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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
P: This is Julian Pleasants and I'm in St. Petersburg, Florida with Richard Landauer.
This is June 21, 2005. Tell me when and where you were born.
L: I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania November the 20th, 1920.
P: What educational background do you have?
L: I graduated from high school in Erie. I went to junior college in St. Petersburg. I
took a lot of college courses. I didn't go to one university. It's spread out, you
know what I mean?
P: How did you end up in St. Petersburg from Erie?
L: We were transferred here. I joined the service. We went to Langley Field, and
then from Langley Field we came to McDill [Air Force Base], which wasn't quite
P: It was brand new and had just started, wasn't it?
L: We went to Drew Field, which is now an international airport.
P: Why did you join the service and when did you join?
L: When did I join the service? 1939.
P: You joined the Army Air Force in 1939?
P: Why did you choose the Army Air Force and why did you join at that time?
L: I wanted to get away from Lawrence Park. Lawrence Park was strictly a
manufacturing town. It was a General Electric town. My dad wanted me to work
in General Electric, and I didn't want to. I wanted to move on, so that was the
easiest way for me to do it.
P: Why the Army Air Force instead of the Army or the Navy?
L: I was intrigued by the Air Force more than the Army or the Navy
P: I've talked to a lot of people who ended up being in the Air Force and they'd
always sort of loved planes and they liked watching planes and had been
intrigued by flying in general. Was that the way it was with you?
L: That's pretty much so, yes.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 2
P: Talk to me about Langley Field? What did you do at Langley Field?
L: I went to Langley Field for my basic [training]. There was where I did my
bombardier training, was at Langley Field. When I went to Florida, I was a
bombardier at the time.
P: This, of course, is way before you get the Norden bomb sight. What kind of
bomb sight did you have when you took your first training?
L: I don't remember. Later on we got to Norden.
P: As I understand it, it was much more sophisticated and much more accurate?
L: Yes. It was more of an automated bomb sight than the old ones.
P: When you get down here to McDill, you were in the 97th Bomb Group, is that
L: No. I think the 97th was formed from some of the groups down at McDill. I don't
remember the exact- I've probably got it in my book someplace.
P: They were actually just building McDill at that time, right?
L: Yes, it was in the young stages.
P: What were St. Pete[rsburg, Florida] and Tampa like in those days? Obviously,
not as crowded as the city is today.
L: No, it was very much a tourist-type attraction. During the off-season, St. Pete
and Tampa were pretty deserted. After that it started to build up quite rapidly.
P: At some point, you also took maintenance work and learned how to operate gun
turrets as well as bombing?
L: Right. I went to school for Power-Operated Gun Turrets, POGT, is what they
called it. POGTs. That was in Denver, Colorado, when I went to school in
P: You were trained both as a bombardier and as a turret gunner?
L: Right, well, they called it armament.
P: At this point, what planes were you flying?
L: We were flying B-18's.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 3
L: They were twin-engine Douglass [planes]. That was our biggest aircraft that we
had at the time.
P: When did they start making the B-17's?
L: I'd say we got our first ones around 1940.
P: That's what I would think. The first B-17's were known as the "Flying Fortress," is
P: Describe the first B-17's. How many crew members would you have?
L: Let's see ... We would have eight.
P: You'd have a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, four gunners?
L: No, we only had two waist guns at the time. And a tail gun. We had a gun at the
top that was
used by the
did a dual-
P: Okay. So at this point, you didn't have an underneath gun. You didn't have a tail
P: But you had a nose gun?
L: We had nose guns, yes. This was a B-17. Then they came out with the
modifications, E, F, and G, and so on.
P: By the time they got to G, they had underneath [guns] and a tail gunner.
L: And nose turrets. It was much more sophisticated.
P: When you were flying B-17's, would you operate any of the guns?
L: Not too much, no.
WVllII-28, Landauer, Page 4
You'd let someone else do it?
Later on, when the later models came out, then I'd operate the ball turret and the
top turrets and the side turrets, but initially, no.
The ball turret, those were automated at that point? They would be fifty-caliber?
They were fifty-caliber, right. Twin fifties.
You could do a three-sixty?
You could do a three-sixty at about ninety degrees in elevation.
Which was really important to be able to maneuver like that.
Let me go back and talk a little bit about your early career. You ended up in the
97th Bomb Group, and that group is going to be transferred to England. If you did
it like most people did, you would have taken all of the armament, the weight, off
of the planes, and they'd be shipped over by pilots, right?
They had a ferry command. It was turned over to the ferry command.
Then they flew the plane?
Because the B-17's didn't have the range to make it all the way across. They
would stop in Iceland or Greenland, or somewhere like that.
The range, as I recall, was about three thousand miles, something like that?
Pretty close to it. They'd have to stop. At this time, they didn't have this in-flight
How did you get over? I understand you went on the Queen Elizabeth?
The Queen Elizabeth, yes.
That's pretty nice, wasn't it?
That was quite a ship.
How many troops would have gone on this ship?
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 5
You got on the train at Fort Dix [New Jersey]?
Then you went to, I guess, New York. Then the Queen Elizabeth usually goes to
Northhamptonshire [United Kingdom]. You'd get off after about five days at sea,
something like that?
It was pretty fast.
Was the Queen Elizabeth full of Air, Navy, Army [troops]?
As far as I know it was. I don't really know.
So this had just been taken over by the British as a troop ship, right?
It was still pretty nice quarters, I would imagine.
It was pretty plush for a troop ship. [laughter] It had one advantage; it was too
fast for the submarines, so that was a big advantage to it.
Did you have destroyer escorts?
We had escorts so far out from our side, and then they met us from the English
side. In between we just went on our own. It was so fast that they couldn't catch
This would have been early 1941 when you went to England?
That was on May 19th.
When you get to your station in England, where are you going to be flying out of?
I'm trying to remember that. Pulbrook..
Pulbrook, England. Where was that in relationship to London? Probably south?
Southeast maybe. It's a town.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 6
P: When do you begin your first bomb run?
L: We went to Pulbrook and we got there ahead of our airplanes. We went to-I'm
trying to think of the base that the British and Canadians used-and we went
there for experience. They flew Wimpies. That's a twin-engine bomber. They
were strictly night bombing. It was quite a thrill.
P: So you worked with the British?
L: Yes. We worked with them for experience until our planes got over there.
P: I understand the British, in particular, were very good pilots.
L: They were good pilots. Their bombing was different than ours. We were
precision-type group bombing. Theirs was more of a one plane man-on-man
type bombing. They took off from Milden Hall. That's what the name of it was.
P: Milden Hall. I know that name.
L: It's grass runways. Each one was assigned an altitude and the target. And
[then] go get 'em boys.
P: These were individual targets as opposed to what you did, which was really
L: It wasn't saturation bombing [that they were doing], no.
P: They flew at night, and you flew during the daytime. Why did the Americans fly
during the daytime? Obviously they could be more accurate; they could see the
L: Right, that's the only thing I could come up with. We went in as a group, and not
as a single plane. At that time, we had some fighter escort[s]. We didn't have a
lot of fighters in England over there at that time.
P: Who would they be, P-51 Mustangs?
L: Probably P-51's, I imagine. I don't think the P-38's were too prominent at that
P: Those were, at that point, our best fighter planes.
L: Yeah, I would guess they were.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 7
P: When you would go on a typical bombing run, take me through the whole day.
What time would you get up and what kind of breakfast would you have, and
what kind of briefing would you go through?
L: Times, I don't remember. Early in the morning. At daybreak we were probably
P: Would you eat a pretty heavy meal or a light meal?
L: It was kind of up to you. They served a nice breakfast and let you eat what you
P: Some people got air sick if the weather got a little turbulent.
L: Right. We would take off, I'm trying to remember some of the incidents.
P: They would brief everyone together?
L: [They would brief] individual squadrons. Then we would form, after takeoff, [and
meet at] some pronounced point, and we would cross the channel as a group.
P: How many normally would be in your group when you would fly?
L: I would say somewhere between fifty and sixty planes.
P: On a consistent basis?
L: Pretty much so, yeah.
P: If you're like most of those groups, everybody would take off and circle around
until you formed up.
L: Until you formed up, right.
P: You would do the V when you flew? With one plane forward and two off to the
L: Pretty much so. After we formed.
P: The idea of the large formation was to protect the planes in the center.
L: We had a lot of fire power with that type of formation. Anybody coming in was
exposed to fifty, sixty machine guns. At least.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 8
P: I would assume that it would be better to be in the middle than at the end or on
the sides. Is that right?
L: I guess so.
P: I'd always hate to be the last one.
L: Our biggest threat was not aircraft. It was flack. They put up a heavy barrage of
P: When you would get briefed in the morning, they would tell you that you were
going to the railroad yards in Munich, something like that?
L: They gave you altitude.
P: Altitude, the target. How long would it normally take to get to your target and
[then] back? How many hours normally?
L: I would say it would be four to six hours.
P: It was not as bad as some of the later ones with the B-29's. They'd have eight or
L: When we first started, we didn't penetrate into Germany. It was French soil, you
might say. Just a short distance over the channel.
P: What altitude would you fly when you went to your target?
L: Right around fifteen thousand [feet].
P: Was it at all cold?
L: It was cold. We were on oxygen.
P: Did you have the fleece?
L: We had the heavy flight wear-flight jackets, yeah. We didn't have all of the flack
suits that they had later.
P: But they had a lot of those fleece-lined uniforms?
L: Everybody just about had those.
P: You had no heat.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 9
L: There was no heat.
P: When you would take off at this point, were you bombardier?
P: Would you control the plane as you went in to bomb?
L: When the bomb run was started, the pilot would turn the plane over to the
bombardier. The bombardier took his bomb sight [and] would fly his plane into
the target. Unless in advance they had described it that we'd drop bombs on the
lead plane. In other words, when the lead plane drops, we drop.
P: Normally they'd leave it up to the individual bombardiers to determine?
L: Bomb run, yeah.
P: When you start on your bomb run, the bad news is that you can't really
maneuver. Everybody has to stay on line until you drop your bomb.
P: I guess that's the point where you're most vulnerable.
L: Right. You can see what's going to happen through your bomb site, but you
can't do anything about it. You can't do a flinch. If you [attempt] evasive action,
your bombs are going to go wild, too.
P: You would see the target. You had a little view finder you would look through to
see the target?
L: We had a telescope.
P: You already knew the grid that you were going to drop them on? Or did you just
do it by sight?
L: We had a certain position in the flight. We would line up on that. Of course, if
you were real close together we dropped on the lead [of the first plane].
P: I remember talking to one B-17 pilot who was flying into a cloud. It was just thick
and they couldn't see. Somehow or another they ended up changing places.
They didn't hit each other, but they all of a sudden looked up and the guy was on
the other side. I guess flying through those clouds could be a little tricky, couldn't
it? Trying to maintain your place in the formation.
L: Very much so.
WWll-28, Landauer, Page 10
P: Could you see the flack coming toward you?
L: You could see the flack when it exploded.
P: Some guy told me you were just going into all this flack that was exploding in
front of you and you were just flying right into it.
L: It was like a black powder going off. You hit a black spot. There's not much you
could do about it.
P: You would do your drop, and then turn around and head back for home?
L: Right. We had to turn [after dropping].
P: If you had fighter escorts, would they take you all the way to the target and then
wait for you to come back?
P: They didn't have enough fuel to do that.
L: No, they met us partway.
P: They took you partway, released you, and picked you up?
L: And picked us up again.
P: Did you have much trouble with enemy aircraft, Messerschmitt 109s, or the
L: No. I can't tell you what they had later on in England. I think they had a lot more
trouble, because we left. We went to North Africa. So we didn't get into this high
intensity-type bombing that they had in England.
P: Tell me a little bit about the B-17. That was really a pretty easy plane to take off
and land. Was it an easy plane to fly? I know the B-26 was a difficult plane to
L: Well, I guess it was. Like I said, I didn't fly it that much. A lot of pilots claimed it
was the best in the heap. But then there were a lot of them that said the B-24
was the best. It's an opinion.
P: Your cruising speed would be three hundred [miles per hour]?
WWll-28, Landauer, Page 11
L: Somewhere around two hundred or two hundred and fifty.
P: But it was a fast plane, wasn't it? You could get up to three hundred if you had
P: You would normally carry what, four thousand pounds of bombs, something like
L: I'm trying to think how much we could get on those racks. I don't remember for
sure. That's a good number.
P: Did you ever have one stick on you? Get caught up?
L: We had to manually go back and release them, yes.
P: It was a little dangerous if you were in the bomb bay, wasn't it?
L: Oh, yeah. You had what they called a catwalk.
P: That was it.
L: It had ropes across it.
P: If the plane lurched at the wrong time ...
L: You had to hold on.
P: I hope so. You'd have to hold on pretty tight, I imagine.
L: When we went to North Africa, from then on I wasn't on any particular crew.
P: That's something I wanted to ask you. Did you fly the same plane all the time
when you were in England?
P: You flew different planes?
L: I wasn't on a particular crew, so I would rotate.
P: If a bombardier from another flight got sick or something, you would take that?
L: Yeah, but the regular crews flew the same plane all the time.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 12
P: In some places, I'd never heard this before, those flying a B-26, they'd come out
and get in a different plane each time. I know the B-17's and the B-29's they all
had their insignia and their names on it.
L: If the plane was in flying condition, they flew the same one.
P: You eventually end up going to North Africa, right?
P: You were part of Operation Torch. What was your reaction when they told you
that you were going to North Africa?
L: We didn't know that much about it. We knew we were going to get out of
England. I had no idea what North Africa was like. We went on a ship again and
our planes were flown to Gibraltar. They stayed at Gibraltar. We landed in North
Africa at Oran. I get Oran and Iran mixed up. Oran, I think it was.
P: That's right, Oran.
L: We crossed into the Atlas Mountains where we took Biskra. That was, I
understand, a French foreign legion at one time and they departed. In the sand,
we used to have these big steel mats. I don't know if you've seen them before.
You lay them down. We didn't have to put them down, because they were
[already] down from the French foreign legions. We got to Biskra, we drove our
trucks up and down the place, and it seemed to be pretty good. Then we called
Gibraltar and told them the torch was lit. They brought our planes into North
Africa, to Biskra.
P: This is late 42, is that right? I don't know for certain, but I think Operation
Torch was in November, 42. At that point, that would have been the
Germans and Rommel [Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, November 15, 1891-
October 14, 1944, was one of the most distinguished German Field Marshals and
commander of the Deutsches Afrika Korps in World War II. He was known by the
nickname "Desert Fox"], and a lot of the desert fighting was done by
Montgomery [Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887-1976, is best known for his
victory as commander of the British Eighth Army over Afrika Korps leader Erwin
Rommel at El Alamein (Egypt) in October-November 1942, and as commander in
1943-45 of British forces in Sicily, France, the Netherlands and Germany] and
L: That's around November.
P: Yes. You would have been in air support, for primarily British troops?
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 13
L: Our main mission was to support Montgomery and his eighth army and to help
chase the Desert Fox, which was Rommel, out of North Africa. Then we got a
general over in charge of our outfit called Patton [George Smith Patton, Jr.,
November 11, 1885--December 21, 1945, one of the most prolific American
generals, commanded units in north Africa, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and
Germany] Have you ever heard of Patton?
L: He decided that he'd take North Africa by himself. He used to say [with] my guts
and your blood, they can't stop us.
P: Did you ever talk with him?
L: I'd seen him, but I never conversed with him.
P: He was a pretty imposing figure, as I understand it.
P: The men seemed to really like him.
L: Patton was a G.l.'s general. There was no fancy work, no red tape.
P: He just wanted you to get out there and get your job done.
L: Right. He'd drive up in the jeep, not in one of those new staff cars, [with] a pair of
45's hooked on his hips, just like John Wayne.
P: He was always very aggressive. He thought that you won a war by attacking.
L: This is my opinion. Him and Montgomery were conflicting.
P: Of course.
L: I know, we took Sicily while Montgomery was trying to think about which way to
go to take Sicily.
P: And two monumental egos [involved]. I can remember specifically about Sicily.
One thing Patton said was, we want to get there ahead of the Brits; ahead of
P: Your first attack was in Bizerte, which is in Tunisia.
WWII-28, Landauer, Page 14
P: So you're dropping bombs on German troops, supply.
L: Supplies is a big thing. This [Bizerte] was Rommel's main supply port.
P: You would try to destroy as much of their supply line as possible?
L: If we shut down his supply line, he was in trouble.
P: Were you pretty effective in your bombing?
L: I think we were, yes.
P: What about the next time you bombed Sardinia in July, 43? Do you
remember the target you might have bombed in Sardinia? I'm sure there were
German troops there by then. The battle for Sicily would have been over. You
would have already taken Sicily.
L: I don't know too much about Sardinia.
P: That's okay, that doesn't matter too much. Then also, by July, 43, you are
going to fly all the way to Rome and bomb Rome from North Africa. That's a
pretty long trip, isn't it?
L: At this time, we had moved from Bizerte. We were in a place called Chateaudun.
I'm not pronouncing that right, but anyway, that's where it is. It's on the
P: Much closer.
P: You're bombing the Italian troops in Rome. Do you remember what specific
targets in Rome?
L: I'd have to look that up. I know what our targets were, because this was when
we invaded Italy.
P: Right. So you were bombing Italian and German troops in support of the Allied
landing in Anzio.
P: Then the Allied troops would have had that difficult march all the way up the
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 15
Italian coast through the mountains.
L: Into the mountains.
P: Did you bomb those German fortifications?
L: [We bombed] any kind of German replacements.
P: At this point, more troops than supplies or railroad depots? I remember the battle
of Montecassino was a very difficult battle for American troops.
L: I was just trying to remember it. I don't think Italy had fallen at this point.
P: No, they had not. They were still fighting.
P: You also ended up, by September of 1943, starting to bomb Germany. That was
even a longer trip.
L: If I remember correctly, there weren't too many of those.
P: You're still stationed on the Mediterranean coast?
L: We had moved into Italy. Don't ask me the name of the town [Laughter].
P: Okay. You were probably in southern Italy at this point.
L: Southern Italy, yes. Much closer.
P: What was the base like in southern Italy? Were the facilities pretty good?
L: They were much better than they were in Africa.
P: Right. Because all that sand and heat, and it was cold at night in the desert, I'm
L: Italy was much better. The Italian people were pretty much behind us. They
didn't particularly go crazy over Mussolini [Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of
Italy from 1922-1943]. In fact, they hung him, if I remember it correctly.
P: They did, that's right. So your local support was much stronger?
L: We had left Rome, when we were back in Africa bombing Italy, pretty much
alone. We didn't bomb any of the religious areas. We never touched them.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 16
P: At least, when you were in Italy, I guess you had good food.
P: What were your living conditions like? Were you just in barracks or local homes?
L: For Italy?
L: We had pyramid tents on the field.
P: How often were you flying once you were flying out of Italy. Would you fly every
two or three days?
L: I wouldn't fly very often. I was doing most of my maintenance work. Most of the
things were intact, so I didn't fly hardly at all. I flew a few times in Africa, then I
flew a couple of times as the turret gunners. That kind of stuff.
P: Talk to me about manning the turret gun. If you were attacked, by, let's say a
Messerschmitt. Would they come from the top? Would they come from
underneath? Would they come in groups? Would they come singly?
L: Most of them would come from either the top down, or they would make a pass
from the bottom up. If they came from off to the sides, they were exposed to a
lot more firepower where they were.
P: Did they come in, when it was daytime, with the sun at their backs so it would be
hard for you to see them?
L: It's possible.
P: How accurate were those fifty-caliber machine guns?
L: Very accurate. You could lock onto the target and track the target to the sight. It
compensated for the wind. You had twin fifties. It was very accurate.
P: A lot of rounds. A lot of ammunition you would have to take with you.
L: Yeah, In the turret, they [stock of ammunition] were about like this? [gestures
P: About two feet by three feet, something like that?
L: Fifty caliber rounds. You could have these as tracers, armor piercing,
WWII-28, Landauer, Page 17
phosphorus, or regular ball ammunition. Usually you mixed it up, so you had a
little bit of each.
P: Did the tracers help you judge where you were shooting?
L: If you used the waist guns, which didn't have these computerized-type gun
sights, but tracers have a tendency to go higher than your other ammunition.
P: Plus, the other enemy can see the tracers, so they know exactly where they're
L: Most of the ammo we had was armor piercing.
P: It would have to be, yeah. I understand a lot of people didn't like to use tracers,
because they figured the enemy could target on them just as well as they could
target on the enemy.
L: I never heard that.
P: Maybe it's just one person that thought that. As you were on your bomb runs, did
you have the Norden bomb sight by this point?
P: That was much more accurate than what you had previously?
L: It was a much better sight, yes.
P: When you'd come back from a bomb run, they would debrief you. Did you have
someone taking pictures, or did you have photographic planes that would fly over
the target to determine how effective the bombing had been?
L: This was done later on, maybe at night or the next day to find out how effective
our bomb run was.
P: When you dropped your bombs, did you have a pretty good idea of whether they
were on target or whether you missed or not?
L: You pretty much could tell whether you [were] on target by the drops ahead of
you. You could see where they hit. So you pretty much knew if you were on
P: Do you have any idea how effective saturation bombing was? I understand the
principle is that you put sixty planes out there, and just drop tons and tons of
bombs on one target. The theory is with all that bombing you can't really miss
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 18
L: That's it. If you were bombing the dock, say of a ship, without saturation
bombing you would have to hit that ship. With saturation bombing you take the
ship, the dock, the warehouse, everything.
P: It was so calibrated that the way the formation was, everybody was dropping
their bombs on a particular area and you would cover the whole target.
L: You'd drop bombs into what they called the intervalometer. This would give you
a drop every so many seconds, or two bombs every so many seconds,
[depending on] however you had it set, so you had a nice stream of bombs come
P: A constant stream.
L: Out of each airplane.
P: What was your altitude when you dropped?
L: I would say about 15,000 to 18,000 [feet].
P: You came in and stayed at that altitude pretty much the whole time?
P: So it's high-altitude bombing. Some of the smaller bombers, a B-26 or
something, would have had to drop down to 5,000 feet to drop their bombs.
P: That's a long time from the time it leaves the plane to the time it hits the target.
P: You have to judge pretty carefully where you drop these bombs.
L: You pick that up with your Norden.
P: Did you ever suffer any damage on any of your flights? Did you get hit by flack?
L: Oh, you always got damage on your flight.
P: Do you know what the overall casualty numbers would have been during the two
years you were flying? What percentage?
WWII-28, Landauer, Page 19
L: Eighty percent.
P: Eighty percent? And you never got shot down?
L: I didn't fly that much.
P: Good thing. What was the flight number at the time for rotation back to the
States? Did you have to fly twenty-five missions?
L: That came in at a later date. We didn't have a specific number of missions.
P: You just kept flying?
L: When that came in they came in with a point system.
P: How many points would you need?
L: I don't remember. I know I had all the points I needed. Here's something you
haven't seen before.
P: Mr. Landauer has a book here and it has copies of occupation money. There's a
U.S. military currency. Here's one in ten cents. In Italy they're ten lira. Then it
has his war ration books for his wife who was restricted, obviously, at home and
getting some of the things like meat and butter, and gasoline, and tires and all
that sort of thing.
Discuss a little bit about the attitude that the fliers had in terms of their view
towards survival. Was it better if you had flown twenty flights? You thought you
had the experience you'd get through your tour? Or was it that you'd been lucky
through the twenty flights and it's going to be very difficult to survive?
L: I don't know. I think most of them had the impression that you've made today,
now you'll worry about tomorrow.
P: Were most of them pretty superstitious?
L: I don't know.
P: You weren't?
P: I know some people would wear the Ace of Spades or a Saint Christopher
[patron saint of travelers] medal.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 20
L: They may have, I wasn't aware of it.
P: Did you have anybody that you knew that couldn't survive the pressure and had
to drop out because of psychological problems?
L: Yes. We had a fellow by the name of Kershaw. They finally sent him back.
P: He just couldn't fly?
L: As they used to say, Kershaw hadn't landed yet. He flew constantly. Even
during the day or at night, he was still worried about flying, so they sent him back.
P: Were there many of those?
L: I didn't see too many, no.
P: What about once you're on maintenance? The planes would come back, and
some of them were pretty crippled and it would be difficult for them to land, I
P: How long would it take you to turn around a plane that had been shot up?
L: That all depends on the availability of the parts. If the parts were not available,
we would strip down whichever plane was the most damaged, to put other
aircraft back into commission.
P: You'd cannibalize one plane.
L: Right; depending on which one was hurt the most.
P: These B-17's were pretty durable planes, weren't they?
L: They were, yes.
P: A lot of them went right through the war without having to be replaced. A lot of
them got shot up.
L: Yeah, they were cannibalized. If you lost an engine in the [B]-17, you were still in
pretty good shape, because they would fly on three engines.
P: I remember reading, if you ever had the fuel line hit, it could catch on fire. I'm
sure that some planes went down like that.
L: There was a lot of that that went on.
WWII-28, Landauer, Page 21
P: If they were hit, would they try to get the planes back, or would they bail out?
What was the general response?
L: That depends on the damage received.
P: The pilot looks at that and says, I think we can get back?
L: Mostly if they could get back, they would. If they could get back away from the
enemy lines, naturally they would try to.
P: Well, they don't want to be captured. I would imagine a lot of pilots did go down
L: Oh, yes. They lost quite a few that way.
P: I talked to some people, on the B-29, if you had to bail out, they had a little button
you would push that rang the alarm bell. Did you have anything like that on the
B-17? The pilot would just say bail out over the intercom? How did you know to
L: It would be on the intercom.
P: If somebody spied a bogey [enemy plane], they would call out bogey at three o'
clock in case you hadn't seen it?
P: I imagine it was a little nerve-wracking if you were in that top turret. You had to
be constantly looking, didn't you?
L: You had a three hundred and sixty degree view.
P: You couldn't go to sleep though.
L: No. There was enough there to keep you awake.
P: Did you ever get tired enough that you felt like you had to go to sleep, or you
were just exhausted from one flight to the next?
L: I wasn't because, like I said, I didn't fly that much once we got into Africa.
P: At some point, this unit was the first to land in Russia, is that right?
L: One of the first flights.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 22
P: How did that come about? What were they doing in Russia?
L: I don't know. Making friends, I guess.
P: Is that right?
L: They bombed, I can't remember where they bombed.
P: Would it be northern Germany?
L: A lot of times, after the planes hit the targets and turned to come back, that's
when they met the fighters. So they had it figured out that if they had bombed
this particular area, that the German fighters would be waiting for them, they
would go on and land in Russia. We got away from them. I can't remember the
name of the town.
P: That would have been later in the war, 44 or something like that.
L: Yeah, it was later on.
P: Early on, they wouldn't have been able to land because the Germans were
fighting in Russia.
L: The Luftwaffe [German Air Force] began to lose a lot of strength as the war
progressed because they took quite a beating. Plus, our fighters had improved
by type and number. First thing you know, we outnumbered the Germans.
P: That made a huge difference, because it was a lot safer to get to your bomb
L: Right, we could have a large escort. They carried what they called wing tanks.
They could follow us all the way in and drop the wing tanks, and they had enough
fuel to get back.
P: Their range increased as time went on as well, didn't it?
P: So they could get you closer.
L: The P-38 [Lightening] came into existence, which was another long-range fighter.
P: Right. In fact, they had better range than the P-51, didn't they?
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 23
P: So that helped a lot.
[End of Tape A, Side 1.]
P: One of the things I've noticed about the air war, something you were just talking
about, as the war went on, in almost every plane they would make these
modifications that would improve it. The B-17, by the end of the war, they had B-
17G, which was a much better plane in many ways than the earlier ones. They
learned the problems with those planes, what went wrong with them and had
them corrected and got those planes back into action pretty quickly.
L: Yes, they did, but we never had the G's.
P: You never got that far?
L: We never got the G's. We had the old B-17E's.
P: Even the E was better than the original.
P: It was a little faster, a little higher.
L: It had a little bigger engines.
P: You could take off with those fairly easily, they got up in the air pretty easily. You
didn't need a huge runway, did you?
L: No. Well, if it was well-loaded down, you did.
P: Once you were flying out of Italy, did you ever fly with the British, like the Halifax
bombers or anything like that or doing raids?
L: No. We flew by ourselves.
P: I remember that one air raid by B-26's, they were accompanied by British
Spitfires. They didn't have any P-51's so there were some service interaction.
L: I can see where that would happen.
P: But not much. How long did you stay on the base in Italy? You were there until
L: Yeah, I came back home from Italy.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 24
P: You came back in what, 44?
L: 1944, yes. I went over in May and I came back in June, I think it was.
P: You came back in June, 1944. Where do you go?
L: We flew back to Oran and then we caught a Navy transporter out of Oran, and
went into Newport News. We landed this plane in Oran. This was a real relic.
We had [stripped it] for just about everything else flying. It was quite a mess.
After we got airborne we fettered an engine because it was running hot. We
landed in Oran and they had these 'follow me-type' vehicles. You'd stop. I don't
remember who was flying. It was a group thing. The sergeant says to the pilot
and says, what do you want done? The pilot tapped him on the shoulder and
said, it's ours, you can have it.
P: On the ground, he took charge of the plane?
L: He said that was the most money he had ever had given; a B-17.
P: At this point, what was your rank?
L: I was tech sergeant.
P: So in the rest of the war, you would be in the States, is that right?
L: I came back and I went into] B-29's. I was supposed to train in B-29's with, what
the heck's his name? Paul Tibbets. Paul Tibbets was with our outfit.
P: Oh yeah, and he's the one who dropped the first atomic bomb, flying the Enola
L: We were training with him on this bomb run. Then my wife got me out of it,
because she got pregnant and I had this sympathy sickness. I couldn't fly, [and] I
was sick all the time. I always said she got me out of it.
P: You were in sympathetic labor pains? [Laughter]
P: What was your view of Tibbets at this time? What did you think of him as a pilot?
L: He was as good as they come. I didn't personally know the man, but I knew of
P: Did you do much flying in the B-29's? By now, these are the Superfortress.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 25
P: What did you think of that plane?
L: That was quite a plane.
P: It was bigger.
L: It was a huge [plane], a bigger engine, more room, pressurized, so you didn't
have to have your oxygen mask on all the time. Of course, we flew them in
Korea. After you went into a bomb run you could put the mask on and
depressurize, because of a hit you could lose your pressure.
P: Right. You didn't want to catch on fire. When you were flying those planes, were
you aware of the difference in the handling of this plane as the B-17?
L: Like I say, I didn't fly it, but I'm sure they did. It was a huge airplane at the time.
P: It had a much bigger crew.
L: Yeah, a much bigger crew. It had much more fire power.
P: They had more tonnage that they could carry.
P: It was not any faster, I don't believe.
L: Well, maybe not. The range was much longer.
P: They had really long range. They could go forty-five hundred miles, something
L: Quite a long range. I don't remember what their distance was, but it was quite
P: So you did start your training on B-29's, but then never flew those planes over in
L: By this time, I had more or less dropped my bombardier [status]. I was strictly
maintenance. They had a very complex, remote-controlled fire system on that
airplane. I went to school for that. Then I took over the maintenance on this
remote-controlled fire system on these B-29's.
P: Explain to me what that is; a remote-controlled fire system.
WVlII-28, Landauer, Page 26
L: The B-29 had two top turrets, a bottom turret, two side turrets, a tail gun, a nose
gun and all this. If your waist gunner on the right hand side said he got shot, that
didn't disable his turret. In other words, the left hand gunner could switch over
where he was controlling both turrets from his position. So it was called a remote
P: That was helpful, wasn't it?
P: It was probably pretty complicated because it was fairly new, wasn't it?
L: Right. It was pretty complex. The tail guns had two fifties and then had a
cannon in between them. There was a lot more distance.
P: I always thought the worst job and the worst place to be would be in the ball
turret on the B-29. It was so small.
L: That was on the B-17. The [B-]29 didn't have a ball turret.
P: It did not?
P: Just the [B-]17?
P: I thought they had one. That still wouldn't be a good place to be, would it?
L: I flew that ball turret a couple of times. Hubert Halt; he was a buddy of mine. He
was from southern Mississippi. I didn't know this-I didn't realize it, but I heard it
from another source, his wife-he used to giggle every time he heard it. He said,
you're on fire. He said, I suppose you want out, don't you? [Laughter]. He was
quite a character.
P: What did you do at this point for the rest of the war?
L: Just B-29's.
P: Just maintenance?
P: When the war ended, did you have any particular view on the dropping of the two
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 27
atomic bombs? Did you think that was the right thing to do?
L: It ended the war. That was the main purpose of it. It killed a lot of innocent
people, but as Patton says, war is hell.
P: I'm sure that most veterans that you talk to were glad they dropped that bomb,
because somebody else would have had to fight the Japanese.
L: We would have lost a lot more people.
P: As would the Japanese.
P: So the war ends. What were you going to do between 45 and 50?
L: When did the Korean War start?
P: 1950. June, 1950.
L: I stayed with the B-29's.
P: The whole time?
L: Then we went into the Korean War. B-29's [in] the Korean War.
P: You were maintenance?
P: You went to Japan first? The war started June 24, 1950.
L: I went into Okinawa.
P: That was your base for Korea?
P: You flew from Okinawa to Korea?
P: You just did maintenance at that point?
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 28
P: Did you know where they bombed? Did they bomb North Korea, did they bomb
railroad lines, did they bomb troops?
L: I don't remember what they did. I know they did a lot of bombing of troops, and a
lot of bombing in the mountainous areas where the caves and [all] that were.
The B-29's started dropping in the caves, [it's called] skip bombing. You'd drop
these four thousand pound bombs with these delayed-action fuses, which they
could carry four of these jewels.
P: Did you think that was the right decision, to fight that war in Korea?
L: I guess it was, because North Korea, what I know of it, was taking over South
Korea. We kind of befriended South Korea and drilled them [North Korea] back.
Whether it was the right thing to do or not, I don't know.
P: The question always is, is it worth 32,000 lives? You could say that about any
L: Any war.
P: World War II, we didn't have much choice. That's what we called the "Good
War." We had to fight that war. Did you spend the rest of your time in Korea
until the war ended? How long were you over there?
L: The war was ended by the time I got back.
P: So you were there at least three years. 53. You were at Okinawa the whole
P: Were your maintenance facilities pretty good by then? Did you have a lot of
L: Oh, yeah. Parts were not a problem in there.
P: These are WWII B-29's you're using? Or were they building new ones at that
L: Some of each.
P: What was the mortality rate for the B-29's in Korea?
L: Well, it was much lighter than normal because they didn't have the capabilities of
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 29
getting to the [B]. B-29's are strictly high-altitude type bombers. North Korea
didn't have that well-equipped fighter force to get up to the high altitude.
P: Even MiGs [Soviet jet fighters] couldn't get quite up that high very effectively,
P: Anti-aircraft fire is of no consequence if they're flying at those heights.
L: Of course, we lost planes, but nothing like what had been expected.
P: When you came back to the States, what did you do at that point? It would have
been 1953. Are you still in the service?
L: I got out of the service at one time and went to go work for Hammermill Paper
Company as an electrician. Then I started hearing from all my buddies, [saying]
we're down here in Florida, what are you doing up in Pennsylvania? So I
rejoined. I went back and we went in the B-47's.
P: Were you at McDill when you came back?
P: By that time McDill's a pretty big air field.
L: It's a pretty big place, yes.
P: What would be the difference in the new planes? The B-47's and the B-29's?
P: They were four engines as well?
L: They were six engine jets. [They had] in-flight refueling.
P: I guess, at some point, at the end of World War II, there would have been at least
some of the Messerschmitts had gotten jets, so it was sort of the beginning of the
jet age at the end of World War II.
L: I would think so.
P: I know they had them in Korea; jet fighters.
L: We didn't have any jet bombers at the end of World War II. We didn't have them
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 30
in Korea, unless they were small ones.
P; Once you start working on jet planes, is this going to be a tremendous
difference? You're going to have on-board radar. You could have a lot of
different things that you didn't have in the past.
L: It had a very complex electronics system.
P: That's what you were mainly working in, the electronics system?
L: At this time, I got into navigation. The [B-]47 had a navigational system, a
[system where] you did it in fifteen hundred mile steps. You'd put the longitude
and latitude down to the minute of where you wanted to be fifteen hundred miles
from here. You'd push the button and it would take you to that spot. When you
got to within a half hour of that placing, you'd go to another fifteen hundred mile
P: Then if you wanted to control the plane, you'd just put it on manual?
L: You'd just flip it on.
P: That's pretty high tech compared to what the B-17's were like.
L: A lot of radar.
P: Was there much radar at the end of World War II? Did the Germans have much?
L: They may have had some. We didn't have too much.
P: The British had some. The British developed it.
L: The British had some. I don't know of any radar that was in any of the planes.
P: I wouldn't think so. Not then. The Germans would have had some on the
ground, I would have thought, by 1945.
P: Did you ever know of any planes to drop any kind of chaff to disrupt the radar?
L: Not in World War II, no.
P: In Korea?
L: Korea we did. Anything that would get a reflection off the radar system.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 31
P: That would help a little bit. How long did you stay in the service all together?
L: Twenty-two years.
P: Then you got out as a ?
L: I was a chief master sergeant.
P: Chief master sergeant.
L: Then I went to work for Honeywell.
P: What did you do for Honeywell?
L: I was in the component design lab. I worked another twenty years.
P: What were they working on most of the time you were with Honeywell?
L: Accelerometers, gyros [gyroscope]. We had the hand controllers for the space
P: You were working mainly on defense department or NASA [National Aeronautics
and Space Administration] contracts? Federal government contracts?
L: Yes, it was all government involved one way or the other. Our government reps
P: Did you get to see any of the space shuttles at all?
P: You never have?
P: The gyro would have been very important for those kind of early space
exploration, wouldn't it?
L: We used gyros called mod-mig gyros. It was a new sense of gyro. Gyro used to
be just a spinning [thing]. This is a modular miniature integrating gyro.
P: Are there any other stories that we haven't talked about that you can recall from
your World War II days that you'd like to tell us? Any specific circumstances or
people you'd like to talk about?
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 32
L: I don't think so.
P: What was the moment when you were flying that was the most frightening to
L: I don't think I have any real frightening moments. I had more frightening
moments on the ground. In [Bizerte], I had the base defense as long as a
lieutenant, John Smith. We dug holes in the ground. When we first went over
there, we had to refuel our airplanes out of fifty-five gallon drums. This was quite
P: That's hard work.
L: We took these drums and filled them with sand, and [then] put a gun mount on
them. Then we mounted fifty-caliber waist guns at night. We had no interceptor-
type aircraft at this time. The Germans did. They had night fighters, so they
roamed rather free over the north Africa desert at night. They bombed us
constantly. Hardly a night went by where we didn't have at least two or three
visits by night fighters, that they would bomb us.
P: There wasn't very much you could do about it, was there? You didn't really have
L: It was hard to see them. In the desert, the sky is clear. If you can get a picture
of them, if they had contrast low enough where you could see them ...
P: If you'd get a good background, you'd see the silhouette. What were they using,
Messerschmitts at that point?
L: Yeah. ME-109's.
P: They're fast.
P: They're kind of hard for you to hit any of those. Did they do much damage in
Biskra? Did they take out a lot of planes?
L: They attacked our base. They attacked the fighter bases. Wherever they were
at. They blew up a lot of [things]. We were hauling bombs one time, and hauling
them at night, and we got hit by a Messerschmitt. A guy by the name of Jenkins
went off one side of the truck, and I went off to the other side. He blew it. We
had a load of bombs on the truck and on the trailer. Five other bombers, but we
got the Messerschmitt because he went up with the bombs. They said they
found pieces of it. I was knocked out, I guess. I don't remember. I woke up in a
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 33
P: Were you wounded at all?
L: No, I wasn't.
P: Just had a concussion?
P: You were pretty lucky in that case.
L: Jenkins, I guess he got hit but he didn't know it right away. He said, you know? I
can close this eye and I can see pretty good, but I can close this eye and I can't
see anything. I said, you're blind in one eye. I looked and you could see this big
mark here where he got a piece of shrapnel. He was blind, so they sent him
P: It destroyed the ocular nerve.
L: Or whatever. I got a kick out of the way he said that, something's wrong, I can't
P: That was a Messerschmitt that was just strafing or dropping bombs?
L: He was strafing.
P: He figured with all the bombs in the planes, if you just strafe, you're bound to hit
L: We could not see him when he dropped below the skyline in the desert. Then
you could not see him. You could see pretty much where he was coming from.
P: Did they usually come one or two at a time?
L: I would say around two to four at a time.
P: You had no fighter protection at all?
L: We had no interception protection at all.
P: It's surprising, in a way, that they wouldn't have something with such an
important bomb group.
L: I understand that they didn't have any night fighting equipment.
WWllII-28, Landauer, Page 34
P: The Germans had a big advantage there.
P: The Allies won el Alamein anyway, and got the Germans out of north Africa. Did
you think that was worthwhile? A lot of people have argued that by sending
people to north Africa, that they delayed the landing of D-Day and France.
Maybe they should have tried landing in France earlier and not gone to north
L: I think it was just the opposite. It's just silly. Going up into Italy took a lot of
pressure off Normandy. They had to send troops down there to protect that area.
P: Plus, now they're fighting a two-front war because they're fighting the Russians,
and now they're fighting in Italy as well. That had to stretch their defenses.
L: They were fighting with Russia, too.
P: Yeah, they were.
L: So it began to get a little thin.
P: In the long run, you think that was right?
L: I think that was the way to go.
P: Did you ever come across, at one point the French troops were fighting with the
Germans because they had captured part of France. Did you ever run into any
French [Vichy France] troops that were on [the German side]?
P: Somebody told me, I don't know if you observed this, the British, when they were
fighting in the desert, in the afternoon around four o' clock they'd call a halt to the
war and call tea.
L: [Laughter]. We joked about it. You heard a lot of tea time.
P: That's something that was so traditional that even during wartime you would
have had a break for that.
L: I know there were a lot of comments about the British tea time.
P: Is there anything else you can think of that you'd like to talk about?
WWVl-28, Landauer, Page 35
L: Not right off hand, no.
P: On that note, we'll end the interview. I want to thank you very much for your
time. I do appreciate it.