††††††††††† Interview with Bill Clark, by Steve Showers, for Voices from the Second World War: An Oral History, Center for Oral History, University of Connecticut, 2 February, 2000.
Steve Showers: Here today, Bill Clark and I are going to sit and talk, so I guess weíll start out with just some background stuff.† Why donít you tell me when and where you were born?
Bill Clark:† I was born in New Haven, Connecticut May 25, 1925.† I lived in Hamden, which is right outside of New Haven, and then moved nearby to North Haven just before I enlisted.
SS:† †††† Thatís funny, thatís where Ed LaPointe is† from, down by that area too.
BC:†† †† Thatís right.
SS: ††††† Yes, heís down in Branford.† So what about grammar school and high school, things like that?† Where did you go to school?
BC:† ††† Well, I went to Centerville Grammar School, in the Centerville part of Hamden, and I went to Hamden High school. We had no junior highs at that time.† I went to Hamden for four years - this was in 1942- I graduated and went to UCONN.† The war was on, of course.† It was April, 1943 and I was still seventeen, so I could enlist.† Once you were 18 you would be subject to the draft, but if you enlist prior to that time, then your enlistment starts but they canít take you until after youíre 18 years old.† I wanted to get into the Air Corps and thatís why I enlisted.
SS: ††††† So you did that when you were 17, which was in 1942?
BC:††††† 1943, it was in Ď43.† I was in UCONN for most of the, Iíd say the first year, having a good time [laughs].†
SS: ††††† Now when you were up there at UCONN, were you aware of the war, the war that was going on around the world?
BC:† ††† Yes.† I think everybody was aware of what was going on, but we didnít know all the details of how serious things were. When we got close to 18, there was no question that we would be drafted.† There was no question that most people wanted to go in, that we wanted to help.
SS: ††††† Was that the general attitude then with most people?
BC:† ††† Oh yes.† I think so, of everybody I knew who was in the service.† There were probably some people I knew who were 4F, but that doesnít mean that they didnít want to go, they just couldnít.
SS:†††††† Do you remember the attack on Pearl Harbor?
BC:† ††† Yes, I do.† It was a Sunday morning.†† It seems to me, my recollection has something to do with the Giants playing football.† Thatís when they interrupted the program.† Now I might be wrong, but it seemed to me they interrupted the Giantís football game on the radio to say that the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor.†
SS:†††††† So you didnít quite. . . didnít quite understand?
BC:††††† Well, you know you donít know whether it is going to be a four year war, or like today, a week and itís over!
SS: ††††† Did you happen to hear Rooseveltís speech to the nation, when he talked about it?
BC:† ††† I probably did but I really donít remember, no.† In your mind you think, I probably saw it, but I really donít know.
SS:† †††† So what do you think was the general attitude of everybody, all the draft-eligible guys, who were about your age up at UCONN?† Before you said that pretty much everybody wanted to get in on the war?
BC:††††† I think they did.† I think most of them figured they were going to go in.† Some of the fellows dropped out of school.† If they were nearly 18 years old they might drop out of school and enlist in their preferred service.† Now I wasnít 18 yet, so I stayed.† I shouldnít have, but I did.† I was having a good time at school although not doing well scholastically because after I had enlisted, I figured, to hell with school.† I think that with what was going on at that time, the war was probably first in everyoneís mind.† They had ROTC at that time, which I wasnít in.† I went on with my regular college life, and played intramural sports, and did the same thing as any other college student.
SS: ††††† Did you have an early interest in flying?
BC:††††† No.† I really didnít.† I wanted to get into the Air Corps.† I wanted to join the cadets, the ground cadets.† Why, I donít know, but I think my remembrance is, that is what I wanted, so thatís what I enlisted in.† My mother did not want me to fly.† She just did not want me to fly.† My father was a pilot in World War I.† They let me enlist, and they didnít say anything at that time.† A short time later, I was called by the recruiting office and told: ďthe ground cadets are all filled.† They donít need anybody, but if youíd like to go in the air cadets, we could put you there.Ē† Well, no way was I going to say no.† I went in on July 13, 1943.
SS:†††††† And that was right to basic training?†
BC:††††† I had basic training at Greensboro, North Carolina.† I went to College Training Detachment, the CTDís they call them, and then I was sent to school at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for, I think, ten weeks.† And you know, if you are in the service, its fun, but you still have marching and drilling exercises and I wanted to do well. †I went from there down to Nashville, Tennessee.† This was for classification, where I was given a whole batch of tests to determine whether I was going to be a navigator or a pilot or a bombardier or something else.
SS:†††††† So obviously you made it through the Pennsylvania experience.†
BC:† ††† Yes.† I made it through the CTD.† When I got to Nashville, I didnít pass the physical because of my eyes.† I passed all the written tests for the pilot, bombardier, and navigator, but my eyes disqualified me from going any further into the cadets.
SS:†††††† Was it just your eyesight and vision strength?
BC:† ††† Well, Iíll tell you.† It was something that probably should have been detected in New Haven. I had an initial eye exam there when I had my general physical exam and I didnít pass, but it was the first day they were giving exams, and the doctor said: ďthe lighting is very poor and weíll be making some corrections,Ē so he passed me.† If Iíd a gone a month later, I probably never would have passed.† Who knows where I would have ended up?† Then I had a choice, to either go to radio school, or to armament school.† I chose radio school, and they sent me to armament school.† They must have needed armorers that day.† They sent me out to Denver, Colorado to Buckley Field.† Now you have to realize that I was not supposed to fly because of my eyes.†† I am not supposed to be a gunner, so all right.† I expected to be an armorer, probably loading bombs or whatever.† They send me to gunnery school.† They said, ďDonít worry about what they told you before, you are going to be a gunner.Ē†
SS:†††††† Did they test your eyes?
BC:† ††† No, no.† Well they test you for other things periodically but no, they didnít.† I guess; its just one of those things and they probably needed gunners.† The problem with my eyes was a muscle problem.† Their concern was, that at high altitudes, I could have double vision.† I never did, but I could have.† So thatís why I couldnít go through cadets as a pilot, navigator, or bombardier.† So I went to gunnery school in Laredo, Texas.† We trained on B-24ís mostly, some on B-17ís.† From there we went to Lincoln, Nebraska.† That is where our crews were formed.
SS: ††††† So all this time you were learning how to shoot the guns?
BC: †††† Oh yes.
SS:† †††† What was the training like?
BC: †††† Well, I practiced in turrets; you know those turrets on the top?† They had these stationary ones, and I learned to shoot from them.† We also did a lot of skeet shooting from the backs of trucks.† Our group was driven along the target range, and we shot skeet from alternate ends.† Of course youíve got the rifle.†
SS:† †††† Is this a rifle or a shotgun?
BC: †††† A shotgun.† Oh, it wouldnít be a rifle; youíd probably never hit them with a rifle.†
SS: ††††† Youíd be a really good shot if you could.†
BC:† ††† You would be [laughs]!† So, it was fun down there.
SS: ††††† How long did that last?† Do you remember?
BC: †††† I think most of those periods of time were about three months.† Then we formed our crews, and we went to Gowen Field, which is in Boise, Idaho.† Thatís where we had our bomber training, and flying missions, and flying at night.† We shot at targets and things like that.
SS:† †††† So thatís what your part of the training was?† You actually trained right out of a B-24 plane?
BC:† ††† Oh yes, right.†
SS: ††††† Were you guys training for a certain type of mission then?
BC:† ††† No.† Not really, we just learned how to use the guns and turrets and whatever you were flying in. At the time, I was the ball turret gunner and thatís what I was trained to operate.† At one point, Iím just going to go back a little bit, when we were in Laredo, Texas I was held over for a few weeks to do a special assignment. This was a gunnery experiment.† Why they picked me I donít know.† I trained with cameras, not guns, and as fighters went by, Iíd shoot with cameras.† The pictures would be developed to see how you did.† It was interesting because evidently there had been previous problems where guns were shooting tow planes hauling targets and this was experimental testing using cameras rather than actual bullets.
SS:†††††† Like an early version of a flight simulator?
BC:† ††† Well, with the bombardiers, we would fly and drop bags of flour.† They dropped the ďbombsĒ to see how close they came to the target.† And then from Gowen Field, I went to Topeka, Kansas.†† This was in December of Ď44.† So thereís a lot of time between July of Ď43 . . .
SS:† †††† A lot of training?
BC: †††† Yes.†† There was lot of training between July of Ď43 and December of Ď44 before I went over seas.† We got to go home for Christmas, which was wonderful.†
SS: ††††† In Ď44?
BC: †††† Yes, and we had about three days I guess, and then we headed out.
SS:† †††† Now, by this time, like say from Nebraska on, when you guys formed a crew, did you always train together with the same crew?
BC:† ††† Yes, always.† The guys youíre looking at in the book are the same crew I had for all the time I was there, except our navigator.† When we arrived overseas, he was made a lead navigator, which means he was working with a lead crew.†† They didnít use bombardiers.† I shouldnít say they didnít use bombardiers, but they had lead bombardiers who flew in the lead planes.† The rest of us dropped off the lead plane.† The nose turret gunner, he toggled.† He had in his turret a little switch that when the plane ahead of him dropped heíd toggle.† I guess they decided that every plane didnít need a bombardier.†
SS:†††††† So how did you guys get along as a crew?
BC: †††† †I think we got along fine.† Our flight engineer, his name was Sabino Alvaredo.† He was Mexican, I think, and a little older than the rest of us.† I donít know what his past history was but we were all a little leery with him. He was a wonderful guy: ďJust donít get me madĒ heíd say.† But he knew his stuff.† He was a good engineer.† When we had a three-day pass, the married guys would usually go off on their own.† And I used to pal around with our tail gunner and the radio operator.† The three of us would, if we went into London, weíd stick together.†
SS:†††††† Now what was the size of a B-24 crew?
BC: †††† †Ours had, one, two, three, four, five. . . I think ours was eight but you could have nine if you had a bombardier.† Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, nose, upper, waist. . .
†SS: †††† Tailgunner?
BC:† ††† Tailgunner.† No ball turret, you didnít have any ball turret guys.† I think eight or nine.
SS: ††††† So when was it that you went from a ball turret gunner, to what was your position?
BC: †††† Well, I went overseas as a ball turret gunner.† They took the ball turrets out of all the B-24ís.† And the reason, I think they did that, was because of the weight. The war had gotten to a point where enemy aircraft was not a big problem.† Not necessarily.† B-17ís all had ball turrets, but I think in the B-24, they took them out for that reason.† They really didnít need them, thank goodness, because I really wasnít happy in there.† I was little then [laughs].†
SS:†††††† So what was that like having to sit in them?
BC: †††† You know, thatís funny.† It sounds scary now but I donít recall ever being scared. If you were scared you wouldnít be there.† Just the thought now of sitting down there -underneath that airplane- you know you canít move and you canít stretch out and you canít do a lot of things.† Of course you wouldnít go into it until you got over enemy territory.† In our case, most of France was under the Allied control.† So we really werenít going into enemy territory until we got almost to the German border.† Weíd be in there for maybe three hours.†
SS: ††††† How did that feel to get your orders to go over seas?†
BC: †††† I donít know.† I think itís hard to leave home.† Whether I was here or Boise, you just wanted to be home.† I donít remember it being anything different.† Itís sort of excitement.† Everybody was in the same boat.† Youíre not the only one going; everybodyís going.† I think everyone wanted to go although they were a little apprehensive about what you were going to do.† And when we left from Topeka on a train, we didnít know where were going.† We had a pretty good idea, for some reason, we might be probably going to England, but we didnít know.† So we went to Massachusetts, and we stayed at camp Miles Standish until the time came to board the ďIl de FranceĒ.† That was one of the biggest ships in the world at that time.† It was the French ship that the British had taken over when the war started.† But even when we got on the ship we didnít know where we were going.† You could be going to North Africa; you could be going to Italy.† We didnít know.† We figured we were going to England but we didnít know.† It was not a bad trip over, eight days.† We were not escorted.† We got duty during the day.† We were eight hours on and twelve hours off all the time going over, so that it gave us something to do.† We used to work in the gun turrets; you know the turrets around the ship.† I remember an Englishman on board who argued with us all the time about the Americans, you know, very disparaging things.† And when we disembarked he said to us, ďI know you fellas were going to go into war, and I wanted to do anything I could to keep your minds off it.Ē† It was really nice of him.† We used to fight him.† Language fights really.†
SS: ††††† Like an English-American rivalry?
BC:† ††† Yes.† He was just trying to keep our minds off of what we were going to do.† We landed over in Gourock, or Grenock, I guess they were two little towns close to each other.† We got a train down to a place called Stone, which was a replacement depot.† We stayed there, I think, a week.† It was awful weather.† Then as they need crews around England, you get on a train and you get to one stop, and crews get up and get off, and you go another mile and crews get up and get off, until we got to Norwich, and our base, which is Horsham St. Faith, the closest base, itís about five miles I think from Norwich.† Then of course we know nothing about anything.† And the guy driving the truck is saying: ďyou are at the best base in England.Ē†† It was.† It was supposed to have been one of the best.† It was a permanent RAF base, so we didnít live in tents or Nissan huts.† We lived in buildings, which was nice.
SS: ††††† So you didnít find out where you were going to go until you were actually on the train?
BC:††††† Thatís right.† The pilot and the officers might have known at some point, but what would it mean if you were going to the 458th Bomb Group, that wouldnít mean anything to you. You wouldnít really know.
SS:†††††† What was your rank at the time?
BC: †††† I think I was a Buck Sgt.
SS: ††††† And with the ball turret gone, what did your job wind up being?
BC: †††† I was a waist gunner.† So that was really fortunate, because thatís a good position, although its awful cold back there-- very cold.† But we had heated suits and heated gloves.† Nylon socks and nylon gloves, well, youíve seen them over there with everything plugged into each other.† It was warm.† I used to wear a scarf around my neck and I used to drool. It would be solid ice all around the outside, not on the skin, but on the outside solid ice.† I probably remember the cold weather more than I do anything over there.† It was very cold.
SS:†††††† Once you got to your base what squadron and what group were you in?
BC:† ††† We were in the 753rd bomb squadron.† I think there were four bomb squadrons at every base.† I think itís four.† We were assigned to that bomb squadron and then we started going to classes.† We had orientation about the base and the area.† Our arrival in England was on January 15, 1945 and it wasnít till February 19th that we flew our first Mission.† If you want the dates I can get them for you from my diary.
SS: ††††† No.† That is close enough.†
BC: †††† So today, whatís today?
SS: ††††† The 24th
BC: †††† I think todayís the day I went to Berlin.† No.† I flew my third mission on the 24th, February Ď45.† Then I went to Berlin 2 days later.† But that wasnít bad.
SS:† †††† By that time it was your third mission?† The first one was on the 19th?
BC:† ††† My first mission was on the 19th, so we flew five missions in February and eight missions in March.† Seven in April, and thatís when the war ended.
SS: ††††† What was it like to go on your first mission?
BC: †††† Scary.† It was scary because it was a milk run, you donít see anything.† And this was a milk run.† We had flak suits.† These are metal things that you hang over your body.† I think I wore mine all the way across the English Channel and all the way over and all the way back, and I never saw a thing. After a while you say, ďWell, what have I got all this stuff on for?Ē† What they used to do is they used to shoot up flak from the front lines between the Americans and the Germans.† That was to let you know that you were crossing the lines between the Americans and the Germans.† I mean the Americans would do that.† It wouldnít be up to your altitude, but it would be down below.† So youíd look down and see the flak below, you know youíre going into enemy territory.†
SS: ††††† Around that time what did you think about how we as Americans were fighting the war?
BC:††††† Well, itís hard to remember.† I know I was always concerned about other people--friends of mine-- who were in the service.† I had one fellow who I went in with.† He was from Greenwich.† I met him on the train going into Greensboro.† We had been in several of these training bases together, and then he went one way and I went the other. He was stationed in a base, Deopham Green, that was about twenty miles south of us, and he was on a B-17.† So I made arrangements to go down and visit him once.† But I never, other than the once, have seen him since.† But I think youíre very concerned about other people you know who were in training with you.† There was one fellow who I had a very good relationship with.† When we got to Lincoln, Nebraska, when you got your assignments, he ended up on a B-25 over in the South Pacific.† I think I sent one letter to him and I got the letter back.† He was gone.† Another fellow that I met down in Laredo, Texas, his name was Poncho Fraiser.† I think they were talking about this over there the other night.† He was in our base.† He got shot down I think the week after I got there.† I donít know.† Itís hard to remember.† Youíd get the newspapers, and it would tell you how the war was going.† I think most of us thought it surely wasnít going to last that long .† Everything was moving.† Patton was moving and Montgomery was moving.† You knew it couldnít last forever.† Course I got over there during the Bulge.† The Bulge was pretty much over at that time.† But I was on a couple of interesting missions if you want to talk about that now?
SS: ††††† Sure.
BC:† ††† The one that was probably the most interesting was when the ground forces crossed the Rhine.†† Thereís been some statistics on it that show they had more aircraft on that mission than even the invasion of Normandy.† We got up in the morning and they tell you what your target is, and we went out to our planes.† I could see all these gliders being towed over.† I said: ďWell whatís going on today?Ē† I can remember very distinctly saying:† ďWhatís all this going on today?Ē† So when we got over near our target, we flew right over Wesel, which is where the main crossing was taking place on the Rhine.† You could see the paratroopers going down, and you could see the gliders.† Of course, weíre up at 20,000 feet, and theyíre down at three or four thousand feet.† It was amazing to watch all that.† We had to go to an airfield about thirty miles north.† It wasnít a tough mission at all.
SS: ††††† That was your target, to bomb the airfield?
BC: †††† To bomb the airfield, yes. There were other groups that their mission was to drop food and supplies to our men on the other side of the Rhine River.† They had a lot of casualties, because they were doing this at low level.† They were coming in at five hundred feet.† They drop them out of the bottom of the airplane, probably where the ball-turret was.† They just throw these things down.† They lost several planes that day.
SS:† †††† What were your main targets on your missions?
BC: †††† You mean what kind of things did we hit?
SS:† †††† Yes.† What did you go after?
BC: †††† Marshalling yards and airfields.†
SS: ††††† Marshalling yards were for trains?
BC:† ††† Yes.† Thatís where the supplies are and where all the different trains meet.† They pack them up and go on to different directions.
SS: ††††† Were these all day missions?
BC:† ††† All day missions. Yes.† We never flew at night
SS:† †††† Never flew at night.† Did you ever interact with British who were doing the night flying?
BC: †††† We used to see them coming back.† Sometimes we could see them coming back when we were going over.† In fact, one of our missions, I remember we must have been out over the English Channel or the North Sea.† They came back, and they came right across in front of us.† They created all this prop wash.† The air was just a mess.† All the planes in our group, they just took off in different directions because you loose control.† If you were talking to a pilot he could tell you better than I could.† So there he was trying to get out of there until you get through this air, then you come back and re-form.
SS:† †††† Yes, reform.† How big were your missions?† How many planes would be involved in your typical mission?
BC:† ††† I think at the time I was over there it was a lot: 900 to 1000.† There was one mission when I went to Berlin, and I remember reading about it and it stuck in my mind.† When we crossed the Zuider Zee on our way to Berlin, they were coming out while we were still going in so there was one steady line of bombers all the way from there to Berlin and back out again.† You can imagine how constant it was.† Now I donít know how long it takes you to get in there, maybe an hour, but youíve got like two hours of them.† Thatís a lot of airplanes.† Now that happened to be that I donít think they lost a plane that day.† Everything went well.† My worst mission was a place called Osnabruck.† Of course it is probably a very typical mission for people who flew in Ď43 and í44, but we had a lot of flak.† That can be very scary, especially if it gets close.† One of my jobs as a waist gunner was to throw chaff out. Thatís that kind of tin foil you know?† And I used to have a big box in front of me, and I used to sit on the box.† I would take them and there was a hole in the side of the airplane, that would just suck it right out.† Well, we got hit by flak, and you could see the flash.† I donít know where it went, but there was a big hole right over here, in the plane. [near leg]† Of course I sort of went into shock, because it really scared me.† I looked down and there was a big hole right here, right next to my leg.† Apparently it had come in over here and it went right out through here.† Just missed me.† I couldnít figure out how it missed me because it was sort of down next to my leg and I must have put my legs down. [phew]† So that was the scariest part.† Usually when that happens the co--pilot will check in and ask: ďIs everyone alright?Ē† I didnít answer.† So they had to send somebody back to check up on me, but I hadnít got hit.†
SS:† †††† When you say flak--what were they shooting at you that it would go right through the airplane?
BC: †††† Well, flak is a shell, and when it gets up to the altitude that they set it, it blows up and sends all this metal in all different directions.† If itís close enough it could go into your engine, it could go into your bomb bay.† Sometimes, if it gets into your bomb bay, the plane just blows up.† A lot of times if its further away from the plane, you can hear it like someone throwing sand.† You can hear all the little bits.† If theyíre that close, you can really see it, you can see the orange flash.† Itís instantaneous.† In fact I can remember going into Berlin, which I said, we didnít lose any planes that day.† The flak was so black, you look out ahead of the airplanes and the sky was so black.† We said: ďweíll never get through this.Ē† When we got there, it was all down below us.† We were up here, and the flak was all down there.† But what they do in the groups, they fly in different altitudes.† They change.† So the Germans have to continue to change the range on their guns. You hope that by the time they get your range youíre gone, and the next bunch is coming in.† Otherwise, if everyone is coming in at the same altitude, once they got you in line, you were in trouble, because they were good.
SS:†††††† About what altitude were you flying at?
BC:† ††† Eighteen, nineteen thousand feet.
SS:† †††† Before you said the Germans were good at hitting the planes?
BC:† ††† They were good at shooting.† Their gunners were good.† And I donít think they aimed at anyone in particular.† They just wanted to get your altitude, and then they knew how to shoot ahead of the formation.† I have no idea how long it takes a shell to get up there but it probably doesnít take too long.†
SS: ††††† What would chaff do if it was just shells?† It seems like chaff would be applied for maybe rockets or something.
BC:† ††† No, you mean the stuff we threw out?† That was to hinder their radar.
SS:† †††† Oh, O.K.
BC: †††† Because they would send up radar and these little metal strips were like tin foil, and theyíd get all these little metal flickers on their radar screen so they couldnít detect how high we were.† Thatís what they used that for.† Youíre supposed to throw out one every six seconds.† I forget.† But when the flak starts coming up, youíre throwing them out as fast as you could throw them out.† Yes, itís just like the tin foil on your Christmas trees.
SS:†††††† Iím curious what you thought about the Germans as you were going into battle, your feelings about the enemy?
BC:† ††† I had none.† I think we were away from the actual fighting.† But we were a distance away where we didnít know what happened when the bombs hit.† We didnít know whether it hit a thing and blew up a house, or killed someone.† We had no idea.† Well, you know the people in the infantry, they knew what was going on, they could see it.† So I had nothing against them.† Well, I wont say that.†
SS: ††††† Iím just curious how much friendship and comraderie there might have been too, amongst the crew. Before you said you all got along well.
BC:† ††† Yes, we did.† We used to play cards with the officers, in our off time they played hearts or something and we used to go over and play with them.† We had no arguments that I can remember.† You know, you donít like everybody like best buddies.† One guy was a fellow from California and he played the guitar, and Iím not a country music fan, but I got to enjoying it and I used to sing with him.† Heíd play and the two of us would sing and we had a good time.† He always used to say: ďIf I ever get shot down, somebodyís got to make sure that my guitar gets back to my wife.Ē Dick was from the Chicago area.† The pilot and the co- pilot were good friends before the war.† They wanted to fly together, and they let them.† So they were in the same crew.† I think my pilot was a B-25 pilot down in Panama area before the war.†
SS: ††††† Was that one of the ways you guys were able to keep your minds off of the combat?† Or I should say, were there a lot of fears and apprehensions about the combat?
BC:† ††† No.† I donít think so.† I think once you flew a couple of missions, and if they werenít bad, I donít think there was that.† You talk to somebody who flew in 1943 or early í44, youíre going to get an entirely different story.† I mean things happened in those airplanes up there that if you got back to your base youíd say: ďDonít ever get me up there again.Ē† I mean there were people getting killed on every mission.† People on the airplanes that were not coming back, guys getting shot up there by flak and by enemy fighters.† We saw only one enemy fighter the whole time I was over there.† It was a jet, one of the 262ís.† They were using them, but there were so many of our airplanes over there.† We were just fortunate that they never came to our group.†
SS: ††††† Did you guys have fighter escort at the time?†
BC:† ††† Oh yes.† They were there all the time, P-51ís primarily.† And they would stay right with us, well, they might go off a little bit, but they were right there all the time.
SS: ††††† What about some more of your missions?† You said you flew nineteen all together?
BC: †††† Yes.† I flew nineteen.† I would have flown twenty, but what they used to do is theyíd have practice missions once in a while.† Theyíd always pick a practice mission if you were scrubbed for the mission of the day and the weather was so bad theyíd have a practice mission.†† They couldnít find our pilot and coópilot, so they were going to send us to fly with somebody else.† Not me!† I went to sick-bay, and I think I said I had an upset stomach or something so they grounded me.† Which was until eight oí clock the next day, but the mission was at six, so I couldnít fly and I missed the mission that day.††
††††††††††† We flew in the last mission of the war which is way own here.† Nine and a half hours.† Its way down in Bad Reichenhall,† I think it was in Germany but right next to the Austrian border.† Thatís the longest mission I had.
SS: ††††† That was your last mission of the war?
BC:† ††† That was my last mission, and it was the last mission of the war.
SS:† †††† And when was that about?
BC: †††† That was April 25th, 1945.† On April 19th, 1945, I flew the nose turret, and the plane in front of us got shot down. It got hit by flak.†
SS: ††††† So even towards the end you guys were still loosing planes?
BC:† Oh yes!† They lost seven.†† B-17ís on the last day of the war.† But you go back to early Ď44 and they were loosing like 35-40 every day.
SS: ††††† How would you guys deal with that?† Thatís one of the things that amazes me.† It seems like everybody just went about their jobs, and just took care of business, and yet there were all these losses going on.† People were dying or losing planes.
BC:† ††† Well, you know you go into these places.† When we go into our jobs we were replacing people.† We were replacing somebody either who finished their missions or who got shot down.† Youíd go to wherever you were staying, and the beds you slept in were probably slept in by someone who is not with us anymore. But see that didnít happen too much when I was over there.† When you figure in late Ď43 and early Ď44, it was like if you flew seven missions, you were lucky.† I mean thatís how bad it was.† Someone as Russ had said, the first 25 crews started missions in his base.† I think after three months they were all gone.† Nobody survived.
SS:† †††† So what were the conditions like on your base at that time, as far as where you stayed?
BC:† ††† Oh, it was good.† As I said, it was a permanent RAF base, and we had stone buildings.† I think I can show you a picture here.† Hereís the front of our building.† We lived upstairs, and this is part of my crew.†
SS: ††††† Now at that time in England, were you guys ever getting attacked at your base?
BC:† ††† No, there was a scare, though.† Iím not sure whether it was when we were over there or whether it was shortly before.† What happened was that the mission got home late, and the Germans followed them in.† They went to several of the bases around us and they caused a lot of damage.† Shot a couple planes down in fact.† Now it,s been so long that I donít recall it being a problem as far as Iím concerned but I remember hearing about it.† I donít think I was there when it happened.† I guess Iíll have to look back at the book and see.†
SS:† †††† You were keeping your journal you said the whole time?
BC:† ††† Yes.† I have a diary that I kept for all the time that I was overseas.† Mostly about how much mail I got.† Sometimes I used to put in things like what planes I flew on.† Thatís how I can remember.† I guess Iíd probably never remember this stuff unless I had written it down.† What I would actually do, I used to put the date, and how many guns were reported at the targets.† These were the targets.† Over here Iíd put the airplanes we flew in.† I really didnít say too much other than how many letters I got.† Mail was very, very important. [tape change]† These things mean more when you realize that you wrote them at the time.† I was telling you about the Onasbruck mission. I said here that we got to our target about 11 in the morning.† Today was the day of our 11th mission.† Our target was a marshalling yard in Onasbruck.† We got up at 3:30 am, and took off at 7:15 a.m.† We got to our target about 11:00 am and boy was there flak!† Thatís what I said.† There must have been fifty holes in the ship, most of which were in the waist section and vicinity.† One piece went between my arms and legs while bending over, and it nearly scared the wits out of me.† I was sure glad to get back from that one.
SS: ††††† So how does it feel to look back at something like this and realize what you went through?
BC:††††† Well, I read it so many times, in fact this one mission that I told you the plane in front of us got shot down.† This was a letter written by one of the guys, I guess it was to members of that crew.† They talk about the accident.† We saw the plane.† He got hit by flak, and the engine started to smoke and they sort of left the formation and you could see the parachutes come out.
SS:†††††† So the guys got out of the plane?
BC:††††† Yes.† I think everybody but like one or two.† I donít think that the nose turret gunner got out for some reason.† Most of that stuff at the end is after we got home. I kept it until the end of the war and then I stopped.
SS:† †††† So you got some good information?
BC: †††† Well, its not that much its just that I kept a record of the mission and what we did, but I didnít really go into too much detail.†
SS: ††††† It says here, ďFebruary 1.† I got up and went down and after getting all ready found out that we had already taken off so we all came back.Ē† What, you missed some kind of flight or something like that?
BC: †††† Is that what it says? That wasnít a mission though, I hadnít started yet.
SS:†††††† Oh yes, thatís right you hadnít gone on your first mission.
BC: †††† Oh yes.† It was a practice mission.† We were called to fly a practice mission.† Apparently we didnít get the instructions too good.† Thereís a lot of stuff in there that really isnít good information as far as talking on this...
SS:† †††† But you were keeping in touch with people at home and getting letters from your parents?
BC:† ††† Oh, absolutely.† I wrote my mother every day.† I used to write my mother every day.†
SS:†††††† And did you get a lot of mail in return?
BC:† ††† Oh yes.† We lived for mail.† Every day, thatís what I used to keep a record of, who Iíd get letters from every day.† It was very important.† Sometimes youíd get eight or nine or ten letters, you know.
SS:† †††† What was your typical day like when you were on a day that you had a mission, what would you guys have to do?
BC:† ††† Well usually, the night before, your pilotís name was posted on a bulletin board telling you that you were going to fly the next day.† They put the list up and then I donít recall going to bed early or anything.† Then theyíd come in, and you donít know when, they might come in at three thirty, they might come in at two thirty, they might come in at four.† A guy comes around, knocks on the door, opens the door and would say:† ďEverybody up, lets go.Ē† So youíd get up and get dressed and then youíd go to breakfast.† He would tell you how and when breakfast was and when briefing was.† Once you went to briefing you couldnít go back to your rooms.† Apparently because of some spy, you could release some information where your missionís going.† Now once you got through briefing, you headed for the airplane.† You went in and got your clothes and all the stuff you were going to wear. It was a while.† You might get out to the plane at four thirty or five in the morning and you might not take off† until seven thirty or eight.† So we had our checking to do.† Weíd check our guns, check them without the ammunition.† I was telling you about the one that shot at us on the ground, he had the ammunition hooked up.† He got court marshaled for it.†
SS: ††††† You had one of your own guys-- it was an accident?
BC:† ††† It wasnít our crew, it was the plane next to us.† You park in different revetments around the airfield.† He was checking his guns and the ammunition bells bolts were hooked into the gun and a couple went off and hit our airplane. It went into the bomb bay and set an incendiary bomb on fire.† We could hear it, to me it was hissing.† When we heard that noise three of us we were in the waist.† We jumped out the rear hatches and ran as fast as we could to a distance away.† The plane blew up about 15 minutes later.
SS: ††††† Did you guys fly that day or go to another plane or something?
BC: †††† No, it was, Iím trying to think of what it said in here, I think thereís something here that... right here, if you want to read that.
SS: ††††† 9/21, Fire on the ground, bombs on board exploded.† Aircraft nearby were damaged.
BC: †††† Six of them, yes.† Of course ours.† And I say in my diary we didnít fly that day.† So thereís another mission I would have been on.†
SS: ††††† But then on a normal day, then you would be in your airplane and checking out your guns?†
BC:† ††† As far as the gunners were concerned, we didnít have a lot of things to do pre-flighting.† I was the armorer gunner.† It was my responsibility after the plane was in the air to take care of any problems with the bombs, which happened.† Once we had a hung bomb.† A hung bomb means that the bomb didnít drop.† Usually what happens is they have these shackles that hold the bombs and they go through here.† Usually if one doesnít open, or something like this, and it gets hung there. It just hangs in the bomb bay.† So what you have to do, youíve got to go out into the bomb bay and youíve got to release it.† When I think of it now itís really scary.† The bomb bay doors are open.† You have to disconnect your oxygen.† You put on one of these little walk around bottles, you know, youíve probably seen them, they are about this big.† Theyíre good for about ten minutes.† You hook them in, and you get a screwdriver. Of course youíve got all this heavy clothing on and youíre on this little catwalk. You ever been on a B-24?
SS: ††††† No.
BC: †††† You ought to go sometime when theyíre over here in Hartford or Oxford.† Those catwalks are about that big, and you have to walk out there where the bomb is and with a screwdriver you turn the screw and then it falls out.† You got to remember that the bomb bay is open, and youíre looking down.† I didnít recall it being scary.
SS: ††††† Did you have your parachute on?
BC: †††† I donít think so, no.† You donít think youíre actually going to fall, because if you hold on, you know.† But itís cold up there.
SS: ††††† So what was it like for the typical mission once you were in the air?† What were the steps and the procedures you went through as you were flying towards your target?
BC:† ††† Well, when you first took off, you formed.† That takes an hour.† All the planes from all the different groups are all flying in a big circle.† Everybody is trying to find where their own group is so they can get all together.† You keep flying around as these planes keep joining you.† Then at a certain point, the squadrons make the groups and the groups make the wings and the wings make the formation, and theyíre all getting in their proper order now.† Then they head on across the area. Now that might be at least an hour or an hour and a half before you get really going.† Then when you get to ten thousand feet, when youíre going over the Channel, everybody check fires their guns.† You shoot them down toward the water.† Then when you get to ten thousand feet, they tell you to put your oxygen masks on.† They stay on until youíre back.† Then you watch.† You just† watch.
SS:† †††† The whole time youíd be manning your gun?
BC: †††† No, not really.† I mean, at the time I was over there, there was probably no reason to because I never saw much.† Iím right there.† I mean at the guns, right there as you look out.† So you look out the window and youíre right there all the time.† Of course the gun is on a pedestal sort of thing.† But you know you donít lay down and sleep, like probably some people might do.† I used to watch the engines to see if there was any smoke from gasoline, or maybe the mixture was improper.† Maybe the pilot or co-pilot couldnít see.† Iíd get on the radio intercom and tell them: ďthe number three engine is smoking,Ē and they would make an adjustment.† And then youíd have an oxygen check every fifteen minutes. Youíd go around the plane and say, ďNavigator, O.K.?† Nose Gunner O.K.? Upper turret O.K.? Waist O.K.?Ē etc.† Youíd do that every fifteen minutes I think.† Then if you ran into any problems there might be a check like the day I nearly got hit.† They check up on you constantly.† We had one day where we lost our oxygen.† We must have had an oxygen leak.† So we had to leave the mission, and we were over Germany.† We had to abort the mission.† And we dropped our bombs on a target of opportunity.† We did that, and we got home O.K.† The coópilot, he had written things about that mission-- he said there were fighters around.† He said there were fighters around, and he had to call for help.† I guess the p-51ís came in. Because we were all by ourselves, and usually when youíre all by yourself, you can be in trouble.†
SS:† †††† Youíre an easy target?
BC: †††† Yes.†
SS: ††††† And you were over Germany at that time?
BC: †††† We were over Germany.† The reason we had to leave was because we couldnít stay up at eighteen thousand feet with no oxygen.† So we had to come back down to, I donít know fifteen probably or fourteen thousand feet, something like that.†
SS: ††††† What was like the total time, it seems like these would be really long days.
BC: †††† Yes, I would think most of them were five hours.†
SS: ††††† Five hours both ways?
BC:††††† No, no, no, no, total time.† Letís see if Iíve got an example here.† [reads] ďWe took off at 6:15am and landed at 1:30 pm.Ē† So thatís about what five, six, seven hours?† Its about seven hours.† Thatís probably typical.† This mission was way up in, way up north there.
SS: ††††† Are there any other particular missions that stand out in your mind, besides that one where you hit a lot of flak?
BC:† ††† Well the one down here where the plane in front of us got shot down.† Well, I think when youíre going to Berlin. You know, just the name scares you.† ďWhere we going today?Ē
††††††††††† ďYouíre going to Berlin.Ē† Well thatís like, ďOh my God.Ē† But as it turns out it wasnít too bad. Because they went to Berlin I think about a week and a half after that and they lost fifteen or sixteen airplanes.† On the day that we went, it wasnít too bad.† And they had one day, I think back in í44, they lost 69.† Of course they probably didnít have as many bombers.† When youíre sending out twelve hundred planes against maybe four or five hundred and you lose some, but you send out five hundred and you lose sixty nine or sixty, or you send up twelve hundred or fifteen hundred and you lose ten, thereís a big difference.
SS: ††††† Big difference.
BC:† ††† No I donít, you know certain things you do.† We bombed a bomb dump one day, and of course we blew it up.† Tremendous explosion.† Of course youíre up high So you donít see much at eighteen thousand feet.†
SS: ††††† Did you get to see the explosion itself?
BC: †††† Yes, thatís what I mean.† I could see it.
SS: ††††† Did you guys feel a sense of accomplishment, like you were really helping the war effort on your missions?
BC:† ††† I donít think so.† I donít think as an individual.† I mean, you had a job to do and you did it, you know? The weather was probably one of the biggest fears,† because the weather was terrible over there.† We took off one day in the morning, and we got up over the English Channel.† The clouds kept getting higher and higher, and we got over France and we had to turn around and come back, because the clouds were getting so high.† We came back over England and it was solid overcast up to like twelve thousand feet. I mean, if you can imagine all these airplanes flying over England, going down through this stuff three at a time to get back to their base. . .† I cant believe there werenít multiple mid air collisions-- which they had periodically.† Youíd just go down through that stuff and you canít see anything.† Youíd stand by the window and youíd just hope that the pilot knows were heís going.† Cause if you fly through clouds you canít see anything.†
SS:†††††† Pretty scary?
BC: †††† Very scary.†
SS: ††††† You have to have a lot of faith in your pilot?
BC: †††† Oh, yes.† I wouldnít say you have to, but we did.† He was a little guy.† We were all good friends.† As I say we didnít always pal around together, but I think there were very few crews that didnít get along together.† The way I remember it, whatís those movies they made, ďMemphis Belle?Ē† They made it sound like the crew was fighting all the time, and thatís a lot of baloney.†
SS:†††††† You guys had pretty good morale then amongst each other?
BC: †††† Yes.† I think so, yes.† We played softball on days off, although it was during the winter, and it was probably one of the worst winters in England in a long time.† But I remember playing softball over there and we used to go to Norwich, which wasnít too far.† We used to get passes.† Of course it was blacked out at night, so you couldnít see anything.†
SS: ††††† You went on that really long mission, and you said it was the last mission of the war. †When you guys got back, how did you feel when you heard the war was over?
BC: †††† I think we knew at that time that these were the last days, because Patton was going so fast that they had to scrub missions because they didnít know where he was.† You might be, for example, going to Nuremberg or one of those places, and he might be there, he might be there now and they wouldnít know where he was.† Thatís why the last were all way out toward Austria.† And we knew.† We had heard a rumor, I think itís in my diary, that Hitler was dead or something of this nature. ďThe war is going to be overĒ or something like that.† I just wanted it to be over.† I think at this point you really werenít concerned about getting shot down or anything like that.
SS: ††††† Once you finally heard, was that a big relief?
BC:† ††† Well, the thing is that youíre going to go home.† I think thatĎs the main thing is ďWere going to go home.Ē† We never thought of going to Japan and getting reassigned over there.† Unfortunately we werenít even allowed to leave the base on V.E. Day, because somebody did something on our base and everybody was confined to the base.† Plus the fact of not flying anymore, we got all the stinking duties getting ready to go home.† The ground crews had to get all the planes ready.† So we were doing KP.† We were cleaning airplanes, and that wasnít any fun.
SS: ††††† How long did that last?
BC: †††† Well, lets see, I think we came home on June 15th or something.† A month.† I think we flew once together in May to get our four hours in.† Yes, we had to fly in May to get our four hours in.† If you donít get four hours you donít get flight pay.†
SS: ††††† So you went back to the states in June of Ď45?
BC: †††† June of Ď45.† We flew home.† We left Horsham St. Faith, and the first time we got over Prestwick, Scotland.† We were going to go the northern route, but it was all closed in and we had to go back.† We flew all the way back to our base, and of course that was so disappointing. Then the next day we went to Valley, Wales, then we flew down to the Azores.† From the Azores we flew to Newfoundland, from Newfoundland to Bradley Field, Connecticut.†
SS: ††††† Was that in the B-24?
BC: †††† Yes, we were flying the planes home.
SS: ††††† Was it like a whole formation?
BC:† ††† No, I think we were by ourselves.† We took other people home with us.† It was our crew, but there were always two or three other people on board. We took a dog home. So we werenít flying where we needed oxygen because I donít remember the dog having an oxygen mask.† And when we got to Bradley field, the guy who had the dog gave him to somebody temporarily, because theyíd take him away from you otherwise.
SS: ††††† Was there any threat of you ever having to go to Japan?
BC: †††† In my memory when we came back we had thirty days leave and then we went back on assignment out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.† It seemed to me that Roosevelt had said: ďIf you have flown 18 missions you wont be reassigned to Japan.Ē† So I felt ďIím safe.Ē† When I got to Sioux Falls, then the war ended out there in August.† They were starting to... what do you call it when you get out of the service?
SS: ††††† Outprocessing?
BC: †††† Yes, anyway thatís another word for it.† Yes, processing for separation from the service.† And so I was working at the separation center and I got assigned to the base.† They sent me to school in New York City for two weeks.† I told them ďIíll go to New York City if you want me to but my points, Iím pretty close to getting out.Ē† They used the point system, and what was it? Eighty-five or something you needed, and I was getting close so I said: ďI havenít got far to go, but If you want me to go to New York City Iíd be very happy to go.Ē† So there were three of us, and we went to New York City and we stayed there in a hotel and we used to go to classes every day.† We had a wonderful time. When we got back to Sioux Falls theyíd already gone by me on points.† So I never went to work† The good old army.
SS: ††††† So by the time you got back they sent you home?
BC: †††† By the time I got back to Sioux Falls, theyíd already passed me in the points, so I was ready to be discharged.† So I think it took me another three or four days before I got discharged.
SS:† †††† How did you accumulate points?
BC:† ††† Months of service.† Iím not sure.† Months of service, I think you get extra points when youíre over seas.†
SS: ††††† Did you get points for missions?
BC: †††† No, I donít think so.† I think it was mostly months of service and extra points for being over seas.† But youíd take some guy like Russ who was what, three or four years over there?
SS: ††††† Yes.
BC: †††† But that doesnít mean he was going to get out over there because they needed these guys... they didnít come home right away.†
SS:†††††† Yes, they might have needed certain people to do jobs.
BC: †††† Because we were dispensable.† Why do you want a bunch of bomber crews sitting around in England doing nothing?† Youíve got thousands and thousands of people over there and youíve got to get them out.† They couldnít get them out quick enough.† Even coming back here was really a mass exodus.† So I got out in November.† I think it was November 6, 1945.†
SS: ††††† What was it like coming home?† I mean, how did the people receive you?
BC:† ††† Oh yes.† Well everyone was coming home.† It was a wonderful deal.† Of course we were just kids.† I was 20 then.†
SS:†††††† By the time you got back you were still only 20 years old?
BC:† ††† I was twenty years old.† In fact, I was nineteen when the war ended.† My birthday is in May, so I was nineteen when the war ended.† So youíre like an eighteen year old kid.† Well, youíre older than that, but you look at an eighteen year old kid and thatís how old I was when I was flying in the war, it makes a difference.
SS: ††††† How do you feel about that?† Being that young and having to do what you had to do.† Do you think that it was a positive thing that happened to your life?
BC:† ††† Yes, I do.† I think it was a very, very important part of my life.† A big part of my life.† I think compared to today, I think in those days we were very, very patriotic. When the war came along, we all wanted to go.† If some guy couldnít go for some physical reason, he was very disturbed.† Everybody wanted to go.† That was part of it.† When we came home, you know, we were ready to go back and get back into life again.† Of course the G.I. Bill was the savior for a lot of us.
SS:†††††† Did you take advantage of it?
BC: †††† Oh yes.† I went back to UConn. But I graduated from University of Bridgeport.† I transferred I think after a year at UConn.
SS: ††††† Still on the G.I. bill?
BC: †††† Oh yes. Oh yes.† I went to college on the G.I. Bill.
SS: ††††† What did you go to college for?
BC: †††† I was a major in psychology.† I never, well I guess I did some of that, because I worked for General Motors, same place that Jimmy worked.† I worked in several different areas in the manufacturing process and I ended up in personnel and labor relations and then security and safety, so I guess the Psychology helped a little bit.†
SS: ††††† Sure.† Did that wind up being a career for you then?† Working at G.M.?
BC: †††† Yes.† I worked there 30 years.† Jimmy and I retired on the same day.† So weíve been friends for a long time.† We both worked in Meriden and in Bristol.†
SS: ††††† Did you do any reserves?
BC: †††† No, I didnít stay in. I donít think many of the non-commissioned people stayed in.† I might be wrong, but I had no desire to stay in. I can see with Jimmy, and you know, they might fly in, and you know thatís good.† Itís wonderful.
SS: ††††† Do you think you had any trouble adjusting when you got back?† Going from a military flying job to your career?
BC: †††† No, I donít think so.† I think as far as school was concerned, I was a much better student when I came back because I was older, primarily.† I was two years older.† I think we were, the service people were very serious about getting an education. They didnít like all these courses that didnít get down to exactly what was required to get down to life.† They want facts.† A lot of these things kids didnít go for.
SS: ††††† You think that was because of what you had just experienced in the war?
BC: †††† Yes.† I think the kids were older.† I think at this point they were trying to catch up on their lives.† They wanted to get their education, and they wanted to get back to living again.† They were serious about it.† There is difference between and eighteen year old kid and a twenty two year old kid.† Thereís a big difference.
SS: ††††† Thereís a difference coming back an older student.
BC:† ††† I kept in contact with some of the crew like this gentleman here.† Then you get married and you raise your kids and it sort of....except for Dick, most of the rest of them I didnít know where they had gone to.† Weíve got together.† Dick and I have got together several times.† Heís come here and Iíve gone out to Illinois.† We got together with the co--pilot for two mini-reunions, the three of us, with our wives.† Iíve been to I think four or five Second Air Division reunions.† I donít go anymore, because Iím not interested.† Iím interested but....
SS: ††††† Was it tough to get back and meet everybody that you were in with?
BC:† ††† Well you donít really know that many.† I donít know what other people will tell you, but thereís very few new people that I got to know other than my crew.† They were the people you lived and stayed with all the time.† Especially when you were in combat.† They are the people you go with every day, theyíre the people you fly with every day, probably the people you eat with every day, and anybody else...
SS: ††††† Theyíre probably doing the same thing?
BC: †††† Yes, theyíre all doing the same thing.† Youíre right.
SS: ††††† And it seems like--well I shouldnít just say that--did you guys rely on each other a lot too? Do you think that brought you closer together?
BC: †††† No, I donít think that was... You might have had more of that early on in the war.† If† you have confidence in your pilot and your co--pilot, thatís the main thing as far as we were concerned.† If your pilot was giving you a problem, you wouldnít particularly go for that.† Or if you thought he was a lousy pilot or something of that nature.
SS:†††††† Looking back on the whole experience, how would you kind of assess it, like the military and your G.I. Bill.
BC:† ††† Well, it is a very important part of my life.† Iíve said this before, Iím glad I did it, Iím glad I went.† I wouldnít have missed it for the world, but I would never want to do it again.† I think thatís a good way of putting it.† I would want to say that the time that I was over there was at the end of the war, which is much different from fellas you might talk to who were over there in Ď44 or Ď43.† Their experiences are day in and day out very different.†
SS:†††††† Yes, a lot different.† Well itís good to hear what it was like in different periods.† I think it paints a good picture of what the war was like from beginning to end.†
††††††††††† So what do you think about how the war is portrayed in schools, and we mentioned before about how itís taught in history, what people think?
BC:† ††† Well I think itís portrayed pretty good.† Itís amazing, I never realized over all these years, we never had a World War II memorial.† We have them for everything else, we never had one for World War II.† You wonder why at this point, why didnít they ever have one?† Weíve probably got more money to support a World War II memorial than anything else.† They are going to build one now I guess in Washington.
SS:†††††† Yes, it sounds like itís getting closer.
BC:† ††† Well theyíve got most of the money now, from what I hear.† I think we, guys who were in this war, are proud of it, for a good reason. Itís nothing against the Vietnam War, and itís not their fault, but Iím just saying, I think our group were very proud to have been there, and were very patriotic.† It was our job, and we tried to do it the best we knew how.
SS:†††††† Did you ever have the feeling that you really helped save Democracy-- that you were fighting for the country?
BC: †††† I guess in a way.† I donít know whether fighting for freedom and fighting for Democracy is a main thing for an eighteen year old.† Youíre fighting to win the war.† Youíre not saying ďI shouldnít be over here fighting against Germany, when theyíve got nothing to do with us.Ē† I donít think any of us said that.† I think we had a duty to do, and we did it.† You look at some of these guys who were in the infantry, which are entirely different conditions.† I would never want to be down there.† And the nice thing about it, when you ask those guys, they wouldnít want to be up there.† They said that: ďYou couldnít get me up in one of those airplanes for all the tea in China!Ē
SS:†††††† How do you think the war is going to be remembered, lets say in fifty years or a hundred years?
BC:††††† I think it will, in history, go down as the war that saved the world at that time.† I donít think you can say that much for the first World War.† How much do we remember about World War I?† I donít remember much about it.† Of course I wasnít living then, but I donít know how much they taught us about World War I.† I remember some of the names of the battlefields over there.† I think this education of the kids--letting kids know we were the first generation to fly in airplanes.† We were the first generation and second generation to drive cars.† There were a lot of things our generation was either first or second in ever doing in this world.† When you think of our grandparents, they used to have horses and buggies.† I remember they tried to teach my grandmother how to drive a car once and I think that lasted about fifteen minutes.† She had her horse and buggy and thatís about it. Our group in Cheshire, I think we all have the same feeling, we are all very patriotic, and I think we do remember and we want the world to remember what we have-- what our generation has gone through.† Iíve been over to Europe several times, and Iíve been down to Normandy.† And to walk down there and see what they went through at the invasion, it makes you cry.† Itís awful.† You see those cemeteries-- we went to Europe last spring, over to Holland and Belgium and Luxembourg, and we went to the cemetery where Patton is.† You look at some of these gravestones.† Some of these are Eighth Air Force crewmen who were shot down and killed.† It gives their name and it gives their rank and it gives their bomb group.† You look at this stuff and you say, ďHey, this was going on when I was over there.Ē† They had a cemetery in Maddingly which is just outside of Cambridge, and thatís practically all Air Force.
SS: ††††† Does it help to be in the Army Air Force Round Table?
BC: †††† Oh yes.† We could talk for hours.† You find somebody who was the same base, or had similar experiences.† I feel sometimes that I was lucky compared to some of them.† Art, heís one youíll be talking to.† Heís amazing.†
SS:†††††† Yes, I hope we get to talk.† Seems like heís got a really interesting story, just as you do too. I guess one of the last things I would say is, are there any other things that youíd like to add to the story?† Anything you think maybe we missed or any comments you might just make in general?
SS:†††††† I think what youíre doing, if I may say, I think its a good way of expanding and keeping what we did in those days so people can read and hear about those things.† I mean, you look at TV today and there are all the rocket ships and this is what the kids want.† You show them something on a B-24, theyíre really not interested.† Iíve taken two of my grandkids over there, but they donít really understand that much.
SS:†††††† How old are your kids today?
BC: †††† My kids?† My son is 43, 44.† I actually go by when they were born.† He was born in Ď53, so heís 47.† I have a daughter 46, and a daughter 40.† I think primarily weíre proud of that time of our life.† We like to have other people know about it.† Not because we were patriotic, we just want people to remember that there were a lot of people that didnít come back, a lot of them.† I was going to show you a statistic, and if I can find it Iíll show you.† More people in the air force, like thirty, twenty seven thousand guys got killed.
SS:†††††† It had the highest casualty rate.
BC: †††† Thatís what I was looking for before we started, but I couldnít find it.† Itís amazing.† It was a big air force but when you think that 7-12% of those people who were flying lost their lives, compared to the navy, which was like a half of one percent.† But whoís comparing?† No matter what you do-- I wouldnít want to be in the Navy for all the tea in China.†
SS:†††††† You had a lot of faith in that plane?
BC:††††† Yes.† We always were sort of, because of publicity, the B-17 was supposed to be the plane that got all the publicity, but the B-24 did a lot over there.† In fact, they made more B-24ís than any other plane.† They were all over the world.† They flew in the Pacific and Italy.† It was a good airplane.† It had its problems, you know, you didnít want to ditch in one.† Thatís because of the wing, they sink in about twenty seconds.† The 17 might stay up a little longer.† I know that many crew members lost their lives ditching, trying to get back from across the English Channel.† The longer youíre away the better plane it is!
SS:†††††† Well, again I appreciate that we talked.
BC: †††† I canít think of anything else.† I can give you a write-up that I made on the day the plane blew up, if you want to take it with you.† It will give you an idea of what happened that day.
SS: ††††† Oh yes, Iím sure Iíd be able to add it to the story.† I might even take a couple of pictures and maps. It ties right into our talk.†