7:53 | 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.
Keywords : Crawford Hicks pilot Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Germany fighter ball turret gunner French Zippo Nienburg
He didn't care for farm life, though the food his family grew was handy during the Depression. Crawford Hicks loved two things growing up, reading and airplanes. He badly wanted to fly, so when Pearl Harbor happened, he enlisted in the Air Corps.
As a new Air Corps cadet, Crawford Hicks began his training in a biplane and then progressed through a series of more powerful aircraft. His first instructor got rid of his fear with a bold maneuver and, despite his shaky landings at times, he got his wings and his 2nd Lieutenant bars.
The first time he saw the B-17, Crawford Hicks thought there was no way he could fly that thing. It was huge, but with patient instructors and lots of practice, he became proficient at it. The last stop in his training cycle was in Texas, where he learned the art of the bomb run.
Crawford Hicks had trained thoroughly as a B-17 pilot and had assembled his crew. It was quite a thrill for him as a 2nd Lieutenant to sign for a brand new aircraft and deliver it to England.
B-17 pilot Crawford Hicks flew his first mission as a co-pilot so he could get exposed to the flak. When it came up, he was scared, but he knew he had to get over it, and he did.
He had some close calls in his B-17, one of which left him with a hot souvenir, a piece of flak. Crawford Hicks recounts several of these incidents and tries to describe his calm state of mind, which got him through the missions. The officers received a glass of whiskey after the flights, but he always gave his to an enlisted man.
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.
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.
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.
There was a lot of ingenuity in the captured flyers. Crawford Hicks describes the clever way that "clipped" wings were made from powdered milk cans, so they all had a distinctive insignia. He also tells how the men gave themselves an unlikely morale boost and how they got along with the German guards.
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.
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.
He was still eligible for the planned Japan campaign, but Crawford Hicks was relieved when the atomic bomb was dropped while he was on his honeymoon. He went back to school and though times were tough, he persisted and had a fulfilling career.
Crawford Hicks imparts some of the things he has learned in life from his experience as a pilot, a prisoner of war, a lawyer and a husband.
He was the "scribe" of the outfit. When he returned from the war in the Pacific, David Greene had a list of names and addresses and he organized a reunion and it grew from there. Others in the group took on the job each time so that reunions were held all over the country.
After Bastogne, it was a different war for Dan McBride. He finally got a shower, brief and cold though it was. His airborne unit moved around on various brief assignments and found itself in Austria at Berchtesgaden, Hitler's mountain retreat. It was there where they got some big news.
There were some guys who grew quite a bit while they were in the Marines. David Greene was stuck at 5', 6" and was always on the end of the left side of the formations. He was tall enough to ship out for the Pacific, though, as a radioman.
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.
When Dan McBride returned from the war, he had some long talks with his dad and they reminisced over talks years ago, when knowledge about the Army was first passed on. He was grateful for the advice he received when he got to boot camp, specifically, what to do when the instructor dropped the dummy hand grenade.
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.)
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.
The Japanese awoke one day to the sight of 850 ships off shore at Iwo Jima. The naval bombardment was not enough, though. Marine radioman David Greene remembers eating his ration one day sitting next to a 16" solid projectile that had skidded to a stop on the beach. He never saw the kamikazes that plagued the ships, but he did see and hear the Japanese version of the Buzz Bomb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Greene tells the story of the time he was nearly buried by a Japanese artillery shell on Iwo Jima. His services as a radioman were not needed once ashore and this led to him being maybe the only Marine who never fired a shot on the island.
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 Army Air Corps had shuffled Ubert Terrell from school to school, based on his high aptitude test scores. He wound up as a thoroughly educated C-47 crew chief in the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron. He became good friends with a nucleus of men who were together through the war.
It was after the war had ended that David Greene was called on to try and signal a large cargo ship with semaphore. There was a typhoon warning and the sailors were frantically signaling. Unfortunately, he was a Marine radioman and his semaphore skills were a bit lacking.
Ubert Terrell was training to be a C-47 crew chief at the Douglas aircraft plant. While there, he also went to radio school and navigation school. He had absorbed enough knowledge about the airplane and it's controls that he was able to avert near disaster while flying with an inexperienced pilot. It was only his second time in an airplane.
He was in headquarters company, so Marine radioman David Greene was the first to return to a ship after the battle was over. After getting cleaned up and getting a new uniform, he was happy to be back on board after the long ordeal. He enjoyed being aboard ship, as long as you didn't get the bottom bunk.
As a crew chief on a C-47, Ubert Terrell and his crew spent a lot of time training with paratroopers stateside before traveling to England to prepare for the big invasion. While there, he saw some of the devastation visited on London.
There were four boys and no girls in the family, so David Greene was experienced with laundry and cooking before he was drafted in 1943. He picked the Marines when given the choice because of a rather odd reason.
The battle hardened men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who had enough points to go home, were transferred into the 17th Airborne temporarily. This stuck in their craw and they refused to wear the patch and caused some ruckus on the way home. Dan McBride had a hand in that.
He had some brothers who enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but Ubert Terrell had to be "invited" by the president to join up. He already knew how to handle a rifle because he had to hunt to put meat on the table.
David Greene recalls hearing about the atomic bombs while aboard ship somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. When he was departing for home after his turn at occupation duty, he was asked if he wanted to pick something from a big pile of Japanese rifles.
It was an M-1 rifle that he grabbed out of supply. Dan McBride found out he grabbed the wrong one, later on in a firefight. His Airborne outfit had just marched through an unknown town, dug in and were waiting for the Germans they were told were coming. What's the name of this place? Bastogne.
There was a table size mock up of Iwo Jima onboard ship. David Green saw it, so the geography of the place was no surprise. As the Marines worked their way up the island, the aim was to keep the line solid from shore to shore. He remembers strafing runs on the enemy and the opportunistic naval bombardment from ships that stayed through the battle.
Dan McBride was dug in at Bastogne, but he was lucky enough to be on the relatively quiet side of town. It was mostly small probes but there was one big final assault. He describes how the fierce battle seemed in slow motion to his perception, the altered state of combat. After the Germans withdrew, the GI's moved to counter attack. He stood up to move after a tank round burst overhead and he fell flat on his face, unable to walk. "Mac? You hit again?"
They figured no more than a week for Iwo Jima, but it didn't go that way. Radioman David Greene explains why it was important to take the island and why the radio wasn't really used once the Marines were ashore.