Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A “Reluctant Co-Pilot,” British Humour and an “Unassuming Fellow”: Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

On February 11th and February 18th I was able to make my fourth and fifth visits to the Norwich Archive Centre.  I was able to listen to around six audio recordings from US WWII veterans.  I won’t mention all of them but I will try to touch on a few.  The first audio recording was of a veteran who served primarily as a co-pilot throughout the Second World War.  He mentions basic training and gives a brief overview of some bombing missions he took part in.  For the most part this audio recording was fairly straight forward with few anecdotes.  However, one interesting thing to note is that this veteran published a book about his experience during the War – “The Saga of a Reluctant Co-Pilot” (available at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library). In the audio recording, he expands on his reluctance.  He notes that he was unhappy most of the time with military life.  The training was too regimented in his opinion and as a result he never got to make close friendships; this was only compounded by the fact that groups changed frequently.

The next audio recording was also of a co-pilot of a B-24.  After briefly going over his training he was keen to mention his plane, “Gerocko.”  He noted how its unique nose art made it stand out from all the other aircraft.  Being stationed in Britain, he watched cricket for the first time with a certain fascination.  He then notes all the types of missions he fly while in Britain.  These range from bombing aircraft plants to railroad yards to airfields to V1 rocket sites to oil refineries.  In total he flew 24 missions but he did have a few notable missions.  The one that really stood out was a bombing mission to Evereux, France.  During the course of the mission, his plane took damage to the engines and they were forced to land on French soil.  Interestingly, because of the forced landing his plane was the first four-engine bomber to land on free French soil.

The next veteran was a ball turret gunner for a B-24.  He mentions enlisting at 18, being inducted in 1942 and describes his training.  He has numerous anecdotes including one about the English sense of humor.  Noting the poor weather one day to an Englishman, the veteran asked, “Do you ever have summer?”  The Englishman replied, “Yes, I believe we do and it came on a Saturday last year.”  The next anecdote he mentions is about a train ride back from London.  On the train he noticed a particularly attractive young Englishwoman.  Mustering up courage, he was able to start a conversation with her.  Eventually he managed to ask her if could have her address so they could go on a date.  She agreed and he took out a slip of paper to write on but unfortunately could not find a pen or pencil on him.  However, when he looked up he noticed two Englishmen and two Englishwomen offering pens.  So he got the address after all.

Before I end I have to mention an interesting development at the Norwich Archive Centre.  In my last blog post I ended with a story of WWII veteran who was interned in Turkey.  From his audio recording I had the suspicion that he was involved with some type of covert operation or involved with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).  One of the archivists mentioned that this veteran actually came to the Norwich Archive Centre about a week ago.  The archivist was able to speak with him for a bit and it was revealed that this “unassuming fellow” was actually ex-CIA.

Volunteer Time: 4 hrs. 30 mins.

Total Time: 10 hrs.

Categories: Andrew F
Tagged: , , , , ,

1 response so far ↓

  •   Karl // Feb 22nd 2010 at 08:30

    More great stories! It also sounds like you have good spy catching instincts!

You must log in to post a comment.