2:07 | In the Army Specialized Training Program, Bill Newman was placed at Penn State, where he was to get some education that the Army could later use. The important thing about this was the male-female ratio at the university. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
Keywords : Bill Newman Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
Bill Newman had some experience with coastal artillery from college ROTC, so, when he was drafted, they put him in the field artillery. Coastal artillery had been rendered irrelevant in the new age of air power, but there was new weaponry to learn. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
He was in anti-aircraft training, but Bill Newman was selected for the communications group so he didn't fire guns at towed targets. He did have to make the grueling 50 mile final hike. Then he was picked for the Army Specialized Training Program, which placed soldiers in college. That didn't last very long, since every soldier was needed for the coming invasion of Europe. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
In his final training before shipping out to England, Bill Newman, and most of the men in his unit, failed spectacularly at rappelling. No matter, they departed on a converted cruise ship and set up camp across the pond and waited. D-Day came and they were still waiting. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
He had experience on small boats, so Bill Newman did not get sick crossing the English Channel on an LST. It was weeks after D-Day, and his division set up camp just inland from Omaha Beach, where they waited. Their trucks were needed for the Red Ball Express, so they were sidelined for a while. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
Bill Newman was a communications specialist with a field artillery unit when he joined the push across France. He didn't face much enemy fire at his first battle, but he did face a problem related to the unrelenting rain. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
The song rang out from the rail cars loaded with American soldiers. It was "The Yellow Rose of Texas," and Bill Newman knew instantly what unit it was. He was in the communications group of a field artillery battalion, so he was often stuck with KP and guard duty. He vividly remembers his first night on guard duty in a combat zone. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
The German fortifications at the Siegfried Line were formidable. Some were centuries old and some were built right into the shops of the towns. Bill Newman recalls the Thanksgiving dinner that got delayed several times until it was a problem in itself. At Saarlautern, he was pressed into front line duty after the forward observers were injured. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
The going was slow and German artillery cut the field telephone lines nearly every night. Bill Newman describes how he and his partner would find the break and repair the line. During the Battle of the Bulge, he was doing just that one day when he was startled by a tap on the shoulder. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
Bill Newman describes how American ingenuity solved some big problems during the push across France into Germany. First up, the hedgerows. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
Bill Newman remembers fondly the family he stayed with in Felsberg, France, just before the Battle of the Bulge. There was little action at his position during the German attack, but the extreme cold was an enemy in itself. This was made worse by the fact that the Americans had no proper cold weather gear. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
There was little action when Bill Newman's unit reached the Rhine. The Germans had fled to the other side but they did manage to blow the bridge he was waiting to cross. He made it across at Remagen and moved into the Ruhr Valley. It was there that he ran into a hometown friend, who recounted to him the tale of the ill-fated 106th Division at the Battle of the Bulge. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
During the campaign in the Ruhr Pocket, Bill Newman could tell that the Germans were disheartened. Their failure at the Battle of the Bulge had sealed their fate. His field artillery unit had a new proximity shell that could clear the battlefield of all enemy personnel. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
As a communications specialist with a field artillery unit, Bill Newman sometimes had to carry half of a hundred pound radio on his back. He had other duties and when he and his partner were clearing buildings in a town, he had a strange encounter with a German child. When he picked up a pack of bazooka rounds, he wound up using them, to his own amazement. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
It was a standoff that didn't look good. Three German tanks were threatening Bill Newman's unit and air power was summoned and promised. The tanks left but the P-47's arrived and, to the horror of everyone, they circled and came in for an attack run on their own countrymen. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
The captain asked, where is A Company? Bill Newman had just seen them and he agreed to take some men and go back and retrieve them. This led to some grief given by his comrades. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
They were holed up in a basement for the night when the lookout yelled down for everyone to come up. What Bill Newman saw when he came up meant that the war was over. For a while after that, his unit was assigned to guard a Polish slave labor camp.(This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
He was glad to be home, but Bill Newman was distressed that, after the campaign in Europe, he was slated to be part of the Japan invasion force that was gearing up. Thankfully, that operation never happened and he was able to finish his degree and raise a family. (This interview made possible with the support of NORMAN PICKER SR.)
The food was meager in the POW camp, but one of the men in the room with Crawford Hicks had been a cook and so they agreed to pool all they were given by the Germans, along with what they received in parcels, so that he could repurpose it into decent meals. The men relieved the monotony of camp life with lively talent shows.
The Ranger battalion was supposed to make it to a certain point in Italy by nightfall, but rain and mud slowed them down. The result was that the Germans were already there and had a distinct advantage. Jack Roan describes the humiliating surrender of hundreds of Rangers that followed.
They heard the Russian guns approaching from the East and it wasn't long before the men of Stalag Luft III were shipped on a train to Nuremberg. It was there in a freezing outdoor camp that Crawford Hicks saw his friend strip down in the snow to bathe at a water spigot. There was a good reason.
He was sick with dysentery, but Jack Roan was determined to escape. The Germans were marching prisoners aimlessly on the road, so security was lax. He and two others made their move during a big storm. They hid in the woods and took potatoes from fields until they made contact with allies.
The end of the war was imminent, but the Germans were still marching POW's around the countryside. It was the forces of GEN George Patton that liberated the temporary camp where Crawford Hicks was listening to the approaching guns. Then started a whirlwind of activity for the newly freed Americans.
The morning after his capture, B-17 pilot Crawford Hicks woke up in a German jail. After interrogation, he was sent to Stalag Luft III, the POW camp at which the "Great Escape" had occurred several months earlier. On his arrival, he was astounded when one of the guards addressed the arrivals with an unexpected accent.
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.)
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.)
B-17 pilot Crawford Hicks was returning from his tenth mission when he spotted the German fighter coming in with guns blazing. The plane was crippled by hits on the engines so they had to bail out. After the others had jumped, he looked down through the hatch to the ground far below, then he fell.
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.)
With a commandeered truck, newly liberated POW Bob Honeycutt made three trips into Belgium, loaded down with as many freed US airmen as he could carry. He'd lost half his weight and was eaten up with lice, but he'd made it. When he got back home to Chattanooga, both he and his family had a big surprise. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
The POW's were allowed to do whatever they wanted all day except for two roll calls. Crawford Hicks was kept in the same camp where the "Great Escape" had occurred and he describes some of the details of that incident and why he was ordered not to try to do the same.
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.)
It was his 29th mission, a bombing raid over Austria, when Bob Honeycutt's luck ran out. First they lost an engine. Then, when they dropped behind the formation, they were swarmed by German fighters. As the gunners fell one by one, a rocket finally set the plane on fire and blew him right out into the air. Part 1 of 6. (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.)
After a hearty breakfast with his German guard, Bob Honeycutt left the comfort of the Alps, where he had bailed out, for the misery of the German POW system. First came the mind games of the interrogation. Then, he wound up at Stalag Luft IV, one of the worst camps, where he learned new meanings for "cold" and "hungry." Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
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.)
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.)
The little known "death march" of the men of Stalag Luft IV lasted 86 days. That was when an Allied tank column rolled up and the Russian prisoners took their revenge on a particularly sadistic German guard. With a friend, Bob Honeycutt set out toward a small town, where they spotted a truck in a garage. Mighty tempting. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
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.)
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 eight months in the prison camp, Bob Honeycutt could hear the guns of the Russian Army approaching, but he was not going to be free anytime soon. The German guards forced 10,000 men out of the gate and onto the road, where they began a forced march, with no known destination. The deprivation and cruelty was mind numbing. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
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.)
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.)
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 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.)
Injured and dazed from his bail out at 18,000 feet, Bob Honeycutt was taken into the home of an Austrian family until the local officials came to arrest him. He was cared for so well, he had to wonder, why were these civilians treating him like a friend? Part 2 of 6. (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.)