World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
12 November 1983
About 15 May 1941 I arrived in Tampa, Florida on the "Orange Blossom Special," "Green Raw Recruit." An old 6x6 took us out to the base. Boy! Two runways, lots of swamp palmetto roots and mosquitoes (big ones!).
At our evening meal with the prisoners." Old Blue Denim fatigues with a big white "P" on their backs; we had "cold Creamed Peas." What a meal! Next day I was assigned to Hq. Squadron. Went through some kind of processing. Got GI clothes. Pretty good fit.
Sgt Metzler came in our barracks. Bagley, Sneider, Spann, and four or five more report to the flight line in the morning ("where the heck is the flight line?")
Met M/Sgt. Barnhill, line chief, he had 12 or 14 men assigned and we made about 20 of us. Boy what a crew?
T/Sgt. Luke Britton Metzler and T/Sgt. Cook. We had one each B-18, one PT-17, and a YB?17. I had two each rags, one to wash the airplane and one to dry it. Ha!
I was assigned to No. 2 engine with Spann. We changed an oil pump and a spinner cap but mostly it was clean and wiped. I even cleaned and shined the No. 2 prop. It really sparkled; all but the spinner.
M/Sgt. Barnhill asked who shined the prop? And I replied with a smile. Ha. How come you didn't polish the spinner? I told him I tried and it would not polish so he got me a new one.
My first ride was in the tail cone so I could see if the tail wheel vibrated. It did even locked and I didn't get to see Doodly. Big deal. Next time I got to ride on the catwalk in the bomb bay. I found out "Gear up" meant start cranking. I cranked and was about pooped out and I hear, "Gear down," so I start cranking again.
We were back on the ground; I was back on the ground and still hadn't seen "Doodly." Some flying.
Capt. Champion, our squadron commander, was pilot. When I got my first $21 a day once a month (it turned out to be $18.21, but when I reported and a boy salute, he said, "Pvt. Bagley, how do you like working on the flight line?" Did that surprise me. Then he said, "I've been hearing good things about you. Keep it up."
I later found out he could call each in the squadron by his first name. Pretty impressive to a one-month recruit. But here is what got to me. When General Knapp retired at Chanute in 1972, I was at the reception and one face on a colonel looked so familiar. I went over and checked his nametag, "Col. Champion." I asked if he was George. "Yes," he said. Were you in the 44th BG? "Yep," he said. All I said was, "McDill YB-17." He said, "Metzler, Brittony Bagley." We had a grand talk (I could go on and on).
I got sent to the Motor Pool. That was "bad" because to be sent to the Motor Pool marked you as a "goof up." So I asked Metzler Why. What did I do? "Nothing," he said. "They just need a mechanic to fix some brakes on four ambulances." I got that done and back to the flight line. Great. Got to tear down B-17 engine after three B-17s went in the Tampa Bay.
Our 1st Sgt. Kashner Sharp after the first four months I could get a pass to go to town. I walked into the Orderly Room ""hat can I do for you," I said, "I came in to pick up my pass." "Bagley come around the desk and let me see you." I stood inspection and got my pass. Joe Sneider was right behind me and he got the same treatment. Supposed to be in by 10:00. We made it by 09:00.
Was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska to attend the Lincoln Aeronautical School, TDY. How is that? Is this what you want? Sam Palmer I don't know about, but Ryan didn't come along till we were at Barksdale. Cook's no good ones till Barksdale. We were there for some time before Huntley took over. That's where I pulled KP and Col. Atchinson dumped the green beans on the floor, then told the cooks to clean it up, not the KPs. He was "my man!"
Col. ?Bull of the Wods was okay. He was rough as a "Col." but fair. Later, I enjoyed flying with him.
Will, I best finish this up and get it mailed. The Pony Express ain't too fast. Ha! So you take it easy and try to be good.
P.S. We got a bunch of 2nd Lts. Including five from West point: Posey, Timberlake, Robinson, "ump" and "ump." Ha! My computer went down. Needs new batteries. I'll think of them later. They all made group commanders, except Posey. Cheers.