WOW - I haven't seen this web site for a couple years. I started it sometime before 1999. Originally this was a road runner web page but they decided to charge $29 per month. NO WAY!! It is now June 2010 and I have another page in Tripod which is almost identical to this one. To bring you up to date, I am now 88 1/2 years old, with Parkinsons disease, Scoliosis, and severe arthritis. However, I feel good and enjoy life as much as possible.
Read the "Bail Out"
Our Bombardier's Story
EIGHT BALL CREW
My crew was known as the 8-ball crew to many of the members of the 446th Bomb Group. The truth of the matter is that my crew was really a fine bunch of guys who just happened to be misunderstood. Since I will write most of this story in the first person, I want to go back to my earlier years starting while in high school. I was the oldest of three boys.
My brother Bob was the only one who made any effort in high school and came through with fairly good grades.
I remember the first thing he made me buy. A pair of yellow crepe sole shoes with two tone laced leather on the top of the toe. He also insisted that I wear them to school. I felt like I had a giant wart on my nose. Well, within three days, half the guys in school were wearing yellow shoes. Dad didn't know it but he had made me the model clothes horse.
Dad insisted that I go to college. I wanted to go to Kent State but dad couldn't afford it and I had to apply to the University of Akron. The admissions people looked at my high school record and told me that I couldn't be admitted with such low grades. The only way I could get in was to take and pass the entrance exam which they explained was too tough for me. But I did pass it. After a year and a half of goofing off, they gave me my walking papers. Actually, just before the end of the third semester, I left the school. With the war going on, I had no trouble getting a job at BF Goodrich making $1.50 per hour. Shortly after that I received my grades from the university and was not surprised to see that I had gotten an F in all subjects except for one. That one subject happened to be ROTC in which I received an A. I didn't goof off at Goodrich and had a very good record at the plant. Along came Pearl Harbor. I wanted to go into the Army cadet program. Not yet being 21, I couldn't go without dad's approval. He told me to wait.
One day he came home from work with quite a few Army papers and brochures. He told me to read all of them and then tell him what I wanted to do. After reading the information, I decide to go and dad gave his approval.
I went to Cleveland to take the written test. There must have been fifty of us in that room. I finished the test and went up to the Sergeant to ask for further instructions. He announced that those who had finished, could bring their papers to him. I returned to my desk and got my papers. By the time I got back to the Sergeant, there were four guys ahead of me. Sarge graded the first paper and told the guy to come back in a month and try again. Same for the second guy. The third guy passed and was told to come back to take the physical at a later date. The fourth guy flunked. I figured I was about to get the bad news. Sarge looked up and said very good. I was to come back in three weeks to take the physical.
A little before my scheduled physical, I had an ear ache. My doctor gave me some pain pills and said it would go away. It didn't. The day of my physical was a very cold wintery day. My car had a faulty window on the driver's side and there was a draft all the way from Akron to Cleveland. I passed everything on the physical except that the doctor said I had a running ear and could not accept me until that was cleared up. Two days later, the left side of my face was so swollen my left eye was closed and I was in a lot of pain. I had a dental appointment which I did not feel like keeping because of my ear but I went anyway. Doc Butler looked at me and said "Looks like you have a very bad tooth ache". Sure enough, it was an abscessed tooth. The minute he drilled into that tooth, the pain was gone. That took care of the ear ache and subsequently I passed the physical.I went back to my job at Goodrich as an Army Private unassigned. I remember getting a couple checks from the government for $21 and some for $50. In July of 1942, they raised the pay of a Private to $50. I was getting rich.
I spent about four weeks in my tent with six other guys and don't remember the name of any one of them. I do remember that after a series of tests four of us were qualified to go into pilot training and two were to become navigators. The remaining person was washed out (eliminated from the program) for being too short. I felt sorry for that kid. We did as much as we could to stretch him but he always came up a quarter of an inch short. Those who were selected for navigator and bombardier training were not very happy either. Almost everyone wanted to be a pilot.
I was surprised to learn that Texas nights can be cold. But the stars were the brightest I had ever seen. None of us admitted to being homesick but it was prevelant. We ate out of mess kits and I learned about the GIs. If you don't know what I am talking about, go to Mexico and drink their water. Our seven man tents were tied down with stakes and lined in rows separated by a stone or gravel path. At one end of the path was the mess tent and at the other end was the latrine which was not a tent and had about two dozen thrones. One night after we had been tapped (bugled) into bed, I had an urge to go to the latrine. I put on a robe and my shoes and walked up the path. There was a very light rain and the visibility was not the best but the latrine had lights making it possible to find. I saw that two other guys (I'm not sure when we became Cadets) had the same need as I. I finished and returned to my tent. I had no sooner laid down when I had a little stronger urge to go again. On with the robe and shoes. Jogged up the path and found that there were now about ten guys on the thrones. No problem for me but I noticed that we were all taking a little longer and there were more guys rushing in. I again returned to my tent. Did not even have time to lie down. Got my shoes on but to hell with the robe. It is now raining seriously and I ran all the way. One throne left. Now there are signs of panic. Guys are coming in the door and seeing no open seats, turn and run. I and the guys seated there with me were not about to - or maybe not able to leave. I eventually returned to my tent and sat on the cot. This time I knew I would never make it to the latrine which was probably full anyway. I stumbled around to the rear of the tent tripping on the ropes and stakes. In the dim light, I could see that I was not alone. It was a miserable night for everyone. The next day was very sunny and the hot sun soon baked the areas around the tents and the smell was awful.
I guess we lived in those tents for about two weeks. We were then moved into barracks. On one of the forms I had filled, there was a space for hobbies. I had put down "saxophone". I was assigned to the section that had all those who had admitted to playing instruments. Next thing we know is that we are now the drum and bugle corps. We were issued drums, bugles, and fifes. I got a fife and never did learn how to play it which made no difference because the drummers and buglers made so much noise the fifers couldn't be heard. We did perform in one large parade at which President Roosevelt was in attendance. Later I was chosen to be the Cadet Lieutenant of our section of 36 men. My training in military drill while in elementary school came in handy.
I was put up for a check ride. During this ride I was given a simulated engine out exercise. The procedure was to find a field and set up for a landing. I did everything right and lined up for an open field that looked big enough to set down in. I was doing fine and approached the field at a very good angle. At this point, my regular instructor, Mr Pirkle, would say "Take it around". This check rider instructor did not say anything. I landed the airplane. That was a mistake. Old "Check Rider" took over and we returned directly to the base. After we landed, I tried to explain that my instructor had always told us when to break off the simulated landing. "Check Rider" didn't buy that and I figured that was the end of my pilot training. Fortunately, Mr. Pirkle interceded and I was off the hook. I was as close as a heart beat to being a wash out.
I did meet a cute little girl there in Vernon. I was about to fall in love when I learned that she was everyone's girl. We had one crash while there. A student and his instructor got into a low level flat spin and bailed out at a very low altitude. One of them died and the other was broken up pretty badly. I had my first experience with Jewish prejudice. I met this guy and considered him to be a friend. But I noticed that none of the others had much to do with him. Eventually someone mentioned that he was a Jew and would probably be washed out. I really don't know how prevalent that feeling was but the guy did get washed out and I heard that it was because he had requested it himself. I never really believed that. He was changed to enlisted rank and was given a job as a postal clerk there on the base. I really felt sorry for him. I do not remember any blacks being in any of my pilot training programs.
Sometime around Christmas, we moved on to basic training which took place at an airfield in Waco, Texas just east of the Brazos River. The BT 13 trainer had a radio but still had fixed landing gear. I made only a couple of mistakes during basic training but they were small and did not prevent me from completing the nine weeks. One day while walking toward the mess hall, I passed a Major and of course saluted. After taking a few steps, I turned to look at him because he had looked very familiar. He had turned too and we stared briefly at each other. Being a cadet, it was best get on my way. A few minutes later I realized that the Major looked very much like my grade school teacher in Akron, Ohio. In the directory, sure enough there was Major Charles Query, Commandant of Cadets. He was the one who had taught me how to march and lead a squad in drill. A couple of days later, the decision was made to visit with the Major. In the outer office, was a lady at her desk. I told her that I was Cadet Tuck and wished to see Major Query. There was a loud "Sterling. Come on in here!". We had a nice visit and that evening he and his wife invited me to dinner. Very shortly after that, the group had a new Cadet Sgt. Major. There was not much doubt that the Major had something to do with that and there were some nice privileges that went with the job.
It must have been late February of 1943 when we were transferred to Waco Two which was on the other side of the Brazos River. The advanced trainers were three very different low wing, twin engine planes. The AT-17 was very light and very easy to fly. The AT-10 was more sturdy while the AT-9 was sleek and less forgiving. Advanced training was much more relaxed than the previous phases. My brother Bob, drove my 1941 Ford convertible down from Akron. Cadets were allowed to drive off base on the weekends. I had met a couple of young ladies and after bed check on week days, I would sneak out the back gate where the MPs would salute me knowing very well that I was a cadet and not supposed to be leaving the base. Usually there was at least one more cadet with me.
The only trouble I had while in advanced was with a cadet who had a different personality than I. He was one of those straight guys. I had never come in direct contact with him until one night when we were scheduled for two cross country flights. I was to fly as pilot on the first flight and he was to be the pilot on the second flight. Everything went well on my flight but I sensed that he was uncomfortable with me. When we landed and changed seats, he informed me that he would be in complete charge and did not want any horse play. That was OK with me because I did not want to upset this character. We took off and started our cross country. There was something that we knew about these night flights that made them easier. If the first plane was on the correct course, all we had to do was follow the red light on that plane and we would have no problems. This particular night there was a slight haze and it was not easy to see the string of red lights in front of us. And of course there is an occasional red light on the ground. And there were cases where a pilot would follow a ground red light and end up -you know where...Well, this guy wasn't following any red lights. It was obvious to me that he was about 20 degrees off course. I had to tell him that he was off course. I did not want to reach over and tap his shoulder so I leaned forward and turned my head to look up at his face to get his attention. I got his attention all right. He slapped my face. That was enough for a fight but being in an airplane, it did not seem to be the right place to start swinging. So I sat back and figured that I'd let the joker get lost. After about 5 minutes, he realized that he was not on course and asked me if I knew where we were. I told him that we were 20 degrees off course. I knew he was trying to figure out whether we were right or left of course. Eventually, he said "You're supposed to be the navigator on this flight, so get me on course". I got him on course and the rest of the flight was uneventful. After we landed, he rushed out of the plane and when I got out he was standing there with his fists up in a very amateurish pose. I was very tempted to accommodate him but fighting was grounds for dismissal from the program and there were too many other cadets standing nearby watching. I told him to cool it and I would meet him outside the equipment room. After I changed clothes, I walked out the screen door on to a small stoop. I stopped there noticing that there were quite a few cadets waiting to see the action. I didn't see Joker in the crowd. Just then he came flying out the screen door and jumped on my back. Down we went on to the cinder walk. I wrestled him around, got on top and tried to get in a punch. He was a wimp but he managed to move his head from side to side so fast that I couldn't get a good swing at him without driving my fist into the cinders. So I grabbed his head and ground his face in the cinders. That's when the other cadets decided that it was time to break it up. I'm glad they did because if we would have had a stand up fight, he would have been a mess and it would have taken a lot of explaining to the brass. We both would have been washed out. I never did find out how he explained his scratched face. And none of the other cadets squealed on us. In those days, the brass would rather not know. We had been in training quite some time and there was a war and pilots were needed.