Mr. Herbert Talbot
Recorded on 11/13/04
[Interview starts at 001 on counter]
Robbie Peeler: This is Saturday, November 13, 2004. We are at Mr. Herbert Talbot's house in Indianapolis, [Indiana]. This is Robbie Peeler interviewing Herbert Talbot. He was born on January 19, 1922, and he currently lives at 10769 Morristown Court.
RP: Indianapolis, Indiana. Herbert Talbot served in World War II, in the U. S. Army Air Corps as a Staff Sergeant. To begin this interview, I will ask you some personal questions, such as, what is your name?
HT: My name actually is Herbert L. Talbot, but I have a nickname of "Joe" and I have been known as Joe all my life.
RP: And your age?
HT: I am now 82 years old.
RP: And can you tell me a little bit about your family background and your educational background?
HT: I grew up on a farm at the north side of Indianapolis, attended Nora Grade School, Broad Ripple High School, Indiana-Purdue University Extension at Indianapolis and Butler University.
RP: Have you lived in Indiana your whole life?
HT: I have.
RP: At the time of the War, were you in a relationship, married or single?
HT: I was single.
RP: Did you have any children at any time during the War?
RP: Where did you live and work during the War?
HT: I lived at 8000 Spring Mill Road on the farm. And before I went in service, I was working at Link Belt Company.
RP: And what kind of training were you given?
HT: In the Service. I was in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program with a standard Aviation Cadet college training detachment, gunnery school, navigation school. I completed all but two weeks of the navigation school, and one poor math problem and bad weather caused me to be discharged from the Cadet Program.
RP: Who was your supervisor in like the activities that you did?
HT: During the Service?
HT: Many. I could not name them all.
RP: All right.
HT: I attended Oklahoma Baptist University for three months under a college training detachment, Shawnee, Oklahoma. And then, various locations: Ellington Field in Houston, Texas; Harlingen Air Base for the gunnery training, Harlingen, Texas; my navigation training was Hondo Air Base, Hondo, Texas which was a typical west Texas small town, very small.
RP: What was your specialty at work?
HT: Navigation training. That was it.
RP: And why did you like it?
HT: I loved mathematics, and navigation is all based on mathematics and celestial.
RP: What special rules or conventions did you have to follow while you were in training or in the War?
HT: The Aviation Cadet Program trained officers. You were all future officers. And as such, you were trained specifically to lead.
RP: Did you develop friendships during training or the activity itself?
HT: Very much. I still am in contact with two of our crew members; one only by phone, the other one I see at our reunions and sometimes other times, personal times.
RP: Do they live here in Indianapolis?
HT: No. One is in New Jersey and one is in California.
RP: Did you have family and friends in the Service or joined World War II?
HT: Yes. My brother was in the Navy.
RP: What did he do?
HT: He was in radio training and flunked himself out because the code was driving him crazy, and he ended up in Supplies, a Supply Clerk because of his training as a typist.
RP: How did you feel about the War? What were your family and friends feeling
HT: It was something we had to do, and we did it willingly. There were some that were goof-offs, but most of them were 100% behind the War.
RP: In what ways did the War change your activities or habits?
HT: The War trained us, and our crew especially, how to work together for the greatest benefit of all of us.
RP: Okay. Were you or others in the community treated differently because of your gender, race or other factors?
HT: Absolutely not.
RP: What were some of the first changes in your life after the War started?
HT: Well, the first was restrictions on gasoline and tires. I did as much as it was about 15 miles to work. I had to have a special ration card to get the gasoline and tires
necessary. Other than that, the normal rationing.
RP: What different responsibilities did you have to take on?
HT: Nothing different. Just normal activities.
RP: So you were involved with various social activities and no changes or any of that?
HT: Not really, at that time.
RP: Okay, how did you entertain yourself outside of work?
HT: Radio. That's all we had, radio and reading.
RP: Did you or others get married during wartime?
HT: Some of them did. I did not.
RP: Did you worry that our side might not win in the War?
HT: Why, no. It was all foregone. That was the American way. You do it and you do it right.
RP: Did you know anyone who was killed or wounded during the War?
HT: Yes. Our Bombardier died of anoxia which is his oxygen mask froze and shut off his oxygen supply.
RP: On one of your missions?
HT: On a mission.
RP: All right. Did your plane ever receive damage?
HT: Very much. There were two or three times. One time, a severe hit in the left wing and all of our air-ora") controls and elevator controls were lost.
RP: What are those?
HT: That is what controls the plane, the only control the pilot had was the rudders. And it was touch and go whether we was going to have to bailout or try to land. But we landed safely.
RP: Were you ever injured in the War?
HT: No. I did get a small piece of Plexiglas that hit against the side of my face and worked down under my goggles, but no injury.
RP: Okay. Tell me about corresponding field letters or otherwise from friends or family in service.
HT: Everything was V -mail. That was the real small stuff that was the Air Mail.
RP: How did they?
HT: It was all censored by an Officer and anything that was, you were not supposed to say, they marked out.
RP: And after the mail got over to your family or friends, how did they return it
back to you?
HT: The same way.
RP: The same thing?
RP: All right. What did the War have on your physical or mental health, or others you knew?
HT: Physically, I flew a mission with a cold, and after that I had a sinus problem. And I've still got the sinus problem today. If you flew mission with a cold, when you were coming down from high altitude, this would drive the cold back into your sinuses if you had a cold. And there was about four missions that the doctor said, due to the involving flying the pilot says no flying. The pilot had the final word. Who could fly and who couldn't.
RP: Do you think that metal (?) prepared change because of the War?
RP: Did you have any work file (?) experiences because of the War?
RP: What was the most memorable experience of the War?
HT: The most memorable. Probably the visit to Rome, where we got to see the Vatican, the archives in the Vatican where all of the treasures from past coronations of Popes are kept under glass. The Swiss Guards. The mass audience with the Pope. There were about a thousand men, a mass audience with the Pope.
RP: And what was your must humorous experience during the War, if you had any?
HT: Oh, I don't know. I can't think of anything, what I would call humorous. There was always something that was going on that was humorous.
RP: And how many total missions did you go on?
HT: I flew 29 total missions.
RP: Was there a lack of social opportunities and friends because of the War?
HT: No. Because of all the people you were with were your friends. If you were in a training detachment, the people that was with you was your friends. Our replacement training, we became very close with another crew and they ended up in the same squadron we were in, in the 454th Bomb Group.
RP: How did the community respond to the War and (inaudible)initiatives?
HT: Now you mean the people at home?
HT: Everybody worked very closely with the Rationing Boards. The community worked together. That's the best way I can say.
RP: Tell me about shortages and rationing for food and gas.
HT: We didn't have it overseas. The people at home, since my father was a farmer and a school bus driver, he had gas.
RP: And did you have like a Victory Garden? Or other ways to get enough food?
HT: If you lived on a farm, you had a big garden. My folks always had a very large garden and did a lot of canning.
RP: How did you cope with War-time shortages?
HT: Living on the farm, you do with what you have.
RP: Did you have to re-cycle rubber, grease or other commodities?
HT: They did that with tires and stuff, yes.
RP: To what extent was there hoarding or black market activity in your area?
HT: You didn't know of it. If you lived on the farm, you didn't hoard.
RP: How did you feel about War in the East from newsreels or radio?
HT: They were as accurate at that time as possible. That's all you can say, because what
they could get out, they would show, but it was the best information available.
RP: How did you feel when the War ended? What did you do when you heard the news?
HT: The 738th Squadron, which I was a member of, had just opened an Enlisted Men's Club. And there was quite a bit of alcohol consumed. And they even heard rumors that some people planned to burn planes, so they called people out to go out and watch the planes to keep anybody from burning them. And the weather was very cold, and I sat for about four hours in a plane or around the plane, being around the plane, until relieved. And it was extremely cold inasmuch as the temperature of Italy is approximately the same as Indianapolis. And the temperature in Indianapolis in early May is cold.
RP: Where were you when you heard the news?
HT: We were in our tents, our tent area.
RP: Did you keep your job of teaching other war-time activities after the War?
HT: I went back to work for the same company I worked for before.
RP: And that was?
HT: Link Belt Company.
RP: Is there one thought about your war-time experience that you want to share
with future generations?
HT: The best thing that I know is most of the thinking today, this is what we need to do, what we should do, let's do it and do it to the best of our ability.
RP: Is there anything else that you would like to add on the subject?
HT: War-time does one of two things. It takes a lot of young men, boys, and makes men out of them, makes leaders. Or they just stay boys and don't grow up. My thinking on the War and why the United States was so successful, it didn't make any difference who was leading whether it was an Officer, a Sergeant or a Private, who could step up and do the best job at that time. The Germans can only follow a leader, an Officer. Americans, it could be a Buck Private or a General doing the leading.
RP: Thank you for helping me with my report. And thanks for going through this with me.
HT: Thank you.
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