I'll be answering questions for my dad on and off for the rest of the night. Here's a bit of his history:

Iama retired USAF pilot who flew missions as a bomber, transport,and tanker pilot in WWII, Vietnam, and the Korean War. My first mission was bombing just beyond Omaha beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944). I flew 33 missions in 60 days during the war.

I also grew up during the great depression so can answer any questions about that too.

Edit: Sorry about the slow response, I was working on getting proof up and using 3G on my phone is difficult sometimes. Proof: Here he is with his European Campaign medal and Commander Wings, with the list of medals also



Edit 2: Thanks all for the amazing response! I've been meaning to do this for a while and really enjoyed the interest and questions and stories. My dad really enjoyed it too, he keeps asking me to throw another question at him. But we gotta sleep. We may answer a couple more tomorrow. And thanks also to all who shared stories about family members who served, and to those that served!

Comments: 1045 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

fizdup306 karma

First I'd like to say thank you. I wouldn't be here without you (I am British).

What did you think of England when you first arrived from the States?

whatismyusername331 karma

I had always admired the British. I landed at Liverpool and we were met by a Scottish bagpipe band. That impressed me. The people I met surrounding our base at Molesworth were always so friendly and nice. And I also went to London many times, the train ride and people were always pleasant. I admired Britain because they controlled the world, more or less, before WWII.

fizdup83 karma

Thanks for getting back to me. Was there a big difference between the commercial goods you could get in Britain compared to the US? For example, there is a big legend that the American GIs could supply the British ladies with Nylons, how true was that?

whatismyusername117 karma

Yes I've heard that story too, I never knew of anyone who did that and never did it myself but I heard the story. I'm sorry I hadn't thought of it myself when I was there [laughs]. They were short of everything there, really just getting by, not just nylons.

oldmanbluecheese206 karma

How smooth does she fly? (The B-17)

whatismyusername318 karma

Very smooth! Easy to control. It was a very stable airplane.

fishstick007140 karma

What were your thoughts and feelings when the a-bombs were dropped?

whatismyusername680 karma

Mine? I don't what mine would be important to anyone else anymore. I know what mine are though. Mine was sadness. Killing a hundred thousand people at a time doesn't seem like a joyful thing. I wasn't ashamed of my country, just sad for the world that it came to that.

t3h_shammy125 karma

How much of the success in the European bombing theater do you attribute to the p-51 mustang?

whatismyusername285 karma

Hmm, 40 percent. Due to the inexperience of the Germany pilots flying the M-109s. We were bombing the factories too, but the P-51 could match the M-109. And our guys had at least 3 or 4 hundred hours, they're pilots had only 50 or 100 and they put them into combat. They take a 18 year old off the farm and say "there's the stick, here's the throttle, and be careful. Off you go!"

Beatleboy62120 karma

How different did Vietnam feel compared to WWII. You didn't say that you flew bombing missions in Vietnam, but how different did chain of command, troops, equipment, general morale, all feel in Vietnam v.s. WWII?

whatismyusername238 karma

Our morale? It was good, we thought we were doing the right thing. Does that answer it? We weren't against the war. Sorry we lost it [laughs]

PotatoPop112 karma

Did you continue to work as a pilot after leaving the military?

whatismyusername187 karma

No. But I spent 33 years in the military flying, so that's why.

Knows_Things65 karma

How old were you when you got out?

whatismyusername134 karma

Fifty one the second time, 30 years service is the max. 24 the first time when I went to get my degree

strychnineman108 karma

My first mission was bombing just beyond Omaha beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944). I flew 33 missions in 60 days during the war

Were there strategic targets just beyond the beaches? My landlord was a Bombardier on a B-24, and he said it was so overcast and foggy that they couldn't see a thing, and instead dropped the payload after waiting a half minute or so, (as it turns out most all bombers did) and ended up bombing inland and leaving the beach defenses untouched. were you bombing a specific target, or did you too need to hold up a little bit out of fear of hitting the men on the beaches?

were your 60 missions mostly in support of the second front in France, or were you bombing production areas in Germany?

thank you for everything. Your generation is owed a debt by the rest of us which cannot ever be repaid.

whatismyusername175 karma

What you said is absolutely true. There were a lot of clouds. The Germans moved towards the beach because they knew we wouldn't drop bombs on our own troops, so their safest place to be was close to our troops. I knew that that day I was sick thinking about that these bombs were going into french homes. I didn't enjoy that mission at all.

apuckeredanus94 karma

What did you fly in Korea and Vietnam? Also, thank you for your service.

whatismyusername159 karma

I was a personnel officer in Alaska during the Korean War and flew C-47 transports on weekends. And I didn't cry because I didn't get to go to Korea, that was peachy keen. In Vietnam, C-130s Hercules transport. Turbo prop. Lots of mortar attacks in small runways (dirt strips).

zoidberg133961 karma

Did you know a Colonel Al Depenbrock by any chance? He was a USAF C-130 pilot in Vietnam as well.

whatismyusername94 karma

No I haven't heard of him, sorry. There were a lot of C-130s over there ill tell you that. We supplied every base.

zoidberg133952 karma

Ah, okay. Was worth a shot anyway. Thank you for your service.

Edit: Oh, and what model of B-17 did you fly? G?

whatismyusername80 karma

F's and G's. G had a chin turret, F didn't

IMALEFTY4584 karma

What were the targets you bombed? (specific or broad, I don't care)

whatismyusername137 karma

Munich three days in a row, that was the city I bombed multiple times. They were after something specific or they didn't think we did enough, they never told us exactly. Targets in other Germany cities were generally rail yards and factories.

mblitch36 karma

Reminds me of an description of an exchange with Frakfurt air traffic control.

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign "Speedbird 206": Speedbird 206: "Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of active runway." Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven." The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop. Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?" Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now." Ground (with arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?" Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but I didn't stop."


whatismyusername8 karma

Thank you for this, I read this to him and he got a kick out of it!

[deleted]69 karma

What was the name of your aircraft?

Got any noseart pics?

Do you ever work with the commemorative/confederate air force?

How do you feel about video games, such as B-17: The mighty 8th, that replicate what you had to go through?

whatismyusername147 karma

I probably consider it a little bit flattering that they want to make a game about it, but I don't have serious thoughts either way. The nose art was of a voluptuous woman with hardly any clothes on. I thought it was ugly, I didn't think it was appropriate for an airplane going to war. That wasn't my idea, it was the ground crew who did that. Commemorative/confederate air force: no I haven't.

dbloweiv68 karma


whatismyusername136 karma

303rd bomb group, 359th bomber squadron. [in the interest of privacy we'd rather not give the aircraft name since he was its only pilot]

MahaliAudran67 karma

What all planes have you flown? Last time you piloted a plane? Where you ever jealous of the fighters?

whatismyusername189 karma

First place, jealous of fighters, no. I admired them, but I wasn't jealous of them. Last time piloted an airplane? Vietnam, 1974. I had the honor of flying a peace keeping force to Hanoi when we had already lost the war. Planes flown: let me think, I'm gonna give em to you in order: PT19, B215, UC78, B17, L4, AT6, L5, C45, T6, C47, OA10, B25, KC97, KC135 (707), and....C130. Yeah, that's it!

MahaliAudran42 karma

Cool. Thanks for the response.

How about your scariest moment being a pilot?

My grandpa ran Radar in a B-29 in WWII and was reactivated for Korea (he never left the states during Korea though) and my dad spent most of his time in the AF as a Nav in a KC135.

whatismyusername167 karma

Icing up over Alaska, at nighttime in the mountains. Too much ice had built up on the wings. We had de-icer boots on but it wasn't enough and we were losing speed fast, right at stalling speed. My co-pilot said "oh were gonna die" and I had to agree with him [laughs]. The scary thing about it was it lasted 30 min, a long drawn out torture of getting closer and closer to stall speed. Needless to say we made it

Newt29er39 karma

Follow up question: Which was your favorite plane to fly and why?

whatismyusername98 karma

Well I'd say B25 but that's too damn noisy. Ok, the C130 because it has the most interesting missions. [Vietnam mostly, he says]

NOACeulemans62 karma

Did any of your bomber's gunners ever shoot down an attacking fighter?

whatismyusername116 karma

Never got credit for any. We were attacked very seldom, maybe 3 or 4 times. We lost airplanes every mission to flak though. Fact is, my copilot said "AC [aircraft commander], let me fly into the mission and you look out at all the aircraft dropping out of the sky." [laughs] so we switched off

eagle_eye160 karma

First off thank you for your extended service. It means a lot. My question is being part of what is referred to as the "greatest generation" how do you view our country and what it has turned into? You have seen the depression, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, Watergate scandal, JFK assassination, MLK assassination, race riots, 9/11, and countless other things; in what direction do you see our country moving, for better or worse? Thank you again.

whatismyusername110 karma

Well I'm an optimist, I guess my view is based mostly on hope for the better. The worst war we ever fought I thought was the civil war. The whole world had turned against slavery, the South would be pressured to abandon slavery. Terrible war, we lost more men in that war than every other war combined

SyEhR259 karma

What would you say if your son or grandson expressed interest in joining the military? Would your political views or thoughts on current conflicts influence your feedback?

Thanks for your service.

whatismyusername138 karma

The current conditions would certainly affect it. But I don't think that's something a parent can say, to me that's completely up to [my son]. Here's what I'd say, I joined the air force and never regretted it. But I think my son is fully capable of deciding for himself.

Son here: I actually almost joined the air force, somewhat influenced by my dad's legacy obviously. But I decided it wasn't for me, I decided that the air force today is very different than it was then. And his decision to join then was based on very different things

kathygnome57 karma

What unit were you in and where did you fly out of?

33 missions? Wasn't the requirement 35? There has to be a story there and probably not one that was good news for your crew.

Thanks so much for your service and talking about your experiences. My father was a ball turret gunner on a 17 about six months after your service, but I never really heard what he went through and have tried to piece together what it was like from others.

whatismyusername119 karma

Oh! Interesting! Ok the reason it was 33? They prorated it, when I first came along the requirement was 30. But during that period that I was flying, about a month in, they changed it to 35 so they changed mine to 33 as a prorated difference.

Krywiggles52 karma

I am a historical fanatic, so what I ask might bring up some things he might not want to be mentioned, so fair warning.

1) Was he involved/what did you think of the fire bombing of Dresden?

2) What was the scariest mission you went on? Did you ever bomb Berlin?

3) In ww2, what weapon to counter the strategic bomber did you find the scariest (ie the BF 109, FW 190, Flak 37, Flak 38, 20mm, 88 mm, ME 262, etc etc etc)?

4) Do you ever think of the civilians that you killed?

5) As this country went from ww2 to Korea to Vietnam, did you gradually think that we were losing sight for the true reason for american war effort? In other words, did you think that we were gradually fighting wars for more and more of the wrong reasons?

whatismyusername77 karma

1) never thought about it. That was the British I think, they did the night bombing, we did the day bombing.

2) The scariest one was when I iced up over Alaska. [see other reply] Yes I did bomb Berlin.

3) The flak! After getting holes in my airplane so many times. Only two crew members were ever hit by flak. One hit the bombardier flat sided while he was looking down the bomb site. He was sore for a couple weeks, wouldn't give em a purple heart because it didn't draw blood. I said give me a little knife or something I'll draw blood [laughs]. Engineer got hit in the butt, neither one got a purple heart

4) [answered this in another reply]

5) I think so. Both those wars [Korean and vietnam] were hard to defend one way or the other. Vietnam, we ended up supporting a country who wasn't supporting itself. Most south Vietnamese who could got out when they could

DrJulianBashir52 karma

Tell him he has great looking hair.

whatismyusername92 karma

Haha, he laughed at this and told me "I told you it was good to take my cap off for the picture! I'm proud of my hair, better than my brother's" (who was bald)

Ithinkthere4Ibooze47 karma

Ever run into the Me-262 when you were over Europe? If so---did you know what the hell just flew by you?

Also--do you think we screwed up by fighting with the Soviet Union? What was the mindset of your generation at the time? Did you think the reds wanted to expand throughout Europe?

whatismyusername102 karma

Well one time we were flying back from a bombing mission on Peenamunde, didn't have any fighter escort that day. We were just flying over Denmark when they called out a bogey at 3 o'clock high, and they said he was flying parallel to us.

It might have been a jet, it was going so fast. He was firing a 20 mm at us it seemed, but he was missing because he was too far out. All our guns on that side were aiming at him and he got too close, they all opened up at the same time when he got in range and he just exploded. They said you couldn't see a plane, just pieces. So it might have been a jet for all I know.

Soviet union: I think everything we did was right because they changed, we didn't change. The mindset was that we were doing the right thing, we didn't go to war, but we didn't give into them either

KeifStones38 karma

Ever have any close calls? and have some guys to thank for getting you out of it? i know from research that bombers were venerable during the war and had some great fighter pilots backing them at times

whatismyusername288 karma

I wanna thank the Vietnamese enemy for being such poor shots and missing me. Otherwise there was no one else, we were just doing our job

freemarket2732 karma

Do you think the borders of countries in Europe would look any different today if the US had not fought the Germans in WWII? If the US had only fought to protect Great Britain? If the US had not pressed for unconditional surrender of the Germans? Would the US be better off if it did not get so involved in foreign wars and entanglements?

whatismyusername163 karma

The trouble is, the borders of Europe change every 20 years for the last 3 or 4 thousand years. It was inevitable the borders would change regardless. Not because of us, but because of history, because they're unstable.

lbrector31 karma

Did you feel any guilt after killing those people? What was going through your mind as you dropped those bombs?

whatismyusername119 karma

When I was dropping bombs on a factory or railroad yard I didn't feel bad, but when we missed the target I did. I was sad. I could never get myself enough nerve to look in the books about the number of civilian deaths because I didn't want to know, I'd just rather forget it.

VeryIrrelevant30 karma

I would love to ask some questions but proof is usually needed before you really get traffic.

whatismyusername48 karma

Son speaking: yes thank you for reminding me I had actually forgot

science4life_198425 karma

I am mostly here to say thank you. My family is Polish, and my grand-father's brother was in the Polish cavalry when Germany attacked; he was captured and spent the entire war in a POW camp. He survived and upon the end of the war came to Canada. He is the reason my parents were able to come Canada, and reason I am here today.

Thank you.

Uhm, a general question: do you like to read? (fiction/non-fiction?) What are your favourite books?

I just wanted to say thank you.

Also, what is your strongest memory of living through the Depression?

I hope you can answer my questions, thank you again.

whatismyusername39 karma

Yes. History. That's my favorite book.

Strongest memory? Being broke [laughs]. We had a one bedroom apartment for the 4 of us, 22 dollars a month and my dad was 2 years behind on the rent [more laughs]. My brother and I slept on the floor in the living room

pujom17 karma

What was the scariest moment of the war for you? What were you thoughts when you flew over the channel on your first mission, seeing the Normandy Invasion below?

whatismyusername55 karma

My thoughts flying over Normandy... I've never seen so many planes in my life and I never will again. And looking down into the channel and all the lines of boats

Tyrannosharkus17 karma

Thank you for your service! What were you doing when you heard Germany had surrendered? How did you feel when you heard? Also, the surrender of Japan?

whatismyusername29 karma

I don't remember which one, Japan or Germany, must've been Japan. But I was on the beach in Florida, we had been at a survival school in Orlando. We were sleeping in the beach as part of the program. A guy came down from his house, it was a rich area, and said "hey guys, got some news for you, the war's over, so come on up to the house and celebrate!"

So we had some drinks and food at 2 or 3 in the morning. Not one of us even thought of politely refusing, we said "ok! On the way!" We were relieved we didn't have to ship back out in the future

felizthecat16 karma

What were you doing before the war? Where were you trained to be a bomber pilot?

whatismyusername26 karma

Before the war I was in high school, I joined the air force a month before graduation. I was trained in Sebring, Florida.

TheShroomHermit16 karma

What kind of foods did they give you, and what was your favorite? It looks like the introduction of canned rations (later replaced by MREs) came out a few years after your service. Do you remember if they served anything special for Thanksgiving or Christmas?

whatismyusername35 karma

Well I wasn't in Europe for thanksgiving or Christmas. We didn't have special food for the crews. For eggs, it was powdered and they added water. Everything had to be shipped in and was powdered or canned or whatever. It was adequate, but... I don't remember anything that was really good

not_a_goldfish14 karma


whatismyusername13 karma

I haven't heard of that, why did they hate Giessen so much? [laughs] Was it the home of Hitler or something?

8cuban9 karma

How much of a view did you have of the overall strategy of the bombing campaign? Did your mission targets make sense in any kind of coherent way, or did they seem randomly chosen? It's been said before that an infantryman's view of the war is 10 feet wide and 20 feet long, and I'm just wondering if it was significantly different in the AAF.

whatismyusername25 karma

From the bottom looking up. All those people above me were making the decisions. I knew they had a plan and I thought the targets were picked appropriately, I didn't have information to think otherwise. Like Eisenhower told spatz, "you do what you want. Unless I tell you differently." Eisenhower had more faith in the air force than we even did. We knew we couldn't hit anything specific like a house or building, that was no secret, we gotta use a dozen bombers and hope one of them hit it.

whatismyusername16 karma

From the bottom up. I just did what the guys above me ordered. It's like Eisenhower told Spatz, " you do what you want. Unless I tell you differently. " Eisenhower had more faith in the air force than we even did. We knew we couldn't hit anything specific like a house or building, that was no secret, we gotta use a dozen bombers and hope one of them hit it. [sorry if this gets double posted, can't tell which responses are fully going thru on my phone]

mattings7 karma

Odd question, but do you have any funny stories from your time in the AAF (or AF)?

Also, thank you for your service and B-17s are beautiful.

whatismyusername22 karma

I can't think of any at the moment. I'm not a very good story teller. People tell me a funny joke and I can't even repeat it right [laughs]