Sandra Holyoak: This begins an interview with Mr. Svenn A. Norstrom on February 18, 1999, in Prescott, Arizona, with Sandra Stewart Holyoak. Thank you, Mr. Norstrom, for agreeing to be a part of our project. I would like to begin by asking you a few questions about your family. Your parents emigrated from Norway. When did they leave Norway? Do you know why or how they came to this country?
Svenn Norstrom: Well, I don't recall the exact dates that they immigrated, it was after World War I, and my dad came over first. He was working in New Jersey as an engineer, and he met my mother through his sister, who was married to a sea captain in Norway, and, when he came over with his wife, he also had my mother along, and that's how they met, and, subsequently, they were married. … Father worked and lived his early life, I think, in Philadelphia, where I was born, in Germantown, and then, after that, they moved to New Jersey and lived there, until they both passed on. He was working, at that time, for a company in Philadelphia called the Andale Company. He was the chief engineer. My mother was a homemaker. She'd never worked after she was married.
SH: Did Andale bring your father over from Norway to work for them?
SN: No, I think he immigrated here on his own. …
SH: Did he have any family in the United States at the time?
SN: Not that I know of. … There may have been other friends or relations that he knew from Norway, but, I don't know if they were here when he came or not.
SH: Did any other members of his family come over from Norway?
SN: No. He had … a brother who was also a sea captain, and, of course, he came, frequently, on trips to the States, and, of course, his brother-in-law, who had married his sister, … came frequently, and then, their children, the children of those two captains, became captains also, and they … came on occasion, also.
SH: What kind of vessels did they skipper?
SN: Well, they were mostly freighters. … Some of them did carry a few passengers, but, not a great deal.
SH: Which ports did they usually sail into?
SN: Oh, they'd come into New York frequently, sometimes into Philadelphia, and they would usually skip along the coast, you know, and make a couple of calls, and then, back again.
SH: Did you know your grandparents at all?
SN: No, I never did know them. I never did meet them.
SH: Did you ever get to know any of your mother or father's siblings?
SN: Well, like I said, my father's brother was a sea captain, I got to know him well, and … I've gotten to know his son very well. In fact, we saw him last summer in Norway. … As far as I know, … my father had, I think, four sisters and I think we got to meet at least three of them.
SH: Did you ever visit Norway as a child?
SN: Not as a child, no. I've been there five times since I retired. I never made the trip before that.
SH: Do you remember how old you were when your family left Germantown for New Jersey?
SN: No. I was quite young.
SH: Had your father been educated and trained as an engineer in Norway?
SH: He was an engineer when he emigrated.
SH: Did your mother have any family living in the United States at the time?
SN: Not that I know of.
SH: You have a younger sister.
SN: Yes, I have a sister. That's the only [sibling]. [My] sister and I are the only two in our family.
SH: Where does she live?
SN: She lives in Medford, New Jersey, Medford Lakes.
SH: Did she go to school at NJC?
SN: No, she didn't go to college. Well, she went to business school, I think, and worked as a secretary.
SH: You went to school in Haddon Heights.
SH: What were your interests during high school?
SN: Oh, I guess I liked stamp collecting, and we had an aviation club, and, I don't know, I didn't have any real strong interests at that time.
SH: Did you have a favorite subject?
SN: Well, I liked mathematics. I did fairly well with it and always enjoyed doing it, even through college.
SH: Did you always want to be an engineer?
SN: Yes, growing up, I was always going to be a mechanical engineer, like my dad was, you know, and, when I went in the service, I don't know if it was before I married my war bride over in Brussels, which was after the war ended, of course, but, I met a gentleman there. … He was in the automobile business, selling automobiles, he had planned to come back to Brussels, after the war, and start a dealership there, and he told me, if I was interested, I could work for him. So, after the war, when I went back to Rutgers, I decided to take business administration. Now, I took that for only one semester. I did well with it, but, I was so bored, I said, "No, this ain't for me." So, actually, I dropped out, not just because of that, but, for financial reasons. … We had some problems, financially, and I couldn't make ends meet, so, I dropped out and went back to work, and then, … I don't know how long I stayed out, it was at least a year, and then, when I went back, I went back to engineering and started from square one, well, not in all subjects, but, in the important subjects. I took them all over again.
SH: When you graduated from Haddon High School …
SN: Haddon Heights, yes.
SH: Haddon Heights High School, excuse me, why did you choose Rutgers?
SN: Partly, because it was not as expensive as some of the private schools and, of course, it was near home and had a good reputation.
SH: Did you commute to school from Haddon Heights?
SH: Where did you live on campus?
SN: In my freshman year, one of my friends in Haddon Heights, his name was Evon Wells, he graduated when I did from high school, and he was going to Rutgers, also, and so, we rented a room in a private home on Somerset Street, I remember, and we stayed there the whole first year. The second year, I joined [the] Kappa Sigma fraternity, so, I lived in the fraternity house then.
SH: How soon into your second year did you leave to enter the service?
SN: I left about mid-term. If I didn't leave, they would have kicked me out, because the war had started, and I had enlisted in the aviation cadets, and I didn't have a lot of interest in studying, so, I was just partying most of the time.
SH: Was that the Aviation Cadet program here at the University?
SN: No. That was part of the Army Air Force. In other words, … they train you, in the cadet program, to fly, … and then, you're commissioned from there.
SH: Were you an ROTC cadet?
SN: Yes, I was in the ROTC. …
SH: ROTC was mandatory at that time.
SN: I don't remember if I was in it in my sophomore year or not; I know I was in the freshman year. I don't recall.
SH: Do you recall having to attend mandatory chapel services?
SN: … Yes, I think so. I think we had to go to chapel every Sunday and for different occasions.
SH: Do you remember anything about the ceremonies or the guest speakers?
SN: … Nothing specific. I remember going there, that's all.
SH: Did you experience freshman hazing?
SN: Oh, yes. I remember that. The first few weeks there was sort of rough. The one thing I remember was, … if you entered the main campus there, where Old Queens is, you couldn't walk, you had to run, and that was the main thing I remember. There were other things that I can't think of now.
SH: Was it the sophomore class that hazed you?
SN: I don't know if it was just the sophomores or all the classes. … I'm not sure.
SH: Did you have to wear a dink?
SN: Yes, I think we had to wear a cap and what else? There's some other article of clothing I know we had to wear, I can't remember what it was, though.
SH: Do you remember having to take orders or requests from upperclassmen?
SN: No, nothing extensive or major that I can recall. I remember the hazing in the fraternity. [For] that, you had to do things for somebody.
SH: You had to endure two initiations, first, as a freshman, and, second, as a fraternity pledge.
SN: Yes, you had to go through that initiation.
SH: How was that initiation?
SN: They called it "hell week." I don't know. That was pretty rough, too.
SH: Do any incidents stand out in your memory?
SN: Oh, I remember the paddles and there's something I don't remember; during meal times, there was something you had to do. I can't recall what it was now.
SH: Did you work at all during your first year-and-a-half at Rutgers?
SN: Yes, I did. … I worked in a little restaurant on the corner of Somerset and what's that street that goes down the hill, … by the train station there?
SH: George Street? Easton Avenue?
SN: … There's a bar on the other corner, the Corner Tavern, they called it. Right across the street from that was a restaurant and I worked there, washing dishes, and [I] even worked as a short order cook for a little while.
SH: Did you get good at cooking?
SN: I guess I was good enough.
SH: Did you have a summer job in-between your freshman and sophomore years?
SN: The first year after my freshman year, I worked in a machine shop in Philadelphia. A friend of my father's had gotten me a job there and I learned to operate a few machines. Most of time, I was doing menial jobs.
SH: Did you own a car at the time?
SN: I had a car the second year. I had bought an old 1929 Studebaker. I think I paid thirty dollars for it, and so, I had it when I was at the fraternity, and I used to just park it right out in the backyard. Our fraternity house was right on the corner of College Avenue and what used to be right across the street from the student union, [Hamilton Avenue], I don't remember what that other street was, I'd park in the backyard there. It was a great, big mansion, and, one Saturday night, I came home, we'd been to a party, it was in the wintertime, and I didn't have enough money for anti-freeze, so, I used to drain the radiator every night, but, I forgot to do it that night, and, of course, it busted the radiator, and it took a little fixing to get that thing going again.
SH: Do you remember anything about the fashions at the time, the "must-wear" clothes?
SN: No, there wasn't any uniforms, as such. I'm sure there were fads, but, I can't recall exactly what they were at that time.
SH: In the middle of your sophomore year, you entered the aviation cadets. Did you go directly from Rutgers to boot camp or basic training?
SN: No, I had … already signed up for the Aviation Cadets and been accepted, but, I didn't know when I'd be called, so, I took a job in a company in Camden called Camden Forge, and I was working there, oh, for a couple of months, I guess. Well, it couldn't even have been a couple of months, because … it was in February, I believe, that I got notice to report, in the middle of a snowstorm, and I thought, "Man, I'm going to be down in the sunny South in a couple days. I'll get away from this." I ended up in Atlantic City and they didn't take us straight into the cadets. We were one of the first classes that they put us in what they called college training detachments. First, we went to Atlantic City in sort of like a boot camp, you know, just marching, and drilling, and all that kind of baloney, and it was colder than blazes down there, wind blowing, jeez, and then, we got out of there. We finally were shipped down to a place in North Carolina, I think it was, Seymour Johnson Field, and we were there for three or four weeks, and then, I got sent up to the University of Buffalo, to a college training detachment, and I was there for a couple of months. … I got out of there early, because I had a year-and-a-half at Rutgers, and then, I got sent to cadet training. …
SH: When you entered Rutgers in September of 1941, did you think that you would be called to duty in the near future?
SN: Well, the war hadn't started. Well, I mean, Pearl Harbor hadn't happened yet, and, when I started at Rutgers, I really didn't have any idea that I'd be going into the service, at that time, but, when Pearl Harbor happened and shortly after that, I was home on vacation or something, … I don't recall, maybe it was summer vacation, I don't know, then, I went down and enlisted in the cadets.
SH: Did you have any sense that the United States would enter the war, either imminently or eventually, when you first enrolled at Rutgers?
SN: … No, not that I recall.
SH: Some people say they were very aware, while many say they were hardly aware at all.
SN: Yes, I'd say hardly at all, as I remember.
SH: Do you remember if it was discussed by your classmates or in the Targum ?
SN: Not that I remember.
SH: Were there any discussions about the war in Europe?
SN: Not that I recall.
SH: As a young Rutgers man, did you ever attend any social events at NJC?
SN: We used to go there, I remember, for square dances every weekend. We used to have a lot of fun with that. I don't remember any parties as such over there. Of course, we had parties in the fraternity, … the regular dances they had for, what did they call them? the Soph Hop, and the Junior Prom, and all those.
SH: Were you involved with the Soph Hop?
SN: I wasn't involved in it. I think I went to it, if I remember right.
SH: Do you remember who your date was?
SN: Yes, I think so. It was a gal that was also in my graduating class in high school. In fact, she was my best friend's girlfriend, but, I took a liking to her, too, and I had her up there for a couple of dances, and I was pretty serious about her when I went in the service, until I met my wife-to-be in Brussels, and that ended that.
SH: Did she marry your best friend?
SN: Yes, she did, actually, … and I still … see them. … Her brother is married to my sister and they're very friendly. Whenever I see my sister, I always see them and we're good friends, all around.
SH: You mentioned that the Aviation Cadet program was a new branch of the service.
SN: Oh, no. That had been something that had been in existence … for training future pilots.
SH: You specifically enlisted in the cadet program.
SN: Oh, yes. I wanted to fly and that's why I enlisted there.
SH: What sparked your interest in flying?
SN: Oh, I don't know. I had never flown before that time. … I guess it was just the glory of it or something, I don't know, but, I wanted to fly so bad, I could taste it, and so, I felt fortunate that I got in there. They also trained bombardiers and navigators in the Aviation Cadets, too. When you went into the cadets, you didn't know if you were going to be a pilot or what. You were … tested, to see if you're qualified to be a pilot, and if your eyesight wasn't good enough, or hearing wasn't good enough, or [you] had a health problem, or something like that, you'd probably end up as a bombardier or a navigator, and so, that's where they split you out. … The first place you went in the cadets was to pre-flight school, and, there, you went to a lot of classes and had tests and all sorts of things, and, from there, you either went to pilot training, or bombardier training, or navigator training.
SH: Did you enlist with any of your classmates from Rutgers?
SH: Oh, I just asked because we have heard about groups of young men going down to the recruiting offices together to join the Marines.
SN: No, I went on my own.
SH: Where were you assigned after you completed your training in Buffalo?
SN: Then, we went to Aviation Cadet training, pre-flight, at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, and we were there for two months, until we were assigned to a flight school.
SH: Which flight school were you assigned to?
SN: Primary flight school was in Clarksdale, Mississippi. All of these are usually two-month programs, and, … well, actually, when I was at the University of Buffalo, I flew there, … but, they gave us just an indoctrination, you know, in Piper Cubs. We didn't fly the airplane, … well, we may have had our hands on the controls, but, we didn't really do any flying. The first time I soloed was in primary flight school in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
SH: What type of plane did you solo in?
SN: It was a Fairchild monoplane, they called it a PT-23. Then, from there, … when we graduated from primary, we went to basic flying school, and that was in Greenville, Mississippi, and we flew there in a larger plane, called the Vultee "Vibrator." That was the [nickname] they gave it, the Vibrator, because, when you put it in a spin, it shook so bad, you'd think the wings were going to fall off. That was a BT-13, they called it, and then, from there, you were either going to a single-engine advanced flying school, or a twin-engine advanced flying school, and I wanted to go to single-engine, but, I couldn't convince the powers-that-be to send me there, so, I ended up in twin-engine school in Lawrenceville, Illinois. Yes, I think it was Illinois, 'cause Vincennes, Indiana, was right across the Wabash River from the school there.
SH: Did you fly to each school or did you take a train?
SN: Usually, … [in] most cases, you were put on a troop train.
SH: I remember one man that we interviewed who complained bitterly that he spent more time on trains than he did in the air.
SN: Yes, well, in those days, you know, flying wasn't really that popular or available. When I graduated … from the cadets, in twin-engine school, my father came out on the train to be at the graduation, and then, we went back to New Jersey on the train. Following graduation, I had a thirty-day leave, and then, I had to report, after the leave, … down in Shreveport, Louisiana, well, not Shreveport, but, … just outside of Shreveport. I got my commission and had to report there, and I was assigned to the B-26 training school, and we took trains there, too. When I came home on a leave, I took a train.
SH: Did you feel that your training was accelerated, due to the circumstances? Do you think that you received good, solid training?
SN: I think it was good training. … Well, I don't know if they accelerated it. Like I said, each step along the way in flight training, you spent two months and you had to qualify in various things in order to graduate, instrument flying and all that sort of thing.
SH: Was it a shock for you, as a Jersey boy, to suddenly be in Mississippi?
SN: Not a shock; it was different, though. … You know, the segregation, of course, was going full bore at that time. … Well, the restaurants weren't the same, and the bars weren't the same. Of course, we couldn't get into too many bars, because I wasn't old enough, but, we managed to get a drink here and there, a beer or something.
SH: How often were you able to get off base?
SN: Usually, at pre-flight, … they wouldn't let us off until we became upperclassmen, which was the second month. Then, you could get off on weekends and go into town and, I think, in all the other ones, generally, you could get off on weekends, you know, for a reasonable amount of time.
SH: What did you do with your time off?
SN: Oh, usually, meet with a bunch of guys, … looking for some place to get a beer, chase some girls, if you could find them, and that was about it, I guess.
SH: Were you welcomed by the local communities?
SN: Oh, yes. Most places, most people were very friendly toward us and helpful.
SH: Do you recall any instances related to segregation?
SN: We didn't have any problem with it. Of course, there weren't any non-whites in any of our classes. They were … segregated to their own schools, and there weren't very many of those, either I guess, but, … I guess everybody knows about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were on their own, but, they did well.
SH: Did you ever interact with them?
SH: After you graduated from twin-engine school, how did you spend your leave in New Jersey?
SN: Oh, Nelly. I tried to see old friends, you know, and, of course, see my best friend's girlfriend, 'cause he was in the service. I think he was in Europe. … I think he was in the infantry, I'm not sure, and, you know, … visit people you had known that were still around.
SH: Did you know where you would be going once you returned to Shreveport?
SN: When I got back to Shreveport?
SH: Did I misunderstand you? I thought you went back to Shreveport.
SN: Well, Shreveport is where I was assigned after I got my commission, and … that was a crew training place for the B-26, and we were assigned to our crews, and then, we trained there for, I think, about two months, and then, we were transferred down, further south, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. That's another B-26 base for more crew training down further south in Louisiana, and then, when we finished there, we were assigned to go overseas, and they put us on a train to Savannah, Georgia, where we picked up a brand-new airplane and flew it overseas. We had to fly, from there, up to Bangor, Maine, and they processed us there for overseas, and then, we flew the northern route out of there, … up to Goose Bay, Labrador, and we were weathered in there for about a week before they'd let us go on, and then, … we flew [from] Goose Bay over to Greenland and got stuck there for about a week, too, at least a week. … It was in the summer, I remember, because that's above the Arctic Circle and the doggoned sun never went down, the first time I experienced that. I couldn't go to sleep at night; the sun was shining all night long.
SH: It was a little different from Louisiana.
SN: Yes. We had an interesting experience flying into Greenland, because they showed you movies of the route you were going to take and gave you tips and all this sort of thing, and they said, "When you … get to Greenland, you've got to come down, right down, on the deck," a couple of hundred feet, "and fly up the fjord, because," they said, "you can't come in at normal altitude and try to land." So, it was a pretty long distance up the fjord, … winding, you know, and they said, "When you see this one landmark, you're going to be making a right turn, and the runway's going to be right in front of you, and you'd better land, because you can't go around. You're flying right into a glacier." When you're coming up on that landmark, you had to have your wheels down, flaps down, and everything ready to land, and that's the only way you get in there, and, when you left, you had to come out the same way, so, there's always one-way traffic going in and out of that fjord. … From there, when we left there, we flew over to Iceland and spent just one night there, and then, flew into Scotland, I forget what town it was, and … we left our crew there, and we had to fly the airplane across the channel there, to Ireland, where they stored all the planes that came in and kept them there, and they were assigned, from there, into the groups as needed. So, we had to fly the plane over there and leave it. Then, they flew us back to Scotland. Then, they put us on a train again and took us down to some replacement depot, they called it, where they did some processing, and then, ultimately, we were assigned to our bomb groups.
SH: When you were reassigned, did you keep the same crew that you had started out with?
SN: We started out with the same crews, yes. … I went over as a co-pilot and, the crew I was on, I didn't particularly get along with the guy that was first pilot too well. … He was supposed to get me as much training on the aircraft as possible, because I'd never flown a B-26, I came out of flying school, and he did a very minimal, minimal job, believe me, and the first couple of missions we flew, we flew from England to Brest, in France, across Channel, to bomb some submarine pens there. It was a pretty long mission, and he got out halfway across the Channel, and he was getting tired, and … he says, "You fly it for awhile." Well, I … didn't have enough experience to be competent at it. I couldn't hold it in tight formation. I'd drift out and in, and then, finally, he said, "Jeez, I'm going to have to teach you to fly this airplane," and I cussed at him, more or less, and I said, "It's about time." … Well, anyway, what happened, after about, oh, I'd say, … five or six missions, … I don't know if he volunteered or if they asked him if he wanted to join this pathfinder group, which was a special group … with electronic gear on their aircraft, could lead a mission if it was overcast, and so, he came up one day, and he says, "We're going to transfer into this pathfinder group." I said, "Well, I'm not." I said, "I'm staying here," and I managed to get off his crew, and then, I started flying with other guys. So, that worked out pretty good and I ended up with about forty-four missions. …
SH: When you were first assigned to the B-26, what did you think of the plane's reputation?
SN: I really didn't know its reputation at the time. It had a reputation; … most of it was due to what happened in training, earlier groups that had trained down at McDill Field in Florida, and the B-26 was, I think, almost the first aircraft that came out with the tricycle landing gear, and one of the problems they had is, they tried to land them on three points, like you did with a normal landing gear, and the nose wheel wouldn't stand it, and they lost a lot of airplanes that way, and then, they had problems with the engines for awhile, and they had a saying, "One a day in Tampa Bay," and so, it got a bad reputation there, and, for awhile, … this Truman Committee, I don't know if you ever heard about them, … was going to scrap the whole B-26 operation, … especially after the first mission they had. In fact, it was our group. I wasn't there then, but, it was our group that went on that first B-26 mission, out of England, into Holland, and I think the first mission they tried, they went in on a low level, which was not normal, and I think they lost, oh, I forget how many planes, five or six aircraft, crews and all, and, the next day, they flew another mission and the same thing. They lost every darn plane. So, that's when they … took them off operations and they trained them for medium altitude bombing, which is what they were trained for to begin with anyway, and that proved to be very successful. In fact, the B-26 had the lowest combat loss rate of any aircraft in World War II. … It was less than one percent. … Based on that, this Truman Committee thing didn't materialize.
SH: When you arrived in England, you were not the least bit worried about flying a B-26.
SN: No. In fact, … I was never worried on a mission, either, you know. I mean, you see a lot of flak coming at you, and then, we even got hit a few times with it, but, … fortunately, I never had any severe damage that would have shot us down. … A few of your buddies were shot down and killed, … but, the only time I ever worried about a mission was when we were stood down, you know; we couldn't fly because of the weather or something like this. Then, you start thinking about it. When you're flying, you don't. … The only bad hit I ever got, … I think it was over Cologne, we couldn't get a good bomb run, we had to make a number of passes, and, finally, we got a good run, and we got over the target, and a piece of flak came right up through the floor, between my hand, ripped the side of my flight suit out, the winter flight suit, and out the top, and the dust flew in the cockpit. It knocked out one radio console, … down next to the console there, and so, every mission after that, I used to go down the flight line, and collect all the flak suits I could get ahold of that weren't being used, and sit on them. I said, "They won't be able to hit me in the butt next time." It was one real interesting mission. … In town, here, we have a little group called, well, not a little group, it's a pretty big group now, but, it's called … Prescott Military Pilots, and they're all ex-military pilots, a lot of the old guys, and young guys, and everything, and they keep telling me they want me to tell this story, because they get a kick out of it. … It was a mission that we flew, and it was overcast at the target, so, that's when these pathfinders came into play. We would take off in a group, fly through the overcast, get over it, and then, we'd form up with the pathfinder aircraft, this particular day, we had a brand-new airplane, hadn't been flown before. I mean, it hadn't been on a mission before, and, when I pre-flighted it, I noticed that one of the switches on the control panel, the pitot heater switch had a piece of brass wire that wired it in an off position. The pitot tube senses the airspeed, if that freezes up, you don't have any airspeed indicator, then, you get in trouble. I didn't pay much attention to it. I figured, "It's just a little brass wire. I can break that if I have to," you know, and, if you're flying formation, you don't need your airspeed anyway. … So, we got up through the overcast and dropped our bombs, no problem, and we're coming back, and we're starting to let down. We're letting down through the overcast, and it got so darn thick, I couldn't see the wing of the aircraft I was flying formation with. … So, I figured, "Well, I'd better get out of here, because, if one of us makes the wrong move, we're going to hit each other." So, we had a set pattern, in that you would turn off course forty-five degrees, and continue to come down, and fly that for thirty seconds, and then, back on course, and continue descending. So, that's what I did, and, once I broke away, I'm trying to get that airspeed heater on, and I'm pushing and pushing, and I can't break it, and then, finally, I put the heel of my hand on it and pushed it real hard, and it broke the wire, and it was okay. When we finally broke out of the overcast, I'm calling the tail-gunner to see if he sees any other airplanes, 'cause I didn't see any in front of me, and I kept calling and calling and no answer. … He was supposed to be on the intercom. So, the flight engineer was up forward with us, so, I sent him back, and I said, "Tell So-and-So to get on the intercom, like he's supposed to be. I'm trying to call him." He came back in about twenty seconds and he says, "There's nobody back there but a couple of flak suits, and they're gone, and the bail out alarm's ringing." The bail out alarm wasn't ringing up front. …
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SN: They got down without any problem, and we were in friendly territory, fortunately, so, they didn't have a problem there. They got back to base in the next couple of days, but, I took a pretty good ribbing about that.
SH: Where were you stationed in England?
SN: We were in East Anglia. We were close to a small town, … not real small, but, it wasn't a big city, called Braintree, and there was a very small village right on the airfield called Stebbing. In fact, we were over there in '92 with the B-26 Historical Society, and we visited our airfields that we had been on, and the people there … treated us royally. They had a big party for us in one of the pubs. So, we had a great time.
SH: Do any incidents stand out from your time there during World War II?
SN: Well, the one that I remember the most is, … the Germans were sending those buzz bombs over and you could set your clock by them every night. They came right on the button, every night, and they just putt, putt, putted along, you know. They sounded funny, but, nobody paid much attention to them, unless they stopped putting. If they did, everybody took off for the bomb shelter. We were living in Quonset huts there and they sure emptied those huts in a hurry when that thing quit running.
SH: What did you do during your leave time, your off hours, when you weren't flying?
SN: We were usually flying missions for about two weeks, then, we'd be off for three or four days, and we could go to London or something like this. We could take the train and get into London, the same when we were in France. We'd go to Paris, … and then, also, after you have a certain number of missions, I forget what it was, I think it was twenty-five, you could go to a rest leave place. When I was in France, I went, with one of the other guys, down to the Rivera, to Cannes, and we spent about a week or so down there. So, that was sort of nice, living in one of those fancy hotels. Of course, they … weren't real fancy, I mean, … they would remove a lot of the fancy decorations.
SN: Oh, sure, but, the rooms were comfortable, the beds were nice, and they fed us good.
SH: When was your group transferred from England to France?
SN: I didn't go through the invasion. I came just after the invasion. I think we moved to France around the end of September of '44. I wasn't there when the war ended, but, for all practical purposes, I flew most of my missions out of Beauvais, France.
SH: You completed forty-four missions. What kind of targets were you sent to attack?
SN: Well, they were all over, but, our targets were, primarily, tactical targets, in support of the grounds troops. We didn't have the long, deep missions, like the "heavies" [heavy bombers] did, our missions, usually, would run, I'd say, on the average, four hours, some might be longer. …
SH: How soon after completing a mission would you be sent up again?
SN: You might go up the next day. You could go up the same day. I remember, during the Battle of the Bulge, … I flew three missions that day, and, in fact, I think one of them was Christmas Day, and we went out right after breakfast, came back, they fueled up the aircraft and loaded some more bombs, hand[ed] us a sandwich, and we took off again.
SH: Merry Christmas.
SH: Did you have any contact with any other branches of the service, the infantry, for example?
SN: … Hardly at all. The only contact I had, I got an assignment, well, … the whole crew was assigned to join the Fourth Armored Division, only as observers, really, and they would send men back to spend [time] with our group, and fly with us. We were … with the Fourth Armored Division after the Battle of the Bulge, when Patton was moving pretty fast through Europe. … They gave us two jeeps, put three of us in each jeep, and loaded up our gear, and we went up to the front and just followed along with Patton. … That was interesting, 'cause we were right in behind the lines and you could hear the fighting and everything. I only spent one night, on the way up there, in Luxemburg, and they billeted us in a hotel, on the sixth floor, and this other officer and I were in the same room, in the same bed, and as we were going to bed, all of a sudden, we hear artillery fire, and he's says, "Oh, don't worry." He says, "That's going out. … I can tell." I said, "Okay." A little while later, one came in, and I hear a hell of a big explosion, and I didn't wait to ask him where that one came from, … we took off for the basement. That was funny and scary.
SH: As you were advancing in your jeep, were you aware of the traffic congestion or refueling problems caused by the pace of the advance?
SN: No. The only thing [that] … I can remember is, … what do they call these guys that are in … these big six-by-sixes that were running supplies back and forth, they had a name for them, [Red Ball Express], I saw them, I remember … a whole string of them coming through the town of Beauvais, once, while we were in town. They were really rolling.
SH: Did you receive your supplies and mail regularly? Were you well-supplied?
SN: Yes, pretty good. … Mail came fairly regular, and … we were well-fed, and we'd improvise a lot. We built our own officer's club and had a big champagne party there. We tore down a lot of old German shacks that they'd had, here and there, and we had a pretty nice little officer's club there.
SH: You put your engineering skills to good use.
SN: Yes. [laughter] An interesting sidelight, when we were stationed in Beauvais, this buddy of mine became very close friends, he lives in Florida, and we see each other quite often, whenever we have reunions, which are annually, and, usually, we'll see one another between then, too, but, he and I bunked in the same tent in Beauvais, and we used to go … around to the farms around [the base], and we'd be able to get eggs from the farmers, but, we didn't have anything decent to cook them in. So, we went into Beauvais one day and Beauvais was really bombed out pretty bad. A lot of the buildings were just temporary buildings put up, and we went into this one, well, I guess you'd call it sort of a makeshift department store of sorts, to try to buy a frying pan, and we're talking to this salesgirl, she was fairly attractive, too, but, she didn't understand one … word of our English, and our French wasn't that good. Both Hal and I knew a little French, but, we couldn't make her understand that we wanted a frying pan, and along comes this young boy, I think he was fourteen years old, and he spoke perfect English, and he said, "Can I help you?" and [we said], "Yeah." We told him we wanted to buy a frying pan, and so, he explained it to her, and she got us a frying pan, then, the young boy said, "Well, I want you to meet my father. He owns this store," and he introduced us to his father. He was very nice. He didn't speak any English either, and the … [upshot] was that they invited us to come to their home for dinner one night, my buddy and I, and so, we did, and, god, … I don't know where they got the food, but, they had all kinds of booze and beer, and they had a delicious meal. … We really enjoyed it, and then, it turned out to be almost a weekly affair. They'd keep having us there and we became very friendly with them. … After the war, we sort of kept contact with them, more or less, but, we lost contact over a period of time, and, when we went over there on a reunion trip with the B-26 Historical Society in '92, when we visited Beauvais, we were out at the airfield there, and Harold and I had brought some photographs that we'd taken of the family when we were there during the war, and we inquired of one of the people that hosted us there if they knew a Dr. Cadot, because the young boy had become a doctor, and we didn't know if he was still in the area or not, and he said, "Yes, I know him. He has his practice in town," he said, and we showed him the pictures, and he said, "I'll call and see if I can reach him and tell him you're here." Meanwhile, they had taken us over to one of the local farmhouses, where this gentlemen had quite an interesting … war museum, from things he'd collected, and they were going to have a lunch, sandwiches and things like that, for us there, and, while we were there, we were looking around the museum, and here comes Pierre Cadot. I recognized him right away and … he was so emotional, he cried. His tears [were falling], and he was so happy to see us, and he wanted us to come and meet his family in town, and we said, "Well, we'd love to, but, we can't, because we're on this tour and we have to stay with them, 'cause they're going back to Paris in a little while," and so, he said, "Well, then, you must come back to see us," he said, "because, besides my home here in Beauvais, we have another home just outside of Cannes, on the Riviera, in a little town called Mougins," and he said, "We really want you to come see us," and, of course, when we corresponded after this, he was so persuasive in wanting us to come there that we did go the following year, and I couldn't believe it. … He met us in Paris and brought us to his home in Beauvais and it's a mansion. You wouldn't believe it, all marble floors, the staircases are all marble, with glass balustrades. Oh, god, it was a beautiful home, a beautiful garden and everything, and they were so wonderful and generous, and we spent about a week there. It was Harold and me, and our wives, and, plus, Pierre Cardot with his wife and daughter, so, they used two cars. His wife drove one, he drove the other, and we went down to his place … outside of Cannes. I had imagined he probably has a condominium or something, and we got to this place, and we drive up in front of the home with great, big gates. They're automatic; he pushed a button and the gates swing open. You should have seen this home. It looked like a resort, a resort hotel. It was gorgeous. … He must have had about five acres of land around there, an enormous, larger than Olympic-size, swimming pool in the backyard, a big lake in the backyard that he used mainly as a reservoir for water, but, he had fish in it, and I couldn't believe this place. It was out of this world. So, we spent a couple of weeks there and they took us all over the place. We went to Monte Carlo and all along the coast there and they showed us everything. The following year, we had them over here, and we took them all around, and they had a good time. We went back there the following year again, and that was the last time we were there, and, once again, they showed us a wonderful time, took us all through the wine country and saw all the beautiful chateaus down in the Loire Valley, gorgeous, and they want us to come again this year, but, I don't know if we can do it. We have a problem here that we have to resolve first. …
SH: Is he a world-famous doctor? How did he become so wealthy?
SN: Well, he's an orthopedic doctor. … He did work for a hospital, also, but, he gave that up. His practice is there, in part of his home, which he showed us. … He has an inside swimming pool there, for patient rehabilitation, and all kinds of equipment. He has five or six people working for him. Now, he's about sixty-seven years old, and he wants to retire, but, he can't find anybody that he feels is qualified and can afford to pay for the place, so, he's still working.
SH: That is a great story.
SN: But, we correspond with him. I e-mail him, I write to him, and so on, and his daughter is very nice. … She's going to the University of Paris and learning to become a lawyer and I hear from her frequently, also.
SH: Are there any other civilians, in either France or England, that stand out in your memory?
SN: Not to that extent, no. Of course, when we went back there in '92, we met many nice people that we became very friendly with and still correspond with.
SH: Where did you go next, after Beauvais?
SN: You mean on that trip?
SH: No, I meant when you were stationed there.
SN: Well, they moved us up to Belgium for a short time, a little town called Le Culot, … and we flew a few missions there before the war ended, … maybe three or four at the most. Then, the war ended. I met my wife, my first wife, on V-E Day. I happened to be in Brussels with my buddy from Florida. We went into this British news theater there, and we were in the theater when they announced that the war was over. That town went crazy. People were riding on top of the trams and everything. There was a little club we used to go to, near the Gare du Nord, called the Corso Club. We were in there, and that place was jammed, a lot of people, and that's where I met my first wife. … I had a hard time getting married, because the war had ended, and people were moving out faster than you could keep track of them, and officers had to have permission of a general in your organization to marry. … I put in an application, and it got lost, I put in another one, it got lost, and, finally, the third one, I said, "Well, I'm going to follow this one." So, I got permission to take the time off and run it through, and I got it approved, and we were married.
SH: What had your first wife been doing up until then? Was she from Brussels?
SN: Yes. She was trained as a hat designer, a milliner, and she was quite good at it, too. … When she came to this country, … I wanted to go back to school, so, we moved to New Brunswick and rented a small apartment there in an older home, and she got a job with a local milliner in town, ultimately, she was traveling to New York, for supplies, and to get new products, and so on, and she made contacts there, and she worked for a couple of well-known milliners there, one of which was Lilli Dache. She was doing well, making pretty good money for that time, and that's what really got me through school.
SH: Did you ever get to meet her family in Belgium?
SN: Oh, yes. They were very nice.
SH: How long did you know her before you got married?
SN: Oh, it had to be, [I] can't remember now, but, I think it was, probably, at least four or five months, and, at that time, they rated everybody with points, depending on what your service had been, and so on, and that determined when you'd go home, and they kept trying to send me home, and I said, "I don't want to go home." So, I managed to get transferred into a headquarters outfit in Namur, Belgium, which wasn't too far from Brussels, and I was stationed there for a couple of months, until I, finally, was able to get married, and then, they finally said, "You've got to go home." So, I was sent to, well, at that time, those "cigarette camps" they had, [Camp] Lucky Strike, and [Camp] Chesterfield, and so on, along the Channel coast, and, god only knows why, but, they're sending me home, and they put me on a train and sent me to Munich, Germany, to some kind of depot there that processed you, and then, I had to get on another train to go back to the cigarette camps, to get aboard the boat to go home. So, I got home in February of '46. When we got back to New York, of all places, they took us into Camp Kilmer, and then, we were released there for a short leave, I forget how long it was, and then, I had to report to Mitchell Field in Long Island. … I was there for a month or two, I guess, and then, they finally sent me down to Fort Dix to be discharged.
SH: Maybe the Army Air Force was getting back at you for putting them off all that time in Belgium.
SH: How soon were you able to bring your wife to the United States?
SN: I think it was about five or six months before she got over, in late summer, as I recall.
SH: You wrote on your pre-interview survey that you were married in September.
SN: That's probably about right. I don't remember exactly now. I could dig out the papers somewhere.
SH: Did you and your wife move to New Brunswick immediately?
SN: Well, … when I first got out, I was staying with my parents in Haddon Heights, and, when she finally arrived, we lived with my parents for a short time, until I was ready to go back to school, and then, we moved up to New Brunswick.
SH: You moved back to New Brunswick in January of 1946, or thereabouts.
SN: Yes, I think it was '47. I can't remember now. See, I graduated, finally, in '54, so, that meant [in] '49 I must have gone back, right? … I'd been there, but, I quit and came back again. So, I think '49 is when I went back and stayed in school and it probably was '47 when I went back the first time. I'm not positive. See, I was in the Class of '45, originally, and I graduated, finally, in the Class of '54.
SH: Some alumni have maintained their original class affiliation.
SN: Yes, well, I still get stuff about the reunions and all that and they refer to me as [Class of] '45.
SH: Do you consider yourself a member of the Class of 1945?
SN: Yes, even though I didn't graduate with them there.
SH: You consider yourself a member of the Class of 1945.
SH: When you returned to Rutgers, how active were you on the campus? Obviously, things had changed. You were a married man then.
SN: I wasn't too active, because, of course, I wasn't living in the fraternity, because I was married, and we had rented an apartment there, I can't remember the streets anymore. Anyway, the one that went out towards the swimming pool, way outside of town, you remember that one? and it went by the movie theater, from the center of town.
SH: Albany Street?
SN: But, I lived a couple of places there. … When we first went back, we lived … over in South River. I rented the downstairs of a home there. We lived there when we first went back, and then, … I got a job working part-time in a gas station in New Brunswick, right out there on the traffic circle, on the south side, where that laboratory was, on the circle, and … one of the fellows that owned the station, he was part owner in a small apartment house in town, and he said, "If you want, … I can get you an apartment there, if you want to take care of the janitorial work in the apartment." So, I was doing that, besides going to school and working in the gas station, and then, ultimately, we moved out of there and rented an apartment further out. It was a garden apartment there, a pretty nice place, called Woodnor Courts, I think they called it, and that's where we lived. … I was back in school the second time, then, and, as I said, I'd go to the fraternity once in awhile, but, I was too busy studying, trying to get through school, which was a completely different attitude than I had before, I was on the Dean's List, oh, I don't know how many semesters there, most of them, I think.
SH: You made a real turnaround.
SN: Yes, but, when my wife got that job in New York, in my senior year, we moved up to New York, and I was commuting from New York every day.
SH: Did any members of her family come over to visit or to live in the United States?
SN: No, no. She went back once to visit her family while we were married, and then, I suppose she may have done so since, but, I don't believe her parents are still alive. … Her parents had a Jewish gentleman that was living with them that they had hidden, during the war, from the Germans, and he never got out in the street until after the war ended.
SH: Did you know he was there when you were dating your wife?
SN: Oh, yes. Of course, the war was over then. …
SH: Do you know if he moved to the United States?
SN: I don't think so. No, I don't think any of her family or he came to the States at all.
SH: Had she been married before?
SN: Yes, she was married before and her husband was killed. He was in the Belgian Resistance movement and he was killed during the war.
SH: You wrote on your survey that she had a daughter.
SN: Yes, she had a [child]. … When I met her, she was only just a baby. She couldn't have been more than three or four months old, I guess, at that time, yes. I often wonder about her. I haven't seen or heard anything about her and I don't know. She remarried, after we were divorced, and I understand [that] her husband … passed away, … but, even the friends that we had, you know, that we both knew, I haven't heard from her lately, so, I don't know what's going on. [Interviewee's Note: Subsequently, I have connected with her and we have been reunited (the daughter). However, she lives in New York City.]
SH: Was it more difficult to get permission to marry her or bring her to the United States since she already had a child? Was that a factor?
SN: No, the only problem was, in those days, it wasn't real easy to get a war bride in here. You had to prove that she wasn't going to be a burden on the … economy, and my father had to send notarized statements saying that, if he had to, he'd be responsible for her. Nowadays I don't think they do that. Anybody can come in here and get on the dole.
SH: It sounds as though your family was very supportive of your decision to get married.
SN: Well, initially, they weren't too happy about it, but, it turned out all right. They accepted her and, of course, they liked the baby.
SH: Do you know anything about her educational background?
SN: No, I really don't know. Of course, … she had to be about ten years old, when we were divorced, 'cause we were married for just over ten years. …
SH: You completed your degree in May of 1954.
SN: Yes, I got my degree in … May of '54.
SH: Where did you go next?
SN: My first job after graduation was with the Shell Oil Company. … I wanted to work for a company that was in the thermodynamic field, and Combustion Engineering was one of the big ones, and they made an offer, but, the one I got from Shell Oil was so much better, I had to take it, and I liked Shell Oil. It was a good company. I started out doing engineering work. I wouldn't say it was real complicated stuff, but, the stuff they had me doing was interesting, and, … ultimately, since I'd been in the Air Force and was a pilot, they put me in the aviation sales department, and it was a cushy job. I had a company car and an expense account, and, really, all I had to do was go around to the customers, see if they're happy, if they had a problem, if they needed anything, and those aviation guys liked to party, and I was having too many long lunches and coming home half-bombed too many times, and, finally, I decided, "Either I've got to stay here and end up being a drunk," and I wasn't doing any engineering, "or get out of here and do some engineering, and get off this party kick." I hated to leave Shell, because they had such good benefits, retirement, plus, savings benefits, and all kinds of things, and they were good people to work for, but, I finally interviewed with RCA, when they had a team out there in Garden City one Saturday, and I interviewed with them, and they offered me a job, and I took it. … That was down in Moorestown. … We bought a brand-new house in Haddonfield, and we were only there a little over a year, and RCA said, "How'd you like to move to California?" So, I said, "Well, I don't know." "Well, we'll send you out there for a week or two and you look around and see what you think," and they made a pretty good offer, you know, with benefits, … and a nice bonus, and all that kind of stuff, and so, we decided to go, and we were there for almost twenty-five years.
SH: Wow. Did you meet your present wife in California?
SN: No, no, no. I met her when I worked for Shell Oil. … She was living in New Rochelle, and I was working at a depot in Mt. Vernon, which is right next to New Rochelle. We decided to get married, and we were living in her parents' [place]. Her father was a sexton in the New Rochelle Presbyterian Church, a beautiful church, and they had an apartment on the church grounds. So, [for] the first three or four months we were married, we were living in what used to be their dining room. … Helen had three boys, so, you can imagine how crowded that was. So, anyway, one Saturday, … I got up and I said, "Helen, we've got to go find a house," and we went out to Hicksville, and the first real estate office I saw, I went in, and I said, "I want to buy a house," and he showed me some pictures. I said, "I like that. Let's look at it." We looked at it. I said, "I'll buy it."
SH: You were a real estate agent's dream.
SN: Well, we had to get out of the place we were in, you know. It was just too crowded and it was hard on her parents, too.
SH: Was she also working for Shell?
SN: No. … I don't know who she was working for. She had sort of a secretarial-receptionist job at a local company there, in New Rochelle. … The way I met her was, her sister worked for Shell, and her sister wasn't bad looking, and I took her out to lunch a couple of times, you know, and she said, "You've got to meet my sister." That's how I met Helen.
SH: When you moved to California, was it a major upheaval, particularly with three boys in your family? Did Helen's family want you to stay in New Jersey?
SN: Oh, no. … Of course, she was divorced. Her first husband … worked for the police department in New Rochelle, and, when I met her, she was in the midst of trying to get a divorce, and she finally got it, and that's when we were married, after that, but, at that time, I hadn't adopted the boys, yet, and, when we got to California, I adopted them there, and her husband agreed to it. …
SH: You had yourself a ready-made family.
SN: Yes. Well, they're pretty good. They turned out pretty good. We had problems, like everybody, I guess, but, it all worked out.
SH: You lived in California for twenty-five years. Then, you moved here, to Arizona.
SN: Yes. As I said, … I think it was in 1982. We had … gone to Norway on my vacation, and, when we came back, we had a letter there that said that Sperry was going to move us to Phoenix. Sperry had already purchased the aviation group a couple of years prior to that, but, [they] had left us in California, and we got a letter saying that Sperry was going to move the operation over to Phoenix, so, … it was just like the move from Jersey to California. They sent us to Phoenix, to see if we liked it and to look around, and they made us a pretty good offer again, bonuses, and a raise in grade, and all that kind of stuff. … So, we decided we'd go and I'm glad we did. I think it worked out pretty good for us, even though I wasn't too happy with Phoenix. …
SH: How old were the kids then? Were they out of school?
SN: Yes, yes. They were all out of school. … Let's see, I'm trying to remember their ages, but, the oldest boy, he was married, and so was the second one. In fact, … all three were married.
SH: Do they still live in California?
SN: The two older ones are still in California. One's still living in Reseda, where he's been almost all the time. The other's in Modesto, and he's been there pretty much the whole time, and our youngest boy … was a foreman at General Motors there, in Van Nuys, until they closed that plant, and one of the places he had a choice to come to was out here at the proving grounds at Mesa. So, he decided on that. He's still there now.
SH: You were able to combine your education in mechanical engineering with your aviation background throughout your career.
SN: Yes, more or less. … When I went to RCA, … back East, I wasn't working on anything aviation, but, when I got to California, originally, I was working on the ballistic missile early warning system that they had up in the Artic, but, they had this aviation group, which was sort of a separate group, that was in the Santa Monica area, and they had a project they were trying to develop, but, they didn't have the engineers to do it, so, they borrowed a couple of us guys, and I worked with them for a while. … Finally, the head manager there, Joe Shirley, a heck of a nice guy, he came up to me one day and he said, "Why don't you come down and work for me?" I said, "Well, I don't know." He said, "Well, come on down and look around," he said, "and we'll see what you like." I decided to go there, and I worked there until they finally moved us back up to where I was, but, we were an aviation group, then, and I was working pretty much on aviation projects, right along, from then on out.
-------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE--------------------------------------
SH: This continues an interview with Svenn Norstrom on February 18, 1999. You used the GI Bill to complete your education at Rutgers.
SN: Yes. I used the GI Bill when I went back in, after the war, of course, and I graduated, as I said, in '54.
SH: Can you describe the changes that you noticed at Rutgers? You returned to the United States by way of Camp Kilmer. Many of the men we have interviewed actually lived there after the war while they were in school.
SN: Oh, yes, I remember that.
SH: You returned home after being discharged.
SN: Yes, … as soon as they released us from Kilmer, … I went back to Haddon Heights and I didn't come back to New Brunswick until I went back to school there.
SH: The University had changed quite a bit.
SN: Yes, quite a bit, but, not as much as it has recently. I was up there a couple of years ago and, boy, things are really different.
SH: I would imagine that the number of students had changed a great deal. When you left, Rutgers was still a small college.
SN: Oh, yes. There were a lot of people there, … but, the town looked pretty much the same, as I'd remembered it, at that time, after the war, … but, the school was, of course, much busier and starting to expand out into the other campus, on the other side of river. …
SH: Were the students more serious when you went back?
SN: I think so.
SH: It sounds like you were more serious.
SN: Yes, I think so, because most of the fellows that went back were older, … and they had learned a few things and knew they had to get on the stick and start to earn a living.
SH: You mentioned that you went back to campus recently. Were you just visiting or had you come back for a reunion?
SN: No. … I was visiting my sister and I came back … just to look around, you know, and say, "Oh, I used to live here, and I worked here, and this is where my fraternity house was." … That fraternity house on College Avenue, on the corner of College Avenue and, what is that street … right on the backside of the Queens Campus?
SH: Hamilton Street?
SN: It parallels Somerset, but, it's one block over.
SH: I believe it is Hamilton.
SN: Is it? Yes, well, it was a … big, old house, with a lot of grillwork and all that kind of stuff, a nice house, though, but, I think that's gone. They've torn it down and put something else there now, because the fraternity moved up on [to] the next street, which is sort of fraternity row there, I guess, now, but, a smaller house.
SH: Can you tell me a little bit more about your career as a mechanical engineer?
SN: Oh, I had one interesting [experience]. This wasn't in aviation, [it was] before I got more in the aviation field, but, when I was working for RCA in Van Nuys, I was on a project that was building some tracking equipment, and it had to be installed on a downrange ship, when they were tracking these shoots out of Cape Canaveral, … and this consisted of a whole row of large cabinets with electronic gear, and we had to install that aboard the ship, and we had to meet the ship down in Ascension Island. So, … when we finished producing this thing, we shipped it off to Ascension Island, and then, subsequently, we followed along, myself and another engineer, an electrical engineer. … We flew from LA, of course, to Miami, and then, Miami to Patrick Air Force Base, which is just up the road, and they put us in one of these big Globemaster planes. … From there, we went to Puerto Rico, had a short layover there, and then, down to Paramaribo in Surinam, that's Dutch Guiana, and … I think it was overnight [that] we stayed there, two days, maybe, and then, from Surinam, we went down to Recife, Brazil, and we spent a weekend there, and then, the next day, we flew over to Ascension Island, and we boarded the ship there. Shortly afterward, the ship left and proceeded downrange, while we installed this equipment, and it was an interesting trip, because we got to see some of the reentries coming down … when they were shooting them out of Cape Canaveral. It was quite impressive. … Well, along the way, we stopped at the island of St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled to, and the ship pulled in there, and they gave us the day off, and we had a chance to tour the island, which is very small, and we hired a local taxi, as such, and he toured us all around, and it was quite interesting. We saw where Napoleon had lived when he was there, or where he was buried when he died there, and then, we left there, and we went down to Cape Town, South Africa, and we were in Cape Town for about a month. We had finished installing our equipment, but, they were putting in a very large tracking antenna on top of the ship, and that's why it was there so long. While we were there, we got to meet quite a few nice people there, very friendly. They entertained us, had us for dinner and everything, and they showed us all around … the tip of South Africa, anyway. It was quite interesting, and then, I left there and flew back. Just before Thanksgiving, I got back home and it was a very nice trip.
SH: Did most of the projects that you were working on then involve the space program at NASA?
SN: No, no, this was just tracking equipment. … Well, I guess it was NASA, but, they had this downrange ship. … It was a World War II, what do they call it, a Liberty or Victory ship? I don't know which one it was, but, it was comfortable, and we had nice accommodations, good food, and a pleasant trip.
SH: On your pre-interview survey, you noted that you are involved with a historical group.
SN: … Yes, B-26 Historical Society and I'm involved, primarily, as a member. I haven't held any office or anything like that, but, I have written an article or two to contribute, to tell war stories, and we had this reunion that the historical society sponsored and took us to England. We visited our air bases there and were greeted by many wonderful people, and then, … from there, we went over to Cherbourg, and toured the invasion beaches, and, also, visited our air bases in France, and I told you about the people we knew in France, [who] we met there again, and, other than that, that's about it. …
SH: You were telling me about Flak Bait during the break.
SN: Flak Bait was one of our squadron aircraft and, as I said, … a portion of it is on display in the Air and Space Museum in Washington. Now, the reason they have it there is because it's the only combat bomber that survived over two hundred missions in World War II. In fact, it survived 202 missions. I flew Flak Bait , I think, on six or seven missions myself. I flew it on the 199th mission it flew. On the two hundredth mission, they had all the big shots on it. I didn't get that one, but, it's sort of an honor, I think, to have said you've flown in that airplane. …
SH: Did any of your other aircraft have names, such as the B-26 you ferried from the United States to the United Kingdom?
SN: Oh, they didn't have any names then. They don't get a name, normally, until a crew is assigned to them.
SN: … They had a lot of interesting names on some of them.
SH: Which ones do you remember?
SN: One was called Sit and Git and … the interesting thing is that one of the ground crewmen in our squadron, he was a pretty good artist, and he painted a lot of these pictures on the aircraft and so on, and he painted this Sit and Git , and what it was was an old outhouse, the guy's sitting in the outhouse with a joystick in front of him, and the bottom's open, and he's dropping bombs out of the outhouse, and there's flak breaking all over the place. … I think I've got a picture of that somewhere around here.
SH: Where were your crews from, predominately?
SN: Oh, God, they were from all over. … I don't know. I can't say they came from any one place in particular, you know. They [were] from all over the country.
SH: Can you tell me about the piece of equipment that you showed me in the next room?
SN: Well, that's a radar antenna pedestal. The electronics that provide the radiation for it are remotely located, in the aircraft, and it's fed with wave guides to the antenna, which radiates the signal and can detect weather patterns, and storms, and so on, so that the pilots can avoid those, and this scans constantly and radiates constantly on aircraft in flight, … and it's always on display in the cockpit. The pilot can see it all the time.
SH: Do you have patents on any of the equipment that you designed?
SN: … Not on that, but, I have a patent on a small device we developed for another radar antenna, which is for private, or non-commercial aircraft, I should say, maybe for business aircraft, and it had to do with providing a dampening means for these stepper motors that drive the antenna, which were very susceptible to vibration. … If they couldn't survive that vibration, then, … it wasn't any good at all. … I didn't do it entirely on my own. There was another engineer with me on this that helped develop this.
SH: Is there anything that we overlooked? Would you like to mention anything else?
SN: I think we pretty well covered the gamut here.
SH: Do you have any pearls of wisdom for any researchers who might read or listen this interview?
SN: Oh, golly. I don't think I have anything earthshaking to tell you about.
SH: Thank you very much.
SN: You're quite welcome.
SH: We will be in touch.
SN: Very good.
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Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 3/14/03
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 3/18/03
Reviewed by Svenn Norstrom 4/03