4:40 | 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.
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He was just learning to fly, but Ken Rohde already knew one thing, he wanted to fly bombers or cargo planes. Forget that upside down stuff. He had to do it, anyway, in training, but he was lucky enough to be assigned to a bomber group flying B-17's. At the end of training, when everyone else had an assignment, he was in a group which the commander called his best pilots.
Looking back, Ken Rohde felt he was lucky for the slow Atlantic crossing in a large convoy. The longer you put off being in that air war in Europe, the better off you were. When he reported to 8th Air Force HQ, he saw a chilling sight that drove home the fact that he was now in a real shooting war.
Before his first mission with his real crew, B-17 co-pilot Ken Rohde was told he was flying in the lead plane with a different crew in the tail gunner position. He was there to be the eyes of the air commander for that flight. He was baffled by the flak suit and those black puffs of smoke, which he found out later were closely related.
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.
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.
The B-17 was the most perfect plane in the air, according to pilot Ken Rohde. After the war, he ferried B-24's around the States and he found out how lucky he was to have flown the B-17 for his combat missions. The B-24 rudders would wear you out. He also flew in the tail gunner's position as an observer, so he learned how those 50 cal's would jam up in the cold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When he got to the labor camp, Norbert Friedman found a little community inside, with people from all over. His father and two uncles were with him, not yet aware that all their relatives had already been subjected to the Final Solution. After some bad work assignments, he was fortunate to get a skilled job in a testing lab.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
The survivors of Nazi concentration camps are a tight knit group. Norbert Friedman describes the close bond with those he knew in the camps. He writes of this in his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight. It is based on his vivid memories, including a macabre dance around a burning German fighter plane.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
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.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Because of fierce Allied bombing, an Autobahn tunnel had been converted to an aircraft factory where fuselages for the Me-262 were made. Norbert Friedman was a Jewish prisoner who was forced to labor at the plant. It was there that he received a savage beating for not responding to an air raid.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
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.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
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.
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 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.
Dachau was just one of many forced labor camps for Norbert Friedman. One of the first built, it was run internally by German political prisoners. At the next camp, it was Gypsies. Along with his father and two uncles, he was fortunate to be classified as skilled labor, which was in high demand at German aircraft plants.
Holocaust survivor Norbert Friedman speaks about the unbelievable tragedy of knowing that almost all of your family was sent to gas chambers. It left a huge void in his existence. He was living in New York when 9/11 struck and it triggered old nightmares.
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.
During his time in Nazi forced labor camps, Norbert Friedman came to the conclusion that there is no limit to evil inclinations in men. He gives an example of this and then relates the story of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a dissident German Lutheran theologian, who was in the concentration camp with him.
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.