0:00

KELLY: I'm in the home of, uh, James Graves, who was, uh, in World War Two. Uh, he was a pilot and, uh, flew P-51s in Europe, uh, got there around January of '45, entered the service from Campbellsville, Kentucky. Jim, how about, uh, just taking us from Campbellsville and get us, getting us over there to the--Europe.

GRAVES: Okay, I was, uh, called on active duty in, on the, February the 25th, 1943--(coughs)--and was sent to, uh, Columbus, Ohio, and from there on to Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi. From Keesler Field, I journeyed on then to Johnson City, Tennessee--(coughs)--where I attended college there for four months and did some flying in small aircraft. And from there on I went to Nashville, Tennessee, for cadet 1:00examinations, and after passing those, I, um, went on into the aviation cadet program, which took me from there to, um, Maxwell Field, Alabama, and, um, down to Mississippi, and then from there to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, and from there to Spence Field, Georgia, where I graduated as a pilot. And from that time, I spent, uh, several months, um, being checked out in the P-40, um, aircraft that was known in the Pacific by General Chennault and his crew. And from there on, then, I, um, went to, uh, Tallahassee, Florida, and from there we were sent, uh, on to, uh, or received our orders to go to England. And we left out 2:00of New York, uh, sometime around January and arrived in, um, Ireland, and from there we were sent on to a processing center which, in turn, uh, sent several of we pilots to the Eighth Air Force, and at that time was stationed in Mons, Belgium. Uh, this was the 352nd Fighter Group, 487th Fighter Squadron that I was assigned to. And after an orientation ride or so there at Mons, Belgium, in P-51s, which, that was the first time I had ever been exposed to them and flew them. And I went up and soloed the aircraft for two hours, and then the next day went on a mission, uh, which took us over Berlin.

3:00

KELLY: That's your first mission, was Berlin.

GRAVES: That was my first mission.

KELLY: Uh--(coughs)--Were you comfortable in that aircraft aft-, having just--(Graves coughs)--flown just two hours? Had you had enough flying time to feel like you could handle it all right, or was you a little concerned about--

GRAVES: Well, it was so easy--

KELLY: --transition.

GRAVES: --to fly because I had already received something like 60 to 75 hours in the old P-40, which was a hard airplane to fly because it was an old type. But so much of the P-51, uh, was operated by hydraulic, uh, the flaps and many other things.

KELLY: It was sort of the Cadillac of the fighters, wasn't it?

GRAVES: That's right; it was the fastest, uh, fighter aircraft of its time. And, uh, it was so much easier flying that, uh, you felt very comfortable in it after spending quite a few times, the, the--it was 4:00a liquid-cooled engine. You had flaps that you had to open, and, uh, they were manually opened, where the old P-40--I mean they were, uh, electrically opened, where the old P-40 you had to manually open the flaps in order to let cool air come in if your engine overheated. But you only had to push a toggle switch and they automatically opened on the P-51. So everything about the P-51 was an easy aircraft to fly.

KELLY: All right, uh, by, by the time you get in this P-51 now, with this two-hour, uh, solo transition training, uh--(clears throat)--how many hours have you had up to this time?

GRAVES: Um--

KELLY: You're talking about hundreds or.

GRAVES: Uh, 200 or 300 hours, all total, from, uh, starting out in, uh, flying the smallest aircraft that we had.

5:00

KELLY: In, in that flying, are, are you--is part of your training learning how to, as a fighter pilot, to engage, uh, uh, another fighter aircraft?

GRAVES: In a--

KELLY: Have you done some, some mock dogfights or whatever?

GRAVES: Yes, we had mock dogfighting and all types of aerial gunnery-- strafing and mock, uh, air-to-air combat-type fighting. We had that in the States before we--

KELLY: Where did you--

GRAVES: --went over there.

KELLY: --where were you getting most of that practice?

GRAVES: I got that from, um, even in the old advanced training in the AT-6s, and then we got them in the--and that was, uh, in Eglin Field in Florida, and then when we went into, originally into P-40s at Waycross, Georgia, we received this, which I had 40-some hours there. And--

KELLY: So, so, you, you, uh--when you get ready to take off for Berlin, you're, you're, you're, you're not concerned, uh, about your training 6:00and you're reasonably competent? Is that what you're getting-- [inaudible]?

GRAVES: Yes--

KELLY: ----(??)

GRAVES: --we were completely confident in what we were doing, with the exception we knew that whatever aircraft we, uh, were in, uh, were going to be assigned to in Europe, we did not know what it was going to be, and we knew we'd have to be checked out in it, and it could have been the P-51 or it could have been a P-47. We didn't know at that time, but we all went into P-51s, the group that I went overseas with.

KELLY: Okay. Uh, this base in, in, in Belgium, where is that, what part of Belgium?

GRAVES: It's Mons, Belgium, which was a very short distance, really, from Brussels, Belgium.

KELLY: Close to Brussels.

GRAVES: Mos-maybe a couple hours drive.

KELLY: Okay, uh--(clears throat)--in your squadron, how many P-51s are there going to be?

GRAVES: Well, now, wait a minute. I don't know, I, I can't remember.

KELLY: Is it going to be more than ten?

7:00

GRAVES: Um, yeah, a squadron, uh, was, um, I can't remember. I--

KELLY: Bombers had seven, I think. A squadron, about fifteen, maybe? It seems to me like around fifteen.

GRAVES: It was, it was around twelve or fifteen.

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: I think there was four flights of four.

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: I believe was what it, what it was.

KELLY: Okay, uh--(clears throat)--on this, this mission to, uh Berlin, uh, let's just kind of start from the very beginning and, uh, go with you on, uh, to the briefing and to the rendezvousing with the--and, and flying to the target and al-everything that you see as a--how old are you now?

GRAVES: Well, now, I am 62.

KELLY: No, I, uh, then--

GRAVES: Uh--

KELLY: --when you get ready to take off on this mission. Nineteen, twenty, or.

GRAVES: Let me see, `45, I was born in `24, `34, `44, I was about 8:00twenty--

KELLY: Twenty.

GRAVES: --to twenty-one.

KELLY: Okay. All right. Just, just, just start out on this first mission and, and start out with your briefing and tell us what you were told and what you thought and so on--(pause)--if you--(Graves sneezes)- -as you can remember it, the best you can remember it.

GRAVES: We were briefed rather early. In fact our, uh--(pause)-- squadron room, uh, gave a list of all pilots that would be on the flight. And there were six or eight of we new pilots that were on this flight. And we were briefed, um, late the evening before, as far as we knowing exactly, uh, that we were going to be on the flight. And then the next morning, we did not have to leave before daybreak because we were at Mons, Belgium, and the aircraft that we were going to pick 9:00up and escort were bombers out of England, so they left quite some time earlier, and by the time we got off the ground and got up to the altitude to escort them, which was around 20,000 feet at that time, uh, 20 to 25,000 feet, um--(pause)--we didn't have to leave as early as they did. Now their air speed was much less than ours, uh, the P-51 cruised at that time around 225 miles an hour. And we were much faster than the bombers, so, uh--

KELLY: About--

GRAVES: --if--

GRAVES: About how fast?

GRAVES: Around 225 miles an hour was the cruising--

KELLY: Cruising--

GRAVES: --speed. And--

KELLY: What was the bomber cruising speed?

GRAVES: Uh, I don't really know.

KELLY: I, I thought they, I thought they were a little faster than that, wha-wha-they'll do about 400 miles an hour, wouldn't they?

GRAVES: Well, yes, but your normal--now, I'm talking about cruising speed as far as if we may call it the speedometer. It's, uh, these, 10:00uh, when we would look at it, around 225 to 250 miles an hour, was what they would show at normal throttle settings.

KELLY: Okay.

GRAVES: But now you could, of course, go much, much faster. But that was normal throttle setting.

KELLY: Okay.

GRAVES: And, um, now that first mission was really, uh--(pause)--to, uh, Ruhland, it's spelled R-u-h-l-a-n-d. But we wound up also, um, the bombers, bombing, uh, Berlin on this mission. And this mission, um, was a five-hour mission for us, which is a very long mission for a P-51. Now, we had external wing tanks, which helped us out, but, um, normally, um, a five-hour mission is a fairly long mission for one 11:00pilot in a single-engine-type aircraft to, to spend. But this mission was five hours. And, uh--

KELLY: Well, as you, uh, as you fly up and you, you see this big convoy, this big convoy of, or flight, whatever you want to call them, or formation of B-17s coming towards you, what are you thinking?

GRAVES: At this time, really, uh, not knowing what's going to happen, uh, you really are not particularly scared, we are picking them up before we get into any, uh, anti-aircraft, uh, fire. And we picked these bombers up, really, by the color of the tail of the aircraft. And, uh, um, we know them and recognize them at a distance from the 12:00color of yellow, blue, red, or whatever they may be. And we pick them up and we normally fly above them. Now, bombers are on a straight course. P-51s and other fighter-type aircraft are, um, flying at a much faster speed, and in order to keep with them, uh, we have to make turns, back and forth and across them, and back to their back, and back to the front of them. And this, uh, keeps us over them, and we fly above them to protect them from any, uh, enemy aircraft that may come upon them. Now, we were told, uh, by our experienced pilots that if you keep your aircraft turning from a regular heading, uh, ever so many seconds or every half-minute or so, that you will not get hit by 13:00anti-aircraft, because by the time that they can calculate your speed, your altitude, and the compass heading that you're going, if you make a few degrees turn when they fire and by the time their weapon gets to you, you will be out of its way. The bombers are hit because they're on a set course. They're flying at a set altitude, at a set compass heading, and at a set speed, and so they can calculate those and hit them, and that's why the bombers are knocked out of the air, where the fighters were not knocked out of air by anti-aircraft weapons on the ground by the enemy or the Germans at this--

KELLY: That was good news--

GRAVES: ----(??)

KELLY: --wasn't it?

GRAVES: Yes. Now--

KELLY: We-Well, as, as you look out and you see these--on this first mission now, you're going over Berlin or in that area and end up in Berlin--(clears throat)--how big a strike is it?

14:00

GRAVES: This was a quite a large strike because they--

KELLY: This is what day? Do you know what day it is? Is this January or February?

GRAVES: This was March 21st, 1945.

KELLY: March the 21st, 1945.

GRAVES: Um-hm. Yeah.

KELLY: How many are on it? Do you know?

GRAVES: Well, the entire sky was full of aircraft, I don't know how many. We saw many, many fighters from other fighter groups and many, many, many bombers, uh, from other groups that we, of course, were not escorting.

KELLY: --(clears throat)--How did you, uh, how did you sort out where you were going to be in the, what did, what did you call that big long flight of aircraft? You wouldn't call it a convoy--(laughs)--like you would a vehicle. But you're, you're at a particular point, um. GRAVES: Well, this--(pause)--

KELLY: Were, were you--

GRAVES: ----(??)

KELLY: --are you all flying tight with your squadron? Are your sixteen planes going to be, uh, wing-to-wing all the way through this thing or are you all going to be breaking, broken up in little groups?

GRAVES: We were broken up into flights of four.

KELLY: Okay.

15:00

GRAVES: You had your flight leader and your element, and another, uh-- (pause)--flight leader and his element man, which was four to, normally, a flight.

KELLY: Okay.

GRAVES: And we were spread out pretty closely, uh, even across, so each person could watch the other one.

KELLY: How did you control the air spaces, I guess, is my question up in that.

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: --this formation now?--(clears throat)--

GRAVES: --from my point, being a new pilot at that time, it was kind of like following the leader, the, the commander of the squadron, uh, he knew and we all knew what, uh, uh, bomber group we were going to escort but, really, we knew it by the color of their tail. And so we knew that they would be over a certain area, at a certain altitude, at a certain time. And--(pause)--our object was to take off, to be at 16:00that same area, at the same altitude, at the same time. And they were always there. And so you could readily, uh, distinguish--

KELLY: Just like--

GRAVES: --them.

KELLY: Just like flying right up and saying hello, huh?

GRAVES: That's right, because you could see them and they, the, uh--for example, our P-51, we were the called the "Blue-Nose People," and our, and the tails had blue on them. And, uh--

KELLY: You mean for your squadron or--

GRAVES: For our squadron. All of our aircraft were, were that color. And, uh, so, therefore, the bombers knew when we got there that we were the people because they could designate us by the color.

KELLY: Okay.

GRAVES: And we could do the same thing, designate them, because they would only be a certain color either yellow, yellow stripe, or red, or red stripe, or whatever it might be. We knew and we knew exactly, and then the squadron commander would contact the bomber commander.

KELLY: Could you hear, overhear the conversation?

GRAVES: Uh, normally speaking, yes.

17:00

KELLY: So.

GRAVES: And they would tell us that we have you in sight and we are climbing above you, or we are above you, or something to this effect, then they would, they were the only two that normally carried on a conversation--

KELLY: All right, now, in this--

GRAVES: --at that point.

KELLY: Is, is, uh--(clears throat)--you're escorting now, are you escorting a group or another squadron, or, with your little flight, what do you, what, or do you know?

GRAVES: We are, the, our entire squadron at this point is escorting a squadron or more bombers at that point.

KELLY: Okay. And are you in the lead? A-Are you in the front of this, this big, large, uh, armada of aircraft? You said it was big, k-kind of, can you kind of tell me what you saw--

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: --in the air?

GRAVES: --sometimes--

KELLY: ----(??)

GRAVES: --of course, the squadron we might be escorting may be, um.

KELLY: On this mission now, when you see the bombers--you know, you pull up there at 25,000 feet or somewhere--(clears throat)--all of a sudden, 18:00you come up on a big column of bomb-bombers. What do you call them when they're all strung out like that? Do you call them columns or.

GRAVES: Well, we just more or less identified them as our escort group.

KELLY: All right. You, you come up and you see your escort group, but there is more than just that group in this mission, right?

GRAVES: Possibly so. Sometimes not, sometimes, uh--

KELLY: Well, on this one, what, well, just what do you see when you come up there? How many aircraft did you see look--did you see bombers to your left and to your right and out?

GRAVES: Yes, you see them most everywhere. And, um, on this one, I don't remember exactly, but I know that there was more than the normal, uh--(pause)--bomber group in this bunch. There was more than that there because, uh--

KELLY: It was a--

GRAVES: --that--

KELLY: --big mission.

GRAVES: --it was a larger mission, because they were bombing Berlin, really, and, uh, um, I have Ruhland, R-u-h-l-a-n-d, listed here. This 19:00possibly could have been our rendezvous point; I'm not exactly sure at this point. But that was where we were with them, and then we went right on, uh, into Berlin.

KELLY: Okay, uh--(clears throat)--just go ahead with this flight then. You know, you, you fly up there, what did you see? And then what did you see as you're going toward Berlin, and what--

GRAVES: Okay.

KELLY: --are you doing?

GRAVES: The, the weather at this point on this mission was good. It was clear, uh, uh, you actually could see the ground with the exception of some cloud, white clouds under you. Uh, the sky was blue above you and everything was as clear as far as you could see. So visibility was no problem. And visibility was no problem, actually, for, uh, the Germans, really, to look up and see us. Not all of us, because there were some clouds at this 20, 25, or 30,000 feet, wherever we were 20:00flying at that time, I don't remember, but most of the missions were up fairly high. Um, the, um, the bombers were on a straight course, we were flying above them, uh, zigzagging across them and back and forth.

KELLY: How wide is this formation?

GRAVES: Uh, this formation, uh, really, could, it--we would run several miles on both sides of them. Because a mile in the air--

KELLY: Not much.

GRAVES: --is not much and as I said, cruising speed being 225 to 250, really, 250 is the close, closest, uh, normal cruising speed. But, uh, your air speed increases over your ground speed, if I am not wrong, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 percent per thousand feet you're up. So, really, when you're up at 30,000 feet, then you're, you're going 21:00sixty percent faster than, really, ground speed, you're sixty--

KELLY: So you're moving out--

GRAVES: --percent faster than what you--

KELLY: pretty fast on that target, yeah.

GRAVES: --are, so that's why that we are going so much faster and--

KELLY: Uh, are you--(clears throat)--how much above the bombers are you? A thousand feet?

GRAVES: Well, a little bit more than that, probably--

KELLY: Are you?

GRAVES: --2,000 or 3,000 feet above them.

KELLY: I-I'd like for you, if you can just recall, to tell me, a-as you're on top of this bomber group, uh, and as they are flying toward the target--I'm just trying to get some kind of a vision for people that have never seen it, what it would look like if you looked down from a thousand feet above it and, you know, you look out to the front and you look over your rear, uh, you know, how far in front do you see bombers, like a, you know, like a flock of birds going south or something? How far back do you see them? And then, and how spread out 22:00are they? How wide are, is this column?

GRAVES: Well, the, the column isn't extremely wide--

KELLY: Is there--

GRAVES: --but it--

KELLY: --is there several squadrons side by side--

GRAVES: Uh--

KELLY: --abreast?

GRAVES: They can, uh, they could be.

KELLY: Were, in this--

GRAVES: But--

KELLY: --formation, do you--

GRAVES: But normally on this one, we were just escorting so many bombers, and I don't remember how many that was. And our entire fighter group was there at this time, now that included three squadrons.

KELLY: So how many--we're talking about--

GRAVES: And so we are talking about, uh, uh--

KELLY: A whole lot of fighters, then.

GRAVES: --um, oh, forty or fifty P-51s are up there, over this amount of, of, uh, bombers in that--

KELLY: How, how do you all control that air space up there so that you aren't running into each other?

GRAVES: Um, normally speaking, uh, one squadron is designated, we'll say, toward the front of the bombers, and another one more or less in the middle, and another one at the back, if, if the three fighter 23:00groups are up there escorting this one, we'll say, group of bombers.

KELLY: You-You're talking about three groups or three squadrons?

GRAVES: Three, three squadrons--

KELLY: Oh, okay.

GRAVES: --are the fighter group.

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: And, uh, uh, one would be designated an area. So we would stay within that area, which the, um, squadron com-commander would keep us more or less within the area where he wanted us.

KELLY: Well, just talking about most formations, if, if I was looking down on the formation of bombers heading toward Berlin or wherever-- (clears throat)--and I want, and there is a column of them, I want to know how wide is that column in, in aircraft? Is, or is there going to ten aircraft abreast, so to speak? Or is there going to be thirty abreast?

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: Is going to be a mile wide? Is it going to be 100 yards wide? Is it, is it a narrow column or a wide column or, what kind of a column? What does it look like?

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: I know it's different from ----(??)

GRAVES: --you have several, I don't remember, because this--we're 24:00looking back now forty years.

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: Um--(pause)--you've got bombers that are, are broken down into their squadrons--

KELLY: Squadrons--

GRAVES: and--

KELLY: --right.

GRAVES: --so many to each flight.

KELLY: Right.

GRAVES: And they are normally three or four or so abreast, and then so many behind them, and so many--now, they can't be spread out, they are spread out at a fair distance, but it's hard to say, but--because, you see, if they are bombing a certain target--

KELLY: They're pretty tight, aren't they?

GRAVES: --they have to tighten up, because even if they're bomb, uh, bombing a large city of Berlin, not particularly hitting a section, we'll say, like ammunition or railroad or gasoline, or something like that. Even if they were just hitting the city, they'd have to be--if they were several miles apart, they couldn't hit the city. So they have to be in pretty tight. And they tighten up as they get closer to wherever they're going to bomb. But they try to stay, uh, at a 25:00distance where each bomber, really, can protect the other bomber. Their gunners can see across the other bomber and help him and notify him and vice versa as they move along.

KELLY: Okay, as you're moving on to Berlin now--(clears throat)--you going to run into any kind of enemy air?

GRAVES: Um, yes. We expect to and we did.

KELLY: On your first mission.

GRAVES: Uh, now on the first mission, we didn't.

KELLY: Oh, okay.

GRAVES: Um--

KELLY: All right.

GRAVES: The--

KELLY: Let's just go right on through this first mission right quickly and then we will get into this fighter thing.

GRAVES: Take this off me.

KELLY: Yeah, um-hm.

[Pause in recording]

KELLY: --Berlin on your first mission.

GRAVES: Okay, the interesting parts to me on this mission was the fact that, it being my first mission, we are turning, but as a new pilot 26:00you forget some of the things that you were told when you are on your first mission, uh, you see aircraft which are your friends, bombers, and our own fighters. And you know what their objective is, and you are wanting to do what you're supposed to do. But the little things, sometimes you forget. And, uh, when you see anti-aircraft, uh, fire bursting in the big black smoke puffs, uh, within your area, this is the first time that you see it. And you see pictures of it, but you've never witnessed it as actual fact that they're shooting at you. And they can track you. And they do track you, and in my incident, at this 27:00time, I failed to make my turns as I should, and as I made one turn, they had tracked me, and anti-aircraft went right straight past me, puff-puff-puff. And had I not turned, I would have been hit. And I had turned and by the time the burst got to the altitude that I was, it missed me, and it missed others--we, we had no--(coughs)--aircraft shot down, as far as fighters. Uh, we did lose quite a few bombers.

KELLY: How close did--

GRAVES: I don't know how many.

KELLY: --that puff-puff get to you?

GRAVES: --(coughs)--It was close enough that you could hear it when it boomed or puffed right by you, and it would just come out in a, a big black--

KELLY: First time--

GRAVES: --smoke.

KELLY: --you heard one and saw that puff, what did you think?

GRAVES: Um--

KELLY: That got your attention.

GRAVES: Well, this does scare you.

28:00

KELLY: Got your attention, huh?

GRAVES: Because it ----(??) and momentarily I realized that I was so intent on seeing this scene of bombers underneath me, all of our fighters, and the entire sky was just black with these puff smokes, and you see those and then all of a sudden, as I made a very short turn of only maybe five or ten degrees, they went in a straight line, and when I looked at my rear, I could see it was in a complete straight line.

KELLY: They, they, you'd actually flown right into them. They, they, they were--

GRAVES: They would--

KELLY: --tracking you.

GRAVES: --uh, they would have caught me and got me, had I not turned. And of course, we were told this, and we knew it, but--

KELLY: Do you, do you remember your feelings? How frightened you were at that time?

GRAVES: Uh, I, yes, I was frightened but, uh, I wasn't as disturbed as maybe I thought I might be. Uh, because there were so many of us 29:00up there and everywhere you looked you saw aircraft and you knew that these were your friends, you were all up there together.

KELLY: Being up there together was kind of a, kind of comforting, I guess, wasn't it?

GRAVES: And you also heard the radio transmissions and these were people talking and, uh, we kept radio silence, these were the commanders and so forth, and their talking make you feel like they were right with you. So it, uh, made you feel that you were more together than really you as an individual sitting there in the aircraft. I do know that we were flying this mission and, um, the P-51 has three internal gasoline tanks. Each tank has, carries sixty gallons of gas. And--(pause)-- this was 100-octane at that time, I believe. And then we used external tanks, which were two sixty-gallon, uh, tanks, one hung on each wing. 30:00Now the internal tanks, the two wing tanks, and the fuselage tank had gauges and we could look at those and we would know, uh, how our fuel consumption was. But those on the external did not have any, uh, uh, gauge, so we had to time those. We always took off on a fuselage tank, because we wanted to drain that out as much as possible, the P-51 was a very maneuverable aircraft, but it was not maneuverable with a full load of gas in the fuselage tank. We always wanted to burn that down at least thirty gallons of gas or more, but, uh, the P-51, um, engine 31:00used about a gallon a minute, that was the way we figured it. And, uh, but we didn't have to worry on the internal tanks because we had a gauge and we knew. But the external tanks we didn't, so we would take off on the internal fuselage tank, burn it for about thirty minutes, then switch to our external tanks, and we would fly for maybe thirty minutes on one external tank, switch over to the other external tank to balance the aircraft out. If we had to engage in any type of aircraft fighting, we would drop our tanks. But otherwise, we would burn them out. And you had to remember the minute you switched on to that external tank and watch, and when thirty to sixty minutes was up, you were out of gas. And on this particular mission, I did, uh, run out of gas on my external tank because I forgot to switch it, and the engine 32:00did cut off. Uh, I realized what had happened, but it seemed like a long time, but I immediately realized what had happened and, of course, our procedure in flying an aircraft, anytime you ever have any engine trouble, the very first thing you do is switch gas tank, it don't make any difference what it is, switch gas tank, and, uh, see if it will catch up, and that was the first procedure, and when I switched, then the aircraft caught up. I lost, maybe, 2,000 feet, something like that. And it automatically caught and I went right on with no problem.

KELLY: Did your, did your leader say anything to you, your flight leader?

GRAVES: No, they, uh--(Kelly clears his throat)--as far as I know, he never knew it.

KELLY: Is that right? You just, you just--

GRAVES: Because that--

KELLY: --tucked yourself right back in there then.

GRAVES: That was the procedure, that anything goes wrong with an aircraft, the first thing you do is switch gas tanks. Because that's 33:00the most likely thing that liable to happen. And so when I switched, it caught right back. This was a matter of maybe thirty or forty seconds--(Kelly clears his throat)--but it seemed much longer than that when your engine accidentally quits on you up there and when you're looking--

KELLY: Did this--

GRAVES: --down on Berlin.

KELLY: --did that frighten you? Or, or did you know that, did you feel like you were, I mean, pretty sure that you'd run out of gas and there'd be no problem getting it started.

GRAVES: --(coughs)--Well, I didn't realize that because I hadn't thought to look. But knowing that is the procedure, I automatically switched and it caught. And then I realized what had happened and.

KELLY: Did you, did you have time to be concerned about maybe you're going to have to bail out over Germany, enemy territory, or, or were you too busy trying to get--

GRAVES: Really--

KELLY: --your engine started?

GRAVES: --at that time, no, because it was, uh, I was way up in the air, I wouldn't have bailed out that high up anyway. And, uh, so, no, I switched the tank, and when it caught, then I was all right, I realized 34:00what it was.

KELLY: Okay, did anything else occur between now and Berlin to you?

GRAVES: No, that was it.

KELLY: All right, when you get to--(Graves coughs)--when you get to Berlin, what do you see? Can you see the city itself?

GRAVES: Yes.

KELLY: Can you--

GRAVES: At this time we could see the city itself as a large city underneath us.

KELLY: Can you, can you see the, the evidence of the ruin from the bombing and, previous bombing or--

GRAVES: Yes, you can see that ruin, and then you can see the bombers dropping their bombs, and you can see them exploding and where they hit.

KELLY: And this is the first time you're going to see this?

GRAVES: Yes, this is the first time I am going to be--

KELLY: When you're looking at this--

GRAVES: --able to see this.

KELLY: --all of a sudden you look out there and you see--(Graves coughs)--you see bombs going down, you see bombs hitting, you see bombers flying off after they dropped their bomb, what are you thinking?--(clears throat)--

GRAVES: Well, we see the bombers turn. We know they have dropped their bombs--(coughs)--We see the heavy amount of smoke on the ground.

35:00

KELLY: Fires?

GRAVES: And fire. And we know that their bombs have been effective and we know they've hit the target. Now, uh, we as individuals do not know exactly, uh--(coughs)--what they're aiming at sometimes. Uh, whether this is to hit a railroad or an ammunition dump, or just exactly what they're aiming for at that time, we feel like it's a military objective, that it's not, uh, ah, personnel that they are trying to destroy.

KELLY: Did you at that time--(Graves coughs)--did you know that, uh, about the indiscriminate bombing policy that evolved in the early part of the war, because of the accidental bombing of London by the Germans and the bombing of Rotterdam? Did, did, did you know that, that, uh, 36:00Air Marshal Harris, for exact-, for example, pushed and, and got a policy of indiscriminate bombing, wherein instead of, uh, um, precision bombing, since they didn't have the--(pause)--technology at that particular time, his idea was to bomb the, the workers out of their houses and, and rather than bomb--(coughs)--the factories. Were you aware of that at all?

GRAVES: Yes, um--

KELLY: Well, now, are, are you going to be thinking about who is getting killed down there on the ground now that, whether you got civilians or is this, this--

GRAVES: We had discussed this, other pilots, uh--(coughs)--I could, I could see both areas. Now, the United States, from what I can recollect, our interest more was in bombing, uh, strategic areas, gasoline, ammunition--

KELLY: Precision bombing of, uh--

GRAVES: And, uh--

KELLY: --military targets.

GRAVES: --of military targets.

KELLY: All right.

GRAVES: --(coughs)--But, uh, uh, you see, the British were--(pause)-- 37:00over there, their own--

KELLY: Well, now, now, now the United States, you know, they went in there and, and bombed, uh Dresden. You know, they put a thousand planes over it and caught the thing on fire and killed 35,000 civilians or more. Are, are you aware of this?

GRAVES: Well, I don't know.

KELLY: I mean, this happens about this time.

GRAVES: --(coughs)--Well, on April the, the 16th, 1945, or rather, let me see here, April the 17th, 1945, we escorted to Dresden.

KELLY: Yeah, I think that's when they did it. Was that, was it a big-- (Graves coughs)--formation?

GRAVES: Well, to, I can't remember that, but--

KELLY: Well, are, are, are you aware of that story of Dresden--(Graves coughs)--having that--(Graves coughs)--that fireball, you know, that, uh, where the, where the fire got so hot it was several miles an hour, or, and, you know, there was just a lot of--(Graves coughs)--casualties from fire. Are you aware of that--

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: --from history?

GRAVES: --I am not aware of that particularly, but I do know that the 38:00British, uh, we looked at bombing strategic places, um, the British were getting their own people killed and their own cities, uh bombed, and so, uh, we were told a lot of times that, yes, the British would bomb, uh, regardless of what size town it is, anything, that if you knocked the people out, they're not going to manufacture ammunition because the factory can't do it itself.

KELLY: Right.

GRAVES: And they can't build boats, the boat factories can't do it. And--

KELLY: You, you were told that then--

GRAVES: And we--

KELLY: --as a young person.

GRAVES: --we, uh, and I don't know that I could condemn them for it, because, uh, I was in England and saw, uh, London, uh, at times, uh, uh, the destruction there, and if this were my home, I would have the same sentiment, I could not condemn them, and I could not condemn the British pilots because I knew a lot of them. And, uh, it--we American 39:00pilots would fly a tour in, in England or in Europe, and then we would normally rotate home. But the British pilot, if he were a fighter pilot, his, uh, missions were twice the number or more than ours. If he was a bomber pilot, he was, his missions were twice the number that our bomber pilots were. And then, when they finished their missions, they were given a desk job to rest for thirty days, and if they were bomber pilots, then they were put in fighters and they went all over it again. If they were fighter pilots, they were put in as bomber pilots and they went all over it again. The odds of them making it, and they knew it, were pretty slim. And so they were--

KELLY: They were pretty tough.

GRAVES: --they were fighting for their lives. And many, uh, pilots 40:00landed at our airfield that were British, that had already flown many, many missions in bombers and now were in fighters and hadn't flown them at all and would do just about do anything in them--(laughs)--and their aircraft did not have the armor protection that the Americans did. The P-51 had a, I don't know how heavy a steel armor-plated seat that we sat in. The British had plywood and, uh, anything could go through them. And so I understood and had all the sympathy in the world for the British and the way they did things. Other people condemned them, I didn't.

KELLY: On the, um--(clears throat)--as you looked down there then, you, you--what's going through your mind? You, I guess you know the war is about over and you're, you're thinking this is going to speed it along. Just, can you remember what was going through your mind? Because you're 41:00seeing a lot now, aren't you? You, you know, you're seeing bombs go off and you're seeing bombers and you're, you're flying in formation, and you're at war, you know, this is the first time you've been at war.

GRAVES: Well, to me this was the first mission, so I didn't know how long the war was going to last. I saw them hit the target, I thought, Well, we've done a good job. We've done what we're supposed to do.

KELLY: You felt good about that.

GRAVES: Now, I felt, uh, uh, satisfied--

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: --with what we had done.

KELLY: Yeah. You felt like--

GRAVES: How much--

KELLY: --you'd been--

GRAVES: --damage they did, I didn't know.

KELLY: Um-hm. But you felt like you'd gotten--(Graves coughs)--them in there and--

GRAVES: But we'd been there, we'd done what we were supposed to do, and now we're getting ready to come home.

KELLY: How, going into Berlin, do you remember your route that you took? And coming back, do--

GRAVES: No. No, I didn't--(coughs)--because the, the squadron commander usually led it, or the group commander if the entire group was there, and, and, uh, we pilots, being young, we just kind of followed the leader.

KELLY: Yeah. All right, um--(clears throat)--anything else on that 42:00first mission we ought to get on the tape?

GRAVES: That's about all that I can really say on that mission, to my knowledge.

KELLY: Was the Dresden mission, what mission was that? How many missions later?

GRAVES: Well, let's see, that was a good deal later, that was--(pause)-- thirteen missions later.

KELLY: How many missions were you on altogether?

GRAVES: A total of eighteen--(Kelly coughs)--Now, we, we, uh--(pause)- -all the missions that I flew on, for a fighter pilot, averaged better than five hours a mission, counting the total, and that's a long time to be in a fighter aircraft.

KELLY: Let me turn this over.

[End of Tape 1, Side 1]

[Beginning of Tape 1, Side 2]

43:00

GRAVES: --Nuremberg. Uh, we had an ammunition dump that we, uh, strafed at one time there. All I know about it was it was called W6122. Now that was a, not a long mission, that was only two hours and forty minutes.

KELLY: Where y-where your squadron was doing the, the damage on the ground.

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: It was engaging the target.

GRAVES: --yeah.

KELLY: It wasn't an escort mission. It was a--

GRAVES: Uh, well, this was, these, no, these were all--we, we had some type of bomber, I don't know, remember which one, because we, we escorted B-24s and, uh, B-17s, and we escorted, uh, B-26s and, I think, B-25s some.

KELLY: On this mission?

GRAVES: Uh, not on this particular mission, I don't remember what, it doesn't--

KELLY: Did your, did, did you ever engage any, any targets on the ground 44:00as a fighter pilot?

GRAVES: Yes, um, I don't know from this list here. I can't remember what they were, um, we, uh, the list here shows that we, of course, hit Leipzig, Germany, Furstenfeldbruck. Now, Furstenfeldbruck was a big supply depot, I remember.

KELLY: You mean you, you hit that yourself? You, you, your--

GRAVES: Well, we went back and strafed a lot of these places after--

KELLY: Escorting?

GRAVES: --we escorted the bombers back to where they were safe enough to go right on back to England.

KELLY: Was this kind of a--

GRAVES: ----(??)

KELLY: --routine thing for you?

GRAVES: This was a routine thing.

KELLY: You did go back and strafe sometimes.

GRAVES: Oh, yeah, we went back--

KELLY: Was it--

GRAVES: --practically every mission.

KELLY: --was it a target of opportunity, or was it some designated target?

GRAVES: Normally a target of opportunity.

KELLY: Well, what are some of the things you remember strafing?

GRAVES: Well, we, um--

KELLY: Some of the things that you remember--

GRAVES: We had strafed, um--

KELLY: --hitting yourself?

GRAVES: --we strafed some, um--(pause)--train places, but most of the 45:00time--and trains--(Kelly clears his throat)--but most of the time it was an airfield, we would attempt to go back and strafe a German airfield.

KELLY: Did you ever, do you remember hitting an airplane while it was on the ground or--

GRAVES: Yeah.

KELLY: Your aircraft itself?

GRAVES: Yes.

KELLY: More than one plane?

GRAVES: One.

KELLY: One plane?

GRAVES: One.

KELLY: And, uh, when was this? About the first part, the second part--

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: --middle or--

GRAVES: --I don't remember where, no, it was toward the latter part.

KELLY: In--

GRAVES: I have, I show here, uh, three missions where we went as patrol. Two of them was patrolling the Berlin area and one of them was, uh, patrolling the Chemsig area. I don't know where, even remember where that was. It's C-h-e--

KELLY: Well, when you--

GRAVES: ----(??)

KELLY: --patrol the Berlin area, what do you do?

GRAVES: --(coughs)--Well, we were, we would go out, and normally, uh, we would pick up some type of aircraft, but then we would go out and 46:00maybe, maybe, maybe these were missions that our group assigned us that were not particularly, uh, assigned by, maybe, a higher headquarters. Uh, maybe we were exempt from flying that day for some reason, and we could go out on our own, and, and some hair--headquarters would say, "Well, let's go up and patrol and strafe airfields," or whatever we might want to do--(Kelly clears his throat)--And, but it was under, of course, the leadership of whoever was in charge of the group.

KELLY: --(Clears throat)--Well, on, on, on your strafing missions, uh, you, you hit an airfield one time and you hit, hit you an airplane yourself, uh, what are some of the other targets that you hit that you--(Graves coughs)--felt like you had done, made a big effort in the war effort.

GRAVES: Well, most of the time on strafing missions we would strafe 47:00airfields. That was our target, to knock out German aircraft that were on the field and their hangers. And normally there was anti-aircraft guns around, knock them out. And then, normally speaking, there was always, uh, rail cars sitting within that area, and knock them out.

KELLY: Did you ever see a, a rail car blow up as a result of hitting it or--

GRAVES: Um--(pause)--well, we strafed them, I don't remember seeing one actually blow up. But we would strafe them and the engines and try to knock them out where they were not mobile at this time.

KELLY: Um--(clears throat)--on your--(pause)--mission where you shot down your enemy plane, let's go through that one.

GRAVES: I don't remember what field. I was flying with another officer. 48:00He was a first lieutenant. He was the element leader and I was his wingman of the flight. And we were flying at somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30,000 feet when he spotted an aircraft, uh, below him.

KELLY: Okay.

GRAVES: We never went down without permission. And he called the squadron commander and says he, and stated that he had sighted an aircraft below him and asked permission to go down. Permission was granted. Uh--(coughs)--with this, uh, we dropped our external tanks. And when you drop them, all you have to do is pull a lever and they just fall off. We dropped them and went into a dive. Now, we were 49:00travelling at around 250 miles an hour, we got up, I guess, to 500 miles an hour in our dive, 4 to 500 miles an hour in our dive. Uh, we actually were not supposed to fire guns under--I can't remember offhand--but it seems like to me somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 to 350 miles an hour, we were not supposed to fire guns over that speed because we had, uh, three .50 caliber machine guns in each wing, that's a total of six. And when you pull the trigger, all six go off and that puts a pretty good shock on your wings. But we did go down and we saw this aircraft and it was a German jet. Now, this was the first time I had ever seen a German jet aircraft. Now, um, he saw us. And, um, we 50:00were traveling at that time in the neighborhood of 400 miles an hour, I guess, or pretty close to it because we had, were in a dive from up around 25 or 30,000 feet, and we were down at this time to around 3 or 4,000 feet. And--(coughs)--he went off and left us like we were just sitting still. Uh, we saw him out there and he made a turn, and we attempted to cut him off by turning toward him, but from way back. And the minute we turned toward him, he turned in the opposite direction, and we turned that way to keep cutting him off--(coughs)--We were watching him, not knowing where we were going. And there is no doubt 51:00that after all of this was over, I feel like he did not have ammunition on his aircraft and I don't feel like he had very much, uh, uh, uh fuel because he made several turns, and then all of a sudden we realized we were over a German airfield. And all of a sudden he made a big turn. He was quite a distance ahead of us and his wheels started coming down, and we made a turn, pulled right in behind him and shot him down right over the airfield. Uh, he, possibly, was 100 feet off of the ground when he caught on fire.

KELLY: You said we now. Who are we?

GRAVES: This is the, the, uh, element leader and I.

KELLY: Do you know who he was, what his name was?--(Graves coughs)--Do you remember his name?

GRAVES: I think it was Lieutenant Ross.

KELLY: From where?

GRAVES: I don't remember where he was from.

52:00

KELLY: Hmm. You, you, uh, the two of you were shooting at the aircraft at the same time?

GRAVES: At the same time.

KELLY: And you don't know who got him.

GRAVES: We both did.

KELLY: You both did.

GRAVES: But I asked him to go ahead and take credit for the aircraft because he--(coughs)--opened fire on the aircraft before I did, I was following and protecting him. But I was on the inside, and when I turned and he turned--(coughs)--and we saw the aircraft approaching the airfield with his wheels down, well, I caught up with him, and we were almost side by side when we opened fire. And--(coughs)--of course, he crashed right on his own airfield. By the time we pulled up, I don't guess we were--we went immediately across his airfield because we had followed him down. And we went across his airfield at, I don't imagine, over fifty feet above the ground. We were right on the deck; we couldn't afford to pull up because we felt that the anti-aircraft 53:00gun would shoot at us. We could see people, um, everything there on the ground and, of course, anti-aircraft did open fire on us but not until after the German aircraft was on fire. And then they opened fire all over us and, of course, we stayed right against the deck, in fact, we had to pull up to even get over the trees.

KELLY: Air defense weapons--

GRAVES: Yeah.

KELLY: --opened fire.

GRAVES: And the minute we pulled up at the end of the airfield to get over the trees, we went right back down on the ground again so that they could not hit us. We stayed right on the ground as close as we possibly could until we got far enough away, then we radioed our squadron and told them what had happened and asked permission to go on back home because they had done gone on their way and we couldn't catch them, so we returned then back to England.

KELLY: So you, you--were you on an escort mission at the time?

GRAVES: We were, um, we had been on an escort mission. But, um, I don't 54:00remember the exact--what happened that we--but we did have permission anytime we thought we saw an enemy aircraft--

KELLY: To engage it?

GRAVES: --to notify our commander and ask for permission to go down and examine it, because sometimes you would--(pause)--it could be an American aircraft down there, you don't know what it is way down there until you get down there.

KELLY: Who saw this thing?

GRAVES: Um, this, uh, Lieutenant Ross was the one that saw it. And--

KELLY: And you--it was down at a low altitude.

GRAVES: It was at a low altitude as far as we could see. All we could see was an aircraft going down there, or he did, and, and, uh--

KELLY: Did you know it was a jet when you saw it?

GRAVES: No, not, well, after we saw it, yes.

KELLY: After you got down low or when, when you were up high?

GRAVES: --(coughs)--Well, no, not until we got down low because he wasn't going at a great speed at that time.

KELLY: Were, uh, were you aware there were some jets, that the Germans had jets at that time?

GRAVES: Yeah.

55:00

KELLY: You all were aware of this?

GRAVES: And we had, we had seen a few jets pass through our bombers, but they went so fast that you couldn't hardly see them, I, uh, they just really went.

KELLY: Was--

GRAVES: But--

KELLY: Was there much talk about those jets? Were you all afraid of the jets or--

GRAVES: Well, we weren't afraid of them, but they, they would come out of the sky at such tremendous speed and dive right--they were never after us as fighters. They were always after the bombers. And they would come out of the sky and hit the bombers and then gone. You couldn't turn and catch them; there is no way in the world.

KELLY: Did you ever see them do that, hit--

GRAVES: Yeah.

KELLY: --the bombers?

GRAVES: Um-hm.

KELLY: Did they have any success at hitting them?

GRAVES: Oh yeah, oh yeah, they'd have--

KELLY: Well, which mission do you first recall seeing the jets hit the bombers?

GRAVES: Well, I don't know, it was toward the, uh, toward the latter part, of course. And there would never be very many, only two or three. They were about out of fuel, the Germans were at this time, and, and not many aircraft were in the air. We never saw many. And, uh, but--

KELLY: Can you remember an incident where they, where you saw a jet 56:00shoot down--

GRAVES: I can't remember as far as what mission we were on, but I do remember seeing them hit the--

KELLY: Aircraft?

GRAVES: --uh, aircraft and seeing them turn and seeing them spin and see our own, uh, crews in the bombers bail out. Nothing we could do.

KELLY: How many times did you see this?

GRAVES: --(coughs)--Well, we saw that many times, uh, uh, just about every mission we escorted bombers, you'd always lose a few. And I know one mission--I don't remember which one it was--that we were close enough to some of the bombers that, uh, four of us circled several of our men in one bomber clear down until they hit the ground. Just felt like that we, uh, they were close enough to us that we wanted to be with them in case some German aircraft did come through and maybe want 57:00to shoot one of them in the air in their parachute, we just circled them all the way down until they hit the ground and ran into the woods.

KELLY: Which time was this?

GRAVES: But, uh--

KELLY: Do you know which one it was?

GRAVES: No, I don't.

KELLY: Was this, did this happen more than once--

GRAVES: Um--

KELLY: --with you?

GRAVES: --no, not as far as circling and watching the, uh, fellows come down, we saw them bail out, but we were usually at altitude and we had to go on.

KELLY: Did they ever get shot at very often while they were, while they were bailing out in the parachutes?

GRAVES: I never saw it.

KELLY: You heard them talk about it?

GRAVES: They talked about it, but I never ever saw one shot at while-- because we didn't, at that time we didn't--there wasn't as many aircraft, and, and the, uh, the--as I said before, the, uh, their fuel was low and they would take a shot at a bomber and then go on, they, most of the time they wouldn't come back and take a second shot. They'd make 58:00one pass, three or four jets, each picking an aircraft, hit them, and gone, and they're going at such speed that you couldn't catch them.

KELLY: All right. This--

GRAVES: You had to try to knock them off course before they got to the bomber.

KELLY: Yeah, I guess they were--the strategic bombing of pinpoint targets and hitting the, concentrating on the oil, uh, that sort of put them in a bad situation on the, on fuel by the late '44, as I understand it.

GRAVES: That's right, um-hm.

KELLY: So that was a help, that was a help to you. Well--(coughs)- -let's go on to your other mission where you shoot the plane down yourself. Talk about that one.

GRAVES: Okay, now, the only other aircraft that I got was destroyed on the ground.

KELLY: On the ground?

GRAVES: Um-hm. And we were on a strafing mission at that time.

KELLY: That was, uh--(Graves coughs)--after this jet?

GRAVES: Yeah, um-hm. That was after the jet.

KELLY: Well, in, in this, uh, did you ever have, uh, while you were in 59:00this escort business, did you ever have any situation where you were-- you, you lost your power one time. And--

GRAVES: Um-hm.

KELLY: --you, uh, you had that, uh, flak pattern to tell you that they had, they were tracking you and if you hadn't turned, they'd have gotten you there. Did you ever have an incident where you got the living devil scared out of you because of weather or landing or collision, or whatever?

GRAVES: Um, only one other time, really. I don't remember exactly what mission it is on--(coughs)--but we encountered--and I don't know where we was going, but we encountered, uh, heavy winds aloft. Now this mission, we were flying at a neighborhood of 30 to 32,000 feet. And our weather station had given us, uh, winds aloft at moderate. But 60:00when we got there, on the return to England, the, the, uh, actually, well, we were not going to England, we were going back to, uh, Belgium. Um, the winds aloft were better than a hundred miles an hour. And on our return, uh, we were above cloud; in fact we had penetrated above two layers of clouds, so we had not seen the ground for quite some time. And, um, if I am not mistaken, this was a, uh, patrol or an escort to the Berlin area. And then coming out of there--(coughs)--as we were coming home, the winds aloft were so heavy that when we started breaking out of the clouds, there was nothing under us but water. And we, really, at this point did not know where we were. And the- 61:00-(pause)--group commander, uh, started radioing, and we had, uh, radio contact on the ground, of course, at all times with, with, uh, people that were hidden all around there that would give us vectors. And-- (coughs)--we would fly one direction and then fly another direction, but we could not see anything but water. We finally got hold of another aircraft, uh, squadron, and this commander called us and he said that he would circle, and for us to fly in one direction awhile, and another direction awhile, we had no idea where we were. We only guessed we were over, I guess, the North Sea part up there. And we flew in one 62:00direction, I know, he faded completely out. So we immediately turned around and flew in the next direction and we, uh, eventually kept getting a little bit louder and a little bit louder and a little bit louder, and so we knew we was going toward him because his voice was coming in. And we flew until we eventually did hit land, and this was, of course, up in--I don't remember where--but I'm thinking somewhere up around Holland or somewhere up in that area. Um, by this time it was getting late and, uh, all aircraft were running low on fuel. Um, I do not remember at what time we landed. But my flight or element leader and I were the last two aircraft in the fighter group that landed there at, uh, Mons, Belgium. Um, several of the aircraft bellied in, 63:00ran out of gas. Several aircraft landed at unknown airfields. Some of them were German airfields that had just been, uh, taken over by the Americans, the, uh, infantry and so forth had gained control of them and they just landed there and they sat in the aircraft until the infantry could come up there and get them. And there were no Germans there, fortunately enough.

KELLY: What, uh--

GRAVES: But--

KELLY: What date was this?

GRAVES: Uh, this was in, uh, the 19th of April, 1945.

KELLY: Was this, uh, this an unusual thing?

GRAVES: Yeah, it was unusual. And, uh, I logged, uh, five hours and 50 minutes in the P-51 that day.

KELLY: Did, uh--

GRAVES: Now--

KELLY: --did any other aircraft get caught--(Graves coughs)--in, uh, in that, uh, upper wind?

GRAVES: Yes, our entire group.

64:00

KELLY: Well, besides your group?

GRAVES: No, only our group.

KELLY: Was, was your group flying in a formation close together, or--

GRAVES: Yeah, fairly close together. And--

KELLY: What altitude was this?

GRAVES: Well, we were at 31 or 32,000 feet, actually. And this was an escort mission.

KELLY: What--

GRAVES: And so we were up, way above the clouds, we hadn't seen the ground for a long, long time. The bombers bombed through the--

KELLY: How many miles you figure that thing took you beyond your, your, uh, base?

GRAVES: Well, we really don't know. Uh, but a long way, because we were way out over the ocean, now, no one had to ditch. They all got back to land and they landed up and down the coast of France and everywhere, anytime they saw an airfield, they just went into it. They didn't care if they didn't know what it was, whether it was friendly or not.

KELLY: Did you lose anybody? Did anybody get killed in this incident?

65:00

GRAVES: No, we didn't lose anybody, we lost some aircraft that had to belly in and things like that--

KELLY: About how--

GRAVES: --but, uh--

KELLY: --many aircraft--

GRAVES: --but, uh--

KELLY: --do you think you lost?

GRAVES: --oh, there wasn't but three or four, maybe.

KELLY: When you talk about bellying in, you're talking about running out of gas and, uh--

GRAVES: Running of gas and just--

KELLY: --and ------(??) an airfield?

GRAVES: That's right. They just set it down.

KELLY: Just set it down wherever it was.

GRAVES: Wheels up, um-hm. And--

KELLY: Was this, did they do this on a highway or in a field or--

GRAVES: Normally they'd do it on a field. And, uh, aircraft kept calling in to us, different ones, we knew who were in them, uh, saying, "I'm down to five minutes gas."

KELLY: How long did it take you to get them all assembled, back together?

GRAVES: Well, we never did. We were all actually on our own because-- (pause)--plane after plane was dropping out. We were trying to maintain our altitude the best we could. We had all throttled back in our aircraft, uh, to as slow a speed as we could fly the aircraft and hold 66:00it in the air.

KELLY: What, uh, what, altitude did you go to?

GRAVES: Well, we kept going down until we were down to, well, until some of them had to land. Uh, we were starting at thirty-some thousand, and--

KELLY: When were you out of gas? At 30,000, you're, you're--

GRAVES: No, no, no. We were out of gas after--as they started down-- after we had dropped down over the, under the clouds, which maybe would have been 10,000 feet, I don't have--

KELLY: When--

GRAVES: --any idea.

KELLY: --when did you realize that you were caught in a stream?

GRAVES: Only when we dropped down under the clouds and there was nothing but water under us, and there was no land in sight anywhere.

KELLY: Did anybody have any weather data to, to find out what that was or--

GRAVES: Uh-uh, no. Because our weather report before we took off was that--

KELLY: Well, were there times that there was that high-level, uh, fast, uh, jet stream up there, or--

GRAVES: Well--

KELLY: --or, or was this all new?--(Graves coughs)--You know, you know, that, that jet stream surprised them over in India, you know, over in the Himalayas there, and caused some of them to lose their C-47s, you 67:00know, because of it. That, that's how they kind of discovered it.

GRAVES: Yeah, but, uh, we normally weren't aware of it, uh, because, um, uh, you don't feel that wind up there. And, uh, and if you don't see the ground, you've got no reference, your compass says you're going in a certain direction, but you can be drifting to the right or left, or either way, and you have no feel of it.

KELLY: Right.

GRAVES: And when you can't see the ground, you don't know, there is no reference point to fly to. And--

KELLY: You don't remember what your target was--

GRAVES: Uh--

KELLY: --at the time?

GRAVES: Well, the target just said patrol the Berlin area.

KELLY: The Berlin area.

GRAVES: And we had done that and was on the way back.

KELLY: From Berlin to Brussels, how far was that?

GRAVES: Oh, gosh, I don't, I don't really--

KELLY: Three hundred--

GRAVES: --have any idea.

KELLY: --miles, roughly?

GRAVES: Could be. It wasn't far. And, uh--

KELLY: But, uh, here, here, you're, you're, you're way north of your 68:00tar--of Brussels ------(??)

GRAVES: Way north, way, way north, we don't--

KELLY: Are, are you, uh--

GRAVES: --know how far north.

KELLY: Are you west of it, too?

GRAVES: Um, we were--

KELLY: Must have been, somewhere north of France.

GRAVES: --we were west, yeah.

KELLY: Yeah, west and north.

GRAVES: Yeah, um-hm. And--

KELLY: And, and, how, how long were you over the water before you saw land?

GRAVES: Well, I don't really know, but probably--(pause)--45 minutes or--

KELLY: Did that scare you?

GRAVES: --more.

KELLY: That--were you scared?

GRAVES: Yeah, because--

KELLY: You really were.

GRAVES: --you couldn't see land and you didn't know where it was, and you didn't know which direction to go to get to it. Because we didn't know where we were.

KELLY: That's kind of a tough feeling to be disoriented in the air--

GRAVES: Yeah--

KELLY: --and running on--

GRAVES: --that's right.

KELLY: --fumes.

GRAVES: And it was getting late.

KELLY: You weren't able to get any help from any of the, any of the vectoring stations--

GRAVES: The ground controllers were helping us after we, after this other commander got us in his view, we finally picked up, uh, one 69:00of the ground controllers. And after he picked us up, he gave us a vector, and that got us back to land. And once we were at land, then we were all getting so low on fuel that--

KELLY: Well, do you, do you remember any of those towns that you saw going back toward, uh, your base?

GRAVES: No, no. We, uh--

KELLY: And so you don't, you don't to this day, know where in the hell you were?

GRAVES: Really don't know.

KELLY: You don't have the foggiest?

GRAVES: But we know, we'd, we'd, we knew roughly, uh, after we got to land, we pretty well knew, and we were flying, heading down the coast, the best we could, trying to find airfields to land on. And it was getting toward dark, but after we got on down, uh, there was, there was some aircraft that were ahead of us, I was in the last, uh, squadron, I think it was, and that's why I, we were longer, but, um, we were the 70:00last two airplanes, the other two had gotten ahead of, but we had slowed down because my element leader--uh--'s plane, uh, he slowed down, uh, he, he, was using gas fast and I slowed down to stay with him. And I stayed with him and when we got back, we finally came down the coast, and then when we did get ourselves oriented, we knew where we were and we knew the direction of our airfield and we went for it. And--

KELLY: At that time--

GRAVES: That's right.

KELLY: --which way were you flying--

GRAVES: Well, we were--

KELLY: --to get back to--

GRAVES: --I guess we were flying south, but, but--

KELLY: Due south--

GRAVES: --we--

KELLY: --or somewhat south?

GRAVES: --uh, I don't remember exactly, but we knew that we were in the general area of our airfield, somewhere. So we did pick up a point we were familiar with, and then I don't remember where that was, but we--from there we went direct toward our airfield.

KELLY: Did you get any kidding about this?

GRAVES: Well, no, because, uh, it was nobody's fault. And--

71:00

KELLY: Was there any talk about it, any investigation or anything?

GRAVES: No, uh-uh.

KELLY: Nothing--

GRAVES: Now, uh--

KELLY: --was said?

GRAVES: We, uh, when we came in, uh, the, the, uh, my element leader was so low on gas that, uh, my, my aircraft was good on fuel. And I told him to go on and land.

KELLY: It was the whole group that was lost.

GRAVES: Yeah. And I, uh, I, told--

KELLY: How many squadrons are you talking about, three or four?

GRAVES: Well, now, uh, three squadrons. But, now, out of the three squadrons, um, I don't remember the other, uh, the other two squadrons. I don't, I cannot remember whether they--

KELLY: Were involved or not.

GRAVES: --were involved or not. I think mostly the lost was our squadron. And, um, our leader said, "Get down. Find a place to land 72:00and get on the ground, regardless where it is." And so that's what most everybody did. But we made it on in, my element leader, um, I told him to go ahead and land first. He went straight in and I circled, and when I landed it was dark, I used--

KELLY: You were on your home base.

GRAVES: And we were on our own base and it was after dark, I had to use landing lights to--

KELLY: How many--

GRAVES: --land.

KELLY: --how many got down?

GRAVES: Oh--

KELLY: Half of them or more than half?

GRAVES: --about half, maybe, half or less. But I landed in a--

KELLY: You're talking about half of your squadron?

GRAVES: Yeah. And when I landed and taxied up, uh, this was, I don't know, I'm trying to guess, I'm thinking it was around eight o'clock or later at night, and my crew chief and, and the other mechanic were sitting right where the aircraft was to be parked, still waiting.

73:00

KELLY: Wondering where you were.

GRAVES: And I pulled up and they were still waiting.

KELLY: They worried about you?

GRAVES: Yeah, they were worried because they--a few had come in but we two had not, and we were side-by-side planes.

KELLY: On that Dresden mission, in April--(Graves coughs)--do you remember anything about, about seeing the--(pause)--the num---was--do you remember about that being a big flight of aircraft, or, or was it, uh--(pause)--do you remember seeing the city burn or do you, do you remember anything about it at all?

GRAVES: I really don't. Because most of the time it was a spot on the map, and, uh, to us, as young as we were then, it was a spot on the map and we were only interested in who we were going to escort.

KELLY: Was it, was it a lot of aircraft, or do you remember?

GRAVES: I don't remember that.

74:00

KELLY: Well, I, I guess, you know, in February is when they had that ----(??)

GRAVES: But I'm--

KELLY: February is when, the 13th and 15th, is when they had, uh, had 1,000 aircraft and the 35,000 killed, so that, do you, that, that was a different mission--

GRAVES: Different mission.

KELLY: --I guess. Yours was in April.

GRAVES: Now, this was a five-hour and 25 mission to me then.

KELLY: Yeah.

GRAVES: And we were back in England at this time.

KELLY: Okay, um--(clears throat)--anything else on the escorting or the bombing, or, if not, we'll get into the end of the war and what you're seeing then. Any other events or incidents that you recall from your flying experience there?

GRAVES: Um--(pause)--one funny thing that happened on our, on our strafing mission. Our battalion, uh, our squadron leader was a Colonel Halton, he is deceased now. Um, a very good pilot. I was fortunate 75:00that day to be selected to fly as his wingman. And he was the, uh, squadron leader. And we were strafing this field, and the way we strafed it, we had, uh, I can't remember now whether it was three flights, I think it was, three flights of four aircraft. And one flight would stay top cover, one flight would be lower than that, and the other flight would strafe the field. And they would strafe one or two passes or three, and then they'd move up to top cover and the next group would go down and strafe, and they'd make two or three passes, and then the next group, each group, each, each, uh, unit, I'm saying, not group, like a fighter group, but each strafed the field. And when 76:00it came our time to strafe, well, Colonel Halton--we made one strafing pass and then we circled the field and made the second strafing pass. And on the second strafing pass Colonel Halton pulled up and says, "I believe I have been hit." And, of course, there were anti-aircraft guns that was shooting at us, but the upper flights, once they would see any anti-aircraft around the field fire at you, you would dive at that, uh, place and shoot at them, and knock them out. And that would knock out the gun so the aircraft could go on in straight. And he said, "I've been hit," and he pulled on up and asked me to check the underneath of his aircraft, and I pulled in under him and I said, "Well, I cannot particularly see anything where you have been hit." "Well," he said, "I've been hit." And so he pulled on up, notified 77:00the assistant squadron commander to take over, that we were returning to England, and anytime we returned, we always went in a pair in case we ran into something. So I went with him, and we flew all the way back to England, the two of us. And I would check him every once in a while, everything was running all right. We, uh, flew in to Bodney, England, where our base was, and landed, both of us. And he looked at his airplane, and he had quite a few shots in his aircraft, and we looked at it, and he said, yes, he was hit! And he was fortunate to get back. We went on in and the next day, uh, he stepped into the briefing room and said, "Graves, come in my office. I want to talk to you." And I went in and he says, "You remember those, uh, holes in my airplane?" 78:00And I said, "Yes." He said, "You shot them in there."

KELLY: Oh!--(laughs)--

GRAVES: And I couldn't believe it, and then he laughed and he said well, it was not my fault, it was his. And he put my film on the screen and he was in front of me, at my left a few yards, like a hundred yards in front of me, and he was at the left and I was behind him at the right. And he was firing on one aircraft that he had picked out, I was firing on one that I had picked out, and soon as he shot, he made a right turn and he turned into me while I was firing and it was my rounds that hit him, about 15 or 20 of them, I guess. And I didn't see it because I was looking at my sight at the aircraft I was shooting at, and he went 79:00right across in front of me. So he said, "It wasn't your fault," said, "It was mine," but--

KELLY: Do, do you remember--(Graves coughs)--do you remember--(clears throat)--where it was that you'd shot him?

GRAVES: No, I don't, I mean, it got him--

KELLY: But, you were--

GRAVES: --through--

KELLY: -- attacking some airfield.

GRAVES: Yeah, we were attacking an airfield.

KELLY: And, and, you were, you were strafing this airfield.

GRAVES: That's right.

KELLY: When you, uh, when you got so many aircraft defense, uh, uh-- (clears throat)--ack-ack, or, or automatic weapons coming up at you, uh, when you pick them up like on that strafing missions, uh, could you pick it up pretty fast--

GRAVES: Yeah.

KELLY: --and get on the target pretty fast?

GRAVES: Rather quick. And only--

KELLY: Because you could see the tracers coming at you?

GRAVES: That's right.

KELLY: You just start ----(??)

GRAVES: And, and, you've got, you've got four airplanes that are strafing a mission and you got four just above you at something like 1,000 to 1,500 or 2,000 feet at the maximum. And they are circling that field, and they are all doing nothing but looking. And they not only see them when they shoot, but they see them before they shoot, you can see all the sandbags piled up, and you can see it, and the minute 80:00you see one of them, you just turn your aircraft toward that bunker and open fire on it. And that will pretty well disperse anybody that's in there and knock out enough of it.

KELLY: Had you--

GRAVES: And--

KELLY: --done that before yourself?

GRAVES: Yes, we did, each, each one of us had to do that anytime we strafed. Each person--

KELLY: So a number of times, you'd, you'd knock out a gun emplacement or something--

GRAVES: Yeah--

KELLY: -----(??)

GRAVES: --yeah. Up--

KELLY: It wasn't hard to do and to--

GRAVES: Oh, no, it wasn't hard, you'd just strafe right through them, they will scatter.

KELLY: Did you all ever lose anything like that, any air--any--(Graves coughs)--aircraft to those, that kind of fire, when you were strafing those, uh, airfields?

GRAVES: Yeah.

KELLY: Does, does--what are you talking about? You're talking about ack, ack-ack guns or automatic weapons or.

GRAVES: Well, we lost, on this particular mission we lost--(pause)--uh, one aircraft that I know of. I don't want to call the man's name because I'm just not absolutely sure. But I'm, I'm sure that he was 81:00from Louisville. And, um, he was scheduled, we were scheduled to go on a mission, he was put in another flight. And due to somebody sick or something to that--we, we had to switch around and help and, we had a flight leader, and each, each person had a flight leader and he was, our flight leader was one of the best. He, in fact, his name was [Ray] Littge; that was German. He had twenty-three and a half aircraft to his credit. Uh, he was one of the best pilots in Europe. And, uh, he--

KELLY: A lieutenant colonel?

GRAVES: Uh, he was a captain.

KELLY: Captain?

GRAVES: And had 23 and a half--

KELLY: What was his first name?

GRAVES: Um, I don't, I can't think of--

KELLY: How do you spell his last name?

GRAVES: --(pause)--I think it's L-i-t-g-e, or L-i-t-t-g-e, I'm not sure.

82:00

KELLY: Littge.

GRAVES: Um-hm.

KELLY: Do you know where he is from?

GRAVES: Um--(pause)--I, no, I don't--

KELLY: But he was--

GRAVES: --but he, he--

KELLY: --your flight leader.

GRAVES: --he, he, he is dead now.

KELLY: He led the flight?

GRAVES: Yeah. He was a flight leader and--

KELLY: Of the four aircraft--

GRAVES: But I was--

KELLY: ----(??)

GRAVES: --in this case, uh, he had a flight, but I was assigned to be the wingman of the squadron commander at this time. He had his flight and this other lieutenant was squad--uh, scheduled to go in another flight because someone was sick or some reason that they couldn't go.

KELLY: Why did you all go back to England?

GRAVES: Hmm?

KELLY: Why, why did your squadron go back to England?

GRAVES: The war was getting about over, and they moved back to the base that they were from. And that's why they went back there, everything moved back out from the mainland.

KELLY: Did they? As the war was ending?

GRAVES: Um-hm.

KELLY: As the war, as--is there any other story you want to tell on the 83:00aviation end of it before we start talking about the end of the war?

GRAVES: No, I think that's--

KELLY: Any other--

GRAVES: --all.

KELLY: --thing you think of that.

GRAVES: No.

KELLY: As the war ends--(clears throat)--where, where are you and what's happening?

GRAVES: Well, as the war ends, we were, of course, in England. And we were at Bodney--(pause)--uh, Air Base, which was a grass strip, and we didn't have runways. And that's where we were, and when the war the, the day that the, the war was over, I, it seems like to me that the, that the, the first announcement I got, I was on, um, uh--(pause)-- well, I was on liberty--I'll say it that way--for just that afternoon, and I'm thinking it was Norwich, England, when the news came out, and 84:00I think the first I heard of it, I think I was in the Red Cross club there--I don't really remember--when they said, "Well, the war is over!" I know that that night there was a lot of celebration within the town.

KELLY: Did you, uh, did you get to Europe before you came back to the United States? Did you get over to Germany and--

GRAVES: Yeah--

KELLY: ----(??)

GRAVES: --uh, after the war was over I went into Germany, in the Army of Occupation and was there about six months. And I was at Herzogenaurach, Germany, which is not too far from, uh, Nuremberg, Germany.

KELLY: All right, tell me what you saw there, conditions of the city-- (Graves coughs)--the German people and your experience with them.

GRAVES: Okay, we were sent into, uh, Herzogenaurach, Germany, and I can't spell it. Um--(pause)--this is nothing but an airfield, out from a very small German village. Now, the closest town to us was Erlangen, 85:00Germany, which was only about, oh, I'd say fifteen kilometers from us. And, um, that was a fair-sized city, and then from there, another fifteen kilometers or so, and you was into Nuremberg. Now, Nuremberg was pretty well beat up. Um, I think that the ground forces--you know, that was, if I am not mistaken, that was one of the cities that, uh, more or less raised the white flag, and then I think some of our troops started to move in and was opened fire on, and, and I can't think of who the general was--I think it was armored or something--but he, they moved back and then shelled the town for about 24 hours and almost leveled it. And, of course, Nuremberg, being a very old city--

KELLY: Is that a fact or is that just something you heard?

GRAVES: Uh, no, that, uh, that's, um, a sure--

86:00

KELLY: One of the--

GRAVES: --fact.

KELLY: --one of the armored divisions--

GRAVES: Uh, I can't think--

KELLY: --backed off--

GRAVES: --of whether it was an armored division--

KELLY: --and shelled the town?

GRAVES: --but it was a commander and it was a general, and I can't think of who it--

KELLY: Didn't--

GRAVES: --was.

KELLY: --didn't accept the white flag and, and, and then--

GRAVES: The Germans, uh--

KELLY: --shelled it?

GRAVES: --showed a white--

KELLY: It had been bombed pretty bad anyway.

GRAVES: Yeah, then the Germans showed a white flag and then, as American troops moved in, I think they, they, um, uh, I don't--I said armored, I don't know who he was really, but I think he moved back and I think, then, he had the town just, uh, uh, shelled for about 24 hours solid there until he just about--

KELLY: Do you know why it occurred or?

GRAVES: Hmm?

KELLY: Do you know why it occurred or.

GRAVES: No, I don't, but they were--

KELLY: Where, where, where did you get this information? From the Germans or from--(pause)--Americans, or--

GRAVES: Well, I guess I got it from Americans. But, um, but, they, uh, we had the town surrounded, so to speak, and, and they were ready to surrender, and then when they did, they opened fire on us, and so he just pulled back and he just about, you know--

KELLY: We're about to--

GRAVES: --leveled it.

KELLY: --we're about to run out of tape, let me get, uh--(clears throat)--some personal data. You, you came back and you married. Who 87:00did you marry?

GRAVES: Uh, I married Mary Jewell Vaughn from Campbellsville, my hometown.

KELLY: And you have how many children?

GRAVES: I have one. One daughter.

KELLY: Where is she?

GRAVES: Uh, she is in Knoxville, Tennessee.

KELLY: And, uh, your parents?

GRAVES: And my parents are both deceased.

KELLY: What are their names?

GRAVES: Um, W. Ernest Graves was my father, and Nell B. Graves was my mother.

KELLY: You, your family in Campbellsville for generations?

GRAVES: Uh, yes, they were both from Marion County, Lebanon, originally.

KELLY: Is that right?

GRAVES: Uh-huh.

KELLY: And then, uh, when you got out of the service, you, uh, you, uh, joined the National Guard and was called back to Korea, or called back up for the Korean conflict, and then you went to Europe again.

GRAVES: Yes.

KELLY: And then you came back and you, you stayed in the Guard and you, you worked for the state and--what's your status right now?

88:00

GRAVES: All right, I, uh, when I got out of the Air Force, and, uh, I joined the local National Guard unit in Campbellsville that was reorganized, we were called back into the Korean conflict. I went overseas to Europe, I was sent to a regular Army unit, and they were sent to Europe, and I was stationed in Erlangen, Germany, with the 30th Field Artillery Battalion which was only fifteen kilometers from where I was, uh--

KELLY: The first time?

GRAVES: --the first time. And I stayed, I stayed there three years, my wife joined me, she stayed there two and a half years, and our daughter was born in Germany at the hospital, at the Army hospital in Nuremberg, Germany.

KELLY: You retired out of the Guard as a colonel and you, uh, worked for the state.

GRAVES: ----(??)

KELLY: And you still work for the state.

GRAVES: Right, um-hm.

KELLY: Okay, we're running out of tape, thank you very much. Appreciate this.

GRAVES: You're welcome.

[End of Interview]

89:00
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