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Four Kills

It's dangerous on the ground too!

Not your usual POW experience.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria was born in El Paso, Texas. He served in the US Army Air Corps and the Air Force. Candelaria's family moved from Texas to southern California when he was six weeks old. As a child he liked to read about flying and aerial combat in World War 1. Lockheed built the P-38 Lightning and that became his favorite plane. Candelaria wanted to be a fighter pilot. He went to University of Southern California to get two years of college. He had already enlisted in the Air Force. When he started his third year of college he got orders to report for duty on 3 January 1943. He was sent to Nashville, Tennessee for classification where he was classified as a pilot trainee. He then went to Santa Ana, California for preflight school then Oxnard, California to Miraloma Flight Academy for primary flight training. Candelaria had a great instructor at Miraloma. He learned so well that his instructor recommended him for fighter training. He wanted to fly P-38s but his instructor suggested that he fly the P-51 Mustang. After primary flight training came basic flight training in Chico, California. He then went to Williams Field, Arkansas where he learned to fly twin engine planes like the Curtiss AT-9. Candelaria graduated at Williams Field and was commissioned a second Lieutenant. He thought that from there he would go to combat but he was instead sent to Luke Field [Annotator's Note: Luke Field, outside Phoenix, Arizona] as an instructor teaching instrument flying and gunnery. There were P-40 Warhawk fighters at Luke Field. When a call went out for fighter pilots he volunteered. He was sent to Harding Field in Baton Rouge, Louisiana then to Colorado Springs, Colorado to complete his training. Candelaria boarded a ship in New Jersey. When the pilots were told to buy wool equipment he knew he was going to Europe. He was happy to be going to Europe instead of the Pacific. Candelaria ended up at RAF Wattisham [Annotator's Note: Royal Air Force Wattisham station] in the 479th Fighter Group, 435th Fighter Squadron, 65th Fighter Wing. Their mission was escort. They were originally equipped with P-38s but transitioned to P-51s. When they transitioned their kill ratio went up. When they would return from a mission they could see the damaged bombers straggling behind and would ask permission to drop back to defend the crippled bombers against Focke Wulf Fw 190s.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria credits the 8th Air Force for never having been turned back on a mission by enemy action. Enemy fighters took a terrible toll on bombers until they were escorted to the target and back. Flying long missions was tough on the airmen. Candelaria's longest mission was seven hours and 58 minutes. The escorts looked for enemy fighters. In September [Annotators Note: 1944] they first encountered the German Me163 rocket fighter. In August Candelaria's group first encountered the Me262 but they were much faster than the P-51s. The Me262 pilots knew how to get away from the P-51 pilots. On three occasions he almost fired on Me262s. Candelaria's first two kills were Focke Wulf 190s. The escort fighters would fly into the German formations to try to break them up so they could not mass their fire on the bombers. The leader shoots. The wingman only shoots if the leader is shot down. On 5 December Candelaria was flying lead. His flight was vectored to a group of German fighters. His group only had ten fighters. When they found the formation of German fighters they dove into them. Candelaria engaged three fighters that were trying to shoot down his flight leader. He could tell that enemy fighters were shooting at him by the tracers. He got two Fw190s but got separated from his squadron and formed up with another squadron for the trip home. The Germans lost 30 to 40 planes in the fight. His squadron lost two pilots and the other squadrons lost more than that. Fighter pilots think differently than other pilots. Escort missions were favored by the fighter pilots because they knew that the German planes would go after the bombers. Candelaria has a lot of respect for the bomber crews.

Annotation

On 7 April [Annotators Note: 1945] the Luftwaffe put up a huge effort consisting of many types of fighters. Richard Candelaria was assigned as a lead pilot. While taxiing out he got a flat and had to have it fixed. He got a new tail wheel put on then took off. He was alone but knew where the rendezvous point was. The bombers were hit before they got to the rendezvous point. After getting into position Candelaria saw two German jets. He went into a dive and caught up with them. The first fighter turned left. He turned and went head on at the fighters. He tried to drop his wing tanks on them. He was finally able to get behind one of the jets and fired on it. The jet started smoking. Candelaria tried to follow it when he noticed flashes. The flash was the second jet firing at him. The enemy fighter hit his right wing but did not do much damage. He is fairly certain that the jet crashed. He got a probable [Annotators Note: a probable kill]. Candelaria began climbing back up to the bomber formation. He spotted a flight of about 15 or 16 Me109s heading toward the formation. The Germans were flying a strange formation. When the Germans turned toward the bomber formation Candelaria went after them and attacked the German flight leader. The German leader was very good. He finally got some shots off and downed the leader. Now he had the rest of the Me109s on him. Candelaria was in a bad position. He called the rest of the group for help. A flight came down to help him. By that time he had downed a total of four enemy planes. When the remaining German fighters saw the Mustangs [Annotators Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] coming down they left the area. He and the flight that had come to his aid went off looking for more German fighters. By the time the group made it to the bombers' target Candelaria was too low on fuel to continue and had to return to base.

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When Richard Candelaria returned to base he did rolls to signify his victories. The crew chiefs could tell that the guns had been fired. He was officially credited with four Me109s confirmed and a Me262 probable. Later on some of the bomber crewmen he was imprisoned with confirmed that the Me262 had been a kill. Candelaria went to London to do a radio broadcast. The English writers wanted him to read a script. The script was written with terms and phrases that no American would use, and the words were pronounced like the English would pronounce them, not like an American would. On Friday, 13 April [Annotators Note: 13 April 1945], the squadron went up. After the escort mission they went off looking for targets of opportunity. They would shoot up locomotives, trucks, and barges. On this mission, Candelaria and three others went down and found a German airfield near Poland. The German antiaircraft gunners were very good. He saw two batteries on the field firing at them. When he went down to get the two batteries, the entire field opened up on him. There were shells bursting all around him. He was down low trying to get away. He was hit and headed out toward what he thought were the allied lines. The engine seized and the propeller stopped. The plane was smoking. One of the pilots with him told him that he was on fire. Candelaria bailed out. He hit the ground and started running. He ran into some nearby woods. He took off his Mae West and saw that it was full of holes. He then discovered that his head was bleeding. He had shrapnel wounds to his arm but his Mae West had slowed the metal fragments down so they just penetrated the skin and did not do much damage.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria waited until dark then took off. He was armed with a .45 pistol that he tied around his neck to keep it dry when he swam across a small lake. He spent the next ten days walking in the direction he thought the enemy lines would be. On two occasions he had to deviate his path. On one he encountered two German soldiers from a panzer division. He was in a clearing and did not see them until they yelled at him to halt. When he took his scarf off and waved it, the Germans fired at him. He jumped into the grass. The Germans kept firing. Candelaria pulled out his .45. The Germans got close to him but obviously could not see him in the grass. When the first German soldier saw him, Candelaria shot him then shot the other. He hit both of them in the chest. Candelaria took off. Whenever he came across people he would go around them. He was now heading in a southerly direction. He thought that he could make his way to the Elba River and wait for Patton's troops to pick him up. He went to a stream and got some water. He heard someone yell at him. When he stood up two men with pitch forks ran at him. When they were six or seven yards away he shot them both. He again took off toward the Elba River. He had to keep going around the towns he came across so he was not making much progress. He did go through one town. He could hear people in their kitchens. A truck full of soldiers passed by him but did not see him. A while later he came to a wooded and hilly area. When he sat down to rest he saw a woman and several kids. He sat still hoping they would not see him. He got up and walked off.

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Richard Candelaria went down the hill to a couple of cabins. He did not see anyone near the first one. When he went to the second one he did not see anyone there either. The door to the second cabin was unlocked so he went inside looking for food. He did not find any. About that time he saw heads passing the windows. They were German soldiers and civilians. A big German sergeant saw him. He tried to pass himself off as an Italian worker. It did not work. One of the civilians unzipped his flight suit. When the German sergeant saw his .45 he took it. Candelaria had reloaded the gun. He motioned to the sergeant to go ahead and fire it. The German did. He had done it to cover up that he had fired it earlier. The civilians had been strafed by a couple of British Typhoon aircraft trying to knock out a 40mm battery. A little girl had been hit by the fire from the planes. One very large man wearing a brown uniform like the Todt Organization wore grabbed him and took him toward town. The civilians from the town were all heading toward him. The men had taken his boot knife and made him remove his boots. He thought for sure that he was about to be hung. About that time, the sergeant returned with an oberleuntnant [Annotator's Note: first lieutenant in the German Army] who proceeded to chew out the large civilian. The German officer then told Candelaria that he was alright now and in their custody. The officer then told him that he had family living in Wisconsin. Once Candelaria was in military custody he was not threatened by the civilians. A young girl brought him a pitcher of grape juice. He was taken to a house where an army doctor examined him. The doctor checked his head and arm and told him they were ok. Then he began pulling the pieces of glass and metal out of Candelaria's stomach. After the doctor finished with him the army took him. When the army took him it was the best treatment he received the entire time he was a prisoner of war. They brought him hot water to shave with, they gave him coffee, and they talked to him. The next day the soldiers were cooking. Candelaria was fed and the soldiers sat with him talking to him. Suddenly he heard yelling and the Germans ran for cover. He looked up and saw two British Typhoons coming over strafing the ground. He stayed where he was.

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Richard Candelaria and his German guards were becoming friends. The guards gave him cognac. The guards put him in a van. The men had a few more drinks and sung songs during the ride to the airfield where he was going to be held. The guards told him not to sleep on the bed because of bugs. The guards were so nice that he thought he would come back after the war to make friends with them. One of the Germans gave him a piece of a raw onion to chew on so the commanding officer of the airstrip would not smell the alcohol on his breath. Candelaria slept on the floor and in the morning was told that he would be fed at lunchtime. While waiting the airfield was bombed by P-47 Thunderbolts. He cheered the P-47s on until one of the bombs landed close to him. The bombing attack messed up lunch and he was told that he would be fed the next day. The next day, instead of being fed, he was taken to another location where he escaped. Candelaria had escaped when he was first captured but was caught after a couple of hours. After his second escape he was thrown into a barn where he met up with a guy he had trained with. As they moved along they picked up more and more prisoners. He was never in a prison camp. On the roads the civilians threw rocks at them. Two big bomber pilots put themselves on Candelaria's sides to keep the rocks from hitting him. The group was moving toward Denmark. When the guards got distracted Candelaria escaped. He was soon recaptured. The group got to a point on the border with Denmark where they stayed for a while. There were some barns and the area was enclosed in barbed wire. The German girls would talk to the guards and look at them. One of the German girls slipped Candelaria's friend a raw potato. The guy was good looking so they decided to shave him and cut his hair. Every time the German girls would pass by they would slip him pieces of bread, potatoes, and carrots that he would share with the others.

Annotation

A Red Cross truck passed the area where Candelaria and his fellow prisoners were being held. He spoke with the man in Spanish. The man had been captured during the Spanish Civil War. Candelaria's family was from Spain. Candelaria got several prisoners to help unload the truck. He traded everything they had for chocolate. He figured that the chocolate would be easier to carry if he escaped again. A number of the prisoners made little ovens and started cooking. Major Toliver [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling], the ranking officer, and Vanderlander [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] decided to grab the German captain when he walked by. When they grabbed the German, Candelaria grabbed the man's gun. The men and their prisoner got a car. The group drove past several groups of enemy soldiers who would salute when they saw the German captain. The group made it to the British lines. A British lieutenant wanted to take Candelaria's prisoner and shoot him. The British had seen the cross bones on Vanderlander's hat and took him to be from the Waffen SS. The group headed west and made it to American territory. There they handed over their prisoner. The group went to a former Luftwaffe airfield where they were able to shower. They took off again. They ran into a check point. At the check point they were deloused. The men finally made it to Brussels. They sold the car and spilt up the money and had fun in Brussels. Then they reported to the authorities. They were RAMP's, Recovered Allied Military Personnel.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria was set to Camp Lucky Strike in Le Havre, France. He had been accustomed to his accommodations prior to being shot down. Now he was staying in a tent. He learned of a newspaper article about him shooting two German soldiers and two civilians. He was told that he would be heading to Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. Candelaria was sent back to his squadron. A member of his group convinced him to enjoy himself before going back. He was made commander of an air technical intelligence team. His friend gave him orders to travel anywhere in Europe he wanted to go for the duration of the mission. He was given a C-47 and a team of enlisted personnel who travelled with him. The group lived well. Candelaria went to Germany, Hungary, and Holland. He visited the Eagle's Nest in Bavaria. In Bavaria he met an American captain who was in charge of German POWs. The man gave him a jeep with which to travel. Someone wanted to trade a Mercedes for the jeep. Candelaria went back to his squadron. He stayed on as part of the Army of Occupation. He went aboard the Queen Elizabeth for the trip back to the United States. He had a stateroom aboard the trip for the four days it took to get to New York. Candelaria was born in Texas but grew up in southern California. In January 1976, Candelaria had his own business. He was asked by a company from Las Vegas to sell his company to them. He sold his company and became a president of the company that had bought his. He moved his family to Nevada. They liked the way of life there. He and his family have been there ever since.

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Richard Candelaria thinks it is a shame that the American public did not get to see their 8th Air Force. They were able to gain air supremacy. Had there been squadrons of German fighters flying up and down the Normandy beaches things would have been bad. When they started going into Germany the German fighters came up more and more. The bombing never stopped. Candelaria thinks that the Germans were amazing people. A plant could be destroyed and would have to be hit the next week because it would have been rebuilt. The 8th Air Force held the air and made things easier for the guys on the ground. After getting the bombers out over the English Channel they would go back looking for targets of opportunity. One thing that sticks in Candelaria's mind concerned a pilot in his group named Robert N. Peg [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling]. He feels that Peg made two mistakes on his last mission. They thought it was a milk run [Annotators Note: military slang for a routine trip with little danger]. Peg had had the crew chief boost up the manifold pressure on his aircraft. When Peg got out over Belgium, his engine ended up quitting and he had to bail out. On his way down he was hit by a B-25. He was still alive when he hit the ground but died soon after. On one mission Candelaria was flying spare. Even though he could go back he decided to stay and see what was happening. The bombers were beat up by the flak. They could avoid the heavy flak like the 88 millimeter cannons. Candelaria told the squadron commander that he was going to stay with the stragglers to try to protect them. He saw a group of Fw190s [Annotators Note: German fighter planes] coming at them. He had been strafing before he joined up with the stragglers. He was down to his last 50 rounds. When the enemy planes would make a run on them Candelaria would turn into them to drive them off. He saw the bomber crews throwing everything out that they could. The bomber pilot asked him to stay. He was able to stay with them for a while. Candelaria tried to land in Brussels but could not because of the weather. He could not land in Holland or in France either. He was picked up by a ground controller who told him to fly south to look for a break in the clouds. He did not know where he was. He said a prayer and as he got to the end of the prayer, he saw a break in the clouds and right below was an emergency field. He dove through the clouds and landed. It was a Sunday and the civilians were all in their dress clothes and standing around watching the planes coming and going. When they saw Candelaria coming down with his nose pointed at the ground they all thought he was attacking and hit the ground. When Candelaria's plane came to a stop the engine quit. His plane was refueled and he flew back to England. That night there was a party. His roommate was wearing his new trousers.

Annotation

On 7 April [Annotators Note: 1945] the Luftwaffe put up a huge effort consisting of many types of fighters. Richard Candelaria was assigned as a lead pilot. While taxiing out he got a flat and had to have it fixed. He got a new tail wheel put on then took off. He was alone but knew where the rendezvous point was. The bombers were hit before they got to the rendezvous point. After getting into position Candelaria saw two German jets. He went into a dive and caught up with them. The first fighter turned left. He turned and went head on at the fighters. He tried to drop his wing tanks on them. He was finally able to get behind one of the jets and fired on it. The jet started smoking. Candelaria tried to follow it when he noticed flashes. The flash was the second jet firing at him. The enemy fighter hit his right wing but did not do much damage. He is fairly certain that the jet crashed. He got a probable [Annotators Note: a probable kill]. Candelaria began climbing back up to the bomber formation. He spotted a flight of about 15 or 16 Me109s heading toward the formation. The Germans were flying a strange formation. When the Germans turned toward the bomber formation Candelaria went after them and attacked the German flight leader. The German leader was very good. He finally got some shots off and downed the leader. Now he had the rest of the Me109s on him. Candelaria was in a bad position. He called the rest of the group for help. A flight came down to help him. By that time he had downed a total of four enemy planes. When the remaining German fighters saw the Mustangs [Annotators Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] coming down they left the area. He and the flight that had come to his aid went off looking for more German fighters. By the time the group made it to the bombers' target Candelaria was too low on fuel to continue and had to return to base.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria waited until dark then took off. He was armed with a .45 pistol that he tied around his neck to keep it dry when he swam across a small lake. He spent the next ten days walking in the direction he thought the enemy lines would be. On two occasions he had to deviate his path. On one he encountered two German soldiers from a panzer division. He was in a clearing and did not see them until they yelled at him to halt. When he took his scarf off and waved it, the Germans fired at him. He jumped into the grass. The Germans kept firing. Candelaria pulled out his .45. The Germans got close to him but obviously could not see him in the grass. When the first German soldier saw him, Candelaria shot him then shot the other. He hit both of them in the chest. Candelaria took off. Whenever he came across people he would go around them. He was now heading in a southerly direction. He thought that he could make his way to the Elba River and wait for Patton's troops to pick him up. He went to a stream and got some water. He heard someone yell at him. When he stood up two men with pitch forks ran at him. When they were six or seven yards away he shot them both. He again took off toward the Elba River. He had to keep going around the towns he came across so he was not making much progress. He did go through one town. He could hear people in their kitchens. A truck full of soldiers passed by him but did not see him. A while later he came to a wooded and hilly area. When he sat down to rest he saw a woman and several kids. He sat still hoping they would not see him. He got up and walked off.

Annotation

Richard Candelaria and his German guards were becoming friends. The guards gave him cognac. The guards put him in a van. The men had a few more drinks and sung songs during the ride to the airfield where he was going to be held. The guards told him not to sleep on the bed because of bugs. The guards were so nice that he thought he would come back after the war to make friends with them. One of the Germans gave him a piece of a raw onion to chew on so the commanding officer of the airstrip would not smell the alcohol on his breath. Candelaria slept on the floor and in the morning was told that he would be fed at lunchtime. While waiting the airfield was bombed by P-47 Thunderbolts. He cheered the P-47s on until one of the bombs landed close to him. The bombing attack messed up lunch and he was told that he would be fed the next day. The next day, instead of being fed, he was taken to another location where he escaped. Candelaria had escaped when he was first captured but was caught after a couple of hours. After his second escape he was thrown into a barn where he met up with a guy he had trained with. As they moved along they picked up more and more prisoners. He was never in a prison camp. On the roads the civilians threw rocks at them. Two big bomber pilots put themselves on Candelaria's sides to keep the rocks from hitting him. The group was moving toward Denmark. When the guards got distracted Candelaria escaped. He was soon recaptured. The group got to a point on the border with Denmark where they stayed for a while. There were some barns and the area was enclosed in barbed wire. The German girls would talk to the guards and look at them. One of the German girls slipped Candelaria's friend a raw potato. The guy was good looking so they decided to shave him and cut his hair. Every time the German girls would pass by they would slip him pieces of bread, potatoes, and carrots that he would share with the others.

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