5:19 | When the Airborne volunteers got to Fort Benning, they were told by the sergeants, "We are here to make you quit." That didn't faze Dan McBride, who was in real good shape. They lost seven men just on the double time run from the buses to the barracks.
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Dan McBride came to the Army fully ready. He'd been shooting since the age of three and he attended the Citizens Military Training Camp during his high school summers. At age sixteen, he was qualified on every weapon he would be exposed to later in Basic training. He was scared of heights, so, naturally, he volunteered for Airborne.
Dan McBride recalls his first jump. Once he managed to get through the door, he started enjoying it. After he got his wings, he chose the 101st over the 82nd because he liked the patch better. When the unit headed for South Carolina for more jumps, every chimney in the area was in peril.
While on maneuvers after jump school, Dan McBride had a real close call when his chute did not open. He had a new platoon leader who made a great first impression with the men. This is the kind of officer we like!
It was an old tub, the ship that Dan McBride boarded to cross the Atlantic. They turned back and docked in Newfoundland because of technical problems and that began a bizarre turn of events that wound up causing them to take longer to cross than did Christopher Columbus. Once they got to England, they discovered a great new hobby, fighting with the Brits.
Dan McBride and his buddy were dating a couple of English girls and were lucky enough to be invited over for Christmas dinner. They were sitting around afterwards and he began to feel a rumbling in his belly. His Army diet of beans and Brussels sprouts was about to betray him.
His sniper rifle was too long to jump with so the plan was to carry it in a bundle. Dan McBride had successful test jumps in England, so he was confident that it would work on D-Day. As the paratroopers were leaving, they got a surprise visit from General Eisenhower, who spoke to each of them. They took off and as soon as the planes got to the French coast, Murphy's Law began to take over.
He landed alone and had lost his compass. Paratrooper Dan McBride was moving slowly in the dark through the hedgerows. He encountered a cow, then a German soldier and then finally someone else from his unit. After joining a small group from another unit and commandeering a car, they finally found a road sign which got them back on track and headed for the intended drop zone.
It was constant attacking. Hit and run battles with Germans between the drop on June 6th to around the 12th. Dan McBride was in the thick of it, including a bayonet charge at Carentan. Later, in an encounter with a German soldier, he faced a moment of truth when they both raised their weapons and fired point blank.
He was shot in the arm so they gave him some German prisoners to take to the beach. When Dan McBride got down there, the prisoners saw the great armada that had crossed the channel. Definitely disheartening. After a short recovery, when his unit had returned to England, they were given what was called a short, easy mission jumping into Holland. It didn't work out that way.
It wasn't the short, easy mission they were promised. It was continuous combat for weeks. Paratrooper Dan McBride had jumped into Operation Market Garden in Holland and right away nearly got killed by a mortar round. During the attack on Best, he got pinned down during a German ambush and had another narrow escape.
Paratrooper Dan McBride's account of Operation Market Garden is colorful and exciting. He relates several tales, including the fate of an ill tempered sergeant, the improbable capture of a German unit four times the size of his, the reason you should not stop for tea and how he was injured by his own weapon.
Dan McBride couldn't stand the Brits and he was stuck in a British Army hospital in Brussels. He had a broken ankle, but when he was told they were going to ship him to a replacement depot, he and some more GI's hatched a plan to get back to their own unit. They finally made that happen and were reunited just in time to react to the news about a German breakthrough.
It was an M-1 rifle that he grabbed out of supply. Dan McBride found out he grabbed the wrong one, later on in a firefight. His Airborne outfit had just marched through an unknown town, dug in and were waiting for the Germans they were told were coming. What's the name of this place? Bastogne.
Dan McBride was dug in at Bastogne, but he was lucky enough to be on the relatively quiet side of town. It was mostly small probes but there was one big final assault. He describes how the fierce battle seemed in slow motion to his perception, the altered state of combat. After the Germans withdrew, the GI's moved to counter attack. He stood up to move after a tank round burst overhead and he fell flat on his face, unable to walk. "Mac? You hit again?"
After Bastogne, it was a different war for Dan McBride. He finally got a shower, brief and cold though it was. His airborne unit moved around on various brief assignments and found itself in Austria at Berchtesgaden, Hitler's mountain retreat. It was there where they got some big news.
Occupation duty in the mountains of Austria was a great chance for some deer hunting. Dan McBride and his friends were hunting when they heard sounds coming from a barn and discovered an Austrian family hiding there. They gave them some gifts and told them to go back to town. When the points system came around, he had more than enough to head home.
The battle hardened men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who had enough points to go home, were transferred into the 17th Airborne temporarily. This stuck in their craw and they refused to wear the patch and caused some ruckus on the way home. Dan McBride had a hand in that.
When Dan McBride returned from the war, he had some long talks with his dad and they reminisced over talks years ago, when knowledge about the Army was first passed on. He was grateful for the advice he received when he got to boot camp, specifically, what to do when the instructor dropped the dummy hand grenade.
If you really try, you can do anything. Dan McBride was scared of heights, but he managed to jump from an airplane many times. Having survived some of the biggest battles in Europe, he settled into a normal life back home.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the greatest men he's ever known. Dan McBride met him on the eve of the D-Day jump and, many years later at a ceremony in Normandy, he met another Eisenhower.
When Dan McBride was fighting his way across France, he thought the French civilians did not like Americans and didn't want them there. Decades later, at a ceremony in Normandy, he found out how wrong he'd been.
Just weeks off the ship, Jim Murphy was in a jeep driving his forward observer team up the Rhone Valley. At Barr in France, his lieutenant was killed. Along with the sergeant on the team, they fulfilled their mission for the rest of the war.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
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.
Forward observer Jim Murphy was alone in an outpost on Christmas in 1944, watching a German outpost where they were watching him. A runner brought him some hot food, which he greatly appreciated but, later that night, he became severely ill. It was not the food.
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.
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.
Jim Murphy was lucky to grow up at the Masonic Home of Georgia, an orphanage near Macon. He was not one of the orphans, rather his father worked there as a printer, running the print shop and teaching the trade. There was a farm for food, a nice thing to have during the Great Depression.
Jim Murphy was seventeen years old when the radio brought the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since he enjoyed ROTC in high school, he was an enthusiastic member when he went off to Georgia Tech, where recruits were promised they would graduate and receive a commission. Of course, it didn't work out that way and he was off to active duty, where he managed to conceal something that would have ended his enlistment.
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.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
It was a former luxury liner but the Atlantic crossing was anything but luxurious. Jim Murphy had something in his duffel bag to help fight the boredom and he wound up entertaining the whole ship with it. He was also one of the lucky ones who wasn't seasick.
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.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
His unit was moving fast at the end of the war and Jim Murphy wound up in Austria. He didn't have nearly enough points for discharge, so he returned to the States to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Then came the news that seemed like a miracle from heaven.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
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.
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.
Jim Murphy describes the job of a forward observer during the push on Germany. They had bulky radios and strung a lot of telephone wire, the only two means of communicating with the battery. They also took German fire from mortars and the dreaded 88 mm guns.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
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.
He was taken from college ROTC, sent to basic training, then sent to another college as part of the ASTP program. It seemed the Army just couldn't make up it's mind about what to do with bright students like Jim Murphy. Then it decided. It was off to the war for them.
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.)
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
At first, Jim Murphy was assigned to an infantry unit, but when they found out about his previous artillery training, he was moved to the field artillery. The morale was awful there but he persevered and became a forward observer team member. He was just about ready for the push on Germany.