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World War II Experiences

The Luft IV Memorial Committee has an ongoing project to construct a display of bricks on the premises of the former POW camp site in memory of those prisoners interned at Stalag Luft IV. -- click here for more info!

Richard was drafted into the Army Air Corps in October 1942. At the time he had been a welder in a shipyard in Tacoma, WA for six months, making $1.50/hour.

He was processed at Fort Lewis, WA and then took a train to HIll Field in Ogden, UT where he spent about two weeks. Richard was assigned as a radio operator and backup top turret gunner on a B-24. Coincidently, the woman (Evelyn Bashore) he would eventually meet and marry 20 years later was calibrating bomber turrets at Hill Field.

From Utah he took a train to Sioux Falls, ID to attend radio school for four months. Being the small world it is, his current wife's (Nathalie Halverson-Hanson) first husband, Clair, had also attended the same school.

After radio school it was off to gunnery school in Kingman, AZ for six weeks. At first they would fly in a North American AT-6 shooting at a towed target with hand-help .30 caliber machine gun. Afterwards they trained on .50 caliber machine guns in a Lockheed AT-18. They also did some gunnery practice on the ground.

His next stop was Boise, ID where the 445th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force was being formed. He was assigned to a B-24 crew in the 702nd Bomb Squadron who's pilot was 1st Lt. Joe Pavelka. The actor, Jimmy Stuart, was the commanding officer of another squadron during the same period. There were six or seven planes in the squadron and four squadrons per group.

The squadron moved on to Pocatello, ID for more training. The next stop was Sioux City, IA for training on night and day missions. From there they spent two weeks in North Dakota. Then they flew to Plattsburg, NY for 2 weeks. By this time is was around October 1943. They flew on to Lincoln, NE in November to prepare for their overseas flight. They took the southern route to England due to the winter weather. Here's the route and flight times as documented in his flight records:

Date Depart From Arrive At Flight Time Notes
11/21/43 Lincoln, NE Macon, GA 6:15
11/21/43 Macon, GA Miami, FL 2:45
11/23/43 Miami, FL Puerto Rico 5:55
11/24/43 Puerto Rico British Guiana 5:25
11/25/43 British Guiana Belem, Brazil (Northern) 5:50
11/27/43 Belem, Brazil (Northern) Natal, Brazil (East coast) 5:42
11/30/43 Natal, Brazil (East coast) Dakar, Senegal 10:35 Crossing the Atlantic
12/1/43 Dakar, Senegal Marrakech, Morocco 7:45
12/8/43 Marrakech, Morocco England (Southwest coast) 9:30
12/11/43 England (Southwest coast) Tibenham, England 3:45 Stationed here, North of London

His first mission was on Christmas Eve 1943. He flew to Osnabrook, Germany. They saw a lot of flak but no fighters. They all wore flak suits and helmets. At one point he saw a flaming bomber going down in a flat spin. His first thought at the sight of this flaming pinwheel was that the Germans must be shooting some new weapon at them.

They always flew day missions against German factories and airfields.
He was on the first successful mission to Berlin.

On one mission he saw, out the open bomb bay, a ME109 flying about 200 yards directly below them.

In all his missions he never saw any b-24s with the ball turret deployed.
On the day his plane was shot down they were attacked by fighters coming in low from the rear. He has always felt that the tail gunner was asleep when they were attacked.

They flew with fighter cover. P-47 Thunderbolts flew the first leg of the mission, P-38 Lightnings flew the second leg and P-51 Mustangs flew cover for the farthest portion of their missions.

During one mission he heard pieces of flak rattling around the inside of the plane.

He was responsible for opening the bomb bay doors.