4:52 | If Bill Richardson had failed the physical examination, several of his buddies would have failed, too. The reason would have made that somewhat embarrassing. They were only taking five men for the Marines that day and he was the fifth, so his buddy from back home had to settle for the Navy. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
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Before he left for boot camp, Bill Richardson got what he thought was a short haircut. Not short enough as it turned out. He didn't have any trouble getting up in the morning, which saved him some trouble. As a Marine, he knew he would have to qualify on the rifle range. Not qualifying would have been unthinkable. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
After basic training, it was off to Quantico for artillery school. Bill Richardson learned every job on the guns and then it was time for a train ride to California. The Marines had it better than the Army on that trip, at least at lunch time. The last training before deployment took place off the coast at San Diego. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
It was a small, uncomfortable ship, an LST. Bill Richardson remembers how the trip to Hawaii turned into an ordeal once the convoy was hit by a huge storm. Two burials at sea focused his mind pretty well. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The food on the LST was meager, so when Bill Richardson got to Hawaii, a simple treat felt like a lot more. His first assault was at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. It wasn't what he expected and that was a good thing. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
As Bill Richardson was preparing for the Saipan and Tinian operation, he witnessed the West Loch incident in Pearl Harbor. A number of ships exploded while at anchor. What could have caused this? (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
There was only light resistance going into Saipan for Bill Richardson and his Marine artillery battery. The island was much different than the tropical paradise he found in the Marshall Islands. There was jungle and there were Japanese batteries firing back at him. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
From the information they had and the mock-up of the island they saw, the Marines figured Iwo Jima would be an easy operation. Bill Richardson went ashore with his artillery battery as soon as they could get on the crowded beach. It was immediately apparent that it was going to be a monumental battle. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The Japanese were so well dug in on Iwo Jima that the field artillery couldn't get to them. The flag had been raised on Mt. Suribachi but there was a long way to go to secure the island. When he wasn't wondering where the Japanese rounds were going to land, Bill Richardson had to deal with the cold, wet conditions. Part 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
They were beat up. They were tired. They were dirty. The Marine artillery unit had spent weeks in the misery of Iwo Jima and they were now heading for some rest, but there was one problem. Their transport was a Merchant Marine vessel and their treatment was not what they deserved. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Bill Richardson was training in Hawaii for the final assault, Japan. Then came the great news about the atomic bomb. He could go the other direction across the Pacific. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
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.
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.
During one mission, B-17 pilot George Stamps was startled when another formation of bombers passed through his at the same altitude. That was scary but the Germans had something that was also very frightening, the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet fighter.
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.
Rufus Dalton was at the Maginot Line bouncing mortar shells off an old citadel. His unit was suddenly pulled and sent to take Patton's place in the line after the general was summoned to the Bulge. Once they got there, a fierce ten day battle ensued due to the last major German offensive, Operation Nordwind. Part 1 of 2.
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 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.
It was a fierce week long battle for the city of Heilbronn. Even though they were only delaying the inevitable, the Germans weren't beat, yet. Forward Observer Rufus Dalton went into the demolished city looking for a rifle company he was instructed to find. It was an eerie setting with the city in flames all around him. Part 2 of 2.
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.
The men of the 92nd Infantry Division had to fight on three fronts. They had to fight the Germans. They had to fight the racial animosity of their fellow soldiers and commanders. And they had to fight Congress, which wanted to maintain segregation in the Army. Lyle Gittens made it through all that with an undampened spirit.
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.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
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.
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.
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 Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
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 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.)
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.
The tree bursts were tremendous. Clayton Byrd was hunkered down in a foxhole with a newly arrived replacement when one exploded close by, seriously injuring the new man. Byrd was carrying him back to the aid station when a green lieutenant told him to stop and return to the line.
Ed Marriott's role in the Beach Battalion was in hydrographics, which meant he had to assess water and beach conditions and give a green light to boats to come in. Before the D-Day invasion, he was training near Slapton Sands when a training exercise was attacked by German E-boats, resulting in over 700 deaths.
Most Germans knew it. The end was getting near and, as long as you didn't run into any SS troops, the fighting was minimal. Arnold Whittaker had made it down to Czechoslovakia and, in the last week of the war, a German Tiger tank stood between him and some refreshing beverages.
No one could do anything about the dead on the first day at Normandy. There was too much fire from above from 88's and machine guns. Eventually, they could be collected, as GI's made it up the bluff and took the fight off the sand. Ed Marriott was a sailor in the Beach Battalion, there to manage the boat traffic once he could get out of his foxhole.
When Arnold Whittaker got to the front at the Battle of the Bulge, he saw mounds in a field heaped with snow. As he got closer, he realized that each mound was a dead GI. Someone's buddies were now just a chore for the support troops.