World War II Memories of James M. McCullough


Shortly after Pearl Harbor, my Father and I drove to Cincinnati to enlist. I, in the Navy and he in the Marine Corps. They had a special deal for postal employees. Sergeant stripes for running an APO. I flunked the physical a/c of my perforated eardrum and my Father was turned down a/c of age. 

A year later at the end of my Fall Quarter at Ohio State, I received my draft notice. They had just lowered the draft age to 18, and my number was in the first batch called up. I entrained at Greenfield, Ohio [my home town] for Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. Because of my eardrum, I was offered, "limited service" and given the choice of Drill Instructor, Band or a Non Combat Medic. 

I went by train to Miami Beach, Florida for my Basic Training. Then into Drill Instructors School [I had picked Medic]. After that I was assigned to a training Squadron in Miami Beach. That lasted about 3 months and the only memorable thing about it was that the recruits we were training were from Thibodaux, La. and none of them spoke English. 

Then I was shipped to Gulfport, Mississippi to help open a new Basic Training Center. About a month later, before any recruits had arrived, I was shipped out to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the University of Alabama. I was enrolled in a program called the Army Specialized Training Program [ASTP]. I was sent to the University of Illinois as a student in a three-year program to become an Engineer in the Army of Occupation and to supervise the rebuilding of the cities we had or would destroy during the war. 

It became very evident that this was a waste of time. I had taken all the courses at Ohio State that I was retaking at U of I. Also we were not exactly winning the war that speedily, so the program didn't have a great future. I made an appointment with the Commanding Officer and asked to be sent back to duty. Amazingly, He approved my request. 

I was shipped to Jefferson Barracks outside of St. Louis for reassignment. I was given a routine flight physical [which I had always flunked a/c of my ear] and lo and behold, I passed. I was sent to Amarillo, Texas for Mechanics school. 

Mechanics school was about a four-month operation, which I managed to stretch out to over six months a/c of breaking my leg doing calisthenics. From there I went to Kingman, Arizona for Gunnery School. After that I was shipped to Lincoln, Nebraska, Here, the crews were assembled, then my group was sent to Sioux City, Iowa for training as a crew.

After about 3 months of training and getting to know each other and settling in as a functioning crew, we returned to Lincoln, New. We were assigned to the 100th Bomb Group. We then were given a week leave to go home and then to report to Taunton, Massachusetts to ship out for England. 

We boarded a Coast Guard ship [USS Wakefield] and 16 days later docked in Scotland. Went by train to Discs, England and then by truck to Thorpe Abbots, the location of the 100th Bomb Group. A brief training period elapsed and then the missions started for me. [The list is on a separate page] 

When the war ended we became essentially a flying trucking company. We flew to Austria and brought back French slave laborers, delivered various loads hither and thither over England, Europe and North Africa. I also joined the "Century Bombers", the base Dance band. In August I was sent home [on the Queen Mary, no bed, just the deck on Promenade Deck Aft]. 

I was given a 30-day delay in route home and then was to report to the air base in San Antonio, Texas. The war with Japan ended while I was at home. I went to Texas and after a few days was sent to Wichita Falls, Texas to be discharged. Arrived home about the first of November.



Usually between 3 and 4 o'clock AM the lights would go on in our Nissen Hut [picture a half of a tin can] and the orderly would start shouting - " Everybody up "and make sure we were all up before going on to the next hut. We would dress - t-shirt and shorts, long underwear, green nylon electric suit, Coveralls and boots, pants and jacket of sheepskin with the fur in.

We would walk over to the Mess Hall and eat. We had a choice of eggs, potatoes, meat of some kind, pancakes, etc. plus coffee.

After breakfast we boarded a truck to take us out to the Airfield and our respective airplanes. There was a small tent by the plane in which we kept the barrels of our guns. We oiled them and took them into the plane and inserted them into the guns proper. The ammunition belts were already in place so all we had to do was insert them into the guns.

As I was the Engineer / Top Turret gunner, from now on I'll describe what I did. I checked the oxygen tank to make sure it was full. Then checked to see that the Pilot and Co-Pilot had their Flak Suits under their seats. [A Flak Suit was Canvas covered Metal strips made like an apron to protect against the Anti Aircraft Shrapnel - there was also a helmet, which was seldom used] As soon so we were all in place, the engines were started up and the Pilot and Co-Pilot went thru a checklist.

Then the planes left their position and formed a long line taxiing out to the runway from where we would take off. When our turn came, the engines were raced and the brakes released and we lunged forward picking up speed rapidly. I had my face in the Pilots ear shouting the ever-increasing air speed to him. As we reached proper takeoff speed the pilot pulled back on the steering wheel and up we would go.

We [the 100th Bomb Group] would head for the coastal town of Ipswich over which we would circle and eventually form into long line of our planes. Each Squadron had 12 planes stacked 3, 3, 3, 3, each 3 a little lower than the one in 4 front. While the 100th Bomb Group had 4 Squadrons, only 3 flew at a time. [The exception being a " Maximum Effort " when every plane that could fly was in the air. Usually about 2000 planes] As soon as our 36 planes were in a long line we would proceed over the English Channel, constantly hooking up to the rest of the planes on this mission until we were in a long line of all the planes flying that day.

As we flew over the English Channel all of the gunners would test fire their guns to make sure all were working properly. As we proceeded across France we were constantly climbing to our intended altitude, usually about 25,000 feet. As most of my missions were in the winter, the outside temperature was usually about 50 degrees below zero. By this time we had plugged in our heated suits.

Flying toward Germany all the gunners were on the lookout for German Fighter Planes. Until the very end of the war, our fighter plane protection turned back at the German border [not enough gas to go further]. At this time we turned toward the eventual target and depending on how many cities we had to fly over, we would start to experience Flak. [Anti aircraft artillery shells that upon exploding would shatter into thousands of small logged pieces of steel]

We may or may not experience German fighter planes. The longer the war went on the less the Germans could put in the air. But when they were there, they were very effective. Without Our Fighter planes to protect us, we were on our own. On each B-17 there were 11 50 Caliber Machine Guns. Each Squadron therefore had 99 Guns very closely packed together. As a German Pilot told me after the war, He had to swallow twice before he approached that.

Battle damage varied. Sometimes all of our planes would come home. Other times Flak would take its toll. And usually the Fighter planes did make some kills.

We never broke formation [not once during the war]. We plowed on toward the target. As we approached the Target and started the Bomb Run, all enemy fighter planes would fall away a/c now we were sure to get Flak, and plenty of it. On the Bomb Run the Bombardier [in the nose of the plane] flew the plane. During the Bomb Run, we all turned off our heated suits and shut off the gun turrets. The Bomb Boy doors were opened and at the proper time the bombs were released electrically. The plane would surge upward as the bombs left the plane and I would climb down out of the Top Turret, turn back and open the door to the Bomb Bay. Assuming all the Bombs had dropped I would tell this to the Bombardier over the intercom and get back up into my turret.

Occasionally, a bomb or two would " hang up , in which case I'd have to put on a portable Oxygen tank and get down into the Bomb Bay and release it with a screwdriver. Five miles up, doors open and me looking down! That's a thrill!

As soon as the bombs were dropped, the Bomb Bay doors were closed and we would turn out of the way of the planes behind us. Still in formation we would begin the long road home. And guess who's there to greet us? The German fighter planes. So we fought our way back toward England until the Germans ran out of gas or we shot them down.

As we approached the France/German border we were greeted by our fighter planes, which took care of any Germans still after us. [As the war wound down our P-51 fighter was equipped with wing tanks and could escort us all the way. That was the end of the Luftwaffe. On my 23rd Mission they made one last stand and put everything they had in the air. But between the fighters and us all were either shot down or driven away.]

As we approached the English Channel, I usually climbed down out of my turret and sat on the base of it and had a cigarette. At the channel we all broke up into the various Bomb Groups and headed home. Still in formation we approached our home base and one by one peeled off out of formation and went in for the landing.

We taxied up to our assigned "Hard Stand " [parking space] and stopped, turned off the engines, took the innards out of the guns and oiled them and placed them back in the tent. We were then trucked to a building for interrogation.

As we entered the building the Flight Surgeon looked us over and we were given a glass of the "alcoholic beverage " of the day. It could be anything but was usually Calvados or the like.

We were interrogated by the intelligence people about anything irregular we had seen, then dismissed and we headed for the Mess Hall [dining room]. It had been awhile since we had eaten. Missions usually lasted from 6 to 12 hours. Then we trudged back to the barracks. There was a light atop the Headquarters building. If it was Red, we had a mission the next day. If Yellow, nothing had been decided. If Green, we were " stood down " [no mission].


McCullough Missions, WWII


George Fowler, Pilot, 350th Squadron, 100th Bomb Group

#1 - 1/10/45 - Colonge - Autobahn Bridge - Took off at 8:00 AM - Nothing till target - then light but accurate flak - a lot of holes and scares - Pilot had his heated suit cord cut by flak, pants torn and leg scratched - low ceiling for landing - almost didn't make it - 50 gal. gas left - 26,000 ft. - 52 below 0 - missed target.

#2 - 1/14/45 - Derben - oil dump - Took off 7:50 AM - flew over channel and North Sea to Germany - light flak to target and no flak at target - attacked by fighters about noon - only one attack on one squadron - fired a short burst at one - some one got one - excellent fighter support - no one hurt and no damage to ship - hit target but oil had been drained out.

Charles W. [ Hong Kong ] Wilson - Pilot - 350th Sq. - 100th Bomb Grp.

#3 - 1/20/45 - Heilbronn - bridge - [ -58 C - about -70 F ] - new pilot - damn good - hardly any flak anywhere - visibility poor - heavy cloud cover - bombed PFF - missed target - flew all the way back at 28,000 ft - cold as hell - milkrun.

#4 - 1/28/45 - Duisberg-Rheinhausen - railway bridge over Rhine river - Took off and damn near didn't find the Group - nothing till target and then had our ass shot off - lots of holes - Co-Pilot and Bombardiers oxygen shot out - Kennedy saw 24 bombs hit the target - blew hell out of things - good raid - made it back OK - fairly warm [ -49 C ]

#5 - 2/3/45 - Berlin - Damn civilians - a toughie - over 9 hours in the air - fighters were up but didn't hit our group - no flak till target then all hell broke loose - plane on our left had its left wing blown off - lost Rosey and Marty - blew hell out of the center of Berlin - got off course coming back - flak at coast - thought we had a flat tire - didn't - everybody Ok - lots of holes in ship - plenty lucky.

#6 - 2/6/45 - Chemnitz - marshalling yards - whew! - over 10 hours in the air - weather was lousy - flew over enemy territory at 15,000 ft. for a while - got lost - descended to 1000ft. To find out where we were - bombed PFF - couldn't see results - almost ran out of gas - saw flak every 5 minutes - none too close - one bomb didn't drop - had a hell of a time trying to get it out - I hope that doesn't happen too often. I'm too young to die.

#7 - 2/14/45 - Chemnitz - another crack at the marshalling yards - PFF as usual - results unknown - hardly any flak - front lines gave us a battle - bandits in the area - didn't see any - wonderful fighter support - over 9 hours in the air - almost a milk run - only one hole in the ship - saw red flak for the first time - rode ball turret for awhile - good deal for Kennedy, not for me.

#8 - 2/20/45 - Nuremburg - marshalling yards and civilians - took off and flew across friendly territory for hours - a lot of flak at target but none too close - as we came back the front lines gave us a scare - no fighters.

#9 - 2/21/45 - Nuremburg - same deal as yesterday - PFF - milk run for us - no close flak - no fighters - same route - Bell got hit.

#10 - 2/22/45 - I'm ashamed to talk about it - unknown target.

#11 - 2/24/45 - Bremen - bridge - blew two bridges, docks and buildings - a lot of flak but none close - short mission - good fighter support - no e/a - cranked bomb bay doors open and closed - whew!

#12 - 2/26/45 - Berlin - civilians - PFF all the way - in and out - lots of flak but no damage to us - no e/a - fighter support was good - a long one.

#13 - 3/3/45 - Brunswick - tank factory - route in over North Sea past Hamburg - about 7-10ths - not much flak - 6 Jets came up - one pass, one bomber - didn't even see them till too late - hit the target OK - came straight back over the Zeider Zee - home at 1:30 PM

#14 - 3/4/45 - Ulm - Marshalling yard - Had a red alert on so we had to assemble over France - bad weather all the way - PFF - no known results - didn't see any flak - no e/a - fighter support as good as expected under the circumstances.

#15 - 3/17/45 - Plauen - civilians - was supposed to go to Ruhlanct but weather was too bad - 10 -10 all the way - no close flak - PFF - no known results - long haul - nine hours - good escort - no e/a.

#16 - 3/19/45 - Jena - Carl Zweiss Qppicatt Works - first time it had ever been bombed - hazy - missed target but got a small suburb on the autobahn - no flak - Bandits back in Germany and over channel - Jets over base - about an 8 hour job - bad weather over base - whew! - formed over France.

#17 - 3/21/45 - Plauen - factory - hit it dead center - not much flak - fighters hit us twice - ME 262's - came too damn close - 15 ft. over the ship - got our two wing men - we didn't get them - dammit - got up at 0115 and back at 1300 - rough mission.

I was transferred to the 349th Sq. - Joe King - Pilot

#18 - 3/22/45 - Ahlhorn - Jet airfield - dream mission - about 5 '/2 hours in the air - no flak - no fighters - no clouds - blew the heck out of it - tore up all three runways.

#19 - 3/23/45 - Unna - marshalling yards - short job - visual - blew the heck out of the place - bandits in the area - light and fairly accurate flak - had a midair collision over front lines - RAF B-25 crashed landed here when we landed.

#20 - 4/3/45 - Kiel - docks and sub pens - flew the North Sea route - a lot of flak but all low - we hit the target - got back OK.

#21 - 4/5/45 - Nurmberg - marshalling yards - whew - clouds from ground up - assembled over the continent at 26,000 ft. and then went up - Pff 10/10 all the way till target, then clear as a bell - blew hell out of the place - a hell of a lot of flak but we got out OK - Angelo finished.

#22 - 4/6/45 - Leipzig - marshalling yards - formed over France - rough weather as usual - PFF and no flak - Jets hit again - almost didn't beat the clouds back to the base.

#23 - Buchen - underground oil storage tanks - under attack from e/a for 1 hour, 20 mins. - got one - his wing knocked our stabilizer off - salvoed the bombs and stuck with the formation for awhile - then started to lose altitude - lightened nose and weighed down tail - made it back OK - altitude at target was 14,000 ft. - flak was heavy - every body OK - ran out of gas on the runway.

#24 - 4/16/45 - Bordeaux, France - heavy gun emplacements - milk run - visual - hit the target - no flak and no e/a - we were unescorted.

#25- 4/17/45 - Aussig - marshalling yards - long haul - visual - no flak - no e/a - hit the target but made 3 bomb runs - our first mission as a tactical Air Force - Dresden area.

#26 - 4/18/45 - Straubing - marshalling yards - primary was in Czechoslovakia but weather forced us to this one - visual - hit the target but 2 bomb runs - no flak - no e/a.

Left Joe King crew for a new crew of spares

5/1/45 - Rotterdam - chowhound run - dropped food in boxes on Jerry runway - truce on, so no opposition - all boxes out OK.

5/2/45 - Amsterdam - chowhound run - same deal as yesterday - had to kick boxes out - flew over the city at 400 ft. - beautiful place.

Flew one more chowhound run and two trips returning slave laborers back to France. #1 was from Linz, Austria to Chartres, France and #2 was from Vienna, Austria to Paris, France.

After that we became a air trucking company, with minimum crew.

James M. McCullough     T/Sgt. McCullough, James M.
1475 Fairway Drive  35625702
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025  Engineer/Top Turret Gunner 1-812-537-3591