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Interview with Warren H. Berg [6/26/2003]

Gary Swanson:

Interviewing Warren H. Berg at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 26, 2003. Captain Berg served in the Air Corps as a member of the Eighth Air Force, the 96th Bomb Group, the 413th Squadron from May 1942 until August 1945 and then in the Reserves until '50. He was born on November 12, 1919. He's the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with Six Oak Leaf Clusters, the POW medal, two Presidential Units Citations, and a number of other theater ribbons and medals. Warren, where did you grow up as a kid?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, I was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, but I lived in -- I lived there until I was about seven years old, and my family moved to Mankato, Minnesota. My father had different workplaces there and my mother and father and my two brothers and I moved there with him, of course. I had two brothers, my older brother Don and my younger brother Kenneth.

Gary Swanson:

And did you, did you --

Warren H. Berg:

I grew up in Mankato, in North Mankato actually.

Gary Swanson:

Did did all three of you boys serve in World War II?

Warren H. Berg:

Yes, we did.

Gary Swanson:

At the same time?

Warren H. Berg:

We did, yes. My older brother Don was in the Service. He was a Second Lieutenant in the, in the well, I'm not sure exactly what organization it was, but it was he was in the training depart section of the Army, and at Fort Holabird especially at Fort Holabird in Maryland. My younger brother was in the Signal Corps and went to the Philippine islands, but he was six years younger than I, approximately six years younger, and he got in at the last latter parts of the war and did serve in the Philippines as I said.

Gary Swanson:

Which one of the brothers was the first to go; your older brother and then you?

Warren H. Berg:

I was the -- my older brother was drafted, yes, and he went before I did. He, he actually got became active before I did, but he I enlisted before he did, but he was called up before I was.

Gary Swanson:

I see. So you lived in Mankato, Minnesota. What kind of work did your dad do?

Warren H. Berg:

He was in the he was in the men's clothing business and he sold insurance on the side.

Gary Swanson:

So it's probably a good, normal growing up in Minnesota in a reasonably -- in a small town at that time. You got out of high school. You were born in '19, so 1919. So you got out of high school. What did you do from the time you got out of high school until you went into the military in May of 1942?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, my -- I went to a local college, Mankato State Teacher's College. Those were the Depression days and jobs were sort of scarce, you didn't have too much opportunity, so the easiest thing was considered becoming a teacher since the college was right there. So my older brother and I both went there. My younger brother ended up going there too after the war. So we graduated from Mankato State Teacher's College in 1941, and then I chose to go down to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to pursue a Master's Degree in Education. And I was doing that in the fall of 1941 when Pearl Harbor occurred, and that event prompted me to realize that I had no chance of being deferred for any reason, and they'd get a hold of me pretty fast. So I ended my train -- my schooling at the end of the semester there, and in January of '42 I took the written exam and the physical exam for Aviation Cadet Status. And I enlisted in the aviation in the Air Corps at that time.

Gary Swanson:

So how long then before you were called up for active service?

Warren H. Berg:

I was not called up. I was not actually in the -- sworn into the Service until May of that year because they had to have some physical problems taken care of, especially a nasal problem that they thought would keep me out of the Air Corps if I didn't have it done. I was later told by another, another a different Air Corps doctor, "You didn't have to do that," but I did. The first doctor said, "Yeah, you do," so I did. That delayed my actual swearing in until May of '42, and then I waited for orders until late October of '42, I got orders to report starting on November 1, '42.

Gary Swanson:

So you reported where?

Warren H. Berg:

I was sent to Santa Ana, California for basic, for not -- for preflight training.

Gary Swanson:

And you had -- so you did preflight training. And at what point in time was it determined that you were going to be a pilot or a navigator or a bombardier?

Warren H. Berg:

After the preflight training, they sent the whole group to Thunderbird Field in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I was reclassified and sent to navigator school, which I did in Sacramento, California.

Gary Swanson:

I see. So how long was the navigator school that you --

Warren H. Berg:

Well, first we went to gunnery school. We went to Las Vegas on the air base for gunnery school because all nonpilot crew members had to go to gunnery school. So we went to that first, and then we went to navigator school. About three and a half months we were there from July through October to Sacramento.

Gary Swanson:

So you had navigator school and then you got gunnery training, so you're probably ready to form a crew then pretty soon?

Warren H. Berg:

Yes, we were. It was at that point I was sent with some other guys to Santa -- to Rapid City Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota, for assignment to crew and to complete phase training. Operational training is what it was. Get you used to the airplane you're going to be flying in and the formation flying and that kind of thing.

Gary Swanson:

And how long were you there doing that?

Warren H. Berg:

I was there for two months, from November '43 until middle of January '43. Excuse me. January, November of '43 to January '44, at which time we got sent to overseas.

Gary Swanson:

In the two months that you were flying as a crew doing practice runs, simulated bombing missions, I'm sure, did you get pretty tight with the crew? Was it a pretty sympatico group?

Warren H. Berg:

It was a very very close knit group. It was, I would consider myself extremely lucky to be assigned to that particular crew. As a matter of fact it had everything to do with my subsequent life because I reported to the office where they assigned you to crew along with one of the other fellows who finished the navigator school with me. A friend of mine. Still is a friend today. And I happened to be standing closer to the desk where the sergeant was taking names and assigning them to crews. So he took my name first and put my name down on Gary Miller's crew. The next guy, my friend, was put on the next crew. Well, it turned out that Gary Miller's crew had a very very successful tour of combat. Well, with some exception, which I can go into later, but the other crew followed us over to England assigned to the same combat group. They lasted five missions and they were shot down and some of them were POWs. A few of them evaded and got back to the States via Switzerland and or Spain. So I was extremely lucky and fortunate in standing closer to the desk to be assigned to the crew that was destined to be very successful.

Gary Swanson:

The quality of the pilot and the mental makeup of the pilot influenced probably a lot with the crew; didn't it?

Warren H. Berg:

Exceptionally so. I cannot speak highly enough of the combat of the pilot that I had, Gary Miller. He happened to be about three years older than myself and the other guys in the crew, and that little difference was a big difference as I look back because he had three years of life experience that we didn't have. He had had a oh, he was sort of a devilmaycare kind of a guy and he had done a lot of things he was a semipro boxer for awhile. He went to college for a little bit. So he dabbled in many different things, gave him a taste of a lot of things in life that none of us had. We were most of us pretty naive coming from small towns, maybe the farm, and so we didn't know which the real world. This guy had some better appreciation of it, so that made him a better leader. He was able to make judgements down the road that the younger guys were not able to make. So I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been on Gary Miller's crew.

Gary Swanson:

Just as a matter of interest, how many of the original crew of 10 men are still living, and do you have contact with any of them?

Warren H. Berg:

There are as far as we know three men of the original 10 still living. There is one who has sort of disappeared and we hadn't contact with him for quite a while, but he disappeared from us and we don't know whether he's still around or not. He's out of out of our circle. I am in close touch with three of the two others besides myself.

Gary Swanson:

So the crew formed, you did your two months of working together, and then you went somewhere to pick up a plane probably.

Warren H. Berg:

They sent us to Kearney, Nebraska, which was an air force base there, sort of a, a meeting of the crews and airplanes, and you picked up your new airplane and you got used to it, flew it a couple of times locally, and then got your orders to go wherever you were gonna go. In our case the orders were to go to England, and because the route, the shortest route to England from where we were was through Newfoundland and Iceland, and Greenland and so on. It was plugged up with bad weather and airplanes waiting to get out of there, and get through it. So they said, "Well, you guys go the other way. Go south." And we ended up going down to South America, over to Africa, and then up to England. Had a two week -- had a week's vacation northern in northern Africa in Marrakech, again, because the weather was bad over the north Atlantic and we couldn't get clearance to go into England. But finally we got it, so we flew into England.

Gary Swanson:

It's quite an eye opening probably for you, the farm boys and the the small town boys from middle America, or anybody, to go to South America and then to Morocco, Marrakech, and places like that.

Warren H. Berg:

Tell you what, you matured fast because you saw a lot of things in a short period of time, and you had to assimilate it and use it to grow with and mentally and psychologically, and it was, it was a toughening but valuable experience, yes.

Gary Swanson:

So what base in England were you, did you fly into and were assigned to?

Warren H. Berg:

We dropped the airplane off at Valley Wales, which is a British air force, Royal Air Force base in the far western part of Wales just because we were just delivering the airplane, it wasn't our airplane to fly with into combat with. We just delivered it over there and then we were sent by train to a sort of a, oh, another base where they well, it was a conditioning base. It was in Stone, England in the midlands of England. We were there, oh, not more than a week, maybe less. And we had classes in English customs and money and how to conduct yourself in this country, you know, to be sociable with the people and stuff like that. It was orientation to the local people and the local living conditions and so on. Then we sent down to Bobbington near London, another base where we had some more specific training on equipment that we had never seen before but which was being used in combat. And pilots were trained in the landing systems that they were using there now, and we were navigator trained in the navigation equipment that they were using, and that was it, there about a week too. And then we got assigned to a real base over in the 96th Bomb Group, which was a Snetterton Heath up near Norwich, England in the north of East Anglia.

Gary Swanson:

And so you got up there, and how soon did you fly your first mission?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, first we had to get oriented in the, at the base, including some practice missions. The group insisted that new crews fly a few practice which was important because you had to get used to the local landmarks, how'd I find the base again, and what does this group do a little different from a different group or what you've been trained to do. So you had to get used to the combat ready guys who had had a some missions under their belt and they flew with you. So you know you had to get, get settled down into this business. So we were there maybe two weeks getting settled and maybe flying some missions or practice missions and then we were sent down up on our first combat mission about the 15th of March '44.

Gary Swanson:

Was your first mission a milk run?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, the mission, the first mission was what we call an abort because we had a -- our pilot got sick for some reason. He was sick and they assigned another pilot and we were, we were flustered by that because we had gotten so used to and depending on Gary Miller and so used to him being in charge. To have a stranger come in and take his place for even one mission was bad. This guy either he was -- he was either not very good himself or what, but he decided our airplane wasn't airworthy; we shouldn't continue. So we got just about ready to go into Europe itself over across the English Channel and he turned back and we went back and landed. We didn't get credit for the mission. Of course that was still valuable experience for us because we almost got into combat. We had gone through the stress factors of mentally and psychologically getting yourself ready to meet the enemy, but we didn't meet him because we turned around and went back. So that was our first try.

Gary Swanson:

You remember the night before your first mission? You said, they said, "You boys are going tomorrow." Did you get any sleep that night? What was your -- what was your feeling in preparing to go on the first mission and then your feeling as you got on that plane and you were headed east?

Warren H. Berg:

I don't recall that we were told "You're gonna go." The way it usually worked as I recall, and I know it worked after we got started, you didn't know whether you were gonna fly it or not. If you saw the movie 12 O'clock High, they had a little system there where they notified all the crews like in the in the clubs, in the enlisted men's club and the officers' club. There was a mission automore(?) And they turned this little pirate's mug face, face against the wall, yeah, you knew we were flying tomorrow. And unless you knew you were scheduled for a practice mission or on leave or had been ill and couldn't weren't on flying status, you were ready. If you felt you had to be ready to go. So and you really find it out when at two o'clock in the morning or at three the orderly came around with a flashlight and tapped you on the shoulder and tapped Lieutenant. You knew you had it today.

Gary Swanson:

So at least you got a -- you got a little, you always got a little sleep then.

Warren H. Berg:

Oh, yeah. Right. Well, you know the -- they wanted you to be ready, so they were teaching you that you can't just play around with this business, you got to make yourself ready because we can't, they can't make me ready. I have to be ready, and that is be prepared. Get your sleep when you can and don't over do it at the officers' club and things like that. You had to discipline yourself as a matter of fact.

Gary Swanson:

So the first mission was aborted. Do you remember your feeling though? You didn't know that you were going to abort when you took off. I mean were you scared, were you focussed, were you nervous? Do you remember what you thought?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, as the first flight of a crew, you were flying sort of tail end Charlie as we used to call it, Way back in the formation. You just followed everybody else. Your duties were to follow. As a navigator in a tail end Charlie airplane, you only had to keep track of where you are. You had no responsibility for leading anything anyplace. Just keep track of where I am, so if we had to leave the formation, we could get back from where I knew I know we are. So, yeah. You had the duties to perform, but they were less than the guys up in the lead airplane.

Gary Swanson:

So you were heads down all the time. You didn't have much time for thinking. You were just saying, "I don't want to screw up. I got to know where we are," so you were focussed.

Warren H. Berg:

Absolutely, yes. However, you know when you had say up to 2,000 airplanes in the sky at one time later in the war, but at this time it was probably 800 or a thousand that were trying to get together and into formation, well, you had to keep track of where everybody was too and watch for the signals that the group leader would take and shoot the flair pistols with colored, colored flare balls to tell you where he is so you could come and join him. So you had to keep alert for those things, and as a navigator you had to help do those things. Keep the pilot informed. And tension is building all the time because here this formation is growing as people came out and tacked onto the formation. And you know just the thought of colliding in space with other airplanes was a stress factor. So this stress was building faster than you realized. And I find the ultimate stress, of course, was once you're in formation and you're flying across the English Channel and about to enter Europe where the enemy was in place and of course you didn't know, you thought he knew exactly. [Video switches to next video.] He had your name on a bullet, and he was looking for me. You personalized everything. So that stress really builds up. So by the time you see that coastline coming up, "Oh, my God, we're gonna go in there? Do we really want to do this?" Then all of a sudden the pilot says, "Well, we're gonna have to go back. This engine isn't working right, so we're going to turn around and go back" Oh, man. You just flopped. Okay. It all came apart at that point. You had built up this stress. So that's a fear thing. It's an unknown, it's a fear of the unknown. It's a -- am I ready to go into this, this exercise? Have I done everything I can do to make me ready for this? You see it's this primary stress. There's a fear factor and stress, but it's a combination of all these things.

Gary Swanson:

Typically, and we'll talk about the second mission in a minute, but typically, when you were forming to get ready to go across the Channel to go to Germany or to go wherever your target was that day, you had 900 to a thousand planes. Let's say that you were the second plane after the lead up. How long did it take before you actually started out, I mean, waiting for those 900 planes or a thousand?

Warren H. Berg:

That varied according to how many planes were going up that day; it varied according to where you were going to be in the stream. If you were the rear point guy, the lead group in the lead wing of the lead division, you were up first, you took off first. You climbed up to altitude first, and keep in mind since the Germans -- since the English Channel wasn't very wide in most places, you had to go to altitude over England. That meant climb climb climb climb climb to 20,000 feet or more and get all of your airplanes up there at the same time. It took up an hour to get your formation going. Now, think of all the gasoline you burned just getting formed up. Later in the war when we pushed the Germans back, it was a, it was a treat. You could take off and climb en route. Your formations climb form at 5,000 feet climbed to 25 en route. Much easier. But we had to do it right over England, right over our base, and so that's when you circle circle circle. Took up to an hour, maybe longer sometimes. DDay we took off at about two o'clock in the morning, and we didn't drop our bomb until daylight, about six o'clock in the morning. So we were tugging around England for about four hours getting this massive number of airplanes lined up and ready to go in the various slots they had assigned.

Gary Swanson:

Well, on DDay speaking of DDay on the specific On DDay what was the specific target of your, well, the entire group?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, we had -- our group was assigned -- our group put up well, what? More than one task force I'll call it that that day. And we, our crew, led our wave of bombers over the beach. We were assigned a section of the I think we split up our group into smaller groups, smaller sections, smaller bunches of airplanes because we were hitting very precise targets. We didn't want a big bunch of airplanes that could drop the first airplane here and the last airplane drops here. You got a big, big path of destruction underneath you. They didn't want that because you had to drop those bombs right on that coastline. So we needed smaller groups that had a bomb pattern that was going to be smaller in dimension and, hopefully, more accurate. So we were leading the seventh wave, which was the last wave across the target before the troops jumped in the water and waded ashore. And of course that was was the tricky part too because if anybody's going to miss and hurt somebody, we had to, we were the last guys over and we had to be very careful and not miss at all. So we -- our plane actually led that particular attack, and we bombed -- I forget the name of the exact spot and I have it written down, but it's where the Canadian troops landed. It wasn't at Omaha Beach or Utah. It was, I think it was Juno Beach where we were dropping. And that was -- we dropped. It was dense, dense clouds under it. We couldn't see a dang thing. We dropped by radar and pulled around, came back to the base and that was it for the day for our crew. Other crews made several missions that day.

Gary Swanson:

Did you get any feedback? I mean, did your bombs get dropped in the right place?

Warren H. Berg:

As far as I know.

Gary Swanson:

You would know about it if you hadn't, I'm sure.

Warren H. Berg:

The -- our bombs went to the right place. Now, that wasn't always the case for various reasons, but everything I have been able to determine said that our bombs were right on the money, and the British and or the Canadians never complained that we were short or long, so we were pretty convinced that they dropped just about where we were supposed to drop.

Gary Swanson:

What mission was that? What number mission? Do you have any idea? Do you remember?

Warren H. Berg:

I have a list of my missions. If you would like me to look it up, I'd be glad to get it right now.

Gary Swanson:

Yeah, let's do that. [Interview cut] So Warren, you flew 37 missions. What mission was it when you went over France on DDay?

Warren H. Berg:

That was number 21.

Gary Swanson:

Number 21. Was there -- do you -- was that any different for you thinking about it that day than any other day? I mean, I guess you knew it was important, but every one that you flew was important.

Warren H. Berg:

By that time we'd gotten a little bit blasé about what we were doing. Our crew had -- here's another reason why I earlier had said about how fortunate I was to be in Gary Miller's crew because we were -- our crew reported into our group, the 96th Bomb Group, in a group of 12 new replacement crews in February of '44. Twelve crews reported in, brand new guys. Two months later, we were the only one left of those 12 because they all got shot down. So we said, "Man, we're doing something right." So we, I guess we relaxed a little bit. You sort of, "Well, it can't happen to us." Which of course is a fatalistic way to look at it I suppose.

Gary Swanson:

Yeah. There were a lot of random flak bursts.

Warren H. Berg:

Right. Right. Anyway that blasé or veteran kind of feeling, I guess, wasn't that big a deal anymore. You were used to it. Yeah, there were still those hazards there and so on, but you were used to it. And then come June 5th, the evening of June 5th, we'd all been restricted to base for a few days before that because we knew the invasion was coming up because earlier than that they had said everybody who has a sidearm, wear their sidearm on the base because the Germans might come in and try to drop parachuters and or people to disrupt our operation. We want you all armed if you got a sidearm. So we wore our pistols on our waists. Then they restricted everybody to base about three or four days before June 6, which was another tipoff, hey, something big was coming. Because we all knew it, what the heck we've been doing here for whenever? And then at 10 o'clock that evening, the 5th, the 5th of June, we got ordered over the loudspeaker system, "Everybody report to the briefing room." 10 o'clock at night? And the sun was still out because it was English double daylight saving time, so hey, this is big stuff. So we were all excited by that time and adrenaline was starting pumping. So we went to the briefing, and they told us what was going to happen. You're gonna get up a two o'clock, so you better get some sleep. So I think they flew every airplane they had on the base that night and the next morning. So every crew and so we were elated that finally something's changing, something good is happening. So our enthusiasm was at a high level.

Gary Swanson:

Do you have any idea how many planes, if any, how many planes we lost on June 6th? I mean, were they -- were the German's fighter pilots out? Was there much flack from NI artillery, aircraft artillery?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Practically zero. Practically zero because one, number one, the target was a very narrow spot, the invasion beaches. And, well, in addition to that there were bridges and locomo  and railroad installations behind, but still that's a pretty narrow area or small area of focus for bombing. The Ninth bomber -- the Ninth bomb -- Ninth Airforce with its twin engine bombers and fighters and the Eighth Airforce with its four engine bombers and fighters all concentrated on this rather small target area. So in the weeks prior to DDay, they had bombed a lot of bridges surrounding the invasion area and locomo and railroad installations, but the focus, even more so just prior to and the day of. So there was no opposition. The fighters had cleaned out the German fighters, the umbrella of fighters over the beaches was so strong that they couldn't get through. If they even tried, they got shot down. There was German flak was negligible because all the flak guns were either pointed at the ships and the troops coming in or they didn't have them there. They didn't know we were coming. So there was a surprise for them, the paratroopers had dropped behind them by that time and had discombobulated their communications. So they were very confused, the Germans were very confused. So we saw no opposition. We saw no flak; we saw no fighters; we saw no airplane get shot down. And that to my knowledge, barring accidents, I don't know that any airplane of Allied airplane was damaged or shot down that day. Maybe some fighters trying to bomb and strafe locomotives or bridges I can't speak for the hundred percent, but I'd say 99 percent of our operation went without opposition.

Gary Swanson:

So when you got back to base, was it just another day or were you very very interested in finding out the success of the entire operation, and how soon did you find out about that?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, naturally we were very very interested because we had participated in it; we wanted to know how it was going and was the success of this day was going to have a lot of bearing on what happens to us and the rest of the time, that rest of the year and whenever. So yeah, we were intensely interested in what was happening and we kept track as best we could. We had local radios and we had the Stars and Stripes, a newspaper, of course, came out and just the grapevine and the crews passed information around. So we kept up and were very much interested in it.

Gary Swanson:

So not much time passed, I'm sure, before you did that 22nd mission back doing what you were doing before, which was what? Bombing France and Germany? German targets mainly?

Warren H. Berg:

Yes. The Eighth Airforce, naturally being a four engine and long range operator, we were interested in the long range targets mostly, but you know, not necessarily, but we let the Ninth Airforce with their shorter range of bombers take care of the close in targets. But we -- and they flew a lot of missions that first day. Our crew only ended up flying one mission. I guess they were rotating lead crews, and we only had to fly the one, and other lead crews took the nest, but some of the wing crews flew two or three missions that day because they were a short mission. Couple hours and back and a couple hours again go again. Daylight savings time, double daylight savings, a lot of daylight, so they kept going all day long. But the next mission we flew was a couple days later, actually. It was, I think, on the 8th or 9th of June. I have a list. June 8th. June 8th was our next mission after the DDay mission. And then we went to a, well, it wasn't a deep penetration, but it was down Tours, France, and we had a bridge target down there that we were after, railroad bridge target we were after down there, so we went after that one.

Gary Swanson:

So did you take, Warren, did you take flak and enemy aircraft on most of the missions and encounter enemy aircraft on most of the missions?

Warren H. Berg:

We had flak on almost every mission to some degree or other, light, heavy, moderate. Enemy aircraft during our first 15 missions, maybe the first 20 almost were always a problem because we got hit a numbers of times. As I mentioned earlier, we had 12 crews report with us in February, and two months later we were the only ones left. Much of that was done with fighters. One of the major battles, air battles, of the war was on May 12. We were right in the middle of that one. We got our group was decimated right over near Frankfurt, Germany. We got hit by a swarm of German fighters. I don't know. The numbers vary. Nobody could count them there were so many for one and they were moving so fast. A melee of air operations there. But we, our crew was leading the part of the 96 Bomb Group at the time that day and we ended up with three airplanes back out of 21. So we really lost a bunch.

Gary Swanson:

So that was fairly characteristic. I don't mean every mission out, but probably every mission out you had flak and fighters; didn't you? And you lost some aircraft.

Warren H. Berg:

Always a threat; always a threat. Yes.

Gary Swanson:

Did you ever have to make a, prior to your fateful last mission, did you ever have to make a crash landing or have significant damage to your plane when you got back?

Warren H. Berg:

We never -- our crew never had any significant, our first crew. I flew two combat tours. The first tour we flew 30 missions and that crew came back intact. We never got a scratch. Airplane had lots of holes in it from flak and some fighter shots, but never anybody hit. Now, during the first tour, I got assigned to special flight to go along and check out another new navigator. We went to Paris, in June I believe it was, and we had a narrow escape that day because we got hit pretty hard by flak over Paris over the targets. It was a suburb of Paris, and we were the lead airplane. I was up in the navigator compartment with the regular navigator, and we were flying with the command pilot. And they had to -- he had to take it back on autopilot because the controls were damaged to the point where the manual controls were inoperable, and we didn't crash landed but we bounce landed it, which is a semicrash on the runway of a British, a big British airbase right on the coast of England. It was a favorite spot for people coming back with troubled airplanes because big, wide, long runway, and they were prepared to take care of crash landings. So we made the land we landed one of the guys back in the waist was injured severely in that same thing. But I don't count that one as a negative on my crew because it was a different crew that was flying with us. Plus I always said too, you don't want to fly with anybody but your own crew because your luck changes when you do that, which of course is nonsense, but you had that feeling.

Gary Swanson:

Well, did you -- what accounts for your doing a second tour because after 25 missions were you not able to come home at that time or if the number of missions had been increased? Why a second tour?

Warren H. Berg:

The original tour was 25 missions, but shortly after we arrived over there they upped it to 30. Oh, boy. And then a little later while we were there, they upped it to 33. We didn't like that either, but when we had 30 in, they came -- the the group officers came around and well, didn't come around. They talked to our pilot No. They did talk to Gary Miller. They made it clear to whoever was eligible that if you want to go take leave now, we'll send you home, get 30 days at home, and you could come back and fly a second tour of 20 missions. Seemed like a good idea to us. Of course we were influenced greatly by Gary Miller because he was a premier combat pilot. He ate this stuff up. He knew the risks, he knew how dangerous it was, but he had an adrenaline flow rush about doing this which I think was exceptionally high. And he probably conned us a little bit. And that wasn't all of it because we were a good crew. We knew what we were doing; we were good at it; we were lucky we thought, well, we were blessed, whatever you want to call it. We made it and the other guys didn't. So nothing could hurt us. Yeah, we were naive people. But we also had thought in the back, well, the war is going great. Jeez. This was now in July. The war is going great, it will be over by Christmas. If we go home now, they probably won't send us back because the war. [Video switches to next video.] Well, might get a go on that break going home. Yeah, it looked like a good deal. So that's why we did it. If it makes sense, I don't know. Maybe it's stupid.

Gary Swanson:

So you did get home for 30 days?

Warren H. Berg:

We got home for 30 days, yes.

Gary Swanson:

And what did you do? Go to Mankato and --

Warren H. Berg:

Went to Mankato.

Gary Swanson:

And hang out with your folks?

Warren H. Berg:

That's right.

Gary Swanson:

Was it tough on the 31st day when you had to go back or the 25th day, whenever?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, yeah, in a way. It was a little bit boring back there because everybody was gone. Most of the people you knew were gone. They were in the service some place. Some of the gals were still around and you saw your relatives, family, but you know after four weeks of that you're ready to get back and do something. Not necessarily go to combat, but do something. So yeah, we had to go back, so we went back to Atlantic City and spent a week or so there and getting set up for transportation, and then they shipped us back to England.

Gary Swanson:

As the kind of intact crew?

Warren H. Berg:

No, unfortunately not. The whole crew, all 10, volunteered for the second tour, and they sent us all home. What we didn't realize now this would of had a bearing on our decision. They did not send the gunners back with us. The six gunners did not go back with us because we got plenty of gunners in Europe. We don't need anymore. They can stay home; we'll reassign them elsewhere. But you officers, we need lead crews, and so you come on back. So they broke up our crew actually. That's what happened. And I think that made a difference to us. And I think if I had known that, I would have had a different thought about that because I had been offered prior to leaving, the group navigator came to me and said, "Look. Your crew is going to go take a leave and come back. Why don't you just finish your three missions that you have to go, and I got a job for you on the staff. I need some help." Well, I debated it but I, well, but my crew loyalty won out, and I got to stay with my crew. Well, if I had stayed, I probably would have ended up being group navigator, but I didn't know that this guy, he had plenty of time in and he was doing a ship back home for reassignment, and I could have had a job, which would have been a promotion there. Well, I thought about that later, and it wasn't a guaranteed thing; he didn't say that, but it could have happened. On the other hand, there were so many other variables that went the other way, the good things and I could go for a long long list of why it made sense for me to do what I did.

Gary Swanson:

So you -- how many more missions, and then I believe you got shot down; didn't you?

Warren H. Berg:

We were supposed to fly another 20 missions, but the truth is we would probably never had finished 20 before the war really did end because we were flying our sixth mission in our second tour. And we got shot down on the 13th of January, '45.

Gary Swanson:

And what was the target that day and how did it happen? I mean you dropped your bombs and they got you afterwards or --

Warren H. Berg:

By that time the Allied troops had cleared up most of France and into the Netherlands, through Belgium. It was a lot nicer, not better, a lot better operations. As I mentioned earlier, when we had took off from our base, we had to form our group as we climbed to altitude. We didn't waste time getting to altitude then go; climb en route. And it was safer because if you had gotten damage you could land someplace in France and be rescued. So it made a lot of difference mentally too because you felt safer. The navigation was a lot better because the radio aids that we had available now with the troops pushing through France we could move our radio aids over there and have better radio reception and more precise navigation farther into Germany. So that made your navigation better. So it was a much, much better deal. And the enemy aircraft were while they were still there, you could still get hit by them, some did. They were much less effective. They were very much more few in number and we had so many more fighter planes protecting us. They cleaned them out, so it took the stress of worrying about fighters pretty much away from us unless you were unlucky and happened to be right where they were gonna let you have it today. So anyway, we then we also were by that time flying in smaller groups. Whereas instead of 2,000 airplanes going for to Berlin, they'd send 400 to Berlin, they'd send 300 to Hanover, they'd send 400 down to Nuremburg, they would send 300 over here and there. And they were splitting them up in smaller groups because we had more fighter pilots to protect these various groups and we weren't worried so much about keeping everybody together like a big wagon train. We were leading the 96th Bomb Group the 13th of January, '45. The 96th Bomb Group was leading the 45th combat wing. Two other groups were flying with us. I think that was the entire force on this one target. There was probably around a hundred airplanes. The target was Bischofsheim, which is a railroad marshalling yard just on the east side of the Rhine River across the river from Mainz, Germany between Mainz and Frankfurt. Closer to Mainz however. So anyway, we were making this run on this railroad yard, it was a hundred percent clouds below us. We were operating with radar surveillance navigating. I was up in the navigator position in front. It was a radar navigator back in the waist of the airplane who was giving me position checks, and I was doing the visual navigation and the paperwork. The bombardier was up there with me. We were both intently scanning, hoping we could get a break in the clouds to see the target, hoping we wouldn't have to drop by radar because your accuracy does diminish when you do that. And so I was standing over the navigator, the bombardier's back, watching. We know it was time that we hit -- that target's right up there. Then all of a sudden the clouds parted, or at least we came to a break in the clouds, and there was the target. Real clearcut, right in front of us. I said, "There it is." And the bombardier said, "I see it; I got it." And he was telling the pilot, "I got it." Meaning, "I'm controlling the airplane now with my bomb sight." So I turned around and went back to my desk to write down we're ready to bomb and what not, make my notations in my navigator log. At that moment I saw a big flash right out of the left of the wing. The left wing anti-aircraft popped off. And almost instantly the pilot came on the intercom saying, "Pilot to crew" no wait. Was it? The bombardier then when I -- when I saw the flash, the bombardier simultaneously said, "Bombs away." He had seen, he had gotten it on the target; he dropped, everybody in the formation dropped along with him. Then the pilot came on, "Pilot to crew, my controls are gone. Bail out." I surmised that the second I saw the first puff of flak out here on the left. I think the second shot hit either into or right next to the waist of the airplane, banged through the airplane, cut the control cables, killed the navigator -- the radio operator and the radar navigator. Killed both of them because they did not survive, and the airplane was out of control then. So those of us that could, bailed out.

Gary Swanson:

How many of the crew survived?

Warren H. Berg:

Six. Six out of the 10 survived. Those who did not were the command pilot, the lieutenant colonel up in the cockpit flying in the copilot seat, the radar navigator, the radio operator, and one of the waist gunners back in the waist very near to where the first two guys where the waist got hit. So those four did not make it.

Gary Swanson:

So you bailed out in -- and where were you and how quickly did you get grabbed?

Warren H. Berg:

We were flying into what I remember was about a hundred knot headwind, a very strong headwind, which was very unusual because usually you would like a downwind run. The crew would like a downwind run because it went faster. You didn't have to sit there in the flak that long. Or a crosswind would be even would be next because that would give you a little more accuracy, but it still takes longer to make the bomb run from the initial point where you turn on to the bomb run. But we were running into a headwind, which they -- I guess they chose it because this is a small, relatively small railroad yard, and they probably won't have too much anti-aircraft there. It only takes one gun to shoot you down, of course. They didn't think of that, or they didn't they didn't have a better way to do it because of the traffic of bombers going different directions and different places. They had to run the same as we did, and it was very very strong wind from the northeast. So when we jumped out, well, the wind when we popped the parachute unless you delayed pulling the ripcord on your chute, which would drop you down lower before you started getting the effect of the wind. If you popped it out fairly soon after getting on the airplane, you were going to drift a long way, so I did that. I drifted. I was apparently the second one out of the airplane because when I got out, popped my chute, I looked up and looked around and there was one I could see one chute above me and that's it, nothing else. Down below us was a hundred and 10 cents -- a hundred percent clouds. You couldn't see a chute against them white clouds.

Gary Swanson:

What was your altitude when you jumped do you think? 20,000?

Warren H. Berg:

Over 20,000. 22,000 probably, yeah. Took me 20 minutes to get to the ground. So it's about a thousand feet a minute coming down. Anyway, I drifted quite a ways east -- west of the Rhine River. I remember going across the town of Mainz. I could see through gaps in the cloud I could see a big city down there, which was Mainz. I already drifted across the Rhine River, and I drifted even farther beyond that. Came down near a real small village, a small village on the northwest side of Mainz. And the village policemen picked me up rather shortly thereafter.

Gary Swanson:

Where were your other crew members, your other five. Did they gather any of them with you or they were other places?

Warren H. Berg:

You see, after I was picked up, I thought, well, I only know of -- I may not be one of two people that survived this because I saw one chute above me, and there's only two of us got out. I didn't dismiss the possibility that some more had gotten out later. And I couldn't see them down below. Maybe they would have gone farther with the airplane and be below me, and I wouldn't have seen them against the clouds. And I didn't think about that. I said, "Well, probably only two of us got out." When the police picked me up, they took me to a little sort of a guard house, army, German army guard house, which was a mile away or so, and put me in. There was already one guy in there. Not from our crew, but one of an American airmen. Not from one of our crew. And a second guy was there, and he was from our crew. He was the engineer, the gunner, engineer. And I said, "uh-oh, he's likely the one that got out first. He was the chute above me," which made sense because the engineer he was right in front of the bomb bay and he could have when the bombs go down, all he had to do was -- if he didn't have a chute buckled on, buckle on his chute and step on through that bomb bay and drop through the bomb doors and he's out, which was normally the way to go. He would have been the first one out. But then 30 minutes later, they bring another guy. Turns out to be the copilot of our crew, and he had been flying in the tail of the airplane. The lead crew, the copilot, the assigned copilot usually flew in the tail and the formation control officer, and his seat was taken by the command pilot who would be a major, lieutenant colonel, or colonel. So that opened the door for a lot of possibilities. Well, if three of us got, then there may be well be more than that. So I was comforted with that thought. Three of us in our crew were together there. And ultimately there were six of us that made it.

Gary Swanson:

What day was that that you got shot down?

Warren H. Berg:

Friday the 13th.

Gary Swanson:

Thirteenth of?

Warren H. Berg:

January.

Gary Swanson:

January, '45.

Warren H. Berg:

'45.

Gary Swanson:

Very cold winter.

Warren H. Berg:

Very cold winter, yes. A lot of snow, very cold winter.

Gary Swanson:

So then you were interrogated, I'm sure, and then they what? They put you on a train and take you to a camp?

Warren H. Berg:

They sent us to first to Frankfurt to Oberursel, which is, I think, a suburb of Frankfurt, the northern end of Frankfurt where they had an interrogation center, and put us in solitary confinement. I was there, oh, a week maybe so, maybe more. About a week. And the good thing that happened to me there was that one day I was lying in my solitary cell and this one blanket, that's it, on a wooden bed. The key rattled in the door, and the door opened, and here was my pilot, Gary Miller, standing with a guard. Miller had conned the guard into bringing him down to see me because he was determined to go and see every crew member that survived, his crew members. So I attribute Gary Miller's leadership ability strong right there because, you know, it takes a good leader to worry about his crew after something like this happened. To go insist that I want to see those men, and he did. So anyway, yes, we stayed in the interrogation center for up to a week and then they sent us to a transit camp where they supposedly outfitted us with things we didn't have like flying an airplane in a combat mission, you don't carry all your stuff with you, you know, extra clothes and toothbrush and all that stuff. So they tried to give us stuff to get by. Unfortunately, at the point, at the time we got there, they had run out of a lot of it, so we -- I got a toothbrush and no toothpaste. I know that. I wanted a cap because the Germans had taken my helmet and I didn't have a cap, and they didn't have any GI caps there, so they gave me a scarf, and I fashioned a cap out of a scarf, and I still have it in my closet here. And a pair of shoes I had to have a pair of shoes because I was using electrically heated flying boots and they weren't very good for marching in snow or whatever, and the only ones they had were too big for me. They gave me them anyway. But anyway. Then they shipped us by boxcar to the prison camp. I went down to Nuremburg and stayed there. They kept me at prison camp 13D from the middle of oh, first part of February until the first part of April. When our troops were starting to get so close to that camp that the Germans, per the Geneva Convention had to move us away from the front lines, and they marched us about a hundred miles down to near Munich, Moosburg, and that's where we were liberated on the 29th of April 1945 by General George Patton and his Third Army.

Gary Swanson:

On that hundred mile march, you probably slept in barns or wherever you could, maybe even on the ground sometimes. How was the weather starting to moderate yet? The ravages of winter starting to moderate?

Warren H. Berg:

We marched out of our camp at Nuremburg at about midnight one night. It was raining. It was miserable hiking back roads with German guards who knew the way but we didn't. We were just stumbling along.

Gary Swanson:

Several thousand of you?

Warren H. Berg:

Oh, yes, thousands of us in a big long line. And my buddy the copilot and I were together. They shipped us to this camp and separated everybody else to different camps. He and I were together and he was not well. He had diarrhea pretty badly and he wasn't getting along too well. So as we marched along a dark road, and we looked over on the side there was a fire in the woods over here. Fire? What's that? And we asked the German guard, "What's that?" He spoke a little English. He said, "Oh, the sick people. Sick people." And then he and my buddy looked then, "You're sick, aren't you?" He said, "Yes, I'm sick." And we said to the guard, "He's sick." He said, "Okay. Go over there." So we went over and joined the sick bunch in the woods. The German guard was with them. Maybe eight or 10 guys there who were some of them sick, some of them maybe make believe sick. So we stayed with them around the fire. It was better than marching in the rain. We strung a blanket up, a German blanket, between a tree and sat under it to keep the rain off us. The next day the sun came out and the weather turned better and we kept moving with the sick group. And we were slower. The guard, he didn't care; he didn't want to run a way either. He wanted to take it easy. So we stayed with him and the sick group for the whole hundred miles, sleeping in barns all the time. Actually we slept in a barn every entire night. Got to rob the German farmer's potatoes and eggs. Started eating pretty good as a matter of fact. But it took us about two weeks to get that hundred miles out of our way. We got to Moosburg and it was overcrowded. We had to sleep in tents, big tents. Like a hundred guys in a tent. Lousy food; lousy sanitation.

Gary Swanson:

Were you abused?

Warren H. Berg:

No. Never, never was abused directly. I mean, yeah, in terms of neglect, yes. Physical, no. No physical abuse.

Gary Swanson:

Well, the even the German guards knew that the war was coming to an end, and so all they wanted to do was the same thing you did probably, get home.

Warren H. Berg:

That's right. That's exactly right. They were quite pleasant at this stage of the game.

Gary Swanson:

Yeah. So you were in the camps. You were a prisoner there for over three months then.

Warren H. Berg:

Right. Three and a half months actually.

Gary Swanson:

And you got liberated by Patton's Third Army and then where'd you go to? Come right home? Or go to camp Lucky Strike and wait for a ship or --

Warren H. Berg:

Everything was confusing right after we were liberated. We were told, "Well, stick, stay here and we'll take care of you." And the word came around, "Well, they're gonna move us out. There gonna fly us and have bombers come in and fly us out of here." And we thought to ourselves, "My God, how many thousands of guys are here? When will we get to go home if we do that?" So my buddy and I said, "Well, let's leave." So we hitchhiked, hitchhiked out of there. We got out on the road and certain GI trucks were going back and forth and we were, of course, wanted to get back to Frankfurt or Paris or wherever, so there were truck drivers, you know, empty going back for another load, so they picked us up. We stopped at a GI commissary and had breakfast with one of them. Good food. Got to Frankfurt. They had to leave us there and they dropped us off at a fighter base right near Frankfurt. We checked in there and they put us up in a private home with nice sheets and everything. It was being used as an officers' quarters for the fighter group. And the next day morning by they had a four engine airplane going to Paris. "You want a ride?" "Well, sure. Let's go." We were headed back to our base was where we wanted to go really. We got to Paris at the airport there and we stopped off, and I saw a guy standing there that looked familiar to me, and I went up to him and said, "You look like Major or Captain Sweet." He was a major by then, so I said, "Major, you look like your name is Sweet." He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, you were in the 398th bomb training bomb group at Rapid City?" "Yeah, I was." "Well," I said, "I went through there back last fall." I said, "You're now based over in England. I know because we were, my crew and I, dropped down to your base one day to see if we knew any of your people," and we didn't. But anyway I said, "We're trying to get back to the 96th Bomb Group. Would you take us back?" He said, "Oh, yeah. We're going back at four o'clock this afternoon." So we said, "Okay." But then we decided, "Well, we got lots of time. Let's hitchhike into town and see what's going on in Paris." We did that, stopped in at a Red Cross office just because it was convenient to do so and we knew that they would give us a hand out of some kind, coffee, donuts, or whatever. They gave us 20 bucks if we wanted it, which we took. We gave it back before we left; we didn't need it. Anyway, they said, "Well, what you gonna do?" "Well, we want to go back to our base," we said. They said, "Well, you really shouldn't do that because your base -- here's the only reason why, your base is not equipped to handle you. You need uniforms; you need a check up on your physical; you need better food; you need transportation home. They can't do any of that, but we can send you to Camp Lucky Strike. They will take care of all of that. You'll get home faster that way." We said, "Well, makes sense to us." So we stayed there. The next morning -- excuse me. We had the night off in Paris, and it was a ball because Paris was going crazy with VE Day that day and VE Day night. And Paris was just lighted up, and everyone was just having a ball. And everything was free too. You didn't have to -- we didn't have to spend the 20 bucks. "You want a drink? Here is a drink free. You want something to eat? Here. It's free." So it was a wonderful experience just to be in Paris on VE Day night. The next morning we took the train to Le Havre and then got over to Camp Lucky Strike. We hit it just right because the big wave of prisoners hadn't arrived there. So we were there, I don't know, over 10 days, had gotten uniforms, got a physical exam, got set up for transportation on a ship back to New York, came back to New York Harbor, landed there. We got there on the 31st of May. And the tugboats were squirting water all over, the girls were dancing on the little excursion boats by the side of our ship, and people in the skyscrapers were throwing confetti out, and we were just -- we had a wonderful time and a wonderful reception into New York to be back home. So it was a great We're glad we hitchhiked out of, out of prison camp.

Gary Swanson:

Really. And you got good advice from the American Red Cross.

Warren H. Berg:

You bet you we did.

Gary Swanson:

Had your folks ever been notified that you were a prisoner of war? Not much time had passed. You were a prisoner for three months, and sometimes it took a while to notify them, but were they notified that you were missing in action and subsequently a POW, or do you know?

Warren H. Berg:

My mother got the, got that telegram, the usual telegram, missing in action telegram. I don't know how I -- I've got the telegram. It's in that -- it's in my scrapbook. I'm not sure exactly without looking it up. It was obviously after the 13th of January. Probably within a week after the 13th of January, she got the telegram that I was missing in action, which, of course, was a negative thing. Then shortly thereafter she got a -- well let me backtrack. In December of 1944 at our base in England, I ran into a guy from our hometown, from Mankato. He was his name was Russ Fector. And I knew him. He was younger than I was, couple of years younger, and I knew him, who he was, but we weren't buddies there, but I knew who he was. So here he is at the officers' club, he just arrived and he was on crew. He was a new crew in December of '44. So we had a good, had a little family, little hometown reunion there, and the next time I heard of him, he was flying the same mission that we got shot down on. I didn't know that until later. But see, he writes a letter to his mother, which says that he was flying his first mission on the day that I was the lead navigator, but that I got shot down, and he didn't think I made it out. What does his mother do when she gets the letter? Takes the letter over to my mother. So my mother gets the word that I didn't make it out, which wasn't true at all because I don't blame Russ for it. He saw what he saw and it looked like there wasn't anyway anybody could get out of that, so they did. Well, that wasn't the case. But anyway, so she had the telegram, then she had this letter from this other woman in the hometown, and then shortly after that she gets a card from me because the Germans by the Convention, the Geneva Convention, had to give us the opportunity to tell our family that we were okay in a prison camp. And they gave us these stereotyped card. I have it, still have it here in this briefcase, in my scrapbook. Just a very brief -- you just had to fill out the dates and stuff and mail it. And it went zip, zip, zip through the Red Cross back to Mankato. She heard about -- she heard that I was in a POW camp before the Army told her I was. It was a couple of weeks later after she got the postcard, they came, "Oh, yeah. He's a prisoner of war." So the Germans and the Red Cross beat the Army in notification to my parents. So that was a plus too. That made her feel better.

Gary Swanson:

Warren, do you -- I'm branching back just a little bit, but do you remember the day you left home to go into the Service?

Warren H. Berg:

Yeah.

Gary Swanson:

Do you remember the scene at the family? I mean, you were the first one to go. They probably knew that the older brother and the younger brother were gonna have to go.

Warren H. Berg:

My older brother was away in the Service at the time.

Gary Swanson:

Okay. Your older brother so --

Warren H. Berg:

He wasn't there. My younger brother was around. Let's see. He was, he was still in high school. He was around. He might have been in school that day for all I know. I can't recall whether he was -- I took the train out of Mankato to come down through Kansas City and then out to LA and I suppose my mother was probably there to see me off. I think she was.

Gary Swanson:

Yes. I'm just thinking of the trauma that your parents went through having three boys in the service and not knowing what was happening. Getting a -- quite a bit of evidence that suggested you had gone, suggested you had perished.

Warren H. Berg:

My mother was a single mom at the time. They -- my parents split up before that, and so she was hanging this thing by herself. And it was hard on her I'm sure. She had her she had some sisters and other relatives that were helpful, that were very helpful in that respect. When I was -- got the word through so rapidly, that really made a big difference to her because it was her time of stress was --

Gary Swanson:

Shorter than it should have been.

Warren H. Berg:

Yeah, right.

Gary Swanson:

So, okay. You got took the trip ship, got home, and were you discharged fairly immediately?

Warren H. Berg:

No. I was given three months leave. And so and then before the three months was up, they extended it by another month. So I really had four months going. You see, things happened in the meantime. One, the Japanese got knocked out in August so that changed everything. In August I also -- I got a call when I was home from Gary Miller who had gotten out of his he was in prison camp up in northern Germany; I was in southern Germany. And he, he made it back to our base. I don't remember how exactly how he got back there, but he didn't fair very well because of it because they weren't able, they weren't equipped to handle just like I explained earlier. They sent him to a hospital in England. They held him for weeks in that hospital. I don't know why. Just because again they weren't used to having POWs come through them, and they didn't know how to handle it. He didn't get back to the States until, oh, six or eight weeks after I did. In July sometime I guess. So he calls me at home and said, "Hey, I'm in Chicago." And he was -- he had met his father and his mother and his wife there and they were visiting with one of his brothers, half brothers. And he said, "Come on down to Chicago. Let's get together." I said, "Well, why not. I'm not doing anything." So I went down to Chicago. Jumped the train and went to Chicago. We'll have a little reunion here, see? Well, we had a reunion there but then he says, "Hey. We're going to Kansas City." He had a gotten hold of a big, old Cadillac. I don't know where he got it. It may have been his father's for all I know. He and his mother and he and his father and mother and his wife and his sister were there, and I was to come along with them. "Why do I want to go Kansas City?" "Oh, come on. We'll have a good time. So I said, "Okay." So I got in the car with them and we went through all of Illinois. No interstates in those days of course. And they had some relatives en route there, so they stopped to see every one of those relatives. We took all day to get to Kansas City. In those days that's pretty good time, really, with all those back roads, but it was a long, long day I'll tell you. We finally end up down here in Kansas City up in Greenhaven here on Vivian Road. This was in -- this was in late July of '45. And the next day he said, "Let's go down to TWA and see if they got any jobs. They might be looking for pilots." I said, "Well, I'll go along with you." So we went down to TWA and we tried to see the chief pilot. He happened to be out at the moment, so we went back to the old terminal building and we happened to be want -- just milling around in the terminal building itself, and Gary ran into somebody he knew. Some friend from Kansas somewhere. I'm not sure exactly why he knew him. He -- Gary told him we were looking for a job at TWA and he was going to see the chief pilot. "Oh, you know that's Bob Buck." And the guy says, "Oh, he's a friend of mine. I'll give him a call." And he calls Bob Buck up, the chief pilot and says, "I got a couple of guys you'll want to see." "Okay. Send them over." So we went back over to the TWA office, talked to Bob Buck, and Gary Miller talked to him about being a pilot, and he said, "Well, we're hiring pilots. If you can pass the physical, then you're probably hired." Then he turned to me and said, "How about you? You want a job?" And I said, "Me? I'm not a pilot." And, "That's all right. We're looking for a navigation instructor. How would you like to do that?" I said, "Wonderful. I'm a teacher; I'm a navigator. I can do that." He said, "Okay. How soon can you get out of the Army?" "Well, as soon as they let me." "Well, you got a job here as soon as you're out." I said, "Fine. I'm heading home right now." So I tore home and called and got a hold of the Army and said, "I got a job. Let me out." And they said, "Okay. Get down to Miami Beach. We'll run you through this procedure down there, and you can get out." So I went down there. I was a week down there maybe. They shipped me to Camp La Farge, Wisconsin. I was out. And I came. I was down to work here in the 21st of September, 1945. So that's how I came.

Gary Swanson:

'45. Okay. So that's your military experience. You really had an experience in the military. You were blessed and you were very fortunate and then actually culminating in this TWA thing that was just an act of God almost.

Warren H. Berg:

Coincidence, coincidence, coincidence.

Gary Swanson:

Coincidence.

Warren H. Berg:

One on top of the other. And all good because I spent 38 years with TWA, loved every minute of it.

Gary Swanson:

Okay. What did you do in your career then, with TWA for 38 years until '83?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, I was a navigation instructor to start with, and then later became supervisor of ground school. The assistant supervisor in the ground school.

Gary Swanson:

Was that on Baltimore?

Warren H. Berg:

No. This was down at the old airport on 10 Rushes(ph) Road. And then I got a job as an assistant to the director of flying, flight training. Still in the training department, the pilot training department. But now I had a staff job there. As an assistant I was his sort of right-hand man. I was that for a while and then then he became a vice president, and I became in the same basic job, I became a director under his. So I was the director of training administration. And then I became the director of ground training. I ended up running the whole TWA pilot ground school program down at the Keith Building down at 13th and Baltimore. That's what I was when I retired.

Gary Swanson:

I see. So you had a wonderful 38-year career doing what you've known and loved and around people probably some of whom you've known or quickly got to know. In 38 years in the same town in the same company, you're gonna know a lot of people.

Warren H. Berg:

That's right.

Gary Swanson:

From the top down. That's wonderful. That's wonderful. Well --

Warren H. Berg:

I had a lot of special assignments while I was in that job too. I got to travel the world over with on various international meetings and those kinds of things. And Genevieve and I took a round-the-world flight on our 25th wedding anniversary because we were able to do it.

Gary Swanson:

Oh, isn't that wonderful? Well, speaking of Genevieve, when and how did you meet her and when did you get married?

Warren H. Berg:

Well, we started high school together. We went together from ninth grade through college.

Gary Swanson:

In Minnesota.

Warren H. Berg:

In Minnesota. She lived, she lived two or three blocks up from the street from me all these years. I didn't know her until we got to high school together, ninth grade. So we went through four years of high school together. Same class. And she went to State Teacher's College also, and so did I. So we spent four years as ____+

Gary Swanson:

Were you dating each other at that time?

Warren H. Berg:

No, we were not. She was always -- she had always had a lot of other boyfriends. I was a secret admirer I guess I'd call it, especially in the latter years of those four, eight years. And, well, she was actually engaged to another guy. And before I left for the Service, I screwed up my courage and I finally told her I had a thing for her and I was really interested in pursuing that, but she was of course engaged at that time.

Gary Swanson:

Spoken for at that time.

Warren H. Berg:

Right. So that didn't fly too much. But then when I came back for that 30-day leave in the summer of 1944, I looked her up again, took the initiative and looked her up again. She was -- she had actually been working at the Continental Can Factory there in Mankato during the summer. She taught otherwise. And she -- we had a few dates then, but it was friendly dates because she was still going with this guy who was in the Service and engaged to him. Then of course I went back for my second tour, got shot down, in prison camp, got home in June of '45. By that time Genevieve was working at the local radio station. She was, she actually had a program on this on the radio station, which was an interview program. One day she called me up and said she wanted to interview me because of my POW experience. So, okay. So we did that. And that's, that's when things started to warm up a little bit. So we spent a good bit of time together that summer, but again she was still engaged. First we were friends because we had been to school together for eight years, knew each other for all that time. So it wasn't until the fall of '45 when I was already down here working, we finally decided "Hey. We've got to change the situation here." So she broke off with the other guy and decided she was gonna try her luck with me. So we got married then the next spring, the spring of '46. April of '46.

Gary Swanson:

April of '46. So it's been 57 years. That's wonderful. Tell me about your family, your children, grandchildren.

Warren H. Berg:

Well, we have two children, two girls. Melissa and Catherine, Cathy. Melissa is a graduate of KU in journalism. She went to work for a newspaper up in Port Huron, Michigan, and then went to Akron, Ohio, and then came back to Kansas City with her new husband, who is also a KU grad and is a lawyer. So he got a job with the trust department of the congressman or the Missouri Bank I think it was. And she did a couple of journalistic kind of jobs, but then she got on with the Kansas City Star and has been with the Kansas City Star ever since. She was a writer to start with, a reporter, and now she is the deputy of, Deputy Metro Editor on the Star and has been for quite some time.

Gary Swanson:

Wonderful. So what's her working name?

Warren H. Berg:

Melissa Berg is what her working name --

Gary Swanson:

Yes. I've read stuff with her bylines on it.

Warren H. Berg:

But her last name is Harmon. Her married name is Harmon.

Gary Swanson:

And does she have children?

Warren H. Berg:

She has two children. David Harmon is gonna be a senior, a senior in Notre Dame University next fall and thinking of taking a premed course. Her daughter is gonna be a freshman in KU next fall. She --

Gary Swanson:

Well, I believe she's the one with the track notoriety; isn't she?

Warren H. Berg:

She's been a gymnast in high school all the time, a very good one. And she has been out for track and specializing in pole vaulting the last several years at least. And this year she really came into her peak of perfection because her style and her performance just improved immeasurably and she ended up winning the state, the state track championship in pole vaulting, a new state record, 12 feet, 1 inch.

Gary Swanson:

Yes. Isn't that something?

Warren H. Berg:

Yep.

Gary Swanson:

That's wonderful. Well, that's one of your daughters and they live here in town. [Video switches to next video.]

Warren H. Berg:

The other daughter is Catherine. She was with IBM for many years at different locations and she married a guy from IBM, and they ended up living in Milwaukee. And she dropped out of IBM because she had two children, Stephanie and Sean, and they are both younger than our other grand kids. Stephanie, she is gonna be 16 in August, and Sean was 13 in April. So they're still working up the ladder. But then Cathy now has a very good job with Johnson Controls out of Milwaukee.

Gary Swanson:

Well, that's wonderful. Two terrific daughters and four terrific grandchildren. You're fortunate that two of them live close, and the other two aren't that far away. I mean, Milwaukee is not too far.

Warren H. Berg:

No. We get up there quite frequently.

Gary Swanson:

Well, why don't you show me a picture of yourself when you were a navigator right after you probably gotten your wings and maybe when you were in England.

Warren H. Berg:

This is a photo of me in England shortly after we -- well, in the spring of 1944. I can see I had gotten my Air Medal Ribbon on so knows that I have at least five missions under my belt when this picture was taken. This picture was taken in Southport, England.

Gary Swanson:

Southport, England.

Warren H. Berg:

Yeah. We were in Southport for a week when they sent us to what they call to the flak house. You would -- after you had so many missions under your belt, you would you got the week off and you would get to go into the western part of England and they put you up in a nice hotel and really entertained you real well. So this was taken during that week.

Gary Swanson:

You look like you were having a good time. Well, how about if we get a picture of you and Genevieve married 57 years. [Video cuts to photo album]

Gary Swanson:

Here we have a picture of Warren and Genevieve on their wedding day. What a handsome couple. 57 years ago. And here's a shot of the bride on the left-hand side. You're lucky she threw over that other guy, you know it?

Warren H. Berg:

Oh, yeah. That's one of those things that wouldn't have happened if I had taken that job that was offered before I left for my first tour. [Video cuts to Warren and Genevieve Berg.]

Gary Swanson:

So here we have Warren and Genevieve Berg married 57 years. What a handsome couple. [Video cuts to room.]

Gary Swanson:

Here's a model of a B17. We're looking at Warren's wall of fame in his home. We're starting out here.

Warren H. Berg:

The B17 is a replica of the original airplane flown by our crew. It's called the Reluctant Dragon. We named that airplane. We painted, had it painted with a nose arch on it and the markings are identical to the markings that were on the original airplane. We flew that airplane from the end of -- from the end of March, 1944, gave it away to other crews after we became lead crews, and it finally got shot down on November 30th, 1944.

Gary Swanson:

The Reluctant Dragon. Well, let's, we got TWA planes up here. Well, of course he spent 38 years with TWA. Here's some medals for citizenship. Some TWA.

Warren H. Berg:

This was given to me by Boeing Airplane with Connie and the --

Gary Swanson:

Oh, from Connie and the 767?

Warren H. Berg:

Yeah. Got that from the Boeing airplane people.

Gary Swanson:

That's great. There air medal. And here's a TW plane.

Warren H. Berg:

That was given to me by the American Airlines and United Airlines and the Delta Airlines training departments for cooperation with them and working on the 767 program.

Gary Swanson:

Now, yes. And here we got a B17 dropping a load.

Warren H. Berg:

That airplane has our markings, from our group markings. The C in the square are our group markings.

Gary Swanson:

And the Distinguished Flying Cross and what's the other one?

Warren H. Berg:

Air medal.

Gary Swanson:

Air medal.

Warren H. Berg:

Yes. Not to forget my Boy Scout Eagle Scout.

Gary Swanson:

We're going to end this tour of the wall of fame with Warren's Eagle Scout plaque that he received back in 1934. Warren, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. You've had a very distinguished military career. You served your country well. Thank you for what you did. And certainly a great professional career with TWA, and a marvelous family.

Warren H. Berg:

Thank you dearly.

Gary Swanson:

You're welcome.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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