Heroes: the Army Air Corps

"...I remember. I said, "I don't know if I like it this clear." And with that I see way behind us POW -- flak. Didn't think much and POW -- another 50 yards in front of it and then all of a sudden it hit a plane -- BAM. That plane went [indicating a wing over] and then it [flak] kept coming and I was almost mesmerized. I yelled at Bill. I said, "Bill, DIVE, DIVE, DIVE. RIGHT NOW! QUICKLY!, I said, Flak's right on our tail -- he's got us." He dove and right on top of us -- POW POW POW..."



image of american flag

 William E. Brown, Jr.


  • Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
  • Unit: 453rd Bomb Group/733rd Bomb Sqn. and 392nd Bomb Group/577 Bomb Sqn.[Heavy]
  • Dates: 1944 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: S/Sgt. & 2nd Lt., Top Turret Gunner
  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Entered Service: New Orleans, LA




Bill Brown's "Hollywood Style War"

     Have you ever met a fellow, and in your mind KNEW that you had met and befriended this fellow before?

     Of course, everyone has.

     That fellow is William E. "Bill" Brown, Jr.

     Today the sky is overcast, heavy clouds hanging low and the rain is coming down in gentle sheets -- whipped up by the wind. The cold, rainy February morning is reminiscent of some 59 years ago when Bill Brown mulls over his recollection of memories of those days while stationed at Old Buckenham in England.

     Bill tells me that the day was very much like his days at "Old Buck", as the base was lovingly referred to by the men who served there. They flew their terrifying missions over Germany. Bill says that this day is like many of the days at "Old Buck" -- but they were much, much colder. He shivers even today when thinking about how cold it was during his months in England. He recalls NEVER being able to get warm.

     Bill recalls while on pass in London, it struck him as being odd, where he would see the local women walking around with a peculiar look to them. The back of their legs were ALL red. He noticed this time and time again and wondered as to why? He eventually found out when he was told that the reason for this peculiar appearance was that the British made small fires in their fireplaces, not like American's who made a roaring fire in theirs. The British would make small fires and stand VERY CLOSE to them to keep warm...thus the back of their legs were literally burned.

     Bill was even glad to get airborne at times -- for above the clouds -- heading out over the Channel towards Hitler's Germany. He at least had a felling of warmth as the lumbering Liberators climbed out over the Channel. Usually they would reach 10,000 feet about the time they crossed the European Coast and then they were told to go on oxygen.

     Then the cold would begin to set in. He recalls at how the air crews would actually wear a electric blanket shaped into a resemblance of a flight suit. The problem with these cumbersome suits was that one leg might be freezing cold while the other leg might be toasty warm. Thus was the way Bill went off to war.

     So, as we sit comfortably today in the living room of Bill's Metairie home, Bill slowly begins to recall the events of 59 years ago.

     This is Bill's story.



image of Bill Brown 2004

Image of William E. Bill Brown, Jr.
taken in his home in February 2004



the Air War -- Hollywood-style


     "I remember going to Westover Field, Mass. in buses in the evening in terrible weather. We are in khakis -- about to freeze to death. That was the subterfuge that the air force did -- and it was damned good. It had me thinking we were going to the South Pacific -- don't know what it did the enemy.

     The ship went to the south and turned around out there and went to the north and landed in Scotland. The ship was the usual troop carrier. It was very fast, apparently -- we didn't see any subs and anything else, thank God."

     Bill at this time is showing me a grouping of war souvenirs that he has laid out on a table and is describing each to me.


image of Bill's war souvineers

Image of Bill Brown's war souvenirs including some
items taken off German dead at airfield in Belgium
pictured at lower left and lower center of image.
Other items in image include Bill's silk map of China
as well as his flight gloves, his watch, his chevrons,
his lieutenant bars when he made 2nd Lt. in the Air Force
Reserves and other uniform patches. Taken in his home
in February 2004.

image of Bill war souvineers

Close up of some of the souvenirs in Bill's collection
including some captured German items and a couple of
his wings...gunner and glider wings. Also notice the
small pocket diary that Bill kept during his time overseas.
Image taken in his home in February 2004.

image of Bill's wall photos

Image of William E. Bill Brown, Jr.official
Army Air Corps photo taken probably before he
left for overseas. Image taken in his home
in February 2004.

image of Bill's wall photos

Image of Bill Brown's crew and of himself in
a casual photo standing next to one of the B-24's
that Bill flew while in the 453rd Bomb Group.
Image taken in his home in February 2004.

     There is a gunner's ring -- they gave us on graduation.

     "This episode in history started when I was somewhere between 17 1/2 and 18. I was going to Tulane University and as I recall it, we were given a sort of an ultimatum. We either had to join what they had available to keep out of the draft or do something ourselves. I didn't want to have anything to do with the navy -- most of our friends were in the navy -- 99%. As it was, going to Tulane, I went to a neighborhood uptown movie theater -- called the Prytania Theater. I saw 'Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Younder' and that did it. I said that's what I wanted to do.

     So they sent me to Camp Beauregard (in southwest Louisiana). As I recall the plane (in the movie) dove and turned up with the bottom of the wings --- and that did it. I marched out of there mesmerized.

     I saw my Mother -- and my Mother said, 'Are you crazy?'

     So, I said, 'Mother, you either sign or I will figure some other way.'

     So I went to Beauregard. I met this interrogator who was a corporal. He informed me, 'There were 30,000 too many pilots on the list and whether they are coming or going or whatever and they were going to wash most of them out and send them to the infantry or thereabouts. Same thing for co-pilots. You need to pick out something else. Let me suggest to you possibly flight engineer, armorer gunner, or top turret.'

     I said, 'Well that's not at all what I am here for.'

     He said, 'If you want to stay in the air force, that's what you are going to have to do.'

     So I listened to him. For the first time in my life, I listened to somebody. He was an interrogator when we went in to see what we wanted to do. He was a very smart young man. I owe him a lot of thanks.

     I am not sure -- this is where the blank was -- I'm pretty sure I went to St. Louis in the summer time because it was hot as the devil. I remember that. I think -- I'm not sure if it was called Sheppard Field (Note: Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, Texas).

     I took my boot camp there -- 90 days. From there I think, I went to Wichita Falls Texas -- engineering school.

     From there, I am trying to get it in the right rotation -- from there I think I went to Louisville, Kentucky and that's where I bumped into that glider school situation.

     Anyway, I ended up going to engineering school at Wichita Falls.

     So they sent me to glider pilot school. I am trying to remember, but I think a name called Laurinburg-Maxion, North Carolina was where I went to school. I realized, all of a sudden I had to be very careful -- these things could very dangerous. If all of a sudden I was shipped out with this bunch.

     I realized that if I didn't move and get out of that situation, I was going to end up being a glider pilot.

     I was in the training -- I absolutely flew one (glider). It was a great big box. They pulled three of them behind a C-47 or C-46 as I recall and you landed -- of course, that area -- you landed on these great big grassy fields. You opened up this huge mouth. They filled them with airborne infantry -- they put a jeep in there.

     I got out of it.

     I don't remember how I worked it or how or whatever but some way or another I got out of there.

     From there I went to gunnery school in Tendle Field which I think I mentioned to you -- was in -- Tendle Field, Florida -- which is still there.

     There I never ever enjoyed the service as much as I enjoyed that because with my background of growing up in Louisiana and with my Father -- hunting and fishing -- here it is -- they are paying me to shoot. I couldn't get enough of it.

     When I went there, there were brick barracks. I never saw anything like that in my life. The food was magnificent. The beaches were great. The equipment was excellent -- a beautiful base. I wondered how I could get this as a permanent base. It was a paid vacation.

     I got to shoot machine guns until I was crazy -- shotguns -- since I was six years old boy, hunting and shooting was my father's favorite. We did it and I did it. So I would go out on Saturday and Sunday and pull extra duty. Instead of going into town and whatever -- I went out the the gunnery field. My friends thought I was crazy. Just to ride on those trucks and shoot clay pigeons. We used Browning shotguns -- the best you could buy.

     They would ride us around on trucks in circles and we would shoot these clay pigeons and I used to pay all my money I made to do that. Now I was doing this all the time free. We used Browning double barrels -- automatic -- great gun. So, I did good in gunnery -- but I had always done good with guns. So that was no credit to anybody. I grew up with a gun.

     When I finished that I was getting ready to -- I thought to get with the crew -- but instead. All of a sudden it crops up that they have got too many of everybody. They have got to lay back a little bit.

     From there, we finished training with the turrets and the guns and we went to Westover Field, Massachusetts where we met out crew.

     I got sent to Westover Field, Massachusetts which is where all of us met -- gunners from here, engineers from there, pilots -- altogether and they put us up as a crew.

     That's' when were told that these were the guys that we would live, sleep and eat with -- and just remember that forever. And that's the way we were.

     We didn't go to town, we didn't do anything unless we went together. We were very compatible and great group. Wonderful group -- we had a great pilot. For the life of me I can't think of the name of the ship.

(We flew a) B-24 -- one of the latest models. We had the Bendix ball turret, the nose turret -- we had the new nose turret with the twin 50's -- pair up 50's on either side, top turret, tail turret and two waist gunners. We had no bombardier when we went over. They did away with that. We had "togglers".

     But that's another story.

     We met there, trained there and went on missions -- simulated missions. And then they put us in khakis one day -- it's freezing cold and I presume that that was to fool the spy system that the Germans and the Japs had.

     Because I have a map that you saw that is 60 years old and it was of the South Pacific (note: the map is of China). So apparently they tied that all in together good and marched us down to the docks and got onto the sister ship -- what was the ship that was sunk in WWI -- the Lusitania -- we got on the Aquatania. It was a great big one. It was too fast for the submarines. That's probably why I am here today.

     So we weren't bothered with subs -- a fair crossing -- no rough weather -- a million people on that ship -- horrible food -- but to be expected, you know. We landed in Scotland.

     So that's Episode One -- OK -- we are getting there.

     After we landed in Scotland -- I think that was on the area between Scotland and Ireland -- right up in there. A lot of ships there. I don't know why, but I remember balloons -- aerial balloons, I guess -- kind of exciting.

     There was land and we got off. I think it was fairly orderly. Then we went to a holding base. I don't really remember where the heck that it was. It was some place in the middle of England where they briefed us and they put us through all of the things they were supposed to -- I think, two weeks quarantine before you could begin your shots before you were allow to get out amongst the English. Whether that was a requirement of the English, I don't know.

     Then they sent us to our base.

     By that time the base had been organized, where we had a theater and and officer's club and a non-commission officer's club. They had a USO -- dances -- a lot of activity and the food was superb. Contrary to my friends on the 17's we had excellent food. Breakfast -- that was the mainstay. We would go in to the kitchen before -- I mean physically go out of the dinning room and into the kitchen. The chef would be there and he would give you eggs any way you would want it, toast, bacon, sausage, pancakes -- right there and orange juice -- bit pots of orange juice.

     So, I never really -- I felt that the 8th Air Force was another world. I didn't feel that the rest of the world had the same world we had to fight with. I guess that we were told that so-to speak. We were the cream-de-la-cream, the best there was that this country had to offer and we were fighting the best the Germans had to offer. And, I can tell you that they had some fantastic pilots. They shot down a great many more of us than we shot down of them -- combined.

     So then we settled into our routine of up for a mission at various different time depending upon of how far the mission was -- Berlin was one of the farthest. The average mission, I think was about 6 to 8 hours, something like that.

     I think my diary has something in there about the third mission or whatever it was, I've forgotten. But it kind of relates to what I told you before that. But we got knocked out of there twice and made it back both times and actually it was -- I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars but I wouldn't want to pass that either for something else.

     That really was the routine. I know my diary that I gave you listed sixteen missions that I wrote down. Any yet I am being told now that you get an Air Medal for every five missions -- or every six missions. That should be three of them right there. Mickey (Leonard J. Hurley, B-17 ball turret gunner) told me every five. Well I don't know , it doesn't make any difference.

     But I can remember that it was every 15 -- but, that doesn't say right -- because I have a bronze star up here [walking up to and pointing to the framed medals on his living room wall] and a piece of paper that says 30 missions. I mean if I am right about the 15 -- and I don't know that I am right. It doesn't say 30 missions. If I am right about that -- [again pointing to the Air Medal citations] -- here is the first one and here is the second one with the Oak Leaf Cluster which goes on the Air Medal which is around here somewhere. So, if I am right, that is 30 missions. But I don't know if that's right at all -- but, I remember -- I am almost sure that I remember -- I've got a picture of it somewhere -- the Air Medal being pinned on me and I am sure it was the 15th mission -- I'm almost positive. It is just a matter of logistics whether it was five, six or fifteen or what, but, this represents something. So you keep trying to put that into proper perspective.

     Then we have in this book [referring to the book The Liberator Men of Old Buck] about the 453rd -- they mention about the number of missions that were aborted -- that were called back -- that were supply missions -- three in one day -- I remember that. We didn't get credit for any of those. And that was pushing out supplies to our troops. Imagine being in a B-24 flying at 500 feet -- pushing out -- the biggest plane in the world -- pushing out supplies and they could shoot us with a BB gun.

     So I have no way of substantiating whatever that was.

     They actually gave a number [to the mission] -- three in one day to France to support our troops which was a damn good thing. I think Battle of the Bulge was one of the big ones and they waited and waited until the weather finally cleared. We went over there -- any plane that could fly was pushed over there dropping supplies.

     Two things I think that I saw a great deal more of than the first boys -- the B-17 bunch -- was jets and the German V-2 and V-1's. Because they didn't start until somewhere around '43, as I recall, and they were heavy towards the end of the war.

     The P-51's could actually chase one of those things and shoot it down -- which was unbelievable because I saw it happen one day while I was coming back from Germany and I couldn't believe it. I don't know who was going -- but those P-51's were amazing. I think, I recall, they could dive flying somewhere between 500 and 600 mph. I saw a few P-38's, P-47's, and the famous Spitfire and then as I recall there's a blank spot when the war came to an end or very close to the end -- the 392nd keeps coming back to me -- in my mind."

     [Note: After the interview, Bill located some additional paper work from his days in the army air corps and one such affidavit, dated 27 June 1945 lists Bill as being entitled to a bronze service star as a member of the 392nd Bomb Group, 577th Bomb Squadron between the dates of 20 April 1945 and 1 June 1945.]

     "So, I don't know. I do remember that we were told that they were going to pick crews that were going to fly patrol and those people would stay six months longer in Europe and the rest would go home and be transferred to the B-29's. You know how rumors fly -- we were told that when we went back we would get a leave and then be sent to B-29 bases to train -- retrain -- as whatever position we would draw on the '29 and possibly go to Okinawa is mentioned and a couple places that had B-29 bases.

     Well, I went home and got a telegram about three quarters the way through saying "Stay there until we sort things out or whatever it was." I was exuberant because I was having the time of my life. I think I stayed another 30 days. Finally I got a telegram and went back up there and it looked like that they started getting this '29 thing going. Apparently they had too many crews at one time coming in there -- same old story -- couldn't handle more.

     So, then I think the bomb dropped as I recall. So they sent me and a whole bunch of us on the damnedest train ride I have ever been on in my life. The train looked like it came out -- the train itself -- it came out of about 1830 or 1840. It was unbelievable -- an old troop train. That was some place up in Iowa -- all the way down to Harlington Army Air Base and flew border patrol on the Mexican border. What type of planes? We flew 25's and 26's and 24's -- it was sort of like a hodgepodge.

     This was home -- leave -- back up and back down sitting there waiting to be discharged on the point system. That's where I was interviewed -- I think it was a captain or a major and he said, "Look, would you like to get out early? Earlier than your point system? You're pretty close to getting out." I said of course I would like to get out early and asked him what are you talking about. He said, "Just sign here in the reserves. There is never going to be another war." So, I said absolutely and he said "Sign here" and I did and I got out and in the next three or four days and I was going home.

     The next thing I know, I am a 2nd lieutenant in the reserves -- a gentleman and an officer.

     I cannot give you a reason -- but I have an enlisted number and I have an officer's number and I spent quite a few years in the reserves.

     Absolutely -- no." [I asked if he recalled what he had done in the reserves.]

     "I think I went to a meeting every month that I had to go to or something like that. Summer drill? Yes, I had two weeks which was very enjoyable. I enjoyed it. Got to fly a little bit. So all of a sudden I get a telegram. Now I am married. I have my own business and two or three children -- I've forgotten. I got a telegram. Korea came along and I got this telegram stating that we would like you to come on back and join us again. So I thought don't be ridiculous. I went down to the Masonic Temple building. I will never forget that. That is where the service headquarters was for the Army Air Corps which was now the Air Force.

     I talked to this colonel and he said, 'Lieutenant, we are going to have you fly and in 30 days you are going to be dropping bombs over there.' I told him, don't be ridiculous. I am not doing that. He said, 'We don't have enough gunners and we don't have enough engineers and we don't have enough armorers. Your MOS numbers are all of those. You are high priority.' I couldn't talk my way in or out -- designated -- my MOS is killing me. The next thing I know is that I get another telegram saying to the effect -- You will lead a group of 50 or 150 men to some field in Georgia -- a great big airfield. It gave me a leaving date. I went home and I told my wife. I said that I can't believe this. So we all had a good cry. A week later -- I got two two weeks at home -- a week later I got another telegram that said, "Stop, don't do anything, we have too many people coming into the base." The same old story.

     So I am in limbo and would you believe that my enlistment in the reserve was out about 5 or 6 days later than that and of course you know that I did not re-volunteer. Therefore that put me out. Saved by the gong and the bell. Exclamation point -- period -- that was the end of my service.

     So that is how I ended up with two MOS's.

     So my question to Dr. Anthony is, "What am I entitled to during that period." Well I checked since you brought all this up with a few other guys. They said, "Hey, you were in the reserves and you've got an MOS number and you had that time in there and anything that happened during that time, you are entitled to."

     So, OK, I am going to have to find out about that. Not that I need anything, but I am going to find out about it.

     A friend of mine is a general in the air corps and he said, 'Just give them the MOS number, they will blank you when you got there and when you left and what you are entitled to and you might surprise yourself to what your are entitled to.'

     He is the one who told me that you might need a little boy to run around and hold your chest up with all your medals. I said that I don't need all those medals. I just would like to know what it might consist of.

     Also, when I got out of the service, I got an eligibility ticket entitling me to so many years of schools and I went back and took flight training and the government paid for it which I thank them very much. I was able to fly which was certainly well worth it. I used it a lot.

     That's my story, Dr. Anthony."



Bill's Diary and Mission List:


     At this point in our conversations, Bill allowed me to query him about some of the events that he mentions in the diary that he kept during his days in the military. The entries in Bill's diary are mostly about his preparation for his duty for overseas and the missions that he flew with the 453rd Bomb Group, 733rd Bomb Squadron [Heavy].

     Bill requested that certain information not relating to the overall picture of his military story be omitted from the diary entries listed below.

     Except for the omission of this material, the diary entries below are taken in complete context and some of our discussions center on specific missions and subsequent events that happened as a result of these missions.

     The first question that I asked Bill was to describe what he considered a typical mission that he went on while he was in the 453rd Bomb Group -- from the time he woke up in the morning until everything was over and done with.

     "I can describe the one to Berlin better. I think that was the No. 3 -- I am not sure, I believe I've got it in the diary.

     Well, all missions that we flew -- my group -- we were awakened in the morning by I guess you call it the 'barracks sergeant.' We got up, brushed out teeth and went to the mess hall. I think that I explained to you, the mess hall was a -- well we went right into the kitchen and the chef -- the mess people were better than just cooks. We would get eggs and bacon -- a very nice breakfast -- hot chocolate, coffee, orange juice, just like at home.

     By this time, the base, the 453rd had been in action I think, for a year or two. So all of these problems had been solved. When we got there, everything was functioning pretty properly.

     Then we collect our gear -- did not do like the '17 boys -- we didn't mess with our guns. The guns were there and in place. We would go out to our planes and the armorer-gunners -- everybody was an armorer-gunner -- they checked all the armor out to make sure the bombs were in place -- loaded properly -- the guns had ammunition and Markey and myself checked the engines and all of that and we checked with the pilot. Then we loaded her up, closed the bomb bay and got in our positions. That wonderful ground group of ground boys that kept those planes flying were fantastic. You know, when you went into town and got something, you brought something to those guys. They kept you flying."


Bill's Crew

Pilot: Lt. William H Rutherford

Co-Pilot: Lt. Wendell Harrelson (may have been Harrison)

Navigator: Lt. Stanley H. Hanson

Engineer: Sgt. Richard Markey

Radio Operator: Sgt. George T. Dion

Gunner: Sgt. Amos A Walls

Gunner: Sgt. William E. Brown, Jr

Gunner: Sgt. Ernest J. DeMeio

Gunner: Sgt. William B. Hogan

Tail Gunner: Sgt. William Youatt


     "Then we got in our position and then took off.

     Now if you tell me today the fantastic amount of equipment that these planes had and they can't fly from A to Z without 15,000 different people telling them what to do -- here we are -- usually the fog is so thick you can't see. It is raining and these planes all took off with young boys in them -- took their formations and started climbing to the German coast.

     Nobody bumped into anybody. There were thousands of planes. How the hell they did it? I don't know. I was part of it and I don't know how they did it. As far as the eye could see -- in front of you -- behind you -- each way -- were American bombers. By the time you hit the coast you were supposed to be roughly about 10,000 feet. That's when you put your mask on. The air force said that you went on oxygen at 10,000 feet.

     The European coast -- you are over the sea -- the White Cliffs of Dover you could see, the canal (Channel) and usually right around 10,000 feet -- you got into your turrets and your positions. The pilot would say, 'Gentlemen, fire your guns.' So we would fire our guns and make sure everything was working -- get ourselves ready.

     Then there was a lot of chit chat and chatter and everybody yakking back and forth -- like some big party going on.

     Then we got on the run going towards -- let's say -- going towards Berlin. Your program was to climb as fast as you could. Mind you, you are carrying I think somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of bombs plus nine men. I don't know how all those planes carried all that -- but, they did.

     Somewhere along there you might start running into flak. When I first saw it it was the scariest thing I ever saw in my life. I didn't quite realize what it was. I saw these POW, POW, POW black clouds that -- there's some red, which meant that the Germans were running out of different types of regular shells and were using other shells. Some white. Then, when we would run into a concentration of that we would push out what we called 'chaff' -- which was tin foil shredded like we used on Christmas trees. That completely screwed up the German radar and it did a hell of a job because you could see when everybody dumped it out -- you could see the shots -- the flak -- drifting over to where whichever way the wind was blowing. So it did a good job. I guess that some people thought it didn't but at that time I would have done anything to get away from that flak. You knew the flak was close when it sounded like, throwing a hand full of gravel that you throw on a tin roof -- you were in trouble. We encountered a lot of that and not a man was ever hit. You know -- I think the right MAN was watching over us.

     Then when you got up to somewhere around -- depending on wherever they wanted us to be -- somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 feet -- I believe was the highest the B-24 could go. Then you got on the IP. The IP was the bomb run. Like take a left turn and a right turn and when you took that right turn of so many degrees you had to stay on that. At that height the bombardier took over. In those days when we got there they had done away with individual bombardiers on each plane. They had in each group -- they had three -- and those three guys were the lead bombardiers. When they hit the target where they wanted to be, they dropped their bombs and smoke bombs. You would come over the smoke bombs and figure the drift and drop on top of that. So that was called "saturation bombing". Lord knows how they took that downstairs day in and day out -- night and day. The British did it at night time. So you were to stay on that IP. Now if the Messchermits and the Focke or Me 262 jets -- anybody came in -- you couldn't move. You had to stay on that IP until you unloaded the bombs. So that was death row there. I mean, any flak train -- any 88's down there -- they knew that you were going to fly that certain pattern. So once you dropped your bombs the plane lifted immediately. You picked up speed -- then you were heading home.

     The thing that was probably our biggest concern were the flak trains. We were told that the Germans put their "sergeant gunners" on there. It was the top gunner that they had and they moved them all over the country so that our people had no way of letting you know where the heck [they were]. They could tell you where the concentrations were [located] around the cities and all that and guide the best they could. They couldn't tell you where these flak trains were. They were the ones that used to catch us. So you would beat it back as fast as you could back to your base. On the way, [you] just hoped to God that we wouldn't run into flak run into fighters -- just a nasty situation.

     We were a lucky group. We did not have a great many fatalities. Now the overall picture could be way out of proportion. But our little group was very lucky.

     By the time the war was over I don't know how many of us were left because they split up at the end and that's sort of typical. That was a typical type of mission. Most of them are like that.

     We would go to Schweinfurt -- the ball bearing factory -- OH! that was when you ran into Herr Goring 'Yellow Nose Squadron' which was a squadron of German Me-109's which had yellow spinners. That was not a typical mission. That was one when you got up you said your prayers before you got into your plane for sure. The American government -- services had found out oil was no longer the important thing. You stopped the ball bearings -- the tanks couldn't roll -- nothing could roll. So Schweinfurt was a big ball bearing area and was protected by the 'Yellow Nose Squadron.' You had to be an ace to be in that group to start with. You can imagine and they were the only ones -- and I only saw it one time.

     They came through a formation -- wing-over-wing and firing. You stop and think of all we saw was a yellow spinner. And these guys were aces. They would fly wing-over-wing firing as they went. Take down a plane nearly every time. They were unbelievable. The flak there was -- DEVASTATING.

     So there were missions -- most of them marshaling yards -- were really not really tough missions. It was just catching the flak in and out. The marshaling yards was probably -- that was a vein -- like a vein in your body -- carrying the blood -- they carried the supplies to all of the German troops -- all of them. We did a whopping job on those. Once you knocked all of those railroads out they couldn't get anymore supplies.

     I think we had Frankfurt and cities like that. I think there were two ball bearing plants we hit being defended very, very heavily. The Germans knew that. They had to have those ball bearings.

     We did a lot of bombardment of German airfields.

     We had, thank God, most of the time the wonderful P-51 with us. I think that was the difference. The B-17's did not have that, except at the war's end. When the Messerschmitts came, those '17's didn't have a chance. When they came down on us, they had to look that P-51 in the face and that baby was right there and that's what made the big difference. We didn't get that towards the end...that towards the end of the war.

     After the bombs were dropped, the plane would lift, naturally, and you would turn off the IP and maintain a designated course. The idea that we were told was to hold a tight formation -- as tight as we could without hitting wings. A Messerschmitt or whatever couldn't get through the formation. And when he did get anywhere in there he had maybe 200 fifty caliber guns on him. Somebody might hit him by accident. That was the idea of that flight formation. It worked pretty well, except for the poor guy -- you probably heard Mickey [Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley, B-17 ball turret gunner] talk about flying in the "slot". That was the guy down at the bottom. That was not a good spot to be in. But somebody had to be there. Rotated on a regular basis? Probably Mickey got his share of it.

     We returned home somewhere around 3 o'clock. If you had a problem, you shot a flare off and the other planes would clear out of the way and you would come on in. A lot of times that couldn't happen. You had to go someplace else. But most times, it was unbelievably well handled. I don't understand how they did it. I mean, you know, they can't do it today without having a hissy when a big jet lands, you know if everything isn't just right.

     Oh, then the British had something that I thought sort of ingenious. There was a fog all of the time -- not all of the time but a great amount of the time. The British would line up maybe a hundred yards apart these big hundred gallon drums with gas or whatever and light them. That heat would push up the atmosphere just enough to let you slide under which I thought was a bit ingenious.

     Then they had a -- on our dashboard, we had a round ball which went like this [showing a revolving motion with his hands] and we called it "fido". I don't know if I am right -- I think it was a form of radar. Once you got on the IP or the bomb run coming in, you got on it and it was slow, you got on it started a little faster and when it went like that [spinning motion fast], you got right on it. It would bring you right to your base. Now we couldn't do those kind of things today.

     The way we measured our gas. Oh, they couldn't do that today either. We had four tubes -- glass tubes -- and the glass tubes showed -- indicated to you were the gas level was. Now of course when you are bouncing around 300, 400 and 500 feet, you had to really guesstimate. Either Markey or myself would be yelling at Bill, 'You are down to 500 gallons -- we got to get somewhere quick.' But we would be guessing. Every one of those bombers had some genius pilots. All of those kids were 21 years old -- maybe 23. They brought those planes back -- day in and day out. Those ground crews fixed them up. I don't know how they did it. They would fix them up and get them running again.

     So when you landed, you were brought into the interrogating room. Your whole crew would sit at a table -- a disarrangement of clothes and everything. Faces were black from gun power and saying to yourself -- well I am not going to do this again -- to hell with this -- I must be crazy. And then an interrogating officer would come up and with that the noncoms would be serving coffee, tea, milk, sandwiches while you are talking.

     You would tell this guy exactly what you saw. That must be where all of this information -- . I remember one captain one time -- and I said, 'Captain, will I get credit for this kill?' He looked at me and said, "Sergeant, if we gave you guys credit for all the planes you shot down in one single mission, the entire German air force would be destroyed.' Now what he is referring to is the same plane that I think I got -- fifteen other gunners in that same area shot at that same plane and they probably all hit it. So everybody said that he shot that plane.

     By the time we got over there apparently, they changed out system of 'keeping them flying' as I call it. How do we keep these young fools flying? After two or three missions, if you had any real problems -- you would say, I am not flying. They had ways of doing that, same as the infantry. They had another way. After you finished your briefing, you went into another room and using one or two nurses and a couple of flight surgeons.

     Now this is the story I got. I have no way of collaborating it. To tell you that it is true, but it makes sense. On the table -- I don't know were 50 to 60 shots of scotch or bourbon. Bourbon now, which was nonexistent in England. Good bourbon. You were told to sign your name and you were told that you might drink one of these which was 3 ounces. I asked the flight surgeon, so if he is right or wrong, it makes no difference. What he said made sense, "We are convinced by the powers to be, that you will be in better shape by expelling the oxygen which was forced into your system. Your blood comes up to your throat and is forced back down. Alcohol causes this to move faster." I am saying to myself that I don't give a damn what the reason is. Being good Americans and having a lot of ingenuity I would go off on the side and pick up a couple of bottles -- pass them to the guys behind me and we would keep pulling off the three ounces. It wouldn't take long and we would have a couple of good bottles. So went on pass to London -- we were fixed. Either they didn't see us or they didn't want to see us or they didn't care. Because I saw them bring some of those boys out of there. They couldn't stand up and they called them the "mother sergeants". They would take and throw them in a truck and bring them back to their barracks and tuck them into bed.

     The next day -- the next five hours -- they woke up and things were all right. So it served it's purpose. Some genius thought of that. It was damn smart.

     I saw Jimmy Stewart quite a few times. He was Jimmy Stewart. After the war I saw the movies he made about the war. He didn't have to make a movie -- he lived it. He was a great man. [I asked if he was snobbish, etc.] and the reply was -- Just the opposite. And if I recall correctly, he was a wing commander. A wing commander only had to fly 20 missions. But he picked them, because of being Jimmy Stewart, he picked the 20 roughest missions he could pick. They didn't like that because if any thing happened to him it would mess up a lot of heroes at home.

     Then we had Clark Gable on the field one day. That was a man who wanted to fight. They made him a camera man. He got on the planes and he fought. He grabbed a machine out of the hands of some of those gunners. He was no mambsy-pansey. None of those guys were -- not in those days.

     They lived up to their legend and more.

     Jimmy Stewart used to brief us every once in a while. He was an unbelievable person. You didn't know how great he was until later on, because I took him as Jimmy Stewart. He was just a wing commander -- doing his job and doing more than he should do.

     Life on our base was relatively calm -- pretty organized -- a lot to do -- and we got into London a lot with a lot of time off. They would give us a pass. I think every two weeks we could get a three day pass to London. You would leave Friday and be back Sunday -- sometimes on Monday.

     That USO on Piccadilly Square in London was out of a movie -- out of a movie. I mean, the bands that were there -- Glenn Miller, you know. And those GI's and those English girls could dance like I never saw anybody. Those English girls learned fast. And the GI's taught them fast. It was a sight to see.

     I remember one thing we did. We were Peck's bad boy a lot of times. English beer is not like ours. It is about 18% alcohol -- very heavy. Compared -- ours is like champagne in comparison. The trains in those days -- the doors opened to each place where you sat. So we rolled a small keg of beer up to the train -- opened the doors and put it in Markey had a hammer and knocked the top off and we took a -- what you call it -- a mess kit can and the conductor came in and he said, 'I don't know what we are going to do with you guys. I guess we have to have you. It's the only way we are going to win this war. But you can't do that.' The poor guy. So we brought him into the room -- pushed his face in the beer -- gave him a couple of beers. He said, 'I don't know' -- he said, 'I don't know what we are going to do with you guys.' He was just trying to do his job. The English are so proper and he said, 'We just don't do those kind of things over here.' So we told him that we do these sort of things to keep our sanity. So we drank -- I know we drank all that day and I couldn't see the side of that train when we got off -- but did we have fun. It was British beer and you couldn't get American beer except on the base and it was 3.2 and we were drinking 18%.

     It was about an hour and a half in those days from Norwich to London. Those trains were beautiful. Beautiful old trains -- just like toys, you know. They weren't quite real -- much smaller than our trains. We had a great time -- in war.

     We got into London a lot of times and we would just see whole blocks blown out. We were there when they were putting those things over. [Referring to the V-2] You heard it afterwards -- it was too late. It came down and blew up and then you heard it.

     The Germans had perfected them [V-1's] to get a certain distance, but they had no control of an exact spot. It was unbelievable. It was so far advanced. It was unreal. That was a bomb with a motor on it. That's all it was. It would fly. They would figure out the amount of fuel that it took -- say -- to get to London. But they couldn't say to get to London and that hospital. It just went -- BOOM. That's when the Spitfire's and the P-51's were shooting them down.

     I saw it happen. I couldn't believe it. I was coming back from a mission and they just blew up in the sky -- by two Spitfires. [How far away was it?] Pretty damn close. Maybe it was a mile. I just happened to spin my turret around -- because I was looking for them for of course we were over water and I was looking for the coast of England coming up -- the Cliffs of Dover -- what a beautiful sight to see in those days for sure. And that's when I saw them. I yelled at the pilot -- I said, "Bill, look up ahead." And here were two Spitfires coming out of the clouds -- they had enough speed to pick this baby up and they leveled off and BAM they got it. The V-1 was a little bit higher [than us.] We could see it. The sun reflected right on it -- what sun there was.

     [I inquired about seeing fighters on every mission?] No -- not every mission. We saw flak on every mission -- but not fighters on every mission. That doesn't mean that there weren't fighters in the area -- I am just telling you that we were lucky and they just didn't pick us out. Usually when they jumped on us, they would take a plane or two down nearly every time.

     Then we got into the jets. I remember the time when I first saw a jet, they called them 'tubes of toothpaste.' What happened was when I first saw one I was in top turret spinning around and I looking around keeping my eyes open and I saw this BRIPP -- BRIPP. I said, 'Bill, Bill, look up above and he could see where it was.' So I said, 'Wait a minute,' -- The nose gunner, Red said, 'I see it.' What it was was -- we found out when we got down and got interrogated that they only had one hour of fuel. That's all that they had been able to muster in that ship. So they turned it on and off. It made sense, but I didn't think you could turn them on and off like that. That vapor trail was what was coming on and off. And when they were ready to maneuver like this -- boy [hand motions] WHOO! they came through a formation going 600 mph. You couldn't even get your guns on them. [Was this the Me262 or the single engine rocket plane -- Me 163?] We saw BOTH of them. They would come cutting through those formations and they only had enough fuel to make one pass. Normally that one pass was all they needed. I think some of them had 40mm's.

     The Germans were experimenting. If Hitler hadn't stuck his nose in there and stopped a lot of these things to do something else, we might still be fighting them. You stop and think -- that country -- and I flew over many, many times -- that country is about the size of Texas -- is fighting the whole known world -- to a standstill. But then they were fighting another war -- that was the one upstairs and that's what cost them the war. It took, I think, 20,000 88's out of being able to shoot at the French, the British, the Americans to shoot upstairs and that's what cost them the war. No one has ever really brought that out. The amount of gun powder and man power and guns it took to stop -- and shot up -- there was a war going upstairs. That was the biggest battle of all."

     [I asked about an earlier statement about when forming up and seeing planes forming up all over and in every direction he could see, if the planes were all going to the same target?]

     "I really can't answer that. I'm sure that they couldn't have been. You got kind of accustomed to it -- you took off -- the fog was bad most of the time -- you went through layers and you would get up and you would just see planes everywhere. I presumed that they might have been going two or three different ways."

     Below is a listing of the training missions that Bill took part in during his preparation to go overseas. These training flights are listed in his Individual Flight Record took place out of Westover Field, Mass.

1st Air Force - 1st Bomber Command -
112th AAF BU Bomb (Heavy) - Sec III

October 1944

7 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 1:15 Hours

8 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 1:00 Hours

9 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 5 -- 4:05 Hours

11 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:55 Hours

12 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 2 -- 5:00 Hours

17 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:35 Hours

19 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:15 Hours

20 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 1:20 Hours

23 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:10 Hours

26 October -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:50 Hours

Total: 28:25 Hours


November 1944

2 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:55 Hours

7 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:45 Hours

8 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 2 -- 4:55 Hours

13 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:25 Hours

14 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:10 Hours

17 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 8 -- 4:50 Hours

18 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:25 Hours

19 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:10 Hours

20 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- :35 Hours

23 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:50 Hours

24 November -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:10 Hours

Total: 44:00 Hours

Total: 72:25 Hours to Date


December 1944

1 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:00 Hours

2 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:30 Hours

3 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:40 Hours

5 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:00 Hours

7 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:30 Hours

8 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:05 Hours

10 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:15 Hours

11 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 2:15 Hours

14 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:40 Hours

15 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 4 -- 3:45 Hours

Closed Due to Change in Station:

16 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 1:00 Hours

17 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 2 -- 4:00 Hours

21 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 3:00 Hours

29 December -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 4:30 Hours


January 1945

3 January -- B-24J -- No. Landings - 1 -- 5:05 Hours

Total: 113:40 Hours to Date



The next segment deals with Bills' diary entries.


Bill's 1945 Diary

     Note: The following diary entries are taken from William "Bill" Brown's diary that he kept. Each entry was brief but in some cases told a remarkable story -- once we had a chance to discuss the entry and the official after action report at length.

     You will notice in reading the entries in Bill's diary, that on each mission that is recorded [Bill claims additional missions NOT given credit for] there is a corresponding entry stating the "After Action Report". The number following the "After Action Report" indicated as thus [pp. 150] denotes the page number that corresponds to the entry that is in the 453rd History book entitled: The Liberator Men of "Old Buck": The Story of The 453rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) in World War II: 29 June 1943 - 15 September 1945.)

     If interested, this book can be purchased through the 453rd Bomb Group at a cost of $35 (postpaid) from:

     Lloyd Prang
     2451 Willow St.
     Greenwood, IN 46143-9343

the webmaster

A notation on the last page of Bill's diary states simply:

453 Bomb Gp --
733 Bomb Sqdn. (H)
A.P.O. 558


January 1945


Wednesday 10

Left Westover Field for Mitchel -------------------


Friday 12

The Story of A gunner // Bill Brown


Saturday 13

(Entry omitted by request)


Sunday 14

Last day of freedom in States -- went to New York -- Nothing much going on -- getting ready to leave "Mitchel" for P. O. E. Got a lot of candy, gum, cig -- going to write, sleep and see a show. (Remainder of entry omitted by request)


Tuesday 16

Left "Mitchel" today for P. O. E. (Camp Kilmer, NJ.) Snowed all the way - got settled and eat. Was tired, ad went to bed. Food is terrible here.


Wednesday 17

Had a physical to-day - also went through the gas chamber -- some fun. Nothing much doing - think we'll be leaving soon. Going to show tonight.


Thursday 18

had a few tests today - not much to them. (Omitted by request) Saw a show -- very good -- bed.


Friday 19

Entry omitted by request.


Saturday 20

Getting ready to leave -- got packed and every(thing) in order. Should leave any day now -- looking forward to it. Glad to get out of this place -- get on the road. (Remainder of entry omitted by request) (2) Getting ready to leave -- such is life?


Sunday 21

Got our orders and date of leaving. Getting packed -- picking up some more candy and cig. Went on K.P. tonight. Last day in country.


Monday 22

All packed -- ready to leave. Boarded the ship at night (the Aquatania) terrible quarters. A hell of a lot of men on this ship. Went to bed (or what ya'll call a bed)


Tuesday 23

Didn't sleep at all -- had breakfast (terrible food). Leaving New York this afternoon. Its dam cold. First day at sea -- said good by to the Statue of Liberty. Hope to see it soon.


Wednesday 24

Second day at sea. A little rough - but nice weather. Had life raft drill -- hope nothing happens. Going to get some sleep and be at the show later -- not much to do.


Thursday 25

Bad weather today - ship rocked a lot. Heading South to adow enemy. Stayed on deck most of the time -- did a lot of reading -- didn't get any sleep.


Friday 26

Weather cleared up -- pretty day. Food a little better as far as food goes. (Omitted by request) Get some sleep but it is getting hotter.


Saturday 27

Heading north again. Should reach England any day now. Played cards all day -- lost 50 cents -- not bad. Ended up reading "Ellery Queen" until late in the night.



Most important things in my mind now are -- England -- getting this over with and (remainder omitted by request).


Sunday 28

Slept late for a change -- the first good night sleep I've had in ages. Saw the boxing matches in the afternoon -- very good. Finished reading "Queen" books and went to bed.


Monday 29

Got up early to shave, to long for comfort. Food is still terrible. The English are eating the part of it -- something wrong! Coming into Scotland today -- be dammed glad to get off this ship.


Tuesday 30

Arrived! It was wonderful to see land again. A lot ships around us -- All kinds. Spent all day looking around. We were welcomed by the English.


Wednesday 30

Can't leave the ship to until tomorrow. Were allowed to write for the first time -- Sure miss --- Mother.


February 1945


Thursday 1

"LAND" ---- Such a wonderful sight and seeing American girls (Red Cross) gave us coffee & donuts. Got on the train for "London" - station 30 minutes.


Friday 2

Arrived at camp early in the morning (Duncan Hall). We ate breakfast and slept all day. The food is wonderful here.


Saturday 3

Finished up here and am waiting to be shipped out to our air-field. Got our first pass in England. Went to a little town called "Stone" more fun.


Had more fun Sat. night. Found England much as the U.S.A. (Remainder of entry omitted by request)


Sunday 4

Getting ready to leave for our air base -- Sure will be good to get settled. (Remainder of entry omitted by request)


Monday 5

On the train all day -- beautiful country. Arrived at our air base in the night and got things settled. Had something to eat and went to bed.


Tuesday 6

First day of training. Learning how the field op. and works. Will fly our first mission in two weeks or sooner. Went to bed.


Wednesday 7

Still training and will be for a few more days. Learning a lot that should help. Saw a show and went to bed. The food is very good.


Thursday 8

Some more training news -- some interesting -- get gunnery tomorrow. (Omitted by request) Damn this mail system.


Friday 9

Got up early for school -- Marry has a hard time waking us up. Two bombers hit while coming in for a landing some sight -- poor fellows -- luck.


Saturday 10

Made "Sgt" today -- Sure has been a long time, at last it came through. Meet a boy from New Orleans -- sure is a small world -- good to see him.


Sunday 11

Not much going on -- slept all day -- Had a good dinner and went to the show. Spent the rest of night writing -- sign payroll.


Monday 12

Trying to finish school -- as we can get our pass and S/Sgt -- sure is a lot of money. About half way through school -- Bed early.


Tuesday 13

Still no mail -- thats the thing I miss the most. (Remainder of entry omitted by request)


Wednesday 14

Markey, George and Bill flew today -- just two more draw rounds and will be on our first mission. Went to the show and wrote.


Thursday 15

Went to the M.T.O. all day -- very good and learned a lot. Spent the night listening to the major -- told us what was expected of our group.


Friday 16

Slept all morning -- at lunch and went to the armament shop. Learned quite a lot. Hope I can answer the questions. Played cards all night.


Saturday 17

Slept late -- went down to the gunnery office in afternoon. Ate and went to the club for a card game -- won for a change.


Sunday 18

Slept all day and went to a dance that night. Went to N.C.O. club first -- had quite a lot of beer and felt very good. The dance was good -- band was on the ball -- bed.


Monday 19

Slept all morning, had lunch and then wrote letters. (Entry omitted by request) Went to the show and the to check for something to eat.


Tuesday 20

Got up early to fly -- clouds were low in two or three different layers. Stayed up for a couple of hours -- went to the club to write and play cards.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
20 February 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 2:05


Wednesday 21

Mail came through today -- damn glad. (Entry omitted by request) Slept late, answered mail. Went to show -- club and bed.


Thursday 22

Mission #220 -- 02/22/45 -- Haberstadt & Vienenburg, Germany

I - Mission. "Halberstat" A marshaling yard -- went in low -- hit the hell out of it. Flak was light and thing turned out all right, thank God.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
21 February 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:20

(Note: Flight Record and diary differ in date)

After Action Report:

Mission #220 - Halberstadt & Vienenburg, Germany - 22 Feb. - Thurs.

Probably the most spectacular raid since the low - level attack on Ploesti took place on February 22nd. From the Danish Peninsula to Nuremburg, the entire Eight Air Force, joined with the RAF, the Fifteenth Air Force and the Tactical Air Forces in France, Belgium, and Holland to tear at the rail and road junctions in that area. Specific flak-free targets were assigned and bombed from altitudes ranging from fifteen hundred to twelve thousand feet. For once the weather was with the Allies and the mission was a tremendous success.

The 453rd's specific targets were the marshaling yards at Halberstadt & Vienenburg. The photos, for the first time in many a day, showed ground instead of clouds. They also showed just how effective the bombing was. Due to the difficulties of target identification, Oker, instead of Vienenburg was attacked, but the results were good there too. Four Squadrons consisting of 38 Libs participated in the all out mission. It was quite a Novelty to be able to doff the oxygen mask over the target. Many of the gunners had the time of their lives strafing the marshaling yards and other objectives as the formations came over the targets. [pp. 143]

Friday 23

Mission #221 -- 02/22/45 -- Paderborn, Germany - Bridge

II - Mission. "Paderborn" a rail center -- lost an engine and went down in Belgium -- we all but had it -- landed on a wing and a pray -- scared to death.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
23 February 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 8:20

After Action Report:

Mission #221 - Paderborn, Germany - 23 Feb. - Fri.

The Group was briefed for a low level (6,000') attack on the marshaling yards at Fulda. However, the weather was extremely bad so, using instruments, a bridge at Paderborn was bombed instead.

That day it was necessary to use flight instruments to take-off from Old Buck. The clouds extended up to 12,000 feet. After that there were various layers of clouds and con-trails all the way up to 27,000 feet. Vertigo posed a real problem for the pilots, the bomb-run lasted 35 minutes, the longest ever, and most of it was done while flying in the clouds.

Upon returning to the base, the Group found it to be 100% overcast. It was necessary to led down one plane at a time from 13,000 feet to about 300 feet before exiting the mixture of cloud and rain. The Gee Box, which helped to locate the base, proved to be a very welcome piece of equipment that day. [pp. 143-144]

Bill and I discussed this mission:

     Bill commented: That was a bad one. That was when we decided we weren't going to fly any more. I can elaborate on that. I remember that sucker. I think and I don't know if I can be exact on everything -- but I think the front lines were about 30 or 40 miles beyond Belgium -- beyond Brussels. I think the field we landed at -- that was a British airfield No. 52. I am not sure. I was in the top turret -- sitting up there -- and when we made contact with that field I remember my radio operator, Ernie DeMaeo, he is telling this British operator -- he says, "I don't care if you are under attack -- we are blown to ribbons and we are coming in." He must have said that you can't come in. "We are coming in anyway."

     We had caught a lot of shrapnel and if I remember correctly our hydraulics system was pretty well shot up. We were down there tying cloth [parachute] around the holes. I was so scared I couldn't walk -- I had to crawl everywhere that I was trying to do things. My legs are going like this [shaking motion] -- because I figured that this was it. Man here we are flying a couple of missions and we are already in trouble. We told them -- Markey and I were on either side of them -- the pilot -- we told them, "Look, you have got one shove on the pedal and that's the end of it --don't do it until that's then end of it -- until it's absolutely necessary to the end of the runway because that's the end of it and land as far up as you can." We came into this runway on a wing and a prayer. I hit the brakes and everything held just long enough and the plane came to a screeching halt.

     I remember I was the first guy in the bomb bay and I crawled down there. I could not walk. Scared to death -- wondering what in the hell am I doing here. I pushed the button -- the bomb bay opened and I fell out on the ground -- kissed the earth and everybody else was doing the same thing. Nobody really -- we lifted up and and here are these German buzz bombs flying the hell all over the place. They were just like a bomb with a little motor on and they stopped and no direction. So the guy was telling the truth. It was in Belgium -- right near the front lines. V-1's flying all over the place -- more than one -- that was for damn sure -- and buzz bombs -- I don't know if that is the same thing.

     Now this part almost sounds like a movie -- but it brought our sanity back. We hear somebody scream and we look up and here's four "limies" in a slit trench. It's late afternoon -- so I say, "Oh my God". So we crawl over there. I don't think there was anybody walking because we were all so scared. We crawl over there and I look over the edge and if you had a million guesses, what would you think those four jackasses were doing? Cooking tea in their helmet and the whole world was blowing up.

     I started laughing and everybody started laughing and it brought back our sanity brought us back to reality. They looked at us and said, "You Yanks are certainly a stupid bunch. What's the matter with you? Come in here and have a spot of tea with us, would you?"

     You know. So then when all that activity was over -- we got back to our base. They flew us back on a Mosquito, I think -- a bomber -- or something like that. There wasn't much room in it but -- a C-47 or something or another. I thought it was a Mosquito bomber. It was made out of plywood, because it was so light.

     We didn't get back as I recall for two weeks and they had divided up everything that we had. Because when you were missing in action, the rule of thumb was anybody else just went in -- you had a nice looking belt -- they took that, your shoes, everything. So we spent a week collecting all of our stuff. I am not too sure if they were too happy to see us. They had one guy with the picture of my girl -- "Would mind giving me back that please." Reluctantly? You got that feeling.

     [We discussed the loss of an engine.] We got an '88 right through No. 3. I saw it. It scared the living hell right out of me. Right through it. [Explode?] No, if it had, I wouldn't be here. A lot of 88's did that. The German's were crack shots. Imagine, sending that [shell] all the way to 25,000 feet and dropping it right in our engines. Right through the engine. You know, your No. 3 engine is your control engine. Generators and everything else. Scared -- from that moment on, I couldn't walk. We were coming back [from the mission.]"


Bill had told this story before at a meeting of the group of local former flyers when they got together at his camp in eastern New Orleans.

Even though some of the details are different in this version, the story deserves a second telling.

Here is a slightly different version of the same story.


"I have a story to tell and if you don't believe it, I really don't blame you.

We took an '88 in our No. 3 engine. You can believe that.I don't know how long [the '88 shell was]. It took a whole damn engine out and just dropped it.

Now if I was in a '17 I would be able to get down without too much trouble. But the '24 just winged over like that [wingover maneuver with his hand].

I was in the top turret and the gravity up against my behind with the seat -- I just couldn't get out.

The pilot and co-pilot and the radio operator were on the front trying to pull it out -- which was impossible. Somehow they got it just far enough that I could my seat and I got out. Between the four of us, we pulled that '24 out. Physically. Physically, we pulled it out.

I will never forget, we asked Stan the navigator -- a good looking blond, blue-eyed guy -- and asked, 'Stan, where are we?' He said, "Hell, I don't know where we are -- everything is frozen -- all ice, everything is frozen.' I said, 'Where were we?'

So he gave us a course. And he got us back over the front line and we landed at a British airfield. I have to go to church -- this is the truth.

The radio operator -- I won't use the language -- Ernie deMaeo -- talking to the British airfield -- it was 35 or 40 miles behind the flight path. And he said, 'You don't understand me you dumb son-of-a-bitch, we have to land. We are blown to pieces. What do you mean, you are under attack. What do we care.

They were being attacked by these little buzz bombs and they had no direction and the British are so matter-of-fact -- they hardly knew that there was a war going on.'

So, I heard him say, 'We are coming in anyway.'

We had gone around and tied pieces of parachute -- anything we could get out hands on on all the holes and all the hydrolics [lines]. And I tapped old Bill -- our pilot -- and I said. 'You got one push -- one push and that's all on the brakes and that's all thats going to hold.'

'It's a big airplane,' and I said, 'hit it and land as far down as you can and then go as far down as you can go and hit the brakes.'

We landed.

By this time I was so scared that my legs were going so bad I couldn't walk. I am crawling around on my knees. My knees still hurt.

The plane stops and Bill says, 'For Christ sake, hit the button.'

So the bomb bays open up we crawl out of the plane.

I still couldn't walk. I fell out, I couldn't walk or crawl -- I fell out and lay there. I said, 'I will never, ever fly again. Who the hell ever talked me into this.'

We look up and there is a slip trench. There's four Limmies over there in the slip trench.

'Hey Yanks -- over here.'

The buzz bombs are going in all directions -- all over.

So we crawl over there and if you would have to guess what time it was -- sometime between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.

You know what those four idiots were doing? The world is blowing up. We just got shot down. We made it back. And these idiots are sitting down and drinking tea.

This corporal looks up and says, 'Would you like a spot of tea, old boy. It will make you feel better, you know.'

Well, you know, it broke us up. It was like looking at the three Stooges and there were four of them and it just broke us up.

We climbed in there and laughed for one solid hour drinking tea.

This was the Berlin mission. [Note: Paderborn mission]

It was a crystal clear day and we ran into one of those flak trains."


Saturday 24

Went to Brussels last night -- more fun. We were all dead after almost going down in Germany -- too close. Went out to the field -- took off for home.



Had more fun in Belgium -- went to Brussels that night -- saw the sights -- wine, women and song -- went back to the base the next day.


Sunday 25

No entry.


Monday 26

Mission #224 -- 02/26/45 -- Berlin, Germany -- Railroad Yards

III - Mission. "Berlin" Flak all over the place, could not see as it was 10/10 in places. Hit the yards and headed for home. That's one place I want to stay away from.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
26 February 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:45

After Action Report:

Mission #224 - Berlin, Germany - 26 Feb. - Mon.

With the Russians only thirty-two miles away, the Reich capital took on an added military importance. The marshaling yards located in Berlin were indeed lucrative targets. 29 ships participated in the mission this day. Although the bombers were forced to drop their loads through thick under cast, the results as shown by the plots from the Second Air Division showed the 453rd's bombing as one of the more accurate of the day. [pp. 144]

Tuesday 27

Another one like yesterday and I'll go nuts -- but they'll be worse I guess. Wrote letters and went to bed -- sure need a lot of sleep.


Wednesday 28

Mission #226 -- 02/28/45 -- Arnsburg, Germany -- Railway Viaduct

IV -- Mission. Arnsberg -- a rail center -- no flak thank goodness. Got our bomb away at 26,000 and hit for home. Was tired and hit the hay.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
28 February 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:10

After Action Report:

Mission #226 - Arnsburg, Germany - 28 Feb. Wed.

For the past eight days the assault against Hitler's rail system continued. On the eight day the railway viaduct at Arnsberg was bombed with relentless fury. [pp. 144]

(According to the Individual Flight Log, Bill flew a total of 32:40 hours during the month of February 1945.)

March 1945


Thursday 1

No entry.


Friday 2

No entry.


Saturday 3

No entry.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
3 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 3:35


Sunday 4

No entry.


Monday 5

No entry.

Tuesday 6

No entry.


Wednesday 7

Mission #232 -- 03/07/45 -- Soest, Germany -- Marshaling Yards

V -- Mission -- "Soest" hit the marshaling yards -- the flak was light -- hope it keeps up. Really seeing Germany, the hard way -- hit the hay.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
7 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 6:15

After Action Report:

Mission #232 - Soest, Germany - 7 Mar. - Wed.

The marshaling yards at Soest were the target on the 7th. [pp. 148]

[Webmaster note: Indications are that the aircraft flown on this mission was #42-50522 identified as the IRON DUKE. This information was located in the book, The Liberator Men of Old Buck.]


Thursday 8

No entry.


Friday 9

No entry.


Saturday 10

Mission #235 -- 03/10/44 -- Paderborn, Germany -- Marshaling Yards

VI -- Mission -- "Paderborn" rail center -- clear day and there was no flak -- luck is with us. Got back and went to town -- had a few drinks and saw show.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
10 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:30

After Action Report:

Mission #235 - Paderborn, Germany - 10 Mar. - Sat.

82 tons of bombs were dropped on the marshaling yards. [pp. 148]

Sunday 11

No entry.


Monday 12

Mission #237 -- 03/12/45 -- Wetzlar, Germany -- Rail Yards

VII -- Mission -- Wetzlar" hit the yards again -- 20,000 -- no flak. Really getting up there, can almost see home, but I've got a long way to go -- swell crew.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
12 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 6:10

After Action Report:

Mission #237 - Wetzlar, Germany - 12 Mar. - Mon.

32 Libs dropped 79 tons of bombs on the rail yards of Wetzlar, just twenty-five miles north of Frankfurt. [pp. 149]

Tuesday 13

No entry.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
13 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 2:45


Wednesday 14

No entry.


Thursday 15

No entry.


Friday 16

No entry.


Saturday 17

Mission #239 -- 03/17/45 -- Munster, Germany

Communications Center

VIII -- Mission "Munster" Got the marshaling yards to day at 25,000 -- cold as hell, damn near froze. Flak was moderate -- not to near -- hit the hay.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
17 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 6:00

After Action Report:

Mission #239 - Munster, Germany - 17 Mar. - Sat.

Munster was attacked for the second time in the month. With the Allies now pressing as hard from the West as the Russians from the East, this communications center took on added importance. However, for the second time in the month clouds covered the target and the bombs were dropped with the aid of instruments and with unobserved results. [pp. 149]

[Webmaster note: Indications are that the aircraft flown on this mission was #42-50522 identified as the IRON DUKE. This information was located in the book, The Liberator Men of Old Buck.]


Sunday 18

No entry.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
18 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 2:45


Monday 19

Mission #241 -- 03/19/45 -- Neuburg & Baumenheim, Germany
Jet Aircraft fields

9 -- Mission "Neuburg" hit a jet air field at 16,000 -- no flak at all. Saw all of Germany today -- clear day. Really hit that field -- did my heart good!

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
19 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 8:25

After Action Report:

Mission #241 - Neuberg & Baumenhein, Germany - 19 Mar. - Mon.

The 453rd attacked two jet aircraft fields, northeast of Augsburg. With two squadrons smashing at Neuberg and one at Baumenhein, the Group scored again. In all, 33 Libs dropped 81 tons on the targets. [pp. 150]

[Webmaster note: Indications are that the aircraft flown on this mission was #42-50522 identified as the IRON DUKE. This information was located in the book, The Liberator Men of Old Buck.]


Tuesday 20

Went to Norwich -- got a few things and had dinner. Read and I went to the dance -- had a good time -- saw all the fellows.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
20 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 3:00


Wednesday 21

Mission #243 -- 03/21/45 am -- Achmer, Germany -- Jet Aircraft Base


10 -- Mission -- Wed 21st -- getting up in the big numbers now. Had a very good time in London -- English girls go for Yanks -- more ways than one.

Second pass -- went to London. Took the train and got in at 9:30 -- eat and took in the night life -- which was good -- bed.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
21 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 5:05

After Action Report:

Mission #243 - Achmer, Germany - 21 Mar. -Wed.

Two missions were called for today. The first took 43 Libs, carrying 94 tons of fragmentation and general purpose bombs to the jet aircraft base at Achmer. The weather again was perfect. Three squadrons, carrying the frags, had as their objective the destruction of any planes hidden in the dispersal areas. All the frags hit where briefed.

The target for the one squadron carrying the general purpose bombs, was the runway. The bombs missed their mark but hit squarely on the barracks and built up areas of the field. Thus, though they missed their aiming point, they did considerable damage. [pp. 150-151]

Thursday 22

Took in the sights and had lunch. DeMio and I then started to drink beer in the middle of the day -- this went on -- what a head.


Friday 23

Feel terrible today -- due to the beer and other such things. Meet the boys -- had a few drinks -- saw a show and caught the train.


Saturday 24

Slept all day -- was tired from the trip to London. Tried to answer all my mail -- got about half done. Went to the show -- good -- bed.


Sunday 25

#249 -- 03/25/45 --Ehmen, Germany -- Oil Storage Depot

11 -- Mission "Ehmen" Bad day -- hit our target and got back safely. Spent afternoon writing and saw a show later after dinner. Read and went to bed.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
25 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:05

After Action Report:

Mission #249 - Ehmen, Germany - 25 Mar. - Sun.

The oil storage depot at Ehmen had been hit very hard on 14 January. However, enough time had elapsed to make it a necessary target once again. [pp. 152]

[Webmaster note: Indications are that the aircraft flown on this mission was #42-50522 identified as the IRON DUKE. This information was located in the book, The Liberator Men of Old Buck.]


Monday 26

Flew a practice mission today. Got dressed and went to town -- saw countryside -- it was raining, and we stayed at the house -- lots of fun.


Tuesday 27

Slept late today -- had lunch and read my mail. Went to the line later in the afternoon. Saw a show -- very good -- hit the hay, tired.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
27 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 2:45


Wednesday 28

Looks bad -- haven't flew in days -- the war is drawing to an end -- guess we're are going to the south P. Went to the show and wrote letters.


Thursday 29

Not much doing -- slept late and had dinner. Saw a show and went to the club -- played bridge -- won for a change -- bed.


Friday 30

Mission #250 -- 03/30/45 -- Wilhelmshaven, Germany
Sub Pens & Docks

12 -- Mission -- Rough day -- lot of flak and two ships went down. Germans are really putting up a fight. Got back and went to bed.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
30 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 6:00

After Action Report:

Mission #250 - Wilhelmshaven, Germany - 30 Mar. - Fri.

The Red Army had taken Gudnia and Danzig, important Nazi Baltic Naval Bases, and for a long time the hideout for several of Hitler's largest ocean raiders. With these bases gone, they sought refuge in Kiel, Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. The Subs also were becoming more and more of a threat to the Allied sea lanes, operating from these bases. Accordingly, on March 30th, the 453rd was dispatched along with several other Groups to raise havoc with the sub pens and docks of Wilhelmshaven while other forces of the Eight Air Force visited Kiel and Bremen. Three squadrons took to the air with 77 tons of bombs and let them fall through patchy skies onto the target. Two squadrons, unable to find their primary aiming point, bombed their secondary with the aid of instruments with last minute visual corrections. One squadron attacked the primary. All bombs missed their marks, but the damage was still extensive. [pp. 152]

Comments by Bill about this mission:

     "I don't have a recollection of that as a particular mission. Oh, that mission. We were way up. It was a beautiful day. Absolutely scott clear and I was sitting up there saying to myself. I remember. I said, "I don't know if I like it this clear." And with that I see way behind us POW -- flak. Didn't think much and POW -- another 50 yards in front of it and then all of a sudden it hit a plane -- BAM. That plane went [indicating a wing over] and then it [flak] kept coming and I was almost mesmerized. I yelled at Bill. I said, 'Bill, DIVE, DIVE, DIVE. RIGHT NOW! QUICKLY!, I said, Flak's right on our tail -- he's got us.' He dove and right on top of us -- POW POW POW. So -- we passed apparently a flak train and those German sergeant gunners had us tracked and they were tracking. That's what they did best at. I heard it hit -- shrapnel hit all over -- nobody got hurt. Never got a man touched.

     I am trying to remember. When it went up further, another plane got it. So we hit a heavy flak train down there with some real professional gunners and they knocked two planes out of that formation. I think one from us and one from another one.

[I asked about the account told earlier about the one in front exploding.] It really did -- he was way up. The one behind got hit and just dove over. Usually when those big planes got hit you couldn't pull them out. [I asked if he could see if anybody got out?] Naw, I know I was looking. I wasn't quite sure -- it went through the clouds. There were some cloud formations below us. I don't think anybody did. It doesn't mean that they didn't later on.

     You see, the largest plane in the war in those days was a '24. So when it went over, you were pinned by centrifugal force. It's like I'm in the top turret and I can't get out of the turret. I don't care what you do -- you can't get out. So unless that plane levels off -- you're gone. So it was a problem with most of the deaths -- they couldn't get out.

[Webmaster note: Indications are that the aircraft flown on this mission was #42-50522 identified as the IRON DUKE. This information was located in the book, The Liberator Men of Old Buck.]


Saturday 31

Mission #251 -- 03/31/45 -- Brunswick, Germany -- Marshaling Yards

13 -- Mission -- Again we had trouble -- not too much flak but jet fighter -- our fighters took care of them. Went to town. (remainder omitted by request)

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
31 March 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 6:05

(According to the Individual Flight Log, Bill flew a total of 73.25 hours during the month of March 1945.)

After Action Report:

Mission #251 - Bruinswick, Germany - 31 Mar. - Sat.

The last mission of the month took the Group to the marshaling yards of Brunswick. After a fortnight of visual bombing made possible by ideal weather, the skies became cloud-covered and necessitated the use of instruments. 31 planes were dispatched but only 29 returned to base.

At the Dutch coast, on the way to the target, the #1 engine of Lt. Hopper's plane caught fire. Lt. Hopper left the formation and the crew started to bail out. Three chutes were observed over the channel, the other eight over the enemy coast. The ship kept burning, the wing crumpled, and the ship crashed, blew up and burned.

At the target, Lt. Bussell of the 733rd Squadron was hit by jet aircraft and reported two engines out. Trailing the formation, he dropped out at the Dummer Lake area and attempted to land in Allied Controlled Territory. He was never heard from again. Lt. Bussell was the first crew the Group had lost to enemy fighters in approximately ten months.

It was altogether fitting that March should go down in the Group's annals as one of its greatest months for it proved to be the last full month of operations in the ETO. [pp. 153]

Comments by Bill about this mission:

     "Don't tell me that war wasn't still on. You see, the jet fighters were just coming into their own and somebody made a comment to me and said that if the Germans had lasted another six months and they would have had those jets out in full force they would have knocked us out of the sky. We had no defense for them. The only plane that could catch them was the P-51. It couldn't catch them in straight flight but in a dive. They could only catch them if they could get above them and dive into them.

     Our experiences were and of course I guess that, you know if you got a '29 gunner, pilot, or engineer who flew out of Okinawa, he would give you another story. He is still in the air force -- but he would give you another story.

     Another thing that was so different. On a B-24 we had a pretty nice walk-way from the front through the bomb bay to the back. But a B-17 had none. It had a walk-way.

     We had a bomb one day -- two bombs hang up one day. We had to get out there and kick them out. That was real fun looking down. There was a lot of room in a B-24. A lot of room up front. We had fabulous navigator. We had a great crew. We didn't have the horrible stories that I've hear from Mickey [Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley] and his group. We had a great crew.

I mean if you were a pilot and you didn't have a crew that was 100% for you and working with you the way you wanted, your life was in jeopardy the entire time. And if you had a nut like that guy that was doing what he was doing [Carey W. Mavor Story] I would have had him locked up and shot."


April 1945


Sunday 1

Went to church early -----------------------------went to the show.


Monday 2

Damn near left this air corps -- taking men for the infantry -- got out of it -- thank my lucky stars. Should would hate to leave my crew.


Tuesday 3

Taking it easy for a change -- took a bath and wrote letters. Sure are behind, but have been so busy. Went to the show, hit the hay.


Wednesday 4

Mission #252 -- 04/04/45 -- Wesendorf, Germany - Airfield 14 -- Mission --- (End of entry)

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
4 April 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 7:30


After Action Report:

Mission #252 - Wesendorf, Germany - 4 Apr. - Wed.

Finally on April 4th, the skies became more passive and the 453rd performed its first mission of the month. The target for the day was the airfield at Wesendorf, twenty miles north of Brunswick. A blanket of cloud covered the target and hit from view, thus necessitating bombing via instruments. For the first time since June 21st, 1944, the Group was attacked by enemy fighters. On several previous occasions the returning crews had reported sighting enemy fighters off in the distance and sometimes witnessed their attacks against other Groups, but not since that day in June had enemy fighters actually attacked a 453rd formation. At that, the brunt of the attack was borne by the proceeding Groups and the 453rd escaped with a few holes in the planes but none in the men. [pp. 154]

(Note: This mission is chronicled by one of the crews. See "Our Longest Day -- 4 April 1945" - Pg. M-41, in the "Memories" Section..."The Liberator Men of "Old Buck")

Thursday 5

Mission #253 -- 04/05/45 -- Eger, Czechoslovakia

Bad day, started on a mission but didn't make it. Had to land in Belgium -- on a German airfield. Saw a few German planes -- got pieces -- home.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
5 April 1945
Aircraft: B-24J
Hours: 7:30

After Action Report:

Mission #253 - Eger, Czechoslovakia - 5 Apr. - Thurs.

Only one plane performed the mission today. That plane was piloted by Lt. Templeton of the 732nd Squadron. The target was the rail center of Eger in Western Czechoslovakia. Unable to assemble the formation over England because of layers of clouds, each plane proceeded to France alone to form over the Continent. There, too, they found the clouds too high to cope with. Accordingly, the recall was sounded and the planes returned home. Lt. Templeton, who never received the recall signal, tagged onto a passing Fortress Group and bombed the Ordnance Depot near Grafenwehr, Germany. [pp. 155]

Comments by Bill about this mission:

     "Now here again, I am not sure I can recall all of it, but it was a bad ass day, I'll tell you that. We landed. We thought we was going to spend the war in Germany -- interned. We landed on what was a pretty nice field. It was a German field.

[What prompted having to land?]

     We got hit. I guess it was an '88 -- flak. Knocked out an engine -- two. We feathered them -- feather meaning -- I don't think the earlier planes had this -- to start wind milling. Feathering -- you took them out of gear, so to speak.

     We landed and when I looked up -- the top turret was down between the pilot and co-pilot with Markey -- there was the four of us up there. I saw what I thought were Germans laying all over the place which prompted me to think, 'Well the G.I. is a pretty tough guy -- somebody was.' Apparently the field we landed on had recently been liberated -- like hours -- thank God.

     I opened the bomb bays. I can still see him. It looked like a movie. This sergeant was standing there with a .45 shoved right in my face. It looked like he hadn't shaved in about 50 years, never taken a bath or got his hair cut in a filthy dirty uniform. Then he said, 'OK, get out of there you Kraut.'

     Now to make a long story short, they had been told and we had been told this too that the Germans were ingenious in impersonating us in the air and on the ground. They could talk better Oxford English than you and I could. And that's what this sergeant thought we were. Man, he didn't want to play, 'Who's on first base.' If this captain hadn't come along, well I thought he might have shot us -- I don't know. But we were able to get out of there in one piece.

     That's where I got the pieces of the airplane. I got a beautiful old Mauser which I handed over gracefully to those sergeants in Bangor, Maine. And the swastika and all of that kind of stuff that I cut off of arm bands and all that. But we didn't have room to take much of anything.

     Most of the time the planes were expendable. They didn't mess with them. You know, they couldn't send crews to fix them or anything else. They could, but they didn't. There was always another plane available to take you back to your base. I think we went back in a C-46 or C-47.

     [I asked Bill to elaborate on the incident that occurred just after landing.]

We all piled out of that plane and there was this manic just standing there. I guess that I would have done the same thing. He was half crazy I guess. He had three or four other guys with him. They all had weapons. One had a good old Garand -- one had a Thompson sub-machine gun.

     [Did you ever find out what unit they were from?]

     Man, that was the last thing I was thinking of.

     This captain came up in a jeep almost immediately and he told the sergeant, 'Back off.' He talked to Bill and Bill said, 'Hey, what are ya'll trying to do. We are lucky to be alive -- and so forth.' The captain said, 'OK.' So we got these guys out of the way. But if he hadn't come along, I don't know what would have happened. We would just have been listed as causalities, I guess, you know.

     [So consequently, there were a lot of dead Germans around.]

     I thought there were a lot.

     [Earlier, I had asked Bill if he had liberated the souvenirs from the wounded and dead Germans.]

     There were NO wounded Germans.

     [They caught them...] Totally and completely unaware. [What makes you say that?] Well the positions -- well the way they were dressed. Some were in their underwear.

     [Did they look like they had been recently killed?]

     To me it did -- but I am no judge of that. It looked to me that they hadn't been taken off -- put any place else -- any burial or anything else. I didn't see any [American dead.] I think they caught them with their drawers down, myself.

     Or they could have been shot by a P-51 or two could have passed over and machine gunned the whole bunch, you know. And the GI's came in right afterwards. But I learned then right there that the GI was a tough son of a bitch and he could adapt to anything.

     I had a German officer tell me that what defeated them in the war was the American's ability to pass command.

     I asked him, 'What do you mean by that?'

     If the general gets shot, the major takes over. If the major gets shot, the captain takes over and right on down to the PFC. He said, 'We don't have that ability. We've been trained too long respect command and when we lose our officer.' If you remember correctly, in the Battle of 1812, in New Orleans there, Lafitte the Pirate told his men to shoot the officers. So I guess that's true of a lot of European -- I don't guess it is true today -- but they have been regimented so long in this way of fighting, without their officers, they are no good.

     That never has been true of Americans. They started right off standing behind trees fighting like the Indians, remember. That totally disrupted the British.

     [I asked about the German uniform insignia.]

     Bill replied that he didn't recall if they were from a German officer or enlisted man.

     There was one officer -- a high ranking officer. I would have loved to have had his whole uniform. Impeccable, with boots and everything. He was just lying there face down. When I rolled him over -- that's when I saw something. He had that Mauser. A Mauser was a little tiny gun -- like that. It was a pearl handled Mauser. That was the gun I brought back with me. I brought it all the way back to the United States and had it stolen. Boy was it beautiful.

     [What prompted the souvenir thing?]

     I don't really know. I just said, 'Gee, it's a chance -- I had never been on the ground in this position and it was a chance for me to take a few souvenirs of the war.'

     [Were other members of the crew -- souvenir hunting?]

     I think they did do some, yes. I can imagine that the GI's -- we never had a chance like that, thank God. It wasn't much -- it was a little pack -- about that big.

     Usually for us to get anything like that we would have to trade amongst ourselves and ground troops who came into the United States and came into Great Britton.

     [You mentioned that they had Me-109's on the base.]

     Me-109's, right. Some of them were destroyed -- wings collapsed. That's why I said it looked to me like a P-51 came over or two or three or a dozen and they were great at strafing, the P-51. I saw a couple of them [Me-109] that it looked to me that you could hop in and take off in them. It was a nice size base. It wasn't like Moisant -- but it could be like Lakefront. [New Orleans airports.] Nice size base -- a couple of runways. I saw something that looked like a Stuka or something or other -- a Heinkel -- sort of a troop carrier like -- you know -- three engines -- tri-motor, yes. It was a troop carrier. I saw one or two of those down at the end. I didn't really look around too much. I wanted to get the hell out of there. They shipped us out. The captain said, 'Ya'll had better get the hell out of here. They are liable to come back through here.' They were that close.

     There was a lot of see-sawing in those days. You take it at 9 o'clock and at 4 o'clock it was back in --. The captain provided transportation. He was in a jeep, but he got a truck for us right away. He was quite good. He wanted to get us out of there. He knew what he was doing. We were happy to get the hell away from there. I didn't like the idea -- those troops were active.

     [This was the second plane you had to leave behind. Obviously you flew missions in more than one plane.]

     See, that's why there may have been a 'Strawberry Blonde.' We might have lost it right off the bat. Referring to the book, 'The Liberator Men of Old Buck' -- it's not in here -- but there a lot of planes that have no names on them."


Friday 6

Mission #254 -- 04/06/45 -- Halle, Germany -- Marshaling Yards

Halle mission -- but didn't get started -- Thank God. Going to get a early start on pass. Can really use it -- damn near out on my feet -- bed early.

After Action Report:

Mission #254 - Halle, Germany - 6 Apr. - Fri.

The target was the marshaling yards at Halle, deep in Central Germany. The bombers found their target hidden and bombed with the aid of instruments. In all 59 tons of bombs fell through the under cast from the bomb-bays of the 27 attacking bombers. [pp. 155]

Saturday 7

Went on pass -- really can use it -- so damn tired. Going to London. Got the 11:00 train and got in at 3:00. Had a meal -- the crew had a party.


Sunday 8

Got up late -- had breakfast and met the boys. Had lunch and went to a show -- saw the sights. Then went out drinking and clubing -- on yes.


Monday 9

Such a ------------- got up late -- the crew met, had a few drinks and went to a show -- had something and caught the train -------------------.


Tuesday 10

Mission #258 -- 04/10/45 -- Rechlin & Wittenberge, Germany -- Airfield

15 Mission -- "Rechlin" air field and rechurch. All but had it -- flak was terrible -- got the ship behind us and all but got us -- scared to death, too close.[Note: See an additional story that mentions the same plane loss -- Last Mission -- Lasting Memories]

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th Air Force - 2nd Air Div - 2CBW - 453rd BG - 733rd BS
10 April 1945
Aircraft: B-24M
Hours: 7:30

After Action Report:

Mission #258 - Rechlin & Wittengerge - 10 Apr. - Tues.

The target was another airfield situated fifty miles north of Berlin. It was the Luftwaffe's experimental base at Rechlin, given over to the development of jet-propelled aircraft. Three squadrons carried out the attack but only two of them dropped their bombs on the primary target.

The other squadron went on to bomb the railway marshaling yards at Wittenberge on the route home. All went well until the planes neared their target. The 453rd luck ran out about ten miles from Wittenberge, when the formation ran into moderate but extremely accurate flak. Lt. Powell's ship received a direct hit, broke at the windows and went down in flames. The Bombardier, Ed Jacyna; Tail Gunner, Charles Giano, and Right Waist Gunner, Peter Fleming were the only survivors. Bourbon leader had two engines shot out. The deputy lead had his hydraulic system shot out and both of them had wounded aboard. A total of nineteen ships received damage in varying degrees from these guns. [pp. 156]

(This mission is chronicled by one of the crews: See 'Last Mission -- Lasting Memories' -- Pg. M-43, in the 'Memories' Section...'The Liberator Men of Old Buck')

Wednesday 11

Had a rest today -- don't care to fly as much as I used to -- number 15 was to hot -- too damn hot for comfort -- played cards -------------.


Thursday 12

Could hardly believe my ears when I heard that there may be a chance for me to go home -- Looks like the end of the war is drawing near -- oh yes!


Friday 13

It's here -- we went "off operations" today -- can hardly believe it. Some of us will go home -- some will stay -- maybe I'll see -------------------.


Saturday 14

So we are not going home -- maybe it's a better deal. Those that are leaving now, will to the S. P. -- and the chances are that we won't.



Would rather spend a few months over here than go to the S. P. Sure hope it turns out that way -- can't wait to go home.


Sunday 15

Really having a time, just resting. Catching up on my mail -- reading and eating -- what a life. -----------------------------


Monday 16

Things are still the same -- no one has moved -- we are going to another field -- going to be put in some more missions -- don't care too much about that.


Tuesday 17

Slept late -- had lunch and much to do now -- sure hate to leave this place -- a damn good outfit. Sure wish I was going home.


Wednesday 18

Things are moving fast -- be out of here any day -- most probably to missions. Seeing all the boys -- sure hate to see Youatt----


Thursday 19

Moving out at 5 o'clock -- getting packed -- everything sure is messed up! Hope the new field is on the ball -- such is life.

[Note: It is Bills' belief that the "new field" was the 392nd Bomb Group...about 25 miles away from Old Buckenham. This was born out later by a document that verifies that Bill did indeed serve in the 392nd BG/577th BS.]


Friday 20

What a place -- we have had it -- I'll be a "put" in no time around here -- it's hell. Got the thing straight -- hit the ------------------.


Saturday 21

Went down to the line -- were briefed by different officers on what is expected of us.



Don't think we will fly another mission -- the war is near an end -- can hardly wait to get home. So much to look forward ----


Sunday 22

Damn this place -- what a hell hole -- War news looks good -- should be over damn soon. Wrote and saw the show -- went to bed.


Monday 23

Sure is an hell of a field -- just the opposite of "Old Buck". Made life unbearable around here -- Guess things could be worse -- don't know how.

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th AF - 2nd Air Div - 14th Wing - 392rd BG - 577th BS
23 April 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 1:20
# Landings: 5


Tuesday 24

Went down to the gunnery building today -- have a nice set-up. Eat and write letters. ------------------------------


Wednesday 25

Got our pass coming up -- taking it easy. Sure miss my mail -- hope it gets over here while we are on pass. Hit the hay --


Thursday 26

Left early for pass -- we started drinking on the train. Got to Nottingham that afternoon feeling no pain. Saw the town.


Friday 27

Got up late -- went into town for lunch. Stayed in the Pub's until closing time. ---------------------------


Saturday 28

What a head this morning. Went out to lunch and there to the Red Crown. Stayed out late -- met the boys later -- what a night!



Things look damn good this week -- a pass, had a wonderful time -- the war almost over -- can just about see home -- oh yes!


Sunday 29

Caught the 11 o'clock train -- playing cards and passed up our station, but made it back by bus. Got back to camp -- hit the hay.


Monday 30

Slept all morning, went to lunch and then to the (Red Cross). Wrote letters and went to the show -- damn good -- went to bed.

(According to the Individual Flight Log, Bill flew a total of 23.50 hours during the month of April 1945.)


May 1945


Tuesday 1

Got up early -- got our B-24' today -- sure are hot stuff. Played ping pong all day -- more fun. The war is just about over -- thank God.

[Final entry in Bill's diary.]


Below are additional flights conducted while Bill was stationed with the 392nd Bomb Group, 577th Bomb Squadron (Heavy)

Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th AF - 2nd Air Div - 14th Wing - 392rd BG - 577th BS
10 May 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 5:40


Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
8th AF - 2nd Air Div - 14th Wing - 392rd BG - 577th BS
15 May 1945
Aircraft: B-24H
Hours: 4:20


Individual Flight Record:
William E. Brown, Jr.
2nd AF - 211th AA F 2U (A5) (AAF Sious Falls, ND)
30 May 1945

1 June 1945

2 June 1945

3 June 1945

4 June 1945

Aircraft: B-24
Hours: 19:25

Bill was credited with a total of 278:00 Hours flying time as of the 4th of June 1945.

All Individual Flight Record times were taken from official Army Air Corps documents AAF Form No. 5.


     Bill and I then discussed at length a couple of other incidents that related to his service. The first incident was a more recent incident that was known as: The TACA 110 Incident.

     Bill is no stranger to danger and imminent death -- as seen in the material thus far revealed in the proceeding interview.

     Bill had another very close call on day that involved a flight from Central America. The incident was the TACA Flight 110 incident that occurred in eastern New Orleans.

     I asked Bill what prompted the emergency descent of TACA 110.

     "Very simple. All the engines flamed out. We were flying coming into Moisant flying down coming from the Bay St. Louis area, coming across the swamp and I just happened to just look out of the window. When I tell you it was black -- it was like the Ace of Spades -- like going into the Calcutta Hole -- it was so black. It was early afternoon.

     I asked the stewardess, 'We are not going through that?' She said, 'I guess so.'

     And with that we started going through it. Now what I picked up afterwards explained to me what happened. The hail sounded like to me as big as golf balls. I think -- this is me -- I think that hail got up into those engines -- killed them -- flame out.

     The GE engineers said that no one had ever landed a flame out. Never done that.

     This pilot looked like Poncho Villa -- big handle bar mustache -- good looking chap and was trained in Guatemala. I got this from him afterwards. He said, 'The first thing they train you as a brush pilot is when you take off is you look for a place to land.' So he is up there -- puts the plane in a semi-dive to where he can keep the damn thing flying and he passes right over the flight area out there of the Michoud assembly plant where they make all of these rockets. There is a little landing strip -- up against -- I wouldn't call it a landing strip -- I would call it a grassy area up against the levee.

     Just at that time my son says to me, 'Dad, you think we've got a problem?' I said, 'Look at the stewardess, she is making the Sign of the Cross. You think we've got a problem?' He said, 'Oh, my God.'

     All the engines were out and the emergency lighting was on on the walkway.

     And that pilot did bank like in the movies -- with the nose down -- banked that plane and turned it around from looking at the Industrial Canal -- banked it around and set that baby down on a three point landing. I never saw anything like it.

     We landed, pushed the button and got the front door opened, got out and got away from the plane not know whether it would explode or not.

     Then they put us in a briefing room and they took us by transportation to Moisant Airport -- put us through the normal routine and we came out and that was that.

     I talked to him [the pilot] while he was there and then they wouldn't let him talk to us any more. I think that they wanted to keep him cloistered -- they wanted to find out exactly what happened before anything was passed around.

     If you notice in that article [newspaper article], General Electric -- those were General Electric motors and that was a new plane. It wasn't an old plane. It was a brand new plane. My understanding is that to get it out of there they sent down a General Electric pilot and he said that I can't get this thing off here -- there is no way. So they backed it up all way as much as they could -- excuse my expression -- tied it down, revived the engines up until they couldn't ---- it and then cut it loose and it jumped out of there.

     The guy did an unbelievable job.

     I told the pilot -- I said, 'When all of this is over and done with -- whatever you want -- wherever you want to do it -- I will pick up the tab.' I never heard from him. I would still do it today, if he showed up.

     I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."


     The story of this incident was written up by Buddy Stall who is a New Orleans legend. The article probably ran in the New Orleans Times Picayune. The date would have been sometime after May 24, 1988.


"Only Time in Aviation History TACA Flight 110"


     Many thought, and for good reason, what happened on May 24, 1988, would be virtually impossible. Not only did what was believed unlikely take place, but it took place without injury to all involved.

     Around noon on that historic day, the sky in the New Orleans area was overcast. Thunder was sounding, and there was a smell of rain in the air, but rain had not yet fallen.

     At approximately 1:00 p.m., Taca Flight 110 (Boeing 737 jet) experienced flame outs of both engines. To make matters worse, clouds were so thick the ground was not visible. In spite of all those adversities, the crew responded in a calm, efficient manner. They knew time was of the utmost importance. Coming out of the clouds, the captain saw the Intercostal Waterway and at first felt this would be the best place to put it down. Out of the corner of his eye he then noticed a long stretch of grass adjacent to the Intercostal Canal and levee, which ran alongside the massive Michoud complex. At the very last minute, he selected it as the area to attempt a dead stick landing. The crew made the passengers aware of what was about to take place, then repeated the emergency exit procedures. With prayers no doubt on their lips and in their hearts, the emergency landing was as smooth as silk. Just by chance, a pilot driving his car in the area witnessed the flame outs. He stopped his vehicle and watched the landing. He was amazed at the smooth landing and equally impressed with the speed and efficiency exhibited as all passengers got out of the plane by way of the emergency chutes. Making sure that all passengers were out safely, the crew remained on board long enough to shut down all systems. Not long after the incident, Michoud facility buses picked up the passengers and took them to a building where they were checked by a doctor. There were no injuries other than a few bumps and bruises caused when passengers evacuated by way of the emergency slides. To be on the safe side, several passengers with previous physical conditions were sent to a local hospital. When the crew finally got to the building where the passengers were located, they were overwhelmed with hugs, kisses and words of thanks for a safe landing that some claim was smoother than "normal" airport landings they had made in the past.

     Taca Flight 110 was the only successful dead-stick landing in the history of aviation made by a commercial jet-powered airline.

     Because it was an incoming international flight, passengers were held at the Michoud facility until immigration officials arrived. At 4:00 p.m., passengers were put in buses and taken to Moisant International Airport to continue on their ways.

     The crew was questioned by the proper authorities to determine what had transpired during the flight. The air quality was also checked. Three weeks after the miraculous landing, the aircraft successfully took off from a concrete airstrip at the Michoud facility (the grassy area where it landed was not long enough for the jet to take off). After extensive checking and with new engines installed, it was put back into service.

     The investigative report stated the cause of the flame outs of the new engines was due to the magnitude of the thunderstorm. The engines have been redesigned so there will be no recurrence of the incident.


     The following article was written about another crew member who Bill flew with. The crew member was Bill Youatt and the article mentions other crew members including a couple of references to Bill. Bill reflects on the mention of his name in the article.


WWII Memories

Return to Old Buckenham

shared by former airman


By Kelly Weaver-Hayes

Lifestyle Editor


     "Now that I am back in the states, there are some things of interest I can tell you which military censorship forbade us to write about while we were in England.

     "We were based near a town called Attleborough just south of Norwich... the field was called Old Buckenham after a town nearby," wrote Bill Youatt from his home in Richmond, Mich. He was a tail gunner with the 8th Air Force during World War II. His letter was addressed to the families of the airmen he left behind in the 453rd bomb group. He was the first of the young men to return to the U.S.

     And young men they were. Al Walls, the youngest of the men, had just turned 19 during the six-week training period in New York, before the men were sent over seas. Walls, who lives in Seven Oaks Subdivision, said the senior among them was only 23.

     "I was wet behind the ears and I didn't even know what was going on," said Walls.

     The family of one of the men, Richard Markey, threw a bon voyage party in their home for the airmen just before they were sent on their two week voyage to England and the war. All of the remaining airmen have tried to locate Markey through the family's old address in Mitchell Fell, N.Y., but have had no success.

     In New York, Walls and a Sgt. Brown decided to sneak home from boot camp for Christmas. The group had been promised holiday furlough passes, but at the last minute they were told they had to fly during the next few days.

     Walls was set on spending Christmas with his family in Oliver Springs, he said. After arranging for other pilots to cover his flights, he got an old furlough pass that wasn't used by another soldier and that soldier's dog tags. He caught a train two days before Christmas and was home in time for Christmas dinner, he said.

     He told Brown that he should go to Oliver Springs, too. But Brown had other ideas about how to spend the last few days before going overseas. He went to the New York City, but was caught. Declared AWOL (absent without leave), Brown was busted down to corporal.

     It's the kind of story that makes Walls chuckle thinking of it now.

     Walls and his wife, Louise, recently traveled to Europe, for a reunion with members of his 733rd squadron, his bomb group and the 8th Air Force. Louise stayed in Paris with their niece, while Walls went on to Norwich, about 120 miles northeast of London.

     "We flew on 15 missions from there (Old Buckenham) before we went off operations. We would go on about three or four missions every two weeks," continued Youatt's letter. He went on to name the many cities they had bombed.

     "The missions weren't too tough, though some were no picnic. We all came through without a scratch, and no worse for the wear," wrote Youatt.

     Walls said that he and another man lost an engine and tried to make it to a nearby landing strip. They were all set to jump out of the plane with parachutes when they decided to make an emergency landing. He said he saw the engine turn as red a fire when it dropped off.

     For several days the other men at the barracks thought Walls and the other man were killed when their plane went down. The fact was, the other airman would have died if they had jumped from their plane. He had strapped his chute on upside down during the excitement.

     The men at the barracks had already started to make use of the two airmen's clothes, which were of superior quality to their own, when the two walked into the barracks.

     He and the other flyer discovered that they were listed MIA (missing in action). Only after they left the quarters were their things returned to them.

     Walls said that a lot of crashes occurred because of the bad conditions under which they operated. They didn't have radar. Instead, a red or blue rocket would be fired and the formation was to follow the rocket over the channel. Even if it snowed on the airstrip, they would fly.

     When they came out of the clouds, they sometimes found themselves only 10 feet away from another plane. Others crashed because of lost engines. He said his group was one of the lucky ones.

     Walls still has his emergency kit with a silk map of escape routes, a booklet of escape words and common phrases in French and German.

     He was told by a local author, James Burch, Cofield, to find a woman in Norwich who was of particular interest. Burch had flown with the 8th, but returned to the states on about the same day that Walls left for England.

     Virtually everyone in the town of Norwich knew the "yanks" and offered them every kindness, according to Walls. One couple took him to his destination because all the buses had stopped running for the evening. Once in the car, the woman told him that she worked for the 8th Air Force there 45 years ago and lost her first husband in the war.

     Reflecting on his return to the area, Walls wrote, "The people were remembered as being very friendly, yet they had been invaded by the flyers who flew and bombed targets at almost every location in Germany. These yanks had changed the lives of many in the quaint village of Old Buckenham, and in the larger town of Norwich. They also had changed the living environment because there was the roar of the engines in the big bombers at dawn when they took off for Germany and at night when the engines were being repaired for the next days' flight."

     The 8th Air Force was so integral to 20th century history of Norwich the British author he was told to seek, had written a book on them, which has not been published yet. Burch wrote one chapter of the book.

     Stuart took Walls to the Old Buckenham air strip, which is little more than a vast sugar beet patch now. Of the triangular airfield, only one of the landing strips has been preserved. He also visited the small, Old Buckenham village, where the servicemen got their shirts laundered, and the old church.

     They held a memorial service in the old cathedral and found some artifacts at the foundation of the church where some work is being done. Walls said the villages in England don't change much over the years as they do here.

     So well remembered are the 732nd, 733rd and 734th squadrons that the city of Norwich built and dedicated a monument to them and the Royal Air Force. Officials didn't tell the men why, but invited them to help dedicate the monument during their reunion in Norwich for the 8th Air Force.

     Walls stumbled upon the site of the dedication by accident when he heard the Star Spangled Banner being played by the local Royal Air Force volunteer band. He said the unveiling of the monument was very emotional.

     "You could see tears coming from many veterans' eyes. I am sure they remembered their fallen comrades that they had flown with," he wrote.

     "I could recall, two of five air crews returning to the U.S .A. where we had lived as one family in the same barracks."

     The monument had been covered with two flags: one British and one American.

     "The British have 'a tradition of dropping a petal from poppies to represent lives lost," said Walls. They dropped petals from three local biplanes as part of the memorial to the men. Those three planes repeated a course so often traveled by the 8th's B-24 Liberator bomber planes.

     The next morning Walls visited the Norwich Library where one wing is supported by donations from veterans of the 2nd Division of the 8th Air Force. A memorial has been dedicated to them within. On the wall overhead was painted a mural of a B24 squadron on a bombing run over Germany.

     The wing contains the history and many artifacts of the air force once located in the area.

     Among the artifacts is a statement of appreciation to them from John F. Kennedy, tail fins with emblems representing each bomb group, and a register in which Walls found his name inscribed, "Sgt. Almos Walls Oliver Springs, Tenn. - March 1945." Two other names he found in the book were of Ernest P. Gay, Kn ville, and a local lawyer lawyer, Harry Bryant.

     Walls' sentiments on the reunion trip probably describe what many veterans feel.

     "There has to be a higher power that knits the hearts and souls of perfect strangers so closely when they unite for common causes for the good of mankind: especially when there are loved ones to be mourned, battles to be fought or victories to be celebrated. This must be the bond between the people of Norwich, England, and the U.S. airmen that were located there during WWII."

     "I am not certain, but wouldn't be surprised if they would come home any day now...I do hope that you have heard some such news by now.

     Al was fine when I saw him last...I don't believe that he has changed a bit...I hope you will be able to see for yourselves soon.

     Sincerely, Bill Youatt."


[Images captions]

WWII Memories -- Members of this bomber squadron (top) have been hunting each other since the war years. The group includes (front row from left) Lt. Stanley Hanson, navigator; F. O. William Rutherford, pilot; F. O. Wendell Harrelson, co-pilot. Back row (from left) are Cpl. George Dion, radio operator; Cpl. Almos Walls, nose gunner; Cpl. Richard Markey, engineer; Cpl. William Brown Jr., Martin turret gunner; Cpl. William Youatt, tail gunner; Cpl. Ernest De Meio, Sperry ball gunner. The group, minus Youat, are shown (middle left) at a bon voyage party before leaving for overseas. Walls stands next to the monument (above right) erected in Norwich for the Royal Air Force and the 2nd Division of the 8th Army Air Force, squadrons 732, 733 and 734. The British have used the biplane (above left) to drop petals from poppies to memorialize those who lost their lives.


The article above ran in the Farragut Press Enterprise, Wednesday, October 10, 1990 and bylined by Kelly Weaver-Hayes, Lifestyle Editor. Pg 6a and 7a.



     The above mentioned article written in 1990 mentions Bill a couple of times and one mention is when Bill went AWOL.


Bill continues with his comments:

     "I know I got busted from a staff sergeant to a corporal but I wasn't worried because I knew that when I got overseas that they would bring me right up because you didn't fly unless you were in grade in those positions.

     That's when Red and I decided to go home. I didn't think that I was going AWOL -- I didn't consider it that. I went to New York because I had a girl friend there and that's when they picked me up on the street. They checked your pass. They didn't like what they saw. I said, "Oh, you need a pass." They took me back to the base and that was the end of that.

     But Red got all the way home. I don't know how the hell he did it. He got all the way home and back. He was the nose gunner from Tennessee."


     Further into the article referring to the comment by Walls.

     "That was the one where the 88' went through it. I had my chute on upside down so if I had jumped I would have broken my neck. [How did he put it on upside down?] Very easy, just clip it on -- I just clipped it on backwards. It was a chute that you could wear in some of the turrets. If I had jumped with it one backwards, I would have broken my neck."

     So Walls with his comment about the engine being damaged by flak and turning red hot before dropping off -- was talking about Bill.

     "The 88' went right through the damn thing."

     Talking about the remarks in the article about the planes taking off and climbing through the clouds and emerging in some case only about 10 feet apart.

     Bill said, "Nobody ever hit anybody -- it was amazing. Remember, I told you it was thousands of planes up there. All of them -- I don't know how they did it. [He recalls some close calls but some things impressed him and some things didn't.] We had so many things going and that wasn't one of the worst things that could happen to us."

     Going to the earlier part of Bill's story and talking about a mission in general, I asked Bill if when they returned from a mission and a plane was badly damaged and whatever, after returning, did they go an check this sort of thing out?

     "No, we discovered that if we paid as little attention to that sort of thing we would keep our sanity. I would say that by the time we were finished being briefed, getting our booze we were exhausted we went on to bed.

     The guys that were running the show -- they were involved in that. We might have been curious -- but we didn't have the strength to do it. We were worn out. It had something to do with the clothes. We had that blue bunny suit made from an electric blanket made into a human being's form -- one foot would be hot and one foot would be cold. One are would be freezing and you had all that stuff on you, too."


In Retrospect:

     The story above about Bill Brown and his experiences in the war evolved as a result of four additional meetings, a number of phone calls, a fair amount of computer detective work and some old fashion comradeship.

     Bill and I met on a day much similar to the day that we sat down in his living room and listened to the rain come down from the heavy New Orleans overcast.

     The meeting was the fourth in a series of meetings with Bill.

     The first meeting with Bill was held on Monday, December 29, 2003 at the Ye' Old College Inn on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. My wife, Sue and I were invited to a luncheon with some former World War II aerial gunners. The group included the B-17 ball turret gunner who originally began my quest to learn more about the experiences of men who were brave enough to hang it all out of the belly of a roaring B-17 in a tiny ball that offered precious little protection from the blanket of exploding German 88mm flak -- not to mention the onslaught of determined German fighter planes.

     What kind of hero would do this?

     Well, at this quiet gathering of aging eagles, I began to learn more about this particular form of fighting man. I also met with others who had come to begin what they hoped would be a formation of a lasting friendship among warrior who had one thing in common -- putting their ass on the line day after day and manning 50 caliber machine guns.

     At that meeting, besides my wife and I, were four B-17 ball turret gunners: Leonard J. Hurley -- affectionately known to his friends as "Mickey" who had served in the 305th Bomb Group, 364th Bomb Squadron [Heavy] aboard the "Piccadilly Lilly"; Carey W. Mavor who has served in the 452nd Bomb Group, 728th Bomb Squadron [Heavy] aboard the "Scrappy Jr."; Joe Elliot who had served in the 452nd Bomb Group [Heavy] aboard the "Verdi, Vedi, Vici"; and Irving Kennedy who had served in the 91st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Squadron [Heavy] aboard the "Lackin Shackin".

     These former B-17 ball turret gunners had invited my wife and I, along with a new member of the group -- William E. "Bill" Brown, Jr.

     Bill was a bit different than the group of men mentioned above, for Bill had served in B-24 and had served late in the war with the 453rd Bomb Group, 733rd Bomb Squadron [Heavy]. He had flown in B-24 Liberators and had manned the Sperry upper ball turret when not performing his other duties as the flight engineer.

     Bill was immediately welcomed into the brotherhood of again warriors seated around the table and seemed genuinely impressed with the other men at the table. Bill had an awe inspiring respect for the others, for they were the men who hung out of B-17's in the ball. This impressed Bill immensely.

     The second meeting of the former aerial gunners was held on January 12, 2004, when everyone was invited to a lunch cooked up by none other that Bill, himself and served at his camp in eastern New Orleans, just past the Chef Highway bridge near Lake Catherine.

     The meeting was attended by the same folks, except for Irving Kennedy who was not able to make it.

     At this particular gathering, the fellows brought along souvenirs of their days while serving in the Army Air Corps.

     Carey Mavor managed to bring along a fairly large number of items that included a number of books related to the B-17 as well as a collection of photos taken by one of his former crew members during their tour in England. He also had items such as his air crew wings, and a ring that one of the fellows had made for him out of another pair of air crew wings. Among other items displayed by Carey included a couple of old training manuals. Joe Elliot brought along a couple of old books that he had used during the war years. Mickey Hurley had a collection of items including recently acquired duplicates of his medals and ribbons. Bill had some books about the B-24 and a copy of his citation given him upon completing of the required number of missions necessary for his first Air Medal.

     During this gathering, Bill managed to talk to some of the fellows and compare notes as to the type of war that each had experienced and mentioned about his closeness of his crew from time of their being assigned as a crew until the time that the war ended. That crew did everything together which seem somewhat different to the other men's crews -- especially the crew that Carey Mavor flew with.

     Our third get together was on February 3, 2004 when Bill and his lovely wife, Alice invited Sue and I to join them in cocktails and dinner at their home in Metairie. Also invited along was Bill's youngest son, Chris, who had been instrumental in "coaxing his Dad" into finally putting his World War II experiences down on paper.

     The evening was great and the food was excellent. Bill can add to his many talents that of being an excellent cook -- having at one point in his life being part owner of a restaurant in New Orleans.

     During this evening, Bill talked about his earlier days in the military and about his basic training and continued training up until the time that he boarded the Aquatania for his trip to England and the 453rd Bomb Group.

     While being entertained by our gracious host, I was given a tour of the wall of memories in his home. The images on the wall were of Bill and his crew and included some candid shots of Bill as a young man off to war. Also on this wall were framed citations for his Air Medals and shadow boxes displaying his ribbons, medals, patches, wings, and other assorted memorabilia from his days in the 453rd Bomb Group.

     After talking for a while about his early days in the military and his various steps in his training evolution, Bill and I concluded the evening's activities and made plans to once more get together for one last meeting to put the finishing touches on his story.

     We got together again on February 8, 2004 for the purpose of hoping to finalize Bill's story and for me to go over a few things I had discovered while surfing the internet and locating some information to help Bill in furthering his search for answers regarding his military days.

     Once more, Bill and I sat down together in his home on May 18, 2004 to add some finishing touches to the story that is portraid here. Bill passed on a few final details as well as some copies of his Individual Flight Log which chronicled his flight time during the war. Bill did finally manage to gather what information he needed to convince himself that he indeed had been transferred to the 392nd Bomb Group, 577th Bomb Squadron (Heavy) during the waining days of World War II.

     After many years of sitting forgotten away in a dresser drawer, his paperwork that he had located -- allowed Bill to finally managed to piece together his years of service. He was convinced that he had been part of two bomb groups and had flown some additional missions in the 392nd Bomb Group.

     Over a cup of coffee, Bill and I finished piecing together his story.

     "These are some papers that I have found that will substantiate some of the things that took place after I was discharged as a S/Sgt.in the Army Air Force. When I was discharged I was told that I could get out sooner if I joined the reserves. Who the hell thought there was going to be another war? That was an easy thing to do.

     Then I was appointed a 2nd Lt., Serial Number A01866045. So that sort of clarifies that -- how that came about in the reserves.

     The first appointment was for five years and then they came back and the said they wanted to give me the same appointment, the same everything -- everything the same -- but -- forever.

     At that time Korea was churning up -- and I could read between the lines real quickly. So I refused that and got out just in time.

     I figured one war was enough. Let somebody else go fight this one.

     As I recall, after the war had ended in England with the Germans, we flew our planes back and landed at Banger, Maine.

In an earlier meeting with Bill and some of the fellows in the group of former flyers called 'World War II Aerial Gunners, Inc.', Bill told the following amusing story:


When the war was over, we were told to fly our B-24's back to the United States.We had to get back some way.

So they came into the barracks and they had a big -- maybe four or five barrels of 'gunk.' Is that the proper word -- that horrible stuff -- cosmoline.

You were told to put your weapons in there. Then they told you the penalty for bringing in any [weapons] back. I had a beautiful little Mauser.

So we landed at Bangor, Maine.

I know about 10 sergeants who are billionaires today. We landed. I had the P-38 strapped here -- the .45 strapped here and a Mauser up here. I was like a lead balloon, you know.

We are all walking like we wet our pants.

We stand in line.

These were buck sergeants. Two of them came up and one said, 'Sarge' -- should have known him saying that like that. He said, 'Ya'll aren't carrying anything?' Of course not.

He said, 'Something is new in the States since you've been here.

'What's that?'

He said, 'That's a metal detector.' I fell for this mickey like a ton of bricks. My pilot says, 'What's they saying Bill.'

I said, 'I think that we've got some trouble here.'

He said, 'Ya'll come into the latrine. We've got it all set up for you.'

I said, 'Wait a minute.'

He said, 'You go through the -- see up there, about ten crews ahead of you -- see that archway -- that is a metal detector machine and you are talking about 25 years in the stockade. I said, 'Oh Jeeez, forfeit of pay, dishonorable discharge.' So we march into the latrine. These sergeants had barrels full of guns.

So we get up there, you know. We are marching through, and I turn around and the two sergeants are like this -- billionaires, those guys. Maybe trillionairs."

Telling this story in a group of fellows with similar experiences, the story seemed funny -- but I am sure that at the time the event was anything but funny.

Bill continues with his story.

     I am kind of hazy here. From Banger, Maine, we went to some place in the middle of the country in Ohio or someplace -- some big base there.It turned out to be a B-29 base and through the scuttlebutt we were led to believe that certain MOS's that you had qualified you immediately to go over and fly B-29's.And I had unfortunately all the MOS's they wanted. I am presuming that that is where the 2nd Lt.thing came out.

     Because on a B-29 your qualifications were different. If you were a flight engineer you were an officer. On a B-17, a B-24, you were a Sgt.

     When I saw what you had to do on a B-29 I could understand it. You literally ran the plane. The pilot flew it, but you ran it.

     So then if I recall it, we were sent home for 30 days.

     I think that when I got home and before I got back the war ended. We dropped the bomb. The war didn't actually end but the bomb was dropped and I got a telegram which in effect said, "Don't report back. There is no room for your at this time. Just stay where you are until we notify you."

     Then sometimes later they sent me to Texas -- to the border to Harlington where we were supposed to fly border patrol.

     That was were you got out on the point system. My points were getting closer and closer. That is where, I believe a Captain or Major told me that if you sign into the reserves at this time you will get out much sooner. I did and I got practically the next week and went home. That was the end of that.

     Well that's the end of my service career.

     From that point on I got married, had three children and that is the point where I got a letter and they called me back.

     This is the tale end of the story -- the end of one chapter and into another.

     They classified me as 'AA'.

     I went down to the Masonic Temple (St. Charles Street, New Orleans). I went to see them and said that they cannot do this and they said, "Oh yes, we can. You have the classifications that we have to have and we have to have it right away. You will be leaving in two weeks..." I get the orders -- they are right here and they are all cut. That is when my appointment came up. They coincided together and I got out.

     What happened was they got too many people at one time to the base at Montgomery, Alabama.

     So they sent a telegram that said, "Stay home until we call you." They never ever called me because I got out of the reserves.

     Whether that changed anything in their overall scheme I don't know. But I never heard from them.

     So I think that it was just a very lucky situation that it happened the way it did.

That's the end of the story.

     Bill's gracious wife, Alice, had told me that Bill's renewed interest in his long forgotten days in World War II have renewed his joy of life and has been a enlightening catalyst for Bill."

     Bill's memory has faded over the past 59 years or so since he flew over Germany in a Liberator along with eight other young men. He is still looking for answers about those days and is hoping to once again meet with any surviving members of his crew.

     Chances are slim that he will ever again meet any of his old crew of young men that became such an integral part of his life during his days at "Old Buck".

     Bill can only hope.


The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- William E."Bill" Brown.

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. William E. "Bill" Brown, Jr. our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Brown's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".


Original story transcribed from hand written notes and a series of oral history audio tapes on 11 thrum 18 February 2004 and 18 May 2004.
Story added to website on 21 May 2004
Story modified on 24 May 2004


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H. Cameron Murchinson: Our Longest Day: 4 April 1945

Official 453rd BG Web Site

453rd Bombardment Group Guestbook

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8th Air Force 453rd BG

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American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll

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Updated on 20 February 2006...1557:05 CST