4:49 | The little known "death march" of the men of Stalag Luft IV lasted 86 days. That was when an Allied tank column rolled up and the Russian prisoners took their revenge on a particularly sadistic German guard. With a friend, Bob Honeycutt set out toward a small town, where they spotted a truck in a garage. Mighty tempting. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Keywords : Robert Bob Honeycutt Prisoner Of War (POW) forced march death march liberated Moosburg Germany Dachau tank German guard Russian Big Stoop
As a young Army Air Corps recruit, the only thing Bob Honeycutt didn't like was Morse code, but he was slotted to be a radio operator on a B-24 crew, so he shrugged it off. After dodging plane crashes in training and German torpedoes in the Atlantic, he made it to the Middle East where he going to be based. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Bob Honeycutt was trained as a radio operator but he was switched to weatherman when his unit got to North Africa. Attached to the RAF while he trained, he rejoined his B-24 squadron in Libya, where he also was wounded for the first time in an air raid. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Once the B-24 squadron moved to Italy, the required number of missions was increased. Bob Honeycutt describes the missions over Ploiesti, where the anti-aircraft fire and German fighters were intense. His primary job was cameraman, but he became a gunner if any of them were wounded. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
It was his 29th mission, a bombing raid over Austria, when Bob Honeycutt's luck ran out. First they lost an engine. Then, when they dropped behind the formation, they were swarmed by German fighters. As the gunners fell one by one, a rocket finally set the plane on fire and blew him right out into the air. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Injured and dazed from his bail out at 18,000 feet, Bob Honeycutt was taken into the home of an Austrian family until the local officials came to arrest him. He was cared for so well, he had to wonder, why were these civilians treating him like a friend? Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After a hearty breakfast with his German guard, Bob Honeycutt left the comfort of the Alps, where he had bailed out, for the misery of the German POW system. First came the mind games of the interrogation. Then, he wound up at Stalag Luft IV, one of the worst camps, where he learned new meanings for "cold" and "hungry." Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After eight months in the prison camp, Bob Honeycutt could hear the guns of the Russian Army approaching, but he was not going to be free anytime soon. The German guards forced 10,000 men out of the gate and onto the road, where they began a forced march, with no known destination. The deprivation and cruelty was mind numbing. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
With a commandeered truck, newly liberated POW Bob Honeycutt made three trips into Belgium, loaded down with as many freed US airmen as he could carry. He'd lost half his weight and was eaten up with lice, but he'd made it. When he got back home to Chattanooga, both he and his family had a big surprise. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
From being born and raised in Pennsylvania, Bill Snyder took a graduate course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for meteorology. From there, he went to Mitchel Field to join the Army Air Corps, and was eventually moved to a station in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was here that he heard the devastating news about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Immediately when he got to the Vosges Mountains, Higginbotham and the other men were tasked with replacing the men that came before them. He was given the position of machine gunner and squad leader, and he recalls his first combat experience up in the cold mountains.
After spending about a year in North Africa, Snyder was then transferred to another air base in Sicily, Italy. The planes that flew over there would not always be military personnel, but would also carry diplomats over to foreign countries. A few months later, he was sent back to the states to Florida for refresher training, and it was during this time that the war came to an end in Europe.
Clarence Higginbotham grew up in Georgia and studied for a little bit at the University of Georgia before enlisting in the Army. He was granted access into the Army Specialized Training Program, but once that was disbanded he was sent to Fort Riley for basic training. Once he was ready, he was shipped overseas to France. He talks about the living conditions he had to endure for the beginning of his time in the war.
After the war was over, Loniak was stationed assisting a doctor once again. Unfortunately, this was the time he saw some of the more horrific sights because they had to deal with the war aftermath. Once he was discharged, he took the first chance he got to go back to the states, married his wife, and went back into the workforce.
When he got back to his outfit, the war was still ongoing, and Higginbotham was still having trouble with his legs. While making their way through Germany, it was his job to keep an eye out for young Germans who might shoot from steeples. He remembers a time in particular that a young German boy shot at and killed one of them. Shortly after, the war was over and he got to go home.
Fischer found basic infantry training to be lacking in challenge since he was a boy scout growing up and was so used to hiking around his home area. From there he was transported to Fort Bragg for weapons training, and then went overseas on the USS George Washington. Soon enough his division arrived in France and he had his first combat experience. He distinctly remembers having to fight German forces as they moved through the Vosges Mountains.
When he was stationed overseas, Snyder went to England first but was quickly transferred to North Africa to help prepare weather maps for the pilots there. He and his team would often get weather forecasts from other countries to help them draw a more complete weather map. Occasionally, enemy aircraft would fly over their base and pose a potential threat to their operation.
Often times during combat, it was Fischer's job as gunner to fire his company's anti-tank gun when they spotted enemy tanks. Other times, he was put in the middle of the rifle company to help aid them. He only had to use his gun twice, and once was when he destroyed a stone house in the way of the artillery men. For this, Fischer received a bronze star. When the Germans carried out Operation Northwind all throughout Bitche, France, it resulted with Fischer getting shot and wounded in the arm.
While up in the air, Preston would sometimes be instructed to fire on enemy trains and tanks. Throughout his time in Europe, he flew 95 different missions. For one of these, he was recognized for his valor and was awarded a distinguished flying cross. He remembers where he was at the end of the war, as well as returning home and joining the National Guard. After a fateful injury falling from a tree, he was ultimately forced to give up flying.
While not in the midst of combat, Higginbotham and his company were taking some time to go around a flank. Suddenly, they heard the firing of enemy machine guns and, before he knew it, Higginbotham was hit in both of his legs, leaving him unable to stand or walk. He was transported by railroad to a hospital in England.
Upon graduating high school in Virginia, 18 year old Glen Fischer had little money for college at the time, and wound up attending Virginia Tech in a mechanics program that following year. His hope was to get into the Army Air Corps, and he figured working on an aircraft assembly line before volunteering would help him do that. Unfortunately, the Army had other plans for Fischer. 6 months later, he would be sent to Camp Croft for infantry training.
It was a long trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe made even longer by the threat of German U-Boats and depth charges. Landing in Le Havre, Jim Sharp saw the sheer amount of devestation the D-Day invasion had brought to France. It wouldn't be long until Sharp would be on the front lines to see the fighting firsthand.
While offline on the Italian front, Tom Hanlon very much enjoyed the resort area where his unit had moved. He was issued winter gear and moved back on line where he found himself with a new job, telephone wireman.
After being wounded in the arm, Glen Fischer was taken out of combat and transported to a hospital over in Paris, France. By the time he was healed and ready to rejoin his company, the war was already over. He made it as far as waiting in a replacement depot, but never actually went back into combat after his injury. From there, he was placed into occupation duty until February of 1946, where he was promptly sent home.
Jim Sharp tells the story of how a farm-boy and his brothers would come to serve in the military, but due to the need for work in agriculture, Jim's drafting was delayed. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jim's service would be needed overseas, and he was sent to train at Ft. Leavenworth.
Paul Koshewa grew up in Louisville, Kentucky with a father who had served in the first world war. Naturally, Koshewa followed in his footsteps by serving in WWII, and even went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars later on. He remembers undergoing basic training in Mississippi, followed by navigation school in Houston. He was fascinated by astronomy and therefore thought he'd make a good navigator, that is until he had a little trouble adapting to the European metric system.
Some of the most dangerous fighting in Europe happened in the streets of German towns. The German infantry set up machine guns aimed down the narrow street, and when they weren't there, they were hiding in homes and churches waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Tom Hanlon recalls when his unit received brightly colored markers to lay out on the road when they were traveling, to keep friendly planes from mistaking them for Germans. Just because he was a telephone wireman, it did not mean he was not in danger and he has the decoration to prove it.
Eugene McPherson grew up in West Virginia, and before he knew it he was drafted into the army for World War II. He was first sent to Camp Barkeley for basic training, and since the army had a high demand for medical crew he was sent to Fort Thomas for medical training. After that, he had been shipped overseas to London and then finally stationed in France.
Soldiers in every war find mementos during their time in the field, and Jim Sharp was no exception. In this clip, he describes some of the items he brought back home from the war, including a Swastika flag that was signed by the men that were there with him.
Tom Hanlon's unit moved across northern Italy, from mountain to mountain, until they were ordered to stop where they were. The war in Italy was over. He came down from his lofty final advance to run a telephone exchange in Pisa until it was time to go home.
After his infantry training at Fort Benning, McIntyre went to Fort Bragg and learned to be a jeep driver for his company. Whenever someone needed transport he was the guy they would call. One day while at training the unexpected happened; after being given a chance to fire a machine gun, he ranked expert on the amount of targets he hit.
Paul Koshewa's B-24 had a barrage of markings on it from its time in the service, the most significant of these were the bombs on the side. He explains that these represented the missions that she flew, and he goes on to talk about getting shot in the leg during his sixth mission in Italy.
Tanks were heard rumbling nearby, so a platoon of men was sent to find out if they were German or if they were from the nearby British unit. Tom Hanlon recalls the tense moment when they were challenged from the bushes for the password. While on the move, the rain was a constant, miserable companion.
Jim Sharp was staged in Givet, France while the Battle of the Bulge raged. It was a frigid winter and sleeping in a hay barn would be one of the few reprieves from the biting cold he'd feel sitting watch in a foxhole. Coming into the battle as a replacement, he'd face the terror of incredible German firepower in the Ardennes.
The units on the Italian front were all connected with long telephone lines quickly strung out on the ground. Tom Hanlon had the job of finding breaks in the line and repairing them. Sounds easy, but on his second outing, he wound up covered with something unbelievable thanks to a German mortar round.
After their long and rather snowy journey toward Bitche, Collie and the rest of the 100th Division managed to successfully take the entire city over. It was during this time that a friend from another platoon named John Bacos had been hit by a sniper, but luckily survived to tell the tale. From there it was their job to cross the Rhine River. Along the way, Lieutenant Gerald James received help from an unlikely ally to help destroy a German gun emplacement.