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.
After his ordeal in a German POW camp, Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau returned to his home and his accumulated back pay. A strike ended the civilian job he'd taken, so he went south and enlisted in the US Army, where he went Airborne, of course, and made a career of it.
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.
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.
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 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.
Canadian Army recruit Dennis Trudeau's friend played a trick on him by volunteering him for a special forces unit, so Trudeau returned the favor. Both of them became paratroopers and were soon in England, training hard for the coming assault on the mainland of Europe.
It was a new experimental branch of the Army, infantry in gliders. Bob Seeley loved to fly and had a private pilot license, so it was an exciting assignment for him. He reveals how he survived all the crashes and how he wound up at jump school without going to Fort Benning.
His father went north of the border to work for the railroad in Canada, so when war broke out, Dennis Trudeau enlisted in the Canadian Army as soon as he could talk his way in. The seventeen year old went to basic training and then let his parents in on it.
The Germans were down in a valley and the Americans were up at the top of the hill. From the German perspective, the Americans were setting a trap. On the hill, Bob Seeley didn't want to huddle down in a foxhole and freeze so he kept walking back and forth, trying to keep warm.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
Once in England, Bob Seeley's glider unit began training in British gliders, with tragic results for the first aloft. At the Battle of the Bulge, his 30 caliber machine gun was overmatched by the German tanks, but he found a way to disable them. His unit suffered tremendous losses, including all the officers in the first day.
Charles Fallis was in the ninth grade when the war started, but he became part of the effort when he entered the Navy in 1944. Assigned to the beach party on a troop transport, he was surprised when he had to learn to do what soldiers do every day. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
One man from the unit would get a thirty day furlough with travel back to the United States. The honor fell to Bob Seeley, who was one of the few in his unit to survive the Battle of the Bulge. He reveals why he moved back when General Eisenhower was greeting soldiers in Le Havre and why his accommodations on the crossing back to England were first rate.
He was seasick the first two weeks, but it went away and he was never bothered by it again. Charles Fallis was on the USS Grimes, a troop transport that ferried troops to Iwo Jima, and then picked up the wounded for evacuation. When a severely wounded Marine died, he witnessed a burial at sea, something he will never forget. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
They were sure Patton would liberate them as he began his push, but the Allied POW's were put in boxcars and sent to Germany before that could happen. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau describes the long, slow journey, including the strafing by American fighters, the badly needed Red Cross packages they got at the first camp, and the games they tried to play while trading with the guards.
Some of the men on the USS Grimes went ashore at Nagasaki, after they delivered occupation troops there. Charles Fallis was on duty, so he missed out on that. One thing he did not miss out on was getting reacquainted with the girls back home once he got there. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
He went home on a 30 day furlough and never went back to Europe. Bob Seeley's leave was extended, his back problem tied him up for five months, and he was shuffled around to different bases until he wound up in Maine. Rather than face the cold, he resorted to drastic measures, reenlistment.
While anchored off Iwo Jima, a typhoon pushed the USS Grimes near the shore, near enough to Mount Suribachi that Charles Fallis had to take cover. After dropping wounded troops off in Hawaii, the ship went back to San Francisco, where he had to take cover from an angry hotel manager. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
They knew that the time was close. Equipment was being loaded. Then they were bused to a highly secured camp near an air field. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau had trained hard and now he was told his mission. His targets were in a small town just inland from the Normandy coast and he would be in the first wave.
Stalag 4B was a huge camp, with thousands of POW's. Dennis Trudeau was captured just inland from Normandy and when he arrived at the camp for British and Canadian troops, he was put on a work party at a coal mine. The men thought the war would be over by Christmas, but new arrivals told them about Bastogne and dashed their hopes.
The POW's rose before dawn for their work detail, but the German guard said there would be no work that day. Instead they set out on a march toward the American lines. Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau didn't know it yet, but the Russians were approaching. After the guards abandoned them, the search for friendly forces began. Soon the hungry men would have some food, too much food as it turned out.