After graduating from Ordnance Officer Candidate School on January 31, 1943, I reported for duty with the 1006th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company, Aviation, at Santa Maria Army Air Base, California. The company was just forming. One of the officers was on TDY and many of the enlisted men were still at school or just finishing basic training.
Jack Teufel, just out of OCS two weeks before, was Commanding Officer-he got there first. He spent most of the time in the Orderly Room as did 1/Sgt Willard Olson. The enlisted men just lolled around trying to look busy.
I immediately started a program of physical fitness and close order drill coupled with some classroom study. We had very few manuals so I had to improvise. Soldiers on base with time on their hands were not very happy soldiers. Three days later, when I was just getting the program off the ground, I was called into Jack Teufel's office. Orders had just come in assigning me to Naval Torpedo School in San Diego, CA. I had to leave that evening. Jack Teufel somehow got a jeep and drove me to the railway station at Santa Maria. Again I was about to embark on another military experience.
I soon learned why 16 Army officers had been assigned to an aerial torpedo school on a Navy destroyer base: It seemed the Navy's Torpedo Bomber (SBD-Douglas Dauntless) was not proving too effective against the Japs and the Defense Department was considering using the B-25 Medium Bomber as an aerial torpedo bomber. Therefore, there was a need for skilled aerial torpedo officers.
During my temporary duty at San Diego, my ordnance unit moved from Santa Maria, CA, to Pendleton, OR, and the unit designation was changed to 1825th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Co. (Aviation). When the school ended, I made arrangements to go to Pendleton but soon learned that the unit had moved to Pueblo, CO.
I reported to the 1825th. The Company commander greeted me with "Don't bother to unpack, we are shipping out tomorrow." However, like many Army orders, these were changed and we remained in Pueblo until the latter part of August.
Since we knew we were going overseas at any time, I kept busy getting acquainted with the Company personnel and by having my Armament Section inspect all of the hand and shoulder weapons of the two Ordnance Companies. As it turned out, this was all in vain as we received new weapons just prior to boarding the ship.
Orders soon came in for our Company and the other Ordnance Co. to move to a port of embarkation in New Jersey. Our destination was Fort Dix. Other than that, we had no information as to our overseas destination.
TROOP TRAIN AND FORT DIX, NJ
The two Ordnance Companies assembled in the Company area with barracks bags and weapons and other field equipment. Soon a fleet of GI 2½ ton trucks arrived. The 1/Sgt and a clerk checked off the names of the men as they boarded the trucks. The officers rode in the cab with the driver. The convoy then headed for the railroad station and the troop train.
The troop train was made up of the two Ordnance Companies, a few casuals and a squad of Military Police. The officers had a regular Pullman car and the enlisted men had coaches that had been converted to sleeping cars. Other than no air conditioning, the trip was not too uncomfortable. Our train had a very low priority as we were shunted to a siding several times and waited for freight trains to pass. The train was routed through Kansas City, MO, and made a stop at the station.
The father of one of the officers of the other Ordnance Company had a liquor store a few blocks from the railway station. When the train arrived at the station, the MPs would not permit anyone to get off. This officer told the MP in charge that he had to give his men some exercise in the form of close order drill. During the course of this drill, he marched the men to the liquor store and they marched back with many cases of beer, liquor, soda and snacks. The MP conveniently looked the other way as they again boarded the train. The next couple of days, the train was somewhat happy and boisterous. Since none of the booze found its way to the engineer, the train arrived safely at Ft Dix.
Since the train went into Ft Dix proper, we had only a few short blocks to our assigned quarters. The officers were berthed with about 60 other officers who were awaiting transportation overseas. The enlisted men had a barracks for only the two Ordnance Companies.
The day after we arrived at Ft Dix I was instructed to go to Staten Island, NY, to check on our equipment that was to accompany us overseas. The additional duty as Supply Officer was not a sought-after position. Since I had been on Temporary Duty for 16 weeks and had no voice in the assignment, I was designated as the Company Supply Officer.
I told Sgt Besselman, the Supply NCO, to stand by the Orderly Room in case I needed some information. Then I took a train to New York City and the ferry to Staten Island. A 1/Lt met me at the ferry landing and we went to the Supply Office. He handed me a manifest with all sorts of numbers and names on it. "Here is your equipment; is it all there?" he asked. I suggested we take the list and check it off with the equipment. His reply was something to the effect that we can't do that as the stuff is all crated up and ready to go. He admitted it was an unusual way to handle the situation but that was the Army way.
He then suggested I sign the form and we go to the Officer's club for a beer, which I did and we did. I asked him just where we were going and he indicated he had no idea. There were code numbers and names on the crates and manifest but he didn't have access to the codes. After a couple of beers I made my way back to the ferry.
After being in Ft Dix a few more days, we were issued new weapons in place of the carbines we presently carried.
About mid-afternoon one day, we got orders to report to the dock for boarding. Again a fleet of GI trucks arrived and we boarded with all of our "stuff" and were taken to the ship boarding area several hours away. The officers were permitted to carry a suitcase or some form of handbag; the enlisted men had all of their possessions in two barracks bags.
With all of our gear we walked up the gangplank and were one phase closer to our war. As we stepped off the gangplank we stated our name and unit and were assigned to the proper deck. The officers were assigned to a wardroom and the enlisted men were assigned to a room with many army-type bunks. The selected the one they wanted so they were able to bunk next to a friend.
The officers' wardroom was very small and instead of four bunks there were eight, four high on each side of the room with a very narrow aisle down the middle. As I recall, I had a top bunk and there was just enough space between the bunk and the top bulkhead to lay flat. A shelf at the back end of the wardroom held our luggage, weapons, and field equipment. We were required to keep our life jackets with us at all times.
An officer was required to be in the area with our troops at all times during the day even though most of the men were topside or walking around the ship. Since there were four officers in our Company, we had a three-hour shift each day.
About the third day out Art Hand, the Automotive Officer, came to me saying he had learned the shower system. At a certain time each day there was a five-minute period of fresh water coming out of the shower. At other times only salt water came out. Thereafter we went to the shower room, a large room with about ten shower heads, about ten minutes before the fresh water time. We used salt water and soap to lather up. Then the fresh water came on and we rinsed off and were squeaky clean for the day. We repeated this process the remainder of the trip.
We were served two meals a day.
The only protection the ship had was a 5-inch gun on the fantail. This was manned 24 hours a day. Early one morning, they held live fire practice. One of the officers in the other Ordnance Company was deathly afraid of the water and of being aboard ship. He occupied the lower bunk in my wardroom and seldom left the bunk. When the gun crew started firing, he was so startled he hit his head on the bunk above him in his haste to get out. He ended up in sickbay and underwent a lot of kidding the remainder of the voyage.
There were a number of P-38 pilots on board and one was a very accomplished pianist. There was a piano in the lounge and this officer gave a concert each day. When word spead, it became difficult to get into the lounge at that time.
It is my understanding this British ship was designed to carry a little over 5,000 troops; we had over 11,000 on board so space was limited. After 11½ days, we saw land and soon learned it was Scotland. There was a lot of excitement as we prepared to disembark.
The disembarkation was very smooth and orderly, as well organized as was the boarding. We moved from the ship, walked several blocks while carrying all of our gear, and boarded a train. We still did not know where we were going or to what unit we were to be assigned.
During our walk from the ship to the train we at first felt like conquering heroes as the little Scottish kids were running alongside yelling. We soon learned we were not the first troops to arrive, they were saying "got any gum chum." Our train ride was long and we were shunted from one siding to another. Finally the train stopped and the 1825th Ordnance Company was ordered to get off and board still another fleet of G.I. trucks that were waiting at the station. Following a short ride we arrived at Wendling, Army Air Corps Station 118. This was to be our "home for the remainder of the war.
The ride from the railway station to the air base was short and we soon stopped in front of a Nissen hut which was to become the Ordnance office.
A Sgt in a jeep met us and indicated he would lead us to the Enlisted Quarters which was about two miles away. There were four Nissen huts assigned to the 1825th and the 1/Sgt took charge of assigning the men to bunks. There was a small office in the front of each hut and one soon became the Company Orderly Room.
The Sgt with the jeep then indicated he would show us officers to our quarters. We were taken to another Nissen hut closer to Ordnance Headquarters. Jack Teufel and Art Hand were each assigned to a room with another officer and Keith Lowder and I were to room together.
The Nissen hut was divided into four rooms, each about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long with one window covered with a blackout curtain. It was furnished with two single beds, a coal/wood burning stove; a wash stand with a bucket to drain water into and a clothes rack. The latrine was a brick building about 30 yards away. It was non-flush and emptied each day by a "honey bucket" crew.
The Ordnance Office was about a half mile away and housed the office in the middle, a Supply Room on one end and the Armament Shop on the other end. The Automotive shop was nearby and had yard space for parking and working on vehicles outside as well as a large garage, office and parts room inside.
The Bomb Storage Area (Bomb dump) was at the far north end of the base just off the end of one of the short runways. The bomb dump had three large Nissen huts, several small brick buildings and two bomb revetments. Two revetments were added. Since the bomb Dump was over a mile from the company area, one of the Nissen huts was converted into barracks for the ammunition Section with a small office at the front.
Since the very start of our Ordnance Company, we had the same four officers. When we got to Wendling, that changed. A Capt Reynolds, who had been ousted from some position and was trying to get into the 9th Air Force (mostly fighters), was assigned as Company Commander. Jack Teufel was named Executive Officer and Armament Officer and Keith Lowder was transferred to another base.
Since Jack Teufel knew nothing about Armament, I really had to handle both jobs.
About six months later Capt Reynolds got his assignment to the 9th Air Force and Jack Teufel again became Company Commander.
Apparently getting spare automotive parts was a difficult job and required a lot of "horse trading" with other bases. Art Hand, although a knowledgeable Automotive Officer, did not like searching around for parts, so when Capt Reynolds left, he asked for the Armament position. Since I was so engrossed with the bomb Dump, I didn't object and Art Hand knew a little about Armament, so I was relieved of some duties.
A new officer was brought in as Automotive Officer. Lt Walter Haar was the new officer and he moved in with me. All this time I had a room to myself, now I had a roommate. This didn't last long as Haar soon found an English girl in a nearby village and would spend his evenings and nights with her. Only his clothes were in the room.
When we arrived at Wendling we were told that we were now operational and combat missions would start any day. They did, and our war against Germany was now a reality.
A typical day for the Ammunition Section started about 2000 hours, or when the Mission Report was received. The Bomb Load is called to the Ammunition Section Bomb Storage Area giving the number of aircraft for each Sqdn, type of bomb and fuse setting, etc.
At that time a Bomb Service Truck is dispatched to my quarters to take me to the Bomb Dump. During the day I would ride my bike to and from.
The Ammunition Section consisted of one officer, a Section Chief (T/Sgt), an Assistant Section Chief (S/Sgt) and 20 men. They were divided into two teams of ten men each with the Section Chief in charge of one team and the Assistant Section Chief in charge of the other. A team was on duty every other night and if they worked past midnight, they had off until noon the next day.
When the Bomb Load is received, the fuse Crew started to prepare the fuses and arming wire.
The Crane operator and crew usually stood by to assist the Squadron personnel with the loading of the Bomb Service Trailers. If the bomb load was 1,000 or 2,000-pounders, the crane crew usually did all of the loading.
Each Squadron would maintain a supply of .50 caliber ammunition on hand so the .50 caliber crew would assist the Fuse Crew.
Each of the four Squadrons had their own bomb revetment from which they took their bombs. The Squadron personnel would load the bomb service trailer with bombs and fins and report to the Bomb dump Office on the way out. The clerk on duty would note the number of bombs and supply the correct number of fuses and arming wire.
In most cases, the Squadrons had their bombs out by 0200 hours.
The next morning, the first assignment of the duty crew was to restack the bombs in each revetment, make any repairs to bombs that may have been damaged during the loading process, and take a quick inventory of bombs in each Squadron revetment.
The Bomb Fuses were always received in sealed metal cans. Each fuse must be removed from the can, inspected and then resealed in the can. A typical mission of 500-pound bombs would use about 1,000 fuses. Therefore, the inspection of fuses was a night and day job.
Fortunately, the supply of bombs, fuses, ammunition, etc. was automatic in that ordering was done by higher Headquarters. When the results of a mission were transmitted to higher Headquarters, it included the number and size of bombs, number and type of fuse and detonator. At the time, a replacement request was issued.
All bombs, fuses and ammunition arrived by truck convoy and there was seldom any advance notice. The M.P. at the gate would call the bomb dump indicating a convoy of so many trucks was on the way in. For the most part, the convoys arrived late afternoon or at night.
A serious problem arose when a convoy was being unloaded and the Squadrons were in to pick up bombs for a mission. The roads were very narrow and for the most part we worked in blackout conditions.
With the arrival of a convoy, each bomb had to be inspected before loading out on an airplane. The critical points were the lugs, threads for the nose and tail fuses, and the threads for the tail fin locking ring. Also the bomb had to be checked for any exuding (leaking) of TNT or RDX.
During the inspection, the threads were lubricated to facilitate the installing of the fuses and fin.
class="cntr bottom-pad">L-R, Richard D. Lee, Charles E. Dye, Leonard T. Witczak
For the first several months of operations, the .50 caliber ammunition was received in wooden boxes with a metal liner, belted with 5 armor-piercing and 1 tracer. As more Groups arrived and more ammunition was used, the ammunition arrived loose in boxes along with boxes of metal clips to form the belts.
At this time we had two hand-operated machines that could belt ten rounds at a time. Belting the ammunition then became an 18-hour-a-day job for four men. Later, we received an electric belting machine, but we had no electricity at the Bomb Dump. Fortunately, the Automotive Section had a spare generator that we set up. While it still had to be fed by hand, we were able to maintain a supply of belted ammunition.
The crunch came with the advent of the armor-piercing incendiary ammunition. The order came down to change from 5 - 1 (armor piercing - tracer) to 2 - 2 - 1 (armor piercing incendiary - armor piercing - tracer).
The Squadrons usually had a large supply of .50 caliber ammunition on hand. With this new order, all of the belted ammunition was returned to the Bomb Dump. The belts had to be broken down and re-belted to 2 - 2 - 1. For several days, the belting machine was in operation 24 hours a day.
During the first week at Wendling, I was instructed to go to a depot southwest of London to pick up a demolition kit. Since there was still the threat of a German invasion, it would have been my duty to destroy the base if it appeared the invasion force might capture the facility.
Because of this threat, the British had removed all of the road signs. Even though we had a map, the four-hour trip took almost ten hours. I had a Personnel Carrier with a driver and the Company Supply Sgt… The next morning I…skipped breakfast, picked up the demolition kit and we headed back to Wendling. Later, with the help of a British Base Demolition expert, I devised a plan to demolish the base in the event of a German invasion.
Since the threat of an invasion was still real, our base established an "X" Force for base defense. Each Squadron and/or company detailed a number of men to this force, about 20 total, and two officers were assigned. The "X" Force reported to a special building each evening completely armed. Fortunately, there was never a need to call them out.
Even though the "X" Force was never called out, the Air Defense of the base saw action on several occasions.
Several .50 caliber machine guns were placed around the base, some being heavy-barrel and some water-cooled with an anti-aircraft mount.
One water-cooled gun was placed near the main barracks of the 1825th Ordnance Co. and was to be manned by personnel of the 1825th. I determined that the 1/Sgt and I would be the primary gunners. During a raid or "black" alert the first one there was to be the gunner and the other would man the ammunition box. Since the 1/Sgt was usually at the Pub or full of English beer, I had little trouble getting there first.
Unless I was in the Bomb Dump, at a "Red" alert I would get my carbine (I always carried my .45 caliber pistol), gas mask and helmet and race, on my bike, to the gun. On two occasions I was able to return fire. The German fighter could only be seen by the muzzle flash of his guns, so when he came in firing, I could get in a few shots. I don't know if I scored any hits, but I failed to bring one down.
On one German raid, a B-24 near the 1825th barracks was hit and was burning. A fuel truck had just pulled up to the plane. The truck driver lost no time in getting out of the truck and running as fast and as far as possible.
The 1825th 1/Sgt, with courage from the beer, rushed to the fuel truck and drove it away from the burning plane. He didn't remember all the details later, but he did receive the Soldier's Medal for his courage (1/Sgt Willard Olson).
Two incidents of importance are:
1) The defusing of a 500-pound bomb
2) Fusing a taxiing B-24 with a booby trap-long delay fuse
HAZARDOUS WORK TO DEFUSE A BOMB
To 392nd BG support personnel, long hours and hard work in all weather was a way of life. Taking risks in dangerous circumstances came along if your job demanded it. On one occasion, a B-24 returned to base with a 500-pounder hung up on the bomb bay after every attempt to dislodge it over the sea proved futile. When all other aircraft had landed safely, the crash crews, the fire crews and the ambulance crews were all alerted of the emergency. Then the aircrew with the big problem on board approached the main runway and despite an apparently smooth landing, the bomb broke loose as the wheels touched down. Out through the bomb bay doors came the bomb. It hit the concrete and came bouncing down the runway directly under the aircraft for about 125 yards, like a porpoise following a boat. It then skidded alongside the airplane, slid off the concrete runway and onto the grassed area beside the runway and came to a rest.
As Ammunition Officer, I had been notified of the emergency and watched the landing with my crew chief. When we approached the bomb, we saw that the tail fin had protected the tail fuse and I removed it without much difficulty. However, the nose fuse was a different story because it was mashed against the nose of the bomb.
After considering the situation thoroughly, I decided to chisel the fuse loose. Taking a hammer and chisel, I told Sgt Keathly, my section chief, to move back a little. His response, as I recall, was, "Lieutenant, if that thing goes off a few feet won't make a hell of a lot of difference."
After about 15 minutes, which seemed like 15 hours, I was able to free and remove the nose fuse from the bomb, which was then picked up with the Bomb Service Truck and returned to the Bomb Dump.
It was later inspected and loaded on another mission. The tail fuse was discarded but the detonator was also used on a later mission. The damaged nose fuse was collected by the British Bomb Disposal Crew. At last my many hours of Bomb Disposal training at Aberdeen Proving Grounds had paid off.
THE ANGEL WITH THE WIRE CUTTER
Perhaps many 8th Air Force personnel will recall that during WWII immediately following an air attack, the Germans set to work with whatever equipment they had to repair the bomb damage, be it to an airfield, factory, etc. To counter this, the ordnance experts in the US developed a "long delay-booby trap" fuse. This fuse could delay the bomb's detonation from 30 minutes to 72 hours.
The Germans soon learned that a bomb could explode at any time; therefore, they were precluded from starting any repair work. Should the Germans locate one of these unexploded bombs and attempt to remove the fuse, the bomb would detonate. My section chief, T/Sgt Keathley, and I attended a special school and were the only personnel on our base authorized to handle these fuses.
When these long-delay fuses were to be used, they were usually installed on two bombs in one or perhaps two aircraft. The bomb nose plug remained in place and this special fuse was installed in the tail. This fuse could be identified by the red impeller which came off during the bomb's fall.
When this fuse was to be used, I was notified as to the fuse delay time and the aircraft number (and its location) that would carry these fuses. My section chief and I would arrive at the aircraft about 15 minutes prior to taxi time and inspect the bombs. Just prior to taxi, I would install the fuses, attach the arming wire, and cut the safety wire with a wire cutter. Once the fuse is installed, it cannot be removed.
On one particular occasion, we were standing by ready to fuse the bombs when word came down that another aircraft was to carry these fuses. We quickly headed for the other aircraft. Since the perimeter was full of B-24s taxiing, we had to drive alongside the perimeter in order to reach the aircraft. We found the proper aircraft and T/Sgt Keathley assisted in removing the regular fuses and replacing the nose plug. I then installed a fuse in one bomb, attached the arming wire, and cut the safety wire with my wire cutter.
One crew member, looking down into the bomb bay, called to me that the aircraft was going to start to taxi. Since I still had one fuse to install, I walked, in the bomb bay, with the taxiing aircraft. It may appear a B-24 taxies slowly, but when one is walking with it, the pace is far from slow.
As the aircraft taxied and I walked, I installed the fuse in the second bomb, attached the arming wire, and prepared to cut the safety wire. As I removed the wire cutter from my pocket, I dropped it. There was no way I could retrieve it. The aircraft was moving too fast and another B-24 was directly behind.
By this time the aircraft was approaching the runway ready for takeoff. Somehow or someway I was able to break the safety wire with my fingers. I quickly ducked out of the bomb bay and the bomb bay doors closed. At this time the aircraft was second in line for takeoff.
When T/Sgt Keathley and I returned to the Bomb Dump, I took another fuse and tried to break the safety wire with my fingers. I also had several of the men from my section try; none could break the wire.
Truly there must have been an angel with a wire cutter sitting on my shoulder.
On May 8, 1945, the war in Europe ended-VE Day. During the some 22 months the 22nd BG dropped over 18,000 tons of bombs; however, our Bomb Dump was still full as was our ammunition building. All bombs, fuses, fins and ammunition had to be packed for ocean shipping to the Pacific Theater.
This in itself was tedious work, as we dared not get careless. We had lived through the war so we did not want to get killed or injured packing up for shipment. Initially we worked half-days in order to give the men a chance to rest up, but as time grew short we again went to an around-the-clock session.
The Ammunition Section secured all the bombs, ammunition, etc., and the British were to handle the actual shipment to the railhead and then to the port.
Following a trip home on the Queen Mary and a 30-day leave, we again assembled in Charleston, SC, waiting for deployment to the Pacific.
The dropping of the two a-bombs put an end to that. Our Unit was disbanded and the officers and enlisted men were assigned to many units around the country. So ended the 1825th Ordnance Co., but the 8th Air Force lives to this day-still upholding the tradition established in WWII.
FUN, GAMES AND RELAXATION
While pub hopping was the most-used form of relaxation, there was plenty of organized athletics during the off-duty hours. Many of the Squadrons, companies and Sections had organized teams of softball, basketball and touch football. In addition, there was a base football, basketball and baseball team.
The Unit softball games started with one ball, one glove and one bat. The glove was reserved for the catcher. Later, the Special Service Officer [Capt Emmett W. Fore, Jr.] was able to obtain more equipment and the inter-Squadron games flourished.
Our base was one of five bases that received full equipment for a football and baseball team. We also had a base basketball team, but since this did not require much equipment, most bases had a basketball team and inter-base games were scheduled.
Our Ordnance Company had a softball team and I usually played second base or short fielder, depending on how many showed up for the game.
Our touch football team was somewhat less organized and players who showed up for the game just lined up anywhere and away we went.
We had fewer players for the basketball team so I usually played the entire game at forward. In addition, I played on the base basketball team as well as the Ground Officers basketball and softball teams and the base football team. On the football team I played end on offense and linebacker on defense.
One football game that I recall the score was 0-0 late in the fourth quarter. Our coach and quarterback had been a former college star and played pro ball under an assumed name. Without his glasses he could not see beyond 30 feet. With the game winding down, we needed to score. In the huddle, he said, "Charley, go wide near the left sideline and at the snap go straight down the sideline. I won't be able to see you so I will throw it as far as I can." Since I was probably the fastest man on the field, this appeared to be a good play. At the snap I took off. In those days, there was no bumping at the line. I was going full bore and Joe, the quarterback, overthrew me by 30 yards. What an arm! The game ended scoreless.
Since our base was originally going to be an RAF base, there was a tennis court available. On one visit to Kings Lynn, I saw two tennis rackets in a store window. I bought one and Art Hand bought the other. Since he couldn't quite grasp the game, he soon gave me his racket. I still have one which is now over 60 years old. As I recall, there were 4 or 5 other officers who had access to tennis rackets so I was able to play several times during the long evenings. (England was on Double War time, so during the summer it was light until about 9 p.m.)
The Ground Officers Club had a ping pong table and once or twice O.W. Rusling and I would play a couple of games before the evening meal. A ping pong tournament was scheduled at one time but since Rusling and I were the only ones to sign up it was not again scheduled.
So much for athletics!
We were authorized a three-day pass once a month, time permitting. Also authorized was a 14-day furlough once a year, again time permitting. During my 22 months overseas, I took three 3-day passes and one 5-day furlough.
One 3-day pass was to Cambridge with Art Hand, who called the University Arms Hotel and made reservations. We took a GI truck to Kings Lynn and then a bus to Cambridge. We checked into the hotel about 7 pm and went to our room which had two single beds, a wash stand and a pitcher of water. The bath room was on the floor below.
We left our bags in the room and returned to the desk and inquired about the bar location. The elderly gentleman at the desk indicated the bar was crowded with American servicemen, so he took us to a very large room with a bar at one end but no bartender. He wanted to know what we wanted to drink so we both ordered a scotch and a pint of beer. He was soon back with our order and refused to take any money. Here the two of us in this very large room alone and with no bartender. Soon two girls came in and a bartender appeared. We ordered another drink from him and he refused to take any money, saying the Desk would take care of it. However, he did charge the girls for their drinks.
Soon two English civilians came in and joined the girls. The Desk man again brought us another drink and again refused to take any money. We did give him a generous tip. Apparently he had us confused with some distinguished guests.
Art and I then left looking for something to eat. As I recall, we had spaghetti which didn't sit too well with the scotch and beer for it soon came up.
The next couple of days we toured Cambridge, including the colleges. We were amazed at the bare classrooms-no chalk board, charts, etc., just chairs for the students and a desk for the instructor.
On my pass to Boston, Rusling and I took a truck to Kings Lynn and a bus to Boston. We had not made reservations but were able to get a room in the only hotel. The room was much nicer than the one in Cambridge in that we had a private bath. As we walked around the town we came upon a small pub and went in for a beer. The owner was most congenial and we spent most of the day talking with him, even though he closed the pub from 2 pm until about 6 pm. We learned a lot about the local history and in addition he produced tasty sandwiches about mid-afternoon.
The second trip to Boston we were unable to get in the hotel and were referred to a private home. We had a nice room and shared the bath with the man and his wife and their granddaughter, about 10 years old. They provided a very nice evening meal which was included in the price and in the evening they played records on a wind-up gramophone.
It was on this trip that we bought two black spaniel pups which we named Dammit and Lady Bitters. We smuggled them aboard the bus and back to the base. Later, I got a basket for my bike and took the pup to the Bomb Dump each morning and back in the evening. The men brought food from the Enlisted Mess for her. Apparently she could not stand the GI food for she didn't live long.
The five-day furlough to Aberdeen, Scotland, was most enjoyable. Rusling and I took a GI truck to Kings Lynn and a train to Aberdeen. As I recall, it was an overnight ride to Aberdeen.
The first evening we went to the bar for a drink. We noticed several girls across the room gulping down straight scotch. We figured it must be watered down so we ordered the same. About three or four drinks later, we were most unsteady so back to the room. Rusling got rid of his in the "thunder mug" (a large, china mug with a lid that goes under a bed for night-time use) and we both collapsed in the bed by 8 pm. So much for Scotland scotch on an empty stomach.
The next day we decided to tour the city, but since there were no tour buses we got on a city bus and the driver gave us an interesting commentary enroute and suggested another bus for another part of the city.
After the first evening we stayed clear of the scotch and I don't recall just where we had our meals other than in the hotel. I do recall the weather was cold and damp so we did very little walking around.
During my time at Wendling, the Officers Club had two parties; one was the 100 mission party and the other after VE Day. However, the enlisted club had a party and dance about every other month. For these parties a truck was dispatched to nearby villages and Kings Lynn, our Liberty Run town. An officer was assigned to each truck, both for "pick-up" and "delivery."
One one occasion, I was unfortunate to get this duty. The truck driver picked me up at the Officers Club about 5:45 pm and we went to Kings Lynn. The Dukes Head Hotel was the pick-up point. We had seven or eight girls who rode in the back of the GI truck. They were dropped off at the Enlisted Club. The driver then dropped me off at the Officers Club and I rode my bike back to my quarters. Arrangements were made for him to pick me up just before the party ended.
About 10:30 pm the driver arrived and we went for the girls. I had to be certain I had all of them and they all belonged on my truck. All ok, so off we went again to Kings Lynn and the Dukes Head Hotel. When we arrived, I assisted the girls from the truck, except one. She said she lived about a mile out of town and we had to take her home. I indicated we had picked her up at the Dukes Head and that was where she was to get off.
She said something to the effect that she knew Col Johnson and you have to take me home. I said that I also knew Col Johnson and that she was to get off now. She wouldn't budge. I then asked the driver if he knew the location of the police station. Luckily, he did for all of England was blacked out. We drove around to the station, which was not far, and I went in.
A huge Bobby Sgt was in charge. He must have been at least six and a half feet tall and the tall bobby hat made him look well over seven feet. His assistant was somewhat smaller. I explained my problem and they both came outside with me. The girl was still in the truck and still would not get out. The Bobby indicated that since the truck was US property he could do nothing, but if I would get the girl out he would take care of her.
I called the driver and he took one arm and leg and I took the other and we carried her to the tail gate of the truck and tossed her out. The Bobbies caught her. The driver and I then rushed to the cab and sped off, tires spinning and tail gate banging. About a mile away the driver stopped and we secured the tail gate and proceeded to the base.
I don't know if the story got around, but I was never assigned that duty again.
I had been told that at these parties when the girls arrived they rushed into the club and grabbed the apples, oranges and other fruit that was available. This was usually stuffed into the pocket or purse and taken home. On this trip I saw this happen. Here we had so much, even in combat, and they had so little.
In and around the Bomb Dump there were many rabbits. To a lot of the local Englishmen this was their only supply of meat. To extract favors from the girls, the GIs resorted to candy bars, cigarettes or silk hose from the States. To get in good with the local men (farmers) a few shotgun shells would do just fine. Since I was in charge of all ammunition, including shotgun shells, a lot of officers tried to "butter me up" for shells.
One of my men in the Ammunition Section got a ferret from a farmer friend. The ferret would run down a rabbit hole and out would come a bunch of rabbits, then out came the ferret. One day the men asked me if they could catch a few rabbits and cook them on the barracks stove. The stove was made of armor plate and the top was about 3 feet square. It was just the size for cooking rabbits and when it got hot it stayed hot for some time.
I authorized three men to catch rabbits. We had 20 men in the Section. Before long, 15 men were out catching rabbits along with the ferret. Plans had to be changed. Our Company Mess Sgt had been assigned to the Consolidated Enlisted Mess and he agreed to bring the necessary "things" from the Mess Hall and cook the rabbits. The entire Company was then invited and a barrel of beer was acquired. The rabbit hunt went on for two days until we had sufficient rabbits.
Everyone then assembled at the Bomb Dump about 4:00 pm and the beer was opened and the feast started. Soon the rabbits were ready to eat. Since this was winter in England, there was no problem in keeping them frozen during the "hunt." Fortunately, the mission order did not come in until about midnight so all hands had recovered and we got out the mission.
MEDICS AND SICK CALL
The base medical staff consisted of five medical doctors and two dentists. In addition to several examining rooms there was a ten-bed ward. The critically injured and seriously ill patients were transferred to a General Hospital several miles from our base.
Our base was fortunate to have a dental check-up system in place. When my name came up for a check-up, I reported to the clinic and found that both dentists were left-handed. It just seemed a little unusual. Unfortunately, it was determined that I needed some fillings. This was not surprising as I had been to a dentist only once and that was when I was in elementary school.
Other than the two left-handed dentists, the thing that struck me was the equipment. It was all "field equipment" with nothing electric. The drill was powered by an enlisted man pumping a treadle with his foot. Consequently the RPMs were not great and the process was slow and very painful. Apparently the work was not the best as Dr. Blier in Milwaukee a few years later had to remove and clean out the several fillings that were put in.
During the second winter, I came down with a severe cold and other things. Not only was it most difficult to get up but the several mile bike ride to the Bomb Dump was next to impossible. Finally, at the urging of my Section Chief, I went on sick call.
I reported to the Base Hospital at 8:00 am and the paperwork was completed and I was instructed to take a seat on a long bench. There must have been about ten enlisted men and I was the only officer.
Soon an orderly came out with a jar full of thermometers and stuck one in the mouth of each of us on the bench. In a few minutes, he was back checking the results. He looked at mine, shook it down and again put it in my mouth. In the meantime the other patients were being called into an examining room.
The orderly again checked my temperature and I saw him conferring with a doctor. He then told me my temperature was nearly 105. I was instructed to go back to my quarters and change into my Class A uniform and return as soon as possible. (The Class A uniform was necessary in the event a person was transferred to the General Hospital.)
I changed my uniform and went to Base Ordnance to tell them my situation and one of the clerks drove me back to the hospital. When I reported in, my temperature was checked again and I was given a pair of GI Pajamas and assigned to a bed in the ten-bed ward.
The doctor soon arrived and checked me over, head to foot, and indicated I was suffering from the flu and severe fatigue. He indicated he would keep me there for several days and if I didn't respond I would be transferred to the General Hospital. Soon an orderly came in with a couple of white pills and a colorless liquid which I called GI gin. It was some kind of codeine cough mixture.
Three or four times a day I got the pills and the GI gin and was instructed to stay in bed except to go to the latrine and to shave in the mornings.
It seemed that each time the orderly came in with the medicine I was asleep. Perhaps I was asleep most of the time. After a couple of days, Jack Teufel came to visit and brought the mail. Also my Section Chief visited a couple of times. Other than that, I was not permitted to have visitors. So I just slept, took my pills, and had my meals in bed. In those days a person was not released from sick quarters until ready for duty. There was no recuperation in quarters. As I recall I was there about five days before returning to duty. There were two other officers in the ward but as I was asleep most of the time I rarely spoke to them.
In the spring of 1945 I had another occasion to go on sick call.
Usually we kept one mission of 100-pound bombs ready, but on this occasion we were not quite prepared. We had devised a way to sling two 100-pound bombs on each bomb rack, thereby doubling the load. It had been determined the B-24 could handle this without much trouble.
The mission was called off about 10 pm and all personnel were required to assist in uncrating additional bombs and fins. The 100-pound bomb fins were encased in a metal crate which could be opened by pushing down on two metal clips and pulling off the top of the crate.
I was assisting in opening fin crates. On one crate I pushed down on the clips and jerked the lid. One clamp did not release and when I jerked the lid my left thumb was pulled back to my wrist. It was like a hot knife being thrust into my thumb. However, the mission had to go so I kept getting bomb fins ready.
I slept very little that night and the next morning I again reported to sick call. The medics took one look at my hand and again I was told to change to Class A uniform and report back. This time I was taken by ambulance to the General Hospital.
I remember the driver getting into the ambulance and tossing several packets of syringes of morphine into the glove compartment. We made a couple of stops at other bases where he picked up other patients. Since I was the first I was riding in the cab with the driver. The pain was so intense that I was tempted to use one of the morphine packets when the driver was collecting other patients. However, I didn't know if it should go into my thumb, my arm, or leg, so I did nothing.
We arrived at the General Hospital and again went through the paperwork process. Soon I was taken to X-ray and several pictures were taken of my thumb and hand. I was then told to go back to the waiting room. I suggested that I be given something for the pain. The orderly went into the next room and a few minutes later came out with a needle and gave me a shop and a couple of white pills, again probably GI aspirin. About an hour later the same orderly came out and told me that nothing was broken, gave me two more pills, and said I was released.
The ambulance driver soon came in and indicated he would leave for our base about 3 pm and drive me to the Officers Club for lunch. I hadn't eaten since the evening before and since the shot and pills had relaxed the pain I was suddenly hungry.
While sitting in the waiting room counting the minutes until 3 pm the doors opened and two MPs came in with two German prisoners. The prisoners saw me sitting there, snapped to attention, and saluted. I was not going to salute a German so I just sat there and looked at them. The MPs hustled them away.
The ride back to the base was much less painful.
Following an initial setback at the Battle of the bulge during Christmas 1944, the American Army continued to advance across France and into Germany. Our bombing missions continued with the targets becoming less strategic and more tactical as we bombed the German army and installations in front of our troops as well as rail facilities, etc. In addition we flew several supply missions for the Army, dropping ammunition, food and other supplies.
April 25, 1945 was the last mission for the 392nd Bomb Group and the 8th Air Force. The target of the 392nd BG was Hallein, Austria. Twenty-eight bombers were dispatched against Hitler's redoubt in the Obersalzberg mountains of Berchtesgaden. The anti-aircraft fire was one of the most intense of the war but all 392nd planes returned to base even though several had severe battle damage.
On May 8, 1945, the war in Europe ended-VE Day!!
The 392nd Bomb Group was the fourth-oldest B-24 Group to be assigned to the 8th Air Force and the bombing record was well above average. Over 18,000 tons of bombs were dropped and 72 percent impacted well within the briefed aiming point. During the course of the war, 285 missions were flown by the 392nd Bomb group. A total of 1,553 aircrew casualties were sustained: 170 killed, 1202 missing or lost and 181 wounded. The 392nd lost 184 aircraft and claimed 238 enemy aircraft destroyed.
GETTING READY TO LEAVE ENGLAND
So much for the war in Europe, now we had to pack up and head for the Pacific. Most units had only to toss their records into a foot locker or other suitable container. Not so with the 1825th Ordnance Company.
All of the bombs, fuses, fins and other ammunition had to be inspected and packed for ocean shipping to the Pacific. This was tedious work as we dared not get careless. We had lived through the war so we did not want to get killed packing up for shipment.
Initially we worked half-days in order to give the men a chance to rest up. But as time grew short we again went to an around-the-clock session.
Each day one or more aircraft departed, usually with a load of ground crew personnel as well as the aircrew. Some went directly to the Pacific and others back to the United States. In early June we got the word to start packing company records and personal items.
Most of the bombs and ammunition had been secured but was still in the Bomb Dump. The British were to handle the shipment to the port. As Ammunition Supply Officer I would have to remain on base until all bombs had been removed. Earlier I mentioned that Walter Haar, Automotive Officer, had a girlfriend in a nearby village. He was not anxious to leave so he volunteered to stay until all bombs and other munitions had been shipped out. I don't know how long he was there, but I was GOING HOME.
Finally orders came through and we were to proceed to the Wendling rail station to board a train for the sea port. As we marched to the station a number of local girlfriends were waving and crying; the GIs were all smiles, old love affairs were forgotten, the 392nd was going home.
RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES
Everyone was all smiles as we boarded the train at the Wendling Station. This time the train ride to the port was more relaxing and everyone was in a festive mood. There were rumors that we were to go home on the Queen Mary, however I took a wait and see attitude. The rumor proved to be true for a day later we were walking up the gangplank of the Queen Mary.
As we crossed the gangplank into the ship we were assigned quarters and given a sheet of instructions relative to meals, sick call, sanitation, etc. The 1825th Ordnance Company boarded about 4:00 pm and I had no sooner crossed into the ship than Keith Lowder came running up. He had heard the 1825th was coming aboard so he was there to meet me.
Keith had been on the ship for two days and had checked it out quite thoroughly. He helped me locate my quarters and indicated we were to have roast turkey that evening for dinner.
When the Officers Club closed at Wendling each officer was given some money back along with a bottle of scotch, rum and wine. I gave the rum and wine to my men and kept the scotch. Keith also had a bottle of scotch from his club.
The Queen Mary departed sometime during the night and when we got up in the morning all we could see was water. However, the water was a little difficult to see as the ship had been converted to a troop ship and the sides were all boarded up with only a few port holes to look through. I was in a "double" stateroom with seven other officers. We did have a private bath with FRESH water but very little time was spent in the stateroom.
Once again I had duty with the troops four hours a day.
About the second day out we ran into a severe storm; some say it was one of the most severe in several years. Earlier in the evening Keith and I found a little-used passageway and opened our bottles of scotch; we really did not realize we were in a storm.
The trip took five and a half days and during that time the crew had removed most of the siding on the deck so we were able to see water and LAND. We arrived at New York Harbor Pier 90 on June 20, 1945 and debarked into barges that took us to Camp Shanks, NY. Other units went to other bases. As we came down the gangplank of the queen Mary to the barge, the Red Cross was there with real milk and donuts.
After a short barge ride to Camp Shanks we again disembarked and boarded trucks that took us to the mess hall where we were again served real milk and all the steak we could eat. The next morning Keith and I went to the barber shop and had a haircut, shampoo and facial. We wanted to get England out of our hair.