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.
Angela Beltz is proud that all water purification and distribution during Desert Storm was handled by National Guard and Reserve units. When she got to her forward base, the first order of business was to secure the perimeter with concertina wire. She was on that detail and a chance encounter would change her life. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
There is a song that will make Angela Beltz recall her time in the desert, and another that will make her cry. As for the present, she is worried about the military being able to recruit among the existing pool of young people. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
LTC Garnet Derby was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle, also taking 3 other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Brett Stroney recalls the incident and the memories of LTC Derby.
When a vehicle loaded with explosives blew up at the gate, dental officer Mike Barno hurried to his emergency assignment, triage at the aid station. A truck with wounded men from the Afghan Army pulled up and he jumped into the back, ready to help.
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio is an amazing place for any veteran to visit, says Ohio veteran Angela Beltz. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
Following the tragic deaths of ten Afghan children, it fell on General David Barno to tell President Karzai about the incident. He describes the effect this had on the rules of engagement going forward and he discusses a document he drew up to give guidelines to the troops that would keep them in the good graces of their hosts.
Her father was an Irish cowboy and her mother was a member of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota. Angela Beltz followed a long tradition of military service among native people by joining the National Guard while still in high school. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
It was a surprise when her National Guard unit was activated for Desert Storm. It gave Angela Beltz a new appreciation of the hands on training the water distribution detachment had received in the mountains of California. As she readied for deployment, she had to make a choice regarding her long hair. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
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.
It was a small detachment from the North Dakota National Guard that flew together with their vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Angela Beltz describes the scene as other units waited in the desert for their gear to arrive. Her unit had their own vehicles with them, which was a huge advantage. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
In her quartermaster unit, Angela Beltz had to endure the stereotyping of women in the Army. It was difficult to find any men with much sympathy. But when she got to the Ohio National Guard, she found something she really liked, a new truck. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
If you are a woman veteran, reach out, find a network of women who have been there. That's the advice of Angela Beltz, a veteran of Desert Storm. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
Angela Beltz had her senior year in high school after taking basic training, which gave her a completely new perspective on things. Her National Guard unit was a water detachment, specializing in distribution in conflict areas. Many of the members of the North Dakota unit had grown up together. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
It was her first time on an airplane, and when she got to basic training, Angela Beltz was the youngest one there at seventeen. She was also small of stature, which made the drill instructor wonder if she had what it takes. She did. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
The long hours often faced by servicemen and women weren’t just in the field, as Brett remembers a mission to apprehend a high value target that led to a full day’s worth of administrative work.
For Angela Beltz, the chemical alarms were the scariest thing. Every time it sounded, they had to don full protective gear. But when it was quiet, at night, the stars in the desert seemed close enough to touch. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)
Brett Stroney was just a high schooler on the day of the 9/11 attacks. He recalls the sense of duty that led him to consider the United States Military Academy as America entered the Global War on Terror.
Women, too, serve on the front lines. Angela Beltz, a veteran of Desert Storm, speaks of her work with women's veteran groups and their outreach to veterans of all wars. Especially important to her are the women who served in Vietnam. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/ .)