Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Mr. Francis M. Farrell on December 2, 2004, in New Brunswick,New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth and ...
Mark Segaloff: Mark Segaloff.
SI: Mr. Farrell and Ms. Farrell, thank you very much for being here today. You have both come a long way and we appreciate that. To begin, could you tell me a little bit about your father, who originally came from Ohio? Can you tell me how he wound up in Ohio?
Francis Farrell, Jr.: My father was born in Ohio, in Kenton, Ohio. When my father finished school; he went to St. Mary's Institute, which is now the University of Dayton, but the family moved east and he finished up going to school at Manhattan College. My father was the oldest of six. ... There were three sons and three daughters. When the youngest of all, a son, finished Notre Dame, it was the intention of my grandfather that they would go into business in New York. At that time, my grandfather was vice-president of Pocahontas Fuel Company. It was soft coal. It was mined down in Pocahontas, Virginia. My grandmother had died well before this. On the way back from my Uncle Tom's graduation from Notre Dame, my grandfather was killed in a Pennsylvania Railroad wreck out around the Big Bend. In the meantime, my father had some experience down in the mines [and] also [in] selling coal in Chicago. That's how come I was born [in Chicago]. Oh, I guess my father and mother were married while my father was doing some understudy work to, I don't know, the purchasing agent of the mines down in Pocahontas.
SI: How did your parents meet?
FF: On the corner of Williams Street and Clinton Street in East Orange, coming out of church.
Ann Farrell [Sister]: Introduced by a cousin of Pop's, who ... had been living with Pop's family, and she introduced them.
FF: So, I guess they were married [in] 1920.
FF: My father [and] mother set up housekeeping, first down in Pocahontas, and then, later on, in Chicago. That's where I was born, that's where my brother, Jim, was born, but, then, they came east. I guess Uncle Tom graduated from Notre Dame in '26 or '27.
AF: '26, I think.
FF: When my grandfather was killed, that ended the idea of them going into business. So, I guess, my father was building houses; he was kind of a developer. I guess he had a partner. I don't remember too much about that. I was pretty young. ...
AF: That was back in the days of the Depression.
FF: Well, shortly thereafter, the Depression hit and it was a pretty tough time for everybody.
SI: Particularly for developers.
FF: Well, he was out of that by then, because nobody was buying houses. My father went to work for the government, [the] Home Owners' Loan Corporation. That was an organ of government that covered people who were going to lose their homes and it was a way of re-mortgaging. My mother? I don't think my mother ever really had a job.
AF: She taught one day, she said. ... She had gone to normal school.
FF: Yes, she trained as a teacher.
SI: Did she go to Trenton Normal?
AF: No, it was Newark Normal.
FF: Newark Normal School.
AF: Eventually, became ... Newark State, and, now, it's Kean [University], but it was Newark Normal School, a two-year college, but she switched from there and went to a four-year college after.
SI: Could you tell us a little bit about her background? She was a Newark native.
FF: Yes, she was born in Newark. She was one of six.
AF: Well, [there were] a couple who died as children.
FF: A couple died. She was, I think, second oldest, third oldest, yes. She was quite a gal. ... One of her favorite sayings was, "Things aren't ever so bad that they can't get worse," [laughter] and that has turned out to be true in my lifetime.
AF: Her father ... only went to school to the fourth grade. He was first-generation in this country, born in this country, and he only went to fourth grade. ... He started working for the Newark Board of Trade as a gopher and he ... stayed in the job. That's the only job he ever had and he gave his pennies and nickels to his parents, because he was ... kind of in the middle of six children, maybe. ... He stayed there and became the secretary of the Newark Board of Trade and he prized education greatly and he made sure that all his children, you know, went to college. ... The only one who didn't was my mother's youngest sister and she was born ... shortly before their mother died, and so, that one sister did not. ... Mom was always a very strong family person, and no matter what the coattails were, they were always long enough to include another cousin.
SI: It is very unique that, on both your mother's and your father's side of the family, there was a tradition of going to college, which you do not find too often in their generation. Personally, do you remember Chicago at all, or did you move out when you were too young?
FF: No. We moved east in '27, when my grandfather was killed in the railroad wreck. So, I was, what, five years old?
SI: Yes. You do not remember Chicago.
SI: Which neighborhood did you grow up in?
FF: Southside. My mother always used to go to the ballgames down at Comiskey Park.
SI: Where did you grow up after you came east?
FF: I grew up in East Orange.
AF: I think that how Granddaddy Pop [their grandfather] ended up in East Orange is interesting. They had been living [in], was it St. Louis or Cincinnati at the time? I don't know, one or the other.
FF: I think Cincinnati. ... Well, he was in the coal business.
AF: He was in the coal business and he was due to be transferred to the company's New York office. ... He asked one of the older, experienced, members of the firm, you know, "Where do I bring my family, my young family?" This was back in, ... what, Frank, 1904, '05, '07 or '08?
FF: Yes, because Grandma Farrell died in ...
AF: Died in '12, 1912.
FF: '10, I think, yes, ... but in East Orange.
AF: Yes. ... At any rate, Pop was, you know, like, ten or so at the time and, at any rate, this person said, "You couldn't find a better home community to live in than East Orange, New Jersey," and so, this is how he came to locate his family there. ... At that time, East Orange was a quality community. I mean, it didn't have the problems it has today and it was, you know, a very polished community. ... It was an easy commute, on the Lackawanna, for him to get into Manhattan, because his office was in Lower Broadway. So, that's how East Orange came to be our background. ...
SI: What are your earliest memories of growing up in East Orange? What did you do for fun?
FF: Well, I finally got a bicycle. ...
AF: You played ball.
FF: Oh, yes, played ball in the vacant lots around my neighborhood.
AF: And his mother was charged for all the broken windows, because she had three sons who played ball. [laughter]
FF: I made some lifelong friends, most of whom are dead now. I went to grade school in East Orange. I went to high school in Montclair. I took a year off out of high school, because I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but, then, I went to school up in Potsdam, New York, at Clarkson [Tech, now Clarkson University]. I graduated from high school in 1940. Well, it wasn't too long after that [that] the war started. So, I wasn't going to get any kind of a deferment, even though it was an engineering school. I just went to work, until I could feel hot breath from Uncle Sam on the back of my neck, because, up until this time, I hadn't registered for the draft. When the hot breath got pretty hot, I decided I wanted to fly. So, I went over to New York, to the American TelephoneBuilding, where you could take the examination for Naval Aviation. Well, I took the paper-and-pencil exam and got by that all right, but, when it came to lining up the sticks for depth perception, I was a miserable failure. So, on the way out, ... where they put you back out on the street, the Chief said, "You want in?" I says, "Yes, but, I mean, how do I go about [doing] that?" He says, "Go up to see Dr. So-and-So. He flew in World War I," and he had an office in the Empire State Building. So, I looked on ... the tally sheet there, [the one that] tells you where who's office is.
SI: The directory.
FF: Yes, and I can't remember the man's name. ... All it was was an office and he sat behind a desk with a telephone on it and there was a chair in front of it. ... I gave him the card that the Chief down at the Naval Aviation Cadet Examining Board gave me and he says, "I want you to go up and see Dr. So-and-So, up at Vanderbilt Hospital [the Vanderbilt Clinic] in New York." Back in those days, it was a nickel ride on the subway. You could ride the whole system for a nickel. I went up and I walked into the clinic and it was just a mob of people. So, I went up to the receptionist and I gave her the card that the doc at [the] Empire State had given me and she says, "Go in that third door down there." I go in that third door down there and, in less time than it takes to tell about it, the doctor comes in and he waltzes me into some other room and he's got the sticks there. ... I failed to line up the sticks for him, the same as I had for the Navy. So, he said, "Where are you from?" and I told him. He says, "Can you afford to go see an eye doctor?" I said, "Yes, I think so." So, he wrote down on his card what it was I had to do. So, I went home that night and I told my father what the story was. He called up the family doctor and the family doctor says, "Go down and see," and I remember [his name], "Dr. Grant, down on Broad Street inNewark." What I had to do was ... put a candle up on the mantelpiece and I had to put a red glass on one eye and a prism. I had to go and rent a set of prisms at an optician's [office], and I had to walk back and forth until the candles split, and then, I'd go to the next prism. ... This took, I don't know, a week; back down to Dr. Grant. He didn't have the sticks. He had some other way of checking it. He wrote something, "Go back over to that doctor at Vanderbilt Hospital, line up his sticks." He [the Vanderbilt Hospital doctor] sent me down to the doc at EmpireState Building. He calls the Chief. I go down to the Chief. Instead of going in the front door, I go to the backdoor. The Chief takes and puts me in line. I go in and I line up the sticks. Then, he takes me into some other offices. He said, "Go home and get a ten-day release from your draft board." So, I go home and tell Pop what I've got to have. I don't know how he did it, but he got me a ten-day release. I took it back over to the Navy. "Go home. We'll call you in ten days." [laughter] Ten days comes, ten days goes, ten days comes, ten days goes, nothing. So, [on] one of these trips I made over to New York, I went up to Grand Central Palace. That's where they were giving the Aviation Cadet Examining Board for the Army at the time. [It was] seven weeks before you could even get an appointment to sit down. So, I don't know who told me, but [the] Raymond Commerce Buildingin Newark was doing the same thing. I went down there; five weeks. I think everybody wanted to get in the Air Force, or the Air Corps, at the time. [Uncle Sam's] breath is getting hotter. So, [I was] down at the post office in Newark, and ... I can't remember his name, but he was a one-legged pilot, he was a recruiting officer, and I related this story, Navy, Air Force, New York, Newark. He calls the Aviation Cadet Examining Board down at FortDix. [They told him], "He has to be in the Army. ... We can't take, you know, civilians in off the street." So, he told me to enlist in the Army and I would be [inducted], you know, at [the] Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark. I would be sent to Fort Dix. After I had been processed, you know, they found some kind of job or something for me. As best I can recall, I was assigned to the armored division. Well, I had an abiding rule and it was, "No sense walking when you could ride." So, I reported over to the Aviation Cadet Examining Board, with three or four other guys. Some of us passed, you know, the paper-and-pencil [tests]; some of us didn't. Some of them passed the physical. There was no flight surgeon, but, I don't know, I guess they wanted to see if you could hear thunder and see lightning, you know. So, they sent us over to Mitchell Field, which was still a going entity at the time. I wasn't there too long, [then], down to Nashville. That's when I got classified.
MS: As a pilot, in Nashville?
FF: Well, I was classified and that's when I selected ...
FF: B-17A, B-17B, B-17C.
MS: You were lucky that it worked out that way for you, that the recruiter in Newark was true to his word. I am sure that you were the exception, not the rule.
FF: Well, he was a one-legged pilot.
MS: From World War I.
FF: Yes. ... I don't know what from, I don't know, maybe he crashed, or something like that, and lost a leg, but that was what he was doing, and [he was] true to his word.
MS: You got lucky there.
FF: True to his word. I mean, that's how I got in the Air Corps.
MS: Did you ever hear back from the Navy?
FF: When I was in Nashville. You have to stand roll call every morning. They called up all the names and I'm left the last one standing there. They said, "You must be Farrell. You report to the orderly room." They would have discharged me and sent me to Chapel Hill, for the Navy, because, you know, it was my first choice. ... I said to, I don't know, he was probably a sergeant, but he looked like a general, you know, I said, "They had their chance. Now, you've got yours." From there, I went to Maxwell Field for pre-flight school, Clarksdale, Mississippi, for primary, Newport, Arkansas, for advanced, George Field, at Lawrenceville, Illinois, for advanced training, B-24 transition [training], Maxwell Field, got my crew [in] Salt Lake City, first and second phase at Davis-Monthan, and before we finished the second phase, we took third phase. That's when they formed the group and they formed the group out of the old Eighth Antisubmarine Squadron. We trained as a group, we went overseas as a group. We were assigned, our group, which trained at Davis-Monthan Field at Tucson, with our sister group that trained atAlamogordo, New Mexico. We were the 486th and they were the 487th. We went over as the 92nd Combat Wing and we went in and became the first group, first wing, of B-24s assigned to the Third Division, Eighth Air Force. The Eighth Air Force was one of the largest military organizations ever formed. I think, if my memory serves me correctly, there were 350,000 men [who] went through the Eighth Air Force. The Eighth Air Force was comprised of three divisions. The First Division were all B-17s. The Second Division were all B-24s. The Third Division, they started out B-17s. That's when they put my wing into the Third Division and, when they put us up, ... we went operational some time in May, I guess. ... First mission, you've got the list over there.
MS: It was May.
FF: May, I do believe. They put us up behind the [B]-17s. They were experienced guys, we weren't, so, we had to go like this to stay behind the B-17s.
SI: Zigzagging back and forth.
FF: Because we're cruising, you know.
MS: You were going faster than them.
FF: Well, we had to go that fast, because, at that altitude, the B-24 was never intended to fly that way.
MS: At what altitude did you cruise the B-24s? Was it 33,000 feet? What altitude were you at when you were on high altitude raids?
FF: Twenties. ... Back in those days, the higher, the better, but a B-24 couldn't go that high. B-17s were going higher, but they'd put us up [at] twenty-four, twenty-five thousand [feet] and we had to cruise at 165 miles an hour, indicated, to stay in the air at that altitude.
MS: Or else you would stall.
FF: Now, 165 miles an hour doesn't sound like much, but you compound your air speed two percent for every thousand feet. So, we're really meandering up there. ... I flew twenty-one trips in a B-24. ... I think it was on the 21st of July, they switched us over and we became B-17s. They moved a bunch of war-weary B-17s on [to] the field and they checked us out and, from then on, I finished up on 17s.
MS: I have a question about this list. The name of the plane was Scorpio, correct? [Editor's Note: Mark Segaloff is referring to one of several documents downloaded from the 486th Bomb Group Association's website (http://www.486th.org) prior to the interview that list the names of Mr. Farrell's crewmates, the aircraft they flew and the missions they completed.]
FF: Yes, yes.
MS: I am assuming that Scorpio was your crew's regular plane,
MS: I see other names here, the Libra, the Capricorn/Ding Dong Daddie from Dixie. Why did you change planes? Was your plane, the Scorpio, in for maintenance?
FF: Probably had some holes in it, or needed to have an engine change, or there was something else the matter with it.
MS: Was it considered bad luck to fly another plane?
FF: I preferred to fly my own.
MS: The time between your last B-24 mission and your first B-17 mission was really only two weeks, from the 18th of July to the 2nd of August. As a pilot, I would say that that is not a long time to get acclimated with a plane. How did you and your crew feel about going over from the B-24 to the B-17 in such a short amount of time?
FF: We cried crocodile tears. [The] B-17, it had engines of the same capability. They were all 1200-horsepower, turbo-charged engines, except that the B-17 had Wright-built engines that were built by Studebaker. ... I don't know, you guys don't remember Eastern Airlines. Eastern Airlines used to fly DC-3s and one of my very good friends, Pat [Patrick J.] Foy, [who] was in my squadron; I went all through training with Pat, as I did with a lot of the guys that I went over with, so, I knew [everyone]. Bill [William T.] Hilfinger's up there, Sig [Sigurd L.] Jensen is there, Harry [A.] Paynter's up there, you know, I went all through training with those guys. So, we, you know, "bent the elbows" and everything else, and they were good friends. Pat Foy was a retired captain with Eastern Airlines and Eastern Airlines had nothing but Wright engines. ... They threw more oil that that plane couldn't rust. It just plain, flat-ass couldn't rust, because those Wrights threw so damn much oil. B-24s were Pratt and Whitneys. You could take the throttles on a Pratt and Whitney and you could run them up to the end of the quadrant and bend them over the ends, so [that] they didn't slip back, and they'd be there. I wouldn't try that with a Wright, especially a Studebaker-built Wright.
MS: Two weeks is no amount of time to get acclimated to a new plane. I just cannot believe that the Air Force would say, "Get rid of the B-24s. Here come the B-17s," and, two weeks later, have you fly combat missions. I just cannot imagine.
AF: There was a war on. [laughter]
FF: This mission here, [Mr. Farrell's first mission], I never even finished my transition training. I never finished. ... In flight [school], we had to have three hours of dual transition training. We had to have three landings. I never even finished that until after I flew my first mission. I've got a Form 5 [flight log] that'll show you that.
MS: The B-17 was a tail-dragger and the B-24 was a tricycle.
MS: Landings are completely different in tricycles and tail-draggers. I just cannot imagine. Did you have any solo landings in the B-17 before you flew it, or was that mission on the 2nd of August the first time you landed a B-17?
FF: Maybe two.
AF: This was all in England, at the same Sudbury [base]?
SI: Could we go back and cover a few things before we get into your missions? Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
FF: I was in Clarkson College.
SI: Do you remember that day?
SI: What happened?
FF: ... We lived in boarding houses, there were no dormitories, and the boarding house that I lived in didn't serve the meals, so, we had to go to another one. ... I was in ROTC and I can remember [being with] one of the lieutenants that was on the ROTC staff. I think there was a major in charge of it and there were two first lieutenants and there were a couple of sergeants. One of the lieutenants also ate at this boarding house and, when the "Great White Father" [Franklin Roosevelt] came up before the Congress to declare war, we were, you know, having lunch and he just turned the radio up and we heard what happened.
SI: Were you shocked that this happened? Were you expecting a war? What did you know about what was happening in Europe and Asia?
FF: Oh, I mean, I was home, I think Mom and I.
AF: Had you been home for Thanksgiving or at [the] Tuckers? [Editor's Note: The Tuckers were Mr. Farrell's relatives; they lived in Watertown, New York.]
FF: No. I had found out that, as freshmen, even though we were in basic ROTC, we weren't going to get any kind of deferment. I didn't go back to school. I think it was in September of '41 or '42 when the Germans marched intoPoland.
AF: That was before you graduated from high school.
FF: Oh, yes, okay, it was before I had gone to school. Well, [I knew about] lend-lease, you know, and it was just a matter of time. I mean, I didn't know. I remember listening to William L. Shirer on the radio from Berlin, and that was before we got into it. In fact, he wrote a book, Berlin Diary. I remember reading it.
AF: Then, you're saying you were not in Clarkson when war was declared in December of '41.
FF: Yes, I was. ...
AF: Okay. So, it was after that, that maybe you didn't go back after Christmas.
FF: No, no. ... I got home in May of '42. School was over and we got home. I got home in May and, [in] August, when I found out that we weren't going to get a deferment, [I went to work] instead of going back to school in September. This is when I went over to the Navy.
SI: You mentioned that you worked for a little bit before going into the service.
SI: Where did you work? What did you do? Was it just one place?
FF: Yes. Oh, no, it was one place. I worked for Star Electric Motor in Bloomfield. Yes, I remember, ... I ran an electric truck, you know, I'd take this pallet from there to there. ...
SI: Did they produce war material?
FF: Electric motors. In fact, I remember specifically, it was a union job and, when I went in the service, they sent everybody that went in the service, from the union, five dollars a month, all the while I was in service, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
MS: That was a lot of money back then.
SI: During this period, the factories were gearing up for war production. Did you notice that? Were they adding more shifts and bringing in more people? Was the work more intense?
FF: I wasn't aware of it.
SI: Were more women coming in to work at the plant?
FF: Oh, yes, there were a lot of women working there, ... yes, because they were winding, ... you know, the field windings, you know, that go in motors.
SI: You said that you were very interested in aviation. Where did this interest come from?
FF: I built model airplanes. I built model airplanes, bamboo airplanes. Dick Walsh and Roy Brown and I used to build ...
AF: Balsa wood.
FF: Balsa wood. Mom used to help us build, you know, flying models, tissue paper on them and rubber band motors, yes. None of them flew very well, but, I mean, I built them.
SI: Had you followed the exploits of Lindbergh or other pilots?
FF: When I was a kid, growing up, I was in the Boys Scouts and our Scoutmaster had a friend who was a pilot and he worked on ... the radio orientation procedure and the instrument let-down at Newark Airport.
MS: That was the first airport in the country to get an instrument landing system.
FF: That may be. I can't say as I know, but he used to come to our Scout meetings and he would tell us, you know, about it, and he was flying ... a Stinson? It was a high-wing monoplane.
MS: It was an all-metal plane, I think, a Stinson.
FF: No, there were very few all-metal [aircraft] back in those days.
SI: How far did you go in the Scouts?
FF: I guess I got to be First Class. My problem was, I couldn't swim. I don't know why I ever thought of joining the Navy. [laughter]
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SI: Could you tell me a little bit about your training, when you first started flying?
FF: Well, the first time I was ever up in an airplane, I was up in a Stearman. As I recall, I had a civilian instructor, which was the case back then. ... He was a full-blooded Indian and he was nuttier than a fruitcake, but he could fly. He wasn't the most patient guy, as best I recall, and the training was progressive. In other words, you didn't take off, you didn't land, but you did fly it while you were in the air. ... What you had to do was, you know, fly straight and level, and then, you had to make "S" turns over a road, and then, you had to learn to make climbing turns. You have to make gliding turns. Then, it came to the point in time where you had progressed enough that [you soloed]. You didn't do any acrobatics, you didn't do any spins. I guess you did stalls, because a landing is nothing more than a stall close to the ground. I soloed, I guess, [after] six hours. Then, you'd have to go up and you would have to practice. ... Then, after you had accumulated twenty hours, both dual and solo, you had a twenty-hour check, and it wasn't your instructor that checked you, it was one of the other instructors. ... Some of them were better, you know, were, as I recall, easier going. Then, things got a little bit, you know, more aggressive. You learned how to put it into a spin and you'd have to spin to the right and spin to the left. ... You'd have to take it out at precisely two turns and you'd have to learn to do chandelles, you had to do a loop, you had to do snap rolls, slow rolls. Then, you had a forty-hour check. I don't remember whether it was my forty-hour check or whether it was my sixty-hour check; as I recall, I busted it. ... Then, I got a check ride with another instructor and whatever I did or didn't do, I must have done it right, so, I passed the sixty-hour check or the forty-hour, whatever it was. There wasn't much more you could do in a Stearman. I do recall, though, when you reverse cockpits for your last ride in primary, I had this Indian instructor of mine get us into a spin, upside down, and he was good and that was the only thing I ever asked him to do. From there, I went to basic. We soloed pretty quick. You just got a couple, three, four hours [with an instructor]. I'd have to check my log book to be sure of, you know, how much time was involved. I put in, I guess, maybe eighty hours, ... because that's where we started flying formation, that's where we flew at night. We had radios. We took cross-countries. ... You couldn't get lost, you know, I mean.
SI: What was the next plane after the Stearman that they put you in?
FF: That was the BT-13A, the "Vultee Vibrator," and then, we also flew the BT-15. When I finished basic atNewport, Arkansas, that's when I went to advanced, AT-11s. ... We did a lot of night flying, we did a lot of navigation, we did a lot of radio [orientation], we did instrument [flying], not necessarily actual instrument, but it was where they would ... put up a red plastic [sheet], or green plastic, I guess it was, up over the windshield and on the side windows and you'd have to wear a pair of red glasses, so that, looking out, it was black, and you had to do your radio orientation and you had to do your let-down.
SI: What do you recall about the first time you flew on instruments or flew at night or flew in formation? From what I have read and from other interviews with pilots, those were challenges.
FF: Yes, they were, they were, but, if you paid attention, you got the hang of it. ... When I came back from overseas and I turned them down on being an instructor, they put me in the Ferrying Command. I flew airplanes that [I did not train on]. I flew P-38s, I flew B-25Hs, with the big cannon in the nose. There was no seat, you know, for an instructor. They just told you how to do it. I flew A-26s, but I also flew some B-29s.
SI: What was your first meeting with your crew like? Can you tell me about those men?
FF: ... My co-pilot was Joe Youngblood. He was fresh out of flying school. He had never been in a B-24. So, I was his instructor and, knowing where we were going, I wanted him to be able to do everything that I fancied myself being able to do. My navigator was Ray [G.] Sommers. The object there was to take him up and see if you could get him lost. They did pilotage training in their training, they did some navigation, celestial navigation, they did some radio navigation, but we used to have to take them up some dark night and get them lost, you know. We'd be a couple of hours out, and then, you'd say to him, "Get us home." So, there was some training to take place there. The bombardier, you had to take him out to the bombing range and drop bombs from, you know, various altitudes, lower altitudes to start with, and then, the higher altitudes. ... Your engineer had been to ... flight engineer training. Your radio operator had been to radio school, but my top turret gunner and my nose gunner were both engineer-qualified. My tail gunner [and] my ball turret gunner were armorers. They could fix the guns, but ... we had lists that we had to check them through. ... We got along very well. We got along very well and the separation of officer and enlisted man ...
SI: Was not very much.
FF: No. They called me "The Chief."
SI: You see it in the movies, but it seems to be very true, that bomber crews were like families.
FF: Yes. I used to laugh watching Twelve O'Clock High; here they are, up at twenty-five thousand feet, no oxygen mask. [laughter] Well, we all had to take altitude training in the altitude chamber. ... Oh, there might have been a dozen guys in there and somebody was always tapped to take off their oxygen mask at twenty thousand feet, see how long you'd last, but, then, there was an instructor there. He'd slap that oxygen mask on you, but they'd ask you, you know, while you had the mask off, to write your name and it would just tail off, you know. ... The whole crew took that, and then, as a pilot, as a co-pilot, you had to take Link trainer for instrument training.
SI: During training, did you ever have any close calls or any problems with vertigo?
FF: No, I never had vertigo until it was in combat, and that was more brought on by fatigue.
SI: I have read that training in the Air Corps could be just as dangerous as combat, with the rate of accidents and mid-air collisions, particularly in learning formation flying.
FF: Except that I consider myself lucky that I went through primary, basic and advanced with many of the guys that I flew combat with. ... I have often said that it was that tin hat I wore and my mother's prayers that brought me home.
SI: Did you see many accidents?
FF: Oh, yes. Well, I can remember, at Davis-Monthan Field, trying to take an airplane off and, while the nose wheel was on the ground, I couldn't get it to go straight down the runway. I damn near ran off the runway a couple of times and I thought I had my head up and locked, but somebody who had flown it previously didn't write up a hard landing and it bent the strut on the nose wheel. Oh, I lost a lot of engines in combat. That was a little bit more ticklish. That's why I was glad that most of the engines I lost were ... [on aircraft] with Pratt and Whitneys.
SI: They were more powerful.
FF: Well, they were ... not more powerful, just more reliable, at least to my way of thinking, but, then, when I flew B-29s, it had Wright engines on it and, while it was never in combat, [I did not have a problem with them].
SI: Can you tell me a little bit about the process of going from the States to the Eighth Air Force in England? Did the group move as one? You must have flown your planes over.
FF: Oh, yes, yes. I've got some stuff here I want to show you. ... Oh, this is the history book that a couple of the members of the 486th Group have made up.
SI: War Stories of the O and W.
FF: Well, when we flew B-24s, they were olive drab and all the aircraft in the Third Division, they had a letter in a square; the First Division, they were in a triangle, the Second Division, they were in a circle, the Third Division, they were in a square. ... When we flew 24s, we were "O." When we flew 17s, ... they were silver, so, it was a black square, but they changed our letter to "W." ... This was a picture that was taken at Newark Airport when I flew, when I had to stay in [after my overseas tour].
AF: This was before you went over?
FF: Oh, no, this was after I came back, this was after I came back. That's me in the back there. I wonder if Roy Brown is in this. Dick Walsh isn't, but all of these guys were in the same boat. There's Albert (Herold?). I went to Immaculate [Conception High School] with him. ... What I wanted to show you in here [Mr. Farrell's file collection] is, ... I've got so much stuff stuck in here that I've accumulated over the [years], ... this was how we went overseas and those were lists of all the crews.
AF: You mean that's a chronological list? ...
FF: No. Here's Andy [Andrew W.] Fuller, here's Charlie [John Charles] MacGill, Owen [A.] Sowers, Harry Paynter, here's me, here's Jimmy [James A.] Shaw, here's Pat Foy, George [A.] Reed, Hal [Harold J.] Steiber, Clyde [M.] Livingston, Sig Jensen, Albert [S.] Kite, Cyril [H.] Fairhead, Bernie Zurkoff, Earl [L.] McCabe, [Jr.], Bill Hilfinger, Jimmy [James H.] Van Camp. These are the guys that I trained with, and a lot of these other guys, too, from the other squadrons. That was our CO [commanding officer], [Glendon P.] Overing.
AF: When you flew over, how did you fly? You know, what route did you take?
SI: Did you take the northern route?
FF: No, southern route. We, of course, trained in Tucson. Our staging area was in Herrington, Kansas. From there, we flew to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach. From there, ... we got our orders, but we couldn't open them until we were an hour out. We flew to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. From there, we flew to Belen, Brazil, from there, to Fortaleza, Brazil. From there, we flew across to Dakar, in French West Africa. From there, we flew up toCasablanca, and then, at Casablanca, we flew out to sea, because we couldn't fly up over Spain, but we could seeSpain and we could home in on the beacons coming out of Spain, and we landed in Wales. ...
AF: From Casablanca? That's a long trip, isn't it?
FF: ... Not any farther than going across.
SI: Did you have any problems with flying over water for so long?
FF: No. A friend of my father's, who was a photographer for the Star-Ledger, back when I was overseas, got this picture and this was published in the Star-Ledger. ... He sent my father several of them. ... When they were going to put this book [War Stories of the O and W] together, I sent [in] a copy of this and that's what they printed in the book. ... That's me, with my B-24. [Editor's Note: Mr. Farrell displays a photograph of his B-24 taken in flight during a combat mission.]
FF: Yes, but this was me. I was 2S:J-Jig. 2S was my squadron and I was J-Jig in the squadron.
SI: Where was that photograph taken over?
FF: I don't know [where] it was over
SI: Somewhere in Germany?
FF: Yes. To tell you I knew where it was, I may have known it once upon a time, but I've forgotten.
SI: Where were you based in England?
FF: At Sudbury, in Suffolk.
SI: You were always a pilot. You were never a co-pilot.
FF: Right. That was my base, Sudbury, Suffolk, Station 174. ... This was our squadron area and these were all hardstands around the field, where our planes were parked. [Editor's Note: Mr. Farrell is referring to images inWar Stories of the O and W.]
SI: Was your unit the first unit to occupy this field?
FF: Yes, yes. We took it over from the British.
SI: How soon after arriving at the field did you begin flying missions? Did you fly training missions at first?
FF: Oh, yes, yes, and we had to do cross-countries, familiarization rides. I specifically remember one of the familiarization rides that I took. We were going to do a three-legged [flight]. ... We were way over in the eastern part of England, but, over in the west, that's where their mountains are. I think they get [to] twenty-five hundred feet. We flew over to a particular spot, and then, we turned to another spot. Well, when I turned to that other spot, the hills were coming up and the clouds were coming down. ... I don't know who it was that I first heard it from, but the best maneuver you can make in an airplane is a 180-degree turn. If things get pretty sticky going that way, go back this way, because you know you've been there, you know what it's like, except that rule doesn't work in England. I don't know how those people, you know, live, and this was in March, when the weather is the lousiest. I hit the first checkpoint and we're heading for the second one and, as I said, the hills were coming up and the clouds were coming down. Well, when we first took off, we could get up to seven hundred feet. You don't fly in this country at seven hundred feet, not over towns and villages, and so, on the way to that second checkpoint, I spotted British Horsa gliders. They were big, big devils. Well, I knew if they had Horsa gliders there, they had to have something with four-engine capability to tow them. So, if they could get a Halifax or, you know, a four-engine British airplane in there, I could sure in hell get a B-24 in there. So, I started circling this field and I spotted a C-47. A C-47, to the British, was called a Dakota. So, when I saw the C-47, ... after I raised DARKY, because ... they never turned the radio on until, you know, they got a call from you, they could receive, but they weren't transmitting, they acknowledged, "(Deep C?) J-Jig. This is to advise that there's a Dakota up there with you," and I thought to myself, "That makes three of us. There's this C-47, this Dakota and me." I didn't, you know, connect up C-47 and Dakota. They don't fly a rectangular pattern, like we do. They fly a circular pattern and there's lights in a circle and, where you see two lights right next to one another, that's where you turn in, on the runway. Well, I turned in, except I couldn't see a runway, or I couldn't see what I thought was [a runway]. I landed on a taxi strip. The taxi strip was maybe fifty feet wide. The wheels on a B-24 were, you know, twenty-eight or thirty feet [across]. I put it down on the taxi strip. ... Not much after I got my nose wheel on the ground, the damned thing took off at fifteen degrees. None of us had a shave. We just had our flying suits on. I said to my guys, "Don't get out from underneath the wing," and here they [the RAF] are. They're coming at me; one of them, the braid started at the cuff and let off at the elbow, Air Vice Marshall Sir Arthur Tedder.
FF: I didn't know this at the time, but I could see the braid, you know. So, I figured, "Oh, boy, my goose is cooked." So, I figured, "I'm going to get my licks in first." So, I gave him a highball [a salute] and, as he's getting closer, I said, "I'm sorry if I caused any confusion around here today, Sir, but this is my first flight in England," and he kept coming and he gets up ... beside me and he whacks me on the shoulder. ... He says, "That's quite all right, chap." He says, "It helps to break the monotony." [laughter] We stayed at that base until the ceiling lifted a little bit and that's when they ran a sergeant pilot in to brief me, to get me home. In the meantime, I had called my base and told them where I was and that, as soon as the weather lifted, I'd be on my way back. They had searchlights all over England. ... You took off and the searchlights met in a point over the field, but below the clouds. Two of them went out and one of them stayed on, but it dipped and you flew a line or the course that it [made], but before you got to the end of it, another one came on, and you flew that. They brought me all the way back across Englandthat way. ... When I got back to my own field, there were three right up over the field. The reason I landed on that taxi strip [was], there was a steel mat and the grass was growing up through it, but they didn't tell me that and I didn't know it. ... What I was trying to find in here, [War Stories of the O and W], and I thought I knew what the page was ...
AF: Is it something I could find while you go on with questions? Shaun could ask more questions, or get more answers.
FF: No. I can't find it right now, rather than take the time, but there's a little blurb in the book here about this friendly-fire killing. I was called upon [to speak about this] when we had a reunion out in Colorado Springs. I can't remember; I think it was 2001. There was a young woman there and she had a video camera. Well, my wife and I didn't get there until Thursday.
AF: Wasn't it '03?
FF: Maybe it was '03. ... She was there doing the legwork for a documentary, for this [video], and she found out from the Eighth Air Force headquarters, somewhere, that the 486th Group was involved in a friendly-fire killing. That's this. [Editor's Note: Mr. Farrell is referring to a video copy of Witness: Friendly Fire, a 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production.] Yes, this is [dated] 2004; it was 2003. The incident took place on the 8th of August. You see a mission on here [his flight log] on the 8th of August?
SI: No. I see the 4th and the 13th of August.
FF: It was obliterated from the records, because of this.
SI: Really? Wow.
FF: But the British, as I told you earlier, bombed at night. When the invasion took place on the 6th of June, the Canadians came ashore at Juno Beach. The Americans came ashore to their west, at Omaha and Utah, and the British came ashore to their east ... at Gold and Sword. By the 8th of August, two months [later] now, the Americans had made some progress in, the British had made some progress in, but the Canadians were still held up, because Juno was right to the north of Caen. The Germans had the city of Caen fortified and they had their artillery in there and they had the Canadians pinned down. So, they [the Canadians] requested somebody to come over and bomb for them. Well, my squadron drew the short straw. So, we went over and the way we were to identify the target was that Canadian artillery was going to fire a smoke shell into the German positions and we were to bomb the smoke. Remember, I told you, we'd take pictures of [the bomb strikes]? We hit the smoke. The only trouble was, the smoke had blown back over the Canadians and we killed some of them. There was an incident, a friendly-fire killing, in Afghanistan, where two pilots from the Air National Guard, from Springfield, Ohio, I think, killed four Canadians, at Kandahar, in Afghanistan. [Editor's Note: On April 17, 2002, a bomb launched by a US Air Force F-16 killed four Canadian soldiers and wounded eight in a friendly-fire incident south of Kandahar.] ... They wanted those pilots to be court-martialed, but for window dressing. That's when they got us involved. That's what this young gal with the camera [was doing]. Well, I was on that mission, but the records don't show it, because it's been ...
FF: My squadron commander told me that.
AF: That's where it talks about it. I don't know if that's what you were looking for, but, here, it's that paragraph, beginning and ending there. [Editor's Note: Ms. Farrell is referring to the 486th Bomb Group Association Newsletter (Volume 25, Number 5, Spring 2004).]
FF: Yes. Well, this was published in the newsletter that the group puts out. This was after we went over, but here is an article in the "Bible," [War Stories of the O and W] and then, this little bit, this little blurb up here. Now, that's what this article here refers to.
SI: That there was an incident where they claimed twenty-five Canadians were killed outside of Caen.
FF: Yes, and this mentions the fact that my wife and I, we went over on an all-expense-paid trip for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and this YAP [Films, Inc.] is the outfit that made the film for CBC.
AF: Frank, you say that they deleted that mission from the records.
FF: Chip Hal told me that. [Editor's Note: Chip (Charles) Hal was squadron commander of the 834th, who went over to England with Mr. Farrell and his crew.]
SI: I do not see it on your flight record.
FF: No, it's not on mine.
SI: I see it over here, though, on the bomb group's record, [from the www.486th.org website], "Southeast Caen,France."
FF: Yes, yes.
SI: They do not say much about the mission, though. How soon afterwards did you learn what had happened?
FF: Oh, a couple of days later, after the pictures were developed. I take issue with the way it's represented on this film [Witness: Friendly-Fire].
SI: What do you take issue with?
FF: The fellow by the name of (Elliot Webster?), that that article in here mentions, I don't think he was part of that outfit at all and I think what he has to say on the film were words put in his mouth.
FF: Yes, because it doesn't paint us in a very good light.
SI: Are they claiming that you intentionally bombed them or that it was gross negligence?
FF: No. Well, he says that they fired yellow smoke to identify [themselves].
------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO---------------------------------------
SI: This continues an interview with Mr. Francis M. Farrell on December 2, 2004, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth. Please, continue. You were talking about the different kinds of smoke.
FF: It was sixty years ago and I don't remember anything about smoke identifying them and the color of the smoke that we're to bomb. We were to bomb smoke. Prior to that little blurb on the tape [was a segment on] the incident in Afghanistan, where the officer that was in charge of the group [spoke], where they had the perimeter marked and why it happened, it's just that there was an artillery piece on the road and it appeared that it was firing at them. So, the only thing they do is fire back, and it mentions how you can tell from the deep breathing [that] that was going on, because they have a radio tape of it. So, I don't believe everything this [says], but, because it's a matter of record, I thought maybe you might be interested in seeing this.
SI: Yes, we would. I copied down the information.
AF: ... That could be part of the reason why [President] Bush is in Canada now, [laughter] you know; ... not your incident, but the Afghanistan incident could be one of the reasons, and making amends.
SI: Was this ever discussed with the other men in your crew or your group?
SI: The possibility of a friendly-fire incident or dropping your bombs short.
FF: Maybe at the time, but I don't remember. There's only one of my crewmen still alive. I don't think he was on the mission, because he came back to this country to sell war bonds.
SI: Why? How was he chosen?
FF: I don't know, but, anyway, I was never able to get in touch with my nose gunner, my ball-turret gunner, my tail gunner. I still don't know whether the tail gunner and the ball-turret gunner are alive. I know that the nose-turret gunner is dead, because I've contacted his son. My top-turret gunner is alive, but he never flew B-17 missions. He came back to the States before that. My engineer, he was with me, but he's dead. My radio operator was with me, but he's dead. My co-pilot was with me, he's dead. My bombardier was with me, he's dead. My navigator was with me, he's dead. ... Now, I also belong to ... the IWSA. This is what they call, "I Was Shot At." Now, there's a retired cop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that started this, well, no, he's continuing it. The guy that started it is dead. ...
SI: I would like to go back and ask you some more questions about your missions. From what I can tell from this website printout, your first mission was to Liege.
FF: Yes, I guess. You've got the list of it, I don't. I've got it in my Form 5, but ... let me see that list. Some of them just say what area it was in. ...
AF: Let him tell you where the mission was. You could tell him [what] you remember, if anything, about it.
SI: What stands out about your first mission? What was going through your mind, now that you were finally going into combat?
FF: It was a milk run. It was an easy one, because it was new to us. We had a few milk runs, but all I can say is, those Germans could shoot.
SI: Did you encounter flak on the first mission?
FF: No. ... I can't remember; I had quite a few engines shot out. On one occasion, I had two shot out and you were paying out your altitude to get back. I remember Mannheim. You could see old bathtub parts, you could see automobile engine parts. I remember, the idea was that it [the flak] was so heavy, we could put our wheels down and ride along it.
SI: Some veterans have told me that flak could be mesmerizing.
FF: Oh, yes, yes. I called it "black orchids," because, generally, it was four bursts. Now, unlike the Americans that had the proximity fuse; ... the reason it was called proximity was that it had a sensing device in it. I don't know how it sensed [things]. When it got in the vicinity of things that it could magnetically be attracted to, it would go off. The Germans had to cut the fuse [in their shells] so that it would explode, you know, so many seconds after it left the muzzle. It generally came up in four bursts, because that was a battery. I guess, sometimes, it came up in two or three, but, generally, it was four. Toward the end of my time there, when things were going pretty much our way, we had air superiority. In other words, we had fighters that went all the way with us and all the way back. We did see some ME-262s, they were the German jets, but, for the most part, we saw ME-109s, FW-190s. I guess, on occasions, there were JU-88s that'd dive-bomb us.
SI: How frequently were you attacked by fighters?
FF: When we first got there, it was in the dying throes of the Luftwaffe and it was along the division assembly line, when the first groups went over and they [the Germans] saw what targets we were after, that they would send some airplanes up to get us, so that we wouldn't do any more damage to that particular target, be it a marshalling yard, be it a ball-bearing plant or some plant of some kind. We didn't bomb hospitals; we didn't ... bomb cities for the sake of bombing cities.
SI: Just from scanning through this record, it looks like most of your targets were oil and manufacturing facilities.
SI: The kind of direct troop support you performed outside of Caen was rare.
FF: Oh, no, no, no. I think it did [happen] when they were pinned down there at the Battle of the Bulge. ... I don't think I was there then, but, when the weather broke, they bombed specifically for the benefit of the troops that were pinned down in the Bulge.
SI: You had a mission the day of the Normandy invasion.
SI: Were those sorties in direct support ...
FF: Direct support of ground troops.
SI: What do you remember about that day?
FF: The black and white stripes that we painted on the wings of the airplanes and around the fuselage.
SI: What do you remember about the D-Day mission? Was it before the troops landed or after the troops landed?
AF: They landed early in the day, right?
FF: My group put up two different sorties that day. I don't remember whether I was on the first one or the second one, but it was in direct support of the ground troops. Now, whether it was before or after, ... I can't remember. I can't remember. ... I would have to check my Form 5, ... which logs my time, to see what time of day that I went over.
SI: Did you realize at the time that you were a part of this massive operation?
FF: Oh, yes, you could see them. Oh, you could see them.
SI: What could you see?
FF: All the ships in the Channel.
AF: When did you first learn of the big invasion?
FF: That day, ... the night before, when we were painting the stripes on the airplane.
AF: [Did you] ask them, "Why are we doing this?"
SI: Nobody knew the specifics of D-Day, but did you know that it was coming up?
FF: Yes. I say yes; once again, [it was] sixty years ago. I can't remember what I did yesterday. [laughter]
SI: For both the group and yourself, your first ten or so missions were to targets in France and Belgium. It was a while before you went directly into Germany.
SI: Do you remember the first mission where you went deep into Germany? Does anything stand out about it?
FF: Not particularly, except that we flew on, I think, Ludwigshafen, we flew on Mannheim, flew on Hamburg, I guess, Cologne, Emden, Essen, Düsseldorf, toward the end.
FF: "Happy Valley" is what we used to call the Ruhr Valley. That's where the flak was the heaviest.
SI: Obviously, your plane must have been hit with flak. Were there any injuries?
FF: The bombardier was hit, I think in the cheek. The leg of my flying suit was ripped. ... It didn't draw any blood. I can remember, it hit in the throttle quadrant and [hit] both throttles, because all four throttles were within a space of that much distance, [about a foot]. I had a piece of flak that took out two of my throttles, so [that] whatever the engines were set at, that's the way we went home.
SI: Was there ever a time when you had a close call, when you thought you might have to bail out or ditch in the Channel?
FF: No. When I lost two engines one time, I was wondering if we were going to make it. You know, for the life of me, I can't remember. I think it was one of the missions over Germany, because that's where, most likely, it would have happened.
AF: Is that the one that there's the newspaper clipping from? ... Do you have a copy of it?
FF: No. Oh, yes.
AF: There was one that was in our local newspaper.
FF: Well, that's the one Alex Handy gave Pop. ... [Editor's Note: Alex Handy was a reporter for the Newark Evening News.]
AF: The one of you hanging out, the picture of the plane? It was in the East Orange Record.
FF: Oh, no, no. Oh, yes, yes.
AF: Because I have an original of it, but it is so deteriorated, I had to make a copy of it.
FF: No, that one of me. ...
AF: ... You hanging out the window.
FF: With the smoke in the background?
AF: It's a close-up of you in the cockpit.
FF: That was a B-17.
AF: I don't know what it was. I just remembered that the newspaper called it, "Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer." I don't know. ... I know I gave you a copy of it, but I don't find it anywhere. I was wondering, you know, which one it might have been.
SI: Was it Misburg?
AF: I have no idea. I don't know. It's [from] the newspaper, because it was contemporary.
FF: It had to be in a B-24.
SI: Yes. It [the www.486th.org mission log printout] says, "Mission 026," "Misburg, Germany." In the notes, it says, "#767 (Farrell) hit over target and limps back home."
FF: Could be.
AF: Okay, and what mission was that?
SI: Twenty-sixth, [for the group].
FF: ... Well, that had to be a B-17.
SI: June 20th.
FF: Oh, June 20th, okay.
SI: Could you take me through a typical mission? What did you do from the time you woke up until you returned?
FF: ... The officers for two crews were in one Nissen hut and the enlisted men, six of them, so, there were twelve, [lived together] in a Nissen hut. They were both from the same crew that the officers were in mine. [The] charge of quarters would come through, wake you up at some ungodly hour in the morning. You'd have to sign the paper, or I signed the paper, you know. Then, I had to make sure the co-pilot and navigator and the bombardier got up, and I guess one of the enlisted men had to do the same thing. Go down [to] the mess hall, have breakfast; you'd go down to a briefing and a chaplain was there. [The] pilot and the co-pilot would go in the briefing, navigators would go to their briefing, bombardiers would go to their briefing, gunners would go to theirs. I guess the radio operator would, you know, have a briefing. They'd tell us how much fuel we had, they'd ... tell us what, you know, our altitude was going to be, they'd tell us ... what colors we were going to form on, because you'd always send up what they called a "peppermint stick." [Editor's Note: Mr. Farrell is referring to an assembly ship, a bomber painted with bright colors and garish patterns that guided the bombers through the process of rallying their bomber formations over Allied territory.] ... He'd fire flares and, if you were ... forming up on a red and a green, [you would know where to go], because the whole sky was full of airplanes there. Our sister group was maybe six miles north of us. There were fighter groups, you know, all around us. We'd get a "hack" for a hack watch. [Editor's Note: A hack watch is a timepiece designed for easy synchronization. A "hack" is a slang term for the time the members of a unit synchronized their watches.] Of course, time was of the essence for everything. You'd find out what your emergency procedures were and if there was a likelihood that a mission would be aborted, because of weather or some reason. Some days, you'd have to drop your bombs, sometimes live, out over suspected minefields. Other times, you'd have to put the pins back in the bombs and you just had to "bore holes," [flying for no real purpose], because gasoline was short. So, you might be up there for four or five hours, you know, burning off fuel. They'd tell you ... what direction you'd go in and [you would] fly up north in England, fly west in England. I guess you still flew formation while you were boring holes. One of the things they did was that as crews finished up and new crews arrived, they would take the co-pilot, they did that with my co-pilot, they took him and put him on a crew where they were brand-new, just coming over, and I'd get the pilot of that crew to fly [as] my co-pilot. I was one of the last of the original fifteen crews in my squadron to finish up. I guess my co-pilot flew the last six or seven of his missions on a new crew and I had a pilot, and who those guys were, I don't remember, but you tried to bring him up to speed on the things that he should do and things he shouldn't do.
SI: Do you think your training prepared you well for combat? Were there things that you could only learn by going into combat?
FF: Yes, training, training, yes. We never flew as good a formation in training as we flew in combat. If you were flying wing off of somebody, you'd take and stick your wingtip right in that guy's waist window, because ... [with] the type of formation we flew, a fighter couldn't stick his nose toward our formation, and you've got to remember now, ... the lead squadron put up twelve airplanes, the low squadron and the high squadron each put up thirteen. For any given squadron, no fighter could stick his nose towards you but when he wouldn't get ninety-six .50-caliber machine guns [aimed at him], because there were ten machine guns on each plane. ... Depending upon your position in the formation, your gunners had certain quadrants that they monitored. Now, if for some reason somebody dropped out and you changed positions, you had to know what quadrant, ... or your gunners had to know what quadrant, that they were going to monitor. You just learned how to fly a real tight formation, because the tighter you flew it, the more concentrated your firepower could potentially be. If you were flying left wing, the pilot was flying cross cockpit. If you were flying right wing, you were on your side of the guy you were flying off of, but, if you were leading a flight, you have your lead plane here with a plane on each wing, fifty feet above. Depending upon who was flying, pilot, co-pilot, you'd have a man on each wing, fifty feet below, pilot, co-pilot, man on each wing, fifty feet below that, and when I say fifty feet, it wasn't a hell of a lot more than that. Maybe going in and coming out, when you got back out over the Channel, it'd loosen up, but, while you were over enemy territory, you had it tucked in. ... When you got back and hit the ground and you were heading for debriefing, thank God that some of my crewmen didn't like, you know, to have a shot, because I used to have two or three, [laughter] and, boy, I'm telling you ...
SI: It must have been very nerve-wracking.
FF: [laughter] You get a little "gaga."
SI: I have heard that, particularly in the B-24, but also in the B-17, it was a serious physical strain to hold the controls and make sure that you did not fly into somebody else. It must have been exhausting after a six, seven-hour mission.
FF: B-24 was. It was a lot harder to fly and, when I came home, I could pick up a ton with my left hand, because my right hand was on the throttles, but, on the 17, you just pull the nose up just a little bit and it'd slow down, push it forward, [it would] pick up speed, not in the 24, but I enjoyed flying the B-24. It was a man's airplane.
SI: Also, the environment you were operating in, the cold and the noise, was very harsh.
FF: Oh, yes. Well, you were on oxygen. You had to have a helmet on. ... Your headset, so that you could hear what was going on, was kind of muffling the noise. The oxygen mask was hooked onto the helmet, so, it wasn't that oppressive, and then, you had a flak vest on. I used to have one [that] I sat on. I don't know where I got the extra one. ...
SI: Did you have a heated flight suit?
FF: Yes. So long as you didn't pee in your pants, it worked fine.
SI: Did anyone in your unit, or possibly even in your own crew, have any problems where they refused to go up, mental fatigue?
FF: No. My EMs [enlisted men], with the exception of my top-turret gunner, they all went with me all the way. My navigator went with me all the way. My bombardier was good and, although he was a flight officer, I had substitute bombardiers toward the end, but he didn't finish up when we finished up. He was there, I guess, to the bitter end.
SI: Did you ever fly lead in your squadron?
FF: I never flew lead. I flew left wing off the lead ship, toward the end. I never really wanted the job. I never wanted the job. ... What I wanted to do is the job I was sent over there to do, without any more responsibility than to my crew.
SI: What is your most vivid memory of combat or your closest call?
FF: I guess instrument let-downs on bad days, because, you know, when you come down through several thousand feet of [clouds], you'd come down some, and then, you'd break into the clear, but there'd be clouds above you and clouds below you. You'd have a little chance to adjust, but, on real P-U days, where you might be coming down through, say, six thousand feet of just solid goo, sometimes you couldn't even see your own wingtips. ... You'd peel off and, when your town-finder told you [that] you were just opposite [your base], that's when you would time your six minutes. Well, a standard needle with a turn took one minute to turn 180 degrees, and we flew after the first needle with the turn and you broke into it. From the time your needle showed you were opposite the station, you flew six minutes, five-hundred feet a minute, standard needle with the turn, another six minutes. Some of these new guys, you know, that weren't interested, you know, [in] flying it the way it should have been, you'd come out of a formation practically flying formation with them. Sometime, you could see lights, because we had our landing lights on, you know, to put a glow around us. We'd have our formation lights up top, which were blue, for the fighters, but, my God, they [the new guys] were chewing your wingtips off.
SI: Did you have fighter cover on every mission?
FF: Pretty much, pretty much.
SI: Were they P-38s or P-51s?
FF: I remember 47s, for the most part. We had some 38s, but, then, toward the end, all the DPs [deep penetrations] into Germany were all 51s. They stayed with us all the way, going in, coming out. P-47s had drop tanks. P-38s had drop tanks. Now, there were a couple of occasions that I recall we had some British [fighter cover], because they didn't fly with the bombers at night.
SI: I want to ask you about your interaction with the English people. How often would you go into town? Did you have a relationship with the people around Sudbury?
FF: We had a young fellow, because anybody and his brother could come on the base, there was a young fellow that came on the base and we struck up a friendship with him, several of the crews in the squadron. ... We'd give him our laundry, but, along with giving him the laundry, we had to give him the soap, because they couldn't get soap. I don't know. When I went back, over a year ago, my wife and I went up and visited Ted Filer and his wife. [Editor's Note: Ted Filer was the young fellow who painted jackets.] They never had children and you couldn't ask for a more gracious guy. ... In fact, he took me out to [see] Roley [Roland] Andrews, who is the historian over there in Sudbury. He knows more about the 486th Group in England than anybody else. He has one of these [War Stories of the O and W]. Now, we have a historian who, for the last four, or I'm going to say five, but I don't think it's that long, reunions, has made tapes of, you know, people in the squadron and we have a small history book. It's probably got twenty-five or thirty, I should have brought it with me, I didn't, interviews. I'm one of them and I told them that story that I told you about the Navy. ... He has done a remarkable job, and I haven't read the whole thing, because some of the guys that were interviewed, I didn't know, but the ones that are in it that I know, I read their articles.
AF: Frank, go back to Sudbury again. Who was the young [man]? Was it that Ted who was the one who painted your jackets?
FF: Yes. He painted the [jackets]. You know, we had all the A-2 jackets and he painted our airplanes [on them], with, you know, the letters on it and the bombs dropping out of it, you know, one bomb for every mission we were on.
AF: The back of the jacket and the front of it, he hand-painted. ...
FF: I still have my jacket. It's in pretty bad shape, but, when I was there, Ted Fyler gave me some kind of cream that you're supposed to, you know, be able to rub on the jacket and restore it a little bit, but, you know, the sweater cuffs, they're [in] pretty bad shape.
SI: When you were in England, did you ever go on leave to London or any other place?
FF: Oh, yes, oh, yes, went there as often as we could, yes, ... because it was a relief to the town, because they used to blame us for drinking up all their beer.
SI: Were you ever given instructions, like, "Do not take food from the locals, because they do not have much food," on how to interact with the British?
FF: No. We used to go to the Red Cross clubs. There was always enough food there, but it was noticeable how austere their plight was. You'd travel around on the Underground and little bitty kids [would say], "Got any gum, Yank?" or, you know, we'd ... have some candy bars or something like that. Invariably, [as] we'd, you know, travel around London on the Underground, you'd see a kid, because they had bunks in the stations. ... These things were hundreds of feet in the ground, not just down a flight or two of stairs. They'd take an escalator to go down. They'd have bunks, you know, five or six high and you'd see families down there.
SI: Were there any air raids or V-2 rocket attacks while you were there?
FF: Yes. I was in a Red Cross club. You know, you slept dormitory style, you know, and, I don't know, Jerry must have ...
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE--------------------------------------
AF: You had warning to get into the [shelter]; oh, no, I mean, it just fell on you.
FF: Oh, yes. ...
AF: ... Why wasn't there a warning before? I thought they blew sirens.
FF: They did, but, if I was sound asleep and the air raid warden didn't come in; you know, I'm glad that the American people didn't see what the British people went through. ... When you see kids, you know, growing up, they didn't know anything but war. I was there in '44. They'd been going through it since '39. I wondered how some of those kids, you know, are today and you'd see where bombs hit, you know, or maybe you'd be at a club or something like that and you'd get hustled into an air raid shelter.
SI: Your tour of duty ended at the end of September 1944.
FF: Yes, I think that's right. I started home. Of course, I flew over, but I came back on His or Her Majesty's Ship Sumaria and it was the lead ship in the convoy. ... It towed an arrow, you know, on a big, long piece of rope, so [that] the ship behind didn't run into it. I swear to God, that ship was held together by the paint. [laughter] It was tired, but there were oil tankers, you know, and merchant ships everywhere you looked. All you could see was ships, and it took ... eleven-and-a-half hours to fly over; it took eleven-and-a-half days to come home. It was a great sight to see that Statue of Liberty.
SI: What happened after you arrived? Did you go on leave when you came back?
FF: Oh, yes. Well, I mean, I had to turn in a gas mask, I guess, and, you know, some overseas equipment. I very conveniently lost my hack watch, which I had to pay for. Oh, I didn't have a gas mask coming home, but I did have a Mauser, a pistol. I don't know how I came by it, but we were told we were going to get frisked, you know, when we got back. So, one evening, I dropped it overboard. Maybe it's just as good I did. ... Yes, I had a cabin, with, I don't know, three or four other guys, above deck, but I had a watch, to make sure that the poor GIs that were, you know, stacked up down in the hold weren't smoking in bed and stuff like that. I remember, the food left something to be desired on the way home.
AF: Not as good as you'd had over in Europe?
FF: It blew hot and cold, it blew hot and cold. You never got any milk, and eggs, they were all powdered eggs. That's where I learned to drink coffee. I never drank coffee until I got overseas, yes.
SI: After you returned, they put you in the Ferry Command.
FF: No, that's when they sent me to Fort Worth, to become the instructor on a B-36. ... After going through some of the things that were parts of that airplane, and the size of it, because that was six engines and it was a pusher, I went into the operations officer and apologized. I said, "You don't want to make an instructor out of me, because I'm going to be like a large charge with a short fuse." That's when they transferred me over to Dallas. It was only thirty-four miles away. When I got there and they looked at my time, that's when they classified me as a Class 5. That's where I flew all the big stuff.
SI: The B-36 is a little known plane. From what I understand, it was supposed to have a longer range than the B-29.
FF: Oh, yes, yes, bigger load. [In] the B-29, the tunnel, it goes over the bomb bays, I don't know, it was twenty-some feet long. The bomb bays in that B-36, that tunnel was so long, they had a trolley in there. You used to have to lie on your back on the trolley and doggy-paddle your way, you know, on handgrips on the top of the [plane]. The tube, you know, was, I guess, eighteen, twenty inches in diameter.
SI: Was it difficult to fly?
FF: [I] never flew it, never flew it. Once I saw it and went through some of the engineering, you know, how you transferred fuel and, you know, all the dos and the don'ts, no, I didn't want any part of it.
SI: After you were sent to Dallas, you started ferrying everything from a P-38 to a B-29.
FF: I flew P-38s, and the way I got checked out in a P-38 is, I sat in the cockpit and somebody that had flown it told me what to do. Next thing you know, I took it off. That was in Dallas. Then, they sent me to Tulsa, where I got checked out on an A-26. It was a nice airplane, but, once again, it only had one seat to fly it. A guy told me to, "Do this, do that, don't do this, don't do that. ... This is the checklist, you know. You take off." ... Of course, they were just domestic flights with it. Then, I don't know, [the] B-25, I got one that had, I don't know, an eighty or a ninety-millimeter recoilless rifle in the nose of it, never fired it. I was just ferrying it. I picked it up inSacramento, California. I took it to Hawaii, I took it to Christmas [Island], I took it to Canton, I took it to Tarawa, I took it to ... Finschhafen, New Guinea, and I delivered it in Biak, New Guinea, got on a C-87, came home. Somewhere along the line, they decided I was going to fly B-29s. So, the way I learned to fly a B-29 was, I had what they called "transition en route." Oh, I had to go to ground school to learn, you know, "You do this and you do that," yap, yap, yap. So, I remember, I had to shoot some night landings, which I shot down at Brookley Field in Alabama, and the guy that was checking me out was a former Pan American Airways skipper. He flew China Clippers. ... I don't know how many hours he had on this thing, instructing guys like me. He says, "I haven't shot a landing ... from the left seat. Would you mind? You're okay." "Not at all." So, the last landing at night, he sits it down fine, but, on the roll out, we blew a tire. So, the orders were, from the tower, ... to shut it down, and then, they sent the tug out and they towed us in. Well, B-29s were built by both Boeing and Martin. The Boeing B-29s were hydraulic. The Martins were electric. So, to change the tire, after they got us into the sub depot; the same wheel that was on the B-17 or a B-24 was on a B-29, except that there were two tires on the main strut, and this happened to be an outboard tire. So, to change the tire, they changed the wheel. Well, they had to loosen up the jackscrew that put the door down and swing it up, so [that] they could pull the tire off and put the other one on. Then, they hooked up the door again. That's when he checked out and I got a co-pilot, and two engineers from God-knows-where, but the co-pilot, he came off a B-25. He had never been in a B-29; the two engineers, yes, had. I was to deliver this B-29 the next day to Offutt Field in Omaha. So, I had taken an instrument check on the 29. So, we took off from Brookley and, partway to Omaha, we ran into IFR. [Editor's Note: By IFR, or instrument flight rules, Mr. Farrell ran into adverse weather conditions that forced him to rely on instruments, rather than visual flying.] So, I went on the gauges. I got to Offutt Field. Well, has anybody ever described Offutt Field to you? When they decided they were going to build an airport there in Omaha, what they did is, they ran the bulldozers up the side of a mountain and they kept plowing it, spreading the top of the mountain out, until they got a plot of ground that was big enough for an airport that would take B-29s. I didn't know this. This is the first time I'd been there, but I could see from the radio facilities chart that, a quarter of a mile out from the instrument runway, you could be a hundred feet below field elevation, because it was built on the top of a mountain. So, I go through the orientation procedure and we hit the gear down switch and we got a nose wheel, we got a left wheel, but all we got on the right side were the doors; can't land it this way. Well, at the time, Offutt Field was headquarters for the 20th Air Force, and who was there but "the cigar-chomper" himself, Curt LeMay. So, they sent me back up again, put me on a holding pattern. Well, [after] a couple of times around on a holding pattern, I showed the B-25 co-pilot how to run the autopilot and he knew how to make the procedure turns and all. So, the engineers were back in the bomb bay and they had hooked up the motor to drive the wheel down. Well, because the doors were put down by jackscrews, after so many turns, the door was down. They had to set the limit switch, and so, when the doors were down on both the right and the left-hand door, on the right-hand strut, it would activate the gear motor, to drive the gear down, except the yahoos that changed the tire down at Brookley Field didn't read the tech order. So, there was a motor on the main spar back in the bomb bay where you unhooked it from its position and you put it over there on the right wheel and there were four, so, it was faster as you hooked it in, a cannon plug that you hooked in for a power source, and there were labels on it, "Right wheel down," "Left wheel down," you know. Well, they threw it down for right wheel down and the gear came down, but I didn't get a down lock light on the instrument panel. ... The gear motor, this motor that we were driving it down with, the clutch would have a slip clutch and it was chattering, and we didn't think it was all the way down. So, we radioed the ground and told them what we were finding. Well, they said, "We don't want you to splash it here. I want you to come in hot and right over the top of the runway, as slow as you can come over. We'll have a staff car or something down there to take a look and see if, you know, the strut came down to lock the wheel down," and, if [it] did, then, they'd clear me to land, but I was just, you know, not [to] touch it down. [I] went around and came back and they said, "This time, we want you to just touch it and, if it looks like it's going to collapse, you're going somewhere else." Well, instead of just touching it, I dropped it in off a cloud bank. It held. They sent the tug out for me, towed me in, and here he comes, in his staff car. [Editor's Note: Mr. Farrell imitates Curtis LeMay smoking his cigar.]
SI: He was puffing on his cigar.
FF: All he said to me is, "Any one you walk away from was a good one." [laughter]
SI: Was he intimidating?
FF: No, no. He knew that I had just checked out on it. I don't know how he knew, but they're some of the things you don't forget.
SI: Yes. Where were you at the end of the war? Were you preparing to go overseas again?
FF: No. I, I think, had just delivered a Boeing B-29 that I picked up in Seattle, right out of the factory, and I had given it its Army acceptance hop on the way to Birmingham. ... I don't know why, I guess it was the time of day that we delivered the airplane in Birmingham, but we were going to stay over and I was taking in a movie and that's when the war was over.
SI: That was V-J Day.
FF: When we were ferrying airplanes, we had a briefcase that was loaded with all kinds of paperwork that we had to accomplish. In other words, if we gave the airplane its Army acceptance hop, we had to keep a copy of it and turn it in when we got back to our station. I was stationed in Dallas. [These were] receipts that the control officer at the station where you delivered it, or the outfit that you delivered it to, signed a receipt for it, and that just shows that I delivered it, and other things that I had in there were orders that told control officers, you know, what they could do with me. They could hold me for forty-eight hours, if they had an airplane that I was qualified to fly, [if] it was going somewhere, but it wasn't ready yet, or whatever, and there were also what they called TRs, transportation requests. That's where we could go up to the airline counter, you know, if we were told to go "hither, thither and yon," where we would just write out a transportation request and they would issue us a ticket. ... The only ones that we couldn't bump were congressmen or War Materials Board [personnel] or something like that, but it was a Class B priority. I bumped women and children [laughter] and, God, oh, never flew less expensively in all my life.
AF: Was there, at any time after you came back to this country, the likelihood that you would have been sent back to Europe?
FF: No, other than [if] I was going to ferry something overseas.
AF: Yes. I thought you did, to Africa.
FF: No, no. That's the way I went over.
AF: ... For some reason, I thought you ferried planes to Africa.
SI: During your ferrying work, did you ever work with any of the WASPs?
FF: Yes. We got into Wichita and they were building what they called a PQ-14. This was a target airplane. This was just a little bitty thing. It had a wooden prop on it. It wasn't any bigger than that, [a yard]. ... If they got a group of us together, and this was another one where you sat down in the cockpit and they told you, "Do this, do that, do the other thing." You started the engine. It took off at 3300 RPM, it cruised at 3000 RPM and we used to stop at county airports. There was a C-47 that went along that had our baggage and our shaving kits and, you know, a change of clothes or what[not]. ... There might be eight or ten of us and we'd guide off of him, so [that] we didn't have to do any navigation, and he knew just about how far we could fly. I picked a couple of those up inWichita and took them down to Lake Charles, Louisiana. That's it. It was a far cry from a B-29, I'll tell you.
SI: Yes, I can imagine.
FF: And it was red. It was as red as that hat.
SI: After flying all of these different kinds of aircraft, which was your favorite?
FF: I think I liked to fly that P-38, but I felt it was an accomplishment to, you know, fly as many different ones as I did.
SI: Yes, it is. How soon after V-J Day were you discharged or separated?
FF: October. I think V-J Day was August.
SI: The bombs were dropped in August. The surrender was September 2nd.
FF: ... We had what they called ... an MOS. It was on Ascension Day.
AF: ... Assumption, the 15th of August, 14th there, 15th here, or the other way around, but it was October that he got out. [Editor's Note: V-J Day was declared on August 14, 1945, in the United States and August 15, 1945, in the Pacific.]
FF: My military occupational specialty, my MOS number, was such that, as long as there was a need to move airplanes around that I was qualified on, [I could be held]. I had the points and I had [the] time in service and everything to get out, but they held me from August through September, until October. I think I was out by Thanksgiving. I don't think I was finished terminal leave. Isn't that when we went out to St. Jo?
AF: ... Yes, well, Ohio and Indiana, Michigan. It was October, school time, I think.
FF: Yes, but my time finally came, but, to get off active duty, I had to take Active Reserve. So, I was still living inNew Jersey at the time and they sent me down to Newark Airport and we were flying AT-6s. I never flew an AT-6. So, it had two cockpits. Some guy went for a ride. They checked me out. We flew AT-6s in preparation for becoming a photo recon outfit, which never materialized, until the Port of New York Authority threw us out ofNewark. ... They moved us over to Floyd Bennett Field, which was a naval station in Brooklyn. Well, shortly after they moved us over there, the company I was working for transferred me [to] Upstate New York. Well, while I was in this Active Reserve, you went in on a Friday night and you were there Friday night, Saturday and Sunday and, late Sunday afternoon, you go home. Of course, you got paid for it. While I was flying out of Floyd Bennett, in C-47s, we had become a troop carrier outfit. I moved [to] Upstate New York. So, I used to have to come down one weekend out of every four to do my flying and, for our active duty stint; oh, our active duty stint, while I was flying out of Newark, was up in West Point. We were still flying AT-6s, but, when they sent us over to Floyd Bennett, my active duty stint was at Godman Field in Fort Knox, Kentucky. That's where we jumped the 82nd Airborne for a pay jump. So, that's a hell of a feeling. ... This is a C-47. They take the door off and they put the static line up and you loaded up with paratroopers, some chewing cigars, some holding, you know, two to three hundred-dollar cameras, and they all jump out. ... They said, "We'd like it as slow as you can go," so that they didn't get hit with a blast when they went out the door. So, we're taking it over the jump zone, you know, and it's just about "walking the rudders." [laughter] ... Some time after that, ... Korea came along and they activated the unit, but, by that time, I had a couple of kids. They left me on the beach. So, that was, I don't know, '51. I finally got my discharge in August of '55.
SI: What was your final rank?
AF: So, it was ten years before you actually got out then, from the time you ceased to be on active duty, ten years. ...
SI: Did you return to school after you were separated from active duty?
FF: Yes. I went back to school, at Newark College of Engineering, for a year, but, on whatever the stipend you were getting as a student [was], I couldn't support a family. So, I went to work.
SI: You had already gotten married.
FF: Oh, yes.
SI: When did you get married?
FF: I got married in 1945, before I got ... off active duty.
SI: Had you known your wife before the war?
FF: I went to high school with her.
SI: Where did you start working?
FF: Minnesota Mining.
SI: What did you do there?
SI: Were you a salesman throughout your career?
FF: Not quite, not quite. They were the ones that moved me [to] Upstate New York. Well, we didn't particularly cotton ... [to it], the older kids. It was a small town and they were destined to leave, you know, so, there wasn't anything for them there. So, we moved back down to Jersey and I went to work for Mack Truck, and that's who I worked for until I retired.
SI: Were you in sales there?
FF: No, I handled contract maintenance. No, I had enough of the road.
SI: How many children do you have?
SI: Eight. Wow, that is quite a large family.
FF: Five kings and three queens, nineteen grandchildren, ten kings and nine queens.
SI: That is pretty amazing. How do you think your military experience shaped who you are today?
FF: Well, at twenty years old, it kind of put you on your own, so [that] you shift for yourself.
FF: I don't regret the way my life has turned out.
SI: You mentioned that the military was a maturing process.
FF: I think so, taught me that I can get along on my own. ... I remember what my father said the day he took me down to Sussex Avenue Armory. He said to me then, he says, "If it turns out to be your lot in life that you are in charge of people, never ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself," and something my mother said to me early in life, that saying I [mentioned earlier] ...
SI: "Nothing is so bad that it can't get worse."
FF: And those are the two things that have pretty much been my guiding light. Oh, I remember ... lots of other things that both my mother and my father [said], and I was thankful my father was with me. I saw my mother and father celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary. That put them up until 1980, and I wasn't just exactly a kid then. [laughter] I was fifty-eight years old.
SI: Is there anything we forgot to cover or anything else you would like to say for the tape?
FF: No, but ... what use are you going to make of this?
SI: I will explain that afterwards. To conclude the tape, thank you very much, both of you, for your time.
FF: ... I'm sorry my wife couldn't have come, ... because, as Ann has prompted some of the things, I think Peg could have prompted even some more.
SI: I think it went very well. You remembered a lot of detail. We covered a lot of ground.
FF: Well, I was always blessed with a good memory.
SI: Very good. This concludes our interview with Mr. Francis M. Farrell on December 2, 2004.
------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW----------------------------------------------
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