4:28 | There were no medics around when Ed LaPorta caught some shrapnel in his leg, so he dug it out himself and bandaged it up. He was chasing Rommel's army with the 1st Armored Division and having success by analyzing the strategies of the enemy.
His wanted to be an engineer like his Sicilian father, but more than that, Ed LaPorta wanted to join the war effort so he volunteered. Experienced in mechanics and truck driving, he was sent to the 1st Armored Division and shipped out for North Africa.
When the 1st Armored Division hit Casablanca, there was no opposition, but along the coast at Oran, it was a different story. Ed LaPorta had the landing craft blown out from under him, but thanks to his training, he made it to shore. By the time the German fortress was knocked out, his company had suffered 80% casualties.
When the advance across North Africa began, the French were fighting with the Germans, recalls Ed LaPorta. That soon changed and the Nazis' other allies, the Italians, had no heart for the fight. It was still a struggle, and as German planes strafed mercilessly, LaPorta went to the aid of a wounded man.
According to Ed LaPorta, there are three things that can happen on a reconnaissance mission and only one of them is good. That wasn't what happened when he was captured by Rommel's troops and beaten by an interrogator from Chicago.
"This is war! We don't care about the Geneva Convention!" That's what the German officer said to Ed LaPorta and the rest of the American POWs as they prepared to serve as laborers. This backfired when the Americans began sabotaging the artillery shells they were carrying.
Someone was punished every time a demand was made, but the American POWs eventually got everything they wanted. Thanks to the Geneva delegate and the iron will of the prisoners, they got blankets, baseball equipment and lumber for a chapel. They even smuggled in a rabbi for services.
The lack of food was the worst part of life in a German POW camp, says Ed LaPorta. On the positive side, they were able to get orchestra instruments and put on plays, but more importantly, they were able to tunnel out and secure more valuable things, like parts for a radio.
The first step was getting a camera. Then, the POW's had to get film and a way to develop it. Once that was done, recalls Ed LaPorta, they could get a picture of a German guard accepting cigarettes. That was insurance.
It was a forced march to a different Stalag and Ed LaPorta refused to leave his sick friend behind where he faced certain death. He carried him for eighty five miles so he could live to see the baby daughter he'd never seen. The destination was Buchenwald, where you could still smell the ovens.
The Russians had liberated them but when they were told they were going to Russia, the answer from the GI's was swift, "No way!" An American convoy caused the Russians to back off and the destination became Camp Lucky Strike and then, the Statue of Liberty.
You don't want to mess with a newly liberated POW. Ed Laporta had to dress down an imbecilic MP when he arrived back in the states and not long after, could be seen leaping over a steam table to get at a non-compliant German prisoner who was serving the food.
It took four days to send him to war by plane, but when the time came to return from India, Ralph Way spent a month on a ship. At home, he got married and went to college, thanks to the educational benefits from Uncle Sam.
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.
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 trained in the Army Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic, specializing in hydraulics. Ralph Way would put his training to work in Karachi, which was in India at the time. He serviced cargo planes flying over the Himalayas to supply the war effort against the Japanese in China.
While in training for the US Merchant Marine, Roy Walker had to be pushed into the water. He couldn't swim, but when he was at sea, he didn't even think about it. The ships he sailed on kept the war effort supplied with fuel and ammunition.
The men at the air base in India were due for some badly needed R&R, so they were shipped off to a rest camp. Ralph Way remembers watching the monkeys in the trees and thinking how nice it would be to have one of those monkeys. How, exactly, could you make that happen?
Jack McBrayer was born in Birmingham, Georgia, and wanted to be a sailor all his life. When he joined the Navy, he had to use dummy guns during basic training because they were underfunded at the time. He talks about his shakedown cruise to Bermuda, and how it felt being right at the heart of a hurricane.
Ralph Way was an aircraft mechanic in India, maintaining cargo planes. He recalls one incident in which a pilot couldn't tell if the landing gear was up or down. That was resolved successfully, but there was another incident regarding propellers which did not end so well.
After a long and perilous journey through the Atlantic Ocean, McBrayer and the rest of his crew was able to make it safely to North Africa. From there he escorted tanks to Aruba, and talks about how sometimes he would go back to the ship's home base located in Northern Virginia.
Roy Walker had a pretty good set up on one trip. The Merchant Marine steward had cornered the market on decks of cards and Coca-Colas, plus he got tips out of the kitty because he ran the officers mess. He also had an identical twin brother on the crew, which could lead to some confusion.
Flying over the Hump, the Himalayas, tested the abilities of both pilots and planes. The maneuvers required made small loads a necessity. Ralph Way was part of the ground crew, but he needed flight time to get the flight pay, so he would hitch rides to get in his hours.
McBrayer talks more about his Okinawa experiences. He brings up that his crew hauled dead Japanese soldiers aboard his ship to loot them, and how he escorted the broken ships back to Guam and Saipan. He also remembers how his ship was hit.
He wanted to choose his service instead of getting drafted, so Curtis James went for the Marine Corps in 1943. As part of the V-12 program, he attended college for a year, then had his training and got his commission. Assigned to the occupation forces in Japan, the friendliness of the Japanese was a big surprise to him.
Stationed in Japan after the war, Curtis James had the opportunity to see the devastation at both atomic bomb sites. It was hard to believe. Marines went into occupation duty with a lot of animosity for the Japanese people, but were surprised to find out how friendly they were.
Aircraft mechanic Ralph Way would hitch rides to keep enough time in the air to get his flight pay. On one of these flights, he noticed that there were two more planes taking off at the same time and he began to get a little worried, but it was too late to back out.
They crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge. George Wilkerson's field artillery unit moved fast and were in five countries in as many months. It was cold, their mail couldn't catch up to them and George Patton managed to make them hate him, the one week they were under his command.
After witnessing an amusing incident involving sake on Saipan, Ralph Dunlap thought he might be headed back to Pearl Harbor, but the destination was a little island called Iwo Jima. His usual reconnaissance mission was to scout out beachheads before invasion, but there, he was needed on shore to assess the situation out in front of the lines. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When Ralph Dunlap's small reconnaissance unit was pulled out of Iwo Jima, he had to listen to some jeering from those who had to remain. His next stop was Okinawa, where a typhoon ruined some much needed down time. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)