2:13 | B-17 pilot Bill Hanna reveals what was in the first letter he got from home and why he finished his required 25 missions in record time. Unfortunately, he had to "volunteer" for a few more missions.
Keywords : William Hanna B-17 pilot wife crash volunteer
The day after Pearl Harbor brought a deluge of volunteers, and Bill Hanna was one of the lucky ones who qualified for pilot training in the Air Corps. He almost didn't survive the training.
The last thing any pilot trainee wanted was to be a bomber pilot. They all wanted to fly fighters but when Bill Hanna wound up in a B-17, he felt no one ever flew a better airplane. He was headed overseas as a co-pilot, but in a gutsy move he qualified as first pilot and was soon flying his craft over the North Atlantic to England.
When Bill Hanna joined the 91st Bomb Group in England, the losses were an astonishing 92%. Shrugging off an early rookie mistake, which nearly got him court martialed, he felt he could whip the whole German Air Force with just a little help from his tail gunner. He recalls an incident involving a special modification to his plane.
B-17 pilot Bill Hanna remembers the cold conditions at high altitude and remains envious of the B-24 crews who had heated suits. He encountered enemy fighters every time he flew, including a fateful mission with an unbelievable coincidence.
Pilot Bill Hanna was on the first mission to bomb Berlin, which got a lot easier as the bombers began to get fighter support. He explains why a lone bomber is no match for a lone fighter and has a tale about his radio operator who was the only crew member to get injured.
On June 6, 1944, Bill Hanna flew his B-17 toward Normandy and dropped his bombs right on target just inland. It was early, before men began hitting the beach. He recalls the awesome sight and wonders how they managed to organize such a large effort.
Bill Hanna reveals why the 91st Bomb Group was known as the "Ragged Irregulars." His B-17 also had a name and he explains why they chose it and painted it on the nose of the plane.
Bill Hanna relates the steps in executing a bombing mission, from the sketchy breakfast to the debriefing, where he once had to describe a prototype rocket plane he saw. As if the danger of formation flying with hundreds of planes wasn't enough, he just might face a Buzz Bomb when he went to London to have a beer.
As an advisor in Vietnam, Bill Hanna faced an unusual obstacle, the cultural phenomenon known as "saving face." This led to some perplexing situations as he tried to school the Vietnamese in running a modern Air Force.
Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Combat Engineer Will Jasmund got plenty of action along with the road and bridge repairs he was there to do. The German surge meant that he was defending those bridges along with the line companies. One of the men in his company took out a tank with a bazooka, and once, he found himself one the wrong side of the line, facing the gun barrels of his own army. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
He was driving a jeep when he felt something like a splinter or a bee sting on his leg. Will Jasmund put his hand down to feel the area and when he put his hand back on the wheel, it was covered with blood. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
Following VJ Day, Nelson's ship heads back to the US with a boatload of marines - braving stormy seas on the way. Their passage through the Panama Canal is a tight fit, and they're forced to make modifications to the ship. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
Although his contact with the enemy is limited, Nelson's time aboard the Corregidor is rife with hazards. He witnesses the loss of many great pilots attempting to operate under the rigors of war. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
The brass wanted to go into Paris for a fun evening. The city wasn't completely secure, but driver Will Jasmund had a good time anyway. There was only one problem. The jeep was gone when he woke up. He hitched a ride back to his outfit where he was informed that there was a much bigger problem. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
Will Jasmund was helping a friend get a large trailer rig turned around, when a jeep with an officer and two enlisted men drove up. They asked directions to a town that he knew was held by the Germans, and he told them so, but they insisted. Before he knew it, he was staring at his own weapon pointed at him. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
It was total blackout. Newly arrived in England, Will Jasmund was led through the darkness to a mess hall for the worst meal yet, powdered eggs and terrible coffee. Quartered on the grounds of a castle, his engineering battalion prepared for the coming invasion. They knew it was on when the aircraft activity became constant, with damaged planes coming in and going right out again. Finally the word came, it was their turn. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
After his good friend was killed, Will Jasmund would not get close with anyone else. He was camped outside Bastogne when the Germans surged into the area, causing cooks, clerks and engineers like him to man the front line. He recalls an incident in which six soldiers wandered into camp on foot after abandoning their truck convoy in the face of enemy tanks. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
Before he left Europe, Will Jasmund had the task of driving the mess hall garbage to the dump. When he saw the French civilians digging through it, he felt so sorry for them that he began to save good food and brought it for them. He volunteered for the Pacific, but the war ended there, so he made a triumphant return to New York. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)