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Hal Shook « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Hal Shook

Hometown: Cary, NC
Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
Location of Service: Europe

Hal Shook Interview

Question: Tell me where you were living and how you got involved with the Army Air Corps?

Hal Shook: I was living in San Francisco. My father was a World War I individual, took me out up to ____ one day, went to Christian [ph] Field, the airfield, and I saw a B26. That’s the little open cockpit fighter, and I said, that is for me. What do you have to do to fly these birds? And they said, you have to be 21, you go to flying school, you got to have two years college, and that’s what I did.

In fact, I applied for the flying school, and they had a four or five month delay, and I said I don’t want to wait that long. So I went and applied for the Navy, passed all the tests, but I was 20, and my father had to sign the papers. So between that time and the time I was getting ready to sign it, I thought, “My gosh, I’m going to be out to sea on a ship, and what happens to my lady friend?” I said, “No way,” so I went back to the Army Air Corps, and I finally got in on my 21st birthday.

Question: How old were when you saw that first plane, and got the spark?

Hal Shook: I was 14. My grandmother–I think I mentioned by mother passed away when I was three–but my grandmother took me out to Seaside, Oregon, quite a bit, and one time we got a ride in a Ford Trimotor, and I liked that a lot. It was very expensive; it cost a penny a pound. At the time I weighed 60 lbs, so it cost her 60 cents. Anyway, that got it stirred up.

Question: You turned 21, you were now eligible to become a member of the Army Air Corps. What happened then?

Hal Shook: Well, I went through primary flying school, flying open cockpit, two seat biplane. I loved every bit of it. I had a very first-class instructor. I probably should have mentioned this, but he was one of the top people, so as a consequence they made him a flight commander. So we got another instructor, and another instructor, and I got some guy, he looked like Clark Gable, but he did not have the gift; I mean, he was ornery, and wham! He’d hit that stick and kick it around and hit the rudder and shout. I went to see this guy Laird [ph] who was my first instructor, and he was flight commander. I said, “Sir, I cannot learn to fly with this guy.” It’s a wonder I didn’t get washed out.

Anyway, I got another instructor, things worked great, I graduated primary flying school, you go to basic…what the heck was it? Anyway, I flew a basic aircraft, still fixed gear, and went to Bakersfield and we lived in a little schoolhouse for the first half of it. In the second half we opened Bakersfield Air Base, and all the windows had just been installed, so it was our job to clean the windows, cut the labels off of them, and now we go to advanced flying school [ph] and again we picked up, we were flying AT6 [ph], a beautiful bird, and I was hammering [ph] to get into flight ___ and tried to make an instructor pilot out of me, and it was good in the sense that I got 35 extra flying hours lying in the back seat.

All of a sudden I got a call one day, said, hey, we’ve got room for two more people to go to fighter, and it was a whole group of young people, all cadets, had to be at attention, yes, sir, where do you have to report? Building 143, and bam, I took off like a shot, and was the first one there. So I got flying fighters, B40s, out at Hamilton Field, San Francisco, that’s the way it all started.

Question: Once your training was over, what happened?

Hal Shook: Well, I was elated. I was flying exactly the bird I wanted, and I had a squadron commander that said, come on in, I want to show you, ___ hangar, I’ll show you how to pull up to gear, and it had a hydraulic mule on it so it acted as though the engine was running, here’s the way you pull up the gear, and then he says, okay, that’s it, so go on out and fly the bird. He said, do everything you can think of it with it, and if it won’t take it, bail it. And I thought, man, that’s just great. So I went up and I rolled that thing and snapped rolled it over and loops and ___ everything I could think, I had just a ball, and I came down, and they said that’s probably the hottest pilot they’ve ever seen, so I came in to land, and bang! I must have bounced 50 feet in the air [LAUGHS]. That was my opening. But anyway, I got a hold of the bird pretty fast, loved to fly, just everything I wanted to do was going to happen was happening right there.

Question: Tell us about your training in Myrtle Beach. What happened there? How did you get from California to Myrtle Beach?

Hal Shook: Well, the gentleman whose name I think was Ira Edgar [ph], who was wing commander when I first joined in 1941, and he got pulled over and became a two, three star general, and he was in command of the bomber force in Europe, so he said he wants to take all of his guys out there, so we flew P40s out to Charlotte, and I thought we were going to [ph] end up overseas, but as it turned out, we were operating four bases and soon, I became an instructor pilot and was taking pilots out of flying school and trying to get the most out of a fighter. We operated out of Charlotte, operated out of Myrtle Beach, operated out of Wilmington, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. So you can remember Spartanburg, no doubt. But that was it.

Question: How did the training that you were doing in Myrtle Beach, how did that prepare you for your missions that you would be flying later?

Hal Shook: Well, preparation for the missions, more than anything, the fact that I loved to fly fighters, I’d had a great deal of fighter experience, my first thing was to learn how to get the most out of a bird, and once I did that I was to teach other people how to do the same thing. But shortly after that tour on these four bases, I got pulled up to do a special project flying out of metro field New York, right next to La Guardia, so I had my own airplane up there, and I ___ do the test work. When I came back I got back into fighters and then I volunteered right in the beginning, and that didn’t work, I went on temporary duty, I volunteered again, and then I got married. Then I volunteered again, and blew up, she didn’t want any part of that, so I had to call that one off.

But the point was, all the fighter time I had, training other pilots helped a great deal because when all of a sudden it hit the fan and said now go up to Myrtle Beach. I was in Tallahassee, Florida, this is the second time I was at Myrtle Beach, the first was ’42, now it’s early ’44, and I was a captain. They had a very, very short notice requirement, ___ of it, before the invasion, like a year, year and a half, they said we’ve got to have a bunch of fighter groups to support the ground guys, infantry and artillery. That’s what happened.

And they were all training quite rapidly, you’d expect after a year and a half they’d be ready to go. One outfit failed combat ready inspection, so they had to do something real fast. So they took an organization that had solid on the ground, and the wrong pilots and the wrong airplanes, so they moved all that out, and they brought in a bunch of senior guys, and they brought in a group commander who came from the Royal Air Force, American volunteer, knew what combat was all about. They had two majors that they pulled seasoned majors, they needed one more guy for ___ commander, I was a captain, so quickly I was picked, which made me feel good.

Then all of a sudden I’m commander of a squadron. Also you should know that the average buck [ph] pilot back in those days, you had 250 hours flying, time and trainers, you had about 75 hours flying a fighter; they took no chance on busting combat ready inspections, so they said, we’re going to have, we must have, at least 500 hours flying time on the part of each individual pilot. That’s a lot of flying time. But we had a very experienced outfit, but they told me, get up there, in certain words, I became a major in two weeks, and they said train them, build them into teams and take them into combat. That’s it. Off we go.

Question: Did you know at this point where you were going to go?

Hal Shook: No clue. I knew we were going overseas, and in fact, I don’t think we even knew when we got on board the boat, but we could guess it’s got to be Europe, but we didn’t know initially what kind of birds; we knew it was going be fighters, could have been three or four different fighters, but once we got up to Camp Hank’s [ph] in New York, and put us on the ___ Castle, a British boat, and we had to start our exercise, escort, by golly, the food wasn’t anything to brag about, and they’d serve you chicken that had pinfeathers sticking out of it, so by the time we hit London—hit England, I was only eating hard rolls because I couldn’t handle the other stuff, anyway, that’s just in the side [ph]. But we did hit England, at Liverpool, short time later we took a train ride, and now we’re down at a southern part of England, right by the isle of Wight, and that’s where we operated for three months.

Question: And what did you do during that time?

Hal Shook: Well, I flew my first combat mission and it was April 24th, one day before my birthday, so I was 23 when all this was going on, and that was escorts, B24s into Frankfurt, and that first bird I ever saw get shot down, and the second mission on my birthday, dive bomb ____ third like that. They selected several of us to fly with another outfit, ____ just kind of get our feet wet, and so I had three missions before 1 May [ph], that’s when the whole group went into combat. We were doing a few escorts but most of the time we’re knocking out heavy targets.

For example, we knock out airfields, knock out rail yards. The name of the game is, impede the movement of German forces and material up to wherever the invasion was going to take place. So the German hierarchy felt like they could move anyplace in western Europe, up to the front, in three days. The consequence of what we were doing, knocking out bridges, every time we see a train, we’d move at night, but we’d see them loaded up and ready to go ______. So it took them 17 days to get this right, and that’s what we were doing.

Question: When did you learn that you were going to be part of the Normandy mission? How did that information come to you and your squadron?

Hal Shook: Well, the formal announcement came on the latter part of the 4th of June, and we were supposed to take off on the 5th, and we had to put special stripes on every airplane. There were alternating bars, white stripe, black stripe, you’d have it on the wings, top part, underneath you’d have it on the fuselage. The name of the game, if you ever see an airplane that doesn’t have a stripe, wipe it out. That’s it.

So that gave us a clue, and we knew that there had to be an invasion, but we had no idea when until all of a sudden, 4th of June, and now because of painting the birds and not everybody, they weren’t told what was going on but you know, you can guess. The weather was so bad on the 5th of June, Eisenhower thought, I’ve got to postpone for one day, 24 hours. Now come the 6th of June, and we’re in advance of that, half of his staff said, don’t go, you’ve got everything at stake, if lose this, you’re going to lose everything. You’re the ___, you’ve got to go. You’ve got the element of surprise, people are ready, the tide’s ready, it’s just right, we’ve got to go. So he made the decision to go. The weather was just as bad on the 6th as it was on the 5th. I can keep on going with this, but that’s when we found out it was on for real.

We were told our job was to cover Omaha Beach, and that was the toughest beach of all five, because principally, the heavy, heavy armament up on top, and the steep cliffs that point I mean [ph] almost straight up and down, a hundred feet, the hedgerows, all of this combined, the heavy defense systems and all made it tough, tough, tough, okay.

We were told to cover the ground forces, keep the Luftwaffe off the backs of the ground forces at all costs. They said if you get into a fight, you stay there until the bloody end. If you run out of fuel, don’t be concerned, just keep fighting, Brits plunk it down in the channel; you run out of ammunition, bam! ram them, that’s it. That was the instruction. They said if you lose 10 virgin pilots, 30 or 40, there were 48 of us, you kept the Luftwaffe off their backs, you’ve done your job, so that’s the way it was, and off we go.

Question: Describe that day for us. What—

[CUT] [OFF MIC TECHNICAL DISCUSSION]

Hal Shook: We’re talking D-Day.

Question: We’re talking D-Day. Describe for us the day. Describe for us how you felt as you were going through the day. What was happening?

Hal Shook: I knew it was a very important mission; the weather was terrible, it was stinko [ph], the ceiling of visibility just wasn’t there; it was pitch black. I remember we’d already been briefed the day before, we get in our birds, have a good breakfast, and off we go, and take off in pairs, get up on top of the weather, and you join, ___ 16 birds I was the first one airborne, I joined on top, and back in those days we had no satellite navigation; it was strictly dead reckoning, ___ variation on the part of whatever map you were using. You also got to crank [ph] in wind, and time and distance and dead reckoning, I figured okay, we should be right over the beach right now and all of a sudden bango! one of my guys got shot down by flak, and that’s it, so it’s proof positive.

But at that same time, 150,000 troops hit all five beaches all at one time, and I understand that just before that, at midnight, 16,000 paratroopers had dropped. Now we were not aware of the whole depth of the operation; our job was to defend Omaha Beach, but all of this surfaced later, and a lot of things surfaced later, but we felt this was a real important one, we got to be there, and I must say that you always have an enemy or a battle briefing, and in advance they’ll tell you, hey, here’s the opposition you can expect, so we’ve been flying in flak [ph] for five weeks, so we knew what that was all about, but it was rare that you saw enemy fighters, 109s and 190s, and that was what I loved to do, I loved to dogfight, it just charges my battery.

But we didn’t have that opportunity, but we felt it now, they’re going to throw everything at us, so we’re going to have a lot of that going on. We didn’t see a single one. I ended up flying three missions on D-Day about eights hours; same thing I did D +1 but two points stood out in my mind and I’ll never forget them. One was the massiveness of the whole thing. We were on top again, and on the second mission, the clouds started to break and I looked down, my golly, I’ve never seen anything like that: 7,000 vessels scattered all over the place on the water.

There were battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and the battleships and cruisers were broadside to the beach, bam! you could just see the fire coming out of that muzzle, and you think, my goodness, it must has to be a living hell down there; they’re tearing everything up. I can look ahead now, 20, 30, 40 years, and you walk along Omaha Beach, and what do you see? You see the big chunks of concrete, all those big guns, 16” gun on a battleship, a 12” gun on a cruiser, they just knocked off a little piece of concrete, knock it off.

But anyway, the massiveness was the one thing. I look out and not only see the naval ship, but I’d see the merchant marine, and I’d see them building ramps to unload vehicles and take those vehicles and head on up to shore, all of that. The second thing was even a tougher thing. I thought about those poor guys down on the ground, they had, they’d come in on merchant marine boats, they transfer little Higgins boats that were run by the Coast Guard, and they’d come up the beach, and sometimes they’d have 30 people on board, sometimes they’d hit the beaches with nobody on board, they all–they’re carrying 50, 75 lbs. of weight on them, so you can guess what took place. Now and then a boat comes in with one person on board. But I thought about these guys, I still think about them, and as it turned out, we came to know a bunch of them; in particular, the 116th Infantry Regiment out of Bedford, Virginia, and it was around these people who took more losses per capita than anybody else during the war. It was a tough, tough thing.

They hit the beaches first, and yet these guys kept right on coming; the Bedford boys were the ones about whom Saving Private Ryan, the movie, was written, and it was real, true, in every respect. But I thought about these guys, and I said, wow, that is tough stuff. And as I got to know some of them after the war and we worked a lot with them during the war, we worked with the infantry guys, artillery guys, the tanks, 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, and the Rangers. We worked with all of them, and I thought, my goodness, what a courageous bunch of guys, you know? We got shot at and hit as much as they did, but when the day is done, guess what? We go home, we got a bed to sleep in, we got a table to sit down to, and these guys got to keep right on fighting on the ground. Tough, tough life, and that’s really what gets me more than anything, right there.

Question: How did your squadron do in D-Day? Did you have any casualties?

Hal Shook: We had just one. We had our corps, highly experienced guys, and the minute we hit the UK, we started getting replacements, started to build a squadron up, get more and more pilots up there, so we started getting a bunch of new pilots, and we had a young guy, Joe Vivian [ph], and I don’t remember whether he had flown a mission before or not, but I was on my very last mission, on D-Day +1, well, I’d look out, and you couldn’t see a thing, no moon, no sun, no horizon, just flying into nothing over the channel, and I could look out and I could count the birds. There’s four here, count my own, looking at the exhaust and looking at the lights and that sort of thing, and I’d look ___ the cockpit and I’d try to keep it smooth for these guys.

Then I looked up one time, uh-oh, there’s only three birds and there’s supposed to be four. That was Joe Vivian, and I’m sure he just got vertigo. And if he had said something, I’m sure I could have talked him out of it, talked him out of ___ recovery, but we lost that one, we lost the guy that got shot down on the first mission, but he’s okay, and we lost Vivian along the way, this other guy was recovered, he was okay, but that’s all. Most of the outfits that had less experienced, they had heavier losses. Let’s just say that experience makes a big, big difference.

Question: What happened after D-Day? Where did you go from there?

Hal Shook: We spent three months in the UK, and then on the first part of July we moved to Normandy, began operating out of a little airfield we called St. Martine ___ A6, which is auxiliary airfield #6. [INDISCERNIBLE] We had about three missions where we’d take off out of the UK, go and hit targets, we’d recover at A1, a little temporary strip, and refuel and go back and hit some more targets, and then come back home. But now, in the first part of July, we’re in Normandy to stay there for two months, and that was quite an experience. It was a lot of heavy fighting.

We were right on the frontlines, if we’d take off to the southwest and get airborne, we’d get fired at, but our job 90%of the time, cover the ground guys, half the time we were right on the frontlines, the other half, well, we’re going way out in front, knocking out interdiction targets, that’s knocking out airfields, knocking out ___ yards; one that we knocked out, even on D-Day +2, which was a day in itself. You want to talk about that? I can tell you about D-Day +2.

Question: What was the combat like at this time?

Hal Shook: Well, it’s a job. You can’t let it get to you; if you let it get to you, you’re not able to lead the squadron, and you can’t let fear get in. You just do what you have to do; you’ve got a mission to accomplished and by gosh, you’re going to flat do it, and you do all you can to avoid being hit, but by golly, once you get on that run, you’re just going to keep going and knock it out and then get back home, or knock out some other targets on the way back.

But we had guys [ph] had some deep concern; I can remember one of our guys got shot down on a mission, and right close to the front lines, and we’d heard about, we found that the third armor division had brought him back over the lines, so we went down in a jeep and picked him up. And I thought, well, I’ll take him and put him on my wing on the next combat mission, just like you take somebody out to swim, and if they dunk they can become fearful of it, so you get them back in the water, so I got him back in combat; I put him on my wing and off we go, another mission, and we got back, and he said, hey, Major, did you see all that flak? I said, yeah, I did. He said, you know who they’re shooting at? I said, well, I imagine anybody they can hit. He said, no, no, no, they were shooting at me. They knew I was the guy they knocked down; they knew that I got away. They’re determined to get me. And that kind of thinking can break you up.

You see examples of that now and then, but I had a guy, Speedy Bill [ph], one of the flight commanders, extremely able guy; he’d take these youngsters, see, I’m 24 [LAUGHS], boy, we were getting them in 18, 19 years old; gutsy guys, they’d just go diving into the flak. That’s what you’re supposed to do, and we’re going to do it. But you know, some of them, if you think about it too much, I remember I flew the first 50 missions, leading the first 50, and a group ___ said hey, why don’t you train some guys to lead the squadron, and I said, fair enough, so I picked about four of them, trained them to lead the squadron, and one day one of the guys said, _______ I’m supposed to lead this mission, I’m not up to that today. He said, you can take the _____ said okay, but I realized that if that guy’s been sitting on the ground for four days, and he was thinking about it, you start thinking about it, well, it’s just going to impact the efficiency of how you’re going to do what you have to do.

If you want an interesting one, I can tell you about D-Day +2.

Question: Yeah, tell me about that.

Hal Shook: All right?

Question: What happened then?

Hal Shook: Well, on D-Day, D +1, ___ we’re covering the beach, and the expected all kinds of Luftwaffe to be there, but they didn’t show–to our dismay, I must say. I shouldn’t feel like that because they would have made it an even tougher time for the ground guys, and that was our concern but anyway—after two days of that, they said, well, we will need to cover the beach thoroughly so now get back to what you’re supposed to be doing, which is dive bombing stripes [ph], okay, so ___ in the morning, and we knocked out a bunch of heavy industrial targets at Saint-Lo, that was one of the two strongholds that they couldn’t break, and invasion time for five weeks, some heavy, heavy flak wherever you went.

Anyway, we knocked out every industrial target, come back, refuel, fuel myself too as well, go take another one this time and knock out a big rail yard, and that’s where I see a roundhouse, I could see at least one; I think there were two trains loaded, ready to go, all with equipment on it, troop ___, the whole thing. So we wiped that out so they’re not going anyplace for quite a while, but on the way back, and I remember, as I went in and was crossing over the channel, I saw hundreds–I don’t mean a few, I mean hundreds and hundreds–of Tiger tanks, and I said, that’s a tough son of a gun that has an 88 mm gun, 360 degrees on top.

And I said, well, I think I sent 12 birds home, and I kept my four, and we went after the tanks, and we were successful, knocked out a couple tanks, and we knocked out an army personnel carrier, knocked out a staff car, and I’m coming home with three other birds, going about 300 up and down over the hedgerows, and there’s a big gun, here we are, I was keeping the speed up, and down low, element of surprise so they can’t get at you with their ground fire, and then I look up and there’s a big gunner up at 10 o’clock, on a hill [ph]…oh, no, so I just bammo! blew that thing up real quick and bam! went and blew him apart, and he’s never going to bother anybody again.

But he hit me at the same time, and that old bird just flipped, it must’ve been 150 feet high when I got hit, and that bird just flipped, air speed went from 300 to 150, and the bird went right into the ground. And you know, you’re operating automatically, like I couldn’t hold the bird with one hand, so I took my hand off the throttle–all this happens at once, you’re here, and then you suck it back up, get the nose up; at the same time you kick it over here, get the wing up and at the same time bam! you kick that left rudder, you do all that just simultaneously, and I still felt I was going in. Next thing I know, I’m hopping over the hedgerows at 150 miles an hour again, and at that time I thought–there’s a lot more to this story than that, but I felt it was all over, I really thought I was going in.

And many, many years later, when I had my spiritual experience in Korea, and I look back, and I thought, ha, no way, no way, there’s no way I could fly a fighter with anybody, I don’t mind saying, but there’s no way any human being could prevent that bird from going in, and on top of that I learned 60+ years later that there was more damage to the bird than I was aware of, because after I landed, the gear was busted, and the bird spun around, I just got out of it, went home to get something to eat.

But this friend who was in another squadron, their squadron happened to be located right by the approach of the airfield and he saw me come in. He went over to pull me out, and I’d already gone, so what he found first all four guns were knocked out; I knew that, I didn’t know that, but there was a four-foot hole all the way through the wing, and the wing was sitting on the ground, and the guy walks up the wing, and he jumps through and his feet are on the ground with his head sticking out the hole.

But that’s even further proof that no human being could get that bird up, and I know Christ was there just as big as could be, and I know that my mother was right there too, my guardian angel, depending _____. I speak a lot up at the National Air Show, VAA, and I have a pretty good-sized audience, so I never know who’s there. Some people believe like I do. There’s no question that God is there, and I make that real plain to everybody, because that’s the foundation piece for our great nation, so I don’t, I have to be careful on Christ, I don’t want to turn the audience off, even though that’s how I believe. I mean, that’s just one typical one

Question: And then you got up in the plane the next day.

Hal Shook: Oh, yeah, oh, sure, you just get back up, I’ll tell you the one that makes me feel really, really good, that I came to know these guys. There ___ terrible, I can’t even [INDISCERNIBLE] blown right up on my wing; that’s tough, that’s real tough. I knew that guy so well.

But on this particular mission, that 116th Infantry Regiment out of Bedford, these guys, first they hit the beaches, they’d fought for five weeks, they took a lot of losses when they hit the beach, a lot of losses, they kept feeding the men with replacements. Okay, now, they fought all the way to Saint-Lo, and that’s a tough, tough goal for five weeks, okay, and that’s right on enemy line. One battalion got trapped, their headquarters got sent another battalion in to help them out, and it was successful, they slipped in through the lines at 4:30 in the morning, bayonets drawn, ready to go. They did what they had to do.

A short time later that commander got wiped out and now 1,500 guys are trapped, and they generally started a big counterattack, and nightfall was coming, so they called and we got over there. We were hit there with 16 birds just as nightfall came, and to make a long story short, I’ve got to know exactly where the good guys are and the bad guys are, I’ve got to, because ____ the drop ___ 16 birds, but seriously, I’m very creatively thinking, I’m part of the regimental commander and all, and even though we stayed there after dark, we didn’t have night warfare capabilities back then; we just stayed there until the job was done, and then we let her go, and why you could see all kinds of explosions, but then we found out later exactly what did happened, 1,500 guys’ lives were saved; not a single one was lost after that, and we’re not taking credit for that.

We were just a part of it, and that’s one of the things I learned so much about teamwork, because there were the two battalions on the ground, gutsy, gutsy guys fighting their heart out; the regimental creative commander, command post, entered the picture, the guy on the ground was a controller and we just had a piece of it. But that’s teamwork that’s the sort of thing that makes you feel good about the guy on the ground.

Question: Where were you when you heard that the war was over?

Hal Shock: The one that really hit was, I thought we were going over, I don’t remember exactly where we were when World War II in Europe was over, but I remember very well where I was when we expected to go to Japan, and were ready to go, and I was down in Brownsville, Texas, and I’ll never forget: we had one party [LAUGHS] and I’ll never forget, that’s exactly what, you know, and that was August 1945, and it was over in Europe May the 8th–May 7th, I think it was, yeah. That’s it, yeah.

Question: What do you want a young person to know about your involvement with World War II, and why this was important to you?

Hal Shook: It was extremely important, and Marilyn and I have been speaking to youngsters now for 10 years. The other day we spoke to 300 sixth graders, they’re prepared; before that, we spoke to a fifth grade class. But the teachers in each case really did a first-class job, an amazing job, of bringing the kids up to speed, but then when we got there, it just amazes me to see just how deeply patriotic these kids are. There are so many college kids who don’t have a clue what’s going on, and what they forget is that freedom comes with a high, high price, and whenever you think of freedom, what do you see? You see a veteran, and if you see a veteran, that’s freedom.

The point is, the two are ___ just like that, and that’s what I want the kids to understand, and that’s what his Veterans Freedom Park [ph], I mentioned Dave Milidonis [ph] is working on it hard right now, and he’ll be down here tonight. That’s one of his things, is to do what he can to recognize the veterans, whether they were in combat or not; because every one of them stood tall, and by golly they feel deeply about their country and they’re going to do whatever they have to, to ensure we have a free way of life. Now, that’s the basic mission.

There are sub-missions, there are two that are extremely important. One of them is to educate the youngsters, and what a joy it is to see these young kids, and while it makes me sick when I see something in the newspaper about all of them that say, hey, war is bad news, we should never, ever get involved. If you don’t get involved, you’re gonna lose, you’re gonna be speaking a different language. I try to get two points across to these kids, and Marilyn does the same thing.

Number one, wars are bad news, you ought to do all you can to avoid them. But you’re not going to let them come up and whip you period, there are some times you’ve got to stand up and fight, and when that happens you better do it. And right now, we’re in a bad, bad situation. This is what’s going on in Iraq is just a part of it; it’s all over the world right now. We better stand up and be counted.

That’s what we try to get across to the kids, right there; it’s a joy to do that, especially when you have a teacher that’s dedicated and understands, and tries to convey this instead of so many of them said—I could tell you all kinds of stories about that that don’t want to have any part of it. But you better take a part of it if you want to live in a free land.

One additional point I’d like to make, and this concerns the issue of leadership and management. The name of the game in World War II, and you still find it in some organizations, bam! it’s top-down. You do what I tell you and don’t ask any questions, period. Just do it, period. You don’t do it right, we’ll get somebody else or we’ll whip you or whatever, you know. There are various degrees of that that were put to work, but we didn’t do that, and I’m not claiming this was my own ___, but I had about a half dozen guys, one was the adjutant these are non rated people, and they’re the only pilots, one was the adjutant the extremely savvy guy who knew what it was all about on leadership, he had been in construction, and he had responsibilities for a number of men.

You had another guy in intelligence, who ran the Sears Roebuck store in Richmond, Virginia, knew what that was about. I’d been brought up, Golden Rule, my dad, when I got back with him, treat them with kindness, kid. That’s what we did. There were 300 guys in the squadron. Thirty-five of them were pilots. The pilots could not get off the ground on a regular basis without the other 265. It takes everybody working, so based on that, number one we had a mission we deeply believed in, and that’s so important, whatever you’re doing in life there’s got to be something you deeply believe in.

Number two, you work together in a spirit of understanding and cooperation and harmony, helping one another get the job done, and number three, under the umbrella of caring leadership. That’s what’s missing, even today in a lot of organizations, taking care of your people, ___ what we’re seeing in a nutshell, and I’ll button this thing up: take care of your people and they will take care of you. You do otherwise, and at best you’ll have mediocre performance, and worst, you’ll go down in flames. I feel so strongly about that. That’s what that is. Amen. Nice to be with you.

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