World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Russell Currier, 398th Bomb Group Engineer
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Marilyn Gibb-Rice
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
Phoenix, AZ, December 1, 2007
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.
Russell Currier, 398th Bomb Group Engineer
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
MGR: Interviewer, Marilyn Gibb-Rice
Russ: 398th Engineer, Russ Currier
Time of Interview: 41:15
Marilyn Gibb-Rice: I’m Marilyn Gibb-Rice and today is December 1st, 2007 and we’re at the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association Reunion in Phoenix, Arizona. Please introduce yourself.
Russell Currier: I’m Russell Currier, normally called Russ Currier. I was engineer on the crew of Joe Tarr in the 603rd Squadron.
MGR: Where were you living and what were you doing in the late 1930s and early 40s?
RUSS: Well, in the late 1930s I was still in high school. I didn’t graduate from high school until 1942 at the ripe old age of 17.
MGR: Were you following the war in Europe?
RUSS: Oh, yes, I was very much aware of it. Yes. As a teenager, why I probably had other things I was more aware of but I knew what was going on.
MGR: Did you see the U.S. involvement coming?
RUSS: Well, more or less, I think. Yes. I had some friends who were English and they kept talking about it all the time. So they kept us up to date that the war was going to catch us sooner or later.
MGR: Where were you living at the time?
RUSS: I was living in Palo Alto, California.
MGR: How did you hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
RUSS: Oh, I guess I heard it on the radio. It was on a Sunday morning. I don’t know; it just came on. We got the news, and I remember we got all my friends came over and we sat around out in the back yard discussing the war and all the wonderful things we could probably do for them.
RUSS: I was drafted. I graduated high school at 17 and I got a Civil Service training job for aircraft maintenance. I worked at that for several months. I went through their training program it took three months, I think it was. Then they sent me out to Hamilton Field up in San Rafael, California. And then, I was still only 17 at the time, but as soon as I turned 18 in February 1943 and in April I was in the Army. It didn’t take long for my draft number. I was offered a deferment because of the job I was doing but it was only a six month deferment and I didn’t want to bother with it.
MGR: So where were you drafted and where did you go?
RUSS: I was right there in California. I was drafted at Presidio, Monterey. That’s where I got my induction and then I was sent from there over to Fresno – to the third round at Fresno for my basic training. Took the basic training there and then I was shipped to Keesler Field, Mississippi for aircraft maintenance training. I was trained on B 24s. I guess due to the military why that’s about par for the course: train me on B 24s and put me on B 17s. [Russ laughs.]
MGR: So where did you go from there?
RUSS: Well, I went down to Florida. I went through aerial gunnery school down in Fort Myers, Florida. And then we got through there, why, we came back and they really didn’t have a place for us so they had us in a man power pool there for a quite a while, off and on. They gave me a couple of delay of routes to go home a couple of time to visit my parents, and back and forth, until they finally sent me on temporary assignment to Avon Park, Florida. That’s where the crews were training. B17 crews were training there then. But they put me on – I worked in a maintenance crew down there – on line maintenance. I had a wonderful job really. [Russ smiles.] We young guys that were there attached temporarily, why, certainly they put us on the night shift naturally. But we’d go out about – I don’t know – ten o’clock at night. We’d get our assignments and they give us about two or three airplanes to pre-flight for the next day. So we’d go out and pre-flight those airplanes, which take three or four hours, maybe, five hours. Which was fun, you know. Running them up and having lots of fun for a bunch of kids, you know. And then we’d go back to the barracks and we were free until the next night. So it was actually the best job I had in the military. [Russ laughs.]
MGR: So how long did that last?
RUSS: Well, that lasted maybe a month, I guess. Or something like that.
MGR: And then what?
RUSS: And then they were forming the crews and I was assigned to Joe Tarr’s crew, which was forming up at the time. I went into training – overseas or crew training – at that time.
MGR: So did you go from there on to England?
RUSS: Well, that probably in June , I guess, when I got assigned to a crew. We trained for about three months with a few mishaps along the way. I remember one terrible incident I hate to even think about it now. We were sent out in a three airplane element [at Avon Park, Florida] to practice flying formation with an instructor. And the instructor took us up and he told us to fly into a thunderhead, which my pilot [Joe Tarr] vigorously opposed. And even I as a nineteen or eighteen year old kid knew better than that. But he was in command and in fact he said – he ordered the pilot to do it or he was going to court martial him. So he [Tarr] had to do it. So he flew into the thunderhead. We survived but we got twisted and turned. We spiraled down from about 20-some thousand feet down to 6,000 feet before we finally got control of the aircraft again.
The pilot – the airplane on our right wing – he got just in an updraft and they took him out at 30,000. And the one on the left wing, he went spiraling down; he got caught in an updraft and a downdraft and the airplane broke in half. And the only survivor was a radio operator who happened to be in the – because it broke in half right aft of the radio room – and he just happened to have his parachute handy and he grabbed it and rolled out the back before the plane was broken off. And he was the only one who survived.
It was such a wasteful thing. You know, it was so avoidable. You know? I don’t know I think the instructor was ultimately court martialed.
Then in September we left [Avon Park, Florida] and went up to Savannah, Georgia. We were issued a new aircraft there and some other equipment. And then we flew up from there up the coast to Bangor, Maine where we got some more equipment. And then we flew from Bangor, Maine over to Goose Bay, Labrador. We were in Goose Bay, Labrador, I think, a week or so waiting for the weather to clear. We flew out of Goose Bay heading for Iceland.
And I still remember the guy in operations saying about an hour out your going to run into some ice. And there wasn’t any de-icing equipment on the airplane. They had it all taken off for combat. And I thought, I my goodness, that’ll be nice. And he said well it will only last for about forty-five minutes and then you’ll be out of it. So I said yeah. But we did and we flew, met the front, and went through it, and it was just like he said about forty-five minutes we came out and the ice peeled off and we were OK. We went on to Iceland.
MGR: And from there?
RUSS: From there, we were there in Iceland for a week or so. For maybe, yeah, about a week, I think, as I recall. Then we went down to Holyhead, Wales where we dropped the airplane off and where we were ultimately put on a train and sent over to Nuthampstead, I guess.
MGR: And you didn’t keep that plane?
RUSS: No. No, that plane was a new airplane that was put in their pool over there for replacement aircraft.
MGR: And were you a replacement crew?
RUSS: Yes, we were a replacement crew, right.
RUSS: Well, it was, you know when you’re away from home you’d rather be home. But it was interesting. I can say that. I’m sure the local people probably had enough of us, you know, putting up with us. You know get a bunch of teenage kids running wild around there why it’s bound to bother anybody. [We] didn’t really have too much to do with the local population. Maybe go down to some of the local pubs in towns around there and maybe converse with a few people or mostly we saw other service people in there. We weren’t – I wasn’t really too much involved with the local population.
MGR: What about the food? Do you remember anything about the food?
RUSS: I can remember if I went to London on a pass you better try and take something along – some candy bars or something along - because food was kind of scarce and hard to come by. In some of the restaurants you could get a meal but exactly what it was I don’t know.
I remember a French restaurant we used to eat in. Once - we ate in their several times – and everything was in French and I don’t what it was but - [Russ laughs] – it got rather interesting. My radio operator [Art Jones,] he was kind of a wiseacre anyhow. And I remember the waiter, his name was Joseph, and he came around and he said [French accent] “Sir, would there be anything else you would like?” And Jones would say “Yeah, bring me another meal.” [Russ laughs.]
MGR: So did you go into London a lot?
RUSS: We went in three or four times, I guess, over the course. We got a thirty-six hour pass about once a month or something like that.
MGR: And what did you do when you went into London?
RUSS: We went into the pubs and looked for the girls. And all of the normal things you do, I guess.
MGR: So do you remember and can you tell me about your first mission?
RUSS: Yeah, I remember my first mission. It was a very, very easy mission, really. We flew out over the North Sea, clear up east of Berlin. We bombed an airfield in Neubrandenberg, Germany which was I think east of Berlin. I don’t know either east or west of Berlin. But it’s clear up off the North Sea, right clear across there, cross the southern tip of the Scandinavian countries. Then we dropped down to where the target was and we bombed that airfield and we didn’t encounter any fighter opposition and the flak was quite light. But I thought to myself, well if this is all there is to it then this isn’t anything. [Russ laughs.]
MGR: So you found out differently later?
RUSS: I found out differently later, yeah. [Russ laughs.]
MGR: Alright, tell me about it.
RUSS: Well, I don’t know. There were a lot of missions. Some of them were blurred and some of them aren’t. But we were hitting an oil refinery down in Merseberg [Germany] at that time. And I think, my crew, we probably went down there more times than anybody else. I think we went down there six times to hit that target. And every time we went down there why we really, really caught Hell. I know that.
[It is the mission of the November 21, 1944 Russ describes.]
Our 603rd Squadron was pretty well decimated. I think only three airplanes in the squadron got back to the base that day. Well, some of them landed on the continent due to damage and so forth. I can still remember I got out of the airplane. I was standing there looking around, looking at the battle damage or something. And somebody came around up behind me and gave me a great big hug and said “Sure glad to see you back, son.” And I looked at him and it was Col. [Frank] Hunter! [Russ laughs.] Yeah, I still remember that.
MGR: Maybe he lost a lot of planes that day.
RUSS: Yeah, well, he caught it that day.
MGR: So tell me about some of your other missions.
RUSS: I don’t know. Some of them are more memorable than others. Others are just a blur, I guess. You know, you go up and you get in that - fly in that bunch where you had to get everybody in formation and airplanes flying every which way. Guys shooting flares out so they could identify themselves in the pre-dawn skies; it was dark usually and the maybe the weather was bad. And I still don’t know why we didn’t run into each other and got through all that. I think it was probably a good part of the dangerous part of the mission, you know. And then you take off on target – before heading for the target.
I remember one; I think it was my last mission. That Dunkirk was still occupied. Dunkirk was never taken back from the Germans. They [the Allies] just left it there because it really was too much trouble to take it back. And the navigator forgot about it – the lead navigator – I don’t know – forgot about it or didn’t know about it or something. We flew right over cross the channel right over Dunkirk. We hit Dunkirk at about 12,000 feet and boy they [the Germans] cut loose with 88s at us. And I usually sat down on the edge of the turret after we got on course leaving England heading for the Continent. Why, I’d sit down, close my eyes, and take a little nap for a few minutes. But, boy, when we went over Dunkirk I sure got a shaking, you know. The 88s were right there. You know, it really shook the airplane up. [Russ laughs.] I still remember that was my last mission. I think that was my last mission that happened on.
MGR: How many did you fly?
RUSS: I flew thirty-five.
MGR: And what was your position again?
MGR: And where did you ride in the plane?
RUSS: On the flight deck. I stood right behind the pilot and the co-pilot. My turret was right there and when I got into combat I got into that turret.
MRG: Did you have to shoot your guns any?
RUSS: Yes. Oh, yes. We’d shoot them. Yes. When I was flying over there we were still getting some fighter attacks. Several missions we got hit pretty heavily by fighters. They weren’t like the early days back in ’43 or something like that. And we still encountered them and they were still pretty lethal too.
MGR: So when your plane never got hit…
RUSS: Well, we got a lot of battle damage. We came back flying from one mission we had a hole in the vertical stabilizer. It was two feet across or something. It was a big hole. I know that.
MGR: And that was from flack.
RUSS: Yeah. From flack – I guess it was from flack. I assumed it was. I don’t know.
[RUSS might be referring to the November 21, 1944 mission to Merseburg.]
MGR: Can you describe your feelings during a mission?
RUSS: Yeah, well, I don’t know. Everything is happening so quickly and, you know, to really say what happens and when it happens and everything, you know... Maybe leading it up to the target, or so forth, and you’re not encountering maybe fighters or too much flak or anything, you know you’re able to sort things out a little better. But once you get in the heat of battle, you know, you can’t ever blame somebody for doing something wrong because you don’t know. Things are happening so quickly and so rapidly you don’t know what’s happening all the way around you most of the time. You’re just going through it. I guess you’re just going through – automatically through - what trained to do. But to come back and tell somebody what exactly what you did, why I don’t think, you know, it just doesn’t work that way. And I hate to always see that some people are second guessed. Or after all everything is over they’re criticized for this or they’re criticized for that. If you haven’t been there you can’t criticize them.
MGR: That’s true. So you weren’t ever shot down?
RUSS: No. I wasn’t ever shot down. No.
MGR: Did you ever bail out?
RUSS: I never bailed out. I flew thirty-five missions and, myself, I never got a scratch.
MGR: That’s good. So tell me about tell me about your crewmembers.
RUSS: Well, I don’t know. Joe Tarr was the pilot and Bob Welty was the co-pilot. And we originally went over with a bombardier – big Bob Gaynor – big Irishman – but he’d been an instructor – bombardiering instructor – so after seven missions he was put into the lead airplane – or the lead or deputy lead. And on the 21st of November  he went down. They got shot down over the target.
But we were all a bunch of kids in most cases. I think the oldest guy [Al Dougherty] on the crew was twenty-six. He was a married man.
Each guy was his own sort of character, I guess. I still keep in contact with the ones that I am able to, the ones who are still alive. We were a very close, very close crew. We always referred to our pilot Joe Tarr as “Mother Hen” because he was always running around, trying to gather everybody up, make sure everyone was alright and everything. He kept good care of his people. I think he was a splendid pilot but he was a splendid man. He took care of his people.
MGR: Sounds good. So what did you do on your time off?
RUSS: Well, I don’t know. Maybe go down to one of the local towns, hitching. Or some of the other small towns around there. Go in and drink some beer, I guess. But most of the time I don’t recall really having a lot of time off. I mean I guess you had some time. But there are times when you’re at “stand down” and don’t have any missions to fly. There again if you hung around the barracks and you see somebody come around wanting for you to do something, you know, people would abscond from the barracks.
[Off camera laugh.]
MGR: Did you ever play cards or pool?
RUSS: Some of the guys played a lot of cards. I was never much of a card player. Some of the guys played pinochle a lot and some cards.
MGR: So tell me about your living conditions.
RUSS: Well, we lived in a so-called Nissan hut, which was like a half tin can. And it had a potbelly stove in the middle which most the time didn’t have any fuel to burn in it. And there were, I guess, two crews of enlisted men in each of those huts – two or three – sometimes three, maybe. I think they had two crews; that would make twelve. It would be twelve enlisted men in that one hut.
The biggest problem was trying to heat it up without too much fuel. Why, the guys would sneak – the mess hall had a lot of coke down there that they used for cooking, I guess. So the guys would sneak down there with a bucket and steal the coke from the back of the mess hall and bring back and dump it in the stove – warm it up. Oh, a couple of times – I know one time – my radio operator [Art Jones] he says, “It’s so cold in here. I’m going to do something.” Grabbed a chair and broke it all to pieces and stuffed it in the stove.
MGR: So what months were you there?
RUSS: We got there in September . I finished up in February of 1945.
[Note: Half of the Joe Tarr crew’s last mission was February 21, 1945. The other half finished up on later dates. Russ finished February 21, 1945.]
MGR: So did you any interactions with the local people?
RUSS: I didn’t. Not really. I don’t think any of my crew did. Not that I recall. I can’t recall. We weren’t – actually other then sometimes you meet some of the local farmers in the local pub or something and have a beer with them but there wasn’t too much interchange there.
MGR: Did you have any good luck items that you carried with you?
RUSS: No, I never did. Didn’t believe in them.
MGR: Did you receive any special medals?
RUSS: Just the air medal. I got six air medals but that’s all. My pilot [Joe Tarr] received the DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] for bringing us back on two engines.
MGR: And did you communicate with your loved ones on the home front?
RUSS: I have to admit I was rather remiss in doing that. I didn’t have a girlfriend or anything. But I’d write my mother every so often. And lot of times I’d go for quite a spell before I’d send her a letter. And, you know, sometimes she’d see all these headlines in the paper, a hundred bombers shot down, or something, and hadn’t heard from me in three weeks, or something, and she got pretty concerned. I still feel badly that I wasn’t better about writing more frequently.
MGR: Were they supportive of you, your parents, when you joined?
RUSS: Oh, yeah, they were supportive of me. Right.
MGR: Were you there for the D-Day Invasion?
RUSS: No. We didn’t get there until September . D-Day was in June .
MGR: OK. Would you say you were afraid on your missions?
RUSS: Yeah, I’d say I was afraid. I guess everybody was.
MGR: And so what do you think your biggest accomplishment was?
RUSS: Completing thirty-five missions and coming home.
MGR: And what were you most proud of during your military service?
RUSS: Well, I was proud of my service and for the missions I flew, for all of my comrades and everybody that I met. But you know for a bunch of kids we did a good job. The military, it had its problems. Of course they had a certain amount of time they could spend training people but with the time restraints they had, the military did an excellent job training people to do their job. They didn’t train you to be a PhD. or anything but they trained you to do a job and they did it well.
MGR: Do you have anything else about your missions?
[Col. Frank P. Hunter, commander of the 398th was shot down on the January 23, 1945 mission to Neuss, Germany. The target were railroad marshalling yards.]
When he got hit he peeled off I think to the right and went right straight down, it seemed like, you know. I still remember that very vividly.
MGR: So did you see a lot of planes go down?
RUSS: Yeah, I saw quite a few. Quite spectacular sights to some of them. Some of them would go down in a flat spin. Some of them would lose a wing and just go off – nose off down – straight down, you know. And you’d always wait, watch and see if any parachutes came out, you know. Sometimes nothing came out but sometimes you’d see a few chutes.
MGR: Did you ever fly in any other place in the plane? Were you ever, like, in the waist or the tail or the ball turret?
RUSS: No, I never flew back there.
MGR: You never –
MGR: - Didn’t go any other place?
RUSS: I might have, well, I ran all over the airplane during the course of my work. But I didn’t have any other position.
RUSS: Yeah, once or twice. But I didn’t take care of that. We had an armorer on there and he had a screwdriver and he’d go back into the bomb bay and unloose those shackles that’d release the bombs.
My biggest problem – I think – in the whole operation were the bomb bay doors. Damn bomb bay doors were always getting stuck. They wouldn’t open and they wouldn’t close. When they didn’t do that electrically, why then you had to crank them.
MGR: And did you get to help crank them?
RUSS: I did the cranking.
MGR: You did.
MGR: You were the one in charge. So if you manually cranked them open, then did you manually crank them shut?
RUSS: Well, sometimes you manually crank them open and then when you wanted to close them they would close electrically. Usually it wasn’t the other way around. You couldn’t get them open. One of the problems was some of the crew had a problem with – there was a purge tube in the bomb bay where you were supposed to urinate. And the guys were reluctant to use that sometimes. And they’d just urinate in the bomb bay and sometimes that splash up in some of those big screws in there and it would freeze up. And it would foul the whole works up, you know.
MGR: So how many times do you remember having to do that?
RUSS: Oh, I don’t really remember. Probably maybe four or five or more. Maybe eight or ten times. I don’t know.
And once and a while I had landing gear that wouldn’t operate either so I had to crank that, which if you had to crank it down, it was no problem. If you had to crank it up; it got to be a lot of work.
MGR: So how did you hear about the bombing of Hiroshima?
RUSS: Just over the news and the radio. I was back in the States when that happened.
MGR: You were back. And how did you feel about it.
RUSS: Well, at first I didn’t believe it was going to… All the word was the war would be over pretty soon now we got this new atom bomb. And I said, “Yeah, I’ll bet.” I’m a cynic anyhow, I guess, on some things. And so, in fact, I made a bet. It was a rather stupid bet with a guy. [Russ laughs.] I said “I bet you,” I think, “I bet you ten to one that the war won’t be over by a certain date.” That was before they dropped the second bomb, I guess. And after they dropped the second bomb, why that did it. I lost the bet, I know. He bet me five dollars and I had to pay him fifty or something like that.
RUSS: I came back on a troop ship – actually a hospital ship. It was mainly a hospital ship with it they had other guys there who weren’t wounded. You came back on that; they’d use it as a troop ship as well.
MGR: So what was that like?
RUSS: Well, it took us eleven days by convoy. The first night or two out from where we sailed from Southern England, there, why they were dropping depth charges, which I thought was rather disconcerting. Those things sounded like somebody was out on the hull of the ship pounding on something, you know? I thought, well, this is rather anti-climatic, you know? I’ve gone and flown thirty-five missions without a scratch and then I’m going to die out here sunk in the Atlantic? But nothing happened. We came all the way back – back into New York harbor.
Well, it wasn’t exactly a cruise quality line but I mean it was…. The food in there, I think, was mostly hot dogs they fed you. But a lot of those guys got sick. After about the second day or so, why you go up to the deck where the mess hall was and there weren’t too many guys in there. They got sick. [Russ laughs.] Fortunately, I never got seasick.
MGR: So you came to New York and where did you go from there?
RUSS: Well, I came back and they processed us at Camp Kilmer, [New Jersey]. And they put us on a train and brought us back across the country to Santa Ana, [California.] We were down in Santa Ana for a week for rest and relaxation, I guess. The [air] base there was set up to handle guys returning from overseas. They did their best to do everything they could for them. You didn’t have any duty. You just had to…. The only requirement was that you show up for reveille at eight o’clock in the morning. The mess hall was open twenty-four hours a day. And they served ice cream in there round the clock and all sorts of things. They did everything they could to make it nice for you. We were there a week and then we were shipped out to various places.
[NOTE: Camp Kilmer was named after poet/soldier Joyce Kilmer known mostly for his poem “Trees.”
According to Wikipedia, “Camp Kilmer was activated in June 1942 as a staging area and part of an installation of the New York Port of Embarkation. The camp was organized as part of the Army Service Forces Transportation Corps. Troops were quartered at Camp Kilmer in preparation for transport to the European Theater of Operations in World War II. Eventually, it became the largest processing center for troops heading overseas and returning from World War II, processing over 2.5 million soldiers. It officially closed in 2009.”
Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB) was an army pilot school during the war. Joseph Heller used the air base as one of the settings in his novel Catch-22.]
MGR: And how long after that did you get out?
RUSS: Oh, I didn’t. I was sent to La Junta, Colorado. I was there for several months and then I was shipped down to Yuma, Arizona for several months. Yuma, Arizona was my last station. And I was sent up to Sacramento [California] to McClellan Field to be discharged.
MGR: So what did you do at La Junta and the next place?
RUSS: I worked as a mechanic – as a line mechanic.
MGR: On the airplanes?
RUSS: Yeah, it was on B17s at La Junta, Colorado and down Yuma, Arizona was on B25s down there.
MGR: And did you feel like things had changed in the United States since you had left?
RUSS: Well, I don’t know. Really, I didn’t have that much exposure to civilian life when after I came back. I had been stationed on different bases around and I really don’t have…. I don’t know. I don’t know what I thought about that. I don’t think I really had any definite thoughts about it.
MGR: So what did you do after you were out?
RUSS: I came back. My parents were living in Sunnyvale [California] at the time. They moved from Palo Alto [California] to Sunnyvale when the war started. My Dad got into the Defense Housing business down there. So I went back to Sunnyvale and I lived with them for a while. Then I went south to Los Angeles to go to school down there – to North Technical Institute.
MGR: Did you use your G.I. Bill?
RUSS: Yeah, under the G.I. Bill, right.
MGR: O.K. And from there?
RUSS: Well, from there I came back to the Bay area and applied for a job at United Airlines and was hired there. I worked there for forty years.
MGR: Doing what?
RUSS: Well, I was hired as a mechanic originally. And then I was an inspector. And then I was a foreman or a supervisor. Did quality control for a while. I did various jobs. In the course of forty years I did quite a few jobs.
MGR: So have you been back to Nuthampstead and the base?
RUSS: I went back. My wife and I went back in 1996 when they had the tour back over there.
MGR: And what did you think?
RUSS: Oh, it was delightful! The people treated us royally. I never expected them to treat me like that. They really rolled the red carpet out for us. And it was a marvelous trip.
MGR: And how did you find out about the 398th Reunion?
RUSS: 1985 they had the Fiftieth Anniversary of the B17. And Allen Ostrom called me one day out of the blue. I didn’t know who Allen was or anything else. But he called me and told me about it. He invited me and said be sure to come if you’re able to. So I did go to it and that’s where I got re-involved with the 398th Reunions.
MGR: And did some of your crew come?
MGR: Been with them?
RUSS: Yeah. Right.
MGR: Have you been back in a B17 since the war?
RUSS: Oh, I’ve been. I haven’t been flying in one, no. I’ve gone through them when they have them on display somewhere. So I might go out and take a look. I remember I took my wife out there one time and she - [Russ chuckles] – I wanted to come in. They had it opened so you could go through it. They had steps up there to that back door there. She got up there and looked in there and she said I’m not going in there. That’s too claustrophobic, you know?
[RUSS and off-camera people laugh.]
MGR: So you didn’t go in?
RUSS: She didn’t go in, no. [Russ laughs.]
MGR: What about children? Do you have children?
RUSS: Yeah, I have two daughters.
MGR: And have they been in one of them [a B17?]
RUSS: Yeah, my younger daughter, yeah. She follows it rather closely. Her husband’s a retired Air Force guy and they’re rather interested in it.
MGR: So how did you find out about the surrender of Japan?
RUSS: Well, on the radio. The news came out that we dropped the second bomb. Yeah. And then we had VJ Day - VE Day and VJ Day. I was back in this country for both of them. And each time I was either – I think on VE Day I was on a train going back to Colorado or something. I didn’t get to celebrate. And then on VJ Day I was down in Arizona at Yuma. And they closed – locked everything down. They wouldn’t let us out. Wouldn’t let us go to town or anything else so there was no celebration then. So….
MGR: That was too bad.
MGR: So did you join the reserves after you got out?
RUSS: No, I didn’t. You know when I got out they had two tables set up out there: one for people who wanted a discharge and one for who wanted to stay in. And I pondered that for quite a while. I said, well, maybe I should just stay in. I don’t really have anything going [on] to come back. So I thought I would. So I went over to the table where they were getting guys to re-enlist. There was a guy up ahead of me talking to them. And they were kind of long winded. They talked and talked and talked. And I stood there on one foot and then the other. Finally I thought to myself, you know I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for years now. The hell with this; I’m leaving. I’m going over to the other table and I got my discharge.
MGR: So you kept in touch with as many of your guys as you could.
RUSS: Yeah. I’ve been in touch with all of them. Well, like, Bob Gaynor got killed so…. But the rest of us all but one guy - never had much contact with him. Most of the other guys we had pretty close contact most of the time. But, of course, several of them are gone now.
MGR: You formed a close bond while you were flying.
RUSS: Yeah. We did. We had a good…. We were very close.
MGR: So would you change anything about your war experience?
RUSS: No. I don’t think so. I mean it’s not a good experience sometimes but there again it’d an education that you can’t get anywhere else in this world, any other university or school. I know that. It’s an education one of its kind and I don’t think anything will ever take the place of it.
MGR: What would you like people to know about that time in history?
RUSS: Well, the only thing that I can say is that we were united in those days because we had a common thing after Pearl Harbor. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again, frankly, with everybody completely united like we were in those days. Even though there was, well, there was always dissent but nothing like you see now. I mean the people nowadays they are, I don’t know what, have a different outlook on things. They don’t like something; they don’t mind protesting which is alright, I guess. We’ll never have the unity we had then.
MGR: Is there anything else you want to tell me about?
RUSS: No, I didn’t bring my speech with me so I won’t.
MGR: Well, if you have one, we can do it again.
MGR: I want to thank you for your service to our country. And I want to thank you for doing the interview.
RUSS: You’re welcome. And I want to thank you for taking the time and everything out or your time to do all these things for posterity.
MGR: Well, you’re welcome.
[TIME OF INTERVIEW 41:15]
- Tarr's Crew - 603rd Squadron - 9 August 1944
- Russ Currier Recollections of 21 November 1944 by Scott Welty
- Recollections of the Mission to Merseburg 21 November 1944 by Bob Welty, Co-Pilot, 603rd Squadron
- Lt. Bob Welty - Letters, Interviews, and Photos
- 398th Welty Photo Collection Bob Welty was the Co-Pilot on the Joe Tarr Crew.
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- T/Sgt. Russell Currier was the Engineer on Joe Tarr's 603rd Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Scott Welty, son of Bob Welty, 603rd Squadron in February 2011.
- The transcription was obtained from a video file.
- Punctuation, grammar and minor word changes may have been made to improve readability.
- Additional information may be shown in brackets [ ].