4:11 | Christmas came to Stalag Luft IV in 1944 and the Germans allowed the prisoners to cut Christmas trees for the barracks, though there was little to be had in the way of decorations. Bill Livingstone recalls how the men in his room came up with an improbable holiday cake.
Keywords : Bill Livingstone Christmas Prisoner Of War (POW) Bill Murphy Red Cross parcel German Dave Pittman letters home
He failed his first eye test because of color blindness, but at the next level a sympathetic officer allowed Bill Livingstone to enter the Air Corps. Eventually he did get disqualified from pilot training, but they decided he'd make a fine aircraft mechanic.
"Be kind to your web footed friends...." Bill Livingstone couldn't believe that the sergeant had never heard that song. He was in a two month wait for aircraft mechanic school to start. Gunnery school was next and they made an instructor out of him. He watched his friends leave to join crews and go overseas. Finally, he was going.
He crossed on the Queen Elizabeth with thousands of others, zig-zagging their way to Scotland. Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was sent off to an RAF base for more schooling. On that trip, he got to see the sights of London.
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.
When the bombs were released, the B-17 sharply rose in the air, then banked right. Bill Livingstone heard a loud pop and that's when two engines were knocked out. They were losing speed and altitude fast and they didn't know where they were. The decision was made to dump the Norden bombsight and he watched it fall into the darkness below. Part 2 of 5.
Right after he dumped the Norden bombsight into the night sky, Bill Livingstone saw the co-pilot blow the hatch and tumble forward into the air. The rest of the crew followed and were strung out in a line when they landed in a farmer's field. He approached them angrily and that's when they found out where they were. Then, the Wehrmacht showed up. Pat 3 of 5.
It was the most miserable night of his life. After bailing out over Germany, Bill Livingstone was captured and being held in a stable with his crew mates. Following a very cold night, they were taken to an interrogation center. Part 4 of 5.
Bill Livingstone was taken into an office where a German officer greeted him warmly and promised him he would be housed in a very comfortable camp. All the captured airman had to do was help him fill out a form and answer a few questions. Right. Then it was off to Stalag Luft IV. His first mission was finally over. Part 5 of 5.
Stalag Luft IV was a huge POW camp full of captured airmen from America and England. Bill Livingstone remembers how there was nothing to do between roll calls. Fortunately, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross sent books, sports gear and food to the prisoners.
They could hear the sound of Russian guns approaching from the east, so the Germans decided it was time to leave the POW camp in Poland. Bill Livingstone was one of the throng of prisoners packed into old boxcars and sent into the interior of Germany. One night, the train rolled to a halt in a large rail yard. He was surprised to see where they were.
Allied POW's were being sent further and further into the interior of Germany. Bill Livingstone arrived at Stalag XIII and found an incredible array of nationalities. Again, the sound of approaching guns meant the prisoners would be moved, this time on foot. He and his buddies brought along an unusual item they hoped to trade for food.
Bill Livingstone was lucky he had no problems with his feet on the forced march from one prison camp to another. As they marched further into Germany, a guard let slip the somber news that FDR had died. The men arrived at Stalag VII-A, the largest of all the POW camps. There, he had a memorable chat with a British prisoner who had been there since Dunkirk.
Bill Livingstone had only been at his third prison camp about a week when the guards disappeared. Patton's tanks could be heard nearby and, soon, one crashed through the front gate. Liberation had come and it wasn't long before the men were enjoying coffee and donuts at Camp Lucky Strike.
Though he had been a POW, Bill Livingstone had such a late entry into the war that he didn't have enough points to be discharged. He worked in a personnel office until the time came. He pays tribute to his friends who didn't make it, along with the many others who made that sacrifice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the ship approached San Francisco, Jack Wall was up on deck straining to catch the first sight of land. Everyone was thinking of liberty on shore. As they walked through the gate onto Market Street, all of a sudden there were horns and whistles and a loud noise of celebration. What happened?
The news that President Roosevelt had died caused Dick Arnold to weep openly. He informed the burgermeister of Maastricht, where he was running the Army switchboard. Soon, the entire town square was filled with mourning Dutch civilians. Part 2 of 2.
Bill Cruickshank felt fortunate that he never had to face a bad artillery barrage, but he had more than enough time in a foxhole with bullets flying overhead. You never forget the noise they make when they are close.
The newly formed ski troops were finally finding a purpose. Now part of the 10th Mountain Division, they were dispatched to Italy, where Bill Cruickshank found out that his job was going to be pushing the Germans back from their positions in the mountains above Pisa.
The Okinawa campaign had ended the day before, so when Dick Whitaker and a few others set out on patrol, they had let their guard down. Sure enough, as they walked by a cornfield, there was the scream of a die hard Japanese soldier.
The USS Pinkney had a dual role. The ship delivered troops to an invasion and then waited to evacuate wounded. At Okinawa, the troops were already ashore when a kamikaze plane struck it amidships. Pharmacist's Mate Jack Wall describes the incident and how he was almost a victim of it.
Dick Arnold was spent from his action outside Bastogne. He was in a lot of pain and had to be helped around but he could still operate the radio and be an interpreter. Then he got really sick and was given a new wonder drug. It was only then that they noticed he had severe effects from being nearly frozen to death.
It was a long recovery for Bill Cruickshank, who was wounded by machine gun fire in Italy. The hospital was in Atlantic City and, as soon as he was able, he pushed wheelchairs along the boardwalk to give more severely wounded men some recreation. This began a lifelong mission of helping others.
The men were packed in like sardines on the troop ship and Jack Wall was glad when it got to New Caledonia. He was a Navy Corpsman and Pharmacist's Mate and served in the hospital there before he went aboard ship to participate in the upcoming invasions.
They were ready. All radio operator Dick Arnold needed was clear weather and he and the forward observer he had found in the woods outside Bastogne could be an effective team. December 24th dawned bright and clear and it was just in time because the Germans were bringing in their Tiger tanks. Part 4 of 6.
Bill Cruickshank explains how the ski troops were used as a ruse to get the Nazis to deploy their troops in Norway, where they weren't really needed. Eventually, they were given a real task, pushing the enemy off the high mountain ridges in Italy.
During the action at Riva Ridge near Pisa, a small group of Germans were captured by Bill Cruickshank and his men. They were dispatched to the rear and he didn't think any more about it. Years later, he was asked a question about that day which led to an extraordinary meeting.
After what seemed like an eternity of training, Dick Arnold crossed the Atlantic to join the European campaign. On his very first day in combat, a ferocious artillery barrage pinned down the entire company. Although his group was sheltered behind a hill, he began digging in because he had been receiving some good advice. The other guys laughed at him. Then, the guns shifted their aim slightly. Part 1 of 3.
Jack Wall's final rank would have been one tick higher except for the one time he was late returning from liberty. He's just lucky he never got in trouble for the wild parties in the dental ward aboard ship. They had a monthly allotment of alcohol which never went to waste and once they decided to make some applejack.
The platoon was scattered after the disastrous attack on Sugarloaf Hill. Dick Whitaker and his buddy found a foxhole and proceeded to make it deeper. When he stopped and leaned over to light a cigarette, that's when the Japanese sniper took his shot.
The USS Pinkney was an evacuation transport. It was designed to deliver troops to an invasion site and then evacuate the wounded. The ship participated in three memorable landings, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Pharmacist's Mate Jack Wall recalls an episode that unfolded in the psych ward regarding a suicidal sailor.
He tried to enlist at seventeen but his folks weren't having it. Dick Whitaker had already talked to the Marine recruiter and, when he came back after graduating high school, the sergeant recognized him. He was off to Parris Island to get the DI treatment and it wasn't long before he boarded a troop ship headed west.
What makes the difference in a soldier is that you don't quit. Dick Arnold had held on in deadly freezing weather to stop German tanks from advancing on Bastogne. The others in his ad hoc team had frozen to death and he began the long walk out of there. Part 6 of 6.
The hill had been assaulted eleven times before with no result. When it came time for Fox Company to give it a go, Dick Whitaker was among the Marines who tried and failed once again. On his way back down the hill he found a wounded buddy and helped make sure he was evacuated.
Bill Cruickshank's father secured him an appointment to West Point but, after only a month there, the Army decided it needed eighteen year olds right now in the war. Everyone born before a certain date was sent home and exposed to the draft. Then, another opportunity opened up for the avid skier. There was a new unit of ski troops being formed.
Dick Arnold had been picked up by some MP's, who had a captain who was both zealous and cowardly. He was falsely accused of desertion but he was just waiting on some new footwear. Finally, with his new boots on his feet, he went looking for his unit, but they were gone. Part 3 of 3.
After the war ended, B-24 mechanic Russell Vaudrey was prepping the planes to fly home when a monstrous typhoon hit. It lasted three days and, as they were repairing planes, a second typhoon swept in. Finally, the crews began flying what was left of their aircraft home.