5:58 | Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Keywords : Jack Houston Okinawa Japanese Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) machine gun Naval gunfire smokeless powder muzzle flash
Jack Houston tried to enlist in the Navy after all his friends from school had left. His parents quashed that because he was only 16, but they promised to sign for him when he graduated high school. In December of 1943, he enlisted in the Marines and headed for Parris Island, where he shattered the M1 record on the rifle range. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The battle for Guadalcanal was long over when Jack Houston arrived. Even the mosquitoes had been defeated. After training in the jungle and in a mock village, he headed to Okinawa with the 22nd Marines. They were amazed at the lack of resistance when they landed and moved north. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines were way ahead of schedule moving through the northern end of Okinawa. Jack Houston found out that the rear was more dangerous than the front when his buddy fled the aid station back at the beach. He watched two ragged Japanese planes tangle with a Hellcat and a Corsair. He cheered when one was shot down but there was some bad news with that. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the northern part of Okinawa was secured, the Marines of the 22nd Regiment moved south. Jack Houston was sent to be point man for the whole division and he was given two flares. Red if he found nothing, green if he found the enemy. Warily he moved out. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines moved out with tanks and infantry and got shot all to hell, so they advanced to the rear. The same thing happened the next day and Jack Houston barely made it back. That's when he saw the bullet holes in his sleeves. His rifle was broken so he had to improvise. Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Normally, there would have been two Marines to a foxhole, but the 22nd had lost so many that most men were alone. Jack Houston remembers getting no sleep that long, Okinawa night because of the falling parachute flare casings landing all around him. When he moved out the next day, a bullet cracked past his ear, which caused him to begin a bad habit. Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was part of an ad hoc group of Marines from several hard hit units on Okinawa. He was worried because a major was talking kind of funny. It sounded like he wanted them to move on a hill at night, which was not standard procedure in the Marines. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After three days of hellish fighting on Okinawa, Jack Houston heard someone yell that the 22nd Marines were relieved. He had just narrowly missed being killed by a mortar shell and, when he started back to the rear, everything seemed in slow motion. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the hard fought battle for Okinawa, Jack Houston's unit had some easy duty in China, transferring prisoners and guarding an airfield. He had a curious encounter with a Chinese officer who regaled him with Communist dogma. Then, interlopers from the Navy messed up his shopping in the local market. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was finally heading home from the Pacific. A Humphrey Bogart picture was playing on deck when a fire broke out and the confused crew reacted to the soundtrack. He wasn't yet done with danger, even on the train ride across the States. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
He was there when Dachau was liberated, but a more emotional experience for Howard Margol occurred on a convoy of several thousand Jewish camp survivors being taken to luxury resorts high in the Austrian Alps. Even though they were only 20 minutes away from their destination, it was sundown on Friday and they all got out and sat down on the side of the road.
The new B-17 crews crossed the Atlantic but there was still more training to be done before they could start their missions. They had to fly in formation and that was very tricky, according to radio operator Don Scott. With that skill mastered, the bombing began.
Don Ogden was actually relieved to be in the hands of German guards after months of mistreatment by his Hungarian captors. When he got to the prison camp in Poland, he witnessed a bizarre accident during latrine cleaning and the even more bizarre sight of German guards killing their own.
After the interrogation, Don Scott never saw his crew mates again. In fact, when he got to the Stalag, he was assigned to a barracks full of British prisoners. He became very good friends with the British and way too familiar with potatoes, and black bread.
Moving toward Rome, Al Brown knew his brother's unit was nearby, and for an awful moment, he thought he had found him mortally wounded on the battle field. He never found his brother but a mortar round nearly found him.
The war was nearly over but the Russian Army was approaching from the East, so Don Scott and the rest of the POW's from Stalag Luft 4 had to hit the road on a forced march. He wasn't doing too bad until his British hobnail boots rubbed his heels raw on the cobblestones. They healed while time ran out for the Germans.
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.
Don Scott explains why he celebrates the second day of May every year. It was that day in 1945 when British soldiers found him on the road in a forced march of Allied prisoners. The guards had fled and soon there were happy men walking west toward relief.
One of B.E. Vaughan's shipmates on the O'Brien went over the hill as they prepared to head to the Pacific, sure that he wouldn't make it back. He walked up the gangplank in Hawaii, though, after a change of heart. In one of their first Pacific actions, they came to the rescue of the USS Ward, whose captain had fired the first shot of the war an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began.
Don Scott's fateful mission started out badly for him at his radio operator's position. As soon as the B-17 was aloft, his first duty was to power up the classified identification unit, which had a self destruct charge. The charge went off causing a minor fire. They pressed on to the target and successfully dropped their payload and then came the flak. Part 1 of 3.
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 atomic bombs had ended the war and B.E.Vaughan had the experience he'd hoped for, sailing into Tokyo Bay in dress blues. The things he'd seen haunt him to this day and he wonders how it was that he lived and others died. He recalls the moment when, as a typhoon bore down on his ship, he decided he was ready to die and it was OK.
There was a tremendous need for B-17 crews and this led to Don Scott being drafted right out of his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. His first training stop was Miami Beach where he was billeted in a hotel right on the beach. That was very nice but the next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He didn't mind a bit since it was the radio school he wanted.
Serving occupation duty in Salzburg, Austria, Howard Margol's unit was stationed at a large displaced persons camp. Each soldier had to take ten German prisoners into the woods on firewood detail. This led to an ironic situation when a prisoner escaped from one of the crews, though it wasn't the one you might think.