8:01 | 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.
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.
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.
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.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
The number one mission of the Marine Corps Reserve is to be ready to go to war. Having risen through the ranks of reserve officers, Larry Taylor knew it would pay off, and it did with all the recent wars. When the 9/11 attacks occurred, he was at a meeting in Washington and could only watch from the roof as the Pentagon burned.
Galen Hoover and all but one of his brothers joined the Navy as they came of age in the Sixties. He was assigned to the USS Escape, a rescue and salvage ship. He saw 17 countries, including the entire Mediterranean, where the ship's divers assisted the local sponge divers with safety training.
After the big war, Army Air Corps veteran Harold Dudley was active in ROTC at college and participated in extensive MP training. His expertise was tested when he was serving at Fort Benning and given orders to clean up the cesspool at nearby Phenix City, Alabama. (This interview made possible with the support of CHESTER RUST.)
He was in a platoon leaders course when he looked up from the mud and wondered if he could get into flight school. Larry Taylor made good on that desire and became a helicopter pilot. During an early shipboard cruise, the unit was dispatched to the Panama Canal Zone to stop rioting.
He had joined because of it, but the Korean War ended while Carter Tucker was in submarine school. Without a shooting war, the vessels were used for intelligence gathering and this nearly led to an icy disaster for him on his first patrol off the coast of Russia.
After all his military commitments, retired Marine General Larry Taylor went to Iraq to run a program for a civilian contractor. It was post Surge and more uncomfortable than dangerous. His biggest problem was not the enemy. It was the State Department bureaucracy.
Here Bob Newton talks about many more experiences he had, including an embarrassing close call from Vietnam where his chopper was shot down, then coming back to the states in 1965 and being assigned as Chief Executive Officer of the 82nd Airborne Division. He also helped test a new kind of quick release parachute, and went to Panama's jungle operations school to teach young Latin American kids how to live in the jungle. Finally, he became the director for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
After two tours in Vietnam, Army chaplain Carter Tucker served in Germany and at Fort Benning. In Germany, he was also chaplain to a large civilian population of dependents, who could have it rough in a strange country. Even with all his time as a chaplain, and with his previous service in the Navy, he wonders if he'd done enough.
Senator Bob Dole reflects on his admiration of, and relationship with fellow Kansan, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Having served under him in WWII, he saw the type of leader Ike was and would support his bid for president. (Interview conducted in partnership with the Eisenhower Foundation as part of their Ike's Soldiers program. https://eisenhowerfoundation.net & http://ikessoldiers.com)
When he was recalled to active duty after the 9/11 attacks, General Larry Taylor insisted that he also get the newly required martial arts training that all Marine were supposed to have. One of his duties overseeing mobilization readiness was to pacify reserve units who were anxious to fight, but not yet sent into battle.
The Korean War had started when he graduated high school, and though he had started college, Carter Tucker felt the call to join the Navy. At first he was with the Seabee school but he wanted to go further than California so he volunteered for the unique world of submarine duty.
After responding to the Mayaguez Incident, the USS Coral Sea finished its visit to Australia for a commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Dan Spahn fondly recalls that visit and, when he returned stateside, he managed to secure shore duty for the remainder of his enlistment. His electronics training served him well in his post-military career.
Beer and ball games. That's what retired Marine Corps General and former Air America pilot Larry Taylor enjoys these days. He remains involved in various activities related to his service and has a ready lesson available for civic groups who ask him to speak. It can be summed up as "the troops eat first."
After the Japanese surrendered, Gilbert Howland was transferred to an MP unit for a while, then discharged. He reenlisted after a year and left for a tour in Italy, guarding Trieste against Yugoslav incursion. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
General Buck Kernan's biggest heroes are the troops and NCO's that helped develop him into an effective leader. He feels privileged to have served with the Rangers. They are still the role models for the rest of the Army and that is why they lead the way.
Walter Boomer talks about his promotions up the ranks of the Marines and what it was like to be a leading General. As he's driving to California, the news breaks out about Iraq invading Kuwait, and this completely changes the course for him and his family.
While on Cold War duty in Italy, Gilbert Howland found the time for golf, a little cognac and entertainment in a Trieste nightclub. One of the entertainers became very special to him. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Tricky situations are nothing new to Walter Boomer. In this clip, he talks about one time in particular that he was caught in the middle of Iraqi territory, with only his other men to count on. To follow up, he also discusses which position he prefers to hold and the debate between soldiers "then and now."