World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Howard Traeder, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Randy Stange
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 10, 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. In July 2008, Lee Anne Bradley transcribed Howard F. Traeder’s interview. Lee Anne’s dad, Frederick C. Bradley, Jr., was Howard’s flight engineer.
Howard Traeder, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
601st Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
HFT: Interviewee: Howard F. Traeder
Q: For the record, do you mind stating your name?
HFT: A no, my name is Howard, initial F, Traeder
Q: Where were you born and raised Howard?
HFT: Well I was born on a farm out in Jefferson County Wisconsin, about 50 miles west of Milwaukie. And I grew up there, my father - that was actually a farm my grandfather owned - and when he passed away my father bought a smaller farm up the road about a mile, one that he could handle without any help. He had three boys growing up but he wasn’t sure any of them were farmers at that stage.
Q: So you had two brothers?
HFT: Yes, I also had two younger sisters.
Q: Hmm, did your brothers go into the war?
HFT: No, I was, well um, my younger brother went in right after the war and served two years in the Navy.
Q: Did you have any interest in aviation prior to WWII?
HFT: Not um, not specifically. Remember I was a farm boy and airplanes were seldom seen around southern Wisconsin…
HFT: …say nothing about military planes. I was intrigued by that mail plane that went over twice a day - once east and once west. I used to keep track of the NC number on that one.
Q: I assume, other than going to school, you worked on the farm prior to the war?
HFT: Yes. I finished high school at age sixteen. And my father had provided a car for me to drive to high school which I paid the expenses on by hauling some other students from the area. And a, well, for one thing I was really too young to get a job, and secondly I felt a debt to my father for what he had done, so I was content to stick around there for a couple years and assist him on the farm.
Q: Where were you on December 7th 1941, and do you remember?
HFT: Yes, I remember it quite well. As I recall we had just finished our Sunday meal and my father was listening to a Green Bay Packer game on the radio when it was interrupted by the news Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
Q: What were yours and your father’s thoughts on that?
HFT: Well I guess about all it was that a, well, looks like we’re at war… and we’re a farming community, war meant people were drafted…
HFT: …and many of them didn’t come back.
Q: Well that’s OK, we’ve got time.
HFT: …if you’re interested in some of it.
HFT: But, I began seeing these ads for aviation cadets… ‘Learn to Fly’, ‘Be an Aviation Cadet’. Along about that same time there was publicity about this new bomber, the Flying Fortress, the B-17, and the more of those I saw, the more I thought, boy that would be great… ‘to fly’, particularly if I could fly one of those big ones.
So I looked at the application and it said I needed two years of college. Well, maybe if I hustle, I could get those in before I get drafted. So I went up to the University of Wisconsin to enroll in their engineering course and they said, whoa, we can’t even let you in the school, you don’t have enough mathematics. But, go on over to the extension division and you can do this by correspondence. Well, I needed forty lessons of plane geometry, twenty lessons of advanced algebra. So I signed up. I was working in Madison at the time as a grocery clerk, actually a ‘relief manager’ for the store manager there they sent on vacation. So, at my rooming house I started working on those lessons. I completed nine of the geometry lessons and got six of them back to re-do [chuckles]. Then I discovered that Milton College, a small private college just north of Janesville, Wisconsin, would accept me so I enrolled there in the fall of 1942. And right after that the Air Force changed the rules that said that in lieu of college if you can pass a written examination, we’ll take you.
So I was about to rush down there to Chicago to take that exam when the business manager advised me, why run down there? There’s going to be a traveling recruiter team here in a month or two and you can do it all right here in Janesville. Well, I think the date for that recruitment was November 25th or 26th. A day or two before that, I got my draft notice. Fortunately the draft board at Jefferson was understanding and gave me a release so I could go right to the exam, which I passed and became a Private in the US Army destined for aviation cadet training. And best of all, I had a piece of paper that said I was deferred to June 1946 when I graduated from college. My mother liked that.
Q: [laughs] I would imagine!
HFT: However, in February I received a notice stamped in red ink on the envelope, and my parents got an identical notice at home in my name, ‘IMMEDIATE ACTION’. So on February 22nd I reported in; 515 Franklin Street in Chicago. Bus driver had NO problem finding that place! [chuckles] There I was introduced to the Army and placed on a train for Sheppard Field, Texas, which we arrived at a couple days later. Had one month of Basic Training.
Apparently at that time the Air Force, Army Air Force, discovered that they had activated too many college students. So they sought the various colleges and a group of us were sent up to West Texas State Teachers College at Canyon, Texas… midway between Sheppard Field and Amarillo. They spent the first month classifying us, testing us, and then broke us into percentiles with the highest ranking percentile staying one month and the lowest one staying five months. I was in the first so I was first away and sent off to California for my classification for pre-flight.
Q: And, where was that at?
HFT: That was at Santa Ana, California and fortunately I passed all of the tests and was accepted for Aviation Cadet Training. Completed my pre-flight work there and then got my Primary Training in a PT-22 Ryan Recruit… airfield among the Saguaro Cactus about eighteen miles west of Tucson, Arizona. Had all civilian instructors there and I grew very fond of the one I had. Kept in touch with him until later in the war when he finally got into the Air Force himself, in the transport field. I had Basic Flight Training in a BT-13 Vultee Valiant, more popularly known as the ‘Vultee Vibrator’, at Minter Fields, Bakersfield, California. And then down to Pecos Texas for Advanced Training, where I learned that I could see farther and see less than any place in the world [laughs] and trained there in a twin engine UC-78 Cessna Bobcat. Had twin Jacobs Engines, 225 hp a piece, and was popularly known as a ‘double breasted cup’ because it was a framed canvas construction.
Q: Where did you go from that point?
HFT: Well I got my wings there at Pecos, Texas on the 12th of March 1944… and I also applied for Multi-Engine Training and was delighted when I was selected to train B-17’s at Roswell, New Mexico – and that’s where I became a B-17 pilot. Then I was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska where I was assigned a crew and sent to Alexandria, Louisiana for Operational Training… where we played like we’re at war with bomb runs, simulated bomb runs, gunnery practice, attacks by ‘enemy’ fighters. Unfortunately I was just barely started on that when I required a sudden emergency appendectomy and was hospitalized, lost that crew and wound up with a total delay of over two months - about three weeks in the hospital, three weeks of medical leave, then twiddling my thumbs until I was assigned another crew. Which finally happened.
We finished that training and back to Lincoln, Nebraska for Overseas Outfitting – all new uniforms, flight suits and a new airplane which we had to check out and swing the compass on so we could fly it overseas.
Q: So from Lincoln, Nebraska, then you flew the Northern Route through Maine?
HFT: We flew what was known as the ‘North Atlantic Bridge’.
HFT: We flew from Lincoln to a… [pause] …had it on the tip of my tongue…
HFT: No… it was New Hampshire… Grenier Field, New Hampshire. And a, received a few more shots and things there, and then dispatched to Goose Bay, Labrador… and I remembered we landed there on snow packed runways and parked our airplane, the crew hustled out to perform their duties, made a swift 180 and crawled back in the plane to dig out some warmer clothing. It had been fairly mild at Grenier Field, but it was 18 degrees below zero up there in Goose Bay. We stayed there until we had weather clearance to fly the next leg. So we attended the movies. I was greatly impressed by these Canadian people… were so respectful of the United States that they not only played the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the closing festivities at the theater, but they also played ‘America’. Then I discovered that was really ‘God Save the King’. [laughs]
Q: Where was the next leg to?
HFT: We were dispatched directly to Reykjavik, Iceland, because the weather forecasters said we’d have favorable winds so they could send us all the way instead of making an immediate stop at Bluie West One at Narsarsuaq, Greenland.
HFT: So we flew over that dark foreboding and threatening North Atlantic that was a cold cold gray as you looked down into those waves… and we got midway between Greenland and Iceland when my Radio Operator [Joe Reveman] picked up a message saying that the field at Reykjavik was intermittently being closed due to the inclement weather and snow flurries – snow showers – and that we were to reverse course and land at Narsarsuaq Greenland, Bluie West One. Well, that looked a bit suspicious to me because I had just finished reading about those German radio stations up on the ice cap that liked to lure American planes up there where they’d have to crash on the ice cap after they ran out of fuel.
Well, when my Radio Operator verified the message as being genuine… and we made nearly a 180 and flew over the ice cap west towards Narsarsuaq. That was no problem, the navigation was perfect – we came out right on top of it at which time our radio compass did a flip and we looked down and there it was. A glacier on one side, a fjord on the other. The instructions had been for those that were directed to that field, to once locate it, fly back out to follow that fjord out to its mouth at the ocean, then drop down and fly between the walls of that fjord about fifty miles until we saw the wreckage of a ship – a sunken ship – and then keep a sharp eye for the runway which would be at an angle off to the right… which we did and landed with no problem on a runway which sloped uphill toward the glacier and the Greenland ice fields.
It was Christmas Eve , had a nice Christmas dinner in Greenland… and um, chatting with some of those Base personnel they told of the big fire they had there when those hangers were being built. They had the one hanger, which they were pointing out to me, nearly completed. They were working on the roof [of the old hanger] when it caught fire and burned to the ground. Now that was interesting to me because while I was still at home before enlistment, our local Pastor had told us about his son-in-law who was working with a construction group… possibly what was known as Sea-Bees. They were building a hanger up in Greenland, which was a long ways out of the way as far as I was concerned, and the hanger caught fire and burned to the ground. A small world puts me right next to it. I’m looking at the hanger that replaced the one that burned.
So on December 29th we got clearance to complete our next leg which would be over to Iceland. So we got take off clearance that day and we started down the runway. Midway down the runway my Engineer [Fred Bradley], whose job it was to stand between the pilots and call out the air speed as we approached flying speed, cried out “NO AIRSPEED!” Well, not wanting to get that airplane up and try to get it back down without an airspeed indicator in that terrain, told me to keep it on the ground… which I did by aborting the takeoff.
Unfortunately the runway sloped downhill; we were going too fast to stop it before we got to the end. So we wiped out our landing gear on the rough ice at the edge of the fjord, and wound up on our belly about forty yards out on the fjord. And a, when I went out the pilot’s window, the flames were licking around the front of the plane and the right wing’s on fire. My Co-Pilot [Quenton “Mac” McMurray] and Engineer went out through the bomb bay, which was also on fire – that’s where our luggage was. So we scrambled out and counted noses, we’re all nine there… and we were soon joined by many of the base personnel watching ol’ ‘9085’ burn itself out. It was loaded with 2,780 gallons of high octane gasoline which burned with a heavy dark cloud of smoke. Fortunately it never exploded.
So that delayed our departure from Greenland. We had to wait for transport. We were passengers, we were no longer flying a B-17 courtesy of the Air Transport Command to which all those planes were assigned while in route.
Just as an aside, I came back that way in June … this was December and there was only about four hours of daylight. I came back through there in June, the sun would disappear in the west and then reappear in the east almost instantly… and the Operations Officer called me up to his office, and I wondered what that was all about [laughs]. He presented me with an 8 x 10 glossy photograph of my burning airplane, which I really treasure… made copies for all my crew after we got home.
Q: Was that the first time you were ever out of the country?
HFT: Yes, that was my first time out of the country.
Q: Had you or your parents ever traveled outside of Wisconsin prior to the war?
HFT: No. Our relatives were clustered closely around there. My mother’s relatives were about twenty miles, my father’s north about two hundred miles. So it was a big trip to go up there to visit one of the uncles over a weekend. And to realize that I was flying an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean, which Lindbergh became famous for just fifteen years earlier in 1927 was very impressive to me.
Q: I would imagine! When did you finally end up getting to England and Station 131?
HFT: Well, we flew on to Iceland in a C-46 aircraft and were passengers on a C-54 transport down to Scotland and then boarded a train in Stone, which was a Replacement Center, and we arrived at our assigned Station 131 at Nuthampstead on the 23rd of January 1945. And the first word we heard when we arrived there as replacements, which I considered a very ugly word, was that the Colonel’s plane… the Base Commander’s [Col. Frank Hunter] plane… did not return that day. It was shot down over the target at Neuss, Germany and the entire crew was presumed killed. So not only was the weather very dreary and un-encouraging but this was not nice news to hear as we set foot on our base of operations.
Q: What was your first mission, do you remember your first mission… I would assume?
HFT: Yes. The first mission was on the 6th of February… after flying several training missions learning the procedure of flight in England. One of those very interesting things about learning to fly over England was their system of learning the bases. Each of the American bases, and I assume the British ones were the same, had a little rectangular box in the middle of the field with two identifying letters which were illuminated at night.
Ours happened to be ‘NT’ for Nuthampstead. Surrounding that was a circle about one mile in diameter. And the procedure for landing at night was to drop down to 1,000 feet and with that ring of lights on your identified airfield, circle to the left. As that line of lights began to divide, follow the innermost one which would lead us to the runway to be used. And, as we approached the runway, gradually letting down, we would see a box on the right with three lights in it. If the light was amber we were coming in too high, if it was green we were just right, if it was red we were too low… should compensate accordingly. Only when our wheels touched the ground would we see the row of lights illuminating the runway because they were all covered with umbrella like covers to make them invisible from the air. And I might add that those airfields and those circles reminded me of the dough my mother used when she cut out round cookies. After finishing those she had a piece of dough that was thoroughly perforated because she would cut as many as she could… and those circles of light, each surrounding an airfield, looked to be just about that close together.
The first mission 6th of June [Howard meant 6th of February] was a rather long one. I had my entire crew with me on all of my missions… except that one when we swapped Co-Pilots with another crew [the Lt. John Bornstedt's crew] so as to have an experienced Co-Pilot on board to teach me how to fly in combat. The target was Chemnitz, Germany which was deep inside Germany, a long mission. The formation I felt was extremely loose if it was to be a defensive fort against enemy aircraft, because our nearest plane in the formation was far enough away I could barely read its identification numbers. I also remember very clearly when the first burst of flak came up. My Co-Pilot [Lt. Dewey Cole who was swapped that day from the Lt. John Bornstedt's crew] said, “Better get that flak helmet on”, which I quickly did.
We completed our mission, but many planes were running low on gasoline by the time we came back to base, so we were ordered to split up and independently head for our bases - and England was rapidly closing in [bad weather]. Nuthampstead was one of the higher [elevation] bases so it closed in first and I chose to look for Ridgewell [381st BG]… asked my Navigator [Marvin Scherer] to lead me to the Ridgewell airport, hoping that that would be clear. Well we had solid undercast… before the Navigator told me to “Get down there” I spotted a hole in the clouds and there was a field below. I decided that was my invitation. I went through that hole and went down and landed on that field. As we taxied up to the control tower – it was very roomy – there was only one other airplane on the field and that was a P-51 low on fuel. Fortunately the telephone in the tower was still connected… and there was a sign that said I was at ‘Little Walden’… so I called the base and they said to “Sit tight. We’ll send a truck to get you”. Next morning they sent a fuel truck over with me to get the airplane… and my skeleton crew. That’s where my first mission ended.
Q: How many missions did you end up flying Howard?
HFT: I managed to fly twenty four before the end of the war. I probably would have flown some more except for an incident that happened on that 24th mission. The date was April 13th, 1945… a Friday. The last word we had before take-off was that President Roosevelt had died the night before. So… at the briefing every indication was that this would be a real ‘milk run’, a very easy mission. I have to define that because I referred to a milk run in some of my letters, and visits, back home and the readers concluded that I was delivering milk. [laughs] But this one looked like a milk run because it was short. It was only into the airfields of northwest Germany. The take-off was late, somewhere around Eleven O’clock as I recall. Low altitude – we went in at 19,000 feet. Beautiful spring day, one of the nicest we had, sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. We saw no enemy fighters, we saw no flak.
We went over the target and dropped our bombs and a minute or two later some powerful force picked my plane up and threw me up and forward. Not knowing what had happened, I chopped the throttles, lowered the landing gear and lowered the flaps. I pointed the nose down to get down to where I could look around and see where everybody was. When I attempted to recover; pulled up the wheels, and folded the flaps, applied power to the engines – I discovered only two were working. Number two and number four were inoperative. I was able to feather number two, but number four windmilled. At that same time my crew started calling out other aircraft in trouble around me… and I did not see another aircraft from our Squadron that day. We seemed to be all alone. So I asked my Navigator [F/O Marvin L. Blancett] for a heading to a captured German field that had been detailed to us during briefing as “damaged usable” in an emergency.
We hoped we could make it. We were not able to maintain altitude, so were gradually losing that. And, after flying which turned out to be about 110 miles, I saw a flat clear area on the ground and decided it looked like it was at least a gravel runway. Looked like we might be able to save the plane landing there. Not knowing the extent of damage to the underside of my plane – the crew had reported it was pretty full of holes, with the bomb bay doors stoved in, the tail turret was inoperative, and I had no idea what condition the flaps were in – so I bogged in a little faster than normal to avoid a premature stall. As we were about to flare out for a landing, we discovered that those two dark spots beside the runway, which had looked like pits… quarry pits, turned out to be piles of rubble and the space between them was not sufficient for a B-17 to fly. I asked my Co-Pilot [2nd Lt. Quentin H. McMurray "Mac"] to pull-up the landing gear and belly it in, while I tried to tear off enough of the wings to get through the gap. Well I succeeded in breaking the right wing off which canted us about 45 degrees and we went skidding down the runway and off at the end, across a field, tore out a telephone line and came to rest in a cloud of dust. Well we scrambled out, everyone essentially unhurt except my Tail Gunner [Bill Jones] who complained of his back… turned out he had a fractured vertebrae there.
We weren’t sure whether we had reached friendly territory or not so we were much relieved when two American ambulances came racing up to the aircraft… loaded us in, took us over to a field hospital which had been set up on that former German training field about ten days earlier. We spent the night there… and as I learned years later, from the Control Tower Log back at Nuthampstead, I apparently had succeeded in getting a message back to base that we were safely down with an injured Tail Gunner. That is logged in the Tower Log.
My Co-Pilot [2nd Lt. Quentin H. McMurray "Mac"] and my Navigator [F/O Marvin L. Blancett] were flown out on a medical evacuation plane the next morning. When I boarded, the Co-Pilot of that plane presented me with three photographs that he had taken of my wreckage, the wreckage of my plane from the afternoon before. As I reflect back on that, I wonder how many pilots who had to do what I did have pictures of their handiwork to prove it?! [laughs] And that plane apparently burned out without any explosion.
I learned when I got back to base that the cause was presumably ‘bomb mishandling’ by the plane above and ahead of me who accidentally salvoed their bombs [dropped all at once], which were super sensitive types [RDX] and were only to be released ‘in train’ [one at a time]. The other squadrons reported a terrific explosion about 200 feet before our Squadron, which disabled all except four aircraft… four of them returned to base that night.
One, our Group Leader [Captain Tom Marchbanks], limped to a safe landing on a French field with two engines out.
One of them, the plane that mishandled the bombs, bailed out its entire crew, except the pilot [Lt. Sam Palant], they became Prisoners Of War. The Pilot stayed with the plane with hopes that he could blow out the fire and land it safely but he finally had to bail out, and then [he] walked through enemy lines to be intercepted by the British Army.
One other plane blew up before… [pauses]… well let me put it this way… Bailed out everybody over enemy territory including the Pilot [Lt. Emil Martinek] who was wounded, but two of the occupants were unable to get out before the plane crashed.
Another one [Lt. Ray Hernden's crew] crash landed on friendly territory, and another one; moments after the crew [Lt. Charles Merritt's crew] bailed out in flight, their plane blew up.
It was about four days before we got back… my Co-Pilot, Navigator and I… got back to base. And by that time they had drawn their conclusions based on reports of the other squadrons. It was very close to the end of the war, missions were, everything was winding down. The last mission was flown on the 25th of April, so I never got to fly another one… and nothing much more was said about what happened to us.
Q: That was the ‘RDX mission’ right?
HFT: That was known as the ‘RDX mission’. Well, since I was fortunate enough to fly the plane of my dreams when I went into the Air Force… and do it without any serious injury, all of my crew came back along with me – not together but home. My injured Tail Gunner [S/Sgt. William H. Jones] came home in a body cast but recovered… went back to driving semi’s out in the Rockies and was probably my closest friend from the crew throughout peacetime until he died.
On May 8th, VE Day, ‘Victory Over Europe Day’ was declared and in early June I was on my way back to the States for rest and recuperation, and then retraining to fly B-29’s in the Far East. However before I had reached that stage, President Truman had dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima the 6th of August, so the war was soon over on both fronts.
Q: Do you feel pretty good about that? Or, what were your thoughts with regards to dropping the Atomic Bomb?
HFT: Well I was rather glad to hear it from the standpoint that although it took many lives, it also spared a lot of lives… both American and Japanese.
It was interesting, that I was stationed in Tampa, Florida awaiting reassignment when that happened. Since we had nothing to do but check the bulletin board for our new assignment each day, after which we were free to go. We used to go down to Clearwater Beach, look around, do a little swimming, come back into Tampa, probably see a movie, go back to base, then do it all over again the next day. On that day, we hitched a ride with a Spanish couple and their teenage daughter back to Tampa from Clearwater and all the way back to town the father was babbling about that “automatic bomb” that had been dropped… “President Truman had dropped an automatic bomb” After I got hold of a newspaper I discovered it was an Atomic Bomb.
So it didn’t take too long then… we were back to civilian life. And basically, can’t say forgot, but dismissed from my mind any further thoughts about the occurrences of “Friday the 13th” until April of 1985 - this is forty years after the war… I received a phone call. I answered it and the caller wanted to know if I was Howard Traeder, to which I responded “Yes”. Were you a member of the 398th Bomb Group? “Yes”. Were you on a mission on Friday the 13th of April 1945? “Yes”. Well I was the Radio Operator [Paul Brown of the Sam Palant crew] in the plane that blew you guys out of the sky that day. He gave me his name…. I kept in touch with him, in fact, corresponded with him quite a lot picking up what he had learned.
In that phone call he told me that he was recording the calls, hoped I wouldn’t mind, he wanted to make a composite tape and take it with him onto our annual reunion [398 BG Assocation] in July out in Seattle, and so we could listen to it there. And then asked if I had known his Pilot, Sam Palant. Unfortunately I had not. He asked if I had any notes, which I sent him. About two weeks later when I returned from vacation, I found a postcard from him thanking me and saying that he had finally located his Pilot on the 13th of April – to the day – forty years after the war.
Now after looking back on all of these things, fifty years, I realize I was either very lucky or had a guardian angel… because there were many places where I should not have come home unscathed. I had walked away from three crashed B-17’s uninjured, physically. I had spent three years doing what I wanted to do. So those three years in the military were just three years of high adventure. And starting with that phone call two months before I retired has led to an extremely interesting retirement, pursuing the details of that and other things that happened during the war as I was writing my memoirs.
Q: What did you do after the war, did you go back to school and finish your degree?
HFT: I had only one semester before the war so I went back to the University of Wisconsin… they still wouldn’t take me until I made up that math [laughs]. I picked up those correspondence courses and completed the thirty one in Plane Geometry and twenty more in Advanced Algebra in the space of about two months. They all came back with no errors in them. Then I was accepted and continued my education in March of 1946 at the University of Wisconsin… which was still on the war-time trimester schedule, which they abandoned in the Fall and went back to the semester schedule – the two semester schedule. I received my Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering in August of 1948 and my Masters Degree in June 1949, at which time I was ready for the job market.
Q: Who did you end up going to work for?
HFT: I started work for a line material company, Kyle Products Division, which built distribution transformers and fuses and line re-closures - which would automatically fail and then re-close the line after a brief fault such as a limb falling on it and dropping away.
But I was not working on their products. The president had a brainstorm and was working with Mr. Abner Doble who had built steam automobiles years earlier while in Victorville, California. He had an idea for a unique steam engine which he called the “Ultimax” and had patented that. And this was an effort to build a production full-scale model of it for trial use on locomotives which would have individual axle drive… this ‘V’ shaped steam engine on the end of each axle, would have them on each side of the train. After working on that under the supervision of the man who had been assistant chief engineer at Kyle Products Plant, we went to the president’s office one day after lunch to advise him he was pouring money down a rat hole. So he thanked us and discontinued the product… project.
I continued for another year then, pursuing ideas that he had, as Assistant Technical Advisor… my boss was Technical Advisor… and then decided to get back into something more closer to mechanical engineering and went to work for one year for a small 2-cycle engine manufacturer called Kohler Products. I decided against that after one year… was talking with one of the people there – one of the draftsmen who had been working for AC Spark Plug Division of General Motors in Milwaukee – and they were working on a fancy navigation system, if successful, would eliminate the need for the pilot in an aircraft. In as much as I had just finished a tour of duty as a bomber pilot, that sounded like a very good idea.
That was my introduction to inertial navigation, which was then used to guide the ballistic missiles… some of the missiles that used the guiding system that I worked on. My specialty became the high precision gyroscopes. Some gyroscopes of that design went into the guidance systems for the Thor Missiles which were based in England and Turkey for quite awhile during the Cold War. Then the Titan Missiles used in the Titan Guidance System which was built in cooperation with M.I.T. at Massachusetts, designed a system and gyroscopes which went into the Titan System and several others… a parallel line went into the Polaris Missiles used by the Navy.
As those contracts wore down, our company had been working on an inertial navigation system for commercial use. It started out for military use and we were sub-contractors on both the Boeing version and the consolidated version of the C-5-A. Boeing lost that bid and we then started on a commercial version and we made the navigation system for that one. It became the “Carousel 4”… inertial navigation system used on all the 747 transports when they first came out. And due to their accuracy, were soon picked-up by the Air Force for their transports.
When the Air Force first went for the inertial navigation system, they chose a competitor even though they judged our system superior, but expensive. I’d say it was within about ten years I was pleased that this had gone full circle and the Air Force had discovered that they could replace all of those competitive systems with ours and saved the cost in maintenance over a six month period – saved enough in maintenance to pay for the replacement.
Those were probably some of the last gyroscopes with rotating wheels used in navigation systems. Electronic systems came in vogue since then, although there are still many of the Carousel 4’s still flying… still being maintained by a unit down in Wright Field now.
So I worked on those, the design and development and early production of the gyroscopes for about seventeen years and continued with the same company working as head of their Parts Engineering Department… which I had the responsibility for the purchased parts they had procured. Responsible for all of the mechanical and electrical stuff except the fast fading away electron tools and solid state stuff - which was in a field by itself.
I spent the last three years before retirement working under the direction of the Plant Manager to re-write all of the policy and procedure manuals for the plant. I retired in 1985.
Q: Anything else you want to add Howard?
HFT: Well, just want to thank you for the opportunity to do this. I’ve seen ads for it and meant to do it. I know that these “Voices” are being preserved in Washington and many other places. Saw the recent ad by the EAA to do it, but since I was unable to get to the Fly-in this year, well I passed that by. So I welcomed the opportunity. Thank you.
Q: Well, I appreciate your taking the time with us.
- Traeder's Crew - 601st Squadron - 17 Oct 1944
- Traeder's Crew - 601st Squadron - 20 Feb 1945
- Bluie West One (BW-1) by Howard Traeder, Pilot
- T/Sgt. Frederick Chester Bradley, Jr. Engineer / Top Turret Gunner Howard F. Traeder Crew by Lee Anne Bradley
- 398th Mission: February 06, 1945 - Chemnitz, Germany
- 398th Mission: April 13, 1945 - Neumunster, Germany
- Three "Fortresses" Destroyed by Howard Traeder, Pilot
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- Lt. Howard Traeder was the Pilot of his own 601st Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Lee Anne Bradley in July 2008. Lee Anne’s dad, Frederick C. Bradley, Jr., was Howard’s flight engineer.
- 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 [ ].