years have passed since I entered service to my country--this will be to the
best of my recollection as of Dec. 9th 1998. On July 21, 1942 I enlisted in the
Army Air Force--said my good-byes to family and my girl. I was shipped to Keesler Field,
Ms. Boy! was it hot there for a Yankee like me.
I completed aircraft mechanic school by December and was promptly
shipped to Seattle, Wa. for training on the B-17, along with my good friend Eddie Pearce,
who was to play an important role in my life.
After completion of training on the B-17 we were shipped to Las Vegas,
Nv. for gunnery school. By this time I should have had a hint to where we were
headed--but we took things one day at a time. I think it was some time in March 1943 when
we finished gunnery school and was shipped to Salt Lake City, Utah where we were
interviewed I was asked if I would like to go for Cadet Pilot training. I thought it would
be a step up the ladder so said o.k. They sent me to a pool to wait to be shipped out. I
waited a week and nothing happened so I got itchy and asked to be sent on to where all my
friends had gone. They cut my orders for Ephrata, Wa. When I got there all my friends from
previous schools were there, including my buddy, Ed Pearce. Finally they started making up
bomber crews. I met my pilot, co-pilot navigator and bombardier. They were all nice guys.
I was 22 at the time and both pilots were only 20. They made me 1st engineer, Eddie Pearce
2nd engineer, Ray Leveille lst radio operator, Cecil Holliday-ball turret gunner, George
Jahnke the left waist gunner and Fred Smart the tail gunner. The age of our crew averaged
20 years old. Believe me, 1st phase training can be a KILLER. We lost several crews
before we advanced to 2nd phase training at Geiger Field, Wa. At Geiger we started the
famous 390th Bomb. Group. After the war it became the 390th Missile Group based at Tuscon,
Az. We earned two Presidential citations--one for the October 14 Schwienfurt Raid.
Third phase training was accomplished at Great Falls, Mt. during the month of June 1943.
At the beginning of July we were scheduled to go overseas to England. We were to fly our
planes to Salina, Kansas: have a six day furlough to get home and be back and have a new
plane waiting for us to fly overseas. When we returned we found we still had old 991, the
plane we started with in 2nd phase training--an early F Model. We did have four new
engines. We loved that old plane. It was built on Boeing jigs and flew real well. A couple
of days later we left Salina for Bangor, Maine. We got a call by radio that the weather
was bad over Bangor and to land at Syracuse, N.Y. My girl was living there and I had just
given her an engagement ring while I was home-- so I got to see her again. After Syracuse
we flew to Bangor where someone cut our deicing boots even with a guard on duty. I taped
them up with masking tape and we flew to Gander, Newfoundland where they were repaired. A
couple of days later we took off for Scotland. I remember topping off the gas tanks three
times to be sure we had enough fuel. We took off about 5:00 p.m.--about 2:00 a.m. our
navigator got one three star fix. About seven a.m. he said we should be over the coast of
Ireland. We dropped down through the overcast and there IT WAS! What a beautiful sight. We
landed at Prestwick, Scotland. We stayed there a couple of days before going on to
Framlingham, England. While in England we had lots of more training--gunnery, formation
The first mission was Bonn, Germany on August 8, 1943. Our pilot was stricken
with a medical problem and we had to return to base. After that they made our co-pilot 1st
Pilot and we waited awhile to get a replacement co-pilot. When we started flying again
these missions followed:
8-15-43--Airfield in France
9-6-43--Ballbearing plant Stuttgart, Germany
9-15-43--Paris aircraft plant 10-8-43--Bremen
We hadn't named our plane yet but after about three
missions we decided to call her "PATCHES' for all the flak and bullet holes she
sustained. The briefing of that morning of Schweinfurt they said:--they know you are
coming--GOOD LUCK! If you knock out the target you will shorten the war by six months. We
were delayed by fog that morning. We were the lead ship carrying the bomb sight. Right
after we dropped our bombs we sustained three direct hits with flak. We lost two engines
and one shell went right through #2 wing tank leaving a stream of gas behind us. As I
transferred gas and manned the top turret fighting off l09's we were drifting back. Then
we caught fire and had to bail out.
During the process I was hit in the right shoulder by a piece of flak.
When I bailed out my chute jerked me so hard that when I landed I could not walk. I was
immediately captured and carried to a tool house that they locked me in. Some time later
they came with a truck and picked me up. I was glad to see the rest of my crew had all
survived. On that day we lost sixty out of one hundred bombers. I was put in a field
hospital a couple of days to be sure nothing was broken I was given crutches and sent to
Du Lag Luft. I was put in isolation for ten days and interrogated constantly -- gave the
name, rank and serial number despite their threats.
Later I was sent to Stalag 17B at Krems, Austria. I think the
uncertainty of what the next day would bring, along with the starvation, cold
temperatures, fleas, and the second Christmas of still being there and constant threats of
being shot was the worst. We dug a few tunnels but somehow the guards always found out
about them so there were no escapes. We were there for twenty months until our
eighteen day MARCH west to Braneau, Austria. We were liberated on May 5th
1945 by Gen. George
Patton. My weight was down to about 114 pounds--we were always HUNGRY. At Camp Lucky
Strike they tried to build us up with frequent feedings.
I caught a plane to England and went back to my old base to see my crew
chief. It seems he waited on the flight line till well after dark waiting for us to come
back. Col. VonArb came out and got him and told him we didn't make it. He was very glad to
hear we all survived after twenty months. I asked if I could get a ride home on a plane.
The C.O. said sure if you want to go to Japan. I said "no thanks" and caught a
hospital ship home from Southhampton, England.
I married Ginny on August 4, 1945.
Photos of "Patches", Crew, Prison ID card.
CLICK HERE !