13:09 | 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.
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While plowing behind a horse one day, on his family farm in South Carolina, B.E. Vaughn decided he didn't want to be stuck behind that plow forever. "I want to be somebody." So he enlisted alongside three friends who were drafted.
B.E. Vaughn already knew how to drill. In a Home Guard group he'd done well but when he got to boot camp, they executed the "Halt" command a little differently and this led to a little tension with the Drill Instructor.
Shipping out on a newly commissioned destroyer, B.E. Vaughn went straight into the chaos of the Normandy invasion. All around him was "a slaughterhouse," but the crew performed a valuable role as soldiers struggled to get a foothold, knocking out pillboxes on the bluffs.
Setting out from Portsmouth after a short break following the overwhelming experience of D-Day, B.E. Vaughn and the O'Brien joined a task force with the battleship Texas supporting the landing at Cherbourg. Their support was so good that they drew the fire from the Texas onto themselves.
One of B.E. Vaughn's shipmates on the O'Brien went over the hill as they prepared to head to the Pacific, sure that he wouldn't make it back. He walked up the gangplank in Hawaii, though, after a change of heart. In one of their first Pacific actions, they came to the rescue of the USS Ward, whose captain had fired the first shot of the war an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began.
It was Condition One Easy, which means B.E. Vaughn could step outside the gun mount and have a smoke. But before he did, everyone started running by and he saw the sailor just outside the hatch look up and "his eyes just about popped out of his head."
The atomic bombs had ended the war and B.E.Vaughn had the experience he'd hoped for, sailing into Tokyo Bay in dress blues. The things he'd seen haunt him to this day and he wonders how it was that he lived and others died. He recalls the moment when, as a typhoon bore down on his ship, he decided he was ready to die and it was OK.
While still in Tokyo Bay before heading home, B.E. Vaughn was tasked with running the whale boat to shore to transport some personnel. It didn't work out so well.
The war was over but B.E. Vaughn faced one more trial, getting home without any money. As in war, those who served looked out for each other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He'd passed the flying exam but Don Ogden was so tired that he began stammering and he was rejected. Determined to fly in combat, he became a gunner and in a strange turn of events, his tendency towards air sickness would actually save his life.
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.
Clyne Veal talks about the role of the USS Emmons after the Normandy invasion, during which time they conducted sub patrols in the N. Atlantic and then headed for the Mediterranean. The Emmons finally ended up at the invasion of Okinawa where the ship came under attack from kamikazes and was sunk after being struck 5 times.
The brand new carrier USS Shangri-La carried out an attack on Tokyo, then participated in the Okinawa invasion, and then returned to attack Tokyo again. Curt Beckham was a mess cook on the ship and he had a battle station as well, down in the ammunition room.
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.
Thanks to ROTC, Lyman Taylor already knew how to drill when he got to Navy boot camp in 1943. When he was done there, he was assigned to a specialty school where he learned cryptography. The discipline was so new, he was classified as an electrician, right down to the shoulder patch.
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao remembers how homesick the young Americans were, sent to the Chinese front from their farms back home. But they got to rotate out after 24 missions while the Chinese got no reprieve from the fight for their homeland.
Grover McMichael joined the Navy in 1942 just ahead of getting drafted and was assigned to the USS Emmons, a destroyer. After a short time patrolling the North Atlantic, the ship was reassigned to duty in the Mediterranean, where the convoy sunk a submarine. In May 1944, the order came to head for England to take part in an unnamed assault.
Although he didn't choose to become a mess cook, Curt Beckham learned that, in the Navy, a cook is godlike. He recalls the great leave policy they had while in port and he remembers some bad things, like having to wake up other cooks and not seeing land for three months.
Curt Beckham tells what it's like to ride out a typhoon with a Navy fleet. Besides that ordeal, he also was sunburned to a crisp on R&R and, because it would have gone on his record, was unwilling to report it and get treatment. Another time, he and his buddy had a bright idea about a cooler place to sleep up on the flight deck.
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.
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.
His father said that if you join the Army, you'll be cannon fodder and if you join the Navy, you'll be shark bait. Braswell Deen went for the Marines and became both. After boot camp he sailed for the island of Pavuvu where he trained further with his squad leader Joe Daly and his fire team leader Bill Thompson.
Eric Holmes and the rest of his B-17 crew arrived in England the afternoon of D-Day. Mr. Holmes talks about conditions on the plane and what a typical mission day was like. He also talks about his first bombing run problems, which resulted in the bombing of a not so important target.
After spending time in Guadalcanal, New Zealand, and New Guinea, Jim Tysinger's unit arrived at Leyte. Upon arrival, he wondered to himself why the Navy hadn't started firing when they were supposed to. He then found out that the Japanese were no longer there.
Braswell Deen recalls getting ready for the amphibious landing on Peleliu and then the chaos of the landing itself. The shelling had been tremendous, but as on so many other islands, the enemy survived and the Marines faced heavy resistance as they hit the beach.
As a special treat, some actresses came to Biak to put on a show for the enlisted men. All the lights were turned off except the klieg lights. Around 8:30 that night, the show had started and a lone Japanese bomber saw the lights. He approached the airstrip and bombed it.
A Marine doesn't like to say he retreated, but they didn't have enough men, so the word came to withdraw back toward the beach. Braswell Deen was out ahead of most of the unit. In his book, "Trial By Combat," he credits the medic, Bill Jenkins, with saving his life. Jenkins told the others there were men out there, and under heavy fire, crawled up to pass the word.
The first step was getting a camera. Then, the POW's had to get film and a way to develop it. Once that was done, recalls Ed LaPorta, they could get a picture of a German guard accepting cigarettes. That was insurance.