World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Paul Roderick, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
602nd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Randy Stange
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 9, 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 at398th Timeless Voices Interviews. In addition to the video interviews, some of the interviews have been transcribed to text.
Paul Roderick, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
602nd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
PR: 398th Pilot, Paul Roderick
Q: Interviewing Paul Roderick at the 398th Bomb Group reception at the Radisson hotel, September 9, 2003. This is Randall Stange. You were in the Army Air Corp?
PR: Right, that was it.
Q: What was your position and rank?
PR: I was a pilot and I was a first lieutenant.
Q: And you flew B-17's?
PR: Yes that's correct.
Q: In the European Theatre of War?
PR: That's correct.
Q: And you served the Nuthampstead of England?
PR: Right yes sir.
Q: Can you recall the dates?
PR: I think we arrived there about the first of May of 1944 and I left there about the first of September of 1944.
Q: Where were you born and raised?
PR: I was born in Elk Garden, West Virginia, when I was 4 years old we moved to Detroit and I lived in Detroit all my beginning years.
Q: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
PR: I had a sister and she died several year ago.
Q: And what did your parents do?
PR: My Father worked in the Ford’s foundry and before that he was a coal miner in West Virginia.
Q: Did you have any interest in aviation prior to World War II?
PR: I had never been in an airplane at all until I went into the Cadets. I loved to see them fly over and always imagined that would be fun but I had no intention of ever being a pilot.
Q: What do you remember about the years leading up the outbreak of war?PR: Well, I went to high school, I took an electrical course in high school and then I went to work at the Ford Motor Company as an apprentice electrician. And then after a year and a half there I quit and I went to the Michigan Bell Telephone Company and I worked there for year and a half before I went into the Cadets, but I was just a plain teenage kid most of the time having fun.
Q: What do you remember about Pearl Harbor?
PR: Pearl Harbor, I had just bought a brand new 1941 Ford Coup for $790, and my girlfriend Margie Wolf who is my wife now, we were out for a ride and it was a Sunday afternoon and we'd heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and we both said, "where's Pearl Harbor?"
Q: Did you enlist or were you drafted?
PR: I enlisted. I knew I was going to be drafted so I beat them to it and I enlisted in the cadets.
Q: Any particular reason why you joined that branch?
PR: Well I know a friend of mine that worked with me and he said, let's go down and take the test and be pilots. And I said well I could never be a pilot, that takes too much intelligence for that, and we went down and he failed and I passed and I went into the cadets by myself.
Q: What do you remember about your first days of service?
PR: I was so homesick I'd like to die my mommy was not there to tuck me in and make my food. I was very homesick I went to Nashville, Tennessee for Classification Center, and it was cold and we lived in tarpaper barracks and the wind blew through and it was miserable.
Q: Do you remember any of the instructors either basic of in Flight Training?
PR: Flight Training, my first instructor, his name was Harry Price and he was a young man not too much older than I was. He was a nice fellow and we got along beautifully. I soloed with just 8 hours of flight time and then one day right after I soloed he said well this is my last day as an instructor, I've been drafted. And I said, "Oh you're gonna be a pilot?" And he said "No, I couldn't pass the physical." So I don't know what happened to him but I imagine he went into the Army.
Q: Where did you receive your Cadet instruction and flight training?
PR: I went to Pre-Flight at Maxwell Field, Alabama, Primary Flight training at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Basic in Greeneville Mississippi, Advanced at Stuttgart, Arkansas, and from there I went to Columbus Ohio to Lockbourne Army Airbase where I learned to fly the B-17. And from there I went to Rapid City, South Dakota where I picked up my crew.
Q: And when did you arrive in England?
PR: We arrived there in May of , the first of May.
Q: What were you first impressions of England?
PR: Well it was cold and it rained all the time, and we had a lot of mud that we waited through but I enjoyed England when I got a chance to go to London or go on pass I enjoyed roaming around a bit, everything was so old that made it interesting.
Q: Did you have any casualties on your crew?
PR: No, we all survived, no one was wounded.
Q: Any medals or citations during your service?
PR: Just the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Q: What were the reasons for the DFC?
PR: I think just surviving 32 missions was the reason for receiving the DFC, no special reason.
Q: Did you go to any, what did you do when you were on leave? When you were on flak leave?
PR: The navigator [Frank Scribner] and I, we were buddies on the crew we would go to London. We'd get 48 hour passes and we'd go into London and roam around and sightsee just like any other tourist would. And we went to Cambridge, we rode our bikes to Cambridge and stayed all night at kind of a bed and breakfast there and got to know some people there, it was fun.
Q: Do you stay in touch with your family and friends?
PR: Oh yes, and my crew, we were like brothers.
Q: I'm assuming it was mostly by letters back and forth?
PR: Oh yes, during combat it was letters to my family and to my wife, or my girlfriend then.
Q: What were the Hudson accommodations like?
PR: We stayed in Quonset huts, they were a medal building and they were cold. We had one coal burning stove that was in the center of the hut to keep warm and we soon found that if you knocked the fire brick out of it we could get more heat out of it. Of course the stove didn't take long to burn out and we had to replace the stove. But we survived from stealing wood and we also stole coal from the local coal pile that was maintained on the base. We got caught a couple time doing that; got chewed out for stealing coal.
Q: So supplies, you were a little bit short on coal?
Q: What about other materials?
PR: Other material was pretty good. We found a lot of packing crates that engines and parts came over in and we tore those apart and we burned those, but it was cold getting up in the morning.
Q: How was the food?
PR: The food was pretty good, our cooks went over from Rapid City with us and they doctored up for instance powdered eggs, they put some meat in them, scrap meat that was left over from the day before, it was pretty good. I didn't lose any weight from not eating.
Q: Was there any pressure or stress other than combat?
PR: Yes there was a lot, well not from other than combat. I don't recall any stress or pressure, there was a lot of stress from combat.
Q: Anything you did for good luck?
PR: I wore the same pair of socks for all 32 missions and never washed them once. And before I left I nailed them above the door and told the guys in the Quonset huts to just feel those socks before they went out on a mission and maybe they would survive.
Q: How did the guys entertain themselves other then when on leave?
PR: Well there would always seem to be a poker game going on in the Quonset hut, and one of the guys had a monopoly board and we played a lot of monopoly.
Q: Did you visit the Woodman Inn?
PR: Yes we did. When we got a chance we were out to the Woodman Inn and we'd have a pint there and got acquainted with the operators of the inn and it was always sort of a homey place to go.
Q: Did you see any of the entertainers at the base?
PR: Yes, I never saw any big time entertainers but USO shows use to come to the base and I recall one time when during the USO show the power failed and immediately every mechanic that had a flashlight in his pocket took them out and shined them on the stage and the show went right on just like it was normal.
Q: Any other humorous or unusual events?
PR: Well every week we got a candy ration. We got I think 5 packages of cigarettes and a couple of bars of candy, and Fred Dunlap who was another pilot, he was one of my flight leaders had the bunk in the Quonset hut right next to me. He would take that candy and he had a little box with seven compartments and he'd cut it up, and he'd ration himself a little bit of candy everyday. While I watched him do that I ate all my candy at once and I would tell him, "When you go on a mission next time I'm going to eat your candy," and he said, "If you do I'll kill ya," and I think he meant it. And a couple of reunions ago he brought me a bar of candy.
Q: What'd you think of your fellow officers and solders?
PR: They were very good, my squadron commander Pete Rooney was tops. And Ross and Dunlap were my flight leaders and they were good guys to fly with and good pilots. We had fun when we weren't flying.
We got shot down on D-Day, we flew 2 missions on D-Day, and the second mission we were hit by friendly fire I think and we lost a #2 engine first and then we lost about 7 feet of our right wing tip, and it also set fire to our #4 engine. And we turned around to head back to England and we lost power on our #1 engine and started losing RPMs on that. So we knew we weren't gonna make and we called an Air Sea Rescue on the radio, and they said they'd be out to pick us up. And we ditched in the water and everybody took their positions. We ditched. It was successful, and we all got out of the airplane. The plane sank in I'd say less than a minute but everybody got out and we got into our rubber rafts and we floated around for about an hour and I was immediately sea sick.
And finally an LST came by and picked us up and it was loaded with wounded paratroopers who had jumped the night before, and it also had a bunch of high ranking German officers on board. and they took us back to England and a truck picked us up and took us to the Air Sea Rescue station and they had big ovens. They dried our clothes out and put us on a C-47, brought us back to Nuthampstead and I flew another mission the next day. We were very lucky.
I think it was our fourth mission we went to the Kiel Canal [22 May 1944] and we got hit going into the canal in the Kiel. They had a bunch of German battleships in there for repair and nothing can throw up more anti-aircraft then a battleship. And we were on a bomb run and got hit in the #3 engine and it caught fire we couldn't get the fire out and the flame was so intense that it burned the de-icing boots off the tail of the plane, it was like a blow torch we fell out of formation and it also took out our mechanical electrical system.
We couldn't get rid of our bombs. We fell out of formation. While we were out over the North Sea we were attacked by a couple of either ME-109's or FW-190's I don't remember, and my co-pilot [Roger Harvey] was hollering over the radio for an escort, and they couldn't find us and finally we got the fire out. There was a valve that we couldn't close and when we finally got that valve to close and that stopped the fire.
About that time two P-38's came along and picked us up and the Germans took off and they escorted us almost all the way back to England. We had to release our bombs with a screw driver because we couldn’t get rid of them any other way, and we were able to maintain our altitude and we made it back to England with the P-38's escorting us. That was the most hairy mission that I had. (15:30)
Q: I would imagine. Do you remember the day your service ended?
PR: It ended in Fort Sheridan, Illinois about September the 10th, 1945 and I was kinda very nostalgic because I knew that was a period in my life that was gone forever, and I had enjoyed the last year. I was an instructor pilot down in Gulfport Mississippi and my wife and I were married while we were there so it was a nice ending for me, but I went back to Michigan Bell Telephone Company then.
Q: So when you left England you went down to Gulfport Mississippi as an instructor?
Q: Anywhere else?
PR: No, I instructed in B-17's. We instructed combat crew in B-17's for 6 months and then we switched over to B-29's and instructed in 29's for 6 months and then the war ended and I was released.
Q: How did you feel about the atomic bombs?
PR: I thought it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened. It was a good thing to get the war over.
Q: And what did you do in the days and weeks after you left the service?
PR: I went back to Michigan Bell.
Q: Didn't go back to school then?
PR: I took classes and became an electrical engineer but I never got a degree.
Q: Do did you use GI bill for that?
PR: Yes, for those classes.
Q: How about close friendships while in the service?
PR: Well my crew were my closest and we've maintained a very close relationship ever since.
Q: And other veterans organizations your belong to?
PR: No, I never belonged to a veterans organizations.
Q: Other than the 398th?
PR: Other than the 398th association?
Q: What did you do in you career with Bell?
PR: I was an electrical engineer in the building department. I supervised the construction of the telephone company buildings and the electrical part was my specialty.
Q: Did your military experience influence your thinking about the war or military in general?
PR: No, I often wondered what would happened had I stayed in but it didn't have anything to do with it.
Q: Did it affect your work or life in general?
PR: I suppose it did. It gave me a sense of responsibility and I had a good reputation as a hard worker for the telephone company and I think part of that is due to the military training.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
PR: I don't think. So I'm glad that it's over and I'm sorry that the 398th is gonna be coming to an end pretty soon.
Q: Hopefully not.
PR: Yeah hopefully not.
Q: But everybody's getting grayer
PR: You bet we are!
- Roderick's Crew - 602nd Squadron - 28 July 1944
- Wartime Experiences - June 6, 1944 D-Day by Paul Roderick, Pilot
- A Daughter's Visit to Nuthampstead by Sharon (Roderick) Krause
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- Lt. Paul Roderick was the Pilot of his own 602nd Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Samantha Krause, great-granddaughter of Paul Roderick, 602nd Squadron in July 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 [ ].