View Full Version : War Stories

07-12-2006, 02:35 PM
I was playing around with PF, and I realized that my family has a story that is way more dramatic than anything il2 could make.

My grandpa's brother was the tail gunner for what I believe was a B-25 Mitchell. During a run over France one day, the majority of the aircraft exploded. A Mitchell's tail gunner, like most bombers, could only access the rest of the plane via a small duct over the bomb bay. The bay, then was what saved his life, as the entire tail of the craft was severed from the rest of the plane. Due to the Mitchell's tail configuration, my great-uncle managed to survive gliding down into a French farm. He hid from the Nazi's in a manure pile, and a French girl brought him food every day. I don't know the entire story, since I've misplaced the records, but he made it home safely despite Nazi attempts to find him, including shoving bayonets into the manure pile! I'm not sure what got his bomber either. Most likely flak.
Pretty Amazing.

07-12-2006, 02:57 PM
All the records I have are in his own words, too.

07-12-2006, 03:36 PM
That man wasn't ment to die that day.
Plz post the records if you will. I find them very interesting.

Thanks for sharing http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-12-2006, 04:06 PM
I will. I myself have only heard the story from living relatives, since my great-uncle died a few years ago. It should be interesting for me as well.

07-21-2006, 09:05 PM
This is the story as he told it. Turns out he actually flew in a B-17, and was moved out of France via the underground.

Notes: Deliverance, Survival, and Escape
by: Harold Norris, 94th Bomb Group
In responce to several requests, the last from Preston Clark, to give my account of the November 27, 1943, mission to Paris on which Johnny Pyle's plane was rammed by an enemy ship and crashed, I am submitting a description of my experience. I was the tail gunner on that aircraft and the only survivor of the crash. I'm not a writer as this version of what happened will attest, and I haven't thought very carefully about what happened to me for many years, but perhaps as I write, I'll remember.
The Mission was to bomb the ball bearing factory in Paris. Harry Slater's book indicates the place was called Ivry. It was my fifth mission. On the first three, we were knocked out of formation, and returned alone, but we went to Gelsenkirchenon on November 19, and came back with the rest of the group.
We went to Paris with the feeling that things were starting to look better. Three members of Pyle's crew- Cliff Hatcher, co-pilot; Adolph Del Zoppo, bombardier; and Ervin Smith, ball turret- didn't go on this mission with us in order that three members of the new crew might gain some experience. They were Gordon Hendrickson, pilot; Ernest Hyde, bombardier; and William Harold, ball. I mention these names especially because of a later happening after the war. Bill Harold's mother, who lived in Chicago wrote my mother who lived in Redding, Iowa, that her son had been killed on the same raid that I was on. Bill's parents had lived in Redding, Iowa and had moved to Chicago at an earlier time. Cliff Hatcher and Ervin Smith remained on the ground that day. Adolph Del Zoppo flew with another crew and witnessed the disaster that befell his own crew.
By the time we made our run on the target it was so cloudy that those in charge decided not to drop the bombs and we turned to come home. About 30 miles southwest of Paris we were attacked by German fighters. I thought they were ME-109s, but some said they were FW-190s. Whatever, one of them crashed into our brand new airplane with the chin turret and blew us to pieces.
According to witnesses, there wasn't any way anyone could come out alive, but the tail section was one of the pieces and I was in it. i can't recall hearing any noise, but I saw an extremely bright reddish light. We were at 19000 to 21,000 feet. I may have lost consciousness- I don't know- but when I became aware of my situation, it seemed that the weight in the back of the tail- the guns and the ammunition and my body- made the heavy end rise and then swing down very fast, pinning me against the extreme end, and it continued to repeat the motion.
I had a chest chute and had the harness on, but I couldn't wear the parachute and do what I had to do. I had stored the chute toward the front of the tail section, directly across from the escape hatch, which of couse would be behind me as I rode my bicycle seat. The chute wasn't there when I looked for it, but I did find it among the cables at the top of the tail section.
It was lodged pretty tight, and I had trouble working it loose. I still had my safety belt fastened which kept me reasonably secure, even with the way the tail section kept pitching. It seemed that I had been there a long time and that surely I would hit the ground before I could ever get out. I told God that if he helped me live, I would be His forevermore. I knew they would send my stuff back home to my folks. My sister had sent me a letter in which she had included a racy story. I knew my folks would get the letter and would be dissappointed in both of us.
The tail section had broken away from the rest of the airplane just ahead of the horizontal stabilizers. The left stabilizer was broken off so that the tail, when it would settle briefly, would put the escape hatch toward the sky, slightly to the right. I unfastened the safety belt, snapped the parachute on and began making my way toward the front. Up to this point I hadn't realized that I was the only one there.
I thought I wouldn't try to go through the hatch. I'd see what was happening up front. Then I saw that there was a big ragged hole there, so I pulled the hatch release. The door didn't budge. All this time the tail was swinging. It had slowed down somewhat, but when I'd get that extreme pressure, I'd cling to the braces until I could move again. That door did come loose when I kicked it a few times and I climbed up and out and away. I couldn't pull the rip cord because the tail and I were too close together, but finally the elements separated us, as I descended fast and the tail went ahead faster. I pulled and the chute opened, I swung three, maybe four times, and came to a bouncy landing on the tile roof of a building. It was a rural house and barn together.
I slid down the roof onto a manure pile, dragging some tile and some chimney with me. I dug a large hold in the cow manure and buried the parachute. When I looked around, I saw the tail of a B-17 about a block and a half away. My first thought was that someone else had crashed here- then I realized that it was the one I had just gotten out of. I said "Thank You" to God and tried the door of the house. It didn't give. I knocked on the door and said, "I'm an American." But I didn't get any response. I was pretty sure I had seen someone at a window, but I didn't pursue the matter due mostly to the fact that I saw German soldiers heading my way. The house was on what I think was the west side of the road. The soldiers were on the east side of the road and between a quarter and a half mile away. There was a growth of underbrush along the east side of the road and I lay down in the ditch among the underbrush while the soldiers went past. They hadn't seen me, but they were going to examine the biggest piece of the airplane they could find. That was the tail.
I don't know how many soldiers there were, but I think eight or ten. After the soldiers had gone, a man and a woman, each on abicycle, came riding by where I was hiding. The woman said "Follow him." Then she turned her bicyle around, and I got up and started running after the man. We were going north.
After about a half mile we came to an intersection in the road. There was a house on the east side. There was a German convoy of several trucks crossing the road from the east. The man pointed toward the house, but I ducked down into the ditch to wait for the convoy to go by. Whenit was gone, I got up and went to the house and tried to open the door. It wouldn't open.
I went around to the east side of the house where a lean-to had been built on the north and on the east, but the south side had been left open. Inside the shed were several rows of firewood piled the width of the shed that left a little room at the top of the shed.I clambered up and over the pile of wood, thinking I would crawl back as far as I could and try to hide. When I got back there, I found that there was about 3 feet of space between the wood and the north wall. I climbed down to the ground and lay down to let my heart pound a while. Whether it makes any difference or not, I think it was close to one o'clock when I got to my hiding place. The longer I stayed there the more secure I felt. I fell asleep and when I awakened, it was dark. Then I realized that there was ome activity that aroused me. A small door that I hadn't noticed earlier was opened. This door was in the north wall close to the west side.
I was lying so that my head was toward the west, and I was on my right side so that I faced the south. That caused my back to be toward the little door. I didn't move. Someone reached his hand in the door and touched my head. I still didn't move. He moved his hand down to my shoulder, and then down my arm to my hand and laid a package in my hand, closed to door and left.
I had an idea what the package contained. There were two packages actually. One was wrapped in butcher paper and the contents were soft and somewhat mushy. The other was hard and shaped like a glass bottle. Actually, it was a bottle full of grape wine. The soft mushy stuff was mashed potatoes with chicken mixed into it. There were also three eggs that I thought were hard boiled until I broke one and felt the contents run down my fingers in the dark. I licked it off my fingers regardless of the fact that I had used these same fingers to dig into a manure pile and hadn't yet had the opportunity to wash. I was hungry and the food was good. Also the feeling that somebody friendly knew where I was, was good. After I had finished the food and some of the wine, I slept until morning.

That's it for right now, since my fingers are sore. There's a lot more to the story than this, to be sure. Just ask if you want to hear more.

07-22-2006, 12:41 AM
Thanks for posting this--- please post any more you can, when time and finger wear permits.

07-22-2006, 12:46 AM
WoW! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/clap.gif

07-22-2006, 12:47 AM
Thanks for posting Bbeggar http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-22-2006, 02:34 AM
Thanks Bbagger http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif please continu when you're able again.

07-22-2006, 04:41 AM
Raw history.
Thank You.
regards snooper.

07-22-2006, 04:58 AM
very Interesting Story

I salute your Great-Uncle http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-23-2006, 01:36 AM
Thank you for posting.
Can you inagine doing that? fighting for your
life while falling from 20,000ft? If it was me there would have been a pile of manure blocking my exit from the tail be sure.


07-23-2006, 03:45 AM
This remminds me of a similar story I read years ago. Although I always remembered it as a Ventura bomber. The gunner actually rode the tail unit all the way to the ground. I dug around the net and was able to find the guys name, a Mr William Stannard:

"The Ventura aircraft, in which Sergeant William Stannard (32) was rear gunner, was set on fire over the Dutch coast in 1943. The fuselage, containing his parachute, became a tunnel of flame. He was trapped in the turret awaiting the end. Suddenly something exploded, and the large twin tail with the turret attached was blown away from the burning plane. It glided into a spiral, and he thought how upset his mother would be over his death.

The tail unit crashed through a tree in the grounds of a Dutch country mansion, and Stannard was knocked out. He awoke to find himself in the drawing room with an old lady asking,
"Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Thank you very much!" he answered, swigging it down in one go.
Then he grew embarrassed, at his lack of manners. Given time to revive, he found that he had been retrieved by the head gardener and housekeeper. Two German officers were also in the room, having come to round him up."

From here: http://www.rafcaa.org.uk/admin/tales.htm

Also a lot more similar events from Free Fall Research Page:

02-15-2010, 09:03 AM
Hi Bbeggar,
I just found your post from 2006 about Johnny Pyle's plane. My mother, (maiden name Rochelle M. Walters, Waco, TX), was married to Johnny Pyle when he was killed on that mission. She later remarried my father, Ltc. George R. Scott.

My sister and I discovered a photo album of Mom and Johnny which contained the news of his final mission. We were very young at the time and didn't quite get the big picture. I remember discussing Johnny with Mom on a few occasions but only briefly each time, and never in depth. That generation, truly the greatest generation as far as I'm concerned, knew how to protect their feelings and or allowing them to get in the way of living their life. I know Johnny Pyle's death was something that shattered my mother and that she never got over it. By all accounts from her life-long friends, they were high school sweethearts and a perfect match for each other. I met Oscar Pyle, Johnny's brother, once at a reunion of sorts when I was 16 or so. He told me that information about Mom and Johnny. Again, I was young and dumb and didn't quite get the impact of it all. I understand it all to well now.

Mom told me about the tail gunner being the only survivor. She showed me Johnny's cigarette lighter tat he retrieved from the wreckage of the plane, (a B-17 as I've been told too).

Mom died several years ago at 80 years of age and when we went through our families belongings, I never found that lighter or Johnny's Purple Heart medal. Maybe my sister knows were they are.

I'm very glad to have discovered your posting, especially reading the account of
" Notes: Deliverance, Survival, and Escape by Harold Norris, 94th Bomb Group".

God bless those brave men and that great generation! They saved the world on two fronts and I'm one of the lucky ones that reaped the benefits of their sacrfices, no matter how undeserving I am of that wonderful gift.


Bob Scott
Key West, FL