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I was born on August 3, 1921 in a small place in central Pennsylvania called Drifting, the youngest son of a blacksmith and coal miner. I entered the military on July 21, 1942. 1 was inducted at New Cumberland, PA.
The first day I received my GI clothes etc. I remember a Sergeant asking for anyone with a drivers license. A lot of hands went up. I didn't raise mine. He said, "You, you and you, come with me." He wanted some wheelbarrow drivers. That taught me on the first day to watch what you volunteered for.
I ended up in St. Petersburg, FL for my basic training. This was in late August and it sure was hot. When we were marching, they were falling out like flies. It didn't bother me much as I was in good physical shape. I took all kinds of tests and ended up in Keesler Field, Miss. taking a course in airplane mechanics. I remember going on a three-day pass to New Orleans with two other guys. We ended up in the French Quarter and had quite a time.
I graduated on December 22, 1942. They were looking for volunteers to go to gunnery school. I signed up but didn't pass the eye test. Then I was sent to San Diego, CA to Consolidated Aircraft on a B-24 familiarization course. We had a temporary base behind the Consolidated plant on the beach of the Pacific Ocean. One night a big rain and windstorm came up. It blew the window out next to my bunk and my clothes got soaked. The next morning we had about three feet of water. I graduated February 3, 1943. They were still looking for gunners, so I tried again. Next to gunnery school at Laredo, TX. I flunked the eye test again and was grounded this time. Back to San Diego. Next stop, Tulsa, OK. They just built a new plant to assemble B-24's. The parts came down from the Ford Willow Run Plant. There were about eight or ten of us training there, the first group to be there. I was assigned a plane and followed it all through the assembly line. I think this was March 1943. I left Tulsa with the plane and flew up to St. Paul, Minn. for some modifications on the turrets etc. We lived in a hotel and had vouchers for eating. The people were great. If you went into a bar, they wouldn't let you buy a drink. I was there only a short time. I left there with the plane and flew to Alamogordo where I joined the 392nd bomb group. I was educated on B-24's and ready to work. I didn't get to work on one until I got to England.
I landed in Alamogordo at lunchtime, so I went to the mess hail and got in line. I was standing there minding my own business when up comes a young Lieutenant and said, "Where are you from soldier?" I said, Ijust arrived, Sir." He said I better get rid of that cap - send it home or something. I was wearing a cap with a visor on it, like the officers wore. Later I found out that it was Bob Lane.
I was there a short time when I got a 30-day furlough to go home. It was almost a year since I had been home. When I came back from furlough, it wasn't too long before we packed our duffel bags, got on a troop train and headed for parts unknown. We ended up at Camp Shanks in New York. We then boarded the Queen Mary and headed across the Atlantic. It was a very large ship, and I got lost every day. After five days we got off the ship in Scotland. An overnight train ride and we were in Wendling, England. It was August 1, 1943. I was at Wendling about a month, when Clayton Whisman, three other guys and myself were shipped to the 44th bomb group, 67th squadron. (I don't know who the others were).
I still hadn't had a chance to work on a B-24 as they put me in the MP's. I was on guard duty all over the base; the bombsight, the hanger, the main gate and other entrances to the base. By November 1943 I was back in the 392nd. I was in the 578th when I left, and when I came back I was put in the 579th squadron.
Being due for a seven-day pass, I was in the orderly room picking it up, when I met another guy also picking his up. I can't remember his name, but I think he was from Brooklyn. We decided to team up and go to Scotland where we visited Glasgow and Edinburgh. I did the Scottish Reel, which is a dance. I had a picture taken in a kilt, which I still have. When I came back to the base to the 579th, someone got me back in the 578th Squadron where I belonged. I was assigned to hanger duty rebuilding engines. We started to get more planes, so we needed more ground crews. Carrol King was picked as a crew chief for one of the planes named Double Trouble. I was taken out of the hanger and assigned to King's crew. The crew consisted of Charles Graham, Robert Arpe and myself. Later on Arpe went to another crew and we got Howard Bard to replace him. Now we needed a flight crew for Double Trouble. The crew consisted of H. E. Schildknect - pilot, J. D. Long - copilot, Al Hersh - Navigator, Wasowicz - bombardier, Sadler - Engineer, Begley - Radio, Reid - Gunner, Reed - Gunner, Reade - Gunner, Geqere - Tail Gunner. I don't know how long or how many missions they flew in Double Trouble.
I went to London on my first three-day pass with Frank Lashek and Claude Bolding. Claude and I had never been to a big city like London, so Lashek showed us how to get around. We went on the subway, saw Buckingham Palace and all of the other historical sites. The city was blacked out at night. We were going around with our flashlights when a Bobby (policeman) yelled, "Put out that bloody torch, Yanks." During the night the sirens were wailing and the bombs were dropping. It gave me a good idea of how people felt when we were dropping our bombs. One dark night when we were walking from the line back to the barracks, we heard a sound behind us like we had never heard before. We looked behind us and saw something barely missing the top of the hanger. You could see the fire coming out of the back end. It was a buzz bomb. The bomb didn't do much damage. It cleared the base and landed in a field.
We lost Double Trouble on April 29, 1944 on her 22nd mission. The Gerald Rogers crew was flying her when she was shot down. I can't remember what plane or planes we had from that time until the end of the war.
I spent 22-1/2 months in England. The day before I left Wendling, I came down with flu like symptoms. I didn't want to miss the ship, so I took aspirin to keep the fever down until I could get on the ship. It was the Queen Mary, the same ship that brought me over. We set sail on June 15th. The next morning I went on sick call and spent the trip across the Atlantic in the Queen Mary's hospital. The doctor said I had pleurisy. We arrived in New York on June 25, 1945. I was carried off the ship to an ambulance and taken to Camp Shanks hospital where I remained for about three weeks. I then went home on a 45-day furlough. During the time I was at home, they dropped the atomic bombs and the war ended in the Pacific. My orders stated that after my furlough, I was to report to Charleston Army Airfield, South Carolina. I arrived there the first part of September and stayed there only a few weeks. Then I went to Newark, New Jersey where I was discharged in October 1945 with the rank of Corporal.
This is what I remember after 56 years.