Transcript/Biography

Up
Down

"We were shipped to Nashville, Tennessee for classification. Then we went to Montgomery, Alabama for pre-flight and that was a hectic time. They gave us two years of college in two months. It was pretty rough. We were up and about all day and all night, it seemed like, going to school. It was quite an experience. I was really, really happy to make the pilot list. So, our next stop was to wait to go to a field where we could start training as pilots, which I did…
   "Oh, from the primary flight training in those old bi-planes, why, we went to basic – the primary was a civilian field – basic, we were back in the Army. And we flew single engine, metal airplane with – It was a step up from the primary. We flew that for a while, and then we moved on to advanced training. At that time, why, all along the way they were asking us what we wanted to fly when we graduated. They separated us when we went to advanced, those that asked for multi-engine airplanes went to a field in Indiana…
   "And we graduated out of that school and were commissioned and rated as pilots… We 'crewed up' – we got our first crew put together. I was the co-pilot and there were 10 members on the crew. There were four officers, a pilot, co-pilot, navigator and bombardier. And the rest were gunners and aerial engineers. We were put together, and we stayed together from that point on…
   "When we went overseas, why, I realize now just how green and inexperienced we were. But they sent us across. We flew down through South America, and on across the Atlantic into Africa and then back up through Africa…
   "We were assigned to the 8th Air Force, flying out of England. And we flew up there…
   "The 8th Air Force was a major league of the air combat. That was where all – the big majority of our opposition was there in France and Belgium, and whatnot. And all the towns had a lot of anti-aircraft guns around them. They had mobile anti-aircraft so they'd move around so we couldn't keep them plotted where they were. But, we would fly and bomb different targets, strategic and tactical…
   "After I got there, we first started going all the way to Berlin, which was a long, long mission and over a lot of enemy territory… In 1943, people that were doing the same kind of flying, their chances of surviving and coming home were kind of slim. They would have many missions when they'd lose 10 per cent of the airplanes they'd put up. Doesn't take much of a mathematician to figure out 25 missions at 10 per cent each mission – your chance is pretty slim. They lost a lot of people. It was better when we got there because we got fighters that could accompany us all the way to the target. They'd kind of whip the German fighters… There was enough opposition just from the anti-aircraft guns to keep it interesting."
   Question: "Was your plane hit?"
   "Oh, many times, yeah… It was kind of amazing. To me, now, when I think back how green everybody – everybody was in the neighborhood of 20 years old. Just kids that were in high school the year before, you know. Then to send somebody out like that with a small amount of flying time and in the airplane they were using – in retrospect, I wonder how it turned out as well as it did… It never crossed our mind that we might lose. We never gave that any thought. I don't know, there was a time when they contemplated discontinuing daylight bombing out of England because of the losses. It was kind of nip and tuck for a while. The English wouldn't do it. They bombed at night. They thought we were crazy to try to go out in daytime, you know, everybody could see us… Well, it give us a chance to hit our targets a lot better than the English. They just carpet bombed, area bombed, where we always were after a military target. Sometimes we'd miss and hit civilians, and whatnot, but never intentionally…
   "It never occurred to me that what we were dropping was killing people on the ground. It was kind of an impersonal thing. But, later after I saw this bombing of the Murrah [Federal] Building in Oklahoma [City] and how all the kids that were killed, and whatnot, I got to thinking about that. It might have bothered me at the time if I hadn't been so young…
   "When we first started, we had a quota of 25 missions we had to fly, and then they would rotate us, send us back to the States. As they got a little easier, why, they kept stepping up the number of missions. So, I wound up flying 32. But I did that in about two-and-a-half months. And, I was pretty well – they called it 'flak happy'… Yeah, there was a considerable amount of stress, and some of it was because of the rapidity of our piling up the missions. After D-Day, why, I flew 13 missions in 11 days. And, you got pretty well 'flak happy,' or something. I lived in a big barracks with officers from other crews. In their sleep, they were hollering, 'Get out! Get out,' and all that stuff. Looking back on it, I'd say we were getting pretty owly with each other, and whatnot. And it was just stress.…
   "After two-and-a-half months of flying missions, why, I was sent back to the States and went through an instructor's school and taught flying until the end of the war."

Jim Chenault – Bombing Germany

   

Other Excerpts from Jim Chenault's Interview:

Pearl Harbor
Enlisting before High School Graduation
Nisei Internment in California
V-E Day
Student Pilots on the GI Bill
Flying the Berlin Airlift
Mining the Aquifer
Irrigation Enabling Other Technologies
Crop Dusting