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.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #8) Jake McNiece wanted to contribute to the war effort, but it wasn't until 1942 that he enlisted. He insisted on paratrooper duty, a new type of warfare that was considered highly dangerous.
He was only a lieutenant, but the Navy had decided that you could be navigator with that rank, so Jim Starnes was the new navigator on board the USS Missouri, Admiral Halsey's flagship. The nearly new battleship took part in the bombardment of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and came under kamikaze attack. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bob Allen joined the military after he was inspired to by some Army officials. He began his training in Macon, Georgia, was shipped overseas to Oran in North Africa, and was stationed in Naples, Italy. Shortly after reaching Naples, he was assigned to join the 34th Infantry Division.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #9) He was in trouble from the very beginning. Jake McNiece liked to fight. If you didn't give him his butter, or if you were an MP trying to take him back to base, you were apt to take a licking. His masterpiece of contrariness, though, was his claim of being a member of an unusual religion.
Jim Starnes describes the battleship Missouri's mission to bombard Japanese installations on Hokkaido. He became the navigator for entire fleet, in effect, because they were all following the flagship. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #10) The paratrooper regiment in training was going to attempt a 142 mile forced march, so they let Jake McNiece out of the stockade because he was always a leader in endurance tests. After the march, he didn't even sleep before he went out on the town looking for trouble again.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #12) After intensive physical training, the new 506th Parachute Regiment went to Fort Benning for jump school. According to Jake McNiece, the first jump was the easiest. After that, you couldn't help but think about what you'd seen on previous jumps.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #18) The paratroopers were scattered around everywhere. It was the night before the D-Day invasion and Jake McNiece was trying to round up enough men to carry out his mission to blow bridges on The Douve River. He managed the task but between him and the Americans advancing from the beach were hundreds of Germans. No problem.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #1) Jake McNiece thought it was finally time to enlist. It was 1942 and he had a mind to take on one of the most dangerous jobs in the military, the parachute infantry. From the beginning, he was a troublemaker, but he was too good to wash out.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #6) It was a desperate attempt to resupply the men surrounded in Bastogne. Jake McNiece would make the jump with some special radio equipment to guide the aerial resupply. Despite making it possible for the Americans to survive the battle, he got some static from an Army Major when he sought quarters for his unit.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #20) Six days after D-Day, in the town of Carentan, France, an awards ceremony was held for valorous American soldiers. There were French collaborators at work because, suddenly, a barrage of shells from a German 88 tore through the assembly. Jake McNiece describes that heartbreaking scene and the surprise of snipers in a church steeple.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #23) The paratrooper outfit was severely depleted, so the call went out to other units; come volunteer for airborne duty. They were back to full strength just in time for Operation Market Garden, the push into Holland, where Jake McNiece faced 78 lousy days of hard fighting.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #27) When he volunteered for the Pathfinders, an airborne group with a high mortality rate, Jake McNiece thought the war was almost over and their special skills would no longer be needed. How wrong can you be? The Battle of the Bulge hit and he was dropped into Bastogne with special radio gear to guide the aerial resupply effort.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #30) While in occupation at Hitler's retreat in Austria, Jake McNiece was amazed at the luxury of the installation. After a huge victory celebration there, complete with baseball games, he went to Paris to do the town one more time. Since it was Jake McNiece, you know what was bound to happen.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #11) The Dirty Dozen was inspired by a real life demolition and saboteur squad led by Jake McNiece. While in training, his group acquired the nickname The Filthy Thirteen, because of their disdain for Army rules and discipline.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #14) The ship was large, but there was an entire regiment crammed aboard, recalls Jake McNiece. Once they were in England, there was intense training specific to the task ahead, the invasion of Europe.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #15) The paratroopers were quartered on a large English estate which functioned as a game reserve. Jake McNiece felt like the food they were being fed was just slop, so he looked around at the deer and the trout and the rabbits and started scheming.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #17) The men of Jake McNiece's demolition and saboteur unit were told to blow two bridges and wire a third, then wait for the advancing forces from the Normandy beachhead. The paratroopers were widely scattered, though, and he was on the ground fighting alone for two hours before he hooked up with anyone else.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #26) As a reward for 78 days of hard fighting in Operation Market Garden, Jake McNiece got a 72 hour pass which he characteristically abused and stretched into an AWOL situation. He was offered a way out of his arrest. He could volunteer for the Pathfinders.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #28) After Bastogne, paratrooper Jake Niece, who was temporarily assigned to the Pathfinders, thought it was all over. But there was some trouble near the Siegfried Line and he had to do another jump with radio gear to guide the aerial resupply effort. Then it was back to his regular unit and southward, to Austria and the hideouts of the Nazi chiefs.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #16) Jake McNiece headed the demolition and saboteur section of an airborne unit preparing to jump into Normandy. Scared of picking up body lice, he cut his hair into the scalplock favored by his Choctaw ancestors. His men demanded the same treatment and when the signal corps photographer showed up, a legend was born.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #21) War is hell. So says Jake McNiece and he should know. He had the grim job of clearing the battlefield, which was littered with dead American paratroopers, dead German soldiers and dead livestock.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #22) After weeks of battle beginning when he parachuted into Normandy, Jake McNiece was rewarded with a seven day pass back in England. True to form, he overstayed his leave for seven more days.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #24) Jake McNiece relates his parachute jump into Holland right in the middle of a Panzer unit. He administered morphine to a friend with a grievous wound who was left for dead. Imagine his surprise when he saw him again, later. The Holland fight was totally different from the guerilla type fighting he had in Normandy and it went on way too long.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #25) The new lieutenant was arguing with acting Sgt. Jake McNiece. He wanted to stay on the bridges they'd secured, even though German planes were making menacing passes. After that situation was resolved, with deadly consequences, McNiece rode a commandeered German truck into Veghel, thinking the British were in control. Think again.
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #31) After the war, Jake McNiece got a call from a Dutch boy who told him the story of his aunt. She had watched the 101st Airborne Division's jump into Holland, and was thrilled because she knew she was destined for one of the Nazi's "baby factories," where blue eyed, blond girls where kept for the pleasure of the SS.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #3) The mortar round landed just a few feet from Jake McNiece and his eyes filled with blood and debris, but that didn't make him nearly as mad as discovering that his Copenhagen didn't make it through the battle.
(From Interview #1 Jan. 10, 2010 Video #5) The acceptable estimated loss for Normandy paratroopers was 50 percent. Jake McNiece's unit lost 70 percent. The next mission was the foray into Holland called Operation Market Garden. His outfit outperformed their mission during the initial fight, but had to linger on forever as the operation ultimately failed.