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LT  Harold W. HIGGS


Harold W. “Hal” Higgs 






2nd Lt Edward W. Aubuchon,Jr.      P   FEH  O-763894
2nd Lt Harold W.Higgs                  CP   FEH  O-929862
2nd Lt Oliver W . Dunn                 NAV  FEH  O-2074571
2nd Lt Myron S.Alexander           BOM  FEH  O-929691
Sgt Robert Arthur                          TTE   FEH   32324940
Cpl Donald O.Bridge                    BTG   FEH  39718195
Cpl Albert A.Gillen                       ROG   FEH   39551392
Cpl Garland S.Miller                      WG   KIA 14/3/45 SEELZE  (FLAK) 33515319
Cpl Harold D. Hyde                       TG   FEH  31089616

349th Sqdn. Crew,as above,joined 100th Group on 18/2/45.

Flying in 43-38852 EP-N when hit by flak on 14 MAR 45.

Hi Mike; (All)….Here is what I have in my ongoing TA/1945 project files on the Lt.Edward Aubuchon crews missions….(I've got ten of their thirteen combat missions……their food drop mission,(s) ?... I'm also including an edited text (I've omitted personal comments from Hal to me)  from a letter from Hal Higgs  that explains three of the crews missions that is of interest…also at the very end a listing of Hal Higgs,as 1st Pilot… crew from the September, revised to October,1945  349th BS Operations Officer’s Combat Crews roster…I sent Hal a copy in 1993 and he commented that was the first document he had ever seen that proved he was a first pilot in command of his own ship………………

1 October,1993 letter from Hal Higgs-CP ….."I arrived at Thorpe Abbott I believe in February,1945. At that time I was a co-pilot on the crew whose pilot was Ed Aubuchon. We flew thirteen actual combat missions plus a food drop or two. Like most of the others I was quite young, age 20,and had not acquired a habit of keeping significant records.   There are three missions that are truly memorable to me. On our first mission our crew was chosen to haul & drop chaff (tinfoil strips). The purpose of this chaff was to jam German radar. On that day the 100th Bomb Group was the group to lead the entire 3rd Division.  The six aircraft hauling chaff had to fly ahead of the lead bomb group and their six aircraft had to spread out away from each other -so as to give the tinfoil a chance to cover a large area in jamming the radar. Normally all aircraft flew in very tight formation.   As we were going on the actual bomb run all of a sudden I felt what to me was severe vibration. My first impulse was to think we had a run away engine (exceeding its RPM). Then I realized our machine gunners were firing at enemy aircraft.  Just then I saw an ME-262  (Germanys' & the worlds first jet aircraft) go over our right wing & one under our right wing. The closest other 100th BG aircraft to us was piloted by Jack Thrasher.  He was ahead of us and on our left.  One or more of the ME-262s attacked Thrasher's aircraft after going by us and most unfortunately his aircraft exploded.  Fortunately for us our tail gunner, ball turret gunner and top turret gunner had opened up on the enemy and I'm certain that was most helpful in our surviving.  

 The second mission that sticks out in my memory was a mission to Frankfurt. As we were on the bomb run and approached the target all of a sudden it was discovered another Group was approaching Frankfurt at about the same altitude but from a different heading. The 100th BG leader had a tough decision to make. He chose to pull off the bomb run (and) take the entire group back to the I.P. (Initial Point) and make a run on Frankfurt again which we did. It is my understanding he was severely reprimanded for exposing his BG to this extreme exposure twice in a short time span. Had he not chosen to abort our first pass there very possibly would have been many mid air collisions of American aircraft.   

The third mission that is memorable is the one on which our aircraft was hit by flak and our waist gunner Garland Miller was struck by flak and perished. We were hit a fraction of a second after our bombardier had dropped the bombs. I knew that’s when it was because our aircraft was trimmed for a load & just after bombs are released the pilots would re-trim the aircraft to fly with a different weight load. We didn't have time to retrim. For the next three hours we flew the aircraft that was in a continuous stall position. In my judgment I was fortunate to fly as a co-pilot for Ed Aubuchon. When we were flying in formation we worked out a system whereby when one person was handling the controls the other person would handle the throttles & visa versa. This kept each person continuously occupied. It's my understanding few copilots were offered this treatment.  I was checked out as a first pilot for a B-17 in April of 1945. In the Fall of 1945 some of the pilots, self included of the 100th (Bomb Group) were sent to Munich for some strange reason. I was bored with inactivity and applied for a transfer to European Air Transport Service and sent to an airline instrument school and flew the corridors in and out of Berlin for EATS for about six months & then came home in August,1946"…..

MISSIONS OF LT AUBUCHON (from jack O’Leary) 

1.    # 271  3 MARCH,1945  BRUNSWICK       (aircraft info currently unknown)…. 
Eye Witness account: Hal Higgs, CP on 2nd Lt Edward W. Aubuchon,Jr. Crew witnessed the loss of Lt Jack Thrasher aircraft.  This was the first mission for 2nd Lt Hal Higgs and Crew and they were flying in a three plane formation at the head of the Eighth Air Force, carrying nothing but Tin Foil (Chaff) to confuse enemy radar.   Leading was Lt Thrasher with Lt Aubuchon off his right wing and Lt Eugene T.Jensen off his left wing.   Hal said all of a sudden the plane shook, and it was all the gunners on the plane firing, especially our TG who was 35 years old! He was the first to see them coming in from behind.  One ME262  went by under our right wing but the second 262 came by our left wing and shot down the Thrasher Crew, we counted 5-6 chutes.  What a terrible introduction to combat." 
2.    # 275  9 MARCH,1945  FRANKFURT       44-8334  XR-B, Hardstand # 18  No Name , A-Sqdn, Low flgt # 2……
3..  # 276  10 MARCH,1945  DORTMUND      44-8680  LN-X                         "HURRI-KANE"……
4.   .#278  12 MARCH,1945  SWINEMUNDE 43-38383  LN-F  Hardstand # 30,  No Name, B-Sqdn,Low Flgt,# 4 (TEC)
5.   # 279  14 MARCH,1945  SEELZE          43-38852  EP-N  Hardstand #  6,  A-Sqdn,High Flgt……. 
6.   # 283  19 MARCH,1945  FULDA          43- 38681  XR-V  Hardstand # 24,  "GRUMBLIN GREMLIN  III " ,A-Sqdn,Lead Flgt,Element 2,# 2
7.   # 286  23 MARCH,1945  UNNA,             44-6811  XR-X  Hardstand # 18,  No Name   , C-Sqdn, Element 1, # 2
8.  .# 287  24 MARCH,1945  STEENWIJK   43-38602  XR-P  Hardstand # 16, "GRUMBLIN GREMLIN II" ,D-Sqdn, Element 1, # 2
9.  .# 292   3 APRIL,  1945  KIEL              43-38313  XR-S  Hardstand # 20,  "LIL  BUTCH" , B-Sqdn, Element 2,Lead.
10. # 293   4 APRIL,  1945  KIEL                44-6811  XR-X  Hardstand # 18,   No Name,  A-Sqdn, Element 2, Lead........ 

349th Bombardment Squadron (H) 
Office of the Operations Officer 1 Sept 1945 revised 1 October,1945  
Combat Crew Asssignment    

Crew  # 6 Ship #  696-W   (# 42-97696  XR-W)  
 P - 2nd Lt. Higgs, Harold W.   Hut # 13
CP- 1st Lt. Watne, John M   Hut # 13
NAV- 2nd Lt. Kuyrkendall, Ray C. Jr.  Hut # 13
BOM- 2nd Lt. Lindh, John W.  Hut # 13
ROG- T/Sgt Volonnino, Frank  J.   Hut # 20
TTE- T/Sgt Clellen, Jack T.  Hut # 20
BTG-S/Sgt Hale, Richard S.  Hut # 20
WG- S/Sgt Warren,Frank E. Jr.   Hut # 20
TG-  S/Sgt Bennett,John F.  Hut # 20
ROG- Sgt Matthews, David H. (Spare)  Hut # 20

Crew # 8, Ship # 810-L   (44-8810  XR-L  "TARGET FOR TONIGHT")    
P-1st Lt Smith, William G.   Hut # 13............
CP- 2nd Lt. Groover, William T.  Hut # 13.......
NAV- 2nd Lt. Accinelli, John F.  Hut # 13........
CT- Sgt O'Leary, John J.     Hut # 33.......
ROG- S/Sgt Cumbaa,Delome (NMI) Jr.    Hut  # 33.........
TTE- S/Sgt Szalwinski, Stanley A. Jr.    Hut # 33........
BTG- Sgt Russo, Anthony R.    Hut  # 33.......
WG- S/Sgt Beyne, Russell O.    Hut # 33.....
TG-  Sgt Baugh, Earl J.    Hut # 33........
WG- Sgt Leffew, Henry (NMI) (Spare)   Hut # 33


Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) 

Home » Text Transcript
Interview with Harold W. Higgs [11/11/2011]

Amanda Daugherty:
This interview was recorded November 11, 2011, at AIB College of Business in Des Moines, Iowa. It was conducted for the Veteran's History Project at the Library of Congress. My name is Amanda Daugherty, and I will be the interviewer. Delayne Johnson is a court reporter who will transcribe the interview, and Tim Grover is the videographer recording the interview. Will you please state the following for the recording: Your name?

Harold W. Higgs:
My name, legal name is Harold W. Higgs, but for the past 70 years I've gone by the name of Hal.

Amanda Daugherty:
Your date of birth?

Harold W. Higgs:

Amanda Daugherty:
Your branch of service?

Harold W. Higgs:
I was in the U.S. Army Air Force. That's what it was called at that time because it was a branch of the Army, which is now the Air Force is a separate entity.

Amanda Daugherty:
Your highest rank achieved?

Harold W. Higgs:
First lieutenant.

Amanda Daugherty:
And what war you served in?

Harold W. Higgs:
World War II.

Amanda Daugherty:
Now, let's begin your story. Can you tell me a little bit about before you got involved in the military and how you got involved, if you were drafted, or did you enlist?

Harold W. Higgs:
Well, like most males at that time in World War II, it wasn't a question. I mean, a war was on, so unless you were maimed in some way, you were going to be in the military. And so when I was a senior in high school, I enlisted in aviation cadets, and at that time -- I lived in Nevada, Iowa. I went to high school at Nevada, and so this is something a little different. The neighbor across the alley was a commander of the VFW, and he had learned that I might have some interest in the Air Force, and he said, "Okay." He said, "Now, you go down to the old federal building there in Des Moines and take the test. You have to take the test to get in." I said, "Okay." So I hitchhiked down to Des Moines and went to the old federal building, which is no longer around, of course, and I took the test, and I didn't pass, so I came home, and he was standing out in the yard. He said something like, "Well, how did it go?" And I said, "I didn't make it. I didn't pass." He said, "You're going back tomorrow." I said, "No, I'm not going." He said, "You're going back tomorrow." So I said, "Okay." So I went back the next day, and that day I passed, but I didn't pass the vision test. So I told him that. And the same thing. "You're going back tomorrow." He said, "You're going back." So I went back the next day. I passed the vision test very easily. I found out I had 20/10 vision. That's what you had to have because -- you have to have at least 20/20 because the important part of very excellent vision is so that you can realize depth perception. That's the significant part. And you couldn't wear glasses. So that was -- and so I graduated from high school in May, and I think it was about the last week in May, and I went into the military a week later, so that's how -- I went to basic training in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, for -- I don't know -- five, six weeks. And then they had -- at that time if you had planned to be in the Air Force, they had what was called CTD, Cadet Training Detachment, and they just assigned you to go somewhere. And of all places where I was assigned, I was assigned to go to Drake, believe it or not. And so I was sent back to Des Moines, went to Drake, and we were housed on the fifth floor of the University Christian Church, at 25th and University, and I haven't been in that building since yesterday. So I was there to a Raid Society class. So we were there for, I think, about three months, something like that, from August to -- August, September, October -- probably to mid-October. And then went to what's called preflight in Santa Ana, California, and then you had -- did your preflight there, and then in -- and it was intense. I mean, you either -- as I told Kelly before, the one thing -- the best education I ever got in my life was going through aviation cadet school because you either got it done or you're gone. And as I told Kelly before, I realized really years later that that was the best education I ever had. You learned discipline. And incidentally, I learned the definition of discipline years later from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Now, if you -- just as an example, all of you just take your left hand. In your left hand you hold the capacity to endure the unwelcome in order to achieve the desirable. It's a scale. Everything in life has a cost. Are you willing to pay? It has a cost in time, effort, or money, or a combination of one or two or a combination of all three. In my judgment very, very few people are disciplined today. There's no discipline in the United States Congress. Because you do the right thing if you're a disciplined person. So as I said, that's what you really learned, among that which you learned going through aviation cadet school, but as I -- I really realized years later how important that discipline factor is. So anyway, then I went through preflight and then went to -- after preflight you go to what's called primary flying school. And I went to Dos Palos, California, which is up in the San Joaquin Valley, and then that's where you learn to fly. And we were flying what's called PT-17. It's a Stearman aircraft, and that was fun to fly that. After that flying got to be work because in the Stearman you could do all sorts of aerobatics, anything, and you were expected to solo in eight hours, and so, yeah, that's what I did. That was just -- so did other people. They might have allowed you eight 1/2, but there wasn't much margin for error. That was when flying was fun. And then from there I went to basic flying school, which was the larger airplane. It would still have fixed landing gear, and that was at Merced, California, and it was not too far from Dos Palos, maybe 50, 60 miles, something like that, and then completed that. And along the way, I mean, there would be people that when you'd come back at night and you'd see this bunk was empty, that meant that person had washed out that day. And you'd think, "He was a hell of a guy." I always wondered, "God, that guy was smart. I wonder why he got washed out." But going through cadet school, you were -- you had a chance -- you were allowed three demerits per week, period. Like, if your shoes weren't shined correctly, if your -- as an example, I didn't have a belt today because I'm wearing a sweater, but as an example, your fly, your belt buckle, and your shirt, they're all in line. You either dressed correctly or you get a demerit. If you got more than three demerits, then you had to go out and spend an hour walking, just walking back and forth. I never thought that was too damn bright, so I never got three demerits. I got so later on I didn't get any, and many others didn't either because we figured out, "My God, you know, you do it this way." And so I finished the basic flying school, and then went -- from basic you were either sent to a twin-engine school or to a single-engine school. I went to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, for advanced flying school, and when you got to advanced, there really weren't -- they didn't wash out too many because they had this much invested in you already. And so by then you kind of learned to get the damn job done, and so then that was an excellent training, and I finished that. Then I graduated from flight school on August 4, 1944, at age 19. And so it was then from there, when you graduate from flying school, you got a week's furlough, and so I went to -- my home then was Nevada, and so I went back to Nevada for a week. And incidentally, I used to work for a person there. I used to work in his service station. And I walked down to see him the day after I got there just to say hello, and he said, "You need to go play golf." And I said, "I don't know anything about golf." He said, "You know, I don't care." He said, "You just run this place like you used to," because when I was in high school I ran his service station for -- a lot because he had been ill. And so he just disappeared. He went home and got -- came back. He had his golf clubs and he said, "You used to date so-and-so," and I said, "Yeah," and he said, "Her mother also belongs to the country club out there," he said, "so you take my car and you and she go out there and play golf." That was the first time I'd ever had a golf club in my hand, but -- so then when that was over, I went to Kingman, Arizona, to co-pilot school. I was 19. I was 19 years of age when I first flew a four-engine aircraft. And I told my wife a few years ago, I said, "God, I even have reservation about letting my 19-year-old grandson drive my car." But anyway, I finished that, and then believe it or not, that was for B-17s. I went to co-pilot school for a B-17. I was 19 years of age. And then I finished that, and then believe it or not, I was sent to Sioux City because there was a transition -- a B-17 transition school in Sioux City, Iowa, and so that's where they formed the aircraft crew, and I was the youngest person out of the 10. I was 20. The pilot was 26, the bombardier was 26, the navigator was 23. Our tail gunner was 35. And incidentally, I still keep in touch with the bombardier who's 93. In fact, about three weeks ago Sunday he called me, and he just said, "Hal, I just want to tell you it's my birthday, I'm 93." And so we have just maintained contact for a long time. He's a lifelong Democrat, I'm a lifelong Republican. Just a great respect for each other. He's just one of the finest individuals and his wife too, his wife is Char. So then after we completed that, got your training to learn how to fly B-17s, I learned to fly formation, and learned -- so your navigator could learn to navigate over significant distances, and your bombardier would learn how to drop bombs so that they could hopefully hit the target for God's sakes. Then that was completed. And then when that was completed, then I think in about January I went overseas, and that -- I don't know exactly from where we left the U.S., but we went overseas on the liner, the name of which was the Ile De France. God, there were thousands of us. And then we arrived later, I mean, and there were submarines out there trying to knock out a ship. Fortunately, they knew how to maneuver this thing so we could go a certain direction for a while and then another direction and another direction, so you never went in a straight line. You were just always kind of dodging things. And then the ship docked in the Port of Clyde, which is in Glasgow, Scotland, and incidentally, there were two Red Cross gals on this ship, and we were docked -- and I don't know whether you want this in the thing or not. I don't know. But I was standing there with these two Red Cross gals, and there were gulls flying all over, and all of a sudden this one said, "Oh, no," and the other one said, "What?" She said, "My hair." And a gull had made a deposit right in the part of her hair. Little things like that in life. And so from there you went to what was called Stone. I think it was Stone. That was where you learned the bomb group to which you were assigned, and now this was in the 8th Air Force, and so I remember -- certain things you remember in life for some reason. And some guy -- I mean, that's where new people came in, and those that had survived and completed their tour, they were going home. And some guy was going home. He said, "Where are you going," or, "Where are you assigned," or something like that. And I said, "Oh, I don't know. It says here the 100th bomb group." And he said -- I remember he said, "You poor bastard." Well, I learned later the reason for his comment was because the 100th bomb group had very, very high losses. It was -- at that time they said they had the highest loss ratio of any group in the 8th Air Force, but I did learn later that it was actually the second highest losses. I mean, that was just the way it goes. And so we went to the 100th bomb group, which was located at a place called Thorpe Abbotts, and Thorpe Abbotts is, oh, approximately about 22 miles southwest of Norwich in Norfolk County. And incidentally, if you took Polk County and put an overlay on this area in England, this area where all these bomb groups was, I concluded one time that there would have been about 12 air bases in Polk County, if you could believe that. I mean, hell, there were airplanes all over for God's sakes. But that was just -- now, the thing is, you see, to those of us that were in the military, this was normal because it was the same for everybody else. You know, we weren't doing anything exceptional because other people were doing the same thing. That's just the way it was. And so then you did some training there also. I mean, just because you had come from the United States, that didn't mean, you know, how the hell to do it the 100th bomb group way. I mean, you did some more training there so you'd do it our way, thank God. And so when you -- then when you're assigned to a mission -- I'll tell you something else now. This is kind of curious. The bombardier's name was Mike Alexander. Whether you want this in the thing or not, I don't know, but anyway, we were walking down a little path about the second or third day there, and he's speaking, "Hi, Sam, Hi, Abe, Hi Max." I said, "How the hell you know these guys already?" And he said, "Can't you figure it out?" And I said, "Figure what out?" And he said, "Hal, I'm Jewish." I said, "So?" He said, "Well, hell, they're all Jews." I said, "Big deal. So what?" Because in Nevada, Iowa, hell, I didn't -- you're just people. That was all. But that was just the first time I ever had anybody comment about Jewish people. Fabulous. I have the greatest respect for Jewish people because the Jewish people are achievers. Many people are jealous of Jewish people, but they're achievers, and that's what a lot of people can't stomach is somebody that's willing to achieve. But anyway, when I had the first mission to go -- you know, I mean, you haven't been there before, you don't know what to expect, you don't know anything, you just show up. And so we were assigned to this -- our first mission, and so obviously, we all had a place, a barracks in which to stay, and so about two-thirty, three o'clock in the morning, this staff sergeant comes in, and he taps me on the shoulder and said, "Mr. Higgs -- or Lieutenant Higgs, breakfast is in 30 minutes, and briefing is in one hour," so okay. So you do that. You go to the briefing. And all the people that are going on this -- that are going on this mission that day are in this briefing room. And, like, on that wall over there there's a big curtain. Behind that curtain there's a map of Europe, and so there's a string from Thorpe Abbotts to what you call your rendezvous point. That's where your bomb group assembles, and then you have another point at which the group assembles, your bomb group assembles, and then you go to a target. They have a string up to what's called the IP. That's -- (cough) excuse me. The IP is what's called the initial point, and at the initial point then there's a string to the target, and so your group arrives at this initial point, and there are other bomb groups doing the same thing. Now, timing is everything. As an example, in the briefing, the briefing -- a briefing officer, he says, "Okay. Set your clock or watch." And so he'll look at his watch, and, like, it's 4:32 in the morning or something like that. And so you turn your watch to 4:32, and when it gets down to a point, he says, "Count down the seconds," so my point is, everything is down to the second. He'll go 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, hack. It was at hack you punched your watch in so that everybody is on exactly the same minute and exactly the same seconds because -- and then we found out at briefing that three of us were going to be hauling tin foil instead of bombs. I didn't know what the hell that was, but we were -- this was our first mission, and we were flying -- there were three of us, and we were flying off a guy named Jack Thrasher, and Jack had flown three or four missions, and so -- but the thing is that we were -- we were, the three of us, were flying not only ahead of the 100th bomb group, but we were flying ahead of the Third Division. Now, a division has numerous bomb groups, and so our purpose was to drop this tin foil. The purpose of the tin foil hopefully allegedly was to confuse the German radar and, see, Germany had the first jet aircraft, first ones ever, called an ME 262. And so we were probably, I don't know, a quarter of a mile ahead or a half a mile ahead of the 100th bomb group, and I remember I was flying co-pilot this day, and I remember Jack Thrasher, he was here, and, like, we were here, and the other one was over here, and I remember him saying, "Okay. Spread out a little more. Spread out." I mean, he'd called us like whatever our call sounded like, "Pubah move over to the half, pubah and X ray, move left a little bit." Because he wanted us to spread out so we get a bigger path of the tin foil. And all of a sudden I feel the airplane start to vibrate, and I think, "Oh, what the hell time to lose an engine." And so I scanned the instrument panel. Hell, you know, hell, the rpm's are correct, the oil pressure is right. Everything is right. Then all of a sudden I see this ME 262 go over the right wing, one go under the right wing and one under the left wing, and our gunners had been firing at these jets, and this one went under the left wing, he pulled up, and he blew Jack Thrasher out of the sky. So that was my initiation to combat. My first day. I thought -- but, you know, okay. We went on. And that's just -- but that was -- the Germans had the first jet aircraft, and then when you finish your mission, you're what's called debriefed. And we learned at debriefing that the commander -- every bomb group has the commander of that group for that day. Now, a bomb group will have three squadrons of nine aircraft each. And so the responsibility is of that daily commander. He's usually a major, lieutenant colonel, or a colonel, somebody with experience, because he is one that directs what everybody else, everybody in the 100th bomb group is to do that day. And I learned later that at debriefing, he said, "Fortunately for Albashon crew," or whatever, Albashon was our pilot, fortunately for that bunch, he said, "If those gunners hadn't opened up, I mean, they picked up those bandits along with Hal." He said, "Hell, they would have blown them out of the air." So it's just luck. It's just things that you're damn fortunate, you see. So that's -- that was my initiation, and so then we flew other missions, and each day, whatever your assigned mission, you would -- you know, you were aroused or you were awakened by usually the sergeant, very courteous person saying, "Lieutenant, it's time to do this, that," and so you'd go out and get -- go to your briefing, whatever. And then on another mission, I would say maybe -- I don't remember -- maybe our sixth, seventh mission, something like that, we were going down the bomb run. I don't remember where we were going that day. I didn't get -- I had -- it wasn't important to me to record where the hell I was going. Some other people did. Just get the damn thing over with, hopefully, but I remember we were going down the bomb. As I counted out before, you arrived at what's called the initial point. Now, when you go on the bomb run -- now, the bomb run oftentimes is probably -- I made a judgment one time a bomb run would maybe be, oh, maybe 75 miles. And the thing is, once you go down the bomb run, boom, you don't alter anything. You're just going right straight. You don't change altitude, you don't change direction, nothing, because the whole purpose of that is for the lead aircraft. Like your -- a squadron is made up of nine aircraft. And the person that's the lead in that lead airplane in that squadron that day, his bombardier is the one that's going to, you know, with his bomb sight, pick out the target that's assigned to us, and all the others in the squadron, they watch. And when they see his bombs go out, they just like -- this is the airplane. You see the bombs, you see the bomb right here, and then the others toggle theirs, and so you drop yours at the same time. But we were going down the bomb run, and the flak was -- now, the Germans, they had these German 88s, and they could lay that flak. If they wanted it that high, that's where it would be. Not this high. It would be right there. I mean, they could be so precise. And the German 88, those are the aircraft batteries. It's a battery of four guns, and the sequence in which those guns fire, it's boom, boom, boom, boom, just one, two, three, four. And we're going down, and I see this. I mean, it's right on our -- right on our nose, boom, boom, boom, wham, and we got hit just behind the left wing. Now, if it would have been a blink of an eye earlier, why, then he would hit our wing and just blown us out of the air, but what happened is it hit just behind the wing, and our waste gunner, that's where he was, and the blast got right there. And our waste gunner was Garland. And so he took the full blast, and the gunner was killed. And also we lost our -- a lot of our flight controls. It knocked out our hydraulic system, it knocked out our trim tabs. We could not change -- like, when you're flying an airplane, you'd have what's called the trim tabs, and that's the -- like you have your ailerons, and your rudder, and your vertical stabilizer, and you have controls for those, but -- oh, also, when you drop your bomb load, the first thing you do is retrim your aircraft. And there's a little thing right here by the flight control and you just -- like because what would happen if you don't retrim your aircraft, your aircraft is going to climb because you've got less weight, so the first thing you do is you hit that trim tab to get the nose down, and then also the first thing you do is you change direction slightly and altitude slightly so that the flak is going to be exploring at a different -- you're going to try to get down a few feet below that flak, so that's what that is. And so we got -- and we couldn't -- the aircraft kept wanting to climb, just wanted to just keep climbing. And so what we -- what Ed and I, Ed was the pilot, and I was the co-pilot. I flew the airplane a lot. I'd fly it half the time, about half the time because he realized that if your co-pilot doesn't fly this damn thing, when it's necessary, he won't know how the hell to do it. And so not all pilots, I think, didn't realize that, but I -- so we were pushing the damn nose forward to keep from climbing, and so we got back to, you know, when you -- like, when you go on a bombing run, the altitude at which you bomb is usually above 30,000 feet, maybe 28,000, but usually it's above 30,000 feet. And so you let down over a period of time, and the longest mission I was ever on was 11 hours, but I would say probably usually from 9 to 11 hours, something like that, from the time you took off. When we got back to the -- when we got back to Thorpe Abbotts, you know, the first thing you do is -- also, if you have injured or killed on board, you fire a red flare so that you have priority to land. And so our engineer -- oh, God. What a wonderful guy. I'm like Rick Perry. Hell, I can't remember something right now. But he fired the flare, but then our tail wheel wouldn't come down because we'd lost our hydraulic system, and so we went around, and then also we didn't have any flaps. Because when you're going to land, you lower your flaps to reduce your air speed. You want to get that air speed down, and so when we're coming in on the final approach, you know, like the pilot Ed said, "Okay. 30." Hell, okay, he wants 30 degrees flaps. So I'd hit the flap button. Nothing. So the thing couldn't -- so we didn't have the ability to slow the aircraft down for that purpose, and so we landed further -- now, we'd had Don Bridge crank down the tail wheel. You could do it by a crank, so we did get the tail wheel down. Instead of landing on the first pass, we went around to get the tail wheel down. And so when we got down on the ground, we touched the runway, we realized our hydraulic system, we had no brakes, and so we had no brakes, no flaps, and so obviously you reduced your engines. But at the end of the runway -- at the end of the runway, we kept going, and maybe -- I don't know how far away, maybe 50, 100 feet off the runway, there was a ditch or a depression, and we hit that ditch, and the aircraft just bounced up in the air. Thank God, everybody had their seatbelts on or else, hell, we would have hit the stuff up above the cockpit. So anyway, we got it down, and they came out. That's when we -- that's when Ed and I learned that Garland was dead, was killed. So that was -- I've been going a long, long time.

Amanda Daugherty:
You got another 15 minutes or so.

Harold W. Higgs:
How long have we been here so far?

Amanda Daugherty:
Not quite 45 minutes.

Harold W. Higgs:
Okay. One thing that might be of interest is the way in which you get up in the morning and get in the air. I mean, you have this -- as I said, a bomb group is made up of four squadrons, and three squadrons go on each mission, so a squadron stands down. So the way in which you take off, you got a load -- you got a load of bombs, you got a load of gasoline, and any time that they used a phrase in our briefing that day, when they would say, "You're topped off," people would just say something like, "Oh, shit," because that meant it was a long -- you had all the goddamn fuel they could pour into that damn airplane, so you were going to be out there a long time that day. But when you would take off, like, the first airplane -- you got all these airplanes. This is the runway. We got these airplanes coming this way. And so the first airplane -- and the control tower will say, like, "X, X ray," something like, "Clear for takeoff." And so that airplane goes, and then as soon as he starts to move, the other airplane, the next airplane pulls right into position, and so by the time that aircraft is halfway down the runway, the other airplane gets in motion. And so then when that first aircraft is just lifting off, this other one is halfway down, and another one is in position, and he is starting. And the thing is you've got -- the thing is to get into formation. As I commented to you before, there were a lot of air bases in this small area. Remember how I commented? And so what you do when you took off, you didn't just take off and go like this. You took off, and you climbed in a spiral because there's all these other damned aircraft out here doing the same thing, but, you see, this was normal to everybody. That's just what -- everybody was doing the same thing. So then you would get up here, and then when you'd break out of the clouds or whatever, then you'd form, and our group, the 100th bomb group, our what's called a rendezvous point was over on the coast, and every other group had a point at which to rendezvous, you see, so this was just normal for everybody. That's just what you did. That's all there was to it. And I remember one time we were told we should break out around 3,000 feet. God, we were climbing in this goddamn soup, just climbing and climbing and climbing. And finally we broke out. I think we broke out maybe at 18,000, 20,000 feet, something like that. And a month or two after the war was over, I was in Paris and I was at the Folies Bergere. I was sitting there at the bar and there was, like, down here maybe 15, 20 feet, I recognized a person down there. He'd been the weather officer for the 100th bomb group. And he came over and he said, "Weren't you in the 100th?" And I said, "Yeah." He said, "Remember such-and-such?" I said, "Oh, yeah, I remember that." And he said, "Well, I'll tell you," he said, "I knew that stuff was thicker than 3,000 feet. I knew it was a hell of a lot thicker, but they told me to just say it's 3,000 feet. Well, that's what they tell me, but now I feel better because I've told someone that I knew that damn stuff was a hell of a lot thicker than 3,000 feet." So sometimes people like to get something off their chest. That's what it amounts to. Well, I've talked a long time, so --

Amanda Daugherty:
So how often did you go on missions?

Harold W. Higgs:
Oh, I flew 13 missions. We had been chosen -- and the war was over, but we had been chosen to train to be a lead aircraft, and so I flew 13 missions, but from my point of view, that was adequate.

Amanda Daugherty:
Did you receive any awards or medals?

Harold W. Higgs:
Oh, yeah, but, you know, hell, everybody else did too, so air medals and this and that, but it wasn't -- again, everybody else is getting the same things, you know. He referred to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Harkin did, in that thing this morning. Well, the Distinguished Flying Cross is an excellent medal, but it is not the equivalent of the -- what's the --

Amanda Daugherty:
Medal of Honor?

Harold W. Higgs:
Medal of Honor. No, it's not on that level. It's very good, but I didn't want to correct him, but he should be corrected.

Amanda Daugherty:
Okay. So when you weren't on missions, what was your everyday life like? You know, were you able to be in touch with your family or things like that?

Harold W. Higgs:
No. No, not at all. The way in which you corresponded was by what was called v-mail. You would write something. They were little things, and then they would send them home to your parents. So that was -- and everybody else was in the same boat. Every so often you'd get to go on leave, and I'd go down to London for three days, and I used to know my way around London as well or better than I did around my hometown for God's sakes, because -- London was a huge city but it was a very easy city in which to navigate. They had what they called the tube system and their buses. Hell, their underground system -- I've been in Paris, and hell, theirs is like -- like, this is the London underground. This is the Paris underground down here in comparison (indicating). But that's what -- we'd just go down on pass. That was -- and then go back and be assigned to more missions and so forth.

Amanda Daugherty:
Did you have plenty of supplies and food?

Harold W. Higgs:
Oh, that was not our worry. I mean, that was not our worry. That was somebody else's responsibility. Our only responsibility was to do the job that we were instructed to do like everybody else was to do. Everybody had a job, and that's the thing about the military. You either perform or you're gone because everybody else is depending on you. And you learn something. Too bad a lot of people in life don't understand that.

Amanda Daugherty:
And do you recall the day that your service ended?

Harold W. Higgs:
Yeah. I think I ended up in New Jersey someplace, I think, and went to some place in Chicago, and I don't remember where it was in Chicago, but one thing I do remember when I was there I remember that there was a -- I had a day or a few hours, and the Millage Brothers were playing in this theater in Chicago, and I went to see the Millage Brothers. Fabulous. Fabulous performance, and so then, you know, I just got on the train and came home, and that was it.

Amanda Daugherty:
And then what did you do after you got back?

Harold W. Higgs:
Well, I got back in August, and then I started at Drake in September, you know, like other colleges at that time. After the war was over I didn't have quite enough points to come home, and so I ended up over in Munich, Germany, just sitting on my butt. And I said to the people, I said, "You either find me something to do or send me home." So they sent me down to an airline instrument school in Southern France to learn to fly airplanes, and then I completed that. And then I was sent to Berlin, and I was -- I applied for the European Air Transport Service, and European Aircraft Transport Service flew twin-engine aircraft, and these other people that I was with, they were four-engine pilots. They weren't going to lower themself to fly twin engines. I just wanted something to do for God's sake, and so I ended up in Berlin. I was an airplane pilot at age 21. So that was an experience, but we're out of time, so --

Amanda Daugherty:
Well, do you have any family you want to mention?

Harold W. Higgs:

Amanda Daugherty:
Any family that you want to mention?

Harold W. Higgs:
Oh, yeah. I met my wife at Drake, and she and I, we went together for four years, and we were married in 1952. We have three great daughters. I never did -- I didn't have to learn anything about Little League or Boy Scouts or anything like that. So I was fortunate in that way, but yeah, like I said, I've been very, very fortunate. I was one of six children, and I am the lone survivor, but I've had a great life, terrific life.

Amanda Daugherty:
Is there anything you would like to add that we've not covered in this interview?

Harold W. Higgs:
No, I think you've got enough.

Harold W. Higgs:
Well, it was -- when I was flying for this European Air Transport Service, oh, God, what I used to do would be -- you go from Berlin to Bremen to Paris one day, and the next day you go from Paris to Frankfurt, back to Berlin, and our maintenance on these aircraft wasn't the best. I mean, hell, all the good mechanics, hell, they'd gone home for God's sakes, but one time I was going from Berlin to Bremen, and I was just flying DC3s, and we couldn't -- now, the war was over now, you understand that. But they bring a lot of military people, a lot of people over to try to coordinate some things, you know, for the occupation and things like that, so we were flying a lot of civilians that they brought over. And I was going from Berlin to Bremen this one day, and we could never go above about 8,000 feet because we had no oxygen, and so flying in the soup, and all of a sudden all my electrical systems went out. No radio, no this, that, nothing. I thought, "Oh, shit." And so I thought, "Well, hell, I'll just let down and I'll eventually break out of this stuff." So you know about how long it takes you to go from here to there (indicating). And I was like, you know, "I'm about five minutes from there, by God, I should be here. I should be out." So I kept letting down, letting down, and I got down to 1,000 feet, and there was a big tower in Bremen, and I thought, you know, "I don't want to plow into that damn thing," and so I picked up a heading to go out over the North Sea, and your depth perception over water isn't as good as it is over land because your rapids isn't as good. So I got down to 1,000 feet, and I kept letting down and letting down and letting down, and I got down to about 400 feet, and I'm out over the North Sea. And obviously, that wasn't where I wanted to be, and so I just picked up a heading, like, to go southeast, and just by luck, just luck, I split that harbor in Bremen and I knew -- and at 400 feet I'm still in and out of the clouds. I knew about where the airport was from this one certain part of this harbor. So all of a sudden I can pick up land, I could see this thing over there, so I peeled around, and there was a real short runway, and I didn't want to -- normally you didn't use that, but I just wanted to get this damn thing down, and so I dragged that thing in, and there was -- like this is the runway here, and there's a canal going this way (indicating). And so I just dropped this thing in over that canal, and God, it was boom, I hit and hit and hit. And when I finally shut it down, I heard a passenger say, "He's the damndest most incapable damn person that ever got in an airplane." I didn't have the courage to tell him how damn fortunate they were just to be on the ground, so that was -- things like that you remember. Well, anyway, that's it.

Amanda Daugherty:
Well, thank you for attending AIB's Veteran's History Project event, and thank you for your service to our country. This concludes the Veteran's History Project interview with Hal Higgs.

Harold W. Higgs:
Okay. (Interview concluded at 10 a.m.)






Harold "Hal" Higgs (Courtesy of the Higgs family)

Harold "Hal" Higgs (Courtesy of the Higgs family)

Harold "Hal" Higgs (Courtesy of the Higgs family)

Harold "Hal" Higgs (Courtesy of the Higgs family)

Edward Aubuchon Crew (Left to Right)
Standing: Hal Higgs, Ed Aubuchon, Oliver W. Dunn, Myron Alexander
Kneeling: Don Bridge, Garland Miller, Albert A."Duke" Gillen, Robert Arthur, Harold Hyde

Crew List for September 1st, 1945. William G. Smith Crew is #8.  Note changes in crew members and positions vs During the War.  

Lt Aubuchon Crew training Stateside

Lt Ed Aubuchon Crew with 48916 LN-R



Crew 1

ID: 2337