8:57 | It was his 30th mission over Europe, and his most memorable. Dr. 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
Keywords : Strafing Strafe Marshalling yard shot down bail out capture Germany
Dr. 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.
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.
Dr. 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 Dr. 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.
Dr. 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, Dr. 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 Dr. 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 Dr. 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 Dr. 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.
Dr. 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, Dr. 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.
Upon his capture, Dr. 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 Dr. 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. Dr. 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.
Dr. 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.
After occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean stayed in the Army Reserve. The Lieutenant was destined for a higher rank in Korea, but lingering health problems from his days in the Philippines kept him at home. He went to work as an engineer, always remembering his great friends from the military.
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.
Radar officer Howard Dean became a specialist in gun laying radar, a system which linked radar with the fire control on an anti-aircraft battery. The Army wanted his engineering talent at MIT, designing radar units, but he wanted into the shooting war. Eventually he got his orders to ship out for Leyte.
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.
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.
The preparation for the Japan invasion was underway when the atomic bomb made it unnecessary. The crew on Bill Pontow's LSM was unsure about the news, but they were glad not to be invading the enemy's home. They knew that every Japanese would be fighting them with everything they had.
The Navy V-12 Program had Milton Kassel studying in college. On graduation, he would get a Navy commission, but the Navy had other ideas. They put him on active duty, made a 90 day wonder out of him, and sent him to serve on a patrol craft in the Aleutian Islands.
When Bill Pontow's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was still wreckage everywhere. Crews were working to clear passage through the capsized ships. After that sobering experience, he headed for the Philippines for the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the landing on Leyte.
Bill Pontow knew how men could get spooked fighting in the Pacific, especially from kamikazes. He made it through the war without losing his cool, but he had a tough time adjusting when he returned home. Eventually, reunions with his Navy brothers proved to be a big help.
When Milton Kassel and his shipmates heard about the atomic bomb, they didn't believe it was real. It was real enough that they were soon on their way back to the States. After a short leave he got another assignment, from the cold of Alaska to tropical Panama.
During some down time, Howard Dean made a boat excursion to Corregidor, where he saw the entrance to the Manila Tunnels, a vast underground complex. What he later learned about it caused some surprise. The radar officer had another surprise when he drove his jeep near a combat zone.
Shortly after the main landing on Leyte, radar officer Howard Dean came ashore. He had no assignment, yet, so they sent him to a nearby anti-aircraft battery. He began to observe gunners on the ships in the bay, who were undisciplined and shooting up the shore when they fired.
The invasion operation became an occupation operation after the war suddenly ended. Howard Dean was in charge of a radar unit, which he had to get off the ship and into a safe place ashore in Japan. He found a Signal Corps station where he could put it, but the officers there took off for leave as soon as he got there. This led to a potentially embarrassing situation.
In the waters around Okinawa, ships were getting battered by kamikazes. His LSM had landed it's cargo, so Bill Pontow was assigned fire and rescue duty. He recalls an eerie incident aboard a stricken hospital ship as he searched below, unsuccessfully, for survivors.
While on occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean took a train to Kyoto. The station master tried to clear out an entire car for him, but he refused and insisted the civilians be allowed to stay. Soon after this, he became part of a massive operation to account for all the equipment scattered across the Pacific.
Bill Pontow was a boatswain's mate on an LSM, responsible for all topside duties. At general quarters, he became a gunner on a 20 mm gun. A frequent target of that gun was the Japanese kamikazes that swarmed the American ships, beginning in the Philippines and increasing at Okinawa.
Howard Dean was an engineering student at Georgia Tech when he was turned down by the Navy. He settled for the Army and they sent him back to Georgia Tech, where he finished his degree, then they sent him to Boston for a Harvard and MIT program studying radar.
B-17 radio operator and waist gunner Marvin O'Neal recalls his first mission, which involved a lot of flak and a lot of praying. He entered the war in Europe near the end and, on his last mission, he saw a German jet fighter streaking through the sky. Could they win the war with that thing?
Radar officer Howard Dean was in the 12th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, but he didn't know it yet. He'd arrived in the Pacific with no real assignment, and was attached to an anti-aircraft battery for a while. Then he was told to load a radar unit on a ship and prepare for a landing. Where was that going to be?