5:58 | 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.)
Keywords : Jack Houston Okinawa Japanese Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) machine gun Naval gunfire smokeless powder muzzle flash
Jack Houston tried to enlist in the Navy after all his friends from school had left. His parents quashed that because he was only 16, but they promised to sign for him when he graduated high school. In December of 1943, he enlisted in the Marines and headed for Parris Island, where he shattered the M1 record on the rifle range. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The battle for Guadalcanal was long over when Jack Houston arrived. Even the mosquitoes had been defeated. After training in the jungle and in a mock village, he headed to Okinawa with the 22nd Marines. They were amazed at the lack of resistance when they landed and moved north. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines were way ahead of schedule moving through the northern end of Okinawa. Jack Houston found out that the rear was more dangerous than the front when his buddy fled the aid station back at the beach. He watched two ragged Japanese planes tangle with a Hellcat and a Corsair. He cheered when one was shot down but there was some bad news with that. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the northern part of Okinawa was secured, the Marines of the 22nd Regiment moved south. Jack Houston was sent to be point man for the whole division and he was given two flares. Red if he found nothing, green if he found the enemy. Warily he moved out. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines moved out with tanks and infantry and got shot all to hell, so they advanced to the rear. The same thing happened the next day and Jack Houston barely made it back. That's when he saw the bullet holes in his sleeves. His rifle was broken so he had to improvise. Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Normally, there would have been two Marines to a foxhole, but the 22nd had lost so many that most men were alone. Jack Houston remembers getting no sleep that long, Okinawa night because of the falling parachute flare casings landing all around him. When he moved out the next day, a bullet cracked past his ear, which caused him to begin a bad habit. Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was part of an ad hoc group of Marines from several hard hit units on Okinawa. He was worried because a major was talking kind of funny. It sounded like he wanted them to move on a hill at night, which was not standard procedure in the Marines. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After three days of hellish fighting on Okinawa, Jack Houston heard someone yell that the 22nd Marines were relieved. He had just narrowly missed being killed by a mortar shell and, when he started back to the rear, everything seemed in slow motion. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the hard fought battle for Okinawa, Jack Houston's unit had some easy duty in China, transferring prisoners and guarding an airfield. He had a curious encounter with a Chinese officer who regaled him with Communist dogma. Then, interlopers from the Navy messed up his shopping in the local market. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was finally heading home from the Pacific. A Humphrey Bogart picture was playing on deck when a fire broke out and the confused crew reacted to the soundtrack. He wasn't yet done with danger, even on the train ride across the States. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Allied POW's were being sent further and further into the interior of Germany. Bill Livingstone arrived at Stalag XIII and found an incredible array of nationalities. Again, the sound of approaching guns meant the prisoners would be moved, this time on foot. He and his buddies brought along an unusual item they hoped to trade for food.
John Souther was already in the Army when Pearl Harbor was bombed and he immediately was engaged in stepped up training. He went with the 1st Armored Division to the first invasion of the war, North Africa. Pummeled by Rommel at first, they prevailed and then went on to Italy.
He crossed on the Queen Elizabeth with thousands of others, zig-zagging their way to Scotland. Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was sent off to an RAF base for more schooling. On that trip, he got to see the sights of London.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Right after he dumped the Norden bombsight into the night sky, Bill Livingstone saw the co-pilot blow the hatch and tumble forward into the air. The rest of the crew followed and were strung out in a line when they landed in a farmer's field. He approached them angrily and that's when they found out where they were. Then, the Wehrmacht showed up. Pat 3 of 5.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
Christmas came to Stalag Luft IV in 1944 and the Germans allowed the prisoners to cut Christmas trees for the barracks, though there was little to be had in the way of decorations. Bill Livingstone recalls how the men in his room came up with an improbable holiday cake.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
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.)
They could hear the sound of Russian guns approaching from the east, so the Germans decided it was time to leave the POW camp in Poland. Bill Livingstone was one of the throng of prisoners packed into old boxcars and sent into the interior of Germany. One night, the train rolled to a halt in a large rail yard. He was surprised to see where they were.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
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.
It was the most miserable night of his life. After bailing out over Germany, Bill Livingstone was captured and being held in a stable with his crew mates. Following a very cold night, they were taken to an interrogation center. Part 4 of 5.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
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.
Bill Livingstone was taken into an office where a German officer greeted him warmly and promised him he would be housed in a very comfortable camp. All the captured airman had to do was help him fill out a form and answer a few questions. Right. Then it was off to Stalag Luft IV. His first mission was finally over. Part 5 of 5.
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.
Bill Livingstone was lucky he had no problems with his feet on the forced march from one prison camp to another. As they marched further into Germany, a guard let slip the somber news that FDR had died. The men arrived at Stalag VII-A, the largest of all the POW camps. There, he had a memorable chat with a British prisoner who had been there since Dunkirk.
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.
"Be kind to your web footed friends...." Bill Livingstone couldn't believe that the sergeant had never heard that song. He was in a two month wait for aircraft mechanic school to start. Gunnery school was next and they made an instructor out of him. He watched his friends leave to join crews and go overseas. Finally, he was going.
He had it made for a couple of weeks there. John Souther's recon company occupied an Italian estate which had giant casks of wine in a cellar with nice convenient taps. By this time, the much better K-ration had replaced the C-ration, so when you weren't at a nice estate, your meal was a little better.
Though he had been a POW, Bill Livingstone had such a late entry into the war that he didn't have enough points to be discharged. He worked in a personnel office until the time came. He pays tribute to his friends who didn't make it, along with the many others who made that sacrifice.
Stalag Luft IV was a huge POW camp full of captured airmen from America and England. Bill Livingstone remembers how there was nothing to do between roll calls. Fortunately, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross sent books, sports gear and food to the prisoners.
He failed his first eye test because of color blindness, but at the next level a sympathetic officer allowed Bill Livingstone to enter the Air Corps. Eventually he did get disqualified from pilot training, but they decided he'd make a fine aircraft mechanic.
When the bombs were released, the B-17 sharply rose in the air, then banked right. Bill Livingstone heard a loud pop and that's when two engines were knocked out. They were losing speed and altitude fast and they didn't know where they were. The decision was made to dump the Norden bombsight and he watched it fall into the darkness below. Part 2 of 5.