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Interview with Roland Neel [1975]

Joe Neel:

The following is an interview given to a Macon Telegraph reporter in 1975 by Roland H. Neel, Sr., in his office of the then 89 year old Joseph and Neel Company, Macon, Georgia. Neel had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America's number two medal. Number one being the Medal of Honor. This DSC was signed by General John Blackjack Pershing (Phonetic) and the French general, whose name I cannot read on this citation; and the Croix De Guerre for Neel for his aerial exploits in World War I. The Croix De Guerre being France's highest honor. The other two people heard in this interview besides Roland Neel are the female reporter and myself, Joe Neel III, Roland Neel's son. Just as incidental, Neel had two grandfathers who had been captains in the confederacy. Now here is his World War I interview.

Roland Neel:

But anyhow, Major Christy, our commanding officer would tell him every night, say Strike, you're through, we're going to send you home. The next day Strike would do such a good job, why he'd have to keep him. Anyhow, Strike was a friend of ours. He liked everybody and everybody liked Strike. So one night right after we had had this mission and gotten controls shot pretty badly, he said, why don't you boys, why don't we put in for a DSC? And we said, what are you talking about? He said, it might go through, let's put in. Well, Hank and I didn't deter him, so he wrote it up and we signed it. And that's the way this thing got to the attention of general headquarters. And Hank asked me, he said, Big Boy, why do you want a DSC? I said, Hank, I don't know, why do you want it? He said, just for my mother, in talking to the other mothers, she'll have something to brag about. Now, Nancy, does that give you enough -- I think we packed you full, you've almost fought World War I yourself.

Unidentified reporter:

No, I don't know about that. I still want to know in your own words exactly what happened on this mission.

Roland Neel:

I've been trying to stay off that.

Unidentified reporter:

Yeah, I noticed.

Roland Neel:

To use that tonight.

Joe Neel:

Pappy, there's going to be so many people that aren't at that meeting, you aren't preempting anything. Don't worry about that.

Unidentified reporter:

You see, the thing is that we circulate all over Macon, Peach County, Houston County, Crawford County, and this county. Now, the people, the aviators that are going to be at the Vidalia meeting, some of them may read the writeup that we write about you.

Roland Neel:

He told me going to be about 25 couples there.

Unidentified reporter:

Okay.

Roland Neel:

Men and wives.

Unidentified reporter:

So figure 50 people are going to be there, plus, you know, okay, so the story that you tell these 50 people, if they read the article, they'll have an idea of what happened. You can probably fill in more detail tomorrow night. But there's thousands and thousands of other readers in the area that aren't going to be able to hear the story otherwise.

Roland Neel:

All right. I'll tell it to you. Our mission was -- well, first, this was down near Switzerland on the front that was a very quiet sector. Now, there was an artillery major that had been down there for a month or two, and he was moving out the next week. And I learned this later. He wanted to straighten out the lines, there was a bulge in the line down there, a little town of Frappel right in the edge of the line. And he wanted to straighten the line by bombing or shelling this Frappel. But one thing that prevented him was captive balloons, these German balloons. I don't know whether you know what they are or not. But a captive balloon is a hydrogen bag let up sometimes as high as 500 meters, but they're connected with a wire on a wench on a truck headed down the road away from the front. Now, they're surrounded with machine guns that protect them, because, naturally, they're a pretty big target. And a lot of aviators would get the same credit for sinking a balloon or burning one that they would for downing a plane. So we'd go after that. So our mission was to run those three balloons out of the air before the battle started. All right. We got up --

Unidentified reporter:

What are the balloons there for?

Roland Neel:

They're for observation, just like we were.

Unidentified reporter:

I see.

Roland Neel:

They'd get that high up and they can see way over in enemy territory.

Joe Neel:

So there were men in the balloons?

Roland Neel:

Oh, yeah, two men. Every one of them had parachutes. So we'd run them out. Then the balloon was incapacitated even if you didn't burn it. If you saw two men jump, the parachutes open, that balloon is out of commission.

Joe Neel:

They'd have to crank it down to get more men in it.

Roland Neel:

That's right, to get back in it. So we got up there before day break. And the little town of Frappel had been shelled and was on fire, and the glow was beautiful. I remember that. But we were up pretty high. Now, understand, these balloonists wouldn't pay any attention to us when we were 5,000 meters up and they were 500. We'd have to start down before they would start pulling them down the road running and shooting, shooting with their protection, machine gun. So we flew over at 5,000 -- 5,000 to 10,000 meters. 10,000 was my top attitude. It couldn't get, as heavy as I am, any higher than 10,000 meters. But anyhow, we were about five or six. And we looked the situation over pretty carefully, and there were three balloons. So Hank said let's go. So he got down at an angle, like the balloon was here, and up 500 meters. He was up 5,000. He started in. But sure enough, as we got down, he started shooting these incendiary bullets into the bag. Well, we didn't set it on a fire. We had a system that he'd pull off to the right and give me a chance to pull it, and I missed it. But we saw two parachutes come out. So, fine, there goes one. We did the same thing with the other two. We didn't shoot any of them down, but we ran them down. And they took off down the road fast as they could. Well, that accomplished our mission. We were through. Well, after that is what you call freelancing. We were freelancing, just looking for excitement and to help the boys on the ground. That's all. So we found -- we saw a machine gun sitting in the two walls of a house. The roof was gone in that little town of Frappel, and they were in the corner of two walls. And as we would fly over, they'd shoot at us. And we were down now about 500 meters. And we could see these traces coming up.

Joe Neel:

How far is 500 meters in feet?

Roland Neel:

Well, a meter is two and a half feet.

Joe Neel:

So about a thousand feet?

Roland Neel:

About 1200 feet.

Joe Neel:

Twelve hundred.

Roland Neel:

Anyhow, I was just standing there -- we had been riding up and down shooting anything we saw moving. And I was just standing there resting. And all of a sudden I saw three holes come in the fuselage in the back. And I said, Hank -- we had speaking tubes, that's the only communication I had with the pilot or he had with me. We had speaking tubes and (Inaudible) attached to your head piece. So I said, get the hell out, they're shooting at us. He said, we're hit. I said, are you hit? He said, no, but the damn rudder is hit. I looked back and the rudder was perfectly square. I said, the rudder is all right. He said, it's not, I'm kicking right rudder, it's locked and won't give. I said, wait a minute, and I looked at it. Now, I had felt this bullet come through the floor of the plane. I had been standing there ten seconds before that and I stepped back to rest, lean like this, and this bullet hit the floor of the plane. I felt it. It came through the floor. Now, the control wise for the elevator and the rudder run beside the observer back to the elevator and the rudder. And I looked there and those wires, control wires run through iron sleeves that are strapped to the struts of the plane. I hope I'm making myself clear. The wires run through a sleeve. And that sleeve is bolted to the struts of the plane. And this bullet, it hit this sleeve and locked it. It couldn't go either way.

Unidentified reporter:

So, in other words, it locked the --

Roland Neel:

The rudder.

Unidentified reporter:

The rudder, okay.

Roland Neel:

I beg your pardon, yeah, locked the rudder. That's the reason Hank said I'm kicking right rudder and it won't give. It was locked. Now, we were flying perfectly straight. Then I looked further and the bullet had continued right on up and hit the elevator wire and completely cut it in two. The elevator, I had a half an elevator and no rudder. Now, Hank called me, he said, you want to take it in the trees? We were down pretty low. We was around the fire at night sitting there talking flying. We try to meet certain circumstances and we'd seen one or two boys save their lives by landing in a tree and then climbing down. And he says, you want to take it in the trees? I said, hell, no, your plane is running all right, you're headed toward home, let's try to ride it out. He said, all right, now, listen carefully, do what I say do. He said, sit down on your seat. We had a folding seat. I sat down. He said, turn your back to me. We had on gloves. He said, wrap the loose end of that elevator wire around your glove twice, and when I say pull, you pull like hell. So he ordered pull. I pulled. And we began to climb. Instead of going down, we started climbing. And it's about 40, 50 kilometers back from the front to our field. So I began to get worried. I was scared. I said, Hank, what are you going to do? He laughed. He said, don't worry, I'm going to get you back to that little old blue eyed southern girl. He had seen my wife's picture on my dresser and felt like he knew her. Since came down here and met the whole family. But, he said, now, do like I tell you. Now, this is kind of difficult to explain, but I'm going to try to show you the kind of pilot that he was. Now, he's got a half elevator, no rudder. So he says this, talking to me, if we don't, cheval du bois (Phonetic), as we come around this church steeple, we'd be okay. Now, the French built their churches on the highest ground in the territory they served. So we had to circle the damn steeple to get into the field every time. It was a two-way field. No asphalt or concrete runway, just grass. That's all, grass runway. So he said, if we don't cheval du bois, we'll be okay. Now, cheval du bois is French for wooden horse. Now, here is what he meant by that, wooden horse means that you've got no control and you're just going to try to ease in. So anyhow, as we came to the steeple, here is your airplane, there is your rudder and your elevator is on both sides. Now, he's got ailerons out on the tips of the wings to tilt it either way. So he takes his ailerons and tilts his plane perpendicular to the ground. Then his elevator becomes a rudder. So he hollers, pull. And I pulled this elevator and we just go around that steeple like this. Then he begins to side slip. And by side slipping, he goes down like this. Side slip, and make a perfect landing. So he hollered, get out of the hold of that wing and let's taxi up to the hangar. When I got out, one whole tire had been shot off of one wheel. We didn't know that and made a good landing. But anyhow, I got out of the wing and we taxied up to the hangar. And I said how about you, I'm hungry as hell. So we went in the mess hall, and the French brought in ham and eggs and we sat there eating. A few minutes, three Frenchmen came in just yacky, yacky, yacky. And finally one of them, in broken English, said it's impossible. I said, Hank, you know what he's talking about? He said, yeah. Hank could speak a few words, and he says we could not have brought that plane down in the condition it's in. I said, we're down, the plane is down, we're here. He said, it can't be done. He'd gone out and examined the plane. So anyhow, the Frenchman yacked over that thing for an hour, and we had to explain to them exactly what I told you. Hank was a good enough pilot to where he could take his plane and make a rudder out of his elevator.

Unidentified reporter:

That's amazing.

Joe Neel:

Well, you see, he had (Inaudible) because he had the wire wrapped around his hand and he yelled pull and he would have to take all his life to overcome the wind resistance.

Roland Neel:

Well, if the other side is cracked, the strain on it had broken that wire, we'd had no elevator. So all I was doing was taking the strain off of the other side, keep it from breaking.

Unidentified reporter:

Wow.

Joe Neel:

Also I think he yelled pull sort of like stalled it out (Inaudible) -- there's quite a bit of coordination you'll have to read those, Nancy, because they really --

Roland Neel:

Now, you see, I've told you a lot of details and told (Inaudible) talking, they don't mention about how we brought the thing down. We simply had an unmanageable plane that we managed.

Joe Neel:

(Inaudible).

Unidentified reporter:

So it seems.

Roland Neel:

Nancy, my daughter Evelyn has made some recordings on all these war stories. She claims she's going to write a book about it, but I doubt if she ever gets around to it. Not sure, but I think that's the field that we landed on. See that river there? The river is on one side and it was a two-way field, up and down, no matter which way the wind was blowing, you had to come in either north or south.

Unidentified reporter:

Had you done any flying before you went to the service?

Roland Neel:

Before I went to service? No, no. They didn't have any airplanes.

Unidentified reporter:

How did you get interested in that aspect?

Roland Neel:

How did I what?

Unidentified reporter:

Get interested in flying.

Roland Neel:

We went over, I went over as a coursed artillery officer. Graduated Fortress Monroe. And we got to Me LeCompe (Phonetic) where the big course artillery guns were, the big rifles, railroad mount, shoot 30 miles. And the Frenchmen couldn't speak English and we couldn't understand French, so all our instructors had to come through interpreting. So I got awful tired of that. So one day, a buddy of mine bunking next to me said I hear there's calls for 14 aerial observers, let's volunteer. I said, wait a minute, you know what flying is? He said, yeah, he said it's when you're hit, you splat. He said, that's better than laying there wounded. I said, all right. So we volunteered for it. We got the two last places and were transferred to a little town of Contree Cor (Phonetic) where we took instruction for six weeks on how to be an observer.

Unidentified reporter:

Was this through interpreter?

Roland Neel:

Huh?

Unidentified reporter:

Was this through interpreter?

Roland Neel:

Oh, no. Over there we were -- well, we had some French interpreters, yes. Some of them, not many. These were Americans, most of them.

Unidentified reporter:

But when you decided to volunteer for aerial observer when you got tired of listening to classes through interpreters?

Roland Neel:

Yeah, we wasn't learning anything. It was very hard.

Unidentified reporter:

What was the -- what were you doing before you were an aerial observer, again?

Roland Neel:

A coursed artillery officer coursed artillery, the heavy railroad mounts. We studied that in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. And I volunteered because they came up there calling for volunteers to go over as what you call casual officers. We were not assigned to any outfit. We were simply sent over there to be assigned after we got there, see. So we landed in Liverpool, England. And, of course, there's another story about that convoy.

Unidentified reporter:

And so you decided to become an aerial observer?

Roland Neel:

We happened to be the first 25 aerial observers in American history. Just happened to be the first graduating class of aerial observation.

Joe Neel:

Well, I thought the war between the states had balloons that they had observers in.

Roland Neel:

They may have had balloons, but -- you may be right. I don't know.

Joe Neel:

It may have been civilians something -- I remember a Walt Disney show on that.

Roland Neel:

Let me tell you one more interesting point. Toward the end of World War I, the German aviators had parachutes and they used them. We never had the first one.

Unidentified reporter:

You never had parachutes?

Roland Neel:

We never had a parachute of any type.

Unidentified reporter:

Why not?

Roland Neel:

Because -- that's a good question.

Unidentified reporter:

Weren't they invented?

Roland Neel:

Huh?

Unidentified reporter:

Weren't they invented?

Roland Neel:

Oh, yes. The Germans were using them, and the balloon boys were using them. They had them, but they just -- why they didn't use them, I don't know.

Unidentified reporter:

It seems kind of strange, you know, it seems like that would be a good place to use them.

Roland Neel:

It's one of those questions I just don't know the answer to.

Joe Neel:

Nancy, after World War I, aviation died somewhat. They got mad as heck and (Inaudible) battleship with a plane, and they court martialed him out of the Army because he bumped the Navy. They called him and asked him to come over to Montgomery, Alabama from Macon, Georgia to help promote aviation. It was dying after World War I. Nobody was interested. Flying was subsiding.

Roland Neel:

That wouldn't have lasted long, but it was at low end at that time.

Joe Neel:

Talking about no parachute. They called him up and asked his help as a former aviator to come to Montgomery.

Unidentified reporter:

Did you enjoy it?

Roland Neel:

Over there?

Unidentified reporter:

Uh-huh.

Roland Neel:

Tried my best to go back three times but they found out I had a eye defect. They wouldn't let me come back anymore. Floyd Schofield was a major and went over there and Walt Stapler went over there. Both of them are dead and gone.

Joe Neel:

What do you mean tried to go back? World War II or what?

Roland Neel:

No, no. The next year. It was an annual affair, see. And the next year I said, yeah, I put in for application. They paid you, I think, two or $300 a month.

Joe Neel:

To do what?

Roland Neel:

To fly.

Joe Neel:

Where?

Roland Neel:

Over to Montgomery, Alabama.

Joe Neel:

Oh, I see.

Roland Neel:

That's where the school was.

Unidentified reporter:

Wait a second. I don't understand.

Roland Neel:

Huh?

Unidentified reporter:

I don't understand. When did you try to go back again?

Joe Neel:

Where?

Roland Neel:

To Montgomery, Alabama was where the school, to learn to be a advance observer work, to learn it.

Joe Neel:

Like the Air Force Reserves after World War I.

Roland Neel:

That's right, that's right. It was the Reserves.

Joe Neel:

What you're communicating about, Nancy. I think y'all aren't understanding each other. He's talking about go back to the front, go back to Montgomery? She's talking about go back to the front.

Roland Neel:

Oh, no, no, no. This is after the war was all over, 1921 that we went to Montgomery for three weeks training course.

Joe Neel:

Where were you prior to the armistice?

Roland Neel:

At the armistice?

Joe Neel:

Where were you prior to the armistice?

Roland Neel:

Oh, prior to the armistice. That's another story.

Joe Neel:

Were you in France?

Roland Neel:

Yes.

Joe Neel:

Okay.

Roland Neel:

I had been appointed. The last three to four weeks of the World War I, I was the operations officer of the Seventh Army Corp. It was a new Army corp was being organized. And I was highly complimented that they choose me, since I had had a good enemy experience, as the operations officer. And I was, let me see, I can't remember -- yeah, I reported down there to this headquarters, and just pretty soon, a week after that when the armistice came. Everything just blew up. Everybody got drunk.

Joe Neel:

Did you fly over your brother's battleground when you --

Roland Neel:

I happened to be over there when that battle was going on. That was Friday, September the 13th, 1908.

Unidentified reporter:

Friday the 13th?

Roland Neel:

That's right. Joe, that's his picture yonder, the second from the top. He was a company commander. His -- he was lieutenant, but his captain had been wounded, and he was a first lieutenant and was in charge of his company. And he had 240 men. He got orders one morning to go over and take prisoners at Somme Hill, this pocket down there. And Joe called all his boys together and said, now, look, don't kill these Germans, we want them alive, bring them back alive. They went over, it was 6:00 in the afternoon, broad daylight, and they had a smoke screen which turned out to be a perfect target. These boys following the smoke screen. These Germans just filled that screen full of shrapnel. A little piece of lead no bigger than a pencil point, so the doctor that waited on Joe told me, went in his temple and embedded in his brain. And this was a Johns Hopkins brain specialist that he happened to get hold of. And he talked to me about it. He said, he didn't have a chance. If we could have gotten that lead out, he would have been an imbecile the rest of his life. All we could do was chip the bone away from where it entered to keep the blood from clotting and let him die. He lived 36 hours. And I want to tell you this, out of 240 men in his company that went over, just 40 came back. 200 men were killed. And they captured one German prisoner. It was the most inexcusable raid, company raid of the whole war. Two hundred men lost.

Unidentified reporter:

Wow.

Roland Neel:

And that was -- I got to tell you the other part of Joe. And they were on a quiet sector, Toulous (Phonetic). Anyhow, they had a ammunition dump right adjacent to them. The Germans used to come over and wander through that dump. And they'd give the command, Germans, and they'd rush up there and kill them if they could, to catch them. And they'd always give them hand grenades, everybody had a hand grenade. So Joe took about two dozen men up there with hand grenades, and they got up to the dump looking for the Germans, they was hiding. And some boy pulled his damn pin out of his hand grenade and just threw it and it landed right back at Joe. And one big hunk, big as your fist, went through the fleshy part of his rump and just tore a hole in it. They had to take 17 stitches. It didn't hurt him. I mean, it wasn't fatal or anything. But on that wound he could have come home but he wouldn't do it. He went back to his company.

Joe Neel:

That would be hard to explain at home.

Roland Neel:

He told me -- I said, how did it happen? He said, we played ring around the rosie with a hand grenade and I was hit.

Joe Neel:

Pappy, don't lose your voice now, because you're going to need it tomorrow night.

Roland Neel:

I've already lost it.

Joe Neel:

You go home and gargle with saltwater.

Roland Neel:

No. They said they'll have some voice soft.

Unidentified reporter:

You know what's going for a voice that's going, lemon juice?

Roland Neel:

Yeah.

Unidentified reporter:

Lemon juice is what I always take, take a lemon and suck on it for a while.

Roland Neel:

Well, Nancy, I think we've about covered it. If there's anything else you want.

Unidentified reporter:

How long were you over there?

Roland Neel:

Seventeen months and two weeks. I lacked two weeks of getting a third hash mark they called it. Every six months overseas you got a mark. And I had two and would have gotten the third.

Unidentified reporter:

Let's see. And where were you working out of? What was the city you were working out of?

Roland Neel:

When.

Unidentified reporter:

Where was the central base or the central --

Joe Neel:

Well, base of operations, wasn't any particular place on the line --

Roland Neel:

See, that moved. It moved.

Joe Neel:

Went up and down.

Roland Neel:

As the war progressed. See, they finally got out of the trenches. They quit trench warfare and we got to moving so fast through the forest. This battle that Joe was in was the beginning of the end of the war. We rolled it right on up after that.

Unidentified reporter:

Okay. The first mission you told me about when you were going to get the aerial pictures?

Roland Neel:

Tried to get what?

Unidentified reporter:

You were going to get the aerial pictures and if you could get them you were going to get a raise from --

Roland Neel:

Oh, oh.

Unidentified reporter:

Where was that again?

Roland Neel:

The town that I wanted to take pictures of C-O-N-F-L-A-N-S, Conflans.

Unidentified reporter:

Okay. And Metz?

Roland Neel:

M-E-T-Z. They were two towns right close together. And our heavy artillery had been shelling them. And they were trying to see what the damage was.

Unidentified reporter:

Okay. Now, let's get away from what you did back then and get to what you're doing now. You come into work every day? (Audio recording skips at this point to a different subject.)

Roland Neel:

Brace, B-R-A-C-E. She was from North Dakota and she was a nurse over there. I met her. And I said, how about a date, she said, fine. And so she packed a little lunch and we went back up on the hill at sunset and sitting there talking. And I said -- she said, I don't like southerners. I said, why don't you like southerners? She said, my grandfather was down in Andersonville, Georgia, a prisoner during the war between the states, and said I never have had any use for southerners but said I like you. I never have seen her since. But her name was Maynard June Brace.

Unidentified reporter:

You were saying that you decided to go into flying for the Korean War, in the Korean War because of this?

Joe Neel:

I didn't get into Korea, I never left this country. But I was a pilot in the SAC, Strategic Air Command.

Roland Neel:

He drove one of these big KC-5s, which was tank cars. He would fly and refuel them in the air.

Unidentified reporter:

Wow.

Roland Neel:

He was a pilot of the refueling plane. How many gallons of gas would it carry?

Joe Neel:

About 7,000. But that -- don't worry about me.

Unidentified reporter:

No, well, I want to get, you know, a full story. So that's what influenced you to go into the Strategic Air Command?

Joe Neel:

Well, I went into -- I was a pilot in the Air Force and it just so happened that I was a member of the -- ended up being a pilot in the Strategic Air Command for in-flight refueling.

Roland Neel:

There was an old French couple that I went and visited with them, but I got to know them pretty well.

Joe Neel:

I put on a little weight there.

Roland Neel:

I was getting pretty big.

Unidentified reporter:

How was the French cooking? Pretty good?

Roland Neel:

The what?

Unidentified reporter:

The French cooking.

Roland Neel:

Oh, yes. We -- I tell you, we spent a lot of time in Paris. You got a minute? I want to tell you one more thing. The 14 aerial observers trained together. The commander officer said get out for a week, get out, give us passes to Paris. So we walk into Grand Hotel in Paris. I've been back there since. And one of our bunch could speak French pretty good. He walked in and walked up to the concierge, the clerk at the desk and said how tall is this hotel? He said, five stories. How many rooms you got on the top floor? He said, I don't know. Said, find out. He came back and he said, I think it's 20 or 30. He said, what will you take for the top floor for one week? He said, are you crazy? He said, no, how much? He named a figure. This boy said, we'll take it. Don't let anybody but our group come on the top floor for one week. So I had a good friend named Pauly Myers, and Paul and I got a little bit tired of that first night and day. He said, let's go to South of France. I says, your pass says Paris, he says I know the parole marshal, he's a friend of mine, let's go see him. Went to see him, and sure enough, he stamped on our passes Nice, which is in the South of France.

Unidentified reporter:

Yes.

Roland Neel:

So we went to Nice on the railroad, got down there the next day and spent four or five days. Got back to Paris and got to rounding up all the drunks. And, boy, you should have seen that fifth floor. But anyhow, we got all 14 of them in taxis, went to the station, went back to the Contre Cor (Phonetic) camp. The minute we walked in, I walked around and showed the (Inaudible) where we had gone to Nice. He said, you shouldn't have done that, consider yourselves under arrest. Had me and Paul Myers arrested and confined to quarters. I said, for how long? He says (Inaudible.) Anyhow, two or three days later, we got notice that they were having a court martial for me and Pauly Myers. And the minute we walked in, there was three higher ranking officers sitting there, they were the jury. And they said, now, be warned anything you say will be used against you. So they asked us questions and we told them all the truth. And then finally they said, we don't believe this stamp, we think it's a false stamp. We said, well, ask the major, he's in Paris, telephone him. They did. Came back and said you were right, get out. I said, you don't have anything else to say to us? This is the last that we're sitting there. He said, no, get out. The next night, we're down at the officer's club, and this is the muddiest hole in France. We're sitting down there drinking, having a good time. In walks (Inaudible). Pauly Myers was captain of the Wisconsin football team in 1914, built like a brute. Pauly says he's mine, don't touch him. I said, I'll watch. He went up to (Inaudible), says come with me. Took him downstairs out in the rain, and there was a mud hole in the front of this officer's club was 18 inches deep and filled with mud. He takes this boy and says -- we call anybody in the Air Force that wasn't a flyer, we call them a KIY, K-I-Y. Anyhow, he says, you KIY SOB, you caused us a lot of trouble and didn't even apologize. He took him and put him down that hole and dunked him three times. He never came back upstairs. But he never bothered us again.

Unidentified reporter:

So --

Roland Neel:

And that was one time I was threatened with court martial. And through no fault of ours at all.

Unidentified reporter:

Yeah.

Roland Neel:

These are just stories that happened --

Unidentified reporter:

They're fascinating.

Roland Neel:

-- during stress times like that.

Joe Neel:

Well, I think the group will enjoy them tomorrow night too, Pappy. She can't put all this.

Roland Neel:

We talked too much.

Unidentified reporter:

Well, I --

Roland Neel:

You can write a week without getting what you want.

Unidentified reporter:

Well, I've enjoyed every minute of it. I really appreciate it.

Roland Neel:

There is the one I was looking for. And this was made within a week after I got back in this country.

Unidentified reporter:

Your mustache is gone.

Joe Neel:

You noticed too.

Unidentified reporter:

I liked you with a mustache.

Roland Neel:

I'll tell my wife that.

Unidentified reporter:

Yeah, you tell her that.

Roland Neel:

There's a picture has particular interest to me. And this was a pilot that I had flown down to consult about a mission the next day. He was to protect us. We were supposed to go over and get -- this is Rickenbacker (Inaudible) Squadron. And Rickenbacker was in the protection crowd. And over here was supposed to go way behind the German line and get some pictures. And we had to have a lot of protection. So I had about four or five of my own squadron and they -- we made a rendezvous with them at 10,000 meters, such and such a time over such and such and such a town. We got there, they were there. We started over. Well, at the time we hit the line, there come four or five Germans, and naturally we had to turn for me to get a shot at them. So we turned, started back toward home. We drove them off. I started, I said, all right, now let's get on with it. I looked up and that crowd had gone. We didn't have any protection. I said, Hank, we can't go. He said, got to get these pictures. So about that time we looked up and here was a hundred American planes in one formation, Billy Mitchell's for mass bombing. And I looked at that thing and I said, let's go with them, let's get under them. So we just got in under them. They rolled right over the territory we wanted pictures of. I said these picture is taken, and we rolled right on up to the town. We bombed the town, 100 of them, turned around and we followed them all the way back. We got the prettiest pictures you ever saw. That was the first mass bombing of any war.

Joe Neel:

Did you ever find out the explanation of --

Roland Neel:

Yeah, yeah. I asked Rickenbacker later, I said, you son of a bitch, you went off and left us, why? He said, we saw you finish and turn toward home. I said, didn't you see those three Germans on our tail? He said, no, we thought you were through. So they left us.

Joe Neel:

Well, you were lucky Billy Mitchell happened to come along. But you had to get out from under there when he started dropping the bombs.

(End of Interview)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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