2:13 | B-17 pilot Bill Hanna reveals what was in the first letter he got from home and why he finished his required 25 missions in record time. Unfortunately, he had to "volunteer" for a few more missions.
Keywords : William Hanna B-17 pilot wife crash volunteer
The day after Pearl Harbor brought a deluge of volunteers, and Bill Hanna was one of the lucky ones who qualified for pilot training in the Air Corps. He almost didn't survive the training.
The last thing any pilot trainee wanted was to be a bomber pilot. They all wanted to fly fighters but when Bill Hanna wound up in a B-17, he felt no one ever flew a better airplane. He was headed overseas as a co-pilot, but in a gutsy move he qualified as first pilot and was soon flying his craft over the North Atlantic to England.
When Bill Hanna joined the 91st Bomb Group in England, the losses were an astonishing 92%. Shrugging off an early rookie mistake, which nearly got him court martialed, he felt he could whip the whole German Air Force with just a little help from his tail gunner. He recalls an incident involving a special modification to his plane.
B-17 pilot Bill Hanna remembers the cold conditions at high altitude and remains envious of the B-24 crews who had heated suits. He encountered enemy fighters every time he flew, including a fateful mission with an unbelievable coincidence.
Pilot Bill Hanna was on the first mission to bomb Berlin, which got a lot easier as the bombers began to get fighter support. He explains why a lone bomber is no match for a lone fighter and has a tale about his radio operator who was the only crew member to get injured.
On June 6, 1944, Bill Hanna flew his B-17 toward Normandy and dropped his bombs right on target just inland. It was early, before men began hitting the beach. He recalls the awesome sight and wonders how they managed to organize such a large effort.
Bill Hanna reveals why the 91st Bomb Group was known as the "Ragged Irregulars." His B-17 also had a name and he explains why they chose it and painted it on the nose of the plane.
Bill Hanna relates the steps in executing a bombing mission, from the sketchy breakfast to the debriefing, where he once had to describe a prototype rocket plane he saw. As if the danger of formation flying with hundreds of planes wasn't enough, he just might face a Buzz Bomb when he went to London to have a beer.
As an advisor in Vietnam, Bill Hanna faced an unusual obstacle, the cultural phenomenon known as "saving face." This led to some perplexing situations as he tried to school the Vietnamese in running a modern Air Force.
Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
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. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
In Dachau, Rogers witnesses thousands of starving prisoners in a concentration camp. He remembers the many other displaced civilians, forced into labor, who suffered at the hands of the nazis. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
Roy Scribner was fifteen years old when the attack on Pearl Harbor shook the nation. He enlisted in the Navy as soon as he could, following his brother into that service and also in honor of a boy from his hometown who died on the USS Arizona. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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.)
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.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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.
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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 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.
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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.
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Lt. Speight was part of a well respected division of the Navy, Air Group 9. During that time, he had a lot of close encounters with enemy planes in the skies, including Kamikazes. He also lost a lot of good friends, some of which he will never forget serving with. (This interview made possible with the support of SSGT HORACE W. LEE, USMC.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Lt. Speight's life didn't end after the war; he went back home and went right to work. It was during this post-war era that he received some awful news about his older brother, and slowly tried to readjust back to living a normal life. (This interview made possible with the support of SSGT HORACE W. LEE, USMC.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
Lt. Speight spent all of his time in the Navy in the Pacific fighting the Japanese, and that meant moving from one island to the next. Here are some of his experiences on those islands and how many times he had to transfer. (This interview made possible with the support of SSGT HORACE W. LEE, USMC.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Due to his efforts of bravery, Charles Speight was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On top of that, he gives us an abundance of details about the end of World War II, including his reaction to the dropping of the atomic bombs. (This interview made possible with the support of SSGT HORACE W. LEE, USMC.)
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 an amazing adventure in France and Switzerland, George Starks was instructing B-17 pilots at the war's end. He took a job with an airline, but decided upon another path, one which would lead him back into the army, but not as a pilot. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
Charles Speight recalls his family's experiences with the Great Depression before the start of the second world war, and what it was like after the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. (This interview made possible with the support of SSGT HORACE W. LEE, USMC.)
Roy Scribner's first action was at Lingayen Gulf and the day he arrived there on a minesweeper, the kamikazes began attacking. The gun crews had to sleep at their guns when the danger was ongoing, which could also mean nothing to eat but sandwiches for days. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)