Interview with Dick Kyte, by Steve Showers, for the Voices from the Second World War: An Oral History, Center for Oral History, University of Connecticut, 20 March, 2000.
Steve Showers: Pretty easy question to start out: Where and when were you born?
Dick Kyte: I was born down in New Haven, Connecticut and when I was about five years old my parents moved here to West Hartford and I’ve been here ever since. I went to the West Hartford schools.
SS: I’m sorry, what year were you born?
DK: 1922, in October.
SS: And you went to the West Hartford schools?
DK: Yes. From kindergarten right on through, I went to all the West Hartford local schools, Alfred Plant and Hall, the old Hall high school. And then the last two years I went to Kingswood and finished up there. Then from there I went off to Rensselaer, and I was at Rensselaer in the middle of my junior year when I decided to join the Army. Actually I had volunteered and gotten accepted to the Aviation Cadet Program before, at that time the draft age was 20. So a few months before I was 20, I had volunteered and got accepted. Then they told me to go back to school and they’d let me know when they had a class assignment. So I was waiting for that when the draft came along. And the cadet board said, “Well you don’t have to go with the draft, but if you do, you might get in quicker.” So I did, I went in the draft and started a transferring process to the Aviation Cadet thing and it still took three or four months. I wound up out in Fort Riley, Kansas through basic training out there and from there transferred to the Air Corps in the West Coast Training Command.
SS: Do you remember what year that was?
DK: Yes, 1943. I actually went into the service in December, near the end of December ‘42. In the spring of ‘43 I finally got in to the Air Corps.
SS: Do you remember the war starting around 1939?
DK: Oh, ‘41, sure, we were aware there was a war going on in Europe, but not really politically involved, so at first of course no one thought we’d get into it, then we got into the lend-lease and stuff like that. But that was all stuff we were reading in the paper and things that Washington was doing. We were pretty young at the time and not politically aware at all. Pearl Harbor day, that was the one that everybody that was around then remembers where they were. I do. I know right where I was when I heard about it. Actually, like I said I was going to school in New York at Rensselaer, but a friend of mine and I had gone over to spend the weekend at Harvard. We were staying at the Harvard dormitory where my brother was going to school. We had dates with a couple of girls in the Boston area, up at Endicott Junior College. Then on the way back that next day to Rensselaer from Harvard, we stopped to get a drink in a bar. Then the bartender told us that Pearl Harbor, which no one knew of at the time, had been bombed. We didn’t really know what that meant until the next few days as things developed.
SS: Did you hear Roosevelt’s speech about it?
DK: I don’t remember hearing it but I sure read about it a lot. I suppose we did but I really don’t remember hearing it. Of course we only had radios, there wasn’t any television then.
SS: Do you remember if any other people you knew had gone away in the infantry or Navy or anything?
DK: Yes, at that time, the draft had actually started a year or so earlier. The older brother of this fellow that I went over to Boston with was already in the Air Corps. He had been drafted. But not too many, comparatively few people were in the military.
SS: Did you have an interest in flying before?
DK: No, no idea, but it just seemed like the thing to do.
SS: Did you have to take tests?
DK: Just a couple. I went to the Aviation Cadet Board in Albany and the closest one in Troy, New York. I don’t think we needed appointments or anything, but there were five or six of us who went into a room and I guess they told us to be there at a certain time. We sat down and filled out a real simple test sort of thing that I didn’t know anything about. But it was good enough that we got accepted.
SS: But then you’re off into training, did it feel good to find out you were going to be in pilot training?
DK: Well, I’m not sure about the feeling good part, but I wanted to do it. I didn’t volunteer to do anything else. The whole program is broken up into this pre-flight with a lot of ground training, that sort of thing and classes. The three flying phases were primary, basic and advanced. Those were two and a half or three months. But during that pre-flight thing, we were interviewed by psychologists or psychiatrists, and they were the ones that really decided which slots we’d get, weather we’d be accepted for pilot, navigator, or bombardier.
SS: How would they determine if you were going to be a fighter pilot versus like a bomber pilot?
DK: Somewhere along the line, it was probably in basic or advanced. Basic I think, the middle phase, because the advanced phase was where they sort of tried to separate people out because they went to multi-engine school for the bomber pilots or single engine school for the fighter pilots. So those advanced schools were separate, and I don’t really know if we had much choice or if we could express our choices. I can’t really remember that. In fact, I was in a class that was supposed to be P-38 pilots, twin-engine fighter pilots, and up until just before we graduated from Cadets, that’s what we thought we were going to do. Then at the very end, they changed the program.
SS: And where was your training?
DK: Because I started from Kansas where I had gone with the draft originally, we went out to the west coast. A train came through there stopping at all the military bases and picking up more recruits for this thing. We wound up in pre flight at Santa Ana, California. Then we went to Cal-Aero in Ontario, California. That’s where we went to the primary and started out. It was really a civilian school but with military supervision. Then basic training after that, and we went to Arizona for it. It was a place called Marana, Arizona. It was out near Tucson, I guess. That was terrible and the people treated us terribly. One whole squadron, a bunch of guys, quit. They just didn’t like the administration out there. But the gang I went with, we just kept going right through and put up with it. Then the advanced phase was at Williams field in Arizona, that was near Phoenix. That was a lot nicer place, all of a sudden there was grass on the ground. They had irrigated it. The people treated us a lot nicer, so that was a much more pleasant experience.
SS: What did they do that made the treatment bad?
DK: I don’t know they just, the C.O. was a real sloppy looking guy, and he’d line us up and just harrang us. I can’t really remember why we didn’t like it, the people running the program were just not friendly.
SS: Was the training tough, physically?
DK: Physical? Yes. We did a lot of P.T. Typically once we got in the flying phase it would be a half a day on the flight line learning to fly and the other half a day doing classroom and the physical training. They gave us a lot of physical training, so we were in very good shape. The other was in the classroom just learning about planes and things none of us knew before.
SS: When did you find out you were going to be flying a fighter plane?
DK: Well that whole advanced phase, we were flying AT-6’s and we knew then we were going to be fighter pilots. The bombers had gone onto the multi-engine school. We didn’t know what kind of plane we were going to fly. We thought we were going to fly the P-38’s. When we finally graduated they had sent us off.
SS: So during your training you had never flown a P-38?
DK: Oh no, typically that would get to the last ten hours or so of the advanced phase. Some of the guy’s flew P-40’s. They had a training version of a P-38. They were not built as trainers. They were built for the British and some of the people flew those. They were different from ours, but similar. The engines both turned the same direction for one thing and I don’t think they had superchargers for another thing, but the guys that did do it got introduced to the airplane.
SS: What did they teach you in during the training?
DK: On the ground training or the air training?
SS: The air training.
DK: We started right out with that primary trainer there, the Stearman, and just following through with the instructor and controls and the take off and then we got into the air. We would get stick time. They’d of course yell at us. The Stearman was interesting communication wise, because it didn’t have an electronic intercom. The instructor sat in the front seat and he had a thing called a gossport. It was a funnel on the end of a hose, and he yelled into that funnel. The hose came back and right in front of us it split into two sections, and you’d plug one in each ear. Built into the helmet was a little tube and you stuck this rubber tube in each ear so you could hear him. You weren’t allowed to say anything. You’d have a mirror and he’d look up at you and he’d yell something and you’d say, “yes” and that was all. [laughs]
SS: Did you guys learn things like night flying and maneuvers?
DK: As we went along through, we started out with of course the simple things and after 12, 13 hours or so I think I soloed. Then we were mostly learning to take off and land, then the simple acrobatics, but then finally we got pretty good. I think we got 60 or 70 hours in our first phase, and by the end of that time we were looping and rolling and snap rolling and half-snaps and doing all kinds of acrobatics.
SS: Did you guys train in a group?
DK: At the beginning it was all individuals, and we didn’t get in the formation flying until either near the end of basic or in the advanced training in the AT-6 before we actually flew formation. Up to that point we were supposed to stay on our own. I know I got in trouble with another guy one time. We were on one of these navigation things and his plane was faster than mine. He caught up with me and pulled up alongside in formation. About that time an instructor flying an even faster plane showed up and we had to explain why. He got held back a class, and I just got scolded. It was basic or middle phase of flying and we were flying these BT-13 Vultee Vibrators. That’s what we all called them. We weren’t supposed to be flying formation then, so that’s why I remember that.
SS: And how was the last phase of training?
DK: The last phase was the AT-6’s. By now the systems had been improved, we had retractable landing gear, we had a constant speed propeller, so we were reading out manifold pressure instead of just RPM. The plane had a radio in it. I guess we had one in the BT, but we had a better radio in the AT-6’s. So we were just moving along, just as you progress through any training program.
SS: Right. How long did that last?
DK: They were all about three months. Each one of those three phases was about three months. Then that pre-flight I mentioned before was also two and a half to three months.
SS: During this whole phase of all these different types of training were you following the events of the war?
DK: Not too much. We really were pretty ignorant of all of that. We didn’t see much in the way of newspapers or even hearing the radios. There were news bulletins around. I personally wasn’t very knowledgeable about what was going on. I was just interested in what I was doing, and we were busy every day.
SS: Did you have contact with people at home?
DK: Oh yes. Letters back and forth and all, but I don’t remember any talk about the war. Actually I don’t think people really knew what was going on because you read your local newspapers, but everything was so remote. Everyone knew what they were doing. Everyone at home was scratching for food and tires for the car or gasoline. When we were over there, in these different army bases, we were just doing what we were told everyday.
SS: Do you remember how you felt about the possibility of going into combat at that point?
DK: No, didn’t think ahead that far. It was just today’s lesson. Learning to fly that airplane today was the big thing. It was a schooling situation. It was just like all my other schooling. I’ve never gone to school for fun. There have been enjoyable times, but the object wasn’t fun, the object was to learn.
SS: Did you know anybody else who had gone off into combat or who had gone overseas or anything like that?
DK: No, not at that point.
SS: You said before that your brother had gone in?
DK: Oh yes, my brother had graduated from Harvard, and he had gone in the ROTC. He had graduated in 1942, and he was a Second Lieutenant. He wound up in Africa, Italy, Southern France, and up into the middle of France where I met him several times. Then unfortunately, he was killed near the end of the war. He was a smart guy. It was a real shame because he went through Harvard in three years, but he didn’t live through the war.
SS: What was his job?
DK: He was in the artillery and a mortar landed right in front of him while he was directing fire or something.
SS: And were you keeping in contact with him too?
DK: Yes, I was. I was in one of these places in France over in the town of Dole. I had seen him. I had seen his picture and I had recognized his shoulder patch that he wore, and saw a guy wearing one there. So I asked him where the outfit was. He said: “Right up the road about 15 miles.” So I got the ops officer to give me the next day off and I went out and hitchhiked up and I found the place and stayed overnight with him in a potato cellar. He was living in that at night. Then he got wounded in the upper arm a little while later and was in a hospital near there. A little while later he came down to Dole. I’ve forgotten how long we were there, maybe two or three months but during that time I got to see him several times. I went up to the hospital where he was and it was all hitchhiking around. Every once in a while I could bum a jeep and a driver or just a jeep without a driver. Then later on when we moved to Metz and we may get to that later when we were moving around, I remember he came over there and he stayed with us one night. He had a big six by six. Then about a month later he was killed.
SS: Wow, that must have been really tough, after having some contact with him.
DK: Oh, yes, I’m glad we did get together several times, but it was the shame, yes.
SS: Okay. I guess we’ll go back then. Do you remember getting your orders to where you were going to go once you were done with training?
DK: Well, yes. The interesting thing was when we graduated from cadets it was out of Williams Field, and then the whole bunch of us were sent to Richmond, Virginia. That’s the way they did things, you know, from Arizona to Richmond, Virginia. I think we had ten days to get there, so I was able to come home, here, where my parents were living, in West Hartford. I stayed most of the ten days and then got a train down to Richmond. We were down there several days and it was a big pool type of thing. Every day we’d look at the bulletin board to see where we were going, and after a few days being there, came up a list for the gang I was with. We were on the list assigned to Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, CT. I said, “Guys I grew up there, there’s no air field in Windsor Locks.” [laughs] But while my back was turned they’d built the thing. I remember one guy had a car there and it was a Buick, a pretty big car at that time. We all jumped into that, five of us, jumped in to that and headed up here. I called my folks and said, “Hey, we’re coming, I’m bringing a bunch of guys with me.” We drove all nigh and came into West Hartford here around 6:30. It was early in the morning and this was like March I think, somewhere around there. We all flaked out, well, I went up to my own room upstairs, but the other guys all flaked out all over whatever beds they could find or on the sofa downstairs. Then we went off to Bradley and reported in there. That’s when I took my, we called it RTU Replacement Training Unit. OTU was operational training unit, but by the time we got there it was Replacement Training Unit. We went through about two and a half or three months there, we got 100 hours in a P-47. I had never even seen one before then. Now we knew we are going to be P-47 pilots by this time.
SS: What rank did you have by this time?
DK:: Oh, second Lieutenant until the better part of a year went by, six, eight months, something like that.
SS: You said March, what year was that?
DK: Well, I graduated on February 8th, it was called the 44-B. They listed the Air Force class numbers by each letter of the month. So it was February of ‘44. I remember it was the 8th of February. I’ve since run into other people in other training commands like the East Coast, graduated that same day, so they ran these training programs all over the country. So when I got that February 8th, 10 day leave I guess, so it was probably near the end of February that I actually got to Bradley and started. We went through a ground training and classroom work on the P-47 and getting cockpit time. I’ve forgotten the exact date I made my first flight in it, but it was up in Bradley.
SS: Did you guys work with the ground crew, work as a whole squadron, a whole team up at Bradley?
DK: At the first part, it was all individual. Typically, when you learn to fly an airplane you go off by yourself. In later years, they started getting smart and they put a chase plane on somebody on his first flight. But at that time there wasn’t. Somebody would just stand on the wing when you started your first flight. Then they’d say, “Well, see you,” and off you went because they didn’t have any two seaters at that time for training. So the first ten hours or so would be individual and then they’d start in formation then with instructors they’d show us how to fly in different types of combat formations and that sort of thing.
SS: So you said you were a replacement squadron. Were you guys getting geared toward individuals going to Europe or Japan or something like that?
SS: So you weren’t getting trained say, as maybe 16 pilots to go over in a group with your ground crew?
DK: No, we were trained to be replacements and go in as individuals. We did stay with groups until we got spread out. So we were strictly replacements as far as that goes.
SS: How long did you stay at Bradley?
DK: The exact dates I don’t remember, but it was spring. We were there about three months. Then we went down to New Jersey and waited just a day or so and they put us on a troop ship. That was I think two full weeks on the way to Europe. It was a big convoy and slow. I know sometimes it was warm and sometimes it was cold and sometimes it was rough and sometimes it was calm, but it was a long couple of weeks. The troop ship had been a converted cruise ship, so we lived fairly well on it although it was crowded. But I do know we landed in England on June 3, because three days later it was D-Day on June 6. That’s the reason I remember that date. So it took us some more of this pool business and then getting sent to training fields and we did a couple of weeks of local area training and now we were flying planes that had been used in combat. In the States here, at Bradley we used I think it was a 91 octane, we didn’t have the full 130-150 octane fuel, so we were restricted on how much power we could pull out of the planes. We flew them comparatively lightly. We went to a training field called Achem in England for about a week or maybe two. We were flying the planes with a full fuel load and the instructors had been in combat and were showing us how you flew combat formation and the local area stuff. After that, I was with a group of five I think. We were told to report to a place in Southern England to join a fighter group. We got down there, and on one of these crank phones in the railroad station, I called the transportation people. The reason I called is that they gave me the papers for the five of us so I was now a leader. I think it was alphabetical. Anyway, I called the transportation thing and told them we had orders to report to this 371st fighter group. The guy was quiet for a few seconds then said: “All right wait there we’ll get someone to pick you up.” So pretty soon a truck showed up and took us back to an airfield there-- I can’t remember the name-- and there wasn’t anyone there. It was just some empty barracks and a few caretaking people. The whole group had moved over, they’d gone across the channel about a week or so earlier. So they told us to wait there and we did for a couple of days then they sent us on a Gooney bird, a C-47. That was kind of an interesting ride. In fact I’ll go through it. There were only five of us and it was a big airplane. I’d never been on an airplane that size, never even touched an airplane that size. I asked the crew chief: “Where do you want this baggage?” We each had two heavy bags, our own personal bags plus a parachute bag, with our parachute and flying gear and stuff. He said: “Anywhere is all right.” So we threw it right inside the back door. We never did see the pilots, they were up in front with the door closed, and they started up, one engine was already going. So we got in there and they cranked up the other engine and he taxied out and started going down the runway. We all sat down right inside the back door. I wondered about that. I had never been in anything that big, but I know in school they talked about the weight and balance of a plane like that. He started down the runway we felt the main gear come off the ground and that tail gear was still hard on the ground and I thought: “This is not right.” About that time the door in the front opened and the crew chief yelled at us to throw everything up. So we are standing up on the takeoff run throwing our bags the length of that cabin. We finally got up in the air. I’ll even go on to the rest of the story. It was maybe like half an hour flight over to France, to the Normandy beachhead. I heard later they called it A-1, it was a strip, the first one they built there. They were just using it for cargo and hauling. There was a constant stream of airplanes in and out of it. This guy landed with us, taxied in, turned off one engine. A truck pulled up and we threw our bags in and he drove to the gatehouse there. We showed the guys our orders and there was a little discussion where this place was that we were going to. This was all, I’m sure less than 10 minutes. But during that time I hear all these guns going off, boom, boom, boom, and I looked up and there were all these flak, puffs of flak in the air, there was a parachute coming down, and a P-38 with one engine feathered touched down halfway down the strip and went right off a cliff on the far end. I’m thinking, “Holy Mackerel! If this is war... It is not very good.” But I’m glad to say I never saw anything like that the rest of the year I was there.
SS: This was just a few days then after D-Day?
DK: This, I can also remember this day. It was July 4th, which is another easy day to remember. So it was the better part of a month after D-Day and as I found out later our group really wasn’t all there yet, but the first elements had been on there. A-6 was the number of the airport. That was near the town of Saint Mere Eglise, that became pretty well known. We could walk into town, it was that close. They’d been there about ten days when I got there.
SS: What were the beach heads like when you first came in?
DK: We didn’t really see too much of it, you know looking out the side windows of the Gooney Bird. It was a lot of dirt roads and a lot of traffic. We were probably a half a dozen miles from the actual beach where our airfield was. I only went down there once, after a month or so. We got a Jeep and went down there to look at it, and saw all the stuff being unloaded.
SS: When you were flying in were there ships that had been part of the force?
DK: Oh yes, it was close enough so we were pretty much looking at the landing pattern by then, so we didn’t do too much sight seeing. That town of Saint Mere Eglise, it became famous and in that movie, The Longest Day where Red Buttons wound up dangling off the steeple, which a real paratrooper did do. We’d come around the steeple coming in to land there, so it was that close.
SS: So what was the final squadron that you wound up in?
DK: I wound up in the 406th squadron. The group was the 371st group, and as I said, there were five of us together and we checked in there were two guys sent to the 404th squadron, two guys to the 405th, and then I was the odd one, so they sent me over to the 406th squadron.
SS: Did you go right into any missions or did you have anymore training?
DK: No, it was a while. The weather was kind of bad. They weren’t flying every day. It was a couple of weeks I guess before I actually flew my first mission. I did some slow timing on the airplane engineering flights, that sort of thing. But it was a couple weeks I think but it wasn’t immediately that I wound up flying.
SS: What was your job on your missions? Was it fighter pilots against other aircraft or ground support?
DK: It was almost all ground support. We very seldom got into the air to air combat. Once in a while we’d get bounced by a bunch of them. Usually you’d see a big gaggle of them. It was multiples of four that we flew in and there would be 12 of us and 20 or 30 Germans would bounce out on to us and then we’d scurry around a bit. In fact there’s a lot of that in this book here that I’d been reading last night.
I just thought of another thing. To back up to the day I landed, this is one of my standard stories I tell everyone. When I first checked into this squadron, I went into a tent that was the orderly room, and whoever was in there said: “Well, guy, you got to sleep tonight so go over there and grab a shovel and dig yourself a foxhole.” Everyone was digging foxholes in these tree rows, the hedge rows, and there were big mounds of dirt. So I dug for a couple or three hours. They gave me a cot and a sleeping bag. So I got a hole big enough to put a cot in. It was going to be about two inches below the surface, but I thought, “I’m tired of digging.” I spread out the cot and said, “This is where I’m going to sleep.” A guy named Bernie Florey came walking across the field and said “Hey, fella, they just told us we get six guys together we can put up a tent, do you want to join us?” Where was he three hours ago? Anyway, so I moved in with those guys and I got to know them pretty well. As it turned out, that just in the last ten years or so, I ran into this Bernie. He lives down here in East Lyme, Connecticut. He lived out in Ohio at the time. We’ve seen each other some. Now I digressed from where we were . . . Oh, the type of missions. Well, we’ll start out with my job, I was the youngest or the most recent so I got the furthest back on the flights. Usually the greenest guy, they put on the leaders wing. You know how they fly that finger formation, with a leader here and his wing man, then the element leader and his wing man. That’s four planes that try to stay together. If they can’t, at least you stay together in twos. Then there would be multiples of these fours. When we were in Normandy, usually we flew 12 ships at a time, so there would be three of these fours, some even bigger ones. So my first combat flight was on the wing of whoever was leading that flight. They showed me how to work the bomb switches. This particular plane didn’t even have electric bomb switches. I remember that. You had to reach around behind and beside the seat and pull levers that were made for dropping the drop tanks, the fuel tanks, but they hung the bombs on the same hard points. My first bombing mission I had to reach around the seat and yank the bombs off, and we’d never trained for bombs. In the states here they hadn’t even invented fighter bombers yet I don’t think. It was sort of a new weapon, carrying bombs on a fighter. But then all the other planes I flew had electric switches that dropped the bombs a lot easier.
SS: What did it feel like to go from just a trainee now all of a sudden you’re at Normandy?
DK: You’re always training, you’re always moving along, see, so it’s like in any schooling you have. You’re always a young kid working up and all of a sudden you look around and you’re the old kid. This school out behind my house here goes up to fifth grade, and the kid next door, she’s a big kid there, she’s in fifth grade. It was the same with that, you worked along starting out the greenest of the people and learning from the other people, and as I say, all of a sudden I looked around and I had the most experience.
SS: Do you remember what the mood was and what the feeling was about the battles that were going on around you and the missions?
DK: No, of course everybody was nervous. A lot of people still ask me today, “Was that fun to fly that airplane?” and I say to them, “Hell no it wasn’t fun.” First of all it was the learning. As I said before, I didn’t do schooling for fun, I did schooling to learn. That was job one, to learn. There were enjoyable times while you’re doing it. All this time you don’t know what’s happening until you do it, and that’s what experience brings, but you get familiar with what you’re doing and you get used to it and you move on up through and pretty soon someone’s flying your wing and you’re leading an element and then your leading a flight.
SS: What was a ground attack mission like?
DK: There isn’t anything to compare it to. It was “Here I am, this is what you do.” There was a lot of flak coming up. A lot of guys, coming back from a mission, always someone had a few holes through their plane. So you didn’t think it was unusual because it was happening so much. We lost a lot of guys, almost everyone from ground fire. I was reading through this history book I was telling you about, and I think we lost about 50 pilots from that group and only two were shot down by enemy airplanes. Everybody else was from ground fire. So it was pretty hairy. You get some pretty good holes punched in those airplanes. Especially this jug, that’s why they were using it in these missions, because it could take so much damage. We had guys come back with the propellers smashed from hitting trees and the leading edge of the wings beaten in and big holes from flak, so the planes would come back a lot.
SS: How did you guys deal with seeing one of your friends getting killed?
DK: Really, personally, it didn’t tear me up too much. It was just, “well, it just happens,” you know?
SS: Did you guys have an assigned ground crew the whole time?
DK: Yes. Each plane had a ground crew chief on it and then there were I guess armorers and ordinance guys that were assigned to one plane or several, but we didn’t know them too well. As time went by and we finally got an airplane that you could call your own and you showed interest in it, then you got to know that particular crew chief. The guy I had, I’ve been trying to track him down the last ten years or so, lived over in Rhode Island, named Johnny Martin. But I’ve never been able to find him. So we didn’t really know the ground crews too well, because we lived separate from them. You see them and talk to them while you’re getting the plane ready. Planes would be spread out pretty far when they were parked so pretty often it was just you and a crew chief waiting for things to start up and that sort of thing.
SS: What was a typical day like for you?
DK: Once we got going into combat, we’d show up in the morning. We were strictly daytime fighters. The airplanes didn’t have any lights on them for the most part, so we were strictly day fighters. There weren’t any instrument approaches as we know them now. So we had to have fairly good weather to fly. So a typical day, they’d announce who was going to fly that day and we’d go to the airfield. Sometimes we were living right there and other times we were in a town five miles away or something. We’d show up out there and they’d have a mission lined up for us. The intelligence guy would brief us and the operations officers would tell us what to do and where to go and that sort of thing. The variety of missions that we flew could be anywhere from specific targets we were told to go to, but they were all strictly ground targets. So we’d go after a bridge or a building or something of that nature. Other times we’d be told to just go out and cruise around an area and hit anything that was moving on the roads. Other times we’d be told to go to an area and contact a controller on the ground and he’d give us our targets.
SS: Were you doing things like that in support of the troops?
DK: Yes. Most of it was support of the troops or in close to the troops. One particular mission, in fact a good friend of mine--in later years we went to college together and everything else. His name was Eric Dorley. He was leading a flight and he wound up getting a Croix De Guerre for it. We’d picked up a column of tanks, and this was when we were still on Normandy beach there. It was also one of my first flights so I didn’t really know what was going on. But we’d picked up a column of tanks, and had contact with a tank, which is kind of unusual. The radios weren’t like we know them now. But anyway he was taking with the tanks and we could hear them and the guy in the tank said, I think there were five or six tanks in the column, the guy in the lead tank said he was getting fire. [pause for tape change]
SS: You were telling me about that mission when you were hitting that building with the column of tanks.
DK: Oh yes. We beat up on that building that he was on. I forget if we had bombs or if it was just strafing. We stayed with the column and they went on, then further up the road we spotted a German tank off on a crossroads that they were gong to come by. So we told them to hold it up a bit and we went down and with those .50 calibers we could really get at it. They had told us that ricochets up underneath it would really do some damage and break through the bottom of those tanks. Other tanks carried fuel on the outside and you get that burning. We’d see people jump out of tanks and start running. So I remember we got that one tank. Then there were a couple of other things. We stayed with that column about an hour. This guy either got the Croix De Guerre for that or some other mission. But he was a real great guy.
SS: What were some of the other missions right around that time frame that you were doing? Do you remember any specifically?
DK: Not any individual ones. The place I would have liked to have gone to on the ground because we saw it from the air was that Mont. St. Michelle, it’s a monastery out on an island right off the Normandy Peninsula there. We’d fly places and see things like that and hit whatever target we were assigned to. Usually we’d climb up to about five thousand feet and then roll over and try to get rid of our bombs before we were down to a thousand. Of course you couldn’t go vertical straight down, it had to be at some kind of an angle. We didn’t have any bomb sights as such, we had the gun sight that we could sort of drag through the target, but then the target had to disappear under your nose before you let go of the bombs. You’d be on an angle. So that was a real guess, the fore and aft part. Sideways you could get the line because you pulled your nose right through the target.
SS: How many bombs did you carry?
DK: We could carry three. There were three hard points on the plane. We carried a combination of bombs and fuel tanks because the fuel tanks went on the same hard points. Sometimes we’d have three bombs, sometimes, most often, two bombs and a fuel tank or sometimes one bomb and two fuel tanks. We didn’t have many missions that long though.
SS: Before, you mentioned. 50 caliber guns, how many?
DK: Oh, we had eight 50’s. This P-47 had more guns and heavier guns than any other fighter. That was another big plus for doing ground support. We could get them where they all converged at 1500 feet, maybe 1200, and pick up something like a 6x6 truck you’d throw it right up in the air. There was a lot of energy coming out of those eight guns.
SS: How long did a typical mission last?
DK: Two hours. We averaged two hours. I had 109 missions and 240 combat hours, so it divides out to about two hours. They guys flying for the 8th Air Force and doing escort work were averaging four hours, a lot longer time. There’s one other thing I just thought of. While we were at that St. Mere Eglise, and I wish I were on this mission just so I could say I was, but I wasn’t. Four guys went out and their target was one minute from the center of our airfield. They took off, and made one circle to form up, got into echelon and came across the center of the field, one minute, rolled over, dropped their bombs, kicked out their wheels, and landed. I would have liked to be on that just to say I was.
SS: What did they attack?
DK: I don’t know it was a bridge or some German installation that was giving someone a hard time.
SS: How long did you guys stay at that one location?
DK: It varied. The St. Mere Eglise, we were there longer than we really should have been, because we had to stop for fuel on our way to our target, but we were there from mid June to mid September. Then we moved to a place called St. Dizier. We were only there about a week or so. I know we had to go past Paris to get to that from the Normandy beachhead. It was a fair distance beyond Paris.
SS: Were you guys following a particular army group?
DK: Yes, we started out with, well I’m not sure the exact numbers, but we were with Patton’s third armored division, then the seventh army later. In this history thing I could look up the exact thing, but we did stay with a particular army group for a while anyway. We started in the 9th Air Force, then we were in the 12th Air Force, then in what they called the first Tactical Air Force and in parenthesis “provisional.” No one knows what that meant, and then it was back to the 9th Air Force. We were assigned to several different Air Forces during our time there.
SS: You mentioned before that weather played a pretty big part. How was it, like you just said in September, how was it when you got toward the winter?
DK: Yes, it got pretty hairy. In fact, just before you showed up here I was reading about the time we spent at a place called Tantonville. Everybody was living in tents, but we lived in a house that was a couple miles from the airfield. But the whole flight line was all tents, and there are pictures in this book of tents, the pyramidal tents, with the icicles hanging to the ground from the sides. It was cold and miserable and we spent a lot of time not flying because of the weather. That’s when the Battle of the Bulge came down. We were far enough away from that part. There was another not really a bulge but an attack further south than that and that’s the one we were closest to.
SS: So when the Battle of the Bulge hit did you guys get diverted from Southern France up to the Bulge area?
DK: No, because we were still working with that one, I’d have to look it up here, Colemar I think was one of the towns. There was action there. We were busy doing and taking care of whatever troops we were working with at the time.
SS: How was the morale through this whole experience?
DK: Oh, morale wasn’t any problem. It was just; people were people. I read so many of these things and have seen people talk where they’re all emotional and all that. We didn’t have any of that. It’s just like I’m sure at school right now you don’t tear your hair and strike your breast and all that every day the way a Hollywood person would. Morale wasn’t any real problem. Sometimes we’d be in a place we didn’t like and bitch and groan, but for the most part our leaders and our people were doing what they could for us, and as long as you knew that, it was all right.
SS: Did you guys have confidence in the direction of the war and decisions that were being made up top?
DK: You didn’t know what they were. You’d hear people talk, you know, “ I told the Colonel this, I told the General that.” Malarkey! No one ever saw a Colonel or General or anything. The ones we did see were friendly. We didn’t know what was going on really. We were pretty ignorant. We did get these news bulletins and that sort of thing, but as far as the overall big picture, we didn’t know all that stuff. I’ve heard guys tell me in later years that they knew this and they knew that, and I was right next to them and I didn’t know it. A guy I’m eating lunch with, I would have known it if he’d known it.
SS: Did you guys have any heavy losses at the time?
DK: Yes. Continuous. One or a couple a month, exactly I don’t know, but a couple a month would go.
SS: Did you ever have any fear that it would happen to you?
DK: No. Well, yes, constant, but no. I didn’t thing: “Hard luck, Joe, too bad.” We didn’t like the idea of going out and not knowing. It was mostly before we were flying, waiting to fly that you got nervous. Once you got in the machine and cranked it up and got in the air, it wasn’t a problem then. You were never relaxed, but you also got kind of used to it.
SS: Was this about the time that you had some contact with your brother?
DK: Yes, all during that time. In the town called Dole, that’s where I ran into him. That would have been in the fall. Then when we got to Metz was the last time I remember seeing him. That was in February or March.
DK: Yes. Yes. Unfortunately he was killed in the middle of March in ‘45. I had seen him. We were at this Metz place when I had seen him. I didn’t know he’d been killed for over a full month afterwards.
SS: Before that did you guys participate in the Battle of the Bulge at all?
DK: Not that itself, unless I go back into this history book. We were nearer the place I think further South. We were busy working with the 7th Army at that time, I know that. It was the other armies who were involved with the stuff up near Belgium.
SS: So you guys made it through that winter okay?
DK: Well, yes. It was tough flying out of that field trying to keep the snow off the pierced-plank runway. It was tough. They had a lot of ground crews working. They’d pull them out at midnight and have them shovel the stuff off the runway. For a while we used airplanes to try to blow the snow off. Poor guys would stand out there with shovels or something to chop ice with. They’d be breaking it off and the airplanes would be there blowing it away, like a big snow blower. It raised heck with the brakes on them, but they did that and it was a tough way to keep the runway open. Lets see, page 43, if I flip to that maybe I could, lets see. Well it would take too long to read this, but those were those tents I mentioned. It was mud and ice the whole time we were at that town. We also got strafed a couple nights, and bombed, but no one got hit. There’s the guys trying to clear the runways. See, they’re trying to use the plane to blow them with and a whole bunch of guys out there, freezing of course because they’re in the prop force of the plane. It was difficult.
SS: Did your guys’ base ever get attacked by ground troops?
DK: No, not by ground troops. We ourselves didn’t except those one or two nights they were trying to bomb or strafe but it was not close to at least where I was. We moved on to this airfield in Metz in, I’m going to guess February or March, and that airfield had just been beaten up just before we got there by a big bunch of Germans. They lost almost all the airplanes that had been on the field. So it could happen, but I personally didn’t get involved with it.
SS: And that was again about the time, one of the last times, you saw your brother right?
DK: Yes. At Metz we were living in a big home. It was right near a canal right in the center of town. There was a big cathedral in town I remember and it was about five miles or so from the airfield. We’d run back and forth, that sort of thing. That was pretty good living, with all the different squadrons, all the officers anyway, moved into these big homes, maybe 10-15 room home, and we’d have our own cots so 5 or 6 of us would be in the room together. They’d use the kitchens in the houses for mess halls, and the group headquarters I remember they had a nice building there and we sort of set up a club in that one. They were all fairly close together within a block or so of each other. There were three squadrons and the group headquarters.
SS: Did your missions change at all as you moved to the different spots?
DK: The general missions stayed the same. The details of course would change as you get to different areas. There was a stretch where we were going after a lot of trains. Most guys would want to sleep in kind of late, but we found that the only way you could catch a train was early in the morning. They’d run all night and try to get into town and shut down by daytime. So we found if we could get near just about dawn we could catch some of these guys before they got into town. Of course they were steam trains, you know, so you could see a lot on clear, dry mornings, especially a cold morning you could see that plume of steam going up miles away.
SS: Did you have to get down pretty low?
DK: Yes, we were down in amongst them a lot. You could smell the dust and dirt coming up from your bomb hits, especially if you came back around again. I’ve been alongside guys that I thought were sliding. Their props were stirring up dust. Of course that was a big defensive maneuver, was to get low and get away after we’d make a bomb run or especially a strafing run. A bomb run you had to get up and get out so that you didn’t get hit with your own blast. But a strafing run, after you hit your target you just got down as low as you could and scooted and kept twisting because you knew guys would be shooting at you, but the lower you were the less chance they had to hit you with the flak.
SS: How fast would you be going that low?
DK: Three hundred or so, two fifty. This was miles per hour we had then as opposed to knots, nautical miles per hour, that we have now. The plane was usually cruising and we’re indicating about 220 miles an hour. Then we’d go into a dive and push it up to about 300 or so, and get in a fight and we’d shove it up as fast as we could.
SS: How low would you have to get for a strafing mission?
DK: Oh, 100, 200 feet. Usually on a strafing run, if we knew what the target was, a good way to do it was to be flying one direction at 5,000 feet and look down and find the target, then pick out a couple of landmarks and fly beyond it and come back and hit the deck as low as we could. We’d get maybe a mile or so from the target we wanted. I’m thinking of hitting airfields, that sort of thing. We would rare back up at 1,000 feet so we could have a run to make at it, then hit it and go. Rule one, you don’t come back on an airfield because they’re all ringed with flak, so one pass and then you keep going. You try to beat up on their parked airplanes. We did a lot of that. I’m trying to think, going after trains we’d start the bomb run at 4000 or 5000 feet and try to get rid of our bombs before 1,000. If it was a strafing run, we’d start near 1000 feet and come right down and go over them as low as we could.
SS: How many missions had you been on up to this point?
DK: Whichever point we’re at-- I’m sort of skipping but we were averaging about ten a month because of the weather and also because we usually had more pilots than we did airplanes. Then, I mentioned Metz several times. That month of March we were in Metz and that’s when our outfit really did it. Everybody in the spot got at least 30 missions that month. We were running them pretty close to the enemy areas where we were working. It was when the Germans were trying to get back across the Rhine. There was quite a traffic jam of their troops trying to get there so that was pretty close, only about 15-20 minutes. Pretty close to where we were in Metz so typically for most of that month we pretty much broke our squadron of guys in half. Four guys would go out in the morning and four in the afternoon. The morning guys would get two missions. Run out there, unload all your ammunition and bombs, get back, reload, go out and do it again. By that time it was getting close to lunch time and the other guys would take those four planes. We did that many times during that month of March, two missions in a row and then the afternoon off.
SS: How had you moved up in experience?
DK: By the time we got to Metz I was a flight commander.
SS: Had your rank gone up?
DK: First Lieutenant. That’s all I ever got to be. Somewhere in March I became a flight commander. The flight commanders were often leading the squadron. There were three flights, twelve airplanes, and one of us four flight commanders would be leading it. So I did that quite often. I don’t think I lead 16 airplanes, but 12 several times and often the four planes.
I remember the first time I actually led a flight. We started out fairly high above and bombing a town of some kind. I was the third flight back so the other two flights peeled off and went down, and I put my guys in eschelon and told them to get rid of the tanks. We had a belly tank at that time and two bombs. I threw away the belly tank and rolled over and started down. Just about coming to maybe 5,000 feet or so where there was pretty much a solid level of flak, that’s where the 20’s and 40’s blew, I had just gone through that area and there was a cough and the engine quit. Fortunately, I remembered I had forgotten to change tanks. I was still flying on that belly tank that I had thrown away 30 seconds earlier. Fortunately I remembered and changed tanks and the engine picked right up and kept going. So that was my first time actually leading a flight. I didn’t do that again either I’ll tell you.
SS: Seems like a mistake you’d only want to make once.
DK: Yes, that’s right, you only want to make those kinds of mistakes once. But it was easy enough to do.
SS: With so much stuff going on it seems like it would be hard to stay focused all the time.
DK: Yes, I guess.
SS: Did you have any contact with parents back home?
DK: Just letters. In fact I don’t know why it took them a whole month to get the word to me. Finally through the Red Cross, I got a notice that my brother had been killed. I don’t really know why that took so long but the mail was very slow. It wasn’t electronics like we know now. There weren’t cameras like we know now. Even five years later during the Korean thing people had cameras. We had very few. Also with this censoring and all that stuff you had to be careful what you took pictures of. You couldn’t get the registration number on the side of the airplane for instance. They never really told us either. That was another thing, they made us as officers censor the enlisted men’s mail. We didn’t know what we weren’t allowed to let them say, so mostly we just signed them and ran them through.
SS: I’m curious how your brother’s death might have affected you. Did it change your attitude about the war at all?
DK: Did what change my attitude?
SS: Your brother dying.
DK: Oh, no, because by that time, well, just in one way it did. At the time I heard he was killed, for our missions, 110 was our tour. I flew one more and then I went to the C.O. and said, “This war is almost over.” By then it was the middle or late April and the war ended two weeks later. So I said, “Hey, do you mind if I don’t fly that last mission?” And he said, “Sure, forget it.” And at that time the missions were so few and far between that I didn’t fly that one. So that changed. But as far as attitude, no.
SS: How did you feel about the enemies-- the Germans and the Japanese?
DK: Oh, they were guys doing their job too. We didn’t hate them or anything. They were guys trying to kill us, we were trying to kill them, but they were doing their job and we were doing ours. We didn’t really think about them as people. That was one thing. We didn’t really see people. We saw trains and trucks and buildings, but we didn’t really see individual people like the way I guess the infantry guys had to. That would have been tougher I think. I didn’t have to put up with that anyway.
SS: Do you remember if you had a sense of maybe what you were fighting for—fighting freedom or Democracy or anything like that?
DK: No. Nylon stockings and stuff like that. We were just a bunch of young people doing what we were told. We weren’t into a sense of history and I don’t think anybody else was. I sure wasn’t. I think anybody who says they were, they were in retrospect or remembering. At the time I didn’t hear anybody talking about the big picture. We knew they were bad guys and we knew that if we didn’t win we were going to be in trouble. We knew it was very, very important that we win the war but other than that it wasn’t a real politically minded thing. That’s how I was anyway.
SS: So what about those last missions, do any of them stand out in your mind?
DK: Not anything particular. There was one, I’ll tell you another one of my standard stories, my claim to fame. I have a claim to fame. I was leading four ships. We had done whatever we were doing, and we were coming back, kind of near the Rhine. I think we had just come across the Rhine but it was still enemy territory. Down through a gap in the clouds I saw a little village, like six, eight houses lined up on a road, that was the whole village. Parked right in front of every house, sort of in the shadow of the house, was a German tank. You could tell by the rectangular shape and dark color. And I said, “Guys, we got some tanks.” So I did the flip of the wing and got them in an eschelon and down we went. We came through the gap in the clouds there and I lined the gun sight on one of these tanks and mashed down the trigger and all the eight 50’s are banging. . . It turned out they were manure piles! [Laughter] So there we were. I happened to tell that story at one of the reunions of the squadrons and one of the guys said, “You did that too?” So they sure looked like tanks to me. That was my claim to fame.
Another time it was a situation where we had 12 ships, 8 had bombs, and 4 were the cover flights. In take off, two planes aborted. One is the flight I was in and my wingman are aborted and so now there were three with bombs in that flight. One of the guys from the cover flight also aborted. So we went to the target that way so I was just planning on, after I got rid of the bombs I’d go back and join the cover flights so we’d have 4 and 2, better than 3 and 3. That was my intention, and I happened to be the last guy down out of the 7 planes that had bombs. I was just rolling over and starting down and I heard one of the guys in the cover flight. This is the phrase I remember, the guy said, in a very conversational tone he said, “Walraven, look out for that 109 on your tail,” and that’s the way this Walraven described it himself, just last fall we had a reunion. So of course that started things scurrying around. I was just starting on the bomb run and I got rid of the bombs in a hurry and charged back up to try to see what was going on. There was a big bunch, I forget how many, but twenty-some-odd jumped us. I didn’t see any more than 2 or 3 at that time. But one of the guys in the cover flight, the guy that had said that, it turned out he didn’t have a receiver. His radio had been knocked out or something. But I saw the German 109 coming on his tail. I yelled at him to break, my voice going up an octave every time, “Break! Break! Break!” He didn’t, he just kept going straight, and this guy started hosing him, and I tried to get over to help him out and chase this guy off his tail. And the guy overran him and came around and this guy flopped around. We did a lot of this scurrying around for a bit there. Then I looked over and the same guy, either the same or a different 109 coming in on his tail again. That happens three times, and he just kept going straight all the time. I did get one film where I was trying to get this guy off his tail. I came at him at ninety degrees, and as soon as our guy went past the front of my nose, he’s going that way, I’m going this way. I knew I couldn’t hit him. I figured well maybe if I fire my guns maybe I’ll distract this 109 that was hosing him. So I did and when we got the film later, our guy’s plane filled up the whole screen and you couldn’t see the ME109 that had been behind him [Laughs]. He said, “That’s me you’re shooting!” I said, “I couldn’t have hit you,” because he was going that way and I was going the other way. And that I know in the combat film that 109 didn’t show up on it, so they had to believe me. Then everybody disappeared, you know. Just this guy and I were out there. Then I called the guy that was leading the flight that had disappeared to come back and give me a hand with this guy so he came back. We had to herd him in, every time I tried to get close to him, he’d turn further away. We wanted to go home a certain way. We got him pointed in the right direction and finally the other guys came down to give me a hand with him. By this time the Germans were all gone. They said, “How come you’re so far away from him?” I said, “Because he won’t let me get in any closer.” So then we boxed him in and got close. I had to take off my mask so he could see my face, then he kind of calmed down. He was really nervous. We got back to the field and I don’t know if he landed too fast or if his brakes went out, but he went off on the end and up on the nose. That plane had many holes--40, 50 holes in it.
SS: Was the guy wounded at all?
DK: No, he didn’t get hurt a bit. He just hunkered down behind the armor plate and pulled his elbows in and just sat there and waited. But they didn’t knock the plane down and it didn’t hurt him. He was very nervous for quite a while.
SS: That would make me nervous. So how did it feel to get it all over with?
DK: Well, a good time was had by all. I was lucky I got with about four or five other guys, we got our rotation orders to come back to the states on VE-Day. May 8, I guess. And gees, there we were, and the war is over, so no one else is going to get any more over there. We bummed a ride on a Gooney Bird or a B25 and got into Paris the first night. Actually it was an airfield on the outskirts of Pairs. We walked to the nearest bar and had a party. Then the next day the plane took us over to London, and we spent a day there. We were supposed to report to get a boat home, but we screwed off an extra day or so in London, and that party kept going for a long time. It was a pretty bit of interesting bit of history right there. Everybody was really enjoying themselves. I think I waited about six weeks or so for a boat to get back to the States. I got home early in July of ‘45. I then expected, of course, to go to the Pacific. That was still going on. But I did get married when I got home, and I’d been engaged before I went over there and I got married when I was home. Then I reported down in Alabama someplace. So my wife and I went off, my new bride, we went to actually Myrtle Beach. It wasn’t much of a place then. We spent a week on the beach there and went to Selma or Dothan, Alabama, one of those two. When I was there the Japanese thing ended and we were just all discharged, told to go back home.
SS: So what did you do after the war?
DK: By that time it was late summer so I signed up for the fall semester at Rensselaer again. I went back up there and picked up where I left off. I still had another year and a half, two years to go. I graduated in the spring of ‘47.
SS: Did you have a hard time adjusting coming back from the war?
DK: No it wasn’t a big deal because everybody back at school were guys who had done the same thing. A lot of them I’d known before, the same gang from the fraternity house. We all came back and everybody was just, not much smarter but a couple years older. My marks were considerably better. By the time I graduated, we’d had a baby and were living in housing that they had erected for the veterans coming back. There was a pretty big village of barracks that they had converted to apartments, shipped in there, and re-erected. There wasn’t a big transition as far as that goes. I hadn’t been away from college long enough to have forgotten how to do it.
SS: Were you taking advantage of the GI bill?
DK: Oh yes, the GI bill, they picked up everything and even gave us $115 a month. It was almost enough to live on. So that was the better part of two years because ‘47 was when I graduated and it was started back in the Fall of ‘45-- about a year and a half.
SS: So what did you do in college? What was your major?
DK: Oh, mechanical engineering. Also in the few years after the war everybody went out of business. There weren’t any jobs. The scenes that had the most activity job-wise were either here in Hartford or in Denver. Some people were going to Denver but I came back here and stayed with my folks at first and got a job on a management training program at Underwood. I was there for about three years and didn’t like that. I got a job with a construction company. I liked that very much, but I also had joined the Air National Guard at that time. It was up here at Bradley. Then someone started the Korean thing. So the Air Guard got federalized, called back on active duty for 21 months. So that ended that construction career.
SS: So you went back in?
DK: Yes, back in on active duty, although I stayed in the States. Most of the guys got sent over to the Far East, but I wound up staying down on Long Island the whole 21 months. Then I did stay in the Air Guard after I got out of there, they reorganized the Guard again, and eventually I got to be a Lieutenant Colonel in the Guard. I stayed with them 22 years. In the meantime I got a job in engineering at a place called Chandler Evans in West Hartford here. After 7 or 8 years they had a big cut back on engineering work. The congress decided not to build a couple of airplanes, and all these people in the support field, this Chandler Evans built pumps and fuel controls and that sort of thing for aircraft engines, so everybody cut back and about two thirds of the engineers in the Hartford area were out of work all the sudden. I did work at Pratt & Whitney for a year, but then a friend of mine from the Air Guard started a flying service up at Bradley. It was Air Kaman. It was a subsidiary of Kaman Aircraft, so he asked me to come and work as a flying job. That got me into flying as a career.
SS: Oh, really? Were you still flying in the reserves?
DK: Yes, in the Air Guard at the time. The F-100 was the most advanced of the planes. It was always a fighter outfit too. I was never in a bomber or cargo outfit.
SS: So you made that transition form the prop fighter plane to a jet plane?
DK: Yes. It really wasn’t a big deal because jets weren’t on the civilian market at this point, only on the military market. This was in the early ‘50’s. And I accused the other guys of it, they were trying to perpetuate the aura of mystery, “Oh, I fly those jets, man.” It really wasn’t that big of transition. You had to learn different things and different schooling and read different numbers on the airspeed indicator. Actually a jet engine is easier to operate than a piston engine. So I stayed in that Air Guard. We had quite a bunch of fighters there. We had the Jugs. The reason I got in originally was because they were flying the P-47’s and we had those with us on Long Island. Afterwards we had P-51’s for a short time. I just got a little time in those. That was a nice flying airplane, but I didn’t have to fly in combat. Now we were flying for fun as opposed to working at it. Then we had F-84’s, F-94’s, and 86’s, the H model of the 86, that was a fun airplane. Then we went to the F-100 and middle ‘60’s I got out of the Air Guard. In the mean time I got the job with Air Kaman and one of their customers. We were a charter outfit operating for other people and one of their customers was Associated Spring out in Bristol Connecticut, and they asked me to come work for them as their own pilot. So I did that and 21 years later I retired.
SS: Sounds like a nice fulfilling career and life.
DK: It wasn’t a real status or high paying job, but I enjoyed it.
SS: What about looking back on your W.W.II experience how would you asses it in your life?
DK: It did affect me. For one thing it introduced me to the career that I found I had talent for. So that was a big thing. But it also made it so I never did sweat the small stuff. I came back and I really would get upset with people I’d see worrying about insignificant details. I recognized that people did worry about this. They built up ulcers and got upset, but I didn’t let the small stuff bother me. That was a big influence. Being in combat is a really simple life, all you’ve got to do is stay alive. You don’t have to worry about baby-sitters or paying bills or the mailman coming early or late, or all these things that upset other people. All you have to do is stay alive, so it was simple.
SS: What do you think about how W.W.II is portrayed nowadays?
DK: I didn’t hear you, what?
SS: What do you think about how W.W.II is portrayed, like in the history books and the classrooms?
DK: Oh, I guess it’s reasonably accurate, although when you get into the emotional part of it I don’t buy that at all. That’s strictly a Hollywood type thing. Also I’m not sure if the people who write it really understand it. You get the impression that the whole war was run by different General’s personalities: Patton wanted to do this, Ike wanted to do that, somebody else wanted to do that, Montgomery wanted to put the bridge too far, and they blamed that on his ego. It could be possibly, but it’s hard for me to think that people’s egos could cause so much trouble or accomplish so much or not accomplish so much. So I’m not sure I buy that the way its portrayed in all the history books and things you read. I guess these people have written all these books saying that though history individual people run the wars. [end of tape]