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.
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.
Being on the 20mm gun crew of a minesweeper, Mr. Weston had to think quickly after a nearby battleship was hit by a Japanese bomb during an inconvenient time for Mr. Weston. He received a Purple Heart for his injury, but not before heading off to fight at Saipan and Tinian.
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.
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.
Willis Brown was drafted out of college into the Army and headed south to Turner Field in Georgia. He didn't like the way he was treated there and asked for a transfer, but was denied. He reveals how he beat the system and got out of there.
John Black flew a few gliders during the war and learned about the challenges that come with flying them. After being discharged from the military, he went back to college to pursue a career in architectural engineering before deciding he wanted to follow a different path.
After being captured, John Rodgers met an old friend at the camp where he was being held. While being brought back to Rome by his captors, Rodgers was able to buy some sustenance for himself and his friends that kept them going as they were transferred to Poland. (Part 1)
His unit went ashore at Oran, Algeria and Willis Brown says it was beautiful and exotic. He was good with languages and he tells how he made friends among the locals. He did the same thing when they moved on to Italy.
When Willis Brown returned home after his deployment to Africa and Italy, he made full use of his GI benefits. After getting two history degrees, he picked up a degree in education, which served him well in a long teaching career.
January 21st, 1945, John Rodgers and his fellow officers began on the longest forced march of World War II. From Szubin, Poland, they were forced to march over 300 miles in 47 days. It took some time, but General Patton’s forces were able to liberate the prisoners as the war in Europe came to an end.
William Weston remembers minesweeping and how they would assist American ships navigate through minefields. There were many instances where ships would be hit by a mine and get sunk. He was also in charge of manning the large machine guns during a deployment in the Philippines.