668th BS Patch

416th Bombardment Group (L)

Capt Gordon E. Doule

Armament Officer, 668th B.S.

Oral History Interview Transcription

(copied from The Oshkosh Public Museum website)


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Oral History Interview with Gordon E. Doule
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Record 110/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection Gordon E. Doule
Dates of Accumulation 1994 - 1994
Abstract Cassette recorded oral history self interview by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the 9th Army Air Force during World War II.

Gordon Doule
Saga of a Young American in WWII

What follows might well be called the saga of a young American in World War II. The writer graduated from Oshkosh High School in January of 1938. After spending a few months just cruising around and fooling around, he enrolled in what is now the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, at that time it was called the Oshkosh State Teachers College in September of 1939. During 1940, fellow student, Stuart Lamb, who was at that time dating Marian Ross approached me, and he approached me and asked me if I would be interested in taking civilian pilot training. It appeared that he was putting together a class and needed, I believe twelve students. One had backed out and in order to get the Federal Governments backing he needed twelve students. It was far from my mind ever to take flying lessons, I couldn't get up on a twelve foot ladder, so it frightened me even to think about doing what he was suggesting; however, in deference to him, because his pleading was so sincere, I accepted the offer.

During flight training at that time, in 1940 as you can well imagine we had many, as people would call it at this time, hair-raising experiences. You might be interested in hearing of a few of them. One time my instructor was with me and we were taking off in a Taylor Craft, which is a light aircraft, uh, it was powered by a Lycombing engine and I believe it was about a sixty-five horsepower engine. We were taking off into the wind as was, and is proper and all of a sudden, when we were probably six or eight feet off of the ground, another plane took off right over our heads going downwind. Needless to say, it shook us both up substantially. We found out later that the other pilot, who was the owner of a local tavern and will remain, unspecified, was so drunk that his friends had to carry him out to the plane and they put him in it. He was too drunk to walk but he wasn't to drunk to fly, even if he didn't know enough to fly into the wind in taking off. At another time I remember my instructor was with me and we got up about forty or fifty feet and our engine conked out. Right at the end of the field was a barbed-wire fence and a big cornfield, which we promptly settled into. The third time was on my solo flight which occurred as normal after only a few hours of actual flying time, and at that time I was told to do spot landings. My instructor got out and walked out about three hundred feet from a cross runway, I was supposed to shoot landings and just roll my wheels in a three hundred foot space, give it throttle and just go around and repeat the procedure. There was some work being done on the field, it was being enlarged, this was the Winnebago County Airport at that time, and as I came in we made throttle-off landings so things were quite quiet. As I came in I heard a large whir under me, it didn't concern me at the moment because they had the earth moving equipment underneath me and I thought that was what it was. Well, I came in and was going to just roll my wheels but my instructor was standing up waving loudly for me to come back in. So I landed and taxied back to where he was and he got in the plane and said, "My gosh, didn't you see that fella?" and I said, " What fella?" well, he said "There was one of those bush pilots in a BI-plane coming in right under you!" These fella's didn't take the time to make any kind of a traffic pattern. When they were coming into the field, they'd just land period, and apparently this fella was coming in to land and he was coming in right under me. Finally he spotted me because I couldn't see him and what I heard was the whir of his engine as he banked and pulled away from me. This was another close shave. Then, I remember, on my cross-country trip that I had to take for my pilots license, I was supposed to fly down to Fon du Lac, land, take-off, fly around the lake to Chilton, land and take-off, fly up to Appleton, land and take-off, and return to Winnebago County Airport. This was fine; everything went along real good until I got four miles north of Oshkosh. That was where what we called The Asylum was at that time. At that point I ran smack dab into a snowstorm. Here I am, a pilot that had probably no more than about eight hours of flying time and all I had was a ball-bank indicator, an altimeter, and an air-speed indicator. Needless to say I didn't know if I was upside down, sideways or what. I finally flew out of it and obviously came out of it unscathed because I'm talking to you. I flew back to Oshkosh. So I completed my training and was given my pilots certificate by Steve Wittman. We had a great deal of respect for Steve even at that time, which was fairly early in his career, because he was winning air races and National air races and the Cleveland air races and things of that type. We respected him also for his tremendous engineering capabilities, building at that time Bonzo and Chief Oshkosh. I believe that Chief Oshkosh or Bonzo is in the Smithsonian Institute at this time. Of course, Steve Whitman's name graces Wittman Regional Airport, which of course as I explained earlier was Winnebago County Airport. I've always felt great honor that it was he who signed my pilots' license in September of 1940.

To get to the entry of our country into World War II, at that time I was living on Hazel Street next to what is now the Mercy Medical center, in a lovely white house with green trim. The way I hear it now, the house was demolished, as were several other homes in that vicinity and now it has become part of the Asphalt Jungle; it is a parking lot. At that time, on December the 7th, 1941 I heard on the radio that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. On my birthday, January 14th, just a few weeks later, on my 21st birthday like a lot of other young red-blooded Americans, I went down to the Post Office on Washington Boulevard and signed up for Aviation Cadet training. I was not called up until the 26th of March and I was called to Green Bay for formal induction into the Air Corp. I was given the great title of Private Air Corp Unassigned and returned to Oshkosh for a ninety-day furlough, believe it or not at twenty-one dollars a month, awaiting appointment by Congress as an Aviation Cadet. Today, of course, people would not think that twenty one dollars was a lot of money, but I'm here to tell you that it was a lot of money in those days for a young fella, who had never earned a lot of money, and at five dollars a week, it was a more than adequate amount of spending money. The reason we couldn't get in was that not only was it slow for Congress to appoint us as Cadets but they were also getting ready the military bases that would handle us. After eighty nine days, a group of us, and I believe Tom McGuire from Oshkosh, Hilton Hay, Tom Lennon and several others went with me and we went by train to the Santa Anna Army Air Base in California. That would be called Santa Anna Airforce Base now. During the course of examinations and so forth, I and another one of the Aviation Cadets were grounded in a pressure chamber at Santa Anna. This was rather stupid because we were expected to withstand the pressure and lack of oxygen up to eighteen thousand square feet and after spending three months dissipating, I was not able to do this. Air Force requirements require that you go on oxygen at ten thousand feet and as a result it was really not a fair test and was shortly thereafter discontinued as a washout test. Having had three and a half years of college education, I was still qualified to remain as an aviation cadet in armament. Until I was reappointed as an Aviation Cadet by Congress, I had the unseemly task of being a Duty Sergeant for a squadron at the Santa Anna Airforce Base. I put people who had violated the rules, were misfits and the like or who were being removed from the military on disobedience for one thing or another on task duties, so you can see that I was not a very well- liked individual having to put these fellas' out on tasks that they didn't like.

At any rate, my appointment finally came through and I was sent to Lawry Field in Denver, Colorado as an Aviation Cadet in armament. Armament was the maintaining of machine guns, rifles, pistols, sub-machine guns, aircraft machine guns, power turrets, bombsights and the loading and installation of bombs into aircraft. I remained there for several months going through training and then they moved the entire aircraft armament section to Yale University at New Haven Connecticut. By that time I was an upper-classman and upper-classmen had a lot of privileges that the lower-classmen did not have and I remember distinctly that the people in New Haven who many people thought were stodgy and not friendly, but I found just the opposite. They invited us in to their homes and we had dates and so forth, with their daughters and it was very refreshing time for us to get away from Bringham Hall and Yale university. After finishing my course there, I was given my second lieutenants bars, in early 1943. At that time I was given my first opportunity to get back to Oshkosh because I was able to wire the Third Air Force commander at Tampa, Florida for a delay in route. That gave me ten days so that I could take a train back to Oshkosh, visit with my family, before I took up the rigors of development into what I had to do for the next three years in WWII.

After a real nice vacation in Oshkosh, I reported for duty at Plant Park, Tampa, Florida with the Third Air Force and was sent to Meridian Mississippi to the Forty Sixth Bomb Group. There I understudied another Armament Officer and we had some interesting occurrences there. For example, at that time we were using dive-bombers and the like and some of these old ships had machine guns that fired through the propellers, so consequently they had to be perfectly synchronized or you'd shoot a hole through the propeller of the air plane. Every now and then, one of the Armorers would do a bad job of synchronizing the guns and the pilot would be down of one of those bayous, strafing a target and blow some holes in his prop. We didn't have any casualties as a result, but they sure didn't make the engines run very smoothly. Of course there were other instances too where the young pilots, many of them only eighteen or nineteen years old, would be skip-bombing targets and get a little bit too low and dip the tips of their props in the water. They'd come back pretty rough, because the tips would be bent up.

Shortly after that I was transferred to Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, to get in to an outfit that was forming cadres which was the nucleus and so forth of bomb groups that were to be sent either to the southwest Pacific or to Europe. I spent several weeks at that point waiting for groups to be made. We, of course, were hopeful that we'd go to Europe rather than the southwest Pacific. During my stay thereto get more training they sent me to Gainsville Florida, near Orlando, to the Air Force's school of Applied Tactics for some additional training and then back to Oklahoma City. They sent me from there to McGill Field in Tampa, Florida for training on Martin Power Turrets as well as some training on the Nordin bomb sight whereupon I again returned to Oklahoma City. After being assigned to the 416th and specifically to the 68th Bomb Squadron Light I was transferred to Laurel Air Force Base in Laurel Mississippi where our final training was to take place prior to leaving over seas. At Laurel we were using B-25 Bombers as transition air craft to teach our pilots how to handle A-20's because the A-20's didn't have provisions for a co pilot or an instructor, of course. The A-20 pilots were being trained in B-25's which was a real nice Mitchell Bomber as a matter of fact it was the bomber that Jimmy Doolittle flew on his mission to bomb Tokyo and land in China. We had no problems with this aircraft, where with many other aircraft that we were using from time to time, we had casualties. I don't remember a single casualty we had with the B-25. While at Laurel Air Force Base, I had a friend from Oshkosh who was in the CB's, a fella by the name of Nick Vokeland. It was LG Vokland of the Vokeland Oil Company here in Oshkosh. Nick had located me at Laurel Air Force Base because we carried on some letter writing, and he was able to get to Laurel Air Force Base and I think it was the highlight of his career as a CB in the Navy. When I was able to get him a ride in a B-25 bomber by our squadron operations officer who turned out to be quite a buddy of mine, it was really a thrill for Nick and in later years he made mention of it several times. After completing our training there and I as an Armament Officer had to train as an additional duty, people in chemical warfare service as well as train pilots, bombardiers and navigators on the use of Skeet. We used Skeet to train gunners, pilots and bombardiers and they were required to shoot a couple rounds each of that and all of the enlisted men in the squadron had to be trained with the M1 carbine. We also trained some of the crews with Thompson sub-machine guns and the Colt 45 automatic pistol. Having completed all of this training, we were shipped to Miles Standish in Boston Massachusetts for shipment to Europe.

I had kind of an interesting experience at that point, because I had to get on board the troop ship that was to take us to Europe three days earlier to set up the security for the ship. So I had a crew of men that I had to show how to be sure that the ship was blacked out sufficiently and things of that nature. We were very fortunate in having been assigned to the SS {Coleunbe?}, which was a converted French luxury liner, the crew was the entire crew and chef from the Normandy, another very famous luxury liner that was scuttled and burned in the port of New York just prior to that time. It was all over the newspapers because it was a huge ship at least the size of the Queen Mary that the English were sailing at that time. The entire French crew presented some problems to me as the security officer because during the trip they kept making passes at the men, not all of them of course, Frenchmen aren't all that way, but that was the way some of them were and it was all quite a source of concern to us. I also had to take aboard the ship the exchange currency, changing the dollar into pound sterling and the coin of the British Isles. We went across the Atlantic in the largest convoy that ever went across in wartime. To give you some idea, our escort alone consisted of as many as sixty-five destroyer escort patrol vessels as well as the Battleship Arizona, two or three heavy cruisers, three or four baby flat tops and one full size air-craft carrier. The troop ships themselves were not as luxurious as the one I happened to be on, many of them were converted Liberty Transports that had been converted into troop ships and I agonized for the people that were on them, cuz they bounced around and the North Atlantic can be rough crossing in the month of January. Our ship, however, was a luxury liner, it rode the swells very nicely, except even then our entire ship, practically had seasickness. I was very fortunate that it didn't happen to me, so I filled up with that marvelous food and enlisted men and the officers ate exactly the same food and I was privy to going into the galley and so forth because of my command set-up as far as security for the vessel was concerned. We only ate twice a day but, my goodness, we could eat all that we could eat, the only difference was that the enlisted men had to eat out of mess kits because there were so many of them. The trip across the North Atlantic was interesting to some extent, because we were attacked no less than nine times by U-boats; however, our crew didn't hardly know that these attacks were occurring because of the immensity of the convoy. Normally the SS {Colenbe?} would make the trip from New York or Boston to England or Scotland in probably four days or less but since we had to take evasive action all the way across the Atlantic due to slower vessels in our convoy, it took us ten days to make the crossing. When we got to Europe we landed at Gouroc, Scotland and sailed along the Clyde Estuary to Glasgow where we disembarked and got onto trains which would take us down the entire length of Scotland and into England to our very first air force base in Weathersfield, Essex not to far from Braintree, Essex. We lived in what was called Nissan Huts and I believe there were about four officers per hut and these were steel dome shaped huts with concrete floors. They were quite comfortable.

The first few months that we were there were quite hectic and some very interesting occurrences happened to us. We weren't used to having enemy aircraft over our heads as we were having at that time. What was termed the Baby Blitz was on as far as London was concerned. The German Luftwaufer was coming over, about two hundred and fifty bombers every night. They were not attacking us but when the air raid sirens sounded, at least for the first week or so that we were there, we all ran to the air raid shelters. After a while it dawned on us that they were not out to get us and we got bolder and bolder where finally we were standing on top of the air raid shelters, watching London go into operation. To try to describe how incredible it looked to us when London would go into operation, it just seemed there was an anti-aircraft gun on every roof of every building in the city. We would hear the engines of the Germans coming over our air-force base and very shortly thereafter the sky over London would become a brilliant red, it was a regular carpet of red over London and every now and then you could see a plane going down in flames. At one point a plane was shot down over our field and it was quite interesting because we heard the engine of the plane and all of a sudden three search lights came on and they criss-crossed on this German bomber and then the lights went out and that's when the British night fighters went in and we would hear the Burp-a-urp-a-urp of their guns and all of a sudden we heard the engine on the German bomber start to react. The crew was able to bail out on this particular instance and we saw the plane hit the ground not two or three miles from our base. One of our sister groups, located a few miles from us, was able to capture at least three out of the crew that came down in their parachutes. It was interesting also for me because I was able, from time to time, to go down to group operations where they had a large map on the wall on which they were saying how there were forty-eight German bombers within ten miles of where we were at the time. A few minutes later they were over our heads and we could hear them. So it was quite spectacular and I feel it was quite interesting. Getting back to my function as an Armament Officer, when we got to England, planes that were ferried over to us were 820 D's and E's, which were the fourth and fifth modification of the A-twenty, and were all solid nosed ships with guns in them, so there was no place to put the Bombardier. We had nothing to lead each flight with to put a bombsight in and a bombardier so they made arrangements to find some British Bostons which were A-20's, A-20A's and A-20B's that we had built for the British sometime before and they did have a glass nose in them. But these ships had been stripped of their guns and as a result we had no guns for them. The four Armament officers from the 416th bomb group were sent out all over England to scurry around to see what we could do at other English air force bases to get machine guns to supply these lead ships. I don't know why it was I, but I went down to a field that was down near the English Channel and it was a field in which the heavy bombers, the British and the American bombers would limp into after being damaged on their bombing runs over Germany and France at that time. B-24's and B-17's, Halifaxes and Lancaster bombers that the British were using would limp in there with engines shot out and parts missing. While I was there, a B-24 came in and he was coming in on one engine, with three engines out, and he looked like he was going to make it alright, but what happened was the wing on the dead engine side got down too low and aerodynamically what happens is the drag is so great that it causes the airplane to do what we call Split S. It Split S right into the ground in front of me. The only one that they were able to get out of the plane and I imagine they had around nine or ten men, was the tail gunner. All the rest were killed. Several other ships came in with parts missing. One I remember, a B-17 had a ball turret missing from its bottom, it was completely gone. In the course of going in and talking to these people and trying to find my machine guns, I heard some awfully wild stories. One fella remembered how a shell had gone into a twenty-millimeter gun, bounced around in it and exploded while the gunner was still in the plane. They washed him out with a high-pressure hose, there was hardly anything left to bury. This was one of those things that happened. It was a tragedy but it really was necessary. We were successful in finding thirty caliber machine guns to put in to the blisters on either side of our British Bostons but we were not able to find any flexible fifties to give to the gunners. An A-20 had what we called a tunnel gunner's position, which was nothing more than an open bottom of an airplane with a machine gun that was flexibly mounted and the gunner fired through the floor. As a result, this is another epic occurrence; our first gunners went up in these ships until we could make other arrangements. We were making missions over France armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun with a twenty and a thirty round magazine taped back to back so all they had was fifty rounds of ammunition. Had the Germans known this they could have knocked off all of our lead ships without any problems at all. We made a lot of missions in that form.

Having found our Armament and having installed it into our aircraft we were now ready to do our share of the fighting in Europe. Most of our targets were in the coastal regions of France. For quite some time we had targets that we didn't even know what they were. The code name for them was NOBALL. These were small targets, usually confined to a one square mile area and to give you some idea of the intensity of the anti-aircraft fire, we onetime went in on one target which had eighty-one, eighty-eight millimeter German Ack Ack Guns firing at us. This eighty-eight millimeter Ack Ack Gun was the most effective gun the Germans had, and not just for anti-aircraft, it was also able to be lowered so that it could be used as a field artillery piece. This was also an automatic fire weapon and as fast as they could throw the shells in, that gun would fire. Needless to say we suffered a lot of casualties. One of the most heart-rending experiences of the war was watching for our flights to come back and having a missing plane or two missing planes in a flight of six planes. Often one of them would be missing from the 668th bomb squadron of which I was a part. We had some rather harrowing experiences with planes that were bringing back bombs that were hanging dangerously in the bomb base and which we had to get out. Since our job was putting bombs in to the bomb base, then we of course had to take them out when these malfunctions occurred. I know that on one occasion we were involved in a battle in which they had a German army virtually surrounded and it was called the Battle of the Falaise Gap in France. The only way that the Germans could get out of their surrounding predicament was through this gap so they naturally tried to get through it at night so we carried five hundred pound bombs up, that had booby trapped fuses in them, and dropped them in that Falaise Gap. Some of the bombs would explode on contact, others would have a thirty minute delay and others would have from four to six hours delay, so they never knew when these bombs were going explode. We were timing the bombs so that they would explode during the nighttime hours. If on the other hand their bomb disposal squads came upon these bombs, they couldn't defuse them because if you unscrewed the fuses a sixty-fourth of an inch, it would detonate the fuse. So they were a pretty happy little thing to be dropping on these Germans when they were surrounded. These fuses were very touchy to handle and our bombs were fused not by my personnel they were fused by ordinate's personnel. The ordinates department of the army loaned these people to the army, they were never attached to the Air Force and these fuses were put in after my armament's armors installed the bombs in the bomb base. They were painted red just the veins on them; the fuse army vein was painted red so that our armoires would know that these were the booby traps. Our pilots were instructed that if they didn't drop these bombs on the target, that under no circumstance were they to bring them back to base they were to salvo them into the English Channel. Needless to say, on of the pilots brought his load of bombs back and of course we never knew if they had been mishandled and whether that chain reaction time of six and twelve hour delay had already put in effect. Well, I called group headquarters to the group operations officer, who happened to be a colonel and I was only a first lieutenant at the time, I wanted to get permission to have the pilot take it back up and dump it in the channel where he was supposed to. They said "no, no, no, we're not going to risk the pilot" and I said well, you're not going to risk us either cuz I'm not going to take these out of the plane, and then the group commander who was a chicken colonel got on and he said "You WILL take them out and dispose of them." I said, "I'm going to bring them down in front of group operations then.", and he said "No you won't, you'll take them out on the farthest part of that runway and dispose of them." Well of course, rank took place and we were unloading the last of the four bombs at about ten minutes before the twelve hours was up, fortunately for us they had not been mishandled and nothing happened but you can imagine that we lost a lot of sleep over that.
Gordon Doule Interview
March 20, 1994

At the conclusion of World War II in Europe. For a short period of time, of which I am not overly proud, occurred but it was one that was possibly shared with a whole lot of other young men of my time. So for the sake of posterity, I will record it.

It happened on the eve of when we received word that the European part of World War II had come to a conclusion. I was a young officer in the 668th Bomb Squadron of the 416th Bomb Group. We were stationed in France I would say northeast of Paris. And it was very close to the surrender signing which occurred on the eighth of May of 1945.

We were, as we were ah, all of the time that we were in France after D-Day, ensconced in squad tents, about ten officers per tent. We had just received our liquor rations for that month. So we were thoroughly supplied with the 'hair of the dog' so to speak. At that time we were, had been involved with A-26 aircraft, also known as "the Invader." Of course you can realize that most of us were about nineteen to twenty three or twenty four years old. Myself, I was twenty four. And ah, we also were, many of us, unattached or, if you will, unmarried. We proceeded to get, I would say, drunk. But in retrospect I would say, very drunk.

We did ah, we still were under alert so to speak in the respect that we still had soldiers guarding aircraft. And had an officer of the guard. Because there were still, there was still the possibility of either French collaborators or German soldiers still hiding in the vicinity. That notwithstanding, I proceeded to leave the base on foot looking for a young lady companion. Needless to say, I was really stoned.

I started out across country with hard-soled bedroom slippers on, slacks and one of the large fleece-lined flying jackets, the real heavy ones that combat crews wore to protect them from the cold that they would encounter at 20,000 feet of altitude. I did not however have any identification with me, particularly as to my rank. And I happened to have been at the time a captain in the United States Air Force. I started to roam the countryside looking for a suitable young lady to vent my passions upon. After knocking on a few French doors, inquiring as to whether there was a young lady who would hopefully like to enjoy my company, I got a little upset on occasion and with my limited French, said, 'if they don't, I will ask the Bosch to return summarily.' Which was of course, a big lie. In the first place, I wouldn't have done it but it was strictly an idle threat.

Traipsing around the countryside, I came upon a couple of; before I say that I, in crossing a field which was wet and muddy, one of my bedroom slippers came off and I could not locate it. So henceforth, I was walking with one shoe on and one shoe off. What a pitiful sight I must have been.

In any event, I came upon a very small village nearby and there was a very large POW internment camp there. Which was full of German PW's. They had barred windows of course but in going down the sidewalk I went by one of the barred windows and there were some Jerry PW's talking through the window and I could hear them so I stopped and chatted with them. I told them that I was pretty darn drunk and that I was at that point shoeless. And one of them spoke up and said, "Gosh, if there were some way that you could get in here, I would be, I have a pair of shower clogs that I made out of automobile rubber tires. And I would see to it that you got them." But since there was heavy screening on this window, he couldn't slip them out to me. So I like a real dummy, instead of escaping from a prison camp, I sneaked into one. How I managed that, I'm not clear at this point. But at any rate, I did get in and somehow or other, this German PW was able to get me a pair of shower clogs. Believe me, they didn't fit very well. And they hurt my feet. But they made me look at least like I had shoes on. So I at least looked a little bit more respectable.

Now the problem came up however, how in the world am I going to escape from the Germans? PW's. In spite of the fact that I was overwhelmingly drunk, I devised a method by which to accomplish the great escape. I noticed that there were a number of trucks going in and out through the gate periodically. So in error I might add, I could have lost my life summarily. What I did was, I walked up to one of these trucks that was proceeding quite slowly to the guard gate. And I walked up with the truck with the military guard on the other side. Thus I was able to escape.

In retrospect you can just imagine what would have happened to me if I was discovered escaping a POW camp. I could have been shot on the spot. If I were shot on the spot, how was I supposed to explain these circumstances? When I was a captain in the Air Force. You might say I took a [ ] with no identification whatsoever. But eventually could have proved who I was. Court Martial. You'd better believe that. And as an officer, it would be a general court martial. Well, obviously, I was able to escape. And I was still in trouble because I didn't know for beans how I was going to get back to our base. I didn't even know where it was. I was so drunk.

But at any rate, I had an idea that since it was now breaking day, I was almost certain that I had to go north. So as the sun rose, I pretty well knew where north was, and there I headed. I came, I finally came up to a military encampment. It was a complete Negro battalion or half battalion size. And I think that they were military police. But at any rate, I got to one of their barracks and they were awake and they were getting ready for inspection. And they were polishing their boots and all of that sort of thing.

And so I went in and contacted the buck sergeant and told him what the dilemma was. And I even told him that I was an officer. But I will say this: those people were so nice to me that it was almost unbelievable. You have to consider that this was 1945 and race relations had not progressed as far as they have now, fifty years later. But at any rate, one of them said, "I am in the transportation department." And I explained to him what our base was like; he knew where to take me. And he took me back to my base and was going to take me through the gate. And I said, "Aw, I better not do that." So he let me out and I crossed the field back to my camp.

Now at this time the rest of the officers that I was living with prior to my escapade were awake. And when I walked in the door, they said, "Where in the world have you been?" And I started to explain the circumstances surrounding the missing [ ] when Captain Cathcart, who came from Milwaukee, who was much older than the rest of us - as a matter of fact he was in his forties and he was our communications officer. And he said, "Yes, Doule," he said, "You almost got shot by your own men because you came out by the airplanes and didn't know the password. And I heard one of the guards rack his bolt back. Lucky for you, you left." So that night was a very eventful night. And as stated in the beginning, was one I was not very proud of. But it probably happened to a lot of us. After two years of fighting that vicious war in Europe, we knew that the [ ] bell had rung for its conclusion. This ends that episode.

This was recorded on March 19th, 1994.

This will be a short episode in the life of Gordon Doule during World War II, and the incident happened in France. It was one of my more pleasant memories and certainly was a pleasant memory of the French people.

We were stationed, we had the, at an airfield fairly close to the small city of Pont -Oise. [ ] But being in close proximity to this little village, and due to the fact that most of us were 20 to 25 years old, we hungered for female companionship. And many of us, many of the other officers and men, enlisted men, had made some contacts within the village with the French people and were invited to have dates and so forth.

Well, I found a young lady that I thought that I would certainly like to take up a relationship with and so I invited her, asked her for a date. And she said, "Sure." I could speak fairly fluent French and she said, "Yes, I think that could be arranged. As a matter of fact there's going to be a dance next week-end and ah, I will ask my parents if that will be alright." Immediately I thought to myself however, 'you have to ask your parents?' Because she was probably in the nature of 19 or 20 years old. But at any rate, that was fine with me. So I made a further contact with her and she said, "Yes, that would be delightful. I will enjoy that very much." So she told me to come at whatever the hour was, seven or eight o'clock in the evening. Which I did. I dutifully walked up to the door, knocked on the door. She came to the door and invited me in. I came in, I was delighted because she introduced me to her parents and in fact, her grandparents were there, and a sister and two brothers, I believe. And I was able to meet them all.

And I was getting a little impatient. They did give me some cake and tea and so forth and I finally said. "Well, shall we go to the dance?" And she said that, she turned around and asked everybody and said, "Is everybody ready?" And I thought, ' what does she mean by that?' Well I soon found out what she meant by that. Because when we went out that door, the whole clan went with us. You see, I was not aware of the fact that in the upper, middle to upper class, this was customary. And believe it or not, we went to the dance. By golly, they did not let me out of their eyesight for one minute. So we danced until 11 o'clock or so and left for her home and the whole crew went right along with us. And if you think that when I got up onto that porch and was going to say goodnight to that young lady and maybe even sneak a kiss, you are are way, way out of your mind. Because that was just as taboo as going to that dance unchaperoned. But that's a little incident that happened, I would say, around June, 1945. At the conclusion, just after the conclusion of the European part of World War II.

As stated in the beginning, this was recorded on the 19th of March, 1994.

This is being recorded on March 20th, 1994. And to the best of my knowledge, happened around the first of February, 1945. I was in France at the time, and it was shortly after the fighting occurred at the Battle of the Bulge. And so I was granted a, a leave to go back to England for ten days. I proceeded to Le Havre, the big port city, and to a small village up the eastern coast of Le Havre, the village being Etretat. It was at that small village that was being used to give the foot soldiers a chance for clean uniforms, maybe a movie or two and showers. And just to relax for a short time before they too would cross the channel and go back to England for a leave.

We were there for a day or two and so I had the opportunity to walk up the beach and apparently the Germans had that in mind. They thought that the invasion, when it came from England might also be at that location. So they had very large guns-artillery that was set way back into solid rock on the cliffs that go along the beach. That they could retreat to and I swear that battleships could have fired at point blank range at them and they wouldn't hardly have heard the noise, much less be hurt by the shelling. I also saw 40, and possibly as much as 80 acre fields that had been mined heavily with what we called 'bouncing Betsies' which was a mine that had a three prong on it, they were anti-personnel mines. They had three little prongs that when you stepped on them, they activated them; they would jump up into the air and they would explode. They had killed a lot of allied soldiers ah, because originally they flew up into the air quite high and the soldiers go wind of this and many of them saved their lives by falling flat on their faces. The explosion would be quite a bit above them. So the Germans finally hooked chains to them so that they would only go up about three feet and explode. And then they of course became very devastating.

Well, on these fields, they were preparing for glider troops. So they had these 'bouncing Betsies' wired together every, I would say every ten feet over 40 ah, 80 acre fields. If a glider ever came into that area, it would just be ripped all to pieces.

Going on a little bit farther, I came to a beach where the Germans had heavily armed it against assault boats. And as a matter of fact there were several of those assault boats all along the shore that had tried to get ashore and they were flat in the water and all rusting by that time. Ah, I remember walking along the beach and some of it was fenced off and the Germans had put signs up: "Achtung. Minen." And that was a warning to stay the heck out of there. Ah, but I remember there was a little boy playing on an abandoned boat outside of that area and I stopped and chatted with him a little bit using my faltering French. And I started to take a step closer to some barbed wire and the Frenchman came up to me and he said, "Non, non, monsieur. Non, mine, mine!" And I looked down and sure enough, there was one of those three point prongs of one of those 'bouncing Betsies' that I came within, I would imagine two steps of stepping on. So he saved me from doom, so to speak.

Then I cruised up the side of a hill. Got up above the village of Etretat and I was looking down, the Germans had taken field pieces and leveled the houses all the way down to the beach so that they could view the beach with their artillery and so forth. So that in the case of a landing, they would know it right away and they'd have unimpeded view of the landing area. Now everything wasn't down. There was a white picket fence around what, around the remains of a house that was practically, completely destroyed. And one of the saddest things that I saw was that a little elderly woman that was down there looking at the ruins. She turned around, I had a camera - a 35 millimeter Argus - and I looked and the woman came through the gate which was still intact. She carefully closed the gate behind her as if somebody could steal something there, but there was nothing there to steal. But then as she turned away, she took a handkerchief out and dabbed a tear from one of her eyes. And then walked off sadly. I have a picture of that in my album, a very sad state of affairs to see what, to see that happen.

I went on and back to Etretat and back into Le Havre where we were parked to back to England. And I was walking along the street in front of what looked like a large warehouse and that's what it turned out to be. And there were tanks rumbling along back and forth on the street ....{first side of tape ends here.}
{Second side of tape begins here}
Were crushing. I walked up to the interpreter they always had, one of them could usually speak English. And since I was a captain in the Air Force, these German P.W.'s were very much afraid of us. So they treated us like we were, me instead of being a captain, I was a four star general. And I walked up to him and I said, "What in the world are you doing?" Because it was apparent to me then that these were crates of military rifles. And he said, "Well, we were ordered to destroy these." I said, "What an awful shame. I sure would like one of those." He said, "You want one, Captain?" I said, "Yeah, I sure would."

So he took me inside and he had a bunch of them that were uncrated and most of them had pine stocks and were mass-produced weapons quite obviously. But I came upon one that had what looked like a walnut stock on it. I looked it over and sure enough, it was one that was made at Skoda Arms Works in Brno, Czechoslovakia. It was made at the Skoda Arms Works which was known to make the finest military rifles in the world. And he said, "You want that one?" And I said, "I sure do." So he was willing to take that gun and set it aside so that when I would come back from England, I could pick it up and take it back to the airfield.

So I went to England and actually while my leave was only ten days, I was gone eighteen days because of snafus and we couldn't get back onto a ship to get us back but in the meantime we had a lot more time to play in London. Going back across the Channel of course I went back to Le Havre and picked up that rifle and took it back to our airfield.

Then when we, after the war was over, and we went to Camp Chicago, I think they called it to ready our equipment for overseas shipment, again we had these German P.W.'s. Another group of them of course but I walked over to where they were putting, getting this equipment ready because I wanted to mail this rifle back to the States to my dad. And the same thing happened. The interpreter went out of his way to take the gun and they stripped the gun down - they had to fit it in a mail bag to mail it - so they stripped the gun down into all of its component parts, They dipped all the parts in cosmoline, wrapped each individually in heavy green waterproof ah, paper. Actually made a [ ] in the box for the stock and the rifle barrel and made, there wasn't a single nail in the box. It was all screwed together and then steel banded, painted and stenciled for overseas shipment. They did the whole thing in about a half an hour. That gun was so well protected that it could have been dropped off a ten story, the tenth story of the Raulf Hotel on concrete and it wouldn't have been damaged.

Of course it made my brother and my dad a little bit unhappy. Trying to get that cosmoline off the parts. But this is just another aside and another relic of World War II. As near as I could say, it was probably around the first part of February, 1945.

This ends this session.
Gordon Doule Interview
World War II Experiences, and
The McGoorty Story.

...in Oshkosh at the approximate age of sixteen years old. Which would make that 1936 or thereabouts. I fell in with a new group of associates, many of whom lived down on Washington Boulevard in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Many of them coming from old families whose beginnings were in early, the early stages of Oshkosh. Some of them were later on, essentially that's what the group consisted of. There were the, there was Henry Kimberly, Jr.; ah, Louis Schreiber III - we called him 'beefer', some called him 'bull'; George Hilton Hay - we called him 'Hilt' - rarely was he known by the name George at that time; ah Tom McGuire; Tom Lennon; ah, and others.

But at any rate, since I was fairly new within the group, I was kinda looked down upon by some of them, because they really didn't realize that my grandparents on my mother's side, particularly came from true lumbering era pioneers. The name of the family was Ripley. And at one time there was a lumbering company called "Ripley and Mead," which had very early origins as a matter of fact. A year before the Sawyers and the Paines came to town, my great grandfather came. This was in 1848 and came from Montpelier, Vermont in an oxcart.

But at any rate, that's just a little background material. Because when I started running around with these people, as I say they really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to me. I was just a new member of the group so to speak. Now and then my mother would come out and she'd make some remarks about some of the people. They were mostly remarks based on - oh, I don't mean to say greed or anything like that but she always felt a little bit miffed that they seemed to think that they were far better than we were. 'Cause we didn't live on Washington Boulevard. Strangely enough. But at any rate, I'm giving you this background because I think it leads up to what I think is a very interesting story proving that the world indeed is very small.

At any rate, one of the things I kept hearing my mother remark about was, there were a couple of girls in our group that ah, were prominent but I really don't know why. Because I don't believe they had any real historical background - their ancestors. But at any rate they were, we called them the "White Twins." Pat, Patricia, and Pricilla who we called "Mike." Pat and Mike. They were very nice girls and anything that you hear in this will not serve to denigrate them in any way, shape or form. But they do add to the story because from time to time I would mention the White twins and my mother would say, "Well, that Ellen McGoorty," which was the White twins mother, the mother's maiden name. And my mother would go on to say, "Her brother was just a pugilist, a boxer, can you imagine that? She has no business putting on airs because her brother was nothing but a boxer." Well at any rate, my mother did tell me on occasion some of the background of Eddie McGoorty. And he, and I was told that he was a better than average boxer. And that he went all over the world and primarily my mother mentioned that he went to Australia and, I believe, New Zealand. And was really, a very good prize fighter.

But leaving that story just where it is temporarily, Pat White was very devoted to Henry Kimberly, Jr. And as I recall, they went steady all through high school. Nobody dated Pat White but Henry Kimberly, Jr. I had a couple of dates with her sister and I thought that Mike was a wonderful person too. Sorry to interject this but she had a very abbreviated life, I understand. After she was married, she died of polio out on the East Coast someplace but that's another, just a little aside.

But at any rate, now we have the background of the story with which I would like to bore you. Okay. Of course shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, most of us signed up immediately to go off to war, myself included. I went down on my birthday in January with Pearl Harbor having taken place on December 7th, 1941. I went down on January 14th, 1942 to the Post Office and signed up for aviation cadets.

Well, one thing led to another and we weren't called up right away. We were waiting for Congress to appoint us as aviation cadets. That did occur and I was shipped off and [ ] one very valid reason. I wanted to fly. I already had a pilot's license, having had a pilot's license signed by Steve Wittmann in September of 1940. Which again I feel was a great honor by a tremendous [ ] of world renown.

And I went off to training and subsequently was grounded in a pressure chamber so that I was not allowed to fly. So I waited again was appointed by Congress to become an aviation cadet whereupon I went through training at Lowry Air Force [ ] Denver Colorado. Then the detachment was shipped to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. And I graduated from Yale University as a 2nd Lieutenant. The 2nd Lieutenant's commission in armament. Without going into a lot of detail now, I will tell you that I went across, after a lot of training and so forth, went across the Atlantic in January of 1944 to England in the largest convoy incidentally that ever went over in World War II. Aboard the S.S. [ ], a converted French luxury liner. And we landed in England and took up an airfield at Weathersfield, Essex. Going through bombing from January to the advent of D-Day on June 6th.

We were deeply involved in the Normandy landings and after, after the French coast had been consummated and secured we went to France and took up an airfield. Our first airfield was at Malun. That's m-a-l-u-n. We remained at Malun for several months and then we transferred to Laon. That's l-a-o-n. Which was north of France. It was during this period of time ah, that the Battle of the Bulge had occurred. Ah, we were deeply involved in that as well.

We were about, I think, 150 miles northwest of Paris, northeast of Paris. And ah, things had settled down somewhat after the Battle of the Bulge but we were of course, still flying missions every day. But ah, everything wasn't all work. We had other things that we had to contend with and I was quite fortunate in that I made a deal with a squadron executive officer who was Chester C. Wysocki. That's w-y-s-o-c-k-i. In which I was able to get into Paris every week-end for eleven or twelve week-ends.

What I did was ah, take the squadron dry cleaning into Paris weekly. Ah, at that time I was a captain in the Air Force and what I would do was on Friday I would ah, get together with ah, an enlisted man. He would draw a jeep and a jeep trailer ah, from group transportation or wherever that happened but at any rate. And we would take the dry cleaning into a very large dry cleaning establishment right on the Seine River. Now this was still in a period in which there were still fighting going on in and around Paris because German troops were still around. They were not necessarily in uniform for that matter but I do know that when I took the dry cleaning in they were still fishing ah, an American, or British or French soldier out of the Seine River in the vicinity of this dry cleaning establishment. So everything wasn't 100% secure.

But at any rate, I would take the dry cleaning in on Friday and once that was accomplished, ah, it wouldn't be ready until late on Sunday. So naturally, we would try to make the town. Ah, I had no use for the jeep or the jeep driver so I just told him, "Well, let's find a place for me to stay." I couldn't get into any of the large hotels in Paris because they were taken over by the Allies for R&R, rest and rehabilitation for the troops.

So I did what somebody suggested. I went down into the Montmartre section. That's m-o-n-t-m-a-r-t-r-e. That's the nightclub section ah, and found a little hotel down there. And I made arrangements and ah, to stay there and I told the jeep driver, "Hey, you just go and find yourself a place and I don't need the jeep. And if you want to use the jeep, go ahead. Just have a good time but pick me up ah, pick up the dry cleaning and just pick me up and go back to the base." That was usually late on Sunday evening.

Well, of course other people in the squadron found out eventually that I was in Paris often so I would go in with a laundry list almost of things that they weren't able to buy in our base, Post Exchange. The PX as we called it. So I would try to get things for them. If film was short, I'd get film for them. I'd stop and buy perfume for them to send to their wives. Chanel was right on, right on the Champs Elysee. So I tried to do a few things like that for the rest of the people in the squadron.

At the same time, at that time, we were sending combat crews up to the front. And the front was sending their combat people back to us. And our fellas, our people would then get to know what the front line troops were having to go through. And similarly, the soldiers from the front would get to go on combat missions here, in the air. This was just a kind of a little deal to make people more friendly towards each other. Well, as a result, our combat crews would go up in a jeep and they'd take a jeep trailer with them. And they'd come back from the front just loaded with souvenirs. Everything from silver services, pistols, rifles, even ah, motorcycles.

But at any rate, to get back to my story, our engineering officer had a German typewriter in very good condition. It was a portable. And I guess the only difference between it and the American one was the 'y' and the 'x' or something was ah, just in different positions. Well at any rate he kept bugging me to take it into Paris and sell it in the black market. And I didn't want to get involved in that kind of thing. After all, I was an officer and if I got caught doing something like that, I'd go before a general court martial.

Well, after a couple of weeks, he said, "Well jeez, you won't get involved." He said, "All you have to do is to go in to the Place de La Concorde and find the "Lion D'Or", the "Golden Lion" which was a bistro with a table and some chairs out on the sidewalk. And right next to it is a travel agency. All you have to do is to go in and put the thing on the desk and walk out the door. You don't have to say anything to anybody. You don't have to stay in there. It's best that you don't. Just go in, put it on the counter and walk out the door. And just go over by the bistro, the Lion D'Or and have yourself a beer." So finally after him bugging me for a couple, two or three weeks, I said, "Oh, what the heck, I'll do it."

So I did. And I set it down on the counter and walked right out the door. There wasn't anybody in the place but the clerk and I walked out, sat down and ordered a beer. And I'm sitting there for a couple of minutes drinking the beer and this well dressed gentleman walks up to my table. And he says, "Do you mind if I sit down?" And I thought, "Oh, boy. Here I am. I'm caught. I am caught. What am I gonna do, tell the guy no, he can't sit down?" And I said, "By all means, sit down." And he sat down and he said, "By the way, don't worry about what you took into the travel agency. That typewriter was out of the place within sixty seconds of you putting it on the counter." He said, "We're evaluating whether we want to buy it or not." Well if you don't think that was a load off my mind, I was scared to death.

Well at any rate, then I talked to the fellow and I said, "My goodness." I said, "You speak very, very good English." And I said, "You must have spent some time in America because you can't learn that kind of fluency at this point in school." He says, "Well, I did. I spent quite a lot of time in America and just before World War I as a matter of fact." He said, "I promoted a prize fighter." And he said, "He was a real good prize fighter. I spent a lot of time in places like New York and like that." He says, "I took this fellow down to Australia and he had some fights down there and New Zealand. He was excellent and I took him here to Europe and of course World War I came along and I couldn't, you couldn't get any prize fights here. So I," he said, "that brought the whole thing to a screeching halt," he said; "But this guy was really good."

And I took, I looked him right in the eye and said, "Mister, I know who you were talking too, who you were talking about." And he says, "You do?" I said, "Yes, you're talking about Eddie McGoorty." He said, "That's exactly the one that I took all over the cotton-pickin' world." He said, before I even told him, he said, "Yes, he came from Oshkosh, Wisconsin." Now there you go. Here it's a small world. Here's a young officer. At that time I was 20, 24 years old. I'm over in Paris, a heck of a long ways from Oshkosh. This fellow tells his story so well that I knew who he was talking about. Eddie McGoorty.

Come to find out, Eddie McGoorty was middle-weight champion I believe, and the rest of this story will come a little later because Henry Kimberly Jr. has a scrapbook about Eddie McGoorty. Either his daughter or son and they also have, they believe, have Eddie McGoorty's championship belt. Eddie McGoorty was the brother of Ellen McGoorty. Pat White, who, God rest her soul, she is now departed but was the girl in the beginning of the story who was Henry Kimberly Jr's wife and was so close to Henry Kimberly all through high school and right up until the last couple of years. When I get the scrapbook from, of Eddie McGoorty and his championship belt, I will continue this story. But this is ending right now. It's three o'clock in the afternoon and it's time for a break. I will be back.

Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.13.16
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Doule, Gordon E.
Subjects World War II
European Theater of Operations
United States Army Air Force
Title Oral History Interview with Gordon E. Doule
Original URL http://www.oshkoshmuseum.org/Virtual/exhibit6/e60110a.htm

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