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Bloody 100th
In The Mood
First Mission
March '44 & Berlin
Target Berlin Again
48 Hour Pass In London
Sing These Songs...Mightly
Target Brunswick Again
Target Augsburg
Letters Of Commendation
Munich Is The Target
Our Little Friends
Other Side...
Heavy Water
15th In Italy
Russian bases
Target Oil
Bob Rosenthal
Colonel John Bennett
William R. Lawley
B-17 Control Panel
The Base Of Operations
Russians Load Bombs
Goering's Lament
Code Of Conduct
C.B. (Red) Harper
Credits & Links


Between the first and second World wars the major military air arm of the United States was under Army Command. The air leaders, however, believed that aircraft opened up a completely new concept of military force and that the development of this should be vested in an autonomous organization. Although the Army General Staff was not sympathetic to these ideas, the Army Air Corps gradually developed a doctrine of strategic air power linked to the bomber aircraft. By the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, much of the technical equipment was on hand to make this mode of warfare possible. Substantial numbers of heavily armed bombers flying in close formation at a great height, would be sent to attack war factories deep in the enemy homeland. At an altitude of some five miles high the bombers would be well beyond the effective range of the then current antiaircraft artillery, while the close formations would have the benefit of the massed fire from a great many defensive machine guns to ward off intercepting fighters that were able to climb to that height. Further, the development of a precision bomb sight - the Norden - enabled extremely accurate sighting to be obtained on small targets from such high altitude. Practice bombing against range targets in the United States had proved the extreme accuracy of the Norden when operated by a proficient bombardier.

This scheme was eventually accepted by the Army Commanders and influential U.S. government advisers with the result that the creation of a heavy bomber force with such capability was a priority in the build up of the Army Air Forces (a semi-autonomous organization)...created in June 1941. While the massive build up of the Army Air Force was going on, other branches of the military were frantically building training facilities to accommodate the mass of volunteers and inductees being brought into all branches of the military.

Thus begins the story of C.B. (Red) Harper starting as a raw recruit in Uncle Sam’s Army.

The great depression of the 1930s was quite an equalizer, as it pretty well put the majority of people on the same social standard which translates to “broke,” and for many that meant in spirit as well as cash.

After High School graduation in 1936 I was accepted for enrollment in Hardin-Simmons University at Abilene, Texas. I possessed some virtuosity at tooting a clarinet and sax so after a successfull tryout for their famous “Cowboy Band” I was extended a limited scholarship that allowed me to wear cowboy boots, chaps, ten gallon hat, purple neckerchief, gold shirt and march in parades. We did the famous Hardin- Simmons University Cowboy Band Cow Step which was really a neat way to step around the ever present horse fertilizer that abounds on parade routes. Unfortunately the limited scholarship did not include room and board in the dormitory. HSU was not a benevolent institution so after two years of non payment of room and board I was asked to depart those hallowed halls of learning until my cash flow became pumped up considerably. So it was Hail to Thee Purple & Gold and adios to the West Texas Baptist Vatican - My Reluctant Alma Mater. 

My two stolen years of college did help me get an ‘executive’ position at the Abilene Printing and Stationery Co.

I was one of two store employees there so I became head janitor, chief honcho of shipping, receiving, delivery, inside store sales, mimeograph sales, service and repairs and merchandise re-stocking - all at a salary of $12.50 per week. Several friends were members of the Texas National Guard. The “Guard” was in the process of building up to allotted strength with local boys before Federal mobilization, which was only a couple months away. I was draft age, single and a prime target to be drafted and sent to one of those far away places like New Jersey where people talk funny so it looked like the best thing for me to do to avoid the draft was enlist and be with people mostly from Texas.

I enlisted in the Texas National Guard two months before Federal mobilization in October 1940. We were moved to Camp Bowie at Brownwood, Texas during construction of the facility. I have never been sorry for my decision ~o enlist because I became associated with some of the finest men this world will ever see.

Two years Army camp life had passed since mobilization. By this time the Army Air Corps had started recruitment for select individuals who could fit their parameters for IQ and physical condition. This interested me. I was able to transfer into the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet in July 1942 and soon received orders to report to Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas for pre-flight school.

Orders to Kelly specified that any military unit identification such as chevrons, hash marks, shoulder patches, piping on caps, decorations or brass attached on any military uniforms were to be removed. Upon arrival, all personnel were assembled on the parade ground for further orders. Most came straight from civilian life and wore civilian clothing. A few like myself who were in the military wore plain (31 issue khaki shirt, pants and cap. All had some sort of luggage. The guy on my right was fresh from civilian life and had on a new tailor made summer officer uniform consisting of blouse, trousers and 50 mission crush cap complete with Rayban dark green pilot sun glasses. He was the “twitchy” type and continually hummed and sang a hit parade thing called “I don’t want to set the world on fire - I just want to start a flame in your heart,” which was particularly annoying to me standing out there in that Texas heat. I knew within reason that the old Master Sergeant in command of this mob was going to split a gut as soon as he laid eyes on that cat. Well, behold ye.. .it did happen. The old Sarge did a double take as he scanned by that thing and made a bee line for him. I thought “Hot damn - the fun’s gonna start now.

The Sergeant stuck his nose against that kids nose and screamed “Arsonist, I’ll build a fire under your damn ass and just where in hell did you find that clown suit you got on. You damn well better git them rags off now and I mean like right now Do-you-hear-me-boy? You’re just standing there offending the hell out of me boy’ The kid swallowed and said, “Right now, Sir ?“ Old Sarge said, “You got ear trouble ass hole? If you don’t have that costume off in 60 seconds I’ll rip it off for you - now-do-you-hear-me-boy?” The kid had it off in the allotted time and stood around there for the next hour in his pink boxer shorts underwear that had little red hearts printed all over, wearing nothing else but his argyle socks, brown oxfords and those Rayban shades. My first reaction was that this looks like my kind of outfit - never a dull moment.

The first order of business was a double time march to the barber shop where all bead hair was removed and then we ran to the quartermaster warehouse to be measured and fitted for our cadet uniforms.

We spent the rest of the evening until lights out - scrubbing the barracks from ceiling to floor - cleaning the latrine and floor until we could eat off of the floor. Everyone was exhausted and sleep came soon after lights out.

At 05:00 the bugler sounded reveille, the orderly exploded through the door beating two trash can lids together and loud speakers were playing “Glenn Miller’s version of the St. Louis Blues March” loud enough Co have been beard in St. Louis. The orderly was screaming “fall in for roll call in ten minutes - you ugly flight bananas.”

After breakfast, wearing only gym shorts and tennis shoes, we lined up to run to the hospital for physical exams. Yes, as a cadet you didn’t march anywhere but in a parade. The rest of the time you ran. Upon arrival at the hospital, we removed our clothing and about 5,000 guys stood around naked as a jay bird until physicals were complete late in the afternoon.

A couple of mildly interesting things happened that day. The first incident took place as we were in a long line standing side by side. The doctor had on a rubber glove and was checking testicles for abnormalities and also for signs of hernia problems. He had finished with the guy next to me and stepped in front of me, looked kind of puzzled, went back to the fellow he had just checked and the kid grinned and said, “Yea doe, I got three of ‘em.” The doc grinned and moved back to me.

The other incident was a small skinny kid sitting in the floor eating bananas like a monkey. He was two pounds under weight and the doctor told him if he could eat enough bananas to get his weight up to minimum, he was in. I’m proud to report that he made it.

A considerable amount of hazing was carried out by the upperclassmen, something that has been a necessary part of cadet life and handed down from the West Point system. Hazing is theoretically employed for wrong doing, careless attire, an untidy room or just for the hell of it. Distasteful and humiliating as it was, some hazing was probably useful in disciplining us to cope with problems that would face us in years ahead.

However, I must say that being on the humiliating end of the thing could leave some doubt about it’s usefulness. I once laughed when a certain obnoxious upper classman fell and busted his ass. I found myself standing on tip toes, nose in a chalk circle, flapping my arms and screaming five times, “I’m a silly shit for laughing,” Oh well, “C’est la guerre.”

Stanine tests were given to determine qualification for pilot, navigator or bombardier. The results were pretty well even as about one third of the 5,000 went to each category at the finish of preflight school. I was elated to be placed in the pilot training category.

At the conclusion of preflight school, it was Uvalde, Texas for primary flight training. The base there was called Hangar Six and like all the other primary schools scattered all over the United States, it was civilian owned and the flight instructors were civilian. Each school had a small cadre of Air Corps personnel for administrative purposes and a sprinkling of military pilots to give periodic proficiency check rides to the student pilots. It was a relief to finally get to fly an airplane and quite exciting to say the least. We were flying Fairchild PT- 19 airplanes with open cockpits. My instructor was Mr. L.Q. Wise and I liked him. He was tough as a boot but fair.

There were episodes in the lives of some of us fledgling birdmen that might bear notice. After 11 rides and 9 hours flight time, my instructor got out of the airplane in the middle of the field and said, “Son, you’ve been trying to kill me for 9 hours now in the air. I’ve had about all I can take, so I’m getting the hell out of here. Now you fly this ground loving thing and try not to do anything dumb.”

The next day. I was out practicing spins in an air space set aside for that purpose. I had rolled the plane to the right and left for a look below to be sure no one was under me before doing a spin. I looked above me just before going into a spin to the left and saw a pilot descending in a parachute. I followed him down while circling around him until he was safely on the ground and after a short search, found his crashed airplane. He waved to me, so assuming he was okay, I flew back to the main airdrome to report the incident. My instructor saw me come in early and came out to the plane. After hearing about the crash, he crawled in the back seat and I flew him to the downed airman. He took over the controls and landed in the farm field, let me out and picked up the downed pilot and flew him back to the main base. A vehicle was sent to get me. When I arrived back at the base I hunted up the pilot that I had seen parachuting down to find out what had happened to him. He said he had kicked his plane into a spin and when he popped the nose down to recover, his safety belt wasn’t fastened and he was thrown out of his plane. He said there he was sitting in thin air.... so he popped his chute.

Many amusing events that took place during primary flight training is a shining example of taking kids in their teens and early twenties from the streets of Brooklyn, ranches in Texas, farms in Iowa and the Dakotas, machine shops in Detroit and the oil fields of Oklahoma and making combat airplane pilots out of them. They made a lot of mistakes in learning to fly and put a lot of gray hairs on the heads of their old barnstorming instructor pilots who were the men who flew the Spads and Pee-Shooters from Randolph in the 20s and 30s. But by all that is holy, these were the kids that rose to fight at Pearl Harbor. They fought in the Coral Sea - Bougainville, Rabul and Burma. Across North Africa, Ploesti, Sicily, in Italy, Salerno and Anzio. They bombed and fought in day-light over Europe - Frankfurt, Cologne, Schweinfiirt, Regensburg, Hamburg. They fought over the heads of Allied Soldiers from Normandy to Berlin.

They fought from the Sahara Desert to the Aleutians. They won the skies and blasted the islands of New Guinea, Ulithi, Saipan, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa - and on to Japan and to final victory over the Rising Sun and the Swastika. How they became those “Marvelous young men with their flying machines,” can best be described by instances like the following. Primary training bases had auxiliary landing fields, usually several miles from the main terminal. These fields were used for landings and take offs to relieve traffic congestion at the main airdrome.

These fields were fenced in with barbed wire and each had a small one room house about 200 square feet in size and a small attached porch in front. There was also what was commonly referred to as a “two holer” out back that was needed for obvious reasons.

Each instructor had from one to five students depending on how many he had washed out on the way and he was also assigned three airplanes.

One plane was for the instructor to fly dual with a student and the other two were for solo student flying. All solo students not scheduled to fly the first period, would be hauled by bus to the auxiliary field and when the first period student’s time was up, he would land at the auxiliary field so another student could fly the plane. The last students to fly at the end of the flying session would land at the main airdrome on completion of their flight and any remaining students at the auxiliary field would be bussed to the base.

Several of us were sitting on the porch of the field house at our auxiliary field waiting for our turn to fly when we heard a popping noise coming from an adjacent corn field. The noise grew louder and we finally caught sight of a student flying with his wheels about two feet off the ground and cutting corn stalks with his propeller like you wouldn’t believe. He had obviously badly undershot the landing field and was dragging his plane in full throttle. As he came over the barbed wire fence, his tail wheel caught the fence and he started dragging about 20 feet of fence and posts behind him. He cut his throttle and the plane dropped to the ground dragging all that junk behind him. About then, he lost control of the plane and it started into a ground loop to the left and was heading toward the stage house where we were sitting.

Someone hollered “Here she comes,” and we all jumped up and ran through the house.

Just as we came out the back door, the plane had circled the house with one wing dragging the ground like a wounded condor bird and the other wing pointing upward. We turned and ran back through the stage house just as the plane’s high wing tipped the “two holer” over on the door with an instructor sitting on the throne. The plane finally righted itself and the student shut off the engine. It was then we heard cries for help coming from the “two holer.” We righted the toilet and the instructor exploded out of it with pants at half mast - madder than a hornet. As soon as he got his pants buckled he grabbed the unfortunate student and jammed him back in a plane and set sail for an elimination ride. I’d have bet a little the kid got washed out but he beat the “E” ride and later became a red-hot P-5 1 driver flying in the 8th Air Force in England. Some had it.

I managed to get myself in a little jam one day because my instructor didn’t like the way I was messing up some lazy eight maneuvers that were designed to improve coordination and control. He grabbed the control stick out of my hand and started cussing and pumping the stick back and forth making the plane buck like a wild mule. Unfortunately for me, I had failed to fasten my safety belt and suddenly found myself outside the airplane - hanging on to the crash bar. I was swinging around and banging the side of the bucking plane when the instructor glanced at his side view mirror and saw me hanging out there. He screamed out what I thought at the time to be the most stupid question I ever heard in my life when he asked “What in hell are you doing out there ?“ I screamed back at him “I’m trying to get back in this damn bucking airplane. That’s what I’m doing.!” I finally managed to crawl back in and fasten my safety belt. He asked me if I had fastened my safety belt and I nodded yes. He then flipped the craft upside down and I immediately grabbed the frame tubing on both sides with my hands and hung on for dear life. He said he wanted to see my hands. I stuck one arm down, hanging on to the tubing with the other. He announced that he wanted to see both hands. I had to turn loose and hang upside down in the craft with the safety belt restraining me from falling out.

We lost about half the students in the primary class to washing out. Fortunately we had no fatalities. Those of us who graduated had sixty hours of exciting flying time. We then went on to basic flying school to fly bigger planes with a Plexiglas canopy over the cockpit, radio communication and controllable pitch propellers. Really big time stuff.

After logging eighty eight hours in the BT-13 basic trainers at Goodfellow AAFB, San Angelo, Texas, we moved on to twin-engine advanced school at Lubbock AAFB and were awarded our gold bars and silver pilot wings.

Next...A Sign Of  Things To Come


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