World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project

Interview with

Michael J. Cingle, 398th Bomb Group Navigator
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force

Interviewer: Marilyn Gibb-Rice

Interview conducted in Cocoa Beach, Florida
September 2008


The 398th has been interviewing its members as part of the Timeless Voices of Aviation project. More information about the project and a current list of video interviews can be found at 398th Timeless Voices Interviews. In addition to the video interviews, some of the interviews have been transcribed to text.


Interview with

Michael J. Cingle, 398th Bomb Group Navigator
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force

MGR: Interviewer, Marilyn Gibb-Rice
MJC: 398th Navigator, Michael J. Cingle
Time of Interview: 0:57:32

MGR: I am Marilyn Gibb-Rice and today is September 5th, 2008 and we are at the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association Reunion in Cocoa Beach. Will you please introduce yourself?

MJC: My name is Michael J. Cingle. I’m a Navigator, ex navigator, uh on a uh, for many crews 603 squadron.

MGR: Now will you please tell us about your life before the war?

MJC: Well I was 17 when I graduated and after the war started I made 18 a few months later uh, but uh, no it was a year later ha. I’m losing time on a on the wake up because I’d gone to a different training out of school and I learned how to do the lath work and stuff like that. Then I went to Baltimore and got a job, even though I was only 17, I got a job at the American Hammered Piston Factory. Uh when uh then I turned 18 and I knew I had to go sign up for the draft. So uh, oh I was in contact with a friend of mine who graduated and he was thinking about joining the uh Navy Air Force. So I was looking through the magazines and newspaper and Air Force all the, Army Air Force, or Army Air Corps advertisements I decided to try my luck there and that’s where it started.

MGR: So, where did you enlist?

MJC: In Baltimore, and I left from there. I started taking part of my physical in Baltimore. They sent me to uh Washington, DC and I finished my uh, uh examinations there and they told me well you passed everything, go to your draft board to be drafted. So that’s how I got uh into the Air Corps. I went to the draft board. They gave me about a week to go home, back to Pennsylvania, central Pennsylvania and uh next thing I knew I’m on a train.

MGR: So did you want to be in the Air Force?

MJC: Oh yeah, yeah…after reading everything I liked the idea. And then its started and I went to Miami beach for my uh uh basic training. Oh it was tough. I was living in a hotel you know and uh then uh somehow we’d get a somehow you had to be downstairs at roll call. Then we had all kinds of marching in the streets. Then uh that lasted for I don’t know a couple of months I guess. Then I uh started making my rounds. I went to the University of Cincinnati and I got a refresher course there. And uh, I don’t know, I was probably there 2 months, 3 months something like that. Uh then from there Miami, er uh Houston, not Houston but Texas.

MGR: Dallas?

MJC: No but uh, well anyway, they had an examining place there then they... One thing I remember there I was talking to a Pilot, ex-pilot. No he was a pilot yeah, no he was in the African war. You know when the war started he was there and uh me being 18 years old I didn’t know anything about flying. So uh he asks me, he said how long you, would it take you to bail out at say 18,000 feet or something like that before you hit the ground. And I said oh, maybe 5 minutes something like that. That’s the only thing that. He said well, tell you the truth I smoke 2 cigarettes on the way down. And haha, I wen haha haha whoa I didn’t know it was that slow but anyway. We talked about pilot training, navigator or, or um bombardier. So then uh, I guess I chose uh bombardier. I didn’t know any difference. So I chose bombardier.

I went to Houston from there. While I was in Houston uh I think I was there about a month. And they needed navigators so call all of us into a theater. Anybody wants to go to uh navigation training can sign up. So that’s how I came to be in navigation training. We were, I was on a train going to uh Coral Gables, FL which really hurt, uh ha but uh they enjoyed it. Florida is a nice place. And uh, we had Pan American instructors uh real good. Flew in in flying boats. That was nice there too it was kind of slow you know, of course all of our training uh, not all of it, but with the uh, what am I supposed to say uh, the stars, sun, moon and stuff like that. Which I never used after I graduated. I never used it, never had a sexton in my hand. And uh, but you had a whole library of books to be able to use and I don’t supposed they’re used anymore anyway ha.

But uh, then I continue on my training went to oh uh, uh oh I was put on a… Yeah when I graduated out of there I was on uh uh on a crew. And I think we were in Louisiana somewhere the first time I ever saw a B-17 and then I had to get in there it was a night flight but I didn’t know what I was doing. But uh fortunately I had a good, good pilot who knew what he was doing and he didn’t have to tell me too much you know, but he helped me a lot. And uh Buzza was the pilot then and the co-pilot was nice, nice too. We flew around a few times and, and uh made other, other runs. I was really, really new at that. I wondered deep down if I was ever going to be a navigator really in combat so but I learned quick. And uh, we were about 5,000 feet and I looked out the window and I could see, I think it’s a city. So I looked at the map it was 50 miles away. I thought that was something. You know when I was a kid you know, 18 years old.

But uh, you know the training flew out pretty soon. We got our plane and uh uh, we were, where was it, Nebraska I guess it was and went to the east coast. And from the east coast we went to North of uh Canada there was a place up there that we landed and stayed for a few days and it never got dark. It was August so. Uh ha. Then we had to fly to from there, loaded the B-17 that we were taken over with us and landed at uh, uh Iceland. So stayed there for about 7 days. Uh, that was slow travel but uh anyway, next thing you know going across the ocean more to Ireland and uh, I flew, I went across the Irish Sea in a boat. First time I drank a cup of tea. Haha was in the boat so haha. I remember that it sticks with me and uh. Never drank, I didn’t, didn’t like tea but somehow they uh uh, they didn’t force it on me, but I started drinking it and it was okay. And we got situated and we ended up going to 398 and before we did anything we took a, I think it was a couple of days off. Buzza had somehow got us uh to go to London. Learned a lot there too haha.

MGR: Um hmm, so what did you do on your trips to London?

MJC: What was that?

MGR: What did you do on your trips to London?

MJC: Not a heck of a lot, just site seeing and uh, uh that I can remember now but nothing really exciting. So uh, but we came back and we got into a little bit of training there at the base so uh. And it was a good thing. Buzza liked to uh ride around you know, training. He knew training was really important. And he would, get a plane and we’d go. I remember, remember one time we were going north away from there. We went east and then north and we were flying, we kept on flying. We tried to over a huge cloud, thunder cloud there. We couldn’t make it so we turned around and we came back. And uh, on our way back, uh that’s where I got to know the co-pilot a little bit better too. Somebody asked me uh, uh, oh he did, the co-pilot asked me uh uh where’s our base and where we at? I didn’t know but I didn’t tell him haha. But anyway, uh uh I, kind of looked out the right window going down and I said well our field should be over to the uh, uh the right side. And it wasn’t a minute later one of the crew men said Oh there’s our field over there haha ha. Every time I see him he said I still want to know how you had come up with that haha but it was good.

Then we started flying the missions started going and my first mission I uh uh forgot to put my goggles on. I didn’t forget I just didn’t want to and the bomb exploded right out the window and uh one of the shells hit and splattered my face with uh, ha I guess it was Plexiglas. I mean and I didn’t know what happened. But when I got the bae, back to the base then after the mission. And uh I went to the dispensary and uh, uh they washed it out I guess and said well ok you can go back to flying. You’re not getting a Purple Heart. Hahaha and I was it was the last thing that dawned on me, that I was after a Purple Heart. But I wasn’t.


MJC: So uh uh

MGR: When was your first mission?

MJC: In September. I think it was the 9th of September something like that and uh again, uh um um I don’t, uh Lt. Buzza and I, I don’t think he needed any training at all as far as flying uh uh uh because he was such a good pilot let’s put it that way. The, you know uh the combat, close formation and stuff like that but he did real good and uh, uh and we came back and that was all that mattered. Hahaha my eyes are tearing.

MGR: Huhmm (light laugh)

MJC: Anyway after that we just kept going back and forth.

MGR: So do you have any more stories about your missions?

MJC: That mission one no, that one came back but uh uh then they, Lt Buzza was such a good pilot he, he made lead pilot so he was the only one uh uh outside of the officers who could fly lead. And uh uh he, while he was flying with my crew. I flew with other crews like Bob Steele and then there was uh uh Rud… oh gosh, Federico Gonzales… and off and on and more or less stuck with Federico. But uh uh he was shot down and uh with my original crew except for the bombardier and the uh, uh be the it was down the funnel that they took the 10th man off the gunner. So uh there was 4 of us that wasn’t with him. And he ended up as a POW, the rest of the crew was POWs and I didn’t see him until after the war.

But uh then I got with Gonzales and Bob Steele we flew.. and then Gonzales, he was a lead pilot so naturally I started flying lead too. And I would fly with with Colonel Hunter base commander I guess they, he like Gonzales as far as flying. Well he was a good pilot too uh, and uh uh uh and then they were going to go on a mission. On this mission it was Captain Beatovich he was the group navigator. He was to fly and I was to fly with him, of course Gonzales and uh I don’t know who, the rest of the crew I didn’t know who they were. But during the night they took my name off and replaced me by uh, uh they called him a Mickey Operator who could see, you know run a machine and see a uh outline of a city down there, outline of a target down there that they were going to hit. As it happened they got hit and the only one that came out was Gonzales. And uh well what happened was after Gonzales came back I said how did that plane land? He said I think Colonel Hunter landed the plane but he was killed too you know. Gonzales got a broken leg out of it. And Uh the story was, I thought the story was uh they uh had people on the ground who were going to kill him. And uh of course the Germans I guess they came, and plus the woman where the plane landed, or fell. She kind of helped save his life uh, But uh I met him after the war I was already finished with mine, my bombing missions.

I was with another outfit, a P-38 outfit that was run by Elliott Roosevelt and uh I got a hold of somehow his address and called him up. And uh we met in London for dinner. I can remember walking down the street and here from the other side coming towards me was Federico. He hobbling with a cane. But uh uh he was, we had dinner, I don’t recall too much about that. And the rest of the crew they came back and I met them at a Christmas party after we were all discharged and I wasn’t… yeah I guess I was discharged uh but uh, in Philadelphia where most of the guys lived or were from. So but uh.

I was flying in a C-47 from the Elliott Roosevelt’s, It was a P-38 outfit that uh took pictures uh of German’s. The positions and stuff like that and then our outfit the 7th Photo Recon we’d go in there and take the pictures to the uh whoever used them and we uh Gen Patton or something like that. And uh but after the war was over then uh we would make runs into the east of France and. One thing sticks in my memory and uh we had a stop. We got a call to stop at one place. My pilot. My pilots changed all the time. I was the co-pilot a lot of times. We picked up, I think it was 4 English preo POWs. They’d been in, they’d been POWs 5 years and uh, uh when they saw the White Cliffs of Dover. My God it was something to see or hear. They were so happy, they thought they’d never make it because they worked in the coal mines in Germany. See so I don’t they weren’t treated too good. But uh, they were happiest people and that made me happy too so. But uh…

MGR: Tell me

MJC: After that..

MGR: Tell me about some more of your missions? Did you have, did you ever have to bail out?

MJC: No, I didn’t, I never had, well wait a while. Who was my pilot? Gonzales was my pilot we went on a mission and uh, uh I don’t know the uh, offhand I don’t know who the command pilot was because we were flying lead and then we came close to Brussels and developed engine troubles so we had a forced landing there. And as a navigator you know, I kind of looked out we were at about 10,000 feet something like that and I, just in my memory, I don’t know why uh I said well there’s a field there and another field and uh we couldn’t have been 30 seconds later the command pilot said get us to a field, an order. Ha, So I said well there’s two airfields down, right down below us so okay I can’t get you a heading because it has to be straight down practically. So he starts circling and uh and of course, I believe. I don’t know who’s in command of the plane. Gonzales could have been too but uh he probably landed it but. Eventually he hol called down again and every time I’d give him a heading you know and I’d find my place on uh uh a map or something like that I’d give him a heading towards an airfield. Next thing I know we were flying out in circles. But somehow we found a field or somebody, he followed somebody into a field and we landed and spent the night in Brussels. Which was uh, it it was pretty good because uh, uh he has some money and we went night clubbing ha and I saw Brussels. But I probably never would have seen Brussels if that that hadn’t have happened.

MGR: Did you have problems? Were there engine problems or something?

MJC: Yeah, we had problems with that but then they uh, they gave us another plane the next day they said here’s another plane. So we started it up and it wouldn’t work right so we had to go on from that plane to another plane ha but eventually they gave us a plane that they’d repaired and swapped and they repaired it and we made it back to uh, uh our base 398.

I remember another one that we uh had a Christmas party and uh we were on a mission that day. Uh we we couldn’t land on our base because of the uh uh weather. So we landed at the English, uh uh uh British airfield. And uh, well they were nice but breakfast was uh brussel sprouts. I never had brussel sprouts uh, well I like them.. but uh, uh not for breakfast. When we finally got up. We missed the party, the Christmas party, they had you know a turkey something like uh, uh at the dinner. That was uh was uh ‘44. Yeah because I wasn’t there for ‘45 nobody was really. So uh that’s as far as the missions go.

MGR: Tell me about living in the UK and what your conditions like?

MJC: Well I, when we first went over there was no room for us at the Quonset huts so we would uh spent 3 or 4 or 5 days, I’m not sure, in a tent. Which was okay because it was still uh the first part of September or last part of August I can’t really remember that part. But uh, then we got uh shifted into Quonset huts which was pretty good. Of course you go out of the hut into your shower room outside it was separate and uh, uh but then then the walk uh from there the walk to uh what to call, it seemed like an eighth of a mile. We had to walk through a field, of course there was like a path through it and. We had uh our breakfast and meals there. It was the Officer’s club um, or mess hall whatever you want to call it. Every day we did that.

MGR: What was it like in your Quonset hut?

MJC: Very good, it was other crews in there too. See there was I think there was 12 of us you know the whole crews navigator, bombardier pilot, copilot. Everything was okay, very good.

MGR: So did you ever have Flak Leave that you went up to Scotland?

MJC: No I didn’t go to Scotland, I went to Southern uh England.

MGR: Okay

MJC: There was a place down there I went there by myself there nobody else went I went down there eh it was good. I stayed there about a week there I guess. Got to know a lot of people. Had a good time there. I forgot a lot a lot of things still it was time to go back but uh. I believe I spent about a week down there, it was very good. I can’t remember the name of the place. I’d have to have a map maybe.

MGR: So tell me about any other missions where anything else happened that..

MJC: Oh when I wasn’t flying. Oh I remember the time I was flying with Lt Buzza and we came, coming back, and uh uh we used to get maps and they would circle on the map you that know possible anti-aircraft fire coming from that area. Well this one time we come back… we over back over the Zuiderzee coming right in there and I happened to look down and I was checking our our.. how we were flying. I radioed, talked to the pilot and I said if we keep going on this direction we’re going to run into flak. So he called the lead, we weren’t lead then we were just wing. And he called him and says my pilot, my navigator says if we keep on this direction we’re going to run into flak. And uh whoever the lead pilot was uh, he said what did you say repeat that. And he said uh my pilot say, my navigator again says that if we keep on this direction we’re going into flak and there it is! hahaha. It was so funny that uh.. well we veered off a little bit and uh avoided it but sure enough it was flak. Sometimes they were wrong, eh uh you know whoever took care of the maps you know they’d run kind of a circle where they thought..

MGR: um hmm

MJC: we’d be in trouble

MGR: mmm

MJC: and, and cause uh I’ve, already, you know and when I was lead that I would uh skirt some of these troubles. They’d try to go across, there was a river there and I thought well there are going to be uh anti-aircraft because it was where they, somebody got flak there and so we skirted around them. It wasn’t very much to go out of the way. And uh it was no problem for the other planes to follow us so nothing really bad, ah that you know they’re good.

MGR: Where on the plane did you sit?

MJC: Well up in the nose right in front of the pilot. I had to get down and, in the eh, there was a little hole that we crawled in. I was on the left part, the pilot uh he sat on the left side looking uh, towards the front and the co-pilot sat on the right. And uh, uh I was uh right there. There was a little table there that uh, so uh but uh. One time we were flying formation and the pilot had me come up to… we were already down, I don’t believe I was using the oxygen and so we might have been down. But he made me sit in the co-pilot’s seat and fly uh, uh formation… there am I uh...Anyway it was a thrill.

MGR: Did you want to be a pilot?

MJC: Yes, when I was being discharged I had a choice to stay and be a pilot, you know for pilot training and uh, uh this is the way it was given to me it was the WAC. I believe it was a WAC lady and she said well you go into this one door here and you go in for pilot training and the door on this side you take the physical for discharge. I looked for a few seconds and I said okay I’ll take the discharge. That’s how it happened and well the next thing you know I, I have, I was probably given another furlough I guess and I uh discharged around December, less than the 3 years that I was in.

MGR: So how many missions did you fly?

MJC: 30, 30 missions were required for lead eh eh lead crew, lead navigator or uh…

MGR: So you were there when it was cold as well.

MJC: Yes, I remember one mission I think it was in Metz, and we weren’t that high but uh, uh that was when the German’s pushed their… it was around Christmas too I guess because the German’s were attacking there in… uh, uh the General or somebody said “Nuts” to the German asking for him to surrender and he said Nuts. But uh as far as the temperature was, my feet got so cold that I took my shoes off ‘cause, because I had combat boots on. I thought if I shot, there were so many talks about people walking out there was people that would walk to, not very many would go to uh Spain. Well that was the last time that I wore boots. I had electric boots after that. My feet just about froze off. I was cold.

MGR: Was the rest of you cold?

MJC: Well I had like the nylon gloves that… no not particularly. But that time, it was really, and then I looked at, we had a thermometer and I think it was 60 below so I. But the feet yeah, I don’t know because maybe they were on metal at uh you know it got so cold… but uh when I look back at all the missions it was a great experience. And uh, I was happy to be there even though I lost a lot of people. Some of them got killed and that wasn’t so great and uh..

MGR: Did you have people in your Quonset hut that got killed?

MJC: There was one crew that had to make a ditch in the North Sea, and uh I think it was a radio operator so uh, I’m almost sure it is. But then they had a - the way they had it set up that the fighters would come in and find the crew because the plane would sink and uh, uh new planes would come in. It was a P-51 I guess because the fighters they came into the hut later, the fighter pilots, but uh one of them said his plane had to be sent in for repair because when he came down too low the P-51 had a scoop and he picked up salt water in there and uh so uh he had to send his plane for a work-up. Uh they’d come in with a big plane and have a… there was a boat that would drop down and a the boat would have some kind of cables that would stretch out and whoever was in the water would grab a hold of them and get in there. But I guess the one radio operator didn’t succeed in that. I don’t remember who it was so.

MGR: mmm

MJC: But…

MGR: So after you finished your 30 missions were you discharged?

MJC: No… they sent me to a… well it was C-47s then P-38s and then then I was uh, uh I guess I don’t know whether they needed navigators or how bad the experience because all the other navigators that were there had no combat experience so um. I was there and uh I would fly in a C-47 as co-pilot. Some of them was so good and some of them was bad because the pilots they took a lot, lot of chances. I remember one time we had Frenchman plowing his field with a horse and the pilots would come right down and then change the pitch of the propeller, making a lot of noise, and the horse ran one way and the farmer would run the other way. To them it was fun. So I ha kind of felt sorry for them. Another time was a dive bomb a guy by a, a guy with a C-47 you know uh a dive at a bicycle. A guy on a bicycle, he’d throw the bicycle down, he threw the bicycle down and dashed in a ditch. I felt sorry for him really but no, one of those things, but uh.

MGR: So what did you do, what kind of cargo did you take?

MJC: Just the photos

MGR: Oh, oh the reconnaissance

MJC: But one time, well, when the war was over we’d go in there and I know we landed in this place. I can’t think of the country, I’d have to have a map, but uh we had a base there. We’d take a, put a Jeep in there use that Jeep. Uh and uh the one time right after the war was over then we would, we took a few nurses I guess that wanted to site see the area. And uh we flow, we flew real low and uh I had some missions on Cologne. Cologne was not too far away and we flew real low there and you could see the side of the big church there that had the big pock marks of the bombs burst in there.

MGR: Um hmmm

MJC: But uh… one other time uh grabbed a gun and me and a guy from Texas another navigator uh uh he was, but we went hunting. Well we just walked through the woo, tall grass and up jumped a jack rabbit. Well, it was running and I had a lucky shot and got him and uh, uh I let and then this this fellow he was a lefthander from Texas. And um hit the, pretended he killed it with the club which had a little knob on the end of it. He said what are we going to do with it? I said I think you’re going to carry it over to the hut or to the, uh where we were living. We got the rabbit over there and dropped it down and a farmer lived right next door there. He come over and wanted to buy that rabbit. He, this friend of mine from Texas, he said, what are you going to do? I said you carried him in. So he sold him for about $5.00, I guess, to the farmer and the farmer had a good uh meal out of him so.

MGR: So what city did you think was your worst as far as the missions.

MJC: You mean as far as the flak and stuff?

MGR: Um hmmm

MJC: I had none that were too easy or. We had milk runs, what you’d call but they weren’t so deep and uh uh but I can’t say one or the other was more scary than the other

MGR: So uh tell me what you classify as a milk run,

MJC: Well where we’d go in and drop our bombs and come back. Had one where the institute was coming in with, well I guess it’d be infantry with gliders. And uh, Eindhoven and they would uh. I know we’d drop our bombs there where these gliders were going to land. And uh when we turned around and started to going back and I’d have to look up into, I had a dome up there I could see, I don’t know how many planes and they were pulling… That was a milk run I’d say for us but the gliders were being pulled by C-47s. They’d release them and they’d go down. They had a rough time on the after because the German’s were ready for ‘em. But uh, that they didn’t shoot at us and we didn’t shoot at them and we just dropped the bombs where we were supposed to and that was it. That would be a milk run, but uh

MGR: So what about, did you um, how did you hear about the bombing of Hiroshima?

MJC: I was, course in the 7 Photo Recon group then. I heard but I think I was playing softball in the field when someone had said what had happened. And uh, well it, I figured if I was going, if the war in the South Pacific was going to keep on that I was going to come back and be sent uh there and uh uh but the war en was over so that was done with at that time. But uh what an experience at that same baseball er softball field. Uh uh, uh we had one of the pilots I guess at the field there, P-38, he came right down over us right down over the um boys, playing field and then the hospital was right there so he had to really go towards the hospital and then climb. There’s a slight climb there and he hit the chimney. And eh bricks flying all over and on ‘em of course he made it over the hospital and eh landed. The airfield was right over on the other side a little bit. I guess he was able to land. I didn’t hear too much more about it. But the story of it was he had a girlfriend there that was a nurse hahaha and he wanted to say goodbye to her. I believe he was on his way back to the States at that time so haha.

MGR: Did it damage his plane?

MJC: I’m sure it did. I don’t know… the talk was he was going to be fined for it and he was going to have to pay for it. That’s a lot a money. He’d have to work a long time flying as a to be able to pay for that.

MGR: Sure.

MJC: You asked about uh… I had to join the Reserves when I, uh but it wasn’t really active. I remember uh I got a call to go to, uh if I wanted to go to the Korean War. I said no. I think that was when I was getting married or shortly before and I said no so they dropped me but I talked to Bill Comstock um, who started the 388, 398th reunion thing and uh he, he was one of the officers that were interviewing people. He said he had interviewed Ken Buzza, my first uh pilot. But I don’t think Ken went. He’d uh already decided he’d had enough too. He was a POW… but he might have been in the Reserve.

MGR: So you didn’t stay in the Reserve or anything when you got out?

MJC: Well I didn’t attend anything, no.

MGR: And did you take advantage of the GI Bill?

MJC: No.

MGR: No? So what did you redo, do after you returned from the war?

MJC: Well, let’s see, I went to work for uh General Electric. And uh I did some welding and stuff like that. Then that’s when I got married, and laid off and went to Cleveland uh, and I got a job at Ford. So I served apprenticeship there and after apprenticeship I worked a little bit then I got a salaried job. Worked in the office hiring, laying off or whatever and uh. Then one job went to another and before I uh… Oh then I took the apprenticeship job. I had to train, you know schedule training at one time I had about 100 apprentices that I had to, you know. I had teachers that would teach different things and then I had to switch their jobs for training before, before that was up. Then I made foreman and that was it. I had uh by that time my wife wasn’t feeling good. We had 3 kids already and time went by and she wasn’t driving so I had to retire. And uh, uh so I could take her to the doctor. She had doctor appointments just about every week. Uh but uh…

MGR: So did you keep in touch with any of the guys?

MJC: Yeah I did, the tail gunner I used to see him every once in a while at. Oh oh, uh uh who else did I see… Gonzales, oh Bob Steele too, he was another pilot from Wisconsin. Uh I’d see him at, at our meetings you know the 398th uh but uh oh… Madlung, I don’t know if you heard about him, Jack. But uh he used to be pretty active in that. He’d go to overseas and stuff like that to meetings. He’s a real good guy. He was one of the gunners.

MGR: Have you been back to Nuthampstead?

MJC: Where? To Nuthampstead? No, no never got a chance to go and… something always came up. We’ve talked about it even now. I have a new uh uh, uh son-in-law. My uh other son-in-law died and then my daughter remarried. She’s get, had 5 kids by the first one and he died. And so she was a widow for a number of years and met this guy. Nice guy. He’s, as a matter of fact, this is his first one here [at the reunion]. He’s been with her for a couple of years so uh… My Grandson came in too and my son, uh this is his first meeting. And my older son uh, we went to South Carolina to one of the reunions down there. So uh, that that was a good reunion there. This one, this one here was one of my best, get to talk to Ozzie. ha. He’s a nice guy.

MGR: So, whom that, you’ve been to other reunions? The one in Charleston?

MJC: Yes, I went to one in Missouri too

MGR: Uh huh, Springfield?

MJC: Is that the one? Yeah uhh, I didn’t go to the gambling place they had down there the boat but they had a.. what was what place that the movies stars used to come in?

MGR: Branson

MJC: Yeah, Oh I took a ride down there. And I didn’t I didn’t stay too long. I bought something for the grandkids. But uh I took uh uh uh Gonzales and his wife out to dinner. Gonzales, he didn’t like to eat what was furnished at the, he had a special diet that he wanted. We had a good, good meal. Uh I know uh, uh Alan Ostrom called me one day. He said uh Gonzales wasn’t feeling very well, then pretty soon months later something like that I heard that he died. I called his wife and talked to her for a few minutes and uh but she said he suffered quite a bit. And a Bob Steele, that guy I think he passed away too. When I was in the service still he sent me an invitation to uh his wedding. So uh...

MGR: Did you go?

MJC: Hmm?

MGR: Did you go to the wedding?

MJC: No I was overseas

MGR: Okay.

MJC: I think before I got back he was already back. The war was over there or for him anyways but he came back. He was already in a wheelchair too when I met him but this was years after his wedding.

MGR: So is there anything about the war or your time in the service that you would have done differently or would have changed?

MJC: Well I, I was happy with the... but I would have been happier probably if I would have been a pilot. Uh that was my intention to be a pilot. Of course it was my intention always when I was finished to go back and have, have pilot training. I know that some of the pilots that were, were in there and all... they all talked about, you know they were all bomber pilots and, they would have preferred to be a fighter pilot I guess. We had uh, uh a fellow [David Swift, co-pilot] that used to come in the hut there that knew some of the guys. He, he was from, he worked for Walt Disney [he directed many films]. A good artist so. He painted a picture, life size, in the Quonset hut and you could walk in one door and oh in about 20 feet or so long. Maybe a little longer. He put this life size picture of a girl And he had uh, uh a thing that uh it was supposed to be him down at her feet and he would {looks up into the air to the right as if he’s looking at the picture of the girl) ha huh ha it was so comical uh but he was good. He, he was good at drawing and uh but then they... I guess they stayed in contact with each other. Co-pilot Blythe, uh he talked to me a few times. He got to be a pastor and, uh, then he, his wife died. I met, uh when I came back, from overseas, uh, I happened to uh go to the party and I saw his wife. Uh uh then a few years later she passed away. John Blythe uh, Gordon they called him too, uh, he remarried and as far as I know he’s still living. So

MGR: So have you been back into a B-17 since the war?

MJC: No. nah

MGR: No.

MJC: I uh, we went to. I don’t know if I mentioned it we went to South Dakota and uh we were having dinner there and the CO, the Commanding Officer of that base was giving us a talk and… did I say that? Uh anyway, I thought, maybe I repeated it to somebody else. Anyway, somebody come in and whispered something to him and he says The Russians are coming, I got to go and he left. He, that was a B-52 base, and then he had to take off over Canada to meet the Russians. Because they would make this scary run uh every so often. And his outfit there in South Dakota they uh, they would go up there to meet them. They’d fly up over Canada up around the North Pole and uh meet them, there was no shooting going on but they’d meet them. The Russians I guess were just trying to make sure that the Americans were alerted the they were going to do something like that.

MGR: Wow.

MJC: But uh there I met, who did I meet there… Oh some of the fellows of course it was still early maybe the 4th meeting here we had there for the 398th.

MGR: Hmm so do you, how did you feel about the bombing of Hiroshima.

MJC: Well I felt sorry for the people but also I thought the war was going it end, it shou.. you know and it did which was okay. I didn’t have very long to think about that because in a couple of days the war was over. And I thought well that saved a heck of a lot of life. Because they, they did talk about uh how many lives the Americans would lose if they had to invade Japan at that time. It was a million or probably something like that.

MGR: Mmmhmmm.

MJC: And uh uh that part, I liked that. Of course I didn’t like to see anybody suffering you know like they did, the uh, the Japanese. But the war was over more or less and that is what we wanted to do.

MGR: I want to back up a little bit. What do you remember about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MJC: I was in high school then and uh and I didn’t a... Before that happened, I would say this is hindsight, maybe not hindsight in uh, I was in grade school and we had a janitor, old fellow. And I used to talk to him. He would take care of the furnace, this was in grade school. And uh we talked, I think it was starting something the Russians or Germans. Uh he said, this was in 1936/37, he said Oh there’s going to be a war. He already knew that uh, uh we would be in a war. And sure enough he was right because uh, uh about ‘41 we were already in war there. So

MGR: Wow.

MJC: But uh that part and then uh, well growing up you know I had so many other things on my mind I guess, graduating from high school. What else?

MGR: Do you have anything else you want to say about your time during the war?

MJC: Well, sadly I missed a lot of uh things at home. I had brothers who were born after me. I had uh, uh 8 brothers and uh they were all in the service. Nine of us were in the service. And I had 5 sisters. So like my older sister and then uh, uh one sister second sister she worked for the FBI uh in the uh fingerprint department I guess. All my brothers were in the service uh, one of them he was in Korea. He was a, uh radio operator for the Air Force. You miss something, you know, you gain something and miss something. I was happy I did something to end the war. But uh there’s always uh something, some danger coming. You never know.

MGR: Well, I would like to thank you for your service in the 398th for our country and I want to thank you for doing the interview.

MJC: Thank you, you’re welcome.



See also:
  1. Buzza's Crew - 603rd Squadron - 9 September 1944
  2. Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.


  1. Lt. Michael J. Cingle was a Navigator on Kenneth L. Buzza's 603rd Squadron crew , but also flew missions with several other pilots.
  2. The above transcription was provided by a proud relative of a veteran of the 398th, one of our 398th volunteers during January 2017.
  3. The transcription was obtained from a video file.
  4. Punctuation, grammar and minor word changes may have been made to improve readability.
  5. Additional information may be shown in brackets [ ].