8:57 | It was his 30th mission over Europe, and his most memorable. Harold Brown describes this mission where his plane went down and he had to bail out. Like many pilots who survived such an encounter, he was captured by the locals. Part 1 of 2
Keywords : Strafing Strafe Marshalling yard shot down bail out capture Germany
Harold Brown was raised in a multicultural neighborhood in Minneapolis, MN. They didn't have much during the Great Depression, but he remembers life being good for what it was. As a young man, he caught interest in flying, but getting lessons in those days for a teen would be an expensive undertaking.
As the war began, the effects hit close to home as his older brother would be sent overseas. It wouldn’t be long before the draft came for him too.
Harold Brown discusses the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen. Previously, black men had been prohibited from serving as pilots, but thanks to the advocacy of people like A. Philip Randolph and General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., funds were set to train them to fly. This was only the first hurdle for them to overcome.
The initial class sizes were large, and Harold Brown remembers how many people were washing out. This new program was under a lot of scrutiny and the Tuskegee Airmen had a lot to prove, and their basic training would be the first step on a long journey.
Harold Brown describes one of the Tuskegee instructors, Gilbert Cargill, and one of his early flight experiences.
As the fires of WWII burned both in Europe and the Pacific, Harold Brown knew he’d be drafted, and enlisting would at least give him some better options in an assignment. He didn’t even know about the new program, but he was excited to learn that they were training new pilots, so he threw his hat in.
Once he had gotten enough flight hours under his belt, it was time for Harold Brown to move on to something a little more powerful. He describes moving into a P-40 Warhawk and learning the more complex maneuvers that would keep him alive overseas, as well as some of the men that made an impact on him during training.
The training took many weeks but Harold Brown was finally bound for Europe. He describes the journey overseas on their way to Ramitelli, Italy where he'd witness how dangerous war could be, even if he wasn't in combat.
Fighting against the Germans in Europe was nearing its conclusion in early 1945, but Harold Brown recalls still seeing some of their pilots and flak on his missions. He was tasked with protecting bombers so that they could destroy high-value targets and help Allied forces get closer to Berlin.
Harold Brown had a few missions under his belt, but on his twelfth mission he ran into a technical problem. Thanks to some quick thinking and good training, he was able to come out unscathed.
When they weren't flying, Harold Brown and the other airmen would pass time doing things like writing home or playing games. He describes one game of poker before one fateful mission where he'd get his hands on a very nice pair of boots.
Upon his capture, Harold Brown would be thrown into a cell alone until the Germans had gathered others to be sent to the prison camp. He recalls a moment where he would be under a strafing run much like he had been doing before, but luckily he survived it. His treatment wasn't great, but the war was coming to an end so he knew he just had to push through it. Part 2 of 2
The Germans took Harold Brown to Nuremberg where he'd be sat down in front of a well spoken Officer. He recalls the interrogation where the questions were quite specific, but he realized they could've gotten that information in any number of ways. Then, he was reminded that this war was coming to a close.
It took a couple weeks to get from Nuremberg to Stalag 13. When he arrived, there were already many enlisted-men taken prisoner, and their supplies were already running thin. As he figured, it wasn't long before General Patton came to liberate them.
He'd been liberated from Stalag 13 and the war in Europe had come to a close. Harold Brown was lucky to be alive, but he still had to wait for the C-47s to remove some of the other thousands of men from theater. Little did he expect, the journey home would be just as dangerous as the war itself.
Harold Brown spent a couple decades in the military after WWII, and recalls some of those experiences fondly, but wants people to know about the triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen most importantly.
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.
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.
When the 1st Armored Division hit Casablanca, there was no opposition, but along the coast at Oran, it was a different story. Ed LaPorta had the landing craft blown out from under him, but thanks to his training, he made it to shore. By the time the German fortress was knocked out, his company had suffered 80% casualties.
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.
Near the end of the war, the POW's were forced from their camp and put on a forced march to nowhere. They walked 800 miles in 3 months, says Don Ogden. He suffered from the food deprivation and unsanitary conditions, but he also met a new friend, Harold Thompson. Passing through a small town, he witnessed an unbelievable act of cruelty at the hand of a young SS trainee.
The air strip in Burma was under fire when Stanley Sasine arrived as part of a group reinforcing Merrill's Marauders. The unit specialized in precise hit and run operations. When they found out he was color blind, he was made 1st Scout. That malady allowed him to spot hidden Japanese in the jungle better than anyone.
A backlog of mail from home was hurting morale in the European theater, so the WAC's Postal Battalion was organized to go overseas to redirect the mail to the soldiers. Gladys Brumfield had always wanted to be in the military, so she answered the call and, after training, she shipped out to Birmingham, England.
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 80th Division made contact with the 101st Airborne outside Bastogne. "What took you guys so long," was the first question, although posed a bit more colorfully. Medic Fred Moston saw a landscape littered with dead men and horses and wrecked tanks. The Battle of the Bulge had been the greatest battle ever fought by the American Army. He got in on the action when, upset on finding a dead comrade, he grabbed a gun and charged the enemy.
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.
Lewis Fern recounts his responsibilities as jump master when parachuting into Sicily amongst intense gunfire. They include coordinating with the crew chief, giving instructions to Pilot Brown, preparing his men for the imminent jump, instructing the Assistant Division Commander to jump with them, and regrouping with his men once on the ground.
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.
Two weeks after his discharge, Marine Braswell Deen entered the University of Georgia law school, and two weeks after he graduated, he was running for office. After decades of public service, he still thinks about those nights on Peleliu.
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.
Charles White was a "90 Day Wonder" out of Ft. Benning when he shipped out to the European theater. Right away, the fresh Lieutenant was cold, wet, and miserable. At the Maginot Line, he had to take over his company when the captain was shot.
During long flights at high altitudes, Kindem and his squadron had to go to extra lengths to preserve oxygen. One particular mission, a group of Germans with an old American plane tried to join Kindem's formation and faced the consequences.
Florence Fattig, a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps, goes into detail about how front line field hospitals worked, what kinds of injuries they saw, and the role she played in treating injured soldiers in Europe during World War II.
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.