7:01 | Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
Keywords : William Hanna pilot B-17 Berlin Airlift C-54 Udine Italy Italian Communist wine Udine Italy
The day after Pearl Harbor brought a deluge of volunteers, and Bill Hanna was one of the lucky ones who qualified for pilot training in the Air Corps. He almost didn't survive the training.
The last thing any pilot trainee wanted was to be a bomber pilot. They all wanted to fly fighters but when Bill Hanna wound up in a B-17, he felt no one ever flew a better airplane. He was headed overseas as a co-pilot, but in a gutsy move he qualified as first pilot and was soon flying his craft over the North Atlantic to England.
When Bill Hanna joined the 91st Bomb Group in England, the losses were an astonishing 92%. Shrugging off an early rookie mistake, which nearly got him court martialed, he felt he could whip the whole German Air Force with just a little help from his tail gunner. He recalls an incident involving a special modification to his plane.
B-17 pilot Bill Hanna remembers the cold conditions at high altitude and remains envious of the B-24 crews who had heated suits. He encountered enemy fighters every time he flew, including a fateful mission with an unbelievable coincidence.
Pilot Bill Hanna was on the first mission to bomb Berlin, which got a lot easier as the bombers began to get fighter support. He explains why a lone bomber is no match for a lone fighter and has a tale about his radio operator who was the only crew member to get injured.
B-17 pilot Bill Hanna reveals what was in the first letter he got from home and why he finished his required 25 missions in record time. Unfortunately, he had to "volunteer" for a few more missions.
On June 6, 1944, Bill Hanna flew his B-17 toward Normandy and dropped his bombs right on target just inland. It was early, before men began hitting the beach. He recalls the awesome sight and wonders how they managed to organize such a large effort.
Bill Hanna reveals why the 91st Bomb Group was known as the "Ragged Irregulars." His B-17 also had a name and he explains why they chose it and painted it on the nose of the plane.
Bill Hanna relates the steps in executing a bombing mission, from the sketchy breakfast to the debriefing, where he once had to describe a prototype rocket plane he saw. As if the danger of formation flying with hundreds of planes wasn't enough, he just might face a Buzz Bomb when he went to London to have a beer.
As an advisor in Vietnam, Bill Hanna faced an unusual obstacle, the cultural phenomenon known as "saving face." This led to some perplexing situations as he tried to school the Vietnamese in running a modern Air Force.
Ken Preston had a very rewarding position as 1st Sgt at BNCOC, the basic NCO course at Fort Knox. Scouts, tank and Bradley crewmen and mechanics all received their instruction there. He was elevated to deputy commandant, which meant that he was now the busiest person in the Army. He was right up on twenty years and he filled out the form for a retirement date, but his boss had something to say about that.
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.
After the war in Iraq shifted from a conventional war to an insurgency, intelligence became very important. That and up-armoring vehicles to protect them from the enemy's favorite weapon; the Improvised Explosive Device or IED. Compounding the problem was a lack of disposal teams. For V Corps Command Sgt Major Ken Preston, it was a difficult fight with a steep learning curve.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
A big priority for Ken Preston, the 13th Sgt Major of the Army, was helping the families of service members who were being pressed into longer and longer deployments. The armed forces were being stretched thin. In 2009, he was asked to come to the White House to brief the President from the enlisted perspective and he was able to voice his concerns at the highest level.
The bomber jacket worn by a hometown character caught LC Johnson's young eye, so he always had the Air Force on his mind, not the Army. He was stationed at isolated radar sites in the Southwest, at first. Then he got his first taste of a real Air Force base in Japan, where he worked in supply and at the clubs on base.
Looking back on Iraq, Ken Preston recalls how limited the communications were, with very few satellite units to go around. There was internet for the troops, which was not the case in the previous war. Daily communication with home has it down side, though.
Ken Preston describes how a well functioning armored cavalry unit operates in the field. There are a lot of moving pieces and it requires a platoon leader and a platoon sergeant with skills. After his part in Desert Storm was over, a drawdown began in the Army which stymied his promotion. No big deal. He now had experience.
Operation Desert Storm was so brief that Brooks Tucker, a Marine veteran of that conflict, believes that it may be a forgotten war. He speaks of the lessons learned, including operating in desert terrain and adjusting expectations for possible outcomes.
A lot of technology has changed, but to an old tank master gunner like Ken Preston, it still comes down to that last hundred yards on the ground, force to force. Getting to that point has been aided greatly by GPS technology, something that helped tremendously in Iraq.
His dream was to be an architect, but now he was in the Army for a few years. The recruiter tried to help Ken Preston by putting him on an engineering and surveying path, but he found out about a $2500 bonus for committing to an armored unit. That was a lot of money in 1975.
He was a newly minted rifle platoon leader in the Marine infantry. Brooks Tucker had no experience outside of training, so he worked hard to fit in and get respect in the historic unit, which counted Tarawa and Beirut in it's backstory.
Ken Preston's armored cavalry unit deployed to the Kuwait/Iraq border to provide security for the pullout following the swift resolution of Operation Desert Storm. He has vivid memories of the oil well fires and the wreckage covering the battlefield.
As the length of deployments increased, lessons were learned about how service members went through the process of reuniting with their families. Sgt Major of the Army Ken Preston explains how it was a mistake to go immediately on a vacation.
He was back at Fort Knox, where ordinary tank gunners became master gunners. Ken Preston enjoyed passing knowledge on to young NCO's who could go back to their units as a more valuable asset. He had served in Germany and the Middle East and was coming up on a big decision. Make twenty and retire or keep going?
After the war on terror brought US forces into Afghanistan, the focus changed from the 9/11 attacks to weapons of mass destruction believed to be in the hands of Saddam Hussein. At V Corps, Command Sgt Major Ken Preston started preparing for a possible invasion in the summer of 2002. The following March, US soldiers rolled into Iraq covered in chemical warfare suits.
He'd come a long way from those early months of the Iraq war. Ken Preston recalls welding steels plates in the doors of Humvees to make "hillbilly armor." When he became Sgt Major of the Army, he was able to help improve the quality of the equipment in the field. Not only that, more child development centers were built for Army families to improve their quality of life.
The 1st Armored Division was in Germany and prepping for Kosovo when Ken Preston arrived to take over the Command Sgt Major position. He had only been there a little more than a year when he got a call from US Army Europe headquarters. It was a familiar story, by now. They needed a big list of applicants for an important position.
It was a long and interesting career. Ken Preston rose from a tank gunner to become Sgt Major of the Army. But he didn't stop there. After retiring, he became involved with several worthwhile charitable and service organizations, including Homes For Our Troops and the USO.