8:07 | 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
A ferocious firefight in the Iron Triangle, as the 3rd Infantry holds the line in a broad front-line offensive. The battle becomes a textbook example of the effectiveness of intense firepower against overwhelming forces.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
The day he received his master's degree from Texas A&M, Roy Dugger found orders in his mailbox recalling him from the reserve to active duty. North Korea had moved on the South. Assigned as a forward observer, he had to go ashore and spot targets for the big naval guns. His career at this was very short. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Roy Dugger, blessed with a long career in the Navy and as an educator, reveals his thoughts on the three wars of his lifetime. He laments that we ever got involved in Vietnam and he greatly regrets not winning the Korean War. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After the treaty had been signed, Harold Maples and his regiment were responsible for setting up a no man's land. In processing enemy soldiers, he found that the brutal Korean winters were equally hard on the North Koreans and Chinese, who were barely equipped to handle them.
After his recovery from a serious wound, Roy Dugger spent the rest of the Korean War ashore in Pearl Harbor. His education background made him perfect for the administrative job with the 14th Naval District. He had to decline a commission because he would have made less money than he did as a Chief Petty Officer. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
While fighting in the Chosin Reservoir, Martin Overholt and his regiment faced steady fire from the Chinese. Facing combat brings out the toughest instincts in a soldier, which Overholt experienced firsthand.
After arriving in Koto-ri, Martin Overholt and his regiment were forced to bury a large group of their fellow soldiers after they become too difficult transport. After a long stint out in combat, they left there to their evacuation point of Hungnam. After getting new replacements, the 1st Marine Division was sent back out into the fighting. (Part 2)
Growing up splitting time between China and the United States, Martin Overholt decided to join the Marine Corps in the hoped of being able to travel more. While fighting in Korea, he sometimes had to fight against the Chinese, which felt strange since he had grown up with them.
After contracting a deadly illness, Gene Owen is saved by an observant medic and sent to a military hospital in Yeongdeungpo, where he is diagnosed with hemorrhagic fever. Soon after, he is rotated back home, reunites with his family, and returns to school. For Gene's actions in Korea, he was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.
Canadian soldier Ralph McKay describes the attempts by the enemy in Korea to overrun his position. He still used his British single shot rifle, but many had traded with the Americans for better weapons. The men were ecstatic over the peace agreement, but they had to stay in country until their 14 month tour was up. At least no one was shooting at them.
When the snow finally melted along the front line in Korea, there was a grisly discovery along the supply path. There were also rats. Lots of them, big ones. Jim Walsh talks about the rats and other, little known aspects of life on the line.
Gene Owen wakes up alone in his foxhole to discover the Chinese Army marching into a hot zone where they faced an awesome display of US firepower. The scene is reminiscent of a Basic Training exercise known as The Mad Minute.