Veteran Stories:
Warner Hockin

Air Force

  • Warner Hockin's unit pauses for a meal in Normandy, 1944.

    Warner Hockin
  • Dutch children pose for the camera soon after liberation in 1944.

    Warner Hockin
  • The scene after fighting in the Falaise Gap, France, 1944.

    Warner Hockin
  • Jim Hubbard, Les Hill and Warner Hockin in Lubeck Germany, 1945.

    Warner Hockin
  • Warner Hockin changing an engine on a Typhoon in Lubeck Germany, 1945.

    Warner Hockin
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"And I can always remember the decaying smell that come from there and got into where we were sleeping. It seemed to get on your clothes."

Transcript

Our unit was assigned to go to Normandy and some of us went over earlier just after D-Day. When we went to go ashore, our barge picked up a huge chain on the anchor and we couldn’t move. So we had to sit out about two miles off out in the water and it took them about 48 hours or more to get the chain off. They had to cut it with an acetylene torch. And while we were there, the air raid warning was always red and we were getting strafed; and I remember diving under a truck. When I got under there, there was two other guys there. Then the next thing, I was standing at the bow and our barrage balloon [balloons attached to vehicles and vessels to defend against low-level air attacks] got hit; and the cable dropped on the deck right in front of me and it curled up like you would put it on a spool. It’s unbelievable. It was white hot and it just curled right up like it was wrapped around a spool when it fell on the deck. Luckily, I got missed. Anyway, we finally got ashore and we were heading up to an airfield, B-9 [British airfield at Lantheuil, France], one of the first airfields, just a grass strip with wire laid down for the aircraft to land on. From there, we got lost and couldn’t find the airfield for about a day, I guess. Finally we got [there], I can’t remember just how. And we started repairing aircraft. But, in the meantime, I had re-mustered to a maintenance assistant where I was allowed to work on aircraft. So I did all the menial jobs putting the oil in and putting spark plugs in and the glycol in and putting the cowling [engine covering] on, buttoning up the cowling. And while we were there, standing at the edge of the airfield, watching two [Supermarine] Spitfires [fighter aircraft] take off; they were strafing the Falaise Gap where they caught the Germans there. And they were taking off. They had 500 pounds bomb under each wing and something happened and on one of the planes the bombs detonated and just blew it to pieces. There was nothing left. Only a gun camera landed down in an orchard where our tents were, and stuck in the ground there. The concussion bowled me right over and I had my ears ringing for several days. And an airman that was closer to the explosion, he was killed; and he had a twin brother on the field at the same time. There was a lot of anti-aircraft activity there because it was an anti-aircraft battery right near there, right beside us. And there was three huge [A22] Churchill tanks [heavily armoured British infantry tank] sitting on the field; and they’d been hit with a German armour piercing shell. It [the tank] had a hole through the side and it blew up inside. And, of course, all the men were killed and the tanks were still sitting there. And I can always remember the decaying smell that come from there and got into where we were sleeping. It seemed to get on your clothes. A week before the war ended, they told any German pilot that wanted to surrender they could land at any airfield and not get shot up. And all of a sudden, this plane come over the airfield, didn’t know what it was because it was the first jet I’d ever heard. And that thing was doing 600 miles an hour and he put on a show for us for about 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. And then he landed and said, I’ve come to help you fight the Russians. [laughs]
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