6:21 | 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.)
Keywords : Charles Speight Navy World War II Pacific Pearl Harbor Japan Great Depression family draft training North Carolina University of North Carolina (UNC) Corpus Christi TX
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.)
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.)
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.)
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 B-25 squadron had crossed into Burma when it was jumped by 25 enemy fighters. George LaMar was in the upper turret furiously raking them with fire, when the lead plane was hit and fell back. They watched as the Japanese planes pounced on the crippled bomber. Suddenly, the crew bailed out.
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.)
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.)
George LaMar was an Army Air Corps recruit in training when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The population of the west coast was immediately put on edge by the fear of further attacks. He was put into a squadron that consisted of old, slow bombers that went out on anti-submarine patrols with a curious payload.
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.)
When at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Jesus Cepeda would attend mass on Sunday with his friend from back home in Guam. As he waited for him on deck, he heard a big rumbling noise, like hundreds of planes at once, but as he searched the sky, he could see nothing. Then he turned to the north.(This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
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.)
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.)
What was his state of mind when he parachuted into the darkness and landed in the shallow ocean on the coast of India? George LaMar answers that by invoking the state of mind of the entire nation during the early days of the war. Despite all that, he was ready for it to end when it did.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
Charles Harris was very much interested in aviation, so he volunteered for the Army Air Corps during the patriotic wave that swept the country after Pearl Harbor. He never got to be a pilot because he suffered a freak accident during physical training in sub-zero weather. He endured, however, determined to contribute to the war effort.
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.)
It was just the pilot and him when a storm hit the plane they were ferrying to India. George LaMar, who was the flight engineer, wound up bailing out and landing in utter darkness in shallow water. With his flashlight, all he could see around him was water. Part 2 of 4.
Hampered by an accident suffered in training, Charles Harris still found a role to play as an instructor on the Norden bombsight. Eventually, he grew tired of the classroom and asked to be put on the line, training crews departing for the Pacific theater.
In the early days of the war, George LaMar was an engineer/gunner who was assigned to deliver British bombers to Chiang Kai-shek's forces who were battling the Japanese invaders in China. The two man crews followed a long tortuous route which included a refueling stop in an extremely remote location. Part 1 of 4.
The men were at the mess hall getting their breakfast when they heard a series of loud booms. They knew immediately what it must be and when Roy Mooney rushed to see what was happening, his fears were confirmed. The planes that were causing the destruction at Pearl Harbor were marked with the Rising Sun of Japan.
His first bombing mission was memorable because of the anti-aircraft shells bursting around the plane. As the engineer/gunner on a B-25, George LaMar inspected the plane after every mission and what he found in the front wheel well was alarming.