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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Along with some buddies from school, James Chafin volunteered for the Army Air Corps and, after basic training, he wound up as an instructor on the Link Trainer for instrument flying. Then the Air Corps sent him to college because of superior aptitude test scores, but that program ended abruptly. He wanted to get into the war!
Cornelius Vanderbreggen enlisted in the Marines after graduating college around the time of WWII. He had to do a lot of moving around where he was needed; from New Caledonia to Guadalcanal then finally to Guam to aid in the battle. During his time in Guam, Vanderbreggen had to help with wounded soldiers, and after finishing his time in the Pacific, was released from Guam and traveled around postwar Holland.
The flight had just begun when the bail out bell rang on the B-24. Explosion was always a danger with a full fuel and bomb load, so James Chafin wasted no time snapping on his chute and he was ready, straddling the open trapdoor.
Corregidor and Japanese installations around Manila were main targets for James Chafin's B-24 squadron. On one flight, they did a flyover of the prison camp where the survivors of the Bataan Death March were held. The Articles of War were ingrained in the Americans during their training. Why was the enemy ignoring these rules?
Jake Wilson recalls his time in the special boot camp for radar technicians. Unlike other boot camps, there was a lot of math study. At the next training level, it got even more difficult and 60% of the men were washed out.
When B-24 gunner James Chafin got a Dear John letter from his girl back home, he immediately began drinking. He was still sloshed when they got up at 3 AM for a mission, and he had to sneak around a bit. The crew got a small whiskey ration but the enlisted men saved theirs for barter.
At Arnhem, Sgt. Fred Bahlau was told to take a couple of men and go across the river in a small boat and reconnoiter a little. Right away they caught two Germans, so now the other two men had to watch them while Bahlau continued on alone. (Caution: strong language. May be inappropriate for some viewers.)
When you attack naval vessels on a bombing run, the amount of anti-aircraft fire can be overwhelming. B-24 gunner James Chafin felt, after his most dangerous mission, that the Man upstairs had saved him for a higher purpose. This helped him face the strain of postwar life, something the rest of the crew was unable to do.
They were looking forward to a great time in Paris on leave. As they searched for the most disreputable part of town, Fred Bahlau remembers how the streets were suddenly full of blaring speakers ordering all Airborne troops to return to the train station. Bastogne? No one had heard of it. (Caution: strong language. May be inappropriate for some viewers.)
It was a small, uncomfortable ship, an LST. Bill Richardson remembers how the trip to Hawaii turned into an ordeal once the convoy was hit by a huge storm. Two burials at sea focused his mind pretty well.
Fred Bahlau had to go to war. He was so eager to get in that he went to Canada to try and enlist there, but decided to go back to Michigan and see what he could do. In the recruiting office, he and the sergeant cooked up a plan to get his mother to sign, and once they pulled that fast one, he was off to be inducted. That was where he heard about the paratroopers.
If one of the B-24's in his squadron was shot down, the others would fly a search pattern and try to find it, James Chafin's plane never had any luck at this. They nearly had a crash of their own when they landed to refuel with a full bomb load. He carried something from his mom in a vest pocket that gave him great comfort.
The professors at the University of Sydney helped Radar countermeasures technician Jake Wilson build one of the first Radar jamming transmitters used in the Pacific. They tried different ways of obscuring the signal until they settled on noise modulation.
The first German soldier that Fred Bahlau killed during the Normandy invasion had a camera around his neck, so he had his first souvenir. There were 80 men holding the bridge where he was, but there was one problem. Headquarters had no idea that they had taken the bridge. This led to deadly consequences. Part 3 of 3.
It was early in the tour for James Chafin's crew when his pilot suffered a mental breakdown. He was immediately shipped out because flying a B-24 requires a steady hand and mind. The gunner points out that, since they were all volunteers, they could request not to fly anymore.
Paratrooper Fred Bahlau was quartered in a castle belonging to Hermann Goring and then he was ordered to guard the loot at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat. What he wishes he had a picture of, though, is a particular bathroom fixture used by Der Fuhrer. (Caution: strong language. May be inappropriate for some viewers.)
He was in Naval ROTC at Georgia Tech and was told to finish his studies, but the Navy decided he was needed in the war effort, so Harold Hardin went aboard the USS Saturn, a refrigerator ship, as one of five young ensigns. The Saturn plied the Atlantic waters, delivering food to bases and ships at sea.
Jake Wilson was a specialist in Radar countermeasures assigned to the South West Pacific. A special unit named Section 22, made up of Americans and Australians from all the military branches, was formed to train Allied radar operators in how to recognize and resist any Japanese efforts to use this technology.
On his way to the war, B-24 gunner James Chafin stopped in New Guinea where the weather was miserable and the mud was deep. The next stop was the island of Wakde, where the newly minted airmen saw a sobering reminder of what they were doing there.
The job was simple, but dangerous. Roy Beck had to wait near a tunnel entrance and, when the Japanese emerged at night to cause mayhem, he would have a clear shot. An enemy soldier with a grenade had a different idea, but it would pay off, eventually. As the Marines neared the north end of Iwo Jima, a lack of communications caused some artillery targeting that would end in tragedy.
It was an extremely long mission. A Japanese fleet was known to be in Brunei Bay and the B-24's would have to refuel along the way to hit them while they were there. Gunner James Chafin describes the action as they attacked the great battleship Yamato. Back at the base, having narrowly survived, they made a stunning discovery while examining the plane.
With a commandeered German jeep, Airborne medic Ed Pepping evacuated wounded men to the church in Angoille-au-Plain, where the blood stains can be seen to this day. Despite the heavy fire, the medics did their jobs, so busy there was no time for fear.
James Chafin never smoked, never drank, until he went overseas. A cigarette may have been the reason he woke up with his mosquito netting on fire one night. At least he didn't face the wildlife that one of his crew mates found in his bed.