Pre war and the draft

Getting to know the crew

Meeting the Luftwaffe for the first time

Stories of an airman

Critical hit on the radio room aboard Miss Irish

Mischief during downtime

Fun with Flares

Getting shot out of the sky

Getting shot down

Comments on the Luftwaffe

Stalag IV

Returning Home

Reflections

Annotation

[Annotator’s Note: The interview begins mid sentence, after the initial story Frank tells the interview begins.] Frank Buschmeier notes that the medical staff and the ground crew worked their tails off to ensure that the guys could fly. Buschmeier spent a lot of time hanging out with the ground crew guys. Buschmeier does not regret his service other then what he had to put his parents through. Buschmeier was born in Madisonville, Ohio. Buschmeier worked for a machine tool company until the war broke out. Initially, he wanted to join the Marines. After considering the option, he realized the Air Corps might play a bigger part in the upcoming war. Buschmeier was registered for the draft. He came home one day and his mom was crying and she was holding a letter. Buschmeier was drafted in January 1943. The services needed men badly at this point. Buschmeier initially volunteered to be a mechanic. Buschmeier was at Fort Thomas [Annotator’s Note: Fort Thomas, Kentucky] and then ended up in St. Petersburg, Florida for basic training. Every morning a sergeant came into the barracks in the morning yelling at everybody to wake up. Buschmeier got used to military life and all of the redundancies associated with it. There were so many guys in service they did not have enough physical buildings to house them. Buschmeier stayed in what they called “tent city” before being shipped off to armament school. Buschmeier met a man who was an usher at the local church in St. Petersburg. Buschmeier was asked to be an usher. Buschmeier recalls the different men who were a part of a church-going group.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier went to armament school in Denver, Colorado. In Denver, the men were split into training groups for fighter training and bomber training. Buschmeier went to bomber training and learned about the mechanics of bombers. Buschmeier was volunteered for gunnery school. Every time Buschmeier was transferred to another base, he drew KP duty [Annotator’s Note: Kitchen Patrol]. One of the training exercises they did was shadow identification of aircraft silhouettes. Buschmeier did well on the skeet range. Buschmeier was asked to be an instructor on the skeet range. Buschmeier ended up being chosen to go to gunnery school. Eventually he ended up in a distribution center in Salt Lake City, Utah before being assigned to Moses Lake, Washington. Buschmeier first met John in Washington [Annotator’s Note: John was a member of his crew]. Buschmeier goes into detail about the men he served with and expands on some of their fates. Buschmeier’s commander made an effort to be more like one of the guys. He only wanted to be saluted in public and never when they were working. It took a week or two for the team to gel together. Guys learned how to depend on each other. Every man was needed to do their job and ensure survival. Buschmeier believes that those men were chosen by God to be in the 100th Bomb Group.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier and his crew were the oldest and most experienced after three missions. Buschmeier and his crew flew overseas. They hopped around to numerous American cities. They arrived in Detroit on Christmas Eve. The guys did not want to fly on Christmas Eve, so they had engine trouble. When they arrived in England they received more advanced training. After finishing advanced training, the instructor told them that the best available posts were in the 91st and 92nd Bombardment Groups. He likened their facilities to a country club. The instructor warned them that the 100th Bombardment Group was no good, because you probably were not going to survive. Buschmeier landed on the 23rd of February and did not fly until the 3rd of March. Buschmeier and the guys got the chance to speak with a couple of crews that had just finished. None of those crew members would even talk to the new guys. Their first mission was to Berlin, but it was recalled halfway to the target. The new guys were happy to bomb Berlin. All of the other crews let out a collective sigh of despair. Again on the 4th of March, there was a recall from the target. They eventually got to Berlin and the first thing Buschmeier noticed was how good the German pilots are. Buschmeier was instructed in armament school to make sure the guns stay dry because the moisture would freeze. Buschmeier’s guns were frozen on their first raid to Berlin. Buschmeier’s first two missions were to Berlin. The opposition they encountered on the 4th of March was not too bad, but it was bad enough. Buschmeier recalls that the flight to Berlin on March 6th was literally perfect. The bombardier called out that fighters were descending on their position. They were flying “Tail End Charlie” for the group [Annotator’s Note: The last plane in the group]. The first pass the Germans made almost knocked out the entire group. Buschmeier did not have the best position to see, but he did see planes going down. Buschmeier remembers that the Germans exclusively attacked head-on during that raid. Buschmeier notes that between American planes flying around and German planes flying around it could get very confusing. Almost all of the attacks were from 12 o’clock high.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier recalls that the March 6th Berlin raid was terrible. The flak was noted for its intensity on that raid. Buschmeier jokes you could have put your wheels down and landed on it. As long as one could see the puff of black smoke they were alright. If one just saw flashes that meant the flak was right on top of you. There was no evasive action on the bomb run. Some pilots took evasive action when they should not have and it caused havoc in the formation. When they got over Berlin they were scattered all over the place. They almost had a mid-air collision over Berlin. One day in the barracks while they were training, Buschmeier heard a loud explosion and ran outside to see that two B-17s had collided and exploded mid-air. With thousands of planes in the air sometimes it was bound to happen. One of Buschmeier’s crew members had to be replaced because he got to the point where he could not hold down a meal anymore before flying. Another time a B-17 was coming over the field and the ball turret gunner had a runaway gun. Buschmeier’s group lost 150 men that day. They knew a lot of guys were gone, but they did not realize the extent of it. A big reason why they were nicknamed the “Bloody Hundreth” was because they lost planes in impressive fashion. Instead of losing one or two planes at a time they would lose ten or 12. There were only two crews left in their barracks when they got back. Buschmeier never became good friends with the guys. After Buschmeier’s third mission, they were the oldest crew in the barracks. One of the men Buschmeier knew was a tail gunner and on one mission he faced five German fighters coming up on his tail position and he shot four of the five down. Buschmeier was unaware of this at the time and looking back it is incredible that the man accomplished that and it was incredible that he had never heard about it. The man’s named was Bill McNally. He was shot down a few days later. Near the end of his mission quota, Buschmeier felt like he was flying on borrowed time. The thoughts about what all could happen to you does prey on your mind as you wake up and go through the redundancy of bombing missions.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier and his crew had been to Berlin. It was high time to have an easy mission. The guys were told it was going to be a “Milk Run.” Their target that day was German rocket sites. They were told they were only going to be over the target for 18 minutes. All of a sudden three shots bracketed Buschmeier’s aircraft and the third shot landed directly in the radio room. Buschmeier looked at the radio operator and it looked like somebody hit him with a shotgun. After the hit the pilot called out for everybody to make the plane lighter and throw stuff out of it. The back end of the aircraft was shaking violently after the hit. The pilot immediately slowed the plane down. The radioman fell out of the hole that was caused by the explosion. To this day his remains have not been recovered. There was a little bit of confusion regarding which direction they were heading. One of the guys pointed out that England is to the west and that is where the sun is setting. The pilot was prepared to tell everybody to jump. The pilot was able to set the plane down incredibly smoothly. All of the engineers who looked at the plane said there was no way that plane could fly. “Miss Irish” did make it back and they made it back due to the diligence and intelligence of the crew. [Annotator’s Note: “Miss Irish” was the name of Buschmeier’s B-17.]

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier feels like he owes his life to the men who flew the plane and he owes his life to the durability of the B-17. Buschmeier sometimes thinks about how easily the plane could have done on numerous occasions. Buschmeier never refused a drink of scotch when he had the chance. Their group flew roughly 60 missions per month. Every once in a while they would get a ten-day leave. London was always the city of choice. While in London they endured some V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks. After the rocket attacks one time the pilot said they were never going back to London again. The next time a pass opportunity came up the suggestion always came around to go back to London. Another time they went to Scotland. The loss of Walker in the radio room was tough, but Walker was a loner most of the time so the guys did not know him too well. He was part of the crew, but he also was not, to a degree. The hit on the radio room occurred on their fifth mission together. Another mission they went to Bordeaux, France. The flak was light and way off in the distance but after the radio room took the hit they were all extremely wary of flak at that point. Their bombardier, Red let the bombs go late on that mission. One time he fired his guns on the ground which was a no-no. Red’s explanation for firing his guns when the plane was on the ground was that he wanted to know before he took off whether or not the guns worked. Buschmeier got many medals, but he never received the Good Conduct medal. One time they found a big box of flares in their aircraft. Different colored flares meant different things. Buschmeier took a bunch of these flares and put them above his bunk. One of the crews came back drunk one night and were causing a bunch of commotion. The idea was born to take one of these flares and drop it down the chimney of the barracks were the rowdy crew was staying. The flare was dropped down the chimney and it landed in the furnace. Buschmeier notes it was hysterical watching ten guys trying to get out of the barracks at the same time. About once a month they went through a ditching course which acted as a refresher to remind guys how to ditch an airplane. After the class was over one of the guys swiped a flare pistol. Now they had flares and a flare pistol. They shot a flare into the woods to see what the gun could do but they shot it onto a brush pile and caused a fire.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier and his crew had another pilot for a few missions because the pilot was on leave. Fitzroy [Annotator's Note: William T. "Buzz" Fitzroy] was a pilot who flew Buschmeier’s crew. Buschmeier cannot say for sure, but when they bailed out, he feels like the pilot panicked. They were hit and Buschmeier’s oxygen and communications were out. They went into a flat spin and because of lack of oxygen they were weaker. They got down to about 10,000 feet and they could breathe at that point so they crawled across the floor. Two members of the crew landed on the ground alright, but were killed by civilians. Another crew member took a piece of shrapnel to the neck and was killed [Annotator’s Note: The interviewer requests that Buschmeier backtrack to the beginning of the story]. Buschmeier remembers waking up and everyone was in a hurry to get to their plane. Buschmeier got dressed and went to go eat breakfast. One of the chaplains caught up with Buschmeier and gave him communion. After receiving communion, Buschmeier went to the briefing room. In the briefing they found out their target was Merseburg, Germany. Buschmeier’s crew went to Merseburg three or four times. It was never a picnic. They were on their bomb run and the flak was all over. The German fighters took over and they attacked from the rear that day and not the front. When being attacked, the gunners have to call out where the targets are. Buschmeier saw the German plane that shot them down. Buschmeier was coming down and he saw a bunch of parachutes. Buschmeier heard the people on the ground shouting at him. Civilians were yelling at him. Buschmeier landed in a river and fortunately it was only waist deep. Buschmeier waded up to the side of the river and two German Home Guard soldiers were waiting to capture him. A German plane flew low overhead and tipped his wings to Buschmeier. Buschmeier was marched into a dungeon that was about six by eight feet and it had an iron door with a window. Every once in a while a civilian would get by the window and yell at Buschmeier. Buschmeier had been wounded when the fighters first started attacking their plane. Buschmeier had a wound that was about seven or eight inches long. He saw a piece of metal sticking out of his flesh. Buschmeier was marched out of the dungeon for some medical help. Buschmeier got a chance to talk to some of the other prisoners that were there. They were convinced they were going to be pulled out and shot. Their fears were put aside when they realized they were actually going to a hospital.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier was put into a big room on the first night. All night long guys were coming in and were trying to find where their buddies were. Buschmeier was hit in the face by a civilian with a pistol. Buschmeier got a cup of coffee from the Germans and it tasted like burnt sawdust. They were eventually marched down to the train station. Buschmeier was brought through a room that had a bunch of Luftwaffe pilots in it. Buschmeier notes that those guys were incredibly respectful and there seemed to be mutual feelings involved since both groups of men knew what combat was. Buschmeier thought that there were probably no better pilots than the Germans. Buschmeier thought that the Luftwaffe was made up of good guys. Both men were doing what they were told to. Buschmeier recalls an incident when they were told that an untouched part of Berlin was the target. It hit Buschmeier that they were going to be bombing women and children and that affected him to the point where he almost came to blows with one of his crew members. Buschmeier’s grandmother was from Germany, but that did not affect his thinking at all. Buschmeier was shot down on the 27th of July. That same morning, Buschmeier’s grandmother was in surgery. Buschmeier met one of the guys at Camp Lucky Strike and they joked about getting back to their unit so they could fly again. Buschmeier made it back to the base where the 100th Bomb Group was stationed.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier bounced around to different prisoner of war camps once he was finished with the interrogation. He ended up at Stalag Luft IV. He stayed there until the Russians came close and when the Russians were near they were shipped by box car to a place near the Baltic. While on the train they sometimes needed to pull to the side in order to let a troop train pass. Urination and defecation proved to be problematic in the train. When Buschmeier got to the barracks there were guys there hungry for the latest information on the war. Buschmeier was shot down in July 1944 and was liberated in May 1945. During the nine months he was a prisoner he spent roughly 60 of those days in a hospital. The initial surgery done on his wound ended up getting infected. There was a huge amount of pus accumulated in the wound and the doctor had to release the pressure with a knife. After a couple of days the wound healed up decently. The doctor was able to put treated gauze on the wound. The other guys in the room had a tough time stomaching the dressing of the wound. Buschmeier recalls one US airman who had a piece of shrapnel underneath his knee cap. Buschmeier never saw that man scream. The guys realized that the US bombing efforts were getting closer because they could see it. Onenight a British plane got hit and was coming down. He almost dropped his bombs on the camp before going down. Buschmeier had a friend named Harry Sellers. Harry asked Buschmeier for a light for his cigarette. As soon as Buschmeier lit the cigarette Germans descended from seemingly all over to investigate the breach in blackout procedure. The reigning American officer came in and told them what might happen to them. Nothing came of it. Buschmeier was able to walk at a certain point and it was nice to hobble around on crutches. Buschmeier recalled seeing a black man in the camp and he asked Buschmeier what was going to happen to him. He was one of the Tuskegee Airmen. He ended up being alright, but he was scared. Another one of Buschmeier’s crew members had to be put into the hospital at Stalag Luft IV.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier got seven letters in one day at Stalag Luft IV. One of the men volunteered to read his letters for him. The man who read the letters had been a card shark in Las Vegas. He taught the guys how to hide things. Buschmeier was liberated from a town named Barth, Germany [Annotator’s Note: Stalag Luft I], which is on the Baltic. It was clear that the Germans were getting nervous about the Russian advance. Hubert Zemke was one of the senior men in the camp. He ordered that on May 30th all Germans were to leave the camp in the middle of the night. The Russian guerillas were all kids about 15 years old. The Russian kids carried Tommy guns [Annotator’s Note: Thompson submachine guns]. One of the Russian trucks was loaded down with vodka and candy. Anything they could get their hands on, they got their hands on it. Buschmeier saw some crazy sights upon liberation. American troops eventually came in and helped liberate the camp. C-47s were brought in to load the guys up and they were flown to France. After landing in France, they were trucked to Camp Lucky Strike. Buschmeier thought he had a chance of being reassigned to his unit but all prisoners of war were ordered to return home. Buschmeier wanted to return to the states with two of his guys. There was a delay of about a month getting back and on the delay, Buschmeier met another one of his crewmates who was supposed to be back in the States. The ship that man was supposed to be on hit something and sunk which caused a further delay. While waiting for his turn to go home, he saw a soldier sitting at the table eating and it turned out to be someone Buschmeier knew from back home. The man initially did not recognize Buschmeier, but after Buschmeier filled him in he was excited to see him. When they were shot down, Buschmeier felt the plane go into a flat spin. One crew member said it blew up in the air and another person said it went all the way to the ground. Buschmeier flew as the tail gunner on a mission to France one time and he remembers seeing a group of planes heading into a wall of flak. Buschmeier had a little camera with him and took pictures. Buschmeier ended up losing the film. Buschmeier saw many of his crew en route back to the States. Buschmeier recalled getting ten dollars from the Red Cross. Buschmeier came back to the states on a Liberty ship. [Annotator’s Note: The HMS Moore]. Buschmeier remembers seeing whales and flying fish on the way back. A scary moment occurred on the way back when Buschmeier realized their ship had narrowly missed a mine. Buschmeier came into port at Boston. They arrived five minutes after the longshoreman had to go home, so, as a result, they had to sit on the ship in the harbor all night long.

Annotation

Frank Buschmeier and the others were loaded onto trucks the following day and sent to a local base. The guys were issued new clothing and debriefed about what life had become in America. Guys were told to go easy on using military terminology. Everybody was issued a ticket to make a phone call home. Buschmeier got to talk to his mom and dad and his siblings. Buschmeier initially could not find his parents at the train station and the manager refused to page the family. Buschmeier informed him that he better damn well page his family because he had just got back from fighting and Europe and was a prisoner of war. The station manager obliged. When Buschmeier came home it was raining and a civilian mentioned it was a terrible day. Buschmeier thought it was beautiful. Buschmeier got back to the States almost exactly a year after he had been shot down. Some of Buschmeier’s friends teased him because it took so long for him to get home. Buschmeier got to meet a lot of people when he got home. Most of his friends had heard that he was a prisoner of war. Buschmeier remembers vividly meeting a girl he had a crush on. They were at a dance and Buschmeier sheepishly was dancing with his sisters and finally the girl came up and asked him when he was going to ask her to dance. Buschmeier got to take her home and was lucky enough to get a kiss. Buschmeier got a telegram to report to North Carolina to be discharged. He got another letter saying to go to San Antonio instead. Buschmeier got a third letter informing him to report to North Carolina, which is what the original letter said. Buschmeier was already in San Antonio at this point and eventually was discharged from there. Buschmeier was married on 26 October 1946. They were married until she passed away on her 87th birthday in 2010. They were family in the 100th Bomb Group. They had to be a family to survive. Guys had to mutually depend on each other. Every family has their quarrels. Buschmeier got to see a lot of former airmen at reunions throughout the years. Buschmeier never had any regrets about serving except for the worry that it put his family through. Buschmeier thinks it was fantastic that he was able to meet so many different people. When Buschmeier thinks about the war, he has vivid memories that pop up. Buschmeier is extremely proud to be a part of the 100th Bombardment Group. Anybody else in the 100th Bomb Group will tell you the same thing. There was an amazing amount of dedication among the men.
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 
$60.00
Product: 

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.