Editor's note: This is a transcript of a recorded interview of Brown Jarboe, a 446th ground crewman. The recording was made for his granddaughter (Aimee Jarboe) for her school.
I was inducted into the Army in April - after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Spent almost two years in the States as an airplane mechanics instructor. I worked at Keesler Field, Mississippi in the A.M. school. Later I was transferred to Willow Run, Michigan to take instructions on the B-24 airplane and the maintenance of it. Upon finishing the school at the factory, I was assigned to the 446th bomb group and went to Denver, Colorado and joined up with the group. From there we were shipped to England and we arrived in England in November of '43 - 1943.
I was assigned to the ground crew maintenance of the airplanes and the ground crew went over on the Queen Mary. We did KP for the officers on the way over. The ground personnel arrived a little ahead of the airplanes which took a route from Florida to South America and across the Atlantic and up the coast to England.
Our living conditions in England were in what's known as Quonset huts. They were rather dispersed over the area so that bombing runs from the German planes couldn't hit a bunch of them all at once. So we were probably a half of mile from the mess hall - nearly a mile from where I worked on the airplanes and this required quite a bit of walking. But I guess that's what soldiers learn to do.
The duties we had was to prepare the planes for the bombing missions. A mission was accomplished by loading the planes with bombs and they went over Germany, dropped the bombs and came back. They didn't all get back because some of them were shot down over Germany or over France. But when they came in it was our duty to - if they had any damage we repaired the damage. If there was any mechanical damage we repaired that. We serviced the planes with fuel and oil and had them ready to go on the next mission.
Now to get ready for a mission, we had three different duty teams. The ordinance team would bring the bombs out to the airplane. Then the armament team would put the bombs on the airplanes. Then the ground maintenance of which I was part would come and preflight the plane before they took off. Take-offs for the mission were usually in the morning before daylight, then some missions were eight hours long. If they were taking off at, say six o'clock or four o'clock in the morning we'd get up at two o'clock - they'd get us up at two o'clock and we had to go out and have the planes ready to go.
After the planes took off, we would go back to the barracks and sleep until an hour or so before time for the planes to come in. Then we would go back to the line and be ready to service the planes and meet them when they came in.
I remember one winter that we had quite a bit of snow on the ground and it could get pretty cool in England. While this snow was on we had to do some major work on the planes. We built ourselves shacks on the line for protection, for warmth. We used bomb crates or any thing we could get a hold of to make a shack where we would be protected from the cold weather. And we made various kinds of heating stoves to keep them warm.
Left: A Red Cross refreshment vehicle
I mentioned that we had to do a lot of walking. In order to cut down on the walking, everybody that could find one bought a bicycle. The government issued a few but they didn't have nearly enough to go around. But there were a lot of bikes in England and you could buy a used bike in town. The biggest problem was tires, but they did have tires that were all labeled "war grade". So you had a problem keeping the bike running after you found one. But it ended up that most of the fellows on the line had a bike of one kind or another.
When it came time for the invasion of Europe, what's known as D-Day, I happened to be on pass in Norwich. When I got back to the little town outside of base called Bungay, they had a truck ready to take us back to the base and we got back to base at eight o'clock and they took us right on out to the line. So the maintenance, ordinance and armament personnel didn't get to sleep any that night. They began taking off for the invasion at about four o'clock in the morning. The planes went out and it was a short mission at first because they just went across the Channel and bombed ahead of the invasion and were right back. So planes would load up again, refuel and go right back out with another load of bombs.
I at one time worked on, was on the crew of the plane that lead the Eighth Air Force that morning of the invasion, the first plane to go over (Fearless Freddie). At the time of the invasion I had another plane and I wasn't working on that one any more but had worked on the plane that lead the invasion of Europe that morning of D-Day.