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Interview with Joe Herrmann [6/9/2006]

Joan Hamilton:

Today is Friday, June 9, 2006. This is the Veterans History Interview of retired Lt. Col. Joseph Francis "Joe" Herrmann, who served as a B-24 pilot with the Army Air Force during WWII. He continued his career in the United States Air Force after WWII [during the Korean War] and served in Vietnam for one year. This interview is being taped at Lt. Col. Herrmann's home at [redacted] Oregon. I'm the volunteer interviewer, Joan E. Hamilton.

Joan Hamilton:

Where were you born and raised?

Joe Herrmann:

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I was born on [redacted] I can still remember the address of my home in Chicago: 674345 Cornell Avenue, Chicago 49 Illinois. The telephone number was Dorchester 4033.

Joan Hamilton:

You have a really good memory. What were the occupations of your parents?

Joe Herrmann:

My father owned a warehouseman and was a manufacturer's rep. and salesman. My mother was-I guess you'd call her a social worker. She worked for the Catholic Church very much and she received the Pontificial Medal for her work from Pope Pius XII. She had been a Dominican nun in her early life and taught school in Jamaica for the British government. There was a big earthquake down there when she was young. She was pinned beneath the wreckage for three days. As a result of it, when they dug her out, she had cancer. They told her she could die in the Mother House or die at home. She decided to go home, met a doctor who operated on her, and she lived until she was 74.

Joan Hamilton:

Were you drafted or did you enlist in the military?

Joe Herrmann:

I volunteered.

Joan Hamilton:

Which branch of the military did you join? Joe Hemnann: I joined the USAAF.

Joan Hamilton:

Army Air Force, right?

Joe Herrmann:

That's right, yes.

Joan Hamilton:

When did you enlist?

Joe Herrmann:

6 July, 1942

Joan Hamilton:

Why did you choose the Army Air Force?

Joe Herrmann:

Why did I choose it? I wanted to fly. I didn't want to sleep in the mud and all that. I just didn't want to be in the infantry particularly.

Joan Hamilton:

I hear that a lot.

Joan Hamilton:

Tell me about the training that led to your position as a B-24 pilot.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes. I went to the usual Aviation Cadet Program. Primary training was at Arcadia, Florida at Carlson Field. We flew PT -17 Stearmans. Then, "'I went to Cochran Field in Macon, Georgia and flew BT -13s, Commonly referred to and fondly as the "Vultee Vibrator". Then, I went to Blytheville, Arkansas for Advanced, twin-engine "'training school. I flew AT -9s and AT -lOs. The AT -9 was supposed to be the transition aircraft for the P-38 [Lightning]. So, those of us who flew it-about a third of the class-felt we were going to get P-38s which we had asked for. Such was not the case. They gave me an aircraft with 2 more engines [B-24]. From there, I went back to Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama and took B-24 Transition Training.

Joan Hamilton:

How were you chosen to be a B-24 pilot?

Joe Herrmann:

I don't kn

Joan Hamilton:

They just said, "This is what you are doing"?

Joe Herrmann:

Our whole class--I was in class 43-I in the Southeast Training Command. They selected. As a matter of fact, in the graduating class I was in, everybody went to either B-24's or B-17's as either First Pilots of Co-Pilots. I was a First Pilot.

Joan Hamilton:

So, you didn't have to fly as Co-Pilot at all?

Joe Herrmann:

Except in training.

Joe Herrmann:

From there, I went to Salt Lake City, Christmas of 1943 and picked up my crew. I was assigned a crew there. I had a 10 member crew. From there, we went to Casper, Wyoming for Replacement Crew Training for combat. That's where we were supposed to be able to train our crew to work as a crew. I was supposed to do that. That was in the dead of winter and there were several days of 40 [degrees] below, on the ground. That was a very cold winter. From there, we went to Topeka, Kansas where we picked up a brand new B-24 J aircraft. I signed for it, just like it was a supply item.

Joan Hamilton:

This was 1942? [Tape Counter at 64]

Joe Herrmann:

No, 1943. From there, our first stop was Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida. That was our jumping off point for going overseas. The second place was Waller Field, Trinidad [West British Indies]. The third place was Fortaleza, Brazil. From there, we jumped off for Dakar, Africa. From Dakar, Africa, we went to Marrakech, Morocco. From Marrakech, Morocco, we flew to Valley, Wales.

Joe Herrmann:

An interesting thing about that was we were cautioned about flying. We had to fly above 10,000 feet or the southern Irish would shoot at us. It's not that the Irish were Nazi-lovers. They hated the Brits. So, sure enough, I flew at 12,000 feet across the Irish coast, but I saw 4 puffs of smoke below. So, we knew that they were just warning us.

Joan Hamilton:

No lower.

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah, no lower. Then, Valley, Wales. We went to combat school at Cluntoe, Ireland. C-L-U-N-T-O-E.

Joan Hamilton:

C-L-U?

Joe Herrmann:

C-L-U-[-N-]-T-O-E, I believe it was. It was Northern Ireland because I Remember I went out one night into Belfast. We went to combat school and that's where we learned the real facts about flying combat. We had aircraft recognition and we had code of conduct training and Morse Code and intelligence briefings. They kind of gave us an idea what a mission would be like. From there, we were assigned to the 67th Bomb Squadron, Heavy.

Joan Hamilton:

Which the nickname of is "The Flying Eight-Balls"?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, that was the 44th Bomb Group. That was their slogan. We had "Flying Eight-Balls" on all the aircraft. I don't know who picked that.

Joan Hamilton:

I was wondering about that.

Joe Herrmann:

It would be in the 44th History.

Joan Hamilton:

I'll have to look and see.

Joe Herrmann:

We had 4 squadrons in the group. One was the "Mickey" [radar] Squadron which means they had some radar equipment and could go in weather and bomb. There was 6ih, 68th, 69th and 506th Squadrons. The group commander was Col. John Gibson. He retired as a Brigadier General. He was a Vice President of American Airlines, when he got out. He had been a commercial pilot when he came in. Our squadron commander was Major Robert Felber. F-E-L-B-E-R. He's now deceased. He was a hard man to get along with. Anyway, I flew 32 missions in 70 days as outlined there. I had one abort when the pressure instruments on the dashboard blew out on take-off. I didn't feel that I should continue on, although I think I could've, but I was concerned about landing without instruments. When I went back to get the spare aircraft, there was none. Somebody else had gotten it. We always had a spare for [every squadron in case there was an abort and someone needed to take it.]

Joan Hamilton:

Where were you located? Where was the 44th Bomb Group located?

Joe Herrmann:

It was located at Shipdham. S-H-I-P-D-A-M near East Dereham. D-E-R-E-H-A-M. The hub of that was Norwich. That's not far from Ely and not far from Cambridge. That kind of triangle: Norwich, Cambridge, and Ely.

Joan Hamilton:

England. All England.

Joe Herrmann:

Our old airfield is a farm, now. I went back and saw it once. It still had a runway, but it was a farm, as so many of them did become.

Joan Hamilton:

I found that website with the information about the airplanes that you flew. I have a book about B-24s and it has the names associated with the airplane numbers. Phyllis was one, maybe?

Joe Herrmann:

Which one?

Joan Hamilton:

Phyllis?

Joe Herrmann:

It could've been. Yes.

Joan Hamilton:

Limpin' Ole Sadie?

Joe Herrmann:

Probably.

Joan Hamilton:

Wasp's Nest?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes.

Joan Hamilton:

Weary. Weary as in "tired".

Joe Herrmann:

Willie?

Joan Hamilton:

W-E-A-R-Y.

Joe Herrmann:

Oh Weary, I don't know. Probably. I know I flew different aircraft. I flew Fearless Fosdick.

Joan Hamilton:

And I found [a picture of] that one. Three Kissesfor Luck was another one that they have on there [list].

Joe Herrmann:

There's another one?

Joan Hamilton:

Three Kisses for Luck.

Joe Herrmann:

Pardon?

Joan Hamilton:

Three Kisses for Luck. Remember that?

Joe Herrmann:

Possibly. I didn't take pictures.

Joan Hamilton:

You had quite a few.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes and they were mostly B-24 Js and Hs. So, they were the modem aircraft.

Joan Hamilton:

Do you remember what was significantly different about a "J" or "H" model from one of the older ones?

Joe Herrmann:

The "J" that we picked up had been made at the Willow Run Ford Plant. Ford converted the Willow Run Plant and was building B-24s to the point where they turned out one a day. There's a book out about that story. It's a very interesting book. There was a conversion so it became a production line. Most of those that I remember were "Js". There's a "J" at the Pima Museum outside of Tucson, Arizona-a brand new "J" like the one you have in your picture. That was a brand new "J". [That's a conversion.]

Joan Hamilton:

That's right, the picture with the information about [inaudible].

Joe Herrmann:

That was a beautiful aircraft, except they had put metal surrounding body cover over the cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot. It was very heavy. It was supposed to be more protection, but actually if an aircraft crashed, it would've been a coffin because it was so heavy you couldn't have gotten out of it. We didn't like that, but they never took them out. I heard of some of the planes that crashed, the pilot and co-pilot were killed because that thing fell on them.

Joan Hamilton:

Oh, so was that over the pilot and co-pilot?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, it just kind of went like this behind the cockpit and down the side a little bit. It never would've stopped anything. Any other questions?

Joan Hamilton:

I was going to ask you about the crew members. You had 10, right?

Joe Herrmann:

10--[pilot] co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, a tail gunner, a flight engineer, 2 waist gunners, and a tail turret gunner, and we had a ball turret gunner but they took the ball turrets out of the aircraft. We never flew with ball turrets. The B-17s had ball turrets and they kept them in. I was told that the reason for that is that ball turrets weighed a "ton". By taking that off, we had a little more air speed and we could carry a little more bomb load.

Joan Hamilton:

You could go a farther distance, maybe?

Joe Herrmann:

Go faster, faster. The B-17 had what was called a high lift, low speed airfoil-that big wing of theirs. We had a low lift, high speed airfoil which was the Davis wing. We were faster and we could take off after the B-17s and get home before them, provided we all got home OK, because of the extra speed. But, our bomb loads were the same: 12,000 lbs. normally-6,000 lbs [correction]. That was (12) 500 lb. general purpose bombs. They were called OP bombs. We also carried incendiaries which nobody liked to carry because they were so hazardous. Ifa piece of flak hit them, they would've gone up and there would've gone the airplane. They were thermite bombs. They did an awful lot of damage to the ground. They could go through buildings with 10 or 12 floors-just go right through them. I remember going over Munich one day and I was the only ship with the thermite bombs. In the middle of the picture, you could see the flames from the thermite bombs. So, they knew we'd been over there. The Munich missions were 1000-1100 [aircraft at one time for three days in a row].

Joan Hamilton:

That I have down to talk to you about, too.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes.

Joan Hamilton:

At what altitude did you usually fly?

Joe Herrmann:

Well, it varied a little, about 20 to 24,000 feet normally. Sometimes, we'd be a little higher or, in France, we might be a little lower.

Joan Hamilton:

Did you have special equipment to deal with the cold?

Joe Herrmann:

We had heated suits.

Joan Hamilton:

No, really?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes. You just plugged them into an outlet. When they worked, they were great. We had no food or water in the airplane, nothing to eat or drink. Well, you didn't do that in combat missions.

Joan Hamilton:

Even when you had a long, long mission to go on?

Joe Herrmann:

The longest one I had was, I think, about 9 hours and 20 minutes and that was to Munich. We went there 3 days in a row. They were long missions. The third day, however, there was a recall because of weather. In our particular group, the group leader fouled up. In other words, he didn't start his tum for the recall until he hit the front. Planes were going all over the place. I lost one and three quarters inches off my tail turret guns when some airplane prop hit it.

Joan Hamilton:

One of your own.

Joe Herrmann:

It was close. I know my co-pilot had the wheel at that time. He just froze and pulled it back. I had to hit him to get it out of his grip or we would've stalled out. We broke out of there and I went through. I was the only one of this group that got through. I saw a flight of five B-24s below me. So, I went down and joined them. We had a six ship flight on that mission to Munich and that was a mission where we had the thermite bombs and that's where we saw the flame-in the middle of the runway. [We had a camera, so we could show where the bombs hit] So they could prove we were there. Otherwise, it was my word. We were the only ones carrying them that day.

Joan Hamilton:

The thermite bombs. Would that have been this one [mission] the 11th of July 1944? [Looking at the list of missions.] There's one that says "Munich", but then some of them ...

Joe Herrmann:

Our target was the airfield there at Munich.

Joan Hamilton:

Let me look at the "History of the 67 Bombardment Squadron".

Joe Herrmann:

Well, Oberpfaffenhofen [mission] might've been it. That's right near Munich, too. Erfurt [mission] is near Munich.

Joan Hamilton:

Let's see what you were doing on the [July] 11th was an airfield near Munich. "R-E-I-N" Airfield?

Joe Herrmann:

You know, the reason I'm looking at this is my log book had the missions we were briefed on, but we didn't always get to those targets. We had targets of opportunity when we couldn't hit the main ones. For example, I know we went to Ludwigshafen twice and Kiel twice and Hamburg once. That was a tough mission, Hamburg. Then, there was one called Politz. "P-O-L-I-T-Z" I didn't see that. Oh, there it is. That was a real tough mission.

Joan Hamilton:

June 20th [1944].

Joe Herrmann:

I had 167 holes in the aircraft when I landed. The crew chief counted them.

Joan Hamilton:

That was at Politz, June 20th [1944]?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes and that was a tough mission. I had a gunner wounded on that mission by flak. The reason for that was the bomb run [leader turned too early]. Bomb runs are not supposed to be long because it gives the gunners targets for a long period of time at given altitudes. But, on that one, we had a 21 minute bomb run along a river. We had not been briefed on it, but the Germans had flak guns on barges and shot us all the way. We lost a few airplanes then.

Joan Hamilton:

And that was to Politz.

Joe Herrmann:

Politz.

Joan Hamilton:

Let's start with the very first one. Your very first mission was D-Day, June 6th 1944.

Joe Herrmann:

That's right.

Joan Hamilton:

Tell me about that.

Joe Herrmann:

We were briefed to fly on the third wave of bombers to go in. There had been 2 waves of experienced people before us. We took off and flew to our traffic pattern- to the Marker Beacon Number 6, it was called. We were supposed to break out at 16-18,000 feet. We didn't break out 'til over 20,000 feet because of cloud cover. When I got up there, the squadron had gone. I headed in the direction thinking I might be able to catch them as one airplane, but I didn't. I saw a five ship element and I tacked onto them and bombed. I remember that very well because, coming home, the weather was closing in very badly and we landed at an RAF field. We followed what was called lead-in lights on the left wing. We really didn't know where we were, just heading back towards the general direction of East Anglia. I saw these lights come on which were in a circle and I knew what they were. So, I just put them on the left wing and I followed them and landed on that. The British had two systems. One was the lead-in lights and the other was a fog lifter. Something would burn around the periphery of the field and lift the fog for the aircraft coming in when there were zero-zero conditions.

Joan Hamilton:

And your weather was poor quite a bit, wasn't it?

Joe Herrmann:

Oh, yeah. I remember it was nice, too. Yes it was ... I can remember taking off many times, too. The thing I always sweated out was lining up on the runway. We always took off every 20 seconds-a train of bombers. When the fog was down on the ground, you couldn't see ahead of you very far. I always worried about possibly some bomber not getting off, and running into it, which had happened a couple times at other bases. Of course, that caused a lot of consternation and a lot of loss of life because all the bombers were destroyed and the crews. I worried about that. However, we were lucky and that didn't happen to us. I made all the other missions OK, except for that Munich one. I was the only one in our group that got through that front and I tacked onto a [five ship element to make a six ship element].

Joan Hamilton:

The D-Day one [mission] it said the area was "C-A-E-N". Was that where you were? Caen?

Joe Herrmann:

Caen. There were two places there, Caen and St. Lo. They are right next to each other, 2 little communities. St. Lo is where the paratroopers had a problem getting through to-that was one of their targets. They were dropped and the wind blew them south quite a ways. So, they never did get into the right target. The same thing with the gliders, because of the winds, they landed a little bit south. But they finally fought their way through. That was a terrible thing for them and the paratroopers had clickers. They sent along [clicker toys so they could identify themselves.] [Break] It was really not a dangerous mission for us because all we did was drop our bombs and go home.

Joan Hamilton:

What was the purpose?

Joe Herrmann:

To help the ground troops and try to get those shore defenses out. Those big guns. Of course, they had such thick concrete around them, I don't think a bomb load would've penetrated them.

Joan Hamilton:

Did you realize how important D-Day was at the time?

Joe Herrmann:

Oh, yes we did. Yes, we did. We didn't know about D-Day until we were scheduled to fly. That was the first we heard that the Allies had landed. They had terrible fighting there.

Joan Hamilton:

I read something about painting white stripes on the tail of the plane so that, say the P-38s that were flying around in the skies on D-Day wouldn't try to shoot down a B-24? Did you put anything special?

Joe Herrmann:

No, I never heard anything about that. No. We had nothing special done to our mission. We had the same 12 bombs aboard, the 500 lb. GPs.

Joan Hamilton:

I have a list of the other missions, here. One that was interesting to me was June 8th, 1944, A-N-G-E-R-S, France.

Joe Herrmann:

That was somewhere along the coast, not far from the coast.

Joan Hamilton:

It said "Marshalling Yards"?

Joe Herrmann:

Marshalling Yards. That's where the trains come in.

Joan Hamilton:

OK. Locomotives.

Joe Herrmann:

That's a central point. Like we have the hub of Chicago or New York or something. That was a hub of trains coming and going. By destroying those, you could tie up all of their surface transportation.

Joan Hamilton:

So, you were bombing the locomotives, the trains?

Joe Herrmann:

Whatever. Everything. The whole thing. The Marshalling Yards were where they did all the maintenance and everything of engines and cars. Like we have round houses. You've heard that term?

Joan Hamilton:

OK. I've heard that term. I've never heard "Marshalling Yards".

Joe Herrmann:

"He can't bother you now. Run into the round house area. He can't corner you there." That's what an engineer told us. [If a girl was being chased there was a saying, "Run into the round house, honey. He can't corner you there."]

Joan Hamilton:

Something else I noticed June 18th, 1944. There was a mission.

Joe Herrmann:

Bremerhaven/Wesemunde. That actually was the other Ludwigshafen mission, Bremerhaven. Those were sub [submarine] pens.

Joan Hamilton:

That one would've been, too. The 18th?

Joe Herrmann:

Where did I see Ludwigshafen?

Joan Hamilton:

The one that says, "submarine pens"?

Joe Herrmann:

I think that was the first one on the 18th of June to Ludwigshafen. Those were submarine pens.

Joan Hamilton:

OK. I'll put that down here, too. [Looking at the list of missions.]

Joe Herrmann:

This is your copy here. I assume you'll let me keep this.

Joan Hamilton:

Absolutely. That's yours. I thought you'd like a copy of that.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, I would.

Joan Hamilton:

[Inaudible]

Joe Herrmann:

You know, it was interesting flying over Ludwigshafen. We saw all different color of flak: red, blue, white, black. We wondered what that was for. Then, we landed and were debriefed. They told us they were calling different fighters in with the color of flak so they knew where to come.

Joan Hamilton:

Really. I never would've thought of that. That's interesting. So, the submarine pens you were trying to bomb, they were [inaudible] also?

Joe Herrmann:

Trying to destroy them, but they were well concealed. I think we did a lot of damage. Anything to get those U-Boats out to destroy them if we could. They were terrible in the North Sea, in the North Atlantic. They did a lot of damage.

Joan Hamilton:

That's right. There's something I read in the information--the history- was on that mission, "Limpin'Ole Sadie, has considerable battle damage" [June 18, 1944], but it looks like you flew Limpin' Ole Sadie on June 21 [1944].

Joe Herrmann:

That was Politz [correction: Berlin].

Joan Hamilton:

Right. So, a couple of days later, you flew it. So, even though it had a fair amount of battle damage, they must've done some repair. They were wonderful. They closed up all [the holes]. The sheet metal care of all the holes. Really, quickly? They wanted to turn those aircraft around. We had a great ground crew chief. He could turn that airplane around no matter what.

Joan Hamilton:

There wasn't much time, was it? A couple of days and back up again.

Joe Herrmann:

Do you remember when the B-24 and B-1?, the first ones came here to the Troutdale Airport?

Joan Hamilton:

No.

Joe Herrmann:

Well, that was some time ago. I met that ground crew chief. I met him and his wife. He remembered me. He had just sold a dairy and made a lot of money on it. He'd gotten out and run a dairy farm.

Joan Hamilton:

You flew in tight formation.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, we had tight formation, the tighter, the better for the mass concentration of the bomb load when it hit the target. Plus the fact they figured-General Arnold figured-you had better defense because every aircraft had 10 guns. If you had 12 aircraft, there's 120 guns playing on the [enemy] fighters.

Joan Hamilton:

Did you have, you said maybe the P-51 s [fighters as bomber escort]?

Joe Herrmann:

P-51s, P-47s, and P-38s. At the Munich mission, I remember they'd just circle. We had no opposition what-so-ever at the first Munich mission [July 11, 1944?]. It was a beautiful day. It was either 1,000 or 1100 bomber train, I forget which. That was my Berlin mission, too. [June 21, 1944]. I didn't see the Berlin mission on here. . [Looking at the list of missions.]

Joan Hamilton:

June 21 says "Berlin". Politz, it said was deep penetration into Germany, then it said "Berlin".

Joe Herrmann:

In the Berlin one [mission], I lost all 4 engines. They quit on a bomb run, just had dead silence in the aircraft. I remember hearing my tail gunner saying, "What the 'blank-blank' is going on here? What happened?" That was along with that airplane. So, we lost about 14,000 feet before they started to come back in. They called it a "simultaneous fuel lock" through the cross feed system of the fuel system.

Joan Hamilton:

It just went out and came back?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes. In the meantime as we were going down certainly, I was trying to start those engines. So was my engineer. They just starting coming back of their own accord. I think what it was, the lower altitude. Whatever the vapor lock was, it broke the vapor lock because of the denser air. Anyway, we came home all by ourselves that day, on the deck. I was so low on the deck that day, I didn't realize it. When I got to the hard stand on our base and opened the bomb bays, 2 parts of a com stalk fell out of the bomb bay. That's how I remember. That's how I remember that ground crew chief saying, "Lieutenant, can I have these? People won't believe me. I'd like to show them. [Com stalk parts] At Troutdale [Oregon Airport], he said, "I still have them." We were really concerned about that mission because we didn't know what the Hell happened and I turned north right away to see if I could get closer to Sweden if I went down because I didn't want to have to bailout over Berlin because I knew that if I did, the air crews who did were killed on the ground by the populace. They were so mad at the bombing. That happened in Hamburg, too, we were told. I can understand them being mad. Sure.

Joan Hamilton:

Berlin. Was that one ofthe times you had the "1000 airplane" raids?

Joe Herrmann:

It was a big airplane raid. I think it was. I remember the group ahead of us-the lead ship-was going. They had all 4 engines burning and released his bombs and the aircraft blew up. I'll never forget that. No chutes were observed. So, they were all killed. Whoever flew that got the Medal of Honor, we heard later, because he kept going. Led his squadron-his group--over the target. All 4 engines were just burning like wood.

Joan Hamilton:

And he stayed in the formation?

Joe Herrmann:

He led his formation. He didn't drop it. Then, he dropped his bombs and boom. That's all she wrote. That was the idea, you know. Our formation, you kept going.

Joe Herrmann:

The worst part about flying basically was the flak because you could see these dark clouds as you were coming up on a target. You knew what it was because there were little red spots in them where the shells were going off. There was nothing you could do. You had to stay in formation.

Joan Hamilton:

And hope you weren't hit.

Joe Herrmann:

With the fighters you had, you had an opportunity to fight them back.

Joan Hamilton:

When you flew over ...

Joe Herrmann:

We saw a Focke Wulf Condor [Fw-200], a 4-engine aircraft off to the right. We'd been briefed that this could happen. That was a 4-engine aircraft. It had a lot of guns on it. Anyway, I dove into a cloud. I told my navigator, "You keep track of all my turns. So, when you come out, we'll take up a heading again." We got away from them. He was up here about 2 o'clock high. [Note: Focke Wulfis spelled correctly.]

Joan Hamilton:

Let's see. There was a FW Focke Wulf 190 that was shot down by like a P-38 pilot. It was [inaudible] for you? Where was that?

Joe Herrmann:

That was on the Munich mission [July 11, 1944]. We were one aircraft trying to fly to this five ship formation. My tail gunner said, "There are two Fw-190s lining up on a firing pass." Shortly there after, he said, "Oh my God." He said, "A P-38 shot them both down."

Joan Hamilton:

So, the P-38s and P-51s and all that, they were the "little buddies"?

Joe Herrmann:

Well, the P-38 was ... The most effect aircraft, I think over there for that was a P-51 Mustang. It was a great aircraft. It looked very much like the Me-109. They were very similar aircraft. We had to be careful. The only thing that distinguished them basically was the P-51 had a little air scoop under the front and they had liquid-cooled in-line engines. The Me-l09s had regular gasoline engines.

Joan Hamilton:

At Munich. Let's see, that was July 11, 1944. In Munich, it was another 1000 airplane raid, also?

Joe Herrmann:

Well, except it didn't get through, but one mission. I don't know. I think we were the only six aircraft over the target. Actually, we were so mad when we landed. So mad at the main aircraft because he loused up. He'd received the abort order, but he waited until he hit that front and made his turn with the whole group following him. Of course, a lot of them didn't expect it. They became disoriented.

Joan Hamilton:

That was where all the confusion came in?

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah, when he made the turn. I just kept on going. I didn't have much choice. I just kept going because I wanted to break out of that weather and see what was happening.

Joan Hamilton:

The weather was bad, too. So, what did you end up doing?

Joe Herrmann:

I ended up joining a five ship squadron. We were the 6th aircraft and we were carrying incendiaries that day. So, we knew that we hit the target because we were the only ones in the Eighth Air Force carrying them. That verified the fact. I told them I completed the mission.

Joan Hamilton:

You were on the mission.

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah.

Joan Hamilton:

In August [August 3-7, 1944], I saw that you flew 5 days in a row.

Joe Herrmann:

Oh, yeah.

Joan Hamilton:

So, you didn't get any time off? In August, it seemed like 5 days.

Joe Herrmann:

No. Well, let's see .... we finished in 68 [Correction: 70] days--I think it was--{)ur complete tour.

Joan Hamilton:

That was 31 [Correction: 32] missions that you completed.

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah. The 2nd Bomb Division told us we were the fastest crew finishing a tour in the 2nd Bomb Division, B-24s.

Joan Hamilton:

So, at the end of the 68 days [Correction; 70 days], that was the end of your tour because of the number of missions?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, because they'd just declared 30 missions was the end of the tour. I was hoping to get 35 because I had 4 crew members who hadn't finished because, for some reason or other, they missed some missions. For example, the co-pilot had a problem on the Hamburg mission. That night, he got drunk and the next day, he couldn't respond. We found out that he'd just found out that his brother had been in the same squadron and the same group that was shot down on the previous Hamburg mission. He was still declared MIA. That day, he found out he was a prisoner of war. He just got tight. He crawled all the the way from the Officer's Club to the barracks on his hands and knees and that Class A uniform was riddled with holes in his elbows and knees. He had come into the barracks. We didn't hear him. He had pulled a drawer out of his dresser and propped his arm up and that's the way he went to sleep. Then, on another mission, the bombardier was the nose turret gunner. He had the plexiglass shot out by a German fighter. So, he got frostbite all around his-where the oxygen mask didn't cover. He was out a couple of days. The navigator-I forget what it was-he lost a couple of days!

Joan Hamilton:

So, you pretty much would have the same crew?

Joe Herrmann:

Except when I didn't have them. They put replacements from the pool. I had a much better co-pilot from the pool than the one I had.

Joan Hamilton:

They would have a couple of duties sometimes, like a bombardier and nose gunner, in the one case, right?

Joe Herrmann:

When the bombardier wasn't doing the plotting and running the bomb sight, he was always the nose gunner.

Joan Hamilton:

There was an engineer. What did the engineer do?

Joe Herrmann:

He was top turret gunner. Then, the tail turret gunner and the two waist gunners. It was a waist gunner that got shot through the leg with flak. [It was Bob Trey.] Lyle Latimer, he has his doctorate in Education. [Died in 2007]

Joan Hamilton:

He was which one?

Joe Herrmann:

He was the tail gunner and he kept track of everybody else [after the war]? He visited everybody. He visited us twice with the radio operator, Pappy. He's still alive. He was the oldest man on the crew. So, we called him Pappy. I put him in charge of all of the enlisted men. I said, "You just be sure they're taken care of Pappy. " I made my bombardier the armament officer. The navigator had his job. The co-pilot had been a mechanic in the Air Force and had come up through the Aviation Cadet Program when he was 28. That's the oldest you could be. He became a pilot, but he was a lousy pilot. We went to the 50th Anniversary of the B-24s at Fort Worth. I forget the year. I've got it somewhere. He apologized to everybody for his conduct. He said, "I was so scared all the time." He said, "I didn't know what I was doing." I flew 99% of the missions myself. I didn't get any help from him.

Joan Hamilton:

So, your co-pilot was there to take over to some extent usually, to fly for you, and he didn't?

Joe Herrmann:

Oh yeah. He should've. The one time he did, we almost stalled out. That's all right. I loved flying that airplane.

Joan Hamilton:

You really enjoyed flying.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes. I was considered the best formation pilot in the group. [Conversation with his wife, Doris]

Joe Herrmann:

Are you going somewhere, Honey?

Doris Herrmann:

I'm going downtown.

Joe Herrmann:

Oh, that's right. Good luck.

Doris Herrmann:

Joan, it was so nice meeting you.

Joan Hamilton:

It was so nice meeting you.

Doris Herrmann:

Thank you for coming.

Joan Hamilton:

Sure. This is very interesting.

Joe Herrmann:

See you, Honey. Drive carefully.

Joe Herrmann:

Patrick "Way" Harry Alstedt. He was a protege. He came from Syracuse, New York or Rochester, New York. He was Bill Tillman's protege. He wanted to get in the war. So, he came in when he was 18. I got him when he was 19. The co-pilot was 28. I was 23. My engineer was about 25. Pappy was, of course, 30 something-the tail gunner. The 2 waist gunners were 19 and 20 respectively. One of them had been a forester. That was Sergeant GrevinggG-R-E-V-I-N-G. The only man that Pappy couldn't get in touch with was our bombardier. He never found him. He came from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania-Squirrel Hill.

Joan Hamilton:

What was his name?

Joe Herrmann:

Robert E. "Bob" Dillon.

Joan Hamilton:

Bob Dylan [correction: Bob Dillon]? Like the singer?

Joan Hamilton:

I think a lot of the guys wanted to be pilots, didn't they?

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah, most of them. A lot of navigators and bombardiers started and washed out of pilot training.

Joan Hamilton:

But the important thing is to find out what you are good at, too.

Joe Herrmann:

Oh, yes. You know, when you first get up in the airplane to learn to fly, in the military there's a lot of pressure. You have to accept that and live with it. You've got to be sure you do things right or they'll wash you out.

Joan Hamilton:

Your last mission was August 15th.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes.

Joan Hamilton:

Then, you were reassigned? What happened after that? That would've been 1944. So, what did you do after that?

Joe Herrmann:

After that, I was assigned to the replacement depot to go home. The people there asked for three volunteers to set up a processing line to process the-they started calling us "happy warriors". They knew there was going to be a great influx and they had no means of processing. So, three of us volunteered to stay behind for 6 months. We set up a processing line [near Stoke on Trent] to expedite their air crews getting back in airplanes and going home. You helped to set up that process? Yes, I did. I was the senior one of the three officers. That processing line-when I was in Germany [Correction: we set up in England]--the nucleus of it was still going in Germany in 1955 which is what we set up. In addition to that, I was a junior member of a general court martial board. I traveled all over England and Scotland for court martial cases. Most of the court martial cases were statutory rape or desertion. It's funny, about statutory rape. Many times, we'd question the parents of the girls and the parents had told the girls to lie about their age and if they got pregnant don't worry about it that the Red Cross would pay for the child's upbringing to age 18. So, that was more money. The Red Cross would do it. So, they'd tell their daughters to go ahead and get pregnant. It came out in sworn testimony, but we couldn't do anything about it. It was statutory rape. So, a lot of them were sentenced to prison, but I don't think they stayed there long. It was an eye opener.

Joan Hamilton:

I bet. Did you do that then until the end of the war?

Joe Herrmann:

No, I just did it during that six month period. Then, I got back to the States and I went to Santa Ana [California] to the hospital for an operation. I was supposed to go to B-29s, but by that time, the war in the Pacific had run down. Instead, I went to Camp Beale in California.

Joan Hamilton:

B-I-E-L?

Joe Herrmann:

B-E-A-L-E. I was Executive Officer ofthe Air Force Separation Liaison Center. That's where I met Dory. She was one of the Assistant Field Directors of the Red Cross. We met in October and got married the following March. From there I went to Fort Worth, Texas to 7th Bomb Wing SAC. I was a Captain and the Personnel Officer of the Officer Branch, th Bomb Wing. It was the 8th Air Force there, too.

Joan Hamilton:

When was that?

Joe Herrmann:

That was 1946. I stayed there about 2 years. Then, I had 7 days to report to London, England--name request by General Leon W. Johnson who had been our group commanderof Headquarters 3rd Air Division in combat. (He asked for me by name.] I headed the enlisted branch for the whole theater and personnel. That was the time when the Air Force was rebuilding airfields over there to accommodate the B-29 SAC aircraft. They were the ones that kind of kept the Russians in check because they were nuclear armed aircraft. We had to condition a lot of WWII airfields to handle them which we did. [Tape Counter at 731]

Joe Herrmann:

What else did we do? I spent 3 years there and we had a daughter, Mary, born there who had dual citizenship forever after. She became a graphic designer and she went over to England and worked there for 10 years and did a great job. They wanted her to stay-the company that she was working with [but she came home and lived in Lenox, Massachusetts for about 8 years and recently moved to Seattle.]

Joan Hamilton:

Still a graphic designer?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, she's still in graphic design. She just did a brochure for the Norman Rockwell Museum. She's their graphic designer, amongst other things. [ Amongst other things, she does freelance work now in Seattle.]

Joe Herrmann:

Our oldest son, Jeff, was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Then, our next child, Kate, was born in California at Hamilton Air Force Base. The fourth child was born in Orlando, Florida at Orlando Air Force Base. She's the one who lives in France. She's a food person. She has written about 6 or 7 cookbooks and other books.

Joan Hamilton:

What's her name?

Joe Herrmann:

Susan Herrmann Loomis. Also, she is holding cooking classes for Americans who come to her house. She and her husbandshe had purchased a middle 15th Century house that had been run by the Sisters across the street from the cathedral and they had abandoned it. So, they bought it and he fixed it up. She's been cooking ever since, there and running these classes and writing books. They're pretty good cookbooks. Our last child, John, was born in California-Burbank, St. Joseph's Hospital. We had 2 sons and 3 girls. I couldn't make it from California up to Oregon to have one born here or I would have. Where do I go from here, now?

Joan Hamilton:

Let's see. During the Korean War, you were stationed in Germany?

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah. I flew. I was a Squadron Operations and Training Officer.

Joan Hamilton:

That's where you were into Reconnaissance, right?

Joe Herrmann:

That's right. It was ELINT. Electronic Intelligence.

Joan Hamilton:

E-L-A-N-T?

Joe Herrmann:

E-L-I-N-T. We flew the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea and along the periphery of Germany. I had a 17 man crew.

Joan Hamilton:

That was on a .. ?

Joe Herrmann:

RB-50.

Joan Hamilton:

RB-50 which is technically a B-29 modified?

Joe Herrmann:

Bigger. I don't know if they saw any combat, but they had been used for a while for Hurricane Hunters. They were also used for navigator training for long flights over water. It'd been modified before we got it. I got 850 hours of flying time in 15 months.

Joan Hamilton:

You were always flying.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, I was the Operations Officer.

Joan Hamilton:

Was that the Air Rescue?

Joe Herrmann:

No. We were part of the Theater Reconnaissance Force. It was 7406 Support Squadron at Rhein-Main, Germany. It was part of 7499th Support Group. That will be interesting for you to look up someday. I just wonder what they say about it. We had several aircraft doing different missions in the group. We also supported-the Squadron at Wiesbaden Air Base supported the [Berlin] Air Lift. They flew the Air Lift everyday. They were a reconnaissance aircraft basically with cameras. Ours had linguists aboard who monitored all the channels of the Russians and copied everything. The linguists were conversant in the Iron Curtain languages. Then, they translated what they heard and took it back down to the security service and it was relayed right back to Headquarters Air Force.

Joan Hamilton:

So, you were focusing on the Russians during that period.

Joe Herrmann:

It was a very critical mission. We had the second highest operational mission priority in United States Air Forces in Europe. We had 2-1 priority. The only one higher was the interceptors. We had twin .50 caliber guns in the tail. That was the only armament we had, which was nothing because you know you can't shoot back at anything you don't see.

Joan Hamilton:

It was not helpful.

Joe Herrmann:

No. That was a tough mission. Then, in March of [19]58, I was stricken with Guillian-Barre Syndrome. I don't know if you know what that is. I went to the hospital for 10 weeks. After that, I was moved up to group headquarters as a group Assistant Operations Officer because I couldn't take the squadron. I was grounded.

Joan Hamilton:

What year was that?

Joe Herrmann:

1958.

Joan Hamilton:

So, when did you get to Air [Rescue]? Did you do Air Rescue at one point?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes I did. When I came back from Germany, I was assigned to the Air Rescue Service.

Joan Hamilton:

When was that?

Joe Herrmann:

1959, I believe. Let's see, when was Katie born? No, that was 1951. Sorry. That's right. I went to Air Rescue before I went to Germany and I was at Flight A, 4th Air Rescue Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base as a Personnel Officer. I was still a Captain, then. I flew a couple of rescue missions in an SB-17, life boat aircraft. They had life boats slung below them to drop in the water in case they needed them. We also had some B-29s with lifeboats. Then, I was transferred to the Headquarters Air Rescue Service in Washington, D.C. in 1951. I was in charge of the Officer's Personnel Branch of the Rescue Headquarters until I transferred to another job. I went into Operations and Training from thereein Headquarters. From there, I was assigned to Germany to the RB-50 Squadron because I'd had 72 hours of B-29 time. I figured I could fly the RB-50s, which I did.

Joe Herrmann:

When I was at Carswell [Air Force Base in Fort Worth, TX.], it was a very tough time in the Air Force for budgetary reasons. Louis Stanfield Johnson was the Secretary of Defense [194991950]. He ordered that all administrative pilots could only get 3 hours and 10 landings a month to satisfy the requirements. However, we still had a minimum of 100 a year. So, we had to find some way to fly. General LeMay made the B-29s available for several pilots at a time in administrative because they didn't want to lose the pilot category. That's how I got those 72 hours mostly as a fourth or fifth pilot.

Joan Hamilton:

When was that, at Carswell?

Joe Herrmann:

1948.

Joan Hamilton:

Let's see, you had a one year assignment in Vietnam.

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, I went to Vietnam. I had 2 assignments to England before that. I was with the 3rd Air Division the first time. When was that? The first one was '48 to '51. I went to Air Rescue Service [in Hamilton, California] when I rotated from there. I was the Chief of the Airman Personnel Section for the Theater for England when we were reconstituting those airfields. I met Charles Lindbergh there.

Joan Hamilton:

Did you?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, during that tour. That's when we went to Oberhoven and took the base chapel down and brought it over to 3rd Air in London. [We reinstalled it in headquarters at 3rd Air as our chapel.]

Joan Hamilton:

That was around the early 1950s?

Joe Herrmann:

Then I went to Air Rescue at Hamilton Field in California and then to Washington, DC Air Rescue Headquarters [where I made Major]. Then to Orlando, Florida. From there, I went to Germany with RB-50s. When the RB-50s came back in to the United States, I was assigned to the Reserve Component Forces, an active duty person working with the Category B Reservists and training them and so on. I spent 5 years there in Southern California at Van Nuys and at Long Beach, California. I went from the Organization to the Group Headquarters as Director of Operations and Training.

Joan Hamilton:

Was this in 1960?

Joe Herrmann:

It would be 1959. That's when our youngest son was born in California, 1959. After 5 and a half years there, I was assigned again to England.

Joan Hamilton:

Boy, were you busy, one place to another.

Joe Herrmann:

I had the family in England twice. [The first time was in London (1948-1951). The second time was at RAF Mildenhall.) The Americans had that base. It was the "Gateway to the United Kingdom". All military aircraft coming in from America stopped at Mildenhall. Mildenhall will always be there because it was dedicated by the King. So, that base will not be closed. It's still going today with Americans. While there, I was the Base Commander and Deputy Base Commander. I was a Lieutenant Colonel by then.

From Mildenhall, I went to Vietnam from '68 to '69. July ih to July 7th. I was the Deputy Base Commander, there. That was the 35th Tactical Wing, 35th Combat Support Group. We had four Squadrons ofF-100s and two Squadrons ofRB-57s which is a Canberra bomber. One was an Australian. They flew at night and we flew during the day. The primary target was the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We also had C-123 Troop Carrier Wing on the base which was primarily defoliant aircraft for Agent Orange. We also had a Red Horse Engineering Battalion which was Army and Air Force. They were the ones that built airfields, buildings, and roads and everything in Vietnam reconstructed. I think we had, at one time, we had 28,000 people on that base. We had 18 active dining halls. We had 1500 Koreans going out every night on ambush. That was the White Horse Koreans. The commander of that later became [head of the Korean Air Force Academy]. He was a brother or something of the leader of South Korea at the time. I think his name was Col. Park. He carne back and was assigned to their equivalent of West Point. He was a striking man about 6' tall. All of those Koreans, most all of them were 6'. They weren't little like the ones you see, now. They were crack troops. We were rocketed or mortared 34 times the year I was there. I was the on-scene Commander for all of those attacks which meant I screened the runway and directed certain activities only because nobody else would do it and I knew how because I had trained the reservists in this activity.

Then, from Vietnam, I carne back to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. I was the Wing Director of Personnel Management until I retired. I retired in '71. I also conducted set up and all of the disaster control exercises for the Wing which was funny to have a Personnel Officer doing that, but again I knew the business.

Joan Hamilton:

At Fairchild?

Joe Herrmann:

Yes, Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane. It's still there, one of the few that still is. It's still a SAC outfit. They have refueling aircraft and they had B-52s. I think it's basically now a tour refueling outfit and they also had the Air Force Survival School there.

Joan Hamilton:

Being in WWII and then being in Vietnam, what were big differences between the wars?

Joe Herrmann:

[WWII was considered a "just" war. Vietnam was not. That was my view. That was all of our view who served there. The conduct of the Vietnam War was much different.] Our F-100s went out almost daily and bombed the Viet Cong and our B-57s went out daily and bombed the Viet Congo I don't know what the C-123 flying status was. There were 10 of them on our base. We just serviced them, but they flew a lot, too.

Joan Hamilton:

So, there was even more activity than in WWII?

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah. We also had the Forward Air Controller School on that base which meant we had Forward Air Controller aircraft there. Pilots were trained there for the combat. We had a Rescue outfit there. What else did we have? A lot of cat and dog things-little military officers. We had Puff the Magic Dragon there.

Joan Hamilton:

What was that?

Joe Herrmann:

C-47 with Gatling guns that fired out the side door-30 caliber. Gatling gun was the old Civil War gun.

Joan Hamilton:

Is that so? Old technology, but it was still in use.

Joe Herrmann:

It was also the one they used against the Indians later on. They were still using them in Vietnam?

Joan Hamilton:

They had C-119 Gunships, too. We had some special test aircraft. I don't remember many ofthem. We had the Air Force Super Cop outfit there on our base. They were the ones that responded throughout Vietnam to high alert areas and went there. We had one attack on the base which they infiltrated, but they didn't get very far. One infiltration, across the river. We actually had 2 big hills on the base which you could call little mountains. The base had originally been the training base for the 102nd Airborne at the early part of Vietnam. We had two beautiful 1200' runways. Beautiful. It was a great-I often wonder what happened to it.

Joan Hamilton:

Do you have the name of that base?

Joe Herrmann:

It was Phan Rang. P-H-A-N- R-A-N-G Air Base. It was in II Corps. Roman Numeral II. It was 38 kilometers south of Cam Ranh Bay. You might've heard of that. Cam Ranh Bay, prior to the war, had been a coaling station for the Navy which meant they refueled there and got what they needed. They called it a coaling station. C-O-A-L-I-N-G. It was our big hospital over there in Vietnam. It was very interesting-the Vietnam War-what happened there. Again, many of us didn't think we should've been there.

Joan Hamilton:

That was probably difficult, coming home from that war.

Joe Herrmann:

[Yes, it was very difficult. When I debarked from the airplane in Seattle, I was spit on by protestors. It made me very angry.] We started going there under General Eisenhower-President Eisenhower. We had advisors to the South Vietnam forces.

Joan Hamilton:

So, you retired from that [military service] in 1971. Then, what was your career?

Joe Herrmann:

I was with John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company for 29 years as an agent and as a unit sales manager. When I retired from there, I retired.

Joan Hamilton:

That was that. When was that? Do you remember about you retired?

Joe Herrmann:

I was 80 years of age.

Joan Hamilton:

No? Really?

Joe Herrmann:

Yeah. The general agent said, "That's enough." So, I finally retired at age 80. I hated to. I wanted to keep working.

Joan Hamilton:

That wasn't that long ago. You liked the people?

Joe Herrmann:

I loved it. I thought that life insurance was one of the most important things a family can have. It does so many things for people. A lot of them don't realize it. It provides for the families after death, of security and income so that the wife and remaining people don't have to lower their living standards. It's very important. I learned that in the service. When a serviceman died, a lot of the wives didn't have much except his active duty pay. If they remarried, they lost that. I was always an advocate of life insurance. I took out a life insurance [policy] when I was 18. My mother and dad made me when I was 18--$5000 policy with Prudential. I remember that. My mother and dad knew the agent and she said, "I want Joey to have some insurance. So, if he dies, it won't cost us anything to bury him."

Joan Hamilton:

I heard during the Depression, my parents said that some parents would take out life insurance on the kids, too. It just wasn't that unusual.

Joe Herrmann:

No. I took a little policy out on each of the kids. I should've taken more. When they all turned 21, they cashed them in everyone of them.

Joan Hamilton:

Didn't last, did it?

Joe Herrmann:

They were only $1000 policies, but they all got about $1250 or so. They were all with a mutual company which built dividends up. They were all with New England Life. I bought life insurance which I still have. It will help.

Joan Hamilton:

I know. We have it, too. My husband just had eye surgery. We happened to have purchased the disability insurance. Thank goodness. It's something, though, you don't think of until that kind of thing happens.

Joe Herrmann:

You're right. You're right. Disability insurance is very important. I sold a lot of that. I sold a lot of retirement plans of basically life insurance of various types-whatever fit the need. I never sold a million dollar policy, though. I came close, but never once did. I was just talking to a friend that I worked with. He and the office manager just took me to lunch this week. He had just closed a two million dollar case.

Joan Hamilton:

That's huge.

Joe Herrmann:

It was about $20,000 of premium. What it does, it is worth every penny of it, for people who can afford it.Joan Hamilton:: Right.

Joe Herrmann:

So, that is basically the story of my life.

Joan Hamilton:

It is!

Joe Herrmann:

I actually started working when I was 14. I delivered papers, sold magazines on the corner, and delivered groceries. I had five Collier and five Liberty Magazines I tried to sell every week. For each one I sold, I got a penny and a quarter. My mother had a rule. No matter what I made, she got 50 percent, and she did, for my room and board. Until I went in the service, she got that. I had a year at Campbell's Soup which I really liked-the factory. I was the youngest foreman in the factory, under 21. I was 18. I ran what they called the "can alley" which is to get all your cans from Continental Can on overhead-different sized cans for soup or whatever product you were doing. We had twelve tables of people inspecting-two people on either side-inspecting the cans. Anything that had a defect was thrown out. Then, we reconciled that night with the people from the Continental Can Company and got credit. It was marvelous the way that it worked. It really was. I know when I left to go in the service, we as employees could buy damaged cans full of soup for a nickel or .10 cents, depending which one it was. I left my mother and father with a lot of soup. I don't think they ever ate it, but they sure had a lot. [Then, worked as a shipping clerk, Keener [sp] Publishing Company and from there went into the service.

Joan Hamilton:

I want to thank you for spending all of this time talking to me about your military experience and your life.

Joe Herrmann:

I enjoyed military life. I didn't want to get out, but I had to. I would've liked to have stayed until I was 65. When we received our regular Air Force commissions, we were told then that we would stay in until we were 64 at least and retire as full Colonels. That didn't happen because circumstances dictated many changes in the officer corps. General LeMay particularly fouled up the system. He had what they called "spot promotion" for aircraft people which meant aircraft commanders on SAC aircraft could have one grade higher than the one they had and then the next promotion SAC would be confirmed. That threw out the whole system because the other people eligible didn't have a chance for a long time. But, it served a purpose. It kept the people in the service. We wrote studies on it. I wrote a study for the 7th Bomb Wing saying we believed that, instead of doing that, the airmen should be called technicians and be awarded specific salaries with specific pay raises because that's what they were LeMay didn't like that. So, we didn't get it. It would've solved a lot of problems. [The airmen would've been happy. They would've been like civilian aircraft crews.] What else can I tell you?

Joan Hamilton:

This is great. I'll tell you, you're going to have to spell a lot of stuff for me when I get this back to you.

Joe Herrmann:

I will, my dear, I will.

Joan Hamilton:

I know you will. [Break] A little more here.

Joe Herrmann:

In 1944, we stayed at the Regent Palace Hotel in London and I shared a room with my co-pilot. The Regent Palace Hotel was hit by a buzz bomb that night and the outer wall of our room was destroyed. My co-pilot was rolling. He would've rolled out if I hadn't caught him. That was interesting.

Joan Hamilton:

I meant to ask you about the buzz bomb. Exactly what was the buzz bomb?

Joe Herrmann:

The V-2 rockets that were indiscriminant. V-I and V-2 rockets. They were called buzz bombs because they buzzed and when the buzz stopped, you knew they were going to come down. That means the engine quit at that moment and they'd just head down. Some of the British fighters were able to shoot some of those down, but not many. If they could get close enough, they could tip the wing and destroy the gyro and they'd go down over the North Sea, maybe. We had a--with all due respect to the British and their wonderful activities in support in the Battle of Britain--we had an American Eagle Squadron there that flew Spitfires, too. They were good, too. They were volunteers that came from Canada that wanted to get in early and flew over there and were later absorbed in our Air Force. The British are terrific flyers. We are Anglophiles. All of us. All the kids would love to--well, our granddaughter from Seattle is over there now in London. She works for a fancy dress shop in Chelsea. She was telling us a British lady of high means came in and bought clothing to the equivalent of 15000 pounds--paid cash for it. There are people like that in England.

Joan Hamilton:

There are. We just went to London.

Joe Herrmann:

When we were in Mildenhall, we were co-located with the British for a while and that was a wonderful experience for us because we lived with the British on the base. When they moved, we got their quarters. They had some wonderful WWII people with real good careers. Our closest friend was an RAF group captain which is equivalent of a full colonel. He had completed a patrol tour off the coast of England and Ireland and the sea looking for submarines. Then, they assigned him to, I think it was, Wellington's from [inaudible] and he was shot down on his first mission over Germany. He spent 1939-1945 in prison camps. He figured in every major escape: The Great Escape movie was his story. He was the next to go in each one and was discovered. He was about 5'4", a very handsome duck. Do you know what he missed the most about prison camp? All the "birds" he missed. "Birds" were ladies. He married the first woman he saw on the street when he got home. [His name was Group Captain Hugh Lunch-Blosse.]

 
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