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Underclassman hazing in cadet training

Armanini describes aerial gunnery and his one and only kill

Cowboy Roane and the Frozen Ass

Armanini's last mission

Surviving is nothing but luck

They shot the living Christ out of us

Feelings towards killing civilians


Joseph Armanini begins by discussing his early childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Santa Cruz County, California. His family moved into Santa Cruz and there he attended Junior College where he played football and made All Star on his football team. After graduating high school, Armanini wanted to go to Stanford for college but was approached by a friend to go to Dartmouth. Armanini had heard about Dartmouth, applied, and was accepted as a sophomore. Armanini graduated from Dartmouth in 1940 and went to work for Bank of America. In September of 1940 he received his draft notice and was classified as 1A. Armanini did not want to go into the infantry as a draftee so he decided to apply for flight training at Hamilton Field in California. Armanini was told that he needed to drop weight in order to gain entrance into the Army Air Force. Upon passing his physical, Armanini waited for months before he was finally accepted into flight training. He was not accepted into training until January 1942. He was sent to Douglas Field for initial training. His first initiation into the service came on the first morning while at Douglas Field. Armanini was not initially issued uniforms and reported for roll call in his civilian attire. Armanini learned to march for 12 days in his civilian clothing before he was finally issued his Army Air Force uniform. He got sick after receiving his typhus shot and was placed in the base hospital for several days. While in the hospital he missed his initial flight training class and was shipped to Thunderbird Field in Glendale, Arizona for primary flight training. Armanini washed out as a pilot after his third check ride. Lieutenant Maytag washed him out of flight school, according to Armanini, for no apparent reason. He then tells an amusing story about the different types of hazing he received as an underclassman in cadet flight training. After washing out of flight school he was sent back to Santa Anna for further training. Armanini was told that he did not have the ability to be a pilot, but his belief is that the Army did that on purpose to force men into becoming navigators and bombardiers instead of pilots. 


Joseph Armanini was assigned to bombardier school. He wanted to be a bombardier because as a bombardier you saw action and saw results of what you were doing. Armanini felt that the bombardier's job was the most important position in the bomber aircraft, as the main purpose of the mission was to destroy the target. The man that did that was the bombardier. He trained at Victorville Field [Annotator’s Note: California]. Armanini graduated from bombardier school on 10 October 1942 as a second lieutenant and was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group, then stationed in Boise, Idaho. His first pilot was Victor Reed. Howard Bassett was the original navigator in his first aircraft. He spent about a month in Boise. Armanini thought that the B-17 [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] was indestructible. He goes on to describe the armament of the aircraft, its stability and how well built it was. He describes how the aircraft would come back from missions with half the horizontal stabilizer shot off and how the B-17 would always bring her crew home. He also describes the differences between the B-17 and the B-24 [Annotator’s Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber]. The 100th was assigned to Kearney, Nebraska to practice and then assigned to Des Moines, Iowa in the middle of the winter. Armanini describes the horrible flying conditions and how the men spent most of their time at the Egyptian Room, a nightclub. Armanini describes the mission in which the 100th was supposed to fly from Des Moines to California and how many pilots could not fly over a massive cloud bank and the crews scattered all over the country. Pilots and men used the weather as an excuse to drop by their homes all over the country. Armanini's plane made it to California unscathed and his crew was not reprimanded in the debacle that followed the 100th's Stateside mission. In his squadron [Annotator's note: 349th Bombardment Squadron] four of six aircraft made it to their destination on time. Of the 37 aircraft that took off only 13 arrived on time. As a result, the 100th's original commander, Darr Alkire, was relieved of command. The 100th was reassigned to Kearney, Nebraska and then assigned to deploy overseas to England on 23 May 1943 via Syracuse, New York, to Goosebay, to Iceland, to Poddington to Thorpe Abbots Station 131 which became the 100th's home base. Armanini recalls that he wanted to go overseas and was ready to fight the war. He describes how Thorpe Abbots was not ready for the 100th as it was not an established base yet. Colonel Harding [Annotator’s Note: Neil B. Harding, also known as Chick] was assigned as the 100th's new permanent commander.


Jospeh Armanini went to gunnery school while still Stateside. He describes the bombardier's responsibilities while aboard the aircraft [Annotator's note: the bombardier was responsible for all ammunition aboard the aircraft]. He also describes that aerial gunnery is the most difficult thing in the world. He describes how badly the aerial victories were exaggerated by the Army Air Force after bombing raids. Armanini tells an interesting story of how he shot down one enemy aircraft, a Focke Wulf 190 about to ram their B-17 [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] on the Regensburg raid [Annotator's note: on 17 August 1943] Joe describes the first mission for the 100th Bombardment Group in which they lost three planes out of his squadron while he was at gunnery school. Armanini's fifth mission was to Bonn, Germany. On this mission his pilot was hit in the chest by flak and his aircraft lost an engine. The pilot was hit in the chest but it did not wound him. His chest was badly bruised and apparently the pilot suffered from PTSD [Annotator's note: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and did not want to fly as a B-17 combat pilot any longer. Armanini was assigned to Sam Barr's plane where he soon became the lead bombardier for the squadron. As lead bombardier he would lead all aircraft in his squadron on a mission, the other aircraft in the squadron would bomb on Armanini's command. He tells about the Regensburg mission. His aircraft lost an engine and had 200 bullet holes, yet no one was wounded in his crew. His aircraft flew across the Alps and landed in Bizerte, North Africa. His crew could not fly his aircraft back to England because of the battle damage. They flew from Bizerte in another aircraft to another base in Africa and then to Marrakesh [Annotator’s Note: Morocco]. Armanini describes his trip to Medina in great detail with his crew. He describes buying souvenirs, seeing lepers, and seeing the sheik's quarters and harem.


Joseph Armanini describes flying back to England along the coast of Spain from Africa, landing the following morning. He discusses how great the Regensburg mission was only because of being able to see the Medina and experiencing Africa. He tells the story of Cowboy Roane [Annotators Note: Owen D. Roane] and his frozen ass [Annotator’s Note: donkey] from Africa after the Regensburg mission. Armanini tells a story about bombing the Ruhr Valley. On this particular mission he bombed a factory and utterly destroyed the target. On the bomb run he saw an American fighter shooting down a German fighter. After landing the pilot, Gabby Gabreski [Annotators note: Gabreski was the highest scoring fighter ace in the European theater of Operations] came to his base and congratulated Armanini on his bombing accuracy. Armanini discusses No Ball missions in which the targets were the V-1 Rocket launching sites. He describes missing one of the targets after making two runs over it. The target was obscured by trees from 10,000 feet. His formation hit the prop wash of the formation ahead of him and he missed the target by about 600 yards. He felt bad about missing the target after coming all the way to destroy it. Armanini describes a mission to destroy the Renault factory in France that built aircraft engines for the German Luftwaffe. He describes the bad weather in great detail. Armanini discusses great detail about how to line up a bombing target when you are flying into a cross wind. His aircraft was attacked by a Fw190 [Annotators Note: Focke Wulf Fw190 fighter aircraft]. The German fighter knocked out one of Armanini's aircraft's engines and forced his pilot, Barr, to dive the aircraft out of formation to extinguish the engine fire. His aircraft was alone and out of formation. He dropped his aircraft on a French forest and then headed home. On the way back to his base his aircraft was attacked by several German Me109's [Annotator's note: Messerschmitt Me109 German fighter]. Armanini describes how his pilots took evasive action to avoid the German fighter attacks. His aircraft eventually landed back at Thorpe Abbotts [Annotator’s Note: the 100th Bombardment Group'’s base in England] on three engines. 


Joseph Armanini describes explaining why he missed the target from the previous mission to Colonel Harding [Annotators note: Neil B. Harding, also known as Chick, was the 100th Bombardment Group'’s Commanding Officer]. After this mission, thanks to this discussion, most missions were planned to head into the wind and allow the wind to assist in the bomb run. Armanini describes the workings of the complicated Norden bomb sight. He explains the bombardier's code ten minutes of fame or ten minutes of failure. He describes how the 100th Bomb Group lost four planes bombing a secondary target after the lead bombardier got lost during the bomb run. Armanini talks about Rosie Rosenthal and the Munster Raid [Annotator's note: 10 October 1943] and the tremendous losses suffered by the 100th Bomb Group. He discusses Rosenthal at length and describes his actions. Armanini discusses his last mission and the situation before the mission. He explains that on his last mission the Tokyo Tanks [Annotator's note: long range fuel tanks in the wings of the B-17's] were filled and installed on the 100th's aircraft. Being his last mission Armanini thought that he would not fly on this long range and probably dangerous mission. He was upset when he learned that he was indeed scheduled to fly with Colonel Harding on this long range mission. He explains that he went to bed disgusted at the thought of flying an 11 hour mission on his final raid. The target was in Merensburg, Poland [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] to bomb a Focke Wulf plant at 12,000 feet. He went back to his hut and wrote two letters to be mailed home in the event that he did not return. The target wound up being overcast and the 100th wound up bombing Peenemünde, Germany by radar. The raid turned out to be uneventful and Armanini returned to Thorpe Abbotts [Annotator’s Note: the 100th Bombardment Group'’s base in England] in one piece to complete his tour of duty.


After the completion of his first tour, Joseph Armanini went on to serve a second tour, this time with the 92nd Combat Wing as the wing bombardier flying B-24's [Annotator’s Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers]. He discusses flying with Beirne Lay [Annotator's note; author of the screenplay for the movie “12 O'clock High”] and dining with him the night before D-Day [Annotator’s Note: 5 June 1944]. Armanini describes how in September of 1944 his B-24's were transferred to the 2nd Combat Wing and he was transferred to the 13th Combat Wing. Armanini was awarded the Bronze Star for preparing a manual for bombardiers on how to recognize the targets. He describes how he spent the rest of the war doing mostly clerical work. Armanini was promoted to major and in line for lieutenant colonel before the war ended. It took him a month to get back to the United States from England after the end of the war. He landed in Connecticut on 17 August 1945 after leaving England via Scotland, Greenland, and Iceland. Armanini took a troop train back to California and received a warm welcome from his family. He returned home on 17 September 1945. Armanini was discharged almost four years to the day that he enlisted.


Joseph Armanini tells a story about how the tail of a B-17 [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] was shot off and the tail gunner survived the crash and walked out of the severed tail section. He tells stories of luck and survival that he has heard over the years. He explains that he was all for the theory of daylight precision bombing. He would rather have been able to see what he was doing by flying during the day as opposed to night when the British flew. Armanini explains that the enemy fighters were the main thing to worry about for a bomber crewman in 1943 and early 1944. Armanini says that there is no skill that will bring you through a war, it is merely luck. War is unpredictable.


Joseph Armanini describes how he thought regarding his survival. He describes his sense of confidence and also his sense of unpredictability. Armanini describes how at first the men were excited to go to Regensburg, and he explains how that enthusiasm waned as the Germans shot the army air force bombers down by the dozens. He also describes how the German fighters changed their tactics in how they attacked the B-17's [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers]. The Germans decided that attacking the bombers head on was a better tactic for them so that they could possibly kill the pilots without having to actually shoot the bomber down. The Germans would come en masse and attack the lead plane in order to eliminate the leader of the mission. Armanini discusses aerial gunnery and re-tells his story of his one and only aerial victory. He talks about how the empty shell casings covered the floor of the aircraft during the Regensburg Raid. He talks about how the army offset the massive loss in bomber crews at Regensburg and Schweinfurt by saying that the bomber crews shot down over 300 German fighters during the double strike. Armanini gives an excellent description of how aerial victory claims can be over exaggerated by several bomber crews at one time. Armanini describes how he felt about bombing the German population and his true feelings towards the Germans. He did not feel bad about bombing civilians, he felt that if he killed enough people the war would end and he would get to go home. Armanini then describes the war as being like a football game, you want to help your teammates and you want to do your job, do it well, and not be a coward. He describes how he was afraid before the mission, but not during the missions. Armanini describes the loss of his best friend Bill Griffith on the mission to Leipzig. He talks about Griffith at length and describes how he witnessed his best friend's plane get shot down over the target. Armanini then goes on to tell how he found out what happened to his best friend and how his father took the news of the loss of his son. 


Joseph Armanini explains how he never thought or worried about dying, he was more worried about his mother not knowing what happened to him if he was killed. He tells the story of one of his close friends who was killed immediately after takeoff from Thorpe Abbotts [Annotator’s Note: the 100th Bombardment Group'’s base in England] who was married to a young wife and had a young infant son. Armanini explains that he is a pacifist now because of the war. He discusses how he would sweat all the time while flying, despite the sub-zero temperatures in the thin air. He talks about how he was never cold at all. Armanini talks about the effects of anoxia [Annotator's note: loss of oxygen at high altitude] on his navigator Howard Bassett. He gives an excellent description of how energized and excited one can become while being shot at and returning fire at 25,000 feet. He goes into excellent detail about the hazards of flying in un-pressurized aircraft in sub-zero temperatures. Armanini goes on to tell a story about “Bucky” Eagan [Annotator's note: Major John Eagan] and how Eagan decided to burn down the officer's club at Thorpe Abbotts after a mission.


Joseph Armanini discusses having bicycle races in the officer's club at Thorpe Abbotts [Annotator’s Note: the 100th Bombardment Group'’s base in England] to blow off steam and how money did not mean anything to them. He goes on to describe how his sense of ethics changed during the war. Before the war he was an ethical man who valued life but during the war he did not care about life. He did not care about whether or not he killed innocent people. He goes on to say that he did not think about doing good things for people at all. Armanini says that you do not mourn your friends; you say thank God it is not me; you become more introverted and think of only yourself and your own survival. He expresses his sincere appreciation for the infantry and how he has nothing but the utmost respect for the men who fought the war on the ground. Armanini discusses the infamous story of the 100th Bomb Group’'s B-17 [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber] that dropped its wheels from loss of hydraulic pressure and shot down two German aircraft who assumed the B-17 had surrendered. Armanini disproves the myth that the 100th Bomb Group, known as the Bloody Hundredth was a specific target of the German Luftwaffe as a result of the wounded B-17 shooting down two German fighters who assumed surrender. Armanini discusses the mission in which he feared that his aircraft would not make it to England after having lost two engines. He describes how there was nothing he could do about the action taking place around him.  


Joseph Armanini is most proud of the moment he met Gabby Gabreski and how Gabreski congratulated him on how well he bombed the target. He describes how he witnessed Gabreski shoot down an enemy plane and can see it in his mind's eye even today. He also describes how he met Tom Mix before the war at a movie theater when he was a kid. [Annotator’s Note: The shot changes as the interview was ended and then Armanini began to speak again.] Armanini talks about the 100th Bombardment Group's first mission, which was actually a practice mission in which they lost three planes to enemy fire.


[Annotator’s Note: This segment was a time code drop from the beginning of the second tape.] Joseph Armanini discusses how fantastic the Norden bombsight was and how accurate it was. The only time you would miss using the Norden was by human error. He tells about the mission for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for utterly destroying the target. He discusses watching the results of his bombing through the large Plexiglas nose of the B-17 [Annotator’s Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber]. He says that weather was a major enemy of the 8th Air Force as the weather in Europe is usually bad. Armanini tells the story of a mission in which his aircraft lost all of the engines. The engines were restarted and his aircraft eventually reached home safely despite narrowly missing German AAA fire [Annotator's note: antiaircraft artillery fire]. He describes how he wore his flannel pajamas his mother sent him and he thought of them as good luck.

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