Bryan Clark Nathan Jenkins

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Bryan Clark

Nathan Jenkins

Chris Boyle (per. 2)

Period 3


Colonel James Ritter (Jim)

Colonel James Ritter (Jim) is a veteran of WWII and the Korean War, however Colonel Ritter said, “ I did not do much in Korea”. Mr. Ritter was drafted into the army in April 15th, 1941. Prior to being drafted he had been in ROTC for three years. In WWII he was stationed in the European Theatre eight miles from Northridge, England. Colonel Ritter served in the Army Airforce and was a member of the 466th Bomb Group (H). In WWII he flew B-24’s. “This was the largest aircraft at the time”, Mr. Ritter recalled.

Once James was drafted, he was not interested at flying at first. However he ended up deciding to go into the airforce and learn how to fly. He first had to learn how to fly the Pt-19, which took about 50 hours. In October 1941, just six months after being drafted, Jim graduated from flying school at Lovett. From there he then went over to Liberal, Kansas to make the transition to fly B-24’s. The B-24 was not as safe as other planes. “ The B-24 was called the Unforgiving plane”, said Colonel Ritter. Next he went on to Wyoming were he trained for combat. “ The weather was awful there”, Mr. Ritter remembered. In Wyoming was were he was assigned to his crew. Majority of them were younger than him, primarily in their late teens and early twenties. Then Jim went to Cook, Nebraska to practice high formation flying. He was then shipped off to Ireland to under go survival training. James then went to England with the 466th Bomb Group (H).

During WWII Colonel Ritter flew flying missions over occupied Europe and Germany. He flew his first mission on March 22, 1944.He also flew many missions over to Patellae over the English Channel was were they would drop “Buzz Bombs”. “ Bombing missions would take about seven to eleven hours”, Mr. Ritter said. The bombing missions would consist of 1600 - 1800 airplanes. He recalls, “ To get 1600 to 1800 aircrafts’ into formation was extremely difficult. It usually took longer to get into formation than to actually do the mission.” What made the mission even more difficult to complete, was the issue of visibility, majority of the time it was just pitch black. The B-24’s also had not heating at all. When they would fly above 20,000 ft, it would get about 72 degrees below zero. The guns would sometimes get so cold that if they touched them it would rip their skin off. “ When guys would got to take a leak, the pee would freeze when it would hit the ground,” said Jim. To bomb Saint Lowe, they used 250-pound fragment bombs. Fragment bombs were like a grenade, when they would explode they would shoot metal fragments everywhere. “ A fragment could penetrate a radiator from 200 feet,” said Colonel Ritter, “ some of our own men would get killed from these bombs because they would get too close wanting to see it.” Jim flew his last mission on April 25, 1945.

Other than bombing missions, Mr. Ritter also flew nine fueling missions. Fueling missions were extremely dangerous; they lost more men on fueling missions than bombing. They would also have to fly very low. “ We would be flying at tree level, dodging buildings and church steeples,” Colonel Ritter recalled. He remembered after they bombed Saint Lowe, General Patton took over. General Patton tried to avoid German troops by going around them. However he ended up running out of fuel for his tanks in Saint-Quentin. Mr. Ritter then had to fly fuel over to Patton going under enemy fire. He was successful in doing so and Patton was able to go on his way.

An amazing thing that Colonel Ritter did was one time his engine blew 16 minutes after take off and he flew the B-24 to his initial point. He also had a scary moment when he left early in the morning on July 24, 1944. Once he left the 3rd engine quit and he was unable to gain altitude and crashed into a tree. Only he and the radio operator were injured in the crash and thankfully the injuries were not too bad. Overall in the 466th Bomb Group (H), there was 231 missions flown, 333 KIA, and 170 POWs.

Mr. Ritter’s thoughts on his wartime service were he had no regrets at all. Since he was drafted he had no choice and looked at his service as just doing a job. He felt that the toughest time in the service was the night before he was going to do a mission and he would be sitting in his bed thinking how he would prepare and what to do incase of an emergency until he would finally fall asleep. On his experiences he said, “When you are flying, you don’t think about everything that is happening and you are so busy. But when you get on the ground, you are ready to collapse.” However he was extremely happy when he would complete a mission.

During his wartime service, Colonel Ritter earned the Distinguished Flying medal and The Flying cross. He is currently living in Riverside, California and is still apart of the United States Air Force. He is an Admissions liaison officer of USAF Academy and AFROTC.

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