Jim Holloway, Denver, Colorado, 1944
Biography of James Lafayette Holloway
Staff Sergeant, B17 Tailgunner, Station #131, Nusthamstead, England, 601st Squadron, 398th Bomb Group, 8th AF, USAAF
Enrollee, Hawthorne, Nevada & Bishop, California, CCC
You asked about the time I spent in the CCC. Will try and give you a fare little story on the six months I spent there at age 20.
In the fall of 1938 I was helping my father harvest his crop just south of Twin Falls, Idaho. When we finished up my brother gave me $5.00 and my three friends and I decided to join the Navy. The closest recruiting office was either in Salt Lake City, Utah or Reno, Nevada. The problem was that all four of us only had a few dollars and it was 450 miles or so to Reno where we decided to go. We checked the freight train schedule and as it left that night at six oclock we got aboard on the side away from the station.
We almost froze as we crossed a 6,000 foot summit on the way south to Wells, Nevada. Finally about 2:00 in the morning we got into Wells and as we walked up the street the town marshal asked us if we would like a warm place to sleep. He took us down to the jail near the Rail Road tracks, unlocked the door, let us in then locked the door and walked away.
He did tell us the truth as we had a coal burning stove with plenty of coal which we kept going all night. No bed or blankets so got some sleep on the floor. By morning we were hungry but no one came around till about 10:30 when the marshal came by, opened the door, pointed to a train just starting to move and told us to get on it. Hungry or not we got on. We rode west all day and night getting into Sparks, Nevada the next morning.
After finding something to eat we went to the navy recruiters and discovered that the shortest time we could sign up for was six years. Now that seemed like to long a time and some one said why not join the CCC as that was only for six months. The three of us did, the fourth man was a big half Indian out of Oklahoma who was to old to get in. He said go ahead and I will go up to the reservation at Klamath Falls, Oregon. This we did and the CCCs man said it would be maybe as much as thee weeks before an opening would come up so they would send us out to a camp next to Reno to wait a few days till a truck came in from a government run bums camp where we could stay until we could go on to our camp at Hawthorne, Nevada.
It was only a short ride out to the camp here at Reno and we were all settled in for the night when the call came to eat the evening meal. We went into the mess hall and lined up, about five men on each side of the table and when I looked for food all I saw was a not to large plate with cold meats on it. I thought, well this must be one of those high fancy menus because that cant feed all the men at this table. I hung back as I didnt know the ropes and by the time I got the plate there was just one thin slice of meat left. The second meal was a dead ringer for the first and by this time I made up my mind the next meal when we ate was going to be my turn, so when the whistle blew that time I reached across the table, grabbed the dish and dumped about half of it into my plate and dared any one to challenge me. At least I ate. We found out that the CO of the camp, an army Captain and the mess sergeant. were knocking down on the food ration at the first camp.
After three days the truck came to take us out to the Bums camp. Man if Bums eat like this I wanted to stay with them all winter. For three weeks we cut one load of wood, about two hours work, ate our lunch we had with us and then back to camp just before the evening meal. We had big thick beef steaks, mashed potatoes with gravy plus other good stuff. Also there was Oranges , bananas, apples besides. We really enjoyed this few weeks as the weather was great, the work easy and good food. Some of the Bums were in bad shape but the three of us had our own tent to live in so made out great..
This all came to an end and we were trucked 130 miles south of Reno to Hawthorne, Nevada. There was a group of Marines who were guards for the Naval ammunition storage area nearby and our CCC camp. At first we were on a crew that was doing maintenance on some of the mountain roads nearby. It was good duty as the work was easy. We would have a lunch for our noon meal and some one always made a large pot of coffee. The only problem we seemed to have was the CO and mess Sergeant were knocking down on the food allotment. Here we had plenty to eat but we even had beans for breakfast at times. One of my friends came back from town late one night and saw a light in the Mess Sgt. small shack. He sneaked up close to the window and looked. The CO and Mess Sgt. was dividing a stack of bills on a table, one for me one for you. So much for honesty in Nevada.
It didnt end here through any effort on my part. I had made a new friend, Droop Draper from Cedar City, Utah and we got a pass to go to town and see a movie. When it was over we walked out side and started to where a truck was waiting to take us back to camp. Droop was from a cattle ranch and used to riding horse back and to have a little fun he ran up behind me, jumped on my back like he was riding a bronco. All that may have been ok but he let out a cowboy yell. A little skunk saw and herd this and when he returned to camp he told the CO that we were in town drunk (we had not even had one beer) and raising hell. The CO restricted us to camp for two weeks.
About this time the forestry foreman who was in charge of all work being done by us men said he needed a crew of men in Bishop, California. The CO must have liked this because every man he felt might make trouble in the camp at Hawthorne he sent to the new Spike camp at Bishop including me. He had a good thing going with knocking down on the food rations.
It turned out to be a good thing for me as we lived in a large house right in town. Also we had a new mess Sgt. who was not stealing from the food money so we ate good from then until I finished my tour with the CCCs. I had been working in Hawthorne with a pick and shovel, but in Bishop I was given an almost new GMC dump truck to drive. It had five speeds forward and it was fun to shift the manual shift up and down through the gears without missing a gear. We were hauling gravel into a yard at the edge of town for the forestry Department to use as a storage and maintenance yard. We had two dump trucks running and a bull dozer at the gravel pit to load the trucks. The other truck driver should have given the right of way to the loaded truck as I did with him and this went on for several days. We had to cross a one way bridge and finally I got to the bridge well before him so I held my speed of about 51 miles an hour, all the governor would let me do. I reached the bridge and crossed it before he got there but he must have been sure that he could bluff me one more time and didnt slow down. He did give me room to pass but it was to late for him to stop and he entered the bridge at an angle and the truck took off the left bridge railing. It then jumped part of the small canal, went into the ditch along the roadside and he finally came back onto the road. For a minute I thought I had killed him.
The next time I talked to him he said to tell the boss he had hit a cow. One thing for sure, from then on he gave me the right away when he should.
I think we were paid about 21 dollars a month, I am not sure of that, but they only gave me $5.00 and sent the rest home to my parents. The camps were run in a military manner, so when I joined the army later I knew what to expect.
I was a member of a CCC association in Sacramento, California for a few years but dropped it along the way.
James Holloway Diary, WW II, Europe
In the late 1930s Hitler had decided to get started conquering the world. He had put German production on a war-time footing turning out arms for the Army he had assembled and trained.
By 1940 Uncle Sam finally got his act together, and put the Selective Service law together. The Draft. On either September or October 20, 1940 all men between the ages of 21 and 25 were required to sign up at the local draft board offices.
I was at Pingree, Idaho near Blackfoot, Idaho at the time helping my brother-in-law harvest spuds and sugar beets, so when I signed up, Blackfoot, Idaho became my draft board.
I went to California where I worked for Lockheed Air Craft Company at Burbank, California in March 1941. After working here for two and one half years I quit and returned to Idaho. I had received deferments from the draft board as long as I was working building airplanes, P-38 Lightning fighters, but after quitting I was drafted in November of 1943. At this time I was living with my parents at Twin Falls, Idaho. I was sent to Boise for a physical, sworn into the Army and went home.
About two weeks later I was ordered to report to Fort Douglas, Utah. Other draftees and my self boarded a bus in Twin Falls, Idaho for Salt Lake City and Fort Douglas. Here we received our uniforms, shots and other good stuff. Few of the boys had ever had shots, and much kidding was done at the expense of the ones having not had them. How rough it was and how it made some pass out. I had spent time in the Civilian Conservation Corp which was run on a military basis, and so knew about what to expect in the army. This made me much more at ease than some of the younger boys who had never been away from home.
We spent many hours policing the yards of cigarette butts and other junk, but also took tests of different kinds. A memo came out saying any one who wanted to join the Army Air Force could volunteer if they wanted to. This I did and then came more tests. I was accepted along with my two friends, Bill Marsh and Harold Reid. Bill was from Paul, Idaho and Harold was from Emmett, Idaho. Bill was later to be shot down and killed in a Berlin raid. We were soon shipped to Buckley Field, Colorado near Denver for basic training.
The most interesting part of basic training was firing the different kinds of guns per: 45 ACP Thompson sub machine gun: 45 semi auto pistol: 30 Carbine: 30-06 Springfield Rifle. Hey this was great. Always before I had been forced to buy my own ammunition, and here it was all free.
One evening for supper the mess hall served creamed chicken. Luckily I had never cared for creamed chicken so ate none. Within two hours boys began to pop up out of there bunks and make a dash to the company latrine. One would think that a magnificent 23 holer would be sufficient to handle any emergency, but soon every one was occupied and men could be seen lined up along the out-side wall, the icy wind whistling around their exposed posterior, doing their thing.
I was normally not one to take advantage of some one elses bad luck, however I did ask a few questions such as, What is your hurry? Where are you going? and etc., when the boys would leave the barracks. Few of them seemed to see any humor in these remarks, probably just because the had something else on their minds.
At the end of basic training we were offered the chance to volunteer for Air Crew Cadet Training. My friends, Bill and Harold and me, all volunteered and made it. We were sent to the Denver University and were well into the training schedule two months later when an order came down to cancel all the latest Cadet classes, some 35,000 if my memory serves me correctly, (I have found personal memory to be a fickle thing) all over the nation. We were offered the choice of going to the infantry or Arial Gunnery Training so we all three took Arial Gunnery.
Here we go again, this time to Las Vegas Army Air Field, (I think this was Nells Air Force base) near Las Vegas, Nevada. Most of the training here was on the 50 caliber Browning Air Cooled machine gun, to take care of it, and make it work. We also had training on shooting from a moving base at a moving target. We were put in the bed of a pickup truck with 12 gauge shot guns. With the truck at about 30 miles an hour it was driven around an oval track. Every so far a clay pigeon was tossed into the air and we would try to hit it. More fun with free ammunition.
Finally the ground training was over and we made our first flight out to Indian Springs airfield, Nevada in a B-17 bomber, where we made a few flights and fired at ground targets. It was in July and the desert was hot. Now and then we would hit an up draft or down draft at which time every thing that was not tied down, including me, done funny things.
When we returned to Vegas we were issued our gunners wings and a fifteen day delay in route to Lincoln, Nebraska. I stopped off in Twin Falls for my first time home. The girls seemed to like the uniform and every one treated me great, but I seemed a little bit out of place with all these civilians.
I boarded a train for Lincoln where flying crews were put together. Bill, Harold and I all three were put in different crews. This was the last I saw of them until they visited me at Nuthamstead, England. Once again I was on my way to another base, Biggs Field at El Paso, Texas for over seas Arial Gunnery training.
Here we flew in B-17 air planes and shot at targets towed by other air planes, with live ammunition. Then at P-40 fighters with cameras. After several months of this with flights over New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, we were sent back to Lincoln, Nebraska where we waited until the 18th of January, 1945. At this time orders came down to leave for Boston, and a ship for overseas. I was glad to be heading east to Europe instead of the Pacific. I had lost nothing there.
We were soon on another troop train to Boston, and Camp Miles Standish, where we boarded the troop ship, The El de France. This as stated above, in January with winter storms wracking the North Atlantic, and many of the men soon became sea sick. To make it more uncomfortable we were stacked up six bunks high . It was hard to pass another person in the aisles because they were so narrow. Very few of the air force men were sea sick as flying had conditioned them to the movement, but the infantry and ground crew men had a rough time. Eight days days after we left Boston we landed in Glasgow, Scotland, then south by train to a crew replacement camp (I forget the name of the camp). After a few days here we were shipped to our new home at Nuthamstead, England. My unit that I flew with was 8th USAAF, 398th Bomb Group, 601st Squadron, stationed at Station #131, Nusthamstead, England, and we flew B-17s. My rank was S/Sgt. After training here in England we were assigned our first mission over Germany.
Training is all well and good, and it is hoped you are trained well, but you really dont know what it is like when other men start shooting at you, trying to kill you.. Hey the fun is over, this is the real thing. I wasnt nervous, just quick. Looking back on that time long ago I think I may have been more afraid of not measuring up than I was about facing the Germans. The thought of my family hearing that I had failed to face up to the danger of combat was something I could not cope with. Being killed yes, but not that.
A picture of me in England wearing flight coveralls during the time I was flying combat, 1945
Before going on our first mission I kept wondering what I would do when men was shooting at me?? Would I be able to function as I was trained to do? Might I loose control and show cowardice. I knew I could be killed at any time, but would that be worse than showing cowardice and have my crew members and family at home find out?? After the war the co-pilot made the remark that he was never worried about the tail as he knew I was back there with my two 50s. I hope I deserved his confidence.
February 6,1945 - Today we made our first combat mission; target was Chemnitz, Germany, nine and one half hours, full cloud coverage, dropped our bombs from 25,000 feet. No flack, (flack was steel shrapnel from anti aircraft shells) landed a Ridgwell airfield in fog, our field was closed down because of fog. At nine and one half hours it was a long mission for B-17s and this being our first mission, the mens nerves were as tight as fiddle strings.
We had been called from bed at 2A.M., 02:00 hours military time, mission briefing at 03:00 hours, breakfast at 04:00 hours after which the gunners picked up the barreled actions of their .50 caliber Browning machine guns and were driven to their airplanes in a weapons carrier truck. Here we installed the actions in the gun housing and adjusted the headspace.
We then took our stations and plugged our microphone into the planes system and reported to the pilot. When all was ready the four engines were started and the pilot taxied into the waiting line for takeoff at one- half minute intervals. It took about 25 minutes to get all 36 planes of the group in the air. They would climb to about 5000 feet and fly to a rendezvous area where they would circle till all planes were in combat formation, at which time they would head for the target of the day.
On this day our rendezvous was the coast of England and as we left the holding pattern we started to climb for altitude, southeast over the North Sea./ At this point the gunners all fired about 25 rounds with each gun to be sure they worked. At 13,000 feet every one put on their oxygen masks and by the time we crossed the coast of Holland were up to about our cruising altitude of 25,000 feet. This put us above the solid cloud coverage that covered most of Europe that day. We dropped our bombs by radar through the clouds.
After dropping our bombs we flew west into France. The front lines by this time was roughly along the Rhine River, so after crossing the lines the whole group descended below 13,000 feet and the crew were able to remove their oxygen masks, a big relief as they were tired by now. Riding alone as I was back in the tail position, with the warm sun coming through on my face soon relaxed me. I fell asleep at my post, a court martial offence in combat. The next thing I knew was the sound of an empty .50 caliber shell casing striking close to me thrown by the waist gunner.
Opening my eyes I glanced out the window and could see nothing but fog. (What the heck is going on???) I checked in on the intercom and the co-pilot told me to watch for a runway as we were circling an alternate airfield, ours being fogged in. This meant that most of the Eighth Air Force, over 1,000 planes were flying blind in fog trying to find a place to set down, any place would do as gasoline by now was getting low.
We soon had glimpses of the ground and crossed over the field, but at right angles to the runway. The pilot circled to line up with the runway but lost sight of it for a while. When it came into sight he was not lined up for a landing and by the time he was, half the runway was used up so was forced to go around again. On the second trip around another B-17 crossed in front of us. The pilot jerked the stick back going over the top of the other plane. Man that was close.
We continued around and had used up a lot of runway before getting the wheels on the ground, and when the end of the runway came into view through the murky air, what was sitting across the runway and blocking it but a semi-gasoline truck and trailer. The pilot judging his speed, the wet surface of the runway and the distance to the truck doubted he could stop in time. He shut down all four engines and applied all the brakes he could. At long last we came to a screaming halt.
The tail wheel on a normal landing would have been on the ground by the time our speed had dropped to about 40 miles an hour. This time it didnt touch the ground until our forward movement stopped, at which time it crashed to the runway. I was still in the tail position, and it bounced me around like a rubber ball. Never the less I was glad to be on the ground. When I crawled out I saw the nose of our plane all to close for comfort to that gasoline truck. Combat didnt seem so bad, but this coming home sure was rough on the nerves.
February 9, 1945 - Mission #2. We hit Paderborn, Germany, 61/2 hours, full cloud coverage, 22,500 feet, moderately accurate flack over Holland coast. Flack looks pretty when bursting, with no sound getting to us, just a puff of black smoke appearing out beside the plane. Not scary at all. ?????
February 11, 1945 - No mission today so shot skeet with some of my friends. Managed to get high score. More free ammunition. There is still some snow on the ground, heard a German propaganda broadcast in English to American service men. They would talk about our girls at home, name different air force groups and raids they would make on certain targets. They had to have had spies working in England to get this kind of information.
February 14, 1945 - Mission #3. We started for Dresden on a raid. 7/10 cloud coverage, 25,000 feet, 6 hours. There are times when everything Goes to hell in a hand basket, and this mission was one of those times. We had one engine knocked out over Munster, Germany. Not being able to keep up with the group on three engines, we were told to abort and head for home. We opened the bomb bay doors and dropped our bombs, not caring where they landed, probably on some poor pig farmer. We were given one P-51 fighter as escort. Gave a man a friendly feeling to see that little plane sitting out there off the wing tip.
We had a great navigator, a red headed Captain from Provo or Ogden, Utah. He couldnt find his rear end with both hands, but he was a likeable guy. During briefing that morning they told us that the Essen manufacturing complex on the Rhine River had about 400 anti aircraft guns guarding it. Our good navigator guided us right into it. Needless to say, the air turned black with flack bursts. Our little P-51 flipped over and dived away, the last we saw of him. The pilot turned the old B-17 up on one wing, poured the coal to it and we got to hell out of there. No damage done except to our nerves.
After circling to the north to clear the complex we continued on towards (we hoped) an emergency field at Merville, France. By this time the navigator didnt seem to know where we were. The radio man got a radio fix to give us our position, but to find the field took more than that. A fighter showed up at about 8 oclock level off the tail and came in on a pursuit curve. I trained my guns on him and was about to fire after seeing the sun reflect off the leading edge of his wing, thinking he was firing at us. About that time he raised his wing enough that I identified it as a British Spitfire. He radioed our pilot that he would lead us into Merville, France. This had been a German Air Field during their occupation of France.
We landed at Merville and the plane was grounded for repairs. After trying several planes that the pilot refused to fly, one broke through the taxi strip and got stuck, we got airborne for England on February 1945. The plane had one propeller that would not stay set at the proper pitch and had to be reset about every three minutes. The ball turret was missing as was the waist door, letting the wind whistle through in a gale almost freezing Woody and I, both of us being in the waist. All the time oil ran out of one engine cowling and off the trailing edge of the wing. We left it at a repair base and went back to our field by truck. The other crews thought we were gone for good but we fooled them that time.
February 21, 1945 - Mission #4, target Nurnberg, 81/2 hours, 10/10 cloud coverage, 27,000 feet, moderately accurate flack on the way in, none over target. This said flack has ceased to be pretty when it bursts. Temperature 40 degrees below zero at 27,00 feet.
I do remember when I first started to fly, the thought of parachuting out of an airplane was sure scary. However later on when we would be on a mission with shells bursting around, bombs on board and lots of high octane gasoline, fire was my worst worry. That old dependable B-17 was no longer the best place in the world to be.
The idea of bailing out had become an altogether different idea, it wasnt scary at all. It could be the safest thing I could do, and many times, to be sure I knew where to reach, I would put my hand on the cable which was attached to the hinge pins of my small door in the tail. I wanted to be sure I knew where to reach to let me jettison the door and let me bail out. I never had to jump.
On our crew the pilot and co-pilot both wore back parachutes but all the rest of us wore smaller chest chutes. We all picked up flack jackets to wear over our heated suits that we hoped might save our lives from flying steel from bursting shells.
February 23, 1945 - Mission #5, target Eager, Czechoslovakia. We had orders to bomb only if target was visible, no clouds, and it wasnt so we turned west to Schwienfurt as the secondary target. (My understanding is that some of the planes had run out of breathing oxygen so the whole group descended to 12,000 feet so we could all stay together, JLH.)
At this time almost all bombing was done from above 20,000 feet. We hit Schwienfurt from 12,000 feet. The flack was heavy as we came in over the target, most of it bursting above us. A large piece of steel came through the top of the radio room and into the floor beside the radio man which scared him. He left his post, stepped back into the waist and sat down on the floor with his back against the ¼ inch armor plate there. The bomb bay doors were open and the word came over the intercom, bombs away with the sudden lift of the plane at the loss of weight. The co-pilot told the radio man on the intercom to check the bomb bay to see that all the bombs were gone before closing the doors. By now we had started to turn off the target, the radio man started to get up to check. At that point we took a direct hit from, I suppose, an 88 MM German anti aircraft shell which came through the waist taking off the radio operators leg. The shell continued out the left side into the left wing and on out, not exploding until later if at all. A large area of the top skin tore off the wing in the slipstream, showing a lot of interesting parts that I had no desire to see at the time.
We could find no bandages on the plane from tail to nose. The waist gunner Marvin J. Wood, and the upper turret gunner Clarence Bridges put a tourniquet on both legs and tore up his parachute to use as bandages. They did find two ampoules of morphine which they gave him and we had oxygen so they put on his mask and gave him pure oxygen.
That day those two young men, with no prior training, in the skies over Germany saved their crew member, Ronald Moons life. The wound must have been terrible to look at. I was glad I was not asked to help, but to stay in the tail and watch for German fighters.
We landed at a new P-47 Thunderbolt, fighter base in France with steel mesh for a hard surface on the runway. The tail wheel tire had been punctured by a piece of flack and was flat. When it touched the steel mesh it made one heck of a noise, and as I sat just aft of the tail wheel, it sounded like it was grinding right up to my fanny. We got old Moon to the hospital. He lived but got a new leg. We flew to Paris on a C-47 where we stayed all night, then back to London on another C-47, from there to our home field on the 28th.
March 1, 1945 - Mission #6, target Heilbrenn, 9 ¾ hours, clear, 20,300 feet, moderately accurate flack over front lines at the Rhine River. A milk run and we left big fires in the target area.
March 3, 195 - Mission #7, target Chemnitz, 91/2 hours, 7/10 cloud coverage, 25,000 feet, moderately inaccurate flack, one hole in ship. We had a high tail wind on the way to the target but coming home for a time we were only doing 90 miles an hour ground speed. We were low on gasoline by the time we crossed the channel, so landed at an English air field for enough to get home.
March 4, 1945 - Mission #8, Target Ulm, 9 hours, no flack, 10/10 cloud coverage, 22,500 feet. It was a tank and armored car factory, never saw the ground on the whole mission.
March 5, 1945 - Mission #9, target Chemnitz, 9/10 cloud coverage, no flack, 27,000 feet. A long haul and me getting tired and a little quick. We flew our first deputy lead (if the lead plane of the squadron was disabled we would take over lead). Our crew had a good record and this was a step up the ladder if you were looking for glory, which I wasnt. There was already to many dead heroes. The trouble with lead and deputy lead was that all those German anti aircraft gunners were aiming at the lead planes and they had a lot of practice by this late in the war.
March 8, 1945 - Mission # 10, target Huls, 8 hours, meager flack, 10/10 cloud coverage, 27,000 feet. Twelve minutes from our front lines to target.
March 12, 1945 - Mission #11, target Dillenberg, 8 hours, no flack, 10/10 cloud coverage, 22,500 feet. This was in support of the infantry bridgehead that had been established across the Rhine River.
March 18, 1945 - Mission # 12, target Berlin, 9 hours, 5/10 cloud coverage, 26,500 feet, intense and accurate flack, fires and heavy smoke in the target area. We used both demolition and incendiary bombs. This was a 1,500 plane raid on Germany. Every thing flew that could get in the air. By the time we got to the target, so many other planes had crossed it below us, each leaving a heavy condensation trail, that we were unable to see the ground and bombed by radar.
March 19, 1945 - Mission #13, target Plauen, 10 hours, 4/10 cloud coverage, no flack, 26,500 feet. Saw our front lines and could trace them on the ground by the smoke and fires. Saw Cologne and Paris.
March 22, 1945 - Mission #14, target Dorstan, 61/2 hours, 2/10 cloud coverage, 23,500 feet, flack heavy and accurate, close to 50 holes in ship when we got back to field. Our Co-Pilot, Robert Taylor some times flew with another crew. At about this time he made a mission with another crew and our crew didnt fly. When they dropped their bombs on salvo by mistake, two of the RDX bombs hit together just below the plane and they exploded knocking down 5 planes. The Co-Pilot got out ok but was a POW until the end of the war.
March 24, 1945 - Mission #15, target Osnaberg. 61/2 hours, meager flack, 25,000 feet, clear as could be, target w2as an airfield. This was the second raid we made in support of General Montgomery of the English Army. He made the crossing of the Rhine River a few days before. On an earlier mission we could see the Rhine and smoke from of smoke generators putting out a smoke screen. My cousin Edward E. Holloway crossed farther south with the American forces. My brother, Lewis R. Holloway served in the infantry in North Africa and Italy and another cousin was a tail gunner on a B-24, was shot down near Paris and killed.
Got a pass to London. The rockets have stopped but am getting tired of England. On an earlier pass to London a V2 rocket hit about 3 blocks from where I was sleeping and it woke me up real quick when it exploded.
April 1, 1945 - April fools day. We were alerted for a mission but it was canceled. General George Patton was to fast for us. He was by now spearheading east through Germany and before the air force could select a target ahead of him and hit it, Patton had already taken it.
April 4, 1945, alerted again today for a mission but them ground boys dont need us I guess. Suits me.
April 9,1945 - Mission #16, target Oberphoffenhoffen (or some such name), 7 hours, clear 25,000 feet, target was an airfield, no flack. I saw one of our planes explode in the distance. We flew as full squadron lead for the first time. We had a swell view of lake Constance and the Alps Mountains. They are really beautiful from the air.
April 16, 1945 - Mission #17, target Regensberg, 71/2 hours, clear, 24,000 feet, meager flack. Our target was the marshaling yards and we used 500 pound bombs.
April 17, 1945 - Mission # 18, target Rosenheim, 91/2 hours, clear, 18,000 feet, meager flack at beginning of bomb run. Saw bombs explode in target area, a long haul for us guys. These yards were on the German side of the Brenner Pass and the rail line carried troops and supplies back and forth over the Brenner Pass to Italy.
April 19, 1945 - Mission #19, target Esterwerde, clear, three bomb runs over target, Got flack just after bombs away. We had to take over lead of squadron. We saw Berlin and smoke along the Russian front lines east of Berlin. From the amount of smoke along the Russian lines, they must have burned almost every thing that would burn.
May 1, 1945, got 48 hour pass and went to Cambridge. Met a cute little girl who was a nurse.
May 7, 1945. they seem to think the war is about over and I hope so.
May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe, V. E. day. We did it. I guarded a straw pile on the base to keep it from being burned, no celebrating for me. I was really happy to think the war was over in Europe and that I had come through 19 missions without a scratch. Along with this I can look back at all the wonderful sights I had seen in the doing. Would I care to do it over? No waaaaay.
May 31, 1945, we left jolly old England for the U.S.A. in the same plane we used in our raid on Berlin, by way of Wales; Iceland; Greenland; and on to Bradley Field, Connecticut. Guess who joined us as we prepared to leave England? None other than our red headed navigator. It is a wonder we didnt end up in Russia. He had received a minor wound in the neck and spent time in the hospital and rest camp while we flew the last 2/3rds of our missions.
After a 30 day leave at home, we reported to Tampa Army Air Field. The crew was broken up there and I was sent to Thomasville, Georgia as an armor gunner on P-51 fighters at a training base.
August 14, 1945, Victory in Japan, and the end of World War II.
When the P-51 fighter base was shut down I was sent to Jacksonville, Florida. This may not be known by all at this late date, but during World War II there was no U.S. Air Force, but rather a branch of the Army, per: Army Air Force. Because of this it was possible to shift me from the Army Air Force to the straight Army without my say so.
My new home was Camp Blanding, a separation center at that time, and made me a Mess Sergeant of all things, as I didnt have enough points to get my discharge.
My turn finally came and I received my discharge papers on December 6, 1945. I had decided to hitch hike to California and five days later I arrived there. My war was over.
This picture of me is sitting on house steps in San Francisco after being discharged, January 1946
James Lafayette Holloway
army serial # 39923016
I was asked one time by a young lady school teacher how the war affected me? My first answer was: Very little. However after giving it further thought, it was true long term, but during combat each mission flew made me more nervous. When one considers the odds with each succeeding mission that we would be shot down, and I would be wounded or killed, grew greater. I was no Einstein but I could see that my luck could, and probably might run out at any time.
This continued to increase the pressure on me. We came back from one of our later missions and when I walked into the barracks there was a letter laying on my bunk. I sat down, opened the letter and tried to read it but my hands was shaking so bad I couldnt. It made me kind of mad. I slapped it down on my leg, took my hands off of it and read the dam thing that way. I have heard my brother, who saw combat at Cassia Blanca, Kaserine Pass, Tunisia, Italy, say this also wore on his nerves more than any other single thing.
Then there was the times when I would look down and see some beautiful sight on the ground, bright blue of the Zider sea ( I am not sure how to spell it) or see many small fields of blooming flowers of different colors in Holland and for a few moments I would forget the war. My memories of this are some of my best remembered and pleasant thoughts of that time long ago in the skies over Germany.
After a little over 50 years I had lost contact with all my old crew. One day I went to my computer and started to search. I found that three of them was dead, Lynn W. Barnes, nose gunner; Clarence W. Bridges, Engineer and top turret gunner; Glen S. Gagon, navigator. The rest of the crew I contacted and as of now am in contact with all except the Pilot who I havent heard from in almost a year.
Following is a list of my crew members as I have it, with their serial numbers, rank and position flown, serial # MOS
First Lt. James F. Womeldhrf - Pilot 0799911 1091
Lt. Robert R. Taylor - Co-Pilot T62943 1051
Captain Glen S. Gagon - Navigator 0666648 1036
T/Sgt. Clarence W. Bridges - Engineer / Top Turret Gunner 39044537 748
T/Sgt. Ronald F. Moon Sr. - Radio man / Gunner 32746965 757
T/Sgt. Edward Kilgore - Radio man (replacement) Gunner 13096789 757
S/Sgt. Lynn W. Barnes - Nose Gunner 14202995 612
S/Sgt. Donald J. Burritt - Ball Turret Gunner 16108074 611
S/Sgt Marvin J. Wood - Waist Gunner 39923232 611
S/Sgt. James L. Holloway - Tail Gunner 39923016 611
We had different men fly co-pilot and navigator during our tour and a 2nd Lt. William S. Hartsell Jr., ser: # 0783763, MOS 1051 flew co-pilot on our trip home from England. The airplane we flew home in was a B-17G, ser:# 44-8031 which we left at Bradley Field.
It might be of interest to some that Donald J. Burritt and myself, James L. Holloway were the only ones of the crew that chose the aircraft industry as a trade after the war. Burritt went to college under the G. I. bill and learned to fly then joined the new Air Force as a pilot and flew in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. After retiring he opened an aircraft maintenance shop in his home town of La Cross, Wisconsin which he ran for a number of years.
I hired on with United Air Lines as a mechanic at their maintenance base on the San Francisco Airport in the fall of 1946 where I worked for a total of a little over 30 years.
----- James L. Holloway
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