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 became known as the Turkey Shoot because of the incredible numbers of downed Japanese planes. That was the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the next battle, Leyte Gulf, broke the back of the Japanese in the South Pacific. Radioman Turner Harris credits the American Hellcat pilots with his survival in those battles.
It was late night guard duty and Herman Buffington heard something. Then he saw a figure crouched in the brush. When the next flare went up, he sighted and fired. The figure didn't move so he shot him again. When he found out why there was no reaction, all he could do was laugh. He did get a souvenir out of the encounter, a silk Japanese flag.
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.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan 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 man had been shot up pretty bad, remembers Herman Buffington, who carried him back to the camp. All the way the wounded soldier had pleaded with him to leave him there, but once safe in a foxhole, he wouldn't let go of Buffington's hand, even when the medics prepared to evacuate him.
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.
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.
Herman Buffington was hunkered down in his foxhole on Okinawa when a mortar round hit close by and a piece of red hot shrapnel tore through his leg. It sounded like bacon frying, but a medic got the bleeding stopped and he was going to be OK. He refused the morphine because he was already exhausted and didn't want anyone else to tend to his tourniquet.
They were trying to take a ridge on Okinawa where the Japanese had dug trenches and the persistent Americans tried repeatedly to take the position. Herman Buffington got close enough to vault over into a trench where he used the old helmet-on-a-bayonet trick to judge the enemy fire. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in this firefight.
Two planes roared right across the bow of the ship. "Those are Jap planes," said Turner Harris, and he watched one of the kamikazes damage two aircraft carriers. At the Battle of Okinawa, his ship bombarded the island for 59 days, all the while fighting off Japanese attacks with anti-aircraft fire and smokescreens.
Herman Buffington was taking some potshots at Japanese troops on the other side of a large ravine where they were foolishly cooking their rice out in the open. When an officer came by and asked how he was doing, he remarked that he was trying to mix a little lead with the rice. The man asked for the rifle so he could give it a try and he proved to be an excellent shot. Buffington could smell the brass and he was right. It was General Simon Buckner.
He decided he would rather ride than walk, so Turner Harris volunteered for the Navy in 1942. His journey started out rough in an open rail car with cinders blowing on him. After basic training, he was sent to radio school and eventually assigned to the USS New Orleans, a heavy cruiser.
Ralph Moor recounts the circumstances that led to his training and enlistment in the Adjutant General's Department in Washington D.C. Given his college degree, less training was required for him to get the chance to rise in the ranks of the department.
Finally back home, Turner Harris could not find a job, so he reenlisted and became a Navy recruiter. After a while, he took a civilian job, but the Navy lured him back in with clandestine work, although he didn't realize that was what it was. He was working for Communications Support Activities, a Naval signal intelligence agency.
The MPM Circuit was a continuous feed from Honolulu, one coded message after another, 24 hours a day. Radioman Turner Harris translated the Morse code for the decoding officer, then was on to the next message. That was also his battle station so he spent a lot of time there. He was on a heavy cruiser that was bombarding Japanese held islands.
Frank Harris recalls his joining the Army Air Corps at the young age of 18 and shipping off to training in California after he'd been admitted as a pilot. An unfortunate training accident involving his friend and roommate sticks with him to this day.
Frank Harris recalls some more of his training in California on the B-25 and transitioning to the A-20 in South Carolina. While on a training mission, Harris' plane stalled over North Carolina and he had to make an emergency landing, changing his military career for good.
Turner Harris went through three typhoons during his Pacific tour. The first two didn't amount to much, but the third one was deadly. He describes the sight of the giant swells and how he avoided injury, at least until he went to fetch sandwiches.
Ralph Moor describes his time as director of the Select Services Committee for the State of Georgia. In this role, he was in charge of adjudicating individual cases of Georgia residents that owed time to the Army - one of these particular cases sticks with him after all this time.
Turner Harris had to go to the head but there was a long line, so he sat down for a moment on a ladder at the edge of the ship. He heard a plane in distress and turned to watch it hit one of the masts and explode. The next thing he knew, he was over the edge and hanging on for dear life.
His brother constantly talked about the Marines so that was where Fred Webb enlisted. He was disgusted at the sight of powdered eggs at boot camp, but a few days of physical activity made them much more appetizing. After basic training, the trombone player was transferred into the base band.
The glider pilots had new instructions regarding the tow rope in light of some problems during the Normandy invasion. The 1st Airborne Task Force was preparing for the invasion of Southern France and Herman Krum was part of it. As he was approaching the landing zone, he saw many gliders coming from all directions, which was a little alarming. They had a rough landing, but the unit was intact and ready to fight.
Turner Harris joined the crew of the USS New Orleans just as repairs were completed. The Radioman was assigned to Radio Room 3, deep in the ship. His first action was off Wake Island, where he felt, but could not see, the artillery fire from shore. After the battle, he asked his Chief for a big favor.
While Herman Krum was stationed near London, he had two memorable encounters with British civilians. One was a young boy who was awestruck by a simple piece of fruit. The other was a wealthy gentleman with several estates who wanted to meet a typical GI.