“An Awesometalk With” DR. EDWARD STEERS, JR. – historian & author

For full interview, click link below (running time 46:20)

Dr. Edward Steers Jr Interview 08-Mar-10

or click Part 1 – 4 below for specific sections of the interview.

Part 1 – E. Steers Interview – Intro & Lincoln Assassination Encyclopedia 13min30sec

Part 2 – E. Steers Interview – WWII Fiction Novels 6min56sec

Part 3 – E. Steers Interview – Great Historical Hoaxes 16min45sec

Part 4 – E. Steers Interview – Research, Science, History & Writing 9min30sec


INTERVIEW: DR. EDWARD STEERS, JR.

by Barry Cauchon

I am pleased to present my interview with Dr. Edward Steers, Jr., prominent Lincoln Assassination author, historian and researcher. We discuss his two latest books, “The Lincoln Assassination Encyclopedia” and his first fictional novel, a WWII drama called “We’ll Meet Again: A Story of Love and Intrigue in the Midst of War.” This novel reflects his interest in the subject of WWII, having previously published the non-fiction book “Don’t You Know There’s a War On?”

Our interview also covers another favorite subject of Dr. Steers, that being the great historical hoaxes perpetrated on the world along with some of the ridiculous stories and conspiracy theories put forth over the years. Dr. Steers covers hoaxes such as the Piltdown Man, Mark Hofmann and the Oath of a Freeman, the Hitler Diaries, the faked transcript of a phone call from Churchill to FDR warning of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and the hoax of The Man Who Never Was!

The Piltdown Man hoax

Mark Hofmann and the Oath of a Freeman hoax

The Hitler Diaries hoax

The phone call transcript from Churchill to FDR warning him that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor...hoax

... and the ridiculous!

Finally, we discuss the subject of research, how it has changed over the years and what experts require to take new research seriously.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Steers and read more about the books he has authored, please follow this link to www.edsteers.com or type in ed steers author into your favorite search engine.

Enjoy.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

GREAT UPCOMING INTERVIEWS FOR 2010 “AN AWESOMETALK WITH”

March 15, 2010: Barry Cauchon.

Hi all: I am pleased to announce a partial list of upcoming interviews planned for my 2010 series “An Awesometalk With”. Last year featured some wonderful interviews and this year will be no exception. Here are just a few of the folks who have agreed to share their thoughts with you on “An Awesometalk With”.

STEVEN G. MILLER, historian & Boston Corbett expert: Steven is considered to be one of the top experts in the world on the 16th New York Regiment and Sergeant Boston Corbett, the man who shot John Wilkes Booth. Steven’s interview was done some time ago but I only recently completed transcribing it (sorry for the delay Steve). Look for it here very soon. It has some great content and stories (interview completed, edited and awaiting approval).

MIKE KAUFFMAN, historian and author of American Brutus: Mike is one of the foremost Lincoln assassination experts in the world authoring numerous articles on the subject. He is most well-known work is American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. Within Lincoln assassination research circles, Mike is highly respected for his research capabilities and being able to find historical information that escape many of us. Mike will share his insights into how to research an old story in new ways and the many angles one can take to find new material.

LAURIE VERGE, Director, Surratt House Museum: Laurie has been the Director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD since 1983. Anyone who has ever studied the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (from students, authors, film makers and scholars) knows Laurie, and has probably been helped by her at some point over the years. Laurie is a true matchmaker, directing the folks ‘with questions’ to the people who have ‘the answers’. She has been a tremendous supporter of mine and I’m very excited about introducing Laurie to you soon.

GLORIA SWIFT, Museum Curator, Ford’s Theatre, Washington D.C.: When Gloria phoned me recently and we had a chance to talk, I realized then that we had very similar approaches to history. Gloria has been an interpretive park ranger and curator with the National Park Service, working at such sites as Gettysburg National Military Park, Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, and Monocacy National Battlefield. Currently she is the Museum Curator at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

DR. EDWARD STEERS, JR., historian and author: Ed Steers is one of the most respected giants in the field of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, authoring ten books on the subject. But Mr. Steers’ interest in history goes beyond the assassination. He is fascinated with WWII and has just released his second WWII book, this one called “We’ll Meet Again: A Story of Love and Intrigue in the Midst of War”. He also has a keen interest in some of the great hoaxes perpetrated on the world, including the highly publicized Hitler Diaries (interview posted March 15, 2010).

BETTY J. OWNSBEY, biographer and expert on Lewis Powell, Lincoln assassination conspirator: Betty is the author of “Alias Paine”, the biography of Lewis Powell. She tells me that she loves talking up a storm on Powell and the assassination, as well as on British and American history. I also know that, like me, she is a fan of banjo music and has a collection of old and traditional recordings. Betty has been a huge supporter of the book that John Elliott and I are writing and her submissions and knowledge base have been immeasurable (interview completed and currently being edited).

JOHN ELLIOTT, my writing partner and expert on the Old Arsenal Penitentiary architectural history: I can truly pat myself on my own back when I think about how lucky I was in choosing John to partner with to write our book on the conspirators and what happened to them inside the walls of the Old Arsenal Penitentiary. John is an encyclopedia on the assassination and all the peripheral history that surrounds the event. Like me, his real interest in the assassination started as a young student, when he took his first trip to Ford’s Theatre and the Peterson House in Washington. It was the event that started both of our life-long interests in the Lincoln assassination and the happenings at the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.

So not a bad starting point for 2010. And there are more interviews to come. I just wanted to share the names of the experts who have already agreed to chat with me. I’m sure you will enjoy them all as each gets a chance to share their unique backgrounds and interests.

Best.

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com




UPCOMING STORIES ON ‘A LITTLE TOUCH OF HISTORY’

Updated April 06, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Here is what I am currently working on for A Little Touch of History.

A: “The Lincoln Conspirators Execution Photos: A Study in Detail”. is now posted. Click on the following link to start at Chapter 1 to read the whole series.

B. “An Awesometalk With” 2nd Lieutenant George Hauck, 8th Air Force Group, World War II, Prisoner of War. I have posted my interview with Mr. George Hauck  (March 31, 2009) who was an airman during World War II. While returning from a bombing raid over Germany in 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken prisoner. George is a very charismatic man and our talk was extremely enjoyable. You will enjoy his story and his openess about his experiences.

C. “An Awesometalk With” Andrew Jampoler, author. Andy is a retired US Navy Captain who has written three books and is working on his fourth. I completed this fascinating interview with Andy on March 26 and you won’t want to miss the stories he had to tell. Andy’s first three books are “Adak, the Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586”, “Sailors in the Holy Land: the 1848 American Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Search for Sodom and Gomorrah” and “The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows”. Currently his fourth book, in progress, is called “Horrible Shipwreck”, the wreck of the female convict transport “Amphitrite” in September, 1833. I was riveted as I listened to Andy’s description about all four books and his life in the military. Look for this AWESOME TALK sometime in April, 2009.

D. “An Awesometalk With” Steven G. Miller, Lincoln Expert specializing in the hunt for Booth and his capture at Garrett’s farm. Steven was also an expert witness in the 1993 court case to exhume Booth’s body in Baltimore. My conversations with Steven have been fascinating and he is a wealth of information. If you have been following some of my postings, Steve has contributed to some of my stories (look for his reposted article called “Who Was The Boy At the Hanging”.  Steve has a lot to share and you won’t be disappointed. The interview was recorded on April 4 and will be published sometime in May/09.
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E. “An Awesometalk With “Laurie Verge, Director of the Surratt House Museum”. Laurie has been very helpful to me and our plan is to do our interview during the week of April 6 to 10.
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F. The History of the Construction of the Washington Monument – In progress.

G. What’s In A Picture? A Look Beyond the Main Subject – The plan is to study a series of photographs over time and look beyond the main subject. The first one I will review Alexander Gardner’s Rooftop View of the Lincoln conspirator executions from the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865.  My focus in this photograph will be the Washington DC cityscape seen above and behind the roof top.

Enjoy.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

———————————————————————–

Current interviews posted on ‘A Little Touch of History’.

“An Awesometalk With” HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted on November 10, 2008)

 “An Awesometalk With” DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted on December 08, 2008)

“An Awesometalk With” ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the ‘Abraham Lincoln Research Site’ (posted on December 30, 2008
“An Awesometalk With” LAURA FRANCES KEYES, Mary Todd Lincoln performer (posted on January 26, 2009)  
“An Awesometalk With” ROBERT KRAUSS, 509th Composite Group Historian (posted on December 16, 2008)

 

“An Awesometalk With” GEORGE HAUCK, WWII Veteran and Ex-Prisoner of War

March 31, 2009: Barry Cauchon

HAPPY 89TH BIRTHDAY GEORGE!!!!!

Sometimes I interview a guest on ‘An Awesometalk With’ that has a very interesting life story to share. They have experienced history personally in a way that few of us can relate to. That is because, unlike most of us who learn about history from books, movies or television, they actually participated in it firsthand. 

  

Retired 2nd Lt. George Hauck of the 8th Air Force Group, WWII.

Retired WWII veteran, 2nd Lt. George Hauck of the 8th Air Force Group.

 

Well, on March 14, 2009, I enjoyed over an hour of excellent conversation with just such a person. His name is George “Mickey” Hauck. George is a retired WWII veteran, 2nd Lieutenant from the 8th Air Force Group (nicknamed “The Mighty Eighth”). George’s daughter Arlene Berry contacted me about her father and his honorable past. She informed me that he was one of several officers originally trained (around 1943-44) to participate in the atomic bomb attacks on Japan in 1945. But as his training was an ‘alternate’ approach to the standard way bombing runs were planned back then, this ‘new approach’ did not find favor and was eventually scrubbed.

 

George’s story doesn’t end here. On November 21, 1944 he was aboard a B-17 on his first bombing mission over Germany. The attack took his crew over Merseburg, Germany and after a successful run they were returning to their home base at Thurleigh, England. With only 50 miles to go, the plane was hit by German anti-aircraft flack and caught fire. George and the rest of the crew had to bail out while still over Germany. He was captured that same day and eventually imprisoned in Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany (a prison camp for American and British air force officers) where he was assigned to the North Compound 3, Barracks 5 (Block 305) Room 11. He spent a little over 5 months there until the Russians liberated the camp in early May, 1945. George was evacuated to France by mid-May, 1944 and shipped home a short time later.

 

Currently George and his wife Adelaide live in Punta Gorda, Florida. Their daughter Arlene also lives in the area while her sister Gay lives in New Jersey. George and Adelaide will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary on July 25, 2009.

 

——————————————————-

 

B. I’m very proud to have Mr. George Hauck with me today and welcome him to A Little Touch of History.

 

G. Hello Barry.

 

B. Hello George. How are you?

 

G. I’m alright!

 

B. It’s nice to finally get a chance to speak with you George. Your daughter Arlene has told me a lot about you. Let me first start off by telling everyone that you are going to have a birthday this month.

 

G. That’s right. I’m going to be 89 at the end of this month, the 31st of March.

My wife already had her birthday…for her 90th year. Arlene has the same birthday as my wife’s.

 

B. What day is that?

 

G. That’s Valentine’s Day!

 

B. Well Happy Valentine’s Day and a belated Happy Birthday to both Adelaide and Arlene. And to you George, let me wish you an early Happy Birthday greeting as well.

 

G. Thank you.

 

B. George, before we talk about your past, can you tell us what are you doing nowadays?

 

G. I belong to the Legion and Ex-Prisoners of War. I’ve been their chaplain for I don’t know how many years, the Ex-Prisoners of War. That organization is down to 15-18 people now. We don’t get that many more coming to a meeting. They don’t come that often.

 

These are all ex-prisoners of war, or their wives. If it wasn’t for the wives we wouldn’t have an Ex-Prisoners of War meeting. There wouldn’t be enough people there.

 

B. I’d like to ask you how you got into the Air Force. How did it happen?

 

G. I enlisted. I was a welder and I wanted to join but my boss wouldn’t let me join. Finally he let me take the test.

 

B. Did you train to become a pilot right away?

 

G. I enlisted in the Cadets and after much ado; fifty-two of us took a test in the post office in Newark, New Jersey. It was a written test and a physical. And when they got done after two days of that, they called two names, another guy’s and mine. The two of us passed and we then waited a couple of months for something to happen. Everything was slow and you couldn’t do anything about it.

 

B. I guess you were anxious to get involved?

 

G. Well yeah, there was a war going on! I was a young guy … you know … Go, Go, Go!

 

B. Do you remember what year that was George when you enlisted?

 

G. I think it was ’42. I wouldn’t bet my life on it … or yours.

 

B. (chuckles).

 

G. But I think ’42. Then one night I went to Nashville which was a center where they decided what you were going to be. Then you’d take a bunch of tests and then you’d wait for another week or so. Anyway, I was qualified for all three (pilot, bombardier and navigator). And then I went to Montgomery, Alabama which is still an army base. Then I went to Arcadia where I learned to fly an airplane. That was a Stearman. That’s a plane that most pilots today would have a hard job flying because it was a twin-wing airplane. The height of the second wing is really high and its top heavy. The wheels are fairly close together and when you land a lot of people ‘ground loop’.  A lot of people washed out even then. But that was a nice airplane. If I was a rich man and 50 years younger, I’d buy one.

 

George Hauck (1942 or 43)

George Hauck (1942 or 43)

  

B. Eventually after that, you got into radar and navigation.

 

G. It’s a long story. Have you ever heard of General LeMay?

 

B. Yes, General Curtis LeMay. He ran as George Wallace’s running mate in the 1968 Presidential race.

 

G. He was a Four-Star General at the end of the war. But in ’42 he was the head of the B-29s. Originally, the B-29 had five enlisted men and five officers onboard. And General LeMay was going to change that. He was going to get rid of the enlisted men and every one of the five officers was going to be qualified to do every job. In other words, the guy that was the navigator could pilot, the pilot could navigate. You know! And it never came to pass. And I was so mad about this. Don’t ask me why he picked me but I was one of them that went to various schools for training.

 

B. So you took that training to be the all encompassing airman!

 

G. It was LeMay’s group! You did what you were told! If you are in the army and they give you a piece of paper that says you are going to ‘so and so’, you go there and that’s it.

 

B. And so it was General LeMay’s group that you joined which eventually ran the Pacific Operations against Japan.

 

G. I never got there. See that’s the joke, I never got there. After two years of going through all kinds of schools, and every time I went to a school, after I was there for awhile, they would be short of an instructor. And I’d instruct for a couple of months. Then they’d send me to someplace else. I went to gunnery school, navigation school, bombardier school….

 

B. You could have done it all.

 

G. Well yeah, that’s what I was doing! It was a crazy thing. But they figure they were going to bomb Japan some day. They hadn’t done it yet. And they were going to have to have enough good crews to do the job. Their idea was alright. But the guys who did it actually had a regular crew of five enlisted men and five officers.

 

B. Right, so initially you were training for it…

 

G. Yeah I never did it.

 

B. …and then they went and changed it.

 

G. No they didn’t change it! They had the system that they already had!

 

B. Oh I see, they used the regular system. Your system would have been the one they replaced it with.

 

G. It came up that they decided to bomb Japan. And they bombed Japan with the regular crew; you know five enlisted men and five officers. And the second plane that they did that, hardly anybody knows the name anymore and I can’t even remember it now.

 

B. Bockscar (laughing). I know that because I recently wrote an article on it.

 

G. Yeah but nobody knows that.

 

B. Nobody knows that (laughing).

 

G. (laughing) Go to a bar and say “Name me the 1st plane that dropped the bomb on Japan?” and what will they say. Somebody will answer. Somebody will.

And then say “Who’s the second plane they sent to drop the bomb?” and then nobody will put their hand up.

 

B. No idea!

 

G. They’ll be sitting there (laughing). You might be there and then you’d put your hand up and you would know.

 

B. I’d be the lucky one because I had researched it (laughing).

 

G. Just think how many planes were training for that mission. When you stop and think about it. One airplane dropped one bomb. And then Bockscar dropped one bomb. They were about 4-5 foot long, 3 feet high. They were a funny looking thing. They were an oddball looking thing. You would think of a bomb with a point and a tail, fins and round. This thing looked like a watermelon. It was a horrible looking thing.

But that was the end of the war and all this training, including me. That was the end of it.

 

Fat Man dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima.

Fat Man dropped by Bockscar on Nagasaki on August 12, 1945.

 

B. While you were doing all your training, how did that fit in with you going to England and eventually going on a bombing run over Germany?

 

G. I was already in England at the time. LeMay’s group was all together in England. But while we trained, the Germans kept bombing England just like they did before. And guys in our Air Force were getting shot down. You’d be surprised how many fellows in the Air Force got shot down. I hardly flew any missions. I got shot down really early in my career as far as that goes.

 

B. The date that Arlene gave me was November 21, 1944 which I guess is about 10 months before the Japan atomic bombings.

 

G. That’s it. Yeah, that’s about the time. The only reason I was a prisoner for that length, and no longer, was the war ended in Germany.

 

B. And that was in May of 1945.

 

G. You know for the two years that I spent going to these various schools, I was so mad at General LeMay for keeping me from going to combat. But he saved my life because thousands of guys got killed in Europe. And if he hadn’t of had me in training stuff I would have been sent over to Europe early. God knows what I would have been doing but it’s likely that I would have been flying a B-17.

 

B. When you did go over to England, was it also in 1944 or were you there earlier?

 

G. A little earlier. I don’t remember a date. I wasn’t there long. Even over there they sent me to a school to brush up on radar. And the radar they had me use was like a frying pan compared to a real radar. They only had crap over there. They didn’t have anything decent.

 

B. With regards to the bombing missions, how would they be run? Would they send out hundreds of planes all at once?

 

G. It depended on what kind of mission you’d be going on. If you were going on a long mission to a very important target you had lots of planes. You might send not only a 306th Bomb Group but there might be ten airfields cleaned out of airplanes that could fly that day. And that would mean a couple hundred airplanes anyway.

 

B. On your particular mission was it daytime or night flying?

 

G. Well we didn’t fly nights. The American Army Air Force did not fly nights. The English did fly nights. They said they picked that because they said it was tough. “It was tough, my butt”!

 

B. (laughing).

 

G. The English chose that because their chances were much greater of coming back alive. There were never thousands and thousands of English prisoners in a German Stalag, believe me!

 

B. You had completed your mission and were actually on your way back to base when you were fired at. What do you remember of your particular flight? 

 

G. Well, we were going home. We had two engines that had been blown apart and only two were running. I figured we’d land on the beach in England if we were lucky. That’s the way I planned it.

 

We were flying along on our two engines. It was alright, we had everything under control. A B-17 could fly on just two engines. We were losing a little altitude but at the rate we were losing altitude we were still going to get to England. So what the heck did we care. We didn’t care. As long as you put two and two together and it made four that’s all you cared about, as long as you got back to England.

 

B-17s in flight. (Courtesy of the USAFR)

B-17s in flight. Image courtesy of the United States Air Force.

 

B. What was your altitude on your way back?

 

G. Well we started off on our bombing altitude. I don’t know what it was. It was pretty high, 16000 – 17,000 feet maybe. And then we got banged up with our engines knocked out. So we started losing altitude all the way home. And then I look down and I see this railway car, sitting there in the middle of a green field. And I see a guy running to it. I say to myself “What the heck”! And all of a sudden he fires two shots and one of them went right through the wing. And you know what’s in the wing, don’t you?

 

B. (chuckling) Your gas.

 

G. Well that’s where the gas should be but at this stage in the flight there’s not much gas there. It’s all vapor. So when that shell he fired went through the wing, it just burst into flames. And so now, instead of an airplane that was going to it make England we had to get out. And it was easy to get out. Just walk over to the door and jumped out.

 

B. How many of you were on the crew?

 

G. Originally there were eleven. We had an observer with us. There were eleven of us originally, I’m pretty sure.

 

B. And you all had to jump out?

 

G. Well yeah. Everybody had to jump out. Earlier in the flight, we had thrown out the navigator because he was wounded and had a big hole in him and we didn’t think he’d make it. So I put a piece of parachute in his back so he wouldn’t bleed to death and threw him out. You know what! He was back home and married before I got back home.

 

B. (laughing)

 

G. He was wounded and wasn’t any good to us, or the Germans, so they sent him back. They did that to a lot of people. The Germans took care of his wound. I don’t mean they didn’t do that. They took care of his wound and then sent him back to the United States because he couldn’t be a combat man anymore.

 

B. So you bailed out.

 

G. So I bailed out. Everything is quiet. Nobody is there. And I look down and to this day, if I see a collie running and he’s ‘happy’ barking, I can hear him. I could hear this collie barking with a bunch of kids. That part of the country didn’t get bombed so the kids could be outside playing.

But I turn around and look, and here’s my airplane right on one of the houses, with the big tail sticking out, flames coming out. I figure “Uh oh. How you doing? Happy days! Come to my party!”

 

They were all afraid of me. So a German guard, an old guy with a Volksgewehr [rifle] came out to meet me. And all I kept saying was “Nein pistole. Nein messer” [No pistol. No knife]. Because I didn’t carry a gun. Everybody else carried guns but I never did. And my Colonel said “Why don’t you carry a gun?” And I said, “Cause I come here to fight the Germans in an airplane. I’m not going to take my 45 and sit down there and fight with them. I can’t win them that way”. I had no gun. No weapon on me. I never did have one. I never trained carrying a gun. In gunnery school I carried a gun but that was part of their deal.

 

So other than that, it wasn’t bad. I sat around and they hit me a little bit but not much. The record doesn’t show it so I never was hit according to the officials, but that’s alright. And so they weren’t bad to me. They had me sitting in a corner and they’re talking German naturally. I don’t know what they’re saying. If I spoke German I would have had them standing or sitting next to me having a conversation. But they just kept saying “Amerikanisch, Amerikanisch” [American, American]. They hated my guts because I was bombing their country. And at this stage of the game even they knew that their country was sorely losing. Their big cities were all bombed to hell.

 

B. You were in a small town with one soldier who captured you?

 

G. Well he was an old timer. They used to have old men, 55 or 60 years old, too old to go to fight, or had a problem. So these men would be stationed places to watch for air force men coming down on parachutes. That was his job.

Well he had a gun and I didn’t. So after a few minutes of him holding me, a soldier came. In his coat he had a ribbon and that ribbon meant that he was wounded. It was like a purple heart. He could speak a little English so I talked to him a few minutes. So I said “Zigarette?” [cigarette] and I pointed to my pocket. And he picks up his rifle and holds it towards me. So I put my hands up to show him I’ve got nothing other than my cigarettes. So I gave him my cigarettes. So he had a smoke. I had a smoke. And the old guy had a smoke. I gave them both a couple of cigarettes.

Then once we got into the little town I saw maybe 15 to 18 people standing around. Just like you’d see a picture of a country road. I used to think of it as one of the roads from a Longfellow poem with dirt roads, a side railing and a gateway to go in. That’s what the little town looked like.

 

B. So it was very quaint.

 

G. But once we got close to them, “Oh man”, they flew into the houses like crazy. “Terriflieger” [terror flyer]. That is what they were calling me. They were kids. They were scared to death. And then when I got in this room, they sat me in one corner and they sat in the other corner. Everybody got his gun out and was sitting there like a big hero you know. And I’m sitting there with no gun. And I’m glad I had no gun. Maybe one of those heroes would like for me to have a gun. You know!

 

B. (laughing)

 

 G. I don’t know how long I waited then they took me. Finally I got to Kassel, Germany which was an interrogation center.

 

B. Did you get caught with the rest of your crew?

 

G. No. In fact I never saw them again. When they were taken to Kassel, they were staying in a regular building like in England. They all slept in bunks and everything. I was taken to the same town, same prison, but they were going to interrogate me where the others they didn’t bother with. So every day for 30 some days, I was never in my cell a whole day. Never! All the time I was there, they’d come, open the door and say “Out, Out, Out”. They’d give me my belt. I’d put my belt on. I’d put my shoes on and down the hall I’d go to an interrogating officer. I was going to see him every day but not steady. Some days I’d go back to my room. They’d lock the door. And then a little while later the guard would come back. We got to know each other and we would talk. He had his family somewhere in Prussia. He told me. He had a wife and a daughter.

 

B. So for 30 days while they interrogated you. Did they treat you fairly, like soldier to soldier?

 

G. In the beginning when I first got there, they were like growling at me. And after awhile it was a ‘buddy buddy’ thing. They knew me. I knew them.

 

After a couple of days after I was there, I would meet with a German captain. In my opinion he was an old man. He must have been maybe 50. Well a man of 50 to a guy at 20-something…he was an old man you know! After awhile we got pretty ‘buddy buddy’ because I’d see him everyday for almost a full day. I was in his office a couple times a day. I’d go down there and spend an hour with him. Then go back to my prison cell. The cell was my personal one. Nobody else was in there.

 

He knew my father’s first name. He knew what he did for a living. He knew where we lived and in what town. He knew all the fields I was at in the United States. He was reading them to me off of a piece of paper. That’s why they took me there and not the rest of the crew. You see I had been to all these different places because General LeMay was eventually going to have me go in a B-29. So all this information didn’t do them any good because I had been moved back to a B-17 and then shot down right away so it didn’t make any difference.

 

The amazing thing was that there was one guy talking to a German guard and the guy said that he came from St. Louis. And this German guard said “You come from St. Louis. Do you know where… (I don’t know the actual name of the street) … Do you know where 5th Street and 7th Avenue is?” And the guy said, “Oh yeah. I know where that is. That’s where Heinz’ Butcher Shop is.” And the guard said “I’m Heinz!”

 

B. (laughing).

 

G. That’s the kind of intelligence they had. That’s how close they could know you. They knew everything about you. It’s amazing. And people ask, “How did they do it”? You’ve heard of the German Bund. It was an above ground organization of US German citizens. They were United States citizens who were German. These people would collect magazines and newspapers from all over the United States. Remember, the United States had a whole lot of Germans all over the place. So they would get all these newspapers and magazines, and in those days, everybody wrote to them. So if someone became an officer, your wife, mother or somebody would send it to the newspaper and they would publish it in the paper. And the Germans were getting the newspapers and magazines every day of the week. And somehow they would get them out of United States. Then somebody in Canada or Mexico would smuggle this information to Germany. In Germany, they had people who did nothing else but check the information. So for instance, they did nothing more than check out the name Hauck. And every Hauck that came up they’d find out what he did and how he did it and so they knew everything about you. And so when they were interrogating me, they could tell me my father’s name, which when you consider how many air force men there were, that’s a lot of guys there, and they could tell me my father’s name. And they would tell me my grandfather’s name. And they weren’t wrong, they were right!

 

B. That’s pretty amazing intelligence.

 

G. Well that’s what they did. That was intelligence. They spent weeks and weeks and weeks on it. We thought that it was a bunch of crap. But that’s what really kept them going for half of the war, until we bombed the hell out of them. Then their intelligence didn’t do them any good.

 

And then, all of a sudden one day he said to me, “Well, I guess you’ll be leaving now”.

 

B. So after your 30 days at Kassel, did they then take you to Stalag Luft 1?

 

G. Yes, Stalag Luft 1.

 

Hometown newspaper clipping reporting George's capture.

Hometown newspaper clipping reporting George's capture.

 

 

George's wife received this telegram dated January 13, 1945 officially informing her that her husband had been taken prisoner (that's almost 2 months after the fact). Luckily she had been contacted by a ham radio operator prior to that. If not for him, she never would have known what happened to her husband until this cold telegram arrived.

George's wife received this telegram dated January 13, 1945 officially informing her that her husband had been taken prisoner (that's almost 2 months after the fact). Luckily she had been contacted by a short wave radio operator (mentioned above) prior to that. If not for him, she never would have known what happened to her husband until this telegram arrived.

 

B. And you were there for about 5 months. Was it a difficult adjustment to life in a prison camp?

 

G. It was very organized. We had a guy who was an ex-fighter pilot who was our German commanding officer. And he ran the camp in military fashion. We were all in individual barracks and had our own American commanding officer. In fact, my commanding officer was named Belinski. He was the ace fighter pilot of the European theatre. He was a rat, and no good but he was still the commanding…

 

B. (laughing).

 

G. Well he was a Lt. Col. when I met him, and when he retired ‘God knows’ how many years later, 20 years maybe, he was a full Colonel. And he became an officer by going through the cadet program. Anyway, that’s the guy who was there running our part of the camp. We were all just military and everyday we had two formations where everybody in the camp had to get out and stand in line. I think we had four groups in our prison camp. And every group had to get out and stand in line and the German officer would come and he’d holler “Attention” and we’d stand at attention. And they’d count us and he’d have guys go into the barracks an there was not supposed to be anybody there. And so we use to play games on them. In the beginning we would go under the bunks. The guy on the bottom bunk would get picked to hide under the bunk on the floor. And the German soldier who was sent into the barracks to do the count would poke his head around and then come running out yelling “nein” because all of a sudden, with their count, something was wrong. There was supposed to be 590 of us. I don’t know the number. I’ll just use that number. And it ended up that when they got done that they only had 528. And then they go back and all of a sudden you see all those guys coming out.

 

B. (laughing).

 

G. After awhile it wasn’t that easy because they learned to look in all the hiding places.

 

B. I guess you had to fight a lot of boredom and I guess that was one way to do that?

 

G. I don’t know if you would call it boredom. I guess it was. We didn’t have a lot to do.

 

B. Did you have reading material at the Stalag?

 

G. Sometimes we would get magazines and stuff but they might have been a few weeks old, or even a couple of months old. But we had some things. Once in awhile we would get a couple of bibles. Everything came through the Red Cross. They may have had nothing to do with it but they would deliver the stuff and portion it out to us.

 

B. What else did you do to keep busy?

 

G. I became the so-called cook after awhile in our room.  In the beginning we would get a full Red Cross parcel which was enough that you could live on it well for one week. One man, that’s what it was made for, just one man. The United States made it. The Germans they didn’t make it but they passed it out to us. But then after awhile, they sort of slowed down on the deliveries. We didn’t know this until the end of the war but the building that they stored these in turned out to be full of packages (chuckling). I weighed about 135 to 140 pounds when I got out. ‘Cause we weren’t getting anything to eat. It’s easy to reduce. If I put you on a diet with not food I can kill you without shooting you. It’s easy.

 

For Easter, 1945 George "Mickey" Hauck (the cook) prepared a wonderful meal. Here is the cover of the actual menu.

For Easter, 1945 George "Mickey" Hauck (the cook) prepared a wonderful meal. Here is the cover of the actual menu.

  

 

... and the inside of the menu.

... and the inside of the menu.

  

B. In general, did the guards treat the prisoners well?

 

G. Yeah, yeah. Once we got into regular prison it was no problem. In fact, every compound had one or two German guards who did nothing but walk around between the barracks. If they see a bunch of guys talking, they’d walk over near them. They could understand English well. And the guy we had didn’t even look like a good enough soldier to be a soldier in the German army.

 

B. (chuckling).

 

G. And when the war was over we learned that he was a secret commandant of the German underworld in North Germany. The guy we had in our compound. We don’t know what happened to him because he left before the allies liberated the camp.

 

B. I know that your first, and luckily only, Christmas spent there was in 1944. Your daughter Arlene sent me a picture of a teddy bear that you somehow sent to your newborn daughter Gay, whom you had not seen yet. Can you tell us how you were able to do that?

 

The teddy bear George sent to his newborn daughter Gay while he was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 1

The teddy bear George sent to his newborn daughter Gay while he was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 1

 

G. It was through the Red Cross. I never had it or touched it. I saw it in a pamphlet and I said “Oh, I’ll take one of them”. And then in the United States, they would send it to her and take the money. I don’t know where they got the money. From the army I guess.

 

B. And so there was a system set up for the prisoners?

 

G. The Red Cross had a terrific system set up for all kinds of things. In fact they had a guy come around every once in awhile, a civilian, who was supposed to be checking on us to see how we were getting along. But a day before he came, the Germans would give us nice blankets to put out which we never had before. And we’d fold them a certain way, because he was coming. And we had pans of food and all this stuff. And as soon as the inspection was over guys came around with boxes and picked up all the stuff and the blankets. You know, that was done.

 

B. (chuckling) So a lot of it was for show.

 

G.  It was all show! Yeah. They didn’t abuse us. Of course we had guys killed because they were trying to escape.  You know that happened.

 

B. I imagine prisoners always had a need to attempt an escape. Was it organized or did prisoners try to escape on their own?

 

G.  Did you ever see Stalag 17? If you saw Stalag 17, we dug tunnels. We did this. We did all these things. And we always had guys who would escape and then get caught. Not right away. They come back and they’d put them away in a solitary confinement cell. But these were guys who were doing it all the time.

People were getting shot. You know, you’d hear a gun going off. Sometimes the guy was aiming at someone who was near the white line. They had a white line that was 25 feet from the fence. I wouldn’t bet my life on it but I think it was 25 feet. It was 18 inches high of barb wire. And that was so you wouldn’t go over that. And if a ball or something rolled over that, we’d stand there and all of a sudden the guard would look and we’d point down. And after a half a day, or maybe a whole day, maybe he wouldn’t let you get the ball. The next shift, that guy might let you reach in and get the ball. It was that close that you could reach it. But if you reached down without permission he could shoot you.

 

B. There was a very specific rule about not crossing this line!

 

G. There were all kinds of rules you know. But it wasn’t always the Germans who gave you a hard time. 

There was a dining hall, but we never got to go to the dining hall. When the ex-World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Max Schmeling (1930-32) came to the prison camp one day we were going to go the dining hall to see him. Our commanding officer said “Don’t go”! So our commanding officer went! “That horse’s butt”! But a few people, the higher ranking American officers, they went. There were about 50 Americans sitting there.

 

Ex-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Max Schmeling (1930-32) visited Stalag Luft 1 in 1945

Ex-World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Max Schmeling (1930-32) visited Stalag Luft 1 in 1945

 

B. Did he give a demonstration of boxing?

 

G.  Who knows what he did! I didn’t go! (laughing)

I wasn’t rank. I might have been rank but not that kind of rank (laughing).

 

B. (laughing). When the prison was liberated by the allies, the Russians in particular, how did they move the men out of Germany?

 

G.  We flew out of prison when we were liberated by the Russians. There was an air base right there. I could see planes land there during the war. Not many of them though. When we were liberated I can’t remember how long it took…a week, 10 days maybe. We were taken over to the air base in trucks that the Germans had naturally. And then we got in an air plane. I was in a B-17 with 40 other guys. There were no guns on it or anything. And we were all sitting close together. Ordinarily, there’s only about 8 or 10 guys on a B-17 on a bombing mission. But there was about 40 of us all jammed in. In Germany, there were over 100,000 American ex-prisoners of war here to be evacuated.

 

B. Did they fly you back to England?

 

G. No they flew us back to France. We were in Le Havre. And then a little later they tell us we are going back to America. There were boats right there in Le Havre. Le Havre was a big port. And so we walked down and I see all these crummy ships in the harbor. And amongst all these crummy ships there was a little dock that they made. And sitting next to it is this huge German ocean liner, [the Europa]. It was crewed by an American crew. This was the ship I got and I was lucky as hell. In about six days I was back in New York.

 

The German ocean liner Europa was captured by the allies in May,1945 and renamed Liberte by the French. It was used to carry soldiers back to the United States. George was on the first trip across the Atlantic.

The German ocean liner Europa was captured by the allies in May,1945 and renamed Liberte by the French. It was used to carry soldiers back to the United States. George was on the first trip that sailed to New York City.

 

B. So you went home in style on an ocean liner.

 

G. That’s right. In fact, I met most of my crew on the ocean liner. They were down in the bottom and I was up in a room sharing it with four other officers. I never knew these officers before. They were flying officers and prisoners of war. But I didn’t know them in prison.

So I would get my guys and bring them up to where I was staying. And they’d take showers and eat. I would go to a place, like a bar there, and I’d ask for cigarettes and ice cream. My men liked to have ice cream. And I’d bring it all back. And they would stay in my room, all day long, about six of the men that I knew. And they’d smoke cigarettes like crazy and eat ice cream and eat some kind of sandwiches. And then at night time, they had to go down to where ever they were staying in the bottom. I didn’t have to go to bed. There was no checking on where I was. I could have walked around the deck if I felt like it, which I didn’t do, because there was nothing out there to see because it was black. There was no ship with us, we were alone. We were going like the wind. After all, we were on one of the fastest ships in the world at the time. It was big.

 

B. Have you met any of the Germans that you knew since the war ended?

 

G. Well I didn’t really know any Germans. The only guy I knew was the Captain, the old guy at Kassel, but by the time the war ended it had already been a year since I knew him and never saw him again after that. And any of the guards I knew in Stalag Luft 1 were all in prison camps after the war. As far as I know they never came to the United States. So no, I’ve never seen any of them.

 

B. Well George this has been absolutely terrific. I want to thank you so much for sharing your experiences with me and my readers. And please thank your daughter Arlene for setting this up. She has been great. I’ve appreciated it and enjoyed it our talk thoroughly.

 

G. Me too Barry. Okay. My daughter Arlene also says goodbye.

 

B. All the best to you both.

 

G. God bless you. Good bye.

 

B. And to you to. Bye now.

 

 

Happy 89th Birthday Dad. We love you and appreciate your service to our country.

Happy 89th Birthday Dad. We love you and appreciate your service to our country. (from left to right: Arlene, George, Adelaide (above) and Gay).

 

I want to personally thank Arlene Berry for setting up this wonderful chat with her father and a very special thank you to George himself. You are ‘one of a kind’ good sir and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to share some time with you. God bless you and your family. Barry.

 

 

 

 

END

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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If you are interested in other WWII interviews, please read the following from Robert Krauss, historian for the 509th Composite Group (the group that dropped the atomic bombs). 

“An Awesometalk With” ROBERT KRAUSS, 509th Composite Group Historian (posted on December 16, 2008)

 

 

BOCKSCAR … THE FORGOTTEN PLANE THAT DROPPED THE ATOMIC BOMB

August 7, 2008 – by Barry Cauchon.

August 6 – 9 marks the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Japan with two atomic bombs which effectively ended the Pacific War and World War II between the Japanese and the Allies.

Mushroom cloud from the Nagasaki atom bomb rises some 60,000 feet (11 miles) into the atmosphere

When the United States made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on Monday, August 6, 1945, the hope was that this action would end the war. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy”, was dropped by the B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay. And although it took a second atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender, the Enola Gay’s name has gone down in history as the plane that was responsible for ending WWII.
But the crew of the Enola Gay only dropped the first bomb. Three days later, on Thursday, August 9, a second atomic bomb, this one nicknamed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. The B-29 that delivered this, the final blow to the Japanese, was known as Bockscar.

B-29 Bockscar Superfortress bomber

B-29 Bockscar Superfortress bomber

Bockscar was part of the same squadron as the Enola Gay, the 393d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, of the 509th Composite Group (USAAF). It was named after its commander Captain Frederick C. Bock who, along with his crew C-13, participated in several bombing runs on Japan prior to the events that occurred in early August, 1945.

STRANGE TWIST OF FATE #1

Originally, The Great Artiste commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney was the plane scheduled to drop the second atomic bomb. Sweeney and his crew C-15 had previously flown The Great Artiste with the Enola Gay on her flight to Hiroshima on August 6, carrying instrumentation to record and support the mission. Upon their return Sweeney and his crew began to prepare for their turn. The next mission was planned for August 11 but due to a poor weather forecast, the commanders decided to move the attack up by two days, setting a new date of August 9. Sweeney and his crew had been doing training runs in Captain Bock’s plane Bockscar while The Great Artiste was to have its instruments removed and installed in another plane. However, when the mission date moved forward, it did not give the ground crews enough time to do the transfer, so it was decided that Sweeney and Bock would switch planes. Hence, Bock and his crew flew The Great Artiste in a support role on the mission and Sweeney and his crew, aboard Bockscar, became the primary unit to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan.

STRANGE TWIST OF FATE #2

The primary target for the August 9 bombing mission was the industrial city of Kokura. However, when the Bockscar arrived over the city with Fat Man ready to be deployed, the crew found that visibility over the city was obscured by clouds and smog. Sweeney’s orders were specific in that the atomic bomb had to be dropped visually on the target. Failing to spot their target after passing over Kokura three times, Sweeney decided to proceed to the secondary target of Nagasaki. At 11:02am, Fat Man, the atomic bomb with 14.1 lbs of plutonium-239, was dropped. The bomb detonated about 43 seconds later at an altitude of about 1,540 feet above the ground. Approximately 40% of Nagasaki was destroyed.

Fat Man (replica) atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki Aug 9, 1945

Fat Man (replica) atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945

Although Fat Man was considered a more powerful bomb than Little Boy, the hilly terrain helped to deaden the destruction whereas Hiroshima was flat and open and thus suffered much greater devastation. What twist of fate saved the people of Kokura and yet doomed so many citizens of Nagasaki?

It’s also known that many survivors of the Hiroshima bombing made their way to Nagasaki only to experience the second terrifying explosion all over again. Many of them did not survive the second time.

AFTERMATH

The overall death toll from these attacks was astounding. Not only did people die from the initial bomb blasts, but later died from burns, injuries or radiation poisoning. In Hiroshima, a city estimated with a population of about 350,000 people, over 70,000 died in the blast itself with estimates ranging from 70,000 to 130,000 potentially dying within the next 5 years. In Nagasaki, a city of 270,000 citizens, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of 1945.

Aftermath of the destruction of Nagasaki August 9, 1945

Destroyed temple in Nagasaki by atomic bomb August 9, 1945

It is hard for us, in this day of global cooperation and unity, to imagine how such destructive acts could have been implemented. But 63 years ago, a bitter war was raging and no mercy could be shown to the enemy, especially when the memories of Pearl Harbor were still so fresh in people’s minds. The Bockscar and her crew were part of this history, whether morally right or wrong. She did the job she was sent out to do and accomplished her mission. But history has almost forgotten her involvement and the Enola Gay still takes the spotlight.

Forgotten (by the masses), but not gone, the Bockscar lives on to this day.

In 1961, Bockscar was restored and put on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force Museum at Wrights-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Signage near the plane states “The aircraft that ended WWII”. Never has a statement been more true. But alas, the notoriety for  dropping the atomic bomb that ended the war still goes to her sister ship, the famous Enola Gay.

Bockscar and crew C-15

Crew C-15 standing in front of the first modified B-29 used for training purposes.

This link will take you to the National Museum of the United States Air Force Museum. Hit it and type in Bockscar in the search bar.

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

Here is the list of the 13 airmen who flew on the Bockscar on that historic mission 63 years ago and truly, ended World War II.

Beser
The crew of the Bockscar. Front row: Buckley, Kuharek, Gallagher, Dehart, Spitzer. Back row: Beahan, Van Pelt, Jr., Albury, Olivi, Sweeney.

Crew C-15 of the Bockscar

  • Major Charles Sweeney, Commander
  • Captain Charles Donald Albury, Co-Pilot
  • 2nd Lieutenant Fred Olivi, Third Pilot
  • Captain James Van Pelt, Jr., Navigator
  • Captain Raymond “Kermit” Beahan, Bombardier
  • Master Sergeant John Kuharek, Flight Engineer
  • Sergeant Raymond Gallagher, Assistant Flight Engineer
  • Staff Sergeant Ed Buckley, Radar Operator
  • Sergeant Abe Spitzer, Radio Operator
  • Staff Sergeant Albert Dehart, Tail Gunner

Additional Mission Crew on board August 9, 1945

  • Cmdr. Frederick L. Ashworth (USN), Weaponeer
  • Lt. Philip Barnes (USN), Assistant Weaponeer
  • 2nd Lt. Jacob Beser, Radar Countermeasures

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“AN AWESOMETALK WITH”

Be sure to read “An Awesometalk With” ROBERT KRAUSS, 509TH COMPOSITE GROUP HISTORIAN.  This was an interview I did with Mr. Krauss and it will give you a really great insight into the 509th and the men that participated in the group and their missions.

Also, take a look at Mr. Krauss’ book “The 509th Remembered” which you can find on his website at www.enolagay509th.com .  If you do order one, please tell him that you saw it here so he can track where people are hearing about his book.

509thremembered1

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Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com