The following is the service history of my uncle, Benjamin Leroy Vaughan, who served in WWII as a B-26 mechanic in the 323rd Bomb Group, 456th Bomb Squadron.
In looking back from the age of 79, I think about my life and realize how much fun I had as a young man and how some of the unsettling times had some good memories. Thats the good thing about getting older, you can look back and block out most of the unpleasant times and focus on the happy and joyful ones that I had. This is a recounting of some of those times.
When I was a young man, I spent WWII in the 9th Air Force. I was with the unit flying the B-26s. My first stop overseas was in Glennox, Scotland. From there we were trucked out to England, ending up in a small town called Trobridge. We spent several days there. While waiting to be reassigned, I got a job waiting tables in the officers mess and the officers would leave me a little money on the table.
I was then reassigned to the 323rd bomb group, the 456th bomb squadron ending up in Earlscomb, which is a little town outside of Colchester, England. We would have air raids at least once a week, especially if the sky was overcast. They usually happened right before dark, therefore earning the nickname "Bedcheck Charlie".
I was mostly a ground man, usually keeping the engines in shape, but occasionally we would modify an aircraft, and I would fly on the plane as an engineer, which consisted mostly of checking the generators to make sure they were charging. Flying on one such flight with Col. Barker, who was from Columbus or Akron, aboard the plane " Buckeye Battle Cry". Col. Barker asked me if I would like to see the Paticulee Coast while testing the equipment and I said sure. That was the first trip I saw the massive army getting ready to invade the French Coast. I enjoyed the flight and realized how big and mobile our army was.
Sometime in September our outfit ended up on the beach in the pouring down rain. We had shelter-halves, which would be a half of a tent that you would pitch up next to another G.I's., trying to keep off the rain the best we could.
We walked up a very long road to a place called Lesay, France. There were land mines everywhere, so we were told to keep in our area. Some of the men would still go out to check things out. One of the men came back with a bazooka, trying it out in his tent. Needless to say, the gun gave one of the men in his tent, who was hanging up clothes, severe powder burns as the bazooka discharged, shooting right over the man with the laundry's shoulder. Sometimes we were more dangerous than the enemy.
One day we were working on Col Barkers' aircraft engine that had been "cutting out", trying to get the carburator set correctly. After adjusting it, we took off on the rolled steel runway to see if we had repaired the problem. All at once the engine caught on fire, with flames lighting the sky. We made a turn, hoping to land the plane safely on the ground. We hit the runway, as some of the ground crew came running with fire extinguishers. We tried to crank the engine to suck the flames inward to help put out the fire. I jumped out as soon as the plane hit the ground, glad to be on firm soil again. The plane was out of commision for quite a while.
We were then sent to Chartresse, France, which was a beautiful city. They had French guards there, and I always carried a French-English dictionary so I could understand the local language. You really have to practice the grammar along with the words or you would end up saying something insulting to them. There were several American Rangers staying there for R&R. They had all kinds of Ruger pistols and would trade them for battle jackets, etc.. A buddy of mine traded his jacket for one of the Rugers and we went outside at midnight and fired the gun. We had never heard one of them fired and was curious as to what they sounded like. A hush fell over the place after we fired it, and the next morning the C.O. wanted to know what who fired the gun. We never confessed but we didn't try it again. I guess we spooked alot of guys that night.
We were on the move again, this time Leyung, which is a beautiful town on top of a high plateau. I would like to revisit this town someday. It was New Years Eve. The German airforce was about destroyed, and they only dispatched one aircraft to bomb us. We were celebrating New Years so I didn't have my foxhole dug yet.The air raid siren went off, so I dove into a buddy's (Leroy Wells) foxhole. I ended up diving on his back, making him think I had been hit by fire. We were supposed to dig our foxholes right away, but I goofed off. Thank goodness for him and his foxhole!
Next, we went to Lenzeane, France where we stayed until the end of the war. While here we were testing an aircraft when the pilot decided to buzz the mess hall, dodging ant hills made from slag piles that looked like inverted funnels, we wove our way through them and over the mess hall. This was something I will never forget.
When the end of the war was announced everyone was celebrating, drinking their liquor rations and writing home. The pilots took their planes up and was buzzing the barracks, with only five or six feet between them and the ground, tossing out flares. I finally left the barracks because I was afraid the pilots would crash their planes into them.
We were disbanded and our C.O. sent us on to Monnes, Belgium. When we arrived there most of the men were drunk and urinating out of the back of the trucks. I was not one of them, of course, but a red-headed Lt. told our driver to take us back where we came from until we could act better, so back we went. The next day, we made the trip again. We ended up in Rosieres, France, where there was alot of war damage from WWI and WWII.