8:01 | 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.
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.
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.
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.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
Newly transferred from the Army into the Air Force, Bob Seeley's rapid promotion ruffled some feathers. When his commanding officer was transferred to Germany, he went with him. During this time, he helped General Eisenhower locate the site of a peculiar memory from World War I.
He could not believe how much tax was withheld from his first paycheck, so Bob Seeley went back into the Army. He began driving generals around once it was discovered he could manage the prickly personalities. He so impressed a visiting Air Force general, he was invited into a B-17 cockpit and transferred to the Air Force to serve on the general's staff.
The battle at the Rumaila oil field came during a cease fire. Chuck Ware was directing a small group of tanks and supporting vehicles moving to investigate an Iraqi armored formation right in front of them. What he saw was that his unit was greatly outnumbered and his flanks were exposed.
As the driver for the Supreme Allied Commander in Cold War Europe, Bob Seeley met some interesting people, including the Duke of Windsor, who played golf with his boss. When the new ambassador to France arrived, he turned out to be a former commanding officer.
After his son was born, Bob Seeley returned from his posting in Europe and settled into Washington with a job at the Pentagon as 1st Sergeant with the Pentagon Squadron. One of their responsibilities was ceremonial parades and no one told him that these were graded. No problem.
What did not work right in Iraq? Battalion commander Chuck Ware has a list. The sand was insidious, getting into every crevice of every piece of gear. There were vast quantities of supplies, but no one knew where anything was in a sea of unmarked CONEX containers, including food and vital parts. Anti-aircraft gunners were operating as road guards, everyone was in chemical suits, and the .45 ammo didn't work.
Patrick Sauer recalls some of the differences between the American medical system and the one they implemented in South Korea. After Korea, he stayed busy working in the States as an U.S. Army Recruiting Command seeking out medical recruits.
There are things you don't think about until you are there. Mechanized battalion commander Chuck Ware scrambled to get his tanks and other vehicles fueled out in the desert. The battles were fought at night and American thermal imaging technology gave them a big advantage.
Chuck Ware was selected for battalion command, but he deployed to Iraq as an Inspector General for General Barry McCaffrey. He soon had his battalion and was a little unnerved to find out that there were forty Lieutenant Colonels in the rear as replacements for battalion commanders who were killed. Saddam Hussein had been built up to be almost formidable.
Zach Pena remembers some of the most inventive IEDs that his platoon came across as they patrolled the Afghan desert. After one particularly hairy encounter in the desert, his platoon had to secure the area and make it back to safety.
Vietnam forced a great change in Army training and operations. Conditions and equipment were upgraded and the quality of the soldiers improved with the advent of the all volunteer force. Chuck Ware was stationed in Cold War Germany when the new attitude swept in.
On his way out of Iraq, Chuck Ware passed under a black sky filled with smoke from the burning Rumaila Oil Field. No one thought that it was over. The other shoe must drop. He recounts a story about General Barry McCaffrey accepting the surrender of a ditch full of Iraqis, and he talks about the period of adjustment once he returned to Fort Stewart.
During an extended mission, Dan Brogan and his battalion came across all sorts of enemy combatants as they patrolled the desert. After a particularly hairy encounter, they joined up with another battalion to stay safe against potential threats.
The war simulations were easy after participating in an actual war. That's what Chuck Ware realized when he returned from the desert. He retired as the Deputy Commandant of the War College and then worked as a contractor in the Pentagon, where he never had duty during his long career.