Enlistment and Training--USAAF
When Herbert graduated from high school in 1938, the ominous war clouds were already rising on both our eastern and western horizons. Adolph Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany several years earlier (1933); Italy had invaded Ethiopia (1935); the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo alliance had formed (1936); Japan and China were at war (1937); Germany invaded Austria and occupied Czechoslovakia (1938); and on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. In rapid succession the countries of Western Europe fell to the German blitzkrieg. The light of freedom was going out all over the world.
The American people were slow to react to the challenge of war. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his memoirs, Crusade in Europe,1 wrote that in mid-1939 America was totally unprepared for war. The Army's enlisted strength in the U.S. (air, ground, and sea) was fewer man 130,000 men. (No one would have believed that this number would soon grow to over 11,000,000!) In 1939 the Army of the United States had only three organized and six partially organized infantry divisions and no armored tank divisions. Its entire Army Air Corps had only 1,175 combat planes and these were not equal to those of the Axis powers: Germany, Italy, and Japan.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was trying to place the nation on a war-footing, but making only limited progress. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. At the end of the day 2,403 Americans were dead, the first victims of the great conflict that lay ahead. The attack gave rise to a great wave of indignation and outrage throughout the United States. Coupled with a sense of mortal danger, it united America as never before. On December 8, 1941 the United States and Britain declared war on Japan. On December 11, 1941 the United States declared war on Germany and Italy. With those actions, the American people awoke! Mobilization of every resource, men and materiel, went forward with ever-increasing speed. The industrial giant had awakened!
Steps were taken toward containment of Japanese conquest in the Pacific. In April 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin made the decision that the defeat of Germany and Italy was to be the first priority. Italy was to be brought to surrender; Britain was to become the base of operations from which to invade the continent, liberate Western Europe, and bring Germany to unconditional surrender. It was seen that invasion of Western Europe across the English Channel would be required but could not be accomplished until 1943--perhaps not until 1944, and then only when the Allies had gained air superiority.
In February 1942 the United States had only 3,785 officers and men in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), with two divisions en route. It was not until May 1942 that the first light bombardment squadron of the Air Force reached England. There was no American heavy bomber unit there until June 1942.
General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower took command of the European Theater of Operations in June 1942. He set about at once to create United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) there, capable of joining the British in carrying the air war deep into the continent and into the heartland of Germany. The U.S. Eighth Air Force was allocated to the ETO, with General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz as the commander of this strategic air force. He arrived
there in July 1942. The U.S. set in motion a plan which would place 2,000,000 Americans in the British Isles!
The British had already been long engaged in aerial warfare. On July 10, 1940, two years before General Spaatz arrived, the Battle of Britain had begun with the first major dogfight over the English channel. London was heavily blitzed by German bombers on September 15, 1940 during the climax of the Battle of Britain. The German Luftwaffe struck Coventry on November 14, 1940--an attack Britain was determined to avenge. Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) bombed Cologne, Germany on May 30-31, 1942-a nighttime attack with 1,000 bombers!
On July 24, 1942 Herbert enlisted in the Army Air Force as an Aviation Cadet--"for the duration of the war plus six months." Speaking to the author in 1998, Herbert gave this account, partly facetious, no doubt, of his decision to enlist. He said, "We had all been required to register for the draft in our home county--Piatt County, Monticello, Illinois. There was a Draft Board which would decide which persons were to be called for induction into military service. Well, Dean Berry, a World War I veteran and a person I knew very well, was the Secretary of the Board and Mary Cynthia, my wife, was employed as his secretary. With those two handling draft calls I knew I'd never escape their notice, and I realized that all of us would be going to service soon, one way or another." Then Herbert thought he'd found the answer-he saw a number of "perks" that would fall his way in the Army Air Force. He told it this way: "LIFE magazine was a big deal then and it was obviously doing its part for the Army recruitment program. It carried a full-page advertisement to recruit bombardiers for the Army Air Force. Hey, the message, I thought then, was just right for me!--bombardiers just went along on flights, just did their thing for a few minutes during the flight, then had time to write letters home, take a nap, and/or enjoy the scenery. Better still, upon return to base from a mission one would have great food and entertainment and sleep between white sheets! Nothing was said about 'Jerry' having other plans for us . . . and the ad didn't say 'if you returned.' All of this made good sense to me, to say nothing of the fact that one would be well-paid, would receive an extra 50% as 'flying pay.'" Herbert's friend and high school class-mate, John Brown, also liked the idea of flying with the Army Air Force. The two of them went to Peoria, Illinois where they took written and physical examinations. They both passed the exams and were accepted for induction.
Herbert was 21 years of age when inducted, was employed in the National Bank of Monticello, had brown eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion, and was 5' 8 1/2" in height. Oddly, his weight was not recorded. His Army Serial No. was 16104123. He was first placed in the Air Force Enlisted Reserve because many air bases were then only in the construction phase and there were too many enlistments for immediate placement. This action occurred at Headquarters, Aviation Cadet Examining Board #7, Peoria, Illinois Herbert had a few more months at home in civilian life.
In January 1943 orders came for Herbert to report for assignment. He went first to Chicago for another physical examination and for "swearing-in." That same afternoon he began his long, long trek into the unknown. Eisenhower said of this time in every soldier's wartime experience, "At the outset, none of us could foresee the end of the struggle; few of us saw eye-to-eye on what was demanded of us as individuals and as a nation; but each began, step by step, to learn and perform his allotted task."2 And so it was with Herbert.
What follows, then, is the account of Herbert's role as a citizen soldier in the Army of the United States--from the dale of his induction to the date of his Separation from
Service. Hereafter, the author will refer to him as "Bradley."
From Chicago, Bradley was sent by railway to Nashville, Tennessee, leaving that same afternoon. Bradley in 1998 said, "We didn't know where we were going. After travelling several hours, the train made a long stop during the early evening. I looked out the window and, lo and behold, we were in Champaign, Illinois -- about twenty miles from my home in Monticello! The train car in which I was riding had come to a stop on the viaduct just north of the station. Would you believe it-after the war I took a picture of General Eisenhower's train on the exact same spot on that viaduct when "Ike" was campaigning for President!"3
In Nashville, Bradley had some minor surgery needed to qualify for flight training. This delayed his progress a bit, but three weeks after arriving at Nashville he was en route to the Army Air Force West Coast Training Center, Santa Ana, California. The 2¼-month course was begun March 1, 1943 and was completed in May 1943.
Of that experience, Bradley said, "Santa Ana was, I suppose, a sort of basic training for me--drilling, military etiquette, ground school, etc. Ordinarily, trainees weren't given passes to leave the base but I was given one for the week-end when Mary Cynthia came to see me. And I did get to Los Angeles once, met my Dad in a hotel lobby there. That was an emotional meeting for me. I hadn't seen him since 1931 when he returned to Monticello for my Grandmother Bradley's funeral. In Los Angeles we had a professional photographer take our picture together. We hit it off pretty well."
Mary Cynthia, too, had recollections of her visit and of her trip to California and of the return. Travel for anyone during the war was difficult--for wives and sweethearts of soldiers, it was particularly trying. The Army had placed the soldiers in its hundreds of camps all across the country. It had requisitioned the railroads and airlines for military travel; civilians were simply "on stand-by." Gasoline rationing was strict and insufficient for any but the most necessary travel. Yet, for every soldier in uniform, there was a parent, wife, or girl-friend determined to visit him. They went, knowing the great problems of time, distance, expense, and uncertainty of the means of travel. Mary Cynthia's story, then, is representative of the stories of countless young women of the time. She said,
Yes, I went to Santa Ana to visit Herbert. I knew he would be there only three months. I had no idea where he would be sent after that, so it was go then or maybe never. And what an experience it was!
I worked for the Piatt County Selective Service (Draft Board) in Monticello at the time. I was given about eight days off. It was my first long-distance travel and I was pretty apprehensive about it. I had a Great-Aunt, Leona Barnett, who lived in Santa Ana. Her daughter, Alma Babbitt, lived with her and cared for her. I could stay with them. My plan was to go to Chicago by train and then fly to California. I bought a ticket on TWA to leave from Chicago. I had a morning flight so I stayed overnight in a Chicago hotel. In the middle of the night I received a telephone call from the airline that I had been "bumped" from my scheduled flight. They told me: 'You've been bumped by an Army General.' Well, General or Private, I knew the military personnel had priority. Thinking I was unlikely to ever get another reservation to fly, I took the option of going by train. Maybe the distance to California should have deterred me--something like 4,000 miles round trip-but it didn't and I went anyway. The trip out took two days and two nights and much of the third day. The trains were
packed--lots of young women, some with young children or babies, and lots of soldiers, too. I sent a telegram to Herbert from the train to let him know how I was travelling and when I would arrive, but he didn't get my telegram.
Well, travel time going and returning took most of my eight days, so I didn't have much time to be with Herbert. Actually he was in basic training and was restricted to base. I don't know what he told them but, happy day, he managed to get a pass to leave the base that weekend while I was there. We went to Newport Beach on the Pacific Ocean--a neat place for our short time together.
Coming back to Monticello was another nightmare. I don't recall if I was told I could return all the way by air, but that didn't happen. The flight I was given was at night and it ended in Amarillo, Texas! All of the passengers were put off--perhaps the military bumped all of us. All we could do was to stay the night in the one small hotel--not in a room, as none was available--but in the lobby, sitting up and staying awake to guard my purse and luggage. We were told we could leave on a train scheduled to arrive the next morning. The train came but, guess what--it was full, overloaded, mostly with soldiers! I sat up the entire trip, and those seats were not comfortable. I was very glad to get back home, but also glad I had gone to see Herbert.
After basic training at Santa Ana, the question then was what classification and training would Bradley receive: pilot, navigator, or bombardier. The decision on this matter hinged on a number of factors, none of them under Bradley's control. At a Classification Center he would take tests familiar to all who entered the Army Air Force, called "Stanine" tests. The Stanines consisted of a battery of tests, written and manual, to determine the individual's aptitude and potential for either or all of these three positions. The classification would then be made. But then other factors often intervened--things that seemed to confirm one's opinion that there was "a right way and the Army way." At any point, the Air Force planners might note that too many B-17s and B-24s then in combat on far-flung battle-grounds were returning from missions with the aircraft noses blown away--and with them, the bombardiers and navigators wounded or missing. Or, some analyst might decide there was a glut of trainees of one classification or another. As a result, the Classification Center would be ordered to effect a reclassification of the trainees.
In Bradley's case there may even have been another matter affecting his classification. Perhaps the technicians learned that he was an avid duck hunter and fisherman, but one whose methods were unique--even bizarre! For Bradley, when hunting or fishing, was never deterred by bad weather or storm. On One--sided Lake near Emo in Ontario, Canada, he had once gone out on the lake despite storm warnings. His theory was that the axiom, "fishing is best after a storm," would apply, and he would be there to fish. When the storm hit (and it was accompanied by strong winds and a real down--pouring of rain), he was there. Meanwhile, his fishing comrades were nervously awaiting his return to shore. And, again when hunting mallard ducks on the backwaters of the Illinois River near Peoria, Illinois, he was known to go to his blind by boat, facing into freezing rain and wind, on the chance that the ducks, too, would be handicapped by these weather conditions and he would have a successful hunt!
What would the Classification Technicians have seen in these characteristics of Bradley's character that were applicable? Many things--among them the inclination to use innovative ways to accomplish a goal, and courage--a particularly relevant matter. Or, perhaps, simply that a guy who could shoot ducks could also shoot German fighter aircraft. And, in a sort of Ripley's "Believe It or Not" turn of events, Bradley did again later go out often in bad weather to be where he needed to be when Goering's "yellow-nosed bastards" (FW190 fighter aircraft of the German Air Force) attacked his B-24 bomber formation. And in a strangely comparable way, his fellow airmen, like his fishing buddies, anxiously awaited his safe return. For whichever reason, Bradley was classified as bombardier. His response may well have been, "Hey, the bombardier is always out front, and has the best seat in the plane."
And so, in 1943, it was determined that this was the role Bradley would play. The pace began to quicken. On May 8, 1943 he was transferred to Kirtland Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico for advanced bombardier training. He was assigned to Aviation Cadet Class WC43-11, Provisional Cadet Detachment, Army Air Forces Bombardier School. On May 9, 1943 he began three months training and completed it July 30, 1943.
When Bradley began his training he knew little or nothing of bombardiering. Had he ever thought of it he might have recalled the story that in World War I in 1917-18 the bomber pilot had simply dropped the bomb from the aircraft by hand while flying over the target. While this may have been a misrepresentation of the technology and technique of aerial bombing in that war, Bradley certainly knew nothing of this technology of the 1940s.
It was at Bombardier School that Bradley made his first acquaintance with the Norden bombsight. This was the instrument Bradley (and, in the end, 45,000 other bombardiers of World War II) were to master!
For the purposes of this book, this author has drawn on two sources to describe the Norden bombsight and its importance in the war. From Daniels,4
The Norden bombsight was a TOP SECRET development of the 1930s, and saw service in both World War II and the Korean conflict. Used for high altitude precision bombing, it was standard equipment in the B-17, B-24, and B-29 bombers, and reputably could 'drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from four miles up!'
The Norden was actually a mechanical computer, which, through manipulation by the bombardier, solved the complex problem of determining the exact point in space at which to release the bombs.
To do this, the Norden bombsight integrated factors such as the plane's altitude, airspeed and heading, wind velocity and direction, aircraft ground-speed and track over the target, and the ballistics of the particular bomb being used.
Calculating and using this information, the Norden determined the exact dropping angle needed for the particular heading on the bombing run, and also determined the distance to be flown upwind. Not only did the Norden bombsight calculate these things, but through its linkage with the plane's autopilot, it FLEW the plane on the correct path, and released the bomb-load automatically.
All of this was accomplished by the Norden's complex system of gears, levers, motors, pulleys, cables, gyroscopes, etc. The Norden bombsight will remain in history as one of the truly remarkable mechanical computers.
From Daniels a drawing of the Norden bombsight with a description of it is provided. See Fig. No. 1.
Michael J. Nisos, himself a World War II bombardier, made the following observation,5
The bombardier's job was to keep the aircraft on a constant course and heading during the bomb run to synchronize his Norden bombsight on the target. Since the bomber's nose was a prime target for incoming enemy fighters and flak bursts, bombardiers needed not only technical skills but also a special measure of courage and dedication.
General Lew Allen, Jr., a later Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, put it this way, speaking at a reunion of World War II bombardiers,
You are representatives of an elite group that contributed substantially to ending World War II successfully, and with minimum loss of American blood. You lived under enormous pressure, for your comrades depended upon you to put the bombs on target. You flew in exposed positions. And yet, for a mission to succeed, you had to maintain an icy calm even under intense attack. You were calm and you were brave, and you bombed with precision. You set an example for generations of airmen. We thank you.
Of Kirtland Field and his experiences there, Bradley wrote,
Kirtland Field was an old airbase and is still very much in existence. Matter of fact, we had a reunion there a few years ago. It was a strategic base during the cold war--all nuclear stuff (and still is.)
Training there was very regimented from sun--up to sun--down. Our training was patterned after West Point--stand reveille, march to breakfast, march back to barracks, clean barracks and make beds, march off to ground school, march back to barracks and then to lunch, see who got 'gigs' for room not in order, footlocker not proper, beds not tight enough, etc. If you got a gig you walked 'tours' with a rifle on Saturday or Sunday morning, rather than get a pass into town. It happened to me, as I recall. A 'tour' was one hour of walking with a rifle in the quadrangle (parade grounds.)
After lunch we marched to ground school again or to the flight line. We usually had ground school half a day and flight line the other half. We studied at night since tests were promised for the next day. Obviously we were to train on the Norden bombsight. A majority of this was done on the bomb trainer. The sight was mounted on a mobile 10--12' high trainer. The student and the instructor sat side by side. On the floor was what we called a 'bug.' It moved slowly across the floor--sometimes in a straight line, sometimes in a circular
movement A paper target was on top of the bug. The bombardier aimed the sight on the target and then tried to kill the rate and drift simulated by the bug. At 'bombs away' a metal plunger dropped and made an indentation in the target to show where the bomb hit.
We spent lots of time on the trainer and then we had so many 100 lb. practice bombs we had to drop--day and night--before graduating. The 'circular error' of each was recorded in our personal records and we had to do a certain average to graduate. This included high altitude, medium and low altitude bombing runs.
The aircraft used in training was an AT-11 made by Beechcraft of Wichita, Kansas. It had a plastic nose where the bombardier and instructor sat side by side. The bomb bays held ten 100 lb. practice bombs. These were filled with sand but a black powder blast went off when one hit the ground. This permitted the release to be scored by the instructor. Two cadets went up on the same mission, along with one pilot and the bombardier instructor. While one student was dropping five of the bombs, the other student was at the camera hatch in the back of the plane, taking motion pictures of the bomb strikes. The situation then reversed. If a cadet on the sight threw one too far away, his buddy many times 'didn't get that particular shot.'
When I was in training the Norden was still 'top secret.' Each day we checked a sight out of the security vault, carried it to our trainer plane and installed it. Following our mission we checked the bombsight back into the vault.
Week-ends off usually started on Saturday mornings but the entire 'regimentation' was concluded with a formal dress parade at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Each squadron passed in review at the parade ground, band playing--the works! It was always near dinner time when this event came to its conclusion. My dad saw one of these parades but by the time we were dismissed at our barracks and I ran to the front gate, he was gone. I was depressed!
Special Orders No. 211, 30 July 1943, Hq., Kirtland Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico read, ". . . the following personnel . . . having successfully completed instruction as Bombardier Cadets, are discharged from the Army of the United States for convenience of the government, effective this date and effective 31 July 1943 . . . are appointed 2nd Lieutenants, Air Corps Reserve, and are ordered to Active Duty this station; . . . and are assigned to Hq., and Hq. Squadron, 324th Bombardier Training Group, this station, effective 31 July 1943. By Order of Col. Hackett, by James M. Hollingsworth, Capt. A. C, Adjutant." Bradley had become an officer--a 2nd Lieutenant As such, he dropped his previous serial number and his number became 0-752310.
Of his commissioning ceremony, Bradley said,
We marched to the Base Theater where there was a speech by one of the permanent party officers. Then names were called and wings given out Many parents, wives, sweethearts, etc. came to the ceremony to pin on the wings. As previously mentioned, my dad made a special trip from Akron, Ohio and did this for me.
He chuckled at the statement made by our speaker after we received our 2nd Lieutenant commission, that "While you are now an officer, you are the newest 2nd Lieutenants in the Air Force and everyone has more rank than you." A humbling experience for us but we were so proud of our achievement, it was one of the happiest days in my life. I saved the printed program all of these years and I'm pleased for it to become a part of this account of my wartime experiences. See Fig. 2.
By Personnel Orders No. 40, 31 July 1943 of the Headquarters of the Army West Coast Training Center, Santa Ana, California, Bradley and others were recognized for their achievements, ". . . the following named 2nd. Lieutenants, graduates of Class WC43-11, AAF Bombardier School, Kirtland Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico are rated Aircraft Observer (Bombardier) . . . and these, each of whom holds an aeronautical rating, are hereby required to participate in regular and frequent aerial flights."
At some point during this period Bradley was asked his preferences for foreign service. He checked England as his first choice, Australia as his second choice. Asked "yes" or "no" if he volunteered for foreign service he answered "no." He was learning the game but he probably knew his preference likely would not mean much. The Army Air Force would send him wherever it wished him to go!
Having left home in January 1943 and having successfully completed his bombardier training and being commissioned an officer seven months later, Bradley was anxious to return to Monticello--to his wife, his family, and his friends. He was granted his first leave--two weeks.
After his leave, Bradley then left Kirtland for the Army Air Base, Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas. There he was assigned to the 330th Bomb Group (H) and met the nine strangers that formed their 10-man B-24 Liberator crew. An Order dated 22 August 1943 designated them as Crew 302-8-134 and directed them to participate in frequent and regular flights until relieved by competent authority. Crew 302-8-134 then had the task of training together, becoming a team that could function effectively in the many combat missions they were destined to fly. At that point everyone was eager and light-hearted about it all. Morale was great--they knew they were part of a winning enterprise. They were ready to go! Their enthusiasm was only later to be tempered by the knowledge that hundreds of bomber crews would perish in the far-flung battles to come. It was now late August 1943, but they did not yet know when or where they would go or when their combat missions would begin. They were a replacement crew. They were to go overseas unassigned and then be assigned to a Bombardment Group. They would probably replace a crew that had crashed or had been lost on a combat mission.
Of Biggs, Bradley said,
Biggs was the first real Air Force experience for me. Each crew was required to do so much training, both day and night flying. No formation flying was on the agenda, as I recall. We flew navigation missions, the pilot and co--pilot had their things to do, i.e., take--offs and landings and we had to drop a certain number of bombs--so many by day and so many by night. While there, more ground school, etc. The most interesting recreational thing we did was cross the border into Juarez, Mexico every chance we got The restaurants there served steak, booze, and had a live 'big band.' I recall we had to stop at a little 'outhouse' on the border to get our money changed into U.S. $2.00
bills. For some reason, that is what the Mexicans wanted. After returning to El Paso in the early morning hours, we many times went to a local Chinese restaurant. I recall we were called on to make a morning mission one day and the entire crew was still half-stoned from the night before. Our pilot, Don Jones, was very serious about the airplane and his flying. However, on this occasion, I remember we got airborne and everyone was singing over the intercom.
I had received my training and my commission as a bombardier as a result of using the Norden bombsight. When we arrived at the Replacement Training Unit at Biggs Field in El Paso, the B-24Ds we trained in had Sperry sights. I had never seen one before. Regardless, we received some instruction by using the Bomb Trainers and then flew a night mission to drop our first 100 lb. practice bombs. I hit the 'shack' with one of my five bombs and my crew thought I was the best bombardier in all of the Army Air Force. From that time on I was 'average,' to say the least. Some of my releases have yet to hit the ground!
The 459th Bomb Sq (H) at Biggs saw to it that Crew 302-8-134 got in the "regular and frequent aerial flights" they had been ordered to make. Bradley's Flight Record for the months of August, September and October 1943 at Biggs were not noted by the writer but for the month of November 1943 it was recorded that he flew in B-24H, B-24D, and B-24E aircraft on five days as bombardier. When Bradley was transferred to Topeka, Kansas in December 1943 he had 171:30 total flight hours to that date.
Then the rumors began to fly! Other crews were being ordered overseas. December 12, 1943 became the big day for Bradley. By SO No. 346, 12 December 1943, 330th Combat Crew Training School (a change of name from Bomb Group) Bradley and the Jones crew were ordered on a TEMPORARY change of station: "Officers and men are released attached unassigned to Combat Crew Headquarters, 306th B. Hq. and AB Sq., Biggs Field and are attached to the 2nd Heavy Bomb Processing Headquarters, Army Air Base, Topeka, Kansas." The order read TEMPORARY only because the crew would soon depart for its overseas assignment
Bradley has said,
We picked up a brand new B-24J at Topeka Army Air Base. We were to ferry it to an overseas base; it would not be the airplane assigned to us for our missions. It was plane #42-100236. Don Olds (1998) told me that it was later assigned to the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) at Hardwick Airbase in East Anglia and was shot down 24 February 1944--three weeks before my first mission. Planes and crews came and went!
Both Mary Cynthia and my mother came to Topeka since they knew I was almost ready to go overseas. Our only duty was to check the bulletin board every day to see if our crew was scheduled to leave. After Mary Cynthia and Mother left for Monticello, I jumped on the train every afternoon and went to Kansas City, Kansas. My Uncle Harold Bradley and Aunt Margie lived there and we enjoyed being together. I slept on a rollaway bed in front of their fireplace. It seemed like Heaven to me. I was able to spend Christmas Day 1943 with them.
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