5:48 | The room in the POW camp barracks was small but it housed eighteen men, including downed pilot Clayton Nattier. It had a tiny stove which was much improved with a little American farm boy ingenuity.
Keywords : Clayton Nattier pilot bunk stove sheet metal farm National Museum of the United States Air Force Hitler Youth Prisoner Of War (POW) Stalag Luft I
His first semester at Kansas State University was going fine. Then came Dec. 7, 1941. Clayton Nattier knew that, if he had to go into the military, he wanted to fly airplanes, so he went to the airfield where Kansans could take the tests for cadet training.
Having successfully passed all the tests for cadet training, Clayton Nattier arrived in Santa Ana for preflight classes. The next step was primary training where he flew the Stearman trainer, a bi-plane. The site had been a private aviation school and was fairly luxurious compared to the next stop which was an actual military base.
The second phase of pilot training was called basic training. You flew a more powerful aircraft and you did acrobatics, which taught you how to recover from bad situations in the air. Clayton Nattier knew he wanted to fly the big planes, the bombers, so when he moved on to advanced training, he flew multi engine aircraft.
Transition training is the part of pilot training where you move from trainers to the actual aircraft you will be flying in the military. For Clayton Nattier, the move was a significant one. He would be flying the mighty B-17. The last training stop was crew training, where the men who trained in different disciplines leaned to jell as a unit.
It was the last test. Clayton Nattier's crew was aloft in a B-17 for their check ride, after which they would be assigned to a bomb group in England. The testing officer took them up to a higher altitude than they'd ever been and this contributed to an unfortunate situation which would separate pilot from crew.
B-17 pilot Clayton Nattier had a great crew assembled as he readied to join the air war against Germany. He goes through the roster and describes all the men who would be joining him in the skies over Europe.
He picked up a new B-17 loaded with freight for some bomb group in England, then Clayton Nattier flew the first leg of the trip up to New Hampshire. That's where the weather got nasty and he and his crew had to wait out several delays.
A new B-17 pilot was required to fly two missions with an experienced crew before he flew his own missions. The first of these for Clayton Nattier had him over one of the most heavily defended targets in Germany. He would return more than once.
The 306th Bomb Group flew in very tight formations. This greatly lessened the losses from German fighters, which faced withering fire from multiple aircraft if they got close enough to attack. B-17 pilot Clayton Nattier also had the luxury of his own fighter escorts, which were not available earlier in the war.
It was his sixteenth mission and, once again, it was Merseburg, site of a synthetic fuel plant. Clayton Nattier's plane had a mechanical failure so a substitute B-17 was brought to the flight line. Everything was fine until, as the flight neared the target, an engine went out. This was only the beginning of a disaster. Part 1 of 3.
Tail Gunner Richard Edwards was one of the first to bail out. When he landed, he was beaten by a German worker swinging a lunch pail. Pilot Clayton Nattier was trying to stabilize the plane while the flight engineer tried to put out the fire. Finally, they, too, plunged into the sky over Germany to face an uncertain fate. Part 2 of 3.
It was a long descent for B-17 pilot Clayton Nattier, who was barely conscious in his parachute. He heard a German fighter circling above him as he landed near a Luftwaffe training school. After the students worked him over for souvenirs, he was taken to a jail cell where a medic from the school bandaged him up. Part 3 of 3.
When he got to the interrogation center, he was placed in solitary confinement, interrupted only by repeated questioning. Downed B-17 pilot Clayton Nattier was determined not to reveal anything, not that he really knew much. After a week of this, he was taken to a train station where he was reunited with the surviving members of his crew.
Clayton Nattier was headed for Stalag Luft I on Germany's Baltic coast. His first three weeks were spent in the camp hospital, where he was treated for burns received when his B-17 was brought down by flak. The original bandaging of his wounds, which was done by a German medic near the site of the crash, proved to be a first rate job.
There were radios in the camp, built with bartered parts that the guards traded for D-Bars and cigarettes from Red Cross parcels. Clayton Nattier didn't have a radio in his barracks, but he saw the typewritten rundowns of the latest news from the BBC. He well remembers when the Germans stopped distributing the Red Cross parcels. It was just after the best meal he'd had as a prisoner.
Col Hubert A. Zemke was the senior Allied officer among the POW's at Stalag Luft I. When the Germans stopped delivering the Red Cross parcels that were keeping bellies full, he negotiated with the camp commandant until they were restored. Clayton Nattier remembers that, after three months with little food, he couldn't eat without getting sick.
There was no friendly interaction with any of the German guards, recalls downed pilot Clayton Nattier. They were just plain mean. As the end of the war neared, Col Hubert A. Zemke again negotiated a deal with the commandant which guaranteed the safety of both prisoners and guards as the Germans withdrew.
The German guards had fled in the night. The next day, a Russian tank was at the gate of the POW camp and, soon, a Russian general to go with it. Downed pilot Clayton Nattier recalls that the Russians wanted to remove the men to Soviet territory, but the senior Allied officer wasn't having it.
Newly liberated POW Clayton Nattier arrived at Camp Lucky Strike, where thousands of men like him waited for passage home. When his turn came, he rode in a Liberty ship, fighting seasickness all the way. He was soon in a luxury hotel in Miami Beach.
B-17 pilot and former POW Clayton Nattier reflects on the possibilities of escape and also on the psyche of the German people. Before he joined the 306th Bomb Group, there was some controversy in the unit because of heavy losses and the new commander brought in to solve the problems. Those events became the basis for the movie Twelve O'Clock High.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dick Arnold quickly got up to speed on artillery codes and radio procedures. He was part of an ad hoc team who found each other outside Bastogne and secured a position to call artillery fire if the Germans tried to bring in their tanks. They were controlling 155mm howitzers, the only ground weapon that could take out a Tiger tank. Part 3 of 6.
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.
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's last assignment in Europe was running the switchboard connecting Allied HQ with the Dutch city of Maastricht. His post was in the city hall and one night he got an urgent call from headquarters with some startling news, news that made him cry. Part 1 of 2.