World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Hamilton Mero, 398th Bomb Group, Pilot
600th Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Randy Stange
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 11, 2003
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.
Hamilton Mero, 398th Bomb Group, Pilot
600th Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
HM: 398th Pilot, Hamilton Mero
Q: What area were you born in?
HM: Central New York, Canastota, New York
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
HM: 2 brothers.
Q: Did they serve in the war also?
HM: They did.
Q: Where did they serve?
HM: My older brother served in the air force. Went through cadet training and got washed out. Managed to get into light planes and he flew L-5 for the tail end of the war. My younger brother was in the infantry. He got over there right after D-Day. His outfit was mopping up the German units that were bypassed.
Q: Did you or your brothers have an interest in aviation prior to the war?
HM: My older brother had some interest since he and I enlisted at the same time, though he got washed out. He and I owned a PT-19 Fairchild for a year after the war. We had some fun with it, did some commercial work. Enjoyed it immensely.
Q: Did you enlist due to the events of December 7, 1941; bombing of Pearl Harbor?
HM: It had an affect, yes on us. We were both in college at the same time. We went down from Ithaca, New York to Binghamtom to enlist in the Air Force. We got into the cadet program.
Q: What did you think of your first days of service?
HM: We didn’t get called up right away. My first days of service were in Atlantic City, marching on the board walk in colder than hell weather. It was rather unpleasant for 6 weeks.
Q: That was your basic?
HM: Basic; absolute basic. Yeah.
Q: Where did you receive your flight training?
HM: We went to Tennessee to be classified and we were both classified as pilots. My brother and I split then. I trained in Florida then Georgia then back to Georgia for final training. I got my commission there, March 12, 1944. I was then assigned to Drew Field in Tampa Florida for B-17. I was then assigned to a crew as co-pilot and a month or two of training together and then received our assignment overseas. Moved to Hunter field in Georgia to pick up a plane and flew it out of Savannah. That was a little tricky, we were to go from Hunter field up to Grenier field in Manchester, New Hampshire. Manchester was packed in solid [snow?] so they diverted us to Syracuse, New York. Unfortunately that was 20 miles away from my hometown. I jumped the fence and was home over night. We warned my mother in advance that we were going to surprise her. We buzzed the house and she was in the back waving a sheet. Then we flew up to Canada, stuck there for 3 or 4 days due to weather. Next over to Iceland, stuck for another 3 or 4 days; on over to Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland where we left our aircraft; eventually getting to the 398.
Q: What did you think of the conditions at station 131?
HM: Interesting. We had a lot of fun there.
Q: What kinds of things did you do for fun?
HM: Raiding the mess hall, swiping newly baked bread, getting fuel for our pot belly stove by swiping gasoline.
Q: How many combat missions did you complete?
Q: Any casualties to your crew?
HM: My crew was shot down on our second mission. It was group policy not to fly an experienced co-pilot with a new crew for their first 2 missions, so they wouldn’t let me go along. So they were getting ahead of me by 2 missions. First mission they got banged up on a hard landing but no one was hurt. Then the second mission I was waiting for them down at the flight line and they never came back. They were the only plane shot down that day over Stuttgart [10 September 1944]. The reports from the people saw, said they had a direct hit in the bomb bay, they went down and no chutes were observed. So I figured they were all dead. That was my indoctrination.
Q: I assume they assigned you to another crew.
HM: They didn’t do that, but I was an orphan co-pilot and flew with 18 different crews during my 30 missions. Fortunately for me, the ruling was 35 missions but they began assigning me to tail gun observer in the group leads and I flew 12 group leads so they let me out with 30 missions.
Q: Anything memorable or exciting experiences besides your indoctrination comment?
HM: That was really it. I flew my first mission probably three or four days after I’d learned that they’d gone down. My first mission was to Brux, Czechoslovakia. Which was a long haul. It gave me a lot of not too nice experience in a hurry.
Q: Did you get any medals or citations during the war?
HM: I got five air medals. European theatre ribbon, American theatre ribbon.
Q: You weren’t wounded?
Q: I assume you stayed in touch with your family during your stay at Nuthampstead?
Q: What did you and your friends do when you had leave? Where did you go, what did you do?
HM: Whenever we had enough money in our pocket we would go down to London. Probably three or four times we went down there to raise a little hell.
Q: Do a little drinking, a little dancing?
Q: Did you carry anything for luck?
HM: No, never…. [Any other pranks besides swiping the fuel and the bread?] I didn’t carry it for luck but on one mission, I don’t remember which mission it was. A piece of flak came through the pilots side, bounced off of his knee, hit somewhere on my side, then hit me right in the throat. It never cut the skin, but it was a piece about this big [size of small finger]. I kept that in my pocket for quite a while. If that was for luck, I don’t know. I still have it.
Q: What happened when you were done with your missions and they shipped you back to the U.S.? Were you discharged or were you reassigned?
HM: On the way back we were told to expect to be sent to the CBI. Then they came up with this point business and I had enough points to be discharged. So I took it but I joined the Air Force Reserves because I thought I might go to the CBI one day and I wanted to go as a commissioned officer.
Q: Did you end up going back to school?
Q: Were you discharged before or after they dropped the bombs on Japan
HM: I was discharged before they dropped it. I was home for about a month before Japan got it.
Q: What did you think of them dropping the atomic bombs?
HM: I was all for it.
Q: Any particular reason?
HM: Get the thing over with.
Q: Did you make any friends in the hut or in the various crews you flew with while you were in England?
HM: One other guy and I consecutive three day passes and we took off and went over to Paris and had a nice time for three or four days.
Q: You didn’t keep in touch with him after the war though?
HM: We were on the same orders going home and I just heard today that he’d died a few days ago.
Q: Any other veterans organizations you belong to?
HM: I was in the reserves for 28 years and I am a member of the American Legion and Elks.
Q: What rank did you end up obtaining?
HM: Lieutenant Colonial
Q: What was your career after the war?
Q: Retired now I assume?
HM: I am retired from that.
Q: I know you attend reunions, do you think your experiences in combat and your service affected how you lived or perceived life?
HM: I am sure they have. I would hate to try to pin it down, but it had to. I am very proud to have served.
Q: Thank you for your service and unless you can think of something else, I just want to thank you for giving your story and recollections.
HM: I had a lot of fun doing civilian flying afterwards. [Owning your own plane make it a lot of fun] My father-in-law had a couple of planes I also used for instructions.
Q: Were these surplus planes?
HM: No, light planes. A piper cub and a couple others. I probably instructed 75-80 people on how to fly.
Q: This was directly after the war or in between?
HM: within about five to ten years after the war. Then in the late 1970’s started to have heart problems and had to give it all up. I still miss it very much. I loved to fly. [Most people do]
Q: Can you think of anything else?
HM: No, think that’s about it
Q: Thanks again.
- Wright's Crew - 600th Squadron - May 1944
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- Hamilton Mero was the Co-Pilot on Parke Wright's 600th Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Amy Goll, daughter of Frank Henning, 600th Squadron in May 2008.
- 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 [ ].