Interviewed By: Melissa Tanquary
When He Enlisted:
My grandfather, John McHugh, followed the same path as many other Americans in 1941 - he joined the war. He was 20 and living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and he was eligible for the draft. In July of 1942 he went to Fort Devens to enlist. He had to bring his mom and dad with him because he was under 21 and the army wanted to make sure that his parents said it was O.K. He figured that he may as well enlist because he would have more a chance in getting into the line of service he wanted to be in that way, opposed to being drafted.
John did most of the electrical work on the planes by himself, because the other electricians didn’t do much work. In rank he was a plane sergeant. His boss, the Electrical Technician did not do any work. Eventually John went to the base's boss and told him that he was doing all the work, and the electrical technician was demoted and John was upgraded to Electrical Technician.
At his base, they dispersed the planes around the field, so if they were bombed only one or two planes would be lost, instead of all of them. His base was close to the North Sea. They could see some of the rockets, which he thinks were launched from Holland. These were long distance bombers heading toward major cities like London. There were also short distance rockets his base called "putt putts". They just went until they ran out of gas. From his base, they could hear the air raid sirens from local cities in England. In the beginning of the war they would go into air raid shelters, but eventually the bombs and air raids became a part of everyday life and they didn’t get worried about them anymore.
In the collage below, there are pictures of B-24's which were the planes my grandfather mostly worked on, the patch of the second air division, a sign called the flying scorpions (which was a group of men who flew a certain plane), a picture of all the workers on the base sitting on or near one of the planes and a picture of some of the pilots on the base.
The people in England were not entirely different from Americans. The only real difference was their way of speaking, it was the same language, and there were just lots of new words John had to learn. “The British had a way of always having the exact right word for what they meant”. But John didn’t spend much time in town; he was still doing most of the work on the planes at the base. “Somebody’s got to do it!”
Squadron and Bomb Group:
My grandfather was in the 389ths. This was his bomb group. The army would number every bomb group. He was also in the 567th squadron. That is what his address was during the war, at which he received a lot of mail. His mother made it a point to send him The Eagle (the local paper) so he could know what was going on in his town.
What He Loved:
One of his favorite parts of the war was “when the planes would come back from a mission and the bombers would be alive.” His base was sending planes over to bomb Germany. His base was always excited when the planes would come back with either little damage, or that they would come back at all.
My grandfather is a brave man. He joined the war on his own, and is still happy that he did, because he never would have had these experiences anywhere else, and he never would have gotten to transition to a complete different way of life that quickly.
1) Interview With John McHugh-2005
2)Family Pictures - 1990-2002
3)Creative Image - Help for kids, Bridges for Kids, www.bridge4kids.org/helpforkids_us.htm 3/6/06
4) Collage- Technical Sergeant Taffy J. Williams, Netherlands Memorial, http://www.basher82.nl/Data/margraten/williams.htm 3/10/06
- 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, 2nd Air Division, www.2ndair.org.uk/new%20pages/389scrapbook.htm 3/10/06
- Gifts for the Aviators; Arktika, http://www.cobrasoverthetundra.com/chapter_one_page.htm 3/10/06
- When Heros Filled the Sky,Home of the Heros, www.homeofheroes.com/wings/part2/09_ploesti.html 3/10/06