1944-July 9, 1944
Tinian July 24, 1944-August 1, 1944
Iwo Jima Feb 19, 1945-Mar 3, 1945
Corporal Fred Baber was wounded in action on March 3, 1945, receiving sniper fire while driving his half-track through enemy held territory.
He received a Presidential Unit Citation with one star and the Purple Heart citation for wounds suffered in battle.
He was honorably discharged from service on October 25, 1945.
Sgt. James C. Cook
I was only 18 years old when I decided to join the Army. I thought that I was smarter than my mother and father, plus my school teachers... read more and view the pictures.
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I WAS DEFERRED FROM THE DRAFT BECAUSE I WAS CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL AS I WAS WORKING FOR THE GULF OIL COMPANY LOOKING FOR OIL. I QUIT GULF OIL AND VOLUNTEERED FOR THE ARMY AT CAMP SHELBY, MS IN JULY OF 1944... read more and view the pictures.
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EMERALD COAST HONOR FLIGHT
A Visit to the World War II Memorial
On April 30, 2008, 102 veterans of World War II were flown from Pensacola to Washington, DC to the Memorial there. From 7:00 AM takeoff to 7:02 PM landing, it was a very busy, very memorable day. In addition to the veterans, there were 34 "guardians", a dozen or so people who were running the show, about a dozen TV and newspaper media people aboard the chartered flight.
At 5:00 AM, with everybody arriving at about the same time, what appeared to be a chaotic mess soon turned into an orderly well-planned operation. We were given boarding passes with assigned seating, passed through the usual security procedures and went to Gate 7 with few problems. Near the gate was a table set up with all kinds of pastries, a huge bowl of cut-up fruit and many kinds of drinks, breakfast for most of us.
About 6:30 boarding started, with wheel chair cases and those with special needs assigned to the first-class section. With assigned seating, the jet was soon loaded and ready for takeoff without delay. The pilot came on the PA System with the usual speech about thank you for flying our airline, features of the aircraft, then, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please bow your heads for a short prayer." He prayed for our flight safety, thanks to us for service to our country, and God Bless America. All of us were impressed.
At 35,000 feet altitude, the day's activities really started. The food carts came out, and "breakfast" was served! Each of us had a muffin, a fruit cup of cantaloupe and melons and grapes, a raspberry cup, and drinks of all kinds. A far cry from the bag of pretzels and a water bottle of today's air travel.
When the breakfast items were cleared away, a Marine lieutenant colonel came on the PA, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have another surprise for you, fan mail!" Each of us received an addressed letter from a pupil in an elementary school in the Pensacola School System, mine was from Shakira McKoskey in Hallmark School. She wished me a safe trip, thanked me for my service to the country, and wished she could go with us. I have already answered her letter.
After mail call, next was name tags. Down the aisle came a couple, man with arm looped with red lanyards, lady with a box of name tags, in alphabetic order. As we gave our names, the lady fished out the tag, man clipped it on the lanyard and put it around our necks. First names were in letters about an inch high, last names were smaller. The veterans all said VETERAN across the bottom. Others were labeled with the function of the owner, like M.D., GUARDIAN, FLIGHT DIRECTOR and whatever their jobs were, to identify everyone on board.
With all this going on, the aisle was always busy, with people going to the lavatory, TV cameramen going up and down, taking pictures of veterans sleeping, reading, talking or whatever. Flight Director Sheila Bowman was constantly in motion, taking care of details of the operation. The guardians were busy seeing that our every need was taken care of.
Then caps. Almost everyone was already wearing a cap of his own, but workers came with boxes of caps with emblems saying Emerald Coast Honor Flight. They asked that we wear these caps for identification, in addition to the blue T-shirts that they gave us at the earlier Pensacola briefing.
Nearing Washington, the PA system told us to check our name tags for colors. A red circle in the corner meant that the owner was assigned to Pensacola Red bus #1, no circle meant White bus #2, and blue circle was Bus #3. The busses were large tour type, each holding about sixty people, comfortable seats, large windows for sight seeing, a tiny restroom at the back.
On the airport tarmac, as we neared the terminal, every person in sight, mechanics, baggage handlers, anybody, waved an American flag and cheered. On each side of the lane, two huge fire trucks cut loose with their water cannons and we went under an arch of water to welcome us. In the tunnel to the terminal, everything was red, white and blue, balloons everywhere, handrails wrapped with colorful paper. As we entered the terminal, there must have been a thousand people, waving flags, cheering and applauding, patting us on the back and shaking hands as guides led us to the waiting busses. It was a very exciting welcome to the national capitol.
In the half-hour ride to the Memorial, a tour guide told us the basic facts about the Memorial, and as we passed the many historical places in Washington, such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, she described where we were and what we were seeing. It was a very interesting ride. At the Memorial, the busses parked near a building with restrooms, and near two tents where we would have lunch.
Near the center of the Memorial, Senator Dole laid a wreath in honor of all veterans who were there today. There were short speeches by the Senator and Florida Representative Jeff Miller. After the formalities, there was much picture taking, and talking with the dignitaries and the veterans. Then we were advised that for the next forty-five minutes we were to do what we wanted, take pictures, look at all the details of the Memorial, but be back at the tents for lunch at twelve-thirty!
As we wandered and looked, I had the feeling that most of us were overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Memorial itself. The facility is indeed an honor and tribute to the 400,000 casualties of the War. I think most of us were thinking of relatives and friends who did not return. My own memories were of two close friends of my boyhood, a P-40 pilot killed in Burma and a B-17 gunner killed over Germany. There was a somber reverence about the place as opposed to the noisy, cheering welcome we had at the airport.
At the tents, we had excellent lunches provided by Arby's, boxes with chicken or turkey salad sandwiches, fruit cup, potato chips and drinks of all kinds.
Back on the busses, a short ride to the Korean War Memorial. At this point, after two hours of standing and walking at the WWII Memorial, I decided I would accept the wheelchair services graciously offered by my guardian, Reuben Sullivan. It was quite a distance from the Korean to the Lincoln Memorial and the Viet Nam Wall. The Korean Memorial is nineteen statues of military figures in battle garb, each about eight feet tall, all done in stainless steel, in a jungle environment. Opposite this is a polished marble wall with in-laid images of service personnel. Very impressive.
A large construction area in front of the Lincoln Memorial kept us from getting close to it, we went next a vantage point where we could take pictures of the Viet Nam wall with all the names on it. By now our group was well-mixed with thousands of normal every-day tourists. There were hundreds of people making pencil scribblings of names on the wall, so we did not get near that.
Our final stop was at the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue near the Marine Corps facility in Washington. A group picture of all of us was made at the base of the statue. I hope we will get a copy of the picture, but I might be hard to find in the picture.
More cheering crowds at the airport, the usual check-in and security procedures, and I got caught in a full security shake-down, turned out I was caught with five of those red and white peppermint candy which I had not emptied into the tray. I said, "Candy? No way!" Guard said, "Yep, they'll do it every time!"
One hour and fifty-six minute flight to Pensacola, eat again, ham and cheese sandwich, lettuce and tomato salad, potato chips, drinks. At the gate, eight service men and women in full dress standing at attention. They marched ahead of us to the terminal where waited hundreds of cheering, flag-waving families and friends. Earlier, I had talked with Sheila Bowman, Flight Director, who said there was a Big O planned for us at the terminal. The Big O was a Big Old Party, with more activity, more souvenir give-aways and partying, band playing and speeches. By now, this 86-year-old veteran had all he could take, starting at 3:00 o'clock this morning, so my family and I passed up all these festivities and headed for Valparaiso.
I cannot say enough for Jeff Miller, Bud Day, the Marine Corps League, WSRE, all the sponsors and donators, the guardians and all the people that do the work and never get their names mentioned, all those who made it possible for me and 101 others to make this trip. I was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Glynn Gissendanner was born on 16th of November in 1921 in Chilton County, Alabama. He was one of four children born to John and Lilian Mae. At the age of 18 he entered the Army. His brother Charles would also join the Army some time later and serve in the European Theater. Glynn went into training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After initial training he was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii for advanced training with Light Tanks. He remembers having to go up the Pali and shoot the tank gun at a target being towed out in the Pacific. He had arrived in Hawaii only 14 days after the December 7th attack. He can still remember the devastation in the harbor and can also remember seeing the bullet holes, still unrepaired on the structures around the base. After training he was assigned to the 737th Tank Battalion and placed on a troop ship headed for Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. He landed on the island with the 737th a few days later. After that operation the Pacific Campain had begun to turn in the Americans' favor and he saw no further combat operations. After the war he came home, married Wilma Olive Leak and raised his two twin boys, while working as a TV repairman at McCoys Electric in Chamblee, Georgia. He later was employed by, and retired from, Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia where the family remained for many years. While working at Lockheed he was also a member of the Georgia Air National Guard and retired with the rank of Msgt in 1981.
As with so many young men who joined the armed forces to serve their country during World War II, we were all so naïve when we first encountered combat…but aged very quickly.
Even when I was just a young seventeen year-old in 1944 from a small Iowa farm community of 1500 people—on the way to work in Alaska to work on a government defense project—the civilian ship I as on was attacked by a Japanese submarine near Vancouver, Canada. The Canadian Air Force was called and sunk the submarine. That violent episode was my first introduction to World War II.
Prior to my eighteenth birthday, I enlisted in the Navy, attended radio school at Northwestern University and was sent out to the fleet to serve on APA-16, the J. Franklin Bell. The ship's primary mission was to transport either soldiers or marines into such battles as Adak, Attu, Kiska, Tarawa, Kwajalein (where, coincidentally, I ended up as an air traffic controller for United Airlines after the war), Saipan, Tinian, Leyte and Okinawa. Okinawa was the scene of the final naval battle in the Pacific Theatre and in World War II. As a consequence of the Bell transporting up to 2,000 troops, the ship was always a prime target of the Japanese Navy.
One night we were hunted by a Japanese submarine which got within 1200 yards of the Bell. In evasive maneuvers, we lost 200 miles that night, but we successfully eluded destruction by the enemy.
On another occasion, our ship was surrounded by a large number of Japanese submarines. Once again we escaped—for two reasons: 1) In using their sonar to zero in on our ship, the Japanese kept "pinging" off their own submarines, thus not being able to release their torpedoes and 2) because they could not pin-point the Bell, we were able to break radio silence—an action almost never taken except in an absolute emergency—and thus were able to call in United States destroyer escorts who immediately demolished the Japanese submarines, sending them to the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
During that same trip to Okinawa one of our two engines failed and we were floating close to the island of Truk, an ideal target for an enemy submarine. We were sitting ducks. Our ship was so close to Truk that we could hear both the American and Japanese guns attempting to annihilate each other's forces. Luckily our ship's engine was repaired before the Japanese were able to sink us. Several American destroyer escorts once again protected us.
When we eventually reached Okinawa, where 1,000 Allied ships were in the harbor, the Japanese Air Force attacked in full force. It was total bedlam with American ships and planes attacking the Japanese forces and the enemy retaliating in great force. As frightening as this event was to an eighteen year-old farm boy from Iowa, the attack was also very exciting.
My battle station was in the emergency radio room, which was used only if a kamikaze were to hit and destroy the main radio room. Enthralled by all the excitement of the attack, I sat outside emergency radio and was entranced with the incredible activity of a full-fledged battle…just like in the movies.
With all the noise of bombs exploding, Japanese and American planes shooting at each other, and rockets by the hundreds being released from the shore positions, the noise was deafening.
Inevitably the lack of sleep for three days and nights caught up with me. When I awoke the battle was over. Shortly thereafter the ship hauled anchor and we left for the states.
I turned nineteen the day we left Okinawa—no longer a naïve Iowa farm boy.
My Senior Trip
(Random Thoughts and Fading Memories)
HENRY B. RICHARDS, JR.
May, 1944 was graduation time for our High School Senior Class. The predominate question that evening was "Did you get yours this morning? " Virtually every 18 year old boy, or should I say young man, had received a letter that morning that opened with "Greeting, you have been selected ----".
June 6, 1944 found us on a bus trip to be inducted into the U. S. military. The invasion of Europe had begun on that date, raising the question of whether it would all be over before we became involved. I returned from the induction proceedings as Pvt. Henry B. Richards, Jr., Serial No. 44031700.
Paraphrasing, Captain Caldwell, the Training Company commander, in his last talk with us before our departure, said words to the effect "I know this has been a difficult experience and that you probably hate my guts, but it has been my job to prepare you for what is to come. I hope I have done well. You will soon wish you were back here with all these perceived difficulties. I wish you well and Godspeed." Pvt. 44031700 now had a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 745, Rifleman, Infantry.
Why didn't the Draft Board wait just one day and not put a damper on our graduation exersises?
The troop ship crossing the North Atlantic. The warning not to fall overboard, this ship does not stop. It must continue in a random zig-zag pattern to avoid German submarine attacks. ---- The Red Cross Ladies at the railway stop in Birmingham (not Alabama) with best wishes, hot coffee and doughnuts. --- The sea sickness crossing the English Channel. --- The long, crowded night train ride to an unknown destination in France. --- The stated policy of the U.S. not to send eighteen-year-olds overseas. --- I celebrated my 19th birthday on the front lines in France, complete with fire works. Pvt. 44031700 was now a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 410th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division, 7th Army.
The Ides of March
On March 15, 1945 began what was to be the final assault on Hitler's Third Reich. The date brought to mind the Oracle's warning to Julius Caesar, "Beware the ides of March." We moved out at first light under heavy smoke screen cover and immediately engaged the enemy in what was to be an adventure in total chaos. We took cover in a creek bed, cold and wet but it offered the best protection available. The engagement was brief; there were no casualties. The Company became separated in the heavy smoke; total confusion. Artillery was to mark our forward position with smoke shells for air support, some shells fell short, one so close that I could have touched it. If it had been an explosive shell someone else would be telling this story. As a result of the short markers we were almost strafed by our own air support. The awesome fire power of the P-47's routed the enemy.
The German woman who offered me a cup of warm milk and could not understand why I could not accept it. --- The young mother who wept when we offered her three year old daughter an orange. She said her daughter has never had an orange. I was heartened when she said "You are good people." Not everyone hated us. --- The total devastation that was Mannheim, block after block of bomb craters and skeletal buildings. ----- The elderly couple who stood tearfully consoling each other, silhouetted in the light of their whole world being consumed in flames. --- The plaintive cries of an unseen, apparently wounded, German soldier begging for water and help, growing ever fainter until they mercifully ceased. Our rules of engagement prohibited us from helping him because of possible booby traps. All I could do was say a silent prayer for him.
It was April, and spring was transforming the landscape into a verdant hue. The bright sun and warm breezes lifted our spirits with a hope of better things to come. German resistance was growing less frequent and more sporadic. Our walking tour across southern Europe was becoming less hazardous, almost pleasant. There were times when we could relax, share stories and memories, or have a song fest. Four of us formed an impromptu quartet, not good but enjoyable. John Edward Patrick Murphy, the always jolly little elf from New York; Jim Montpas the Californian who was a fair tenor, but wanted to be a lawyer; William Branscombe , the church organist who confessed that he derived secret pleasure playing obscure Protestant hymns in Catholic mass; and myself. We all had received some musical training; some at the professional level and some in high school bands. Sometime Triolo, the Italian would sit in with us. What is a singing group without an Italian? Triolo and I billed ourselves as the two Southerners. I was from Alabama and he was from South Attleboro, Massachusetts. These are the happy memories, and even though the years and miles have separated us they are still, and always will be, a special small group from my very large band of brothers.
The silence as we walked across a green mountain side was suddenly shattered by the unmistakable sound of a German machine gun. There was no place to take cover; we just pressed our bodies as close to the ground as possible and returned fire as we watched the machine gun mow the grass beside us. Our troops on the flanks were crawling on their bellies in an attempt to position themselves to take out the German gun. That tactic became unnecessary when the burping sound of the very rapid firing German gun abruptly stopped, probably from lack of ammunition. Three or four enemy soldiers surrendered, apparently confident that they would be well treated. They have just killed and wounded a number of our troops, and by waving a white flag our rules of engagement make them untouchable. One fatality was the soldier to my left. We would often try to tell ourselves that the dead were the lucky ones because for them the war was over, knowing in our hearts that it just was not true. It was a psychological device to help us bear the pain of losing a comrade.
I felt compelled to go speak to my fallen comrade, knowing he could not hear me. As I recall I said something like: "Buddy, I don't even know your name, but I am sorry it ended like this for you. I am sure you won't mind if I take your spare ammunition belt. You don't need it anymore, and I might." I then very gently removed his ammunition belt and put it over my shoulder. In parting I said "God bless you. Someone will come soon to take care of you. We have to move on now."
Why him and not me? There are no words to express the emotional experience of a situation in which one realizes that each breath could be his last. --- The German battalion that surrendered en mass without a shot being fired. --- The German horse drawn convoy that had been annihilated – destroyed and burned wagons, dead horses and dead German soldiers all in a grotesque heap that screamed, "Why? My God, why?" There was no answer. --- This horrific scene juxtaposed against the majesty of the Bavarian Alps defies comprehension.
By late April we were deep in the Bavarian Alps as we continued southward. We approached a small village called Ergenbrechtswiller high above the valley near the Austrian border. After an arduous climb up the mountain we entered the village with no resistance. We secured our positions around the perimeter of the town and all was quiet. A few hours after dark all hell broke loose. We were under heavy gunfire from all sides. We were in a house with very thick stone walls. The enemy knew where we were, but we could only fire at their muzzle blasts which kept changing location. The enemy fire sounded like a hail storm on the stone walls. Once, when I leveled my rifle out of the window there was a bright flash from a bullet striking my rifle. There was no real damage to the rifle, but it gives one pause to realize how close it was. The attack continued for what seemed like hours, with one fatality in our house. Our comrade named Martinki was mortally wounded, and there was nothing we could do but endure the excruciating agony of watching and hearing him die.
The situation unbelievably became more desperate. Our artillery could not calculate a trajectory because of the mountainous terrain, and Regimental Headquarters had notified us that they could not send reinforcements until the following morning. We were on our own. The house we were in had the cattle stall and hayloft attached. The young boy in the house had slipped out of the cellar and set fire to the hayloft. Our West Virginia mountain soldier named Moss was closest to the fire and even though it had spread rapidly he was able to extinguish it with his bare hands. He suffered severe, painful burns. Many of us probably owe our lives to him.. We later submitted a recommendation for a Bronze Star award for him which was not approved with the comment that his action was not beyond the call of duty. I am sure he has the scars on his hands to this day. Sometime in the early morning hours the attack stopped, but we remained vigilant.
Next morning a German officer under a white flag and with one of our troops as hostage walked past our position. Our immediate reaction was "Do you want us to shoot the son-of-a-bitch?" Our Sergeant responded "No, they have several of our guys, so we have to go back". A short time later they returned on the way back.
About mid morning our 409th came charging in without a shot. The Germans just seemed to have disappeared, and the siege was over. We later learned that we had been surrounded by five battalions of retreating SS troops; the German SS officer had demanded our surrender and was told no; they had captured nine of our troops, all of whom were eventually returned.
For those who my not know or remember, SS stands for Schutzstaffel (Protective Squadron). These were Hitler's select Aryan pure elite troops who were responsible for the vast majority of atrocities and war crimes in Europe. They were so extremely radical they would choose death preferable to surrender. They were perhaps the most formidable force to be reckoned with in the European Theater.
Again, why him and not me. - Why is extinguishing a fire with your bare hands not beyond the call of duty - What do you do with a 12 or 14 year old who is willing to destroy his house to drive us out? You can't shoot him. - Why did Intelligence not know we were walking into an SS trap
The obvious expression of relief on German POW faces when they learned we were Americans, not Russians.
Innsbruck to Brenner
Innsbruck was the jewel on the Inn River. It was taken without a shot being fired. There was an agreement with the German Command there that the city would be spared if they would surrender. We were welcomed by the citizens as liberators. The German soldiers were still armed, but offered no resistance. It was our job to clear the streets and buildings of armed personnel. A tricky business at best, but all went well. The only near incident I am aware of was when I opened the door to the dining area in an apartment. There sat a young, 15 or 16 year old, German soldier. He was terrified and reflexively reached for his rifle. I shouted the few words of German we had been taught, "Nein! Rouse mit ihnen!" (No. Out with you) Racing through my mind was the plea "Please don't make me kill you" He rose placed his hands on his head and walked into the street to join the POWs. I breathed a sigh of relief. Still not a shot had been fired.
From Innsbruck we continued through the Brenner Pass into northern Italy. Brenner Pass was often mentioned in the U. S. news as a favorite meeting place for Hitler and Mussolini. I never thought that I would ever be there, but there we were. Two or three days after entering Italy we established contact with Units of the 5th Army. This was May 5, 1945. We considered that our mission was accomplished, and this marked the end of the war in Europe. The German High Command formally surrendered on May 8, 1945.
After a few weeks in Innsbruck we were relocated to a very small village called Sautens northwest of Innsbruck. Sautens was an idyllic mountain village where we were again welcomed as liberators. The two months there were very relaxed and pleasant among people who were truly friendly and cooperative.
In July we were moved to a relocation depot, a virtual tent city, on the outskirts of Paris. Conditions there could hardly be considered pleasant, but the week-ends in Paris were most enjoyable. We were simply waiting to be transported to the Pacific Theater in preparation for the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands, a most sobering prospect. I can still see in my mind's eye the P-38 that made a low altitude victory roll over the camp. Just some Air Corps jockey showing off, or so we thought. Then we heard the roar of voices growing louder and closer, THE JAPANESE HAVE SURRENDERED! THE JAPANESE HAVE SURRENDERED! The date was August 14, 1945. We knew then that we were all going home.
The Atlantic crossing, the Les Brown- Doris Day classic recording of Sentimental Journey, the Boston skyline as we entered the port are some of the indelible memories of the return trip. There were a few administrative details to handle and then I was on a southbound train to Alabama. Late one night a taxi stopped at the house where I grew up. There was a joyous, tearful reunion. My Senior Trip was over. PFC 44031700 was home.
There are thousands, perhaps millions, who served much longer and under more traumatic conditions than I. I feel the greatest respect and gratitude toward them. We must never forget the more than 400,000 who never returned. We owe them a debt that can never be paid. My intent in this piece was to convey some feeling of what the combat experience is like. I hope I have succeeded. General William T. Sherman is credited with the statement, "War is hell". Only those who have been there can fully appreciate the profound truth of this simple statement.
November 1942 reported to St. Marys for boot camp
Feb 2, 43 First training flight at Livermore with Ens. Cody
Feb 10, 43 First Solo flight in a N25-3
Mar 18, 43 First Instrument Flight with Ens Trussell
Apr 19, 43 First flight in an SNV-1 at Corpus Christi, Texas
Apr 26, 43 First instrument flight in a SNV-1 with Ens Bryant
Apr 26, 43 First solo instrument flight
Jul 24, 43 ReceivedNaval Aviator wings and commission in the USMC as a Second Lt.
Aug, 43 Flew 41.5 hours in SNJ's at U.S.N.A.S Miami
Sept 7, 43 Flew an F2-A and then flew it again on 9th and 11th
Oct 19 and 22 Flew a PV-1 at Cherry Point, N.C. assigned to the HQSQ 53, FMF
Nov 28 and 30 Made three flights in a SBD-5 and in December made two more flights in SBD-5
Dec 7, 43 Made my first flight in an F6F-3N
Nov 1943 assigned as one of six pilots to the new VMF (N) 533 night fighter squadron. Col M.M Magruder was new C.O.
January and February 1944 Flew new F6F's to Quantico to have radar units installed and then flew them back to Cherry Point until all 15 of our planes had been handled.
March 31, 44 Squadron flew from Cherry Point to Atlanta and to Shreveport, April 1st we flew to Abilene to El Paso on 2nd to Tuscon, to El Centro on 3rd to North Island to have our planes loaded on to the Jeep Carrier, the Long Island for our trip to the South Pacific.
On May 10, I was second pilot catapulted from the USS Long Island with landing on Eniwetok. I was wing man for Col. Magurder the first one off.
From May 20 to 31st I flew my first eight Combat Air Patrol flights at night.
On October 3, I flew Col Straub from Eniwetok to Engebi and return in one of our single seat F6F's that had been rigged with a jump seat for a passenger (Mechanic to check radar in air done by Major Hutchinson a good engineer from Georgia Tech)
June-13, July-11, Aug-12, Sep-6, Oct-8, Nov-1, Dec-3, Jan-5, Feb-9, Mar-6, Apr-1, May-1. I had a total of 106 Combat Air Patrol flights from Eniwetok and then I had 19 more Combat air patrol flights plus one air strike while at Okinawa.
On May 7, 1945 our Squadron consisting of 15 planes took off from Engebi and flew to Saipan (1004 Nautical Miles) and then on the 8th from Saipan Iwo Jima and then on the 10th from Iwo Jima to Okinawa. This flight was made with 15 F6F's and with R5C escorts. This was the longest flight over water by a squadron in a single engine military aircraft. We all had 150 gallon belly tanks on this flight and had to fly at the speed of the slowest plane doing 1650 rpms. When we were half way from Engebi to Saipan, our R5C escort pilot advised us of that fact and in about 5 more minutes he advised us that we had just reached the point of no return.
On May 14 the first Japanese plane was shot down by a VMF-N 533 pilot and this number through June rose to 30 radar kills by members of this squadron without an operational loss. This was the night fighter record for enemy planes shot down by a single squadron. Every opportunity to shoot down an enemy plane resulted in a kill, not one miss. You just had to be in the right place at the right time. One of our pilots, Frank Baird shot down a Francis on June 21 to make him the First Night Fighter Ace.
On June 20, 1945 the opportunity to drop some bombs on the small southern island of Kikaiga and Lt Still and Lt. Straub held up their hands for the job. We flew an F6F with a 150 gallon belly tank, had a 500 lb. bomb hung on each wing and had 6 5-inch rockets under the wings. We were advised that no plane had ever attempted to take off with kind of a load and that to play it safe we should start using wing flaps when we were approaching the end of the runway. I think we were at service ceiling when we took off because we used full climbing power all the way to the target island and never did reach the 10,000 feet that we were advised to use as a minimum before dropping out bombs. We dropped them and did not stick around to see the results of our efforts.
Overall it (the first Honor Flight) was an unforgettable time I'm sure will be always remembered. Many contributed to this event but if I had to choose, my choice would have been the guides who never stopped attending us all day. A better name for them would be "guardian angels." They reminded me of that super-charged pink bunny!
My experience in the Coast Guard was varied. In the North Atlantic and equipped as a raider, we hunted subs; in the Pacific re-done into an oil tanker, we tried to avoid them. Lucky for us, we did.
Again, bless all who made this our "last hurrah!"
I was attending Auburn University, back when it was known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute when recruiters from the Army Air Corps came to the school to recruit for candidates for pilot training. I eagerly signed on for training and attended bomber pilot school in Columbus, Mississippi. Nine of us graduated with the distinction of twin engine fighter pilot. The Army Air Corps told us we received that rating because we didn't like to fly straight and level, instead preferring rolls and upside down flying. During this phase of World War II (1942-1943) a significant number of our bombers were getting shot down so our whole squadron was sent to Salt Lake City where they were building a pool of pilots and crew members. This was where I first met our six crew members and we were transferred to a B-17 bomber training school in Ardmore, Oklahoma where we met the remaining three officers in our crew. After training a few months, we transferred to England to the 95th Bomb Group and the 336 Bomb Squadron. On the mission we got shot down, our target was in Leipzig, Germany. We were shot down by flak. We had two engines shot out and the bomb bay was damaged. We released our remaining bombs after two passes over the target in an attempt to stay airborne. We slowly made our way back to Holland at 7,700 feet at 110 miles per hour but we ran out of fuel before we could reach a friendly destination. Interestingly, we had some remaining fuel but our fuel transfer system was blown out of our plane along with the bomb bay. After I bailed out and once on the ground, I evaded for a short time in the underground. However, I was captured wearing civilian clothes by the Gestopo and SS and, as a result, was put in the Belsen Concentration Camp (now know as Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp). A German pilot came in with Hopwood, our radio operator who was still in his uniform and injured. Hopwood identified me as his pilot so the German Pilot reached down, while I lay beaten on the dirt floor, and patted me on the back and said, "Everything will be alright. I'm going to get you two out of here." I passed out after that, but I feel certain that he never allowed anyone else to beat me again. We could hear him shouting from downstairs and I later asked him what he was saying. I was told that he told my guards that they had better fix us a bed to lie down on and that we were his prisoners, not theirs. Either that same day or the next, we were put on a train with the German pilot and were taken to Frankfort, where he told us we would be interrogated. He told us that the Geneva Convention required only that we respond with our name, rank and serial number. Of course, we were already aware of that requirement. He told us the Gestapo told him that up to that point I had, in fact, only provided my name, rank and serial number. After the interrogation I lost track of Hopwood and never knew where they sent him. After nearly a week on bread and water, I was sent from Stalag Luft III on the other side of Berlin in Sagan, Germany (East-Southeast of Berlin), to the Center Compound where we were later joined by General Vanaman. General Vanaman was the Air Attache to Germany before the War so all the senior German Officers knew him. General Goehring and a few other high level Nazis came to visit him but he would only ask them to leave. After a few months there, the Russian Army got close so the Germans marched us across Germany to Stalag 7 at Mooseburg, Germany. After a few months we were liberated by General Patton's 3rd Army. This is the same prison camp mentioned in the story written in Stars and Stripes about the Candy Bomber, with me having dropped candy after the Berlin Airlift (Vittles Operation). There was a book written a few years ago with one individual claiming to be the 'Candy Bomber' but in reality, there were several of us. This was after my transfer to US Airforce Europe (USAFE) Headquarters, Weisbaden, Germany. I was stationed at Fasburg, Germany in North part of the country not too far from where the Belsen Concentration Camp was located, and rather than returning to the US like everyone else, I was requested to be transferred to Weisbaden. The reason I came back to Germany is that, following the end of the war, I became a test pilot and volunteered to go back to Germany and fly during the Berlin Airlift.
Edwin Weston Horton Jr.
"Helping to Change America: Tuskegee Airmen"
Born in Hattisburg, Mississippi on June 23, 1918 to Murray and Eunice Williams, Arthur Williams dropped out of high school to help care for his family. He eventually took a job at the St. Joe Paper Company. When the war broke out, Williams volunteered to serve in the military, hoping for the opportunity to become a pilot as a part of the Tuskegee Airmen. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. During his Army physical, it was determined that Williams was color-blind, disqualifying him for the chance to learn to fly. "I had to pick another occupation, so I chose aircraft mechanic," Williams remembers. "I really didn't know what I was signing up for. You had to pick something, so that's what I picked." It was an occupation that Williams excelled at, graduating the first in his class – in a class of 600 – in the Army Air Corps Mechanics Training School at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1943.
Arthur Williams became a part of the Tuskegee Airmen, serving as a prized mechanic, one of about one million black servicemen in WWII. From 1942 until 1946, nearly 1,000 pilots, as well as mechanics, bombardiers, navigators, gunnery crews and administrators trained at Tuskegee Army Field in Alabama. In 1943, Williams enlisted with the 332nd Fighter Group also known as the "Redtails." Williams served as a mechanic at Tuskegee at the school that was founded to determine whether blacks, who were largely assigned to menial positions in the military, could perform as combat pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen, at a time when there were many people thought that black men lacked the intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism to be military pilots. The young men who became a part of the Tuskegee Airmen knew that they would be fighting these racial stereotypes as well as the bigotry and discrimination that faced people of African-American heritage during those years.
"Tuskegee was started because the black organizations were demanding that they teach blacks how to fly," Williams states. "Tuskegee was actually established to prove that blacks could not fly. We knew we had to prove that we could fly – and not just do it well but excel at it. The Tuskegee pilots were so good that the Germans were very afraid of them. The Germans called them the 'Black Devils.' At Tuskegee, we had a saying: 'Do it right the first time.' That's how we operated – we did whatever we were required to do, we went above and beyond the call of duty, we did it with pride and we did it right the first time."
"I was proud to be a Tuskegee Airmen because it was a turning point in my life," Williams proudly states. He learned a craft that would later become his life-long career. And he met and married his wife, Ella Louise, in Tuskegee and later became the father of son Charles. "I really enjoyed my military career. I worked on B-25s. I loved to work on airplanes. Williams remembers. "I'd work day and night. I just loved to work on airplanes." We would get up in the morning, start the airplanes up, check everything out, fix anything that wasn't working properly, run the engines – everything you have to do to preflight an aircraft and make sure that it is ready to go and safe to fly." Williams also realized that the work that he and the other mechanics performed was crucial to the Tuskegee pilots who flew the planes they worked on. "We had their lives in our hands," Williams states. "So we made sure that our work was the best – we made sure we did it right the first time."
Williams is humble about his place in history as a part of the Tuskegee Airmen. "When I was doing it, I wasn't thinking much about making history," he said. "Other people kind of thought of it as making history. I was just being Arthur Williams. I was just being me." Yet Williams does recognize that the Tuskegee Airmen helped to tear down racial stereotypes and discrimination. "Tuskegee didn't only change my life," said Williams. "It helped to change America."
The Tuskegee Airmen set out to prove that they were equal to the tasks assigned to them, and they did just that. Not only were they prove they were capable of flying, they performed admirably and proved their skills with an impressive combat record during WWII, including:
• Over 15,000 combat sorties
• 111 German airplanes destroyed in the air
• 150 German aircraft destroyed on the ground
• 950 railcars, trucks, and other motor vehicles destroyed
• 1 destroyer sunk by P-47 machine gun fire
• Sixty-six pilots killed in action or accidents
• Thirty-two pilots downed and captured, POWs
• NO bombers were ever lost to enemy aircraft while being escorted
• 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses earned
• 744 Air Medals
• 8 Purple Hearts
• 14 Bronze Stars
After the war ended, Williams went on to receive an honorable discharge and returned to school, earning his general equivalency diploma and an associate degree from Pensacola State College. He went on to work at the Aircraft Rework Facility at Pensacola Naval Air Station as a mechanic and later became the first black man promoted to production supervisor at Pensacola NAS. Mr. Williams also became a licensed real estate broker and worked with the NAACP for many years, continuing to help fight racial prejudice and bigotry.
In the spring of 2007, Congress awarded the Tuskegee Airmen one of the nation's highest honors – the Congressional Gold Medal - in a ceremony in Washington D.C. President Bush and Congress awarded one of the nation's highest honors to the Tuskegee Airmen for fighting to defend their country during WWII even as they faced bigotry at home. "For all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities, I salute you for your service to the United States of America," President Bush told the 300 Tuskegee Airmen, standing in salute as about 300 of the famed men returned the gesture. Retired Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell also attended the ceremony and addressed the airmen for paving the way for the opportunities he was experienced in his career. "You caused America to look in the mirror of its soul, and you showed America that there was nothing that a black person couldn't do," said Powell.
Like the remaining living Tuskegee Airmen, Williams believes that this recognition was long overdue. "Most of those who earned this medal are now gone," Williams said. "It should have been awarded a long time ago so that hundreds and hundreds more could have received this honor. But it is never too late to do something right."
Unfortunately, Williams did not learn about the ceremony in Washington D.C. until after it had occurred. John Croft, whose late father attended the Army Air Corps Mechanics Training School in Nebraska with Williams, learned that Williams had not received his medal and helped secure the congressional medal for the former Tuskegee Airman. "Mr. Williams, serving as a Tuskegee Airman, was in part responsible for my father coming back home alive," said Croft, whose father flew combat missions during World War II. "I'm glad that I could help Mr. Williams receive this honor."
Just as President Bush did when he presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen in the Capitol Rotunda, U.S. Representative Jeff Miller thanked Williams for his service to our country and said, "I salute you, Mr. Williams, on behalf of a grateful nation. The recognition of these African American pilots, mechanics, bombardiers and navigators was long overdue, and I'm humbled to be a part of this
much-deserved and certainly belated recognition," said Miller.
"This is a very important honor and I feel great about receiving it," Williams said. "When I was told that I was going to receive a Gold Congressional Medal, it was a proud moment in my life because basically I had my son and my grandchildren there with me. I wanted to be a standard for them to live up to, to always do their best. So, for my children and grandchildren to see this ceremony, for my grandsons to see their granddaddy receive this medal…." Williams said, tears welling in his eyes and his voice chocking with emotion, "I could finally show them what I've been talking about all this time. I think they felt real proud."
ARTHUR LEONARD WILLIAMS
1918 - 2010
The sun rose on June 23, 1918, in Hattiesburg, Miss., for Arthur Leonard Williams. Mr. Williams was the second child born to the late Murray and Eunice Williams. Mr. Williams was called home to his eternal rest on January 29, 2010. He was 91. Before the sun set on his life, Mr. Williams blazed a path for others to follow. He joined the Army Air Corp in 1942 and served in World War II as a highly regarded and celebrated Tuskegee Airman. After his military service, Mr. Williams in 1963 became the first African-American supervisor at the Pensacola Naval Air Station Reworks facility. He later earned an Associate in Arts degree from Pensacola State College and became a licensed real estate broker. Mr. Williams was a longtime member of Mount Zion Baptist Church and sang bass in the male choir. In 2007, Mr. Williams received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his service with the Tuskegee Airmen. In 2009, Mr. Williams was personally invited to Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. At the ripe young age of 87, Mr. Williams graced billboards around the city of Pensacola for the YMCA, promoting the idea that a person is never too young or too old to stay physically fit. Mr. Williams was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Ella Louise Williams. He is survived by a son, Charles Williams; three sisters, Pearlie Williams, Addie Straughn and Bernice (Edward) Scott; one brother, Grady (Jean) Williams; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. Because of a life filled with love, generosity and passion for his family, Mr. Williams was affectionately known as "Uncle Williams." The family would like to thank the American Legion Post 193, the Cobb Recreation Center and the Apollo Club for the many joyous occasions he enjoyed at their facilities. One of his favorite enjoyments was playing Pinochle.