8:16 | As the war began, the effects hit close to home as his older brother would be sent overseas. It wouldn’t be long before the draft came for him too.
Keywords : Brother Family Draft Pearl Harbor high school
Harold Brown was raised in a multicultural neighborhood in Minneapolis, MN. They didn't have much during the Great Depression, but he remembers life being good for what it was. As a young man, he caught interest in flying, but getting lessons in those days for a teen would be an expensive undertaking.
Harold Brown discusses the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen. Previously, black men had been prohibited from serving as pilots, but thanks to the advocacy of people like A. Philip Randolph and General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., funds were set to train them to fly. This was only the first hurdle for them to overcome.
The initial class sizes were large, and Harold Brown remembers how many people were washing out. This new program was under a lot of scrutiny and the Tuskegee Airmen had a lot to prove, and their basic training would be the first step on a long journey.
Harold Brown describes one of the Tuskegee instructors, Gilbert Cargill, and one of his early flight experiences.
As the fires of WWII burned both in Europe and the Pacific, Harold Brown knew he’d be drafted, and enlisting would at least give him some better options in an assignment. He didn’t even know about the new program, but he was excited to learn that they were training new pilots, so he threw his hat in.
Once he had gotten enough flight hours under his belt, it was time for Harold Brown to move on to something a little more powerful. He describes moving into a P-40 Warhawk and learning the more complex maneuvers that would keep him alive overseas, as well as some of the men that made an impact on him during training.
The training took many weeks but Harold Brown was finally bound for Europe. He describes the journey overseas on their way to Ramitelli, Italy where he'd witness how dangerous war could be, even if he wasn't in combat.
Fighting against the Germans in Europe was nearing its conclusion in early 1945, but Harold Brown recalls still seeing some of their pilots and flak on his missions. He was tasked with protecting bombers so that they could destroy high-value targets and help Allied forces get closer to Berlin.
Harold Brown had a few missions under his belt, but on his twelfth mission he ran into a technical problem. Thanks to some quick thinking and good training, he was able to come out unscathed.
When they weren't flying, Harold Brown and the other airmen would pass time doing things like writing home or playing games. He describes one game of poker before one fateful mission where he'd get his hands on a very nice pair of boots.
It was his 30th mission over Europe, and his most memorable. Harold Brown describes this mission where his plane went down and he had to bail out. Like many pilots who survived such an encounter, he was captured by the locals. Part 1 of 2
Upon his capture, Harold Brown would be thrown into a cell alone until the Germans had gathered others to be sent to the prison camp. He recalls a moment where he would be under a strafing run much like he had been doing before, but luckily he survived it. His treatment wasn't great, but the war was coming to an end so he knew he just had to push through it. Part 2 of 2
The Germans took Harold Brown to Nuremberg where he'd be sat down in front of a well spoken Officer. He recalls the interrogation where the questions were quite specific, but he realized they could've gotten that information in any number of ways. Then, he was reminded that this war was coming to a close.
It took a couple weeks to get from Nuremberg to Stalag 13. When he arrived, there were already many enlisted-men taken prisoner, and their supplies were already running thin. As he figured, it wasn't long before General Patton came to liberate them.
He'd been liberated from Stalag 13 and the war in Europe had come to a close. Harold Brown was lucky to be alive, but he still had to wait for the C-47s to remove some of the other thousands of men from theater. Little did he expect, the journey home would be just as dangerous as the war itself.
Harold Brown spent a couple decades in the military after WWII, and recalls some of those experiences fondly, but wants people to know about the triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen most importantly.
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 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.
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.
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.
He was trained in the Army Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic, specializing in hydraulics. Ralph Way would put his training to work in Karachi, which was in India at the time. He serviced cargo planes flying over the Himalayas to supply the war effort against the Japanese in China.
While in training for the US Merchant Marine, Roy Walker had to be pushed into the water. He couldn't swim, but when he was at sea, he didn't even think about it. The ships he sailed on kept the war effort supplied with fuel and ammunition.
He wanted to choose his service instead of getting drafted, so Curtis James went for the Marine Corps in 1943. As part of the V-12 program, he attended college for a year, then had his training and got his commission. Assigned to the occupation forces in Japan, the friendliness of the Japanese was a big surprise to him.
Stationed in Japan after the war, Curtis James had the opportunity to see the devastation at both atomic bomb sites. It was hard to believe. Marines went into occupation duty with a lot of animosity for the Japanese people, but were surprised to find out how friendly they were.
Flying over the Hump, the Himalayas, tested the abilities of both pilots and planes. The maneuvers required made small loads a necessity. Ralph Way was part of the ground crew, but he needed flight time to get the flight pay, so he would hitch rides to get in his hours.
McBrayer talks more about his Okinawa experiences. He brings up that his crew hauled dead Japanese soldiers aboard his ship to loot them, and how he escorted the broken ships back to Guam and Saipan. He also remembers how his ship was hit.
After a long and perilous journey through the Atlantic Ocean, McBrayer and the rest of his crew was able to make it safely to North Africa. From there he escorted tanks to Aruba, and talks about how sometimes he would go back to the ship's home base located in Northern Virginia.
The men at the air base in India were due for some badly needed R&R, so they were shipped off to a rest camp. Ralph Way remembers watching the monkeys in the trees and thinking how nice it would be to have one of those monkeys. How, exactly, could you make that happen?
Roy Walker had a pretty good set up on one trip. The Merchant Marine steward had cornered the market on decks of cards and Coca-Colas, plus he got tips out of the kitty because he ran the officers mess. He also had an identical twin brother on the crew, which could lead to some confusion.
Jack McBrayer was born in Birmingham, Georgia, and wanted to be a sailor all his life. When he joined the Navy, he had to use dummy guns during basic training because they were underfunded at the time. He talks about his shakedown cruise to Bermuda, and how it felt being right at the heart of a hurricane.
On a visit to Miami, Clyde Milam saw Navy personnel training and immediately sought out a recruiter. He was very young, but he was ready. It was 1943 and he was eager to contribute. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Ralph Way was an aircraft mechanic in India, maintaining cargo planes. He recalls one incident in which a pilot couldn't tell if the landing gear was up or down. That was resolved successfully, but there was another incident regarding propellers which did not end so well.
The men of the destroyer escort USS Straus were very busy. It was their job to spread smokescreens to protect the fleet from kamikazes and they were credited with one shoot down of a suicide plane. Bombarding coastlines was another important job. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
The streamer was flying from the bridge. It was the heading home streamer and the men of the USS Straus were overjoyed, including Clyde Milam. He was soon to discover that his short stop at Nagasaki had left him with a terrible problem. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It took four days to send him to war by plane, but when the time came to return from India, Ralph Way spent a month on a ship. At home, he got married and went to college, thanks to the educational benefits from Uncle Sam.