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Interview on experiences in World War II

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World War II Remembers Project: Oral History Interview with Charles Benedict

Note: Ellipsis (...) indicates a fragmentary or introductory utterance. Square brackets enclose information such as [unintelligible], the transcriber's best guess as to what was said, or editorial notes from the transcriber.

Interviewer: [first part cut off] 3rd, 2007. My name is Brian Grubbs and I'm interviewing Chuck Benedict and I was wondering, Mr. Benedict, if you would start off today by talking about birthday and where you were born and a little bit about growing up.

Charles Benedict: I was born March... early on March 17, 1926 in McLean, Illinois, and the we had... and my father had opened up a service station on July of 1925 and that was before Route 66, this was in McLean before Route 66 was 66, it was Route 4 then a year and a half later it become that. Then six years later hi '32, he built a home right adjacent to our service station. I think mainly because he'd built on a cafe; back then we didn't have restaurants, they were cafe's, and I wish I had a picture of the... well, there's a picture of the station right there taken before it even had the restaurant built on it and so he had a sign on top of it said "Stop.." Now, he only had a 4th grade education so, it said "Stop, Eat and Gas with Us" which would have been apropos on Monday because they did serve bean soup.

We ended up... [Route] 66 went there and just a half a block away was the Chicago Alton Railroad and they always said - and this was during the depression time - they always said that the transients had you marked and so it ended up they just gave more food away because they would not, dad and mom, she was a cook and my sister was a waitress, and they went and gave... they wouldn't let a hungry person go. Well, I shouldn't say that because, well about every Sunday - Sunday once a month... now dad was one of 15 from Kentucky, around Danville, in fact, and my mother was one of 15 but each one of them, their mothers had had three stillborn children so they were more-or-less one of 12, each one.

And they would come to our house and have potluck and every one of her sisters were great cooks, all of them had their own specialty and, in fact, my grandmother, she would come on our birthdays and bake angel food cakes from scratch with either 11 or 12 egg whites and she would sit in front of the stove just watching the thermometer and would feed them a cob at a time - now we're talking about the depression in the '30s - would feed the fire a cob at a time and, too, if it was your birthday, you were to keep the rest of the kids out of the place and not slam the door, that was your job. And, oh, the cake would melt in your mouth and she was a great baker and she would make rolls and she'd just... I thought that yeast was old. And it would just melt; just delicious.

Oh, one thing, we were kind of glad that they did close up the service station because mom was a pie baker and she had meringue - boy, she could whip that meringue in the crock and boy, she would just whip that, and about all we got, and you know there was

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

banana cream pie and all the apples and pie and stuff, that was eaten up by them. We got to eat the three-day old raisin pie which, I mean, it was good, probably the day it was made, but it did fill up your tummy.

And part of our growing up, one thing we did, my father... We'd have generally chicken on Sunday and so that was normally our big meat day and she would even fry the chicken feet. She would nip off the thing and scrape what she could. There was no meat there but it was something for us to chew on and the flavor was there so you, but... and the neck and the head. And dad, I know, it was a case of, "Well, I want the back." He didn't want the back, looking back on it, he just wanted us to have one of the good pieces because there was three of us, my sister who was two years older, born in '24, and my brother. My sister, Eleanor, and my brother, Delmer, was born April 17th of'28. Eleanor's birthday was January 6th of'24.

I did say, I can remember on one Sunday we were having a potluck there, like I said, and dad came over and said there's a man over here that hasn't eaten (at the station) hasn't eaten for several days and, "Would you fix him a plate?" Well, they ended up fixing two plates, one dessert and then one piled up with chicken... piled the chicken pot pie, everything just delicious. And dad started to walk over the station and here our dog come and sniffed the guy's food and he made one mistake, he kicked a Kentuckian's dog and you do not kick a Kentuckian's dog. And he said, "Hey! Stop kicking my dog!" He said, "I don't like dogs." and he said, "Well, you shouldn't have kicked my dog." Now, he took it over there; he said, "This is what you've missed for kicking my dog." showing him the two plates of food. "Oh, I'm sorry about that." Nope and dad took it and... I think hopefully that transient learned a lesson. Of course, at that time we called them bums.

We had a big garden and we'd plant potatoes. We also would, for exterminating, once in a while they would use arsenic of lead to kill the potato bugs but most generally it was our job to pick the potato bugs off, put it in a can of kerosene and, I mean, that way or if there's a bunch of eggs, we'd pick off the leaf and put them in and then you burnt those.

And we butchered. We had cows. One of my first jobs when I was big enough - dad made a cart and on each side of the axle was a 10-gallon milk can and we went around the neighborhood and picked up kitchen scraps or better known back then as slop, and that's what we fed our hogs on. Plus, and too, from time-to-time there was a cheese factory five miles south of us and we'd get the whey and we'd pull that into - especially in wintertime - we'd pull that into a big 55-gallon drum with oats in it and then he'd build a fire underneath it.

Another thing with him was that during the depression, he would take com for gasoline and tires and we had a picket fence crib and they'd dump the corn out of,.. I mean ear corn... and bring that and ended up it was double height, and when the price of corn, I think it was eiHier late '33 or early '34, we shelled the corn and our little doggy and the other doggy killed 89 rats. Oh, you couldn't walk around without the rats sticking then-heads up.

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

Like I said, we raised hogs and then when it would become cold, we would be butchering days and dad was the head lard maker but you had to be very careful not to get the fire too hot, just keeping it right. We would eat fresh meat to where it was... I mean, we really gorged ourselves for probably about three weeks and then, of course, canned a lot of different things and one thing with the lard, you'd cut up the meat, put it in, then pour lard in the jars, seal that. We had hams would be in a big barrel and salt.

Technical Assistant: Did you smoke anything?

CB: We had a smokehouse but we did not smoke anything. I mean, it was called a smokehouse and I imagine it probably could have but, no, we didn't normally smoke it. It was mostly cured and canned, which again was pretty good because... Well, we did have a butcher in our town, he was an Irish butcher, and come March 17th, which is my birthday, which is St. Pat's Day, he'd give my dad heck. "Anybody that's got a son born on St. Patrick's Day and don't name him Patrick, should be quartered and drawn." But we lived in a small town, well probably then was only 550 and in McLean, Illinois, which I don't know if I've said on film but 140 miles by rail from Chicago or St. Louis.

Then went to... from there went to school where we walked to school, then walked back and I had one of my best buddies, his birthday was on February 17th, he was [unintelligible] and I would chase him and he could just outrun me, outrun me. But when we'd play basketball or stuff, we would know.., I would know exactly what he was going to do, he would know exactly what I was going to do, but then... And like I said, I chased him and chased him and then finally in our junior year, I was able to. v whoever got the best start would win and then in my senior year.... But then he left halfway through our senior year; he joined the Navy because he could at 17, because then there was World War II which I was...

Okay, as a freshman, when they bombed Pearl Harbor and I knew that I was going to... the moment I finished high school, I was going to be drafted; I'd go too. And I never realized how fearful we were until I was probably 50 years old and then here they were fighting in Europe, we were fighting in South Pacific and losing, even from small towns, losing some boys, but I probably didn't apply myself as much as I should during high school although my senior year, I always wanted to be an aviator and a pilot, and so I went and passed the screening for the B5 for Navy Aviation Cadet, passed that and they sent me a ticket to go to St. Louis for my physical, and this is like probably in November of'43.

So, being a country bumpkin, I got on the first train that stopped in McLean, headed south. The only problem was it was a milk train which we call... It stopped at every town, even between towns, to pick up milk and cream and so when I got to St. Louis, it was 3:30 in the afternoon. So I go to the examination place and they said, "Well, we can't give him a physical now. I've got a date at 5:30. Well, we have to get him out of here." And the dentist said, "Come here, young man." And I went in. "Well, you've got an overbite. Go back and they'll give you a ticket to go back home."

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

And so I went back home and I took the Aviation Cadet for the Army Air Corps and passed it, and really I was very surprised at the people that didn't pass it; so I could be a cadet. Well, I was 18 on March 17, signed up for the draft; I get a notice that if I wanted to... Well, and I went to Chanute Field and passed the physical there and so went... I'm probably giving you way more information than you really want.

TA: No, this is great.

CB: And so anyway they said, "If you want to stay in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet, then you have to volunteer" so I took that up to the draft board and the man in charge of the draft board said, "We'll call you." But it was Walt Jordan and I had passed; there was four of us that had a screening, Bill Pitch and Irving Imer flunked their physical because of eyes and so, anyway, we signed up for volunteer induction so we left on April 24th to be in...

And, too, at that time there was a law that if you had passing grades up to 3-1/2 years, you would get your diploma. So, anyway, went to the Reception Center in Chicago. We got there and.,. well, they gave us a place to sleep overnight. I don't know just exactly why that was but anyway we was there. I think probably we got there too late for our physical or for the rest of the people. But, anyway, a side thing too, I was going with a preacher's daughter at that time, Veda Fay Saylor, in McLean but her sister was working for the telephone company in Chicago so I went to see her and they wouldn't allow us to go up - we was in civies - so they had to have her come down and so we talked there and so, anyway, then the next day at 9:15 a major...

Bud and I raised our right hand and they swore us into the Army Air Corps as Aviation Cadet, going to be a pilot or bombardier, co-pilot or whatever happened and so he turned around to his sergeant and he said, "Sergeant, Do you have anything for these gentlemen to do until the train pulls out at 6:30 this evening for Fort Sheridan?" "I think I can do that." Now here is a young man who left school six weeks before he graduated, going to enlist to be a pilot (I was still thinking I was going to be a pilot) and the sergeant took us down and in five minutes we were doing pots and pans, still in our civies, so I guess the Army found a job we could really handle and so, anyway, so here I was on K.P. within 5 minutes.

So then we went to Fort Sheridan and there'd just been a trainload left of Army Air Corps people so waited for three weeks. And one reason why I told this story about... The next weekend we had a pass, went back into Chicago; went to see Veda Fay's sister, Irva, at the telephone company and I was still ill-fitted, hadn't been... I think they expected me to grow. I mean I'd never wore anything over 7-1/2 shoes; we'll, I had 9Bs. They did fit around the top.

But, anyway, went there. "Well, go on up and see her." Whereas, the week before, they wouldn't even let us in; and we didn't even have all our brass on or any insignias but they just let us go up and see her and, being two males in 1944, well that would be probably

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

about the first of May '44, there was a... we were the main attraction on the floor, may I say.

And then, too, I missed the prom, the graduation, but they did have our pictures and we were sent... I was in Shepherd Field, Texas, for basic training and they did physical and stuff like that and at that... and the psychiatrist said (and we're talking about 95 degree weather) said, "Stick out your hand. Well, you got sweaty palms. You got inner nervousness so you're washed out."

But I was fortunate, really, to be washed out because they only kept the top 10 percent. They didn't need any pilots or bombardiers or navigators at that time. They did need gunners so they just kept the cream of the crop, which was called "on the line training" and all they did was wash parts, stood guard duty, cleaned out airplanes, cleaned out... any crappy job, they were doing. But, instead, they said, "Oh, well, with your mechanical aptitude, you'll be sent to Aviation Engineering" which could have meant Chanute Field which was only 50 miles from home.

So one Sunday morning, woke me up and they said, "Get up. You're going to Armor School." I didn't even know what armor meant. They didn't say armament, they said Armor School. "Oh no. I'm going to be engineering."

He said, "Are you Charles H. Benedict, 36947463?" "Yeah."

"Get your can out and fall out in 45 minutes to go to squadron headquarters. You're going to Denver, Colorado, in an hour to Armor School."

So went there and then we went to Harlington, Texas, to Gunnery School. I ended up... in fact, over there I've got a bracelet. I was one of the six best gunners out of a class of 500. Taught three... Well, one of the first classes two, it was class 4444 at Harlington to the Armor to be the top turret gunner on a B-24. Normally, that had been up to pretty close then, was the engineer, but the top turret is the quarterback of your gunners and would call out probably a good 80 percent - 75 to 80 percent of all the attacks so if you had any problem with the airplane, the engineer would leave that spot and take care of whatever was needed on the airplane so they went and put armor gunner, more or less.,. okay, the bombardier was the armament officer of the crew. I was the armament non-com because after gunnery, I became a Corporal, and then my nose gunner was my assistant because he was in the nose and if something would happen to the bombardier then he could help there.

So anyway, from there we were sent to Lowry 2 for our,.. it was called a 69 physical. It was very strenuous so that you could.,. and a decompression chamber so that you were physically fit to fly at high altitudes and we were also assigned to a crew there. Then we were sent to Langley Field - not Langley Field, pardon... Tonopah, Nevada.

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

I: How would you spell that?

CB: Tonopah, T-O-N-O-P-A-H. In fact, I've got a picture of not the one, but it was saying it's two hundred and six.., Well, it's where the Blackbirds flew out of; it's 130 miles from Las Vegas, 235 miles Reno, and Reno at that time was the town. Las Vegas wasn't anything but a cow town and Tonopah was... I always said I really thought anybody that was caught cheating or, I mean, dealers that couldn't do it good, they would send them to Tonopah because Tonopah had a gambling hall, a restaurant, gambling hall and in the restaurants they had slot machines so I mean, I had a nose gunner, he would lose his paycheck within three days. 'Course he'd go in and they'd clean you out big time.

Anyway, we went to... we flew missions and, too, I really I think that I was blessed or maybe because my pilot, he was an old man - he was 26 years of age at the time, we were 18-19 years old and I would love to know what he had done. I think he had to have been an instructor pilot and I think we were designated, our crew was designated for bigger and better things because our pilot... only one time in all the formation flying, did we ever not be lead ship. One time in the training, we would be wingman but, outside of that, we were always lead ship and I would still love to have a picture of flying over those Nevada mountains with 16 planes here and then off down here 16 more planes flying at high altitude with all the vapor trails going back from them and we would attack Hawthorn Naval Air Station, supposedly a safe attack, and then the naval guys would scramble and come up and their leader had his airplane painted just like a bumble bee and you talk about...

Well, with your B-24...

With your B-24 like this and what - he would come from underneath like this, roll over, and of course you were going... and he rolled... and, of course, most all the rest of them... When you're a pilot, you have to aim ahead of, and actually, more or less you're flying into the bullets, and start here and you had to lead them three rads here, a rad and a half here; when you was right back here, you'd be dead on and so... But, boy, he was fast; either that or he'd come out of the sun and just what you were going to have to put up, but I mean most of the other guys were not... And this was all done with gun camera and then also the bombardier was bombing by gun camera.

There was more B-24s made in World War II than there was 17s. They flew more missions and they would carry a bigger bomb load; they were longer distance than a 17 but I really believe Lockheed, er Boeing, had better PR people and so... Although... the 17. It could take more damage than the 24 could and, too, on ditching it, we were high wing or middle wing and they were low wing. They allowed us in training, 10 seconds to get out of the thing during a ditching so our crew members had figured out we were just going to bail out if we had to. We were not going to ditch because...

And a 17 with a low wing and a bigger wing, they've been known to float for an hour but that's pretty big but whereas we had roll-up things and it would just tear when you'd land; the water pressure would just tear those off and they'd fill up and, too, another thing I

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

think they surely later... but you throw a stick in the water and it goes down and comes back up - when they'd do that, this would unhitch and drop through the bottom because see you have armor plating from here to here, 3/4 inch armor plating, and just the weight of it.

I: Now this turret top, is that armor plated too? CB: Right, right. The front of it. I: The front of it was?

CB: Just the front. No, this was Plexiglas and had twin .5 Os and it was... In gunnery, you hear people talk about caliber .50? No, it was... Well, it was called caliber .50, not a 50 caliber which everybody uses, because if it was so-called, you didn't put the point there, it would be about like a 16-inch gun and so but... like you said, see you had a nose which was an Emerson turret, this was a Martin turret, this was a consolidated turret, and this was a Sperry turret, ball turret here.

One reason why I think maybe we were, all of us... The pilot was an excellent instrument pilot, our bombardier set a new ETA record, the [volley] at Tonopah and, of course, I was one of the sixth best gunners out of the class and we were Crew No. 353 and so, after finished with it, ten crews were sent to Langley Field, Virginia, to be radar bombers, or lead ship, and so we had... (I did have it...) and so anyway we... but at that time we lost our ball turret because they put an antenna in place of that for radar bombing.

I: What kind of pay load did you carry?

CB: Pardon.

I: What kind of pay load did you carry?

CB: Well, noimally all we... At that time, we just practice bombs and we would have, I think it was, I think 30, just 100 pound practice bombs. Now one thing that was exciting, if you want to call it that; two things was exciting. When- they had an escape hatch right under here; it was about this big by this big, and when the bombardier would be dropping test bombs, at nighttime it would be a flash or in the daytime it would be smoke, whether it was flash but you'd know it, and I would have to check out a camera and lean over... lean out over this and take pictures of where the bombs hit. But, you had to tether the camera. I wasn't tethered. They could get another me but cameras were short to come by and boy, "Now you be sure you tether this camera."

But, too, more or less, it was training and really, you're expendable. Well, in fact, see that was one thing, "We'll give you enough ammunition, enough fuel, for you to fly over the target and drop your bombs. We'll try to give you enough fuel and enough ammunition so if you want to you can fight your way back home, but if you don't, you've

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

done your job." So, I mean, you more or less knew that very definitely you were expendable.

TA: How'd that make you feel to know you were expendable?

CB: Well, I was 18 years of age and that's why... I mean, 18-19, there's never going to be anything happen and if it does, the Lord hasn't charged me for this air that we breathe or living this long, you know, and so you were more or less... that's why I say teenagers and young men make way better... they're running down a gun barrel if they're told to whereas a 30, 32, 35 year old cries, "Hey! You lead the way."

But, then too, when we were sent to Langley Field, the rest of the crews, the nine crews, changed their number but we kept our 353 number and that's why I really think we were destined. Another thing we had, too, looking back on it, we had (and we were one of the few crews that did), a short field takeoff, which whether they were thinking that they were going to have a great big aircraft carrier and we would take off from there like the little Mitchell bomber which was our two-inch barrel also. But we were... the react... and we only did that about four times and I was glad when they quit it because both pilot and co-pilot would flip their feet on the brakes as hard as they could and they would rev the engine up max speed and you would think that the 24 was going to fall apart and then, man they'd let off the brakes and take until... to the marker and then they'd hit 40 degree flap, 40 degree pull flap, and it would just jump up about 50 to 75 feet in the air and then once it got there, then they'd reduce it to 20 degree flaps and then you'd hover and take off.

I: Do you think that was to prepare for a short, small island?

CB: Well, that's what they told us it was but I don't know. I mean, maybe I'm reading more into it than what there really was and... but so we were being trained and was flying 12 hours... 10 to 12 hours per mission. We'd take off from Langley Field, Virginia. We'd either bomb Boston, we'd bomb Cleveland; we'd go around for 10 or 12 hours and I will say this much, they had... the kitchen was open, the fire was there, you could go in after you landed, go in get a steak, take a pound of butter, put it there, steak... very good flying.

We didn't have that good of food in Harlington, Texas. We had raunchy ol' stew which was - well, now I wouldn't doubt if there wasn't goat in it, but there was [unintelligible] about this thick; in fact, I got airsick with that, it just didn't settle, but then from the time gunnery to... they had discovered Dramamine or was starting to use it, and that... plus the food was better there. Too, I also found out that was why you... the ground crew is the ones that keep you in the air.

TA: How so?

CB: Well, because they're the ones that keeps this airplane mechanically going. In fact, just before we got there, a Colonel Fagen who is probably one of the greatest base

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

commanders I've ever had as far as listening to his people. In fact, he was sent because there was more people dying in crashes in Tonopah, Nevada, and in training than there was almost going overseas and having somebody shooting at you, because Tonopah was in the Fourth Air Course which is Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah -1 think that's it. I don't think Montana but could have been. But, anyway, that was Fourth Air and any ground crew people screwed up in any of those bases, they didn't want to send them overseas and have a screw-up there, they'd send them to Tonopah, Nevada.

Now, like I said, Tonopah, Nevada, there were 75 WACs and 1,000 officers and about 1,000 enlisted men. Well, guess where the WACs would go? If you were an enlisted man you had very small chance, but so anyway, Colonel Fagen was sent to Tonopah there and he got a new engineering officer and, too, he developed a deal where they had a DC-3 and they would take... whoever had the best... er the least amount of red lines. Okay, we'd fly and something would go wrong, the pilot would red line this problem, that problem, and the one who had the least amount of red lines, they would fly them...

Of course, again, at that time, on a three-day pass you could take the train and you could go to L.A. and if you made all the train connections, you would have two hours in L.A. If you didn't make the train connections, you'd be AWOL coming back but,.. So, on Friday he'd fly there and then Sunday evening they'd fly him back. In fact, the first week I was there, six airplanes crashed and the first week I was there one of my details was to body bag the crew and one that we had about everybody's head was snapped off from the thing and now if you go to an aviation crash or airplane crash, well you've psychiatrists and all these to counsel you. Well, my counseling was, the next Monday morning I got in a B-24 and flew.

But, anyway, we were the first crew... we were the first class to ever graduate from Tonopah, Nevada, without a fatality. We did lose an engine one tune because... and it was air-to-ground but it was over a dry lake and we lost it but we was heading in the right direction and all we did was come in and land. Another thing, air-to-ground, all we got to shoot at was old trucks or old things or maybe tin for air-to-ground deal, and of course at that time, I would have to shoot from the waist and, of course, when a cattle rancher would have a sick cow or so, he'd shoo it out on this range. "Oh, that's a live target." And, of course, that cow would lose... demise, and the next morning at briefing they said, "Which one of you crews" (there were so many crews on) "killed Father... Rancher Brown's prize bull?" and, of course, if you had a sick cow, all you had to do was put it out there and we would shoot at it because it moved, whereas the rest of them...

I: Just sat there.

CB: Yeah. And life really didn't mean that much but anyway, we ended up, like I said, we was the first class ever to go through there without a fatality and that was when we learned that the people on the ground is the one that keep you in the air. So then we were sent to Langley Field and, like I said, they were training us on 10 to 12 hour missions and, too, I know that there's an island off of the coast there that had to grow I don't know

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

how many, because we would bomb it. But we could land and if it was bad weather, they would get us and we'd have to go out and bomb this island through clouds. See we were the radar lead ship so we could bomb anytime, any weather, that was what our job was to be. I mean, the radar bombing and so I don't know how many tons... well, at a hundred pounds of sand, I don't know how... I know it had to triple or quadruple in size.

And I think the Lord was looking out after us because Truman did decide to drop the atomic bomb, both of them, and we were... the crew that left the Friday before us and we were scheduled to fly out. I think it was Monday or Tuesday that the war was over and we were fortunate enough, we were the first bus that they stopped and didn't let us get into town at war's end or maybe we'd have gotten into trouble with the celebration. But, anyway, we were scheduled to fly out that following Friday and we were going to... well, I was going to buzz my claim and then, too, it's Salinas, Kansas, isn't it? Or Salina?

TA: It's Salina, Kansas.

CB: Okay, Salinas, California, is where we were there and you'd take off from there and... which was Hickam Field. They always said it was sealed orders but when you went there, you knew where you were going, but maybe you could have went to Alaska, I don't know. But, anyway, the crew that left the Friday before us was halfway to Hawaii and the moment they got to Hawaii, it was Army Air Corps so you're still Army, so they grounded the bombardier, the radar operator, and all the gunners and sent them to Japan for Army of Occupation and so from there, I mean they grounded us and, like I said, we had eaten real good up to that point.

Well, we had hot dogs for 21 days, three days a week... I mean three times a day. You would boil them for dinner, barbeque them for supper. If there was any barbeque left over or any of them left over, wash that off, fry them for breakfast; boil them for dinner, barbeque them for supper and man! I could eat a hot dog and a fever sore would pop up. But, like I said, we had been up to that point, I mean with flying, we really got the best food and so instead of being sent and being Army of Occupation, I was sent to Chanute Field, met my future wife and always wondered what would have happened.

In fact, I was telling this to a niece that was named after my wife Joyce, called Joy. She said, "Boy am I ever glad that you were... that the war was over and you were not sent or my name could have been Okinawa or something like that." I had real rough duty for about three months. I was in charge of a day room which really was rough duty, which was an orientation hall and we had two pool tables, a Yuker table - not a Yuker but had smaller balls and a ping-pong table, had a billiard table there, had [unintelligible] given a console radio and also had curtains on the windows and I would go in and here was my office and so..,

I: Sounds like you were roughing it.

CB: And, too, it was... Where we fell out for detail. And so we have a town by the name of San Jose there just 26 miles west of McLean so when I'd call out for the

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

sergeant, I'd say, ["Joe's Montallo"] and he'd say, "Jose." Which I thought... Then after so many times, he come up to me and said, "Sarge, I don't know where you're from but where I'm from J-O-S-E is Jose not Joe's.

Then from there, then I was a guide in a Separation Center and that's where I separated this cream of the crop, the 10 percent who had just stood guard duty, whereas I went on and like in Tonopah on April 1st I made sergeant, so here I was Buck Sergeant and here they were still just on-the-line trainees and they had a, had just done... And, too, I ended up one fewer guide, they had more guides than they did things so I got to where I would do the emergency. Say, okay, if you were due for it and, okay, your wife was sick or someone, I would run you through and I knew everybody in medical; in finance I knew the orientation and the fastest I ever discharged a guy was 45 minutes but I would get them discharged and out and it gave me something to do rather than just sit.

[Tape Two]

CB: This is my father's helmet in World War I. He was a heavy machine gunner and this is also the Seventh Division and I'm having a hard time. I'm going to have to go to that Oren Dunn Museum over in Kansas City.

I: Liberty Memorial?

CB: Yeah. And he was a heavy machine gunner, water cooled. My daughter gave me this and I built this for it. But anyway, he didn't weigh a hundred pounds and he carried the machine gun and one thing of ammunition. It was a three-man squad. The other carried the tripod and another carried ammunition and the third one carried two canisters of water because that's how they kept it cool. This is a picture of him in his uniform. In fact he's got the [unintelligible].

TA: Now how old would he have been then?

CB: This one here is probably... well, it's taken in '44 so, okay, if... 12 and 44 - he's 56 years old. He was born in October 7 of 1888.

TA: Okay.

CB: Then, of course, there's a Burger-Benedict Post and then this is a citation that was given to him by the President of France in World War I and that's his dog tags, this is his discharge there and then this is a picture of my son and this was when he was in the Air National Guard and he was a ECM, Evasive Counter Measure, on the Phantom-4 jet and then he went into... he moved to Arizona and moved to artillery and then went into the engineers and he was on several task forces, built a lot of roads and stuff like that. And there's my picture taken in '44 after I graduated with my gunnery wings.

TA: What do the gunnery wings look like now? If you could describe them.

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

CB: It's a gun... It's a bullet with wings on it and then, too, this is air crew member. This is a good conduct medal which a lot of people who know me, question - they must have just gave it everybody. And this is your caliber .50 machine gun bullet.

I: What's the blue medal in the middle?

CB: I think that's the Victory... No, this is Victory and this is Expedition for serving in World War II. That's my dog tag and that's the bracelet I got for being the sixth best gunner in Harlington, Texas. And, of course, this is the Air Force and that's the Fourth Air Force and actually I found a picture of it over at the museum in Topeka [Kansas].

I: The Historical Society? TA: No, they have an airplane... CB: Yeah, Combat... TA: Combat Air Museum.

CB: Of course, I actually got an expert in guns, also got it on carving. And then, of course, this is my discharge.

I: Do you want to talk about your filling station?

CB: That is '27, it was opened up July of 1925 and technically I was conceived in July of 1925. But anyway, six years later dad built a house right adjacent to it and, too, before that he had built a cafe" on where my mother worked and one of my first jobs was, due to the fact the age of my grandfather, was checking the oil on the Model T. Now the Model T did not have a dipstick.

I: Really?

CB: They had... in the back end they had two petcocks and you had what is called a petcock wrench and you'd get down and you'd turn the bottom petcock and if oil ran out, you'd just close it. Well, if oil didn't run out, you closed it and then you opened the top one and then you would pour oil into that and at that time... I don't know about that time; the first oil solicitation I can remember was Standolind 110, Isovist 160 and Quaker State was, I think it was 300 cents or 320.

Too, when we went from the old visible pumps like that they have there to the metered pumps, they went and said that people instead of buying a gallon, they would buy 250 worth, 500 worth or 750 or a dollar. Now, if you'd have come in and ask for a dollar's worth, I would say, "Oh, don't you want seven gallons, it's only $1.06." The other day I bought $20 worth of gas and didn't get seven gallons.

Charles Benedict WWII Oral History (cont'd)     

[Route] 66 bypassed us in November of 1946 and my brother, Delmer, and dad and I we built... this is after I added on -1 bought them out in 1960. Anyway, July of'47 is the first gas we sold; we wasn't even... We were just working out of a cigar box and no windows were in it and people were looking for gas and they'd pull up so we got... That's after we remodeled it in... I bought it. Like I said, I bought them out in '66 and... I mean in '60 and then anyway, in '65... And boy did Standard Oil, were they ever unhappy with me. I put the ladies' restroom inside. "What do you mean? They're supposed to..." I said, "Where else do you go and your wife has to..." "Oh, but they..." I said, "You mean when you go to a restaurant, your wife would rather go walk outside and stand in inclement weather? No way."

But, anyway, that's us - we were married 33 years, 7 months and 9 days and she passed away with cancer.

TA: I'm sorry.

CB: I could not adjust to single life so I ended up, three years later, I met Marilyn who... this is more or less her folks - that's her and her son - her side of the... sorry her folks' picture has fallen.


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