I posted a picture of the display case of my grandfather's medals here, http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/tt8de/my_grandfather_just_turned_91_and_built_his_own/

and was asked to help him do an AMAA. I am politicaldan and I'll be asking him the questions by phone or by email, and in respect for his age and health issues, only a few at a time. I will post his replies completely unedited. (I'll call him on skype and have a voice recorder running, so I can make sure I get it all) I'm doing this on a new account, based off his call sign for most of his flying life, so I don't benefit from any of the karma. Please try to watch your language as I'm sure my relatives (who are religious) will be coming by to check this out. As for proof, I'll be posting pictures of his medals, and various ones of him throughout his long career. If we don't answer your question, right away, just wait. We'll try to get around to every one in time, so check back.

EDIT: Thanks for the first round of questions. He's working on the first few right now, and my mother is working on scanning in some pictures of his citations and early career photos for proof. Check back soon and I'll have his answers and an imgur gallery up.

EDIT: while he's working on the questions, here's the first few images. http://imgur.com/a/jqMlp

EDIT: That's all for now. He's going to go take a nap and then maybe tackle a few more tonight. We'll get back to it as soon as he's ready. Thanks everybody!

EDIT: My grandfather and I are both honored to make the front page. A big thank you to everyone for their support as we work through a few more.

EDIT: I called my grandparent's about 15 minutes ago and I was told that he isn't feeling too well today. Sadly, that's more often the case than not with his age and medication. I emailed him about a dozen questions and we'll get the answers posted as soon as we can. Thanks for waiting.

Comments: 587 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

drl33t180 karma

Did you drop candy to children who lived there? Was it Tempelhof you landed at? Any memories from Checkpoint Charlie?

GreyEagle8414233 karma

politicaldan here, he chuckled when I read him this one and said "that guy knows about the Airlift. Hang on to that one."

Define_well_adjusted155 karma

Out of all of the medals and awards you've received, which one means the most to you?

GreyEagle8414304 karma

That would probably be either my Bronze Star or the Berlin Airlift ribbon. I'm especially proud of my small role in helping to save the city of Berlin.

nowthisisawkward7 karma

when i was learning about this in history class it was so weird to read about berlin just being so cut off. i was born after the reunification so i cant even imagine what it was like. you did a great and important job. dropping the candy made the kids days and id say that it made the US troops really really popular so PR-wise it was a pretty smart move as well.

have you ever been to berlin after the reunification? if so did you recognize anything? what were your thoughts and feelings?

GreyEagle841414 karma

No, I haven't been to Germany since the Airlift. There was always somewhere else to go, something else to do.

f3rn4ndrum5125 karma

Is there as sound, a tune, a smell, a taste or something else that "trasnports" you right back at a moment in war?

What is this feeling and when and where does it transports you?

GreyEagle8414425 karma

If a cargo plane starts her engines, I can tell you everything about that plane. I know, I probably flew it or one very similar. It's been 60 years since the end of the Airlift, and if I hear a plane in the sky, sometimes I'll stop and think about how impossible it really was sometimes. All that cargo. All those people. We didn't care. We had a job to do and we did it. Air Force can deliver anything.

hypai104 karma

If he wishes to answer this; What was your closest experience to death, and how did that change your outlook on war, if at all?

GreyEagle8414282 karma

I don't think I was ever in any real danger during the War. I'm a little ashamed to say that during the D-Day landings, I was on a troop train in Texas. I was a trainer for most of the war, training other pilots.

That being told, there's been a time or two I thought I made my final take-off. Everything always turned out alright.

Thargz83 karma

1) What's the best piece of advice about life you would give to young people growing up today?

2) Can you tell a story about any close calls in your time as a pilot?

3) Do you have any funny stories about your time in the military?

4) What do you think about the world today compared to 60-70 years ago? Was it the "good old days" then or are things getting better now?

Many thanks for your years of service and for answering our questions.

GreyEagle8414284 karma

1) best piece of advice about life? Live it. When I first enlisted, I was almost kicked out of flight school before it even started because I wore eyeglasses. The common knowledge at the time was if you had to wear eyeglasses, you couldn't read the instruments. Myself and 19 other cadets worked hard to stay in. Eventually the requirements changed. Young people, the world isn't going to give you anything. I know that's the way it seems, but you're only hurting yourself to believe it. Go and work hard and make your own success. Who knows? If the 20 of us hadn't petitioned to get the rules changed, it might have stayed that way for years and years.

2) Too many. I have flown in the Arctic where vital parts of my plane froze up and I had zero visibility. Once, on a training plane, the engine seized and the propeller stopped as I was waiting to take off. No one was hurt, but it would have been a quick trip down had I been airborne. I have made navigational errors and flown over countries and into airspace I had no business being near. During the Airlift itself, Russian fighters would circle. 3) I once had the honor of flying a famous explorer who had turned into a statesman to a meeting. My co-pilot was eating sardines and the stench filled the cockpit right as soon as the statesman came into the cockpit to chat for a few minutes. He took a whiff of those sardines and never came back. 4)I don't know. There's a lot that's wrong with today, but the older I get, the more I realize, there's always a lot wrong. But a lot of things right too.

NomadicLogic75 karma

First off, thank you for your service.

Married 65 years is an amazing feat to me. What is your advice for staying happily married?

GreyEagle8414166 karma

Hold your tongue and remember that she puts up with you a whole lot more than you put up with her.

Dullahannah64 karma

What would you consider your greatest accomplishment after all of these years?

GreyEagle8414190 karma

Just staying alive. My family somehow turned out alright even though I was gone for most of the time, off flying somewhere.

I've been married for 65 years this year and I've lived long enough to see great-grandchildren, one of whom is a teenager now.

[deleted]63 karma


GreyEagle8414206 karma

Congratulations on your commission. As for your question, it was a different time back then. you didn't have internet or skype. you just had to hold on to knowing that eventually you would get back home. In the meantime, you have a job to do.

My advice would be to write letters. It's something from your wife that you can physically hold onto. I have nearly every one of my wife's letters from quite a while ago.

graffiti8157 karma

Ask him how much the allied forces knew, prior to the end of the war, what was actually going on in Germany in regards to the death camps. My grandmother tells me that the US public knew little or nothing about the horrors going on in Germany at the time and didn't really believe it when it first hit the newspapers immediately after the war.

GreyEagle8414113 karma

We knew very little. What we did know contradicted what the next fellow said. All we knew were that were some kind of camps. Political prisoners, french resistance, we had no idea and it didn't really come up much. Some people thought they were fake cities, designed to fool Allied bombers. Others thought they were Soviet POW camps and just let 'em be, because we're probably going to end up in Russia soon enough. It just wasn't something you thought a lot about, you weren't afforded the luxury of time to sit and think.

HooeyPhooeyTexas57 karma

Was your highest rank 0-6? If so, did you want to become a General, why or why not?

GreyEagle8414243 karma

In today's Air Force it would be an 0-6, Colonel. However, when I enlisted, I did so in the Army Air Corps. The Air Force didn't exist until September of 1947.

Becoming a General is one of the hardest things to do and it requires mostly politics and playing games. I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to wine and dine with the Pentagon officers or Congress. I was an Airman first and foremost. I only got promoted to full bird colonel after my retirement.

Speed_Bump7 karma

My father always said he couldn't believe he made it past Captain. :)

Where were you stationed over the years? It's almost impossible to believe you and my father did not run into each other over that long of a stretch if only at the base Chapel going to mass.

GreyEagle841412 karma

Where haven't I been is a better question. All up and down the east coast, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Florida and California. France, England, Germany, Egypt, Siam, Iran...I think that's it.

clemsonpk54 karma

What was the situation in Berlin like right after the war? Are the stories of mass rape and war crimes true?

GreyEagle841488 karma

When I flew in for the start of Operation Vittles, things had calmed considerably. That was mainly due to the political tensions between the Allies and the Soviets being so tense at the time. We really weren't there to be tourists, we had a mission and on a clear day, there was a plane taking off every three minutes. Being on base there, you really didn't see, weren't allowed to see, much of what was left of Berlin.

Galebaby43 karma

What advice do you have for young people in the military?

GreyEagle8414111 karma

Duty. Honor. Country.

Obey your commanding officer. Honor your uniform. Be proud of your service, for it's a wonderful thing, but remember it's called "the Service" for a reason, that means you serve others before you think of your own needs and feelings.

[deleted]24 karma

Piggybacking off of this... any advice specifically for a young woman in the military?

GreyEagle841467 karma

I'm an anachronism when it comes to that. The WACS and the WASPS had their place, and I would say to you the same I said to the other gentleman who asked. However, you're a woman. You joined the military so you must be strong, but there will be people thinking less of you or thinking you can't do the work, Prove them wrong. Make it to where they see your insignia, not your sex.

Speed_Bump43 karma

How many digits was your serial number when you joined the Air Force? I am assuming you were in the USAF at the beginning since you were in the Army Air Corp and the number itself was less than 25000.

GreyEagle841462 karma

It's 5 digits and it's in the 17's.

Speed_Bump38 karma

Very nice, my dads was 5 digits also and in the 25s.

Thank you for your years of service.

And that is some fine woodworking you did on your display cases.

GreyEagle841475 karma

That's a bit of a fib on my grandson's part. I made up the plans and did all the measuring, but my oldest son helped when it came time to cut the wood and we put it together and stained it.

jaggazz40 karma

I was in Berlin when the wall fell in 1989, the atmosphere there was electric. By contrast, can you describe the mood when the war was over? Was it desperation, or relief that it was done?

GreyEagle841439 karma

The end of the war found me in Texas. I didn't fly into Berlin until much later, towards the start of the airlift.

glassuser9 karma

Where in Texas? I live near Ellington Airport, formerly Ellington AFB. Apparently it was a bomber training facility back in the day.

GreyEagle841414 karma

There was a pilot's training base out in the middle of nowhere in West Texas. I believe it's been shut down since the War.

phughlett33 karma

What was the most memorible thing that happened during your career?

GreyEagle841477 karma

Always going to be the Airlift or Das Luftbrucke. You can imagine that the Berliners thought themselves to be dead. Americans on one side, Soviets on the other. Like a mouse stuck between two sharp claws. The start of the Lift was political in nature, but the people of Berlin didn't care. The skies no longer rained death, but compassion and a way to survive. You could fly over the city and see people, mostly women and children because so few men were left, waving and cheering.

50_cent_party30 karma

Psychologically were there any adjustments that had to be made from a mindset of war/enemy to that of mercy/assistance. It's more than a theoretical possibility those who were flying humanitarian missions into divided Berlin previously flew bombing missions over populated areas of the Axis.

GreyEagle841462 karma

In war, one never really thinks of the people of the opposite side as the enemy. We didn't look at the housefrau's and children and think "oh these are nazi enemies!" they were a defeated foe, but they suffered a lot of hardship. Their city was destroyed, as was their country and most of their men, but they were people in need of help. A lot of the start of the airlift was political, in order to prevent the Soviets from getting a stranglehold on the city, but a lot of it, from my perspective anyway, was to help these poor people.

A cargo plane also handles differently from a bomber and I think a lot of the bomber crews just wanted to get back home and some were sent to the orient to finish the war in the pacific. however, yes, some did stay if they could, or were told to, and joined in.

Typically_Wong28 karma

Coming from a soldier who has done tours over seas with tons of emotional baggage;

What is the one thing you regret the most? How did you over come it?

Please let me know.

GreyEagle841413 karma

I regret not spending more time with my family, but if you're going to serve, that's a regret that you know will be coming. I don't have many regrets because as a transport pilot, you get orders to go somewhere. You go there. You get orders to come back with something, they load it in your bay and you come back.

Uncle-Dads-Whistle27 karma

Were all your missions post-WWII humanitarian missions? Or did you fly missions during the war too?

GreyEagle841455 karma

I've never logged a single combat mission. I flew transport and cargo planes.

southAfRknCraka26 karma

How does it feel to be part of something that is almost of legend in today's times?

GreyEagle841449 karma

It was a job to do. I'm proud I had a part in it and I could do what I loved, flying, to help people.

niciraci19 karma

Have you ever seen a UFO?

GreyEagle841448 karma

Every pilot has seen something he can't identify. As far as aliens go, no.

RockySnowball18 karma


GreyEagle841432 karma

I wouldn't know anything about the Bomber Squadrons. Those boys were stationed in England, and I was in the US training new pilots.

There's enough that can go wrong with a plane in flight as is, and to add flak and enemy fighters, it must have been terrible.

wannabeemperor11 karma

Please thank your grandfather for me, and let him know that he was part of an effort that reached millions. The Berlin airlifts were so important to the German people and it helped secure them as allies for the US.

I am a US citizen born to a German mother and a father who was a GI stationed in Germany during the cold war. My Opa once showed me a picture of himself walking down the street after the war, with a woman on each arm, wearing a pretty fancy suit.

He pointed the suit out to me and told me that it was made of recycled paper...It was a suit that the Americans dropped over Berlin, just as an example of the kind of stuff that was needed and delivered by the Americans.

It is my firm belief that the just and honorable way the Americans treated the German people in the aftermath of that war helped assure that there would never be a third world war with Germany "on the wrong side", ever again, because it was so UNLIKE how the UK or the Soviet Union or France might have treated a defeated Germany. The Cold War certainly didn't hurt in making Germany a "western" aligned country of course, but I put so much stock and faith into how the Americans helped to rebuild.

I don't think my post is making much sense, but this is a topic that is close to my heart and gets me a little emotional...It is like Reconstruction after the American Civil War or something....It is so unlike what happened with the Versailles Treaty and WW1...The tone of reconciliation and just general humaneness. It counts, and we see so little of it when it is most needed.

That airlift helped bind two peoples, and I am so much a product of that, I owe my whole life to it...

So, again...Please thank him for me. Thank him for my Opa, who fought in that war and survived the eastern front. I don't think he was sure there would even be a Germany left after what they had done, and American reconciliation opened his eyes to the evil of the Nazis. Thank him for my mother and my father, who would not have met had the americans been cruel or let the russians overtake germany.

So often, people see the US military as being like another army...Not as liberators...And I like to tell them about efforts like the Berlin Air Lift. My mother told me once about how she could remember, as a child, seeing US army trucks full of soldiers driving down the autobahns, waving and passing candy...What other armies would do that? Go out of their way to protect a conquered people? They could have rounded them all up, put them through hell, or into camps - As the Germans themselves did so often in the East....As the russians then did to the Germans on the way back West...intimidated and raped, or treated the country like personal loot...Burning and pillaging. But they didn't. That, to me, is so very American, and represents the best of us.

GreyEagle841412 karma

That's how you know we did the job right. To you sir, I say it was an honor to serve the fine people of Germany and people all over the world who are suffering.

Jspiral8 karma

Colonel, was there ever any show of aggression or intimidation on the part of the Soviets during the entire operation?

GreyEagle841413 karma

There was intimidation. You can get a little nervous flying an unarmed cargo plane and Ivans bouncing all around you in a little fighter jet. You got used to them or you ignore you. Some guys would pretend they were escorts.

Kyoketsu_Shoge7 karma

Good Morning, sir! First of all, thank you for your service!

I am currently in tech school, training to be a linguist in the USAF, and I just wanted to know if you've had good experiences with members of the Intelligence community in the Air Force?

GreyEagle84143 karma

When I had the necessity to interact with intelligence, it has been first rate.

Ross294 karma

Have you been back to Berlin since then? What sort of gratitude have the German people shown to you?

GreyEagle84143 karma

About fiften years ago, I got a small thank you card from some Berlin schoolchildren in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Airlift.

TrevDoggeh4 karma

are you the Mr. wagglewings i learned about in world history??

GreyEagle84145 karma

No, I don't think so. I just flew in and out on a regular basis.

GraveyardDiva3 karma


GreyEagle84145 karma

my grandfather wants to know if you're a history major or in high school?

There was a lot going on. Some people, some of the army generals and the diplomats, wanted to just level the Soviets and bash our way in and hope that it led to a war that would destroy Russia. Others felt that by having to airlift supplies in, it showed our power and our mercy to the Japanese and hoped that would make them cave sooner.

There are always going to be complaints. There hasn't been a single decision or command by any officer of any branch of service of any country that hasn't been criticized all the way down the line. There are always going to be people who thought it should have been done differently. For what little my opinion matters, I thought it was done excellently and Marshall and the other high brass did about as fine a job as can be expected by putting that many egos in a room.

kratistos3 karma

As a Berliner from Eastern Germany: Thank you very, very much, sir. You ensured not just their but also a little bit of our freedom. If you ever came to Berlin again I (and many others) would gladly buy you a beer.

My question is: Did you have (or maybe still do) any resentments against the Germans? After all, those where humanitarian missions for the guys who created Auschwitz. How do you feel about Russians?

GreyEagle84148 karma

No they weren't. The Nazi's who created Auschwitz were tried at Nuremburg. I helped common German people.

rividz3 karma

Your Grandpa probably flew out of Westover Airforce Base. What was it like living in the greater Springfield/ Western Massachusetts area at that time?

edit - I also remember hearing about the Russians doing things to mess with the pilots flying in and out of Berlin (shining lights in their eyes), does your grandfather have any experience with this?

GreyEagle84147 karma

We did live in Massachusetts, but only for a little while. Less than year, as I recall. Then it was on to wherever I ha to go next.

The Soviets did try a few tricks, mainly the occasional fighter sent to intimidate us, but really I think they were more nervous than we were. If a plane would have crashed because of Soviet interference, it would have killed a lot of civilians and caused a huge incident. Maybe even a war would of come out of it.