13:09 | After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
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While plowing behind a horse one day, on his family farm in South Carolina, B.E. Vaughan decided he didn't want to be stuck behind that plow forever. "I want to be somebody." So he enlisted alongside three friends who were drafted.
B.E. Vaughan already knew how to drill. In a Home Guard group he'd done well but when he got to boot camp, they executed the "Halt" command a little differently and this led to a little tension with the Drill Instructor.
Shipping out on a newly commissioned destroyer, B.E. Vaughan went straight into the chaos of the Normandy invasion. All around him was "a slaughterhouse," but the crew performed a valuable role as soldiers struggled to get a foothold, knocking out pillboxes on the bluffs.
Setting out from Portsmouth after a short break following the overwhelming experience of D-Day, B.E. Vaughan and the O'Brien joined a task force with the battleship Texas supporting the landing at Cherbourg. Their support was so good that they drew the fire from the Texas onto themselves.
One of B.E. Vaughan's shipmates on the O'Brien went over the hill as they prepared to head to the Pacific, sure that he wouldn't make it back. He walked up the gangplank in Hawaii, though, after a change of heart. In one of their first Pacific actions, they came to the rescue of the USS Ward, whose captain had fired the first shot of the war an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor began.
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."
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.
While still in Tokyo Bay before heading home, B.E. Vaughan was tasked with running the whale boat to shore to transport some personnel. It didn't work out so well.
The war was over but B.E. Vaughan faced one more trial, getting home without any money. As in war, those who served looked out for each other.
John Holeman was grateful for the air support as his unit fought across France. "That's the only thing that saved our hides!" The further they went, the more the German army was made up of teenagers and old men. At the Maginot line, he had a heart stopping encounter with a mortar shell. Eventually they were stopped by the worst winter in fifty years.
The demanding physical conditions during the battle for Iwo Jima are recalled by Donald Whipple. Not being able to get any sleep was probably the worst but there was also a strange, low fog which the mind filled with enemies who weren't really there. (Provided by LifeCairn, Inc.)
They moved through a lot of small towns in France and Charles Shepherd reveals how you could tell what phase of the battle the town was in by the size of the rubble. They were pestered by German planes and instructed not to shoot at them. At one point he made eye contact with a German pilot flying low in a valley and he knows he could have shot him down.
Howard Snyder, a B-17 pilot, remembers being shot down by German fighter planes during a mission, jumping from his damaged aircraft into the European countryside, and being protected by French and Belgian members of the resistance group known as The Underground. He was missing in action for eight months before finding his way back to Third Army forces. (Provided by the family of Howard Snyder)
About 5 days into a 40 day assignment in the North Atlantic, Sorensen received a message in the middle of the night notifying him that he was to pick up some passengers from England at 8 AM. Upon arriving in England, the passengers were much higher profile than he could have ever expected.
When Patton said, "Go get 'em," you went and got 'em says Arnold Mathias as he relates the tale of his armored unit's push on the Ruhr Valley. The enemy defense was strong and it wasn't long before a round from a German 88 found his tank.
It was a forced march and the POW's were quartered in a barn listening to frightful artillery, when a British soldier opened the door and said, "Cheerio, chaps!" They were free, but the British did them no favor by feeding them all they wanted. Don Ogden had survived it all but suffered one more indignity, this time at the hands of his own government. He couldn't go home, because he looked too bad.
The first time Irv Press faced discrimination, he heard it from the head cook at basic training. He dismissed it as the ravings of a redneck but it wasn't so easy to dismiss the deaths of six million Jews.
The B-17 squadron departed the West coast bound for a stopover in Hawaii en route to the Philippines. Co-pilot Roy Reid recalls what they found when they got to Hawaii, a big surprise. It was December 7th and his aircraft was destined to be the first of something that was unexpected.
The fire was heavy from the ridge above, remembers Braswell Deen. His company was pinned down in a tank trap just inland from the beach on Peleliu. He and a couple of other Marines had advanced just past the trap and almost missed the word to fall back. The night that followed was spent in a shell hole with rounds going overhead all night.