This week’s throwback Thursday takes a look back at a Memorial Day Tribute in the May 22, 2003 edition of the Carroll County News-Leader written by ACE students Raquel Clark, Chase Sanders, and Seth Segraves. The students wrote tribute stories about Troy Kelly, Buster Norden, and Walt Montgomery.
This was a project of the Huntingdon Middle School ACE class. They wanted to do a community service project. The project was to make the community more aware of the World War II veterans in our area.
Cpl. Troy Kelly: Kelly In Frist Group To Liberate Nuremberg Concentration Camp
By Raquel Clark
Mr. Troy Kelly is a World War II veteran from McLemoresville. He was drafted into the United States Army on September 8, 1942. After his basic training, he went overseas to England. Later Mr. Kelly crossed the English Channel on “D-Day” to take part in the Normandy Invasion. He fought in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and Germany.
Mr. Kelly served in the 181st Combat Engineers and had the rank of CPL T-5. Some of his duties included driving an army truck to haul materials for building bridges. His job wasn’t easy! One day he was driving his truck and saw an American tank coming. Mr. Kelly realized that the tank had been captured by German soldiers and barely had time to jump from his truck and hide in the woods. The last memory he has of his truck was seeing German soldiers set it afire.
Not only did his tough journey hold dangerous and life-threatening adventures, it also holds many special memories as well. For example, Mr. Kelly remembers the building of the bridge over the Rhine River under enemy fire. He and other soldiers worked under smoke screens so German airplanes couldn’t see them build the bridge in less than 16 hours. Three soldiers lost their lives during the construction, so the bridge was named after them (Rozich, Blackburn, Tompkins Bridge).
Mr. Kelly was in the first group of soldiers who liberated the Nuremberg Concentration Camp. He says that the scenes from the camp could never be forgotten by anyone who was there. Mr. Kelly still has original pictures from the Nuremberg Concentration Camp.
On one occasion, Mr. Kelly’s commanding officer requested three volunteers to go to a three story house to capture three soldiers. Mr. Kelly and two buddies volunteered. When they got to the house, it was discovered that the house contained three or four hundred Germans! After a firefight, Mr. Kelly and his buddies had to lie in the front yard and play dead all night. The next morning they heard the Germans quietly leave the house. Mr. Kelly got up and went back to their company. He says he was not as quick to volunteer for the next mission.
Mr. Kelly had to wait for more than six months after the war was over to return home to be reunited with his wife and baby daughter. Mr. Troy Kelly was one of many other hard fighting and dedicated men who risked their lives to serve their country. We give our thanks and appreciation to him and all other veterans for allowing us to be free today.
Buster Norden Shares His World War II Experiences
By Chase Sanders
Mr. Buster Norden is a World War II veteran. He entered military service in September of 1942 at the age of 20. He intended to be in the Army’s Signal Corps; however, after a period of training he decided to transfer to the Air Force.
He went to Gunnery School in Apalachicola, Florida. He was then assigned as a nose gunner and assistant radio operator in a B24 Liberator Bomber. after additional training he and the rest of his crew were transferred to the 398th Bomber Wing of the 15th Air Force based in Letchee, Italy. This was the unit responsible for bombing Romanian oil fields that supplied 30% of Germany’s oil.
Mr. Norden took part in bombing missions on oil refineries, rail yards, and ammunition factories. The B24 flew at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The planes were unpressurized and temperatures at that altitude dropped to -65 degrees Fahrenheit. The crew had to wear special electrical suits that plugged into the airplane to keep them warm.
It was 25 years before Mr. Norden was able to talk about WWII experiences.
Walt Montgomery: Montgomery Flew 51 World War II Missions
By Seth Segraves
I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Mr. Walt Montgomery about his experiences in World War II. When I asked when he first became interested in flying, this is is story.
“I grew up in McKenzie at a time when a lot of World War I pilots were going around the country and taking people up in their planes. When I was about five years old, two pilots came to McKenzie. People would pay to fly about fifteen minutes in the planes. The pilots asked my cousin and me to keep cows from chewing on the cloth wings of their plane when they went for lunch. In exchange for watching the plane, they took us up in their planes for free. Ever since then I would stop plowing and watch every plane that went overhead.”
Mr. Montgomery got out of high school in 1942 at the age of 17 and went to Union University to enroll in a machine shop class. At that time there was an Air Force base where McKellar-Sipes airfield is now. Mr. Montgomery and his friend would see the cadets with their nice uniforms riding around town and decided to join the Air Force. They hitchhiked to Memphis to the recruiting office and were sent to Miami Beach, Florida to begin training. In flight school, Mr. Montgomery learned to fly a PT-29, a small two-person plane with room for the pilot and instructor. After flight school, he was sent to Waco, Texas to learn how to fly a BT-13 and a B-25. Mr. Montgomery earned his wings on May 23, 1943. After a short vacation in McKenzie, he trained for three months to fly the B-17, the Flying Fortress. He was only 18 years old!
Mr. Montgomery was sent to Italy in 1943 to fly aB-17 with the 99th bombing group. The B-17 was the largest plane at that time. It had a nose gunner, a tail gunner, an underside gunner, a topside gunner, a radio controller, a pilot and a co-pilot. The crew would up around 3 a.m., eat between 3 and 4, and the pilot and co-pilot would go to a briefing around 6.
Mr. Montgomery told about several of his dangerous missions, including two bombing drops on Berlin. One story was particularly interesting:
“We were on a mission one day and both our engines were hit over Yugoslavia. We bailed out into a wheat field about six miles from Belgrade. There were rebel groups of partisans who helped allied soldiers in exchange for ammunition, food and medicine from the U.S. government. When we landed, a group of partisans surrounded us and led us to their camp. We stayed there for the night.
“The only bridge into Belgrade was guarded by two German soldiers. Every two hours one guard would ride into town, leaving only one guard at the bridge for about 15 minutes. Communicating only with gestures, they instructed two of my crew to hide under hay in a mule-driven wagon. Every two hours they would take them two by two into town. I was in the last group to leave. When it was time to go, the young driver began to argue with the partisans because he obviously did not want to go on this dangerous mission. When we approached the bridge, the guard ordered him to halt, and the driver ran away. The guard started checking the wagon by punching the hay with his bayonet. We stood up with our arms raised and could tell the young blonde-haired, blue-eyed guard was as scared as we were. He went over to the field phone and pointed his gun at us as he began to crank the phone. We heard gunshots and thought we had been shot. Then we saw that the partisans in the woods had literally torn the young guard in half with machine gun bullets.
“I drove the cart into town where I was led by a young child to a church where about 25 American were hiding in the basement. Late that night they led us to a field in the country. We heard a noise which we identified as a C-47. As it got closer, a row of torches lit up to guide him in. After he lined up for landing, the torches immediately went out. We got on the plane and the torches came on again for our take off.”
Mr. Montgomery flew a total of 51 missions during World War II. His group continues to meet each year. I am sure they have many stories to tell.