THE RARE BREED |
Recognizing Area Veterans Of World War II
Guy Claybourn Flew 252 Missions
In Artillery Observation Plane
Guy Claybourn with helmet worn while making his cross country
solo flight for a pilot's license on Dec. 7, 1941.
I, Guy Raymond Claybourn, Jr., was born on May 13, 1921, at 509 Third Street in Palacios, the first child of Guy R., Sr. and Blanche Louise Kirkwold Claybourn.
My parents were caretakers of the 36th Division Officers' Club for about 18 months, 1932 to 1934. For me this meant early introduction to matters military. This experience gave to me somewhat more familiarity with military organizations and functions than my contemporaries including military terminology down to and including cuss words used by the young rank and file.
I graduated from Palacios High School in 1938, completing post-graduate studies in 1939. I applied for enlistment in the U. S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Field, Texas, in the summer of 1939, but no vacancies existed. In December 1940, I went to Burbank, Calif., and in January 1941, was employed by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, working on the Lockheed YP-38, pursuit (the then-current term for fighter) aircraft. At the same time I was taking flying lessons.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, I had just completed the required solo country flight for private pilot license when, upon landing, the line boy told me of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
I continued to work at my 100%-draft-proof job at Lockheed until I learned of the U. S. Army Liaison Pilot Program. I left Lockheed in May 1942, returned to Palacios and applied for enrollment in the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) Civilian Pilot Program as an Army Enlisted Reservist. When space became available, I was sworn into service as buck private on Oct. 17, 1942, at Fort Sill, Okla. Flight training began Nov. 1 and ended Dec. 22.
On Jan. 4, 1943, I reported to Waco Army Flying School to take the Army Air Corps-administered rating check ride which made me a Liaison Pilot. After a 10-week course at Post Field, Fort Sill, Okla., I was promoted to Staff Sergeant on flying status‹$90 a month, plus $45 flight pay, and assigned to the 935 Field Artillery Battalion at Camp Blanding, Fla. The 935th had a heritage dating back to Sept. 7, 1838. The original organization was known as the Washington Artillery and had a record of distinguished service with the Confederate Army, 1861-1865. My first flight for the 935 was May 8, 1943.
After more training and maneuvers in my Piper L-4 (militarized "Cub"), and stops at Camp Gordon, Ga., and Fort Dix, N.J., we sailed from Staten Island, N.Y. on Aug. 20, 1943, aboard the Army transport, George W. Goethals, destination Oran, Algeria. Before leaving our berth I saw, at an adjoining pier, the ship George Washington, aboard which my father had returned from World War I service in France and Belgium. The flagship for the protective escort to our convoy of 22 troop transports and cargo ships was the battleship USS Texas.
We arrived at Oran on Sept. 2. As we came ashore, I noticed troops wearing the 36th Division's 'T-Arrowhead' shoulder patch. These were the Texas National Guardsmen who had trained at Camp Hulen in the 1930s. A week after our arrival, the 36th‹on Sept. 9‹ became the first Allied troops to step foot on European soil, with their landings near Paestum on the Gulf of Salerno.
From Oran, we went to LaSenia airfield south of the city, where I was assigned Piper L-4A, Army Air Forces serial number 43-29215, and that would be 'my airplane' until September 1945.
My first flight in Africa was on Sept. 10. Among the places to which I flew were Sidi-bel-Abbes (headquarters for the French Foreign Legion), Mostaganem and Mascara.
On Oct. 8, after an 869-mile vehicle convoy trip from Oran to a bomb-shattered Bizerte, we boarded a Royal Navy-crewed American-built LST (number 409) and the next day joined a nine-vessel convoy. Our planes had been dismantled and packed in shipping crates for the voyage. The 409 beached at Salerno at 1135 hours on Oct. 11.
Over the next several days we moved to different bivouac areas, reaching an airstrip near Presenzano on Nov. 7, where I first saw a Luftwaffe aircraft in action.
Since the beginning of combat, an elevated position gave the one on the high ground a decided advantage. When World War II came along, the U.S. Army Ground Forces (AGF) needed observation assets that met their requirements.
With such light aircraft as the Piper "Cub", Taylorcraft and Aeronca two-seaters, having the ability to live in the field alongside the units they served, the organic army aviation was established and performed well in its assigned mission. Denying the enemy the freedom to observe, in any way possible, led to anti-aircraft gunfire and a type of aircraft meant to shoot down observation airplanes.
FIRST COMBAT MISSION I flew my first combat mission on Nov. 11, 1943 with 1st Lt. Trantham P. O'Neill as observer. Purpose of the flight was to register one of our batterys. Artillery weapons are surveyed in to determine their location as exactly as possible. Accurate location determination depends on maps to a great extent, but many places are far from being accurately mapped, so registration is the process of refining the guns' locations to enhance accuracy of plotted firing.
The registration point selected was the intersection of two prominent roads. Not being accurately apprised of the MLR (Main Line of Resistance) because of the fluidity of the situation, we later found out that we had been flying about 10,000 yards deep into enemy held territory!
By Dec. 15 we had been issued a pyramidal tent which was designed for eight persons. This was a welcome step to improved living conditions, after pup tents, bomb-shattered buildings and airplane crates. We obtained a sealed-beam vehicle headlight, broke out the lens, rigged up an extension cord and hooked the cord to our 3/4-ton truck's 6-volt battery. We had light inside the tent! We had to exercise extreme caution not to have light leaks that would have compromised blackout regulations. When the light grew a bit dim, the truck was started so as to re-charge the battery.
"Sunny Italy" ain't sunny in the winter. I cannot recall why we did not get a GI space heater for our tent, but do recall that our solution worked well for the remainder of the war. Some British munitions were packed in all-metal chests that were only a bit smaller than a foot locker. We stacked one atop another, making openings for wood insertion and ash removal. We heated food and water for coffee and for ablutions, as well as warming our quarters. I often thought of our mode of existence as being like that of carnival or circus people: we would pack up, load up and move in a very short time and reverse the process quickly at the next destination.
We were invited to share Christmas 1943 dinner with the 36th Field Artillery Air Section. Having already been overseas for one previous Christmas dinner, they knew to order "trimmin's" from the Land of The Big PX. An afternoon event was a Army Air Force pilot parachuting from his damaged P-51 and landing safely within our lines.
New Years Day 1944 blew in with a full gale (norther?) after midnight. One of our L-4s, not 'mine', was blown about 100 yards from its tiedown into the top of a 50-foot tree. Fifth Army lost about 30 liaison airplanes to the high winds.
A few days later we moved onto the 3rd Division's airstrip. It was deemed desirable for the 935's two pilots to go forward and spend some time with the firing batterys in their combat positions. I spent some time with 'Baker' (B) Battery and was fortunate in that their position was in an area where there were several caves in which to sleep.
On Jan. 16, 1944, we moved to an airstrip located near the Naples-to-Rome railroad line. This railroad had been effectively rendered useless by German army engineers. They had rigged up a plow-like device that was dragged behind a locomotive with the blade of the plow breaking each cross tie in the middle, leaving behind a trail of broken wooden 'V's and a useless railroad.
GERMANS TRIED TO SHOOT DOWN L-4s At first, the Germans were pretty quick to shoot at the slow flying L-4s. We were equally quick in directing Allied artillery fire onto our attackers and it wasn't long before the German antiaircraft fire aimed at us dropped off noticeably. Our usual flight altitude was high enough to render rifle-caliber fire reasonably ineffectual. Twenty millimeter antiaircraft fire revealed its origin and our return artillery barrages went a long way in removing this threat.
The German 88mm gun was a triple-threat weapon. It could be used in an antiaircraft role, as conventional field artillery, or as an antitank gun. Later I decided that the reason the 88s' rounds burst ahead or behind us, although at the correct altitude, was that, when their fire-direction system was developed, it was not thought that any military aircraft would fly at less than 100 mph. Since we flew at about 65 mph, we were flying below the low end of their instrumentations' calculation capabilities. If this was the case, then our predicted horizontal location was only a matter of guesswork. A factor in discouraging 88mm fire directed at our L-4s was the prompt and heavy return fire from our artillery.
When we located German AA positions as they fired at our fighter bombers, we called for suppressive fire missions. (Some of my knowledge of antiaircraft fire-direction came from conversations with soldiers at Camp Hulen in the early days of their training. They showed to me their predictor equipment. The predictor was an early form of mechanical calculator that integrated inputs from optical rangefinders to provide aiming information based on the targeted aircraft's altitude and airspeed.)
On Feb. 20, after four months in combat, the 935 was pulled out of the line from near Cervaro, which overlooked the Liri River valley. The battalion was afforded a rest period while some reorganization took place as it lost its anti-tank platoon.
On March 8 the Air Section moved onto the 88th Division airstrip near Cellole. The battalions' firing batterys were positioned on a beach of the Tyrrhenian Sea, very close to the mouth of the Garigliano River. Our patrols were in the vicinity of German occupied Minturno. We often received fire from 20mm ack-ack and rifle-caliber machine guns. One bullet hit about eight inches behind my observer, Lt. O'Neill. It struck and bent the handle of a pair of pliers resting on the plywood deck behind the back seat.
On May 10 the Allied Forces began their drive to link up with the Anzio Beachhead and to take Rome. Liaison airplanes were very active, acting as eyes for the advancing troops. I made my first landing in the beachhead area on May 25. On June 1, we moved to an airstrip near Cisterna Littoria. On a patrol from this airstrip we saw Rome shining in the early morning sunlight.
On June 7 we witnessed tank-versus-tank and tank-versus-antitank gun engagements. Soon after, we moved to an airstrip on the north side of Rome. The engine of my aircraft was replaced at this time. We had encountered a problem with our 65 h.p. Continental engines developing a "soft" cylinder, which was caused by use of oil not refined for aircraft engine use‹ resulting in a mis-firing engine and the need for a top-overhaul.
OIL FROM PALACIOS SOVLES PROBLEM I found a solution to the problem and the inspiration came about thusly: Some fellows from Louisiana received from home 32-ounce cans of grapefruit juice. I asked why they went to the bother when we could get juice in our rations.
"Well, this really isn't grapefruit juice. It's bourbon!" The folks back home would punch tiny holes in the can's top and drain out the grapefruit juice, substitute bourbon and solder the holes closed.
This gave me the idea of asking my father, who was distributor of Texaco products in Palacios, to send me cans of Havoline oil to be used in my L-4's engine. This he did and I was no longer plagued with top overhauls every 20-25 hours.
One day I was flying low over the countryside just northwest of Rome when I saw an American tank off the northeast side of a road intersection. No human activity was evident. I spotted an unmanned German antitank gun set up on the west side of the north-south road about 75 yards north of the intersection. It dawned on me that the tank had been disabled by the antitank weapon.
I landed my L-4 nearby and walked over to the tank. The first thing I saw was the mark of a projectile that had penetrated the driver's hatch coaming. As I peered into the tank, I saw the headless body of a U. S. buck-sergeant's body slumped forward over the control levers. Two more bodies were in the turret area.
There was no point in my trying to do anything except to return to my unit and report the discovery.
On June 13, the battalion moved to near Isola Farensa, about 10 miles north or Rome. The German withdrawal was so rapid that the 935th was halted here until needed when the next enemy defense line was reached. On June 23, I was sworn in with a battlefield commission as a Second Lieutenant, Field Artillery. Major Rordam, battalion executive officer, did the honors.
JULY 1944: 2nd Lt. Guy Claybourn (right) with observer 1st Lt. John C. "Jack" Davidson
near Livorno (Leghorn), Italy with the Piper L-4 airplane assigned to Claybourn
in September 1943 at Oran, Algeria. He flew the same plane until Sept. 1945 in Germany.
In July, during a mission from Rosignano, I saw Livorno (Leghorn) with its much-bombed port, and Pisa's renowned Leaning Tower. There was also a flight to the U.S. II Corps CP (Command Post) on the 19th, where Major General Geoffrey Keyes, presented the first Oak Leaf Cluster to my Air Medal.
(We Army types received the Air Medal for 35 missions. A mission was credited in one of three ways: (1) One hour or more performing patrols observing enemy held territory; (2) adjusting artillery fire on enemy positions without specification of flight duration, or (3) being fired on by enemy aircraft or by enemy antiaircraft. Mission sheets were kept and each entry had to be certified by our battalion commander. I still have my mission sheets that attest to 210 hours for the Air Medal and five Oak Leaf Clusters.)
On an 8-day leave in August at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome, I saw my first opera, "Madame Butterfly," at the Royal Opera House.
MOVING TO SOUTHERN FRANCE On Sept. 15, the battalion was pulled out of the line preparatory to being sent to southern France. On the 29th, we boarded LST 526 at 2200 hours at Nisida Port on the Bay of Pozzouli. Again, our L-4 was dismanted and packed in shipping crates. We landed near downtown Marseilles at the foot of Rue Canebiere at 0815 hours on Oct. 8. After noontime, we went to the 7th U.S. Army airstrip at a race track on the southern side of Marseilles. Here we unloaded and reassembled our crated planes and used the middle ground of the race track for an airfield.
Lt. Brown and I stayed in house in the Endoume section of Marseilles. The house next door had been used by the Germans as a unit headquarters. "Our" house had been a weather observation station and some meteorological equipment had been left behind. We inspected parts of the Gennan "South Wall". These fortifications had a forced-air ventilation system, electric lights, bunks and a mess hall. The exteriors were replete with extensive barbed wire entanglements.
The Air Section moved to the Aix-Marseilles airfield on Oct. 14. The field had been used by the Germans as an air transport unit headquarters. We were quartered in a chateau near the airfield. The place, property of a count, had been used by a German general and his staff. Everything that wasn't destroyed was much enjoyed, such as the lighting system and the shower rooms.
We began our move to the 7th U.S. Army's headquarters at Epinal on Oct. 16. The route was via Montelimar to Lyons to Besancon, then on to Epinal, where we landed at the airstrip in front of the 7th's headquarters.
After moving to Grandvillers, where we were billeted in a French farm house, I flew my first combat mission in France on Oct. 28, 1944.
Soon after my arrival in Italy, I had participated in an informal session with some Liaison Pilots who had been in the Sicilian campaign. A Staff Sergeant named Grandy made the remark, "If you look down and think you are seeing a P-40, you are probably wrong. It's most likely to be a Messerschmitt Me 1O9."
(Grandy would later posthumously receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. He and his observer were killed by an outgoing Allied artillery round during a fire-direction mission on the Anzio beachhead in Italy.)
On Nov. 3, 1944, shortly after we had moved operations to southern France, we were on a mission near the front lines around the town of St. Die, flying just under the base of an overcast at 2500 feet. I glanced down and saw two camouflaged fighter-type airplanes under us flying about 1000 feet above the terrain. I instantly recalled Grandy's statement and identified the fighters as Messerschmitt Me 109s.
I immediately pointed the nose of my L-4 at the two-plane flight and dived directly toward them.
TWO ME-109s PURSUE LITTLE L-4 The L-4 was red-lined at about 140 mph, and I think I saw 165 on the airspeed indicator. As we descended, they pulled up to make a firing pass. I saw flashes of cannon and machine-gun fire from both 109s, but saw no tracers. By the time the two had made a turn back for another pass, I was down below the ridges of a small valley over a dirt road. I was so low that they could not, at their rate of speed, get low enough to bring their guns to bear.
They circled to try to catch me by coming down the valley, but I maneuvered into a side ravine of the valley 90 degrees to their intended attack route and still lower than the ridge line. They made a third pass coming down the ravine, but by this time I was back into the main valley again and their speed precluded their getting a bead on me. The fourth time, they started a pass down the side ravine and I looked down and saw a U.S. Army 2 1/2-ton truck on the valley road. It had a ring-mounted .50 caliber machine gun over the passenger side of the front seat and some GI was making his presence known to the Me's by the tracers. This made the proper impression on the enemy and they departed the scene post-haste.
Upon inspecting the L-4 after landing, we found one bullet hole in the right-hand wing about 10 feet from the fuselage and a second hole in the vertical stabilizer. I still have the holed pieces of fabric that were cutout prior to the application of patches.
We moved to Rambervillers on Nov. 16th, joining the 405th Artillery Group. On the 17th, I flew my first combat flight in two weeks as the weather finally improved. Our fighter-bombers were very active. The retreating Germans were burning all the villages that we were forcing them to abandon. On the 18th, we moved to Baccarat, then to Plaines in Alsace on the 26th. Since the Germans had claimed this territory as part of the Reich, all road signs were in German and only the older residents spoke French.
On Nov. 29 we moved out of the higher terrain west of the Vosges Mountains to the valley of the Rhine. We departed Plaines, following a narrow valley with the overcast shrouding the 3600-foot peaks on both sides. The visibility was extremely poor and we were fortunate in getting through to the airport at Saverne.
On Dec. 8 we moved to Pfaffenhofen and on the 11th, I left with Lt. Flaherty and his driver for a 7-day leave at a 7th Army rest center for Liaison Pilots and their observers in Grenoble, France. On the 14th, I went to Alpe d'Huez where the rest center had a facility in a ski resort. We "flatland furriners" were some kind of funny as skiers! I borrowed some ski boots from a French ski instructor name Rene Rionda who was "grounded" with a broken leg. As a skier, Rene must have been no slouch since he had been a member of the French Olympic ski team before the war. He died in a rescue helicopter crash in the 1950s.
On Dec 16 the Germans invaded the Ardennes area in a surprise attack which evolved into "The Battle of the Bulge." Their main effort was directed at the juncture between the U.S. 3rd and 9th Armies. The 3rd Army moved its defensive efforts to their left, resulting in the 7th U.S. Army moving to its left to fill the resultant gap.
CHRISTMAS 1944 NEAR THE RHINE When we returned from rest leave on the 19th, we had to track down the battalion's then-current position at Ingolheim, near Wissembourg. While on a mission on the 22nd, I saw the hills in Germany. We spent Christmas 1944 at Ingoiheim and the next day I saw the Rhine River as well as the smoke resulting from a raid on Karlsruhe, Germany, by B-26s.
By Dec. 29th, we were at Weyersheim, where we had trouble with the extremely cold weather: moisture freezing in the fuel lines, ice-coated wings and hard-starting engines.
On Jan. 2 1945, we moved to the northern outskirts of Strasbourg. On the 4th we moved back northward to Bischweiler, a hot spot since the Germans were counter-attacking across the Rhine and reached Rohrwiller, 4 kilometers from us.
On Jan. 9 we moved to one of the two airports serving Strasbourg from the vicinity of the village of Entzheim. We stayed in what had been Luftwaffe barracks. The Entzheim airfield was a landing ground type airdrome; it had no paved runways. When the snow got about a foot deep, our aircraft operations were curtailed.
During our stay at Entzheim, "Roam' Bill," a Boeing B-17E returning from a raid on Germany with three engines dead, belly-landed about a mile north of the airport on a very cloudy day. The crew thought that they were in Germany and smashed the aircraft's instruments. It was the 98th mission for the airplane and the third for the crew.
On Feb. 8, I flew "my" L-4 to Luneville, France, to the 4th DUA (Depot Unit Army) to have the wings replaced because the fabric had become weakened, due to exposure to the elements.
A rest leave turned into additional 8-day "leave." By jeep, I went back to resume my amateurish efforts of skiing at Alpe d'Huez when, on the beginner's slope, I sprained my right knee very badly. With a French doctor's certificate and permission from a 27-year-old "bird' colonel from the 3rd Division Artillery, I remained an additional eight days, hobbling around with a ski pole for a cane.
I rejoined the Air Section, now at Puttelange, on Feb. 27. I resumed flying on March 15 and had my first combat mission since Feb. 11 on March 17, flying a patrol along the Saar River, west of Saarbrucken. On the 19th, we witnessed preparations for our infantry and tanks to cross the Saar River and to enter Germany. The next day I flew from our strip at Rosbruck to scout ahead of the rapidly-advancing columns north of the Saar.
On the 22nd, I flew "my" L-4 to the 4th DUA at Luneville, this time to have a new engine‹the third one since the airplane was new‹installed. Abbreviated engine life was probably due to the use of motor vehicle gasoline and a variety of non-aviation oil.
On March 30, I flew across the Rhine to our new airstrip on the northern edge of Mannheim. From this base we flew ahead of the columns of CCR (Combat Command Reconnaissance) over the hills to the east of Mannheim and over Heidelberg and the Neckar River.
Late in the afternoon of April 2, while flying from our new strip at Hardheim, I saw my first jet-propelled airplane, as a Me 262 flew past my L-4 at a low altitude. From knowledge gained later, the pilot was high-tailing it for base due to low fuel state and a measly little L-4 was of very little consequence considering the urgency to find a suitable airfield.
Four days later we were back with the 36th Field Artillery Group at Giebelstadt. The airdrome there was once a Luftwaffe test station for jet-propelled aircraft and it had a long paved runway for ground-lovin' jets.
FIRST CLOSE-UP LOOK AT JET It was here that I had my first close-up look at a jet aircraft. A Me 262 apparently was taking off, armed with rockets under the wings, when the left-hand main landing gear tire blew out. The resultant drag pulled the airplane to the left off the runway and it ended up resting on the left wingtip.
Later the field was raided by four Junkers Ju 88s. One ship flew higher than the other three and acted as a decoy for antiaircraft fire, while the other three attempted tree-top approaches to bomb. Fortunately, we had ample AA support in the area and the Ju 88s were repelled without causing casualties or doing damage. We guessed that what really they wanted to do was to render the Me 262 unflyable and this they failed to do.
It was a fast and moving pace over the next several days. On April 14 our airstrip was at Marktsteft, alongside the Main River. On the 16th, it was Marktbibart; the next day, Morlbach. On the 18th we were transferred to support the 12th Armored Division, flying from the former Luftwaffe base at Illesheim. The next day we were on the former Luftwaffe flight training base at Ansbach. On the 20th, we were back with the 30th Field Artillery Group at Rothenberg-on-the-Tauber. (This medieval walled city was declared a no-fire zone by Secretary of War Stimson.)
On the 25th, our base was at Schretzheim, near Dillingen and an intact bridge across the Danube River. The Germans had failed to destroy the bridge, paving the way for our forces to cross the river in great numbers in a very short time.
Of course the Germans made a determined effort to render the bridge impassable by aerial bombardment, including the use of jets. It was the first time we heard the sound of jet engines. We were told that Messerschmitt Me 262s had made an attempt to bomb the bridge, but were unsuccessful. Another night a jet strafed the bridge, passing very low over "our" house on his run into the target. He was so fast the he was in and away before the antiaircraft troops started firing.
AUGUST 19, 1944, somewhere in Italy: Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes (right), Commander of II Corps, congratulates
2nd Lt. Guy Claybourn of the 935th Field Artillery Battalion after awarding him the first Oak Leaf Cluster
to his Air Medal for meritorious achievement in flight over Italy.
Jet-powered aircraft of this era, 1940s, were very slow in acceleration on take-off with the consequent requirement for long runways. Paved runways were relatively rare in Germany, and long ones of 6,000 feet or more, were virtually non-existent. An expedient solution to this problem was provided by the Luftwaffe and its construction personnel by their modifying straight stretches of the Autobahn into runways by paving the grassy median. The concrete median paving was painted green to resemble grass.
I saw two such "runways": one near Leipheim (just east of Ulm) and the other four miles north of Augsburg. The original Messerschmitt factory was at Augsburg.
On April 27 we were in Wertingen, the next day in the northwest outskirts of Augsburg. On an April 29 mission, we saw the Alps to the south and the city of Munich to the east.
I flew to Munich and vicinity on administrative flights and found out when we returned to Augsburg that this was VE Day: victory in Europe!!
On May 9 we flew over Berchtesgaden which had been badly damaged by a Royal Air Force bombing raid in late April. From Berchtesgaden we flew to the airport for Salzburg, Austria, then the scene of varied activity. There was a plush Junkers Ju 52, tri-motor staff transport aircraft abandoned by its occupants who were fleeing from the advancing Russian forces. I still have their Luftwaffe aeronautical map showing their route west to surrender to the Americans.
Two Messerschmitt Me 109s also landed. The pilots dismounted to reveal that they were dressed in their best uniforms, complete with medals and pistols. They, too, had no desire to be "guests" of the Russians.
NON-FLYING DUTY AT AUGSBURG Our 935th FA Battalion was quartered in Michel Fabrik fur Elektnsche Gerate (Michel Factory for Electrical Apparatus). The factory was in an undamaged three-story building, on the north outskirts of Augsburg, that had steam heat, hot showers, a swimming pool and a very complete photo lab.
I was assigned two non-flying projects during our stay in Augsburg. The first task was temporary duty at the Wamsler Stove Factory in southwest Munich where the battalion operated Captured Enemy Material Dump 804. It was here that I traded a bottle of champagne to a soldier for a portable typewriter that he had "found" somewhere, and began to type-up the "diary" I had kept. I still have those typed copies and also pages of my handwritten notes.
Another time I was placed in charge of a work force that took a convoy of about ten 2 1/2-ton trucks to Landeck, Austria, about 45 miles west of Innsbruck in an Alpine valley. Our mission was to pick up the components of a German supersonic wind tunnel project which was placed in this area to take advantage of the hydroelectric generation needed to power the establishment. The reason for removal of the equipment was to deny its acquisition by the French who were assigned this area for post-war occupation, but which had not yet taken place.
(I never heard of what became of what we removed, insofar as aeronautical research was concerned, but the French eventually established a very similar wind tunnel in the Alpine area of eastern France near a large source of hydroelectric power. I am fairly certain that research from this French facility resulted in the French/British "Concorde" supersonic passenger planes as well supersonic French military aircraft.)
In the middle of June, I accompanied a group consisting of a captain, and about 15 enlisted men on leave to the French Riviera. I, a second lieutenant with a jeep driver, went ahead each day to make arrangements for the group's night stops. We motored down eastern France to Cannes and Nice. The enlisted men stayed at a hotel in Nice, while the captain and I were in a hotel in Cannes. Saw my first bikini bathing suit‹pas ce maP
We returned via Milan, Italy, and the Brenner Pass. The road traversed many tunnels with one lane traffic because the blocked-off half had been configured as an underground aircraft engine production facility complete with all the requisite machine tools.
On July 3, the battalion moved to the vicinity or Dornigheim, a few miles east of Frankfurt-am-Main. The unit's mission was to operate a captured enemy material dump.
The dump contained a great variety of equipment: a single-engine jet fighter, artillery pieces, artillery ammunition, aerial bombs and containers of various chemicals.
We experienced heavy rains that ran into containers of metallic sodium. The reaction with water started a fire that got into the munitions and caused a powerful explosion that left a crater about 30 feet across and 10 feet deep. The proximity of the explosion to the headquarters building resulted in 14 fatalities and 25 injured. Our battalion commander, Lt. Col. Joseph C. Davis, was one of the six American soldiers killed, along with eight German volunteer firefighters from Domigheim.
VJ DAY BRINGS RELIEF On Aug. 15, 1945 came the welcome news of V J Day. We liaison pilots especially were relieved, since we had been alerted for re-assignment to the Pacific Theater.
On Aug. 27 I made my first flight for the U.S. Fifteenth Army, which was located at Bad Nauheim‹about 18 miles north of Frankfurt. The 15th was given an assignment to compile information on lessons learned during the war. Officers from the various branches of the service were sent to interview personnel at their unit locations before rotation back to the States for de-mobilization. Most of the flights that I made were for the artillery specialists.
The majority of the researchers were field grade officers‹majors, "light" colonels and "bird" colonels. I was one of two second lieutenants in this set-up. The other "last" lieutenant was John Eisenhower, General Eisenhower's son. John had just graduated from West Point in June after a wartime-shortened program.
My log book shows that I flew a Stinson L-5B to many places in the U.S. zone of occupation. I made several flights to Marienbad and Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. On Sept. 14, I was checked out in a Fiesler "Storch", which was a German counterpart of our liaison aircraft.
It was found that I was possessed of a high point count that entitled me to a leave in the U.S. I was in Palacios from Oct. 11 to Dec. 7, 1945 and flew back to Germany from New York City on Dec. 18, via Newfoundland, the Azores and Paris. I arrived back in Bad Nauheim on Dec. 20, making my first flight after return on Dec. 31. My last flight in Germany was made on March 11, 1946.
When I left Germany, I had logged about 986 hours of which 391:20 was combat time flown in 252 missions. I was released from active duty in March 1946, at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, and promoted to First Lieutenant in the Army Reserves.
After graduating from the University of Houston in June 1951, I was recalled to active duty on July 17, 1951 for service in Korea. I spent seven months on front line duty, flying for an Armored Field Artillery Battalion and seven months rear area duty, making courier flights with a Signal Corps Operating Battalion.
From 1953-56, I was assigned to the Flight Detachment, Continental Army Command at Fort Monroe, Va. From 1956-59, I flew for Flight Detachment, Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe. In 1957, I ferried a Beechcraft L-23D from Wichita, Kans. to Heidelberg, Germany via Newfoundland, the Azore Islands and Spain.
I was helicopter-rated in 1960 and flew single and twin-engine aircraft and helicopters for the Army Air Defense Command. In 1965-66, I spent a year in Vietnam, flying electronic-monitoring aircraft for the Army Security Agency.
In March 1968, at Fort Wolters, Texas, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, Master Army Aviator, with 8,234 hours of flying time in 20 years of active duty service.
For all of those service years, I was awarded the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 14 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal (5 Campaign Stars), World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal (3 Campaign Stars), Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with 20-year device), United Nations Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Medal.
Mr. Claybourn passed away Aug. 22, 2010 at the age of 89.
GUY CLAYBOURN, 2002
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