10:23 | It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
They told Clyde Burnette that if he enlisted instead of waiting for the draft, he could pick his specialty school. He held out for aircraft maintenance school while they tried to make him accept others, and was soon training as an engineer and gunner on heavy bombers.
The score from the color-coded bullet hits on the target showed he had no hits, until they found out the scorer was color blind, recalls B-24 gunner Clyde Burnette. He was on a model crew, held back to wait on new aircraft, but the men got tired of waiting and volunteered for combat. It got his attention when he was designated a ball turret gunner, yet never saw a ball turret in training, even as he arrived in England.
The ball turret was "the worst torture chamber ever," according to Clyde Burnette. He was very happy when the bombing mission didn't call for it and he could man a waist gun instead. Wherever he was positioned in the plane, it was cold, so cold that layer upon layer of clothing was necessary.
On his first bombing mission, B-24 Gunner Clyde Burnette saw another aircraft explode in mid-air. One man got out but his parachute was in flames. It was a sobering introduction to combat. He recounts some other close calls, including the time they had to return with a payload of special 2,000 pound Blockbusters and broken landing gear.
B-24 crew member Clyde Burnette walks us through a typical mission for the airmen stationed in England and flying missions against Nazi targets. It took an incredibly complex ballet of men and machines just to get hundreds and sometimes thousands of aircraft in formation to start the mission.
Captured airman Clyde Burnette says his German interrogator spoke better English than he did and already had a complete dossier on him. He kept quiet and was soon in a prison camp where all anyone could think about was food and the lack of it. There were hi-jinks, like throwing rocks at the commandant's plane, disappearing infantry, and the sergeant who was really a doctor.
In the prison camp, Clyde Burnette only saw one American shot by the guards, a man who snapped and started climbing the wire. In the infirmary, a Yugoslav prisoner invited him along on an escape, but Burnette had to return to the general population and he missed his chance to try to make it to Italy, where his brother was posted. The camp was Stalag 17B and it became famous after the war when a prisoner wrote the story which became a well known Hollywood film.
The Red Cross parcels were supposed to augment the food provided by the Germans but it became the primary food source for the American airmen in Stalag 17B. Clyde Burnette describes how they kept distracted from the hunger, including making some homemade booze from raisins and holding rat races in the barracks. When a prisoner stole food from another, the punishment was harsh and memorable.
When the guns of the approaching Russians could be heard, the German guards emptied the prison camp and marched the allied prisoners westward across Austria. Clyde Burnette waited in the woods where they were left by the guards until a lone American tank rumbled up.
Liberated and well fed once again, ex-POW Clyde Burnette tried to return to the States with his unit, but his records were gone when he got to England so he had to wait. He had a space on the Queen Mary, but was bumped by officers so he wound up crossing the Atlantic on an LST. A small reward was once again getting billeted in a hotel in Miami Beach.
The mission was photo reconnaissance and Clyde Burnette maintained the modified F-51's that flew the daily flights over North Korea. It was a miserable place to work, he recalls, as they had to maintain the aircraft with no hangars or sheds, just tents for shelter.
Continuing his Air Force career after the war in Europe, Clyde Burnette became a flight engineer ferrying retired aircraft. After a short discharge and reenlistment, he served in the Berlin Airlift. When they asked for a position check on one flight near the East German border, they didn't get a position but they were told to immediately make a 180 degree turn.
After serving in World War II and the Korean War, Clyde Burnette was stationed in the Philippines as the Vietnam War began to heat up. He nearly got sent there but returned to the States to finish his career which included prepping aircraft for possible use in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughn and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
He'd passed the flying exam but Don Ogden was so tired that he began stammering and he was rejected. Determined to fly in combat, he became a gunner and in a strange turn of events, his tendency towards air sickness would actually save his life.
The brand new carrier USS Shangri-La carried out an attack on Tokyo, then participated in the Okinawa invasion, and then returned to attack Tokyo again. Curt Beckham was a mess cook on the ship and he had a battle station as well, down in the ammunition room.
Clyne Veal talks about the role of the USS Emmons after the Normandy invasion, during which time they conducted sub patrols in the N. Atlantic and then headed for the Mediterranean. The Emmons finally ended up at the invasion of Okinawa where the ship came under attack from kamikazes and was sunk after being struck 5 times.
The ending of the war resulted in everyone going back home except Leonard Meyer. He was ordered to gather all the supplies and turn them in to the quartermaster. After completing his order, he saw three Filipino girls with absolutely nothing, so he gave them two torn blankets and some K-rations. Moments later, two MPs came by to arrest him for the improper distribution of government property.
Robert Gibbs only used his Georgia Tech engineering degree for two months before he was called up. He was already an ensign in the Navy, thanks to ROTC. There was a feeling that war was coming, he remembers, and when it did come, he was on a destroyer in the Caribbean, which was a hunting ground for German submarines.
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao remembers how homesick the young Americans were, sent to the Chinese front from their farms back home. But they got to rotate out after 24 missions while the Chinese got no reprieve from the fight for their homeland.
Curt Beckham tells what it's like to ride out a typhoon with a Navy fleet. Besides that ordeal, he also was sunburned to a crisp on R&R and, because it would have gone on his record, was unwilling to report it and get treatment. Another time, he and his buddy had a bright idea about a cooler place to sleep up on the flight deck.
Former WWII Chinese fighter pilot Fred Chiao was recruited by Col. Ed Rector to help build a new Chinese Air Force on Taiwan. Regional politics ensued as President Marcos used Clark Air Force Base as a bargaining chip with Washington.
Thanks to ROTC, Lyman Taylor already knew how to drill when he got to Navy boot camp in 1943. When he was done there, he was assigned to a specialty school where he learned cryptography. The discipline was so new, he was classified as an electrician, right down to the shoulder patch.
Grover McMichael joined the Navy in 1942 just ahead of getting drafted and was assigned to the USS Emmons, a destroyer. After a short time patrolling the North Atlantic, the ship was reassigned to duty in the Mediterranean, where the convoy sunk a submarine. In May 1944, the order came to head for England to take part in an unnamed assault.
After the surrender, Edgar Dunlap was part of the occupying force sent to Japan. On the way to Okinawa, the ship he was on got caught in a typhoon. After several hours of rough seas, the ship finally made port in Nagasaki, Japan where the radiation levels were too high for the men to get off the ship.
As a special treat, some actresses came to Biak to put on a show for the enlisted men. All the lights were turned off except the klieg lights. Around 8:30 that night, the show had started and a lone Japanese bomber saw the lights. He approached the airstrip and bombed it.
Eric Holmes talks about his training journey, which took him to Mississippi, Texas, Utah, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wales and Britain. These stops were where he and other members of his crew trained to fly bombers.
A Marine doesn't like to say he retreated, but they didn't have enough men, so the word came to withdraw back toward the beach. Braswell Deen was out ahead of most of the unit. In his book, "Trial By Combat," he credits the medic, Bill Jenkins, with saving his life. Jenkins told the others there were men out there, and under heavy fire, crawled up to pass the word.
The Japanese, just 50 feet above Jim Tysinger's head, flew past him and bombed one of the nearby ships, barely missing him. There was also a major attack coming from the north of them. It was the last big raid and around 100 Japanese fighters were ready. Fortunately for Jim, this time everyone was prepared and took down all the Japanese fighters.
During Meyer’s free time he began his own newspaper. He would extract articles from the Army's newspaper "Stars and Stripes," and also put in stories that the troops would give him. Leonard also discusses other events that took place, such as the Lieutenant who didn't use good judgment about a plane's weight limit, a world famous rescue from the jungles of New Guinea, and the time he saw his brother in the Philippines.
They were getting a much needed break, but then the word came, "Don't get off the trucks." The Battle of the Bulge had broken out and Bob Welch's artillery unit rushed its howitzers back to the action. After prevailing there, they pushed on to Czechoslovakia where he did a little shopping.
Returning to America after years as a POW in the Philippines, Bert Schwarz returned to the textile industry, then took a government position in Japan, where he was wooed to work for the most prestigious Japanese textile firm. He underwent a very substantial change in attitude about his former enemies.
The Russians had liberated them but when they were told they were going to Russia, the answer from the GI's was swift, "No way!" An American convoy caused the Russians to back off and the destination became Camp Lucky Strike and then, the Statue of Liberty.
His father said that if you join the Army, you'll be cannon fodder and if you join the Navy, you'll be shark bait. Braswell Deen went for the Marines and became both. After boot camp he sailed for the island of Pavuvu where he trained further with his squad leader Joe Daly and his fire team leader Bill Thompson.
Jimmy Adams, a C-54 and C-109 pilot, talks about flying missions over "The Hump" in Southeast Asia during World War II delivering cargo. He describes the complications inherent to flying such a treacherous route, recalls how he once survived a Japanese Zero attack, and remembers the types of cargo he delivered.