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´╗┐Title: The Biography of a Rabbit
Author: Benson, Roy, 1917-1990
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Biography of a Rabbit" ***

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                      The Biography of a Rabbit

                          by Roy Benson Jr.


                             Introduction

This is the story of a young man, my uncle "Bunny", growing up in
Canandaigua, New York, including his joining the Army, training to
fly, and flying a P51 on missions over Germany.  He was ultimately
shot down, taken prisoner and liberated about a year later. The story
concludes with clips from his return to a normal life back in
Canandaigua. Bunny knew that he had Colon and liver cancer when he he
decided to write this book and he died shortly after its completion. I
hope the story will be of interest to other students of history.  Roy
(Bunny) Benson was my mother's youngest brother.  Burr Cook


Chapter 1 Background

My father, Roy Benson, was born in 1879 in Centerfield, New York, and
my mother, Frances Lorraine Gulvin, was born in 1880 in Sittingbourne,
England which is about fifty miles southeast of London. Sittingbourne
is approximately thirty miles from Rochester, England. She came to the
United States with her parents when she was three years old and
settled on a farm in Seneca Castle (which is thirty miles from
Rochester, New York).

When my father was courting my mother he would walk to Canandaigua
from Centerfield and rent a horse and buggy from a livery stable on
the corner of Chapin and Main Streets. He would then drive to Seneca
Castle, a distance of some ten miles, to see her. on the way home,
late at night, he would sleep in the buggy and the horse would find
its own way back to the livery. He would awaken when the buggy rolled
to a stop, then walk back to Centerfield.

They were married in 1901 and went to one of the beaches in Rochester
for a honeymoon (perhaps Charlotte). At that time such a trip was an
all day affair. They traveled from Canandaigua on the trolley that ran
all the way to the beach and carried their picnic lunch, I was told.
After their marriage, my parents made their first home in a house on
the corner of Bristol and Mason Streets. In 1903 their first child,
Clarence was born. A few years later they moved to a farm on Route 5
and 20 about one and a half miles from Canandaigua. My father worked
for a painting contractor in Canandaigua at the time and Clarence has
told me that Dad used to ride a bicycle to work, wearing a derby hat
and carrying his paint buckets on the handle bars. there was a big oak
tree on the road, about half way from home to town and the children
would walk as far as the tree and wait there each day for my father to
come home from work. They would all then walk on home together.

My brothers and sisters were: Clarence, Gordon (born 1904), Leon (born
1905), Adelaide (1908), Mildred (1910), Dorothy (1914), and Helen
(1916).

The family moved to the first big house on the West Lake Road and I
was born there July 23, 1917. I remember only a few incidents during
the time we lived there. One time I rolled a Croquet ball off a high
front porch and across a lawn to where it went over a bank and hit my
sister Dorothy on the head. I recall sleeping in a downstairs bedroom
with the window open (there were no screens at this time). We kept a
cow for milk and early in the morning it stuck its' head in the window
and gave a loud moo next to my head while I was still sleeping. We
also had large barns and did some farming. We grew potatoes for home
use and my brothers raised cucumbers to sell. My older brothers used
to catch rides to school on passing farmers wagons whenever they
could. They went to the Palace Theater on the corner of Saltenstall
and Main Streets for five cents. We had a horse that would refuse to
pull the hay wagon up the hill to the barn and I remember standing on
the wheel spokes to push the horse and wagon towards the barn.

In 1922, when I was five years old, we moved to the house on Chapin
Street where my father lived until his death. I attended the Adelaide
Avenue School for grades 1 to 3 then went to the Union School, which
stood where the YMCA is now. My father bought the house, almost new at
the time, for $1400. During these years there were nine of us children
(my brother Robert having been born in 1919) and our house was always
the center of activity for the neighborhood. All of our friends would
come to our house to play and we had childhoods filled with love and
good times. My father had horseshoe beds in the backyard with lights
above them so the men could play at night. All my uncles and the
neighbors would come often to play.

It was about this time that my father opened a wallpaper and paint
store on South Main Street. He intended to run the store with
Clarence, Gordon, and Leon and also do the painting and wallpapering
for his customers. I don't know how many years he had the store, but
it was not a success. He then built a large addition to the two car
garage at home and moved the paint and wallpaper there for storage.
There was plenty of wallpaper he was unable to sell and we kids used
to have pieces to cut flowers and patterns with. We would glue the
small pieces to bottles and shellac them to make vases. Raymond Smith
was my buddy then and was at our house most of the time. They lived a
couple of houses down the street and our mothers attended church on
Sundays and Wednesday night prayer meetings together. I recall that
our Sunday night suppers were always cornmeal with milk and brown
sugar. We had a large dining room table, a cherry drop leaf, that
would seat ten. I always sat next to my mother at the table. She would
make large sugar cookies with a seeded raisin on top and put them on
newspapers on the dining room table. We would eat them there while
they were still warm. You can imagine what it must have been like
cooking three meals a day for ten or more people on the old coal
stove. I believe we had gas on one side and coal on the other. We kept
the coal fire going to heat the back part of the house. My mother
would wash my hair by having me lay on the ironing board with my head
hanging over the sink. We took our Saturday night bath in a large
washtub by the kitchen stove. We had no bathtub until I was about
eight years old.

We always had baseball equipment to play with due to my brother's
interest. We would play ball in the street and in a lot at the corner
of Chapin and Thad Chapin Streets. The trees, High banks and uneven
ground helped me to become a good center-fielder when I played on a
flat baseball field. That was easy after running up and down those
hills and I could catch anything. The only toys that Ray and I had
were very simple. We took the wheels off an old baby buggy and nailed
them on the end of a stick. We would run around the house pushing it
by the hour.

At Christmas time we were allowed to open one toy when we got up in
the morning. My favorite, which I asked for every year, was a wind up
tractor with rubber treads which we would try to make climb over
stacks of books on the floor. We would also roll marbles down the
groove in the bottom of skis to knock down houses made of cards. My
older brothers and sisters who were married would arrive around noon
for Christmas dinner and there were usually about twenty there. After
dinner we would open the presents in the parlor. There were so many of
us that we would draw names for the person to whom we gave gifts.

My brothers and I slept in an upstairs bedroom with the window open a
couple of inches in the winter time. When we woke up in the morning
there would be snow in a pile on the floor under the window. We had
one floor register about four feet square in the living room and we
would sit around it for warmth. I remember the babies would sometimes
crawl on the register and wet their diapers. My mother would sprinkle
sugar down the flue to the hot furnace dome to get rid of the smell.
Above the register, on the wall, was a shelf which held my mother's
chime clock.

There was a small room upstairs where we had a library. My brothers
had about three hundred books there and there was an army cot there on
which I slept for several years. The library contained the Zane Grey
westerns. These were all lost later when my father moved out and
rented the house for several years during the war. All my possessions,
except for clothes, were lost at that time. After my father remarried,
he and my stepmother moved back into the house.

My brothers built a wooden platform in the backyard and we had a tent
on it for several summers. We would sleep out there when the house was
too hot in the summer time. There were three army cots in it. Dr.
Behan lived on Thad Chapin Street just around the corner. He had
several large farm horses which would get loose and come running down
the street in front of our house. If we were playing out in front and
heard the horses coming we would run for the front porch. Sometimes
the horses would run across the front yard and barely miss us. We were
so small that the horses seemed twenty feet tall. That is probably the
reason I never cared much for horses. During this time my father got
his first car, a second hand 1917 Ford. I can just remember that the
tail lights were small kerosene lamps that you fill up and light for
night driving. On one car that Clarence had, the windshield would tip
out from the bottom for ventilation and the windshield wipers were
worked by hand. I can remember pushing it back and forth while
Clarence drove.

In 1926 my grandfather, Peter Orson Benson, would come up to pitch
horseshoes with me. He lived with my uncle Jim across the street and
down the hill a little. I would see grandfather coming and would have
plenty of time to get ready for him because he was 96 years old and it
would take him about twenty minutes to walk up. He would toss the
horseshoes and I would bring them back to him. He was an active man
and had a good size garden until he was about 95 years old. I remember
that he had a long white beard that came down to his belt.

My mother did not get to take very many vacations in her lifetime. One
time we went up along the St. Lawrence River and another time we went
to Buffalo and took the boat trip across Lake Erie to Long Point Park.
Another time we went, in two cars, to Pennsylvania. She spent all of
life cooking, washing, sewing and caning. Saturday night was the big
night of the week for everyone. to make certain we got a parking place
downtown, my father would take the car down in the late afternoon and
after supper we would walk down to shop and watch the people in town.
I can remember sitting on the front fenders of the car and watching
the shoppers. There was a popcorn wagon by a building on South Main
Street and I suppose, if we had the money, we would get some popcorn
or candy. I can remember walking down Chapin Street with my mother to
see a movie in the evening.

The Playhouse Theater on Chapin Street had what they called Bank Night
on Wednesdays. They would announce a person's name in the theater and
by loudspeaker, outside. You did not need a ticket to be eligible and
I guess they picked names at random from the phone book or a list of
city residents. There would be crowds outside and you had several
minutes to answer, so if you were not there someone could come to find
you if they hurried. The prize would build up if there was no one to
claim it. I remember the time Ray Smith and I were inside and they
called our number. We won two bags of groceries. There was also a dish
night when they gave away dishes.

One Fourth of July we had a bushel basket of fireworks and were to set
them off after dark. I was sitting on the steps with the other kids
when someone threw a lighted punk (used to light firecrackers, etc.)
into the basket. The whole bushel went off at once! You never saw such
a sight; kids running in all directions with Roman candles and
pinwheels swirling around them. The house did not catch fire, but the
event charred the siding and the porch floor. Nobody was blamed for it
because no one was quite certain how it happened. It was probably the
fastest celebration of the Fourth that I ever had.....and the most
exciting!

Ray and I went to the movies every Saturday afternoon to see the old
western movies. We would run all the way to the theater and the first
one there got the corner seat in the first row of the balcony. After
the movies we would go up to my house and my mother would make each of
us a slice of bread and butter with sugar on it. Next we would run up
to Arsenal hill and play cowboys. We had a cave dug out of a mound of
dirt and we would defend it with spears made from long goldenrod
stalks sharpened on the thick end. In the winter we nailed a wooden
box on two barrel staves and would sit on the box sliding down hill
trying to dodge the trees. In those days they did not plow or sand the
streets and when we finally got sleds we slid down Chapin Street. One
friend had a bobsled which held about ten kids and we rode that from
Brigham Hall, down Thad Chapin, down Chapin Street to the Sucker Brook
bridge. The only dangerous intersection was at Chapin and Pearl
Streets and we would take turns watching for cars. There were very few
cars in those days so it didn't bother us very much.

My brother Robert was two years younger than I and he was sick for a
long time before he died at age eight. He was in a wheelchair for
quite a while. He had what was called rheumatic fever and the doctor
had to drain fluid from his back. The wheelchair was one of those old
large ones with a wicker seat and back. I would go to the corner store
where VanBrookers is now (Pearl and West Avenue) for groceries for my
mother. Robert would sit in his wheelchair by the window and time my
running to the store and back. I ran as fast as I could and it must
have been good practice because, by the time I reached high school, I
was the fastest runner there. The only boy who could keep up with me
was "Horse Face" Johnson from Cheshire.

One of our favorite times of the year was when we had the family
reunion. In those years we would have from 50 to 100 people. Some of
the games we played then were fun and would be even now. There was a
pile of sand and they would bury hundreds of pennies in it then let
the kids loose to find as many as they could. There would be a ten (or
more) gallon container of ice cream from Johncox Ice Cream Plant.
After dinner we were allowed as many ice cream cones as we wanted. I
remember we could only eat two or three before we were full, then we'd
feel bad that we couldn't eat more. Our favorite reunion was the one
held at my Aunt Alice's down on Seneca Lake. She was such a nice
person, everyone loved to go there. Her husband John was a huge man
and just as nice. They lived on a farm and raised food for Lakemont
Academy, a school for boys. Their farm was next door and owned by the
Academy.

Sometimes we would go to the farm the night before and stay over,
sleeping in the house, on the porches, even in the hay in the big
barns. The older boys used to drink beer and play cards all night out
in the barn. The house was on a hill about one quarter mile from the
lake with a lane running down to a boathouse on the shore. In later
years I can remember going down with Clarence and Gordon to sleep in
the boathouse which was out over the water. It was a wild spot in
those days with no cottages nearby. The hill from the house to the
lake was all grape vineyards and there was a railroad track right
through the vineyard. When we heard a train coming, we would run down
and toss big bunches of grapes to the train crew as the train went
very slowly due to the up hill grade.

In 1925 Clarence and Gordon went to Florida for a couple of months in
the winter. In those days the roads were not very good and the cars
undependable. While in Florida, living in a tent, they worked on the
road repair gang and also picked fruit. I remember they picked apples
all that fall on a farm near Geneva in order to earn enough money for
their trip. I recall their return from Florida late one night during a
bitterly cold snowstorm. They came in the back door with bags of
oranges.

In 1926 there was an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rundel, from Omaha,
Nebraska, who were traveling through Canandaigua when they had a
serious accident. They were hospitalized and their car was in a garage
being fixed. Due to their injuries they did not feel up to driving to
Nebraska so they advertised in the paper for someone to drive them
home. Gordon answered the ad and drove them back. They all got along
so well, they asked him to stay with them and he did ... for three
years. He bought himself a pickup truck and started a painting
business there. He sent us pictures taken of the tornado damage in
that area. I remember one picture he took of a wheat straw that was
driven into a telephone pole.

In 1927 Clarence and John Timms started for California on motorcycles
and they got as far as Kansas when they could no longer ride the
motorcycles due to the bad roads. The roads were all red clay and when
wet they were worse than ice. After falling off them too many times,
they pushed the motorcycles into Kansas City and sold them. They took
the money and went by train, to Omaha where Gordon was living. They
talked Gordon into going on to California with them in his truck. The
roads were very poor, dirt mostly, and it took them a long time. In
California they picked grapes, then they came back to Omaha, where
they left Gordon, and returned home by train. When Gordon finally came
home in 1929 he drove all the way without stopping and it was several
years before he got over it. He developed car sickness and could not
ride in a car for some time.

I was in the Boy Scouts for several years and really enjoyed it. I got
all the merit badges up to the one for swimming and that was when I
quit the Scouts. I found that the friends you make in Scouting are
sometimes your friends all your life . . . ones like Ray Smith and
Skip Dewey. We had a lot of good times at Camp Woodcraft near
Cheshire, New York. One of our favorite games there was "Capture the
Flag". The lane through Camp Woodcraft was the line between sides and
the flag was on a pole way back in the woods. Some would guard the
flag while others would circle around, try to get the other side's
flag, and return across the center line with it. If you were touched
by anyone on the other side, you were out of the game. It is similar
to the game they play now with those dye guns. I was in the Beaver
Patrol and can remember the meals that we used to cook. Some patrols
did fancy things, but we always ended up with Campbells soup. We were
known as the "Soup Patrol".

Every year we used to plant pine trees at Camp Woodcraft. It would
take all day and we carried the seedlings around in a pail. When noon
came, we would wash the pail out in the creek and heat our soup in it.
There was a small cabin with a dirt floor, loft and an old cook stove.
One time Ray Smith and I went up to stay overnight and it was cold. We
were quite young at the time and got scared as it grew dark so we
tried to sleep in the loft. We had a wood fire going in the old stove
to keep warm and it made so much smoke that we coughed all night and
didn't sleep much. We were still too scared to come down from the
loft. L. Ray Stokie was our Scoutmaster and he ran a chocolate shop on
Main Street. We would go down to the store and he would let us go down
in the basement to watch him make chocolates and pull taffy.

Most of my possessions during these years were bought for me by my
brother Clarence. My most prized possession was a pair of leather high
top boots with a pouch on the side for a jack knife. He also bought me
a hatchet, which I still have today. It is the only one I've ever
owned and it must be sixty years old. It is getting dull, but it's
never been sharpened. He also bought me my first bicycle and it took
me forever to learn to ride it. I don't know how many years I had it,
but it was my only bike. My mother and father had little money in
those days, especially during the Depression in 1929 and 1930, so if I
had anything at all it was bought for me by my older brothers.

It was some time during these years when I was in the little corner
store on West Avenue and I stole a five cent candy bar. I was scared
for months that I would be found out. It affected me so much that the
feelings have remained with me throughout my life. It was a great
lesson because I never did anything like that again. Jack VanBrooker
ran the store and when he had bananas that were too ripe to sell, he
would tell Ray and I that if we could eat them all we could have them
for free. We would sit on the lawn by the store and watch the cars go
by while eating bananas until they came out of our ears. We never did
have to pay for any.

We had many other enjoyable pastimes outdoors. We would cut the cover
off a golf ball and unwind some of the miles of rubber bands inside.
By putting half on each side of the street we could stretch it across
and when a car came down it would stretch the rubber about a quarter
mile. We would also go to the top of Arsenal Hill and hit golf balls
with baseball bats. They really go a long ways. We found our golf
balls in the bottom of the creek down by the golf course.

On the west bank of thad Chapin Street there was a row of black oxhart
cherry trees belonging to Doctor Behan's widow. When they were ripe we
could not resist trying to get some. As soon as we got in the trees,
"Old Lady Behan" as we called her, would come running down the street
yelling and waving her arms. Guess she watched those trees all day
long. One night Ray and I went over and filled our pockets with
cherries and ran through the tall weeds back to the tent in our
backyard. To our utter dismay, we had run through the weeds where a
skunk had just sprayed and we had to throw away all the cherries and
change our clothes.

During the harvest season the wagon loads of pea vines passed up Thad
Chapin and, when we saw them coming, we hid along the road until we
could run up behind the wagon and pull off a big armful of pea vines.
Sometimes we would get enough to take home to our mothers. You
understand this was not like stealing candy from a store to our way of
thinking, so we were certainly not doing anything wrong. There is a
big difference between stealing and mere survival. Besides, we had to
have something to do to keep us out of trouble.

There were many sheep pastured in the open fields around Camp
Woodcraft in the summer time. They were taken to the farm barns north
and east of town during the winter. The herders drove the flocks down
the road by our house every spring and fall. They were driven down
West Avenue and up Main Street. There were so few cars at that time
that traffic was not a problem.

The ice truck came around in the summer with ice for everyone's ice
box. Mother would put a sign in the window for 25, 50 or 100 pounds
and they would chip off a piece and weigh it. While the driver took
the ice into the house, all the kids would run up to the back of the
truck and get loose pieces of ice. The ice man would yell and chase us
away when he came out.

During the Civil War there was an arsenal built at the top of what was
thereafter called Arsenal Hill. Weapons were stored there in the event
that the city had to be defended. Of course the buildings were gone by
the time we played there as kids, but we found the old foundations by
digging down a ways. There were a lot of old red bricks. The gully
down the other side of the hill had a creek running down it. Ray and I
would dig in the mud looking for cannon balls and one time we found
one, four to five inches in diameter. It was very heavy. We eventually
took it to the Historical Museum as a donation and I believe it is
still on display there.

Arsenal Hill (West Avenue) was a steep and dangerous hill. There were
many accidents at the bottom and near the corner of Pearl Street. We
could hear the crash of accidents from our house on Chapin Street and
the kids would all run down to see them. One time a truck load of
prunes tipped over and there were prunes everywhere. Another time a
load of butter in wooden crocks tipped over and the crocks rolled down
people's lawns. People were coming out and carrying them into their
houses, but we didn't know enough to get any. Once a car hit a tree
and the driver was thrown through the roof and landed on the sidewalk.
When we got there, he was sitting up and asked us for a cigarette.
Probably he wasn't hurt because (he looked like) he was drunk.

My grandfather, Peter O. Benson, was born September 12, 1831 and died
in 1931. Sometime in the 1920's there was a full page article and his
picture in the daily paper. It told of his attending the Ontario
County Fair for 90 consecutive years. The Fair was held in September
then so all the farm products were on display. The fairgrounds were
off Fort Hill Avenue where the present High School stands. There was a
grandstand, barns and a race track for harness racing. It was a big
day for us, as kids, as a picnic lunch was packed and we would park
the car in the center of the race track and stay at the Fair all day.

I remember one day when we were playing in the front yard a big black
car, with a Philippine chauffeur, stopped. Inside was Ada Kent, from
California, a cousin of my father. Her husband had helped finance
George Eastman when he founded Eastman Kodak. She came to set up an
annuity for my father and all my uncles. They cost $45,000 each and my
father received $100 a month for the rest of his life. I remember that
he was able to get a better car and buy my mother a new coat (which I
recall was blue). When I was in the service, Ada Kent died in Carmel
by the Sea, California and left two million dollars to the old woman
who cared for her.

We had a big garden and in the fall I would build a little house of
sod, sticks, boards and anything else I could find. It was just large
enough for me to squeeze into. In one side of it I made a little
fireplace out of clumps of dirt and I would break up the sticks to
have a little fire for heat. We had a large prune tree next to the
garage and my mother would can a lot of them every year. My father
loved them. We would take the pits out of some and put them on the
flat garage roof to dry in the sun. We covered them with wire screen
to keep the birds away. When dried, they were stored in large bags in
the bottom of a big kitchen cupboard. In the winter I would get into
the cupboard and sit there eating prunes. We had a large sweet cherry
tree in the side yard and mother canned nearly 100 quarts every year.
I helped her with all the canning--cherries, prunes, peaches, and
pears. when she did the cherries she always left one cherry with the
pit in it per quart. The person who got the pit when the cherries were
served was given a dime. This was a big treat for us.

Our house was always the gathering place for kids and we were likely
to play games like "Red Light", "Hide and Seek", and Holly Golly". We
used to make guns out of old tire tubes, sticks and a half clothes
pin. We would cut loops of inner tube to shoot as bullets then play
cowboys and Indians.


Chapter 2 Years at Berby Hollow

My Years in Berby Hollow (Egypt Valley)

My older brothers were always interested in the Bristol Hills and
around 1927 they rented a small house on the Egypt Valley Road which
we called a cabin. It had a kitchen, living room, pantry and two
bedrooms. There was a porch on the front. The cabin was heated by
means of a wood stove. we used to get our wood by dragging in limbs
with a rope, sometimes for quite a distance. The painting business was
very slow in the winter and sometimes Clarence would stay over there
for more than a week. He wouldn't want to spend all of his time
gathering wood. Halfway down the hill into the valley there was an old
man who lived alone on top of a ridge beyond a deep gully that ran
beside the road. He sold firewood, delivered for $3.00 a cord.
Sometimes we would buy wood when we had enough money.

The nearest house to the west was one half mile away and to the east
there was one a mile beyond us. The roads were dirt and were never
plowed in the winter time. Most days in the winter, the only car to
come by was the mailman. In the deep winter he might only make it once
a week. In the spring when the snow melted the roads were bad and we
would simply drive in the ruts that were not too deep. I spent all my
Christmas vacations and weekends with Clarence, and sometimes Gordon,
at this place.

If the roads were very bad in the winter, my father would take
Clarence and I as far as the main road went and we would pull a
toboggan, loaded with our food and supplies, about six miles to the
cabin. We would have set a time and day for him to pick us up when we
were ready to come home. The corner on the main road where he met us
was at the top of the hill that goes down into Honeoye. There was
Jones' gas station there where we would wait. When we were at the
cabin and the weather was good, some of the family would come over for
Sunday dinner. My older sisters and their husbands would sometimes
join my father in coming. Clarence's friend would often come over to
hunt. The rabbit hunting was very good.

When I was old enough to have a gun, Clarence, Gordon and I would
start out about 11:00 am to hunt for dinner. We would go in opposite
directions and try to get a rabbit then beat the others back to the
cabin. I remember one time we got a rabbit and were back in less than
an hour, but Gordon was already back and had one ready to start
cooking.

The cabin was interesting because we were told that a man who had
lived there some years before had sat in the kitchen in a chair and
blown his head off with a shotgun. The bullet holes were all there in
the plaster in the ceiling so we supposed it to have been true.
Clarence was always interested in fox hunting and had a trap line too.
I guess at this time I had a BB gun and just followed Clarence around.
When I was about twelve years old Clarence bought me a single shot 22
and I used it to hunt fox with him. I don't remember what we ate in
those days at the cabin, but Clarence did the cooking. I do remember
one time Gordon made a raisin pie. He made the crust and put in a box
of seedless raisins then put it in the oven. When he took it out it
was just as when he put it in, so we poured the raisins back in the
box and ate the crust. Across the road about a quarter mile up in a
field there was an old chestnut tree that was killed by blight that
eventually killed all the chestnut trees in the East. This tree still
had a few green limbs coming out of the trunk and we used to get the
chestnuts and roast them. The remainder of the tree was dead and we
used it for firewood.

The cabin was on the edge of a deep gully and the creek ran down the
gully in back of the cabin. It went on to Honeoye Lake. We used to set
traps in the creek for muskrats. Sometimes we would hear wildcats
scream in the middle of the night down in the gully. The stove we used
for heat had a big ornate top that slid to one side to expose the
cooking top. we took this off and had it hanging on a nail in the
pantry. One night Clarence and I were there alone and the wildcats
were down in the gully. Just about midnight we were awakened by a
terrible crash somewhere in the cabin. Between that and the wildcats
it made our hair stand on end and the chills go up and down our
spines. We finally got up enough nerve to get out of bed, get a
flashlight and investigate. The heavy iron stove top had come off the
nail and knocked down all the pots and pans. After a couple of hours
we got back to sleep again. Down the road, not far from the cabin, a
church had burned down at midnight under mysterious circumstances. All
these happenings made the place very spooky to someone only ten years
old.

During these years I used to tag along behind Clarence while he was
hunting and taking care of his trap line for fox and muskrat. Fox
pelts were worth about $20 then, which was a lot of money. In all the
years that we hunted them, I can not remember getting one. It was fun
setting and baiting the traps and finding where the fox had gotten the
bait without springing the trap.

One winter Leon stayed at the camp and worked for Tony Miller on his
farm down the road. This is where he met Louise as she was the school
teacher at the school the other way from the cabin. At that time
teachers would board near the school and she stayed at the Miller's.
Leon said he worked very hard there, from sunrise to sunset, cutting
wood and doing chores for small wages and one meal a day.

For a change sometimes in the summer, we would go down about two miles
toward Honeoye and there was a place you could drive a car along the
creek away from the road to where the banks got steep. There was a
nice point by the creek where the ground was level and there were lots
of tall pines. Clarence had a panel truck and there was a mattress in
the back to sleep on. We would set up a canvas cover to cook and eat
under. It was a beautiful spot where we could stay for the weekend.
Sometimes I would take Ray Smith or Chuck Spears with me. There were
places where the creek was a couple of feet deep and we would go
skinny dipping. I often think of all that I would have missed doing if
it had not been for Clarence.

About 1930 or shortly there after, Clarence and Gordon bought five
acres of land from Tony Miller along the edge of his farm. They paid
$30 an acre for it and about four and one half acres of woods, then
the creek with a clearing beside it. After we had it surveyed we put
up some markers at the back corners which were up the hill. It was
level for about 1/2 to 1 acre at the bottom and the woods went up the
hill fairly steep. About two months after buying the land we were
walking around the property line and found that Tony Miller was
cutting down the big trees, 2 to 2 1/2 feet in diameter, and dragging
them onto his property. He had cut about ten of the big trees and
didn't think we would be over there to find out. We went down to
Bristol Center and got the local Sheriff (big deal) and had him serve
papers of some sort on Tony Miller. We never got any of the big trees
back, but he didn't cut any more. There was one big oak about 3 1/2
feet in diameter that had been cut down and still on our property. I
would go up there and sit on it and hunt squirrels. We never did cut
it up for firewood as we never had a saw big enough to do it. The
knowledge of trees that I learned in Boy Scouts gave me an interest in
the trees that were on our property. There were pine, oak, maple,
beech, basswood and a very hard wood. The ironwood did not grow very
big and had a twisted trunk. The bark was slate grey, smooth and it
was properly named because it sawed like iron.

We bought the lumber for the cabin at Davidson's Lumber Yard on West
Avenue in Canandaigua and they delivered it for us. I remember being
over there and waiting for the truck to get there. The driver got lost
and it took him half the day to find us. After we had unloaded the
lumber, he sat and visited with us the rest of the day. I was about 12
or 13 years old so could help my brothers saw the boards and nail them
up. I recall putting the wood shingles on the roof. We even had a
front door that we could use when we had company. Gordon was good with
mason work so he put in the cement block foundation and built the big
stone fireplace at one end of the cabin. We had a lot of good
fireplace fires and used to sit around it by the hour. Sometimes we
would find a piece of apple wood to burn, which makes a beautiful
fire. We also had a wood burning stove which we used for cooking. The
cabin had one large room and two bedrooms partitioned off at one end
by six foot high partitions. The walls were just the clapboards on the
outside so it was not very warm in the winter. Just about like
Horseshoe Camp I imagine. It was nice and warm, however, if you kept
the fire going.

We had a wood bin in the back of the cabin that came out into the room
a couple of feet and had a cover that lifted up. On the outside we had
a door on hinges that would raise up and thus we could fill the wood
box from outside. One time someone broke in through that woodbox and
stole a couple of my brother's guns, but that was the only time we
were ever robbed. We used to drink the water from the creek even
though there were cows pastured not far up stream. We thought that if
the water ran five hundred feet from the cows that it would be pure
again. It never hurt us but we soon found another way to get water.
There was a small gully next to the cabin that was wet most of the
year, so we drove an iron pipe back in the shale three or four feet
and put a pan under it to catch the water that dripped out. In the
summer it would drip about a gallon a day which was enough for
drinking.

I forgot to mention that the first thing we had to do before we built
the cabin was to build a bridge across the creek. We cut two trees
about the size of telephone poles and nailed boards on top. At least
twice during our years there, the bridge was washed out by the spring
floods. Usually it was found not very far downstream so we would drag
it back and renail the boards down. I mentioned before, the Scout
trips to Camp Woodcraft which usually took place on a Saturday. It
must have been nice to have all the energy that we had at that age.
After running all day at Scout Camp, Ray Smith and I would walk to
Berby Hollow after the rest of the troop left for home. We followed
the edge of the big gully down into Bristol Valley and then walked
south on the road until Mud Creek passed under the bridge to our side
of the road. It was too deep to cross anywhere else. Then we would
climb the hill to the west, which is about where Bristol Mountain Ski
Area is now located, then cross the top of the hill, which was fairly
flat, and Down into Berby. We Couldn't get lost because I knew this
area very well and when we came to the Berby Hollow Road I knew
whether to turn right or left to get to the cabin. It was about a six
mile walk and we could make it there by dark. We only did this when
Clarence was planning to be there and we could spend the night and
come home with him the next day.

After we got the cabin built we planted some pine trees in the yard
along the creek. I remember getting six pine trees from a nursery.
They were so small that I carried them inside a small cereal box. The
last time I was by there they were all living and about fifteen feet
tall. We named the camp "Hunting's End" and we had a sign on a post
out by the road near the gate we made to keep people from driving in.
When you crossed the bridge we had three stone and concrete steps up
the bank and Gordon cemented a sundial on top of a three foot high
stone and concrete base. It was accurate and we used it to tell time.

This area of Bristol was sparsely populated in those days and there
was no house between the cabin and Honeoye. Sometimes we would need
extra groceries and would go to Treble's store in Honeoye for them.
After high School I went with his daughter Althea for a while. We
bought most of our groceries in Canandaigua before we left for camp
and could get enough food for two of us for a week for $5. We bought
them at a little grocery store on South Main Street owned by Ernie
Watts. Most of our meals consisted of boiled ham, Pancakes and jello.
We probably had other things but these are what I remember. Most of
our meat is what we got hunting. We often had fried squirrel, rabbit
or partridge. We used to start hunting partridge right from the back
door of the cabin and once Gordon got a bird about 100 feet up the
hill. At times in the winter we would get up in the morning and see
deer and fox tracks in the snow within ten feet of the cabin. The
cabin was in a valley with a hill to the west so it would be almost
dark by 4:30 PM so we would start a fire in the fireplace and eat our
dinners early. We would heat up the sliced boiled ham and eat it with
pancakes. We had a large round cast iron griddle and cooked with it on
top of the wood stove. Clarence would make his pancake (always about
one foot across) and then sit at a table in front of the fireplace to
eat. While he ate his, I would cook mine and he would be done when
mine was ready. We took turns like this until we were full and then we
would eat our dessert together. We didn't have to hurry any as the
evenings were long.

Sometimes in the summer we would go up the Lower Egypt Valley Road to
where the spring was (I'll tell more about that later) and there was a
lane that went up the hill to where a farmhouse once stood. There were
found a lot of blackberry bushes which we called thimbleberries
because they were big, over 1 1/2 inches long. We would have them for
dessert with sugar and evaporated milk. We had a concentrated
flavoring mixed with water to drink. It was called HO-MIX and came in
flavors. Whenever we got thirsty we'd stop for a glass of HO- MIX. It
was probably the forerunner of KOOLAID.

The only lights we had in the cabin were Coleman gasoline lanterns and
we would read by it at night. We had an outside "john" about 30 feet
up the hill in back of the cabin with stone steps cut in the bank. It
was a one holer surrounded by blinds we took off an old house
somewhere. You could sit inside and run the slats up and down to see
out. Sometimes we would take a gun with us and watch for partridge
while we sat.

One weekend we arrived at camp to find a dead partridge on one of the
beds. It had flown through a window and couldn't get out again.
Another time a red squirrel got down the fireplace and really made a
mess of the cabin. He even chewed off the wood around the glass in the
windows. He didn't get out and we found him in there dead.

We built a dam in the creek to make a place for our Saturday night
bath and it was about two feet deep with a nice smooth rock bottom. We
had an overflow in the dam to raise or lower the level by inserting or
removing planks. We took the planks out during the spring floods. The
level area between the creek and the road was large enough so we could
have softball games and park cars there.

In those days we often hunted squirrels as I have mentioned. There
were many pure black squirrels then and we would hunt for them just
because they were different. One place up on top of the hill there
were fox squirrels but we never killed one of them. Fox squirrels are
much larger than gray squirrels and they have a long bushy tail like a
fox. We could see them in the woods but were never able to get close
to one. Most of them were up on top of the hill on posted property
belonging to the Sanetarium in Clifton Springs. It was called the
Sanetarium Farm and they raised farm and dairy products for use at
Clifton. It seemed strange that they would have a farm so far away.

You can check the map for the location of some of the places I write
about. We were told about a spring on the Lower Egypt Valley Road
where we could get water that was really pure. Just down the bank at
the side of the road there was a pool of clear water about three feet
across with the water bubbling out of the rocks at the bottom of it.
This water was so cold that it didn't even freeze in the winter time
and on the hottest summer day it was so cold that you couldn't hold
your hand under it. Eventually, Stuart Caves of Caves Lumber Company
in Holcomb, built a lovely summer home on the lot including the
spring, but they always allowed people to get water there.

There was an intersection in the road just down from the cabin with a
telephone pole. We made arrow signs with cities and mileage painted on
them and nailed them to the pole. They pointed towards Honeoye,
Naples, Rochester and Canandaigua. They were still there for years
after the camp was sold. Several times Clarence and I walked home to
Canandaigua just to see how long it would take us. It was about 15
miles distance and we always made it in about four hours and fifteen
minutes. One time when it was snowing I was wearing a heavy pair of
overshoes and about halfway home they got too heavy for me, so I took
them off and hid them under a large rock beside the road. The next
time we went to camp I picked them up.

We had a black and white cow hide for a rug in the cabin. Across the
road and up on the hill was a berry patch and in the spring there
would be berry pickers up there, when they looked our way, I would put
the cow hide over me and chase Clarence around the yard. They were
just far enough away that it may have looked real to them. At least
they used to stand there watching us.

One of Clarence's friends had a fox hound that we would keep with us
for fox hunting. His name was "Shimmer-boo" and he was large. One
Christmas vacation we got snowed in and the fellow who owned the dog
came after us in a truck. I lost three days of school which was a
treat. We slipped and slid around in the snow on the hill, but finally
made it up the hill, on to home and back to school. We all rode in the
front seat of the truck with that big smelly dog on my lap all the way
home. You know how big and gangly those fox hounds are. I'll never
forget that ride home.

We had a trapdoor in the floor of the cabin with a four foot square
pit dug out beneath. We would store foodstuffs down there where it was
cooler. There were all kinds of nut trees around and at one time we
had two bushels of butternuts, one of walnuts and two of hickory nuts
(all shucked) down under the floor. After they were there a couple of
years we took them out and burned them in the fireplace. Two bushels
of hickory nuts would be worth a fortune now. Halfway up the hill on
our property there was a pine tree about three feet through the trunk
and very tall. The limbs came straight out of the trunk so you could
climb up it just like you were climbing a ladder. About forty feet up
I built a platform and used it for my secret hideaway. I could see
down to the road and when we were expecting company, I would go up
there and watch for them.

We used to do a lot of partridge hunting and there was an older man by
the name of Bill Brooks who went along with us, without a gun, just
for the joy of walking in the woods. He carried a flask of whiskey and
every so often would stop to sit on a tree stump and have another nip.
He never bothered our hunting and was nice to have along. He was the
father of one of the girls Gordon used to go out with.

We had to cut all our firewood with a two man crosscut saw or a one
man crosscut saw about three feet long. Our only problems were when we
went over to camp for a weekend, we had to spend the first day cutting
wood and the second day hunting. We never got very far ahead with our
woodpile. We would cut trees one to two feet in diameter. At the back
corner of the cabin there was a gully that went up the hill but it
never had any water in it's six foot deep depression. After we cut the
trees into chunks we would roll them over to the gully and start them
down the hill. They would bound up in the air and sometimes jump out
of the gully where trees would halt their flight. They would go about
40 feet and then we would start them out again. At the bottom they
would be traveling quite fast so we made a barricade of chunks about
the size of a cord of wood, to protect the cabin. It was an easy way
to get the wood down the hill and the chunks ended up right by our
wood pile for splitting. We would cut the basswood chunks about a foot
long as it was a very straight wood, soft and wonderful to split for
kindling. I would sit on one chunk of wood and split another with my
scout hatchet. It would split almost down to the size of a pencil and
I always kept a big pile of it to start fires with. When we were
cutting down trees we would put all the brush into piles so that there
would be places for the rabbits to hide. When we were hunting rabbits,
we could kick the pile with our foot and scare them out. We had a
basswood tree with a nest of honey Bees in a hole about 10 feet up the
trunk. One day when it was about zero degrees out, we cut the tree
down and when it hit the ground the bees flew up in the air about ten
feet before the cold got them and they fell to the ground. We got out
all the beeswax comb and took it back to the cabin and made honey.

On top of the hill in back of the cabin there were a lot of open
fields and in one we found a big old wagon wheel that we could roll
way up to the top and start it down into the open fields. It would
roll a long way before it came to the woods. Next time we came up we
would bring it with us. Sometimes we would carry our skis with us
about two miles up the hill and then ski down criss cross all the way
back to the cabin. Once I was sitting on top of a brush lot hunting
fox and I heard a noise behind me. I turned around very slowly and
there were three deer eating grass about ten feet behind me! One
moonlit night at midnight we went up there and sat watching for foxes
to cross the open field. With the moon light on the snow you can see
for a long ways and it was very quiet. It is amazing how you can do
something like that just once in your life and never forget it--the
sight, sound and feeling. I can close my eyes right now and see those
open fields and trees just as clearly as fifty seven years ago.

We did not have anti-freeze for the car in those days. We put alcohol
in the radiator to be safe at about zero degrees. You couldn't put
anymore than that because every time the car got warm it would boil
over. On very cold nights we would drain the radiator into a large pan
and take it into the cabin. One night it went down to 26 degrees below
zero and I believe that is still the record for this area. We took the
mattress off the other bed and put it over us and a big wooden chair
on top of that to keep it from sliding off. Clarence always got up
first in the morning and I still hear him crumpling newspapers to
start the fire again if it was out. We had a trap line to see to as we
were leaving home later in the day. I put on every piece of clothing I
could find and was so stiff I could hardly walk. We had to go around
the whole line and spring the traps as we would not be back for a
week. We then put the anti-freeze on the stove and melted it as we had
left it outside all night and it was frozen. We put it back in the
radiator and headed home.

Halfway down the road into Berby Hollow was an old dirt road to the
right that went along the hill through the woods. It crossed a deep
gully with a sharp S turn and crossed an old wooden bridge. Just on
the other side was an old abandoned house whose basement windows were
covered by iron bars. It was all grown up with brush and vines and we
speculated that slaves or prisoners had been kept there in the
basement. It was a very interesting spot to a boy. Near the back of
this house we found the remains of an old wooden railway track. It
went from the top of the bank alongside a deep gulley and down to the
creek in Berby Hollow. The ties and rails all made of wood and rails
were about 18 inches apart. It was very steep and ended at the top of
a cliff down by the creek. We never did find out what it was used for.
It was still recognizable as a track however. It may have been used to
get logs down to the creek and a sawmill when the water was high
enough.

We had a 22 rifle that was probably purchased in the 1920s by one of
my brothers. When he needed money he sold it to another brother for $1
less than he paid for it. Whenever the owner needed money, he would
sell it again with the one dollar loss. I finally bought it for $5 and
still have it. It is a very good gun and shoots straight. I used it to
hunt woodchucks for many years up to the 1960s when I hunted with
Harold Kennedy and Brownie. It is the rifle I taught Lynn to shoot
with.

My time at Berby was from age 9 to the end of high school in 1935.
After that I used to go there with the fellows I played ball with and
we would have parties and go hunting. After high school I never spent
a night there. When I was in the Air Corps, Clarence and Gordon sold
the camp for $1000. If I had been home at that time I think I would
have bought it. It would make a beautiful summer camp even today.
Goodbye to a lot of good times.


Chapter 3 School Years

School Years

I started school in 1923 and went to the Adelaide Avenue School for
grades 1 to 3. I attended the old Union School, where the YMCA is now
located, for grades 4 through 8. I attended High School at the Academy
on North Main Street. My first two years of high school were
uneventful. In my Junior year Ken Montanye and I were on the baseball
team and from then on all we could think about was baseball. Ken was
so crazy about playing that he would stay for practice after school
and then have to walk all the way home to Cheshire.

Being able to run so fast, I might have been very good on the track
team or at soccer. All the meets would come on the same day so I had
to choose just one and baseball was my choice. One time they needed
someone to run the hundred yard dash in the sectional meet at Geneva.
as there was no baseball game that day, they showed me how to use the
starting block and away we went! I came in third place about three
feet behind the winner so there is no telling what I could have done
with training and practice.

Clarence bought me a cloth jacket and I wore it all four years of high
school. By the time I graduated the cuffs and collar were almost worn
off. These were the years following the Depression and there was
little money for clothes. I remember getting my first suit for
graduation. It was Oxford Grey and cost $26. I bought it myself and
made the mistake of getting it too small and it was outgrown in about
a year.

The boy next door and I would walk to school together and had one
thing we loved to do. We would save firecrackers from the Fourth of
July and in the winter time, going up Main Street, we would put a
firecracker in a snowball, light it, throw it up in the air over the
kids walking on the other side of the street. We were real proud
because we were the only ones with firecrackers. We also would build
forts of snow in the lot behind our house and then put firecrackers in
snowballs and throw them into the front of the enemy's fort, trying to
blow it down. We were just lucky that no one ever got hurt during
these pranks.

I never had to much homework in school because I could remember
everything I read. History dates and Chemistry formulas were easy for
me although sometimes I didn't know what they meant. English, math and
algebra were almost impossible for me and I barely passed. I got only
52 in Latin and didn't know why anyone would take that subject anyway.

I had a small part in the Senior Play and the night before the
performance the male lead came down with acute appendicitis and went
to the hospital. They wanted someone else in the play to take his
place and they would prompt him from side stage. I knew all his lines
by heart and I could have played the part with no prompting at all.
But, to my utter dismay, the hero had to kiss the heroine!! She
naturally was the prettiest little girl in the whole school. I
realized that kissing her would be a whole lot different than playing
baseball and I couldn't take the chance. Imagine turning down the
chance of the lead in the Senior Play for a stupid reason like that!
Three or four years later I began to notice girls and wished that I
had taken the lead part.

In 1936 I took a post graduate year just so I could play baseball
another year. Ken Montanye was in his senior year so he would be
playing too. I hadn't decided what kind of work I was going to do, so
thought that I might as well go to school. I took just morning
subjects, Physics and Chemistry because I liked the teacher so well. I
had gotten 91 in Chemistry my Senior year and took it over again to
try to raise my mark. When I took the Regents Exam at the end of the
year, they gave you three hours to do the exam. The Chemistry and
Physics exams were both the same afternoon. I completed both in 1 1/2
hours before anyone else had finished even one. I got 96 in Chemistry
and 99 in Physics. This was about the only good thing I did in high
school.

On St. Patrick's Day in 1936 we had a very bad ice storm and the big
trees in our front yard were hit hard. Big limbs about one foot in
diameter were coming down. They sounded just like cannon shots and
kept us awake most of the night. One big limb was laying across the
roof and we had to get up there and saw it in pieces and patch the
hole in the ridge. Every time I go by the house I can still see the
indentation in the ridge of the roof where the tree hit 50 years ago.
The winter pear tree in the side yard by the driveway is still there
and bears fruit as it did in the 1920s. There was no traffic on the
road during that storm as the roads were filled with trees. I started
for school with my lunch bag in hand, and going up Main Street the
only place to walk was about six feet wide in the center. I got almost
to the Academy when I met kids coming back who were saying there was
no school. I started for home and stopped at the bridge over Sucker
Brook on Chapen Street. I went down under the bridge and ate my lunch.
My father and brother spent the next three days cutting up the trees
in our front yard. We kept warm because of the coal furnace but had no
electricity for days.

I still believe that we had more snow in those days than we do now.
One time we made a tunnel out from the back door about fifteen feet
before we got into the open and used it that way until it melted.
Another time Jack VanBrooker's car was stuck up on Thad Chapin and the
next day we went up to look for it digging holes in the snow until we
found the roof. My lunch time during my Senior year was an hour long
and I would run all the way from the high school to the west end of
Chapin Street, get a sandwich and run back to school. I ran down Main
Street and cut through Wilcox Lane, near where the Palmers lived,
across the railroad tracks and through the swamp where the Elementary
School was eventually built, then over Pearl Street. It was almost two
miles each way so if I had been on the track team I would have done
well. That swampy area below the tracks had enough water in it in the
winter time to make a hockey rink if you didn't mind a few bushes
growing up here and there. I was on a hockey team and played there a
couple of winters. Sometimes we would also play hockey on the lake by
Kershaw Park.


Chapter 4 After School 1936-1940

After High School 1936-1940

During the summer of 1936 I tried working as a grocery clerk on Main
Street. The people who traded there were mostly Italians and most
spoke very little English, so I couldn't understand them. At that time
you had to get each item for the customer and after two days of trying
to figure out what they wanted I was so nervous that I had to quit.
Then I went to work for my father in the painting business. My first
job was painting a wooden railing down to the lake at a cottage on the
West Lake Road. I started out at fifty cents per hour. My father used
to take all the jobs, arrange the work and do the collection. We had a
very good line of customers and in all the years I worked with him, we
only had one customer who refused to pay all of his bill.

About 1937 Dorothy was working for a state official as a secretary, in
Hornell, New York and she had a 1929 Ford coupe that she wanted to
sell. She and Barney had been married and they didn't need two cars.
They were living in an upstairs apartment and Barney had started
working as a plumber for the man in the lower apartment who ran a
plumbing business. My mother bought the car for me for $50.00 and I
went to Hornell to get the car. I had just got my drivers license and
driving alone for the first time I didn't dare stop the car on the way
home. I just slowed down a little at intersections and I remember
making a right turn in Dansville through a red light as I didn't dare
stop. I soon got used to the car and admired the rumble seat in the
back. Ray Smith and I used this car to go to all our baseball games
and take our dates to all the square dances. I named the car "Little
Eva".

We went to square dances every Saturday night at Baptist Hill,
Cheshire, Bristol Springs, Honeoye or Atlanta. I didn't know a thing
about dancing so the first date I took to the dance, I had several
drinks and they pushed me out on the floor keeping me there until I
learned how. Ray Smith didn't drive and he was always getting me blind
dates so he could have a ride. I went with a lot of girls-Althea
Treble and Rosemary Schmuck from Honeoye, Barbara Sherman from
Gainsville, Julie Jones from Bristol, and Earnestine Fairbrothers (get
that name) from Atlanta, New York. For about six months I went with a
beautiful girl, Ruth Richardson from Woodville. She was so pretty I
guess I was lucky to have gone with her that long. These dances were
all in the winter time and we had to ride four in the front seat of
the car. We went to a lot of movies too, in Rochester and Geneva.

I played baseball for several years with Ken Montanye, Skip Dewey, Ray
Smith and Len Pierce. I played for the Cheshire team and the
Canandaigua town team. It was called semi-pro ball and we played teams
from all around this area. The only one that got paid was the pitcher.
They had a try-out camp for the Red Wings for three days at Red Wing
Stadium in Rochester. Ken and I signed up for it and we lasted two
days before being eliminated. Some of the pitchers were so fast I
could hardly see the ball go by. I wish that I had been six feet tall
and weighed more because I really wanted to be a baseball player.

It was during these years that Len Pierce and I became good friends.
When we played for the Cheshire ball team we would hang out a lot at
the barber shop in Cheshire. They had two pool tables and a coal stove
at the back of the shop with chairs around it. We used to get warm in
winter while waiting for a haircut or the chance to play pool. The
barber was John Johnson, an older man with white hair. We got a
haircut for $.25 and I went there for several years.

The gang used to hang out at Chase's Ice Cream Store on South Main
Street several evenings a week. We ate a lot of ice cream and sundaes.
Sometimes around 1938 I sold "Little Eva" and bought a 1935 Ford coupe
that used to belong to a dentist. The finish was so dull from sitting
out in the sun behind his office that I polished it for about a month
before I got it to shine well. There were about six of us who went to
all the square dances together every Saturday night. We would buy a
half gallon of wine and at the dance we would set the jug on the hood
of the car and keep running out to it for drinks. Nobody ever touched
our bottles--probably didn't care for our cheap wine.

One day in 1938 when we came home from work we found my mother
standing on the back porch with her head jerking and she was unable to
talk. We called the doctor and he said she was having a stroke. We had
no idea how long she had been like this, unable to call for help. She
was paralyzed in the right arm completely and partially in the right
leg. Her speech was affected a little. In those days there was no kind
of rehabilitation so she was unable to do any work. My father had to
continue working so we hired a housekeeper to come in days to do the
cooking and housekeeping. I can imagine what this did to my mother,
having a stranger doing all the things she had done for so many years.
I am not sure as to how many months she lived before she had the
second stroke, which was fatal. She never did go to the hospital
because doctors made house calls in those days. We had a Dr. Stetson
and he would walk right in the house without knocking and sit down at
the dining room table and visit with everyone before he would see the
one who was sick. I suppose with a family of nine children he made
enough visits to feel like one of the family.

After having the stroke, my mother slept in a downstairs bedroom and
my father would sit by the bed in a rocking chair and hold my mother's
hand. He slept in the chair and still worked every day. In my memory
this will always be the perfect definition of love. It must have been
wonderful for them to have a relationship filled with such love. At
this time, my mother, dad and I were the only ones living at home.

My mother's funeral was held at home in the front room which was
called the parlor in those days. It was a common practice to hold
funeral services in the home at that time. As I was 19 years old,
playing baseball, working and in love with the girl next door, the
full impact of my mother's death did not hit me until years later.
Like I suppose everyone else feels, I now regret not doing more for my
mother to have made her life more enjoyable and easier for her.

When I was in high school I went to a Dr. Brockmayer who had an office
on Chapin Street almost down to Main St. His office was in his house,
in the front room. The charge was either a dollar or two. He had a
large roll top desk with a bushel basket beside it. When anyone paid,
he would throw the money into the basket. I can still see that basket
about half full of $1 bills.

After my mother died, my father and I tried having a housekeeper but
that didn't last long and we decided to keep house for ourselves. Dad
did the cooking and as near as I can remember we ate pork chops and
canned peaches most of the time. I did the washing and ironing and I
could do the shirts quite well. My father had a big oak roll top desk
he used for all his book-keeping. He saved dimes in a codfish box with
a slot in the cover. He nailed the cover on so he wouldn't use them
before it was full. He couldn't resist knowing how much he had so
every few days he would pull the nails out and count it. I remember
one day he was sitting at the desk with one of those little rubber
bladed defroster fans that they used to put in the rear window of
cars. He was trying to fix it and he plugged it into the outlet. It
ran like hell for a few minutes before it burned out the motor. It
surprised him so he dropped it like a hot potato.

About 1937, a couple of years after high school, Skip Dewey, Ray Smith
and I went to Florida for two weeks. We went in Skip's car which used
a lot of oil so we carried a case of oil in the trunk and would stop a
couple of times a day to add more. We rented a small cabin in Ft.
Lauderdale and stayed for a week. We didn't do much while there except
lay on the beach and watch the girls. At that time there wasn't much
else to do as it wasn't developed the way it is now. As I recall it
only cost each of us $75 for the two week trip. On the way home I
remember one morning on the road through Georgia when we passed an old
shack occupied by a black family. The fields were white with frost and
a little boy in a white nightgown was running through the field to the
outhouse way out in the back.

We stopped late one night in Pennsylvania to put more oil on the car
and it would not pour out of the can. We had intended to spend the
night in a nearby town with Skip's brother so we just drove the rest
of the way. When we arrived we found out that it was 15 degrees below
zero and that was why the oil would not pour!

My mother died in 1938 and the following winter my dad and I went to
Florida for two weeks. We stayed in a tourist home in Orlando and
drove around the state to places of interest. I was in love with the
girl next door at the time and couldn't wait to get home. I probably
made my father come back sooner than he would have liked for that
reason. However, when I got home, she had become engaged to someone
else and they eventually married. Oh--such is life! We drove all the
way to Florida and back and only made one wrong turn. That was in
Dansville, New York and so close to home that it didn't make any
difference.

When Gordon returned from Nebraska, he started painting by himself. I
never knew why, but he always worked alone and had his own line of
customers. When work was hard to get just after the depression in the
early 1930's, Leon got a job as a painter at Brigham Hall. He worked
all his years there, for low wages, just for job security. He built a
house on Chapin Street just across from our house. We dug the
foundation with a scoop pulled by Clarence's panel bodied truck and a
chain. We also used a wheelbarrow and shovels. He put up a ready-cut
house from Sears and Roebuck that cost $4,500. All the pieces came cut
and numbered, with instructions to tell you how to put it together. He
hired one carpenter and all of us boys to help him. This must have
been in the early thirties and the house is still a nice looking one.
Last year I noticed that they put on vinyl siding. Leon had to sell it
years later for financial reasons and has had to rent since that time
as he never made enough money to buy again.

Dad, Clarence and I painted together and my father arranged all the
work and did the collecting. Clarence did most of the high work and
Dad did the open places as he was a fast painter. I did the windows
and became good at it. We worked together well by each doing what he
could do best. That saved time and money. When my father was in his
70's he could spread more paint than the rest of us, although he began
to miss spots when his eye sight was beginning to go. My uncles Jim
and Ed were in the painting business also; Uncle Ed wore a tie and a
celluloid collar all his life, even when painting in hot weather. His
wife did all the book keeping for him.

In 1939 my father married my Aunt Constance and I guess he thought she
was like my mother. She was just the opposite and I don't think my
father enjoyed life as much after that. He worked right up until his
death at age 75. He used to get up with the sun and work in the Garden
or mow the lawn until it was time to go to work. He was a very good
bowler and traveled to cities in the area to bowl for money. I recall
one time when he won $100 in Auburn. One time he and Leon went with a
team to bowl in the national tournament in Chicago. When he married
again I moved out of the house and rented a room on South Main Street,
staying there about a year before moving to another place just below
Clark Street on Main. I also lived there about a year.

There was a diner next to where I was living--one of those diners made
from an old trolley car--and I ate my meals there for two years. I got
to know them so well that I would just walk in the diner, tell them I
wanted dinner, and they would fix me a plate. I never did know what I
would be getting until it was in front of me. On the nights I was
going to square dances I would tell them to give me fried foods so the
alcohol would not give me too much of a hangover. The food was good
and they gave you a lot of it. In the winter I remember the windows
being all frosted over and you couldn't see in or out.

I rented a garage just around the corner on Clark Street where I kept
my car. One night after going to a Saturday night dance, I put the car
in the garage. The next morning when I went to get it I noticed it had
a flat tire. The garage floor was dirt and the wheels were down in
hollows. The snow had melted off the car and all four wheels were
frozen in the ice in the hollows. It was such a narrow garage I had to
back the car out to change the tire. It was frozen so solid I had to
get the jack out and put it from the bumper to the front of the garage
and jack it backwards to get it loose. Not too easy when you have a
hangover! Sundays I would get together with a couple of friends and we
would ride to Bristol or around the lake and go to a movie in the
evening. We were riding around the lake and parked somewhere up the
East Lake Road on December 7, 1941 when we heard on the radio that
Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

Sometime during 1941 I went to Rochester to find another car and found
a 1936 Pontiac that looked almost new for $450. My old car was using a
lot of oil and I had it parked in front of the used car lot. When the
dealer was checking out my car for trade in value, I was hoping he
would not start it up because when you did so the smoke was so thick
you'd hardly see the car! I was lucky and made a deal. I had to drive
back to Canandaigua for the money and once again to Rochester to close
the deal. Just on that one trip I had to add four quarts of oil. Good
thing it lasted the trip as the Pontiac was a real nice car.

In the fall of 1941 we had very little work and it was time for me to
find work somewhere else. I had been called by Uncle Sam, had my
physical and reported to the draft board. I was classified 4-F due to
flat feet and a hernia (which I still have and was never bothered by).
I wanted to be in service somewhere and so I went to Rochester and
tried to join the Marines or the Navy. I even tried to get into the
ambulance corps. With my 4-F status I couldn't get into anything. I
borrowed $10 from my father and applied at about ten places in
Rochester. This was the only time in my life that I borrowed money
except for when I bought a car or house.

During this time some of my friends were entering the service. This
was between Pearl Harbor and April of 1942. Pete Lenzi decided to
hitch-hike to California and, if he couldn't find work, to join the
Marines. He took one suitcase and I gave him a ride as far as Avon,
letting him out at the statue in the center of the village. I'll write
more about Pete later. Ken Montanye entered the army and we had a big
party for him at the camp in Berby Hollow. Len Pierce also joined up
about a month before I did.

In December of 1941 I got a reply from my application at Kodak and
went in for an interview. I got a job at Kodak Park and was one of the
first three hired for a new product. Ray Smith was hired soon after I
was. The whole building where we worked was empty except for the three
of us and a boss. Kodacolor film was being put on the market and the
building was being set up for developing and printing. The first few
weeks I spent polishing the reclaiming tanks on the ground floor.
After the first month I had fourteen men working under me so it was a
good opportunity for me. If I hadn't been drafted then, there is no
telling how far I might have gone. When the film started coming in Ray
Smith was working on the floor above me and I was in charge of the
basement. By March things were really busy, and then, even though I
was 4-F, they called me for the draft. I was glad to go, but now
realize what a great opportunity I missed.

When I started working at Kodak, Ray Smith and I with another
friend, Kippy Oskamp, who also worked in Rochester,
rented an apartment on Alexander Street across from the Genesee
Hospital. During the week I parked my car in a large old
building in the area and they took the cars up an elevator to
the top floors. It used to be an old flour mill and every
Friday night I would get the car to go home for the weekend. It
would be almost totally white from the remains of the flour in
the building so I had to wash the car every weekend. We rode
the bus to and from Kodak daily. We had to go up a stairway
inside the apartment and were to be very quiet. One night some
of the boys from home had a party. When they left we carried
out a large bag of bottles and cans, the bottom gave out at
about the top step and the entire contents clattered down the
stairwell at two a.m. Needless to say, we were asked to move
soon there after.

Kip Oskamp went into the Air Force ( a bombardier, I believe
and his plane went down in the Japanese war...he was missing in
action) so Ray Smith and I rented a room in a house on a small
street in Greece NY which was nearer to Kodak. The owners name
was Riley and now they live in the same trailer park in Florida
as Ray. We worked different shifts so when we worked the noon
to 8 pm shift we couldn't go downtown after work as the buses
didn't run after 10 pm so we couldn't see any movies. We spent
a lot of time sleeping. My car was still over by Alexander
Street and I only got it on weekends. I remember standing out
on the corner during the winter in a blizzard waiting for a bus
to go to work. It was snowing so hard you couldn't see the bus
until it was 20 feet away. I ate at the cafeteria at work and
on the way home I would stop at the White Tower to get a bowl
of soup.

The houses on Shady Lane were all the same and one night after
midnight Ray Smith came home and went in the side door.
The bathroom was just inside and there he was sitting on the
john with the door open. You can imagine his embarrassment
when the stranger indicated he was in the wrong house. It was
a wonder the owner didn't shoot him as a burglar. I guess they
changed the lock after finding out that the keys fit both
houses.

At this time I was making $26 a week, renting a room,
making car payments, and had enough left to run around with on
weekends. It was in March or April that I received my draft
notice. The day I left Rochester it snowed two feet and I had
to shovel snow for hours to get my car out. I drove to
Canandaigua and left all of my things with my father. I left
the car with a friend who worked at a gas station down by the
lake and he stored it in his barn. I owed some on it but they
couldn't collect from you while you were in the service.
After I was in the army about a year, I wrote to him and told
him to let it go back to the finance company. I don't know why
I didn't keep it or at least let someone in the family finish
the payments. It was a very good Pontiac and I didn't owe more
than a couple hundred dollars on it. In the service you soon
got the feeling that your chances of living through the war
were pretty slim.


Chapter 5 In Training

I entered the service on April 15, 1942. We left early in the morning
from the railroad depot in Canandaigua for Rochester where we went
through the induction center on State Street. From there we left for
Ft. Niagara near Buffalo. It was still cold weather and they drilled
us on the parade grounds in heavy army overcoats. One day I had a
terrible headache and every step I took marching made it hurt more.
They asked for volunteers to take a test for the Air Corps so I
volunteered just to got out of marching. I had such a headache that I
didn't think I did very well on the test. If I hadn't had that
headache my war years would have been entirely different.

The first three or four days I wondered what I had gotten myself into
and would have given anything to have been able to have gotten out.
That soon passed and the rest of the time I wouldn't have missed the
experience for anything. We were only at Ft. Niagara for about a week
before being sent by train to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This is
where we were to take a 13 week training in field artillery. We
trained for the 105 gun which was medium size, the shell being about
five inches in diameter and about eighteen inches long. We would haul
it around on a truck and set it up at a gun emplacement. The first
time we shot it there were several officers there and the target was
on a hillside about a quarter mile away. We fired the gun and watched
for the hit. Nothing happened and we just stood waiting. We never did
find out where it went. After the officers left we had a good laugh!

The land there was red sand and the trees mostly pine. It was very hot
and muggy as we were there in June, July and August. We wore one piece
coveralls and every time we got back to the barracks we would step in
the shower with our clothes on and would dry off in about 10 minutes.
We had to got up at 5:30 am and pick up all the cigarette butts and
papers on the grounds before breakfast. This was loads of fun when it
was raining... We spent most of our time in marching drills, rifle
range, obstacle course and 1earning., about the big gun. The drill
sergeants were mean, miserable and yelled at us all the time. They
yelled at me continually for being out of step while marching. I
couldn't figure out why because I was always in step. After 13 weeks,
I could have easily killed both of them.

The obstacle course was about a mile long through woods, gullies and
across water. I had such a competitive spirit that I would run the
whole route and try to finish first. Some guys would walk, take short
cuts and really goof off. It didn't seem to make any difference how
you did it, but I still ran all the way.

The food was not too good and I especially
remember when they served spare ribs. We sat seven to a table and if
the bowl started at the other end of the table by the time it got to
the last person there would only be bones 1eft. The PX did a big
business selling candy bars in the  evenings. I remember one time my
stepmother sent me a package of goodies. She put in some pickled
seckle pears and just wrapped them in wax paper. The entire package
was a squashed mess smelling of vinegar.

We were not allowed off the base during this period. When we had
Saturday afternoon and Sunday off we wrote 1etters home did laundry
and rested. I finally had time to make friends, especially with the
men in my barracks. There was one man from Canandaigua and several
from Buffalo, Syracuse and western New York. You can make good friends
in a short time when you are that far from home. Ray Smith was in the
Army too and I kept in touch with him even though we moved around a
lot. We used to write gooey love letters to each other saying how much
we missed each other. I took pictures and the ones that were so black
they were nearly blank I sent to him "with love" It is a good thing no
one saw those letters or they surely would have thought we were gay.
(It is interesting that I never did run into any of that type in the
service) There were all types of men in this outfit and they were from
all over the east coast. Some couldn't read or write and one was
straight out of the Kentucky backwoods. It made you wonder how they
were taken into the service. There was one, Cliff Boll, who could
neither read nor write so he got several of us to write his letters to
his girlfriend. He was a real character so we wrote torrid love
letters and included all the fantastic things he was doing. When he
got a letter from her, we would all gather around and read it to him.
I often wonder what happened when he went home on leave. I was
accustomed to writing a lot of letters an I wrote to my dad, four
sisters and three brothers. I also wrote to Duke and Mabel Montanye
and Mabel's letters back were the longest of any I received. She would
write about everyone in Cheshire, especially the Bunnell boys, who
were always getting into trouble. Their barn burnt down, the house
burnt down, the tractor tipped over and they would wreck cars. When I
read her letters, all the guys in the barracks would gather round and
I would read them aloud. Just like a serial on TV. Mabel wrote long
letters in such a delicate hand that it must have taken her forever,
but she wrote every month.

Marion Bunnell was in the service and he was home on leave when he ran
into a wooden guard rail on the curve south of Cheshire and the rail
went through the windshield. He was hit in the head and should have
died, but after much surgery he survived. He was left retarded and was
given a 100% disability from the government. I can't remember the
year, but soon after the war Al Bunnell and another guy held up a bank
in Rochester and were chased all the way-back to Canandaigua before
the police caught them down on Coach Street. He spent several years in
prison.

During training while loading the logs that braced the big guns, I
broke a finger on my right hand and consequently had difficulty doing
my laundry and writing letters. The medics put a splint of two tongue
depressors on it and I still have one knuckle that doesn't bond.
Sometimes at night we would have an alert drill and drive all the
vehicles from the motor pool into the pine woods. Sometimes I would
have to drive one of the big personnel carriers and I would grab
blankets or anything big to put behind me so could reach the floor
pedals. We drove without lights up steep banks and around curves in
that deep sand. It was pitch dark and quite an experience. Then we
would stop grab our gas masks and run into the woods as far as we
could  and lay on the ground. We were supposed to put our gas masks
on, but we  never did.

One day I was laying in my bunk looking at my gas mask hanging on the
wall and decided to get it down and see if it fit. it was filled
solid  with cockroaches! Guess what would have happened I had put it
on out  there in the dark in the woods some night! The washroom had a
cement  floor and when we went in there at night We would turn on the
lights  and wait for the cockroaches to disappear. The boy from the
Kentucky  hills spent all his extra time doing laundry for others for
a small fee  and we all thought he was just too stupid to know any
better. At the  end of the 13 weeks, however, we were given a three
day pass. Nobody  had any money except the hillbilly and he went home
for the three days and really lived it up. Sometimes the brains are
not where they think  they are. I used my three days to visit Ken
Montanye who was at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina. We met in a small
dusty Southern town  halfway in between and stayed in a tourist home.
There was nothing to  do in the little town so we just visited and
walked the streets. I  traveled by Greyhound bus and it was so crowded
I had to stand up in  front next to the driver. When I arrived back at
base they were getting  ready to ship the men out to their next
outfits. I received a letter  telling me that I had passed the test
for the Air Corp and the company  commander told me to stay there and
not leave with the rest.

The camp was empty for a week except for the sergeants who were
instructors and myself. I did KP duty and cleaned barracks until the
next group arrived. The next thirteen weeks I spent working around
the  base and when they went an maneuvers I drove the supply truck. We
would  go ahead about ten miles and I would set up the officer's tent,
Wood  floor and cots. The new group would hike the ten miles and pitch
their  pup tents. I Just crawled under a truck and slept in the sand.
Sometimes during this period I got a pass and went down to Ft.
Jackson  and stayed a few days with Ken in his barracks. Nobody knew
what to do  with me so they just gave me jobs and I had my share of
washing pots  and pans and peeling potatoes.

When this group shipped out, I got an order to see the camp
commander,  a colonel. I didn't know what to expect but found out that
I had been  listed as AWOL for the prior three months as they couldn't
find me. I  was supposed to be at home waiting for them to call me!
This is the way  everything went for me in the service. I could have
been home living on  that big $21 a month and not doing all the dirty
work. My orders  finally came and I went to Nashville, Tenn. by
myself, probably by  train to the classification center. At the center
we had three days of  intensive tests of all kinds to find out what we
were best qualified  for: navigator, bombardier or pilot. Naturally,
everyone was hoping for  pilot.

The tests were from morning till night and covered everything from
physicals, eye, hearing and coordination to reaction time. The test
for  depth perception was particularly interesting. At the end of a
long  tunnel about a foot in diameter and dimly lit were two wooden
pegs. You  had to pull them with strings until they were opposite each
other.  Another one involved a board in front of you while you sat at
a desk  and the board had little red lights with switches below them.
When a  light came on, you had to turn the switch off and you had to
move  quickly to keep up. Another was a small hole in a board with a
wooden  peg that would just go in without touching the sides. While
you held  the peg there, the instructor, Wolfgang Loganowiche ( I
remember him  well and later read somewhere that he was a famous
German scientist and  inventor) would yell and holler at us. He had a
tremendous loud voice  and would sometimes sneak up behind you, yell,
wave his arms and stomp  his feet. Ht would scare the daylights out of
you and every time you  moved the peg would hit the sides and the loud
buzzer would go off.

We also had written tests with a time limit so we had to work fast. I
used to skip all the math problems as I was so bad in math. I didn't
realize until later that it was a good thing I skipped the math as
the  men who were good at it probably got sent to bombardier or
navigator  training. Of course we really wanted to be pilots instead.
The notices  were posted after three days and we were about worn out
from the long  days of testing. I was lucky to be chosen for pilot
training. This was  where I got used to standing in line and waiting.
We had to wait in  line to get our issue of Air Corps uniforms and I
stood in line from  8:00 am until almost 4:OO pm for my clothes. We
couldn't get out of  line to get any dinner as we would lose our
place. I now had all my  army clothes as well as my Air Corps cloths
and everywhere I went I had  to make two trips carrying my barracks
bags. When I got to my next  base, I either sent my Army clothing home
or turned them in. I can't  recall which.

We were next sent by troop train to Maxwell Field in Alabama.
Somewhere  on the trip we had to get off the train and spend the night
in the  train station in one of those little southern towns. It was
cold so we  made a mountain of barracks bags in the waiting room and
then we  climbed up on them and tried to sleep. We arrived at Maxwell
in  September and trained there through November. The first few weeks
were  just like college with hazing and all that by the upper
classman. We  had to sit at attention in the dining room and eat with
our eyes  straight ahead and our shirt buttons touching the table. You
couldn't  look at your plate so really didn't get much to eat. It was
probably  just as well because later we had a Sunday dinner with half
a chicken  each. The chicken was a green color and when I lifted a
wing the  feathers were stil1 there. Needless to say, most everyone
got up and  left.

These three months were about the hardest I experienced. I used to be
the first one up in our barracks at 4:30 am and got everyone else up.
It was nice to get to wash and shave before the others made it
crowded.  It was just like going to college and they told us it was
the  equivalent of two years of college. Besides getting up at 4:30 am
we  had classes all day and homework until 11:00 pm. We had classes
in  airplane engines, theory of flight, math, physics, and similar
subjects. During the evenings I helped others with physics and they
helped me with the math. I was 27 years old at this time and older
than  most of the others. I was always happy and cheerful in the
morning and  got everyone off to a good start.

Some of the math problems were very difficult. If you took off from
an  aircraft carrier at a certain compass heading and flew at another
heading to the target, what compass heading would you take to return
to  the carrier if it had also changed to a different heading? You had
to  also take into consideration your air speed and the wind
direction.  Bomber pilots had a navigator to tell them where to go and
a bombardier  to drop the bombs. A fighter pilot had to learn all of
these things as  he was up there all alone. We worked like this for
three months and it  was tough.

I found out that Red Hayes from Bristol Valley was a sergeant
mechanic  there at Maxwell Field. He used to go to all the Saturday
night square  dances and was a good friend of mine. He was married to
a southern girl  and lived off base in a nice brick house. Sometimes
on Sunday I would  go out to their house for a southern fried chicken
dinner with pecan  pie. One time another service man and I went to
church there. I don't  know what denomination it was but the minister
would rant and rave and  wave his arms for about three minutes then
they would take up a  collection. After about ten collections we were
out of money so got up  and left.

Even though we were being trained to be pilots, we still didn't know
whether we would be fighter, bomber, transports glider or even a
"wash  out" (the term for not qualifying). At any time during training
you  could be sent to something else if they decided you wouldn't make
it as  a pilot. In most cases you would be sent to navigator or
bombardier  school. After graduating from Maxwell, I was sent to
Primary training  at Orangeburg, South Carolina. Every time we made a
few friends we  would be sent to different places and have to start an
once again. At Orangeburg we were a small group and this is where we
saw our first  airplanes. They were P17's, a biplane. Things began to
get a little  easier for us here and the food got much better. The
only discipline we  got here was the GIGS we got for anything wrong
that we did, like  getting in late at night or not being in the right
place on time. For  each GIG we had to carry a rifle and march around
the square in the  center of the base for one hour, usually at night
as you were too busy  during the day. I had to do this several times
myself.

We were allowed off bass on our free time and it was about five miles
to the small city of Orangeburg. There was a man who drove his car
and  would take six or seven guys at a time at $2 a piece, and he
would just  drive back and forth all day and most of the night. I
don't know when  he ever slept but he must have made a fortune during
the war. When we  didn't have the money we would jump on the freight
train that went  right by the main gate. It was an uphill grade and
the train was so  slow that we could hang on the ladders and steps if
a flat car was not  available. Five miles was not too long to hang on
the side of a car  which went to downtown Orangeburg. Sometimes we
would see a movie or go  to the service club which was in a large old
house. I used to dance  there with a little blond girl and when I went
to the next base she was  there also. I found out later they were
called camp followers and would  marry as many guys as they could and
have the men's army life insurance  put in their name. I never did go
off the base very much after we  started flying as that was the main
interest.

When our large group left Maxwell Field, we were divided up and sent
to  several of the smaller fields to start flying. Some of the friends
I  made there went all through the rest of the war with me. I can't
remember just when, but it was about this time that Lloyd Bruce from
Missouri and I became close friends and we were together the whole
way.  He was my wingman, we were both shot down on the same mission
and were  together in prison camp.

I was at Orangeburg from November 1942 until January 1943. We were
divided into groups of five students to each instructor. My
instructor  was Art Brewster and we got along fine. We had classes
studying  airplanes and motors and would fly for one hour a day. The
student rode  in the front seat and the instructor behind him. After
the first ride  he would let us do the takeoff and landing. In the air
sometimes he  would shut the motor off and it was up to you to figure
out which way  the wind was blowing and to find an open field in which
to land. You  needed to learn how to land on that field into the wind.
When you were  about ten feet off the ground he would start the engine
and back up  you'd go. You needed to be careful because if the field
was level and  your approach was right, he would let you land. You
never knew which  you'd have to do. When he stopped the motor you
could usually find the  wind direction by checking smoke from the
smokestacks or something like  that. Our days were easier as we would
wait around for our turn to fly.

The plane we were flying had an open cockpit and, as it was cold at
the  time, it was very cold up there some days. We had the leather
sheepskin  lined flying suit and it was very warm. On warmer days we
would just  wear underwear under the suit. After six hours of
instruction we were  ready to solo. It was quite an experience and
after you got up there  all you did was worry about getting down! I
had a bumpy landing but  soon got better at it. Some days for a whole
hour we would just take  off and land over and over again for
practice. After this we flew part  of the time alone and part of the
time with the instructor. This was  the period when the instructors
really washed out the ones they figured  would never be fighter pilots
and they were sent to other air corps  Jobs.

I loved doing acrobatics with the loops, spins, rolls and upside down
flying. My instructor took me up once and did an outside loop. I had
to  hang onto the iron bars in the cockpit and the blood all went to
the  top of your head. You would nearly pass out doing that one. He
also  showed me how to fly backwards. On a windy day you would slow
the  airplane down so it would just stay up and the wind would blow
you  backwards. You could look down and see the fields and buildings
all  going in the opposite direction.

One night we had to fly a triangle cross country course of about one
hours time. We had not done much flying at night and we took off at
intervals and started out all alone towards the first check point. I
missed the first checkpoint and finally realized I was lost. I didn't
know what to do so the first town I saw with enough lights, I flew
down  the middle of Main Street real low and got the name of the town
either  off the movie house or the bank and then looked it up on my
map. I was  way off course and had to figure my heading to the next
checkpoint. I  made it okay but was about a half hour overdue and they
thought I had  gone down. I didn't get reprimanded so I figure they
thought I had used  my head to solve my problem and did the right
thing.

Almost all of our flying here was takeoffs and landings and in the
air  we practiced spins, slow rolls, snap rolls, and figure eights to
get  the feel of the airplane and develop our control. It was hard to
get  the plane out of a tight spin but it was an important thing to
learn.  The planes that we later flew in California were notorious for
not  being able to get out of a spin. I had 60 hours of flying time
here and  in January of 1943 was graduated from primary training
school. We had  to fly with the commanding officer for our final test.
All five  students with our instructor passed but a lot of the others
didn't make  it. Three or four from each group were the average to
make it. We  really liked our instructor and it was hard to part from
him and go on  to the next school.

In February and March of 1943 we were at Gunter Field in Alabama for
our basic training. The airplane was the BT-13 with one wing and an
enclosed cockpit. It was bigger, more powerful and flew like a truck.
The controls were much harder to move but it was a safe plane to fly.
I  don't remember anyone crashing a plane in primary or basic
training. At  Gunter we started formation flying, night flying and
instrument flying.  My instructor here was R.E. Umbaugh and I had
thirty two hours flying  with him and forty two solo. When we were
flying solo in formation we  were now developing confidence and were
starting to do things like  flying close to the ground and chasing
each other around in the clouds.

We began doing more cross country flights to airports in the area.
Sometimes we flew with other students and the one in the rear seat
always flew the plane as that is where the instructor always sat. One
time I was flying with Bill Bell ( the son of the founder of Bell
Aircraft Inc. of Buffalo N.Y.) and he was flying the plane, with me
in  the front seat. When coming in for a landing he was going so slow
I  thought we were going to stall and crash. I yelled at him and
pushed  the stick forward and we landed okay. I was really scared and
told my  instructor I never wanted to fly with Bill again. He must
have agreed  with me because I never had to again.

During Basic training was our first experience with the Link Trainer.
It was a replica of the cockpit of an airplane and was used to learn
how to fly by instruments only. It operated about the same as the
"mechanical bull" they have in Western nightclubs now. It was
completely closed and dark with only the instruments lit up. It was
run  by a sergeant who would put it into a spin, upside down or any
dangerous situation and you had to get back to level flight again. It
was frightening and exactly like being in a plane in fog or a cloud.
Fifteen hours of Link Training were required in Basic, Advanced, all
my  flying in California, even in England while flying missions.

At the end of March 1943 I graduated from Basic and went to Advanced
Training at Napier Field in Alabama. We were beginning to know a lot
of  the other students and would stay together with them right on
through,  except for the ones who washed out. In Advanced we flew the
AT-6 which  was a faster plane and easier to fly. We had about the
same schedule at  this field flying one or two hours a day. There were
several small  level fields in the area that were used for practice
landing and  takeoffs. I had an Englishman for an instructor. After
the Americans  were flying out of England, some of the English pilots
who had flown a  lot of missions were sent to this country to be
instructors as we had a  shortage of them. Like school teachers, it
took a special kind of man  to be able to teach flying in a short
period of time. They had to have  a lot of nerve also to be able to
get out of the situations an  inexperienced student could get them
into! The one I had wasn't worth  much as he would fly to one of those
other fields and let me land and  then he would get out and stand
around smoking cigarettes for half an  hour. I was supposed to be
getting an hours instruction and I was  afraid I would be washed out.
I went to the commanding officer and  requested a change of
instructors and got it. Perhaps others had done  the same. I can't
remember the name of my new instructor but he was  tough and strict,
which was okay with me as then I knew I would learn  something.

We now started to practice landing on instrument only. The instructor
rode in the seat behind you in the AT-6 and when you were in the air
there was a black hood that you pulled over the front cockpit. The
instructor would then give you compass headings, height and speed and
you would follow his directions to approach the field. Following his
direction you would line up with the runway and begin coming down.
All  you could see were the instruments. If you were coming in
perfectly, he  would let you go ahead and land by yourself. On the
other hand, he  might take over the controls about 20 feet off the
ground and take you  up again. It was quite scary as you never know
whether you were going  to land or not. After we had the okay on these
daylight landings, we  were allowed to fly the planes alone at night.

The AT-6 was designed with places for machine guns in the wings and
we  were sent in groups to Elgin Field in Florida for gunnery
practice.  This was the field where General Jimmy Doolittle trained
his crew for  the bombing of Japan. They practiced for months at
bomber takeoff from a  field the same length as the deck of a carrier
which had never been  done. That was the only way they would be able
to reach Japan. We were  assigned there for about two weeks practicing
by shooting at ground  targets on a large restricted area. We didn't
do any shooting at  targets in the air, Just dove down shooting at the
ground. I recall it  being very hot and muggy there off the Gulf of
Mexico.

After returning to Napier Field we were nearing graduation time. We
had  now developed a lot of confidence in our flying and fooled around
when  flying without our instructors. We would fly very close together
and  tap our wingtips and the wing of the plane flying next to us.
Flying  close to the ground was fun also and gave you a better idea of
how fast  you were actually going than you had at high altitudes. In
Primary I  flew 60 hours, in Basic 72 hours, and in Advanced 97 hours
for a total  of 220 hours. There were about 250 of us in the class and
by that time  we had become acquainted with most everyone and close
friends with  many. We went all the way through combat with some of
those same  follows.

After our final flight with the commanding officer we were ready for
graduation. We then filled out forms giving our preference for the
type of flying we wanted. Just before graduation they put on an
airshow for our benefit. Little stunt planes would fly straight up and
all types of fighter planes did acrobatics and speed. Naturally we
almost all wanted to get into single engine fighters so that is what
we had listed on the forms. I don't remember much about graduation
except many of the fellows had their parents there. We were now second
lieutenants in the Army Air Force which was a wartime addition to the
regular U.S.  Air Force.

We received $250 in $50 bills to purchase our new officers uniforms,
lieutenants gold bars and our silver wings. We bought these clothes
on  the base and they were of wonderful material. After the war I wore
the  pants and shirts for years, and after they were too old, I wore
the  pants for hunting as they were very warm and wore like iron. I
still  have one of the wool shirts. We graduated at Napier Field on
May 28,  1943 and waited nervously to see the notice on the bulletin
board  telling us where we would go next. When they were finally
posted I got  fighter plane and was as happy as the others that did.
Some pilots went  to Twin Engine, Transport, Troop Carrier, Light
Bomber, Medium Bomber,  Dive Bomber, or Heavy Bomber. The poorest
fliers went to Piper Cubs and  flew observation over the battle lines
to direct the field artillery. I  am glad that I didn't go to Bomber
planes as they were sent to a field  in Alpena, Michigan and flew out
over Lake Michigan. We had to report  to the commander to receive our
active duty orders and my friends and I  were hoping we would go to
the same place.

I got my orders to report to Hamilton Field in California with a ten
day delay enroute. Naturally all the fighter pilots were split up now
as we were cut down to squadron size and sent to different bases
around  the U.S. A lot of my friends, however were assigned to the
same place.  Al Johnson, a big Swede from St. Paul Minnesota, was
going to Hamilton  and the last thing I said to him was " I'll meet
you in Cheyenne,  Wyoming and we'll go the rest of the way together.
We were to report to  the 380th squadron of the 363rd fighter group. A
group consisted of  three squadrons and I still know all the fellows
in the other squadrons  although we didn't fly together.

Now for my first visit home in fifteen months! The parents of B. Bell
of Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, had come to his graduation and I rode
home  with them. He was the one who almost crashed with me as a
passenger  back in training. He and I took turns driving and they took
me all the  way to Canandaigua. I was driving on a divided highway
somewhere in So.  Carolina when I was stopped for doing 35 in a 30 mph
zone. I was taken  before a judge and fined $10. Those rich Bell's
didn't offer to pay it.  It really made me mad to get fined for only 5
mph over the speed limit  as I hadn't been home in a year and a half.

I can't remember much about my leave at home, but I must have spent
it  visiting with all the ones who did not go in the service. I had a
good  visit with the Montanyes and Lennie Pierce's family. When it was
time  to report, I went by train from Rochester to San Francisco. Bill
Barnum  and Al Bunnell from Cheshire gave me a ride to Rochester and
we spent  several hours having a big time in a bar before train time.
We all  staggered down to the depot and they poured me aboard. I
survived and  enjoyed the train ride across the country. The trains
were always  crowded then, but I enjoyed them. The train made an hours
stop in  Cheyenne, Wyoiming and I got off to have something to eat.
The first  person I saw when I entered the station was Al Johnson, the
big Swede,  standing there! That wouldn't happen again in a million
years. We made  the rest of the trip together and stayed overnight in
a San Francisco  hotel.

The next morning we took a taxi across the Golden Gate Bridge to
Hamilton Field. It was good to be back among all the fellows from
flying school. We Just hung around there for a couple of weeks, not
yet  knowing what we were going to be flying. We had classes everyday
on  engines, aerodynamics, and air craft identification. They would
flash  silhouettes of friendly and enemy aircraft on a screen from
all  different angles and we had to identify them immediately. We also
had  classes in aerial map reading and continued to have them even
when we  were in England flying missions.

After all this time it is difficult to remember the correct sequence
of  events as we were stationed at four different locations in the
following weeks. I will attempt to note all the events even though
they  may not be at the exact field. After a week at Hamilton we went
by  train to Tonapah, Nevada to start flying. We stopped for a couple
of  hours in Reno, Nevada and four of us headed for the nearest bar.
I  ordered four whiskey sours and told the bartender to just keep
them  coming. After the first hour the crowd had grown bigger and the
drinks  were still coming. I didn't know who was drinking them, but
when I got  the bill, I paid for 75 drinks! I had to help the others
back to the  train as they had a lot of trouble crossing several train
tracks on  their way back to our train. Tonapah was at the foot of a
mountain  range and the airfield was out in the valley toward the next
range. It  was flat country with nothing but sand and brush. The
buildings were  just wooden shacks and the wind blew the sand
everywhere. It was in the  food, in our beds, and over us most of the
time. We arrived here on  June 23, 1943 and were going to be checked
out in the P-39 airplane.  This plane was the one used in the early
part of the war in the Pacific  and had become obsolete. They were
shipped back to the U.S. to be used  for training pilots as all the
new planes were going to the war zones.

The P-39 was a lot more airplane than any of us had ever flown before
and with only one seat, we would have to fly it alone. The instructor
took a group of us out to the plane and let each of us look in the
cockpit while he explained how to start it and the different
instruments. After about one hour's instruction, he asked for a
volunteer to go first. Somebody volunteered and taxied out to the
runway. He went down the runway and started up in the air. About 200
feet up the plane went straight down to crash in a ball of flame. We
went over to another plane and the instructor asked Who's next?" We
used another runway and I was the third one to go. This was our first
experience of losing a pilot and really made us all stop and think.
When I took off I flew straight for a long time before I dared to try
a  turn. You just moved the stick a fraction of an inch and you were
upside down. It was extra sensitive after the trainers which had
almost  needed two hands to move the stick. I didn't do any fancy
stuff and was  relieved to be on the ground again after making a
fairly good landing.

After we were all checked out, we practiced takeoffs and landings and
flew cross country in formation. I flew about 20 hours the two weeks
we  were in Tonapah. After our confidence grew we started doing things
like  flying real low down the straight section of the highway trying
to  chase the Greyhound buses off the road. The airplane numbers were
on  one side of the plane only so we had to keep that side away from
the  road so we wouldn't be identified. On July 5 we went by train
back to  Hamilton Field in California.

The rest of July and all of August we flew P-39's from Hamilton
Field.  From here we made cross country flights to Reno, Nevada,
Oroville,  California and Sacramento, California. We also started
gunnery practice  here. The P-39 had a 30mm cannon that fired through
the nose of the  propeller and the targets were along the shore of San
Francisco Bay. We  would dive down at the target and shoot the cannon.
We also had  practice at aerial gunnery. One of the planes was used as
a tow ship  and towed a cloth target about four feet wide and twenty
feet long on a  cable behind the plane. The tow ship would fly up and
down the coast  while the other planes would fly toward the target at
45 degree angles  and shoot the 50 caliber machine guns which were
mounted in the wings.  Each pilot had different colored chalk on the
bullets and they would  thus leave a colored hole in the target when
you hit it. I flew tow  several times and you never felt safe as those
characters were using  real bullets. Just once someone hit a tow ship.
Shooting from different  angles at the target taught us how far ahead
of the target you had to  be to aim in order to hit it. We shot 100
rounds each and one time I  had 51 hits! The tow ship had to fly low
over the field and release the  target before landing. We never liked
to fly the tow ship as it was so  monotonous flying back and forth for
hours.

We started to fly more formation flights of two or three planes and
another plane would try to "attack" us from out of the sun or from
the  clouds like an enemy would. This taught us to keep our heads
turning  all the time to keep track of the sky all the way around us.
We would  take evasive action to try to keep the enemy ship from
getting behind  us. We also did a lot of formation flying close to the
ground which  trained you to stay close together in formation. In the
tomato and  vegetable farms in the Sacramento valley the pickers would
be out in  the fields with crates stacked about six feet tall and we
would fly  down so low that we blew the empty crates over. I imagine
we were  cussed a lot! A couple of times someone would come back and
land with  telephone wire or fencing caught on the underside of the
plane. I loved  to do acrobatics and when I was up alone, I would do
rolls and  snaprolls and all the fun stuff.

We were on duty two days and had the next one off so we had plenty of
free time and spent a lot of it in San Francisco. We found a
rent-a-car  place and started renting a car by the day. Instead of
taking it back  we would just pass it on to someone else. Sometimes we
would keep it  for two weeks and when it went back we would all chip
in to pay the  bill. One time we had a big Packard Clipper which
didn't have any  reverse so you had to drive it, park it, and keep it
in places that you  could get out of without using reverse Sometimes
that was real ticklish  in the city. I had this big black car when I
had the first date with  Lettie. I would get her home anytime between
1:00 and 3:00 am then wait  outside in the car until she came out in
the morning to go to work so I  could give her a ride. I got used to
staying up all night every third  night. The other fellows were all
finding dates so I had started  looking one day and found her working
in the candy section of a  department store. I liked San Francisco and
servicemen were welcome  anywhere so I spent a lot of time in the best
hotels and restaurants.  We also found many "steak houses" in
California and would eat in them  frequently. They were small places
with a couple of tables and a bar or  counter with stools. All the
menu consisted of was steak, salad, rolls  and coffee but it was
always good. I rode the cable cars a lot and  helped them turn the
cars around at the bottom of the hill. I found  that all the head
turning and watching while flying really sharpened  your driving
ability in a car. You saw all the traffic at once and  could go
through it quickly. We used to drive 60 mph across the Golden  Gate
Bridge when the fog was so bad all you could see was the white  line
in the center of the road. 0n my first date with Lettie we doubled
with another couple. The fellow, Wes Hottdorf, flew with me and had
been a member of the Chicago Mafia. He ended up flying P-38s in a
different group in England.

On August 28 we went to another field in Santa Rosa, California and
flew about the same type of training as we had been doing. We were
still close enough to San Francisco to get up there often. At the
time  we were also still getting experience with the link Trainer. At
this  field we had a BT-13 and an AT-6 which we had flown in flying
school.  We could fly them anytime we wanted to and they were also
used if the  flight leader wanted to check on our flying skill as they
were two  seaters. Remember Pete Lenzi who had hitchhiked to
California and  Joined the Marines? He had been wounded over the
Pacific and was  recuperating in the Oak Knoll Hospital in California.
When he was able  to get out of the hospital for a day I had him come
up from San Diego  and I met him in San Francisco where we spent the
day together. In the  evening I took him out to the field and took him
up in a BT-13. I gave  him a wild ride with lots of acrobatics: loops,
rolls and spins. I dove  down almost to the ground then pulled up so
that he disappeared down in  the back seat out of sight. He really
enjoyed the ride and still  remembered it the last time I saw him.

We now started to fly a lot of formation with the planes in a V. It
was  not until later in the War that a formation of four planes was
used. We  flew formation at high altitude, low to the ground and cross
country.  Neil Ullo and Lloyd Bruce were now my closest friends and
were in my  flight. Neil was sent to a special gunnery school in
Arizona for two  weeks and when he came back he had to teach what he
had 1earned to all  the rest of us. Later I will tell how much this
extra gunnery training  helped him.

By this time we had developed our skill to the point where we got the
fighter pilot attitude which was years later described as the 'Right
Stuff'. We wore the silk scarf, sunglasses and rakish hat with a
leather Jacket. In San Francisco I bought a pair of lumberjack boots
that I was still wearing when I was in prison camp. We began to fly
more aggressively as we knew the airplane better. The gunnery range
was  along an uninhabited portion of the California coast and we would
fly  down close to the rocks along the shore to scare the seals off
the  rocks. Some of the guys flew under the Golden Gate Bridge, but I
never  tried that. Out guy flew down into a football stadium during a
game and  he was reported and grounded for three days. He forgot to
keep the side  of the plane with the identification numbers away from
the spectators.  We were now flying two and three hours a day and a
little at night.  Landing a plane at night is a lot different than in
the daytime.  Altogether I flew about 155 hours in the P-39 and
another 10 hours in  the basic trainer while I was in California.

On September 22, 1943 I was granted a leave and prepared to go home.
This was the second and last leave that I had during my three and a
half years in the service. Four of my friends who lived in the East
bought an old car for $75 and they drove it non-stop all the way to
Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They sold it for junk and took the train
back to California. There wasn't room enough for me to go-with them
so  another fellow and I took a bus to Sacramento, where there was a
bomber  base, and tried to hitch a ride east on an Army plane. There
was a B-24  Bomber flying to Omaha, Nebraska and we could ride it if
we had  parachutes. We tried everywhere to borrow a parachute and at
the last  minute I talked a captain into letting me take his (after a
couple of  hours of pleading with him). I agreed to return it
immediately upon  returning to California. We got on the plane and had
to stay in the  bomb bay section. The door on the side of the plane
was about six feet  by six feet and was open as the doors were
missing. After we took off  the cold air was terrible as it was night
and the opening was right by  us. We found a l2xl2 canvas and tried to
fasten it over the opening and  it blew right out over the city of
Sacramento so somebody got a good  canvas. We took all of the clothes
we had with us and put them on, laid  down in the bomb bay and nearly
froze to death on the way to Omaha. If  the bomb bay doors had opened
it would have been the end of us as we  were using the parachutes as
pillows! When we got to Omaha, I left the  other guys and took a train
to Rochester. Somewhere in the past I had  met an old sergeant who had
given me some good advice about train  travel. He said to buy a coach
ticket and get on a first class car. By  the time they came around to
collect tickets the coach cars were so  crowded they couldn't make you
move. This always worked for me and I  saved a lot of money.

Besides my luggage I had to carry that heavy bulky parachute all the
way across the country and all the way back.( When I got back to base
I  put it on a P-39 and flew it back to the captain in Sacramento.) I
arrived in Rochester in the middle of the night and took a taxi to
Pittsford where I stood on the corner to thumb a ride. About 1:30 in
the morning an old black man and woman in an old Model A Ford gave me
a  ride. They were so old I think they were scared of me but they
were  surely nice to give me a ride at that time of night and we had a
good  visit along the way. They let me out in Canandaigua and I walked
home.  I made it faster than a train ride even though I used a lot of
different means of travel to get home that leave.

After my stay at home I took the train from Rochester to San
Francisco  and it was a trip that I'll never forgot. There was a girl
with three  kids under the age of 5 and she was traveling from Boston
to San Diego  to be with her husband, a sergeant stationed in
California. We had a  Pullman car and their berth was opposite mine.
The kids spent most of  the time crying or running in the aisle. There
was a sailor sitting  with me and we tried to help entertain them as
best we could. After  three days and nights with all that noise you
can bet I was glad to  arrive in California!

I took a taxi out to the base at Santa Rosa and the whole camp had.
disappeared. The barracks were empty and all my gear was gone. It was
real spooky and I didn't know if they'd gone overseas or what. I
hunted  around and found a caretaker who told me they had moved to
Oakland,  across the Bay from San Francisco. I called a taxi again and
made it to  Oakland just before my leave was up. While I had been
gone, two of the  guys had had to bail out of their P-39s due to
engine trouble. Al  Johnson was one of them and he landed in a lake.
The next time I flew I  spent the whole time listening to the engine
for fear that it would  quit. I kept hearing things that weren't
there, but those planes were  all old and anything could happen to
them.

The lst weeks of our training here at Oakland were formation,
gunnery,  dive bombing, and simulated aerial attacks. We began to lose
some of  the pilots now. One took off over the Bay and the plane
exploded. We  figured there was gasoline in the cockpit and he must
have lit a  cigarette as he was always doing that (against
regulations). When we  flew low formation and came to any body of
water, I always went up a  lot higher than the rest and then dropped
down again into formation. I  wanted to make sure that I could glide
to land if the engine quit. I  hated water as I didn't know how to
swim. Some of us had cameras and  would fly close to each other and
take pictures. I took a lot of  pictures when I first entered the Army
and don't know why I didn't take  any all through my flying. I did
take a lot while in England. Oakland  was just across the bay from San
Francisco and I used to take the "A"  train across the bridge to see
Lettie. This was the "A" train that the  song was written about and it
was the best way to get to San Francisco  in a hurry.

While flying formation with these planes we would practice
crossovers.  The middle plane was a leader with a plane on either side
and slightly  behind. When crossing over the plane on the left would
go under and the  one on the right would go over when the leader gave
the signal. It was  Just changing positions. At this time it was early
in the war and it  was after learning more from combat experience that
a flight was  changed to four planes. One day I was flying the lead
plane and I  called for a crossover. The next thing I know the two
planes came up  right in front of me with pieces flying off in all
directions. They had  both gone under me and one had come up under the
other and stuck right  together. They fell together in a spiral and
crashed to the ground in  an open field. The pilot of the lower plant
was probably killed  instantly. His name was Cassadont and he was a
real handsome dark  skinned, dark haired man of Mexican descent I
believe.

The pilot in the top plane was Hershberqer and after they crashed I
flew down close and saw him crawl out of the wreckage and give
himself  a shot of morphine from the emergency kit. He had a broken
back, but  survived to join us by the time we were in England. I
gained altitude  and wiggled my wings to get the attention of anyone
in the area. I saw  a car heading for the scene so I gained more
altitude and circled the  area while calling "Mayday" on the radio. I
finally got through to the  emergency channel in San Francisco and
gave them the location. Then I  returned to base. I was lucky because
it could have just as well been  me in one of those planes.

In November of 1943 four of us went to Nebraska to pick up four P-39s
from an abandoned air base in northern Nebraska up near the South
Dakota border. Our flight was chosen and our leader was Thomas J.
Tilson (called TJ), Lloyd Bruce, Neil Ullo and myself. the four of us
were to stay together all through combat. 'TJ' was a nice looking
blond  from Teaneck, New Jersey and was what we called a " big time
operator"  in those days. He had girls where ever he went. His
ambition was to  dance in all the big ballrooms in the U.S and
England. I think he  eventually made all of them. Bruce was from
Kirkville, Missouri and  Neil Ullo was from California. Neil had been
an electrician in Pearl  Harbor when it was bombed and as soon as he
was able to get back to the  States he joined the service. Bruce and
Neil were my closest friends in  the days to come and after the war
Lettie and I visited the Bruces in  Missouri and after Lynn was born,
we visited the Ullos in California  during one trip to Utah. Lynn
stayed with her grandparents in Utah that  time.

Now for the trip to Nebraska. We were real characters by now with our
leather jackets, rakish hats and our 45's in our shoulder holsters.
We  had to protect these planes from the enemy even in the middle of
the  U.S.!! We were to fly by commercial airline to Omaha so we loaded
all  our gear into a small army truck and said goodbye to all our
friends.  We made the two and a half hour trip to the San Francisco
airport to  catch our plane. (It was the only time I ever flew in a
commercial  plane.) About four, and a half hours after leaving
Oakland, we finally  took off. About two minutes into the flight we
landed at Oakland,  across the Bay, on our first stop. There were all
our friends standing  there waving at us! We could have gotten on
there and saved half a day  of travel but that was the Army's way of
doing everything. We landed in Omaha, checked into a hotel and set out
to look for the nearest  nightclub. We had a steak dinner and the meat
in the stockyard district  was totally different from anything in the
East. The steak was about  two inches thick and you could cut it with
a fork. As soon as we found  some girls, we stacked all our guns on
the table and danced the evening  away.

The next morning we left Omaha by train for Ainsworth, Nebraska. It
turned out to be a little place about the size of Cheshire out in the
middle of nowhere. The only one there to take care of the place was
an  old man wearing a beard. The four old planes were parked there and
we  didn't even know if we could get them started. To make a
correction,  the fourth pilot was not Bruce, but another fellow who
was from  Hastings, Neb. which was in the southern part of the state.
We planned  to fly down there and land at the nearest airport. We got
the planes  going and the old man wanted us to buzz the field before
leaving, as a  farewell. We took off, gained altitude, then dove down
right at the  building and the old man. We pulled up just as we passed
over him and  Neil Just missed the roof by inches. I found that the
plane that I was  flying had bad controls and you had to hold the
stick way over to the  left of the cockpit in order to keep the plane
level.

We flew down to Hastings, Nebraska and stayed the night with the
other  pilot at his parents' house. Nebraska has always been known for
its  pheasant hunting so the next day we all got shotguns and sat on
the  fenders of his car and drove around all the back roads looking
for  birds. I can't remember if we got any or not, but we sure had a
lot of  fun.

We discovered that the planes did not have any oxygen so we had to
find  some way to get over the Rocky Mountains. We next flew to Ogden,
Utah  for fuel and when we landed the brakes failed on one of the
planes.  While we waited for it to be fixed, we wanted to get into
town and had  to sneak by the guards at the gate as we were not in
uniform. We got  through the gate and ran down the road far enough so
they couldn't  catch us. We caught a ride into Ogden. We were in a big
department  store when we saw the MP's coming after us so we got down
behind the  counters and ran all over the store until we lost them. We
were never  caught and made it back to the base safely.

I intended to ask Lettie to marry me when we got back to California
and  wanted to get down to see Mr. and Mrs. Clark while I was so close
but  couldn't get the transportation and didn't have enough time. We
decided  that as we had no oxygen in the planes, we could not fly over
the  Rockies and would have to fly down one of the valleys south to
Las  Vegas then to southern California and up the coast. It would be
several  days before the brakes could be fixed on the one plane so we
decided  that the three of us would fly on to Las Vegas and wait there
for the  other fellow. We started south with mountains on both sides
of us when  the clouds came down over the tops of the mountains. We
were squeezed  into a narrow valley and couldn't see ahead of us. We
took a chance,  continued on, and finally made it. Remember all this
time I had to fly  with the stick Jammed to the left and the right
rudder pushed half way  in to keep the plane level. My arms were very
tired by the time we  reached Las Vegas.

We stayed in a motel in Las Vegas just outside of town. At that time
the city was undeveloped and the buildings were very far apart. The
streets were mostly dirt. We headed for the nearest casino and
started  gambling. It was only a matter of hours and our money was
gone so we  wired back to Oakland and each got $100 advance on our
next paycheck.  We went back to the casino and after a couple more
hours were broke  again. The next day the other pilot caught up with
us and we took off  for California.

We flew in formation very close to the ground the whole way and
whenever we came to a lake or other water, I would go up a couple of
hundred feet above the others coming down to Join them when we were
over land. We made it back to the base all right and the next day the
planes had to be flown across the Bay to Hamilton Field which some of
the other pilots did. The one who flew the plane I had flown from
Nebraska could only get it a couple of feet in the air. He flew all
the  way across just above the water. It was just plain luck that got
me  there all the way from Nebraska.

I called Lettie and she agreed to marry me so I went to San Francisco
and we were married the next day, the 23rd of November, 1943. I had
to  get special permission to 1eave the base to get married because we
were  now on alert to be shipped overseas. We were married by a judge
in the  Court House and stayed the night in the St. Frances Hotel.
Early the  next morning I had to get back to the base. Our orders had
come through  and I could not leave the base again. We were going to
England and I  was glad of that because it meant we would not be
flying over water all  the time. This was the way the Army did things:
the ones trained on the  West coast went to England and the ones on
the East coast probably went  to the Pacific.

We were shipped by train across the country to Camp Kilmer in New
Jersey. We were crowded in the train and it was a long hard trip due
to  all the stops we had to make to wait for trains going the other
way.  Most of the guys played poker in California and on the train.
Al  Johnson was always borrowing money from me to play poker. He
would  always pay me back at payday and a week later he would start
borrowing  again. I didn't play poker so always had money and didn't
mind lending  it to him as he never failed to pay me back. We arrived
in Camp Kilmer  the first part of December and it was very cold there
with a damp ocean  wind blowing. We really noticed the cold having
been in California. We  all bought coonskin hats to keep our heads
warm. We were fortunate in  the Air Corps be able to wear almost
anything without being out of  uniform. I had a chance to get into New
York City with Neil Ullo for a  few hours. It was not enough time to
get to see much ... just enough  time to eat and buy Lettie a watch.


Chapter 6 England and Missions

After a few days at Camp Kilmer we were moved out to board ship in the
middle of the night. All I can remember is going up a very wide
gangplank into a big black opening about 20 foot square in the side of
the ship. The U.S.O. girls were there passing out coffee and doughnuts
and I think there was a band playing. The ship was the Queen
Elizabeth, owned and operated by the English, and there were thousands
of us on this trip. I believe there were about 12,000 troops and a
crew of 1,700 on the ship, but am not certain of the figure. We sailed
at night and by daylight we were at sea. I will note that we never did
set the Statue of Liberty then or when we returned.

The entire ship had been altered to carry troops and the staterooms
that originally were for two people now held twelve of us. there were
four bunks with just a narrow aisle in the middle and one small
shower. We didn't take many showers as it was salt water and left you
so sticky. As I recall we had Just a little fresh water to rinse off
with. The only open areas were the lounges and the large ballrooms of
peace time. In these the almost continuous poker games took place. I
spent very little time on dock except for the abandon ship drills. It
was December and the weather was not very good. On the few good days
we could go up on the stern and shoot skeet. The shells were free and
we could shoot all we wanted. We usually found an enlisted man to run
the machine to shoot the clay targets. It gave us a little more
practice in 1eading a moving target.

I didn't get seasick, but in the morning when I went to the dining
room and saw the fish for breakfast I did not feel so well. I took a
couple of rolls and bacon for sandwiches and went back to my room to
eat them in my bunk. This being an all English crew we got very
English food. About half way across the Atlantic the ship began to
take a zigzag course and the direction was changed every three
minutes. It took longer this way but was the only protection against
the German submarines as we were alone with no escort ships. When
walking down the corridors we would feel the ship 1ean one way and
then the other. We soon got used to that and the thing which bothered
us the most was at meal time. The tables had a board along the edge
and all the plates would slide from one side to the other. When you
wanted salt, pepper, etc. you would grab it when it came to your side
of the table. We had to hang onto our plates as we ate, but that
didn't seem to hurt our appetites. As it was such a large ship the
movement was slow and not violent unlike the small ship I came home
in.

The normal four day crossing took us seven days and we landed
at Gloucester, Scotland, harbor in the middle of December. As we
disembarked we looked back at the ship and that was the first time we
saw the Queen in its entirety. It was huge in the brilliant sunlight.
We next had our first experience with an English train.  The aisle
runs down the side of the car with small compartments on the side. We
were packed in so tightly with all our luggage that the aisle was full
and prohibited any walking around. We made part of the trip in the
daytime so we saw some of the Scottish and English country side.

On December 23 we arrived it Keevil, England in the southwest not far
from Bath. This was not an airfield, just a place to stay until we got
a base and planes. Keevil was horrible and the worst of places to
spend your second Christmas away from home. We lived in board shacks
covered with tar paper and the weather was cold and damp. We had
little stoves in our shacks but nothing to burn in them. The only
tools we had were knives so we used them to cut branches of trees and
bushes. It was green wood so we would coat the twigs with shoe polish
to make them burn. We had one large building for a mess hall with one
stove in the middle of it. Here we were served powered eggs for
breakfast every morning and they were terrible... tasteless, smelly
and a sickly green color. Instead of the eggs we would get a couple of
slices of bread and toast them on a stick in the one stove in the
middle of the room.

Neill and I made one trip to Bath where we went through the old Roman
baths and walked through the rest of the city. We made one trip to
London by train and walked around the city. Trafalger Square remains
in my memory. It was a long trip by train from Keevil so we only went
once while stationed there. Later we were closer to London and went
more often. I remember once getting a cup of coffee while waiting for
a train back to base. The English were unfamiliar with coffee making
and it was so hot and strong that the train arrived before it was cool
enough to drink. One of the interesting things at Keevil was how we
would take a bath. The bath house was a long narrow building with
openings at either end and had a cement floor. Partitions separated
bathtubs set up on higher concrete slabs in each stall. It was winter
and there was no heat in the building but the water was always hot. We
would hang all our clothes, including our shoes up high, fill the tub
with water, jump in and leave the water running the entire time. The
tubs would run over and the water would run down the aisle and out the
doorways at either and. The building would fill with steam and we
would lay in the tubs for one to three hours as it was the only place
we could get warm. I have no idea how they heated the water, but it
was always hot. I was in the same shack as Ullo and Bruce so we all
suffered that place together. While we were overseas we asked Lettie
and Ullo's girl friend Dolores, who lived in Oakland to get together
and they became friends.

After a couple of weeks we moved to Riverhall, near Colchester. Here
we lived in metal nissan huts and conditions were a little better. We
still didn't know what kinds of planes we would get, P-51 or P-47s and
were very happy when we got the P-51s. it was January, still cold and
we had one small stove in the center of the metal building and we were
still trying to burn green wood. The mess building used soft coal to
cook and it came in big blocks some chunks over a foot square. We
would go down there and steal a chunk when the cooks were not looking
and run like hell. We broke it up for burning, and would keep warm for
awhile. I had about ten Army blankets on my cot. First I covered the
cot with a thick layer of newspapers and then put all the blankets on,
tied a rope around to hold everything on and never made my bed the
entire time I was there. I crawled in Just like it was a sleeping bag.
You had to watch out lest someone from another hut come in and put a
hand full of shells from our 45 caliber revolvers into the stove when
no one was looking. They made quite a noise, but would Just rattle the
stove and not really hurt anyone.

Ullo had an electric razor that ran on 110 volts but of course the
English power was all 220 volts. Ullo was an electrician by trade so
we went to Colchester to the "sparkmonqer" (hardware) and bought a lot
of wire, bulbs, ect. and Ullo put up about ten foot wire over our
bunks with a lightbulb connected about every foot. When they were all
lit it cut the voltage down so the razor would run. If your beard was
tough you could just unscrew another bulb and the razor would run
faster. Real handy, it worked fine and we both used it.

I still had a camera and started using it again. I can't remember why
I didn't take any pictures during flight training but Bill Haynes,
from Chicago, and I took a lot around the base, of the planes, gun
emplacements, etc. I had about ten rolls taken and kept them in my
locker. Due to security reasons I didn't get them developed, but I
should have sent them home undeveloped and taken the chance. When I
was shot down they were all in my locker and I never saw it, or them
again. After the war I tried to contact Bill Haynes to see if he had
any, but was not able to find his correct address. It would be
wonderful to see them.

We were Just north of London and were now experiencing air raids by
the Germans at night. By this time we had been through enough that we
didn't have any fear so we would go outside during the raid to watch
the searchlights pick out the German bombers and listen to the
anti-aircraft guns. We were out in the country so there were no close
targets and we felt safe.

At Rivenhall it was a long way to the mess hall from our barracks so
in the morning we would come outside to smell the air to determine if
they were serving powdered eggs. If they were, we would just skip
breakfast. Real eggs were very scarce in England at the time and once
every week or two we were issued two real eggs. We kept them in our
lockers and on the mornings when we would smell the powdered eggs at
their worst we would carry our hoarded eggs down to the mess hall. We
carried them in our jacket pockets and it was difficult to make it
there without someone breaking them. If someone thought you were
carrying eggs, they would chase you all the way to the mess hall. They
got me once and it made a mess in your pocket! Anyway, our aim was to
get the eggs to the cook who would fix them any way you wanted while
you waited.      We were still having classes in aircraft
identification and a lot of map study so that we would recognize all
the coastline of Europe and England. The boys were still playing poker
and Al Johnson was still borrowing money and paying me back every
payday. He owed me money most of the time. We went to London several
times and stayed at the Palace Hotel. It was near the center of London
and one of the best hotels. It made the English angry as we got the
hotel room and would fill the little gas heater up with shillings then
would go out to eat while it was running to heat the room up. The
heater would run about twenty minutes for a shilling, but the English
would never run the heater unless they were in the room as gas was in
short supply. We had the money and felt that we needed heat more than
they did. One night we were there during an air raid and didn't oven
bother to get out of bed to look for a shelter. The hotel shook a lot
and it was noisy, but we survived. We ate some of our meals at the
Grovesner House which was a huge place. The serving was cafeteria
style and 2,000 could be seated at a time. The food was good and there
was a bar there too. One night in the blackout and the fog we found a
little bar where they served warm beer in big pitchers which we tried
to cool by adding ice. It was so dark and foggy outside that you kept
bumping into people and all you could see were taxis with little slits
of light for headlights. They still drove them in the total darkness.
While in London we also visited several art museums and saw one stage
show.

The English prostitutes were really a problem to some of us. One night
Ullo and I were staying at the Palace Hotel and when we opened the
door to leave, there were six or more of them who pushed into the
room. We had quite a time getting them to leave, and they followed us
all the way out to the main entrance onto the sidewalk. With all the
people around it was embarrassing as they were swearing at us. We lost
ourselves in the crowd as fast as we could. There were a large number
of prostitutes in London and I suppose they made a good living off the
Americans. The English soldiers had no money and the Americans were
loaded with it. I never did understand the English system of money and
when Paying for food or a bus ride would usually Just hold out a
handful of change and let them take the right amount. I guess most
people were honest because I know enough about it to suspect if they
were Cheating.

I enjoyed walking around the little narrow back streets and stopping
in the tea shops for tea and biscuits. I remember one little place
because when you were ready to leave you had to bend over to turn the
doorknob which was only about a foot and a half off the floor. One
time several of us went to Colchester for the weekend and stayed at
the Red Lion Inn. There were inns of that name all over England. They
all had the high beamed ceiling, a the dark woodwork, with a small bar
and a place for eating. For breakfast they served eggs and bacon with
toast and coffee. We couldn't figure out how they fed us like that
when the English people were going without due to shortages. Probably
they did it for the money although it seemed a reasonable price to us.

Lenny Pierce was at an airbase in central England about thirty miles
from where I was stationed and he was already flying missions. I
contacted him and made arrangements to go up to visit I made the trip
by ambulance as that was a cheap and good way to get around. They were
headed in every direction so I would catch one going one way and when
they stopped at a base I would catch another going in the next
direction. At one base I was waiting when they wheeled in a stretcher
with the remains of an Englishman who had been trying to defuse a
bomb. He was still alive, but not much was left of him. I finally made
it to Len's field and spent the night there. He was living in a
beautiful brick home that was probably the residence of a British
officer before the war. At night he would set his shoes out in the
hall and in the morning they would be returned polished. Something
different from the conditions in which we found ourselves! We were
able to travel around like this when the weather was bad and there was
no chance of flying. After we began flying missions we had to be more
careful to stay near our base. Len Pierce was also flying P-51s and
was with one of the best outfits. He entered the service a couple of
months ahead of me and was Just that much further ahead.

We received a base pay each month and a flying pay for each month when
we flew at least four hours. During the first two months we received
no flying pay as we had no planes. Just before I left the States, I
arranged to have $100 a mouth from my pay go to Lettei in California.

Finally our new planes arrived and this was the first time we were
sure we were really getting P-51s. A lot of the other squadrons were
getting P-47s and P-38s so we considered ourselves lucky to be getting
the planes we wanted most. It was near the end of February and
everyone was anxious to begin flying after two months. These were the
best fighter planes in the war and thousands of them had been built.
Until this time there had been no fighters with long enough range to
escort the bombers deep into Germany and our effort was taking a real
beating from the German fighters. On February third I flew the P-51
for the first time and it was a thrill. It had so much more power than
anything we had flown before and was a pleasure to fly. In it you
truly felt part of the plane. That was what they called a "Pilot's
Plane". For several days we just took the planes up to get their feel.
On clear days you could see France and Belgium across the Channel but
in general we flew near the base. Some pilots wore crazy and one even
slipped across the Channel and shot all his ammunition at a train.
This aggressive type of pilot usually proved to be the best in combat,
so he was only reprimanded and grounded for three days. Due to the
English weather, we were probably al1 grounded anyway.

We had a softball diamond for use when we were not flying. You had to
watch it all the time because some one would fly across the field just
above the ground when they could. They were so low that you would be
forced down into the dirt. All fighter pilots were a little crazy, but
mostly the nicest guys you'd ever meet. Several times I went up to
33,000 feet which was the highest the plane would go before the
controls got sluggish due to the thin air. When you started the plane
you could not take too much time getting into the air the air. You
needed to taxi out and take off as soon as possible as it was a liquid
cooled engine and the liquid would overheat and boil out al1 over the
plane. That would make your maintenance crew real unhappy as they
would have to clean the sticky material off the whole plane. This
happened to me just once as I was getting ready to take off and it was
the only mission when my flight had to go without me. The P-51 landed
at about 90 mph and took off at 100 to 110 mph.

One day Bruce, Tilson and I were flying together and landed at another
field where they had P-47s and we had the opportunity to look them
over closely. We didn't think much of them as they were big and clumsy
next to our sleek planes. The fog started to close in and we headed
home in a hurry. By the time we got back to the field we were on
instruments only as we couldn't see a thing. The base put us at
different altitudes 500 feet apart and brought us down one at a time
by radar. It was a good thing we had all the instrument training and
by following the radio instructions we were brought right to the end
of the runway before we even saw the ground.

We were in the Ninth Air Force, the 363 Fighter Group, and the 380 th
squadron. Each field had three squadrons at different locations around
the field. We had the 380th 381 and 382 squadrons. Our squadrons
consisted of 25 pilots and a lot of the guys I flew with in the States
were in the other squadrons, but we didn't get together much. We were
all second Lieutenants except for one first lieutenant, Martin DoLong
from Dansville, N.Y. and our commanding officer, Captain McCall. Our
commander was a very poor leader and was scared to death to fly a
mission. Most of the other groups in England were led by majors or
colonels and sometimes even by a general. Good leaders made all the
difference, and the squadrons had much better combat records than we
did because of this. Those squadrons with good records were sent to
the areas where most of the fighting was taking place. Most of our
missions were led by the first Lieutenant Martin DeLong. Years after
the War I heard that he was a colleqe professor down in Dansville But
never got down there to see him.

When we flew missions, our squadron flew four flights of four planes
in each flight and the other two squadrons the same. On occasions we
were down a few planes due to damage. Our flight was usually Tilsen
leading with his wingman and I with my wingman. 0n one mission I led
our flight. Most often Bruce flew as my wingman. When you were flying,
your wingman was supposed to protect you from an attack from behind.
It was good to have a friend there.

We had our own doctor at the field and he was a nice fellow a Michael
DeMaio MD. He was always checking us as he certified us for flying
duty and could ground anyone for sickness or flying fatigue. We also
had a dentist, Dr. Axelrod, to whom I went a couple of times. The
office was a tent with a dirt floor and the drill was run by a foot
pedal. He had an enlisted man who sat in front of you and pumped the
pedal when the doctor told him. The faster he pumped, the faster the
drill went. I did not notice the equipment was from Ritter in
Rochester, so I felt right at home. Dr. Axelrod was big man, 6 foot
tall and over 200 pounds.

Mr. Woods was a baldheaded man of at least 60 years who taught us map
reading and aircraft identification. We now had to be able to
recognize all the English, American and enemy planes which made a
large number to identify quickly. In one class this gentle man was
showing us the location of different cities in Germany and we asked
him where Blutengluten was. We sat there giggling for 15 minutes while
he tried to find it. We had Just made up the name and after a while he
caught on.

Mr. Fagan was also an older man who gave us the weather conditions and
other information. I think it was remarkable how those older men were
serving their country doing whatever they were qualified for. They
were necessary for each outfit and at their time of life it must have
been even harder for them to be away from home and living under such
hard conditions. At age twenty six I was older than most of the other
pilots myself.

After six hours of flying in England to get used to the planes and
practice landings, we were about ready to fly missions. Now we were to
get our own planes. I understood that each plane cost about $45,000
which seemed like a lot then, but is nothing compared to the price of
a plane today. We had our own crew which consisted of a crew chief
armorer and mechanics. They were proud of their plane and kept it in
excellent condition. They would wash the plane with gasoline and then
wax and polish it so there would be less air resistance and it could
go a couple of miles an hour faster. My crew chief was Alvin Wolfe
from Buffalo New York. Each squadron had their own identification
number and mine was A9-R which was on the side of the plane in large
letters. This was the only way we could identify the squadrons that we
might get mixed up with over Germany.

I should mention here that Ullo was always playing cribbage, and he
and Snyder would often be playing on the wing of a plane right up to
takeoff time. Neill Ullo and I had been to London and decided to take
piano lessons. What a time and situation to start something like that!
We walked all around the little back streets of London until we found
an old man who gave lessons. We made a down payment and set a date for
our first lesson, but due to what was to happen to us, we never made
it back again.

Our first mission was on February 25, 1944. After breakfast (if you
were not too nervous to eat) we would report to the Ready Room which
was similar to a school classroom with chairs, a platform up front,
and a large map showing England and Germany was covered with a drape
and we would sit there buzzing with talk and nervous about where we
might be going. When they pulled back the drape there was a red ribbon
from our base to the target and back. If it was a short ribbon
everyone would cheer and a long ribbon would fill the room with
groans. Our first mission was across the Channel to France to see if
any German planes would come up. We ran into no opposition and it was
an easy time. It is not too clear after all these years, but I
remember that first mission we were short of equipment and I flew
without either a parachute or a life raft. I believe it was a
parachute I was missing because that usually fit into the bucket seat
to raise you up and I filled mine with a jacket and rags. It was on my
mind the whole mission that if anything happened I would have to land
the plane and not bail out. We were ordered to fly ... and we had to
go, but that never happened again.

I will not be able to describe the missions in order, so I will simply
describe experiences as I recall them. We had a nice concrete runway
at this base but Captain McCall only flew a couple of missions as our
squadron leader. lieutenant DeLong led most of the early missions and
McCalls record was so bad he was soon replaced. We got a West Point
grad who wasn't much better, but he was big on discipline. This was
completely lost on a bunch of fighter pilots. When you go through long
missions and lose a lot of your best friends, you are not about to
spend time worrying about West Point rules and regulations. He even
tried to give bed and equipment inspection and had us line up for full
uniform inspection on the runway. I can't remember what finally
happened to him, but on one mission were led by a Colonel who came
from another base and was an experienced combat pilot. I think he was
sent to check out what kind of an outfit we were.

Of the 23 missions I flew, most were bomber escorts and a few were
bombing runs to targets in France and not too deep into Germany. The
P-51 had two tanks that hung one from each wing and they hold 150
gallons of gasoline each. On bombing runs these two racks held a 500
pound bomb each. If we were called back from a mission due to a change
in the weather, we would drop them in the Channel as it was too
dangerous to land with them still attached as they might Jar loose on
the runway. We thought about all the gas Rationing at home while we
were dumping all that fuel. These tanks and the 50 gallon tank that
was  located right behind the pilot plus the tanks in the wings were
the  reason the P-51 could stay in the air about six hours and was
able to  escort the bombers all the way to Berlin and back. The
English  Spitfires could only go as far as Belgium and France with the
bombers  and the bombers suffered heavy losses until we were there to
intercept  them. We would also be there to guard the bombers coming
home slowly  after being damaged and losing engines. The Spitfire
planes would  escort them as far as Belgium where we would pick them
up, then the  Spitfires would meet them there again coming home. The
other American  fighters like the P-47 and the P-38 could go a ways
into Germany, but  not all the way to Berlin until their range was
increased later in the  war. During flight the wing tanks had to be
used first as they were  dropped at the first sighting of enemy
aircraft. They created drag and  affected the maneuverability of the
plane. You had to remember, even in  combat, to keep switching the
tanks to keep the plane's weight  distributed equally and also to keep
the tank From running dry, causing  the engine to quit. You could
start it again by switching tanks and  putting the nose down, but you
couldn't afford to have that happen in  combat.

You can see why our training was so extensive as the fighter pilot
was  his own, pilot, gunner, bombardier, and navigator. He had to be
trained  in all areas. on our second mission, which was the first one
for Ullo,  he failed to return. Even though no one actually saw what
happened, we  figured he had gone down. Remember that he was the one
who had gone to  Texas to advanced gunnery school and came back to
California to teach  us all he had learned He went down on his first
mission and probably  never got to fire his guns. His bad luck spelled
the end of our piano  lessons in London. His story is interesting and
you will Learn of it  1ater, After we got together again.

We had another pilot, James Barlow from Klamath Falls, Oregon, who
during training was always on the radio singing on the radio "here I
sit, fat, dumb and happy". He was shot down on one of our early
missions and we heard him call on his radio "So long guys here goes
fat, dumb, and happy bailing out. We were beginning to lose pilots
now  and were getting replacements from the States. I'm glad I never
had to  Join a group like that, not knowing anyone. We had been
together so  long by then that we knew each other and were good
friends. We did not  dwell much on the friends we had begun losing.
Each of us had accepted  the probability that it could happen to us
any day, so had conditioned  ourselves to the situation. Some of the
missions made us nervous but I  wouldn't say that we were inordinately
bothered by fear. We were so  occupied and it was a thrilling
experience to actually be a part of  combat over enemy territory.
However we did look forward to the days  that the weather was bad and
no missions were flown. We would sit  around the "Ready Room" playing
cards and discussing past missions. I  should mention that my Flight
Leader T.J. Tilson or Bruce had given me  the nickname of "Buck"
Benson when we were in training in California  and that is what I was
called from then on. I don't remember anyone  ever calling me Bunny.

One of our missions was a dive bombing run on some factories in
France.  We flew in formation to the target and peeled off one at a
time diving  down at a large building and releasing our bombs. I saw
some of them go  right into a large door at one end of the building.
We were down to  about 500 feet and when we pulled up I saw the plane
in front of me  blow up and I flew right through the pieces. I don't
remember the  pilots name, but recall seeing something yellow go by me
and thinking  it was the yellow "Mae West" life vast we all wore.
Anti-aircraft fire  must have hit his tanks. I was flying with Bruce
and when we got back  to the field he found several bullet holes in
his plane. Several times  when we flew together he got bullet holes,
but I never did get hit. When going on a mission we would start our
planes and taxi out onto the  runway. You taxied by zigzagging because
the nose of the plane was up  while on the ground and you couldn't see
directly in front of you. We  took off by twos with the second plane
at the side and slightly behind  the other. The second plane watched
the lead plane only and kept the  same distance from him. You didn't
look at the instruments on the  runway, just the other plane. Sounds
hard now, but it was easy once you  got used to it. We would then
climb by twos until reaching a specific  altitude, circle until
everyone was in formation, then we would head  for Europe. Sometimes
when it was cloudy you were forced to climb on  instruments only until
getting above the clouds, anywhere up to 30,000  feet. The sun would
be shining there and the clouds as white as new  snow. It gave one the
feeling that you were just above the earth and  could step out and
walk on top of the clouds. The other planes would  pop up out of the
clouds. It was quite a sight.

One time we had a Lieutenant Colonel leading our squadron and when he
got up on the runway the pilot who was taking off with him either
misjudged or didn't use his brakes and he ran into the back of the
Colonels plane, chewing off the entire tail section. The pilot
probably  wished he could have died right there, but nobody was hurt.
Another  time a boy by the name of Snyder came back from a mission
with a  damaged plane and he ran off the end of the runway and
crashed. The  emergency trucks went out and covered the plane with
foam to prevent a  fire and he got out okay. He was not injured but
during the next few  weeks his hair turned completely white. I
wouldn't have believed that  could happen if I hadn't seen it myself.

The weather at this time of year was not very good in England, with
fog  and a lot of cloudy days. If the weather was good over the target
we  would usually fly anyway. Coming back from missions we were
usually at  about 15OOO feet and when we got to where we thought the
field was, we  would dive down and pull out just above the ground. We
could get up to  550 mph in those dives and the the wings would start
to vibrate and the  plane would shake, but that didn't stop us from
doing it. At times we  would come down through a thick overcast sky
and wouldn't see the  ground until we came out from beneath the
clouds... sometimes pretty  close to the ground.

After we took off and headed for Europe across the Channel there
would  usually be someone who would abort the mission. This was the
term for  dropping out and going back to the field. Usually this was
due to  engine trouble or knowing that something didn't feel Just
right with  the plane, but we had a few pilots who were "chicken" and
just made up  an excuse, particularly if the mission was to be a long
one. They  didn't stand very high on the popularity list with the
other pilots. I  had my ground crew to thank for keeping my plane in
excellent condition  so I never had to "abort".

There are a few facts about the P-51 which I will mention here. There
was a lever that controlled openings that kept the coolant from
boiling  over while waiting to take off and it closed as soon as you
were in the  air. The wheels were pulled up as soon as you left the
ground so you  had to remember to put them down again before landing.
The four bladed  propeller was a variable pitch and had to be set so
it would bite more  air, getting you into the air faster, climbing
steep, then set back to  the right angle. A small tube at the and of
the wing ran the wind  indicator so you know how fast you're going.
The plane had a cockpit  heater that didn't always work too well and
that was a primary  complaint of the pilots. At 30,000 feet the
temperature could be  anywhere from zero to minus 60 degrees so you
needed all the heat you  could get. The guns were fired by pressing a
button on the top of the  stick and we would test them on the way
across the Channel to be sure  they were working. There was a camera
mounted on the wing which worked  from the same button and it took
pictures every time the gun fired.  This verified the enemy planes the
pilots claimed to have destroyed.

One pilot in our squadron had the cutest little puppy. It was a
little  brown fat thing with fur soft as cotton. It would sleep on'
the back of  his neck and he took it everywhere but on the missions.
Another  incident I remember took place when I was walking in London.
There were  so many Americans around, I started looking for someone I
might have  known in the States. I finally saw someone who looked
familiar standing  across the street, so I dashed over and asked his
name. You can imagine  my embarrassment when he said: "Yes, sir, I am
the armorer on your  plane."

On the days that we were to fly escort for the bombers we would get
up  about 6:00 am as we heard the bombers taking off. We went to
breakfast  and then the Ready Room for briefing. When the curtain was
pulled back  and the ribbon went all the way to Berlin you knew you
would have a  tough mission. The weather man would give us the weather
over the  target and what to expect when we returned to England. All
of our  compass headings depended on the weather, our point of
rendezvous with  the bombers, heading to the target, and the compass
heading home. The  map man would describe the coast of Europe at the
entry point and  additional points of identification along the way so
we would be  certain of our location. He explained where we would be
likely to  encounter flak (the big German guns) and where we could
anticipate the  most enemy fighters. We wrote down all of this
information on a pad  fastened just above our knee so we could refer
to it in a hurry.

All this time you could hear the steady roar of the bombers taking
off.  When there were about a 1,000 four engine bombers taking off you
could  hear it all over southeastern England. It took a good hour for
all the  bombers in a squadron to get into the air and another half
hour for  them to get to the right altitude where they would circle
until in  formation and ready to head for the target in Europe. They
used a lot  of gasoline and time just getting ready to go. After our
briefing we  would all make our trip to the bathroom and then to the
equipment room  to get our parachutes and other equipment. We didn't
have to leave the  field until about two hours after the bombers
because we were so much  faster. We would catch up with them soon
after they crossed the  coastline of Europe and it was a very pretty
sight to see the  formations of B-17s in the sky for miles ahead,
especially on a sunny  day. Some days there would be big white clouds
and the B-17s would  create their own clouds from vapor trails. The
bomber vapor trails  would be straight and the fighter trails would be
above them back and  forth across the blue sky.

When escorting the bombers we had to fly as slowly as we could and
weave back and forth so as to not outdistance them. The closer to the
target the heavier the flak and we would see the black bursts all
around the bombers and once in a while one would go down. The bombers
had to fly straight and level with no chance of taking evasive action
and we would think how brave they were all the time never considering
changing places with them. We were above them and when we saw the
flak  bursts could go up or down 500 feet, flying safely there for
several  minutes until the German guns could correct for our altitude.
We never  worried about the flak much because we could normally avoid
it. Once in  awhile we lost a fighter plane to flak, but usually it
was to enemy  fighters. After the bombers had dropped their loads they
could take  some evasive action.

On one of the Berlin raids it was a clear day and we watched the
bombers drop their load and could see the bombs fall and the big
explosions go up right down the middle of a wide main street in
Berlin.  After the bombs were dropped we would fly with the B-17s
until they  reached the Channel. I went on several Berlin raids and on
other  occasions we would be diverted to closer targets as the weather
had  turned bad before we got to Berlin. The P-51 could stay in the
air  about six hours which was the amount of time it took to go to
Berlin  and back. Our missions took anywhere from one to six hours.
After being  tightly strapped in and unable to move around in that
small cockpit for  six hours, it was difficult to even stand up when
getting out of the  plane. Some guys would step out of the cockpit
onto the wing and fall  off onto the ground. We used to tease one
fellow because he opened his  parachute when he fell off the wing.
Being so tired (and the strain of  combat really was exhausting) the
shot of whiskey we got at the  debriefing after a mission was welcome.

On each mission we had one pilot who flew up and down the coast of
England at 30,000 feet. This was the "relay plane" used to relay any
massages to the planes over Germany. Due to the curvature of the
earth  and communication equipment at that time, radio messages could
not be  sent directly. If the wind direction changed while the planes
were over  Germany it would affect the compass heading we were given
to return to  England and if it was overcast we could have blown off
course, missed  England entirely and gone out to sea. If your home
field was fogged in  you were directed to another field. I flew the
relay plane just once  and it was very monotonous sitting up there for
hours. You could  throttle the engine down so it would Just keep you
from stalling out  and save gas that way. One pilot stayed up seven
hours and we thought  he'd gone down as six hours was the limit. He
had just seen how long he  could possibly stay aloft by using the
technique and came happily back  to base long after the mission was
over.

They were very strict about talking on the radio from the time you
took  off until you were over Germany and even then it was used only
for  necessary messages and warning each other when in combat. Any
unnecessary talk might have given away information to the Germans
(even  though they had probably picked us up on their radar). The
English  bombers always bombed the enemy at night and they continued
to do this  throughout the War. They thought that the Americans were
crazy to bomb  in broad daylight. The B-17 bombers, however, were
heavily armed and  could defend themselves fairly well. The English
bombers, on the other  hand, had few guns. When the B-17s first began
flying, the Germans had  so many fighter planes that the losses were
terrible. With ten men in  each bomber, sometimes five or six hundred
men would be lost in a  single mission. The situation reversed itself
when the fighter planes  had range enough to escort the bombers all
the way to the target. At  the time I was flying, the American
fighters were beginning to  outnumber the enemy. Their losses were so
heavy that on some of, our  missions we did not see a single enemy
plane.

One time, before we started flying missions we had the opportunity to
visit an English radar station in southern England. It was a large
curved glass about six feet across at table top level with a map of
England and Europe on the glass. The room in which it was placed was
dark and there was a light under the glass. The planes returning from
a  mission were little blips on the glass. A couple of the blips were
over  the ocean way south of England and they were trying to contact
them by  radio to reorient them. they were far off course and expected
to run  out of fuel over the Atlantic. I imagine there were more than
a few who  ended up missing England due to wind changes or bad weather
during the  war.

When we did use our radio we had a code for each mission and the four
flights of each squadron were: red, blue, green, etc. We used these
codes when talking to each other so we knew who we were talking to
without using any given names. We looked forward to short missions to
France or Belgium and these were called "milk runs". The long
missions  with flak and enemy fighters were the ones we dreaded. I
should mention  that we had a certain amount of fear on these
missions. It has been  said that anyone who doesn't experience fear in
combat is lying. It  affected some more than others, however, and we
were constantly being  observed by our doctor for any signs of battle
fatigue. The strain  would begin to tell after you had flown a lot of
missions.

When we began to lose friends, I guess one just developed an attitude
that it wasn't going to happen to you. If you were shot down there
was  still a good chance of surviving if you bailed out safely. The
only  instruction we ever had about parachutes took about five
minutes. "You  put the chute on this way and this is what you pull",
and that was  about it. One time I visited a building on the base
where they were  packing parachutes and I learned how they folded
them, but I would  never have had the nerve to do my own. When talking
to some of the  bomber crews that were in prison camp with us, we
learned-much about  their experiences having to bail out. They did not
wear their  parachutes and had to put them on before Jumping. They
told about some  airmen who were wounded or unconscious and they would
put parachutes on  them and push them out. Even the unconscious ones
turned up In prison  camp so it seems a fact that oven the unconscious
mind reacts, telling  the body what to do. They must have pulled their
own rip cords to open  their chutes.

One of the missions most memorable to me was to a target in northern
Germany where we were providing escort for bombers. When we got over
Denmark the weather turned very bad and we couldn't avoid the
overcast  so were forced to fly on instruments. We never did find the
bombers. If  it had been clear weather we could have seen Norway and
Sweden as we  were close enough. The relay plane broadcast the message
to return to  England and by this time we were all separated and lost
in the storm. I  headed for home alone and decided to try to get under
the clouds as I  couldn't get above them. When I came down out of the
clouds I was about  twenty feet above the waves of the North Sea. The
waves appeared to be  about fifty feet high and I was flying Just
above them. Suddenly a big  bomber went across in front of me in the
mist and clouds. I don't know  if it was enemy or friendly but I
couldn't have found it again anyway.  I was having enough trouble just
flying my own plane. I was tense, my  heart was in my throat and
really pounding I flew across water all the  way to England so it
didn't much matter that I wasn't crossing the  Channel at the
narrowest point (my usual effort). I gained altitude  when I thought
England was near, went back on instruments in the  overcast and called
the base for a heading. The base would give you a  heading to fly for
couple of minutes then change to another heading so  they could pick
you out of the other planes on the radar screen. They  could then
determine your position and give you a heading home. When  you are
headed properly you pick up a steady beep on your radio. You  try to
keep the beep increasing in loudness as it gets fainter if you  are
turning to either side. You could fly a straight line to the base  and
when you approached you would be given an altitude to fly in at.  They
even gave instructions as to when to let the wheals down. The  radio
truck was parked at the end of the runway and when I came down  out of
the overcast I was about ten feet above the truck lined up with  the
runway And able to make a perfect landing. I was tired and relieved
to be on the ground. The guys on the radar truck did a great Job!

The rest of the squadron gradually returned until we were all down
and  each pilot could go through debriefing, where he told what had
happened  on the mission. We found out then that from the three
squadrons from  our field there were eight pilots missing. Our
squadron lost no one on  that mission. Usually when a pilot goes down
he calls an his radio or  there is a lot of chatter if they engage
enemy fighters. This time  there was only silence on the radio. With
forty eight planes in our  three squadrons, if someone went down they
should have been seen by one  of us. We suspected the missing pilots
might have flown to Norway or  Sweden ( neutral countries ) for some
reason. Some of those missing  were friends of mine, but not as close
as the fellows in our own  squadron. High Command in England thought
the Germans might have come  up with a new weapon as no flak or enemy
fighters were seen. All  flights from England were grounded for three
days while an  investigation took place. None of those pilots ever
turned up in prison  camps and I don't think anyone ever knew what
really happened to them. On another mission we escorted the bombers to
Regansburg in southeast  Germany, which was about as far as to Berlin,
to bomb the ball bearing  factories in that area. It was a tough
mission because the flak was so  heavy and the other defenses were
greater because the factories were  important. There were about 1500
planes from England and another 1100  came up from Africa. Someone
erred in the planning of this mission as  we crossed at right angles
at the same altitude and we had trouble  keeping from flying into each
other. I never saw so many planes in the  air at one time and guess
the Germans hadn't either as they didn't send  up any fighters! it was
reaching the point where we had more planes  than they did and so they
only came up when they had a chance of  success. We observed something
unusual on that mission. Some white  smoky objects came up from the
ground in a spiral track to about 15,000  feet before they
disappeared. They couldn't reach our altitude and  seemed to move
slowly. We reported them upon our return, but no one  knew what they
were. On other missions where the Germans didn't send up  fighters,
our fellows would be allowed to go down to ground level and  shoot
anything they could see.

On this raid our squadron went down and we dove shooting at some
large  boats on the Danube River. Every tenth bullet was a tracer that
made a  white trail in the sky allowing you to track them. It seemed
strange to  set your bullets going down and those from the ships
coming up. I  watched my bullets hitting the decks. We flew all the
way back to  England Just above the tree tops but never saw a train or
airfield to  shoot at. There were flak towers, but they were too
dangerous and we  all flew around them. They were concrete towers with
many guns that  could shoot in all directions. It did no good to shoot
at them.

By now I had flown ten missions and was entitled to receive the Air
Medal. At a ceremony at the base, we were presented with the medal by
General Whelan. For each additional five missions we got an Oak Leaf
cluster which we fastened to our theatre ribbon. I received two of
these before being shot down.

On occasion we had the job of censoring outgoing mail from the
enlisted  personnel. No one liked doing this as it was a tedious Job.
We had to  read all their letters and cross out any military info that
the enemy  might pick up. Our mail was censored by the squadron
commander then  sealed and sent out. After reading letters for a
couple of hours, I  don't believe we bothered to cross out much.

Some of the English women living near the air base were selling
chances  on a fruit cake for a shilling a ticket. I had the winning
ticket and  when they delivered the fruit cake we could hardly believe
it. It was  in a washtub three feet across and over a foot high. We
Put it on the  table in our Ready Room where we spent our time
relaxing. We had to cut  it with one of our Jungle knives, a machete
(another one of the Army's  questionable issues: a Jungle kit for each
of us in England). The  bottom six inches of the fruit cake was solid
fruit so you know it was  rich. We cut off two sections for the other
two squadrons and some for  the enlisted men and still had enough to
last a week. I don't know how  they baked anything that big, but it
tasted very good.

One other of our missions somewhere over Germany we lost several more
of our pilots. We ran into a lot of German fighter planes and were
soon  scattered all over the sky. I was so busy trying to keep from
being  shot down that I didn't get an opportunity to shoot an enemy
plane.  When things calmed down I found myself alone so headed back to
England.  When I gained enough altitude I heard the relay plane
calling a new  compass heading as the wind had changed to about 50 mph
from the north.  I corrected to the new heading but there was no way
of knowing if  everyone had picked up the message. It was uncanny, the
sense of  direction I had. I believe I could have crossed at the
narrowest part  of the Channel even without a compass heading! It must
have been a  sense of direction I was born with because it made no
difference what  my location was over Germany, I knew exactly where
England was all the  time.

As it turned out, I was the only one from our squadron of 16 planes
that made it back to our airfield. Most of the others were low an gas
by the time they got over land and were scattered all over England
upon  landing. One of our flights of four planes was unaware of the
wind  changes, were blown off course and were way south of England.
They were  still over land, luckily, when they ran out of gas and had
to bail out.  Al Johnson the big Swede was one of them and it was the
only time in  the year that he didn't owe me any money! They were
along the coast of  France and were captured by the Germans. He was
not in our prison camp  so I did not see him until we were in Atlantic
City for discharge. He  told me that all four had landed safely and
that when he came down in  his parachute, he went through an old barn
roof and landed in a pile of  manure.

At about this time we made another move to a field near Maidstone, a
small town southeast of London. We were closer to the Channel here
and  the field was entirely different. Some one else flew my plane
down here  and I went by train with the rest of the group. It is
interesting to  note that we went through the village of Sittingbourne
where my mother  was born. The train didn't stop so I had no chance to
visit there. Our  living conditions at Maidstone were different: in a
tent with a dirt  floor in the middle of an apple orchard. There were
four of us in each  tent sleeping on army cots with a stove in the
middle for heat. On warm  days we could role up the sides of the tent
for ventilation. Another  tent was the mess hall and we ate sitting on
the ground under the apple  trees. We ate with our army mess kits and
rinsed them out in a barrel  of hot water.

This was much different from the beautiful place where Len Pierce was
stationed. The runway at Maidstone was a grass field surrounded by
trees. They put heavy wire mesh in the ground to keep us from sinking
in when the field was muddy. It was a bumpy field to begin with! The
field was not very long and you had to get down before running into
the  trees at the and of the runway. One time I came back from a
mission and  the wind was blowing across the runway. (Planes always
landed into the  wind and took off the same way) I was not lined up
correctly with the  runway and was drifting to the right. It was too
late to pull up and go  around again as I was down to landing speed.
This decision had to be  made quickly and I decided to land. When my
wheels touched the ground I  began to bounce to the right and by using
brakes and all the other  controls I kept from crashing, managing to
stop Just before hitting the  trees at the end of the runway. It was
the worst landing I over made,  but I was relieved not to have damaged
my plane. I was very embarrassed  when I got out in front of my crew.

By now some of us had flown enough missions that our papers were sent
in for review for promotion to First Lieutenant. We only had one
First  Lieutenant in our squadron and it was about time we had some
promotions. I didn't get notification that they had been approved
until  I was back home after the war. The year I was in prison camp
they paid  me the lower wage so after the war I wrote to Washington
and received  all the difference in pay that was due me. We were also
looking forward  to the end of our tour of duty at this time. After
flying a total of  twenty five missions you were supposed to be sent
back to the States.  We were getting closer all the time and then they
changed the total to  40 missions. You can imagine what this did to
our morale. We gave up  thoughts of going home and Just concentrated
on surviving as many  missions as we could.

We were about to get some new planes with the bubble canopy and were
looking forward to that as they made it easier to see all around you
without all the metal braces in the canopy. One day I was told my
plane  was coming that day and was looking forward to checking it out.
We  would take it up high over England to check the performance at
high  altitude, the guns and controls... just to get the feel of it.
In the  afternoon we had to escort some A-20 bombers to France on a
bombing run  and when I got back my new plane was gone. One of our new
replacement  pilots had been sent up to check it out and at 30,000
feet he said  something felt wrong and he bailed out. My new plane
crashed somewhere  in England and I never even got to see it! He was
just a young kid and  I never did believe that anything was really
wrong with the plane. I  was angry with him for a long time as I never
did get one of the new  planes and flew all the remaining missions
with the old one.

Another time when our flight was returning on instruments as the
overcast was so thick, we came down to 1000 feet and broke out to
find  ourselves over London with the barrage balloons all around us.
They  were balloons that had a steel cable hanging down from them to
prevent  enemy planes from flying low over the city. We pulled up fast
and were  lucky to get out of there in a hurry without being hit by
one of them.

One other mission when I was coming back alone I got over an area
where  the flak was heavy--bursting all around me so that the sky was
blackened with shells. I realized than that I was directly over the
Ruhr Valley which was the industrial center of Germany. It was
heavily  defended and normally all missions were routed around this
area. I flew  all the way across the area and had to use a lot of
evasive action,  including changing of altitude When flak bursts in
the air it makes a  black puff or cloud-and there were thousands of
them shot up at me. It  did make me feel good to think of all the
shells they wasted and what  it cost just to shoot at me!

When you are starting the plane there is a knob that you push out and
pull in called the primer pump and it gives extra gas to the engine
for  starting. On one mission Paul Maxwell was in our flight and his
engine  quit on the way back. He found that the only way he could keep
it  running well enough to stay in the air was to work the primer
pump. We  all slowed down enough to stay with him and prayed that he
could make  It across the Channel. On the east coast of England at the
point  closest to Europe there was a landing strip on top of the white
cliffs.  It was called the Masden emergency field and all the planes
that were  damaged or having problems would head for there. A lot of
the bombers  would land there if they couldn't make it back to base.
The runway was  wide and straight in from the Channel so they didn't
have to make any  turns. Paul Maxwell landed there and his fingers
were covered with  blood from his having to work, the primer pump
constantly.

During the last couple of weeks that I was in England we began to
hear  the V-2 rockets that the Germans began to use. Most of them
were  directed at London but we could hear the sound they made as they
went  over us. The gun emplacements that fired them were all along the
coast  of Europe and it wasn't long before they were sending them over
at  night. It was interesting to fly over England at this time as
everything was being readied for the eventual invasion. Every field
in  southern England was covered with big pile of boxes and equipment.
I  didn't realize until after the war the tremendous amount of
supplies,  food, gas, ammunition and hundreds of other things that
were needed to  supply an invasion of that magnitude. No wonder there
were shortages  back in the U.S.! So much of this was to be lost in
the Channel when  ships were sunk on invasion day.

One night Bruce and I were hungry so we decided to break into the
supply tent and find something to eat. We got up the side of the tent
and reached under the roof where we found a gallon can, of fruit
cocktail. Wt ran back to the tent where we began to eat it. We were
soon full, but had no where to hide the remainder so were forced to
eat  the rest. It is no easy task to eat that much fruit cocktail and
we  decided not to try that again. At the other bases there was no
form of  entertainment and we had to go to the nearest city for
alcohol and  movies. Finally at this base they put up two metal nissan
huts: one a  bar, the other a theatre. I didn't use either one for
very long due to  the following events.

On May 10, 1944 they opened the bar at 6 pm and Bruce and I ordered a
glass of Scotch and a beer each. After a couple of them we were
feeling  good and decided to go to the movies in the other hut. Bruce
and I got  to laughing so hard at the comedy that they threw us out of
the hut. We  realized then that the movie hadn't started yet! We
staggered back to  the tent and in the darkness Bruce tripped over
something and fell  against the hot stove receiving a burn to the side
of his hand. I will  mention here the value of the "Purple Heart"
medal because Bruce  received one later for getting drunk and falling
on a hot stove and I  received nothing for being burned when I bailed
out.

The next day, May 11, 1944, we were not scheduled for a mission...a
good thing because Bruce and I were in poor shape. Some of the other
pilots had been shipping their foot lockers home with all their extra
belongings. They would go to Fort Levenworth, Kansas and be kept
there  until our return. I filled mine up with a complete sheepskin
leather  flying suit including the boots, a pair of English flying
goggles which  were very different from ours, a pair of warm English
silk flying  gloves that came up nearly to the elbow my Jungle kit
with the machete  knife, all my extra clothing and the undeveloped
rolls of film I had  taken in England were also included. I had so
many good items in there  and was looking forward to having them after
the war. About 4 pm we  carted them off to the base Post Office to
fill out the papers and pay  for the shipping.


Chapter 7 Shot Down

At seven O'clock on the evening of May 11 we were called for a short
mission to France. This was my twenty third mission my army records
show that I flew thirty seven missions. I don't know what caused the
difference in the records. As far as I knew, it was my twenty third
mission and I was glad it was to be a short one. Bruce and I had
recuperated from the night before and he was flying as my wingman. We
got over France and were attacked by a large group of enemy fighters.
We were soon scattered all over the sky engaged in combat and Bruce,
who was to be off my left wing guarding my rear, wasn't there. All I
saw was an ME-109 directly behind me. He must have come from above so
quickly that I missed him. I immediately started a right turn, but it
was too late. The next thing I saw was two rows of bullet holes
chewing up each side of my instrument panel. The armor plate behind
the seat was only a foot wide and the bullets were hitting the
instruments about twenty inches apart. I'll never know how my arms
kept from being hit.

The cockpit filled with flames and I knew the gas, tank behind the
seat had been hit and was burning. I just had time to pull the canopy
release and struggled to kick myself out as fast as I could. My oxygen
mask and earphones were still fastened to the plane and these together
with the force of the wind made it difficult to get out. I was lucky
not to be hit by the tail section of the plane. Both of my ears were
burned and the silk scarf around my neck was nearly half burned, but
the wind extinguished that. I was 23,000 feet up which about four
mi1es and did what I was not supposed to do I pulled the ripcord to
open my chute. Due to the panic from the fire I suppose I wasn't
thinking too clearly. The farther you fall before you open the
parachute, the less chance the enemy has of seeing you and the better
your chance for escape. Also some of our pilots had been shot by enemy
planes while coming down in their chutes. I was headed down when my
chute opened and Jerked me around into a sitting position which later
caused all my back problems. My heart went to my throat when I looked
up and saw three panels of the parachute were missing. I realized now
that they are made that way to release some of the air underneath to
make them more stable. It was really quite an experience to look down
and see nothing beneath you except your shoes. The first impression I
had was of the absolute quiet around me. I checked my watch and noted
that it took exactly twelve minutes for me to come down. I threw away
all the info I had that might help the enemy and ate the candy bar I
had in my packet rather than let it be taken away. It was a good thing
I did so as it was quite awhile before I was to eat again.

I saw my plane go down, crash and burn several miles away. I found out
later that I was in Luxemburg near the city of Metz. As I neared the
ground I could see that I was going to land in a plowed field near a
small village. I was not facing in the right direction and tried to
turn and steer myself by pulling on the chute lines. I almost died of
fright when the chute folded half under and so I let go in a hurry.
The chute opened again correctly and I landed in the soft dirt of the
field without even falling down.

The landing was very easy and I immediately got out of the chute
harness and began to run for the woods that were on either side of the
field. I had gone only about ten feet when I heard a rifle shot and
the bullets whizzing past me so I stopped and held up my hands. The
German was coming across the field toward me from one direction and a
group of twenty people from the village were coming from the other.
The group from the village reached me first and one of them took out a
package of Lucky Strike cigarettes, gave me one and lit it for me.
They were French and all smiles. they could have hidden me if the
Germans were not right there. the German was a young boy, but I gave
up any thoughts of escape as he was the one with the gun. He took me
back to the road where he had a bicycle. It seems the Germans
patrolled the roads on bicycles during air raids and captured the
Americans when they saw the parachutes coming down. If I had not
opened my parachute so soon he might not have seen me and I could have
reached the woods safely or the townspeople could have hidden me. It
was almost dark now as it was 8:00 pm. I walked along the dark road
with him behind me on the bicycle carrying the gun. After about an
hours walk we came to a city where I was taken into a building where
there were several German soldiers. They made me empty my pockets and
took my watch. They were interested in my 'May West' life vest so I
showed them how it worked and they all jumped when I pulled the pin
and it inflated. I was then put in a dark room, face down on a cot
with my ankles drawn up behind me and tied to my wrists. They left me
this way through the night and returned for me in the morning. Than I
was taken into the city of Metz where I was joined by some other
prisoners. Bruce was with them and I was very glad to see him and know
he was safe. We had been shot down at the same time. There were
several fellows from a bomber crew and we were a group of about ten.
They took us down one of the busy streets and we were a little nervous
as to the reaction of the civilians who we had been bombing, but they
just looked at us. None of us spoke French and they were probably
afraid of the German soldiers with us.

As one of the boys in the bomber crew had been hit in the knee by
flak, he had it all wrapped up in bloody cloths. He had received no
medical attention and could not walk on it so we all took turns, one
on each side of him. He was in a lot of pain but never complained. I
recall traveling part of the way in a streetcar, but can't remember
how we got from Metz to the interrogation center in southern Germany,
which was our destination. When you are in a foreign country in this
situation it certainly seemed good to have your fellows to talk to! By
this time we were beginning to get hungry, but were all, so nervous
about what was going to happen to us that we didn't concentrate much
on food.

When we arrived at the interrogation center we were separated and I
was put into a small room about ten feet square with a high ceiling.
There was a little window about fifteen feet off the floor which gave
a little light in the daytime. The only furnishings in the room was a
wooden bed with a burlap mattress filled with straw. I could just
faintly hear the prisoner in the next room and later learned that some
of the prisoners tried to communicate with one another by tapping on
the wall in Morse code (which we had learned in training). We were fed
three times a day by the guard stationed in the hall outside. In the
morning there was one slice of bread and a cup of tea, at noon a cup
of barley soup, and at night the bread and tea again. It was just
enough to keep you from starving. I got so hungry that when eating the
bread I would put my jacket over my lap, eat over it then lick the
bread crumbs off the back of the jacket. I tried to keep track of the
days by taking a stick of straw out of the mattress and putting a one
inch piece on the board at the head of the bed each morning. With
nothing to do all day you would soon begin to wonder if you had
counted the day or not. I would sometimes spend several hours
worrying: did I or didn't I do it? The bathroom was down the hall so
when you needed to go you banged on the door until the guard came.
There was no paper and no water so we couldn't keep clean.

I spent eleven days living like this with no one to talk to. All you
could do was think and look at the pieces of straw on the board. I
would walk back and forth for exercise then sit and think. About the
third day a guard took me into a room where a German officer sat
behind a desk. He asked me questions about the mission I was on, the
others in our outfit, all about the planes and our base in England. We
had been told to give nothing but our name, rank and serial number and
that is all I did. After about an hour I was taken back to my room. A
few days later I was returned to the officer and he began telling me
all the information he already had about me. He knew my hometown (even
about the lake), when I graduated from flying school and all my
training bases, and who I was flying with the day I was shot down.
They even knew about my home base back it England.

1 was amazed at how widespread their spy system must have been and
assumed they must have had informants at every base in England and the
U.S. All he asked was that I sign the papers to the effect that all
the information was true which I refused to do. He even had the number
of my plane and knew the position of it in the flights.

Just recently I read the book The Interrogator by Haus Scharff and
realized that he was the one who interrogated me. He moved to the
United States after the war and lived in California. The third and
last time I was taken in for interrogation Bruce was in the room when
I was brought in. We just looked at each other and tried to show no
sign of recognition. He didn't say anything and shortly another door
opened and in came "Here I sit, fat, dumb and happy" Barlow who had
been shot down a month previously. We still tried to show no sign of
recognition and finally the interrogator said: go ahead and say hello
to each other for we know already you were flying together. We shook
hands and smiled at each other. After eleven days of solitary
confinement we would have liked to talk, but didn't. After those
eleven days we were desperate to talk to someone besides the
interrogator! He asked no more questions and we were taken back to our
rooms. Barlow was not in the same prison camp that I was and I believe
that was the last time I saw him. I learned later that after he
returned to the States he stayed in the service and rose to the rank
of Major before I lost track of him.

After eleven days, according to the straws on my shelf, we were all
taken to a large room. There were about fifty of us and it was a sight
you should have seen. We all had beards an inch or longer and the
talking and hollering was deafening. Even the situation in which we
found ourselves did not dampen the laughter and Joy of being with
friends again. Bruce was the only man I knew but these bomber crews
were immediately as close as long lost buddies. We all had a shower
and then a shave. They gave us a little pair of scissors like you have
in kindergarten and I cut Bruce's whiskers and he cut mine. We had to
cut them off enough so the razor could do the rest. We only had one
razor blade which everyone used (and it was dull) but we managed to
get fairly clean without too much bleeding.

I assume the reason we were not interrogated further was due to the
greater number of Americans being brought into the place. I also
suspect that they weren't getting much information from second
Lieutenants and were more interested in higher ranking officers who
knew a lot more about the war effort in England. They were probably
trying to find out more about invasion preparations. One thing of
interest was a ceremony in England presenting a medal to one of the
leading war aces of the time. He was shot down the next day and when
he arrived at the interrogation center the Germans had a large picture
of him receiving the award. It was hanging on the wall of the room
when they brought him in for interrogation. You can understand how
fast their extensive SPY system worked!

The next thing I remember we were all standing out in an open field
waiting for a train. We were each given a cardboard suitcase from the
Red Cross. Wt opened them and mine contained a sweater, pajamas,
toothbrush and paste and several other small items which I forget,
mainly because the sweater took all my attention. It was bright orange
and when I put it on it came down to my knees and the sleeves were
about six inches too long. It was Just straight knitting like a scarf
and was probably done by some Volunteer who knew nothing about
knitting but wanted to help the war effort as best they could. It was
the best present I ever received. It was worth a million dollars to me
under those conditions and I probably had tears in my eyes. I know
everyone said that if the Red Cross were collecting money there that
they could have had everything we owned.

As we were standing there talking, I heard someone mention the name
Len Pierce, so I called out "Who knows Len Pierce?" I met the pilot
who was flying with Len and he told me all about how Len was killed.
Len was lost on May 10 the day before I went down and it was strange
to learn about it under these circumstances. I probably knew about it
over there in the middle of a field in Germany even before his folks
were notified. The pilot who had been flying with Len explained that
Len's plane was damaged and he was trying to make it back to England.
His plane quit over the Channel and he had to parachute out. He landed
in the water and the chute came down on top of him. He was tangled in
it and drowned even though he was a good swimmer. He was flying with a
good outfit and had shot down two enemy planes.

The German guards were standing around us with huge black dogs that I
believe were Dobermans. They started marching us to a train in single
file and the guards and dogs kept us in line. The dogs were staining
at their 1eashes with teeth barred and saliva foaming from their
mouths. They were really fierce and we were petrified with fear. They
were only about six feet on each side us and you can bet we stayed in
a perfect line! We boarded the train and started out with the hope
that American fighters would not come down and strafe the train. We
didn't know where we were going but figured it was to a prison camp.

Somewhere along the way the train stopped and down a bank below us was
another train with all the people from it standing on the grass. They
were about 200 feet from us and Americans also. We saw pilots we had
gone through training with and a few we knew from other squadrons in
England. We waved and hollered but our train started up again. It was
on that train I learned my first German word "abort" meaning bathroom.
I forget how long we were on the train or if they fed us, but we were
so apprehensive about our future we were less concerned about our a
appetites.


Chapter 8 A POW

We arrived at Stalag Luft III (which means camp air) toward the end of
May, 1944. It was located about 100 miles Southeast of Berlin near the
town of Saigon. it consisted of several compounds of several acres
each and had been cut out of a heavily forested region. The trees were
all pine, planted In rows and it seemed so dark underneath them that
it must have been the 'Black Forest' of Germany. Each compound held
about 2,500 prisoners and when it was filled, they would clear another
separate area and build another using Russian prisoners for labor. The
compound I was in was opened April 27, 1944 so there were already some
prisoners there when I arrived. I was assigned to barracks number 167,
Room 12 and Bruce and I, who were still sticking, together like two
peas in a pod, were in the same room. There was no one else in the
camp from our squadron in England, so we were glad to be together.

The camp was rectangular in shape with the buildings occupying about
two thirds of the space and the remainder was Just the rows of stumps
left when they cut down the trees. A high barbed wire fence surrounded
the area with guard towers at each corner and two on each side. There
was always a guard with a gun in each tower. About thirty feet inside
the fence was a low wooden rail. Between it and the fence was white
sand. If anyone was caught in this area, they were shot. We had a
large white sweatshirt with a large red cross on it and when we had to
enter this area to retrieve a ball or something else, some one would
put on the shirt, get the attention of a guard who would then give you
permission to go get the object. You still had to trust the guard in
the farthest tower not to shoot, so you would proceed cautiously with
your hands in the air.

Each barracks had a center hall with a door at each end and rooms
along each side. There was also a washroom, a small kitchen and an
outdoor john. There was also a large outside John about a twenty
holer, in a separate building for daytime use. We slept triple bunks
and I was in the middle one. The mattress was made of wood shavings in
a burlap cover and was really just a pile of lumps. There were 12 men
to a room and at the and of the building there was a small room for
one or two where the ranking officers of that barracks lived. We had a
major in our barracks and the highest ranking officer in the camp was
a colonel. I had the same bunk for the eight months we were in this
camp and had the map that I made fastened to the wall in my bunk.

The compound next to ours was where 'The Great Escape' took place, the
one about which they later made a movie. Their tunnel came under our
compound and the ground had a dip in it where we used to walk around
the edge by the warning fence. We were told that they filled the
tunnel in with human manure so that it would never be used again and
the ground had settled over it. We were lucky in that these camps
contained only American and British airmen and the camp was run by the
German Luftwaffe. They had respect for any air force personnel and we
were treated much better than the army prisoners. I understand that
their camps were terrible and they were forced to work outside the
camps. After being at this camp awhile we gave up any hope of escape
as the security was very good.

Our camp was not full yet and every week another group of prisoners
was brought in. We would all run down to the main gate when they came
to see if there was anyone we knew. We had only been there a couple of
days when some new prisoners arrived, among them Neil Ullo. We found a
place for him in the room next to ours as our room was full. He had
quite a story to tell about his experiences. His plane was hit by
large shells, and either when he was hit or when he bailed out and his
chute opened, he broke his back. The pain was terrible and hence he
didn't really know how it happened. In that condition he was worried
about what it would do to his back when he hit the ground. He landed
in the woods and his parachute caught in the trees leaving him
swinging from the harness. He was only a few feet from the ground and
the branches bent to set him down on the ground light as a feather. I
don't remember how he was captured, but they took him to a Catholic
hospital in Berlin where he was kept for five months. He said he
received excellent care and treatment under adverse conditions. At
this time the Americans were bombing Berlin days and the British
bombing at night. Every time there was an air raid they strapped him
on a plank and carried him down to the air raid shelter. He was doing
okay when he arrived in camp, but his back was stiff and he bent
forward a little.

We were locked in our barracks each evening at 10:00 and the lights
went out at midnight. One guard patrolled the area at night with two
huge German Police dogs. We had one large window in our room and
opened it for ventilation in warm weather. It was about six foot off
the ground and sometimes at night one of the dogs would put his front
paws on the sill and look in, which gives you an idea of how big they
were. Needless to say, no one thought of going out at night! Every
morning we had to line up outside our barracks for 'appel' (roll call)
when we were counted by the German camp commander and guards. About
once a week during roll call they would put guards around a barracks
and not let anyone return until they made a thorough search. They
would crawl around underneath the floor looking for tunnel digging and
count all the silverware and dishes to see if any were missing.

They also counted all our bed sheets to make certain that we were not
using them for some form of escape. This usually took about an hour
and we would hang around outside and harass the guards. The guards
were usually older men or those unable to be in the army. They always
checked our knives and forks to see if we were making weapons from
them.

Alfred Jocque was in the bunk next to me and he was the bombadier on a
B-17 that was shot down. One day he took his shirt off and his
longjohns were pink and red. He told us that the pilot and co-pilot
who were directly above him in the bomber had been shot and their
blood ran down over him and stained all his clothing before he bailed
out. All the enlisted men from the bombers went to different camps so
there were only officers with us. We all got  along well with the men
in our room and there were no difficulties. Most of the guys were a
happy bunch, no doubt due to simply having survived. It was June and
the weather was warm so we spent a lot of time outside mainly walking
the perimeter, which was about 3/4 of a mile.

The Red Cross provided us with almost everything we got while in
prison camp aside from the food from the Germans. (when it was
available). Red Cross deliveries were made by truck from Switzerland
and were not dependable due to air raids, strafing attacks and poor
road conditions. The Swiss volunteers who drove the trucks certainly
deserved a medal for bravery. The food parcels were about one foot
square and six inches high. We received one each and it was to last a
week. Mostly the parcels were American and some Canadian. The American
ones contained KLIM (powdered milk), a D-bar (chocolate), prunes or
raisins, Spam liver pate, one cake of soap, peanut butter, margarine,
army crackers, sugar, cheese, coffee or tea and two packs of
cigarettes. Most items were in cans and sometimes hard to open. There
was always someone yelling for a "church key" (the metal key on the
bottom of a can) to borrow. The Canadian parcels had different
contents and were not as well liked. Their tins of margarine were
always rancid and later on I will tell you what they were used for.

Each room did its own cooking and we put a clothes locker on its side
beneath the window to store food in and as a work surface. We also had
a table with a couple of chairs and picnic benches. It wasn't long
before we decided to divide our room in half to make it simpler for
the one doing the cooking. Eventually I took over the food preparation
for our side and did it for about three months with the help of Bruce.
You were responsible for the food, how to ration it as well as
preparation and cleanup. Due to the shortage of German food, the
cookhouse was only used to dispense hot water for beverages and
another pot for washing dishes. Before each meal I would run to the
cookhouse before they ran out of hot water, and run back before it got
cold. They also gave out potatoes, kohlrabi, bread and blood sausage
at times.

The one kitchen for the whole barracks was a room with a stove and a
daily ration of coal to be used at mealtime. A time for that use was
assigned to each room. We also had a small stove in the corner of our
room to use for heat when we could got something to burn in it. We
would cook on this when we could, but actually most of the food was
eaten cold. When we got potatoes we would draw straws to see who would
peel them as the Germans used human fertilizer and the smell was
terrible. This was the only time I smoked cigarettes. You put one in
your mouth and turned your head as far as possible while peeling.
After we had been there several months and became more desperate for
food, we just washed them well and ate the skins also.

They must have had a lot of beehives in this area of Germany because
when we got honey, we got three gallons at a time. We carried it back
to the barracks in a wash basin. This amount was for just the twelve
of us! Once a week we got a ration of German black bread which I
believe was one loaf per man a week. It was very dark with a sour
taste and was baked on a layer of sawdust about 1/4 inch deep an the
bottom of the loaf. We tried at first to scrape it off but it was so
hard we gave up, left it on and ate it. As it was so heavy, each loaf
weighing about five pounds, when we went to the cook house to got it
we took along a door off one of the lockers. It took two men to carry
the twelve loaves back on the door. We had one sharp butcher knife for
slicing and I got so I could get 60 slices out of each loaf. The bread
was so hard, you could slice it paper thin and could almost see
through it. We sliced it this way so we could have enough for
breakfast, dinner and supper, as well as a snack before bedtime. When
we had honey there usually was so much of it that we would have a
paper thin slice of bread with at least 1/2 inch of honey on it.

We tried all combinations of whatever food we had and most were better
at it than I was. The prunes could be cooked and whipped with powdered
milk to make a topping for our attempts at desserts. We tried Peanut
butter pie which was made with a cracker crust with the prune whip
mixed with the peanut butter for the filling It tasted good then but I
tried it once after I got home and couldn't eat it. The Canadian
crackers were large round ones and we would soak them in water until
they swelled to three or four times their dry size, then fry them on a
hot stove. This way they were more filling. The kohlrabi were grown
extensively in Germany and tasted alright but were very woody in
texture.

The blood sausage was another story and it was a long while before I
could eat it. You might say I needed to be starving first. It came
like salami, in a tube, and was nothing but congealed blood from
animals. If you could stand the smell of it cooking, you fried it in
a pan until it was black and as hard as grape nuts. You could eat it
by washing it down with a hot drink. The powdered milk was in a can
with the word KLIM written on the side. After we had been there about
six months one of the guys was laying on the top bunk with his head
upside down. He looked across the room at the KLIM can and suddenly
jumped up yelling "KLIM" is milk spelled backwards". It was amazing
that we had gone this long without anyone noticing this.

It may sound like we were getting a lot of food, but it was just
enough to keep us going and most of the time we were hungry but not
starving. It was interesting that talk did not include girls wives or
girl friends. The main topic of conversation was food. We talked
food,  thought food, and dreamed food all of the time. We were
surprised  to learn that food preferences were so different in the
areas of  the U. S. represented by the prisoners. One guy in our room
was from  Kentucky and he had never heard of goulash (but couldn't
wait to  try it when he got home.) We were always discussing recipes
and  ingredients of different dishes. The girls were not talked
about,  although they were on our minds all the time. Several times
there were work groups of Russian prisoners that passed by  outside
the fence and among them were women. They didn't appeal  to us as they
were all short and heavy and wore old brown  overcoats that reached
the ground. It was wintertime and they were just  plodding along in a
line.

The indoor toilet in our barracks was very interesting. It was  used
from 10PM till 6AM. There was a trough down one side and seats at  the
far end. When sitting there you would have a line of guys  standing
right in front of you. One had to get used to them  all standing there
yelling at you to hurry. Between ten and  midnight the lights were on
and some characters had the nerve to sit  there reading a book while
ignoring all the others standing  in line swearing. After midnight it
was totally dark and you  had to feel your way around to keep from
bumping into  someone. Neil Ullo had gotten himself a pair of wooden
slippers and one time in the middle of the night we heard  him
clomping down the hall on his way to the bathroom. The  next thing we
heard was a lot of yelling and swearing and  the clomp, clomp, clomp
of the slippers going at a high  rate of speed down the hall. The next
day Neil secretly  told us that he had gone down there in the dark in
such a  hurry and thinking it was the trough, got on the back of a
fellow standing there! At night in Germany it was total  blackness and
you could see absolutely nothing.                Most people have no
idea of the many good things that the Red Cross does. Without them we
would really have had a terrible time. Besides the food which we
couldn't have done without, we were supplied with sports equipment
musical instruments and books. You could even order things through
them and it was not long before they would be delivered. Some of the
boys were in the middle of their education when they were drafted and
they ordered books to help them continue their college education. I
remember one who was studying to become a mortician and he got several
very expensive books on the subject. We also received playing cards.
Although I didn't play, several in my room played bridge day after
day. One I'll never forget was Robert Ripstein from New York City who
whistled "Holiday for Strings" through his teeth a11 the time he was
playing cards. He nearly drove us all nuts! Even today I can't bear to
hear that music! He was the only one in camp that irritated the
fellows in our room and to me all of them were just great guys to be
around.

I was always telling jokes, playing practical jokes and seemed to have
a happy outlook on life ... maybe just because I still had it. I knew
a lot of jokes from the days with the old gang back at home and every
night just after the lights went out and we were all in our bunks, I
would tell a joke. I told a different one every night of the eight
months we were in this camp. It got to be like a bedtime story and
they expected it.

Murphy was another boy in our room and sometimes he would get a
package from home with cigars in it. He would be so happy he'd put two
cigars in his mouth with a cigarette between them and smoke all three
at once. When he got letters from his girl back home, who was
receiving all his allotment checks, he would hear of all the things
she was buying with his money to furnish their home when they got
married. I remember there was a piano bought along with all the other
furniture. When we were back in Atlantic City waiting for discharge, I
met him standing on a street corner looking very dejected. His girl
had married someone else and used his money to furnish their home.

I can't remember receiving much mail but I must have gotten some.
About once a month we were allowed to send a letter home through the
Red Cross, but I didn't know whether they went through or not. My
father sent me two cartons of cigarettes every week but I never
received a single one of them. I imagine that they were taken by the
Germans as they opened our parcels before they came into camp. There
was so much dehydrated food that seasoning was one of the things we
missed the most. One time the two higher ranking officers in our
barracks had received a parcel with some dried onion flakes in it.
When they cooked with them about a 100 guys would go stand in the hall
outside the room to enjoy the smell. It was almost as good as eating
them!

It was too bad that there was no way to tell the people back home
about the things that we would really like instead of cigarettes, soap
and other non-essentials. The parcels had to travel so far with so
much handling that very few ever reached the camp. By this time the
German people were so short of everything, including food, that they
must have made off with a lot of it.

The washroom in our barracks contained a row of sinks where we washed
and shaved. The water was from underground springs and was a hundred
times colder than ice water. it made your hands and face numb so we
got as little as possible on us and did it quickly! When we got so bad
that we just had to bathe (not very often) we did it when there was
still some heat in the stove in the communal kitchen. We would heat up
a tin can of water on the stove, go into the washroom and splash on
Just enough ice water to make suds then have a friend pour the can of
warm water over you and hope it was enough to get the soap off. Even
in the summer time the water was just as cold so one or two baths a
month was enough. There was a building in camp for doing laundry, but
there was no hot water so nobody ever used it much.

We washed our clothes in an old pail with a plunger we made from a
three foot piece of tree root that was fairly straight and nailed to a
powdered milk can at the end. The can made good suction and by pulling
it up and down we could get our clothes fairly clean. Our pants would
get so stiff with grease and dirt that we could stand them up in a
corner. The last four or five months it was winter and we didn't wash
any clothes, at least not after we left this camp.

A monetary system was set up with each item in the food parcels having
a value of a given number of points. Food could be exchanged for
D-bars or cigarettes used to pay debts. The army hard chocolate D-bar
was the most prized and valuable item besides being our only candy and
was nutritious. It was considered to be worth five dollars and some
fellows sold all they could get for IOU notes and planned on
collecting the money when they got home. I knew these guys were honest
and no doubt some made several hundred dollars this way. This system
worked very well and points were given to every article in camp. even
clothing was sometimes traded for D-bars.

The enterprising guys were keeping busy with different projects like
the one from Pennsylvania who wrote the book about the prison camp. Ht
had a rough draft and went all through the camp taking advanced orders
for it. He had it printed after the war and contacted everyone. He
made three dollars a book. Someone else drew a poster of a pilots head
in uniform with the left side all gears, wheels and levers depicting
the makeup of a pilots head. It was an exceptional picture poster.

At one of the camps we were in one of the guys bribed a guard to get a
camera and film. He took several rolls of pictures and also took
orders for $5 and I signed up for them. I received these without any
problem after the war. Another fellow had a real business going. He
melted the solder off the bottom of the cans which held the "church
key'. He made a smal1 ball of this solder and took a three inch piece
off your dog tags chain and soldered it to your pilots wings, then
soldering it to the ball. This signified your inability to fly with
the old ball and chain symbol. He would do this for a certain number
of D-bars in payment. This way he had more to eat or to sell for IOU's
to collect later.

The making of the athletic field was a major accomplishment which we
undertook in the early summer. This large area at one end of the
compound was Just the way they had left it after clearing away the
forest. Hundreds of stumps of pine trees in neat rows covered the
entire area. The Germans gave us one ax, a telephone pole and one
guard with a rifle. About two thousand of us each took an empty
powdered milk can and we looked like a colony of ants digging the dirt
away from the stumps and roots. It was sandy soi1 and dug quite
easily. Wt took turns using the ax and cut all the roots from each
stump as fast as we could. Then, with the guard watching us, we put
the telephone pole under each stump and all the guys that could get
onto the pole would Jump on and pry the stump out of the ground. I
don't remember what happened to the stumps, but we had no tools to cut
them up for firewood so the Germans must have hauled them out of camp.

Each man then took a bed slat from his bunk, a board about four inches
wide and three feet long and we used this to level the soft dirt as
there were no rocks. It is amazing that it only took us two days and
there was room enough for a football field and two softball diamonds.
The football field was seldom used but there was always someone
playing softball. The Red Cross furnished the balls, gloves and bats.

Naturally I played baseball and as a shortstop most of the time. We
had some good games as the talent in camp was exceptional. One of the
pitchers had been the national softball champion of the U.S. and he
threw the ball so fast that you could hardly see it. I just took a
chance and started swinging the bat when he started his windings. I
didn't get many hits as they were too good for me! There was one
pitcher by the name of Brown who acted nervous all the time and wou1d
fidget on the mound, shake his arms and keep leaning down to pick up
pebbles while getting ready to pitch. There were usually several
hundred of us standing watching the game and just as he would get
ready to pitch someone in the crowd would yell "What's the color of a
horse?" and everyone would yell 'Brown!' We did this several times
each game and it really got him rattled!

That summer was hot and the summer clothes were a sight to see. Paul
Duncan from my room pitched on a softball team and all he were was a
small piece of cloth in front tied around the waist with a
shoestring.  We used to play catch a lot for exercise And to keep
busy. Sometimes we  played a different game of softball which was
probably thought up by  someone in camp as I had never heard of it
before. When you got a hit  you could run either way, to first or
third base, but you had to  continue in that direction all the way
around. Sometimes there would be  six men on base and it made for a
lot of activity when there was a hit!

One day I leaned across the table to lift a pitcher of water and that
was the first time my back went out. The pain was so severe and I
didn't know what had happened. I didn't go outside to the hospital
but  saw the two pilots who had had two years of chiropractor
schooling  before being drafted. They were our medical team. There
were no  supplies, other than aspirin and band aids. They did help me
with  massage and they decided it was caused by the jolt when my
parachute  had opened. When this happened, several times while in
prison camp, I  would lay on my stomach on a bench with my arms around
under the bench  and sweat. After a couple of hours this way I could
get up and move  around some. A couple of times I could not get out
for morning roll  call count and a guard was sent in to check on me.
This is the only  medical problem I had in camp, except for hunger
and, later, dysentery.

We fixed a place between the barracks to play volleyball and played
occasionally. We also made a boxing ring and got the padded gloves
from  the Red Cross. We didn't allow any fighting in camp so when
there was  an argument, those involved were scheduled for three one
minute rounds  in the ring. We would gather around for these events
and usually no one  got hurt, but this was the way to settle
arguments. Neil Ullo was a  very serious type and did a lot of
studying. Being in another room he  made friends with a different
group and spent less time with Bruce and  I. We did everything
together and I did learn a little from Ullo about  the stars. We would
go outside after dark and he would point out the  primary stars. I
remember learning about Orion a formation of Seven  stars and I still
look for it in the night sky today. I always think of  Ullo and that
time in our lives when I see it.

We had one Black pilot in camp and one day we were at the main gate
watching another group of now prisoners being brought into camp and
he  saw another Black pilot he had flown with. They were only about
100  feet away so we could talk to them as they went by. The fellow
was so  excited to see his friend he yelled "What did you do with my
clothes?"  and the new man replied "I sold them!" To this day I can
still hear  them saying that in their deep southern drawl.

The best Joke of all was the one that I played on Bruce. Every time
that my back hurt or I didn't feel well I would ask Bruce to do my
work  for me like getting meals, washing dishes, peeling potatoes or
carrying  the hot water. I was very generous in paying him back with
packs of  cigarettes, which I had because I didn't smoke. I even got
so I would  try to convince him I was sick when there was a dirty job
to do and he  would do it. The important thing (to me at least) was
that I was paying  him with packs of cigarettes I was taking out of
his locker. This went  on for about five months and all the guys in
the room knew it and were  really enjoying it. One day he noticed
everyone laughing and you could  see the wheels turning in his head as
he finally figured it out. He  started for me and I went out the
window with him right behind. He  chased me around the camp for hours
before he finally gave up and  forgave me.

Bruce's bunk was just inside the door and he was in the middle bunk
with his head next to the door. I used to get up first in the
morning,  go across the hall and hold my hand under that cold ice
water till it  was numb. I would throw open the door and stick my cold
hand down his  back and wake him up. My hand was so cold he would lay
stiff as a board  and couldn't even move, which was better than
jumping up and hitting  his head on the bunk above. It was a wonder
that we remained such good  buddies.

There was a Catholic priest in camp and I believe he came by way of
the  Red Cross from Switzerland. We had church services every Sunday
outside  the cookhouse. We had one tenor with a beautiful voice and he
would  sing "Danny Boy" after church. That is the song I remember him
best  for. Some of the guys tried to have a small garden, but the soil
was  just sand and pine needles and wouldn't grow anything. It was
possible  to get seeds and some other items by bribing the guards
with  cigarettes. The guards were usually older men, to old to fight,
and  they were glad to get food or cigarettes.

The guards lived in a building just outside the main gate and they
raised chickens. Sometimes the birds would wander into the area we
could see but not go into. One of the guys got a few kernels of corn
and tied them at the end of a long string. He would throw it out near
the chickens and slowly pull it back trying to got a chicken to
follow.  He did this for hours and finally caught one. We heard all
the  commotion and ran down to see what was going on. He had the
chicken  tucked under his arm, it was squawking like crazy and he was
running in  one end of each barracks and out the other with a German
guard chasing  him. After going through five or six barracks, the
chicken was silent  and the guard lost them. The guard searched awhile
then gave up.  Somewhere along the way the chicken had been hidden and
some POWs had a  chicken dinner that night.

Many of us tried to catch birds, mostly sparrows, which we intended
to  eat if we could catch them. We put out a cardboard box with one
end  propped up with a stick and attached was a string that led in
the  window. We put bread crumbs under the box and took, turns
watching from  the window. The birds were so fast that they always got
away before the  box fell. We never got any but we never gave up
trying. Another way we  passed the time was by laying on our bunks and
watching flies light on  the ceiling. How do they get their feet on
the ceiling? Do they do a  loop the loop, half roll or flip? We spent
hours arguing about this but  we never solved the puzzle.

Another interesting story was about Paul Duncan, a guy in our room
who  was from Kentucky, where he had been studying to become a
physical  education teacher. He had been shot down over the
Mediterranean Sea and  had floated for several days in his life raft
near the coast of Italy.  When he got to camp with us he was very
skinny and shriveled up from  being so long in the salt water. He and
another boy from the next room  got some cement from the guards and a
metal pole and built weight  lifting equipment. The weights on the
ends were tin cans filled with  cement. They would exercise for hours
each day and it was amazing how  he built up his body. He could squat
down with his hands an his hips  and hop like a frog. The two of them
were a sight, hopping around the  perimeter of the camp this way. By
late summer they could go 3/4 of a  mile around the compound in that
position. He would do 100 pushups at a  time and would lay on a bench
with his ankles tied to the end of the
bench raised up then touch his elbows to his knees. At one time he
did  several hundred of those before we made him stop. He was the one
who  wore just the loin cloth all summer and he would shave all the
hair off  his legs and body so he could tan all over. He was not in
the cooking  group that I was, but when I was sick and couldn't eat my
share I would  give it to him as he was exercising and needed the
extra food.

Supplies were brought into camp by a big old wood burning truck. It
didn't go very fast and after unloading the two Germans would try to
get it going again. Several hundred of us would watch them and give
advice. The boiler was on one side of the truck and they had to keep
throwing wood in it to get a good fire going. When they finally got
it  started we would all cheer add clap our hands as the truck slowly
chugged its way out of camp.

We had many styles of haircuts and some shaved their heads or wore a
Mohawk. A lot of the men grew mustaches and we even had a contest for
the longest one measured tip to tip, with a prize for the winner.
When  the mustache got long enough they would melt the wax off waxed
paper  from the Red Cross parcel and make the hair pointed or curled.
A man  named Irons won the contest with a mustache nearly a foot wide.

There was an in ground cement swimming pool in the center of camp but
we couldn't swim in it as it was to save water in case of a fire.
Several guys built boats out of the metal cans using only a knife and
fork for tools. We were told that someone in the English camp had
built a grandfather's clock that way and it really worked. These
boats  were as much as a foot long and waterproofed. A boiler was made
out of  a tin can with a metal tube to throw the steam against a
paddlewheel.  The can was filled with water and the rancid butter that
came in the  Canadian parcels burned in a tray under the can of water
to make steam.  Everything we received was used for something. If the
butter burned  well the boat would go about 30 feet across the pool.
Some of these  boats were masterpieces with a rudder for steering and
a cabin on the  deck. I remember having a big race an the Fourth of
July with betting  on the boat of your choice. If you were wealthy,
you could bet a D-bar.  It took a lot of patience to build anything
this good with the material  and tools we had, but it kept us
occupied.

One of the barracks down by the main gate had two young cats that had
wandered into the compound and been kept as pets. They talked about
eating them if they got hungry enough. Later in the summer one of the
cats died and they decided to have a military funeral for it. It took
several days to make preparations for this big event. The grave was
dug  and a small wooden casket was built. In the English compound next
to us  was a British, naval officer who happened to be in Europe when
the  Germans first started war activities it 1939. He was the first
one  captured and had been in prison camps for six years. During all
that  time he had received many packages from home and had a complete
English  Naval uniform with al1 the ribbons and insignia on a white
uniform. He  wore it every Sunday while walking around his compound.
The German  guards allowed him to bring a delegation to the funeral
and he led the  procession in full uniform. It was a half day event
with the Catholic  priest giving the eulogy. There were even pall
bearers. Several days  later some of the men killed the remaining cat
and ate it. Probably it  was not from hunger, but just to say they had
eaten a cat in prison  camp.

We had a room in the theatre building for a news room where we had
maps  of Germany and two German newspapers were posted which gave
some  information (even if you didn't understand German). I remember
seeing a  copy of the paper on the day the Allied invasion began. It
said 'Die  invasion is begun'. If I could have gotten a copy I would
have liked to  bring it home. The maps in the news room had to have
the front marked  according to the German news we got the correct
version from the BBC.

The British in the next compound had a radio which they took apart
And  different men carried the parts. They put it back together Just
for the  broadcasts. The news was written down and passed to the other
compounds  by way of the hospital building. Usually someone had to
make a trip  there each day and It was read to us in the newsroom
after making  certain that there were no guards in or around the
barracks. The one  who read the news was Abe (I forget his last name)
who was Jewish and  always afraid of what the Germans might do to him.
Ht would break out  in a sweat while reading, but refused to give up
the job to anyone  else. He never lost the fear that the guards would
find out what he was  reading and how he got it. This news was the way
I kept the map by my  bunk up to date. We had a camp newsletter each
week that was posted in  the newsroom and contained news from home
which came from prisoner's  letters from home. We also had a wonderful
cartoonist in camp and he  had a comic strip posted every week. The
heroine's name was "Needa  Leigh" so you can guess what the cartoon
was about. The newsroom posted  this cartoon each Sunday and It was
the highlight of the day. Guys  would come by the hundreds to see the
new episode. The age group  represented was of college men and there
was no end of talent.

The theatre had been built with a stage and a large auditorium. There
were no seats so we built two hundred seats out of the wooden boxes
the  Red Cross parcels came in. They were like orange crates and by
cutting  part of it out it made a seat with a back. As the theatre
only held two  hundred, each program had to play several times. Some
guys had  theatrical experience and several plays were done. The
German camp  officers and some guards came to the shows and sat in the
front row.  Some of the entertainers made jokes about them, but they
laughed right  along with the rest of us. We soon received musical
instruments through  Switzerland and an orchestra was formed. Again,
the exceptional talent  of so many gave us good musicals. The Germans
always came to the  musical performances. I remember one fellow had a
baseball uniform and  a bat and he would recite "Casey at the Bat"
with all the appropriate  motions. It was great entertainment.

Fall weather arrived and we were not looking forward to the cold
weather as we only got enough coal to use while cooking. All the
sports  ended and we had to find things to do indoors. Some of the
musicians  formed small groups of four or five with banjos or guitars
and provided  entertainment to the rooms. You would ask them to come
to the room in  the evening and they would play sing and tell Jokes.
After an hour and  a half we would pay them by feeding them our late
evening snack. We  would try to have some special dessert for them. It
gave us  entertainment and them food.

Two or three guys had been out to the hospital and were suspected of
having TB. They were taken out of camp and we had no idea what became
of them. We were told that there was no TB in Germany and they were
anxious to get rid of them. We also had a few guy's who couldn't
stand  the captivity and began to act very strange. As we said in the
service:  they went "round the bend". I know of a couple like this and
they  disappeared. They were perhaps sent home through the Red Cross
in  Switzerland.

One day the Germans told us they were going to give us a horse to eat
and we were all looking forward to having some meat. We saw the wagon
coming and all rushed down to the cookhouse to climb up and look in
the  wagon. It was a horse alright, the head, four feet and the tail.
Wt all  went back to our barracks and forgot about meat and German
promises.

The German pilots knew our location and would fly over our camp often
and very low. One day we saw a large bomber go over with a smaller
plane sitting on top of it. They were probably testing something new
as  none of us had ever seen anything like that. Another day a plane
flew  very low over us at very high speed and it mystified us. After
the war  we learned that the Germans were testing Jet planes and these
were the  early ones undergoing testing. One day one flew very low
over us and  just after it disappeared over the treetops there was a
loud explosion,  a ball of fire and smoke going up. We knew it had
crashed and we yelled  and clapped... just trying to let the German
guards know how we still  felt about it.
  It was getting to be colder weather and the Red Cross sent us
warmer  clothing. I got a GI overcoat which was very heavy and came
down to my  ankles. I also got two blankets, one a beautiful British
Royal Air  Force blanket. It was dark blue and very thick, With the
air force  insignia in the center. There was snow and that part of
Germany had  weather about the same as upstate New York. We were cold
most of the  time. I put my flannel pajamas on under my clothes and
didn't take them  off for several months. It was too cold to bathe
very often and our  clothes were getting quite dirty. I was still
wearing the logging boots  I had bought in California and my feet were
always cold. I was again  wearing the orange sweater that came down to
my knees so I must have  been a sight. I took some cloth, perhaps from
one of my shirts, and  made a pair of booties the size of my feet and
another larger pair. I  cut a German newspaper in narrow strips and
packed it about three  inches thick between the cloth booties and
sowed them up. They were big  and bulky, but I wore them in the
barracks and they kept my feet warm. The Red Cross sent us some hockey
sticks and skates so we decided to  build a hockey rink. In an open
space where the ground was level we  smoothed a large area with the
bed slats and piled up dirt about four  inches high around the sides.
We carried cold water in our water  pitchers and poured it on the
rink. Each night it would freeze and we'd  put more on the next day.
After a few days and thousands of trips with  the water, we had a real
nice rink. We made a puck out of a piece of  tree root and teams were
formed. The Canadians in the next compound had  a very good team and
we challenged them to a game. The big day arrived  and our team was
ready. The goalie was a tall red headed guy from our  room and he
slept in the bunk above me. The day before the game we all  gave him
some of our food so that he could build up his strength enough  to
play the entire game. I think the Canadians won but we had a lot of
fun watching the game. The guards in the towers also watched the game
of course. After a couple of months of hockey playing the sticks were
broken off at the end and we had to play with them that way.

Soon it was Christmas and my third away from home. Under such bad
conditions it was very hard to be cheerful. We did the best we could
with decorations. Even though we were in a forest of pine trees, we
couldn't get any inside the compound. We mixed the gritty powder that
the Germans gave us for toothpaste with water and pasted it in the
corner of the windows like snow. We also saved up a little extra food
so we could have one good meal. The Germans had promised us each a
bottle of beer for Christmas and we were eagerly looking forward to
that. We each got a bottle, to our surprise, but when we got back to
the barracks and opened it we found it was only a bottle of charged
water, not beer. The only thing we could do was dump it out and save
the bottle. Our spirits were low and this didn't help any. We spent
the  rest of the day thanking of our loved ones at home and wishing we
were  with them.

In January 1945 we began to hear the big guns from the east and we
knew  the Russians were advancing from that direction. On January 23
we were  notified by the camp commander that the Germans had told him
to prepare  to leave this camp before the Russians came. They didn't
want any of  the highly trained airman to be liberated and have the
chance to fight  against them again. We were instructed to walk 10
laps around the  perimeter each day for a total of 7 and 1/2 miles.
This was not easy  due to the weather and our weakened conditions, but
we knew it was  necessary to build up our bodies for long marches. We
discussed  different ways in which to carry our belongings and food.
We had large  safety pins and a shirt could be pinned up at the bottom
with the arms  tied around the neck, thus forming a sack. Another
carrying device was  to pin up the bottom of our heavy army coat and
put everything inside. This was the method which I chose.

Our biggest problem was to eat more food and try to build up our
strength for what lay ahead, while saving some food to take with us.
On  the evening of January 28 we were told to get ready to leave. We
put on  all the clothes we had and I put on the flannel pajamas over
my underwear, not knowing that it would be two Months before I took
them  off again. We divided our remaining food as equally as possible
and sat  around waiting for the order to march At the last minute they
gave each  of us a full Red Cross parcel and we were sorry we had not
eaten more  during the last few days. Just after midnight, at
approximately 12:30  am on January 29 we were ordered to leave. I put
on my overcoat carried  the heavy Royal Air Force blanket and suddenly
realized what a heavy  load I was carrying, the miserable conditions,
and that it had only  begun.


Chapter 9 First March

There were about lO,OOO British and American POW's who gradually
left  the compound. We formed a line down the road to the southwest
through  the pine forest, in the cold, as the snow fell gently. We
looked back,  Bruce and I, at our home for the past eight months.
There was a red  glow in the sky above our compound as someone, in a
last act of  defiance, had set fire to his barracks before leaving.
This march was  to last for six days and we were to walk sixty two
miles. There was  about four inches of snow on the ground. and during
the first mile we  began to realize that we were too weak to carry
everything. I took the  heaviest cans of food out of my coat and threw
them in the snow. I kept  the powdered milk as it was the lightest and
most nourishing food. Soon  the road was littered with food and extra
clothing. We knew that we  would need the food later, but it was a
choice between that or falling  behind and possibly losing our
friends.   About a mile down the road we could hear the Russian guns
getting much  louder (they were thirty miles away). Suddenly there
were some rifle  shots and we all scattered off the road, diving head
first into the  snowy brush. It turned out to be a false alarm so we
stopped praying  and got back onto the road. At daylight the wind
began to blow and for  the next two days we marched in a blizzard. We
stopped at intervals for  ten minute rest periods, dropped into the
snow and just dreaded getting  up again. We marched this way until
noon the following day when we  reached Freiwaldu, a distance of
eighteen miles in eleven hours. We  stopped at a farm house and the
barn was full so Bruce and I laid down  in the snow against the back
of the barn out of the wind. During the  afternoon we took turns going
to the farmhouse to get warm. Bruce and I  got into the kitchen and
the farmer and his wife were there just  looking bewildered. The
German soldiers were noted for taking  everything from the people in
the countryside in the places they  occupied and the Americans were
just the opposite. After our time was  up and we were warm, Bruce and
I took some cans of food out of our  packs and gave them to the woman.
It was our way of saying thanks to  them for allowing us to get warm
and we received a smile from her as  thanks. Then we returned to the
blizzard.   Later on during the march we did pick up some things
around the farms  and it must have been hard for the farm people.
Having thousands of  Americans crowding into every space must have
been traumatic for them.  The British prisoners were soon mixed in
with us, as all became  scattered in line. They were the most amazing
people I have ever known.  They were always happy and singing,
innovative in finding ways to carry  their packs. After a few stops at
farms they would come down the road  with baby buggies, carts and
makeshift hand carts created from old  wheels they found. I recall one
group with packs piled high in a buggy.  They also found sleds which
worked until the snow melted.   Under the miserable conditions no one
gave thought to trying to escape.  The American colonel who was in
charge of us recommended that we stick  together for reasons of
safety. We had few guards with us and they were  mostly old men. The
old man with our group rode a bicycle and carried a  rifle. It wasn't
long before he was walking too and when we had rest  stops we
immediately fell to working on the blisters we had developed  on our
feet. We even patched up the guard's feet and it wasn't long  before
we took turns carrying his rifle and pack. This was the only way  that
he could keep up and we felt sorry for him. We began again at 6 PM
and marched all night in the blizzard. The next day we arrived at a
little village named Muskau. Thus far all we had to eat was cold food
that we were carrying and some bread the Germans had given us. We
were  so cold and hungry as we looked for a place to get inside.
Bruce and I found a place inside a small stone church in the center
of  town. We were crowded in so tightly that the only spot Bruce and
I  could find to sleep was next to the altar. On each side of the
altar  was a section filled with dirt, with many small white crosses
stuck in  the dirt. We removed enough crosses to make a place to lie
down and  when we left we smoothed the ground and replaced the
crosses. This was  Monday and the first sleep we had since the Friday
before. We were very  weak and desperately needed it. It was also a
relief to get inside away  from the cold and snow. We were sti11
eating cold food and more bread  from the Germans. With so many men on
the move, they had no way to feed  us and by this time in the war they
barely had enough for themselves  anyway. I know our guards had even
less than we did.   When we started marching again we were really in
bad shape. We were so  weak with aching muscles and blistered feet
that we began to worry  about whether or not we could keep going. The
boys from our barracks  were still together and wanted to keep it that
way. The only good thing  was that the blizzard had stopped and it was
beginning to thaw a  little. Many of the guys were falling out now and
laying along side the  road. Bruce and I were having trouble and soon
our knees began to  buckle and we would fall down. Our legs were so
weak that they wouldn't  hold us up any longer. We would help each
other up and go a little  further. After several falls we crawled to
the side of the road to rest  awhile. We were worried about being
separated from our group so  struggled on as long as we could.
Finally, so far behind our group, we  gave up. After many falls we
decided to lay there on the ground with  the others who had dropped
out. Then we began to worry about what the,  Germans might do to us
and concluded that we might be shot. That  thought was enough to make
us get up and keep going no matter what. We  made it to Sremburg where
we were going to spend the night. When we later arrived at Nuremburg
we discovered that those guys who  had fallen out along the road had
been picked up by trucks at the end  of the line and sent by train to
the camps to which we eventually  marched. They got there a week ahead
of us. Ironic things like this  seemed to happen to me all through
these years.   I stayed that night in a very large building 1ike a gym
or a warehouse  and we were packed in so tightly that there was barely
room to lay  down. There was only one small light bulb hanging about
forty feet up  on the ceiling. You couldn't see anything once it got
dark. In the  night when someone had to go to the bathroom there was
no light to see  by or room to keep from stepping on someone. We just
ran as fast as we  could, with our shoes off, over the top of
everyone. There was only one  small door at the far end of the
building and everyone that was stepped  on would yell, swear and wake
up the rest of us. At least it was dark  so they didn't know who did
it to them. When we got up the next morning  they were passing out
watery barley soup from a big drum outside the  building. This was the
first hot food we had had in four days and we  were very hungry. I got
a cup full and took a big drink of it. The  broth was so hot I burned
my tongue and mouth so I couldn't taste the  rest of it. I downed it
all and was warmed inside.   I was lucky not to have any back problems
on this march as the weight  of all my belongings in the bottom of the
coat really pulled on my  shoulders. When we left this place we walked
a few miles to the  railroad yards where we were to make the two day
trip by train to  Nuremburg and Camp X-111D. By this time we were all
getting diarrhea  from drinking the water we got along the march. It
was not the same as  the spring water we had in Sagan. With all the
cloths  we were wearing  it was not easy to suffer from diarrhea. At
this time we thought the  worst of the march was over as at last we
were getting a ride, but it  was nearly a disaster. We were put into
box cars, fifty men to a car  with out guard. We were packed in so
tightly we could not sit down and  there was very little air. In order
to sleep, we sat down all wound  around each other and tried to Keep
our heads out at best.   A couple of the guys fastened their blankets
across the corners on  nails and made a hammock in order to make more
room. It didn't help  much because they were always getting in and out
due to the diarrhea.  There was always someone at the door in a bit of
a rush waiting for the  guard to unlock and open the door. Two guys
would hold the victim by  the arms while he let his rear hang out the
door. When the train made  stops we were all outside immediately with
the same problem. One time  the train stopped at a station in the
middle of a city and we all  jumped out onto the platform between the
trains with the same problem.  We all went right there on the platform
with the German civilians  walking around us. We didn't have time to
be embarrassed as we couldn't  wait any longer. We were so miserable
we didn't care any more and  everyone was in the same condition. After
two days of this we arrived  at Nuremburg. It was approximately
February 4. We were farther south  now and the weather was a little
warmer. We were relieved to have made  the trip without being strafed
or bombed by our own comrades as we knew  the Allies were aiming at
all the trains they could find. It just gave  us out more thing to
worry about.   We walked three miles to the new camp outside
Nuremburg. The conditions  at this camp were much worse than those at
Sagan. The camp had been  used by Italian officers who were prisoners
and it was filthy, dirty  and muddy. Bruce and I managed to stay
together and get into the same  barracks but we had lost Ullo and the
others from the barracks at  Sagan. The barracks were in sections with
bunks for twelve men on one  side of each section. A cooking area with
a table was on the opposite  side with an aisle down the middle. Each
man did his own cooking on a  stove which we turned on its side to
make more of a cooking surface.  When we found something to burn, we
cooked on the stove. The remainder  of the time we ate cold food. It
was becoming more difficult for the  Red Cross to deliver food parcels
to us and some weeks we got half a  parcel, other weeks none. We were
hungry all the time and gradually  getting weaker. The water, however,
must have been good here as we were  finally getting over the
diarrhea.   I should mention one of the observations I made about men
at this time  and know I'll always remember. The prison experience
really separated  the men from the boys, as the saying goes. I suppose
it was because of  their background that some of the biggest and
strongest men were the  ones that could not take this situation. They
couldn't carry packs,  cook, even light a fire and needed the most
help during the toughest  parts. The men you least expected to would
become a tower of strength.  It made me realize that I was a better
man than many of the men I would  normally have looked up to.   There
was a dirt road through the center of camp and we used this for
walking for exercise. We didn't get enough food to exercise much and
there was no room for sports. One of the guard towers was close to
our  barracks and it had a searchlight which rotated back and forth at
night  to keep us in our buildings after dark. They threatened to
shoot anyone  outside after dark as there was no wide open space
between our barrack  and the barbed wire fence with the pine woods
beyond. They also didn't  have the large guard dogs loose in this
camp.   We didn't have any hot water here so we did not take any baths
or wash  our clothes for two months. Our mattresses were burlap filled
with  shredded paper and so filthy that every day that the sun shone
we would  take them outdoors to air with our blankets. We soon
discovered we were  infested with bedbugs lice and fleas. Don't ask me
why but they never  bothered me at all. I would lay on my bunk and
they were so thick that  I could see them jump from the guy on my
right to me then on to Bruce  on the next bunk. Some guys were scarred
all over their bodies from the  bites, but I can't remember having a
single bite. A boy named Lindstom  was in the bottom corner bunk and
he was so sick he didn't move the  last three weeks we were there. His
skin was Just raw from the fleas.  One of his buddies was feeding him
and I wondered what happened to him  when we moved out of this camp as
he couldn't walk. When I was in  Atlantic City for discharge I met him
on a street corner and had a  visit with him so I knew he made it.
About a week before we left this  camp, the Red Cross sent in some
insecticide and we put it all over  ourselves and our clothes and
blankets. By the time we moved out a week  later we had rid ourselves
of most of the insects.    Next to our barracks was a large one room
building used for a wash  house. It contained only some old sinks and
two cold water faucets so  we seldom used it. The old boards ran up
and down on the sides and we  were gradually taking them off the
building to use for fire wood for  cooking. The Germans forbade it so
we had to sneak around when they  were not looking. The nails would
make a terrible noise when you pulled  the boards off so we would
loosen them very carefully during the  daytime when the guards were
not looking and at night we would time the  sweep of the searchlight
to dash out and rip one off, then run for the  barracks before they
turned the searchlight back and shot us. The noise  of the nails was
awfully loud in the night and would alert the guards.  By the time we
left this camp, all that was left of the wash house was  the roof. We
had outside toilet buildings for daytime use but no inside  toilets
for nights although we weren't allowed out at night. At the and  of
the barracks was a small room with a twenty gallon garbage can for
use at night. It had to be carried out by two men in the morning and
emptied into the outdoor toilet. It was almost always full and
running  over when you carried it. We drew cards every morning and the
two low  cards got that dirty Job. Bruce had terrible luck and got the
low card  about twice a week whereas I only did it once or twice. We
didn't have  any toilet paper, but. found that a cigarette pack
contained four  sheets of thin paper if you separated it carefully. I
cut the tail off  one of my shirts and used that then washed it out in
the wash house.  One day there was a rumor going around that a
shipment of toilet paper  was coming in and we all lined us to get it.
By the time it was divided  up each man received three sheets. Big
deal! We finally got a chance to  take a shower at the other end of
the camp, about a mile down the road  that ran through the camp. Every
so far in that wash building there was  a one inch pipe hanging from
the ceiling. They only turned the hot  water on for a few minutes for
each group so you had to work very fast.  About five guys would get
under a pipe and we would Jostle to all get  wet as it was only a
small stream of water coming out. We soaped  ourselves then crowded
under again to wash the soap off before the  water was turned off. In
our group were four or five white men and one  black man. We must have
made a beautiful sight all trying to get under  the water at once. As
I look back on it this is what was meant by true  integration! On the
walk back to our barracks some of the guys were too  weak to make the
trip and fell down. We didn't realize that in our  weakened Condition
the hot water was too much for our systems. The  stronger men carried
the weaker ones between them back to the barracks.  This was the only
good bath I had during the final two months as a  prisoner. Each
morning we had to line up outside for roll call which  was the way
they kept track of the number in each barracks to determine  that no
one had escaped. We had a bugle player who played revile when  the
German Camp Commander and his group came in every morning. As soon  as
they arrived Inside the wire he would start playing a swinging
revile. He really played some hot music and we would clap and cheer
which made the Germans angry. We stood there while they counted us
and  once in awhile someone too weak to stand would fall and lay there
on  the ground. After roll call we would carry them back to the
barracks.  Most of the weakness was caused by inactivity and having
only barely  enough food to survive. Once a day they gave each of us a
cup of soup  which was all that they prepared in the cookhouse at this
camp. One  soup was barley and water (mostly water) and a dirty gray
color. The  other was a green soup made with dehydrated vegetables.
This soup had  black bugs, about the size of ladybugs, floating on top
of it. Some of  the guys could never eat this soup but I was so hungry
that I did. At  first I took my spoon and skimmed all the bugs off the
top and ate the  rest. I wondered why it was so crunchy until I
discovered that there  was a beetle inside all the dehydrated peas in
the soup. After that I  just stirred the soup up and ate it as fast as
I could. These two  months were very nerve wracking due to the
continual bombing of  Nuremburg which was only three miles away. The
Americans bombed it  almost every day and the British at night.
Nuremburg had a large  railroad terminal and was a favorite target.
When the bombs fell, the  ground and barracks would shake and
everything fell off the shelves as  the windows broke. During one raid
the bombs were so close that one  wall of our barracks moved Six
inches. At night we crawled under the  lower bunk together for safety
as we couldn't leave the building. In  the daytime we look two bed
slats with the blanket folded on top and  held it over our heads to go
outside and watch the bombing. This was to  protect our heads from all
the shrapnel that was falling on the camp.  The camp was right in the
middle of the ring of big German anti  aircraft guns that circled
Nuremburg. One of these guns was in the  woods just over the fence
from our barracks and the noise was terrific.    We watched the smoke
rising from the city of Nuremburg those days and  nights. When the
British bombed at night they dropped flares which lit  up the entire
area and the searchlights that were probing the sky. We  watched from
our windows and worried that a bomb meant for the railroad  yards so
near us would fall on our camp. We had begun to dig trenches,  but
they were only a couple of feel deep so we never used them. We were
more interested in just standing around and watching the planes go
over. We began to see more of our fighter planes flying down low and
one day a P-51 flew very slow1y over the middle of our camp, only a
hundred feet up. We could see the pilot and we all ran around waving
our arms and yelling at him to get out of here before he was shot
down.  We began to hear rumors and sounds of battle again and were
told we  would be moved. We didn't know where, but after the poor food
monotony  and misery we had had for two months, we were glad to be
leaving this  place. We didn't need to prepare for this march because
we had nothing  but the clothes on our backs and blankets so were
ready to go any time.


Chapter 10 Second March

On April 4 we began marching to the southeast away from the
advancing  Americans. It would have been nice to wait there for
liberation, but  the Germans had different ideas. At least now we knew
it would not be  long before we would be free. The Germans did not
guard us much this  time and we were nearly on our own as we marched.
Our ranking officers  made the decisions to march mostly at night to
avoid mistaken attack by  American fighters. We also had ten minute
rest breaks every hour and  the Germans gave us enough bread and soup
to keep us alive. We went  through the railroad yards at Nuremburg and
saw the bomb damage. We  were glad to get out of there before another
raid came. Our line was  soon spread over seven miles and we made the
decision to stay with the  group instead of trying to escape into the
woods and head for the  American front. Probably some of the crazier
ones did try it.

We spent the first night in barns and any building we could find. The
weather was much warmer and we enjoyed the nice spring days. I pinned
a  sock to my pant leg, found a pop bottle in a trash pile. and
carried it  full of drinking water. When we went by houses the Germans
stood along  the road watching us and very often they would fill my
bottle with  fresh water. The Germans in the areas that had not been
bombed were  friendly, but those in the cities were more hostile. The
American  fighter planes were flying over us every day and we could
see the smoke  from the bombed cities all around us.

The second day I was on a blacktop road and just coming out of a
wooded  stretch where I could see the line up the straight open road
ahead.  Some P-51s came over and started shooting at the line of men
about a  quarter mile ahead of me. The men dove to the side of the
road and  spread out a POW sign we had made from strips of white cloth
to be used  on just such an occasion. The planes stopped shooting, but
not before  two were killed and several wounded. I was lucky to have
been still in  the woods where we could dive for cover in the trees.
After that we  marched at night when we could but that too presented
problems. It was  so dark at night that we suffered from vertigo and
had trouble walking.  We finally pinned small pieces of white cloth on
the back of the one in  front of us in order to have something to
follow. Sometimes we walked  with a hand on the shoulder of the one in
front too for orientation.

When we came to the village of Neumarket, the first thing we saw was
a  long section of railroad track balanced on the roof peak of a two
story  house as the result of a bombing. The next two days of rainy
weather  left everything in mud and we were miserable. We were caught
along the  open road with no buildings so we spent the night in the
open in the  cold rain. 1 just stepped off the road and lay down under
a pine tree,  covered up with my overcoat and tried to sleep. In the
morning my  overcoat and blankets were soaked and weighed a ton, but I
had to wear  them because I would need them again. I never even got a
cold and was  thankful for all the shots we got in the service,
thinking they must  have helped.

One sunny day after a night's march we stopped at a farm house to
spend  the day and rest. Bruce and I were in an apple orchard just
behind the  barns. Within minutes there were little fires going
everywhere and we  could smell strange odors of food. Eggs and
chicken, and whatever else  could be found around the barns, were
cooking. Bruce got some eggs and  potatoes while I got a little fire
started. We cooked in rusty old tin  cans we found in junk piles as we
had no other utensils. We must have  cleaned out some of these farms
but it was either that or starve.  Sometimes along the march the Red
Cross trucks would catch up with us  with some parcels that we divided
among us. We also discovered that the  mounds of dirt in fields near
the road covered stacks of potatoes or  rutabagas to keep them from
freezing. We would dig out the rutabagas  and eat them raw.

When we stopped in the small villages we took over all the empty
churches and buildings for sleeping and guys would immediately start
out to trade cigarettes and anything else we had for food. I was
never  any good at this so Bruce used to scrounge for us. In friendly
places  we did quite well at this as the people were desperate for
American  cigarettes. This type of marching and spreading out in farms
and  villages kept us mixed up with different guys all the time. We
were all  in the same situation so it didn't matter, but Bruce and I
were still  together. I don't know where Ullo was by this time.

One day we crossed the Danube River and there was a large unexploded
bomb sticking up out of the pavement in the center of the bridge. We
walked a little faster until we were by it. Towards the end of this
march I remember being in a large open area near some buildings when
a  heavy rainstorm started and we all ran for cover inside them. One
lone  figure was laying out there under his coat in the rain and
nobody  helped him inside. He must have been separated from the
friends who had  been helping him. I found out later that he was John
Bradey from  Victor, N.Y. and when I got back to Camp Kilmer in New
Jersey he was  there and still sick. We became acquainted and he
borrowed a clean  shirt from me to wear home. He promised to return
the shirt and about  four weeks after getting home his wife sent it to
me. There was  enclosed a letter telling me that he was it the Buffalo
VA hospital  very ill from having a ruptured appendix. It had happened
when we left  the first prison camp, so he had suffered with that
through two  marches, two camps and all the way home. The will to
survive was so  great that it had kept him going all that way.

All the pilots in England must have been briefed on our location
because during the remainder of the last march and at the last camp
we  were never again bombed or strafed while cities all around us
were  bombed. Our fighter Planes were flying over in increasing
numbers as the time went on. We were fortunate to have been shot at
only the one  time when marching in open country. After ten days and
marching 91  miles we arrived at the last camp in fairly good
condition due to the  frequent rest stops and warmer weather.


Chapter 11 Stallag VII-A at Moosburg

Stallag VII-A at Moosburg was a very large camp as prisoners were
moved  here from al1 the other prison camps to keep them from being
liberated.  We found some of the men here who had dropped out from
that first march  from Sagan. All the barracks were full, and large
tents were put up  between the buildings and that is where Bruce and I
found ourselves a  place. They were large tents and we slept in rows
down each side on the  ground. We were on an incline and when it
rained the water ran right  through the tent sometimes in a real river
when the rain was heavy. We  finally gathered rocks and piled them up
about three inches high and  slept on top of them. One night I woke up
during a downpour and found  that my shoes were floating away down the
small trench we had dug  around our beds. I decided that between that
and the water coming  through the bullet holes in the tent I had
better find a dry place for  the rest of the night. I felt my way
around in the darkness until I  found a barracks building, then
crawled around on my hands and knees in  the pitch black among the
bodies on the floor. I found a place and  squeezed in between two
bodies and fell asleep. When woke up I was back  to back with someone
and we both sat up at the same time. He was a big  guy from India with
all the robes and turban on his head, a big black  beard on his face.
He smiled (half his teeth were missing), I smiled,  said "good
morning" and got out as fast as I could.

There were prisoners of all nationalities here: Scots, Turks and
Indians as well as English and American. There were about 27,000 of
us  so it was a large camp. Some of the Scots had their kilts and
bagpipes  and they would march around the open area we had for a
softball  diamond, playing the bagpipes. We played softball again here
and I got  a baseball uniform which I carried all the way home with me
for a  souvenir. I played third base because it was next to the
latrine, which  I needed again as I was once again suffering from
diarrhea and  dysentery. When I wasn't batting or playing third, I sat
in the latrine  and came out only when they needed me. My problems
were probably caused  by the bad water gotten on the last march and it
was so bad that I had  to run for the latrine every time I started to
eat. During the worst  times I gave my food away to Bruce or someone
else who needed it.

I can't remember who was still with Bruce and I from our squadron in
England or the camp at Sagan. It is possible that Ullo and Barlow
were  there with us, but it is only Bruce that I remember clearly. At
the  corner of the camp by our location the guard was a red headed
German  from Brooklyn who spoke with the Brooklyn accent. He was
brought up in  Brooklyn and had been drafted into the German army
while visiting  Germany. There was only one fence around this camp so
we could go over  and talk to him, sometimes giving him one of our
chocolate bars as he  had little to eat. One of the guys traded with
him for a camera and  film which he used to take pictures. I signed up
for copies and  received them several months after returning home.
Those pictures are  included in this chapter.

Moosburg had been a center for Red Cross parcel distribution and
therefore food parcels were issued again one per week to each of us,
thus providing adequate food again. We had no provisions for cooking
so  the art of making stoves from tin cans began In earnest. Some
were  simple and others very elaborate with wheels that turned by a
handle to  force air through the fire to increase the heat and help
when burning  green or wet wood. Bruce and made a simple one with two
tin cans with  the fire in the bottom one. It was a good enough setup
for the little  we cooked. The open areas between the barracks were
filled with those  little stoves at mealtimes. We were getting German
ersatz coffee which  was bitter and resembled coffee only by its
color. We drank it because  we needed something hot. There were also
all kinds of cigarettes in  camp when American cigarettes were not
available. I tried some of the  Turkish cigarettes and they were so
strong it would knock your socks  off. British and Italian cigarettes
were also quite plentiful so I had  plenty as I didn't smoke much.

We were only thirty miles from the concentration camp at Dachau, but
we  knew nothing about it at this time. After we had been here two
weeks we  began to hear the big guns to the west of us and knew that
the American  front was-getting closer and that we would soon be free.
The rumors  began again that we might be moved again to the east, but
the Germans  must have realized that there were too many of us to move
and that the  war would soon be over anyway. To the west of us was a
hill with trees  on the top and open fields on the slopes facing us.
We began watching  those fields waiting for the American troops to
come. On Sunday morning  April 29 the guns were a lot closer and we
were very excited. The  German guards had about all disappeared so we
knew it wouldn't be long.

We were watching the top of the hill and saw the little L4 spotter
planes flying low and directing the artillery fire. Bullets from
rifle  fire began hitting the camp and next to my bunk one guy was
sitting  against the center tent pole writing a letter when a bullet
hit the  tent pole and dropped into his lap. He put the bullet in his
pocket and  we headed for the trenches which were about six feet deep
and ran  throughout the camp. We looked up at the hill and the tanks
were just  coming out of the woods toward us. In my trench there were
several  British prisoners and of all things, at a time like this they
had their  1ittle stove and were making their morning tea. Nothing
could stop them  from doing that.

Someone came running across the open space and jumped in the trench
yelling 'Mail Call". I had a letter and when I opened it, there in the
trench, I found it was from Eastman Kodak Company telling me that a
Job  was waiting for me although not the job I had 1eft. They sent
greetings  and hoped I would soon return. I can't imagine how they
knew where I  was and what an odd time to receive that letter, with
the bullets  flying all around.


Chapter 12 Liberated

The rifle fire soon ceased and we were all running around the camp
excited and yelling. It was just eight days less than a year that I
had been held prisoner and, as happy as I was, you can imagine the
feelings of the men who had been held for two or three years. We  saw
a tank coming down the road into camp, ran to the main gate,  broke it
down and rushed out to meet them. So many of us climbed  all over the
tank that you couldn't even see the metal. The  soldiers in the tank
threw out whatever food and cigarettes they  had to us. The second
tank rolled into camp and General George  Patton, with his two pearl
handled revolvers, was riding on the top  of it. He was one general
who was right at the front with his men.  Our cheers of celebration
were just deafening as hundreds of us  poured out of camp and ran
around the countryside, thrilled to be  free. Before long guys
returned to camp with horses and wagons,  buggies and anything else
they could find.

I understood that some men packed up their belongings and started
west toward France as they couldn't wait any longer. They traveled
west by catching rides on the supply line vehicles. Most of us,
however, stayed in camp as we had been told we would be transported
out in a couple of days. When the day came to depart I left the  heavy
overcoat and took only what I needed. I took the baseball  suit and
the Royal Air Force blanket along with me, but somewhere  near this
time I must have discarded the long orange sweater that  had served me
so well during the cold of winter. We marched out of  camp a couple of
miles to a large flat grassy field where DC-6  planes were going to
fly us to France. It was a nice warm spring  day and we had to wait a
couple of hours for the planes so we  spread out our blankets on the
grass and sat down to chat. It was a  special time because we were
just beginning to realize that all the  friends we had made would soon
be separated from us, never to be  seen again.

The planes finally came and when it was time for me to board I had  to
make a big decision. I stood there looking at that nice blue air
force blanket laying on the ground. It was so heavy and I didn't  know
whether or not I could carry it all the way home or not. At  the last
minute I decided to leave it there on the grass. I have  always
regretted leaving it and bringing the baseball suit instead.  Bruce
and I got onto the same plane and flew to a place along the  French
coast. Along the way we flew over Paris and I at least had a  chance
to see it from the air. We were put in an area with barracks  known as
Stage 1 and were told to stay in that area only. Bruce and  I found
beds together, left our gear and walked down to the mess  hall. We
each got one of the cheese sandwiches they were passing  out and they
were really something. They were two slices of white  bread each two
Inches thick with a one inch inch thick slice of  cheese in between.

The bread tasted like angel food cake to us after all that hard  black
German bread; it was unbelievable how much flavor there was  in white
bread. We were to eat in this area only for the first day,  as, due to
our weakened condition, our diet and amount was to be  limited. The
second day, in Stage 2, we went to a different, mess  hall and on the
third day to Stage 3. Each day we received more  food. As there were
no fences between these areas some guys would  go to all three mess
halls for the same meal. The man named Irons  (who had won the
mustache contest back in Sagan and still wore the  mustache here in
France) was in the bunk next to me and at night we  heard him moving
around at all hours. We later discovered that he  had a helmet full of
food and was eating all night. Some of the  guys got sick from eating
too much and there was a rumor of one man  dying from eating too many
candy bars.

It was almost Mother's Day and each man was allowed to send a
Mother's Day greeting telegram home. I sent one to my stepmother so
everyone at home would know that I was okay and heading home. After
three days here we were taken by truck through the city of LeHarve,
France through narrow streets with the French people waving along  the
way. When we arrived at the harbor a liberty ship was waiting  for us.
After coming over on such a huge ship, this one looked like  a rowboat
and we weren't too excited about crossing the Atlantic on  anything so
small. We got on board and were surprised that there  were so few of
us, about 200, and that we were not at all crowded.  the bunks were
hammocks put up below decks and I was in the bow. We  sailed across
the English Channel on water as smooth as could be  and enjoyed this
part of the trip. When I was out on deck I stayed  in the middle as
the ship was so narrow you could stand in the  middle and see over
both sides. We sailed to Southampton, England  where we joined a large
convoy heading home.

Being an American ship, the food was wonderful and I had no
seasickness to spoil my appetite. The meal just alternated between
steak, chicken and turkey. After each meal we took oranges, apples,
or bananas up on deck and ate them while laying in the sunshine.
Although there were only about 200 of us, one meal we ate 75 jars  of
peanut butter. The seas were quite calm the first few days out,  so we
spent most of the time on deck to avoid the dark and  unpleasant below
decks area. There were ships all around us and I  could count twenty
plus destroyers for escort as there were still  German subs operating.

At about the middle of the Atlantic we ran into very stormy weather
with high seas. When you were an deck it sometimes looked as though
our ship was alone and the other ships would come up from behind  the
swells only to disappear again. While laying in the hammocks  trying
to sleep at night we would hang on to keep from falling out.  The bow,
where I was, would come way up out of the water, shudder  quite
violently, then fall to hit the water hard. The force was so  hard
that it gradually broke all the light bulbs in the ceiling.  This
weather was probably normal for the Navy, but airmen were not  used to
it and worried about what might happen. After a few days  like this
the weather improved for the remainder of the trip home.

When we emerged from the storm there were only about one third of  the
ships left in the convoy and we wondered what had happened to  all the
rest. We later learned that they had turned off for other  ports. The
guys from the South were heading for southern ports and  those of us
from the Northeast were going to New Jersey ports. As  we neared the
U.S. the seas were much calmer and for a couple of  days we enjoyed
sitting on deck and watching the porpoises swim  around the ship. We
landed in New Jersey and were taken to Camp Dix  from which we had
departed a year and a half before. It was late  May and we were
looking forward to being home by Memorial Day.


Chapter 13 Home Again

When we arrived at Camp Dix the first thing we did was go single file
through a room for a medical checkup. A doctor was standing there and
asked "how do you feel?" I said 'Okay' and he said "Next".  That was
the extent of the medical checkup we got and of course no one
complained about anything because all they wanted to do was to get
home again. We were afraid that if we told of any problems they would
put us in the hospital and keep us for weeks.  We didn't want that to
happen......even John Brady with the ruptured appendix went through
the line quickly.

The next step was to go into a room where a sergeant made out our
income tax and gave us some of our back pay so we had money to get
home. They took out 188.00 to pay the income tax on my salary for  the
year I was in prison camp. I don't know how they had the nerve  to do
that after what we had been through. They talk about how  badly the
Vietnam veterans were treated when they came back, but I  think what
happened to us was just as bad. We didn't have any  crowds to meet our
ship or parades to welcome us back either. We  later discovered that
we should have insisted on more medical help  and reported our health
problems so they would have been in our  medical records. A few years
later when I needed treatment for my  back, there was no way to prove
that it was service connected. When  I did try a few years later to
get some compensation at Buffalo and  Rochester VA centers for stomach
and back problems all I got was a  runaround.

I sent a telegram to my wife and told her I would let her know when
to come to Rochester, then I sent a message to my father to tell  him
of my return to the country. I went to the PX one day and drank  a
half glass of beer. I discovered I wasn't in very good shape yet  and
had to go back to my bunk to lie down for several hours to  recuperate
from the drink. After all I had been through I weighed  124 lbs. only
two pounds less than when I entered the service,  however. I had at
least a half dozen Army blankets and I mailed two  of them home and
later wished I had mailed a lot more as they were  nice blankets and I
sti11 have one.

When it came time to find out where we were going next we lined up  in
front, of the desk of an officer who was giving out papers to  report
to a large recreation club in the Blue Ridge Mountains of  Virginia.
It was one of those fancy places with tennis, golf,  swimming and
horseback riding for two weeks of rest and relaxation.  The line got
shorter and the man ahead of me got his papers. It was  my turn at
last. The officer stood up, announced that the resort  was filled up
and the rest of us were to go home for two weeks then  report to
Atlantic City for reassignment or discharge. I was so  disappointed as
this would have been such a nice honeymoon for  Lettie and I. Another
example of how things worked for me in the  service.

We made preparations to go home and soon it was time to say good-by
to Bruce. It was a very hard thing to do after the two years we had
spent together and all that we had been through. We agreed to write
often and get together when we could.

I met another man, Jim Smith, the nephew of Ray Smith who worked in
the Canandaigua post office and we decided to come home together.  He
lived in Newark and I decided to take the train there with him.  We
were none too neat traveling on the train as we were still  wearing
our old dirty uniforms from prison camp. At Newark I took a  bus to
Canandaigua as I had not notified anyone that I was coming. I wanted
to make it a surprise so I got off the bus at Main Street  and didn't
even take a taxi home. I had all, my belongings in a bag  which I
threw over my shoulder as I walked home up Chapin Street. I  didn't
even see anyone I knew along way home. When my father got  home from
work I was in the bathroom shaving and I walked out and  said 'hello'.

Two days later Lettie arrived in Rochester and I borrowed my  father's
car to go pick her up. We stayed with my father several  days and then
decided we would leave as it was difficult to get  along with my
stepmother. We rented a room at Lowes Tavern on South  Main Street
which was a combination tourist home with room and  board. We spent
the next two months at different places like  Niagara Falls, Hill
Cumorah and around the lake. We were  entertained at dinner parties by
all the friends I had before  entering the service. I bought a used
Chevrolet coupe with the back  pay that I received so we had
transportation.

During these first few weeks at home I began to realize what three
and a half years in service had cost me in terms of my position in
life. Here I was at 29 with no job, a little money and a car. All  the
friends who had escaped being drafted, some legally and some  not, had
really prospered. Most had made a lot of money working in  defense
jobs, had new cars and homes of their own. After giving up  three and
a half years of your life for your country, the reasons  others didn't
go and their prosperity was always on one's mind. I  wouldn't have
done it any other way, however, as the good times had  in the service
far outweighed the bad and those memories will  always be with me. I
was lucky to have had the chance to fly those  airplanes and make so
many wonderful friends not to mention the  exciting experiences.

In August 1945 we drove to Atlantic City where we stayed in a large
hotel taken over by the Air Force. It was right on the boardwalk  and
included the Atlantic City Convention Hall. I'd never seen a  room so
large, approximately the size of a football field, on the  first floor
of the hotel. The beauty pageant was held there the  first week we
were at the hotel. We watched the parades on the  boardwalk in front
of the hotel and saw all the contestants. They  asked all of the
ex-prisoners who were there for fifty volunteers  for one evening and,
as we had always known that you never  volunteer for anything in the
army they had quite a time coming up  with fifty guys. As it turned
out, they were the lucky ones who  each escorted a beauty contestant
to a large banquet one evening  and the rest of the men were envious.

We attended meetings all week to help decide whether to stay in the
service or get a discharge. I had already made up my mind to get  out
so gradually got all the necessary papers signed and got ready  to
1eave for home. The parking there was limited and our car was in  so
tight we couldn't get it out to use while there. My car was in  the
back row with two rows in front of me. The cars were so close
together that they touched and I had to get the license plate  numbers
of those in front and around me and hunt them up to move  the cars.
The cars were so close together that the paint was  scraped off both
sides of the car when we finally got it out. When  we returned to
Canandaigua, we rented an apartment on North Main  Street and became
friends with Len and Marcia Bobbins in the next  apartment. They built
and lived in the house that I now own. I had  to find a job, so went
back to Eastman Kodak, but the pay they  could offer was about half of
what I could earn working with my  father and Clarence so I decided to
paint.

I painted with my father and Clarence as Gordon had his own  business
and Leon was working at Brigham Hall. There was not much  work that
first winter, but I did get a chance to help Leon for a  couple of
months at Brigham Hall. The next spring we had the chance  to rent the
house on Mason Street where Sands and Millie Mullins  had been living.
I went to Rochester and had a good talk with the  landlord whom I
convinced to rent it to us. At that time the rent  was only $25 a
month and as soon as the Mullins moved out, we moved  in. While living
there our daughter Lynn was born on April 22,  1947.

During the summer of i946 we took a trip to Kirksville, Missouri to
visit Bruce and his wife Marie. Paul Maxwell, one of the pilots I  had
flown with in England, lived in Tarre Haute, Indiana and I had his
address so we stopped to see him. His wife was home and told me  where
he worked so I looked him up. It was some kind of a factory  or office
building and I was walking down a corridor when I saw him  ahead of me
so I caught up, tapped him on the shoulder and said  'hi'. He was very
surprised and we spent the evening with dinner at  their home. We
stayed in a motel and drove to Missouri the next  day. Bruce was just
getting settled in and lived in a small older  house off the main
road. We stayed several days with them, talking,  fishing and going on
picnics. We arrived there on a Saturday and  stayed up half the night
talking and drinking. The next morning we  awoke with terrific
hangovers and Just barely made it through  church services. In the
afternoon Marie made a container of soup to  take to Bruce's
grandfather who was 90 years old and had just  returned from the
hospital after having a leg amputated. He was  gone when we got there
and we found him down at a pool hall telling  all his buddies about
the operation. They are tough old birds in  that part of the country.

Bruce was a woodworking teacher at the high school and later he  moved
to Santa Rosa, California to teach there. On weekends he  taught
woodworking to prisoners at Alcatraz. We had a good time  with Bruce
and Marie and although we never got together again, we  corresponded
for years. The big Swede, Al Johnson, owned and  operated a motel
'Shady Rest' on a lake in Minnesota and he wrote  several times and
invited us up for a free vacation, but we never  got there.

Back home we looked forward to Lynn's birth and then her childhood
years. When Lynn was about two years old we were visiting with our
neighbors Ted and Gertrude Smith and several of their friends one
evening. Lynn was sitting of the floor and everyone was sitting
around her talking. Suddenly Lynn spoke up saying "Daddy looks
different than Mommy in the bathtub". The room. was immediately
enveloped in a deadly silence and my heart stopped beating. Then  Lynn
finished saying "Daddy has wrinkles on his belly" and everyone
doubled over with laughter. That came close to being my most
embarrassing moment.

From 1946 to 1950 the painting business was not very good and we  had
to save our summer wages to carry us through the winter when  work was
scarce. I remember one December when I only worked Two  days and made
$17. In 1953 we bought our first house, on Telyea St.  next door to my
sister Dorothy, at a cost of $731.10 it was  financed on a GI loan
through the local bank. We moved there  December 3 and it was a warm
sunny day at 63 degrees, a perfect day  for the three of us and our
cat "Betty" to move. In 1948 the three  of us, known as R.G.Benson and
Sons started working part-time  during the winter doing all the
painting at F.F. Thompson Hospital  which made it easier to buy a
house. I had had a garden on Mason  Street and made quite a large one
in the lot on Telyea Street. I  have managed to have a garden every
year since then although some  of them were small. I also inherited a
love for flowers from my  mother and have always had flower gardens
and plants.

During the late 1940's when Lynn was small we took a trip to Utah  in
the month of December and we only got as far as Lancaster,  south, of
Buffalo, when we ran into a terrible blizzard and the  roads were
closed. We got into the parking lot of a closed summer  motel with a
number of other travelers. They opened up the motel so  we would have
a place to spend the night in the lobby and some of  the rooms. There
was no heat and we were awake shivering all night.  Lynn was in the
bed between us and it was so cold her cheeks were  frostbitten by
morning. Early in the morning I put the chains on  the car and we were
able to get started. We decided to take the  southern route and we had
snow piled up on the car until we got to  Oklahoma, where everyone
wondered where we had come from.

We made another trip to Utah a few years later and went via the
northern route. I am unable to remember exactly which events  occurred
on which trip so will relate them as I recall them,  without much
regard to the year.

The first trip during the winter was the year they had the hay lift
for the farm animals due to the severe winter weather. One morning
the temperature was 45 degrees below zero with so much frost in the
air that you couldn't see the mountains to the east. One week it  only
got up to 14 below, but the cold was more bearable as the air  is so
dry. Mrs. Clark used to go out and hang up the washing in a  short
sleeved dress when it was down to 10 degrees above zero. The  farmer
who was a friend of Jimmy Clark's was a sheepherder and he  was stuck
with a flock of sheep way out an the prairie with no feed for the
animals. We took a load of hay in Jimmy's truck and his  friend had a
big bulldozer which he used to make a trail through  the snow from the
road ending to where the herder was. He had a  little clearing in the
deep snow and about half of the sheep were  laying around it frozen to
death.

The little sheepherder's wagon was very interesting and as it was  10
degrees below zero we were glad to get inside. There was Just  room
for the four of us and the stove made it very warm. He  insisted we
stay for dinner and grabbed an axe, went outside and  cut some chunks
of meat off one of the dead sheep. He cooked it in  the little stove
and between the heat and the smell of that mutton  cooking we would
have been driven out if it hadn't been so cold. As  it was, we lost
our appetites. We did squeeze into the narrow aisle  with a board an
our laps for a table and had mutton with hot  biscuits and honey. To
this day I can't stand the smell of lamb  cooking.

On one of the trips to Utah we left Lynn with her grandparent and
went on to California by train to spend several days with Neil Ullo
and his wife in Walnut Creek, California. He had started an
electrical business and was selling and installing appliances in  that
area. I went with him one day and helped him install a washing
machine. Neil remembered all his hungry days in prison camp and was
very strict with his children at mealtime, making them eat  everything
on there plates. It was almost an obsession with him. We  had a good
visit and several years later they made a trip east and  stayed with
us when we lived an Telyea Street. We took the train  back from
California and were lucky to travel in one of the first  Vista dome
cars. The country was especially beautiful through the  Snake River
canyon.

Sometime during the 1950s we needed a new car and the Clarks in  Utah
could get a better deal. We had them purchase a new Chevrolet  for us
and Mrs. Clark and Jeanie drove it to New York for us. They  got stuck
in a big snowstorm in Ohio and I left by Greyhound to  meet them. The
bus got stuck in Erie, Pa. and we had to walk the  last quarter mile
to a train station. After a long wait I was able  to get a train to
Cincinnati, Ohio. They were about fifty miles to  the west of there in
a motel. I stayed in a hotel for two days and  we talked back and
forth by telephone. The parking lot outside my  hotel room was full of
cars with nothing showing but the aerials.  Finally traffic started to
move again and they were able to come  ahead and pick me up. We got
stuck again in Fredonia, N.Y. by a two  foot snowfall and had to spend
the night in a tourist home as all  the roads were closed. The next
morning we struggled for hours to  got the car out of the parking lot
and were able to get the rest of  the way home. In those days there
was very 1ittle snow removal  equipment and these were hard trips to
make.

In 1954 we were painting a house on North Main St. when my father
complained about chest pain, but for more than an hour he kept  going
up and down the ladder holding his chest. Finally he said he  couldn't
work anymore and was going to drive to the drugstore for  something to
cure indigestion. After about fifteen minutes we heard  the ambulance
and feared it might be for him. The phone rang in the  house and the
lady came out to tell us my father had been taken to  the hospital
with a heart attack. He lived about a week and we all  took turns
sitting in the waiting room, but were never allowed to  see him for
more than a minute at a time. The doctor told us he had  suffered a
massive heart attack and knew he wouldn't live. I never  forgave the
doctor because if he knew he wasn't going to live I  think we should
have been allowed to spend more time with him.

This occurred in October when Dad was 74 years old. He was only a
couple of weeks away from his 75th birthday in November and had
planned on retiring and taking a trip to Florida. I made up my mind
to retire before my health would prohibit me from enjoying a few
years of retirement. I have always considered myself lucky to have
had the chance to work with my father for so many years and get to
know him. He once told me that it gave him great satisfaction to  have
raised nine children nobody getting into serious trouble even  though
none were a great success.

I continued working with Clarence until 1959 when I was offered a  job
as a painter in the maintenance department at the hospital. It  took
me almost a year to make up my mind because I didn't want to  leave
Clarence working alone. It was one of the hardest decisions  to make,
but I know the advantages of steady work even though I had  to start
with a cut in wages. The first few years I tried to help  Clarence
with some of his work on weekends when I could. I have  never
regretted the move because I would have ended up working  alone when
Clarence retired. I had only worked at the hospital a  few months when
I had my first serious illness. I entered the  hospital acutely ill
and the doctors decided to operate for  appendicitis. They found an
adhesion from the appendix to the  intestine on the other side and I
was suffering a bowel stoppage. I  was back to work in two weeks, but
had to take it easy awhile.

The only outside activities my father participated in were pitching
horseshoes and bowling and he was good at both of them. He was
especially good when bowling for money. He and four other bowlers
would travel around the area to bowl in pot games and he always  made
a little money. He also bowled in one nationals tournament in
Chicago. After his death I bowled for about ten years on a team  with
Leon, Clarence and, sometimes, Ken Montanye.

In 1966 I was divorced and Lynn was attending college at Hillsdale,
Michigan so I lived alone for three years on Telyea Street. I was
working at the hospital and took the same dinner with me everyday:  a
sandwich of lettuce, mustard and baloney. I ate my dinner at the
hospital cafeteria after work each night and had TV dinners or ate out
on the weekends. Several weeks after my divorce Pat Wager  introduced
me to her neighbor who was a widow and I started dating  Kate. After
the divorce I had the house, a car, some bonds and $18  in cash so I
was starting out again financially. I tried to help  Lynn with her
college education by taking on more work at the  hospital. I worked in
maintenance four and a half days a week and  Monday afternoons I was
the purchasing agent for the hospital. I  did all the Ordering and
delivery of supplies to all the  departments in the hospital. In the
evenings and Saturdays I took  care of the lawns and mowed the grass.
I did this for two years and  kept very busy.

On October 17, 1969 1 married Kathryn Coons and moved into her home
an Perry Place. The following year I sold the house on Telyea  Street
for $14000 to a girl I knew at the hospital. Lynn was now  living in
Rochester and attending Nazareth College after marrying  Dan Avery on
February 17, 1968. My grandsons Bejamin and Timothy  were born in
Rochester on November 14, 1971 and February 25, 1974.

My sister Helen died of cancer in 1974 and my brother Gordon of
cancer in 1979. In 1980 Kate and I sold the big house on Perry  Place
and moved to a smaller, newer home on Chapel Street. This  house was
just right for retirement with a dry basement, nice garage and
workshop.

In 1970 the new hospital was finished and it was quite a big job
moving into it. For several days I was the only department member  at
the new hospital directing all the truckloads of equipment to their
new locations while Harold and Brownie were directing the  move from
the old hospital. Some days it took me over two hours to  eat my lunch
usually on the run and answering phone calls. The  first few years
there I did little painting as everything was new  so I kept very busy
doing maintenance work and book and record  keeping for the
department. I soon became a "jack of all trades"  which made the work
interesting as there was something different to  do all the time.

1979 when I was 62 years old I gave a lot of thought to retiring
early, but my birthday passed and I was still going to work. The  work
was so interesting in the hospital and I was in good health so  I
decided to stay until 65. The fear of financial problems makes it
hard to decide when to retire, but I now find that I have more  money
than when I was working. A small hospital pension and Social  Security
have eliminated all financial worries at least for the  present. My
65th birthday was July 23, 1982 and it was a perfect  time for
retirement. My last day of work I painted a room and  worked right up
to the last hour, not leaving until the regular  time. I requested
that there be no retirement party as the boys in  maintenance gave me
a gift certificate for $80 from Grossmans  lumber and I used it to buy
lumber and materials to make bird  houses. After twenty three years of
working with Dad and Clarence,  then twenty three years of working at
the hospital I figured it was  time for retirement. I really enjoyed
the hospital work and the  chance to be around so many nice people. I
was offered the chance  to work part time at the hospital after
retirement, but I knew that  I had had enough and never Thought of it
again.

On the first day of retirement it was a warm sunny day and my
birthday, so I decided to put the hammock up in the backyard and  lay
in it. I discovered I had stepped in a pile of dog pooh and had it on
my socks, shoes and hammock. I washed out the socks, shoes  and took
down the hammock to put it away. So went the first moments  of
retirement. The first couple of years I enjoyed working with  wood and
built many birdhouses, selling quite a few. I only charged  enough to
have money to buy materials for more.

For two summers I painted my sister Dorothy's house for her. I only
worked a few hours each day and didn't charge her anything for  labor
as I was doing it Just to keep busy. It is a big house and I  realized
it would be the last time I would be able to do anything  of that
size. Working with high ladders was getting difficult.

In the early spring of 1985 1 decided to try oil painting. I sent
away for an artists outfit and bought some materials at an art  shop.
I had never tried anything like this before so I made a  painting
studio in the basement and started out with pictures from  an
instruction booklet. Even the early ones I painted were okay so  I
decided to continue as long as I could see improvement. I have  done
more than 150 paintings over the past two years and am still
improving. I have sold some pictures and given away the rest. I  also
build and finish the frames for them. It makes a good hobby  for the
cold winter months.

This coming July 23, 1987 will be my seventieth birthday and I have
enjoyed five years of retirement, keeping active with gardening,
reading, lawn care, oil painting, helping my brothers and writing
this autobiography.





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