tv Recollections of WWII Air Sea Attacks CSPAN December 17, 2017 9:10pm-9:58pm EST
up next on american history tv, three world war ii veterans talk about their wartime experiences. the panel includes a pro harbor survivor, a member of the doolittle raiders, and a pilot. the american veterans center hosted this panel discussion at their 20th annual conference. >> thank you very much. we are very pleased to welcome a panel on legends of world war ii. we certainly do me legends. this panel will be moderated by jonathan elias, a journalist and anchor at abc seven right here in washington, d.c. jonathan is a 25-time emmy award-winning journalist. 25 emmys, three peabody's and a dupont. jonathan was standing at the
finish line at the boston marathon on that fateful day not too long ago. adjunct professor at the army war college. it is my pleasure to introduce jonathan elias. jonathan: as a professor of the war college, i get senior command. you are all youngsters. i can say that because i am older than you. will see you now when you get your captains in your kernels going and then i will see you in my class and i will get to be you are proper. major inistory college, fascinated by history, grew up in a military family. in my business, it is kind of weird. the news business is the only profession protected by the constitution and yet it is the only profession where you don't need a license or have to prove
how intelligent you are at all. you just gone front of the camera or pick up a pen and start writing and that is the name of the game. now,e in a wartime stance we have been for many years. they get bent out of shape when they say this happens and we lost five men. world war ii was the early where everything was on the table. we lose that war and we lose our country, and guys your age were transporting in planes that were flying over to europe for over the pacific. they didn't know the stakes were that high. they had their buddies and their troops and her squad and they were going to come home alive. that was their hope your many of them didn't. so i ask one trivia question. in world war ii, the entire time, how many people lost their lives in all theaters come all if?le you say it is 15 million people, raise your hand? 25 million people, raise your hand. 25 milling people, raise your
hand. 40 million people, raise her hand. 50 million people, raise your hand. anybody say higher than 50 million? 60 million? higher than 70 million? 76 million people lost their lives in world war ii. folks have to run and wikipedia and google it to make sure that i'm right. it's somewhere between 74 million and 78 million people lost their lives. civilians,e were people sitting in a house with their wife, with the kids and the house is gone and they are gone. when you think about numbers like that and you think about the veterans we still have a live today from world war ii, these men are a treasure trove of information. introduce each and everyone of them with you. with that number in mind and you think about what was happening -- we were only engaged for four years, you think about the damage americans did when we showed up, we didn't come to
play. we came to win that war. men and women the engaged in that war and the things they did -- i remember interviewing the youngest congressional medal of honor recipient who was 19 years old. he didn't have a clue what war was about. the training was just you went in a you went out. you guys spent a lot of times that in, training. these were people who were pumped into a mill and shot out the other side and quickly found themselves sitting on a plane saying "what are we doing again?" in the hand and they knew what was expected of them. call world war ii and that generation the greatest generation. everything was on the table. the fight was on and they won. next to me are three gentlemen who were engaged in the fight. please understand that you get to a certain age where we may have a problem with some of the -- my voice may not be loud enough to get through. so be patient. but if you have questions, start
thinking about them now. this is living history that you will be engaged in here. to my left is lieutenant colonel richard cole. he was copilot with richie doolittle on the little raid, -- the lastvival survivor of the doolittle raid. when japan hit pearl harbor, we had to get to tokyo, but we did not have the means. so we got an aircraft carrier out there with big armors and we did not know if the big bombers could get off the deck. the first plane that went off the deck, all the guys are standing on deck waiting to see what happens. the plane goes off, right below. that's not going to work. the guys went nuts. they realized their flaps were not properly tuned. so all the planes went up. the other problem with this rate is that a lot new that this would be one way ticket. they didn't have a place to refuel. they didn't have a place to land.
the new china would help us out. the during a wartime stance, you don't know what will happen. tos, these guys were going scream over tokyo, treetop, let them know we would get to you, and they did not know if they would make it through. and a lot of them did not. it is good to talk with you, lieutenant colonel. [applause] is the tenant jim downing, veteran of the uss west virginia pearl harbor. you are 103 years old? 100 for now. [laughter] [applause] we need to get that corrected in the book asap. 104 years old. believed to be the second oldest pearl harbor veteran. who has you beat? >> a veteran who is 105. jonathan: ok. [laughter] then there is commander dean
does layered, the only navy pilot to shoot down enemy aircraft in both the european and pacific theaters in world war ii. it is nice to have you. [applause] let's start here, lieutenant colonel richard cole. you can hear me ok? >> i would like to ask them what kind of coffee drinks. [laughter] doolittle raid, that was the first opportunity for the united states, in response to pearl harbor, we get attacked, we lose thousands of men, and the united states military wanted to say we have got to show japan specifically that we can get to them. so we are going to hit tokyo. talk to me about when you were on the deck of the hornet and you are thinking about getting the bombers off the deck. did you know they would be able to take off from the deck of the carrier? admit, theave to
army air corps, when you first heard about it, we were a little bit dubious. [laughter] jonathan: it was impossible. no way are we getting these bombers off his carrier. at evans field, began tot hank miller display his instructions. we accepted the fact that it's possible. up inan: the wind picked the carrier turns to the wind and it is time to go. did you have any idea where you were going to land those things? >> i think the major opinion was we were going to be taken to an
, takeoff and land on a preselected island and fight the war. jonathan: did you have any idea where that island was? >> no. jonathan: that's it. [laughter] was it unspoken with the pilots that day and the crew that you might not be coming back? >> that crossed everybody's mind. we had 100% support and so forth. i don't think i was particularly worried about it. two days at sea, , the pa left alameda
system came on and said "now hear this, now hear this. tokyo."ces bound for i think they could have heard it back in san francisco. [laughter] couple of hours, it became very quiet. people began to wonder, what am i doing here? as far as i know, nobody jumped ship or backed out. jonathan: you are in the dark when you left port. you had no idea where you're going. so when the rate is on, you take off and you are airborne, you could not talk to the other planes. when you are all wheels, you could not talk to the other planes? almosthave to remember
all the copilot's were second lieutenants. jonathan: how old was everybody on the crew, average age? everybody, except the treated a little bit lowly. . they are not to be heard. jonathan: the crew was to be seen or not heard? >> on the airplane, it wasn't very chatty. [laughter] jonathan: how old was everybody on the crew, average? were aroundots average at 20. a couple of them were younger. birthday crossing
the dateline. [laughter] jonathan: happy birthday. [laughter] ok. so you make the bombing run. it is successful. now what? now what happens? left -- or after we dropped the bombs, we were lowering to back down around 200 feet. jonathan: 200 feet. >> we had a little experience ith ack ack. -- w did you have -- jonathan: did you have shrapnel going through the fuselage? was your aircraft ok or data get damaged? >> no damage. we were ok. now where are you -- jonathan:
now where are you flying to? where do you go now? >> we go south about a hundred to let the japanese know that we were turning toward china. when we made the turn, headed , it was the china sea pretty good weather. it wasn't too bad flying at 200 feet. jonathan: not a lot of room for error. thing. go back to one in her endeavor to reduce the weight so to replace it with fuel, they took out the bomb sites. they did not want the japanese to get a hold of it. unknowingly to the crew, that
took apart of the automatic pilot. so we had to manhandle the thing the whole trip jonathan: that was not an easy plane to fly. >> yeah. jonathan: where did you end up after it was all said and done? did you crash? in thended up southeastern part of japan. though we were 9000 feet on the instruments. the airplane that was carrying the portable homer so we could make a landing in china crashed on the way there. we were in the middle of a big storm. places where we could see the ground, the chinese, thinking we
were japanese, they turned off all the lights. jonathan: helpful. >> we were at 9000 feet in limbo. jonathan: no fuel at this point, too. you had no fuel? >> our target was a bombardier's tokyo.the best part of we had an incendiary bomb. it had two purposes. damage to do as much tokyo as possible. a trailr was to rely for the last airplanes who were headed to tokyo. jonathan: your young friend to your left, talk to you now, lieutenant. december 7,earl
1941. >> yes. jonathan: early morning hours. everyone is talking about christmas, trying to get away. what happened? >> i was off the ship when the first bombs were dropped. radio.on the the announcers said. we have been advised by army-navy intelligence that to the island of wahoo is under enemy attack. the enemy has not been identified. keep tuned. jonathan: the news business really sticks sometimes, doesn't it? [laughter] >> the second message was the enemy has been identified as japan. the japanese attacked with 350 planes. there were 40 torpedo bombers. attacked in bombers
the first 11 minutes. most of the damage was done in the first 11 minutes. of those 40 torpedo's, kind of hit my ship, the ship west virginia. more hit the oklahoma just ahead of us and she capsized. one of the dodd bombers penetrated the arizona, the protective decks. she burned her own ammunition and supplies on the ship. a battleship carries about a million barrels of crude oil. the california that was hit, the west virginia, a lot of fuel oil leaked out. the fire was so hot from the arizona, the fire extended out for several -- maybe a hundred yards on each side. smokethe pictures, the
you see is mostly the fuel oil that is burning. pearl harbor is a shallow harbor. we are only in about six feet of water under us. my ship sunk down in the mud. everything above the waterline was on fire. lost a little over 1100 men. california was second with a little more than 400. we lost 105 there were killed. 70% were below decks and drowned from being trapped down there. jonathan: how old were you at the time of this attack? >> i was>> 28. jonathan: so you are older than most of the guys on the ship. >> i had been on the ship for eight years or so. jonathan: what were you thinking at the time this was happening? surprise.a great the japanese piece abbasid or
was in washington. they would resume peace talks that monday morning. we felt there was danger of the japanese attacking, but thought it would be in the distant future. we had no idea it would be that soon. the first airplane i saw that morning, they painted their planes the same as our army planes. me.ou flew right toward when he got at the right angle, he cut loose the machine guns. for chile, they went over my head. -- fortunately, they went over my head. then i knew it was a japanese plane. jonathan: you get to pearl, you get back to your ship. what are the commanders telling you? what is happening? what is the plan? more importantly, what is the sentiment gathered among the men upon the ship? there were 164 ships in port
that morning, including small guard.and the coast there were so many ships that they were tied up in tandem. the battleship tennessee was tied up in board of us. to get on a ship, i had to slide down from the tennessee to get aboard ship. we lost all power. we couldn't retaliate with any guns at all. the tennessee next was fired every round of antiaircraft ammunition she had on board. ,s i look back on my experience there are forwards that describe it pretty well. at first, it was surprise. the next is anger that our leaders, political and military had let us down, because we had plenty of warning signs to be on
the alert and we were not on the alert. aboutxt thing i thought was, if i would get in a position of authority, i would never [indiscernible] opportunity to live that out. but overall everything was pride, the way our men responded that morning. without any thought of their own safety, everybody did the right thing, without training, without leadership. i was very proud. we shot down 29 planes, but another 70 forward damaged. they were not repairable so they push them over the side. jonathan: it's interesting when you look back at the history of pearl harbor. battleship row, we had all those battleships. the only thing missing from port
that day was -- anybody? no carriers. carrier is the biggest asset. what is not part of our fleet anymore? battleships. baby because they were so big, one big, huge thing that was so expensive and not as fast as they needed to be. if you go back and look at the controversies -- google that 1 and the conspiracies -- they think roosevelt dated on person because they had ticked off the japanese with the oil issue and the taking over the shipping lanes. all kinds of controversies. you can think whatever you want, but there is no way in god's green earth that our government is going to put our men and women in harm's way and let that happen. when perl happened, it changed our readiness, to this day. >> yes. there were no satellites in the army hadn't installed radar -- had installed
radar just two weeks before the attack. picture of a bunch of planes heading towards us. the officers said i saw the newspaper that a bunch of b-17s were coming from the states, so it is probably them. jonathan: confusion. >> the problem is the japanese were coming from the west and u.s. planes were coming from the east. jonathan: this frustrates you, doesn't it? thank you very much. let's move down the line to our ace. commander, let me ask you this. what kind of planes were you flying? did you have a p 51? >> no. we were flying the f or if wildcot.-- f four f
that was our primary fighter in the navy when the war started. jonathan: not the most agile. >> no. you are correct. jonathan: in the game of fighting -- we don't have the same going on anymore. plane, youthat screwed up. you had to be in close quarters to even shoot them down or have a chance of doing that. is that correct, commander? >> i think what you said is correct. jonathan: how old were you when they first put you in a cockpit and what theater were you in first? >> i finished flight training in pensacola and miami where we did in the firstning
part of october of 1942. i reported to my squadron at the 1942, havinger of been carrier qualified and theoretically, i was ready to go. jonathan: theoretically? >> i had a little bit of likeing left to do, learning how to fly the wildcot. [laughter] jonathan: oh, that. >> our primary mission, which was air to air gunnery, which i graduated very high in down in miami, i had a lot of experience with a shotgun as a kid growing up, shooting quail, doves, ducks and things like that.
about went to target, when you lead, especially with your polling across. a littleably gave me advantage over most of the city kids who were also in my flight. jonathan: how old were you when you got your first assignment and where were you when you started flying as far as combat? >> oh, well, let's see, by the time i reported to the squadron, i was 21. a few months later, we deployed on the carrier ranger. the ranger, carrier number four, was the first carrier that we built from the keel up as a carrier.
it was nothing like anything we have today. of 14,000 tons, which sounds kind of heavy. but by the time we went to war in it, it added -- they added so much stuff to it that it weighed 21,000 tons. it was quite unstable. of seaable in any kind at all. sea, it tended to go like this. jonathan: reassuring, isn't it? motions afflicted with sickness ever since i was a little kid. jonathan: you picked the perfect occupation, didn't you? >> i soon found the best way for me to avoid that was to get in
the cockpit of an airplane and get off the boat. [laughter] i used a volunteer for any flight i could get. of course, every flight we had, we always had one spare airplane up there ready to go. if/-- if for supposed to go, we had a spare pilot. i volunteered that spare every chance i got. turns out i got airborne almost every time, which pleased me greatly. jonathan: talk about your first combat mission where you shot down one of the emmys -- the enemies. where you running escort? >> i was flying a combat air patrol officer ranger. we were up off the norwegian coast. at the time, we were operating
with a british home fleet. the phone -- the home fleet commander, admiral sir bruce fraser. , was our boss. admiralorders from -- sir bruce fraser, was our boss. we took orders from him. we did most of our operations -- this is in 1943. we did most of our operations off the norwegian coast, looking -- anything that was dropn and shoot at it, bombs on it or whatever. the first time we got in any combat at all -- and i must say that we didn't see much combat over there.
six, seven months, eight months -- i forget. but they -- jonathan: the first time you encounter the germans yourself, when was that? >> i was in one of those combat air patrols. we relieved another combat air patrol. there are four planes in each flight. we relieve them and they came back and landed and we went out. beenirst flight out had vectored around, looking for a bogey that the radar operating -- radar operator on the ship said was out there. they couldn't find him. the weather was not very good.
showers.ds, rain it was not an ideal day for sightseeing or flying. so we went out in the same area as the group ahead of us had been looking. we went all around and vectored here and there and we never that our radart they gaveaid he had ata vector back to the ship buster speed. that means throttle into the carburetor. was, forne that day some reason or other, did not have the power that the other three had.
i was flying in the fourth formation. the they all left me every time i gave them a vector. we were heading back toward the -- which was only 50 miles. i kept looking behind us. i knew this radar controller on the ship quite well and i had operated with him before quite a bit. that, if he had a bogey out there, and said he had a bogey, then there was out there -- there was one out there. he was not mistaken. while we were heading back toward the fleet, i kept turning around in my cockpit and looking
behind us. i was very surprised as frome cloud behind us went almost water level of two about 10,000 feet. i saw this airplane come around round left side of me and the front of this big cloud and disappeared behind it. i hollered tally ho, bogey at 6:00. turned.on leader when we headed back. i told them what i had seen and where had gone.
we headed toward the left side of the cloud because i saw him disappear around the side. we figured he would come back this way, which he did. high, maybe 3000 feet or so. he saw us about the same time we saw him when he came out behind the cloud. and headed turned south, which i think was the .irection of germany we immediately identified the 88, one as a juncker's of germany's best bombers. they are giving me a sign that we have to wrap it up
and we need to give the students a chance to ask weston's too. i apologize. bake -- he came out of the cloud. you took the shot and took him down? him. leader may pass on i made a pass. we had him smoking. the leader came in once more and i came in the second one. i tried to pick out a spot on where the wing joined the fuselage, which i figured is usually where they had a fuel tank. thatnk i guessed right has thing exploded in front of me in a huge fireball. is five: on a spec that aircraft, right, you -- and a is five aircraft,
right, you shoot down five aircraft? >> five. two german planes that day, another one about half hour later. and seven japanese planes. but i only have credit for five of the japanese because i gave to at for two of them couple other pilots. jonathan: so this is your chance. you sit in class. i know they make you read a lot of history books. we have west point, naval academy, all the different schools. this is your chance to ask folks that were actually there. history books are written by people who have interviewed people who were there. this is your chance. does anybody have questions they would like to ask? please, feel free. now's a good time. yes, sir.
howard you compare the f four f with the japanese zero? jonathan: how would you compare with the japanese mitsubishi zero? >> the japanese plane was better. it was faster, more maneuverable. in a one-on-one dogfight, zero usually won. however, the fact remains that, wildcathe war, the ended up with a kill ratio of 9:1 against the zero. this was primarily due to the ,actics that we developed primarily developed by a man who
--ired as an admiral, amaral admiral jimmy thach, a squadron commander at midway. the main tactic was what we called -- it ended up being called a thach weave. we would stretch the flights are like this. you are going in the same direction. sidehe people in this would watch over here where this -- fromight be attacked which they might be attacked, and this guy would be watching over here. if somebody was coming in on these, they would turn this way, crossing here. and these guys would then shoot these people off the other guys tail and vice versa.
the japanese never seemed to catch onto that. [laughter] i read a report written by a japanese pilot who said he was he was justause about to open up and shoot down son -- i think these were --lcats, a little later on he said all they said there was some but he shooting at me. [laughter] it was a highly successful maneuver. we called it the thach weave. the's the main reason that wildcat heather -- had a 9:1 kill ratio over the zero. jonathan: any other questions? you for yoursk experience, in all these years now that have passed since the war, what are you left with now?
what are your thoughts today? let's start with you, young man. >> i speak to quite a few students in universities. , quotingi tell them from a speech of president reagan in 1986. the subject of his speech was peace through strength. he coined the phrase that i feel every american should memorize. three words. it was -- weakness invites aggression. pearl harbor has a motto of "remember pearl harbor." -- "remember pearl harbor, keep america alert." i like to add to that "keep america strong." other day thate
said don't even think about parking here. so i like to use that phrase. tyrant orrong that no government would ever think about attacking us. that's my message. jonathan: don't mess with the big dog on the block. colonel, let me ask you the same. what are your thoughts now, after all these many years? what do you think about the day when you look back? you think about today when you look back? [indiscernible] raid and so forth, the war developed. we as a group decided we would something to the people who invited us to come
and talk. formed a scholarship program. the james j's dual scholarship program. anybody can apply for it. but they have to have enough college in their sophomore and junior year. that has to be directed toward space or aviation. and they must have a 3.0 gpa. jonathan: what a legacy to leave behind. >> we have a friend that calls it payback time. as a donation from
things like this and other invitations. that's the way we support it. is a good thing to leave behind, colonel. appreciate it. >> way talk to college people in schoolkids and so forth. jonathan: commander, a last thought, something you think about when you look back? >> well, both of these gents are right. maybe being a little more parochial, i resented being kicked out of the navy when i was only 15 years old. [laughter] jets just like any young kid was all the time.
i figured i could whip most of them without any trouble. [laughter] [applause] maybe that's why you should have gone air force with general yeager. he stayed well into his 70's. [laughter] gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. to all the students, best of luck in your training and your education. i know some of you are thinking you have to sit through all of these seminars. letter filter back when you crack open one of your history books and you think about world war ii, when you hear the word love, that was a lot of words that we talked about. midway, four aircraft carriers going after the japanese at turning point. . some and he things have been in combat that you can train your life away, and when it starts to have an, chances are it will be on your instincts and your intelligence. a lot of soldiers i ever did talk to say you can train for something, but what actually happens, you find out who you
are as opposed to what you were trained to be. best of luck in your training and hopefully all of you will become heroes as well. gentlemen, thank you very much. [applause] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, www.c-span.org/history. you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, watch archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. american history tv is on c-span 3 every weekend, featuring museum tours, archival phones, and programs on the presidency, the civil war and more. here is a clip from a recent program. >> the first inklings of trouble
came afterwards when reports reached at jackson that certain branches of the bank had tried to wield their influence against him in the 1828 election. he heard about this afterward. sense ofkson's grievance over that election, an election on which jackson believed -- these are his words -- the virtuous yeomanry of the united states had sustained him all the torrents of slander that wickedness could invent, circulated through subsidized presses and every way supported by the patronage of the government. given that sense of grievance, if you look at the election that way, learning that the bank of the united states was a part of that torrent of wickedness and abuse would be enough to set you off against it. when he had been
president all of three months, jackson was writing friends that the only thing that can prevent our liberties to be crushed by the bank and its influence would be to kill the bank. watch this and other american history programs on our website, where all our video is archived. that is www.c-span.org/history. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service i a man is cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. all weekend, american history tv is featuring sarasota springs new york. memoir "12 years a slave" was a local african-american abolitionist. himo