11:28 | 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.
Keywords : Don Scott B-17 turret gunner parachute pilot hatch radio chaff Sweeney bail out crash slipstream Rhine Koblenz Germany Swastika civilian Boy Scout wristwatch interrogation
There was a tremendous need for B-17 crews and this led to Don Scott being drafted right out of his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. His first training stop was Miami Beach where he was billeted in a hotel right on the beach. That was very nice but the next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He didn't mind a bit since it was the radio school he wanted.
The new B-17 crews crossed the Atlantic but there was still more training to be done before they could start their missions. They had to fly in formation and that was very tricky, according to radio operator Don Scott. With that skill mastered, the bombing began.
Don Scott's fateful mission started out badly for him at his radio operator's position. As soon as the B-17 was aloft, his first duty was to power up the classified identification unit, which had a self destruct charge. The charge went off causing a minor fire. They pressed on to the target and successfully dropped their payload and then came the flak. Part 1 of 3.
The interrogator was very cordial at first, says Don Scott, who had just bailed out of a doomed B-17. The pleasantries turned to threats, but they soon gave up on him and it was off to a camp. Part 3 of 3.
After the interrogation, Don Scott never saw his crew mates again. In fact, when he got to the Stalag, he was assigned to a barracks full of British prisoners. He became very good friends with the British and way too familiar with potatoes, and black bread.
The war was nearly over but the Russian Army was approaching from the East, so Don Scott and the rest of the POW's from Stalag Luft 4 had to hit the road on a forced march. He wasn't doing too bad until his British hobnail boots rubbed his heels raw on the cobblestones. They healed while time ran out for the Germans.
Don Scott explains why he celebrates the second day of May every year. It was that day in 1945 when British soldiers found him on the road in a forced march of Allied prisoners. The guards had fled and soon there were happy men walking west toward relief.
B-17 crew member Don Scott had to bail out of his plane and spent time in a German POW camp. He displays some of the objects from his internment and other memorabilia.
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.
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.
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.
They went in the recruiting station just to "bug them a little bit." Val Archer and his friend were only sixteen but they sailed right on through. It was 1944 and, after a little work on their birth certificates, they were off to basic training, where they faced the indignities of segregation. Off base, it was even worse.
Hubert Aaron was drafted in 1943 and after a short stop in North Africa, his unit joined the push into Southern Italy. Soon he was celebrating his twentieth birthday in combat. He recalls diving into the mud in a cabbage patch as the bullets punctured the vegetables all around.
Val Archer was in an Aviation Engineer battalion when he got orders to report to Lockbourne Army Air Field in Columbus, Ohio. He was now assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, the Tuskegee Airmen, as ground crew. The famed unit was preparing to go to the Pacific when the war abruptly ended.
Ross Bacon served as a radioman and gunner on a torpedo bomber and several different seaplanes in the Pacific theater. New Guinea was "awful," he says. Dehydrated food, constant rain and the heat could make one miserable, however the locals were very friendly after being dominated by the Japanese. After the war, he was sent right back to the Pacific, which annoyed him, so he reenlisted in the Air Force.
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.
On his last combat flight, B-29 radar navigator Dick Almand's target was 300 miles past the main Japanese Islands. At the time, it was the longest bombing mission ever attempted. They used the Norden bombsight but, since all their missions were at night, the bombardier didn't actually look through the sight. That's when the radar navigator came into play.
Sterling Baker had to wait several days to get all his cargo unloaded at Iwo Jima because of the slow advance inland. This was his last action and he was transferred to Alameda Naval Air Station where he manned a converted PT boat used for rescue operations. He reflects on his scout training that he never got to use.
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.
At Leyte, Sterling Baker had to operate in a smoke screen, unloading landing craft and supplies for the invasion. It was unnerving because he could hear attacking aircraft above but he couldn't see them. When underway, the amphibious cargo assault ship would lower paravanes into the water, which would cut the mooring cables on mines so they could float to the surface for disposal.
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.
Dick Almand recalls dodging rats and watching movies in the rain at the air field in Guam in between bombing missions. The unexpected use of the atomic bomb ended the war and his biggest problem became flight time. Everyone in his squadron needed the scarce hours to maintain their flight pay.
Ashore at Guam during a lull in the fighting, the sailors of the USS Almaack started eating coconuts and drinking coconut milk. This caused quite a commotion in the toilet facilities later aboard ship. Sterling Baker relates what one old Chief did to get the line moving, and how someone got revenge.
Threatened with the Army draft in his last year of Georgia Tech, Dick Almand enlisted in the Air Corps and entered the training for flight crews. Classified as a navigator, he was sent to radar navigator school, where he learned the new technology. A broken ankle delayed his graduation and he narrowly missed going to Europe on a B-17 crew. Instead, he went to B-29's.
The GI's were always looking around for souvenirs and most of them had quite a collection. Sherwood Merchant reveals what he did with his and then relates a sadder memory about something he found in a frozen apple orchard. When the unit had time, one of his jobs was movie projectionist and he showed films to the men in both castles and caves.
On his first combat mission, B-29 radar navigator Dick Almand recalls a vicious crosswind that caused the bombs to miss the target. The squadron commander was on board to observe and he didn't get vexed at that, but what the ground crew discovered when they returned caused some ruckus.
After a successful operation at Algiers, The USS Almaack was headed back to England when it was torpedoed off Portugal. Sterling Baker was in his bunk when it hit and, though the ship remained afloat, he never slept below deck again. While repairs were underway, he served in Casablanca, where he had a memorable Christmas.
Before deploying to Europe, Sherwood Merchant had undergone winter training in Upper Michigan. He says it was probably worse than the combat conditions. Although his unit regularly commandeered German homes, their relations with the civilians were warm and friendly. That continued into the postwar period as he stayed on for occupation duty.
Assigned as radar navigator on the latest B-29 model, Dick Almand had to wait in the States and extend his training because the air field in Guam was still under construction. In fact, the war in Europe came to an end while he was waiting. Once he got to the Pacific, his squadron began long range night missions over Japan.
Sailor Sterling Baker saw a note on the bulletin board asking for volunteers who were single, had no close family ties and who were excellent swimmers. Off he went to become an amphibious scout, one of the precursors to today's SEALS. Armed with only a knife, he was trained to infiltrate a beach undetected ahead of an amphibious landing. He did not get to try in his first operation at Algiers.
The B-17 squadron departed the West coast bound for a stopover in Hawaii en route to the Philippines. Co-pilot Roy Reid recalls what they found when they got to Hawaii, a big surprise. It was December 7th and his aircraft was destined to be the first of something that was unexpected.
The USS Almaack had been repaired and upgraded and headed out again, this time to the Pacific. Coxswain Sterling Baker had moved up the food chain to hatch leader, supervising the unloading and loading of landing craft. During an air attack, he became a 20mm gunner. At Saipan, he looked through his gun sight toward shore and saw something disturbing.
Charles Commins was already on his way to the ship that would take him home when the news came, Germany had surrendered. Back in the States, he was driving a jeep at an air base when he was told to prepare to leave for India and the Pacific Theater. This called for some serious beer drinking, but the next morning, he discovered the best hangover cure.
Phil Pollock's pacifist father would not allow him to enlist, but the draft took him in 1943. His first unit was eventually sent to the Burma theater but he wound up in a rifle company chasing the Nazis across France. He was amused when the Germans set up a loudspeaker system and "welcomed" the Americans.
Louis Anderson was working in a heavy equipment factory when a temporary lapse in his deferment got him a "Greetings" letter from the draft board. He left that and his deferment behind when he enlisted in the Air Corps. Flight school was a washout but he made a fine gunner so he joined a crew, picked up a new B-17 and headed for England.