Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans

COMBAT STORIES FROM World War II

Ken Rohde | 8th Air Force - Army Air Corps

4:35   |   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.

More From Ken Rohde

Keywords   :     Ken Rohde    pilot    Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress    tail gunner    Meersburg    Germany    50 cal machine gun    flak suit    flak

Videos ( 7 )
WWII
  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  Multiple Units  |  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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  4:21

    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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  4:19

    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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  3:02

    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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  6:40

    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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  5:53

    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.

  • Ken Rohde  |  WWII  |  8th Air Force  |  8:35

    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.

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