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.
T.J. Martin had already lost many men and the Chinese were taking even more prisoners. Thanks to some quick thinking and some good teachers back home, he was able to talk his way out of captivity, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Part 1 of 2
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.
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.
T.J. Martin left his home in South Carolina when he graduated as he was drafted into the Army in 1950. The Korean War would take him across the Pacific to Japan where he would do some teaching, before ultimately landing in Korea to join the 38th Infantry Regiment.
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.
T.J. Martin was marched north to Camp 1 in NW North Korea, along the Yalu River. He recalls what he considered the mercy of his captors, and fellow prisoners’ comparison to their treatment as captives of the Japanese years prior.
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.
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.
T.J. Martin was trying his best to resist the indoctrination attempts of the North Koreans, so they sent him to Camp 2, just north of Camp 1. There, they had different methods to try and break him. He remembers his time there before being relocated again, as well as participating in Operation Little Switch where North Korea would exchange wounded prisoners with the U.N. Coalition.
He was working as a staff officer at Camp Lejeune when he got a surprise assignment. Curtis James was to be one of two officers on a shipboard Marine detachment. The ship was the USS Princeton, an aircraft carrier supporting troops in the Korean War.
After the Chinese intervened in Korea, John Meyer's unit was constantly on the move, often in retreat. He worked in the rear, so he saw the huge masses of refugees fleeing the fighting, some of them receiving medical treatment while there.
After three weeks on the front line in Korea, John Meyers was made the company clerk. The captain's morning report was his responsibility and this led to a chilling experience when he had to visit graves registration. Since he had to go to the front every day, he was still subject to artillery and mortar fire.
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army had begun to push back against UN Forces in Korea, and T.J. Martin would be there, present for the Battle of Hoengsong. His column was moving out and he would be on the last Jeep, but the oppressive fire led to him taking cover in a ditch. Part 1 of 2
Tyler talks about his process before and after missions. He was in Manila in the Philippines when WWII ended. After that, he did what he could to occupy his time before being sent back home, including flying over Japan to see the immense damage from the atomic bomb. After he came home in January 1946, he was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. He also talks about his relationship with another military man, Ed Addison.
There were many miles between Young Chang Ha’s village and possible refuge in South Korea, so when his father decided they would flee, they had to figure out the safest possible route and carry only the essentials. The Communists didn’t make things easier when they switched the national currency.
John Meyers was drafted in 1950 and thought that basic training was pretty good for a young man of 22. On his way to Seattle to ship out for Korea, he was broke but came up with a great way to get some money and enjoy some beer in the bargain.
Young Chang Ha’s family took a train from the Northwest Corner of North Korea through Wonson, and eventually made it to the 38th Parallel. While there, his mother would be separated from them as they were able to get into Seoul, but he recalls the miraculous string of events that happened as they made their way to his uncle’s house in South Korea.
Young Chang Ha was still a young man living in North Korea at the end of WWII. Korea had been divided and occupied by the Russians in the North and the Americans in the South. Growing up in the town of Yongchon, he lived a quiet farming life, but the religious persecution against Christians brought on by the Communists would force him and his family to flee.
The North Koreans had captured hundreds of soldiers and kept them in a prison camp that was also a tactical target for the American Air Force. It became unfeasible to keep the prisoners there, so they began marching for the North Korean headquarters. T.J. Martin recalls not everyone being able to survive the trip. Part 2 of 2
Able to reconnect with his mother and find shelter with his uncle, Young Chang Ha had successfully fled the Communist regime in North Korea. With only the little capital they had from selling dried squid at the border, his family took up baking as a means to survive in Seoul, but this period of peace would not last.
He was ready to come home from Korea and he loved the welcome he got in San Francisco, but John Meyers had about three months left to serve. He was made a platoon sergeant at Fort Ord and managed to make a difference to those men, who were in a poorly performing unit when he arrived.
With few options, T.J. Martin had to make a move to get out of the ditch. In spite of taking a hit from a grenade, he made it to a larger group and they’d attempt to escape the massacre, but many of those men would not survive. Part 2 of 2