5:21 | 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.)
Keywords : Robert Bob Honeycutt Prisoner Of War (POW) German guard Ed Froehlich Frankfurt Germany interrogation cameraman spy Stalag Luft IV Baltic Sea prison camp dead man rail cold food escape
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 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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
Bombardier and navigator Charlie Gribi recounts trying to knock a bomb loose after it failed to release during a bombing mission, only for it to fall out later on its own within 20 miles of his air base. Video provided by the Clermont County Public Library. Visit charliegribi.com for more information on his life and missions.
When the advance across North Africa began, the French were fighting with the Germans, recalls Ed LaPorta. That soon changed and the Nazis' other allies, the Italians, had no heart for the fight. It was still a struggle, and as German planes strafed mercilessly, LaPorta went to the aid of a wounded man.
He was there when Dachau was liberated, but a more emotional experience for Howard Margol occurred on a convoy of several thousand Jewish camp survivors being taken to luxury resorts high in the Austrian Alps. Even though they were only 20 minutes away from their destination, it was sundown on Friday and they all got out and sat down on the side of the road.
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.
Moving toward Rome, Al Brown knew his brother's unit was nearby, and for an awful moment, he thought he had found him mortally wounded on the battle field. He never found his brother but a mortar round nearly found him.
After liberating Metz and being struck by a German counterattack, Arnold Whittaker recalls the massive numbers of replacement soldiers sent in to his company, and the dangers those inexperienced soldiers posed to their seasoned peers.
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 atomic bombs had ended the war and B.E.Vaughan had the experience he'd hoped for, sailing into Tokyo Bay in dress blues. The things he'd seen haunt him to this day and he wonders how it was that he lived and others died. He recalls the moment when, as a typhoon bore down on his ship, he decided he was ready to die and it was OK.
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 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.
They kept stretching the number of required missions, according to P-47 pilot Richard Fleischer, but the tension was relieved by R & R at a beach house in Sydney. He felt more homesick when he was there than when he was in combat. A picture of his wife on the dashboard helped with that. (Provided by LifeCairn, Inc.)
It was Condition One Easy, which means B.E. Vaughan could step outside the gun mount and have a smoke. But before he did, everyone started running by and he saw the sailor just outside the hatch look up and "his eyes just about popped out of his head."
When John Huffhines hit the beach at Iwo Jima, it was just about the time the Japanese defenders unleashed their heavy artillery. They had been waiting for the beach to get crowded and, in the hellish barrage, he buried his face in the sand and knew it was the end of the world. Then he shook it off and rose up.
The Germans had the best artillery and tanks, but the Americans had the best small arms and were too stupid to quit, says Art Staymates who had reached the top of the bluffs at Omaha Beach. Then there were the hedgerows, which were a whole new challenge. He was never comfortable among the French, but the Belgians were wonderful.