10:35 | Alexander Jefferson had flown nearly every day since he arrived in Europe. The casualty rate among airmen was statistically very high, and at the P-51 Alexander Jefferson flew didn't have the survival functionality we might expect on an aircraft today. So when he is shot down after his 18th mission, it was a miracle he survived, but what came after would be equally worrying.
Keywords : Toulon France Radar Station Target Shot down bail out Frankfurt Germany Geneva Convention Interrogation Robert Daniels Stalag Luft III
Alexander Jefferson is a Detroit native with a very notable lineage. Like many in his family, he’d attend Clark College in Atlanta, but when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred he answered the call and found himself on the path to be trained as a pilot, something that had never been offered to black men in the military before.
A new program was set up to train black men to fly, and Alexander Jefferson, having some college education, was one of the early participants. As black men, they were already under a lot of scrutiny, but he describes how their instructors helped push them through the difficult training.
As the U.S. continued operations in Europe, Alexander Jefferson would graduate from his flight training and make way for an airbase in Ramitelli Italy. It was from there he would get his first taste of combat, flying as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The mission of the Red Tails was to protect the Air Corps' bombers as they struck vital targets across Europe. Alexander Jefferson recalls one such mission over Ploesti where the incoming flak took down one of their B-17s.
Alexander Jefferson recalls his captivity in Stalag Luft III, camp southeast of Berlin. The war was far from over so the Germans were on edge about potential sabotage of their camp, but Alexander recalls his own interesting treatment there.
There aren't a lot of perks to being the captive of the German Army, and as the Allied powers made their way closer to Berlin, the prisoners would need to be relocated during the harsh winter. Alexander Jefferson describes the journey to Stalag 7A and his life as a prisoner.
After 9 months a prisoner, Alexander Jefferson was liberated, the war was over, and he was on his way home. In spite of all that he and the other Tuskegee Airmen accomplished, the U.S. was still unwelcoming. He describes the years following the war, and the lasting impact the Tuskegee Airmen had on not only the military, but the country.
Lawrence Snowden was wounded on Iwo Jima and discovered that the policy was to not return any wounded troops to the battle. He wanted to return to his men and persevered because he knew there was always someone around who could change policy.
The Japanese were dug in on Okinawa, like on so many islands, and the Marines were mounting a furious assault. Charging Wana Ridge with a Thompson submachine gun in his hand, Braswell Deen felt like he was hit with a ton of rocks. It was shrapnel and it knocked him out of the fight. Evacuated to the rear, the brave Marine faced a needle.
The requirement was fifty missions to go home. Nose turret gunner Don Ogden describes several of his missions that were memorable, including the time he watched a parachuting man bring down another bomber and the time he nearly fell out of the turret. Then there was the mystery of small explosions heard around the air base.
His father thought you had to be a battleship man to really be in the Navy. Red Onines had always dreamed of serving on a large ship like his father did but the Navy had other ideas. With an eye on upcoming amphibious operations, they formed Naval Beach Battalions to facilitate moving large forces ashore during amphibious invasions.
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.
Bill Cruickshank remembers his first combat experience capturing German troops on the Riva Ridge in Northern Italy, February of 1945, and how he came face to face with one of his German prisoners fifty years later.