8:15 | B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
Keywords : flight engineer Consolidated B-24 Liberator France anti-aircraft (AA) Germany 88 mm gun Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress cross feed Brussels Belgium Canadian chaff flak dancing Bill Toombs
For four summers in a row, Bill Toombs attended the Citizens Military Training Camp, where he got the same instruction as army recruits. This convinced him he wanted no part of the infantry. Despite having no knowledge of aircraft, he followed his brother into the Army Air Corps.
After his brother was killed in an air crash, Bill Toombs told his mother he would get a ground job in the Air Corps, and he did, at first. He completed several mechanic schools, but then he found himself at gunnery school.
He had never been in a plane, but Bill Toombs was an aircraft mechanic who was on a track to be a flight engineer, which meant he also had to be a gunner. At gunnery school, there were a couple of hot shot pilots who were redheaded cousins and, of course, he drew one for his first flight.
Once the B-24 crews were formed, flight engineer Bill Toombs didn't think he could have hand picked a better crew. He nearly missed shipping out with them when he got sick at a crucial time. He managed to recover in time to ride a new B-24 to England.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was just getting acclimated to the English weather and formation flying when it was time for his first mission. At the briefing, the curtain came up and, it was official, D-day was on.
The previous day began with the plane getting shot up and ended with dancing in the streets with Belgian girls. Bill Toombs was at an old German air field in Brussels, so he gathered up some souvenirs from the gear laying around. He didn't make it out with those, but after a few more missions, he was back in the states.
Keesler Field was not a desirable post to Bill Toombs. It was so bad, he volunteered for a school in Buffalo, where there was a couple of feet of snow. His second day there, they handed him a piece of paper to sign. What is it? It's so you can go to China and fly the hump. Ahh...no, not going to do that.
It was a great post. The barracks were nice and the duty wasn't bad, training B-24 crews. But, flight engineer Bill Toombs recalls that some of those pilots would scare you. One particular flight nearly led to his demise and that's when he decided he'd had enough of flying.
Norbert Friedman was aware of what was happening to Jews in Germany. As conditions worsened in the Krakow ghetto, he and his family decided to flee to smaller and smaller towns. Eventually, even the tiny village where they were hiding was encircled by German troops and all the Jews rounded up. The men were given a choice. If you volunteer for a labor camp, your families will be spared.
There were some women prisoners on Saipan, recalls Alex Nuckles, but you better not go messing with them. Some guys did, anyway. They also made up bad hooch with bad results. He was the cook and he tried to make the powdered eggs taste like something, but that was a tall order.
The recruiter tried to put him in the Navy, but Bob Titus said he didn't care for the Navy, so the recruiter said OK, wise guy, you're going to the infantry. That was what he wanted. He became a paratrooper and joined the 82nd Airborne but the war ended before he saw combat.
Most accounts of the Holocaust deal with the atrocities, but to survivor Norbert Friedman, there are two little known aspects of it that people should know about. One is the rare courage that enabled some individuals to overcome the overwhelming despair and the other is the role of women during the entire conflict.
Army Nurse Mary Ann Koontz was in New Caledonia where there was some confusion about where her group would be assigned. She worked in the psychiatric ward at a hospital in New Zealand until she was needed somewhere else. This time it was India on the Burma Road.
When he returned from the Pacific, Alex Nuckles was unfairly fired from his first job, but he got a little satisfaction, later, when he saw the man responsible on the street. Using lessons taught to him by his father, he made his mark in his community after the war.
Norbert Friedman was watching a group of arriving prisoners at the Leonburg concentration camp when he spotted an old friend from Krakow. They stuck together from there through to the last camp, when they were suddenly put on the road in a death march. His friend, Oscar, was sick and wasn't going to make it. They came up with a desperate plan to save him.
Verner Chaffin was in Law School when Pearl Harbor was attacked and then, in a whirlwind of activity, he got his degree, took the bar exam, and applied to the Naval Intelligence Japanese language school. He was accepted and began the grueling program.
Although she was never in danger from enemy fire, it was still a difficult life in Burma for Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz. The details of daily life became a problem in the jungle hospital where she worked. One day she saw Merrill's Marauders on their march out of Burma toward India.
From Sapulpa, Oklahoma came Phillip Coon, a member of the Creek tribe who volunteered for the draft just before World War II. He could already drill, thanks to the military rigor at the tribal school. It was also there that he read about exotic Pacific islands which caused him to volunteer again, for duty in the Philippines.
The translators at Naval Intelligence in Pearl Harbor liked to kid their counterparts back in Washington by writing uncomplimentary notes on the boxes of documents they shipped there. Verner Chaffin was one of them and he was lucky enough to get out of the office and go with the fleet to Okinawa, where he assisted with Japanese translation.
When he got to Hawaii, Alex Nuckles had to go through all his basic training again. At least the weather was nice. His eventual destination was Saipan, where there was no more training. There was Japanese artillery hidden in a cave and strafing, but his quartermaster unit avoided any casualties.
How long were you exposed to the flak? It depended on the length of the bomb run. That's when you got it, according to Ken Rohde, B-17 co-pilot. When you got back, the first thing was what you might imagine, then it was interrogation and a shot of whiskey, if you could handle it.
When he was drafted, there was no choice. He went to the infantry, but Ken Rohde applied for the Air Corps at some point. It didn't catch up to him until he was deployed to Fiji, but there he took the tests that got him into the Air Corps and he returned to the states for training.
After two years in a forced labor camp in his native Poland, Norbert Friedman was sent to a series of different camps, most in Germany. On the transport to the second one, the Jewish prisoners were crammed into cattle cars and given no food or water on the four day journey. At the camp, they were forced to strip and went into showers.
Alex Nuckles reflects on being in a black support unit in the Pacific. He didn't understand why there had to be segregation. We were all fighting for the same thing, weren't we? Still, most of the soldiers respected those who were different and got along.
Graduates of the Naval Intelligence Japanese language school had been put right to work, but the Navy decided that they really needed intelligence training, as well. So Verner Chaffin went from there to the advanced school where he learned the craft of intelligence. Finally, he got his first assignment, at the ONI office in Washington and he was ecstatic to get away from being instructed.
As a black soldier in World War II, Alex Nuckles was assigned to a support role. He was already a cook and a baker, so once they made a soldier out of him, he assumed that role. When he shipped out to the Pacific, he saw a rope stretched right through the deck, dividing it. Why was that?
Army nurse Mary Ann Koontz worked in the psychiatric ward and when a new hospital was being built in Myitkyina, she designed her ward with an eye towards security. Many of the men she cared for were truck drivers who were stressed out by their long treks on the Burma Road.
The Augsburg concentration camp was different. For the first time at any camp, there were Russians. It was there that Jewish prisoner Norbert Friedman witnessed the first act of rebellion he had seen when three condemned Russians stunned their executioners with their bravery.
Everybody knew it was his last mission, but no one said a thing. That was the procedure, don't jinx it. B-17 co-pilot Ken Rohde's last mission was routine until the flight headed back to England. There was a loud bang and the cockpit filled with smoke and he was worried until he heard the top gunner's irreverent voice. Then he knew he was going home.
Reading from his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight, Norbert Friedman tells the story of an unsung hero of the Holocaust. On a four day journey, packed into cattle cars with no food and water, this man somehow found a way to exemplify all that is noble and decent about the human race.
He got homesick sometimes, but Alex Nuckles was encouraged by the letters from his wife while he was deployed in the Pacific. Returning home required some transition time, getting used to the food and talking to people who weren't engaged in a war. He made it through with help from his faith.
In a passage from his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight, Norbert Friedman describes the joy he felt when he found his friend Oscar, whom he had last seen playing dead in a ditch on an SS death march. He joined Oscar working for an American unit as an interpreter and he began to admire and become attracted to the American way of life.
It was a memorable mission. Ken Rohde was a pilot, but he was in the tail gunner's position as the air commander's observer in the lead plane. He was leading the entire 8th Air Force, about 1500 planes. Then, out of the blue, they went to a secondary target. The next day, the group CO flew the lead plane and Rohde was in the second plane as they tried again. That turned out to be lucky for him.
Cook Alex Nuckles was stationed on Saipan with a quartermaster unit. He thought that one of the white lieutenants was the finest officer he'd met in the service. Dengue fever sidelined him for a while, but he recovered. There was some friction between the captain and the first sergeant and once they took off the bars and stripes to fight.
Just before he was liberated, Norbert Friedman witnessed a last evil act by one of his German captors. Once it was all over, many newly freed prisoners suffered by overeating the food given them by GI's, but he avoided that fate. As he and his father contemplated their next move, a group of Americans pulled off the road to eat. When he approached, he saw that they were black and he did not know what to think.
Verner Chaffin never met an angry or disgruntled Japanese during his work for Naval Intelligence in occupied Japan. They were fatalistic, resolute and forward looking and their country was destined to be a close ally of the United States. A big factor in this was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who shepherded the process of post war reconciliation.