From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

Patrick M. Guice: A part of the nation's greatest generation

Nov 11, 2015 | Reflection

Dad & Les at Air Show with B17

With Dad and a B-17 Flying Fortress at the 2008 Barksdale Air Show

My father was a WW II veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. He was a bombardier for the B-17 Flying Fortress in the 15th Air Force 5th Bomb Wing 2nd Bomb Group that fought in Europe until the end of WW II. Dad never talked much about his service, but near the end of his life, my son Bret did an interview with his grandfather and recorded his responses. Then, just a few months before his death on September 15, 2008, my Dad and I went to the Barksdale “Defenders of Liberty” Air Show where Dad was able to get his first up close look at the B-17 since he had last flown in one over 60 years earlier. That was a special day for me, and I am so glad that Dad had the opportunity to reflect on his time in the service and share more with me about his role as a Defender of Liberty. Special thanks to my friend, Lt. Gen. Bob Elder (ret) for inviting us to the Air Show that day.

As we salute ALL those who served to preserve our freedom on this Veteran’s Day, here’s Bret’s interview with Dad:

 A Personal Interview with My Grandfather

~ A True American Hero ~

  Staff Sergeant Patrick M. Guice

 A World War II  Flying Fortress Bombardier

by Bret Guice

  When and where did you enlist in the Army? How old were you at the time? I didn’t enlist. My mother wouldn’t let me, so I went up to the selective service board and told them that I was of age and I wanted them to draft me. I was drafted in August of 1943 in Monroe, Louisiana, and was 18 years old at the time. Where did you go for your basic training? What was the training like? I was sent to Fort Humbug in Alexandria for about 6 weeks. I was sent there while waiting to be assigned somewhere else. Then I went to Shepherd Field in Wichita Falls, Texas for basic training for 6 weeks. This was a beautiful place, but the water was almost completely intolerable. Then I went to gunnery school in Arlington, Texas in 1944. I went to armory school at Lowery Field in Denver, Colorado to become an armor. Then I went to Tampa, Florida to study the Norden bombsight.  That was the main training. I had other training such as marching training. I was the squad leader.  
Dad & Les at Air Show with B17 - 5

The B-17 Flying Fortress

Why was the B-17 called the “flying fortress”? Because of its defensive and offensive armament. It had so many machine guns – defensive. There were eleven crew members including pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, crew chief, radioman, waist gunners (left and right), ball turret gunner, tail Gunner and photographer.  What was your job on the B-17? My job mainly was just bombardier. I had an instrument called Intervalometer that was used for timing of the release of the bombs. The timer’s release related to the distance between the bombs hitting the ground. 
Dad & Les at Air Show with B17 - 2

At the nose of a B-17 similar to one where Dad was once seated

My position was next to the navigator in the nose of the plane. The nose section of the plane was made of Plexiglas about 1/4 of an inch thick.  You felt very vulnerable with just the clear Plexiglas between you and everything else. At the beginning you had a feeling that you might fall out, but you got used to that as you flew more and more. I got scared at times, I guess we all did.  Did the B-17 planes have a support group? Oh yes, I’m glad you asked that. We had fighters who flew P-51s and P-38s. And the blessing to me was the fighter pilots in the P-51s were Tuskegee Airmen. It was very reassuring and comforting to us when fly, beside the anticraft guns, sometimes we were notified in briefing we could expect up to 200 enemy fighters – which were as effective and dangerous as the “flak” guns. It was always a relief to look out and see those beautiful twin fuselage P-38s and also that great P-51 fighter escort plane as our escorts whose sole purpose was to protect us and made us know we were not fighting all the battle.    Where were you stationed during the European campaign?
Foggia Italy

Amendola Air Base in Foggia, Italy as it is today

I was east of Naples on the southeastern coast of Italy near the Adriatic. I was in Foggia, Italy.  Near the end of the war I was on the Isle of Caprice for a rest period. While there one day bells began to ring on the island. And I was very happy to find out the war had ended. That was the war in Europe. The war with Japan was still going on. So after the war in Europe ended, did they send you back home?  No. I was detained with the occupation force until December 1945. The war ended in May, I believe. I flew my last mission on May 1st of 1945.  How were you transported to your base station in Europe? I flew over. And that was a real story there. We lost some of our planes just flying over. The weather was so bad. We flew through the Azores and on to French Morocco, in the Northern corner of Africa. We went east across North Africa to Tunisia and then north to Sicily and finally to our destination – Foggia, Manfredonia in southeastern Italy.
Typical Street in 97th Sq Area of Foggia in 1944

Typical street in 97th squadron area of Foggia-1944

What did your camp look like? Camp was canvas tents. About 4 slept in each tent on cots. For heat, we’d get 50 gallon drums of 100% octane for fuel and put a small tube or faucet attached to the drum and let drops of water come out and fall on some large stones which gave us our heat. Crude, but it felt good when you were cold. That was all we had. Our beds were bunks with “hay” mattresses. The tents housed the whole crew except the officers. What was a typical day like during the campaign? Sometimes we had to go to meetings. They were called poop meetings which simply meant informing us of something going on. We continued our training over there. And we even did some marching. I was the squad leader which meant I counted the cadence. 
Amendola AFB in 1945 - 2

Airmen having fun boxing during a break at Amendola

Generally on weekends we got 24-hour up to 72-hour passes. Almost everybody went to town. You know soldiers.  You flew under the 15th Air Force, 5th Wing, 2nd Bomb Group, and 49th Squadron. What does all that mean? It’s like saying I live in United States, in Louisiana, in Morehouse Parish. It is bringing it down to the smallest group you are associated with. The 15th Air Force is the largest group, 5th wing (within the 15th Air Force) and 2nd bomb group in that. And then the 49th squadron was within the 2nd bomb group.  Did the wing or anything indicate the formation you flew in?
B17 in formation

B-17s in formation during WW II

All the planes flying on a raid would be called “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox”. This meant that that was the group within the group. And in “Able box” there would be certain planes or squadrons flying in the group. The planes flew wing tip to wing tip. It seemed like there were 7 planes in a squadron. How many missions did you fly?  I flew on 24 missions. Altogether I flew approximately 300 hours.
Dad & Les at Air Show with B17 - 3

Dad looking up in the B-17 bomb bay

What were some of your targets during the missions? Targets were like Marshalling yard (which was a railroad yard), railroad yards, bridges, antipersonnel and equipment, highways, oil fields. We dropped regular bombs on Marshalling yards. These were 250 to 500-pound bombs. On bridges we dropped 1 ton bombs. I believe we could carry four 1-ton bombs per trip. Antipersonnel and equipment bombs were called fragmentation bombs. Let me try to describe those. Have you ever seen a sewer cover and it’s got all those little round things all in the top? Well these bombs were made so that when they exploded they would be in fragments. That’s the way they were fragmented. A fragmentation bomb weights probably about 75 pounds. Highways and oil fields were bombed with 250 to 500-pound bombs. How did you know which plane to get on each time? Did your plane have a design or a plane number to go by? We went on as a crew. We assembled somewhere and were led to the plane by our pilot. We did not fly the same plane each time and I didn’t fly with the same people each time.  Did your plane ever sustain damage and were any people on your plane injured?  Yes, flak injured one of my crew members (our waist gunner) one time. The plane was not badly damaged. It came back OK. I should tell you this. I was flying on one mission and one of my crew members, a real good friend of mine, his plane blew up. It just blew up. He was there and then he was gone. Just like that. His plane was hit by flak. It was in Linz, Austria. I don’t believe there was that much flak that day, but all it takes was one shell. I flew a lot of missions over there (Linz, Austria).  How accurately could you control the bombing? How close to your target could you normally hit? Normally we were pretty accurate. That Norden bombsight was pretty accurate. If we wanted to hit a building we could hit a building. Maybe not every time, but pretty close to every time. How did you know when to release the bomb to hit the target? You had to consider the weight of the bomb, the wind and the altitude and a lot of different things. We had to do those calculations. The navigator worked all that out. He had so many things to have to calculate to hit the target.  How did you communicate with each other on the plane? We used a throat mike which was like a belt with a little round thing at your throat. You could communicate through it and you had an earphone. It was very good, very effective.  I might need to tell you this. It would get so cold. Here is what we would wear: 3 pairs of socks, long handles, khaki britches and shirt, an electrically heated suit which operated like an electric blanket. It plugged into the electrical system of the plane. But, the thing is several minutes before we dropped the bombs we had to unplug them for several minutes. It would get so cold. Moisture from my oxygen mask that dripped on the table would freeze. Then we wore over all of that a thick leather furry suit with heavy flying boots over the heated suit. And when we would get up there and pull the plug on our suits we nearly would freeze to death. While flying you could look down either side of the plane. We could see clearly the curvature of the earth. I could see the bombs falling from the plane to detonation, but would lose the path of their flight. If I remember correctly, we would fly up to around 70,000 ft. The temperature would be -60 degrees. On a rendezvous run to target (about 10 minutes) we would have to un-plug our heated clothing suit and would nearly freeze. There was not much talking during the trip to the target, but we were “jabber-boxes” when returning home.   How long were you up on a mission? Sometimes we would fly all day. This might be interesting. When we started off, we would spend a very long time circling the camp to gain altitude. You couldn’t go from the base to the target because you had to get high enough. Or they would shoot flak at you. You had to get on up high enough and then go on to the target. Sometimes after the target we would (and I would never like this) just start coming right on down. Well one time the Germans moved their flak guns around on flat car, and we got shot at. Boy, that was scary to say the least. There was always something to think about while flying in combat. There are so many things that could happen. Not only the enemy, but the weather. In fact we lost some planes due to the weather.  How did you earn your medals? What about all the patches?  I have the Air medal with one bronze cluster (for flying so many missions), Victory Medal (we won the war), Good conduct medal (for good conduct), a Presidential citation (for a certain heroic endeavor), American Theatre and the European Theatre (that is where it was), and the EAMA (for certain battles) – with three bronze stars. They give a star for each so-called battle – like the Army with the Battle of the Bulge. So the three bronze stars means I was involved in 3 significant battles.  I had a bombardier patch that was worn on the lower sleeve; I had a strategic air command patch that was worn on the shoulder. There was a patch for the 15th Air Force and one for the Air Force (overall).  I have a medal for sharp shooting with a carbine.  What is your favorite memory of service during World War II? My favorite memory… after it was all over we flew low, we ‘hedge hopped’ they called it, over these war places. I realized that Austria was the most beautiful place I have ever seen beside southern Texas with the trees and rolling hills. It was so beautiful. I’d really love to go back and see it again. In looking back into my life while in the military, I can give this review. Of course, at times it was  a frightful experience. It also was very fulfilling and satisfying excursion. However, a war is a great waste of youth, our best man power, materials and other resources.  Missions in which my Dad flew: (from http://www.2ndbombgroup.org/)
Name Position CRW Date Aircraft MSN Target
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier AAG 450224 46635 365 Ferrara, IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier AAG 450227 46550 367 Augsburg GE
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier FEB 450228 46635 368 Verona/Parona IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier CNK 450301 46642 369 Vienna AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier HLY 450304 46642 371 Sopron HU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier FEB 450312 46548 375 Vienna AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier NMT 450314 338485 377 Szony HU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier FEB 450316 46548 379 Vienna AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier CNK 450319 46642 380 Landshut GE
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier FEL 450320 46642 381 Vienna AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier WMC 450321 46367 382 Vienna AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier DNP 450323 46548 384 Ruhland GE
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier CNK 450325 46548 386 Prague CZ
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier ASO 450331 46548 389 Linz AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier AKF 450401 46637 391 Graz AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier AKF 450406 46642 393 Verona IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier TNB 450418 46642 404 Bologna area IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier TFK 450420 46637 406 Vipiteno IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier ERT WGQ 450425 46620 410 Linz AU
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier JMB 450426 46367 411 Bolzano IT
Guice, P M Bomb/Togglier HLV 450501 46637 412 Salzburg AU

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