Bob Schuh served as a tail gunner with the 398th Bomb Group, flying missions out of Nuthampstead, England. Every one of the guys in his crew completed their 35 missions without a scratch.
FROM WISCONSIN TO WAR
Bob thinks he was lucky to get into the Air Force, as when he was drafted, the military could have assigned him to any of the branches. He went to Amarillo, TX, for basic training. Bob remembers it as 'all go, go, go'. There was a lot of physical education to get the men in shape but he made good friends.
After basic training, he went to Denver, CO for armament school and then to Kingman, AZ for gunnery school. He had never fired a gun as a civilian but it was gunners that were needed so that's what he was trained to do. The next stop was Florida, to meet the crew he'd be flying with. They travelled together to Virginia for advanced radar training. Bob remembers that there was time to go home to say good bye to family before going overseas.
Bob's crew flew the northern route to Goose Bay Labrador, then to Iceland. On the way to Iceland, there was a small incident. The crew thought they spotted an orange raft down below so the pilot took the aircraft in lower, in case they needed to radio in a missing crew. To their surprise, it wasn't a raft, it was a whale, floating on its back. In Iceland, the enlisted men had to guard the plane while the officers went into town so he didn't see much there.
Their second-to-last stop was in Northern Ireland then it was Liverpool, England and on to their final stop - their base at Nuthampstead. Bob's first impression of Nuthampstead was that it was much like Wisconsin - they could see the farmer still out working his fields beyond the edge of the base. It was a flat part of the country and it was all lanes and tracks. There were hardly any people in the village. All the men had bicycles and they would use them to ride around the airfield and down to the village.
Bob remembers that on one icy day, the aircraft behind his couldn't take off and it crashed. A few of guys were killed. When I came back from a short stay in hospital, I filled in a spot in their crew.
The crews would be woken up at 2.30/3am, went to the chaplain, then to the briefing. Flew to targets in Germany and to Czechoslovakia, that was the longest mission they went on. He remembers his first mission: when we were landing, standing in waist position, flying on a tilt, wing's about to hit the ground, but managed to right it and we were okay! That pilot was a good pilot - he flew in the Berlin air lift afterwards. Our crew trusted each other - not a cuss word from any of them - one guy smoked, the rest of us didn't, from all over the United States.
Flew on B-17 nicknamed 'Shoo Shoo Baby' - called that because of his surname. Bob had his jacket painted with a shoe with wings. got the jacket back to the States, but someone stole it from him.
The ball turret gunner got sick every one of the first 15 missions - on the 15th one - he threw up in his mask and he started turning blue - so I took the mask off him and got the sick out of it - and he was okay - but when we got back I said to him - "Maurice, you've got to do something about this". And he did - went to the flight surgeon - and he was fine after that, kept flying and wasn't sick after that.
Another mission - went to the oil field at Merseburg, flak was thick and came under a lot of pressure - 60 to 70 holes - but we made it through. Berlin missions were always difficult, a lot of anti aircraft fire. Saw aircraft go down from our squadron. Three or four were very difficult. Last one was meant to be easy but they gave us Berlin - when we made it back I kissed the ground and thanked God and said I'm going home.
Met a lot of British people who were kind, I had a girlfriend, but I was also very ready to go home. Came back on a troop ship from Southampton in a navy convoy.
AFTER THE WAR
When I was home, I went to school on the GI bill, became a teacher, worked as a teacher for 34 years. Married Angela and they had three boys. Three grandchildren - one granddaughter. I live on my own now. Only started talking about the war in the last few years - schools, reunions.
Glad for the experience but I wouldn't do it again. Regret - I lost close buddies during the war. My crew was close to bailing out a couple of times - first pilot was called Stern and he would go right over the target - he was good - became lead pilot. Then our co-pilot became our pilot - he was more relaxed. One other guy in my crew still survives and I still go to group reunions.
Units served with
The 398th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses from Nuthampstead, Hertfordshire on strategic bombing raids over Germany. The Group switched focus in the days before D-Day, when they targeted enemy positions on the Cherbourg peninsula. When the Allied...
Military site : airfield
Built during 1942-43, Nuthampstead was the nearest Eighth Air Force heavy bomber base to London. It had three concrete runways, 50 loop hardstandings and two dispersed T2 hangars. It was first occupied from September 1943 to April 1944 by the 55th...
||16 October 1924
||Manitowoc, WI 54220, USA
Graduated from school at 17
Worked in a factory until April 1943 then got the letter from the draft board. At that time Bob was working 58 hours a week - 10 hours Monday to Friday and 8 on Saturday and it was tough work. As Bob put it: 'When I got my letter, I thought this might be easier than this!'