10:35 | Alexander Jefferson had flown nearly every day since he arrived in Europe. The casualty rate among airmen was statistically very high, and at the P-51 Alexander Jefferson flew didn't have the survival functionality we might expect on an aircraft today. So when he is shot down after his 18th mission, it was a miracle he survived, but what came after would be equally worrying.
Keywords : Toulon France Radar Station Target Shot down bail out Frankfurt Germany Geneva Convention Interrogation Robert Daniels Stalag Luft III
Alexander Jefferson is a Detroit native with a very notable lineage. Like many in his family, he’d attend Clark College in Atlanta, but when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred he answered the call and found himself on the path to be trained as a pilot, something that had never been offered to black men in the military before.
A new program was set up to train black men to fly, and Alexander Jefferson, having some college education, was one of the early participants. As black men, they were already under a lot of scrutiny, but he describes how their instructors helped push them through the difficult training.
As the U.S. continued operations in Europe, Alexander Jefferson would graduate from his flight training and make way for an airbase in Ramitelli Italy. It was from there he would get his first taste of combat, flying as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The mission of the Red Tails was to protect the Air Corps' bombers as they struck vital targets across Europe. Alexander Jefferson recalls one such mission over Ploesti where the incoming flak took down one of their B-17s.
Alexander Jefferson recalls his captivity in Stalag Luft III, camp southeast of Berlin. The war was far from over so the Germans were on edge about potential sabotage of their camp, but Alexander recalls his own interesting treatment there.
There aren't a lot of perks to being the captive of the German Army, and as the Allied powers made their way closer to Berlin, the prisoners would need to be relocated during the harsh winter. Alexander Jefferson describes the journey to Stalag 7A and his life as a prisoner.
After 9 months a prisoner, Alexander Jefferson was liberated, the war was over, and he was on his way home. In spite of all that he and the other Tuskegee Airmen accomplished, the U.S. was still unwelcoming. He describes the years following the war, and the lasting impact the Tuskegee Airmen had on not only the military, but the country.
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.)
Fred Scheer, who was a POW in Germany, collected and published the stories of other POW's and this is one from Lester Schrenk, who was held in a Luftwaffe camp. One day, the men were given two Red Cross parcels each. This was unheard of, but there was a catch.
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 escaping POW's were walking westward toward the Allied lines when they began to notice white flags on the houses. It was over. Picked up by advancing GI's, Fred Scheer made his way to Reims and then Camp Lucky Strike. Soon, he was on a ship home. Part 3 of 3.
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.
En route through the Pacific on a liberty ship, Julius Rainwater heard Tokyo Rose threaten his convoy on her broadcast. It was an empty threat and he made it to Anguar, an island near Peleliu, where he set up a radio communications station. There were still Japanese in the hills, so they had guard duty and, when it was his turn, he was sure he saw something creeping up in the darkness.
He'd never been up in a plane. Joe Turner was part of the crew at an Air Force base in the Philippines and a sympathetic pilot offered to take him along on a flight to Japan. It went well until the word came from the cockpit. Put on your Mae West and your parachute.
Julius Rainwater had a chance to meet his brother after the war ended with the Japanese surrender. It was in Inchon that the two crossed paths. Julius would go on to Okinawa where he waited for the points system to allow him to go home. He made very good use of his time while he was waiting. Finally, the day came.
One of the most memorable things for Sherman Howard about his Pacific tour was the initiation ceremony at the crossing of the equator. Just don't ask for details. His supply ship was in Tokyo Bay just weeks after the two atomic bombs ended the war.
His unit had just got to the front when Fred Scheer's squad was sent back on ammo detail. When they returned, everyone was gone, and as they searched through the hedgerows, they began to take German mortar fire. Then they heard, "Hands up, my boys!"
Joe Turner wanted to be a pilot, but they didn't need any more pilots when he joined the Army Air Force, so he became part of the ground forces. By the time he got to his assignment in the Philippines, the Japanese had surrendered and the task became one of recovering equipment.
He'd already been studying radio communications, so the Army sent Julius Rainwater to the Signal Corps. He learned Morse Code and became adept at copying coded messages. Most of the men were from the northeast, but the Georgia boy made fast friends while training.
Fred Scheer had a big problem. He was captured by the Germans as soon as he arrived at the front and he was Jewish. He was determined to conceal this as he was moved deeper behind their lines. Both he and his captors were very young, and some of them were almost friendly. At Reims, he was put on a train headed to Germany.
Sherman Howard tried to enlist in the Marines, but he was too small, they said, so he went to the Navy in 1943. They had him on US coast patrol in a PBY and then put him to work as a mess cook but he wanted to go to sea. He shipped out for the Pacific in a retrofitted supply ship.
The prisoners were loaded into boxcars and sent from Reims into Germany. Fred Scheer recalls the two transit camps through which he passed, each divided with a Russian side to the camp. The Russians were treated very badly and Scheer knew that if they discovered he was Jewish, an even worse fate awaited him.
Starting at Guadalcanal. the USS Volans distributed supplies to fighting forces and ships in the South Pacific. Sherman Howard was a striker, or assistant, to a carpenter's mate. It was their job to fix nearly anything on the ship that needed repair.
The destination was unknown when Juius Rainwater boarded the liberty ship and headed out into the Pacific. The first stop was Hawaii, where he had a chance meeting on the street with his brother, who was also in the service. When he shipped out again, he asked the captain if he could start a newspaper on board the ship. Good idea.
The guards at the POW camp were mostly old men, too old for the front. Fred Scheer details the daily life and struggles at the small camp where he was interred. Food was a big concern. Red Cross parcels were a Godsend, but you could also utilize some outside sources, if you were willing to take the risk.
What went on in the decrypting room and why couldn't Japan break the code? It was the Navajo code talkers, says Julius Rainwater, a radio operator. He was not a big drinker, so when the officers brought out the booze on VE Day, it got a little out of hand.