11:28 | Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
Keywords : Don Scott B-17 turret gunner parachute pilot hatch radio chaff Sweeney bail out crash slipstream Rhine Koblenz Germany Swastika civilian Boy Scout wristwatch interrogation
There was a tremendous need for B-17 crews and this led to Don Scott being drafted right out of his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. His first training stop was Miami Beach where he was billeted in a hotel right on the beach. That was very nice but the next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He didn't mind a bit since it was the radio school he wanted.
The new B-17 crews crossed the Atlantic but there was still more training to be done before they could start their missions. They had to fly in formation and that was very tricky, according to radio operator Don Scott. With that skill mastered, the bombing began.
Don Scott's fateful mission started out badly for him at his radio operator's position. As soon as the B-17 was aloft, his first duty was to power up the classified identification unit, which had a self destruct charge. The charge went off causing a minor fire. They pressed on to the target and successfully dropped their payload and then came the flak. Part 1 of 3.
The interrogator was very cordial at first, says Don Scott, who had just bailed out of a doomed B-17. The pleasantries turned to threats, but they soon gave up on him and it was off to a camp. Part 3 of 3.
After the interrogation, Don Scott never saw his crew mates again. In fact, when he got to the Stalag, he was assigned to a barracks full of British prisoners. He became very good friends with the British and way too familiar with potatoes, and black bread.
The war was nearly over but the Russian Army was approaching from the East, so Don Scott and the rest of the POW's from Stalag Luft 4 had to hit the road on a forced march. He wasn't doing too bad until his British hobnail boots rubbed his heels raw on the cobblestones. They healed while time ran out for the Germans.
Don Scott explains why he celebrates the second day of May every year. It was that day in 1945 when British soldiers found him on the road in a forced march of Allied prisoners. The guards had fled and soon there were happy men walking west toward relief.
B-17 crew member Don Scott had to bail out of his plane and spent time in a German POW camp. He displays some of the objects from his internment and other memorabilia.
The casualties were astounding on Okinawa for the 29th Marine Regiment. More than once, Dick Whitaker saw men killed just after arriving as replacements. He had already been wounded once and narrowly missed serious injury again when a stray artillery shell hit near him.
Dick Arnold had been picked up by some MP's, who had a captain who was both zealous and cowardly. He was falsely accused of desertion but he was just waiting on some new footwear. Finally, with his new boots on his feet, he went looking for his unit, but they were gone. Part 3 of 3.
The company was down from 250 men to less than 100 and had to be placed in reserve to regroup and get replacements. It wasn't much of a break for Dick Whitaker because soon they were assigned to make a beach landing behind the Japanese defenses so the southward push to Naha could proceed.
At the train station where Bill Cruickshank was about to depart for training, he met a family of celebrities who were seeing two sons off to the same outfit. He didn't recognize the name but he would meet one of them later in Italy. The mountain training was arduous for the newly formed 10th Mountain Division, who used a lot of highly specialized gear.
They had knocked out fourteen Tiger tanks with artillery fire. Dick Arnold and his new forward observer friend had successfully defended Bastogne for two days and were bracing for a third if the Germans tried to send more. But there was a problem, the deadly freezing weather. Part 5 of 6.
After the war ended, B-24 mechanic Russell Vaudrey was prepping the planes to fly home when a monstrous typhoon hit. It lasted three days and, as they were repairing planes, a second typhoon swept in. Finally, the crews began flying what was left of their aircraft home.
Some invasion. For three weeks, Dick Whitaker unloaded ships on the beach at Okinawa. Finally, he was sent upcountry to join a rifle company as an ammo bearer for the machine guns. There wasn't much action up there. Almost all the Japanese were in the south and they gave his company a loud welcome when they were moved to that front.
Fate had brought him to a different unit and now fate found Dick Arnold on a railroad cut in the suburbs of Bastogne. A mortar shell killed the other men with him and he was all alone. He saw some footprints in the snow and it turned out to be a forward observer who had lost his radio operator. The two of them were now guarding the besieged city. Part 2 of 6.
His unit had an 82% casualty rate on Okinawa, the costliest battle in the Pacific campaign. Dick Whitaker was there and he laments that the battle got overlooked in the media of the time. He would have rather gone home but he got sent to China for six months, which turned out to be good duty.
The prisoners at Buchenwald were starving. Their German guards had fled and Dick Arnold was among the horrified Americans who were sorting them out. His assignment was to separate the living from the dead in a building where the prisoners were shackled to the wall. Part 2 of 2.
The men of the 10th Mountain Division were taking a series of ridges one at a time, pushing the Germans further back from the city of Pisa down below. It was on the last ridge that Bill Cruickshank was wounded by machine gun fire. As if that wasn't enough, the mortar fire started.
He might dig three foxholes in one day. Andy Negra's field artillery unit was moving so fast, he would have to leave his newly dug hole and hit the road again. He got an amazing Christmas dinner when he reached Metz, then was sent to help at Bastogne.
Only seven men out of an entire company were left on their feet after they were worked over by German artillery. Dick Arnold and the other six regrouped and helped evacuate the wounded. His frozen boots had to be cut off at a field hospital and he couldn't find any more because of his large feet. This started a very fateful chain of events. Part 2 of 3.
The American fighting man came home after World War II and just wanted to be left alone, according to Andy Negra, who had fought his way across France and Germany in a field artillery outfit. They were just young kids who went and did a job that started on that fateful day in December of 1941.
Dick Arnold was out of the hospital and on his way to be reassigned. Before he and the others could get out of the truck, a man with a clipboard shouted at them to stay on it. General Patton needed three men right now four miles down the road. You're going to a place called Buchenwald. Part 1 of 2.
The day before he reported to Fort Dix, Dick Arnold took a date to see Benny Goodman play in New York City. He didn't have reservations but when they heard that he was shipping out the next day, they gave him a table right on the stage. After his ordeals on the battlefield, as he was waiting to leave the hospital, he watched a newsreel that had a special music segment. Hey guys, that's me on the stage!
The B-24 squadron on Biak Island was a tight knit outfit. Mechanic Russell Vaudrey signed up for combat duty, which meant he would fly as a substitute flight engineer or gunner when needed. While performing his duties on the ground, he managed to get a plum job as assistant to the line chief.
When the field artillery unit got to England, they were camped next to a British women's anti-aircraft unit. Andy Negra was taking a helmet bath one day when the alarm went off and his bath became a shower. They crossed the Channel eighteen days after D-Day to join the war and headed toward Brest.
Most of the returning vets didn't talk about the war much but Russell Vaudrey has loosened up a little as the years have gone by. He returned to work at United Airlines and moved into facilities design work.
He was lacking in points, having been drafted in 1943, so Andy Negra had to stay on in postwar Germany for a while. Finally he was allowed to return and he immediately went looking for the girl he met just before he deployed.
While at Georgia Tech, Ray Davis switched from Army ROTC to Navy ROTC and received a commission in the Marine Corps. He was at Camp Lejeune when Pearl Harbor was attacked and soon found himself in the Pacific, defending the airfield on Guadalcanal with an anti-aircraft unit. Everyone had malaria and there were no medical supplies but the Marines held fast.
There were some things that Andy Negra saw in the war that really made him stop and think. German soldiers who were using horses to pull their artillery, both dead along the road. Newly liberated French villagers shearing the hair of a collaborator. These were only two of the striking images and experiences that stuck with him.
Russell Vaudrey had joined the Army Air Corps and was almost immediately taking care of airplanes at a training base for air cadets. When it came time to go overseas, he got some quick combat training and boarded a Liberty Ship bound for New Guinea. He bought some t-shirts for the bare breasted natives but he had to laugh when he saw what they did with them.
After the bloody battle on Guadalcanal, Ray Davis was promoted to major and put in command of a Marine Battalion. His next landing was at Peleliu, which was supposed to be an easy one but was anything but. By the time it was over, he had earned the Navy Cross.
By the time the B-24 group moved to Clark Field, the Japanese had run out of fuel for their fighters. Mechanic Russell Vaudrey then moved with the unit to an island off Okinawa, where they prepped for the Japan invasion which never came.
Andy Negra was with a field artillery battalion that was sent by Patton to subdue the Germans on the Brest peninsula. He was rotated through several jobs in the armored outfit during what became a mission of containment.
After some hard times growing up on a ranch in Wyoming, Russell Vaudrey was going to college and working for United Airlines. The war had just broken out and he wanted to get into the Army Air Corps. He enlisted in 1942 and was soon working on the line as a mechanic.