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.
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.
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.
Former WWII Chinese fighter pilot Fred Chiao was recruited by Col. Ed Rector to help build a new Chinese Air Force on Taiwan. Regional politics ensued as President Marcos used Clark Air Force Base as a bargaining chip with Washington.
Robert Gibbs only used his Georgia Tech engineering degree for two months before he was called up. He was already an ensign in the Navy, thanks to ROTC. There was a feeling that war was coming, he remembers, and when it did come, he was on a destroyer in the Caribbean, which was a hunting ground for German submarines.
The chief commissary steward would give you some tough jobs, says mess cook Curt Beckham. It could be hundreds of individually wrapped sandwiches or a breakfast cream sauce, but it was always too much work. There was a screwball in the outfit, though, and he had a joke backfire that involved one of the sandwiches.
Bert Schwarz tells the story of the cross built by POW's when a Japanese guard gave them a sack of cement for a shrine to their dead comrades. The most able bodied were sent to Davao Penal Colony which had farms and orchards. This was where Schwarz became an expert at rice farming.
Fred Chiao gave his P-40 a Chinese name and lovingly sanded the skin to make it smooth, but he had to bail out when he was hit while attacking advancing Japanese troops. Fighting for control of the plane, he realized a bullet had pierced his jaw.
After battling across rugged Italian mountains in a fierce rainstorm, the company commander lost his cool. Leonard Dziabas recalls how the Captain just left the company there, with no idea of orders or mission. Told by the Colonel to look for a wayward unit, they nearly ran into a German battalion before finding the lost company nearly annihilated.
When Lyman Taylor arrived in Leyte as part of Gen. MacArthur's technical team, he had to ask about the gruesome sight he saw in the street. He was a Cryptographic Technician in the Navy but his rating was "Electrician." Lyman Taylor had to explain this when he got in theater and they put him in an engine room aboard ship.
While sailing in formation between ports in the Pacific, Ed Bean recalls a destroyer running off path and cutting in front of the USS New Jersey, a much larger battleship. The anchor alone of the USS New Jersey inflicted heavy damage to the other ship, enough to kill the captain of the destroyer and injure another crew member.
The sight of the first modern superhighway, the Autobahn, was stunning for Bud Sosebee when he traveled on one in the waning days of the war. Stunning in a different way was the sight of stacks of civilian bodies in the last town contested. He had just dodged an anti-tank rocket but was still upset at the deaths and he reveals why there were so many.
You don't want to mess with a newly liberated POW. Ed Laporta had to dress down an imbecilic MP when he arrived back in the states and not long after, could be seen leaping over a steam table to get at a non-compliant German prisoner who was serving the food.
The machine gun squad was waiting on ammunition, but when they heard a noise coming from a cave, they pointed the unloaded weapon and soon Leonard Dziabas was accepting the surrender of an entire company of German soldiers.
With no real winter gear, there was a lot of frostbite among the troops in that bitter German winter. Charles White's unit was summoned to the Battle of the Bulge, but then sent back to France, where he was wounded by shrapnel and had an eyeball-to-eyeball shootout with Germans in the forest.
There were plenty of crashes aboard the USS Lexington says Bill Bates, who commanded the Marine detachment aboard ship. He describes the hazardous landings that were routine for Navy pilots and tells how the crew managed to shoot down a kamikaze before he could finish his work.
Eric Holmes describes what he was doing after he was taken off regular bombing duties. These included helping organize and staff missions that came down from headquarters. He also tells the story about a non-human crew member that would go with a certain crew, and his friend Dale Stillwell who was injured on a bombing run.
The ending of the war resulted in everyone going back home except Leonard Meyer. He was ordered to gather all the supplies and turn them in to the quartermaster. After completing his order, he saw three Filipino girls with absolutely nothing, so he gave them two torn blankets and some K-rations. Moments later, two MPs came by to arrest him for the improper distribution of government property.
He was headed for a combat assignment on a submarine in the Pacific but the war ended as Robert Gibbs waited in Guam. Instead he headed a unit tasked with accounting for and destroying Japanese subs. He remained active in the reserve, even as he went to medical school and he explains the special camaraderie among submariners.
They were getting a much needed break, but then the word came, "Don't get off the trucks." The Battle of the Bulge had broken out and Bob Welch's artillery unit rushed its howitzers back to the action. After prevailing there, they pushed on to Czechoslovakia where he did a little shopping.
The POW's had no food or water and now, in the hold of a cement freighter, they couldn't breathe either. In transit to yet more labor for the Japanese, liberation for Bert Schwarz came in the form of an American torpedo. With friends Gene Dale and Johnny Playter, he swam to shore where guerrilla leader Joaquin Macias welcomed them to freedom.
The Russians had liberated them but when they were told they were going to Russia, the answer from the GI's was swift, "No way!" An American convoy caused the Russians to back off and the destination became Camp Lucky Strike and then, the Statue of Liberty.
Charles White was a "90 Day Wonder" out of Ft. Benning when he shipped out to the European theater. Right away, the fresh Lieutenant was cold, wet, and miserable. At the Maginot Line, he had to take over his company when the captain was shot.