8:07 | 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ray Davis had distinguished himself in the Pacific campaigns and when he returned stateside, he was assigned to Quantico and the Marine schools. When the next war started, his regiment didn't exist but it was quickly formed and dispatched to Korea. Once the Chinese entered the fray, his battalion trekked up to the Chosin Reservoir where there was nothing but trouble. Part 1 of 2.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
At the Korean front, Ray Bohn's HQ company was camped on two sides of a valley. His side was subject to Chinese artillery fire while the other side, where the officers were camped, was sheltered by the hill on that side. During a fierce barrage, they tried to time the reloading and sprint to the other side. Who would make it?
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
Ray Bohn made a decision in his life. He wasn't going to take a back step to anybody. This led to his leaving the Catholic school he attended after clashing with one of the brothers. His trouble continued in the working world and that was fine with him.
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill. For his actions in this battle, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The Chinese and the North Koreans were difficult to face because of the sheer numbers, if nothing else. Ray Davis faced them and the Japanese before them. He would eventually face the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese but there is no question in his mind who the toughest foe was.
Although he was trained in cryptography, when Ray Bohn got to Korea, he was designated infantry and sent to a heavy weapons company. He immediately had a run-in with the 1st Sgt. there and, just like in his private life, he got himself into trouble. Fortunately, an officer brought him over to Headquarters Company to try and make use of his skills.
We had to give up a lot of real estate when the fighting in Korea became focused on the demarcation line. Some units were very far to the north and had to pull back. Ray Davis had commanded a battalion during some of the fiercest fighting but there was a rotation system, so he was back home when the stalemate started.
He had to weigh 120 pounds but he only weighed 116. Ed Fulghum's induction physical was the next day and, as usual, he came up with a plan. It was knee deep snow where he did his basic training. When some joker didn't turn in his pistol at the range, the recruits were sent outside to stand in the snowy Indiana weather.
Ray Bohn never really left the front line while he was in Korea. He never saw the cities, ate a lot of C-rations and took up smoking. As the company courier, he had to visit a lot of different locations and it was at one of these near the coast that he was treated to a display of naval gunfire.
Air Rescue pilot Allyn Johnson spent a lot of time in the air off the coast of Korea waiting for someone to ask for help. The brass disapproved an award when he successfully rescued some downed Navy airmen but the Navy presented him with a special gift.
When Ed Fulghum got to Korea, he found out that the Inchon invasion was well underway. The notorious Inchon tide had gone out, so he had to slog a couple of hundreds yards through the mud flats to get to the shore. Was he scared? Not in the least.
He was inland but still close enough to the coast to feel the effects of a devastating typhoon. Ray Bohn tells how his unit prepared for the storm and what happened when they had to build a rope bridge to their outhouse. It was on the other side of a stream that had become a raging torrent.
Allyn Johnson was an Air Force mechanic and instructor when he found out that he could apply for flight training. Now that was exciting. He had a phobia about acrobatics but he wanted to fly multi-engine aircraft so they let him slide on that part of the training. He went into Air Rescue because they had B-17's and he really wanted to fly one.
His uncle was in the Army and had this piece of advice, don't volunteer for anything. Ray Bohn remembered that and never did, especially after he learned about his uncle's fate in New Guinea. The Korean War brought him into the Army and, after basic, he was trained in cryptography.
One day, after three hours of picking cotton, Ed Fulghum announced to his father that he was going to join the Army. Well, you can't. You're only sixteen. I will prove I'm seventeen and join up. He went straight to the recruiter and found out what document he needed. Now he had a plan of action.
Ed Fulghum had conned his way into the Army at sixteen and gone to war in Korea. He got a little nervous when another soldier was shipped home for the same reason. He had a talent for talking his way into things and, when his section chief was due to go home, he set about getting his job.
Following post-war duty in Czechoslovakia, Clayton Byrd had a few years of civilian life before returning to the service during the Korean War. He served in Germany with an engineer battalion and when some land was cleared for a baseball field, he got a rude reminder of the last war.
As a courier, Ray Bohn had to deliver his messages no matter how much live fire was happening. This could get dangerous, like the time he negotiated a terrible mountain road that was right in the sights of the Chinese artillery. What was his secret that kept him alive?
The USS Henrico was an old tub that ferried Marty Letellier and the 7th Marines to Korea. The nights were beautiful on the way, ablaze with stars. He thought the country was beautiful, too, when he got to Pusan, but there was one problem.
When it came time for Ray Bohn to come home from Korea, some of the guys were sore because, as a draftee, he was eligible and they were not. When he got home, he went to work with his father at a hardware firm where he started out sweeping floors and then rose to be president of the company.