World war II Memories
(Taken from letter to Will Lundy)
July 4, 1992
7130 West Country Club Dr. No.
Sarasota, Florida 34243
Thank you for your personal letter. I am now 72 years of age like everyone else, and to remember what went on 50 years ago is not easy. I was one of the first draftees sweating out their year in the service when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I was originally in the Pennsylvania Keystone Infantry Division stationed at Harrisburg, Penn. This was the outfit that fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany with many casualties. We were issued all fur clothing and only my eyes were uncovered. I thought we were going to the North Pole but ended up at Camp Croft, So. Carolina.
Being 21 we would hike 20 miles with pebbles in our mouths - no water - back to camp and walk two miles to the picture show. Anyway, at this time they were going to streamline the divisions and I had a chance to transfer into the Air Force. They sent me to Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma. I filled out all my papers and passed everything for glider pilot training. Anyway, my papers went astray and I never did get to go to Glider Pilot School.
While at Will Rogers Field, we had a tornado and we all had to go out on the air field ramp and wrap our arms around the big metal rings used to tie down our aircraft. The tornado hit in Oklahoma City and tore up about ten square blocks.
Phase (2) - shipped to New York City - boarded Queen Mary, September 5, 1942 bound for England. Arrived Firth of Clyde Scotland. I believe we had 18,000? Troops on the Queen Mary and had bunks in the swimming pools, etc. I remember when they would swing guys out on booms to see if any of the port holes were showing any light for submarine security. We had no escort and had to depend on our speed for submarine evasion. There was a large cannon on the rear (aft) of the Queen Mary and when they would fire practice shots the whole ship would vibrate. I thought we were hit by a torpedo. Anyway, I was seasick all the way over and all the way back on the Queen Mary. To this day, I get seasick when I buy my ticket. Flying doesn't bother me because I know I am on my way to Las Vegas.
Anyway, when we finally came ashore, we were put in trucks that had little slits for headlights because of the blackout. I cannot remember all of the details, but we finally arrived at Shipdham where I would be for two years 9 months. Several days later Winston Churchill said there was a possibility of a German invasion and being just 22, I was ready to go home.
I started out in the 66th Bomb Squadron and was transferred to the 2033 Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon - attached to the 44th Bomb Group. The English furnished us with an antiquated fire truck that had a large tank of water and foam to fight plane fires. Most fields in England had a small pond which was used for irrigation ? and we were able to suck water out of these ponds to fight plane fires off the airdrome with our available equipment. Toward the end of the war, the U.S. sent us $50,000 modern fire trucks with hydraulic booms with a CO2 solution with which you had to be careful not to freeze someone in the plane. Most people do not know that the magnesium in the plane's engines once on fire is almost impossible to extinguish and we used to pull that part of the engine away from the plane and let it burn itself out.
The crash crew barracks and the medical trucks were right next to the control tower and we worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off. We had our rubber boots next to our bunks. I think our Nissen Hut was the closest to the control tower. One of my beset friends (Leo Bonette) recently deceased, worked in the control tower. I am sending a copy of this letter to Mrs. Leo Bonette and she may have some pictures she could send to you as our 44th historian. I believe Leo and Lou Bonette took a trip to England to visit the Shipdham air drome.
Back to things I remember, on foggy takeoffs, we would send a fire jeep to the end of the runway to make sure the planes were airborne. I remember when we first arrived at Shipdham, I would take my soap and towel and bicycle to the town of Shipdham and pay to have a hot bath. The man would measure four inches of water in his bathtub and that was it.
Another time, I remember going to London on furlough with another fellow from our airbase and you know how the train doors all open out toward the station platform - well, it was dark and he thought he was going to the restroom and fell out on the railroad tracks. The train was going very slow and we had to back up and put him back on the train - no worse for wear.
As far as crash pictures, I gave all mine to R. O. Kruger at Ft. Myers, Florida. Recently, I only had a few. I had quite a few pictures of the first planes we had - gave to Kruger. I remember Tony Cirami was a 66th crew chief and he always asked me to go on low-level practice missions to get ready for the Ploesti oil fields raid. Tony now lives in Sun City, Florida. I thought the low level practice missions were great.
I am originally from Galesburg, Illinois and Walter Pitts also from my home town was a 66th crew chief stationed at Shipdham. Took a trip two summers ago and visited with him. He was on the Ploesti air raid and he told me some good stories. I think he said he bailed out four times. I hope I have this right - we were both at the Elks Club bar when he told me.
I cannot remember all of the planes we chased down the runway, but a lot of them were English Lancasters. I believe we were the closest airfield to the East Coast and all the wounded British planes landed at Shipdham. Some of the pilots said we had the best mess halls and that's why they landed here.
Enclosed you will find a list of our original fire fighting crews. There have been some additions such as Emil Unger. I cannot remember any more.
Copy to Mrs. Leo Bonette, 110 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, N.H. 03063
Mr. Emil Unger, % Bear Mountain Trailer Park, P. O. Box 229, Shady Cove, Oregon 97539
THEODORE F. CLARK
World War II
History and Biography
(Taken from a letter sent to Will Lundy)
7 September 1994
I went to England from Will Roger's Field in Oklahoma arriving there 5 September 1942 (Queen Mary) and spent the entire time at Shipdham arriving back in the U.S. 15 June 1945 (Queen Mary).
I believe at that time I was in the 66th Sq. I tried to find out for sure but my records were destroyed by fire. I ended up in the 2033 Engineer Aviation - Fire Fighting Base Service Squadron, 405 HQ, 44th Bombardment Group.
This was the crash crew next to the control tower. The 44th Veterans Association should produce more fellows attached like myself.
I went to one of your 67th squadron reunions several years ago at Tucson, Arizona. Had a good time.
Enclosed find my $5.00 check. My wife, Phyllis, has had Alzheimer's disease for 3 ½ years so limits my traveling.
In 66th Bomb Squad