††††††††††† Interview with Ted Edgerton, by Steve Showers for the Voices from the Second World War: An Oral History, Center for Oral History, University of Connecticut, 1 March 2000.
Steve Showers:† Today weíre talking with Ted Edgerton.† The first question is usually a simple, basic one of where and when you were born?
Ted Edgerton:†† I was born in Hartford, Connecticut, June 1st, 1924, at Hartford Hospital.
SS:†††††† From there, weíll start by talking about your early life, what was going on with you as a kid, whereíd you go to school?† Things like that?
TE:†††††† Well, I was one of four children.† I had an older brother and a younger sister and another younger brother.† The first few years of my life, I lived in West Hartford.† Then we moved to Windsor when I was, perhaps, in the third grade.† I graduated Windsor High School.† I played varsity tennis and a little basketball.† It was quite rural, where we lived.† I guess we were kind of gentlemen farmers.† My dad was a banker, but he grew up on a farm himself and never got farming out of his blood.† We had a huge vegetable garden, which we kids were not crazy about.† We had to do the hoeing of the weeds and tending to it.† We had chickens, which were primarily my moms.† She loved chickens.† She developed quite an egg business.† What else could I tell you about Windsor?† Windsor was a small, really dinky little town.† I still go to their high school reunions.
SS:†††††† When did you graduate high school?
TE:†††††† I graduated high school in June of í42, which of course, by that time the U.S. had been involved in WWII for about seven months.
SS:†††††† Do you remember that stuff going on?
TE:†††††† Oh yes.† I, and most of my buddies followed it very closely.† We knew that obviously we were going to be involved in it. Iíd always planned to go to UCONN.† My older brother had gone to UCONN and at the time I graduated high school, he had already graduated as a fighter pilot.† He was not overseas.† He ended up spending most of the war training student pilots here in the states.† My dad had hoped, he kept after me, and he said, ďKeep your grades up, keep your grades up.† Youíll get deferred.† You wonít have to go into the service.Ē† This is not what I wanted to hear, really, because there was a huge, just a huge swelling of patriotism.† Probably unlike anything the country has ever seen before, or perhaps, since, where the isolationism of the Ď30s was gone when Pearl Harbor happened.† The country was just united in its desire to seek revenge against Japan, primarily.† Although the European conflict was something that we had been indirectly involved in as a supplier of munitions and so forth.† My dad said, keep your grades up, and after high school graduation, I went off to UCONN, but my heart wasnít in it.† I really did not want to be there.† I was at UCONN for perhaps a month or so and the Army Air Corps Cadet recruiters came onto campus.† I said, ďOh, ho.Ē† I didnít tell my dad about this, but I went and took some physical and written exams and I was accepted.† As a matter of fact, I was sworn in, while my dad stillÖ well I hadnít had the courage to tell him yet.† This was now November, I think, when I was sworn in, November of í42, nearing the end of my first semester.† Now that I was sworn in, I wanted to get in.† I wanted so much to be in.† Partly, I guess, because my brother, you know, getting letters from him and he telling me how he enjoyed flying and all this.† As you look around this room here, you see all nautical stuff.† I donít know why, I shouldíve gone into the Navy, because thatís where my real love was, but I tried to follow my brother.† As time went on, the semester ended and I still hadnít told my dad.† I didnít have the courage.† I started writing letters to the draft board, or somebody, writing letters asking if theyíd expedite getting me called up.† What I didnít realize was, apparently, there was an automatic one-year deferment if you were in college.† So, what I was asking them to do was take me off that deferment and call me up.† Call me up to active duty.† I just, as I say, so many of us were just caught up in this huge sense of feeling of patriotism.† After writing several letters, I finally got a response saying that they had removed me from the deferred list.† Thatís when I had to face my dad.† I told him.† I expected him to really go through the roof and he didnít like it, but I guess he could understand it.† I guess nobody wants their son to go into a war, Iím sure.† Come February of í43, I was activated.† I was called up.† I had gone out to UCONN and cleaned out my dorm room and hauled it all home.† I took a train out of Hartford with a group of others who were called up on the same date.† We headed to Atlantic City, New Jersey for basic training.† Atlantic City, people think, ďOh, Atlantic City, that mustíve been nice.Ē† Well, let me tell you, February in the middle of winter, itís not a playground.† The military had taken over several of the huge hotels and a big convention hall down there.† We would assemble out there on that boardwalk and the wind is whipping in off the ocean, and it was bitter, bitter cold.† Weíd march to the convention hall to get shots.† I donít know how many shots.† I mustíve looked like a porcupine.† If all the needles were left in there, I would look like a porcupine.† I got shots for everything.† Lectures on hygiene, sexual behavior, military procedures, learning the M-1 military rifle, all the stuff you do in basic.† That was about a ten-week training.† We still were not considered aviation cadets.† We were privates.† It would be sometime before we were called or wore the insignia of cadets.† I didnít like that at all.† I thought, Iím going to move right in, Iím going to be an aviation cadet right off.† Iím going to start flying.† Thatís not the way it worked out.
SS:†††††† You were still only eighteen years old, right?
TE:†††††† I was eighteen.† Eighteen is right.† After about ten weeks in Atlantic City, we were put on the train heading for a program that they called a CTD, College Training Detachment program.† Iím not really sure why that program was instituted.† The train took us to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where Bucknell Junior College is located.† We were billeted in a hotel in the city.† We marched to Bucknell Junior for classes every day.† We had physics, I guess, and US History, English.† Those three, anyway, maybe there was something else in there.† We were now considered aviation students.† We still were not cadets.† The town of Wilkes-Barre adopted us and loved us.† There was a nearby regular Army base. On the weekends, Saturday nights, those guys would all come into town.† They were not like us.† We were gentlemen.† We were young gentlemen, and the town loved us.† They stopped their cars when we marched to classes singing marching songs, and stuff.† They took off their hats, and they put on shows for us and invited us to their homes for Sunday dinners.† The town just treated us so well that I hated to leave there.† In Wilkes-Barre, we were introduced to flying Piper Cubs.† This was just a flying indoctrination course where we would get ten hours of dual time, no solo, in a Piper Cub.† I guess, to weed out people who thought, ďGee, flying would be greatĒ, but when they actually got into an airplane, maybe they donít like it.† So, get rid of those people now instead of spending a lot of money on training for them, to learn later that they werenít really cut out for it.† I became airsick doing stalls and spins and stuff like that.† As a kid, I was one of these kids who got carsick easily.† I got in the plane and weíre doing stalls and spins and stuff and I did get airsick.† My instructor suggested to me that maybe I shouldnít stay; maybe I shouldnít try to be a pilot.† I was determined that thatís what I wanted to be.† I found that once I started controlling the airplane, airsickness was no longer a problem.† It was just when Iím sitting there and the plane is put through these maneuvers and Iím not controlling it.† I wasnít in charge, and I wasnít in control.† Thatís when I got airsick.† So, I stuck with it and put in the mandatory ten hours of flying.† We went on.† Wilkes-Barre was about ten weeks.† Each phase seemed to be about ten weeks.† After Wilkes-Barre, we were sent to a classification center in Nashville, Tennessee where we would undergo a battery of psychological and physical testing to determine what we would really be best suited for, whether it would be pilot, navigator or bombardier.† They would give us some choice in the matter, as long as our testing indicated that we would be qualified to do that.† We might be better qualified to do one of the other three choices, but if we wanted to say, be a bombardier, and we were really best qualified to be a navigator, they would let us go on into bombardier school, for instance.† Of course, I put in for pilot although they thought I was better qualified as a navigator.† I was pleased that they honored my request to go into pilot training.† After the classification process at Nashville, now we were finally cadets.† We got the cadet insignia and stuff on the uniform and stuff like that, and were sent to Maxwell Field, Alabama, which was pre-flight school.† Again, it was about a ten-week course and it was all academic, still no flying.† It was rigorous physical training.† We studied meteorology, aeronautical engineering, military law, military protocol, aircraft recognition, and Morse code.† We were going to classes every day, four or five hours a day in academic stuff.† This is also where we were introduced to the cadet honor code system.† The cadet honor code specified that any cadet who lies, cheats or steals, is subject to immediate dismissal from the corps.† Not only that, but any cadet who was aware of another cadet lying, cheating or stealing, and did not report it to the commanding officers, that cadet was guilty by association and would also be dismissed.† It was called being drummed out of the corps.† I witnessed one drumming out of the corps.† It comes as a surprise.† You donít know until, about two oíclock in the morning, dead of the night, all the cadets are assembled in front of their barracks and marched out to the parade ground.† Standing out in the middle of the parade ground is a small group of commissioned officers.† All the cadet formations are lined up facing this group of officers.† In front of those officers, between those officers and the cadet corps, were two military policemen with an individual standing between them.† The corps is standing at attention and the only sound is the flapping of the banners, the parade banners that youíre carrying, flapping in the breeze.† An officer from the group strides out to join the three, the two MPs and the other, holds up a document and reads from it: so and so, (first and last name), ďyou have been found guilty by this tribunal of violating the cadet honor code.† And therefore, you will be dismissed from the corps.Ē† With this, the officer turns around and faces the hapless cadet and tears the epaulets from his uniform and turns back, facing the assembled corps cadets and says ďthis mans name will never again be mentioned on this base.Ē† He was a non-existent person.† All this time, off in the distance, thereís a snare drum.† A muted roll, a continuous drum roll being played.† Then weíre marched off the field, leaving this individual, the two MPs, standing out there in the middle of this huge parade ground, all alone out there.† We marched back to the barracks.† Iíll tell you, it was very impressive.† It made a lasting impression on you.† Happily, that was the only time I saw this happen to anyone.† At Maxwell Field, you decide whether you want to go into single engine flight training, or multi-engine.† I opted for the multi-engine flying.† The next phase, of course, is primary.† This is where we finally start to fly.† Those were the [Stearman] bi-plane open cockpit planes.† The only thing we were missing was the white silk scarf.
SS:†††††† Do you remember why you picked multi instead of the single?
TE:†††††† No.† I donít really know why I did.† I guess part of it was my height.† I was told that my height would be a problem in some fighter aircraft.† So, that was the primary reason I decided not to go into them.† I kind of liked being part of a team and having buddies, flying having your buddy sitting next to you, and stuff like that.† Primary was posh.† It was conducted in Florida at the Lodwick School of Aeronautics.† That was a civilian school where, in peacetime, people would attend this school and have classes, as well as learn to fly.† We had civilian instructors and we had female flight attendants that gassed up the planes for us and had them ready for us.† It was really fun flying one of those things.† We werenít supposed to horse around but boy, everybody did.† Before taking off, you talk to your buddy, hey weíll meet five miles south of the field here and weíll play dog fight among the clouds.† We all did it.† It was just fun flying.† Again, maybe ten weeks of flying, and classes.† Classes never stopped.† Physical Ed, physical exercise never stopped.† After Primary, we went to Basic, which was in Cortland, Alabama.† Here, we flew in a heavier, more powerful, faster airplane.† The basic trainer was made by Vultee; it was a low-wing mono plane, enclosed cockpit with a sliding canopy, with room for a student and an instructor behind him.† You got your first taste of night flying and some navigation flights.† And classes of course, classes, always classes.† We finished our training at Cortland and up to this point, the guys who were going into fighter training, as well as the multi-engine people, were doing the same things.† Hereís where we parted company with the fighter trainees.† We went on to advanced flight training, which was in Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana.† We flew the AT-10, which was a Beachcraft twin-engine plane.† Here we got to do more night flying, a lot more navigation flying, night formation flying.† Also, at this field, I believe it was at this field, we did some cross training.† The pilots all learned now how to use the Norden bombsight.† They did more advanced navigation training.† Of course, this is the field where we finally graduated, got our commissions, got those precious silver wings that we coveted.† Silver wings, we thought, separated us from most everyone else.† We were really proud of them. I had no problems with aerobatic training.† No problems with airsickness during primary flying with open cockpits.† I could flip those planes around, loop them, snap roll them, slow roll them, never a touch of airsickness.† It was the same in basic training.† When we graduated, I was part of the class of 44E, meaning E standing for the fifth month of the year, May of í44 when I graduated.† Then we got our first leave, furlough.† With it, I believe, fifteen days to go home.† While I was on the furlough, I made a very stupid mistake.† I decided to get married.† At the time we thought it was a great idea.† I got married on my twentieth birthday, June 1st, 1944.† Right after the wedding, I was shipped off to Smyrna, Tennessee for B-24 Liberator transition training.† My bride was not permitted to join me at this particular base while I learned to fly the Liberator.† I didnít really like the Liberators.† Itís the only big four-engine plane I knew at that time.† They were fairly difficult airplanes to fly, very unforgiving.† I had a bear of an instructor.† He was a second lieutenant.† He was a son-of-a-gun, but I guess he liked the way I flew, because he wrote me up very well.† He told me one time: ďI like the way you fly because every time when youíre flying, as soon as a thought comes to mind that you should be doing this, you start doing it.Ē† ďAs soon as Iím thinking of doing it, youíre doing it.Ē† He said, ďYou fly just like I do.Ē† I got along with him pretty good.† Here again, this is about another ten-week stint, learning to fly the Liberators.
SS:†††††† What rank were you at this time?
TE:†††††† Second Lieutenant.† I had not been given a crew yet.† That was the next phase, where we do crew training.† So after Smyrna, I was sent to Savannah, Georgia where I was assigned a crew and we started training as a crew.† I had some great guys.† I was the only commissioned officer on the plane.† My bombardier, co-pilot and navigator were all flight officers.† I never was really sure why some of us were graduated as second lieutenants and others as flight officers.† I was told that generally flight officers didnít perform as well as those who were commissioned.† The other fellas were perfectly OK, but somewhere a demarcation line was made and if you fell below that you were appointed a flight officer.† We trained together for several more weeks and then were sent to Mitchell Field, Long Island to pick up a brand new, factory fresh, Liberator, and fly it over to England.† I look back at these things now, and I say, ďHow did I have the guts to do some of these things?† If somebody told me Iím going to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean, I would say, ďGuess again pal!Ē† Thereís something about youth, the confidence of youth, the immortality of youth.† The same thing that made you drive crazy when you got your license at sixteen carried over into the war, thereís no question in my mind that flying, wartime combat flying, is for kids, itís for youngsters.† So, it didnít faze me a bit that we were going to fly this brand new, sparkling plane.† This was going to be our plane.† It was pretty.† The ones we trained in we olive drab, beat-up old junks.† This was going to be great, we were going to have our own plane.† We started thinking about names for it.† We took the northern route over.† I donít know if youíre familiar with the northern route but you leave Long Island and go up to Bangor, Maine for a stop.† Then you go to Goose Bay, Labrador for the second hop. From Goose Bay, you head out across the North Atlantic.† You skirt Greenland.† You can look down and see the icebergs.† It was really an interesting, exciting trip.† But weíre all worried about having engine problems or some other mechanical problems.† Up in the North Atlantic like that, you wouldnít survive long in the water.
SS:†††††† Were there other planes with you on these flights?
TE:†††††† We departed at intervals, maybe five minutes or something like that. †So we were spaced out.† You were supposed to fly at prescribed altitudes and airspeeds.† It wasnít likely that you would overtake another airplane or someone behind you would overtake you.† You just didnít see another airplane, really.
SS:†††††† You had a complete crew now?
TE:†††††† We had a complete crew.
SS:†††††† Enlisted men?† The gunners?
TE:†††††† The gunners, everybody, Yes.† The navigator, I had a guy I really thought was an excellent navigator.† Unfortunately he was later killed in England.† Anyway, he always did a great job.† Navigating this flight was pretty easy because Iceland had a radio beacon.† Once past Greenland, you could tune that in and get right into Iceland.† So we landed there and, I think it was just one overnight in Iceland.† Then we flew into Wales.† That was our destination.† We landed at Wales and they promptly took our airplane away from us and told me that we are going to be flying B-17s.† I didnít know anything about flying B-17s.† I knew the Liberator all right, butÖWe had to give up our nice shiny, new Liberator. At this point, our bombardier was taken away from us.† The first thing I know, he was gone.† I had no warning.† They just took him away.† At that time, except for lead crews, planes werenít carrying bombardiers.† You know, the lead plane had its bombardier.† When it dropped its bombs, the other planes did also.† So there was little need for more bombardiers.† Whatever happened to him, I donĎt know.† We were put on a train and sent to the town of Eye, which was north of London.† It was located between the towns of Ipswich and Norwich.†
SS:†††††† By this time now, you guys had already gotten orders to go overseas, obviously?
TE:†††††† Yes.† I have copies of all those orders.
SS:†††††† Do you remember how that felt for yourself and the crew?
TE:†††††† We werenít, at least I wasnít, afraid. I was anxious because I didnít know what to expect.† I knew I was going into a combat theater but I wasnít afraid.† I didnít think, ďOh boy, Iím going to go over there and Iím going to get killed.Ē Or, ďWeíre all going to get shot down.Ē† I didnít think that way.† Again, itís that invincibility, immortality of youth.† I was concerned because I didnít know what to expect. We had heard, in our training, we had heard reports.† One report, I remember was that the average life expectancy of a tail gunner in a B-17 in the 8th Air Force, was twenty minutes of actual combat.† If I heard that today, I would be scared out of my mind.† I wouldnít sleep.† But, the attitude was, ďGee, thatís not very long.† Iím glad Iím not a tail gunnerĒ or something like that.† Maybe some people were afraid, but I never met anyone who was really afraid of going into a combat theater.† We reported in to our new assignment with the 490th bomb group.† We were assigned billeting.† My co-pilot and I, and the navigator, after we got our assignments in a Quonset hut and our gear stowed in there, we took a walk up to the officerís club.† It was early afternoon.† The base was all out on a mission, and while we were walking around outside, the planes started returning from the mission.† Iím straining my eyes looking at these planes, expecting to see airplanes all shot up and engines feathered and gaping holes.† I canít really see them.† Iím looking at them and theyíre coming in and landing.† Up in the officerís club, we took a table.† I was not a drinker then, so I got a soda or something.† We were sitting down talking, and at a table right near us was a group of, I believe it was, four-second lieutenants.† They were sitting there joking and laughing and having a great time relating what a horrendous mission it had been to go to Merseberg.† Now Merseberg was a brutal target.† Theyíd gone on this mission.† I was listening and I said, ďThese guys are talking about how they got the hell kicked out of them, going to Meresberg.† They were all shot up and how many planes they lost and theyíre treating it like itís a big joke, a larkĒ.† Iím saying to myself, ďWhatís the matter with these guys?† Donít they know that they can go back to Merseberg.Ē Tomorrow, they could go back tomorrow and they wonít come back from the mission.† Whatís the matter with them?Ē† I couldnít understand how, facing the dangers that theyíre facing, how they could be so carefree about it, so unconcerned with it.† It wasnít long, it wasnít very long before I had the same attitude, developed the same attitude that these guys did. Iíve heard stories of crew members who have been terrified, who actually went to the flight surgeon and said, ďI canít take this anymore.† I canít fly anymore.† Take me out of flying, Iíll do anything.Ē† But personally, Iíve never known of anyone like that, instead of going into combat right away, now Iíve got to do more transition and learn the B-17.† It was November then.
SS:†††††† November of what year?
TE:†††††† It was November í44.† So, I started learning the B-17 and the crew as well.† My co-pilot, well I hesitate to tell you about this because, but I guess itís part of my career and I really have to tell you about this.† I was still not considered checked out and ready, competent yet, to fly the 17.† I had several more hours flying time to get in more landings, more navigation, more everything.† It was in December and I was yet not fully qualified. (end of side 1)† There was a big difference between the ways you do certain things with the Liberator, as opposed to the 17.† As I say, I was not yet officially checked out and ready to fly missions in the 17 yet.† One day, we had gone out on a practice navigation flight, this was in mid to late December.† English winter weather conditions are atrocious.† They are terrible.† You have to keep in mind thereís no air traffic control.† No one is watching your plane on radar.† Youíre responsible for keeping away from other planes.†† Even in bad weather when you canít see. British winter weather, itís foggy, itís misty, itís drizzly, and the clouds came right down to the ground, just terrible.† While we were on this practice mission, conditions had deteriorated back at our base.† We passed over the base and called the tower and were told what runway we were to use.† We entered the traffic pattern.† I donít know if youíre familiar with the traffic pattern, down wind legs and base legs and stuff, but the weather was so bad that we had to hug the field in order to keep the runway in sight.† This was a down wind leg, down wind meaning, youíre travelling 180 degrees from the heading youíre going to be on when you actually land.† So, youíre going down wind and youíre paralleling the runway. We have to fly so close to it to keep it in sight.† Then once we get to the end of the runway, we have to fly, continue flying that way so that when we make a 180 degree turn, weíve got the whole runway to use.† Well, we made the turn and by now Iím just going by guess or by golly.† I canít see the field.† I canít see the runway.† Iíve got all the crew members looking out for other airplanes, milling around in the soup.† I headed, made my turn onto what I thought would be the runway.† When the runway finally came in sight, we were not lined up with it.† We were off to one side by a few hundred yards.† There was no way that we could make corrections at low altitude and try to realign and get down.† So, we made what we called a missed approach procedure.† Now, in a Liberator, when you do a missed approach, you retract the landing gear, you pull them up.† Thatís the way it is in a Liberator.† In the B-17, you donít.† You leave your gear down and go around with your gear down and try again.† So, it was a very stressful thing.† Weíre afraid of mid-air collisions, and weíre missing the runway.† I called for retracting the gear.† Now, that was the Liberator training that caused me to call that, but now weíre in B-17s.† I had a lot more hours in a Liberator and those procedures were more engrained in me than those I was following here.† We lifted the gear up, we went around again and this time I thought, ďWell, after I lose sight of the runway, Iíll time it and Iíll turn on to what I think is the heading, Iíll do that sooner than the first attempt, by four or five seconds, maybe.Ē† So, we did that.† We timed the base leg, turned on the heading to the runway, and now when the runway came into view, we were not perfectly lined up, but we were close enough so I could make a correction and line up and touch down O.K.† Iím back in the 17 now.† My mind is in the 17.† When shooting landings, since you donít take your gear up, you donít have to lower it when landing.† Iím landing, I do the flare out, and weíre just ready to touch down and all of a sudden, I say, ďSomething is wrong here.† Something is wrong.† We should be on our landing roll.† We should be on the ground on our landing roll. Something is very wrong here.Ē† Within a split second, I see the tips of the props all curl up and stop turning.† The gear was still up.† We didnít lower it down again.† So we were skidding down the runway on the belly and it seemed interminable, the screeching, terrible noise.† I aimed it to get off onto the grass, I wanted to clear the runway, I got off onto the grass and we finally came to a stop and evacuated the airplane. Our commanding officer had been sent to the 490th to try and get it in shape.† It lacked discipline and it had poor results.† This guy was an SOB, and he wanted to make a mark for himself, and he wanted to make an example.† Thatís what I was later told.† So, I was given a choice of a court marshal, or take summary punishment, which was to make me a co-pilot to fly with someone else.† They were going to break up our crew.† That was the tough part, breaking up the crew.† They were going to take away any promotion I might have gotten, and I was advised: ďDonít fight itĒ.† You might win the battle but youíre going to lose the war.† You could fight the colonel and win, because there were mitigating circumstances.† One of which was, at the landing end of the runway, thereís what they call a caravan.† Itís a portable unit out there with two enlisted men in it who are supposed to check every plane that flies overhead to land.† If he sees anything wrong, heís supposed to fire a red flare.† These guys never fired a red flare.† They claimed that they tried to but the red flare gun misfired.† Bull shit!† They were inattentive and by the time, if they did spot us, it was too late.† We had passed them.† We were not checked out.† To make a long story short, they moved me, made me a co-pilot for a guy who needed a co-pilot.† Crews were always changing.† Somebody might miss a few missions for one reason or another, perhaps sickness and doesnít finish up as soon as the rest of the guys do.† There are various reasons.† They made me a co-pilot with this guy, and I immediately started flying missions.† In a way, it was good because he inherited the number two-element leadership, leading the number two element.† That was a difficult element to lead.† So, I got training in leading that element.† This guy finished his missions, after a few, and went back to the States.† I became first pilot again.† Now, I was leading the number two element, the number two-element leader.† I regained prestige and received compliments from lead aircraft commanders that the number two element was well-flown.† I ended up getting everything back that I had lost, except the crew.† Thatís the hard part.† These guys you train with, and you get to know.† The punishment never, never should have happened.† You shouldnít punish the crew for a screw-up in the cockpit.† I was willing to accept responsibility for it.† I accepted it; it was my responsibility.† Ultimately, the engineer is supposed to check for gear down.† Itís part of his job.† He didnít do it.† My co-pilot didnít read the checklist.† But that doesnít matter.† The pilot, the aircraft commander, is ultimately responsible.† The buck stops there.† I admit it.† I accepted responsibility for it, but I felt badly that the crew was dismantled.† I never got a crew back where we had the camaraderie that we had, having trained together, gone into combat, and all that.† Not only that, but because, my navigator, who I thought the world of, flying with someone else, was killed.† My engineer/top turret gunner, flying with someone else, was also killed.† I always felt that when I was flying, I had kind of a charmed life. On some of the very worst missions, I wasnít scheduled to fly them.† Some of them where we really took a licking, we came out smelling like a rose.† I always felt that had the crew stuck together, those two guys would not have died over there. Always, Iíve never gotten rid of the feeling of guilt about that.† Anyway, going on the missions, flying the missions, theyíre no different than you hear from any of your other respondents.† At that point in the war, weíre to 1945 now, the Luftwaffe, mostly because weíve deprived them of oil, couldnít fully train their pilots, they didnít have the fuel to expend training pilots.† So, their replacement pilots lacked really good training.† They had plenty of airplanes but they didnít have the fuel.† They would save up, husband their fuel for several days, and then theyíd send them up after us.† I think only on three missions were we able to actually fire our guns at enemy fighters.† At the same time, because as the Germans were retreating, they brought all their artillery with them, as they retreated back toward Berlin, the targets that we were attacking, had higher and higher concentrations of anti-aircraft weaponry.† That increased, but the fighter opposition decreased.† I completed twenty-three missions.† The tour, at that time, was thirty-five.† You had to complete thirty-five.† Had the war not ended, and had I completed my missions with the war still going, I think I probably would have signed up for another tour.† Although you have moments of fear, theyíre quickly gone once the situation is gone.† You can be buffeted by anti-aircraft fire and your plane is bouncing around just from the concussions, but once it stops, you donít brood about it.† Itís gone, you donít think about it.† You donít go back to the base at night and dream about it or say, ďGod, we were lucky.† How did we everÖ?Ē† Itís gone.† You have a few moments of terror but itís very brief and not frequent.† I wouldíve loved to have finished the tour and maybe even flown another one.† Actually, I enjoyed the experience.† Just before the war ended, Holland, The Netherlands, was still occupied by the Germans.† The Dutch people were on the verge of starvation.† They had no food.† The occupying Germans had flooded much of the farmland, opened dykes or whatever they did.† There was just no food.† So, toward the end of the war, we were probably within two or three weeks, maybe, of the end of the war, a truce was declared which allowed us to drop food, fly over occupied Holland, and drop food to the Dutch.† We did this.† It was a very strange feeling to fly over German installations.† We did it at low altitude because these were not parachute drops.† We had to fly slow and low.† You lowered the gear, lowered the flaps and you just kind of mushed along so the boxes of stuff wouldnít disintegrate when they hit the ground.† To see the enemy down there, with their rifles, some with machine guns.† They were looking up at us flying over.† It was a very strange thing.† The rewarding part about it was, the Dutch people had, using blankets and sheets and pillowcases and stuff, out on the drop zone, spelled out in big letters on the ground, ďThank you boysĒ or something like that.† That was a very nice feeling.† When youíre bombing from 30,000 feet, youíre bombing a major city; you donít know whatís happening.† You know whatís happening but you canít see it.† Itís far away and by the time your bombs hit, youíre beyond it.† You never really see what youíre doing, but you know that youíre killing civilians.† But to drop food, it was a nice feeling.† You could see what you were doing.† You could see their expression of appreciation with the signs they put out there.† Also, after May 8th, the Armistice, when the war ended, we flew what they called revival missions.† The food drops were called ďchow houndĒ missions.† We flew revival missions to evacuate prisoners of war from German POW camps, and bring them home.† I was evacuating French POWs out of Austria.† I flew a couple of those missions.† We loaded the plane up with maybe up to thirty prisoners of war, French prisoners of war. Some of them had been in prisons for four or five years, since 1940.† They were gaunt and theyíd been forced into slave labor.† We brought them back to an airfield near Paris.† As we approached Paris, on the first time I did it, I turned the plane over to the co-pilot and I went back into the body of the plane where all these POWs were.† Using my high school French, Iím explaining, thereís the Seine River, thereís the Eiffel Tower over there, the Arc de Triumph.† Iím pointing all around.† These guys were hugging me in tears.† Some were crying, they were so happy.† So between the food drop and evacuating these POWs, those were the rewarding parts of the war really.
SS:†††††† Do you remember any of the specifics about some of the combat missions you went on?
TE:†††††† I wish I had kept a diary.† I remember some of the specifics but I donít remember the dates.† I have a list of the missions.† I know all the targets I went to.† I donít remember the specifics of any particular, what happened on any particular mission.† By the way, a mission really starts about 2:00 in the morning.† 2:30, thatís when they wake you up.† Somebody comes around with a flashlight and shakes you on the shoulder and says, ďWake up, itís time.† Youíre flying.Ē† My missions averaged a little over seven and a half hours in the air.† But, by the time you get up, get dressed and go to breakfast and go to briefing and then get out to the airplane, a couple of hours gone there.† On the other end of it, after youíre back, you have debriefing where youíre interrogated and all this stuff.† Itís a long day.† Itís very tiring.† Youíre exhausted.† Youíre physically exhausted.† To fly formation, tight, close formation for seven, seven and a half hours, average, some went as high as nine hours, nine and a half hours, thatís very physically exhausting.† Plus, itís emotionally and mentally draining.† I recall this one mission we went on.† When they route you in to a target, they have a big map and all the flak installations along the route, as far as intelligence knows, are marked with red circles on the map.† So they try to route you to avoid flak installations, or at least as many of them as they can.† They did a real good job.† Some fire came up at us but nothing really serious.† We bombed the target and we headed back.† Usually you head back a on a slightly different route than you went in on.† Coming back, we passed over a town, a small town called Limburg, Germany.† On the chart, it had shown a single circle, which meant one anti-aircraft battery.† Now an anti-aircraft battery usually consisted of four guns.† One battery down there, you donít worry about.† Youíre up around 30,000 feet.† They donít have much of a chance with only one battery doing anything to you.† But, that crew mustíve been manned by all master sergeants because they opened up on us as soon as we got in range and the shells were exploding just under us.† Every one that went off lifted you out of your seat.† Theyíd go boom, boom, tracking you along, every one of them.† My radio operator called frantically, ďLieutenant, lieutenant, get out of here!† Weíre getting hit!Ē† Well, I didnít know we were actually getting hit.† I knew they were going off underneath us. But the radio compartment was sieved.† They were going off right under where he was sitting.† He was straddling radio equipment in a large steel box.†† A piece of shell came in and smashed that frequency meter all to pieces and tore open his flying boot.† But, it didnít touch him.† When that happened he called: ďletís get out of here!Ē† We were getting hit heavier than I had any idea, but youíre not supposed to break formation.† Thatís where you get your defensive power, by the proper spacing and formation of the planes.† So even if I had known, I donít think I wouldíve done anything about it.† I remember another mission when the jets first showed up.† The first time I saw a jet, it was the ME262.† We hadnít been told in our briefing that we might see jets.† They were so new.† All of a sudden, one flew right up through our formation and I saw this thing go whoosh.† I thought, ďWhat the hell is that?Ē††† It was going straight up.† Planes donít go straight up.† This thing came straight up.† It was so fast.† Nobody had time to even draw a bead on it, let alone shoot at it.† It wasnít until we got back on the ground that we learned that this was the new ME262 jet.† From everything Iíve read, had they come on the scene four months earlier, the whole war couldíve ended differently.† On my very first mission, I was flying as co-pilot because of the crew dismantling.† I was flying in the right seat.† We were flying above a solid cloud layer.† This is my first mission, and I didnít know what to expect.† The pilot, he was experienced, he knew.† I didnít know about the procedure where the lead plane, when it drops its bombs also drops a smoke flare.† That smoke flare is the dropping point for the rest of the formation.† When they come along behind and they get to that smoke flare, they release their bombs.† The lead plane is the only one that has the blind bombing equipment, radar equipment.† Ahead of us, I see this big puff of smoke with a trail arcing down to the earth and I said, ďMy God, one of our planes just got blown to smithereens, blown right out of the air.† Thereís nothing left.† Itís just a puff of smoke!Ē† Iím looking over to my pilot next to me and heís very unconcerned.† I waited for him to say something but he doesnít say anything.† Finally I said, ďWhat was that?Ē† He says, ďOh, that was just a smoke flare.Ē† Here I am, the first mission with no idea what to expect.† On one mission several months later, I could see the formations up ahead of us getting hit and planes spinning down.† All along our route there were plumes of smoke rising from the ground marking crashed aircraft.† Not only our own but enemy aircraft as well all along our route.† That was the mission that is described in a book called ďThe Last Flight of the Luftwaffe.Ē† Not too many people know about that, but in April, the Luftwaffe launched a do or die suicide mission against the Allied bombers, hoping that they could knock out enough bombers to halt further bombing long enough for them to accumulate their jets and turn the tide.† They hit us.† We lost two planes from our formation.† But up ahead of us, I could see a lot of planes going down.† They used a ramming technique.† I donít know if youíre familiar with this.† The Germans had lost most of their experienced pilots, so these were inexperienced pilots, and they were in unarmed, propeller-driven Focke-Wulf190s and ME109s.† All they had to know how to do was crash into a bomber and they were supposed to, if they were lucky, bail out of their own planes.† They very nearly pulled it off. Itís an interesting book.
SS:†††††† Do you know how many planes were lost that day?† How many American planes?
TE:†††††† Iíve forgotten, but it was not the 8thís worst day.† The 8th Air Force had its worst losses against the city of Schweinfurt, where they made ball bearings.† The mission was screwed up.† The timing was off.† They missed the target and had to make a big turn around and go over it again.† They lost over sixty B-17s on the first Schweinfurt raid.† Then they had to return a few weeks later and hit Schweinfurt again because they didnít accomplish what they were supposed to.† Again they lost close to sixty.† Those are really heavy losses.† As far as that suicide attempt, I donít remember the numbers but I donít think it came close to the sixty.† I think we lost thirty some odd bombers, or something like that, that day.† Even that was quite a loss.
SS:†††††† Was it easy or difficult to maintain composure and maintain your military bearing through something like that?
TE:†††††† The thing I didnít like, the thing that upset me the most, was whenÖI didnít mind fighter attacks, as I say, I only went through three fighter attacks where we could return fire.† I didnít mind that so much because you felt you were doing something.† You were shooting back.† Just doing that, thatís different than being a sitting duck, just flying along and letting anti-aircraft shoot at you where thereís not a darn thing you can do.† You canít break formation, you canít slow down, youíve got to stick to your course.† The thing that bothered me most about anti-aircraft was when the shells were exploding just at our nose, just ahead of the plane.† They would explode. Youíd see the red fire in the center and then immediately youíd fly through the debris, the smoke of it.† Those I didnít like.† I didnít like that.† That really bothered me.† I developed what I called a turtle defense against that.† Iíd go into my turtle mode.† The back of the pilot seat was armor plate, maybe a quarter inch thick armor plate the entire back of the seat.† We wore flak helmets.† Not normally but when you could see you were going to enter flak, you were going to start encountering flak, youíd put on a steel helmet, just like a soldierís, helmet.† Youíd also put on your flak vest.† A flak vest is like a bulletproof vest, kind of.† Itís very heavy.† Itís just a vest that will protect your chest.† Itís comprised of strips of steel, some hardened steel or something.† Itís not completely stiff, and it had some flexibility.† When I went into the turtle mode, when I could see we were going to take a licking with the flak, you put on the vest, then you put on the helmet, then you scrunch down into the seat as much as you can.† You make yourself as small as possible.† When you scrunch down there, the flak vest comes up to your chin and youíve got the helmet pulled down to your eyes.† I always felt I must look like a turtle sticking its head out of its shell.† So, I coined the phrase, ďGoing into the turtle modeĒ.† Everybody knew what I was talking about, whenever I said that.† Those moments donít linger.† Once the flak is behind you or youíre out of it, youíre not saying prayers thanking God youíre still alive.† You donít go on thinking about it.† I ended up, once I got made first pilot again, I was assigned another co-pilot, not my original one, the guy who I really liked.† Leading this number two element is particularly difficult when flying through clouds.† Very often, you have to fly through clouds, because thereíll be a thick cloud layer and youíre maybe bombing from above it.† But sooner or later, youíve got to come down through it to get back to your base.† From this high element, youíre looking down at the lead airplane of the formation.† Youíre above it and youíre just off to one side.† Once you lose sight of the horizon, then youíre prone to vertigo.† You lose all sense of whatís up and whatís down.† My co-pilot was at the controls as we entered clouds one day.† He was flying.† He was looking down at the lead airplane.† All of sudden, heís jerking the control column around and pulling back on it and diving.† I looked over and I pushed the mike button, ďWhatís the matter Larry?Ē† He says, ďI donít know.† I donít know.Ē† He says, ďI canít fly.† I canít fly the plane.Ē† He was having vertigo.† So, I took control and almost immediately became disoriented.† I would swear that Iím going into a very steep bank.† That Iím going to make a very sharp turn.† I would swear that I am.† Your natural instinct is to counter that with your flight controls. Assuming that youíre not really going into a bank, your senses are telling you you are but theyíre lying to you.† As soon as you try to correct a condition that isnít there, now you really are in trouble.† Remember, youíve got guys on your wings that are trying to keep in touch with you.† I found that the only way that I could fight that for over an hour, was to look at the plane, my lead plane, and then keep my eyes going back and forth from the lead plane to the flight indicator, known as the artificial horizon.† Itís an instrument on the plane that tells you whether your wings are level and whether youíre diving or climbing.† Iíd keep my eyes going back and forth, back and forth, constantly, without stopping.† From looking at the lead plane, to the artificial horizon, back to the lead plane a and back and forth.† So, every second and a half, Iím changing what Iím looking at.† That was the only way I could avoid vertigo.† I talked to him back on the ground.† I tried to get him to do it, but he just couldnít do it.† So I ended up flying a lot more.† You generally relieve each other every half hour or so.† It was a difficult position, that number two element, to fly.
SS:†††††† Could you explain that a little more?† Iím a little bit confused about what the second element is within the rest of the formation.
TE:†††††† Elements are generally a three-plane element.† Iím going to be telling you something while if it was videotape I could show you.† The lead element contains the squadron lead plane.† It has a bombardier and it leads the squadron.† It has a plane on each wing.† It has a plane flying on its left wing and a plane on its right wing.† Thatís element number one.† Number two element is stacked up above that lead element.† So, if youíre above it, the only way you can see it is to look down out your window, down on it.† Youíve got to be off to the side a little bit.† You have to move your element off to the side a little bit so you can look down and see that lead airplane below you.
SS:†††††† OK.† You were the lead of the second element?
TE:†††††† Yes, of the high element, the number two element.
SS:†††††† I see, and there would be two other planes out on each of your wings.†
SS:†††††† So thereíd be six planes total?
TE:†††††† In the two elements, yes.† But then thereís a third element below the lead element.
SS:†††††† So all of this was part of that box formation?
TE:†††††† Thatís right.† And thatís the squadron formation.† Then of course youíve got four squadrons to a group, a bomb group.†
SS:†††††† Was it very complicated to fly the plane itself?
TE:†††††† The B-17 took very little physical effort.† You have trim tabs so that once you set the trim tabs, itíll fly straight and level practically without doing anything.† It was very responsive to the controls.† With the Liberator, you had to use some muscle to fly that thing.† It was very tiring to fly it.† It wasnít as responsive to the controls, in my opinion, as the Fortress was. After we made the transition to the Fortress, I was very happy, in spite of losing that factory fresh Liberator that we flew over. †So anyway, when the end of the war came, preparations got underway, right away, to deactivate the airbase.† It was announced very soon that flying crews would fly their airplanes, plus ten members of ground people back with them as passengers.† Our ultimate destination was going to be Bradley Field, Connecticut.† Now I lived in Windsor.† Bradley Field was in my back yard, practically.† Windsor, my town, was very close to the traffic pattern of Bradley.† So, right away, Iím thinking, hmmm, hereís a golden opportunity, one that comes once in a lifetime.† You get to let your hometown know youíre back.† So thatís what we did.† We buzzed the heck out of the town of Windsor.†
SS:†††††† Did that feel pretty good to hear that the war was over?† [pause for tape change]
TE:†††††† How did I feel when VE-Day arrived?† I had mixed feelings about it.† Honestly, I can say that I rather enjoyed combat flying over there.† Iím sure itís because I came out of it all right.† I didnít end up in the hospital.† I wasnít shot down.† The times that I was frightened were not predominant.† Most of the time, I wasnít frightened.† Itís that invincibility, the immortality of youth.† If something is going to happen, itís going to happen to somebody else.† Itís not going to happen to you.† That was my attitude almost all the time.† So, I had wanted to finish a tour.† I really wanted to finish a tour.† In the first place, if I had finished a tour and signed up for another one, I wouldíve gotten a promotion.† That idea kind of appealed to me.† As to the war in the Pacific, I wasnít sure that I really wanted to go to Japan.† We were told that we would have to make a change.† That we were not going to fly B-17s any more.† We were going to be retrained in the Super Fortress.† The big one.† The one that dropped the H-bomb.† The war was obviously winding down.† I didnít like the idea of going to the Pacific.† Iíd loved to have stayed right there in England.† Of course that was not to be.† It was obvious that the Pacific war was still on but the war was winding down.† The end of the European war brought us that much closer to the final end of all hostilities.† Then what?† Uncle Sam had been taking care of me, housing me, paying me, taking care of my health, making all the major decisions for me.† Now, Iím reaching a point where Iím going to have to do all these things myself, fend for myself and get back into civilian life.† In the very short time that we were married, it was obvious to me and to my wife that we had, perhaps, made a mistake.† So, I was getting closer to facing up to that situation when I got back.† I wasnít really all that happy about the ending of the war, really.† It wasnít that I was blood thirsty, or anything, or that I was a Steve McQueen, who played the war lover.† I donít know if you ever saw that picture but he was a guy who just loved the war.† I didnít love it but I was happy.† I guess I was happy with what I was doing.† I was proud of what I was doing, comfortable with what I was doing.† I had good friends and good comradeship.† I did love flying. I was not thrilled that it was over.† After we got back here to the States, we had a short furlough. I was just reporting back to go for additional training to B-29s somewhere when the war in Japan ended.† I often thought, in retrospect, I shouldíve, I had an option of staying in, making a career of it.† Jim Fontana, I guess, doing something like he did.† My older brother, who was in fighters, wanted to stay in, but his wife put the kibosh on that.†
SS:†††††† When did you finally get out?
TE:†††††† I got out in September of í45.†
SS:†††††† Did you come back to Connecticut from there?
TE:†††††† Yes.† I wanted to take advantage of the GI bill and go on back to school but my wife didnít want any part of that.† She was, I donít want to go into a lot of detail, but she wanted no part of the sacrifices that that would entail.† Her father had assured her that he could get me a decent job so I bowed to her wishes on that.†
SS:†††††† Was coming home good though?† As far as going from military to civilian?† I mean in the city, did they welcome the veterans back, or anything like that?
TE:†††††† Flying your own plane back, as we did, there was no welcoming home party.† The guys that came back, the rest of our bomb group, for instance, the bulk of them came back on the Queen Mary.† Of course, they got into New York City, the fire boats and the big parade and the celebrations, there was absolutely no celebration for me and guys who came back, kind of independently, the way we did.† That didnít really bother me.† I guess I was subject to nightmares for a while.† I know I had nightmares but I didn't attribute them to the war, because the nightmares I had were not about combat.† They were other things.† My wife always claimed that my experiences gave me nightmares for a few years.† Iím not sure I believe that.
SS:†††††† How long did they go on for?
TE:†††††† A couple years, two or three years.
SS:†††††† Was it difficult to go from your pilot job to your civilian job?
TE:†††††† Yes.† The civilian job was not exciting, was not fun.† After a couple years, I joined the Air Force.† The Army/Air Force became the United States Air Force in 1945, I believe.† I joined the Air Force reserves.† I started to attend meetings, hoping to get back into flying again.† They were flying out of Bradley Field.† Before that ever happened, I guess I was in the Air Force reserve for maybe two years, then there was a big cutback in military spending.† The reserve units were largely eliminated.† They were cut way back.† They retired me from that, in spite of my protests.†
SS:†††††† How long did it take before you started to talk about your World War II experience?† Or did you talk about it right from then?
TE:†††††† I never did talk about it.† It wasnít that I didnít want to but I donít know anybody who did.† I donít know anybody who talked about their war experiences.† A couple guys at work would ask, whatíd you do?† I told them and got the nickname of Zoomer, they called me Zoomer.† As far as anybody asking me about how it was or what it was like, nobody did.† In fact, something to tell you to what extent that is true, I graduated from cadets at Freeman Field, Seymour, Indiana.† Two years ago, I learned through the grapevine somehow that Freeman Field was having a reunion for all cadets that ever went through that base.† For years and years I had been going to a local watering hole.† I met some people and had a good friend down there.† He and I used to talk and have a great time, meet down there on Friday nights or Saturday nights for years and years.† I decided to go out to this reunion at Freeman Field.† I got out to Freeman Field, who do I see out there?† Itís my drinking buddy.† Neither of us knew that the other had been in the Army Air Force.† And I think that was typical.† I didnít want to bore people telling them about what I did.† I guess he felt the same way.† You couldíve knocked me over with a feather when I got to this reunion and here he is.†† He never talked about it.† I never talked about it.† I donít think people talked about it.† It was something we did. Thereís an interesting story in this magazine here, American Heritage.† It was a supplement.† The author is a professor of history and interviewed people, World War II vets of all branches.† He talks about interviewing an Army-Air Force veteran who he quotes in here.† This veteran had a very distinguished career as a corporate attorney or something, in politics and everything.† The guys say, still the most meaningful thing I ever did in my life was flying my B-17 in the 8th Air Force.† The author of this thing said, you know, I had to pry stuff out of him.† People just didnít talk about it.
SS:†††††† How about yourself?† How do you assess your experience during the war?
TE:†††††† I wouldnít have missed it for anything.† It wasnít until very recently, when the roundtable started that Iíve talked about the war.† I didnít keep in touch with my crew members other than my co-pilot.† After the war, my co-pilot and I went to visit our navigatorís mother, our navigator who was killed.† Other than that, even my co-pilot, we hardly ever got together.† He lives down in New Jersey.† He was, and still is, bitter, very bitter.† He thinks that we got the shaft, that the punishment was much too severe.† He was a flight officer and never got a promotion, never got an air medal, never got anything.† I donít talk to people about it but inside I still feel proud of what I did, of my accomplishment in doing it.† Not that it was a spectacular thing to do or that not many people couldíve done it.† Obviously a lot of people could do it.† I felt that I had done something, along with everybody else, for our country.† I worked very hard to get through cadet school.† Washing out was a fear that haunted me while I was a cadet.† To wash out wouldíve been a horrible, horrible disappointment to me.† I donít know how I wouldíve recovered from it.† I feel good about having done it.† Iím happy that I was able to do it, that the opportunity was there for me to do it.† I do not agree with Tom Brokawís book that there was anything special about our generation.† I read the book.† I donít know if you have or not, The Greatest Generation, I donít think we were any greater than any other generation.† We faced situations that other generations didnít, the depression, the World War.† But that doesnít mean that thereís anything special about us and I never did feel there was anything special about us.† I was very happy, very pleased to have been able to do what I did.† Very recently Iíve sent away for the records, the accident reports.† I donít want to get this on your tape.† This has nothing to do with anything youíd be interested in, I donít think.† I have an accident report, an official War Department accident report on my accident.† I have another official War Department report with witness statements, photos, all this stuff, on another accident that killed my navigator.† It killed sixteen out of nineteen people on board two planes.† It was a mid-air collision.† I have these two reports and I see how harsh they were in our minor accident and how lenient they were with this other accident that killed sixteen out of nineteen, because, in my opinion, the leader of this other accident was the squadron executive officer, a major.† He was responsible for it.† When you read the statements in there, the investigation that they did, or failed to do, in his case, because it was a big white wash job, that riles me a little bit.† Since the Freedom of Information Act came into law, Iíve been able to get hold of a lot of documents that before I had not been able to obtain.† Iím compiling quite a history for my heirs.† My son is extremely interested in my wartime experiences.
SS:†††††† Does that make you feel better too, personally?† That maybe your accident wasnít really as bad as some people portrayed it to be?
TE:†††††† I was at fault, but they did not take into account extenuating circumstances.† In fact, one general, a brigadier general back here in the states, when he reviewed the report, he said something to the effect that I wasÖMy negligenceÖ.Whatíd he call it, arrogance?
SS:†††††† Pilot error maybe?
TE:†††††† No.† It was pilot error, no question about it.† It was.† He almost condemned me.† He almost insulted me.† Heís sitting back here in the Pentagon or something and he has to say something supportive of the punishment meted out by the commanding officer of the 490th bomb group.† It would make very interesting reading, these accident reports, and as I say, the witness statements.† My bombardier, not the one I originally trained with, but I acquired a bombardier who was, what they call, a bombagator.† Heís a bombardier who has received additional training in navigation.† He flew back with me.† He became part of my crew as a navigator over there toward the end.† Hereís a guy who, he was one of the three survivors of that sixteen killed out of nineteen.† He was one of the three who survived that.† He also survived, with some injuries, another accident.† Not flying with me, but a B-17 went off, overshot the end of the runway, went up and flipped over on its back.† This guy was in the nose of the airplane and was injured.† On our flight back from England, we make a stop in Iceland.† We took off from Iceland for the next leg of our flight back and had just become airborne when he came on the intercom: ďWeíre on fire!† Weíve got a fire in #3 engine!† Number 3 engineís on fire!† Feather it!† Hit the fire extinguisher button!† Turn around!† Call the tower!† Land!Ē† Heís hysterical screaming weíre on fire.† If anybody had every right to panic in this situation, having been one of three survivors out of nineteen, got injured in another plane, went off the end of the runway, this guy had a reason to panic when he thought we had an engine fire.† Well, the co-pilot and I are wondering, ďCan you see anything?† No.† I canít see any fire.Ē† Checking the engine, the instruments all looked good.† Nothing looks out of the ordinary.† You canít see anything.† I told the flight engineer, ďGet up in the turret and see if you can see any smoke or any fire coming out of #3.Ē† Heís doing that and all of a sudden, my bombardier stops his ranting and very sheepishly said, ďDid we hit a bird?Ē† I said, ďWe scattered a flock of gulls down at the end of the runway on take-off.Ē† Heís quiet and he says, ďDamn, feathers fluttering sure look like fire.Ē† Poor guy.† I still correspond with him.† He is written up in one of those books there.† That accident, that mid-air collision is written up in bomber stories of the 8th Air Force: Bomber Stories of the 8th Air Force, a great book.† Heís written up in that.
SS:†††††† What do you think overall about how the war is portrayed?
TE:†††††† How itís portrayed?† I think we have, as always, revisionists.† We go around talking to schools.† Some of the kids come up with some great questions, prompted, I think, by their teachers in preparation for our visit.† They ask about killing civilians.† Thatís a common, common question, or questions that allude to killing innocent people on the ground.† I can honestly say, I have never been briefed for a mission that did not have a military, strictly military objective.† Civilians do get killed in war but even in modern warfare, the Iraq thing, I donít think we ever intentionally attack civilians.† The bombing of London, the city of Coventry, Dresden, I never bombed Dresden.† I didnít go on any of those missions to fire bomb Dresden, but that shakes my faith, a little bit, in saying that World War II was not waged against civilians.† Dresden and Coventry gives a little bit of credence to those who say that we do intentionally target civilians.† As I say, I felt so good after helping the starving Dutch and evacuating gaunt prisoners of war.† I felt good about doing those things.† The bombings, if the record showed that we hit our target and we caused a lot of damage to our target, I felt good about that.† I never gave a thought to civilians that had to have been killed and maimed in bombing raids.† It happens.† In some cases, with the exception of Dresden, London and Coventry, I donít see how you can avoid it, if you want to hit military targets and thatís where the workers live, in the vicinity of military targetsÖI donít know if Iíve answered your question.
SS:†††††† That does say a lot, I think, about how the war is taught and how itís portrayed in schools.† Lastly, I just ask you if thereís anything that is important to add to your story or anything you want to say, in general.
TE:†††††† The Army - Air Force, you say Army Air Corps, it was Army - Air Corps up until maybe right around the time we entered the war.† Then it became the Army - Air Force.† We will never see that kind of war again.† The massed formations of bombers where those formations stretched from horizon to horizon, as far as you can see.† When you get up there, all you can see is massed bomber formations.† The weaponry we have is much different now.† What took us missions with a thousand bombers going over, todayís weaponry, with the accuracy of it and the power, can do it in a fraction of the time with infinitely more precision.† The Roundtable, our reason for being, is to perpetuate the memory of the Army Air Forces, which are gone forever.† That kind of warfare is gone forever.† I, for one feel, itís kind of like the Red Baron days of World War I.† There was glamour to it then.† There was chivalry.† It was a gentlemanís kind of war.† World War II had some of that but much less.† In future conflicts, thereís no such thing.† Iím sorry to see the Army Air Forces, its awesome, although not highly effective, but awesome appearance of all those thousands, some of the missions, as many as fifteen hundred, bombers all heading to targets.† I wouldnít want to be on the other end, knowing that was coming.
SS:†††††† Does it help you to be in the Army Air Force Roundtable and talk about this amongst people who have been there, friends and whatnot?
TE:†††††† Yes.† Did it help me?† Iím not sure in what way I have been helped by it.† I like the camaraderie, the sharing of common bond or something, having gone through it and having done those things.† As I say, I sometimes I think when I look back over the missions, read about the missions, all the missions my group flew, and I look at my list of missions and I compare the two.† I canít help but think that I was a bit lucky.† I was hospitalized over there for a severe sinus infection, which precluded flying.† I just couldnít do it.† I was grounded for two weeks. I was in the hospital for ten days, and I was grounded for two weeks.† In that period of time, the group flew three or four horrendous missions, and here I am in the hospital.† In fact, one day in the hospital, the first chance I ever had to see this, I stepped out on the balcony and I saw the sky almost blocked out by the bomber formations flying overhead on their way out Ė very, very impressive.† I donít know what else I can add, except just to say again, Iím proud to have been part of it.†
SS:†††††† Thank you very much for your time.† It was a great story and I really appreciate it.
TE:†††††† I hope I wasnít rambling on too much.
SS:†††††† No.† Not at all.† Thanks very much.†
TE:†††††† Really, my pleasure.† [end of tape]