B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

The Story of My Military Service with the 320th B.G.
by Benton B. Banchor, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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My Introduction to the Army Air Corps

 

   
 

Benton B. Banchor
442nd B.S.

I was drafted 11 November 1941. When I went for my physical, the doctor asked me what I thought of the war. I replied that I didn't think Hitler should be able to take over the world. On 26 November 1941, when I left for basic training at Fort Bliss, TX, my father gave me a knife with 3 blades (and a bottle opener) which served me well throughout my military career.

Because I could type, I was given the opportunity to be tested for entry into the Air Corps. After I passed the test, I was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi where I worked harder than I ever had in high school to complete such a concentrated course. Because they didn't accept the infantry basic training, I had to take basic training over again! One time we were able to see a crashed airplane. I also received an "A" in engines. Pearl Harbor happened while I was there. Everyone had to send home their musical instruments and I sent back my clarinet. I discovered that the Coke machine in the hangar would release two cokes (if you moved fast) for the price of a nickel, and so I provided Cokes to all my friends. My sister's husband, 1st Lieutenant Phil Carpenter, got me a pass to town (no one else did), where I had the best oyster dinner ever. On New Years Eve I visited New Orleans and at midnight all the guys and gals kissed each other.

After graduating from Technical school, I was sent by train to the Glenn L. Martin Plant in Baltimore, MD. While there, I visited my uncle, Colonel Harwood, in Washington DC. He told me about Roosevelt's famous quote "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and assured me that we would win the war, which gave me a morale boost. Later we toured B-26's and learned all about these planes. After graduation, we were sent to Tampa, FL for field conditioning (planes and airmen). It was so humid there. Fatigues wouldn't dry out even when hung up overnight. This is where the pilots chose their crews and I was fortunate to have Capt. Simms, who was a co-pilot for Doolittle, pick me to be his aerial engineer.

After several practice flights it was obvious the planes were not safe. An average of one plane a day crashed into the bay! There was a Congressional investigation and they had to find out from the crews what was wrong. Eventually the Army decided the planes needed to be modified. After a lengthy delay, the modified planes finally arrived at McDill, FL and we began transitional hops (flying around the country from base to base). Those unable to make these transitional hops were washed out. Those who passed were sent to Baer Field in Ft. Wayne, IN on 9 September 1942. While there, I met a local girl who "wined & dined" me. Eventually, we were promoted and had our crew pictures taken. We had to work as a team; our lives depended on it.
(Continued)


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