8:15 | B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
Keywords : flight engineer Consolidated B-24 Liberator France anti-aircraft (AA) Germany 88 mm gun Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress cross feed Brussels Belgium Canadian chaff flak dancing Bill Toombs
For four summers in a row, Bill Toombs attended the Citizens Military Training Camp, where he got the same instruction as army recruits. This convinced him he wanted no part of the infantry. Despite having no knowledge of aircraft, he followed his brother into the Army Air Corps.
After his brother was killed in an air crash, Bill Toombs told his mother he would get a ground job in the Air Corps, and he did, at first. He completed several mechanic schools, but then he found himself at gunnery school.
He had never been in a plane, but Bill Toombs was an aircraft mechanic who was on a track to be a flight engineer, which meant he also had to be a gunner. At gunnery school, there were a couple of hot shot pilots who were redheaded cousins and, of course, he drew one for his first flight.
Once the B-24 crews were formed, flight engineer Bill Toombs didn't think he could have hand picked a better crew. He nearly missed shipping out with them when he got sick at a crucial time. He managed to recover in time to ride a new B-24 to England.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was just getting acclimated to the English weather and formation flying when it was time for his first mission. At the briefing, the curtain came up and, it was official, D-day was on.
The previous day began with the plane getting shot up and ended with dancing in the streets with Belgian girls. Bill Toombs was at an old German air field in Brussels, so he gathered up some souvenirs from the gear laying around. He didn't make it out with those, but after a few more missions, he was back in the states.
Keesler Field was not a desirable post to Bill Toombs. It was so bad, he volunteered for a school in Buffalo, where there was a couple of feet of snow. His second day there, they handed him a piece of paper to sign. What is it? It's so you can go to China and fly the hump. Ahh...no, not going to do that.
It was a great post. The barracks were nice and the duty wasn't bad, training B-24 crews. But, flight engineer Bill Toombs recalls that some of those pilots would scare you. One particular flight nearly led to his demise and that's when he decided he'd had enough of flying.
The tool and die factory looked dark and bleak so Gilbert Jensen wanted to enlist and join the war effort. It took a family meeting to convince his mother to let him become a Marine. Boot camp in San Diego featured an erratic drill instructor and a surprise swimming coach.
All of Elizabeth Lowe's family had scars, both physical and mental, from their time in a Manila prison camp during the Japanese occupation. It failed to crush the spirit in any of them, however, and her mother and one of her brothers returned to Asia as missionaries after the war.
Back then they called it psychoneurosis. Men spent from battle would sit and stare off into space according to Braswell Deen, who was lucky to survive Peleliu and preparing for Okinawa. Only one man from his unit, Odell Evans, emerged from those two battles unscathed.
Hilbert Margol remembers the ride into Munich, with hitchhiking infantry swarming everything with wheels. After a bit of post surrender guard duty, he was back home in America with the only thing he kept from the war, a piece of World War I trench art.
The Japanese civilians usually paid no attention to POW Jack Litchfield, but one day, as they huddled in an air raid shelter, he received intense, hateful glares from them. What he didn't know and would find out later, is that the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. He also found out something later regarding the targeting of the second bomb that made him feel lucky to be alive.
During the intense air attack experienced by Naval Armed Guard John Laster, he saw the SS Paul Hamilton hit by an aerial bomb, causing a mile high plume of smoke. "One second they were there, the next they were not." Part 2/2
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao remembers how homesick the young Americans were, sent to the Chinese front from their farms back home. But they got to rotate out after 24 missions while the Chinese got no reprieve from the fight for their homeland.
Liberated POW Hugh Lee Young and his fellows were stopped from entering nearby Mauthausen concentration camp by Allied guards because they feared that the freed men would massacre the Germans. No reserve duty for him after, "I had about all I could do."
He can laugh, now, about the t-shirts the chaplain gave the native girls, and about the fruitcake his sister sent that he still has. But Gilbert Jensen doesn't laugh about contracting four tropical diseases at the same time.
Soon after the war ended, Phillip Gow was sent back to the Pacific to continue transporting crews and supplies, including the 1st Marines occupation force in Nagasaki. He particularly remembers what Nagasaki looked like soon after the atomic bomb.
You were always close to the enemy in the jungle on Guadalcanal, according to Gilbert Jensen. And he had the stains on his shirt to prove it. You could see strange things as well, like the time the Kansas farmer of the unit thought he saw the Japanese climbing coconut trees with lit cigars.