5:35 | After eight months in the prison camp, Bob Honeycutt could hear the guns of the Russian Army approaching, but he was not going to be free anytime soon. The German guards forced 10,000 men out of the gate and onto the road, where they began a forced march, with no known destination. The deprivation and cruelty was mind numbing. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Keywords : Robert Bob Honeycutt Prisoner Of War (POW) Stalag Luft IV Russian Army German forced march death march food water cold snow Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Schutzstaffel (SS) Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) bayonet execution feet frozen strafe friendly fire Ed Froehlich
As a young Army Air Corps recruit, the only thing Bob Honeycutt didn't like was Morse code, but he was slotted to be a radio operator on a B-24 crew, so he shrugged it off. After dodging plane crashes in training and German torpedoes in the Atlantic, he made it to the Middle East where he going to be based. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Bob Honeycutt was trained as a radio operator but he was switched to weatherman when his unit got to North Africa. Attached to the RAF while he trained, he rejoined his B-24 squadron in Libya, where he also was wounded for the first time in an air raid. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Once the B-24 squadron moved to Italy, the required number of missions was increased. Bob Honeycutt describes the missions over Ploiesti, where the anti-aircraft fire and German fighters were intense. His primary job was cameraman, but he became a gunner if any of them were wounded. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
It was his 29th mission, a bombing raid over Austria, when Bob Honeycutt's luck ran out. First they lost an engine. Then, when they dropped behind the formation, they were swarmed by German fighters. As the gunners fell one by one, a rocket finally set the plane on fire and blew him right out into the air. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Injured and dazed from his bail out at 18,000 feet, Bob Honeycutt was taken into the home of an Austrian family until the local officials came to arrest him. He was cared for so well, he had to wonder, why were these civilians treating him like a friend? Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After a hearty breakfast with his German guard, Bob Honeycutt left the comfort of the Alps, where he had bailed out, for the misery of the German POW system. First came the mind games of the interrogation. Then, he wound up at Stalag Luft IV, one of the worst camps, where he learned new meanings for "cold" and "hungry." Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
The little known "death march" of the men of Stalag Luft IV lasted 86 days. That was when an Allied tank column rolled up and the Russian prisoners took their revenge on a particularly sadistic German guard. With a friend, Bob Honeycutt set out toward a small town, where they spotted a truck in a garage. Mighty tempting. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
With a commandeered truck, newly liberated POW Bob Honeycutt made three trips into Belgium, loaded down with as many freed US airmen as he could carry. He'd lost half his weight and was eaten up with lice, but he'd made it. When he got back home to Chattanooga, both he and his family had a big surprise. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Tom Hanlon's unit moved across northern Italy, from mountain to mountain, until they were ordered to stop where they were. The war in Italy was over. He came down from his lofty final advance to run a telephone exchange in Pisa until it was time to go home.
The reason Frank Johnson was in artillery dated back to his ROTC days, when he wanted a room near his friend. He joined a unit hear his home, but he wasn't near for long. It was time for a trip in a convoy to England.
Charles Mahaffey briefly describes his involvement during the Battle of the Bulge where his battalion was tasked with provided anti-air support for the struggling American forces. One of the biggest threats for all was the biting, December cold of Northern Europe.
Jim Sharp was staged in Givet, France while the Battle of the Bulge raged. It was a frigid winter and sleeping in a hay barn would be one of the few reprieves from the biting cold he'd feel sitting watch in a foxhole. Coming into the battle as a replacement, he'd face the terror of incredible German firepower in the Ardennes.
McIntyre remembers that it wasn't all the time that the US Army was very coordinated from one company to another, and so while in his foxhole he noticed a tank parked next to him. It was quite a hazard because it was drawing enemy fire right to their exact location. The conditions of war were of course unhealthy, but nonetheless he and his company succeeded in crossing the Rhine River and survived in Kassel till the end of the war. From there, he was tasked with postwar guard duty.
He was in anti-aircraft training, but Bill Newman was selected for the communications group so he didn't fire guns at towed targets. He did have to make the grueling 50 mile final hike. Then he was picked for the Army Specialized Training Program, which placed soldiers in college. That didn't last very long, since every soldier was needed for the coming invasion of Europe.
During his time serving in WWII, Eugene McPherson worked in an aid station in France helping to get wounded soldiers off the battlefield. From there, they would be transported to the appropriate center to get them the treatment they needed. Unfortunately, there were a few close calls where McPherson almost got hit during evacuation missions.
After his time in the Ardennes, Neel's division moved into La Ville-du-Bois. He has a humorous story about a bunch of chickens running loose on the streets and the mortar squad chasing them down for food. When Christmas came, Neel was surprised the dinner spread was as good as it was. Later on, Neel spotted German soldiers in the distance. His sergeant said not to give away their position, but he went against orders and tried to shoot them down. German mortar fire rained down and he and another fellow soldier named Dick Jones were hit in the leg.
While overseas, McPherson only remembers two casualties that were from his company, which he documents for us here; one of which was a very tragic freak-accident. He remembers where he was when the war ended, and that he only had a sum of 36 points. In order to go back home, he would have to do a lot more jobs in Europe to get his points high enough. One of those jobs was driving ambulances to and from different stations and hospitals.
Joe Collie was born and raise in Danville, Virginia. He was a member of the Army Specialized Training Program, received his college schooling from Virginia Tech and was set to go to Cornell afterwards. 2 weeks into Cornell's program, the ASTP is disbanded in favor of putting the members through training for World War II. Immediately, he begun his training at Fort Benning for the 100th Infantry Division.
John Neel grew up in Louisiana before going to boot camp in Texas and getting accepted into the Army Specialized Training Program at Brooklyn Tech. However, his time there was cut short for infantry training in Louisiana and Kentucky. When he went overseas, his original post was diverted to Belgium after the Germans broke through.
At the Royal Palace in Caserta, GI Tom Hanlon was busy being an electrician, making the huge building into a place the US Army could use. It was good duty, so, naturally, he was sent away as a replacement on the front.
Neel was assigned to Company A as a machine gun squad leader. On the way to Belgium, he and his company witnessed a buzz bomb that exploded way off into the distance, which gave him a small idea of what he was in for. It's very easy for him to remember just how unbearably cold it was in Belgium, especially when you're forced to sleep in a snowy foxhole with nothing but a sleeping bag to keep you warm.
McIntyre explains how a mortar is fired and the repercussions of firing one over and over for years. To this day, he still has problems with a ringing in his ears because every time he loaded the mortar it was extremely loud. He also remembers handling a bazooka and attempting to use it to shoot down a German aircraft.
Bill Newman was a communications specialist with a field artillery unit when he joined the push across France. He didn't face much enemy fire at his first battle, but he did face a problem related to the unrelenting rain.
The Germans were retreating, but Tom Hanlon still had to worry about snipers. The telephone wireman suddenly had nothing to do when communications procedure was changed due to the ongoing rout of the enemy.
After the war was over, McIntyre recalls many civilian interactions with the German people. Many of them were pleasant since they wanted to get on the US Army's good side, but some of them were still loyal to the Hitler youth program. Although he did eventually get to come back home to the states, McIntyre says that World War II has changed his life forever. He went back to Europe as soon as he could to be involved with the Foreign Service.
There was little action when Bill Newman's unit reached the Rhine. The Germans had fled to the other side but they did manage to blow the bridge he was waiting to cross. He made it across at Remagen and moved into the Ruhr Valley. It was there that he ran into a hometown friend, who recounted to him the tale of the ill-fated 106th Division at the Battle of the Bulge.
After growing up in and near Hollywood and Portland, Oregon, Stuart McIntyre decided to sign up for the Army's Specialized Training Program back before World War II. He was accepted into Stanford University for a brief while until he was called to action following the US involvement in the ongoing war. He was immediately sent to Fort Benning for infantry training.
In the Army Specialized Training Program, Bill Newman was placed at Penn State, where he was to get some education that the Army could later use. The important thing about this was the male-female ratio at the university.
Koshewa distinctly remembers what it felt like to get shot in the leg, as well as the purple heart and the distinguished flying cross he got as a result of enduring that experience. Nearing the end of his time overseas for World War II, he and his squadron were in the running to go to the pacific to help end the war. Fortunately, he never went because by the time he was ready to go over the war had already ended. It was finally time for him to go home.
Was it cold on those bombing missions? Oh yes, says B-24 gunner Art Morin. It could be 50 degrees below zero and if any part of your electrically warmed clothing malfunctioned, you were vulnerable to frostbite.
It was a standoff that didn't look good. Three German tanks were threatening Bill Newman's unit and air power was summoned and promised. The tanks left but the P-47's arrived and, to the horror of everyone, they circled and came in for an attack run on their own countrymen.
When he got to England, Frank Johnson was billeted in the home of a very nice English couple, where he drilled on an immaculate cricket field. Then he moved to Salisbury, right next to Stonehenge. While there, he saw General Patton speak to an assembly of officers. A few weeks after D-Day, it was his turn to cross the English Channel.
When his mortar company was finally needed overseas, McIntyre was sent aboard the USS George Washington to arrive in France. It wasn't long before they had their first casualty, in which everyone was struck with a range of emotions. McIntyre begun combat in Baccarat, France, and was attacked by heavy German counter fire on New Year's Eve.
He had experience on small boats, so Bill Newman did not get sick crossing the English Channel on an LST. It was weeks after D-Day, and his division set up camp just inland from Omaha Beach, where they waited. Their trucks were needed for the Red Ball Express, so they were sidelined for a while.
It was basically a suicide mission. B-24 gunner Art Morin remembers that they were told at the briefing that half the aircraft would probably run out of gas. He was on the runway waiting to take off when he got word that the odds had turned around.