This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
University of Florida
WORLD WAR II COLLECTION
Interviewee: Robert W. Schwaegerl
Interviewer: Alan J. Bliss
Date of Interview: December 29, 1999
B: The date is December 29, 1999. I am Alan Bliss in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I
am interviewing Robert W. Schwaegerl. Tell me, what does the W stand for?
B: On a note inside the cover of this book you showed me by J. K. Havener [J.K.
Havener, The Martin B-26 Marauder (Southern Heritage Press, Second Edition:
1997)], you are identified by the nickname Whitey. How did you come by that
S: I guess because my hair was so white from being out in the sun so much. My
squadron commander used to call me Swede or Whitey, and everybody started
picking it up, mostly Swede, but a lot of them did Whitey.
B: And Swede was because of your heritage?
S: No, my heritage is German. Our CO [commanding officer] did not care about
B: He got that part wrong, too.
S: But he was the greatest man I ever met, for leadership or anything.
B: Well, we have your name in the record. Tell me when and where you were born,
S: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 28, 1918.
B: And who were your parents?
S: Frank Frederick Schwaegerl and Gertrude Emma Augusta Blankshaen
B: Where did you go to school when you were growing up?
S: I started school in an elementary school in Euclid, Ohio, and then we moved into
East Cleveland. I went to the East Cleveland school system until the seventh
grade, and that was Mayfair, Chambers, Kirk Junior High. Then we moved to the
more southern part of Cleveland, and I finished at Miles Junior High and John
Adams High, which has since been torn down or is in the process of being torn
down. I graduated from high school in 1936, and I went to night school in various
things. I was in Case School of Science and was drafted and went into the Army.
I volunteered, but the draft board said, well, you did not volunteer and come in
here and get all our permission first so we are drafting you sooner. They drafted
me instead of letting me go into the Air Force after I had passed all of my exams.
I came out of there, and I went to Fenn College and graduated from Western
WWII-2 page 2
Reserve in 1952.
B: That was after the war. Fenn College is now part of Case, is that right?
S: No. Fenn College is now part of Cleveland State University. Case School of
Science and Western Reserve University merged. Fenn College and Cleveland
State University became one.
B: During the next four years, you were going to Case?
S: No. I was taking various courses at night school, from 1936 to 1942, in
engineering, drawing, typing, shorthand. Anything just to try to fit me up for a
better job during the Depression. I was taking a course in communications, that
AT&T sponsored at Case School of Science on electrical engineering. I was
B: Did you work during those years?
S: Oh yes.
B: What kind of work did you do during the Depression?
S: During those years, I worked as a busboy for a few months at a restaurant.
Then, I worked for Perfection Stove Company, in the pressroom. Then, I got a
job with Western Electric, and I worked there for eleven months and some days.
Western Electric was shutting down because of lack of production. I went to
Republic Structural Ironworks, and I worked in the office doing office work. I left
Republic to work at Ohio Bell [the telephone utility] as an installer. Then I went
intoo [the] service. When I came out of the service, I came back to work at Ohio
Bell almost immediately. They abridged my Western Electric service. I worked at
Ohio Bell for forty-two years, combined service. My wife Wilma, incidentally, had
forty-one years, so we always say we had eighty-three years of service.
B: Were you drafted before or after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
S: I went down and volunteered almost the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl
Harbor, and I wound up getting in the Air Force. I checked the Navy, and the
Navy would not take me because they said I did not have college. So, I went to
the Army Air Corps, and they gave me a series of tests. I passed all my mental
and physical. They were putting me on hold until the next class started. I went
in to my draft board to get some permission for something regarding enlisting,
and the head of the draft board got real angry because I did not get his
permission to enlist in the Air Force. So he drafted me early. He even admitted
he drafted me early. The major in charge of Air Corps recruitment in the state of
Ohio called me on the phone cursing like mad about this draft board drafting me.
WWII-2 page 3
As I tried to talk, he refused to listen to me, saying, you are going to have to go
in, and then we will get you out of there as soon as we can and put you in Air
Force training. Then, they lost my records, so I went to Camp Perry for a long
time on the shores of Lake Erie, in Ohio. That was a recruitment center; all the
recruits went there and got processed and then were sent out for basic training. I
think I was there long enough to get weekend leave because they did not know
what to do with me, since I had passed my credentials for the Air Corps. Then
they sent me to Sheppard Field for basic training. There were three or four of us
who had passed Air Force training qualifications, but they lost our records, so we
ended up taking basic training for about six months at Sheppard Field. They
finally got our records straightened out, so I got into cadet training in July of
B: So, you knew, even before you went down to enlist, that you wanted to fly.
B: Why was it that you were intrigued by flying?
S: Ever since I was a little kid, I was intrigued by flying. I had a distant cousin who
was pilot. He was a test pilot for Great Lakes Aircraft Corporation, which was
located on the east side of Cleveland. He won some national air races in
Cleveland, Ohio, but I never got to go up with him. I hardly knew him. My family
never associated with him. But I always wanted to fly, so that is why I enlisted in
the Air Corps. As soon as the chance came, I went in.
B: Had you been up in an airplane at all before then?
S: Never. My first airplane ride was in the cadets. My first airplane ride, in take-off,
the instructor held his hands up. I am sure he had his feet on the controls to
make sure nothing devious happened, but he let me take it off the first time we
took off. That was not unusual. Everybody did it.
B: So, flying was definitely on your agenda when you went into the service.
B: The Japanese attack was December 7, 1941, and it was July...
S: I did not get into cadet training until July.
B: July of 1942, and where did you go for that training?
S: I went first to San Antonio, and the great Army not only lost my records, but
because I was in limbo, they red-lined me in the payroll. So, from January until
WWII-2 page 4
July, I had collected $30 in pay, and I had one month in cadet training which was
supposed to be $75 a month, but when I got my first pay, they said I owed them
$75 for the laundry and incidentals. I never did get my pay settled out. I am sure
they still owe me money. I do not care.
B: So you went to San Antonio for cadet training.
S: Cadet training, [and] Corsicana, Texas, for primary. That was a private
ownership field, but the Air Force was working it. They had civilian cooks and
everything else and civilian instructors, and I got my primary training. Then, [I
went] to Waco, Texas, for basic and flew the Vultee-13. We used to call it Vultee
Vibrator. When you learn how to fly it, it was a good airplane.
B: Was that the first aircraft that you operated or trained on?
S: The one I trained on first was a Fairchild Primary. I think it was a PT-19,
[although] I am not too sure of the number anymore. That was the first one and
then the Vultee Vibrator. Then, I went down to Ellington Field for advanced
training and twin-engine training.
B: Was that still in Texas?
S: Still in Texas, right. Down near Houston.
B: What kind of aircraft were you training on there?
S: Well, I was lucky. They had AT-11s and AT-9s, and I got most of my time in the
AT-9, which I was thankful for because the AT-9 was much more of an airplane
than the AT-11. You had to be more attentive to the AT-9 than the AT-11. The
AT-11, I had one instrument check in that, and I could see my trainer pilot reach
up and cut one of the engines. The airplane was so dull that it hardly responded.
When we got down to the ground, he knew my capabilities because he had flown
with me a number of times. He said, you are a little slow on your single-engine
procedure. I said, well, I saw your hand go up and cut the engine, I did not want
to respond before you got the engine off; the thing just sat there like a dull dud
and did not do anything, so I thought I had better respond; but, if that had been
an AT-9, we would have been in a serious roll or something. That was a very
active airplane, and it responded very quickly to everything.
B: Those were both twin-engine airplanes?
S: Both twin-engine airplanes.
B: Who were they made by, do you remember?
WWII-2 page 5
S: The AT-9 was made by Curtis, and the AT-11 was by Beechcraft, I believe. I had
an honor, when I was in advanced training. We had some people who were
down on one of the cross-country flights, and my instructor and I went up to get
them back. I think, as far as I know, I was one of the only advanced trainer
students who got to fly a twin-engine airplane without a co-pilot. We had to go up
and pick them up, so I got to taxi down the line feeling very big because all the
other cadets were watching, and here is a guy taxiing out to fly and he is without
B: When was that? How long had you been in?
S: That would have been in January or February of 1943. We were in training for
about six months at least.
B: During that time, did you have any idea that you would wind up flying B-26s?
S: That was my goal. I saw a picture in Life magazine of the B-26 airplane before I
went in service, and my goal was to fly a B-26. The instructors at advanced
training said I was qualified. There were a few in our squadron who were
qualified to fly a B-26, so I went to B-26 training. They sent me there before I had
a chance to voice a preference, so I got B-26. That was at MacDill Field where I
got my first taste of a B-26.
B: You went right there from Ellington?
S: From Ellington to MacDill Field.
B: When did you get to MacDill, do you think?
S: My class graduated February of 1943, I think. I went directly to MacDill, so I
probably got there the latter part of February of 1943.
B: That is MacDill Army Air Force Field in Tampa, Florida. How soon did you start
S: Probably a day or two after I got there, we were up in the airplane. MacDill used
to have a reputation with the B-26, "a ship a day in Tampa Bay," and for a while
they were doing it.
B: Do you think that was a fair reputation?
S: Well, it was fair enough because the early B-26s were considered a very hot
airplane, and it killed a lot of air crews in training. [Harry S.] Truman [at the time
of this reference, Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri; later U. S. president,
1945-1953] was head of the congressional thing [a senatorial oversight
WWII-2 page 6
committee on waste in military procurement, informally called the Truman
Committee] for watching over military purchases and all of that, and he started a
movement in Congress to ban the B-26 and stop production because they said it
was killing too many people in training. They seriously were considering dropping
production, but the B-26 had one of the safest records, in combat, and it flew
many, many sorties but received the recognition that it deserved. By that, I mean
B-17s and [B-24] Liberators, good planes, got most of the publicity. We had
some of the fewest losses of many of the aircraft bombers. It was a great
airplane when you knew it.
B: When you were still in your training phase and looking forward to flying B-26s,
were you at all concerned about the reputation that plane had developed?
S: Too stupid to be concerned. I just wanted to fly it. I just wanted to fly the B-26,
and I did not worry about that.
B: Do you think that was the attitude that most other pilots had, that they were just
ambitious to get behind the controls of a hot airplane?
S: Well, a lot of them were not ambitious to get behind the controls of the airplane.
We had one guy who was in the air transport command, and he was ferrying
them over. He finally refused to fly any further. He got halfway, well, across to
Europe. I guess he got into Africa, and he refused to fly it anymore, he was so
scared of the airplane. A lot of people were scared of it, but our squadron, as far
as I know, had one of the best records in training, and we had some of the best
records in our group. We had a squadron commander who was one of the
greatest pilots and greatest leaders I have ever met.
B: What was your squadron commander's name?
S: Delvin D. Bentley. He was a captain when I got into the squadron and full colonel
when he got out of service. He was a marvelous pilot, a marvelous leader of
people, and a great person all around. Wilma, my wife, said when she met him,
after hearing so much about you, I think you are a cross between God and John
B: Had he been regular Army [a career soldier] before the war, or did he come in
after the declaration of war?
S: I think he came in after the declaration, but I am not positive.
B: Do you remember where you were when you first heard about Pearl Harbor?
S: I was visiting friends on the southeast side of Cleveland when we heard about it,
and like everybody else, we thought, the Japanese, who are they; we will get rid
WWII-2 page 7
of them in a quick hurry. But, we obviously did not.
B: Were you surprised about the entry of the United States into the war, or had you
been expecting that we might get involved?
S: I think I was surprised, because 1 think a lot of people my age were more
interested in trying to get a job and hold a job, back in the 1930s and early
1940s. We did not particularly worry too much about any foreign negotiations in
Washington, but I never thought anybody would attack like they did. So, that
surprised me, yes.
B: What about the Germans? Did you ever think that we would wind up having to
get involved in the war in Europe?
S: I guess, consciously, I thought we would probably get involved with the
Germans, but I just did not expect the Japanese to come in like that. Too much
at stake with the rest of England and France and all of them not to be supporting
the stuff we did in World War I.
B: Let us turn back to MacDill Field and your experience training on the B-26. How
did it feel to you when you first started taking the aircraft up and learning to
S: Marvelous. I loved the airplane from day one, and I never lost my love of that
airplane. I was lucky enough when I was assigned my own ship before we went
overseas to get, I always said, one of the perfect B-26s, one of the best ones
ever made, because it would fly slow speeds and it was fast. When we flew
overseas to Europe, I think only one other plane got better gas-consumption than
I did, and I was leading up and keeping up with everybody and flying just as fast
as they were with less gas. It would fly like no other B-26 would fly.
B: Do you remember what the model number was of your B-26?
S: B-26, I think it was a C. It was after the extension of the wings. They had the
short-wing version first. Time magazine called that the flying prostitute because
of no visible means of support, they used to say. But it was a good airplane.
B: I believe I recall reading that the wingspan was extended from sixty-five to
seventy-one feet. Does that sound about right?
B: And the vertical stabilizer was increased?
S: It was increased by some, yes.
WWII-2 page 8
B: Do you remember any other changes they made to the C models?
S: They started to put package guns for the pilots to forward-fire and a little more
armor plate around the cockpit, I think, on the C model.
B: Did your plane have the 2,000 horsepower Pratt and Whitney engines?
B: And those were four-bladed props [propellers]?
S: Thirteen-foot four-bladed props.
B: When the plane was parked on the ramp, how close would those propellor blade
tips come to the tarmac?
S: If I remember, they were not much more than eight or ten inches off the tarmac.
B: Good grief, not even enough room to crawl underneath it.
S: No. They were close enough that if there was water on the tarmac, they would
pick up the water in whirlpools and blow it all back. We flew around in the Gulf
one day. We were flying low over the water in the Gulf, and I was blowing water
into the waist-gun position.
B: Did you go up for training missions with the full complement of five crew
S: No. Usually, it would be the co-pilot and the pilot. Depending upon the mission,
we may have a bombardier with us, if we were going to practice bombing. We
would usually always have a radio man and one of the engineers. Usually four.
Had a radio man and the engineer, just in case something happened, he might
be able to do something.
B: Was it common for you to fly from MacDill to other airfields in Florida and make
landings there and then return?
S: Actually, I spent most of my training time, I was at MacDill for awhile, and then
we got transferred as a group over to Lakeland, Florida. I was supposed to go
overseas as a co-pilot in one of the planes, but I got infected ears. I always
attribute it to the fact that the pilot who was flying always made me keep the
headset on, and I got fungus in my ears and ended up in the hospital when they
went overseas. So I did not get to go with that crew, which was lucky because
they went down in flames over Africa. The co-pilot did get out of the airplane, but
I do not think the pilot, Jesse Higgins, got out. So, I was back in the original
WWII-2 page 9
group then-it was reformed-and I went overseas with the group as a pilot. I
spent a couple of weeks in the hospital with my infected ears.
B: Which hospital were you in?
S: Lakeland, Florida, at the base hospital.
B: And it was after that you were assigned to the aircraft that you referred to?
S: Yes. We did not get assigned our craft until we got to Savannah, Georgia, where
the staging area was, to get ready to go overseas. Then, we were all assigned
B: So, that was where you met the aircraft that you were actually getting in. Was
that the aircraft that you flew in combat for the rest of your...?
S: Yes, most of the time. We would not always fly the same airplane, but, usually, I
flew my own airplane. Other people flew it, too.
B: How many missions did you wind up flying with that aircraft?
S: I flew sixty-five missions; the majority of them were in that airplane. Sometimes, I
would fly with the squadron or group leader, and I would fly co-pilot for them
occasionally. Then, I was flight commander, so I would take new pilots up on
missions; I would fly co-pilot for them to get them used to the combat attitudes
B: Do you remember the identification number of your aircraft?
S: 71D295500, I think that was it. 71D-dog was mostly what you would use [to
identify the aircraft].
B: So, that aircraft stuck with you through the war?
S: It stuck with me through the war, and I was told it went down later on as a flamer,
after I returned to the States.
B: You staged out of Savannah to go to Europe. How did you travel from Savannah
to the European theater?
S: We flew the southern route because the northern route going into Greenland, I
think it was, the weather was not dependable, and they said if you did not make
the runway, you would have trouble getting over the mountains on the far side of
the runway if you had to pull up. So, we went the southern route. We left from
Savannah to Palm Beach, Palm Beach to Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico to British
WWII-2 page 10
Guiana. I forget the name of the field there. Then from British Guiana, we went to
Natal, Natal to Ascension Island, Ascension Island to Roberts-Field, I believe it
was, in Leone, in Africa.
B: Sierra Leone?
S: Yes. I do not know if it was called Sierra Leone at that time, though. Then, from
there, we had another stop at Dakar, I guess it was, and then went to Marrakech.
Then, we were weathered-in to getting up to England. They were worried about
our capability for the long-range flight up to England, because we had to fly off
the coast of Portugal, and they said, do not land in Portugal or Spain, if you do
not have to. So, we were weathered-in there for about a month before we got out
of there. I got to see quite a bit of Morocco and Marrakech. U.S. service people
generally cheated and went into Medina, and I cheated too and went into the
Arab quarters, but only once. What really made me disappointed there, if we had
stayed one more day, I was going to be able to play golf on the Sultan's private
golf course. I had met a friend of mine from high school, and he was operating
on that field permanently. He would get to play golf over there, and he had it all
set up for a tee time [scheduled commencement of a round of golf] the next day
when we flew out. So I did not get to play golf at that course.
B: That must have been a pretty interesting experience, living for a month in
S: Yes. We went from Marrakech to Newquay, England, which is way down in the
southwest corner of England. Then, we went to our base near Bishop's Stortford.
The base at that time was in Stanstead, but they were both small towns.
Stanstead was so small that we always considered Bishop's Stortford as our real
base name. [Stanstead is now] a commuter airport for Heathrow [Airport in
London]. It is a big field now.
B: When you were traveling from Savannah across the southern route, by way of
the Caribbean and South America and Africa, how many aircraft traveled
together? Or did you travel together?
S: Yes. We traveled together in loose formation, if everybody got off the ground and
did not have any problems. We did just flew, maybe, thirty airplanes or so, or
something like that, that I remember.
B: Did you carry your full complement of crew members on that?
S: No. I had my pilot and my co-pilot, and we had a navigator from the military air
transport command. I had one of the crew chiefs who normally just did duty on
the ground when the airplanes were in and out on missions and all that, but he
flew with me to maintain the airplane. And we had a radioman, of course. I think
WWII-2 page 11
that would have been five of us, at least. No gunners. Well, the radioman could
man a gun, and nobody else.
B: Did you carry any armaments at all?
S: All the guns were mounted, I assume we had ammunition in there. I cannot
remember. It must have been minimal if we did. We had two big bomb-bay [gas]
tanks, extra tanks in the rear bomb-bay, for gas supply.
B: Did you carry a lot of spare parts for maintenance on the airfields?
S: Not particularly. I do not particularly remember any.
B: Were you prepared for ditching if you had to?
S: Oh yes. We always had life rafts, one life raft aboard. We had inflatable one-man
life rafts on our parachute pack. We sat on that.
B: What month was it when you left from Savannah for the European theater?
S: Late January or early February, of 1944.
B: And when was it that you arrived at Bishop's Stortford?
S: Well, as I said, we had that month at Marrakech, so it must have been March or
B: By that time, it was getting quite close to time for the invasion over on the
continent, close to time for D-Day.
B: Of course, you did not know in advance exactly when that was going to happen.
S: That is what confuses me. Did I leave in 1944? It must have been 1944. It seems
to me there is an awful long time between when we got there and D-Day. It does
not seem, calendar-wise, there was enough time there. I graduated in 1943, I
know, and we did not leave until January of 1944. That is what it must have
been, yes. And they had a big New Year's Eve party in Lakeland, Florida, and
they thought we would be gone, I guess, and we all flew airplanes back to
Lakeland, Florida, for a New Year's Eve party, from Savannah, Georgia. We took
a big group back. So I know I spent New Year's Eve in Florida, in 1944.
B: It was early 1944 then, I guess, when you got to England, and started flight
operations, then, how soon (combat operations)?
WWII-2 page 12
S: It seemed like we were only there for a very short time. I do not remember how
long we were before we started flying missions. We were flying missions very
quickly, as soon as we got there. We did a little local flying to get familiarized
with things, and then took off.
B: And you were together then with the same squadron mates you had left from
Savannah with? You traveled as a unit and then started operating as a unit?
S: Yes, and crews joined us as they came over. I think my crew came over on the
Queen Mary. They had a good luxury route. I guess I should say our whole group
did that. We got together then at Bishop's Stortford.
B: What was your unit, your squadron number?
S: 344 Bomb Group, 497th Squadron. There were four squadrons per group.
B: What unit was that bomb group affiliated with?
S: Originally, with the 8th Air Force. Then, they formed the 9th Air Force for tactical,
and we went in the 9th Air Force.
B: And who was the commanding officer of your bomb group, do you recall?
S: Colonel Vance was the commanding officer, Bob Witty was next in line, and
Delwin D. Bentley was our squadron commander for most of the time. Then, he
was promoted away. He was reported to say that he would refuse the new
command unless he could take the 497th Squadron with him, but they talked him
out of it, so he went anyhow.
B: Who took over?
S: I was trying to remember who took over, but, evidently, he did not make much of
an impression on me. I do not remember who took over our squadron.
B: Do you remember the names of any of the people who made up the rest of your
flight crew for your own aircraft?
S: Oh yes. Emmett Lancaster was the co-pilot. Leroy Wilsted was my bombardier-
navigator. Julian Woods was my radioman. Bob Johnson was my engineer and
top-gunner, in the top turret. Ralph Nunley was the tail-gunner and armament
man. I had George Kammermeyer (a St. Louis boy) for a short time, and then he
promoted away to a lead bombardier, and that is when I got Leroy Wilsted as
B: Did your aircraft have waist-guns?
WWII-2 page 13
S: We had two waist-guns, one on each side.
B: Who operated those?
S: Julian Woods, the radioman, was on the waist-guns.
B: So, he did double-duty.
B: Could he operate the radio from the same station where the waist-guns were?
S: No, the radio compartment is directly behind the pilot cockpit. There is a partition
between the opening. He operated the radios from there.
B: So, he would have to scramble through the bomb-bay to get back and forth from
B: Was there a catwalk?
S: There was a catwalk, yes. We had a big keel down the center and the bomb
racks on each side of it.
B: You mentioned the switch, Kammermeyer for Wilsted.
S: Wilsted replaced Kammermeyer when he got promoted.
B: Aside from that, were the rest of those people the same crew that stuck with you
throughout your operations in combat?
S: Yes, we were all together until we left combat.
B: So, you are still operating the aircraft that you flew over from Savannah, the one
you were assigned when you formed up there?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
B: How many aircraft made up your squadron?
S: We usually flew in groups of six. We had thirty-six airplanes when we would go
on a mission, usually just thirty-six, unless we had some special duty to do. So,
there would be six from each squadron on a mission.
WWII-2 page 14
B: Do you remember what your first combat mission was?
S: I do not remember. Was it Ijmuiden [Holland; pronounced ee-moyden]? It was a
big submarine base in Holland.
B: Reinforced submarine pens?
S: Yes, and it was a very dangerous one, for some of the first B-26s, I think they
almost had 100 percent losses. They were heavily defended. We saw anti-
aircraft [fire], but it did not hit any of us.
B: Did you see any fighter defense, or just the anti-aircraft fire?
S: When we got there, and perhaps I am bragging but the only reports I had was
that fighters wanted no part of B-26s. We very seldom saw fighters. Very, very
seldom did we have fighters, the German fighters, that is.
B: Do you think that may have been because of the B-26's high speed, or its
S: Number one, high speed, and number two, the defenses. We had four forward-
firing 50-caliber guns that the pilot could control. They were fixed, of course,
unless you moved the airplane around to aim. Two top guns that could fire
forward and a machine gun in the nose that the bombardier could fire. As I
understand it, their preferred attack was coming into you from the front and then
rolling over and dive. The FW-190s preferred that tactic because they had some
armor plate on that aircraft's belly, so they would roll over and dive to expose
their armored belly to our fire. But, I understand that-again, this is hearsay
because I did not see any official reports-in one of their first attacks on B-26s,
they lost almost all their fighters because they tried to come in almost head-on.
With thirty-six airplanes firing six, seven machine guns each, forward-firing, they
lost a lot of aircraft in that fight. After that, they sort of left us alone. I hardly ever
saw an enemy fighter.
B: At what air speed would you be flying when you were on a bombing run?
S: On a bombing run, we usually were flying an indicated air speed of at least 180
B: So you would slow down quite a bit for a bombing run?
S: No. A lot of those things are overrated. We had our red-line speed, I think, of
375, but you would have to be hard-pressed to make it go 375 in a level flight,
indicated. When we flew overseas, we were indicating most of the time 180, but
our ground speed was 211. We did not particularly slow down much, a little bit
WWII-2 page 15
maybe, but not much. We were very maneuverable, so we had short bomb runs.
We usually flew around 10,000 to 13,000 feet for our bomb runs, [though] not
B: How would you compare that kind of altitude and air speed with the bomb run on
a bigger aircraft, say, for example, a B-17?
S: B-17s flew much higher than we did, and they were so slow. That was another
airplane that was rated at certain speeds and certain bomb loads. I am even
seeing facts and figures today where they claim that B-17s carried 32,000
pounds of bombs. They carried 1,000 pounds more than we did, if they were fully
loaded at 5,000 pounds; we carried 4,000 pounds. Their speed was very
overrated because we tried to fly formation with them sometimes, just fooling
around. One of the tricks they liked to do was make a steep turn into us and try
to stall us out; that is how slow they were going. We had to put flaps down to fly
on their wing. That is how slow they were.
B: What speed do you think they were operating at?
S: They were operating around 160, I think. I know one mission, they were bombing
ahead of us from high level. We were at medium level, and we were worried
about their bombs because they ran into a headwind of 100 miles an hour. We
were told later that if they had a ground speed of sixty-five miles an hour on their
bomb run and they were about 10,000 feet above us, we were worried we were
going to be running into their bombs before they got off the target area. But they
did not hit anybody so I guess we got away okay. Thank God for that. I just
picked up a copy of American Heritage, that discussed overrated and underrated
technology. American Heritage said that the B-17 was the most overrated
airplane in the war because it was so slow, and they said it was not as accurate
as everybody said it was, but that was just the author's opinion.
B: Did you ever operate in company with B-24s, the Liberators?
S: No. There were not too many Liberators in our Air Force. The 8th Air Force had
some, but we did not see many of them. We never operated in unison, except
that one mission with the B-17s, or the heavy bombardment, 8th Air Force.
B: How about B-25 Mitchells, did you see much of them?
S: Not too many of them. The Dutch had a squadron of B-25s and I think some
English had them, but they used them differently than we did so we never flew
anything in conjunction with them at all.
B: Did you ever have fighter escort?
WWII-2 page 16
S: We always had fighter escort, yes.
B: What kind of aircraft traveled with you?
S: P-47s, and P-38s some, but P-47s usually, the Thunderbolt.
B: Do you think the presence of that fighter escort also had an influence in deterring
the German fighter attacks?
S: I am sure of that, because they had a great reputation and they were doing a
great job of [escorting] the heavies [bombers] by then, not originally, but they
came in strong with a P-51 so they could follow all the way in and out.
B: So, you started out bombing targets on the Dutch coast. Do you remember any
other particularly significant targets?
S: We went into Paris a number of times. I remember one day in Paris, we had to
go in to hit some bridges. We had all this secrecy, you know, flight secrecy, and
do not break radio transmissions. We were going into Paris this day, in the
morning, and we heard over our radios, "Welcome, 344th Bomb Group, you are
going to have a hot one today." Someone [that is, one of the American planes]
was hit and pulling out and they said, "he is not going to be the first one, either."
They were talking to us in English.
B: The Germans were saying this?
S: Yes, the Germans were saying that to us over our radios, in all-secret missions,
you know. They would welcome us to Paris before we got there. It was a very,
very heavily defended target from antiaircraft fire, and we had to go back in the
afternoon to hit the same target some more. Our intelligence was telling us, well,
we are sorry about this but we have to change the flight pattern going into the
bomb run, and they are going to have ninety more guns to fire at you. I do not
know how many they had in the morning because the map was all red with
aircraft defenses, and then in the afternoon, they were going to have ninety more
to hit us with. That was in Paris. We were shooting for bridges and railroads,
trying to knock out transportation on the river and along the railroads, at that
B: So, for the Germans, that was a very critical transportation hub.
S: Yes. With tactical Air Force, that is what we were doing, bombing in front of the
troops. For instance, we could have a mission called to support General Patton
[George S. Patton, Jr., U.S. Army general]. He was to advance somewhere and
we had to get there ahead of him. A couple of times, a mission was scrubbed
because Patton had already taken his objective. That is how fast he was moving.
WWII-2 page 17
B: So, this Paris attack was after D-Day.
A: Yes. Prior to D-Day, we were hitting Pas de Calais area a lot for rocket bombs,
V-1s and V-2s. We hit that a lot. Also coastal defenses, railroads, bridges -
wherever the enemy was..
B: So, they had already started launching V-1s and V-2s, even before D-Day.
S: If I remember correctly, V-1s in particular.
B: Were you anticipating D-Day? Did you have an idea that it was coming up one of
these days soon, and sort of bracing yourself for it?
S: I think we all were preparing ourselves for it, but we did not know anymore than
anybody else did about when it would be. It was such a surprise that they even
let some of the Air Force bases have dances. Girls from town would come out for
the dances and be invited out for dates. The fathers and mothers got perturbed
that the girls did not come home, and they came out to the base, so the base
would let them come on to see if their daughters were okay, and then they could
not go home. That is how secret it was for D-Day. They would not let anybody
back off the base again. So, the parents and daughters were both on the base,
stuck in there.
B: At what time was that? Was the night before?
S: It was probably at least a day or two before D-Day. We knew something was up,
but we did not know really until we got called out for our briefing. Around two or
three o'clock in the morning, they called us out for briefing. So, we did not know
D-Day was going to happen until they got us down there for briefing. Then they
told us, this is it. Our group had the honor of leading the 9th Air Force, except for
fighters. We would lead the 9th Air Force over the beaches. We were hitting Utah
Beach, and it was set up that we were at medium level, bombing from 10,000
feet. They had Norden bomb sights [sophisticated, and long top-secret optical
bomb sight] in those planes. If it was a low level, I had another type of bomb
sight for low level bombing. I would lead of my flight for the mission on D- Day
morning if we had low-level. Well, the weather was bad. We took off in the dark,
but by the time we got over there, it was grey dawn. We had to go down to about
1,500 feet or less to hit the targets, and I got all shot up on the way in, so I had to
pull out of formation. I could not lead it. After I pulled out of formation, we went
back in, opened up our bomb bay doors, and dropped our bombs on target.
B: When you got shot up on that first pass and had to pull out, what kind of damage
did your plane sustain?
S: My co-pilot, Emmet Lancaster, painted it [this is a reference to the cover art from
the jacket of J.K. Havener, The Martin B-26 Marauder (Southern Heritage Press,
WWII-2 page 18
Second Edition: 1997)]. The painting has the left engine as the engine that we
lost, but I thought it was the right engine. I am sure it was the right engine, but I
am not going to quibble. The other engine was only giving partial power. You are
supposed to fly in the single-engine about 2,600 rpm and twenty-six to twenty-
eight inches of mercury [manifold pressure], and I could only get 1,950 rpm. I
could not even get full power out of it, so we slowed down to about 105 miles an
hour, indicated [airspeed as shown by the airspeed indicator on the instrument
panel, without adjusting for wind], and dropped our bombs. We were worried
about opening the bomb bay because we thought we might stall out with all that
drag out there, too. But we had to hit the beaches, so we hit it.
B: Had the troops actually started going ashore when you were making your
S: As far as we could tell, looking out the few minutes we had, or the seconds we
had to look out the windows, it looked like they were going ashore. I do not think
they were going ashore on Utah [Beach], or we would not have been bombing,
or all the others that were coming behind us to bomb. We led them. So I do not
think [U.S. soldiers] were approaching shore yet where we were going to hit.
B: So, your mission was to try to do damage to gun emplacements?
S: To gun emplacements, and they told us that they hoped that we would put
enough holes in the ground for troops to hide in, like foxholes and all that. So, we
were distributing them to create holes in there.
B: Was there bombardment from the ships?
S: Oh yes, they were shelling like mad, mostly the Omaha beaches. When those
battleships would fire, they would almost disappear in the flames and the smoke,
every time a barrage was fired. It was interesting, when they were bombing it--we
did not see this the first day, but we went over on other missions--you could
actually see the shells arcing over the clouds and going back down again,
because they were paralleling our course, and at our speed, you could see the
shells. It was quite interesting.
B: That must have been an amazing sight. Do you know what ship the
bombardment was coming from?
S: I do not know. There were a lot of battleships and everything out there. I do not
have the slightest idea. [There were] battleships and destroyers and cruisers,
just loaded; it was packed with ships.
B: So, on the first day of the invasion, the weather was extremely unfavorable.
WWII-2 page 19
S: Unfavorable, right.
B: How would you describe the conditions?
S: Miserable, when we went in.
B: What was the ceiling?
S: The ceiling was, as I said, about 1,500 feet, and we had to go below the ceiling.
B: Were you flying in rain, underneath the cloud cover?
S: There was some rain, yes.
B: Was there a lot of turbulence?
S: I do not remember any particular turbulence, no.
B: So, you went in pretty fast and got shot up by anti-aircraft fire?
S: Got shot up right away. In fact, there was one shell, and I do not know if it was a
dud or what but it went right through--that's what damaged my engines--the
cabin about two or three feet behind my head and left a hole about ten inches in
diameter out the top of the airplane.
B: This is at Utah Beach?
S: Utah Beach, yes.
B: And you were operating at, it sounds like, a very low altitude, below 1500 feet.
S: Yes, we were at really low altitude, yes.
B: If the ceiling was 1,500 feet, then what was your altitude?
S: We probably reached about 1,200 feet, when we released our bombs.
B: And you could actually see the German troops on the ground as you were flying
S: Yes, the crew told me they could. I was too busy flying and keeping the plane
level, because we always had a good bombardment but I tried to be a two-two-
twenty man. Two-two-twenty meant you would hold your heading within two
degrees and your air speed within two miles an hour and twenty feet of altitude
while you are on the bomb run, because the slightest curve can throw the bombs
WWII-2 page 20
off target because of centrifugal force, and airspeed can mess up the
bombardier's calculations for when to release these things, and altitude changes
messes them up, too. So, we had to do very good instrument flying at that point.
B: Was the target already preselected for you, or was the bombardier in charge of
selecting a target and then making an approach on it?
S: A target was probably pretty very well predetermined, and then the bombardier
tried to home in on it. You know, we just did not bomb any segment of the beach
we wanted to bomb. We were given specific targets because each group that
followed had a different target along the beach area then.
B: So it was on your first approach to that target area that your aircraft was hit. Do
you know what kind of weapon it was that targeted your aircraft?
S: No, we do not know what kind of guns they had down there. They probably had
88-millimeter cannon. They had ground fire. In fact, their ground machine guns
were shooting at us, too.
B: You were close enough to be threatened by even light arms?
S: Well, you could see all the tracer bullets go pretty close to the airplane, yes.
B: Was it still fairly dark when you were making this attack?
S: It was still fairly dark because it was a very cloudy morning and raining a bit, so it
was a grey dawn. In fact, as we were going across the channel, it was still quite
dark, when we left to go over there, because we hit the beaches, oh, at about six
or six-thirty in the morning.
B: So, on the first run, you lost one engine and lost partial power on a second
engine, but still turned around and made a second approach on that target.
S: We did not have to turn around because it happened before we hit our bomb
drop area. I am sure I did not drop precisely on our target, but we flew over the
beach and then released our bombs in the scattered-impact target range that we
had, just so we made sure we dropped them on the beach.
B: Had you lost the surrounding aircraft from the formation by then?
S: Yes, I was way behind them by then.
B: Were there any other aircraft around you when you dropped your bombs?
S: I cannot remember any other airplanes. Oh yes, the only other aircraft that I
WWII-2 page 21
remember being in our proximity was...I read a book by a German general,
Galland [Adolph Galland, WW II German Luftwaffe fighter ace and commander],
I think his name was, and he was ordered by Hitler to stop the invasion. All he
had was himself and his wingman. He claims (I am sure he did) he made a pass
over the beachhead. How he got behind our fighters, I do not know, but he made
a low-level pass over the beachhead, was able to report, and I know that at very
close range, two German fighters went across our nose. If he said he was the
only one there, I must have seen him run across our nose. But he did not bother
me, and I did not bother him.
B: Did you think about trying to take a shot with your forward-facing armament?
S: Yes, I thought about it, but we were so close to stalling speed and I have heard
pilots claiming [that], if they had to ditch, that they would slow the airplane down
as much as they could and to fire all their forward-firing guns and help slow the
airplane down using the weapon recoil, so you hit the water a little slower. So, I
did not want to fire my guns for fear I would stall it out.
B: By that time, you were operating at, you said, 105 knots of indicated airspeed?
B: And this is a plane that is not supposed to operate at less than what?
S: Since then, I have been to a couple of reunions, and I have talked to a couple of
Martin test pilots, and they insist that they never flew a B-26 that did not stall out
B: Indicated air speed?
S: Right. They said, there is no way I could have done it. But, as I said, I had a
perfect airplane. That thing would fly like no other B-26, at slow speeds. We
would get behind other 26s, trying to make our landing in formation, and I could
just sit there and slow my airplane down and slow my airplane down and have a
good spacing for landing. The planes behind ours had to pull out of formation;
they could not fly that slow.
B: How many minutes was it from the time you were struck by antiaircraft fire and
lost power until you were able to actually get rid of your bombs?
S: To me, it seemed almost instantaneous, and the guys who were still on my wing
were commenting that, you guys really were good going into single-engine
procedure. It seems we went into single-engine procedure, they said, almost
immediately. I remember my co-pilot and I fiddling, trying to get RPMs [engine
crankshaft revolutions per-minute] up and trying to get props [propellor blade
WWI-2 page 22
pitch] adjusted and doing everything we could to keep the engine running before
we feathered the prop and got all the single-engine procedures completed. But
everybody said it looked instantaneous. When that thing hit us, it destroyed a lot
of our electrical circuits and vacuum lines. Maybe it threw that prop into a
feathered position already when it hit, I do not know. I know we manually went
through the routine, anyhow, so it had to be a minute or two minutes, at least,
before we got settled out.
B: Was the engine itself struck, or a fuel line?
S: It seemed to destroy, when it hit behind my head--there is a lot of the wiring that
went through that area, and the lines in through that were hit. That was what was
damaged. When we got down to the ground, the engine was good, but they had
to hook up circuits to it to make it work.
B: And the engine that lost power but kept running, do you think it was the same
S: I think so, yes.
B: It was a matter of, more, controls were damaged than the engine itself?
S: I think so because we could not do anything with the rpm control, prop control, at
all. We made a right turn after we hit the target area and crossed the Cherbourg
Peninsula, in the clouds. We went up in the clouds then so we would be sight
unseen. Of course, radar, if it was real good, could have picked us up, but we
had a relatively safe flight across the Cherbourg Peninsula in the clouds. Then,
we rolled into a turn to head back to England, we found out that we had lost all
our gyro instruments, and we were flying instruments on just residual spin that
was in the instruments. Luckily, it lasted until we got out of the clouds, because
when we turned back to England, none of our instruments responded. So, we
B: Not a one of them?
S: Well, the magnetic ones. The mechanical ones. So, the artificial horizon, the
artificial gyro, none of those worked.
B: Did you still have an altimeter?
S: We had the altimeter. That was still working. The pitot tube was good, so we had
the airspeed [indicator]. We had rate of climb, rate of descent instrument
working, and our airspeed was still working.
B: Turn and bank?
WWII-2 page 23
S: Turn and bank, that went out, too. Well, the turn and bank, no. You mean the
ball and needle, yes, but the artificial horizon was gone.
B: And you said you had a magnetic compass.
S: We had a magnetic compass that was still working, yes.
B: The pitot tube, that indicates airspeed, right?
S: Right. That was at such an angle, it was an inaccurate air speed we were
reading. We were reading between 100 and 105 on our way back.
B: What would guess your speed over the ground actually was?
S: I do not think it could have been much more than 110 or 115, because we were
at such a nose-high altitude. We finally were able to settle at 1,250 feet. That
was the most altitude we could get because of the lack of power in the other
engine. To see over the nose of the airplane, my co-pilot had to sit on the top of
his backrest. So, we had to be going at a very slow speed because I stalled a B-
26, and it did not seem the nose was any higher when we went into a stall
intentionally than it was when we flew back. We were at a very critical altitude,
and the nose was real high. I could not see over the nose at all.
B: Did you have flaps extended?
S: No. I did not bother to put the flaps down because that is more drag. We made a
decision amongst us that we could bail out, if we wanted to bail out, but we did
not know what that would do to the airplane if we opened up things to get out.
We all made a decision we would stick with the plane and ditch and try to get
into the life raft and be afloat. On the way back, my radioman, Julian Woods,
contacted air/sea rescue, and we saw a boat come out. They followed us back to
the shore in England, so they must have been answering our call for help. They
followed us all the way back.
B: That must have been one of those high-speed patrol and rescue boats.
B: But you were low enough to be able see them operating in the English Channel.
S: Oh, heck yes. As I said, we were only a little over 1,000 feet. We could see that
B: How long did it take you to get back across the channel, then, on the return
WWII-2 page 24
S: It seemed like a couple of hours, but I am sure it was not. I do not know. I did not
bother to time anything. I do not know if my navigator ever timed it or not. We
never talked about how long it actually took us, but it seemed to take a long time.
B: Do you think the magnetic compass was fairly accurate?
S: I think so. We trusted it, and we got back to where we wanted to get. My
bombardier-navigator, Lt. Leroy Wilsted, picked up an airfield on the south coast
of England. When we got in sight of shore, the airfield was right in front of us. So,
we saw that okay, and he got us back there using a magnetic compass.
B: Do you remember what airfield that was?
S: No. I have always tried to figure out what the heck field that was, but I do not
B: Was it a regular bomb group base or just a civil or light airplane field?
S: I think they had mixed aircraft there. I do not know if it was a military air transport
base or what, but it was right there.
B: Safe enough for you to land at.
S: Oh yes. No problem.
B: When you got your airplane on the ground, how did it look when you had a
chance to get out and evaluate the damage to it?
S: It had holes in it. We did not count them, but it had some pretty good-sized
holes, one from top to bottom. That one that went through behind my head, that
was through the side and out the top. A lot of other smaller shells went through
various positions, but nobody got hit. We were lucky. In all the missions I flew,
sixty-five missions, I had one person jokingly claim he wanted the Purple Heart
because a plexiglass hatch got blown out near him and a piece of glass
scratched between two knuckles. That is the only injury we had in all our combat.
My tail gunner, Ralph Nunnely, had his microphone shot off, his throat
microphone. He had that shot off but the bullet did not touch him. My radioman,
Woods, on one mission, was throwing [chaff] out that was like tinsel on
Christmas trees, to confuse radar. He was throwing it out the side window, the
waist gun window, and something hit him in the hand. He brought his hand in,
and he had a piece of flak about two inches long and a half-inch square. It did
not even break the skin of his hand. He threw the tinsel out, closed his hand up,
and brought in a piece of flak. It was not even hot enough to burn his hand.
B: Did he save that piece of flak?
WWII-2 page 25
S: Actually, he must have given it to me or something. I ended up with it, and I
found it amongst my stuff when I got home. So, I sent it down to him, and he was
real glad to have it. How it came into my possession, I have not the slightest
B: Would you say that yours was an unusually lucky aircrew in that regard? Did a lot
of other people get injuries while they were in combat sorties?
S: I think we were unusually lucky because we were shot up a lot. We had a lot of
holes. One mission, we came back and we had fifty-four holes in our airplane.
One other plane had eight in it, and nobody else was even scratched. We had
fifty-four holes in our plane, and nobody got hurt. I know other crews had people
killed on them. As I said, B-26 had such a safe record as far as crews and
everything else goes. They were shot down, of course, but we were never shot
B: You mentioned armor plate around the cockpit area on the C models, but there
really was not much armor plating in the aircraft, though, was there?
S: No. There was some steel wrapped around the outside.
B: When you made that landing after getting shot up on the first mission of the D-
Day invasion, how did your airplane get back to your regular base? Did it have to
be extensively repaired first?
S: It had to be repaired, yes. There is no way we could have flown it back with that
engine out, or taken off even, so they had to repair the engine in it. I must have
been on a mission when somebody else went down and got the airplane
because I never had to go back and get it. They must have sent another crew
down to pick it up and bring it back to our field.
B: How long was it before you were able to take that airplane out again?
S: I never kept a diary, and I have not the slightest idea.
B: Did it seem like a long time?
S: It did not seem long, no.
B: Did you have any misgivings about flying it again?
S: Not a bit. One thing about a B-26, if there were misgivings, all you had to say to
the squadron engineering officer, let's get in the airplane and go. He would never
get in the airplane and go. We were on another mission one time before D-Day,
and I got up to altitude and one of the engines backfired, really severely
WWII-2 page 26
backfired, and it conked out. So, we lost an engine on that one, and we had to fly
it back to our base. They told us to drop our bombs; do not land with a bay full of
bombs. But, I thought, I am not going to drop bombs on England or drop bombs
on kids or anything else. I did not mean to be heroic, but I would not drop [them].
So we flew back to our base with almost-full gas tanks and landed it. When we
got down to low altitude, my co-pilot and I tried to start the engine up, and it
worked okay. We aborted from the mission and got on the ground with no
problem, and the squadron engineering officer was real angry because we
aborted. That was bad for his record, that an airplane did not get to the mission.
He said, what is wrong with that airplane? Listen to that engine going. And they
were testing it and all. I said, okay, come on; let's go for a flight, and we will show
you. He refused to get back in the plane, so they pulled a cowling. When that
thing backfired, all of the air intakes collapsed, as strong as they were for the
engine-air intakes, and it had done some damage to the air passages going back
to the carburetors. Then they found out that our gasoline had been sabotaged
and ate up a lot of seals in my carburetor. Then they were worried about a lot of
the other airplanes on that mission, but mine seemed to be the only one that was
affected. But he would not go off the ground. That was the great thing about the
B-26: everybody was afraid of it, so you just had to say, come on, let's go fly it,
and he would make sure it worked well. They were so bad down at MacDill Field
that if the valve stem was a quarter of an inch out of line, they would not fly the
airplane, because they were afraid to blow a tire. They had a reputation for a
weak nose wheel when they first came out, too, and some of the nose wheels
collapsed. A lot of people were just deathly afraid of them.
B: Everybody was very respectful of those planes.
S: Yes. I used to get a kick. Some of the guys insisted they had to have 150 miles
an hour before they would pull it off the ground. B-26 was one of the few
airplanes where the main gear retracted forward. So when you were on the
ground, it would create so much drag for the aircraft. Some of these pilots came
roaring down the runway and did not want to get it off the ground; they were so
afraid because they thought they did not have enough airspeed. But they would
give the signal for gear up, and the main gear could not even come up. The nose
wheel would be up and retracting and fully closed up, and the main gear would
still be running on the ground because they did not have the speed they thought
they would need to get it off the ground. My airplane was off the ground at 120
miles an hour, easily at 130. I flew somebody else's [B-26] one time coming in
from a mission and I thought, that [aircraft] must fly about like mine does, but she
[the aircraft] stalled out when I flared out for landing. She stalled out at 135. We
dropped it about ten feet, and I took it right over to the main repair hanger and
said, you better check all the struts and spars [wingspars] because this thing just
had a bad landing. It stalled out at 135, but I would think nothing of flying mine in
at 130, 135 indicated, no problem at all.
WWII-2 page 27
B: Do you think airplanes that were faster to stall had unclean aerodynamics?
S: I think so. After all, they are all mass-produced. Just like an automobile: you get
a good one, or you get a lemon. I think it was that way. One of the other guys
had one, and he had to put a real crazy trim [introduce a radical control-surface
trim angle] in it for take-off. I forgot to ask Woody-I was assigned his airplane
one day-what is this trim you put in? His crew chief told me the wrong trim for
the ailerons. He had them transposed between the ailerons and rudder. Going
down the runway, it was perfect. As soon as you got the wheels off the runway,
whoa, that thing racked up [banked suddenly] and we had a heck of a time
keeping the wing from dragging because we had too much trim in on the rudder
and not enough trim on the ailerons. That was the closest call I ever had on take-
B: Did your airplane have any particularly idiosyncracies about it that you had to
warn other pilots about before they would fly it?
S: No, just get it off the ground in a hurry. In our squadron, we believed, and our
records prove, in never using maximum power for take-off, and get it off the
ground as soon as it was ready to fly. A lot of the other people threw full
[throttles] right up to the firewall, and they would not take it off until they had an
indicated speed way beyond where the airplane could be flying, but they were
afraid to pull it off the ground. We would get off the ground and get up in the air
as soon as we could.
B: What was your motive for having those kinds of practices?
S: Not throwing full power on the engine? We were close to full power, but we just
felt it was not good putting that additional strain on the engine. If it can fly, get it
off the ground and stop wear-and-tear on the landing gear and tires and wheels
and everything else. If it is supposed to fly, let it fly.
B: So you will get more life out of the airplane that way.
S: Yes. We had one of the best maintenance records of any of them, that they said
ever went through training. Our squadron, had less down-time, probably due to
good ground crews, too, who knew what they were doing, but we attributed it
partly to the way we flew them. Our squadron commander was so insistent upon
it, he would cut an engine on take-off, and [complete his] take off just to scare
people. I mean, not to scare them, but just to show them, you do not have to
worry about this airplane; it will do it. He would get a good head of speed up on
the runway, and then he would cut an engine and take off. He got in trouble
because he buzzed the field with both props stopped one time.
B: He must have had a lot of airspeed coming down doing that.
WWII-2 page 28
S: Yes, he did. He is one of the few people I know that ever rolled a B-26, too,
intentionally. You really are not supposed to, but he did it just to convince people
it was okay.
B: Did you ever lose an engine on take-off yourself?
B: But apparently it could be done.
S: It could be done, yes.
B: Well, what happened after you returned to your base from the D-Day attack? I
understood you to say that you flew again the next day, or did you fly again that
day with another aircraft?
S: I did not get to fly until the next day. I got back to the base too late on D-Day. Our
group flew at least two sorties that day, but I did not get to go on the second one
because I was waiting for a ride back to our base.
B: How about the next day?
S: I probably flew.
B: In a different aircraft?
B: And was it over the invasion beaches again or further back?
S: I do not think we hit the invasion beaches directly after that because there were
too many troops down that way, but we were hitting target areas right behind the
beaches, or else we were hitting bridges or railroads if we could. I remember one
day shortly after D[-Day], we were flying a low-level mission, and those French
farmers were either shell-shocked or immune or what, I do not know. But we had
thirty-six airplanes coming in at a low altitude. I do not think the last planes could
have been much [more than] 200 feet off the ground, bomb bays open. We
missed the target on one pass, we were turning around, and this farmer is out
there plowing. He just looked over, did not even worry that our bomb bays were
open, he just kept plowing. I could not believe it. He did not run for cover.
B: So in the days and weeks after the invasion, your missions tended to be in more
in support of the ground troops operating in the area.
S: The tanks and ground troops, yes.
WWII-2 page 29
B: Did you return to fly missions further into France or Germany in the months after
S: I very seldom got into Germany. We were flying mostly targets in France and
Belgium, or Holland. That is where most of our missions were while I was in the
group, where we were centered. We moved into France then, in September, so
we could extend our range and, of course, go further.
B: Where did you operate from in France?
S: Cormille-en-Vixen was the actual town, and Havener mentioned the base in that
book there but I have forgotten what the base was, A-11 or something like that.
There were couple of B-26 bases there. It was not very desolate. We were only
thirty-five miles from Paris. We got there whenever we could. You could see the
Eiffel Tower from our base. It was a German base that had been pretty well
damaged. The runways were pretty well bombed-up. I think we had only one
runway really usable when we were there.
B: What kind of aircraft had the Germans been operating from that base?
S: I do not know. They never told us.
B: I assume you did make the trip to Paris.
S: Oh yes, many times.
B: How did you get along with the French once you were established and operating
S: Frankly, I thought the French people were marvelous. We did not have any
trouble. I did not, and I cannot speak French. My co-pilot was getting along pretty
good. I asked him, how do you know so much French? He said, I do not know
any French, Bob. I said, well, you are talking to these people. He said, I just use
the French pronunciation. He would speak English with a French pronunciation.
He seemed to be getting along.
B: Did the French seem to be grateful or express any sentiments to you as
Americans at all?
S: I think they were grateful. As an example of that, we went back for a big reunion
in England. Brothers of the 9th Air Force, they call themselves. They are so
thankful of the Air Force coming into England and helping them in the war that
they had a 50th reunion of the first time the Air Force got there in 1942.
B: This was the English?
WWII-2 page 30
S: The English, and we had a side trip where we went over to France. The
commercial pilot, by the way, got permission from the air transport to fly over
Utah and Omaha Beaches so we could see our target areas. Then we landed
and had a little trip around Normandy and a luncheon served to us very gratefully
at Lindbergh Field. They call it Lindbergh Field because he took the Spirit of St.
Louis there, and they dismantled it and put it on a ship to bring it back to our
country after his flight. They fed us very nicely there. They were very proud of
their dairy products, so they gave us a pound of butter, wrapped just like you
would buy at the store in a brown paper bag, and a bottle of wine. Here it is in
warm weather, how do you keep a pound of butter? Then when we were in
Paris, they had a big ceremony at the mayor's office in Paris, which was Marie
Antoinette's castle, I think, when she was around. They had a big ceremony
rekindling the flame at the Arc de Triomphe, you know, the permanent flame, for
us. We had to march in. We marched in en masse and stopped traffic at the
busiest intersection in the world, they claim. Twelve lanes of traffic around the
Triomphe, at five o'clock on a Friday evening, and we formed in the street and
marched in. There was not a single horn blown. There was not a single car that
got out of line. Nobody bothered us. A young Frenchman asked me what was
going on before we formed, and I told him what we were there for. He was a
young Frenchman, probably in his early thirties, and he grabbed my hand and
was so gracious. He said, I cannot ever thank you enough for you coming in here
and chasing the Germans out. We are so proud of you people, and so effusively
thankful. This was in 1992. After that many years since the war, he had to be a
little kid, if that, when he was young, but he could not thank us enough for what
we did for France. People keep telling us the French do not appreciate us, that
the French do not like us. Here is a guy in the street who does a thing like that,
and everybody seemed very friendly every place we went. That was forty years
B: So, your impression is that they have positive feelings.
S: My impression is yes, very, even during the war, in the towns and all that.
B: How about the English that you knew during the war years when you were
operating out of England? Did they seem to be pretty comfortable with having
U.S. Army pilots and crews operating in their countryside?
S: I honestly cannot remember any conflict. If there was a conflict, the American
had to start it, as far as I am concerned, by complaining because they served
fish and chips wrapped in newspaper or something, or did not want to obey what
we considered normal. I never saw any rancor or disagreements with any of the
people in England.
B: How much longer did you operate in the European theater flying combat
missions after D-Day?
WWII-2 page 31
S: I finished my combat missions just a little before Christmas in 1944 and came
home. I thought I would get home in time for Christmas, but somehow or
another, our ship got messed up with loading cargo and unloading cargo. We
had a liberty ship on its maiden voyage. So we did not get out of Chelmsford,
which I think was the embarkation center. It is up near Manchester, I believe. So,
we did not get aboard ship until two days before Christmas. I was appointed
watch officer in the enlisted men's quarters on Christmas Eve. What was I going
to do with a bunch of sailors? I do not know. But I spent Christmas Eve on watch.
Then we left either Christmas Day or the day after Christmas, to come home. We
came home in a convoy.
B: Did you hear anything about the so-called Battle of the Bulge going on?
S: I was lucky I just missed it, but we heard about it, of course. Our ship radio had
it. I was lucky I finished my missions December 2 or 4, or something like that.
B: What was your last mission?
S: Somewhere or another, I have a slip [where] I marked down all my missions, but
I do not know. I came home with the idea, who is going to care? Just forget
about it, and get on with life.
B: Were you regretful about leaving England or regretful about leaving the squadron
or any of the people, or were you just happy to head for home?
S: I suppose it was just mixed feelings. We were glad to get our missions over. That
was an interesting thing because while we were over there, they extended our
tour from fifty missions to sixty-five. For some reason or other, I was worried as
all heck between forty-nine and fifty because it had just been changed. I was
really nervous on those, but once I got past fifty, I said, the good Lord is with me,
[and] I am going to make it, no problem at all. I was scared, but I could sit there
and watch flak. We had basic tactics to [deal with] varied flak, and you could
watch the pattern of flak coming up just exactly where this English anti-aircraft
gunnery man told us where flak would be. He had an evasive pattern for us to do
which worked very well. You would make a sharp turn right or left before you got
to your target, and he said the first burst of flak should be off your nose because
they are tracking you, going that line. If you make a right turn, it will be off to your
left. Then, hold that heading, I think it was, for fifteen seconds if you are at
12,000 feet, then make not-as-sharp-a-turn to the left, then another sharp turn.
Every fifteen seconds, make a turn, because he figured it took them eighteen
seconds to load, arm the missile and fire it, and get it up to our altitude and have
it burst. And, he said, the next piece of flak will be off to your right, because you
turned left, and you would see it there. The next ones would be following around
until you get on the bomb run. Then, you are trusting luck. But, we were also
fortunate at our altitude and the size of our formations, I am sure, had something
WWII-2 page 32
to do with it and the maneuverability of the B-26. If we had a sixty-second bomb
run, it was a long one. The B-17s had five- and ten-minute bomb runs where
they stayed straight and level. We did not have a long bomb run, and when in
the bomb run, they had us pretty well zeroed-in.
B: You mentioned the size of your formations. Do you think that B-26s, having
much smaller formations, were less likely to attract flak or be exposed to it?
S: I do not say it was less likely to attract flak, but flak was less effective against it
because of our maneuverability. The B-26 was a very, I thought, highly
maneuverable airplane, compared to B-24s and B-17s, particularly.
B: How many aircraft would usually be operating together as a unit in a bombing
S: They called them flights. We had flights of six, and we would have at least six
flights of six. There would be thirty-six airplanes, then. We liked to fly a tight
pattern, because the tighter the pattern, the less effective fighters would be
against you. Yes, so we would fly as tight as we could. I remember flying this
position number four, I could ride up tight to the belly of number one and look up
into his bomb bay and watch the bombs come out, and they would just go right
past our nose. We would fly as tight a pattern as we could, because then we
would get a better concentration of hits and we were a better defense against
enemy fighters if they attacked us. On one mission, I saw an Me-262 (German
Messerschmidt-built, twin engine jet fighter aircraft), I think it was, the first jet that
was flying, and we were just amazed. It was out off our wing, and all of sudden,
he went straight up in the sky. I just could not believe it. Of course, you see [jets]
at all times now, but in those days, man, that was something.
B: Did you see that aircraft, the Me-262, attempt any combat? Did you see them fire
weapons or try to make an attack?
S: No. He was just up, I think, observing us. They had such a short range, he
probably would not have made more than a pass, if he was lucky. With all the
planes that were there, he did not attack us anyhow.
B: I heard you mention FW-190s (German fighter built by Focke-Wulfe). Did you
also see the Me-109s (another German Messerschmidt fighter aircraft)?
S: Yes. In fact, Galland was flying an Me-109 when he crossed us over the
beachhead on D-Day morning.
B: That fits, because that was his regular aircraft, was it not?
WWII-2 page 33
B: And his wing man, also, was an Me-109?
B: Did you see any other German aircraft in the course of your operations?
S: We saw a lot in the distance. We would see them flying over England, of course.
B: German bombers, or observation planes?
S: Yes. They did mostly night-bombing over England. That was pretty well quieted
down by the time we got there, though. They chased a lot of them out of the air.
They did not have enough range. That was their problem. Until they got to
France, they could hardly get beyond London. So, the English were able to train
pilots. They just pulled their fighter bases back a little further from London, and
they could fly defense missions from there. The Germans, if they got to London,
had to turn right around and go back because they would be running out of fuel
already. In my opinion, that was maybe Hitler's mistake; he had short-range
airplanes. He never fixed them up like we did.
B: You flew your last mission just at the beginning of December, and that was your
sixty-fifth mission. At that time, then, the maximum number for a tour was sixty-
five, so you were ready to return home, and then what--be discharged?
S: No. I was returned home and reassigned. We landed at Fort Monmouth, New
Jersey. I went there and [then] got sent home and then went to Santa Anna,
California, for redistribution.
B: But first you went back to Cleveland?
S: Yes, to family.
B: How long did you get to spend in Cleveland with your family?
S: I think when I got out of combat, I spent at least two or three weeks there before
I had to go on back to Santa Anna. I forget [how long it was], exactly, two or
three weeks. Then, I went to Santa Anna, and then they sent me back here to
Fort Myers, Florida, [to] Buckingham Field. It was a gunnery training and
gunner's school. B-26s towed targets around for them to shoot at.
B: Did you fly there?
S: No, I got fouled up. They grounded me for awhile. As I told you, I had that
infected ear in June of 1943. I got back in 1945, and they said I had been unfit
for flying all the time I was in combat; 800 hours of flying time and leading
WWII-2 page 34
missions and all that, and they said I was unfit for flying and they grounded me.
So I never got up in a B-26 when I got back to the States. They put me on waiver
and would not let me go up in a B-26. I was flying a Stearman biplane making
low-altitude passes while they were practicing with aerial sights on the stands
and towers and all. They would get their gunnery practice. We were flying around
[in] Stearmans doing low-altitude flying with them to aim at, but no ammunition.
B: So, your last flight in a B-26 was a combat mission?
S: Right. Very sad. When I was overseas, I enrolled and tried to get to fly a Black
Widow in combat, but I never got a tour of duty assigned. I was trying to get it
changed, not to be heroic, but I just wanted to fly that airplane, too.
B: That was when you were still in Europe?
B: What was the Black Widow?
S: It was a P-61 by Northrup. It was a twin-engine. It had twin booms on it, sort of
like a P-38, only a bigger airframe. It was an attack bomber and an attack fighter.
Used it a lot for night-fighting, too. They had a lot of innovations in it. It had wing
spoilers that would come up, act more like ailerons than ailerons did. Just spoiled
the airflow on a wing and get to bank and turn and all that, and different types of
things. It just looked like an interesting airplane to fly, but I never got into it.
B: It sounds like another hot aircraft.
S: It sounds like it was, yes. I do not know.
B: You must have been attracted to hot airplanes.
S: I guess I was, I do not know. I just liked to fly.
B: How much longer did you fly when you were down at Fort Myers?
S: I got there in, probably, February. Then, I went to Lubbock, Texas, to be an
instrument instructor. So, I flew AT-6s and things out at Lubbock, Texas, training
to be an instrument instructor. My discharge came through while I was there. So,
the instructor gave me my final check ride, but he said, unfortunately, it is not
official because you do not have quite enough hours to make it official, but he
gave me an 'excellent' on my test ride. So, I had my test on the last day, and
then I got home. I went to Fort Myers and then back home. I went to Indianapolis
for discharge, Camp Atterbury. The German war was over, [but] the Japanese
war was not over when I got discharged.
WWII-2 page 35
B: Do you remember what the date was, approximately?
S: My discharge effective? I think it was around September 30, 1945. I was home
by July or August. I was going to go back to work. I had worked for Ohio Bell,
and my job was secure at Ohio Bell, but I heard a friend of mine who was out in
the islands for the whole extent of the war-he had never gotten home--in the
quartermaster corps. I heard he was coming home, so I stayed off another thirty
days without going back to work so we could have some fun together. He was
telling me how rough it was in the islands. I said, Al, you do not know how rough
it was. He said, what do you mean? It was really bad out there. I said, Al, do you
know sometimes we had to wait two weeks for clean sheets? He said, you SOB,
I had to carry the ping pong table to the officer's club in Iwo Jima when the
second wave [came]. (Laughter).
B: What was your rank at discharge, Bob?
B: And what decorations did you receive?
S: I had the Air Medal twelve oak leaf clusters, and a Distinguished Flying Cross,
and, I think, four battle stars, a presidential citation for the group, and, I think,
three, whatever they call them, war zones, three ribbons for that.
B: Theater ribbons?
S: Theater ribbons, yes.
B: What theaters would those have been?
S: I do not know how I got them, because we were in South America, we were in
Africa, and England and France. I do not know if they called them all different
theaters or what, but they gave us four theaters, America, of course, with South
B: I guess there were combat operations going on from Africa when you were in
B: And then you operated from England and then from France as well, so that may
be that. Well, we have covered a lot of territory having to do with your Second
World War experiences. I think there is a lot more to talk about, but is there
anything that occurs to you that you think people want to know about your
experiences from that period of time?
WWII-2 page 36
S: I guess I am no philosopher so I do not have any big thoughts except, war is hell.
Just stupid. I had a grand time. Oh yes, I had three injuries in the service. I had a
piece of flak bounce off my flak helmet one time, it didn't hit me, and I got a
horrible shiner playing volleyball, sprained an ankle playing basketball, and got
hit by a truck when I coming home from playing golf in England. Those are my
B: How did you meet Wilma, the woman that you wound up marrying?
S: I met Wilma on a blind date. We were both going to Fenn College.
B: Was this after the war?
S: After the war, yes. A friend of mine from high school days, he and his wife were
quite active socially at Fenn College at the time, and they knew we both worked
for Ohio Bell. We did not know each other, so they thought we ought to know
each other. So we met that way and ended up getting married. A very happy
marriage, fifty-two years now. A great time.
B: Where were you married?
S: In East Cleveland, Ohio, at the St. James Lutheran Church. East Cleveland was
my hometown before we got married. Then, we moved into Lakewood, Ohio,
after we got married. Then, to Avon Lake, Ohio, since 1953.
B: And that is where you live now.
S: That is where we live.
B: Did you fly anymore as a civil pilot after the war?
S: I flew a little bit, and I had a partnership in a Skylane.
B: Cessna Skylane?
S: Yes, Cessna Skylane, 182 version. We had that for awhile. At the telephone
company, there is nothing more honorable than being there on time. That is
about one of the best things you can do. I do not think they would have
understood coming in late on Monday morning because you got weathered out
or anything like that. Then they got so restrictive they were afraid we would run
into a 747 and knock it out of the sky so the only way you could use your
airplane on business service was to get the written permission from the president
of the company, and you were not allowed to take anybody along with you. You
had to fly solo even though you are all going to the same place. So, it lost its
usefulness traveling around on company business. I flew it for awhile and then
WWII-2 page 37
B: What year was it that you quit flying, for pleasure?
S: Some time, I think, about the mid-1970s.
B: What was your work with Ohio Bell?
S: I started as installation, repair, assigning, and I ended up being district manager
in depreciation, figuring out rates and salvage. I did that for the last twenty-six
years. Various progressions through that way. Argued with the FCC [Federal
Communications Commission] and the state commissions about depreciation
rates, life, and salvage. And I do mean argue. We were at a seminar, one of the
many at Lyle, an AT&T [American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, then
the parent company of Ohio Bell] training center near Chicago. They had an
international expert in contract negotiations leading the seminar. We would do
the usual case-studies stuff that you would always have to do with these
business things. I am a little skeptical of some of those, of course. We would
take the part of the FCC man, and the expert could not believe all the depictions
of this FCC man were so miserable. We did not even do it as bad as he was, we
all felt. He said, I just cannot believe this. He said, in my next book, I know I am
going to have to include a couple more chapters on discussing things with the
FCC, because that FCC man was miserable. Here, he was representing the
federal government and he did not mind saying, you people are nothing but a
bunch of crooks and cheats; you will lie and steal; you will do anything; you make
your company good and you do not give a so-called damn about the public and
everything else. He argued about everything.
B: So, they really are tough regulators.
S: Oh, really, really. Then, they broke up AT&T. We did everything the FCC
required. I was so fed up with the government that my wife said when she goes,
Judge Green is going with her. (Laughter).
B: Who was Judge Green?
S: He was the man who conducted all the break-up of AT&T, the federal judge.
B: So, you and your wife both believe that was an uncalled-for decision?
S: Absolutely uncalled-for, I think.
B: Talk a little bit about your time on base in England when you were not actually on
duty flying combat missions: How did you and your squadron mates spend time
when you did not actually have to be flying?
WWII-2 page 38
S: Those in our barracks, anyhow, we rented a flat in London, about five blocks
from Hyde Park and the Cumberland Hotel, which was one of the big hotels in
London at that time. We rented a flat at Number 3 Bullstroh Street. We got a kick
out of that. There was a radiant [electric] fireplace in it. I guess that was true in a
lot of English places. The radiant fireplace, you had to put the equivalent of a
quarter in it, and it would give you heat for an hour or two hours, if it was cold
enough to require it. But we stayed there, and we went to the theater in London
and art museums and everything and did the usual thing, pubbing and all that.
We could get a train very easily in and out from the town of Bishop's Stortford,
which was thirty-five miles from London.
B: There were no particular restrictions on traveling?
S: We did not know of any. Our squadron CO said that as long as we were not
scheduled to fly, the next day we could take off and go to London if we wanted
to. So, a lot of us would be in London a lot. There was a fourteen-hole golf
course in Bishop's Stortford. It was originally eighteen, but they converted a lot of
it to public gardens for growing food, so that they only had fourteen holes left.
We played a lot of golf if we were not scheduled for doing any flying.
B: That was near the base or in London?
S: Near the base. Oh, all the flying crews were issued bicycles so we could get to
town, get to the railway station or get to the golf course. When we would go to a
show, sometimes we would go en masse and ride formation on the bikes and
end up in a big tangle because somebody had too much beer.
B: When you refer to town, that is Bishop's Stortford, right?
S: Yes. Stanstead was so small. There was a little pub there, and they had a big
ceremony honoring us returning for the 50th anniversary in the Air Force, coming
to England. They had a big ceremony there, and they planted a tree in our
honor, at this little Arms pub that was 200 years old.
B: And it was there when you were, and still in operation?
S: Yes. But, being a non-drinker, I never went to the pub very much. But, we were
there and, in France, again, we were stationed about thirty miles from Paris, and
we could get a train easily from where we were, or a bus, and get into Paris. We
spent a lot of time in Paris.
B: Did you rent a flat in Paris?
S: No, we did not rent a flat in Paris. Everything was too expensive in Paris.
WWII-2 page 39
B: What part of London was this flat in that you rented with squadron mates?
S: Pretty much near the central part. We were in walking distance from Buckingham
[Palace]. I remember one time before we had the flat, my co-pilot and I were in
the Cumberland Hotel up pretty high, and the buzz bombs came in. We saw
them coming down and landing in sections of Hyde Park. We were there one
night when they came over, and the anti-aircraft fire was starting up some. I said,
do you want to go down to the air raid shelter? No, I do not think so. Do you? No,
I do not think so. Do you? No. This went on a bit. Finally, we just jumped into our
clothes and went downstairs. We were going to go to the air raid shelter. We
ended up standing underneath the marquee and watching the flashes, the guns,
over there, and they set off the rocket fire, the anti-aircraft rockets. That is the
most scary noise, if you have never heard it. It sounds like a couple thousand
bullwhips all snapping at once. Zzzzooom! Real loud, terribly loud. Boy, when
that went off, I thought, gee, my co-pilot is calm. He did not jump. I know I went
about three feet up in the air. And he said I looked calm, and he thought he went
about three feet up in the air. So, to look, we were each standing still, but, boy,
that scared the daylights out of us, so we went to the aircraft shelter. To heck
with that. No heroes.
B: Was there a lot of bombardment of London going on when you visited the city?
S: I was fortunate. There was not too much going on. A lot of the big fire-bombing
was done when we got there. There was still a lot of it going on, but it was not
particularly where we were stationed, except for an occasional buzz bomb and
that. We were in a big theater one time, and air raid sirens went on, and I do not
really know if a single person left the theater. This buzz bomb, it sounded to us
when it went by that it must have been going right down the street level, right
between the buildings. The whole inside of this beautiful well-constructed theater
just rattled and shook from the noise of the buzz bomb, because they suck air in
and expel it, you know, boom, boom, boom. That is the way they propel
themselves. I will swear, it must have been at almost street level where it went
right down the street. I do not remember hearing it bang wherever it landed. The
English were very stoic about it. A lot of people would sleep in the subways at
night, but during the day, they just went about their usual routine.
B: Most of the bombing occurred during the hours of darkness?
S: Yes, hours of darkness.
B: Including the buzz bombs?
S: Buzz bombs would be daily. Night and day, it did not matter.
B: How did they get the name, buzz bomb? It sounds like they made a more
WWI-2 page 40
S: They did. It was a very thunderous noise. I really do not know why they called
them buzz, except the bzzz, boom, boom. It was sort of a buzz noise but very
loud. I think it was just an explosion of fuel in a container in the top. It was sort
of cylindrical with a bulb on the end of it where the fuel-combustion chamber
was, and it would blow it out the back where it formed a jet-propulsion.
B: So, did it sound like a contemporary jet or a rocket launching?
S: No, big difference.
B: More series of impulses?
S: Series of impulses, right, yes. And actually, when you would see them at night,
you could see the series, heavy flame still residual in the air. The flame would be
out there in little puffs. Then, the V-2 came in. I think we were out of England
before they did much launching of V-2s. As I understand, French forced-labor
built V-1 launching sites and V-2 launching sites, and they were not too
predictable, I guess. All the French would be there who had to build these things
under forced-labor conditions, and occasionally one of them would blow up on
the pad and kill a few of the Germans, and the French would all cheer like mad
and have to go back in and rebuild it then.
B: Did the British seem to be much affected by the V-1s and V-2s?
S: I suppose, but they were so used to the fire bombing. I was just amazed. We
were trying to figure out many times, what would the American people do in our
American cities if they had to go through what the English people went through,
or what the French must have gone through? What would have been the
reaction? We hope that they would behave as well as the English did. We just
hope they would, because I do not know how they could do it, go to work, come
home, eat, go to restaurants. They just seemed to be leading as normal a life as
B: Did the British people seem to be supportive of their armed forces and their
government, or were there dissenters?
S: I would have to say my experience was 100 percent supporters. I never ran into
anybody who was dissenting with the idea and unsupportive. I never ran into
anyone who voiced any negative comments at all.
B: I understood you to say before that you heard speakers in Hyde Park, rabble-
WWII-2 page 41
S: Well, yes, there were rabble-rousers. They would just get up, I think, to hear
themselves heard on any subject. You could start a conversation with somebody
and, pretty soon, one or the two of them would be up on a stand and giving a
speech. That is still being done. Rick Steves, who does a lot of television
travelogues and traveling the European continent and all that, he was in Hyde
Park and he even gave a speech one day. He just got to talking to somebody,
and pretty soon, he was up on a rostrum speaking about something. He just a
recent [travelogue] on PBS. He is usually on PBS, and he does a series. He is
always going all around the continent, to Turkey and Istanbul and Italy and up
and down and back and forth, into Madrid, Spain, and Portugal. He even got on
the rostrum at Hyde Park and gave a speech one time.
B: You said you and your squadron played a lot of golf when you had the chance.
S: We played golf whenever we could, right.
B: Had you been a golfer before you went to England?
S: I was golfer before I went into the service, yes.
B: Did you take clubs with you?
S: I did not take clubs with me, no, but you could rent them there. We were
fortunate enough that our families would get golf balls once in a while and send
them to us. The English loved to play golf so much, and some of the poor souls,
we would give them balls whenever we could. They would be playing with balls
with part of the cover torn off and the rubber winding showing, but they were still
off to play their golf.
B: So, golf balls were in short supply.
S: Very short supply, right, so we tried to give them golf balls whenever we could.
B: Do you think a lot of Americans discovered golf for the first time when they went
S: I do not think so. There did not seem to be that many golfers. We had a little
core in our group, the squadron commander, one of the leading fight
commanders, and A.J. Wood, who was not my radioman but another pilot. He
was a rotund man, and he used to shoot in the seventies all the time. We would
have little groups of about eight of us who would go out most of the time. We
also had a pet monkey. Somebody stole him out of a base in Africa and brought
him up to England and then found out about the quarantine laws, that an animal
has to be quarantined before they let them loose in England. So, somebody
abandoned him in the hotel [where] we stayed in Newquay, England, which is
WWII-2 page 42
down on the south coast of England, abandoned him in the hotel, and Joe Lane,
a co-pilot, picked him up for a buddy. He was a big grey monkey, about three
feet high. He was a great amusement. Our flight surgeon put him in quarantine
and watched him carefully for anything, and we sneaked him on the base. He
flew a few missions with Joe. Joe just had to say, c'mon Jocko, let's go. And he
would jump inside his jacket. Joe would zip up his jacket around him, and old
Jocko would be hanging onto his chest until they got into the airplane, and he
flew missions with some of them. He was a great diversion. Joe took him home.
B: When you say took him home, you mean back to the States?
S: He took him back to the States when he went home, yes. He loved beer. He
found out how to open the beer tap in the keg in the enlisted men's recreation
room. He would sit there and open it up and start drinking beer and come home
drunk. When we were in France, we had a lucky thing, too. We were not too far
from Paris. As I told you, we could see the Eiffel Tower. We got into France and
saw a lot of things.
B: Had the Germans left Paris pretty much intact, as near as you could tell?
S: As near as we could tell because the commanding officer refused to tear it up.
He was under orders from Hitler to tear it up when he left, but he did not do it.
There is one wall where they used to shoot a lot of supporters of France, and
there are a lot of bullet holes in that wall. There is a commemorative service for
the French who lost their lives there.
B: Did you see that again at your reunion?
S: No, we did not get to that place. They did not take us there. I do not know why.
But we had a good time in France. We did not play golf, though.
B: So it was when you were flying out of France that you flew your last few
S: Yes, I flew my last few missions at that same base. The outfit was moved to
various bases after I left it, but I flew my last one from Cormeilles-en-Vexin, right
up near the Battle of the Bulge but it had not started yet when we were there.
B: Were there very many people from your squadron who did not return from
S: I seem very callous when I say this, but I got a list one time. Somebody sent me
a list of the flights as we were organized on D-Day morning. I was surprised,
there were a number who did not get back. I did not know we lost anybody on D-
Day, but they say there were two or three airplanes lost on D-Day. I did not know
WWII-2 page 43
it because I was not with them. I was just tagging along behind. All told, I was
amazed, in this book, the B-26 Marauder book you have there, he quoted how
few casualties there were. B-26s had, probably, the lowest casualty-rate of any
bomber in World War II. We attributed it because it was such a strong ship. It
could take all sorts of beating and still fly back, just like the B-17 had the
reputation of flying back. But you were asking about injuries and all that and
losses. We had very low losses in all the time I was overseas. There were ten
guys who lived with us, and I do not remember a single one even get any injuries
at all. Well, yes, one of them was shot down, but as far as I know, he survived.
He was a West Pointer who was shot down on one mission.
B: Did they bail out of that aircraft?
S: As far as we know, he bailed out okay, yes.
B: Over friendly territory, or was he captured?
S: Over [occupied] French territory, and he was captured.
B: I see. But he made it back after the war?
S: Yes, he made it back. And my best friend who lived in another barracks, he was
shot down and a prisoner of war until after the war.
B: It sounds like the majority of B-26 operations were successful, fortunate, safe.
S: I think we were fortunate, and we were successful. We did our job. I mean, I
know we were hitting our targets and all that. We had an interesting one over
Rouen one day. We were told to make sure we did not hit the chapel of the
church in Rouen because it is a very historic spot. The weather was real bad,
and I was flying co-pilot for the leading pilot who was our squadron commander. I
was flying co-pilot, and we had to go down at real low altitude. We were dropping
2,000-pound bombs. Because of the fuses on it, we should have had a minimum
of 4,000 feet when we dropped them. We dropped them at around 1,000 to
1,500 feet, and, boy, everyone of those bombs hit and they just kicked the
airplane up and forward. They had instantaneous fuses on them, so we were not
far from where we dropped them. I always wondered about the tail-end charlies
[the trailing aircraft in a formation], how close they were to some of the
fragments. We were in the lead airplane, so we did not have to worry that much.
B: Can you think of anything else we need to add to this discussion of your
experience with the B-26s and the Army Air Force during the war?
S: I enjoyed the Air Force very much. I was going to stay in it, but they grounded me
because of an ear condition so I would not have been allowed to fly much longer.
WWII-2 page 44
They told me I was going to lose my sense of balance and hearing, so I got out
of the Air Force when I could. I wanted to stay in, but they made it difficult. I feel
grateful that I was able to learn how to fly, and I have always appreciated the fact
that I did get to fly, particularly flying the airplane of my choice to boot. It was a
great experience. We had a great experience in the Westminster Abbey one
time. Three of us were in there noseying around. We thought we did not need to
hire a guide because we could read English and we felt we could make our own
way around. We were admiring a real old door in one part of the Abbey with a
huge lock, and we were discussing the size of the key and who carried it around.
It must have been a huge weighted thing. Some elderly gentleman came down
the steps behind us, and he seemed to be listening to what we were talking
about. He came to us and he said, you gentleman seemed to be interested in the
Abbey. We said, oh, we are, yes. He said, do you want to see it? He had worked
in and revered the Abbey. He had worked in it for thirty-five years. He took to us
to places that royalty had not even been to, since they sandbagged them up for
the war. We were in all sorts of private areas of the Abbey, and he knew the
history of them. He showed us the staircase where the two little princes were
supposed to have been hid away. Now, they did not hide away. They hid them
away and later on killed the both of them in the Tower of England. And where the
Edward the Confessor used to sleep up in the organ loft and all sorts of little
history I do not think we would have ever gotten from anybody else. He said
[that] some of the abbots had little rooms that they stayed in, and people did not
realize it until some bombs landed near the Westminster Abbey and knocked a
lot of the ceilings loose in the abbots' rooms. A lot of abbots, it seemed, when
they knew their end was coming, put very decorative things with semi-precious
stones in the ceilings and made mosaics. It was not known they were there until
the plaster got knocked off. They covered them up there, or somebody covered
them up, and when the plaster got knocked out, they could see a lot of these
mosaics that the old abbots had put in. I thought that was interesting.
B: Did you go back to the Abbey when you were back in London?
S: Yes, we went back in there a little bit. Unfortunately, on a tour, you do not have
much time to do all the stuff, but we saw the Abbey and the House of Parliament.
B: I think we will say that we will conclude this interview, and as we do so I thank
you very much for participating in this.
S: You are welcome. Thank you. [End of interview.]