4:25 | The British had battled the Germans back and forth across North Africa and American P-40's had arrived to provide some additional air power. Crew chief Gordon Markle describes what that was like with the sandstorms, the C-rations from another war, and the German air attacks. He also learned that you don't want to cross the Gurkhas.
Keywords : Gordon Markle British P-40 El Alamein Suez Canal sand German sandstorm air strip slit trench Sahara tent C-ration World War I Gurkha knife Africa
It was two years before Pearl Harbor when Gordon Markle enlisted in the Army Air Corps because he couldn't afford technical school. At first, he was with the ground crew in a bomber unit. He soon moved to fighters, which made him happier. Even before hostilities broke out he saw death close up with a spectacular crash during training.
Four thousand men boarded a troop ship in New York Harbor and what they saw in the next berth was not what Gordon Markle needed to see. He was a crew chief headed to North Africa with the 57th Fighter Group.
A year after he enlisted, Gordon Markle was in the Sahara, keeping P-40's flying in the waning days of the North Africa campaign. His flight chief came to his tent and said there was someone there to see him. It was his father.
The 57th Fighter Group moved from field to field, following the British around North Africa. They watched as British artillery pounded El Alamein and they took cover as German planes came after them. The Germans were finished in Africa, though, and Gordon Markle describes an operation that became known as the Palm Sunday Massacre.
Gordon Markle never had much leave but he did manage to buy a French flag in Alexandria. Or did he? It was a relief to get out of the desert when the war moved to Southern Europe. In Corsica, he got to ride along on a PT boat that sank a German vessel.
The British had battled the Germans back and forth across North Africa and American P-40's had arrived to provide some additional air power. Crew chief Gordon Markle describes what that was like with the sandstorms, the C-rations from another war, and the German air attacks. He also learned that you don't want to cross the Gurkhas.
After breaking out at Anzio. Hubert Aaron's unit marched into Rome, the only American unit to capture an enemy capitol during World War Two. He received a Silver Star for actions during that operation. When he went into St. Tropez, with dry feet for a change, he ignored his platoon leader's order to move out through an open field. Then he let his Thompson submachine gun do some talking.
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. Vaughn 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.
After capturing an entire German Panzer division, Hubert Aaron's outfit was moving up the Rhone River Valley when he was wounded in an ambush. Evacuated to Naples, he found out how great was his sacrifice.
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.
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.
Hubert Aaron says, "I know I'm going to heaven because I spent three months in hell at Anzio." During this battle, he directed some artillery fire that was highly accurate, but then he was on the receiving end as an incoming enemy round put him in the hospital with a concussion. After being pinned down for three months and nearly being pushed back into the sea, the Americans finally prevailed.
At the end of the war, Roy Hector's first assignment was managing an Army laundry, which he didn't like at all. When the 79th Infantry Division was disbanded, he joined the Constabulary force and served at Nuremberg, where he built the translation infrastructure for the war crime trials.
They gave Paul Zuckerman a choice when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, Biloxi or Detroit. Opting for the climate he knew, he finished his basic training and was thrust into an assignment as an MP without the benefit of any instruction. He soon convinced them to make him a cook, and since he was the only one in the kitchen who knew what he was doing, he became head cook. He then found time to make some apricot brandy and meet someone special.
After close encounters with a couple of artillery shells, Roy Hector encountered a new Lieutenant, who confronted German tanks waving a pearl handled revolver. The officer soon realized his error. For his own weapon, Hector preferred a rifle over automatic weapons.
At the top of Hill 400, as it was known to the Army Rangers, German Army veteran Klaus Schulz, pays tribute to the few brave men who held the position despite repeated German counterattacks. He reads the words of a Ranger who had climbed the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc, yet who calls this battle his "longest day." Part 2 of 2.
The Army Air Corps service unit was based on the edge of the jungle in India. One night as they were making their meal, they heard a noise in the brush nearby. Chester Reeve and everyone else grabbed their rifles but it turned out to be something that boosted morale for the remainder of their time there.
In Arlon, Belgium, a nineteen year old George Jordan opted for some ice cream instead of warming whiskey. He still can't believe he made that mistake as he recalls the advance on Bastogne by his light armored unit in support of the 101st Airborne. As he rolled to a stop and stepped down from the halftrack, he was in a frozen stupor, and the next thing he knew, he was coming around in a hospital.
In India, at the edge of the jungle, Chester Reeve had to deal with monsoons, bad food, policemen who would chop your head off on the spot, elephants and one tiger. When the Japanese got far enough away, a little hunting and fishing helped the food situation. When he finally saw New York again, he cried and kissed the ground.
B-17 bombardier Jack Buckner recalls a couple of memorable missions and explains the tactic of group bombing, which requires all the bombers in a formation to release on the signal of the lead plane. Once he missed a target he really wanted to hit, a large warship, when the squadron commander insisted he could fly better than the autopilot. He also got credit for downing German fighters while acting as a gunner.
George Jordan deployed to England where his first duty was guarding a paratrooper base, not against infiltration but against deserters. Once his light armor unit was transported to France, it made quick progress to the Moselle River, where they paused to await resupply. He recalls seeing the legendary General George Patton direct traffic, just like in the movie.
When Roy Hector got to the Siegfried Line during the push into Germany, it rained 23 days straight. Once he crossed the Rhine further into Germany, his unit was pinned down by a German 88, and they had a surprise when they captured the gun crew. On another occasion, they found an empty machine gun nest and heard boisterous singing nearby.
Charles Shepherd started with ROTC because of the uniforms. There was a depression on and it was free clothing. The newly commissioned Lieutenant shipped out from Boston on June 6, 1944, arriving in Normandy as a replacement. He talked his way into the 121st Infantry Regiment, his father's outfit in World War 1.
George Jordan was a squad leader on a halftrack, but he recalls a time when he was tasked with reconnaissance on an enemy spotter plane. Most of the time, his unit was an antiaircraft outfit. His light armored vehicle was no match for a German tank.
Once the B-17 group got to North Africa, they found out that no air base had been constructed. While waiting, Jack Buckner had his eyes opened by the exotic locales of Marrakesh and Casablanca. Finally able to start flying, but without a ground crew at first, the men settled into a crude base in the Algerian desert.
In 1944, Klaus Schulz was transferred to an armored infantry regiment and began training on the appropriate vehicles. Advancing American troops interrupted that, and the trainees were ordered to defend a ridge near the school. Schulz went out with a patrol along the ridge, and discovered that they were too late.
The bomber crews were required to fly 25 missions, but as they approached that milestone, it was increased to 50 missions. B-17 bombardier Jack Buckner says they were disappointed but, "That's war. You do what you have to do." Once Rommel was defeated in North Africa, they took the bombing campaign on to Sicily and Italy, despite the German fighters and flak.
Hugh Morgan's Quartermasters unit was a non-combat outfit, but they loaded their guns and readied to fight the Japanese during a scare at his base in India. The mosquitoes were a bigger problem and he contracted malaria almost as soon as he arrived, not to mention the earthquake during their first night there.
German Army veteran Klaus Schulz, standing at the site of the American assault on Hill 400 at Bergstein, relates the tale of the Ranger companies that were ordered to seize the hill. On the eve of the assault, their commander was transferred and a new, untested officer would lead them. Part 1 of 2.
Moving towards Cologne, Charles Shepherd's unit had to pull back when a German 88mm gun knocked out their tanks and scattered the soldiers. He was in charge of the company for three days when the company commander was wounded. When the new captain arrived, he did not win any popularity contests.