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|An up close and personal interview with U.S. Air Force Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:|
TSgt Stanley E. Angleton US Army Air Corps (1942-1945)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
When the War broke out, I was working at the Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas building glider aircraft. At that time, Boeing Wichita plant was one of the centers for aircraft construction.
When I received my draft notice, my supervisor told me that he could get me a deferment due to the nature of my work. I told him that a lot of my friends were in the service and that it was right for me to go also.
I entered the Army Air Corps on 5 November 1942.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I was inducted in the Army Air Corps in November 1942 and served until October 1945, serving as a flight engineer and gunner on the B-24D bomber.
I was trained for A&M (aircraft mechanics) at Sheppard Army Air Field, Wichita Falls, Texas, spending about six months there, learning about B-25 and B-26 bombers.
After this, I went to the gunnery school at Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas for about six weeks.
Following this, I met up with my crew at Biggs Army Air Field in El Paso, Texas. There we began our training as a bomb crew, flying all over the country making dummy bomb runs.
From there, we went to Topeka, Kansas where we picked up our new B-24.
In the fall of 1943, we flew to Benghazi, Libya along the northern route (i.e. via Maine, Iceland, England, and down to Casablanca, Morocco). Here we joined the 514th Bomb Squadron, 376th Bomb Group (Heavy). Our aircraft was named the "Red Wing" (serial number 42-42256).
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I flew 25 bomb missions over the ETO. We flew 9 missions from Benghazi before we moved up to San Pangrazio, Italy where we flew another 16 missions.
On Christmas Day 1943, we flew our 15th mission. We considered this mission a "milk run" as we had had no opposing German fighters after us.
On 28 December, we returned to the same area to attack a railroad roundhouse and engine repair shops at Vicenza, Italy. We encountered something quite different. We had 18 B-24s on this mission, one that had to turn back.
As we came in from the Adriatic Sea, we encountered approximately 100 Luftwaffe fighters, FW-190s and ME-109s. Their attack was so sudden and swift that my bomber didn't drop any bombs, as we were fully engaged in shooting back at our attackers.
All around me, airplanes were blowing up: I saw three airplanes blow up and not a soul got out of them. That was 30 men lost right there.
I was flying as a waist gunner when our aircraft was hit many times, causing it to begin burning its oxygen and fuel. Our pilot, 2nd Lt. Clifford Wendell, gave the order to bail out and we jettisoned our 8000 lbs. bomb load.
I helped the ball turret gunner put a parachute on the other waist gunner who was severely burned, and push him out of the bomber. I parachuted, my flying suit no longer on fire, though I'd been burned around my eyes, on my back and neck, and had a shrapnel wound in my right hip.
We lost two crew members: Our bombardier got hung up in the nose doors and passed out and never came to, so he got killed when he hit the ground. The co-pilot bailed out okay, but got shot by a German fighter pilot on the way down.
Once on the ground, Italian civilians surrounded me, and shortly afterwards, we were taken into custody by the Germans. We found ourselves eventually in the POW Camp known by the name of STALAG 17B near Krems, Austria that was a POW camp for sergeants. I was to be a prisoner here for 15 ½ months, living in Barracks 19B in the complex.
Life wasn't easy in the camp. The Germans turned the water on three times a day for two hours at a time, and that was all the water they would let us have. There was no heat and no hot water at all. It was pretty cold especially in the winter snow. My only clothing was what I wore when I bailed out,. We did get G.I overcoats that the government sent in to us. As for food, we ate mainly rutabaga soup or potatoes. We also got Red Cross parcels, usually about every six weeks, rather than the supposed weekly distribution of these. In these were things such as D-bars (chocolate), powdered coffee and cocoa, sugar, powdered milk, butter and so on. We got small packages from home as well, stuff we could trade. The Germans loved our D-bars, and we could get about anything for those. I got into trading with our guards for things they had which resulted in me being confined to solitary on bread and water for a total of 43 days during my time there. Yet, we managed to get bits and pieces to construct radios, etc.. I continued to trade, and somehow managed to avoid getting detected.
In early April 1945 as the war was drawing to its close, Russian troops got nearer to our location. The Germans decided to move our camp to another location near Brannau, Austria. We were forced to march there, a distance of about 500 kilometers.
On the second day out, three other American G.I.s, two Englishmen, and I managed to escape. We traveled for about 6 weeks, traveling by night and hiding by day, eventually finding a cave where we made camp during the last part of our escape near Linz, Austria. It was during this time that we ran across a couple of German deserters who had been injured and were hiding out so that they wouldn't have to continue fighting. They had relatives in the little town near where we were hiding and they helped us during those last three weeks. When the war was over, we knew it right quick, because some of their folks came and told us.
We stayed with some local families until we were picked up by American troops.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
The one that still stands out the most and which I still dream about almost every night was that 25th mission. As I said, this was supposed to be a milk run, but it turned out to be anything but that. Out of the 17 bombers that actually made the run, only two bombers were able to make it back to our base that day.
Seeing planes getting hit by the German fighters and blown up in the sky without any of crewmembers getting out, bothered me most. These were the same guys that I had been with on many of my prior missions, guys I had played "Black Jack" and "Poker" with the night before.
I was 20 years old when all of this happened. Things like that I will never forget.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
I received 5 Air Medals for missions over the ETO, and the Purple Heart for the wounds that I received on my 25th mission.
Later, I was awarded the Prisoner of War Medal after it was issued in 1985.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Prisoner of War Medal, the Purple Heart, and Air Medals mean most to me.
They were important, mainly, because they were awarded for combat; and I believe that I earned every one of them.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Only one story comes to mind:
Four of us were in our tent late one night drinking beer. One of the guys said that he was getting hungry. Of course, then we all thought we needed something to eat. So, two of us managed to sneak into the mess tent and grab a gallon can of something, not knowing until we got it back to our tent that it was a can of tuna.
Unfortunately, we ate more than we should have and we all got pretty sick. Since then, I've never been able to eat tuna. Every time my wife eats tuna, I'm reminded of that time.
I still laugh after all of these years.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
About a week after I got out of the service back home, I got a job working for Trans World Airlines. I worked for TWA for almost forty years when I retired in August 1985. I got to travel a lot during that time.
Now, I'm retired, living in Sun City, Arizona.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I am a member of the following:
Ex-Prisoners of War Association
Military Order of the Purple Heart
Disabled American Veterans Association
Veterans of Foreign War
The Caterpillar Club.
The Caterpillar Club is made up of guys who had to parachute out of a disabled aircraft, and gets its name from the silk weaving caterpillar.
The POW and VFW helped me get 100% disability. All of these associations have worked hard to set up and get the benefits due to all veterans.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
It's important to follow orders and do the best you can.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Follow orders, but stand up for your rights. Remember: those that give the orders are not always right.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
Connections with other airmen who served during my time.
This edition of "Voices" prepared by Living History Team member Skip Kimbrow
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