7:27 | The requirement was fifty missions to go home. Nose turret gunner Don Ogden describes several of his missions that were memorable, including the time he watched a parachuting man bring down another bomber and the time he nearly fell out of the turret. Then there was the mystery of small explosions heard around the air base.
He'd passed the flying exam but Don Ogden was so tired that he began stammering and he was rejected. Determined to fly in combat, he became a gunner and in a strange turn of events, his tendency towards air sickness would actually save his life.
He was flying his 22nd mission in the nose turret but Don Ogden had only engaged enemy fighters once. He never saw the two that brought down his B-24 and wounded him with shell fragments. He tells the story of his exciting escape from the plane, the fall from high altitude, and his miraculous landing.
After surviving the crash of his B-24 and seeing the burned bodies of his crew, Don Ogden was imprisoned in Hungary where he suffered abuse from civilians and was nearly killed in an American bombing raid. Once again he was saved by being where he was. This time it was the basement.
After months of indifferent medical care and abuse at the hands of his Hungarian captors, which included being sentenced to death in a court where no one spoke English, Don Ogden finally met a German. After a week in solitary, the officer interrogated him without success.
Don Ogden was actually relieved to be in the hands of German guards after months of mistreatment by his Hungarian captors. When he got to the prison camp in Poland, he witnessed a bizarre accident during latrine cleaning and the even more bizarre sight of German guards killing their own.
Don Ogden describes the food, what there was of it, in the prison camp and laughs at the memory of the German commandant who kept them busy making an ice rink. And then there was the guard nicknamed Big Stoop, who got mad at them one day and charged at them, firing his Luger.
Near the end of the war, the POW's were forced from their camp and put on a forced march to nowhere. They walked 800 miles in 3 months, says Don Ogden. He suffered from the food deprivation and unsanitary conditions, but he also met a new friend, Harold Thompson. Passing through a small town, he witnessed an unbelievable act of cruelty at the hand of a young SS trainee.
It was a forced march and the POW's were quartered in a barn listening to frightful artillery, when a British soldier opened the door and said, "Cheerio, chaps!" They were free, but the British did them no favor by feeding them all they wanted. Don Ogden had survived it all but suffered one more indignity, this time at the hands of his own government. He couldn't go home, because he looked too bad.
He had survived a fighter attack, a bail out landing without help from his parachute, a prison camp and a forced march, so there was no way Don Ogden was gong to take a chance sleeping below deck on the liberty ship back to the States. Once home and no longer struggling against Nazis, he began a decades long struggle against the VA and against his own demons.
Following his French contact at a discreet distance, George Starks parked his bicycle and watched the man enter a bakery. In the back of that bakery, he met Maurice, a member of the Free French Resistance. He was getting close to Switzerland, but he would need Maurice's help to get over the border. Part 4 of 7.
The USS Dorsey, a destroyer/minesweeper, had a number of weapons to protect itself. Roy Scribner was a loader on one of the 20mm guns which was primarily an anti-aircraft weapon. The 40mm gun at the stern was the best protection they had against kamikazes, which were a constant threat. They had already taken out three of the ten ships in his group.
On his fifth combat mission, his first as aircraft commander, B-17 pilot George Starks was on the outside edge of the formation when the plane was hit by German fighters. With a wing on fire, he gave the signal to bail out and he was soon in free fall from high altitude over France. He landed hard, hid his chute, and hid in the woods as he heard German troops approaching. Part 1 of 7.
Chan Rogers experiences a couple of close calls on the Siegfried Line. His unit stumbles upon a nest of sleeping Germans, suddenly finding themselves in a harrowing firefight. Later, when facing off against a group of German pillboxes, they are showered with deadly shrapnel from tree bursts. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
At Okinawa, the USS Dorsey received it's only kamikaze hit after a long streak of near misses. Roy Scribner describes the attack from his vantage point as a gun loader. Fortunately, the damage was not severe and they steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. On their way there, they received some bad news from back home.
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
George Starks enlisted as an aviation cadet in 1942 and made his way up the training ladder to B-17's. He got out of an assignment as an instructor in the small trainers because he wanted to fly the big aircraft. He excelled along the way and at nineteen years old, he prepared to go to war as the commander of a ten man crew.
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
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.
After a long trek across France, George Starks was finally next to the Swiss border. From the time he hid his parachute until the time he stepped across the creek that was the border, he had been helped by sympathetic locals. When he was finally out of occupied territory and free in Switzerland, he was surprised when someone else showed up. Part 5 of 7.
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.
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.
He was in his last year of college pursuing a mechanical engineering degree when Bob DeBoo was drafted into the Navy. They sent him to finish his degree, then to midshipmen's school, and then he was ready to deploy. He was assigned to an LSM, which is Landing Ship, Medium.
After leaving his safe haven in Switzerland, downed B-17 pilot George Starks finally met up with American forces near Evian in France. Then began a long, sometimes pleasurable trip back to his unit in England. After debriefing, he was sent around to give lectures on evasion for other airmen, then back home to Florida. Part 7 of 7.
It was cold and raining as huge ships pounded the tiny island of Iwo Jima ahead of the landing. Roy Scribner was on the USS Dorsey, a minesweeper. In his diary, he sketched the raising of the flag as well as noting the staggering casualty figures. When the ship broke away from the battle for refueling, the crew nearly met with disaster during the routine task.
The new B-17 crew was part of a provisional group that, once in England, would be parceled out to units that needed replacement crews. George Starks was the young Lieutenant in charge of one crew that had been selected as the best of the group. He barely got away from Labrador in a storm and the flight across the Atlantic was the toughest instrument flying he ever did.
When the war in the Pacific ended, Marine Lieutenant Dan Magill did two things. The first occurred with him on his knees in thanks. The second involved the stash of medicinal alcohol and coconuts. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
The going home banner was strung aloft after victory in the Pacific was won, but before the USS Dorsey left the dock, a typhoon struck and grounded the ship. Mother Nature had done what the Japanese could not. Roy Scribner was given the task of securing the sensitive communications material.
After bailing out, evading German troops and hiding in the woods, B-17 Pilot George Starks was helped by French civilians and put on his way over land toward Switzerland. He had a broken bone in his foot, but he managed to make good time, with some help from locals. German troops were everywhere but his young looks and beret gave him a chance when he encountered them. Part 2 of 7.
Dan Magill recalls a couple of funny stories from his boot camp experience. One involves the notorious aiming capabilities of the .45 caliber pistol and the other is about the dreaded last shot from the Corpsman. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
As the USS Dorsey approached Pearl Harbor for repairs, the pet dog smuggled on board got very excited. He was about tired of Navy life. Almost as soon as the minesweeper returned to action, the war ended. Roy Scribner tells the story of the typhoon that nearly put them under off the coast of Japan.
As he made his way through France in disguise, downed B-17 pilot George Starks encountered German troops, stole a bicycle and made friends with many locals. In one town he was sheltered by the chief of police, who had a very friendly daughter. Part 3 of 7.
The hazing that Roy Scribner got the first time he crossed the equator included the eating of a bitter pudding that came with an unusual health benefit. He was on a minesweeper on the way to the Philippines and, once there, the ship became a target for kamikazes.
George Starks had evaded capture all across France and was safe in Switzerland, where he had it easier than downed airmen who had actually come down in Switzerland. They were supposed to stay put and wait, but he had other ideas, which led to the liberation of Evian on the other side of Lake Geneva. Part 6 of 7.
The battles were over, but Marine Lieutenant Dan Magill was ordered to investigate reports of straggler Japanese troops up in the mountains of the Philippines. They were a pitiful lot when he found them, and their leader presented him with a keepsake. Another assignment involved a Marine who had an eye for the local girls. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
While getting supplies in Leyte, Roy Scribner remembers how the locals would paddle up in canoes to trade eggs to the sailors. While there, someone smuggled something aboard that really shouldn't be there, a mascot for the ship. The minesweeper left there and assembled with other ships to prepare for the Iwo Jima landing.