World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Ray D. Gainey, 398th Bomb Group Co-Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Marilyn Gibb-Rice
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
Cocoa Beach, Florida, September 5, 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.
Ray D. Gainey, 398th Bomb Group Co-Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force
MGR: Interviewer, Marilyn Gibb-Rice
RG: 398th Co-Pilot, Ray D. Gainey
MG: Millie Gainey, Ray's wife
Time of Interview: 0:55:21
MGR: I’m Marilyn Gibb-Rice and today is Sept 5, 2008 and we’re at the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association Reunion in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Would you please introduce yourself?
RG: I am Ray Gainey and I live in Cordele, Georgia. When I was, before I was flying in the 398th Bomb Group, I was living in Boston, Georgia which is a small town just above the Florida line in Thomas County. And I went from there to two years of college in North Georgia College. And when I got out the second year up there, I had a little card from the draft board. I had to go home and register for the draft when I was 20 years old. And they, they had the card waiting on me when I got home. And, and they knew when I was getting out. So I just gave it to my father. I says, “Now, you going to make me be in the walking army or are you going to let me do what I want to do?”
So we went over to the draft board and got a release and I went to Turner Field in Albany, Georgia, the next Monday and joined the Air Force to fly in the cadet program. And they told me when I got through that, taking the physical there, that took all day long for that physical, they said that, “Go home and just wait and you’ll get your orders in the mail.” Well I went home and I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And nine months later I got my orders to report to San Antonio, Texas Classification Center. And I could have gotten every bit of that training within 50 miles of my home. (laughs) But that was the typical for the Army and the Air Force and everybody else. Send you as far away from home as they can get you. (laughs) But anyway, I made it through the cadet program, graduated from Ellington Field in twin engines, and I asked for some certain planes, and they said they wasn’t flying those anymore.
MGR: What planes were those?
RG: They were what?
MGR: What planes were you asking for?
RG: B-25, P-38s. Didn’t matter, whichever one. And they, they said, they said they wasn’t training anybody for those anymore. So they sent me to, when I graduated there, they sent me to Salt Lake City and I said, “What’s going on at Salt Lake City?” They said, “They’re making up bomber crews.” Well, I sort of had an idea of what was going on then. So, when I got to Salt Lake City in January, it was, the fence posts was just sticking out of the snow. It was that deep. And I said, and this South Georgia boy they sent up there in cold country like that. Well they got through with naming the crews and I drew Joe Wierney [2nd Lt. Joseph Wierney, Pilot] to fly as his Co-Pilot. And They put us on a train and took us back to Dalhart, Texas for our training. Crew training. There were 55 crews and we were all there at Dalhart. And when we got through training at Dalhart, we left there the first of May and went to Kearney, Nebraska for staging there for overseas. Well, that’s where we were supposed to pick up the planes to fly over there, but the weather was so rough over the Atlantic Ocean that they wouldn’t let us fly. They didn’t think we could fly good, but, uh, I reckon. (laughs)
But anyway, we finally, they put us on a troop train and we went from Kearney, Nebraska to Detroit, Michigan; crossed into Canada; back out of Canada at Niagara Falls, and the New York Central picked up the train there and delivered us to Taunton, Massachusetts. That’s where they, they were staging everybody there before they loaded the ships. And we went over, I went over on the, in fact, all 55 air crews went over on the S.S. Brazil and it was supposed to be, uh, make 15 knots but most of the time it was so rough it made five and six and it took us nearly two weeks to get there. And when we landed, we landed at Liverpool off the Irish Sea. Then they sent us to an airbase in London and we had to have some grounds crew there on radio procedure and the mining of the beaches… and they were mined; all of them, except for a few spots. And while I was there, I don’t know the date we went there, but I do know that D-Day, June 6, happened while we were there. And we got up that morning and it got light enough to see, the sky was just black with airplanes. I’ve never seen so many airplanes in my life. Looked like blackbirds up there.
And then they sent us to the 398th Bomb Group and that’s, I’ve forgotten when I flew my first mission, but it was to Hamburg, Germany, the dock area, [the 398th mission to Hamburg was on 20 June 1944] and I’ve forgotten who flew with Joe. I flew with Captain Hornshuh [2nd Lt. Merwyn E. "Bud" Hornshuh, Pilot], who was one of our flight leaders in the 398th at the time, but I flew with him and I guess his Co-Pilot flew with Joe. And the next day, the mission the next day was Berlin [the 398th mission to Berlin was on 21 June 1944], and I flew with Joe and my crew and we went to Berlin and we lost our squadron commander [Richard Rohrer] on that trip. He had to bail out over Berlin and spent the rest of the time in one of those stalag lufts. (laughs) But, uh, everything went along just fine. We went to Merseberg several times. That was the probably the roughest target we went on. We were in flak over 30 minutes going to the target and on target. And what was down there was synthetic oil plants and we’d go down and tear them up. ‘Course, during the night they’d rebuild them.
MGR: Alright. Tell me, how many missions did you fly?
RG: I flew 30. And I don’t know how many of them I flew with Joe [Wierney], but then they took me off the crew and I started flying with new crews and… I remember two of them. I don’t remember the other names. I’ll never forget Wally Blackwell.
MGR: You flew with him?
RG: Do what?
MGR: Did you fly with Wally?
RG: I flew with Wally and that was the only trip that I made that we had some real problems. Wally’s tail gunner sort of lost his cool. He tied up the whole ship on the intercom. He was just all to pieces. The navigator got hit, compound fracture of the ankle, and I took the first aid kit, which was my responsibility as Co-Pilot, and I handed it to Wally and told him to go down there and fix that boy up. I wasn’t going down there. He was going to have to do it. I wasn’t going to leave that seat I was in. We were flying on Joe Wierney’s crew. He was leading our three ships flying and, boy, they just… (pauses, shakes his head)
MGR: What, tell me about what happened.
RG: I know they were worried. But we got back and it was, we were over Munich when that happened [the 398th mission to Munich was on 31 July 1944], and that, that thing did it to it. We had a 200-knot wind going, tail wind, going down there and then it just took you twice as long to get out. For an eleven-hour flight, two-thirds of it was trying to get back home. And that’s when we needed to be in a hurry! (laughs) But we got back, shot up the red flare and landed the ship and taxied up to the medics. And they came on board and got the injured man and I never, I didn’t leave the lead seat until they got him out. And he, one of them, stuck his head in the pilot’s cabin and said, “Is you all right?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m all right but, I think you need to take the tail gunner with you.”
MGR: Did they take him?
RG: And they did. They took him with them. I think they grounded him, but as many times as he had seen the Intelligence Officer, they missed it. But things just happen and there’s no reason why.
MGR: So who…
RG: I’ll never forget Wally’s crew! (laughs)
MGR: (laughs) And who else did you fly with?
RG: I flew with DeLancey [1st Lt. Lawrence M. DeLancey, Pilot]. In fact, I forget the other pilot that was in the same shape I was. He’d lost his crew to the lead ship. And I was flying with DeLancey one day. His Co-Pilot had an abscessed ear and they grounded him. And I was flying with him one day to finish up my missions and Stahlman [Lt. Phillip Stahlman, Co-Pilot], I think they told me the name was, they, uh, he was flying the next day, and he happened to be flying with them the day the nose got shot off the plane. And that was the plane that was assigned to Joe Wierney’s crew when we first got there. It was a brand new ship and we had flown it in just about every mission we went on. But they flew it back to the base. It sounded like a basic trainer coming across, whistling so. But they flew it, and they lost one man on the crew.
When that happened they didn’t even, the pilots didn’t even go down to see if there was anybody alive down there because they didn’t figure there would be because the bombardier [S/Sgt. George E. Abbott, the togglier] was blown all to smithereens. Uh, the navigator [2nd Lt. Raymond J. LeDoux], after about thirty minutes, reached up and grabbed a pilot by the ankle, and they were afraid to even look down to see what it was. But the concussion from the shell going off… he was sitting right there… there’s a little tongue. The pilots dropped down then and crawled up in there and he was in that tongue. It had blown him… you could tell how the force of it that blew him in there… and when he came to, it took him about thirty minutes for him to come to. Of course, they had to come down from altitude because all the oxygen was knocked out. But that boy had hard luck. I never seen anybody have as much trouble as DeLancey did on every, every trip he went on, just about. I think the few times I flew with him he didn’t have any problems and I think, I knew I had a guardian angel. (laughs)
MGR: Tell me about a normal day of a mission, like what time did they get you up and what did you do? Just walk me through that.
RG: Well, you know, in the summertime in England there’s only about two hours of darkness and about time you’d get sleeping time they’d be waking you up. (laughs)
RG: Because really and truly if you going to take off at seven o’clock, you had to start about four o’clock because you had to go take a shower. You had to shave. We were sucking oxygen from the time we left the ground until we got back, and just a short beard will cause a 5% leak in your oxygen mask and that’s enough for you to pass out when you’re flying above 35,000 feet; and we bombed several targets at 39,000 feet. And some of them, some of them said a B-17 wouldn’t get that high. I said, “Oh, yeah! It’ll get a lot higher than we were!” and I said, “We were, several times we was at 39,000!” (laughs) But it, it was a fine airplane. One of the best airplanes in the Air Force and I was fortunate to draw it instead of the B-24. In fact, I just about threatened to quit if they put me on a B-24. (laughs)
MGR: So, then, they would get you up and you would shave and shower and then, then what would happen?
RG: We would, they would put us on a weapons carrier and take us out to the crews. You didn’t just walk out there to the fly around. The fly around was a half mile across the field because the planes were scattered everywhere. They didn’t put them in a line up and down the runways. They were all everywhere. So we’d, they’d take us out to the crews. And we never found anything wrong with that ship when we went out there to get in it. That ground crew chief, he was great! He had it ready to go. But after the Berlin mission, I was flying it on a bomb run and I was having trouble keeping it down in the formation and I couldn’t figure out why. Every now and then it’d just phhhhht (gestures upward), way up above, like 20-30 feet above the, the ship I was flying on. And I’d get it back down and up it’d go again. But when we got back to the base that night, that ground crew changed every fuel tank on that ship. Those things were going off just below us, a little bit out of range, but the concussion from them was knocking the plane up out of the formation. That’s how close it was. I told you I had a guardian angel! (laughs)
MGR: (laughs) So, what would happen when you got back from your mission?
RG: When we’d get back from a mission we’d, we would, uh, go eat breakfast, again, or dinner. And then, and then we went to the Officers’ Club and we did a little tipplin’. Then we went to bed. And I’ll tell you what, you wouldn’t be in the bed very long before they’d be coming to wake you up again.
MGR: How many days in a row would you fly?
RG: Well, we went to Munich five days in a row and, I think it was five days in a row according to my flight book. It’s not in the book that way, but I’m sure we went five days in a row. And it took us ten to eleven hours to go down there and come back. And that was the trip that I was on with Wally Blackwell on his…on his first mission.
MGR: And what, do you remember when this was?
RG: When it was?
MGR: Mm hmm.
RG: Well, I didn’t remember it, but I asked Wally what day I flew with him on that first mission and he told me it was the 31st of July. And I told him, I asked him, I said, “How do you remember that?” He said, “It was my 20th birthday.” I said, “What a present!” (laughs)
MGR: (laughs) And how old were you?
RG: I was 22!
MGR: (laughs) You were the old guy, huh?
RG: That was old back then.
MGR: Mm hmm. So, were there any other missions that things happened that you want to tell about?
RG: Uh, I don’t remember anything that happened on the rest of them. That’s the only one I remember. I guess it’s because of what happened on it.
MGR: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And you were, so you never had to bail out or you never landed on the continent?
RG: Yeah, no, I wouldn’t have left the airplane unless it’d been on fire! (laughs) Um… Harold Weekley did [2nd Lt. Harold D. Weekley, Pilot]. He had to bail out twice. He walked out of Germany the first time.
RG: He really did. I’m sure he must [have] told that story.
MG: Didn’t you say there was hole below you and a hole above you?
RG: Well that’s just… that was just something that happened.
MGR: So, tell me about it.
RG: We flew back. I’ve forgotten what mission it was on. I was flying with Joe [Wierney] and, uh, well now when we stopped and I slid the window open, that right window, and the left window would slide open. I slid it open and the Crew Chief was down there and he says, “Are you all right?” and I said, “Yeah!” I said, “Yeah, why?” And he said “Come here!” And there was a hole down below where I was sitting about that big around [gestures off screen] and one about that size up above me. And I said, “Well, I was sitting right there the whole time but I sure didn’t know anything came by me.” But I was flying the plane on the bomb run and I guess that’s the reason why. And if I had not been flying the plane on the bomb run, it would have hit me because usually I was [leaning] over, looking out, trying to see what we was trying to hit and [this time] I wasn’t. I was sitting up. It happened over here and I was sitting here. But them kind of things happened all the time. You just didn’t think nothing of it.
MGR: So, tell me about your living conditions.
RG: My what?
MGR: Your living conditions?
RG: Well, really, under the circumstances, they were better than most folks, I guess. It beat the trenches! (laughs) We were, I think we had three or four crew officers, may have been more, living in a Nissan hut and close to it, out the end, we had a shower facility and bathrooms. And we all we did was sleep in that place and play cards.
MGR: So, what did you do on your time off, when you didn’t fly but you were still on base? What did you do?
RG: Played poker. (laughs) When I got home my mama asked me, she says, “How much money do you make?” and I told her, “Three hundred and, I don’t know, seventy-eighty dollars a month.” she said, “Well where did you get all that money you sent to me?” I said, “Playing poker, Mama.” And she never said another word. But, and I didn’t realize it, but I was a good poker player. And you got to have a poker face and you got to use it while you’re playing; and that’s what I did. And we finally got a guy in on, who came in on a crew, and he was a Bridge expert and he proceeded to teach us how to play Bridge. ‘Course, I finished up my missions and I had really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, but I’ve never played since I got back. We had a friend who was trying to teach Millie how to play bridge and he wasn’t a very good teacher, (laughs) and so she didn’t like it. But this, this guy wouldn’t play with us. He was, he was the instructor. We’d have the four players down there, and the cards, and he’d be walking around the table telling us what to do. And really and truly he was a…he was a…he was a master at playing Bridge!
MGR: But did you have time away from the base?
RG: Uhhhh, yes, we had, we’d have, uh, I don’t know how often, but occasionally we had a chance to go to London. And our base, I was at Nuthampstead, and, we were 38 miles from London. And we’d go into Royston and catch the train down to London and we’d ride the train back, but we’d stay in the hotels down there. We walked, I walked all over London. There wasn’t no, there wasn’t no way to ride.
RG: Did you go to the museums?
RG: Did we what?
MGR: Did you go to any of the museums that were there; or what did you do when you were in London?
RG: You know, I really don’t know. They had a theater there that never even closed. It was a stage theater. And they never closed during the bombing of London. They had a performance every night! That was on Piccadilly Circus. (laughs)
MGR: So, you went there?
RG: Yep, we went there. And after we’d, we had flown about half of our missions, I had a week off. I had a week’s vacation. That’s the first one I’d had. And I went to Edinborough, Scotland. They had a Red Cross hotel up there and I went up there and stayed in the hotel. They had a dance every night and we would have a good time up there. And they had gobs of girls! So… and I met one up there. She had a, she had a twin sister. I mean, they were identical twins. The only way I could tell the difference in them was to dance with them. They didn’t dance the same. But she said, “What are you going to do tomorrow?” And I said, “I don’t know. Just hang around here.” And she said, she said, “Why don’t we go to Liverpool?” And I said, “Okay! What’re we going to do when we get there?” And she said, “We going to catch the locks; one of the ferry boats and go up the locks.” And I said, “Okay. That sounds like a winner to me.” So we did. We got up and caught the railroad train, the tram, over to Liverpool, taxi out to the dock, got on the, I don’t know what kind of boat it was, but we went all through the locks and up to the far north end of the last lock. They had a house up there and we ate dinner there and got back on the boat and came back, but I didn’t see Hessie [Nessie] in Loch Ness! (laughs) She didn’t show up. (laughs)
MGR: So, what did you think about the food?
RG: The food? Well… I learned to dislike Brussel sprouts. That’s the only thing they grew, I think, in England and every time we had a meal they had them on the table. Brussel sprouts. And I got, I told my wife, I said, “Don’t…” She even planted some in the garden accidentally one time. And I said, “Don’t cook none of them and put ‘em on the table ‘cuz I don’t want ‘em!”
MGR: So, on a mission, did you ever fly the plane as the Co-Pilot or did you, like, take turns or…?
RG: Oh yes, we flew the plane. One man can’t do it all. When I was flying with new crews I tried to because, really and truly, I didn’t trust them all that much. I asked most of them when they left if they’d never flown a plane loaded like those were. I think we hadn’t either when we went over there. See, those planes were loaded. And they told us they weighed when they were loaded, when we would take them up, they weighed 90,000 pounds. We’d never flown, we’d never flown a plane over 25,000 feet in the states and we were way above that. We bombed some targets at 39,000 feet and some of them, some of these folks said, “Oh, a B-17 wouldn’t go that high,” and I said, “It will, and it’ll go higher.” We didn’t have facts; I don’t know how high it would go.
MGR: Would the flak always get to you at whatever altitude you flew?
RG: You could not get high enough to get above it. They just used a bigger gun and sent it right up in your lap.
MGR: So, how long were your missions?
RG: They averaged ten to eleven hours.
MGR: And did you have anything to eat or drink on your missions?
RG: No, gosh, you didn’t have time. And, of course, before we got the P-51 fighter planes over there, they didn’t have any planes that would go beyond the coast of Europe. That’s about as far as they could go. So the Germans… really, this all happened in 1943 and I didn’t get there until the middle of ’44, thank goodness. But they, you know, the 8th Air Force, lost 100 planes a day for a long time. They had the highest casualty rate of any outfit in WWII. They had 50,000.
MGR: Wow! Tell me about your crew members.
RG: My crew members?
MGR: Mm hmm.
RG: Oh, we had an assortment really. There was three that was 18 and 19 years old. We had two waist gunners that were in their late 30’s. One of them was the Armament Officer. Our radio man was 18. Our Bombardier was 29, and Ernie [Brass, Navigator] was not quite that old. Both of them were married before the war. In fact, their wives followed them everywhere we went. And when we would have a little time off, they were living in one of the motels around where we were, that’s where we were. We went there!
MGR: But this was during training? They didn’t go over to England with you did they?
RG: Oh, no. They couldn’t go over there.
MGR: Right, so just during training, then they would be wherever they were?
RG: Yes. When we left Dalhart they went home; they went back to their home. I met Ted Brass, I’ve forgotten now where, at one of the meetings. That’s Ernie Brass’s son. And we enjoyed he and his wife Judy, I think that was her name. And… the last meeting we went to that Ernie came was… he didn’t make, he didn’t make the Falls Church meeting. He didn’t feel like it. But Ted and his wife were there and that’s the last meeting we went to, so I don’t know. The next meeting was out in Kansas and I wanted to go out there, but for some reason or another we just couldn’t get it together.
MGR: Did you have any interactions with the local people when you were in England?
RG: Very little, really.
MGR: Were you ever in the Woodman Pub?
RG: I don’t ever remember going to the Woodman.
MGR: So, did you receive any special medals?
RG: Well, after we finished five or six missions we got an air medal, and we got one for every five or six missions. I think I got four clusters. And when I finished the twenty-fifth mission I got a DFC, [Distinguished] Flying Cross.
MGR: Do you remember what that was for?
RG: I guess for being alive! (laughs)
MGR: So, did you have any good luck items that you took?
RG: Good luck items?
MGR: Besides your guardian angel?
RG: No, just the angel.
MGR: So how did you communicate? Did you write letters back and forth to your parents?
RG: Ask her. [referring to his wife, Millie] (laughs)
MG: (laughs) She said your parents.
MGR: Your parents… yeah.
RG: I sure did.
GR: You did?
MG: We were dating.
MGR: You were dating. So, you were dating your current wife while you were over there?
MGR: Or, yeah…
RG: I started going with her, um, to tell you the truth she was 17 years old, and I had a date with her older sister.
RG: And when I went to get her, she was in the bed sick. She said, “But Millie can go.” and I said, “She can?” I never did go back and get the older sister.
MG: He sent my mom a letter. She was very strict with us.
RG: That lady was a strict lady. She raised three girls. Uh…Millie was three years old when her father got killed in a hunting accident.
MG: I was the baby.
RG: And so she really never knew her daddy, but he was a tall black-headed man. Nice guy. I knew him. I was about eight years old when that happened.
MGR: So, you came back and got married?
RG: Sure did!
MGR: So, tell me about, you did the 30 missions. When did you finish your missions?
RG: Uh, first, sometime in November, late November, early December, and then they sent us to a staging area in Great Britain. And I don’t even remember where that was. And I thought maybe they were going to put us on an air crew coming home. MATS [Military Air Transport Service] was always flying both ways and that didn’t happen. I went over on the S.S. Brazil with all of them and when I came back home, we left… I’ve forgotten, must have been down South Hampton… we left down there and I came on the same ship, the S.S. Brazil. I had the same, all the officers ate in the regular dining room. It was in peace time. And I had the same waiter coming back that I had going over.
MGR: Did he remember you?
MGR: Did he remember you?
RG: Oh, yeah, he remembered.
MGR: So, when you got back to the United States, where did you land?
RG: We left Boston Harbor going over, but the ship hadn’t been in dry dock in several years and it had a loose screw. And every time the waves, it was rough going both ways, and every time the ship would come up over one of those waves it would vibrate the whole boat, that one screw. And the others were tight but they had one that one was loose. So we went back into New York harbor. And I’ll tell you what, they were trying to clear out the freezers and did we eat some fo-o-o-od coming back! (laughs)
MGR: You had good food coming back?
RG: I mean they had…that was the best food of all! And they was, they knew it would just ruin in the freezer because the ship had to go into dry dock. And they put us… that was in New Jersey that they took us to. Camp Miles Standish was in Massachusetts and I’m trying to think of the name of that place in New Jersey, that base. And we were there long enough for them to get all our papers and all of us together and then they put all of us going to Atlanta on a troop train down too Atlanta. And you know, of course, about five days after we left England was The Battle of the Bulge, and we thought for a while they were going to turn them things around and take us back over there. But I guess they didn’t because we had so many wounded on board. On the way back I was a litter bearer and everybody on the ship that was able-bodied had a man to get off that ship if something happened. And we practiced on every day on the way back. It took us about two weeks to get back, two weeks to go over on that ship. We were in a 55 ship convoy. But we got, we landed down there and we left the base in New Jersey on that troop train, and every time we’d get to a side, they’d put us on it, and all these freight trains would go zooming by, going to the ports. They were sending that stuff!
MGR: So, you went back to Atlanta?
RG: Yep! We went back to Fort McPherson and that’s where they cut my orders. Delay in route. I had to go to Miami Beach for a physical and they gave me ten days at home which I, uh … they was four or five going further south. I was going to… I said… I told them, I says, “Why don’t we call the Air Force and see if they got a flight going to Tallahassee and Tampa?” The other guys were going to Tampa. So we did. We called the Air Force and they said, yeah, they had a mail plane going down there and there wasn’t a soul on it except the mail, and they’d wait for us. We got us a taxi, got out there, and got out, checked our bags, and walked out and got on the plane. And it took us about an hour to get to, I believe that’s about what it was, to get to Tallahassee. And they were landing at the old field. They didn’t have that nice new one [they have] now. And we went in to land it and I was waiting on… my dad was out hunting quail and that was Christmas Eve. It took that long to get home. And they came and got me. But all in all, it all came out good. And I hope nobody else has to do it.
MGR: Yeah. So, were you discharged at that point?
RG: Oh no! I went to Miami Beach and one day I asked them, I said, “Well, who is the Assignments Officer?” and they said, “He’s up on such and such a floor in The Cadillac Hotel.” Well I started at the bottom floor and I went until I found him. And it was a 2nd Lieutenant shavetail that had just got out of OCS [Officer Candidate School], and he was the Assignments Officer. I went in there and told him who I was and told him where I would like to go and he said, “There’s only one problem with that.” He said, “If I send you there, then I got to send one to each one of those other bases,” And I said “Well, I don’t care who you send other places!” I said, “I’ve been the guy going to the other places.” I said, “This time I want to go where I want to go!” And he said, “Well, where do you want to go?” I said, “Valdosta, to Moody Field.” And that’s what he pulled, he reached up there and pulled a drawer out of a filing cabinet and there was a card with my name on it, and he wrote right across it “Moody Field” and that’s where I went. And I stayed there until they didn’t know what to do with us.
I, we had so many bomber pilots there that they didn’t know what to do with us and we wasn’t qualified to fly B-25s, and that’s what they were flying in Advanced Flying School. That’s the reason I told them I’d rather do that. So they sent me back, they sent us, some of us, out to San Antonio to Central Instructors’ School and that’s where we started flying a B-25. And I had my Advanced Flight Instructor from Ellington Field was there, and I had him in flight training down there. He checked me out in flying a B-25 in one four-hour flying period. He says, “You ready to go.” So, that’s what we were doing. And we stayed there until we got through and learned to do the things they wanted it taught and they sent us back… they took us back to… they didn’t take us, we had to fly. We had to go back to Valdosta, and one of the boys that was out there with me was from Birmingham, Alabama and I went out there with him. He had a two-door Chevrolet, and we drove that thing out there. And he was afraid to drive it over 55 miles an hour because the tires was so old. And we started back.
On the last flight I had, all of a sudden I started itching. My wrists. And my knees, then. And… but we got back on that flight out, that was the last flight period. I got him to take me over to the hospital. I wanted to see a doc and I got there and he says, “What’d you have? What’d you eat last night?” Well, I says, “I was eating in the Officers’ Mess. I ate some shrimp creole.” He said, “That stuff had to be bad.” He says, “That’s [what] broke you out.” And he says, “I’ll give you a shot of adrenaline.” He gave me three shots of adrenaline before I left, and a great big bottle of Calamine Lotion. It ain’t worth nothin’. (laughs) Now we got some things that will stop the itch. Calamine Lotion didn’t do a very good job on that, and I was swelled up so that the guy that I went out there with didn’t know me when he got back in.
Beardon and I, that’s the boy I was riding with, I mean there was the three of us going back, and I told them… we left… we left San Antonio, Brooks Field; as the sun was going down we was driving out of San Antonio, and, it takes a long time to drive across Texas. If anybody thinks they going to drive across Texas in one day… they’re not going to do it. We, we left; I was driving. I told them, I said, “If you all get sleepy now, just go on to sleep,” I says, “because I ain’t going to go to sleep,” and I drove all night long. The next morning when the sun was coming up we had crossed the Mississippi River and I told them, I says “I think… I think this car is beginning to drive funny!” We drove 55 miles an hour all night. We, we got out to change drivers and both back tires were worn flat.
MG: Back tires.
RG: Back tires. Gone flat. So we changed one. We caught a ride and went to a little station about a mile away and got the other one fixed. Came back… and he told us what to do. He told, he told Beardon, he said, “The draft board be open, (I mean the ration board) be open in the morning, pretty quick!” He says, “You go up there and tell them you need a tire.” And they did. They gave him a certificate for a new tire and we went and bought that, and we had it put on, and we drove on back to Birmingham, Alabama.
MGR: So did you fly the B-25s?
RG: Oh yeah! We flew it out there, but we didn’t fly out there in it, or back. We could have been back in a few hours in the thing! But we got back and my uncle picked me up at the hotel in Birmingham and he carried me to… he was going on a trip… he was living in Birmingham and working out of Birmingham for Pure Carbona Gas Company selling dry ice and carbon dioxide. That’s what he was doing. And he put me on the train in Columbus. He had to go and make a call there. And he put me on the train at Columbus to Thomasville, Georgia, and [when] I got back to Thomasville, Georgia, I caught a ride down to home in Boston; there wasn’t nothing to do, we did that all the time. And Mom and Daddy carried me back to Valdosta.
MGR: So what else did you do before you got out of the Air Force?
RG: Well, after I went to Central Instructors’ School, I was flying down there, they closed Valdosta right after I got back. And I took my cadets, that they had assigned me, on a brand new B-25 and flew it to Turner Field in Albany, Georgia. And that’s where I finished that class of cadets and two more. And them brand new airplanes that we had, that we flew to Albany, the maintenance was so sorry on them until they were beginning to fall apart. And I had three in three days that something was wrong with. And the last one they had just… and one of them they had just put back on the line from going through Sub Depot on a 100-hour check. And the little old guy on the line there… they had sent all the experienced crews, ground crews and all, to the South Pacific. Said they’d never been overseas. And I told that boy down there, I said, “Go get a screwdriver.” He went and got it and he said, “What do you want me to do with it?” I said, “I want you to take that engine nacell off the bottom of that engine. I said I want to know what this is dripping here.” And he did, and there was all the hydraulic hoses in the engine, that was supposed to be fastened up there, hanging loose! They had never put them back in. And we’d have never got the plane off the ground, I don’t think, because everything you did in that ship was hydraulic; the bomb bay doors opened with hydraulics, the brakes on the plane, and by the time I’d a hit the brake a time or two, I wouldn’t have had none. But I doubt we could’ve got it off the ground. But I redlined the plane right then. And the next day I had one, it took me about four or five hours to get it on the ground… back on the ground, before they’d let me, let me land.
MG: With cadets.
RG: And the downlocking pin on the gear… we’d put the gear down… the pins [would] go in before the gear’d get there and, of course, the indicator light in front of me showed it wasn’t locked down. So, finally, they told me to put the cadets in the back of the plane. They had to crawl over the bomb bay. I put all four cadets back there and everything else that was loose back there. I told them to pile it up in the tail. We had the tail skid back there and I landed the plane on the main gear and that tail skid. Convinced a three-point landing, which I was great at! (laughs) And when I landed the plane, all the engines… I shut all the engines down. Cut them off. And it coasted to a stop, and just as it stopped, it plopped down on the nose gear. And it held up but it wouldn’t have done to try to land on it. And the Colonel stuck his head under there and the Lt. Colonel down at Sub Depot stuck his head under there and looked at it and said, “Well, Lieutenant, it’s just like you said it was.” I said, “Colonel! Did you think we were lying?!” Those kids even knew it. They went down to check it and they told me, said the downlocking pin is going in first before the gear gets set, so I knew it was never going to work. So, and I told them, I says… I says, “Colonel,” I said, “You know them lifts you’ve been sending up to Fort Mac to get out?” I said, “I don’t have to fly airplanes that this man won’t keep up.” And I pointed my finger at him and I said, “And he’s not keeping them up!” He wasn’t! His outfit was doing the sloppiest job and I told him, I said, “I don’t have to fly them!” I got out. Married Millie.
MG: Went to school.
RG: And I went to the University of Georgia to Pharmacy School and she was with me the whole time… and we had a ball. We had a good time up there.
MGR: And children?
RG: Have a daughter, that’s presently 57 years old, and she is with us today with her husband, Homer Keith. And our son couldn’t make it at the last minute, but he has been several times before. He is 61 years old.
MG: Born in Athens.
MG: Born in Athens
RG: He was born in Athens before I finished school up. I put in the four years then that it took to go through the pharmacy school in three. I was taking an extra five-hour course every quarter. But we really had a good time up there!
MG: Lived in the trailers.
MG: When I got pregnant we moved to the prefab.
RG: Yeah we had a …we moved into prefabs. That was the barracks. I don’t know where they got them barracks from the Army somewhere and they moved them out on Ag Hill in Athens, and they made four apartments downstairs and four upstairs, and we, really, we had a nice apartment.
MGR: Did you use the G.I. Bill for your college?
RG: Oh yeah! Every bit of it! Every bit of it.
MGR: So, did you keep in touch with any of your crew members after the war?
RG: Mmmmmm…no I didn’t.
MGR: And have you been back to Nuthampstead?
RG: No I haven’t.
MGR: Have you been…
RG: I’ve not been to Nuthampstead.
MGR: Have you been back in a B-17?
RG: Uhhh…I don’t know. If it’s ever close by I might go out and see it. We had, we had some B-17s at home that were flying off the base putting out poisons for… what the heck were they trying to poison? They were spraying all the counties all around and they were using B-17s. And one of them… one of them took off one day… and I don’t know what happened, but they wound up landing it on the belly. The engines quit, or something.
MGR: So, is there anything about your war experience that you would change if you could have?
RG: I don’t think I had a chance to do it.
MGR: Alright. Was there anything else?
RG: I believe that’s it.
MGR: Well, I want to thank you for your time in the 398th Bomb Group, and your service to our country, and I want to thank you for doing the interview.
RG: Your welcome. I’ve enjoyed it. In fact, every time I go to one of these things I enjoy it.
MGR: That’s good. Well, we hope you come to many more!
RG: The next one’s going to be in Austin.
MGR: Mm hmm.
RG: Maybe we can get there. You know, when I was flying out of Ellington Field, in Advanced Flying School, that was one of the places we landed on cross country. We…we would go… we’d fly straight north out of Ellington Field over to Fort Worth/Dallas and then down to Austin. And we had to land at Austin. We landed at Austin and the Texas coeds would be serving coffee and donuts on the ramp, but I never stopped to get any because we were always in a hurry to get back and get through with that flying period. There was always two of us in a plane because you didn’t fly it by yourself. But it, it was all enjoyable pretty good.
MGR: Alright. Great! Well, thank you again.
[TIME OF INTERVIEW 0:55:21]
Wierney's crew 601st Squadron on 6 July 1944:
2nd Lt. Joseph Wierney, Pilot
2nd Lt. Ray Gainey, Co-Pilot
2nd Lt. Ernest Brass, Navigator
2nd Lt. Clifford E. Donahue, Bombardier
T/Sgt. James J. Burk, Engineer
T/Sgt. James A. Woolf, Radio
S/Sgt. Stacy Morris, Jr., Ball Turret
S/Sgt. John Srader, Waist Gunner
S/Sgt. Richard B. Jessop, Tail Gunner
- Wierney's Crew - 601st Squadron - 17 April 1944
- Wierney's Crew - 601st Squadron - 6 July 1944
- Ray Gainey and the "George Peach" - 1944/1945
- "Blackwell's Thirty-Four Man Crew by Wally Blackwell, 601st SQ Pilot (Ray was one of Wally's Co-Pilots)
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- Lt. Ray D. Gainey was the Co-Pilot on Joseph Wierney's 601st Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Nancy Partin (daughter of Richard S. Hosman, 601st SQ pilot), April 11, 2016. Nancy is a volunteer transcriber
- 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 [ ].