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.
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.
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.
As company clerk, John Meyers had several responsibilities, the captain's morning report, letters home to parents of men killed in action and writing up awards recommendations. He wrote up the recommendation for Charles Gilliland, a seventeen year old, whose heroic actions made him the youngest soldier to receive the Medal Of Honor in the Korean War.
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.
Charles Cleveland was flying F-84's out of Turner AFB in Albany GA when the Korean War broke out. The third time he volunteered to go, he was accepted. Upon arrival, he learned that some of the new pilots had to switch to F-86 Sabre's.
Aircraft mechanic Walt Richardson was based in Okinawa when the Korean War started. The general's personal B-17 was used for supply runs but he couldn't go because he had no combat or survival training. When he was transferred to Eglin Air Force Base, he found that President Truman's integration order had not yet filtered down, but he persevered.
WWII veteran Jack Wold reentered the Army with a commission out of ROTC in 1951. He then served in Korea as an S3 managing the evacuations of wounded. He nearly got hit himself, but fate intervened on his side. At that point in the war, the Chinese were using huge human wave attacks.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland had two probable kills to go with four confirmed kills in Korea. He describes one of the probables, during which he had to break off pursuit at the last minute just as it looked like the enemy MiG was going down. Fifty years later, a friend of his set the record straight.
Marines in Korea had a special relationship with Tootsie Rolls. William Alli missed out on that but he does have something to say about the chow when he was up on the line. When you were opening up the boxes and pulling out the cans, you had what you called The Deadly Three.
Sinclair Stickle shares his method for making sure his gun did not jam in a firefight. A little drop of oil. He barely noticed the weather since the winter of 1953 was nothing like the winter of 1950 in the mountains of Korea. Food was a big deal and everybody gathered around when someone got a package from home, hopefully with something nice to offset the WWII era rations.
Fighter Pilot Charles Cleveland compares the aircraft he flew, the F-86 Sabre, to the aircraft flown by the enemy, the MiG-15. The plane flown by the Communists had the edge in armament but they had lousy gun sights. By the end of the war, the victory in combat ratio was not in their favor.
The whole division was pulled off the line and in reserve when William Alli read a letter from a cousin in Turkey. Why don't you go visit the Turkish troops serving in Korea, tell them your father is from Turkey and you are all brothers fighting Communism together? Great idea, until he got there.
Army brat Charles Cleveland entered West Point in 1945 between VE Day and VJ Day. He chose the Air Force after graduation for the chance to become a fighter pilot and this he did. The early Air Force had a club atmosphere, but the pilots were not slacking. They drilled for dogfighting on their own.
All flights were grounded because the F-86 was not an all-weather fighter. Pilot Charles Cleveland and his wing man got cleared for a weather recon flight and flew up to the Yalu River, where the weather had cleared. They heard from their radar site that bandits were coming in. As he encountered them, he maneuvered behind the leader and thought, I'm about to get my first MiG.
Seven months into his tour in Korea, William Alli was put in charge of the local unit of Korean laborers. The nineteen year old Marine was now an Asian despot, according to his friends. He didn't mind the ribbing. After all, he wasn't carrying that heavy machine gun ammo any more.
When Ed Price went for his first guard duty in Korea, he was surprised that some men had nicely pressed uniforms at the inspection. Why? This was a war zone. Then he found out that, each night, one man was selected to be the supernumerary, who got to stay inside where it was warm. He now had a new goal.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland was flying cover high over an air-to-ground operation below when three MiG-15's flew right through his formation. He maneuvered until he was behind the leader and let him have it until the MiG crashed into a hillside.
Ed Price was stuck in Seattle. While other troops boarded ships for Korea, he and several others had to wait for records to catch up with them. After a couple of false starts, he was finally headed across the Pacific. When he got to his anti-aircraft unit, he was asked a fateful question. Can you type?
His first mission in Korea was nerve wracking. William Alli was put in a listening post all alone in front of the line. There wasn't much combat until the Chinese launched their spring offensive. Then it was time for advancing in a different direction, that is to say, a retreat.
Japan was the R&R destination for troops in Korea. Ed Price got an extra trip when he won soldier of the month. In his unit, there was a Japanese American soldier who kept getting mistaken for a Korean, which he would milk for laughs whenever possible.
While walking past a recruiting office, Charles Vicari made a spur of the moment decision to join the Marine Corps. When the Korean War broke out, he volunteered for duty on the west coast to replace Marines that had been sent there. He was told the duty may be a little further than the west coast.
With an eye toward the GI Bill, Sinclair Stickle decided to enlist, but he found out that if he volunteered for the draft, it would be a two year commitment instead of four. He entered the Army as a draftee and figured he would have a nice easy tour in Germany because surely the Korean War will be over soon. The drill instructors didn't think so.
It was eleven days retreating down that narrow dirt road from the Chosin Reservoir. William Moncus had two wounds and frozen feet and was airlifted to Japan after a runway was improvised. He began a long journey through several hospitals until he was able to walk again.
After seeing action off the coast of Korea, the USS Cowell resumed its around the world cruise, which had begun in Norfolk. From Korea, the ship headed south. Charles Kelly recalls the delightful liberties he had in many ports on his trek from Singapore to Ceylon and up through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.