7:26 | He had evaded Nazis in France and followed the action through Korea, but there was one more adversary for George Starks to overcome, the unfairness of army bureaucracy. He had to defeat, or at least outlast, this final obstacle to return home. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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George Starks enlisted as an aviation cadet in 1942 and made his way up the training ladder to B-17's. He got out of an assignment as an instructor in the small trainers because he wanted to fly the big aircraft. He excelled along the way and at nineteen years old, he prepared to go to war as the commander of a ten man crew. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The new B-17 crew was part of a provisional group that, once in England, would be parceled out to units that needed replacement crews. George Starks was the young Lieutenant in charge of one crew that had been selected as the best of the group. He barely got away from Labrador in a storm and the flight across the Atlantic was the toughest instrument flying he ever did. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
On his fifth combat mission, his first as aircraft commander, B-17 pilot George Starks was on the outside edge of the formation when the plane was hit by German fighters. With a wing on fire, he gave the signal to bail out and he was soon in free fall from high altitude over France. He landed hard, hid his chute, and hid in the woods as he heard German troops approaching. Part 1 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
After bailing out, evading German troops and hiding in the woods, B-17 Pilot George Starks was helped by French civilians and put on his way over land toward Switzerland. He had a broken bone in his foot, but he managed to make good time, with some help from locals. German troops were everywhere but his young looks and beret gave him a chance when he encountered them. Part 2 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
As he made his way through France in disguise, downed B-17 pilot George Starks encountered German troops, stole a bicycle and made friends with many locals. In one town he was sheltered by the chief of police, who had a very friendly daughter. Part 3 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Following his French contact at a discreet distance, George Starks parked his bicycle and watched the man enter a bakery. In the back of that bakery, he met Maurice, a member of the Free French Resistance. He was getting close to Switzerland, but he would need Maurice's help to get over the border. Part 4 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
After a long trek across France, George Starks was finally next to the Swiss border. From the time he hid his parachute until the time he stepped across the creek that was the border, he had been helped by sympathetic locals. When he was finally out of occupied territory and free in Switzerland, he was surprised when someone else showed up. Part 5 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
George Starks had evaded capture all across France and was safe in Switzerland, where he had it easier than downed airmen who had actually come down in Switzerland. They were supposed to stay put and wait, but he had other ideas, which led to the liberation of Evian on the other side of Lake Geneva. Part 6 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
After leaving his safe haven in Switzerland, downed B-17 pilot George Starks finally met up with American forces near Evian in France. Then began a long, sometimes pleasurable trip back to his unit in England. After debriefing, he was sent around to give lectures on evasion for other airmen, then back home to Florida. Part 7 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
After an amazing adventure in France and Switzerland, George Starks was instructing B-17 pilots at the war's end. He took a job with an airline, but decided upon another path, one which would lead him back into the army, but not as a pilot. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
He had been a pilot, but George Starks was now an army dentist. When war broke out in Korea, he had to go, following the action all the way from Inchon up into the north. He was part of the hasty retreat south, as well as the push back northwards after regrouping. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
It was long after his service as an army dentist in Korea that George Starks read an article in the paper about a veteran who described his evacuation and medical care. He was sure he must have done the surgery so he decided to contact him. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.