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.
He liked the Belgians because they would actually let you speak your bad French to them. What he did not like was all the mud on the chewed up roads. Art Fox was a Draftsman but he became a construction foreman, digging ditches to drain the water. At the Rhine, he was surprised to be included in a reconnaissance mission, but it was a rewarding experience.
He had been speaking to groups of kids and Stanley Sasine tells what happened when he decided to change his approach and ask for questions. He describes life in the Burmese jungle, how they enjoyed water buffalo steaks, the dysentery that affected them all, and the superior attitude shared by Merrill's Marauders.
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.
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.
Home from the war, Art Fox was able to return to school and finish his civil engineering degree. He also had some work to do when he found out his girlfriend was engaged to a Marine. Writing letters home had given him a taste for writing, so he set out to somehow use that skill in the engineering field.
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.
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.
They were driving to Southampton in blackout conditions when Art Fox was awakened and told he had to drive the truck. He was the designated assistant truck driver but he was never told and had no idea how to work all those gears. But he made it and soon the 312th Combat Engineers were moving across France. Waiting out the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, he attended a moving Christmas Mass.
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.
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.
He thought he had it made. Art Fox had found a box spring and he figured he would be comfortable for the rest of the war. It didn't work out. The conditions were tough that winter in Europe, sleeping on snow and bathing in a helmet. At least the cooks tried to keep them happy.
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.
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.
Twice he was approved for Officer Candidate School and twice he never got to the top of the list. Art Fox didn't like that but he did like the unit he deployed with. Great soldiers and high esprit de corps. His letters home reflected that and one was so inspiring, it was read by Raymond Massey on CBS radio.
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.
At Fort Jackson, preparing to go overseas, Art Fox managed to get into the engineering battalion of his division, which was great because he was an engineering student. The training was hard but he enjoyed beach time in South Carolina on the weekends with his newly muscled frame courtesy of Army basic training. Finally, they sailed.
Stanley Sasine was wounded during the final assault of Merrill's Marauders. He was unimpressed with his Chinese allies who were under the wing of General Joseph Stilwell. According to Sassine, Stilwell favored the Chinese Army and let Merrill's men do the dirty work.
He was working towards a civil engineering degree when Art Fox entered the Army. His enlistment allowed him to finish the school year, but after after the Allies began the push across France, all the college students were taken into the infantry.
New Yorker Stanley Sasine was drafted in 1943 and initially qualified for the Air Corps. That was over when they found out he was color blind and he went back to the infantry. He thought he was headed to Europe, but he found out that form he just signed meant he volunteered for Merrill's Marauders.
They met little resistance and moved fast across Germany. It was Art Fox's job to reconnoiter every night and make updated maps detailing road conditions. On one of these missions, a wrong turn sent the team right into a town full of Germans.
The difference between the B-17 and the B-29 is like night and day, says navigator Sy Glauser. You had to wear three layers of clothing in the non-pressurized B-17 but in the B-29, you could fly in a t-shirt. He arrived in the Pacific theater just as the first atomic bomb was used so his crew never saw any combat.
While recovering from the wound he received during the last assault of Merrill's Marauders, Stanley Sasine was trained to drive a truck on the Lido Road. With sufficient points in hand, though, he was soon back home.
The war had ended and the airmen were getting antsy. They paid an outrageous amount for a bottle of booze to take their minds off the fact they were performing enlisted men's duties. The enlisted men had mostly gone home. so the officers had to pitch in. Navigator Sy Glauser became the supply officer.
They were already drinking plenty of liberated German wine and the end of the war was one more excuse. Art Fox relates the tale of a rail station full of armed German soldiers who were amused by the Americans changing a flat while they watch. He got a quick visit to Paris before he sailed home, financed by American cigarettes.
It was the last assault for Merrill's Marauders by that name. During the operation, they officially became Rangers. Years later, Stanley Sasine finally received his Ranger tab and then, the Bronze Star that every Marauder was due.
While waiting in France for passage home, Art Fox was assigned the task of drawing up a map detailing the unit's movement from Le Havre to Czechoslovakia. This he displays, while lamenting that at no point on that map did the USO catch up to them.