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.
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.
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.
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.
Jimmy Adams, a C-54 and C-109 pilot, talks about flying missions over "The Hump" in Southeast Asia during World War II delivery cargo. He describes the complications inherent to flying such a treacherous route, recalls how he once survived a Japanese Zero fighter attack, and remembers the types of cargo he delivered.
There were plenty of problems in North Africa for Bob Welch and his artillery unit. First, he was nearly hit with a shell that took out his communications man and then all the officers were captured on a reconnaissance party. He then had to suffer through the British troops who stopped fighting at four in the afternoon for tea.
As they waited to move into Germany, Bob Welch went to the rear to load up with ammunition for the artillery batteries, but there was a problem. Gen. Patton had taken all the available ammunition so everyone else had to wait three weeks before proceeding. After they were on the move, the entire battalion took a wrong turn and headed straight for the enemy encampment.
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.
The previous ammunition officer had been beheaded by piano wire stretched across a road, but Bob Welch jumped at the chance to fill the position servicing the 155mm howitzer batteries. As they dueled Rommel's tanks in Tunis, suddenly the Germans withdrew, signalling the end of their Africa campaign.
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.
There was no set end date for the Navy recruits to graduate from basic training, so it seemed to David Potter that "they graduated a class anytime they sank a ship." From there, he went to Engineering and Diesel schools and prepared to serve on an LCI, Landing Craft Infantry.
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.
Before David Potter headed home from the Pacific, he saw for himself the devastation of Japanese cities, and the gracious nature of the defeated Japanese people. Finding no good job prospects after the war, he re-enlisted and served out his career on a variety of ships.
The unit started with 187 men and 6 officers. At the Siegfried Line, that number was reduced to 35, and Lt. Charles White again had to assume command when the company commander was hit. The exhausted men were ordered into yet another encounter when they started taking tank rounds. It was friendly fire and a most unusual order was given while they tried to get word to the Allied tanks that were firing.
David Potter tells how his ship, a landing craft, participated in the battle of Okinawa, first landing troops on the beach and then conducting search and rescue and laying smoke screens. Then, his ship was assigned an unusual task which disturbed him so much that he couldn't speak of it for fifty years.
Bob Welch was proud of his service battery, who won a close order drill competition despite hardly ever drilling because they were too busy. That was soon forgotten as they loaded their artillery unit onto landing craft for the Normandy invasion. After the British captain refused to move his boat any closer to the beach, Welch improvised and got his men ashore with no losses.
"We trained 14 months to fight 82 days," says David Potter, who tended the engines on a landing craft that delivered soldiers to the Okinawa invasion. He was relieved that their anti-submarine strategy, which called for the unescorted craft to ram the attacker, never had to be implemented. There were daily air attacks, as well as Kamikaze boats, a strange new menace.
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.
As he climbed the rope ladder to get on the ship for Europe, Bob Welch saw the name on the side of the ship, the Queen Mary. He was impressed and that continued on board because the ship had not been converted to a troop ship. It was luxury all the way. From their barracks in England, the artillery battalion got its first orders and headed to North Africa.
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 brand new landing craft was small enough to travel from the shipyard on Lake Huron, through the Chicago Canal to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and down to the Gulf of Mexico. After making their way to the west coast, David Potter and the rest of the crew repeatedly invaded California beaches in preparation for joining the war in the Pacific.
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.
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.
Returning to the states after the ordeals in the Pacific, Marine Bill Head was put on a strange troop train which wandered nearly the whole country before arriving at Camp Lejeune. He stayed in the reserve and was called up for the Korean War, during which he exercised a special skill.