6:02 | 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.)
Keywords : Jack Lemonds Prisoner Of War (POW) Russian guards Stalag Luft 4 Stalag 4 death march frostbite snow cold Robert McMillan Les Eggleston watch bread
Jack Lemonds was drafted in 1943 and headed to the luckiest basic training site of the war, Miami Beach. That was the place where Army Air Corps recruits began their journey. A year later, he took his first ride in a B-24 Liberator. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
As a group of new B-24 crews readied to make the flight to England, one of them crashed into a mountain in New Hampshire. Undeterred, waist gunner Jack Lemonds and a host of others donned their heated suits and made the long, cold flight. They didn't know it yet, but their first mission would be on the the most important day of the war. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
They were anxious. The first mission for many of the B-24 crews in England was D-Day. Waist gunner Jack Lemonds was awed by the spectacle of hundreds of ships bombarding the Normandy shore as he flew towards France. Later, when the enormous cost in lives became known, he felt fortunate to have been in the air, not on the ground. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After a three day pass to London, B-24 crew member Jack Lemonds returned to his base to find out a good friend's crew had been shot down. No one knew if they survived, but, through a twist of fate, he would see his friend again. He remembers a mission of his own that was particularly hazardous due to a swarm of German fighters. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Jack Lemonds was over Braunschweig, Germany when his B-24 was split in two by flak. As others in the plane succumbed to flames, he managed to tumble out, attaching his parachute as he fell. In the front half of the plane, the pilot struggled in vain to control the descent until the whole thing blew. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
As he floated to the ground after bailing out, Jack Lemonds looked up and saw the B-24's make their turn to head back to England. What would happen to him, he wondered? As he gathered his chute, three German farmers tried to do him in, but he was saved by an enemy soldier. It would not be the last time. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
His German captors took care of his wounds and then Jack Lemonds was taken to Frankfurt for interrogation. The officer who questioned him was the spitting image of a post war cinema stereotype. All he got was name, rank and serial number. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
The first POW camp was near the French border, but when the Allies began to push across France, Jack Lemonds and many others were moved to another camp up in Poland. On the way, he saw the terrific devastation Allied bombing had caused all across Germany. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After a forced march of at least 500 miles through Poland and Germany, the POW's reached the Elbe River. There, the guards made the decision to surrender when they saw the American forces on the other bank. Jack Lemonds had survived and, in a nearby office building, picked up a memento that marks his liberation day. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
James Parish volunteered for the US Army on November 17th, 1942. He went to Camp Adair in Oregon for his training, and also endured desert training. At one point during training, he became a cook for the rest of the men.
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.
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.
McBrayer was able to make it safely to North Africa. From there he escorted tanks to Aruba. His typical missions consisted of making trips to North Africa, the Caribbean, and sometimes he would go back to the ship's home base located in Northern Virginia.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The men of the destroyer escort USS Straus were very busy. It was their job to spread smokescreens to protect the fleet from kamikazes and they were credited with one shoot down of a suicide plane. Bombarding coastlines was another important job. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Expecting to be a part of the Japan invasion force, George Wilkerson went home for a 30 day leave. While he was there, the atomic bomb lifted that weight from his shoulders. He had to stay on for a while as a supply sergeant, but he was soon back at the University of Missouri.
The streamer was flying from the bridge. It was the heading home streamer and the men of the USS Straus were overjoyed, including Clyde Milam. He was soon to discover that his short stop at Nagasaki had left him with a terrible problem. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)