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The NYC Veterans Oral History Project: Donald Childress, Veteran Interview

May 12, 2013

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Brief Biography:
Donald Childress was interviewed on May 13th, 2013. He spoke about his experiences in the 8th Air Force in World War II, as a 1st Lieutenant, and as one of the first B-17 pilots. During his time in the Air Force, from 1942-1945, Mr. Childress completed 49 flying missions, dropping leaflets over Germany. Mr. Childress recounts how leaflets were dropped like bombs, and either gave information to civilians about upcoming attacks, or were meant as decoys. He also talks about the joy of flying, and how dangerous it could be-- especially in one mission where one of his propellers failed, and he flew back to his base in England with only two engines on one side of the plane.  
Major Points in Interview:

2:45 Cadet in Santa Ana, CA
3:31 One of the First B-17 pilots
5:03 Trained in Roswell, NM for B-17 piloting
6:50 Stationed in England, solo night flying missions
7:25 Missions dropping leaflets at night
9:21 Describes being shot at by planes, picked up in searchlights
9:49 Over Paris, failed propeller, flew home 2 engines on 1 side
12:58 Returned to the U.S. on a boat after 350 combat hours, August 1944
13:53 Planning for Operation Overlord
15:15 Was one of 12 planes dropping leaflets. Only lost 1 or 2 planes
15:49 An 25 years old, was one of the oldest on the base
17:20 Got shot at in the fog at night, when visibility was poor
24:20 Hard to keep in touch with other airmen, there were 9 crew members from 9 different states
25:48 If German civilians were caught with leaflets, they were killed
27:30 Lost ignition, emergency landing. Brits, delighted to see Americans, served them ham & eggs for breakfast
29:48 B-17 pilot was the most lethal job next to German submarine operators
31:00 Joy of flying alone for the first time
31:39 In basic training, was warned only four out of six men will make it
33:07 Practicing flying in formation
37:00 Sense of pride about leaflet dropping
38:04 Sometimes dropped decoy leaflets
38:25 One could follow the story of the war through reading leaflets