5:42 | When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
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He had qualified as an aircraft mechanic in the Army Air Corps, but Jim Wicker jumped at the chance for pilot training. He aced a test for those with no college and began flight school. It was a proud day for him when he graduated because he thought he had no chance to become a pilot.
He was very satisfied to be a fighter pilot in training, but as he waited for gunnery school, Jim Wicker was moved into photo reconnaissance. There was more emphasis being put on intelligence and more pilots were needed. He went right into action in the run up to D-Day and on the afternoon of the 6th, the low clouds caused a very bad day for him.
The interrogator was cordial and not at all threatening. Jim Wicker had been shot down over France and was amazed at the information the Germans already possessed. It only lasted an hour and he was off to a prison camp, but he was curious about the man and it turned out that he had a very interesting story that continued after the war.
When you got to your prison camp, you weren't immediately accepted by those POW's already there because the Germans planted spies in the camp. Jim Wicker was fortunate to find a friend from his hometown, so he was welcomed in. He was in Stalag Luft III, where the famous "Great Escape" had occurred.
They had a secret radio in the prison camp, so they could contrast the BBC with the German newscasts. Jim Wicker recalls how the news of the approach of the Russians caused their captors to take all the POW's out on the road to march further into Germany. The conditions were terrible at the end of that march when the men were packed into a camp meant for far fewer prisoners.
Their German guards were scared of the SS and terrified of being sent to the Russian front, recalls Jim Wicker, a downed American pilot. The war had reached their homeland and Patton soon reached the prison camp where he was interred. He was liberated.
After the war, former POW Jim Wicker opted to remain in the Air Force and took his bride to a new overseas post in Japan. After that, he served in a variety of ground jobs and finished his career back in the pilot's seat, flying for the Strategic Air Command.
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.
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.
They were successful on Peleliu, says Marine Braswell Deen, if you can be successful with an 80% casualty rate. He was disturbed to later learn that the airfield that was the objective of the assault turned out to not be needed. At least his exhausted platoon got a much needed break.
Clifford Dunaway, a gun turret loader on the USS Atlanta, talks in detail about how his ship was hit by friendly forces during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November of 1942, which resulted in one-third of the crew being injured or killed.
His father went north of the border to work for the railroad in Canada, so when war broke out, Dennis Trudeau enlisted in the Canadian Army as soon as he could talk his way in. The seventeen year old went to basic training and then let his parents in on it. (This interview made possible with the support of SUZANNE & RALPH HUDGENS honor of Malcom Skinner.)
Lou Zoghby recalls his sensations and fears as he and his fellow soldiers were being driven to the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge, and comments on how difficult it was to deal with the cold weather. Provided by LifeCairn, Inc.
They took and lost the Okinawan village three times, says Braswell Deen. It was flame thrower tanks that eventually led to the Marines' victory there. As they moved on, he had to leave the man next to him who was shot through the head. It was about this time that an enemy grenade landed in a foxhole and Bill Foster threw himself on it, earning a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
While anchored in Ulithi Atoll, Ed Bean remembers his ship being hit by an unexploded shell. The shell penetrated the main deck and went several decks down, narrowly missing one Sailor and striking one of Bean's friends, Robert Clowers, who survived the encounter. Bean recalls catching up with Clowers later in life.
Clifford Wilford's infantry faced a number of challenges while fighting in Northern France. While facing combat in chateaus around Angiers, France, Wilford remembers the sight of a pile of dead German soldiers that has stuck with him for 70 years. Continued from Part 1.