1st Lt. Cliff Morris - 32nd Squadron
WORLD WAR II
Through the eyes of the Cape Fear
Interview of Cliff Morris
Transcript Number 539
Q: --bomber pilot and captain in the Army Air Corps. First of all, tell me about how you got into the service in the first place. What year was it, what you were doing at the time when you decided to go into the service, and how you actually became involved in it.
Cliff Morris: Okay. I was in hi- in school, in Louisburg College in 1940. And of course, I had to re-- I had already registered for the draft.
Q: How old were you?
Cliff Morris: I was about 22. And ah.. knowing that I was going to be- had to go into the draft, the National Guard and some of the Reserve units in Wilmington were being ah.. federalized. And so I--
Q: And what does that mean, federalized?
Cliff Morris: They're be- they were being called into the service as a unit. So I knew some boys- some men that ran the 252nd Artillery- Coast Artillery in Wilmington, and they were ah.. recruiting to get up to wartime strength, so I figured that what the heck, I'd just as well go in with somebody then-- it was supposed to be for a year. Well when I- when I got in--
Q: This was what year, again?
Cliff Morris: This was 1940.
Q: So it was before Pearl Harbor.
Cliff Morris: It was before Pearl Harbor, yes. So we got en-en-enlisted in the 252nd Artillery and went down to Fort Screven, Georgia. And that's where we took our basic training. Stayed down there about 6 months and then they ah.. swapped some, what do you call them?--destroyers to the British. And we went down to Trinidad, that was off the coast of Venezuela, where all the um.. ah.. oil fields were and they put us on an island out there called Choca Chiquera [ph?] to pr- to protect the entrance to the oil fields down there. Well, I stayed down there about 18 months.
Q: This was the infantry or Army?
Cliff Morris: It was the Coast Artillery in the Army. Coast Artillery. Well, when I-- while I was down there, ah.. th-they put out a directive that anybody that had two years of school or college, they wanted to be-- they could make applications for the Air Force. Their whole-whole Army Air Corps at the time. And well, I'd always wanted to fly, but it's-- I-I couldn't-couldn't afford it. But anyway, ah.. I went and made application and I was accepted and-and they-they sent me back to the United States. And when I got back, ah.. the war was on at this time.
Q: Back up a little bit, because earlier this summer you told me a funny story about the captain, your commanding officer. Your CO down there didn't want you to--
Cliff Morris: Oh yeah. His name was Wild Bill Blockston [ph?].
Q: Tell me that story.
Cliff Morris: He was the captain at battery A and ah.. when I made application for it, they ah.. and I was told that I would-would not be able to be accepted, because I was a-a-- I was ah.. an essential part of his-his battery. But the only thing I was doing was on the-- loading the 155mm cannon. Well, he would- he wouldn't accept me. He-he said I couldn't accept it, to-to go let me take my a- ah.. physical and anything. Well, the-the executive office, L-Lieutenant Stone, he was a heck of a nice guy. And he-he found out about it and they sent 1/3 of the battery over to the Port of Spain every-every other week to spend a week-long weekend over there. So he called me into an operations office one day and told me, he says- he says there um.. ah.. "Private Morris," said.. if you want to go there and take your app-- or get your physical," he says, "you go over there and I'll give you an or- an order, written order, and you go over there to Whitehall," that's where the headquarters was, "to take your physical." If you didn't pass the physical, there's no use to take anything else. So to make a long story short, I went over there and took the physical and I passed it and then they gave me the written ap-- written, and I passed that and I came on back to the ah.. to the island and stayed out there a couple of weeks and I never did hear anything from them. And then they had a directive ah.. a-address to my commanding officer, Captain Blockston, that I was to report to ah.. ah.. United States in Brooklyn, that they discharged to be accepted in the-the cadet program. Well, he found out-- of course, he found out about it immediately and I was-- we were on-on a firing practice, and then I was on the- on the ah.. headphones at the time and they-they called me and told me, said that Captain Blockston wanted me to report to his head-- to the OP i-immediately. So I went down there, and he was-he was jumping up and down. That's the reason they called him Wild Bill, because he got so excited. And he said, "Private Morris," he says, ah.. "I want you to go to your tent down there and pack all your clothes and I want you to be on that boat going back to Whitehall at 5:00 this afternoon. That's all I've got to say." And I didn't talk or say- have anything to say to him. I said, "Yes sir." I knew what he would. So I went back and packed all my stuff in the duffle bags there and then turned my weapons in and signed out and run on back to ah.. they-they sent me back to ah.. the United States and they-they discharged me from the Artillery, the Army, and told me to go home. I had to si- I had to signed up for the cadet program. They had issued this. And so I did that and he says- they-they told me to go home and they would let me know when to ah.. report. So I stayed home about 3 or 4 weeks before they ev-- I even heard from them. Then they-they told me-- they-they sent me some written orders to report to ah.. ah.. Nashville, Tennessee to-to the reception center over there. That's where I went. I went over there and took a lot of tests, and other physical and mental examinations, and they gave us all kind of tests to find out whether they was going to be a pilot, navigator, or bombardier. Well, I did-- at that time, I didn't know. I thought I was going in, was going to be accepted in pilot training. But when we got over there, that was the way it was, so we had to take all these tests and fortunately, I ultimately was accepted to join the pilot training. And so they ah.. it-- when I was accepted there, they-- I stayed over there about 8 weeks taking ah.. half a year for another what they call a basic training. But I had already had that, you know. Got through that pretty easily and then they sent us to National Field [ph?], Alabama for ah.. preflight. We stayed down there 10 weeks taking all kinds of-of ah.. tests and, you know, to-to acclimate us to find out what we wanted to do. And after we finished there, they sent us to ah.. Avon Park, Florida for pilot training, for pri-- what they call primary. And I stayed down there for-- it was a- it was a 10-week course there. I got through there. I went to Gunter Field, Alabama, which is right outside of Montgomery Alabama, for basic and I went through that and when I got through with basic, they sent me to George Field [ph?], Illinois for twin engine training. And then when I got through with that and graduated and got my wings, that's where I got my wings, that was in '43. And then they sent me down to McDill Field, Florida for-for B-17 transi-transition. And ah.. stayed down there about 9 weeks. You see, the war was still on, it was on at that time. And we actually, even though we were not in the combat area, when we went out over the Gulf of Mexico in these old war tr- ah.. training missions, we actually carried bombs, of course we had in-instructors with us and- to alert us or if we saw any Germans and German submarines running at that time, we had to operate and sink a lot of ah.. tankers coming out of South America, because that's where the oil fields were. And ah.. and I came home for a-a two week ah.. leave and ah.. then I went back down to ah.. Hendrix Field and ah.. had some more training down there and then (cough), excuse me, they send it back down to McDill Field where I took- I picked up a crew. That's where I had crew training down there. And that's about-about the beginning of it.
Q: You got into the National Guard, you enlisted in that prior to the war in 1940. It took three years then, because we're up to 1943 now, before you got with your crew and were sent overseas. How did you go overseas? Did you fly?
Cliff Morris: We flew an aircraft over there, picked up a B-17 at ah.. LaGuardia, the modification center up there. (cough) Excuse me. And at that time, we didn't know where we were going to go. But when we got up to LaGuardia, that's where this-- you get your orders. You either go to the 8th Air Force or the 15th. And ah.. so they- we-we went to the 15th.
Q: I don't know how it's termed-- your squadron or your--?
Cliff Morris: No. We-we just had a crew. We-we weren't assigned to anything until we got overseas. We-we were assigned to the 15th Air Force.
Q: The 15th Air Force is what? Is that just your crew?
Cliff Morris: No, that was the Air Force. It was in North Africa and Italy.
Q: That was your division or whatever?
Cliff Morris: No, that was the Air Force. It was the 15th Air Force. That's when-when we got over there, then they sent us on up and they assigned us to the 301st Bomb Group, 32nd Squadron. And that's where I started flying all my missions.
Q: What year was this?
Cliff Morris: This was ah.. er-er- real early, yeah, I think it was January '44.
Q: January of 1944. You'd been in 3½-4 years?
Cliff Morris: I hadn't been in the Air Force but about 13 or 14 months.
Q: Okay, but from the beginning of your enlistment in the service of any kind, it had been about 3½ or 4 years?
Cliff Morris: Yes. When they sent me, probably be about then. When I got overseas, when I came back, I got a letter from-from my mother. And ah.. of course, I had to ah.. register for the draft. This was back in 1940. Well when I- when I got- I got this letter in the mail from my mother and it's-it's a notice dated ah.. January 30, 1942, whether I was-- where I was supposed to report to the draft board to be- to be accepted into the draft, but I'd already been in-in service almost two years.
Q: They hadn't kept up with you very well, had they?
Cliff Morris: That's happened before. But I-- she saved that for me.
Q: That was going to be one of my other questions. Did you have any correspondence? I know you probably wrote to mother and, of course, your mother a lot and I wondered if y'all had saved any letters or telegrams.
Cliff Morris: Yeah, I saved a lot-lot, a lot of the letters. Some of them were for when-when we moved over there. We moved two or three times and some of them got lost.
Q: But you have some letters somewhere around here?
Cliff Morris: Yeah, uh-huh.
Q: You have to go find them, huh? You went to Europe in the early part of 1944. Exactly where were you?
Cliff Morris: I was stationed mostly at right-- when we- when we left No-North Africa, I was not in the North Africa in that campaign, but there-- I was over there after it was over with, but then they sent us up to Foggia, Italy, and they- and that's where I- that's where I reported to the 301st Bomb Group, 32nd Squadron. And we flew some missions out of Foggia and ah.. then they sent us to an air strip called "______ Number 8," which is about 10 to 15 miles northwest of Foggia. And that's where I flew most of my missions.
Q: I read somewhere or saw somewhere that the average life of an aircraft, a B-17 bomber or any aircraft, I guess, was 160 days. Is that about the average lifespan?
Cliff Morris: That's pretty close. Pretty close.
Q: During that time, if they were damaged in any way, you were saying last night that the ground crew helped with the job.
Cliff Morris: That's another thing. The ground crews and people who were there, the mechanics and people like that, I don't think they got the-the-the recognition of all that they did until r-right recently. About all the things about World War II beginning to-- then-then they're beginning to come out for the work horses they were. They had to work out in terrible weather. No-no tents or anything, out in the weather.
Q: Because if a plane wasn't able to fly, that you were grounded.
Cliff Morris: They went out there. Some of those aircraft, they came off-off of one mission. They were terribly damaged, but of course, some of them it would take several days to repair, but ah.. 90- 85 or 90 percent of them were repaired that night to go on a mission the next day. They didn't have any structural damage or engines which had to be changed.
Q: When you first started on your missions, were you the pilot right away, or did you have to serve like a time as a co-pilot?
Cliff Morris: I was a first pilot. But when-when we went over there, I went over there as a co-pilot. But then after I flew about five missions, then I got my own crew.
Q: What was the name of your ship?
Cliff Morris: Well I didn't have a-a aircraft named until I had flown a lot of missions. Then I picked up one that belonged to the ah.. squadron commander, called Amazing Maisy.
Q: It was named for his wife? Is that what you said?
Cliff Morris: It was named for his wife, not an-an-- it's not named for anybody else.
Q: You flew several missions in one plane and then what happened to that plane?
Cliff Morris: We-we were not assigned to any plane at all. I-I might fly one plane one-one mission, they might fly the next mission, and make three missions. And it might- it might be in for repairs or maintenance or something, and then we picked up something else. But then when I-- after I fl- I had flown about 10 or 15 missions, I was the lead crew and then I- then I got the Amazing Maisy and I flew that, but I didn't fly it all the time. N-new aircraft over there wasn't assigned to any-any group to fly all the time.
Q: I was under the impression it was. You were talking last night about the formation that you flew.
Cliff Morris: E-each squadron had six aircraft in it. And each-- and in each group they had four squadrons. And they flew the lead group, the high right, low left, and the diamond.
Q: It was like a triangle?
Cliff Morris: Yes.
Q: There was a lead plane and one on either side and two below?
Cliff Morris: In the squadron formation, there was a lead aircraft, there was aircraft on the right, aircraft on the left, and then the element--
Q: --the two in the middle.
Cliff Morris: There was aircraft lead and one on the right and one on the left and there was one that of what they flew in the diamond formation. Actually, it was a diamond.
Q: Were they at the same altitude?
Cliff Morris: No, no.
Q: They were at different altitudes?
Cliff Morris: We were-- these-- this-- in-in a squadron formation, you might be 50 or 60 feet between-between elements.
Q: Is that all--50 or 60 feet?
Cliff Morris: Yeah.
Q: That's not much.
Cliff Morris: Then we went-- were in a tight formation like we did.
Q: That was your protection?
Cliff Morris: That was protection. And then the- then the other squadrons in the group, they flew maybe ah.. ah.. five or six hundred feet to the high right, but up 500-600 feet this way and a little left in the- in the diamond. But they were all within 500 or 600 feet either way in the group formation. We had to do- we had to do that, to fly in a tight formation like that, because you had the-the-the best bomb pattern.
Q: To concentrate the bombs and execute your mission?
Cliff Morris: Uh-huh.
Q: What's the difference between a mission and a sortie?
Cliff Morris: A sortie?
Cliff Morris: A sortie is one aircraft over the target. So if you had six-six aircraft in a- in a- in a squadron, that would be six sorties. Now a mission was when the whole- the whole squadron went over the target. That was called a mission. But a sortie was a number of aircraft that went over it.
Q: Last night we were looking at this film and the narrator mentioned several times the distinguished unit citation. Is that the same thing as a distinguished flying cross?
Cliff Morris: No, no. A distinguished unit flying citation is when-when a-a-a squadron or a group goes on a mission and does an outstanding job.
Q: Is that when they get the little bomb painted on the side of the--
Cliff Morris: No, we always painted a bomb on the side of the aircraft each time an aircraft went over a target. That had nothing to do with the- with the citation or anything. That was just a mission. Some people put it on the aircraft, some didn't. But some of them had 100 missions on it, 100 bombs on it.
Q: We were looking at the film last night and the subject was brought up of paint on the aircraft. Some aircraft are--
Cliff Morris: _______.
Q: I was talking about some of the aircraft are dark green, that Army green, and some were silver.
Cliff Morris: When they first started that- when they first started the air- flying these aircraft, there was- they painted them ah.. kind of an olive drab. But after about a year or so, they found out it was no use to paint them camouflage, because it didn't do any good, so they just-- they didn't paint them at all.
Q: That added weight to the plane anyway, didn't it?
Cliff Morris: The paint added weight to the plane and it was a- it was a rough- it was like a flat paint on there and it would- it would cut down on the air speed. When they did away with the paint, it actually added ah.. 5-5 or 6 miles per hour to the cruising speed, by not using the paint.
Q: What was the range-- how far out could you go from base before you had to turn around and come back?
Cliff Morris: About 600 miles. We- it was about-- we could go what they called a range was 1,200 miles. That would be 600 miles out and 600 miles back. But actually, they were probably-- they probably could do a little bit more.
Q: Tell me about where you were and when it was that you were shot down and you had to have a--
Cliff Morris: Well actually, I wasn't shot down. I was all shot up.
Q: You had to make an emergency landing?
Cliff Morris: The aircraft was so badly damaged, I cut the engines around. Well, it was December the 11th, 1944. And we were on a mission to Musetheobon [ph?], Germany, which is oil and transportation stuff.
Q: But you were still flying out of Foggia, Italy?
Cliff Morris: Yes. No, I was flying out of Lucera, or out of Italy.
Q: They're within 12, 15, 20 miles of each other?
Cliff Morris: Yeah. But I-I was flying out of Lucera another ____ at the time. And he went over there to bomb and we got just- just before- just after IP, which the initial point when-- the initial point in return went to the target. My-my aircraft was hit.
Cliff Morris: By FLAK, over 80 aircraft.
Q: Stop right there. I want you to explain what FLAK is.
Cliff Morris: FLAK is German artillery on the ground. Cannons are shooting shells up and they'd burst. You saw those black clouds in the pictures? That was a burst of what they call FLAK. It's a German word or short word for-- it's a long German--
Q: Like an acronym?
Cliff Morris: They shortened it to FLAK, F-L-A-K.
Q: Okay. They shot a shell into the air and at a certain altitude or whatever, the shell explodes?
Cliff Morris: Sometimes they'd set them to go off at a certain altitude. And- but to digress a little bit, later on in the war, the United States developed what's called a proximity fuse. And that fuse, they would shoot it up and if that- if that shell came- came ahead about 25 or 30 feet of any solid object, it would go off automatically. It didn't have to-- the fuse didn't have to be cut. And if the Germans had had one of- had that, it-it would have decimated us.
Q: But the United States developed that technology.
Cliff Morris: That was later on during the war.
Q: Okay. Let's get back to December 11, 1944.
Cliff Morris: The aircraft was all shot up (clears throat), excuse me, and ah.. it knocked- it knocked one engine out and it went- we went on over the target and dropped out bombs and ah.. then when we were rallying around to the right to come back, another shell hit us and knocked another engine out.
Q: On both sides or the same--?
Cliff Morris: On a- on a- number 2, the number 3 and number 4 engines, which is on the right side.
Q: Does that make you fly cockeyed?
Cliff Morris: Well, it- you had to set to trim the aircraft up, but we ah.. we spiraled down. We had to get down because we were about 25,000 feet and it knocked the oxygen out, too. So we had to get down to at least 10,000 feet or 15,000 feet.
Q: To breathe?
Cliff Morris: To breathe. (doorbell ring) Do you want to cut that off?
Q: All right. Before the doorbell rang, we were talking about--
Cliff Morris: Well the aircraft got-got hit and we-we got down to about 6,000-7,000 feet and finally leveled off and we could- we could maintain a denser a-atmosphere then we could maintain on two engines, because we had all the-- and we burned a lot of fuel up and we dropped the bombs so we were light and were flying on two engines a B-17 was not too difficult, un-unless it had-had real battle damage. But see, we were down so low and two engines out, and the oil crew on the number 2 engine had been me-- at that time, we didn't know it, but it had been damaged and it wasn't getting sufficient oil to the o-other two engines. And it was beginning to act up, it was running real high. So we couldn't get back over the- over the house, I mean, over the mountains to ah.. to Italy. So we all had been briefed if anything like that happened, to head-to head east to the Russian lines. And they were-- the Russian lines at that time were about at Debrecen, Hungary. And we went on down, which is-- which is east of Bucharest, Romania. Well we finally made it to a little airstrip called "Arab."
Q: Was this behind enemy lines?
Cliff Morris: No. It was-- yeah, it was behind them, but they- the lines were pretty close to where we were when we finally landed. In fact, it was- it was a Russian airfield. The Russians had it and they were flying missions off of it. And when we landed, ah.. it was a real short runway. They had a concrete runway, but it was real short. And we didn't have any brakes. And we ran off the end of the runway in fortunately, mud and it just-- no-nobody was- nobody on the aircraft got hit. We got- they got some ah.. where the flight to get to your windscreens and all. Some of the glass, it cut us, but other than that, we were alright. And when we finally, we landed there and stayed with them ah.. for about 3 or 4 days. And they had a hospital- a little hospital there, they directed us at a hospital. And they put us in a- in a couple rooms out there and they kept guards on us.
Q: Russians were our allies, were they not?
Cliff Morris: Earlier. They were allies. Fortunate, I had one ah.. ah.. I had a crew chief on there who was from-- of German ah.. his family was from Germany and he could speak German. And we started and I told him, I said, "Sergeant Keaton [ph?]," I said, "Don't you speak a word of German." (chuckle) But anyway, it- it fortunately had a doctor over there who could speak English and we-he-we could make ourselves understood. But if it hadn't been for that, we probably would have been- had a handicap in making, you know, ______. But they took pretty good care of us. The reason they kept us under guard is because the Germans were within about 4-5 miles of you. You could hear the artillery and all there. But when-- after that three days, they put us on a- a Romanian G-52, which is a German community transport ________, forward _______. They flew as many as they could. They couldn't fly us all. They flew me to Bucharest, Romania where they had an American military mission over there. They were sent over there to repatriate the-the shot down prisoners of war after they had gotten them out of-- they were originally taken to Romania. And my crew, the finally put through my crew up there and another B-24 crew. We were the first four crews that were in there. And fortunately, the commanding o-officer of the military mission over there was my former group commander from Chinet [ph?] Beach and I thought he'd gone home. And then when I got over there and stepped out of the aircraft, of course, they-they knew we were coming, and they met the aircraft. And he said, "Captain Morris," he says, "What are you doing over here?" And I said, Colonel Rich, I thought you'd gone home." And he said, "No," he said-- he wasn't married at the time and he said, "I had a chance to come over here. There's no use for me to go home, so here I am."
Q: I heard the story that you got to eat Christmas dinner with the king.
Cliff Morris: Yeah. What it was, they-they had declared Bucharest an open city at that time and King Michael, who was- who was a young-young king had just taken over from his father, tried to abdicate. And they invited all of the allies, in fact, there was some German, and then some Japanese, Italians over there, which-which was-- they were diplomats. And the-the English diplomat, I forgot what his name was now, but in fact, he- we got to talking to him. In fact, he found out I-I was-- we were from-- I was from Wilmington, and he had actually visited in Wilmington way before the war. He was attached to the embassy in Washington. But anyway, we got to talking to him and got to meet the king. And they-they really put on a spread for us.
Q: All this time, your plane was listed as missing in action?
Cliff Morris: We had to leave the plane, because you-you- they couldn't fly it anymore.
Q: Was that Amazing Maisy?
Cliff Morris: No, no, that was not Amazing.
Q: That was a different one?
Cliff Morris: That was a different one.
Q: As far as anybody in the States knew, you were missing in action?
Cliff Morris: Yeah. In fact, I-I've got the telegram that my mother got when they-they declared me missing in action. And then when we got back to when-when the American military mission in Bucharest, they notified the 15th Air Force headquarters in Bari that we were there, so they-they had sent another telegram about two weeks later and mother got that. It's stating that I had-had returned to Italy. I've still- I've got them.
Q: I'm glad you kept those. There was a large dinner on Christmas?
Cliff Morris: Oh, yes.
Q: It wasn't just you and the king?
Cliff Morris: No, no. They had-- it was a whole big old spread at the embassy. It was quite an experience.
Q: That was about how far into your missions? Were you halfway through?
Cliff Morris: No. I had about ten more missions to go.
Q: Then once you got back with your original crew--
Cliff Morris: When we got back to-to Foggia-- I mean, when we landed at Bari, that was the headquarters for the 15th Air Force. They put us in a hospital and quarantined us for 30 days, because they didn't know what-what kind of-- we'd been eating all kinds of funny food over there and everything and sleeping and had to have baths. But anyway, they quarantined us as a precaution, to see if we had picked up any diseases or anything. Of course, we'd already-- we had all kinds of shots and things, but you never can tell what you're going to pick up. Then they sent me on back to my group and that's when I finished up flying the missions.
Q: All of your missions were flown out of Foggia and Luceria?
Cliff Morris: Luceria, yeah.
Q: I'm sorry, Lucera. Did you ever get a chance to go to the USO shows?
Cliff Morris: Oh yeah. Yeah, they had USO shows over there. Bob Hope and his troupe was over there at one time, but we-we didn't get a chance to see him, because they were- we were flying missions and all. He was in Foggia and that-that was headquarters.
Q: You never got to see any shows?
Cliff Morris: I never got to see him, but we did see some USO shows.
Q: Do you remember who you got to see?
Cliff Morris: No, I-I can't remember who they were.
Q: Did you ever get to see Glenn Miller?
Cliff Morris: No. He was- he was in the 8th Air Force.
Q: I didn't know if he had--
Cliff Morris: No. He was in the 8th Air Force.
Q: How many missions did you fly altogether?
Cliff Morris: 52.
Q: And 25 would qualify you to return to the States, is that correct?
Cliff Morris: No. I had to fly. Th-there's a misnomer about that. Actually, I only flew about 40 missions, 40 times over the target. But the 15th Air Force had a policy if you went over a- went over a certain barrier in the air to a certain-- so many hours in the air, they gave you credit for two missions. So on some of these lo- real long missions, if you went to a target and back, you got- you got credit for two missions. That's the reason I-I say 52 missions. But actually I only few about 40 times over the target.
Q: Were you flying any of your missions at the time of D-Day? Were you involved in that at all?
Cliff Morris: Not D-- not D-Day in-in-in Europe. I-I was flying missions out of ah.. Italy at the time.
Q: Right. But on June 5, 1944, were you flying?
Cliff Morris: I was flying a mission to ah.. to Grenoble, France, which is-- and they-- and Grenoble was on the main ah.. railroad lines in southern France into northern France where they were. We bombed a viaduct over Rhone River. That was to stop if-if they tried to bring their troops out of southern France they-they-we bombed that railroad bridge.
Q: Was that on the day of the overlord that was on June 5th?
Cliff Morris: That was on the 6th of June.
Q: The different bombs that your plane dropped. You were talking earlier about the different types of bombs that were used.
Cliff Morris: Well depending-depending on the target, most-most-most of the times we carried 500 pounds of a general purpose. But we carried 1,000-pounders and sometimes- one time we carried 2,000-pounders. That was when we went after a goods depot or someplace like that that was pretty well protected and underground and all. But then we-- two or three missions we carried what they call FRAG bombs. And what FRAG bombs are a small, about a 50-pound-- 25 or 50 pound bomb that was wrapped with steel bands and when it- when it exploded, it just looked like shrapnel.
Q: It fragmented?
Cliff Morris: It fragmented. So we used that on what they call built up areas or where they had a lot of troops. And then they would go up there and carpet bomb them like that, especially when they were going to go- go- take out-- had an object to take or a ______ to take. We'd go up there and-- we went on two of those missions. The B-17s and the heavy bombers, they're so-- that's- that was very unusual for us to do that.
Q: You flew at different altitudes, depending on the type of--
Cliff Morris: Like I was telling you last night, the lowest altitude we flew and bombed was 5,000 feet. That was on one of these fragmented bombs.
Q: When you had a 2,000-- did you say you a 2,000 pound bomb?
Cliff Morris: I never did carry any, but some of them-- on some missions they carried 2,000-pounders.
Q: I would assume, then, that your altitude had to be higher for that particular bomb?
Cliff Morris: We-we flew missions anywhere from 17,000 feet to 25,000 feet.
Q: When you dropped your bomb, did the plane go up? Could you feel the--
Cliff Morris: Oh yeah. You anticipated that-that when a-a- when the bombardier said, "Bombs away!" you could-- you always anticipated that, because when you had about-- about 4,000 pounds of bombs dropped, you're going ________ send you and come upwind, and you-you anticipated that. It was kind of-- it wasn't too bad.
Q: It wasn't like you went up and hit your head on the roof?
Cliff Morris: You were prepared for it.
Q: You were in Europe. Your missions were between what dates?
Cliff Morris: I flew my first mission I think-- I've forgotten exactly- the exact date, but sometime ah.. January of '44 until April of '45.
Q: You had a dog over there, didn't you?
Cliff Morris: No, I had the dog in the- in the United States. That was when we were- we were in training. His name was Roger. He was a black Cocker Spaniel.
Q: Tell me about Roger, because there are some funny stories about Roger.
Cliff Morris: We got him when we were in Tampa, Florida. I went out and got him and we named him Roger. And when he was- he was a true dog. I mean, we'd-- he might stay with the enlisted men in the barracks, he might stay over with us, but anyway, when we got ready to go to ah.. out to ah.. ah.. LaGuardia Field, we-we couldn't take him. We weren't supposed to take him on the troop train. But we got him on there. And ah.. the-the-the mess hall was in a baggage car. So the crew- the crew chief took him back there to feed him and-and-and while they were stopped at a station somewhere in Florida, Roger was sitting out looking out the door. The door was open and when the train started off, he fell out. And of course, he-- before we got the conductor, we were several miles down the track. But he-he-he got a message back to him that where the- where the dog was- where the dog was and everything. So when we got up to LaGuardia there was a message and he came to the training squad and it was for Lieutenant Marsh [ph?] that he had a- had a- had a package at the front gate, I mean, at the- at the gate, yard gate. They went out there and they-they had got Roger and put him in a cage and they found out where we were and shipped him up there.
Q: Roger enjoyed a little drink every now and again?
Cliff Morris: Yeah. He'd drink a beer. We'd give him a beer. But Roger didn't go overseas with us. We-we-- I brought him home. We-we had some leave, you know, so I brought him home and gave him to Christine.
Cliff Morris: That-that was Roger.
Q: Wait a minute. I wouldn't have known Roger. But there were some pictures of Roger.
Cliff Morris: Oh yeah. He finally went to his reward.
Q: Was Roger the dog that picked up the big stick and he couldn't get it through the door and he kept trying to get through the door?
Cliff Morris: Yeah, that was him.
Q: Tell about it.
Cliff Morris: That's when he was a puppy. He picked up a-a-a-- we'd throw a stick, you know, and he couldn't-- he'd pick it up and try to get through the door with it in his mouth and he couldn't. He'd finally drop it and turn around. But he was a great dog.
Q: Good. You flew your last mission and when was it that you came home?
Cliff Morris: I came home in ah.. the first of May.
Cliff Morris: 1945.
Q: And then you and momma were married at the end of that month?
Cliff Morris: Uh-huh.
Q: Okay. You've won several medals. You've gotten several different ribbons for different things.
Cliff Morris: Well, yeah. I had t-two DFCs.
Q: That's distinguished flying cross.
Cliff Morris: Yeah.
Q: How did you--
Cliff Morris: That was o-on a mission that we- that we had and ah.. we got all shot up and everything and ah.. what the crew and all did. Actually, the-the medal should have been given to the crew, but they-they got a-a bronze star.
Q: You were awarded that twice.
Cliff Morris: Uh-huh.
Q: There's another one. I know you've got several medals.
Cliff Morris: Air medal. That-that-that was given just about to everybody- to everybody. You got a-a-a- an air medal after about 10 missions I think. And then each 10-- every 10 missions after that, they gave you what they call a-a-a-a star to go with it. Oak Leaf Cross. That's about it.
Q: I was thinking there were some other medals in there that you had that--
Cliff Morris: There-there-there-there- they weren't medals, they were ribbons. I had ribbons from the- from the MTO, ribbons from the ah..
Q: NTO is?
Cliff Morris: Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
Q: Oh, MTO. Okay.
Cliff Morris: Then I had-had a ribbon from the Caribbean. _____________. That's about it.
Q: Uncle Ralph flew some--
Cliff Morris: He flew B-24s. He was with the 450th Bomb Group. He was flying out of Italy, too. But he was-- he and his crew were shot up July 4, 1944 and they had to bail out over Yugoslavia. They all got out alright. They were- they were picked up by the partisans. They stayed over there with the partisans for several weeks. They were moving them all around. They were right next to the Germans. He had quite an experience. They finally got him back to ah.. to Italy and then they sent them on home.
Q: He came home directly after that?
Cliff Morris: See, if you were-- if you were shot down over there and were in- were in the enemy territory and they got you back, you were automatic sent back home. See, I-I was ah.. what they-- was classified as _________. I was not ah.. I was not captured by the enemy, so I didn't get a chance to come home.
Q: That was all the questions I had. Did you have any other stories that you wanted to share about things that happened over there that stand out in your mind?
Cliff Morris: On one mission (inaudible) went to Vienna, Austria. ____________, and we got all shot up, splat! We knew we had been hit. The aircraft had been hit, but we just-- all the engines were running, we still had plenty of oxygen, nobody had gotten injured or anything, and when we got all the way back to base, to come in to land-- well I got the-- after we got down to about 10,000 feet, I got the ball turret gun and he was below the aircraft. I got him to scan all the way around. He told us that ah.. there was a lot of flak damage in the number one-- behind the number one engine.
Q: Number one. If you're sitting in the cockpit,--
Cliff Morris: Number one. The number one engine is-is the first engine on the left-hand side. There were two engines, then the number three and number four on the right. But anyway, we-we knew we had some flak damage. There were holes in the- in the ele- _______ and things like that, but we still did- didn't realize that the _______ had problems. And, of course, when we got- got down and got back to base, we had a procedure of landing, getting into landing pattern and everything, you went through a procedure with a checklist. And one of the- one of the procedures in there was to- was to cut all the fuel pumps. You used the fuel pumps when you were flying ah.. but when you came in to land, you cut the fuel pumps to get- be sure you got fuel to your engine. But anyway, when the co-pilot, his name was Russ, when he went to checklist, we always used the checklist, and he put- when I told him to put on the fuel pump, and he put those things on, about 10 seconds later, there was a great big-- it was not an explosion but like "Wroof." And we looked out, and the right-- the left wing behind the number one engine was just a mass of fire.
Q: Oh my gosh! How far were you from the--
Cliff Morris: We were right-- we-we were in traffic pattern. About 1200 feet, 1200 feet about the ground. And ah.. so I immediately reached down and rang the bell out there. And so he started to bail out and there and the-the-the bombardier never gave it up and the engineer went out the ah.. the nose hatchet. The radio operator-- I opened-- we opened the bomb bay doors. The bombardier opened the bomb bay doors, because with gas fuel. The engineer went out the ah.. the bomb bay and the ah.. waste gunner and tail gunner went out the waste. And me-- the co-pilot and I-I-I got out and went out-- I went out the nose hatchet, too. And it-- we-- fortunately, we had disengaged the autopilot, but it was still warmed up. It was not engaged. The only thing we had to do was to engage it so that the aircraft would fly itself, was push-push the bar that engaged the-the automatic pilot and fortunately, their _______ was now only a-about 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea. And-and when we were- when we landed, we were headed towards the sea. We all bailed out at about 12- 1200 feet. We all got on the ground. And but, the air- the aircraft kept-kept on flying. And after we got on the ground and all, they had told us that the air-aircraft had exploded about two minutes after we got out of it.
Q: That was your closest call, other than--
Cliff Morris: What they- what they tell you that happened, they say that we had had some flak damage in the-- on the gas lines, the fuel lines. When-when the fuel pumps-- when the pressure of the fuel pumps not on it, and it's so far out in the wing and all, that we couldn't smell any-any fuel. If it had been closer in, we could have probably smelled the fuel or fumes. But they tell you that when they pushed those-- the-the fuel pumps on, see there's-there's a turbo that ________ the engine. What they call a turbo, turbine. (inaudible) They are-they are red hot. And they think it's-- when that fuel hit that number one turbo, that's what did it. We all got out alright.
Q: But at 1200 feet, that was high enough up for you to bail out and your chute to open.
Cliff Morris: You can bail out at 300 or 400 feet. That's what- that's what the paratroopers. They-they go out. When they-- when they ordinarily bail out.
Q: I've seen videos and movies and whatever and I know that you had to wear a lot of protection, because of the extreme temperature at the altitude.
Cliff Morris: No, we had equipment for the temperature and all they had what they call PV suits, it was like a pair of long johns and with wires running all over them.
Q: Did you wear gloves?
Cliff Morris: Oh, yeah. I-I never did wear. I just- I just wore a pair of silk gloves, because up in the cockpit, you-you got a benefit of a lot of the uh.. uh.. heaters from the engine. But the boys in the back- in the back didn't, because it just didn't get back there.
Q: It was wide open spaces back there.
Cliff Morris: Yeah.
Q: I've often wondered about goggles. Did you ever wear goggles?
Cliff Morris: Oh, yeah. I wore goggles.
Q: At that temperature, because it got right cold.
Cliff Morris: I wore goggles, especially when we were on a bomber, because you didn't know when she was going to rain. Something-- m-most of the times, I didn't wear goggles.
Q: How cold did it get?
Cliff Morris: Sometimes it got 40 or 50 degrees below zero.
Q: That's what I was thinking. If you didn't have some protection on your eyes, would your eyes not--?
Cliff Morris: No, it was not that cold in the cockpit.
Q: But the guys behind you had to.
Cliff Morris: They-they-they used all kinds of gloves.
Q: And the goggles?
Cliff Morris: They had a pair of silk gloves on, had a pair of silk gloves, then they had-had a pair of GI ah.. ah.. w-woolen gloves. But I-I-I didn't wear ah.. ah.. heated suit, because it-- sometimes there's-- if those little wires in there fracture, I mean they broke or something, they'd burn you.
Q: Do you have your leather jacket or anything that you've saved all these years? I don't remember ever seeing it.
Cliff Morris: I never did fly in my A2 jacket. I always flew in my ah.. during the wintertime. I flew in my fleece-lined jacket.
Q: Do you have those now?
Cliff Morris: No. I had to turn them in.
Q: Oh, you had to turn them in.
Cliff Morris: I kept- I kept the A2 jacket, but I wore it so much, it-it just- it got- the knit cuffs got all frayed. I wish I'd have kept it, but I didn't. It was wore out.
Q: That was all the questions that I had. Can you think of anything else you'd like to share about?
Cliff Morris: No. I just- I just ah.. people, take Tom Brokaw. He's written a couple of books now. And the people are beginning to realize some of the-the younger people didn't realize, you know, about World War II. They-they-they didn't _________. They were ____ of course, they were involved with the Vietnam War, which in my estimation was-was no good. It was a no-good war. It was run wrong. Of course, I was ______ at the time, but it was a political war. And-and I couldn't understand it. The-the young people at that time were-were bitter. It was not run right, in my- in my opinion. It was a political war. The-the poli-politicians wouldn't let the military run the war like it should have been run and people in my generation, if you ask them, they'll say, "Oh, let the-- get the politics out of it and let the military run it." They wouldn't have been over there 10 years. They could have stopped that war right-- cut it right off. But it was a political war. The politicians told what-what-what they could bomb and what they couldn't bomb, what they could do and couldn't do. But that's-that's neither here nor there. But right now, the people in the United States, the younger people are beginning to realize the sacrifice and all-- everybody. I'm-I'm talking about the civilians and everybody. During World War II, that was the greatest generation.
Q: I think you're exactly right.
Cliff Morris: A lot of people won't-won't agree with what I said about it. But--
Q: I believe you're right about that, too, but the world owes a huge debt to those men and women that fought for the freedom of the world during those two world wars.
Cliff Morris: Well the (inaudible) the GIs and the service people that went to Korea and-and they owe it to the people, men and women, that went to Vietnam. Some of them didn't want to go, but they went. Some of them didn't want to go and they went to ah.. to ah.. Canada and places like that. And I mean, I'm rightly saying this, but the president of the United States was actually against the war in Vietnam and he-he-he talked against it. And then he's the president of the United States and the Commanding Officer. But you have to-- when you go in, you swear allegiance to the-- and he's-he's-he's the commanding officer and you have to do-- you have to follow. So all of it you don't like, but you have to follow.
Q: When Bill gets back, he may have some questions that he wants to ask and we might crank this up again. But I appreciate it.
Cliff Morris: I appreciate you having me do it.