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First mission

Shot down over Kassel

The fate of the crew

Baynham's view of US support for WWII


Baynham grew up during the Great Depression but doesn't recall life being too bad. After graduating from high school he entered a national youth organization which paid 15 cents per hour toward his tuition at a junior college in Texarkana. During that time, he also worked at a Safeway where he earned about 17 dollars per week for about 80 hours of work. After passing the USAAF Aviation Cadet Program entrance test, he quit his job at the Safeway but went back after learning that he wouldn't be called up for six months.Baynham was 17 years old when the war broke out. During that year he had to wait before turning 18 and joining the military. He decided that flying would be better than slogging through the mud.He was called to active duty in December 1942. He went to basic training then preflight training in San Antonio, Texas. He then flew PT-19s during primary training in Coleman, Texas. During the nine weeks he was there about half of his class washed out.Basic flight training and advanced twin engine training were in Waco, Texas where he graduated after nine weeks in advanced school and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant.After B-24 [Annotator’s Note: American B-24 heavy bomber] transition training he went to Salt Lake City, Utah where he got his crew assignment. He then went to Colorado Springs, Colorado for crew training.At the end of March, Baynham came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for a couple of weeks. His crew begged the director of training to let th crew stay together which he did. In May, the crew boarded the Queen Elizabeth with 15000 other servicemen. Aboard ship, Baynham was able to see the Glen Miller Orchestra perform.The Queen Elizabeth was very fast and therefore it didn't travel in a convoy. After four days at sea the ship arrived at the Firth of Clyde. Baynham was then sent by train to Liverpool and then on to Ireland for some additional training.After training in Ireland he returned to England arriving around the 1st of June.


Baynham was based at Tibenham, England where there were numerous airfields that were three or four miles apart. Every morning when they would fly, there would be 1000 or 1200 ships taking off in a very restricted area. There were crashes every day.The pilot of each new crew flew as copilot with an older crew. Baynham's first mission was to Brunswick. When Baynham's plane turned in to the target, the flak was severe and he was so nervous that his legs were shaking.On Baynham's next mission he flew with his crew on a mission to Hamburg, Germany.The prevailing thinking on Baynham's crew was that they would never be shot down. Baynham's fourth mission was to Dessau where he was in the lower formation. A ship above him was hit and crashed into the ship ahead of Baynham's. After flying through the blast, his ship nosed over and dropped 10000 feet. He was able to recover and the crew was safe but the ship was damaged. After returning to base alone, Baynham's plane never flew again.When his ship was in the dive the one thing he kept thinking about was to not let the plane stall. Once he got the plane leveled off, the bombs trickled out of it except one which he had to drop manually.Baynham sustained damage on the other missions he flew. The Germans had moveable 88s [Annotator’s Note: German antiaircraft artillery] on flak cars so when the formation crossed the coastline the Germans could move to that area and the German gunners were good. The B-24s [Annotator’s Note: American B-2 bombers] always flew at the same altitude because its thin wing didn't have a lot of lift. B-17s could get up high. Baynham's plane was always hit, but none of his crew was ever hit except when they were shot down.Typical targets were ball bearing plants, marshalling yards, and various factories. Target cities included Cologne, Hamburg, Brunswick, Coblenz, Ulm, Dessau, Berlin, and Kassel. Missions usually lasted six and a half to eight and a half hours. The B-24s were cold and not pressurized but it wouldn't have mattered if they were, with the Germans shooting flak holes in the ship.


The only thing Baynham recalls about any of his missions except for Dessau was the flak.The day after he was shot down, his group flew a follow up mission to Kassel.During the time Baynham was with his group they were awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.Baynham's crew has argued over the years about what their target was the day they were shot down. He believes that the target was a marshalling yard but he dropped the bombs in a field after he got lost. After his group was separated from the rest of the formation, Fw-190s and Me-109s [Annotator’s Note: German 190 bombers and 109 fighter aircraft] scrambled and flew up to meet them. Some of the gunners called out "bandits" and that was the first indication Baynham had that they were in trouble.A few months before this mission the belly turrets on the bombers had been removed so they could carry an additional 1000 pound of bombs. The enemy planes lobbed 30mm cannon shells from beneath them. The bombers began falling out of formation. The fight lasted about 10 or 15 minutes.On the first pass Baynham's generator was knocked out. On the second or third pass the bomb bay was set on fire. Baynham rang the bell ordering the crew to bail out.The tail gunner was wounded when he went out. One waist gunner got out safely but one was killed. The flight engineer was wounded when he bailed out. Baynham didn't have any hesitation about bailing out. His plane was on fire so he had some motivation to get out.One of the planes that Baynham saw go down was completely engulfed in flames. He saw a number of planes go down but he didn't think he would be shot down. He believes he could have kept flying if his plane hadn't been set on fire.  


It was surprising to Baynham when his parachute opened. He could see a power line that he was being blown toward. He started swinging around. When he hit the ground he was a little banged up.There were German farmers harvesting their potatoes where Baynham landed. They captured him and took him to a small town where he was held with another airman.One of the Germans was emotional and wanted to harm him and the other airman but a woman who spoke English calmed the situation down.Baynham's bombardier, radio man, and navigator were all shot by guards at a mine who were later tried at Nuremberg and executed.His engineer and tail gunner were severely wounded and lived with disabilities for the rest of their lives. Baynham, a waist gunner, and the copilot were not injured but when he saw the waist gunner at a temporary camp it was clear that he had been beaten up.Baynham feels lucky that he wasn't stabbed with a pitch fork. The farmers who picked him up had no doubt lost family to the bombers.Baynham spent his first night as a POW [Annotator’s Note: Prisoner of war] in a cell in a small town near the village where he was captured. By morning there were eight or ten prisoners. They were taken by train to a larger town where there was an air force base. The prisoners were almost lynched at the train station when the guards left them to contact the local Luftwaffe to arrange transportation for them. They were taken to the Luftwaffe base and spent the night there.The airmen were then taken to an interrogation center. Baynham was placed in solitary for two days. He was interrogated twice, maybe three times. The interrogators used psychological pressure on the prisoners but they didn't give up much.After two days Baynham was taken to a temporary camp, from where he was sent to Stalag Luft I up near the Baltic Sea.Baynham and his copilot ended up in the same room in Stalag Luft I.The rest of the crew was separated. The enlisted men were sent to other camps and the other two officers from his crew had been shot. 


Baynham doesn't remember many details from his interrogation. He was accused of being a spy and was threatened with being shot. He read later that the military now trains people what to do if they are captured. The only thing Baynham had been taught was to only give his name, rank, and serial number. He feels that 20 year old kids couldn't last through that.Baynham was taken into an office where an older officer took out a binder that held information on his group. The name of the group's weather man and the high school he attended were among the information in the binder. It was an impressive amount of information.Baynham was a prisoner at Stalag Luft I for seven months from September through May [Annotator’s Note: September 1944 to May 1945].For the first couple of months after Baynham arrived at Stalag Luft I, the prisoners were given Red Cross parcels weekly or every two weeks. The parcels held a can of Spam, a can of oleo, a pack of cigarettes, some sugar, hard biscuits, an a chocolate bar. The Germans also gave the men some food. After the first couple of months the parcels ran out and food was very scarce for the last five months.The men cooked in their own rooms. There was no kitchen in Baynham's compound. In the morning the prisoners would make a pot of ersatz coffee. The men got two loaves of black bread that they would slice paper thin and each man got two slices in the morning and two slices at night. At noon the men were given some dried turnips to make a soup. At night they were given a few potatoes. All of the men lost weight. The lack of food was the worst thing.The knowledge that the Allies were winning the war helped except during December when the Battle of the Bulge was going on.Officers didn't work [Annotator’s Note: at the prisoner of war camp]  so all the men had to do was walk the perimeter of the camp when the weather was decent. The Swedish Red Cross brought in sports equipment so the men were able to play football.One of Baynham's barrack-mates crossed the guard wire and picked up a large spool of barbed wire. If the Germans had seen him he would have been shot. The man brought the wire into the barracks and the prisoners removed the barbs and strung the wire under their mattresses.The prisoners would have to scavenge for wood to use for fuel.The prisoners dealt with a trader. They traded what they could with the German guards through a prisoner who spoke German. They never got food into the camp but the German did bring in a camera and film and photographed the men in the camp who wanted their picture taken. Baynham lost the photograph of himself that he received in 1946 but discovered it on the Stalag Luft website.The guards usually treated the men well. There was not much interaction between the men and the guards.Before Baynham arrived at the camp a tunnel was built but discovered before anyone could escape. He believes that the Germans knew about it and just let the prisoners dig it.During Baynham's time at the camp only one man attempted to escape but was caught.


Baynham recalls writing a couple of postcards per month. His folks wrote a lot but he only received a couple of letters.Baynham had been missing for about two  months before his parents were notified that he was a POW [Annotator’s Note: prisoner of war]. They were first contacted by a HAM radio operator in Sweden who had picked up the Germans broadcasting a list of names. Shortly after that they received a telegram that he was a POW.The men in Baynham's camp had an improvised radio that one o them had made. It had been made out of parts taken from recording equipment or a phonograph. Whoever had the radio would listen to the BBC news reports and would write down what was going on. They would then go from barracks to barracks reading out the news.The radio was never found by the Germans.When the American prisoners were doing something they shouldn't have been doing, they would post guards who would notify them when the Germans were coming.When the German searched the barracks they would always find things the men weren't supposed to have.There were four compounds at the camp where Baynham was held, housing about 5000 prisoners. One of the compounds held British prisoners.After seven months in the camp, Baynham was liberated by the Russians. The prisoners knew ahead of time that the Russians were coming through radio news.The prisoners were told that they were to be marched to an area out of the way of the Russians. Some men who were marched into the camp from East Prussia arrived in bad shape with dog bites, bayonet wounds and frostbite.The day before the Russians arrived, around 1 May 1945, the German guards took off in the middle of the night and headed west to surrender.The senior American officer, Col. Zemke [Annotator's Note: USAAF/USAF Ace Col. Hubert "Hub" Zemke], set up a perimeter with the prisoners.The Russians entered the camp the following night with a few guys in one vehicle. The bulk of the Russian troops showed up a few days later.The Russians troops were mostly Mongolians and the officers were white [Annotator's Note: Caucasian] Russians.


The Russians [Annotator's Note: who liberated Baynham and others at Stalag Luft I prisoner of war camp] had a tank with them that they used to knock down the fence around the camp. This made it harder for the American officer in charge to handle the men.The prisoners were told that the Eighth Air Force was coming to fly them out. The prisoners were based at a small Luftwaffe airfield.One night Baynham and another prisoner named Pat Murphy from Brooklyn, New York snuck out of the camp, talked a couple of bicycles out of some Russian troops in a nearby town, and rode to the English lines which took two days. Baynham and Murphy made it back home about six weeks before the rest of the guys at the camp.Baynham and Murphy spent the first night in Bad Doberan, Germany with some liberated conscripted workers. The next morning Baynham and the five or so guys with him left the town and hit the Russian lines. They weren't allowed to pass so they went back into the woods and made their way to the English lines. The British took them in and fed them, then took them by truck to the American lines.Baynham and Murphy ended up at an airdrome in central Germany where they were told that they would have to wait while former French workers were being flown back to France.Baynham and Murphy went out to the airfield and talked their way onto a C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 "Skytrain" transport aircraft] and flew to France. They were in Nancy, France on V-E Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day - 8 May 1945]. From Nancy they went to Epinal where they jumped on a hospital train and took it to Le Havre, France. After he arrived at Camp Lucky Strike his parents were finally notified that he was back under American control. Baynham spent ten days at Lucky Strike before they were put on a boat to go home.During the trip from the prison camp to Camp Lucky Strike Baynham stopped at an old German couple's home. The old couple fed them. While they were eating, Russian troops busted in the back door ,but left after Baynham told them he was an American.One place he stopped had two or three women, an old woman, and some children. They were in bad shape but fed Baynham anyway. The old woman was crying the whole time he was there. They had been informed that the Russians planned to take all children under 12 back to Russia for training.There was not much of a chain of command but there had been a senior American officer, Col. Spicer [Annotator's Note: USAAF/USAF Maj. Gen. Henry Russell Spicer], over the camp. After news of the Battle of the Bulge and the German massacre of prisoners reached them, Col. Spicer began preaching to the prisoners about how bad the German were. The Germans arrested Col. Spicer, tried him, and threatened to kill him but never did. He spent the remainder of his time in captivity in solitary [Annotator's Note: the speech Baynham is referring to was actually given by Col. Spicer on 31 October 1944, roughly six weeks before the Battle of the Bulge began on 16 December 1944]. After that Col. Zemke [Annotator's Note: USAAF/USAF Ace Col. Hubert "Hub" Zemke] or Gabreski [Annotator's Note: USAAF/USAF Ace Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreski] took over as senior American officer [Annotator's Note: Col. Hubert Zemke took over as senior American officer in charge of the compound].


Each compound had a command group to deal with the Germans. This also helped the Germans by having commanders over the prisoners. Baynham never saw the colonel [Annotator's Note: he is referring to USAAF/USAF Col. Herny Spicer] after being liberated.Baynham had some emotional problems after the war. He suffered from night sweats and hives for about ten years after the war. He believes that he suffered from these because some of his crew had died.During that time servicemen didn't go to counselors. Today it is accepted. It's a different culture.Baynham had an injury to his lower vertebrae from when he had hit the ground. In the 1950s he made a claim with the VA [Annotator’s Note: Veterans Affairs] but was denied. The war matured him but he doesn't know exactly how.Baynham feels that World War II was the last time everyone got together to do something. There had been consenting voices but he feels that those were suppressed and maybe support for the war wasn't as total as it looked like.It [Annotator’s Note: World War II] is still a sense of pride for the country. It had a definite ending that others have not had.The war changed the world in that the people of Europe appreciate what the Americans did.After the war Baynham did not take advantage of the GI Bill. He intended to stay in the service. In 1946 he was stationed at Tinker Field in Oklahoma City. Word was passed that each base was to send a pilot to Barksdale to go to instrument instructor’s school. Baynham was the only pilot at Tinker who qualified. He went for the three month school then returned to his base.They were ferrying old ships from small fields all through the Midwest out to graveyards in Ogden, Utah. During this time, Baynham got a notice that he was being separated from service.After leaving the service, he and his family settled down in Oklahoma City. By the time he retired the family had moved to California. Baynham feels that it is important for a National World War II Museum to exist to educate people down the road. 

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