6:33 | He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Keywords : Bill Livingstone gunnery instructor bombardier toggle switch Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Worry Bird bombs flak Merseburg Germany
He failed his first eye test because of color blindness, but at the next level a sympathetic officer allowed Bill Livingstone to enter the Air Corps. Eventually he did get disqualified from pilot training, but they decided he'd make a fine aircraft mechanic.
"Be kind to your web footed friends...." Bill Livingstone couldn't believe that the sergeant had never heard that song. He was in a two month wait for aircraft mechanic school to start. Gunnery school was next and they made an instructor out of him. He watched his friends leave to join crews and go overseas. Finally, he was going.
He crossed on the Queen Elizabeth with thousands of others, zig-zagging their way to Scotland. Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was sent off to an RAF base for more schooling. On that trip, he got to see the sights of London.
When the bombs were released, the B-17 sharply rose in the air, then banked right. Bill Livingstone heard a loud pop and that's when two engines were knocked out. They were losing speed and altitude fast and they didn't know where they were. The decision was made to dump the Norden bombsight and he watched it fall into the darkness below. Part 2 of 5.
Right after he dumped the Norden bombsight into the night sky, Bill Livingstone saw the co-pilot blow the hatch and tumble forward into the air. The rest of the crew followed and were strung out in a line when they landed in a farmer's field. He approached them angrily and that's when they found out where they were. Then, the Wehrmacht showed up. Pat 3 of 5.
It was the most miserable night of his life. After bailing out over Germany, Bill Livingstone was captured and being held in a stable with his crew mates. Following a very cold night, they were taken to an interrogation center. Part 4 of 5.
Bill Livingstone was taken into an office where a German officer greeted him warmly and promised him he would be housed in a very comfortable camp. All the captured airman had to do was help him fill out a form and answer a few questions. Right. Then it was off to Stalag Luft IV. His first mission was finally over. Part 5 of 5.
Stalag Luft IV was a huge POW camp full of captured airmen from America and England. Bill Livingstone remembers how there was nothing to do between roll calls. Fortunately, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross sent books, sports gear and food to the prisoners.
Christmas came to Stalag Luft IV in 1944 and the Germans allowed the prisoners to cut Christmas trees for the barracks, though there was little to be had in the way of decorations. Bill Livingstone recalls how the men in his room came up with an improbable holiday cake.
They could hear the sound of Russian guns approaching from the east, so the Germans decided it was time to leave the POW camp in Poland. Bill Livingstone was one of the throng of prisoners packed into old boxcars and sent into the interior of Germany. One night, the train rolled to a halt in a large rail yard. He was surprised to see where they were.
Allied POW's were being sent further and further into the interior of Germany. Bill Livingstone arrived at Stalag XIII and found an incredible array of nationalities. Again, the sound of approaching guns meant the prisoners would be moved, this time on foot. He and his buddies brought along an unusual item they hoped to trade for food.
Bill Livingstone was lucky he had no problems with his feet on the forced march from one prison camp to another. As they marched further into Germany, a guard let slip the somber news that FDR had died. The men arrived at Stalag VII-A, the largest of all the POW camps. There, he had a memorable chat with a British prisoner who had been there since Dunkirk.
Bill Livingstone had only been at his third prison camp about a week when the guards disappeared. Patton's tanks could be heard nearby and, soon, one crashed through the front gate. Liberation had come and it wasn't long before the men were enjoying coffee and donuts at Camp Lucky Strike.
Though he had been a POW, Bill Livingstone had such a late entry into the war that he didn't have enough points to be discharged. He worked in a personnel office until the time came. He pays tribute to his friends who didn't make it, along with the many others who made that sacrifice.
It was late night guard duty and Herman Buffington heard something. Then he saw a figure crouched in the brush. When the next flare went up, he sighted and fired. The figure didn't move so he shot him again. When he found out why there was no reaction, all he could do was laugh. He did get a souvenir out of the encounter, a silk Japanese flag.
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.
They were trying to take a ridge on Okinawa where the Japanese had dug trenches and the persistent Americans tried repeatedly to take the position. Herman Buffington got close enough to vault over into a trench where he used the old helmet-on-a-bayonet trick to judge the enemy fire. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in this firefight.
After crossing the Rhine River, John Buchanan recalls a "nasty" firefight his platoon got into while trying to take over a pair of gun emplacements near Duisberg, Germany, where they, including Bill Friendshuh, nearly became cornered by German troops.
His company was in the 1st wave to land on Red Beach Two. Under attack from the moment he left the amphibious tractor, George Alden lost 4 of his men. Forced to keep moving in order to protect his remaining comrades, the group pushed further up the island towards the first landing strip. However, George was injured when he and his squad found themselves pinned down under Japanese fire. Injured and alone, George was forced to wait nearly a full day before he was discovered and rescued.
It was thirty six straight days on Iwo Jima with no change of clothes or regular meals. Phil Wells carried an extra bandolier stuffed with fruit bars. He had come ashore with the fourth wave just as Japanese gunners really began to fire on the landing force. As a runner, he didn't come face to face with the enemy, though once he was sure he had. What's that password?
Tinian was a little easier time than Saipan and Iwo Jima, says Merrill Burroughs, who was with an Anti-Aircraft battery. He still had close calls when Japanese planes strafed the island. On the way in, he managed to hide a case of pork and beans, which was a precious thing.
When Marine Joseph Hiott arrived in Guadalcanal, he was assigned to the 2nd Raider Battalion, a new unit created under orders from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired the British Commandos and wanted an American unit to perform special operations. The Raiders, like the enemy, would fight to the death but for a very different reason. They also considered themselves the best of the best and trained accordingly.
Lou Smith was evacuated from Iwo Jima to Saipan, then to a hospital in Hawaii. That was tough duty, recuperating with the swimming and the girls. One thing haunts his sleep, though, until this day. He had been throwing enemy grenades back the way they came when he was wounded, and this is key to his nightmares.
The German interrogator knew more about his bomb group than he did and after a short questioning, Michael Gold was off to a POW camp where he was lucky to share a barracks with the other officers from his crew. The German rations were supplemented with Red Cross parcels that arrived from Sweden.
Frank Gleason talks at length about how Japan began pushing their way into China in early 1945, and the last ditch efforts by his crew to destroy bridges and other vital structures along the way while U.S. troops pulled out of the area.
After breaking out at Anzio. Hubert Aaron's unit marched into Rome, the only American unit to capture an enemy capitol during World War Two. He received a Silver Star for actions during that operation. When he went into St. Tropez, with dry feet for a change, he ignored his platoon leader's order to move out through an open field. Then he let his Thompson submachine gun do some talking.
The British had battled the Germans back and forth across North Africa and American P-40's had arrived to provide some additional air power. Crew chief Gordon Markle describes what that was like with the sandstorms, the C-rations from another war, and the German air attacks. He also learned that you don't want to cross the Gurkhas.
After capturing an entire German Panzer division, Hubert Aaron's outfit was moving up the Rhone River Valley when he was wounded in an ambush. Evacuated to Naples, he found out how great was his sacrifice.
Herman Buffington was hunkered down in his foxhole on Okinawa when a mortar round hit close by and a piece of red hot shrapnel tore through his leg. It sounded like bacon frying, but a medic got the bleeding stopped and he was going to be OK. He refused the morphine because he was already exhausted and didn't want anyone else to tend to his tourniquet.
Navy Corpsman Frank Walden went ashore at Omaha Beach with the Beach Battalion, a unit charged with managing the beach during the assault. After the shock of seeing the first bodies, and after a frightening rush to find safety in the chaos, he began to treat the wounded.
Hubert Aaron says, "I know I'm going to heaven because I spent three months in hell at Anzio." During this battle, he directed some artillery fire that was highly accurate, but then he was on the receiving end as an incoming enemy round put him in the hospital with a concussion. After being pinned down for three months and nearly being pushed back into the sea, the Allies finally prevailed.
The pilot was ready to die. Louie Clark saw him after he crashed his kamikaze into the deck of the destroyer USS Haynsworth. There were many casualties, including a big pot of beans that caught a machine gun from the kamikaze after it crashed through the deck. Clark describes the bravery of men that day and the solemn ceremonies of the burials at sea.
When his buddy George Farris was hit by a sniper, Bob Royce and two others started back to battalion headquarters to get help. They had to hit the ground when the same sniper targeted them. Royce decided to get up and run for it. After he secured aid and was returning to the front, the sniper struck again.
Trained as a Beachmaster, Mortimer Caplin shipped out for England on the Queen Mary. His unit had a lot of specialized gear and he had to form a guard detachment to keep other units from walking away with it. After they got it all to the Southern English coast, they participated in the ill-fated Exercise Tiger out of Slapton Sands.
The man had been shot up pretty bad, remembers Herman Buffington, who carried him back to the camp. All the way the wounded soldier had pleaded with him to leave him there, but once safe in a foxhole, he wouldn't let go of Buffington's hand, even when the medics prepared to evacuate him.
When he arrived in Burma to join Merrill's Marauders, Stanley Sasine had to jump from a moving plane, run for cover and dig a foxhole. He did not have to face the daunting challenges of the original Marauders, but the perils were plenty. When the General found out that Sasine was color blind, he was made 1st Scout because he could spot the hidden enemy so well. His first kill came suddenly, though, when he came face to face with a Japanese scout.
Herman Buffington was taking some potshots at Japanese troops on the other side of a large ravine where they were foolishly cooking their rice out in the open. When an officer came by and asked how he was doing, he remarked that he was trying to mix a little lead with the rice. The man asked for the rifle so he could give it a try and he proved to be an excellent shot. Buffington could smell the brass and he was right. It was General Simon Buckner.