THE MILITARY CAREER OF PAULL W~ SAFFOLD JR. 1936 to 1964

Alabama National Guard August 1936 to August 1939

 

 

My first experience in the military was in the Alabama National Guard. I enlisted as a Private on August 22,1936 at the age of 17. I attended drill regularly and made two summer camps at Fort McClellan Alabama as a private in HQ CO 167th Infantry. In WWI it was part of the Rainbow Division. I served until August 1939. After the second year I informed my Company Commander, Johnny Snider, a WWI veteran, that I had taken a job with the Alabama Highway Department in Abbeville and could no longer attend drills. I was placed on the inactive list and remained there until the expiration of my three-year term August 21, 1939.

 

 

Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941

 

 

Jean and I were attending a movie in the Paramount Theater when it was flashed on the screen that the Japs had attacked Pearl Harbor. We went to Mother's home on Holcombe Street and listened to the news for several hours (no TV in those days) before returning to our home in Clanton Alabama. I was with the Alabama Highway Department when I learned that the Army Air Corps was accepting applications for Aviation Cadet training from married men. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor I spent a full day at Maxwell Field taking mental and physical exams and returned to Jean in Clanton who approved what I had done. I had wanted to be a pilot for a long time. Especially an Army Air Corp pilot. I had been taking lessons at the small airport in Clanton from Charlie Wade who was the fixed base operator. I had about four hours ($6 per hour dual) in a 13 Piper Cub when I received a telegram about January 15 to report to Maxwell Field for enlistment. Jean had to sign a paper that she was not dependent on me for a living, Being the good wife, as she always had been, she signed the paper. When I enlisted I was never asked ifI had previous military experience. It was found while processing for retirement that I had three years in the Alabama National Guard that I had not applied for longevity. This added three years to my retirement. I was told that I could file a claim for longevity pay that I had been entitled to so I did. About six months later I received two checks, one from the Army and one from the Air Force. The two amounted to about $4,000. It had taken about six months for the two services to calculate this claim.

 

 

Aviation Cadet 1942

 

 

There were twelve of us at Maxwell to be sworn in as Aviation Cadets in January 1942 .. One was William May who was a classmate and became a member of the 78th Fighter Group and a good friend.  After several weeks of preflight training at Maxwell I was sent to Lodwick Aviation Military Academy at Avon Park Florida for primary training in the PT -17, Stearman (a bi wing trainer) then on to Greenville, MiSSissippi for another 60 hours in the BT-13 (Vultee Vibrator) While in Greenville, Jean and a friend Virginia Crew, came over on a bus and stayed a couple of weeks. Virgina's husband Jeff and I had alternate open post.  We only had open post every two weeks when we could leave the base.  Boy was it hot in Greenville.  No one ha air conditioning in 1942.

 

 

After 60 hours in Greenville I was sent to Craig Field, (Air Force Bases were called Fields at that time) Selma, Alabama, for advanced training in AT -6s. I felt lucky since three out of five cadets had been washed out. I started training in the class of 42-I but was hospitalized for about a week with an infected hand. So 1 finished with the class of 42-J and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on November 10, 1942. The last 10 hours of flying was in a P-36, about 3 or 4 flights. This was not recorded in the 60 hours of advanced flight training. I thought I was a hot pilot then.

 

 

Operation Training in P-40s November 1942 to January 1943

 

 

1 was sent to Pinellas Field at St Petersburg Florida for operational training, mostly formation, acrobatics, and gunnery practice. 1 received about 40 hours in the Curtiss P­ 40. Jean and Nita came down for about two weeks and had a room in St Petersburg, near Tampa, while I trained and waited orders to go overseas. Archie. Hill's mother and father were there for a while and we went to dinner with them several times at their expense. Mr. Hill was the Chevrolet dealer in Huntsville Alabama and when they left Tampa to go home they dropped Jean off in Montgomery. I thought we were going to be sent to the Pacific since P-40s were in combat over there. While at Pinellas we were issued parachutes, a Colt 45, a gas mask and clothing impregnated with a horrible smelling oily substance that was to be used in case of a gas attack. Pinellas had one runway, a small wooden building used for administration and operations, and squad tents for those who lived on base. It is now an International airport.

 

 

Port of Embarkation

 

 

Near the end of December we boarded a train bound for Fort Hamilton New York, which was a port of embarkation. It was about a thirty-minute subway ride to Manhattan on the Sea Beach Express. I was in Times Square New Years Eve on January 1, 1943. That was an experience I will never forget. I had a little too much to drink and went to sleep on the subway and must have made three or four trips between Manhattan and the Fort Hamilton before waking up. I was among about twelve 2nd Lieutenants who boarded the Queen Elizabeth three days before departing for England for instructions to help the troops find where they were to be quartered when they boarded. Ameican and Canadian troops started boarding after dark and continued all night. About 12,000 boarded from 5 or 6 gangplanks. The ship sailed before daylight without escort. Officers were crowded twelve to a stateroom. Accommodations for the enlisted men were atrocious. We had two meals a day.  Could not smoke on deck day or night. Anything thrown overboard could leave a trail for the enemy. Lt Col Hub Zemke was the senior Air Force commander and was accompamed by all of his Officer and enlisted personnel of the 56th Fighter Group. As senior officer he commanded all of the Air Force personnel on board. One thing I remember was he allowed only one canteen of water per day per man. We had to bath in salt

water so we didn't bath very often. The 56th Group had trained in P-47s for more than a year at Bridgeport Connecticut and had the most experienced pilots ever to fly in the 8th Air Force. They produced more aces than any group. Men like Bob Johnson, Francis Gabreski, Walter Beckam, Jerry Johnson and many more. I was headed for England as a replacement pilot to be assigned to a group later. We arrived in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland on January 9 and I was in a group that boarded a train. The next morning we arrived at Stone, a small town in northwest England.  Stone was where we waited for our next assignment. I was there about a week before being sent to Shrewsbury in Wales, another place to wait for assignment. We made up our flying time flying J-3 Cubs while there. I was there about three weeks before receiving orders to be 78th Fighter Group located at Goxhill.

 

 

78th Fighter group at Goxhill

Goxhill was located on the south side of the Humber River with the large seaport city of Hull on the north side. German aircraft frequently carne over at night and dropped mines in the river. The 78th arrived in England after training in California in P-38s. The P-38s were soon transferred in February to North Africa with most of their pilots. They were needed in the fighting there. The officers left at Goxhill were the group, squadron and flight commanders and the some enlisted men. P-47s were flown in from Ireland by ferry pilots. A few at a time. I had never seen a P-47 until then. Ferry pilots checked out most experienced pilots who in turn checked out the rest of us We trained at Goxhill in gunnery over the North Sea. Gunnery consisted of firing at a long canvas sleeves about 8 feet tall and 20 feet long towed by a long rope behind a British Lysander. Four P-47s participated in each practice flight with ammunition in two guns, which made a colored mark on the target. The rest of the guns were empty. The target was dropped on the airfield and the colored marks were counted to determine the score of each pilot. This method was also practiced in Florida over the Gulf of Mexico. I did not do very well in gun practice which showed later in combat. I missed a few enemy aircraft that I should have shot down. After about 15 hours of training at Goxhill the 78th with its three squadrons left Goxhill for Duxford in April 1943.

 

 

Duxford    1943 and 1944

Duxford airfield was built in 1919 during WWI. Located near Cambridge 50 miles north of London it was used by Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain. The British turned the base over to the 78th Fighter Group in April 1943. I was assigned to the 84th squadron. I flew on the third mission flown by the group. My first mission, on April 29 I was wingman for my squadron commander, Major Eugene Roberts. A Fighter squadron consisted of three flights of 8 or 10 pilots and a Fighter Group consisted of three squadrons.

The first mission I flew was a fighter sweep (rodeo) over northern France. We made landfall near Calais and then over Abbeville hoping to entice Adolf Galland and his experienced pilots to come up to meet us. They didn't come up. Abbeville was heavily

defended with antiaircraft guns so we didn't go down to strafe. We were up only one hour and thirty minutes. We didn't get belly tanks until later.

On May 4 we flew fighter support for bomber diversion over Dunkerque and other French towns at 28,000 feet. Heavy flak but otherwise uneventful. Up 17:45 down 19:10.

On May 13 we flew an escort mission over northern France. Up at 15:33 and down 17:15.

 

On May 15 we staged at Horsham, an advanced base, for refueling and on to Amsterdam. One hour thirty minutes. No belly tanks yet:

 

May 19 I flew my first bomber escort mission. It was a bomber diversion mission. We crossed into Holland at 30;000 and returned to the English co at Oxfordness. The mission was uneventful except for heavy flak:. The mission lasted one hour and twenty minutes. At 3 0, 000 we  were indicating 189 mpg but true airspeed was more than 300 mph. There were only a few bomb groups in England at this of time. About 4 or 5. They

 could put Up on1y about 200 bombers.  Bombers would usually take off before daylight and form up to cross the enemy coast in line with the other groups. Eighth fighter command would schedule the fighter groups to takeoff at different times to rendezvous with its assigned bomb group at the proper time for escort. The fighters would fly one or two thousand feet above the bombers and make s-turns to stay with them because we could not fly as slow as the bomb groups. As more fighter and bomb groups became available an escorting group could be relieved by another flight group and if we had enough fuel we could go down and look for targets of opportunity such as enemy airfields, trains, barges, trucks and anything valuable to the enemy.

 

From May 19 to November 26 I flew many missions but I think November 26 was the first with belly tanks. This was an escort mission over France. Jack Price leading Red flight shot down a ME 109 and an FW 190. Bombers were attacked by at least 30 enemy aircraft, mostly 109s. We lost my good friend Wayne Dougherty just north of Paris, hit by a ME 109. The mission lasted 3 hours. Wayne was flying number 4 in Price's Red flight.

 

 

As I approached 200 hours which was the normal tour in combat I thought the invasion would soon take place because of the strafing and bombing we were doing on the French coast. I wanted to take a part of the invasion. So on March 17, 1943 I submitted a request to fly additional missions. This had to be approved by the squadron flight surgeon, the squadron commander, the group commander, and through channels all the way to 8th Fighter command headquarters.

 

The Luftwaffe was almost decimated by then. They had lost most of their experienced pilots. They were still building fighter aircraft and flying them with pilots that had only a few hours of flying time .

 

After my retirement the Air Force sent me my Mission Summa,ry Reports and my AF Form 5s that are a complete record of my military flying time.

To write about all of the missions I flew is just too lengthy. Anyone so inclined can find the details in the Mission Summary Reports. They are contained. in a large brown envelope along with the AF Form 5s that are a monthly record of my flying hours. These 96 Mission Summary Reports are on flimsy brittle second copy typewriter paper located in my office for anyone so inclined to review.

 

After flying 50 missions I had received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 4 Air Medals. Air Medals were awarded for each 10 missions. I later received two more DFCs but no more Air Medals. I guess 8th Fighter Command decided not to give more. The commendations for the additional two DFCs have been lost but they are recorded in my retirement Form 214 and in newspaper reports in my scrapbook. I flew 96 missions and somewhere I my files show that I had 252:15 combat hours.

 

While Paull and I were in London we visited Duxford home of the Imperial War Museum a branch of the Imperial War Museum in London we also visited. We also visited the American Air Museum on the same airdrome with the Duxford museum. I told an attendant at the American Museum that I had been a pilot at Duxford during the war and wanted to meet the director of the museum. He gave me directions to his office, which turned out to be the building that housed the 78th Group headquarters. We proceeded there and were met by two women, the Director was not there, who greeted us and gave us a copy of the dedication of the American Museum, which took place one month earlier. They also had a copy of the Duxford Diary and wanted me to autograph it. They also suggested that we visit the Officer's club across the road, which we did. On the way back to the Imperial Museum we met two men who were very anxious to meet me. They took us to their office, which was in the hanger that had housed our briefing room. They brought out a large photo album of pictures of pilots and ground personnel and wanted me to provide names. Many of the pictures were of me. After spending about an hour with them they provided a vehicle and driver to take us to the train station in Cambridge

 

 

Lets leave Duxford for a little recreation.

London

 

 

About once a month we were given a three-day pass and we usually went to London with a couple of friends. We did not stay at the Red Cross club were the accommodations were meager. We stayed at the better hotels such as the Strand Palace, the Mount Royal or the Park Lane. London was blacked out at night and I mean black. Prostitutes were everywhere. Mostly around the streets of Piccadilly Circus. You couldn't walk fifty feet without being propositioned. Many were refugees from France, Poland and other occupied countries as well as the English. Men trying to sell condoms would approach us.  We wore blue patches under our wings to show we were combat pilots. That was supposed to give us priority in bars, hotels, train stations and so on but I don't think it worked very well. We usually met friends from other stations while in London. I remember meeting Grover Hall of the Montgomery Advertiser and Sam Perry Dixon, a B-17 pilot and son of the Alabama Governor, as well as many flying school classmates

while in London. We also took advantage of visiting many of the historical sites. Many buildings were damaged or destroyed. Barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns were everywhere. Hyde park was full of them. The Germans would send a few airplanes over London at night. They where known as nuisance raids. They would be caught in several searchlights and the antiaircraft guns were fired at them. It was a sight to see until you had to take cover from the flack falling from the British guns. The British bars were allocated different kinds of liquor. They would run out of scotch and gin and if you wanted a drink late at night you would have to settle for a terrible rum drink.

 

 

Return to the Zone of the Interior

 

 

  On May 8, 1944 Quince Brown and I received orders from VIII Fighter Command to return the  States for thirty days rest and recuperation. We were flown in the group's U-78

to Blackpool. The commanding officer there was Colonel W. A. Gale. Col. Gale, a WWI veteran, had been a popular mayor of Montgomery for many years. I went to his office and introduced myself as a native of Montgomery and learned that he knew

my mother and father from years ago. He greeted me warmly and invited me to have my meals at the table reserved for him and his staff, this saved me from waiting in a long chow line. Colonel Gale arranged to have his adjutant drive me to Blackpool to visit many of the nightclubs. We had a ball..

After a few days we boarded the SS Argentina. One of about 2 ships in a convoy for a long voyage to New York. About four navy destroyer escort ships escorted us. Every 3 or 4 nights they would weave through the formation and drop depth charges. We never knew if they were for enemy subs or practice. We had boat drills about twice a day. We had to don life preservers and go to a designated place near a lifeboat. We were at sea about two weeks.

When we landed in New York we spent about an hour on board before disembarking being questioned by some men, the FBI, I think. They were mainly wanted to know how the P-47 performed against enemy fighters. I saw my first bubble canopy P-47 on a ship in the harbor.

Quince and I checked in at the Commadore Hotel and left by train our homes. An overnight trip. Jean and Nita (my mother) met me at the station. Jean had made reservations at Greystone Hotel where we spent the night after a short visit at home.

 

 

Nita had a nice party for us at the club at Maxwell. We spent some time at Johnnie's cabin on lake Martin.

After meeting many pilots at Maxwell who said they wished they could be assigned overseas I became disillusioned about returning to England.

Anyway, we had a nice stay at home and two pilots at Maxwell volunteered to fly me to New York in a C-45. We landed at LaGuardia airport, which was the only airport in New York at the time. We checked in at the Commadore and I was having a drink at the bar when in walked Quince Brown wearing Major insignia. Quince was an ace with several victories. He had received word of his promotion to Major and was celebrated by a Quince Brown day in his hometown of Bristow Oklahoma.  He returned to the 84th and shot down 3 or 4 to bring his total to 13. I read in the Eagles of Duxford that he was shot down by flack and crash-landed Germany. Quince was shot and killed by a German civilian. The German was tried after the war by the War Crimes trial and was executed.

 

Quince and I left New York by train for Atlantic City. The Air Force had taken over the Ritz-Carlton hotel for a redistribution center. Since my birthday was in July I was due for an annual physical exam. Doctors at the center did this and I was told I had severe combat fatigue. I was sent to a convalescence center at SL Petersburg Florida. The center was the Don Cesar Hotel. Jean carne down to be with me and since I did not have to stay overnight at the hotel we rented a nice motel on the beach within walking distance of the hotel. I had to check in at the hotel every morning for treatment

 

When I was released for duty I was sent to Chanute Field to be trained as an Aircraft Engineering officer. They must have seen on my records that I had been a highway engineer. It was a good thing for me as it turned out. The course was nearly a year. We lived in Champaign Illinois about 10 miles from the base.

 

I was then transferred to Mitchell Field NY. I didn't like it there on Long Island and told the Colonel I was to work under that I was looking forward to being closer to home. He picked up the phone and called the base commander at Richmond VA, Colonel Hughes, and asked if he could use a fighter pilot trained as an Aircraft Engineering Officer and the answer was yes. So I left that very day for Richmond. I was pleased because it was closer to home and I did not like Long Island at all.

 

My first duty at Richmond was a flight test engineering officer. Richmond was a training base for P-47 pilots. I flew several times a day testing aircraft that had just been through periodic inspections. I was later made flight line maintenance officer to supervise maintenance of aircraft needing repair. I stayed at Richmond until the war with Japan ended September 2, 1945. Paull was born April 16, 1945 and my commanding officer gave me permission to fly a P-47 to Montgomery to see my son and wife. The Germans surrendered May 7.1945. The P-47 was quite an attraction at Maxwell. Few people had seen it. Jean joined me later at Richmond and shortly after we were ordered to Shaw Field where we were when I was relieved from active duty in December 1945.

 

 

CIVILIAN LIFE AGAIN

 

 

I received a letter from the Director of the State Highway Department congratulating me for serving my country and offering my old job back. I rejected it because of the low pay.

I later accepted a job with Eastern Air Lines in Montgomery as assistant station manager. It didn't pay much either. I later went back in the Air Force when I learned that ex officers could enlist with the grade of Master Sergeant. The pay was much better. About $300 a month. I had a nice job in base operations. Bobby was born December 17, 1947. With the Korean War looming I was recalled to active duty October 1947 with my old rank of Captain and sent to Bergstrom Field at Austin Texas.

 

 

BACK TO AIR FORCE LIFE

 

I was assigned to the 313th Troup Carrier Group an aircraft maintenance officer. We were equipped with C-47s for a few months then we began getting C-82s. The C-82 was a nice troop carrier aircraft. We could carry 40 paratroops and tow two gliders. We provider support for the 101st  Airborne Division at Ft Campbell, KY and the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft Bragg, NC. The United States Air Force became a separate branch of the service in 1947. It was previously the Army Air Corps.

HAWAII

 

 

In May 1950 I received orders to proceed to Hickham AFB.  Jean and our two boys accompanied me. We departed San Francisco on an army troupe ship for a seven day voyage to Honolulu. I was assigned to the 1500 Maintenance and Supply Group as an aircraft maintenance officer. Hickham was equipped with two squadrons of C-54s and one squadron of C-97s. We had several C-47s for support and I flew supplies to about seven units on the outlying islands such as Maui once a week.

 

I was called to the office of Major Busby, chief of maintenance, and was told that I was needed to replace the maintenance office on Johnston Island and was given the choice of going there or staying at Hickham in the Inspector General Office. I chose to go to Johnson Island. I didn't want to have any part of the Inspector General. I went to Johnson Island with my family who was very unhappy about my decision.

 

JOHNSTON ISLAND 1950 1951

 

 

The Korean War started in 1950 and there was a lot of traffic thru Johnson Island, a refueling base. The tour there was 12 months. Maintenance personnel were kept very busy refueling and providing maintenance on aircraft that needed it. I did get a chance to go to a maintenance conference in Tokyo. Conditions were very poor there since they were recovering from the war. Life on Johnston was miserable for Jean but Paull and Bobby seemed to enjoy it. I didn't mind it because it kept me busy and I had the use of the only Jeep on the island. The fishing was very good. We used the rescue boat when available. When my tour was up I received orders in March 1952 to return to Chanute AFB and assigned to the 1114th Special Air Mission Squadron. The mission was to provide VIP transportation for the 2nd Army in Chicago. While at Chanute I received a phone call from Group Headquarters in Washington offering me the job as commander of the 231Sth  Special Air Mission Squadron at Dobbins AFB. I had been promoted to

Major while at Chanute. I accepted the job and moved to Marietta with my family in March 1953.

 

DOBBINS AIR FORCE BASE

 

 

I enjoyed my job as squadron commander and flew as much as any pilot in the squadron. We were providing executive transportation for the 3rd Army that covered seven southeastern states. I flew personalities such as General Mark Clark and Werner Von Braun. While at Dobbins I received a call from Air Force Headquarters in August 1957 that I was to attend Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell APB. I considered this an honor since I had not applied for it.

 

 

COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE

 

 

Command and Staff College was a great experience for me. We had students from many nations. They left during the break for Christmas. After Christmas we got into a lot of top-secret stuff I flew C-45s for flying time. I qualified for Command Pilot while there. I had previously qualified for Senior Pilot while at Dobbins. I graduated on 12 June 1958 and was assigned to 1st Missile Division, Strategic Air Command at Vandenberg APB where I was working with the Titan I missile. I worked with a group that did all of the missile staff work for SAC

 

 

STRATIGIC AIR COMMAND HEADQUARTERS

 

 

In September 1960 SAC decided to transfer the staff work to SAC headquarters and many of the officers I worked with were transferred to SAC headquarters. I was a project officer on Titan I and Titan II. I worked under Major General James Wilson. I got my flying time in C-47s flying staff members to various SAC bases.  One of the C-47s was equipped with compartments to train navigators. One of the navigators who flew with me was a Lt Colonel who dropped the atomic bomb on one of the cities in Japan. I was promoted to Colonel shortly before I retired in July 1964.

This was the end of a wonderful and rewarding career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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