WWII May 1941 toSeptember 1945
Contributor: trishkovach Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
This is a History as told to Bob Harrison by Kermit Harrison about His WWII war experiences. A lot of the things covered in this were gathered by Christina (Bunty) Harrison Kermit's wife. Dad collected quite a bit of information about his plane and the men who flew it and some interesting perspective's from some people who lived in Austria during WWII. I will include information from other crew members and some of their stories as they saw the war through their eyes. I will also include pictures of his downed Airplane the Sleepy time Gal which had been shot down over the town of Rechberg Austria which is north of the Danube River and a little over 20 miles east of Linz Austria One of these sources is a news paper called the 461st Liberator which compiles stories of the men who flew in the crews of the B-24'sout of Foggia Italy with the 765th and 766th Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force. If anyone is interested in more of these stories told in the 461st Liberator they have been compiled and put on disks to preserve them. In this history you will find pictures of the Foggia Group headquarters in Italy. the 765th Squadron target the they bombed. Pictures of the sleepy Time Gal Crew, and pictures of their Air plane before and after it was shot down. (I have a piece of the bombay door that was give to dad many years later by a Man named Karl Affenzeller who was 9 years old during WWII and lived in Austria during the war). Karl has wrote a book from the German Prospective that includes insights by Kermit and other members of the crew as Karl was trying to be aqurate with his facts about the Sleepy Time Gal and its Crew. when he finished the book He gave Dad a Copy of it but it was written in German. My brother David Harrison had a friend who had been in the German Navy during WWII as and served on a Germam U-Boat in the war and he translated it into English for Us.
I was inducted into the Army in May of 1941.I had previously been in the National Guard when I was in High school. My first duty station was Fort Leavenworth Kansas where I went through Basic Training. War was going on with Germany in Europe so most of the preparations were going on for that purpose. After Basic training I was sent to Camp Roberts in California for advance training where I was taught to drive tanker trucks as I had been assigned to a service company. From there I was sent to Fort Ord,California and was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco.
This was where I was stationed when war was declared on Japan as the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th 1941. Because of the fear of Japan attacking Main Land United States troops were Spread from the Canadian border all the way to the Mexican border and along all major Rail lines going inland. Our service company was put on the Northern Pacific line from San Francisco to Salt lake city.Being in a service company we were responsible keeping all vehicles fueled along the rail line so I was stationed in Elko Nevada to help fuel troops in that area.
Not all my war experiences involved fighting the Germans or the Japanese. There were incidents that came from just being a soldier I will mention a couple of them while stationed in Elko. The first involved a local state employee an the other involved a casino. Why we were stationed in Elko we had a lot of down time and since our trucks were located at the State Road Yard every morning we had to report to the State Road shed where we got our orders for the day, sometimes we went out and re fueled Vehicles along the rail line some times we didn't have anything so we got to know the State road employees. One day another guy and i were invited to ride along with the state employee out south of Elko we got permission to ride withe the state employee and a way we went. We were out 20 30 miles from elo and the road we were on paralleled a high power line.We had stopped to check something when one of noticed a hawk sitting on the power line in the distance. We got to talking about if any of us could shoot the hawk at that distance. We go to egging one another on so we began shooting at the hawk this went on for a little while with the hawk ignoring us when all of a sudden after one shot the power line the hawk was sitting on fell to the ground one of us had hit the power line. the State employee said lets get out of here as we had just put out power to some where and he didn't want to be blamed for the power outage and loose his job so we headed back to town. as we were approaching Elko we passed a couple of power company trucks heading out to try and find out where the power problem we just waved and went back to Elko. the state employee swore us to silence dropped us off at a casino and went on working at his job. We walked back to where we were staying and to this day I don't think anyone knows how the power went out in Elko that day.
The other story happened in a casino. We went to a casino almost every night( no there wasn't much gambling done by me or the guys I hung with we were privates in the army an we didn't have much money and most sent money home to help families),so we mostly sat around and watched people gamble and like casinos today there were table limits. One night this old sheep herder came in and began to gamble and loose badly, he was betting on the table games and he kept trying to get the Owner to raise the limits so he could win his money back and as the evening wore on the sheep herder wore the owner down and kept raising the limits for the old man about midnight we went to bed not knowing won or lost that night between the sheep herder and the casino. the next day after we were finished with our assignments we headed over to the casino and asked the owner how the old sheep herder had done. The casino owner said the old man left the casino owing the owner almost 400 thousand. the owner said he felt bad for the old man and said he would never let him gamble that way ever again in his casino a couple of weeks later the sheep herder came in and paid of his dept he said he had to sell several bands of sheep. We were amazed that the old man had that kind of money. The owner said that the old sheep herder came in a couple times a year and gambled like that but had never lost that much money before. again the owner said that he would never let him loose that kind of money again in his casino.
After several months of defending Elko Nevada it was determined that the Japanese were not going to attack the U.S. Mainland we were shipped back to Fort Ord and then on to the Presido in San Francisco where we began prepare to ship out to fight the Japanese in the Pacific. while we were waiting to be shipped out an officer came around to all units looking for volunteers to join the Army Air Corps. I went and got paper work as soon as I could as I had always wanted to fly Airplanes. As I left Headquarters withe the paper work I ran into my Sargent who asked me what I was doing so I told him I was going to join the Air Corps. He told me in no uncertain words that as long as he was my Sargent that I would not be joining the Air corps and when we were ready to ship out that he would personally make sure I was first on the transport ship for the Pacific and that he would be sitting right next to me to make sure i didn't chicken out of going and fighting the Japanese. I filled out the paper work and turned it in and continued to make preparations to go to the Pacific.
We got our orders to ship out on December 1st 1942, so we were preparing for this and we moved our gear to be loaded onto the troop ship and about an hour before we were to be loaded on the ship an Officer came around looking for me. I reported to him and he told me to get my stuff and follow him as I had been accepted in to the Army Air Corps. My Sargent told the Officer that i could not go the Officer said that i could not go and the Officer told the Sargent that I was no longer under his command so I grabbed my stuff and followed the Officer. The Sargent told me there was a mistake and he and that he would get my orders changed as I was going to the Pacific with Him. I never heard or saw that Sargent again ant I was Shipped to Nashville Tennessee where we were prepared to fly Airplanes. From there I was sent to Santa Cadet School, where we were supposed to learn to fly. I never saw the inside of an Airplane, but was informed that I had washed as a Pilot Co Pilot Navigator and Bombardier.I was informed that to do one of these positions I had to have 2 years of school and I had only one semester at BYU, but the one semester at BYU is what got me into the Air Corps. Most Pilots had 2years of collage and when they washed out as Pilots they were trained as Navigators, bombardiers, and Engineers as all these positions and everyone were made Sargent's, I was then sent to Deming New Mexico where we were trained to do other things that the Airplanes we were cross trained to do other things I was first trained to shoot the nose guns on the B-24 and then cross trained to do the engineers work so if something happened to one of the other there was some on the plane to fill in for someone else. We were chosen by size as to what guns the really small skinny guys were selected for the ball Turret guns or tail gunner which was on the bottom of the airplane and if you were my size you learned to shoot the Nose Turret guns ant if you were a big guy you were either waste gunners or top turret gunners.
From Deming I was sent to Shepard field Texas,Tyndall Field Florida, and Kerns Field Utah. At thes place we received training to fly B-24's. Finally I was sent to March Field where we were introduced to our first B-24 Bomber Known as a flying Box car.They made 10's of thousands of the B-24 they were the Plane that won the war. The b-24's where bigger faster and could fly higher than the B-!7's the b-24's carried a much larger Payload.
At march Field we were introduced to our plane and Crew.The Pilot was William E. Peterson, from Santa Anna California the Co-pilot was Ken Githens from Portland Oregon, Navigator Melvin D Giden from Dorchester Massachusetts, Bombardier Leland J Harp from Turlock California,James E Sipple From Mount Carmel Pennsylvania, Howard J Farr from Maywood Illinois, Donald D Wendte from Newcastle Nebraska, George Esser from Los Angles Californiand myself. James B Robinson Replaced William E Peterson as Pilot during training and the flew with us through 28 missions before he wad promoted to Squadron Commander and Ken Githens was the Pilot when we were shot down. they were both excellent Pilots.