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Rev. 04/17/03

 

MEMOIRS

From those who were there.

History is never concise. To try to make it so denies us great insights into those who made it. This page is a living record of the experiences of the men and women of the 315th Troop Carrier Group. As stories and memories are uncovered, they will be recorded here for all to share and contemplate.

INDEX

Memoirs arranged alphabetically by author's last name.

George Doll

Sandy Friedman

Dick Ford, 310th

Henry Hamby, 310th

Ziggy Zartman, 310th

Lenny Zurakov, 309th

 

Sky Blazers, Part 1. UK, France ... D-Day + 17 by George Doll

This morning we were awakened at 5:45 am after getting to sleep at 1 am, to throw our newly issued assortment of equipment into a truck, ride for an hours and a half, throw piano and all of us into C053 and take off for France.

All fourteen of us went, plus Lt. Bankson, who is our officer in charge. We left as an independent unit on temporary duty to entertain front line troops.

A half hour after taking off, we sighted the Channel and hundreds of ships plying their way back and forth through the calm waters.

After another half hour of craning our necks, we sighted the coast of France and in the early morning sun, we all anxiously looked at our new adventure: torn up ground, slit trenches, Yanks lining up for chow in a field kitchen, huge Red Crosses, lines of heavy vehicles, a burned out Spitfire, wrecked ships of every description, and finally the dusty landing strip where we were to land.

A heavy yellow dust blinding our vision, the bump that emphatically tells us we are no longer air borne, and War Correspondents.

Unshaven, dirty men standing around all wearing helmets and bearing weapons, and the somewhat bomb-shattered house of the vicinity were all visible and very interesting.

A truck backed up and in it we piled our mess and started out for the interior. The roads weren't bad (a tribute to our bulldozers). MPs and hundreds of signs kept us from getting lost.

However, the countless wires were a tribute in themselves to the Singnalmen (troops who came right after the enemy left said that linemen literally covered the ground -- shot by Jerry snipers.)

French civilians were very undemonstrative. We're told they were well treated by the Germans who, in four years, must have made some ties.

Finally, we arrived at our Headquarters and had K rations which weren't bad at all -- coffee, biscuits, jelly, fried egg and pork patty, a fruit bar and gum. Assuming we were to live in the filed with the thousands of mud-sloggers, we have seen its a pleasant surprise to find we were sleeping in the Marine barracks until recently occupied by the German garrison. Very comfortable.

Incidentally, we were in the sea coast town of Grande Campe and the barracks were surrounded by an elaborate trench and dugout system which connected certain strong points that are still well supplied with Stokes Mortars, machine guns, hand grenages, and a 40 mm gun gazing silently towards the town's only pier and harbor.

(to be continued) ~ Return to Index

OVERSEAS ~ The Hard Way by Sandy Friedman

As a member of the 435th Troop Carrier Group, I flew overseas to England, departing on 21 October 1943 form Bear Field, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, with five crew members and one other passenger. He, fortunately for us, was an engineering officer, for some legs of the flight produced some very unusual happenings.

First, flying from Puerto Rico to Trinidad, our engines suddenly quit. The pilot immediately switched from the cabin tanks to the wing tanks and power returned. After an over-night stay we were scheduled to leave in the morning. However, arriving at the flight line, we found all planes grounded.. It was explained that our engineering officer had worked to find out why the engines lost power and discovered that a plug had been inserted in the cabin tank fuel lines. The conclusion was sabotage. We were told it solved the problem of Air Corps planes being lost on the flight from Belem, Brazil, to Ascension Island.

the next happening occurred after we left Dakar, Senegal, and were on our way to Marakech, Morocco. Heavy weather prevented us from flying over the Atlas Mountains and required a landing at Tindouf, Algeria, a French Foreign Legion desert outpost.. Fascinating, because it gave us a chance to roam the fort used in the famous movie Beau Geste.

Finally, on the last leg, on our way from Marrakech to England, we flew substantially outside the coast of Portugal and France. A flight a few days before ours, which was carrying the movie actor Leslie Howard, had been shot down by a German fighter plane. As we approached England at Lands End, there was a solid cloud cover and our fuel was running low. As we descended through the clouds, the pilot directed the passengers to take positions near the door. Our job was to cut the cargo straps and push the cargo out the door when we cam down in the water. Luckily, we broke clear about 75 feet above the water, within sight of land and our destination. We had 10 to 15 minutes of fuel left in the tanks when we landed. Sandy Friedman ~ Return to Index

 

Varsity Mission ~ Twice Over the DZ by Dick Ford, 310 TCS

On March 24, 1945, a formation of 81 planes of the 315th TCG departed Boreham RAF Station in East Anglia, England with paratoops of the British Sixth Division as a unit of a massive aerial armada participating in the largest single day airborne operation of WWII. The assault involved 320 C-47 and 80 C-46 iarcraft and a tow of 900 CG4A gliders attempting to establish an Allied crossing of the Rhine River near Wesel, Germany.

The 315th followed C-46s of the 313th Group which was holding formation into the DZ despite heavy losses from intense, accurate anti-aircraft and light arms fire. Aircraft were exploding and disappearing in a ball of smoke, bursting into flame, losing altitude with jumping troops, or winging over out of control and crashing to the open countryside. From our serial's vantage point it seemed that only half of the planes managed to make a normal drop on the DZ.

The heavy, spectacular losses to the C046 formation ahead created a sobering feeling for aircrew members with prior airborne assault experience, but the impression of first-timers had to be traumatic.

As our formation approached the DZ, the concentrated fire from German ground forces shifted to out arriving aircraft. Heavy ground fire continued against both aircraft and parachuting airborne troops, but the sturdy Gooney Bird again proved to be the durable, combat worthy aircraft of earlier actions and handled the barrage without affecting the mission of drop accuracy.

I was flying #2 position of # flight of the 310th squadron lead at the rear of the second 315th serial. Nearing the DZ, things abruptly went awry aboard this aircraft. My co-pilot, who shall remain anonymous, literally 'froze' at the sight of the heavy C-46 losses and was unable to move or speak, requiring me to perform both cockpit duties over the DZ. After dropping quarter flaps preparing for the drop, I slapped him across the face to snap him out of it, but got no reaction.

At the sight of the paratroopers beginning to fall from the lead aircraft, I eased off power on the left engine and flipped on the red jump light.

When I saw that the troops had cleared the other aircraft, I waited for a confirming holler from the crew chief, but instead he yelled, "The first one fell down in the door. They didn't get out!" Now, safely through the DZ and no longer under major ground fire, I was able to break through the mental block of the co-pilot by ordering him to repeat my instructions and then perform them.

Although I didn't welcome the thought of a second pass over the DZ, I yelled to the crew chief that I'd reset the lights and to 'shoot and push him out if he falls down again!" By that time I was past the Rhine, so I made a left 45 and a tight right turn around t line up for a reverse pass and saw that the DZ was clear. The return drop across the DZ went smoothly with no other aircraft in the area and attracted only light ground fire until the troops began their drop onto the large grassy clearing now littered with parachutes. About the time the last jumper cleared the aircraft, white puffs of bursting flak began appearing 20 feet in front of the plane's nose. While the German gunner tried to zero in on his only target, I pushed the nose down into a steep dive, but couldn't out-race the lowering barrage. We finally got below his line of fire in a tie with the flak bursts still 20 feet directly ahead of us.

Later, after the crew chief had pulled in the shroud lines, he came to the cockpit and casually asked, "You didn't really mean for me to shoot him, did you?" I half-laughingly replied, "No, but they didn't know that." Silently, I prided myself on how well this strategy had worked. However, several minutes passed before I suddenly realized that the crew chief hadn't know it either. With only a few bullet holes in the fuselage and lift surface, the return trip to Spanhoe proved to be uneventful, except for the recurring and sobering thought of the possible outcome form my verbal outburst to the crew chief. ~ Dick Ford ~ Return to Index

Interview with Henry Hamby, 310 TCS, with George Cholewczynski, 8/25/01.

Letís go with Normandy. When the group came back from North Africa, they formed the new squadrons, the 309th and 310th, and you were picked to be squadron commander of the 310th.

Thatís right.

On the run-up to the Normandy invasion, there was Operation EAGLE.

I donít remember that name.

This was the dress rehearsal for the Normandy drop in May with the same checkpoints, except backwards.

I really donít remember. We flew that route pretending what we were doing, but didnít know it at that time.

From everything that I heard, it was a lousy mission, and you did not have a good time doing that - the weather was bad - that was one factor.

Yes. A friend of mine in 313th group was killed on that mission. Somebody just flew right into him. His name was Burt Fleet. He was in the 313th I think.

One of the questions [your son] Chip had was about the many gallons of paint that came in before Normandy to stripe the aircraft with.

You see many pictures of that. It was not just us, all the allied planes got those stripes before the invasion so that OUR OWN people would know that they were friendly aircraft. .

This was done as a reaction to what happened in Sicily in 1943.

I was not on that mission. I was in North Africa at the time. Our group did not take part in that mission.

You guys were doing a lot of logistics and support work.

Exactly right.

Do you recall any of the briefing for Normandy? McLelland was in command at that time.

Yes he was. He stayed in command until....

I think he got sick before Holland....

He went on the mission, and while he was on the mission he started throwing up blood. Thatís when he was grounded, so to speak, and sent home.

Do you recall anything of the briefing before Normandy?

Anything special do you mean? I donít recall anything special.

This would have been your first combat mission as a group. What was your attitude? Naturally you were a bit apprehensive.

I was scared to death. You know, everyone of those things I was sacred to death, but I didnít show it. I couldnít show to my troops. Iíd go around and joke with them and carry on that it would be a piece of cake. But I was very frightened, strangely enough until I got on the runway, throttles forward, and the fear left me. I guess something came over me and "Iím on my way now.... Iím gonna do it, or not do it.... no use to shake about it." At that point, push the throttles forward.... Okay, either Iím gonna make it or not. At that point all my anxiety left me.

How about on the field when everybody was ready to board? Did you go around to your people?

The planes that were near me. Iíd go to them and joke, "Weíll be gone in a minute. I didnít do that on Normandy. That was a night time mission. We dropped our troops over Ste Mere Eglise exactly 40 minutes after midnight on D-Day. I gave them the green light to go. After we dropped our troops I headed north to take the group our base. We saw, it wasnít completely dark, an awful lot of ships streaming toward Normandy. We knew it was on. That was 40 minutes after midnight, I remember that quite well. My troops went out the door 40 minutes after midnight. They were 82nd Airborne troops.

That was 1st Bn, 505th PIR. Did you talk to the troops before the take off?

I donít recall that I did, no.

How was the flight going over? As a squadron commander, were you leading an element?

Yes.

So basically everybody was flying on you. I assume that you had the best navigator in the squadron, but naturally not the one that was taken away to pathfinder.

Right.

Did you have any navigational aids in your plane? Gee? Rebecca/Eureka?

We had Rebecca/Eureka. The Pathfinders had gone in as you know. We had gone out to sea and crossed the Cherbourg Peninsula, straight across. I started picking up the signal from Rebecca/Eureka, and thatís what I navigated on, just homed in on that. As soon as we got the light, gave them the green light and told them to go. It is interesting that the 82nd Airborne always took 18 seconds to get out of the airplane. For that drop in Holland, each Pole had a great big duffle bag with them. They had to drag that to the door to jump with it, and it took them 47 seconds to get out of the airplane. I had my left engine cut back so they wouldnít get the prop blast. Because of that I started loosing altitude. I was down to 300 feet. As I said, I saw the guy that was shooting at me, the 20 mm that hit me. I was close enough to the ground that I could see him manning that gun. I didnít recognize his eyes, but....

That probably was near the railroad bridge going across the river. When you did your turn to go back home, did you go as far as the river? Or did you try to cut before that. I know that the drop zone is really close to the river?

It was, as I recall. I turned right, I remember that. By the time my last paratrooper got out I pushed the throttles forward and tried to climb. Actually, I had a push and pull with the co-pilot. He wanted to go down to pick up speed, and I wanted to go up as we were briefed to do. I let him win part of it and we picked up speed and went up. Thatís after we were hit. Four 20 mm.

One of the reasons that the paratroopers were so burdened down with everything was that the two days that they couldnít take off, and had to go back to their billets in Stamford/Peterborough, they were becoming increasingly nervous, and started packing away more ammunition. They started smoking up all the cigarettes that they had put away. Almost to a man they said that the wait and the delays was the worse part of it. They said that when they finally got to the DZ, you know what it was like, you were there.

There was a man who shot himself. I never saw him. He was about four airplanes down the line from me. Somebody came and told me that.

I had talked to some 315th people who had seen him. It surprised that his comrades had showed utter disdain for him.

They told me, itsí hard to believe, maybe not, that troopers that were in his airplane spat at him.

I heard that they had been given oranges before the flight, and they threw the peels at him. Not very happy. Letís go back to Normandy a little bit. Do you recall hitting the cloud bank before hitting the Cherbourg Peninsula?

No, I do not. We went turned east and went right straight across. I donít remember any clouds that would hazard flying. I donít know, I donít remember. When we got close to Ste Mere Eglise, we picked up our Rebecca/Eureka, and it was just straight in as far as I was concerned. I didnít have to correct. We stayed right on the beam and went straight in. All my troops were following me.

The 315thís drop was one of the best of the operation.

I thought it was us. We seemed we picked up that beacon over the drop zone I flipped on the green light and out they went.

What kind of flak did you run into in Normandy?

Practically none. I looked out the left window, and I saw, I would guess 10 or 15 miles before the DZ, and I started seeing some tracers. They were coming my way and they were falling short, all of them. And I thought, hell, Iím satisfied, Iím all right, too far away. I didnít realize until somebody told me later that tracers were short, and the other ammunition would go farther. Iím glad that I was sort of dumb about it. It was right about them that the cigar was shot out of my radio operatorís mouth. Just a few minutes before we hit the DZ. He was in the radio compartment in back of the cockpit. We were hit that once, and I remember that it came in the radio operatorís compartment. When we got back to Spanhoe we carefully looked over the rest of the airplane and there were no other holes in it, except for the one that came in on the radio operatorís side. Just as soon as the paratroopers were dropped, I turned north and headed immediately back to England. Fortunately we did not have a Sicily thing. There were ships all over the place, and nothing shot at us.

Which was a big relief for you, everybody knew about the Sicily fiasco.

Exactly. Thatís what saved it, they had been briefed on what we were going to do. Airplanes would be flying over, but that theyíd be flying toward England.

What was your altitude on your way back?

1,000 feet, until we go to the base, and then we climbed up to about 3,000 feet.

Do you remember who your crew was for the Normandy drop?

No, I remember Hardin was navigator. I donít remember the names of the crew, and it sort of makes me mad that I donít. Not even the radio operator. Nobody got hurt in Normandy, just the cigar and one hole in the plane.

The hit on the radio compartment... was that machine, a hunk of 20 mm?

It was a machine gun.

Tell me about your crew going to Pathfinder. Was there a Troop Carrier "rodeo" where they recruited them?

As I recall we knew what we wee sending the best crews for. No, they didnít return. They were going to be in the Pathfinder mission. The pilot was Sam Suttle, one of my best pilots and his crew. He was from Terre Haute Indiana. Samís crew was taken, and we had an idea what they were going to do, but not specifically, where they were going or what the training was. He was one of the crews on the Pathfinder mission.

And this would have been around April or May when they took them?

Yeah, about April as I recall.

Letís talk about the Poles. Could you shed any light on the accident at Tinwell?

No. I cannot shed any light on that.

This is off the record, and strictly for myself. You donít have to be nice. What were your impressions of the Poles?

I didnít have much personal contact. They impressed me as being mad as hell at the Germans, and ready to get on it. They seemed like nice guys. I felt that they had a personal grudge, and as I said were eager to get on with what they wanted to do. They didnít speak my language and I didnít speak theirs, they were friendly to be around, shake hands and all that sort of stuff.

It seemed that they were big on passing out souvenirs, bits and bobs of insignia.

I donít remember anything about that. I was just going down the line to see that all of my airplanes were ready to go. Thatís the mission that we climbed through the overcast.

The 34th and 43rd couldnít get through it and had to turn back.

No. They never took off. The other squadrons never took off. Never attempted to. I took off first, and told all of my following crews what I was going to do, and in effect said,"Iíll meet you on top of the overcast." The overcast was about 800 feet above the ground, and about 2,000 feet thick. When I got up on top, and started circling to the left, the troopers were doing the same thing. They would break out, knew that I was up there making circles and caught up to me. It wasnít too long before we had them all. My navigator was standing on a stool and looking out counting the airplanes. He told me when they were all there. Thatís when we took off for Holland.

The other two squadrons never attempted to take off. Eventually he was the group commander.

That was H.B. Lyon.

Not H.B. It was Bob Gibbons. Anyway, thatís that.

You had two previous missions to Holland - the 82nd Airborne to Grave, and the British. Were you on them?

No.

How many Holland missions did you fly?

Only two. I flew the first one, and then we had another drop mission after that, but it wasnít very effective. That was it.

Where did you come from originally?

I born in Kentucky.

During the Polish lift all of your people were wounded.

Except me. The paratroopers had already bailed out. We didnít start getting shots until after they were gone. All were wounded by four 20mm shells that hit the airplane.

On the port side.

Yes. We dropped them and the Germans were the left side. I started getting hit just before my turn. It happened awful fast. I started getting almost as soon as the last paratrooper was out. One of the reasons was that was when we were lowest to the ground. Iíd dropped down, I was no more than 300 feet when the last one got out. Then we turned to get out of the way, thatís what we were supposed to do. I looked out my window on the left side and saw the gunner that was aiming at us.

You got to Brussels. I believe that you let down at airfield B-28.

Iím not sure.

It was quite busy. You had a lot of 315th people there.

Awful busy.

Colonel Stark landed there if Iím not mistaken.

Smylie Stark. He was my best friend. We went to flight school together. He was from Kentucky. I landed at Brussels because we had the wounded on board. I could have landed at Eindhoven, which was half way to Brussels. But we had just captured Eindhoven, and I couldnít expect any medical assistance there. I went on to Brussels, not too awful far. I shot a red flare, and an ambulance met us when I landed. The only man wounded who had to be taken off in litter was our dropmaster, and heís the one who had his butt shot off. They rest of them walked off, and in fact helped him. The navigator was in the back end after the drop helping to cut the blood flow. We went to Brussels and got an ambulance

Last week I spoke to Bob Cook who set down there with his hydraulics shot out. He was the guy who missed wiping out the Spitfires and finally stopped against a hanger.

I donít know anything about that.

That was in Brinsonís book. He said that a squadron commander, he didnít remember who, authorized them to open up their escape kits take the money and go to Brussels and get a hotel.

I did that with my crew. After we all got settled, and the wounded taken care of, we got a ride to a hotel. I told the guys, "Give me your money," and I paid the hotel bill.

Did you have a good time in Brussels?

No. We left the next day. We were too subdued to worry about a good time. I donít remember anything about that.

You were also the squadron commander. Not only did you have to set a good example, but you had to work harder than everybody else.

All I remember is getting the room, taking their money away from them, and paying the bill. We got out the next day. I had money left over and I turned it over to the guy in our group that gave it to us in the first place. The intelligence officer. Thatís the best I remember that incident.

I remember Brinson talking about when they got from North Africa to England, some of the birds were handling a little rough, and took out the floor boards, and pulled out several hundred pounds of dust and sand that had accumulated there in North Africa. Do you remember anything like that at all?

No I donít. I think that Brinson was accurate, but I donít remember that story. We sure had dust there. They had that wind, I forget what they call it (Sirocco?). You couldnít hide yourself from that dust, although we were in the sea side of the mountain, and the sand was coming off of the desert. ~ George Cholewczynski ~ Return to Index

Pigeons! by Lenny Zurakov, 309th TCS
Incidentally, in your collection of histories, do you have anything about 3 aircraft from the 309th who were sent to France in early 1945 with crates of pigeons? I remember it vividly, as I was the radio op on the lead plane. We made the trip across the Channel to a forward base in France three times, because the first two times the receivers insisted no one had ordered any pigeons! The third time the pilot in charge insisted on going to a higher source and sure enough, they had been ordered by Patton. Evidently, he wanted to use them as carriers. We never did hear any more about it, and I've always wondered if anyone else remembers that mission. I know it happened because we slept overnight right by the planes, since we didn't want the pigeon feathers filling the air around us. ~ Lenny Zurakov ~ Return to Index

Tire ~ What Tire? by 'Ziggy' Zartman

During the seige of Leige, General Paul WIlliams led the transport armada of some 200 c_47s, as I recall. He made a smooth landing and was taxiing on the sharp-edged PSP (pierced-steel planking) when he flattened a tire. He commandeered another aircraft from his wing and returned to base intending the next day to send a crew in with a tire and wheel.

This happened in the late afternoon. Flying a night mission, I landed sometime after midnight and unfortunately also flattened a tire on the PSP. No one else was stirring on the base and bombs were going off in the distance. John Stewart, the engineer on the flight, and I figured it wasn't good to endanger two transports when one could be repaired. Soooooo, rounding up the necessary jacks, we took the good wheel from the General's aircraft.

I'm told the General was quite upset and real excited, but never did discover our identity. ~'Ziggy' Zartman ~

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