This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on September 27, 1999, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s
Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the Society offices on
College Avenue. My name is Dave Graham and I am interviewing Harvey Levine. And
now we begin.

Interviewer: And Harvey, why don’t you give us a little background on the
family, parents, grandparents, when they came over . . . .

Levine: Well grandparents, my mother’s mother and father came from Odessa,
Russia on the Black Sea.

Interviewer: And what was their name?

Levine: And my father’s mother and father came from Riga in Latvia. However
I always joked because most everyone was foreign-born but my father was born in
Providence, Rhode Island so that makes me three-quarters American. (laughter)

Interviewer: Uh huh, I see.

Levine: And because all the others were born overseas. My mother. And we had
my brother and I and two sisters.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Your mother’s maiden name?

Levine: Saslavsky, S-A-S-L-A-V-S-K-Y, nice Russian ending.

Interviewer: Okay. My father’s name was Levine, of course. I don’t really
know what it was in Latvia. I don’t think it was probably not Levine but . . .

Interviewer: What was his first name?

Levine: Nathan.

Interviewer: Nathan?

Levine: Nathan H.

Interviewer: What time did they come to America, did you . . . .

Levine: Say again?

Interviewer: When did they arrive in America?

Levine: Well my father was here.

Interviewer: He was here, yeah.

Levine: My mother came over when they all, we, when they all were coming
through Ellis Island. I have no idea what the year was. She was only 13 or 14 I

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: And they migrated for whatever reason from the east coast to
Cleveland, Ohio.

Interviewer: To Cleveland?

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: That’s where I took birth.

Interviewer: I see. What profession was your father . . . .

Levine: He was a, my father was a truck driver.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And at that time my mother was a housewife. They didn’t go out to
work. They had plenty to do at home. And that’s what he did all of his life
and . . . .

Interviewer: What languages did they speak?

Levine: Well they spoke Jewish. Not, my father didn’t. My mother, my
grandparents. If they spoke Russian I really don’t know. But Jewish they did.
And, which is a common language. And my little grandmother, that’s my father’s
mother, she was only about four foot, nine. She was the sweetest thing. Never
spoke a word of English but knew everything that was going on. And she is the
one that sent me to Hebrew School. I sang in the synagogue where she was a

Interviewer: Do you recall the name of the synagogue, Cleveland, a Cleveland

Levine: In Cleveland . . . .

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: And the Rabbi there who was the head of the synagogue, is the one who
married my wife and I. So his name was Cohen.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: Rabbi Cohen. Tacamo Shul, T-A-C-A-M-O.

Interviewer: Do you remember your grandmother’s first name, your little

Levine: Actually her first name was probably Bertha, I think.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: Because we named my daughter after her, Barbara.

Interviewer: Oh.

Levine: She passed away at 82 or 83. Something like that.

Interviewer: I see.

Levine: And I don’t know my other grandmother’s name. My grandfather’s
name was Harry on my mother’s side. And I can’t remember what it was on my
father’s side.

Interviewer: That’s pretty good background, that names pretty good.

Levine: A long time ago.

Interviewer: Now the size of your immediate family. You did have a brother?

Levine: I had a brother and two sisters.

Interviewer: Their names?

Levine: Beatrice was the oldest. She was my sister. And then myself as Harvey
of course was next. Then my brother Ed, Edwin, and my sister Shirley who being
the youngest, at the end of this month will be 75 now.

Interviewer: I see, I see. Now did Edwin stay in Cleveland?

Levine: I’m sorry.

Interviewer: Did Edwin stay in Cleveland?

Levine: I’m not sure I understand what you mean?

Interviewer: Edwin, Edwin . . . .

Levine: Well we all were in Cleveland.

Interviewer: Okay, I . . . .

Levine: We all came from Cleveland.

Interviewer: After you grew up and . . . .

Levine: Oh sure, nobody traveled in those days. I mean, it’s not, till
after the war.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And nobody thought about going anyplace else. We all lived in the
community- like with the uncles, the aunts and everybody.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well then how about your experience with schooling in
Cleveland? Was, did you finish high school, attend college?

Levine: Glenville High School and . . . .

Interviewer: What was that high school’s name?

Levine: Glenville.

Interviewer: Glenville?

Levine: Yeah. I think they tore it down finally.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: But it was a very good school back then and from there I didn’t go
to college. At that time I went to work and then from there is when I went to
the service. After the service I went to college. I went to Case.

Interviewer: After that service?

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay that’s . . . .

Levine: My brother went to East Tech. He took technical subjects.

Interviewer: Anything else that you might share about your family background
that might be of interest to future scholars or historians regarding the Jewish
community or the Jewish experience . . . . or anything?

Levine: Well my grandfather was very religious on my mother’s side and I
used to walk him almost every night to the synagogue.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Levine: And he prayed just about all day long. He was a tailor from the old
country but he had retired many years before that so he was very religious. And
but I don’t think it instilled in all of his children because most of them
went the other way and perhaps because it was too strict. You know what happens.

Interviewer: Yeah right.

Levine: And I learned most of mine from him and being the oldest boy, so I
was the one who always did those things with Grandpa.

Interviewer: Your maternal grandfather? His last name was Saslavsky?

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: That’s interesting. Okay. Anything else or should we begin
with the, sort of relate the family to the wartime then? Did your family support
the war or did they, I mean any views there about yourself towards the, you know
. . . .

Levine: Well.

Interviewer: the situation?

Levine: Support the war, I’m not sure they were for it . . . .

Interviewer: Well yeah.

Levine: because of the conditions that were happening there. I only know that
my brother and I both enlisted and my father was very proud. I’m not sure
about Mother. And I was also going with a nice lovely little lady. Her name was
Sally Schwartz. I knew her since I was 15 and she was my girl and when I got
home on leave is when we got married which was a long time ago, 1944.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Levine: But she passed away a few years ago.

Interviewer: Sorry to hear that.

Levine: And so growing up during the Depression I don’t think we thought
much of what was going to happen to us during the war or anything because things
were pretty rough generally. And I never thought much about it except that I
wanted to go and do whatever I could do.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Levine: And . . . .

Interviewer: Well that was my question about your family, not whether or not
they really supported it but to what degree did they say, “Hey you better
get in there . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: and do your part.” Or did they say . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: “It’s up to you” or anything?

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: That’s what I meant by that.

Levine: Yeah. I think most mothers will tell you, “No, don’t go.”
And my father was non- committal. And he missed the first World War ’cause he
was too young so, you know. So, but my brother and I both enlisted in the Air
Corps which is what we wanted to do and that was in 1942.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And you had a romance going at the time you say?

Levine: You bet. I knew Sally since she was 15 and we got married at age 22.

Interviewer: Wait a minute, did you give us Sally’s maiden name?

Levine: Schwartz.

Interviewer: Schwartz, okay. Okay. And did you correspond by letter or phone
during the war?

Levine: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: Probably wrote her every day that I could . . . .

Interviewer: Every day.

Levine: and she did too. And so when I got home from graduating from
Bombardier’s School, Navigation School, we had a 30-day leave. Never talked
about marriage and six days before the leave was over we decided it was time to
get married so my aunt and her mother went crazy getting everything ready.

Interviewer: Really?

Levine: Yeah. We had a big wedding in the house . . . .

Interviewer: In Cleveland?

Levine: In Cleveland. She’s from Cleveland.

Interviewer: Did she come from a large family or?

Levine: No she only had a brother.

Interviewer: What was his name?

Levine: Mike. Mike Schwartz.

Interviewer: Was he of military age at the time?

Levine: Yes he went too.

Interviewer: Oh he went too?

Levine: He was very lucky. They sent him to Arabia to make maps and that’s
where he spent the war.

Interviewer: Oh I see. Well there were, then beginning into you wartime
experience then, you had training. How about any particular experiences in your
training? Was, was it, for example, do you think it was adequate for the job you
had to do?

Levine: I had nothing to base it on. I thought the training for the Air Corps
was excellent. They seemed to know what they were doing and I think they trained
me pretty well and it was a rough time then in 19–, in the early 40s there and
when we went to San Antonio for those three days, all they were trying to do was
to scatter your nerves and see how you would react to various problems because
then they knew whether they could use you in the plane as a pilot, bombardier,
navigator, whatever the case may be. And so I made it through those fantastic
three days in San Antonio and I had to go in front of the board ’cause I didn’t
want to be a pilot. I wanted to be a bombardier. And when they asked me why, I
hope this doesn’t sound bad but I said I wanted to kill as many as I could
when I dropped the bombs and I meant it at that time. And so they made me a
bombardier. My brother became a pilot. And then they also made me a navigator.
So I did what I wanted to do and I didn’t have time to frankly be frightened
except for the second-last mission because my baby was born.

Interviewer: (Laughs)

Levine: And when she was born, then I was concerned whether I was going to
make it home or not.

Interviewer: Well we’ll sure want to hear about your thoughts and
experiences on that next-to-last mission.

Levine: Yeah, well.

Interviewer: But we don’t have to get to that right now. Let’s continue
with your training days. You say three days. Was that your first three days?
What was that?

Levine: Oh that was at San Antonio and that was mostly exams of all sorts.
Aside from physical they were mental exams and testing and just to see if you
were of the caliber they wanted. And if you passed that, then they sent you then
to various bases just like when you went, and they sent me to Big Springs. My
class was rather unusual I believe because aside from training at Big Springs
which was in an AT11, they also decided it would be nice if they sent us to
gunnery school, Loredo, Texas, on the border. 50 caliber machine guns. I had
never shot a gun in my life. And these were horrendous weapons at that time.

Interviewer: How were they mounted for firing?

Levine: Well they had them, oh in the planes?

Interviewer: No for the training?

Levine: For the training they had them mounted securely on the ground and you
trained first with a shotgun, going in a big 4X4 truck and shooting skeet so you
could learn to follow an object. And you’re talking about a city guy. What do
I know about guns?

Interviewer: Had you ever fired a gun before?

Levine: No, no. And the 50 caliber weapon was a huge, huge weapon. And we
trained and I think we had about a 16-week course in that, ground and in the
air. And that was the first time I went up in an airplane. This is most
interesting. If you remember the old picture “Wings,” with the double,
the bi-plane sitting in the fog in the distance. And it’s a two-seater, open,
and they said, “Good morning, Harv. This is where we’re going.” The
pilot gets in the front and I get in the rear and they attach you with a little
belt so you won’t fall out. And they got a 30 caliber machine gun and you’re
going to shoot at targets that another plane is pulling. Of course the pilot
knows that you’ve not been up before so he decided to do a few little
maneuvers like up, down, sideways, forward. Whatever he did to me, he fixed it
so I never got sick again in my life because when I climbed out of that plane, I
probably was as pale as a ghost and I didn’t know which end was up but I didn’t
get sick. And after that I never got sick. So he didn’t accomplish what he set
out to do.

Interviewer: What was your rank at the time? Did they give you a rank?

Levine: Aviation Cadet. Oh I forget to tell you, yeah we go into Aviation
Cadets first.

Interviewer: Oh yeah?

Levine: Yeah you got to get, that’s a miniature West Point.

Interviewer: How long did that last?

Levine: That was about eight months and that was pretty rough. That was West
Point and they treated you the same exact way.

Interviewer: Where was that held?

Levine: Gosh you know . . . .

Interviewer: Somewhere in Texas?

Levine: It must have been in Texas. Everything was in Texas. And they had
senior officers do to you just what the senior officers do at West Point. And it
was a rough deal and if you made it through that, you were pretty well safe. And
then you went through all the other training.

Interviewer: Then you got the airplane ride?

Levine: Yeah, my first plane ride ever.

Interviewer: And you got to fire the 50 caliber, huh?

Levine: Yeah. No that was a 30 caliber.

Interviewer: Okay, 30.

Levine: We fired the 50 calibers on the ground. Those were the size of the
guns we had in our B24s. Oh I think we had two in the nose, two on the top, two
on the side, two in the tail, two in the bottom and if they shot ’em all at
the same time, the ship would shake. They were powerful.

Interviewer: Your firing experience there on the training, what was the
outcome of that?

Levine: Well I did very well. I made “sharpshooter” and . . . .

Interviewer: Is that with the 50 caliber?

Levine: No that was with the rifle.

Interviewer: With the rifle? Oh I see.

Levine: Yeah. 50 caliber you don’t have to worry. You just keep shooting.
But what they did to us, they would blindfold you and put a malfunction in the
gun to have you find it because they figure up in the air you don’t know what’s
going to happen to you and these guns will malfunction and you have to find out
how to fix it with thick gloves on, blindfolded, because our planes were not
heated. It was 40 below zero up there. It was cold and so they had to do a very
thorough job and they did.

Interviewer: So you had then received your training. How about bombardier and
navigator training?

Levine: Well the bombardier training started in Big Springs and we had both
classes in which you had to learn the nomenclature of the bombsight and
everything and physics for that matter and then you trained in a twin-engine
AT11, starting to drop bombs with an instructor and they kept a record of how
you did that. And they were just 100 pound smoke bombs is what they were. Or
else we took picture bombs if we went over the dam or something like that. And
then they had a rating for you for that purpose.

Interviewer: Now did people flunk out, fail?

Levine: Absolutely. Oh absolutely. These were tough courses. They flunked out
quite a bit. Part of it flunked out because they couldn’t do what they were
supposed to do or maybe they got sick too often, whatever the case may be. And
everybody didn’t make it, believe me. And so those that are left to do it, you
know, when you graduate you feel pretty good about it.

Interviewer: Were there any training mishaps, accidents?

Levine: Accidents in training? You mean airplane accidents?

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: I’m trying to remember. I don’t recall one in Big Springs. We did
pray that we wouldn’t go up in the B26s in Shreveport because they had at
least one a day go down and I was lucky I didn’t get to go in one of those.

Interviewer: Did you witness any of those crashes? Did you see any of those .
. . .

Levine: Oh sure.

Interviewer: crashes yourself?

Levine: Yeah, yeah. They, they were a very fast plane and if you made a
mistake, it was too late and they would crack up in front of you and you could
see it. But there was nothing else you could do about it. And then to Navigation
School they sent me, which was a complete surprise and we had to learn dead
reckoning because in those days we didn’t have the wonderful instruments we
got today for navigation. We had to do the windspeed and all that kind of stuff.
Then I was through with my training with the AT11. Then we go to the B24 with a
whole new crew so we got to train. And they sent us to Tucson, Arizona, Davis-Monthan
Air Force Base.

Interviewer: Let me just see here. You’ve had a lot of time away from home.
Did you have any chance to see Sally?

Levine: The only time I saw her was when I graduated from Bombardier School.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And I went home, we got married.

Interviewer: That time when you got married then?

Levine: And then I left six days later and the only time I saw Sally after
that was in Davis- Monthan Air Force Base. We were stationed there for our
training in the B24 so I called her, told her to come on down, I got a place to
stay. A little humor. She called me up, very desperate, said “Are you going
to be sure and meet me at the station?” I said, “Why sure honey, what’s
the problem, what’s the problem?” She said, “I don’t know about
all those Indians and those cowboys.” She was used to seeing that in the
movies and I never saw one out there. It was really kind of cute. So then we
were there for about three months at Davis-Monthan and it was very nice and I
was an officer then so we were at the Officer’s Club for nice festivities and
food and things like that. Then I kissed her goodbye three months later and we
went overseas.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So that’s when, completed, what, what was the length
of time in total training then?

Levine: Oh the training was quite a bit. I’d say about 11-12 months?

Interviewer: 11 or 12 months?

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: So the year now is what, ’43-’44? What, do you recall when
you went over?

Levine: Where is this . . . .

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: ’44.

Interviewer: Your first bombing mission?

Levine: It was in 1944.

Interviewer: How did you get to Europe? By what method? Boat or aircraft?

Levine: We flew. We flew to, over Cleveland. Circled Cleveland and by order
of the government, we opened our orders then to know where we were going to go.
We had no idea where we were going. I thought we were going to the Pacific and
the course they said to head for England. So we landed first of all in
Newfoundland, “Bluie One” they call that. Then from there we took off
and we flew and we landed in Iceland. First time I’d been to a place,
Reykjavik. 11 ‘ hours of daylight. It was really something, you know. And from
that island then we finally flew into Wales and from Wales we flew into our base
in England which was Atelbridge on the hump. We were the Second Division. The
B17s were in the First Division. And the pilot and the co-pilot went up on their
first mission without us so they could be more familiar. And we all stay on the
ground and wait for them just like a mother and father would. And then we
started flying.

Interviewer: So it wasn’t very long after you arrived then that you began

Levine: No they brought you there for a purpose.

Interviewer: Let’s just look here. We have a card here listing the
“Participation in Sorties” and your first date is August 25, 1944. Do
you recall any details about that flight?

Levine: Not a thing. It’s very, very, you know, some of these were very,
very bad. Some of them were fine. And when I say “fine,” I mean nobody
was shooting enough at you to worry about but we used to go to the, bomb the
Herman Goering Steel Works was very bad. It was heavily defended . . . .

Interviewer: Let’s take one or two of those.

Levine: I don’t know where the devil he was now. See they didn’t call it
that on here. But see Cologne would have been bad, big city. And Nurenberg was
very bad.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: Koblenz.

Interviewer: A lot of major cities there.

Levine: Yeah and . . . .

Interviewer: But you may not recall the city that you said you were
experiencing things in the air. Can you kind of, is it possible to recall in
chronological sequence maybe or just by event?

Levine: You mean what we did?

Interviewer: One mission. Let’s, if you could, you know . . . .

Levine: Well the first thing you do is you take off hopefully and you’re
carrying about 10,000 pounds worth of bombs, 2700 gallons of gas, ten men and
God knows how many machine gun bullets. Okay? And if you make it off the ground,
everything’s fine. Then you have to meet over the North Sea, your group. So
what you do, the radioman shoots out flares of a certain color and you’re
looking out the window so you don’t get killed by another plane coming by, ’cause
everybody’s circling up there looking for their group. And finally, you wouldn’t
believe it, it happens. Everybody finds their group. I can’t remember any
incidents where anybody got killed doing that.

Interviewer: Well they had colorful lead airplanes didn’t they, painted
yellow, there was some . . . .

Levine: Not the plane itself.

Interviewer: No?

Levine: No they shot fairy crystals.

Interviewer: Oh I see.

Levine: The planes were all the same olive drab color. And then you’d take
off on your primary mission. You always had two places to go. One was a primary
mission and if that was completely clouded over that you couldn’t bomb it, you
would attempt to go to the secondary mission. And so you would head for your
mission. And at the time you’re doing that, about every 10 minutes it was my
job to check in with everybody and make sure they were still alive because at 40
below zero, your saliva would freeze in your oxygen mask if you didn’t squeeze
it and you wouldn’t be with us very long so . . . .

Interviewer: How did you check?

Levine: Radio, internal radio.

Interviewer: Now at that time when you were doing that were you bombardier or

Levine: Both.

Interviewer: Or did it matter?

Levine: I was a bombardier-navigator.

Interviewer: Oh you were both, serving both functions?

Levine: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Interviewer: So you would navigate to the target?

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: And on the way you tried to stay in tight formation because if you
don’t, inevitably you’ll be picked off by somebody, fighter plane or
whatever the case may be. And so this is what you do all the time. I’m pretty
busy in the nose of the ship because I’m navigating and getting the bombsight
ready. And as we approach the target which is the danger zone because they are
shooting up anti-aircraft like mad and you have to hone in on the target and
then as I, I think I mentioned before, you have a two-minute bomb run. The
bombardier controls the ship and you go straight on the traget and the Germans
know that. They know that you’re not going to veer. And that’s when they
send up their heaviest bombardment to see if they can knock you down. And once
the two lines cross for the bombsight, the bombs drop and then you, bfffft, you
turn around hopefully and escape if you can.

Interviewer: What could you tell us about some of the sensations on that bomb
run, the noises that you would hear . . . .

Levine: Uh.

Interviewer: the raw feeling that you would have?

Levine: Well noise is extremely noisy because our ships were just a sheet of
aluminum. There were no insulation at all, not like we have today and . . . .

Interviewer: What would make the noise?

Levine: The engines and the air flow. When you open the bomb bay doors just
like opening the windows in your car and you’re traveling on the freeway, you
hear that roaring noise. Well the bomb bay doors open and that roaring noise
see, and you have your bombs are stacked like that. And when you release them
they, hopefully they go down through that bomb —, and you say, “Let’s
get the hell out of here,” and you close the bomb bay doors if everything’s
working properly. So the noise from the engines, the air, I mean, that’s all
there but you are tense. You’re up on a high. Everybody’s watching for the
enemy and that’s all you’re thinking about at that time and trying to get
out of there in formation to stay alive because the Germans were good.

Interviewer: How about the noise of the bombardment, coming at you that is,
the flak, did you hear anything?

Levine: Oh you don’t hear the flak. You see it. It’s puffs of smoke you
see. And then pieces of metal shoot up. You don’t hear anything, no. And I had
seen enough of it come through as jagged pieces of metal.

Interviewer: You saw?

Levine: Oh it comes through the ship.

Interviewer: Can you describe it . . . .

(Mixed voices)

Levine: . . . . it, oh you mean what it is?

Interviewer: Well if this happened do you recall . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: how close it happened to you?

Levine: Well close enough. I remember looking out the side window to see
where the bombs were and when I turned back, pssssst, came right through. So it
wasn’t my turn.

Interviewer: You mean close enough to have hit you?

Levine: Oh sure. If I’d have been being over, it would have got me.

Interviewer: How about any of your buddies? Were they hit by any of this?

Levine: No I want you to know that our entire crew, which is I think one of
the records, came home intact.

Interviewer: From all these missions? Is that right?

Levine: Absolutely and I’m going to tell you about one mission that the
only hurt that I got, when we had four, or five, four thousand pound bombs and
we were attacking a submarine pen, and as the bombs released, one did not
release. And they are armed and we have to come back home now and you cannot
land with that bomb in your bomb bay. So we have to go out first of all and
defuse it. The bomb bay doors are still open, can’t shut the doors. The
armament officer, that’s me, crawl from the nose through a little galley with
an oxygen bottle to go back there to see if I can defuse the bomb. Well there’s
a 10-inch catwalk on a B24. That’s it. You can’t even wear a parachute out
there. And there was hydraulic oil all over there so what we found out that the
bomb had hung up and smashed the hydraulic system. I finally got the bomb
defused. Then I started hammering on the shackles that hold the bomb ’cause we
want the bomb out. I finally got the bomb out but now we had no brakes, no
flaps, nothing. We have no hydraulic system. They had a three-mile runway A in
England that they made for emergencies and so I crawled back into the nose which
was very cute because the first thing the pilot says us, “Where the hell
are we Harv?”

Interviewer: ‘Cause you’re the navigator?

Levine: I’m the navigator. So I had to figure out where we were.

Interviewer: You were back there by yourself?

Levine: Yeah. There’s not room for two people. I froze all my fingers. In
the wintertime they kill me and my . . . .

Interviewer: Still today you mean?

Levine: Oh yes.

Interviewer: That’s a result of that?

Levine: Yes. It was 40 below zero.

Interviewer: Did they turn black?

Levine: Yes. Not then. Afterwards, sure. My ear did too. And so we headed for
the runway. How are we doing to land the damn thing? So we decide we’re going
to try to hand crank the wheels down. So we all helped hand crank the wheels and
you hear a click and you’re hoping that they’re in a locked position ’cause
we don’t know. And the B24 is a tricycle landing gear, it’s a nose wheel and
two wheels here. So we all decided with the pilot that the minute the wheels
touched, now hopefully the wheel would there, the rest of the crew would run
back to the tail and drag on the ship so it would stop it. Got no brakes.

Interviewer: Had you ever heard of that technique before?

Levine: Nope, we didn’t know what the hell to do. And, ’cause we were,
you land at about 140 miles an hour. And that’s exactly what we did and it
worked. Well, I thought that was pretty damn nice. Everybody worked, the whole
crew. Nobody took time to worry about anything, to do anything. As a matter of
fact, I’m sorry, I should regress a little, he did at one time say,
“Maybe we’ll have to jump,” because it’s his decision. And so we’re
getting ready to jump and then we decided, “Hell, we don’t want to jump.
Let’s try and do it.” And we did it. But that’s just part of the war.
Who the hell stops to think about it?

Interviewer: So the plane landed without damage, further damage?

Levine: Yes that’s true. We stayed the night on that base in a quonset hut
watching the V bombs come over. And they picked us up the next day and took us
back to our base and took our ship out to be repaired. We got it back.

Interviewer: Now that kind of an event and you played it sounds like a
critical role, a key role, was there any talk of commendation for you or?

Levine: We kind of talked about it but nobody pressed the issue and I didn’t
either ’cause we all just worked so damn hard on everything and it was our job
to do, you know and I didn’t really know I was . . . .

Interviewer: I was going to say.

Levine: until about a week, I was putting on my helmet and I couldn’t
figure out what the hell was the matter with my ear. But it was frozen.

Interviewer: For the damage to . . . .

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: materialize.

Levine: Yeah it damaged the ear in here. I have it today. But that’s a
small price to pay.

Interviewer: And again has there been any recognition of those injuries?

Levine: It’s in my record and if you press it I suppose you can do that but
I never did that. I was just glad to make it back and the only other time that
we had a bad mission, aside from, they’re always shooting at you, is when we
blew an engine coming home, on the port side, so we only had three engines which
means you cannot keep up with the group and that’s bad. But along came the
little savior. Do you remember the P51s? They talked about the P51Mustangs?

Interviewer: Helping little friends.

Levine: And he came right under that wing. We waved to him. You could see
him. And he stayed there until we got to the coast and then he waved goodbye and
took off and we made it home. We wouldn’t have made it without him.

Interviewer: You think the German aircraft would have done to you?

Levine: Oh sure, sure, absolutely. That’s what they look for.

Interviewer: They look for that straggler.

Levine: The straggler. Absolutely. And if you don’t keep up with the
formation the odds are you’re not going to come back. Because the fire power’s
with the formation.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: They’re staggered up and down and they have the firepower. And the
only other event that was unusual, how good were the Germans, as I slowly looked
out the left window, I saw this thing go shooopppp by me. I didn’t know what
the hell it was. When we come back you always get interviewed and you have to
report everything and I did and they found out it was one of the first German
jets, single, where the man would be lying down there and he didn’t have any
armament but there he was and we had no idea what it was. A jet.

Interviewer: Could you see any well enough to tell whether it had one or two

Levine: All I saw was a bullet shape. I mean, he was going so fast, you know.
Here we’re flying at 250-300 miles an hour, you know, and he’s going zapppp.
But I saw it, first time.

Interviewer: Were you aware that such things existed?

Levine: Not at all. Not at all.

Interviewer: What did you think you had seen?

Levine: I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea. But it was amazing

Interviewer: Now you say you had briefings or were those what they call
interrogations? What did they call it when you came back? Every crewman had to .
. . .

Levine: Yeah. You had to report what you saw.

Interviewer: Was that debriefing? Is that what they called it?

Levine: Debriefing and the weather and what you saw, the target, everything.

Interviewer: As the bombardier and navigator, did you have special things you
had to describe?

Levine: One of them of course was the weather and the site of where you were
going to bomb, whether it was visual coverage. We used to have a standing rule,
if the weatherman told us it was going to be clear, we knew it was going to be
10/10 coverage and if he said it was going to be covered, we were going to get
the hell shot out of us ’cause it was going to be clear. Just like the
weatherman today. But they did their best. And they were ringed with
anti-aircraft. We used to come home over Wilhelmshaven, that’s on the Dutch
coast. They had a one four-gun battery there. That’s all. Just a little thing.
And you’d always forget about it. And you were letting down so you were coming
into England. And they always let go, you’d be popping off your left wing. But
one day I had a bomb left and you know what I did with it.

Interviewer: What did you do?

Levine: I bombed that little site.

Interviewer: Could you tell the results?

Levine: Yeah they didn’t come and shoot any more.

Interviewer: Well that’s afterwards. Could you tell at the time you dropped

Levine: No not really.

Interviewer: You could . . . .

Levine: And . . . .

Interviewer: But you say that didn’t happen.

Levine: And you do things like that, you know?

Interviewer: . . . . I was going to interrupt you.

Levine: Go ahead.

Interviewer: Regarding the anti-aircraft guns, could you actually ever tell
the caliber of the guns that were firing at you? The Germans had a wide range:
20mm, 40mm quads . . . .

Levine: I don’t know . . . .

Interviewer: 120mm, 88s, could you . . . .

Levine: No 88s were on the tanks.

Interviewer: Well they had a . . . .

Levine: I don’t really know but they had to be powerful enough. They had to
go up five miles. You know we were flying at 25-30,000 feet.

Interviewer: Well perhaps by the size of the burst can you tell that, boy you’re
into the big guns or did you ever recognize that?

Levine: No I have no idea what the devil they were. I just know they were
there. And there are times when you were flying, you could say you could walk on
it, the puffs of smoke there, you know.

Interviewer: Was it accurate?

Levine: They plastered it, you know, and well they had to knock you out
somehow or the other, you know. If they get the lead ship, then the next guy has
to come in and you got to keep going.

Interviewer: Now I’ve seen the movie “Memphis Belle” which is . .
. .

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: kind of dramatic. What do you think about that in terms of

Levine: It was pretty accurate.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: It was pretty accurate.

Interviewer: You know there are some instances there where a crewman in one
plane witnessed the destruction of another companion aircraft. Had you ever
witnessed such a thing?

Levine: No I never actually saw one personally going down. The only way I
knew it was missing when we got back and they didn’t come back. See it
depended where you were also in the, we flew B lead. The A ship is here and we
flew here so every- body’s behind us so if someone in the back was getting it,
I never saw it.

Interviewer: I see, because of your lead position?

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: And it was, why was that the case? Was that most of the time you
were lead?

Levine: We were B lead throughout all of our missions and if the A man got
knocked off, we were the guy to go in.

Interviewer: That’s interesting. I see in your mission records that you
even flew on Christmas Day in 1944. What did you think about that? Did you know
it was Christmas?

Levine: Oh I’m sure I did but I just don’t remember at this moment what I
would have been thinking.

Interviewer: Well then again, being Jewish . . . .

Levine: No that had nothing to do with it.

Interviewer: Did you, anyone, did anyone celebrate or try to celebrate
Christmas or . . . .

Levine: Sure.

Interviewer: religious holidays.

Levine: Everybody did everything. My best friends were not Jewish there
because we were fighting together and as a matter of fact, my Catholic friend
who got married would have no one else but me to come into the church and give
him away and sign the banns and he knew I was Jewish. So that was a different
thing during the war.

Interviewer: Where was that marriage?

Levine: This was in England.

Interviewer: Your buddy got married in England?

Levine: Yes. You know when you’re in war, if you saw the picture, the one
Spielberg just did, you know about the . . . .

Interviewer: “Private Ryan”.

Levine: I heard laughter in the back there when the guy said he wasn’t
going to go, leave his men and go, go home right then. And they don’t
understand. I’ve seen guys come out of the hospital sick to get back with the
units because the only people they know and live with and know at that moment is
the guys they’re with.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And everybody tries to help everybody.

Interviewer: You’re talking about the soldier that came . . . .

Levine: Yeah, yeah. He wouldn’t go.

Interviewer: You’d feel the same way.

Levine: Absolutely. None of us ever wanted to be held back on a mission. None
of us. They took us off of flying for one week because my pilot was flying
erratic. We didn’t know that. We had flown five or six missions in a row and
you get battle fatigue. So they sent us to Southern England, Bournmouth, to rest
up. Nobody wanted to quit flying. We wanted to keep on going. But it happens to
the boys on the ground. It happens to the boys in the air. It happens to
everyone if you don’t have, non-stop, you know, and you don’t, that’s the
way it goes.

Interviewer: Let’s talk about some of the different types of missions that
you had. I noticed in your survey completed about ten years ago that you had
been on some flights to . . . .

Levine: Mr. Patton.

Interviewer: supply Mr. Patton, General Patton’s troops.

Levine: Funny you should mention that.

Interviewer: Yes what can you tell us about that?

Levine: He just died didn’t he, the one who took his part?

Interviewer: Oh yeah, George C. Scott just died.

Levine: They picked our group and I don’t know why, to fly gas to Patton
because he was so far ahead of the supply line, he was running out of fuel. And
in order to do that, you have to put extra bomb bay, in the bomb bay you have to
put extra tanks to hold gas, fuel. And you fly at 500 feet off the ground which
means you can be hit by just plain old ground fire. And we flew to within, I
believe, 100 miles of the front lines and land and they stick a hose in there
and they pump that gas out.

Interviewer: That right? So you landed at some air . . . .

Levine: St., well one was St. Didgier. I remember that one. And that was
about 100 miles from the front lines and you’re standing there with a carbine
feeling pretty foolish because if they hit the ship it’s going to blow up and
. . . . like hell so that you can take off right away. We did that for 30 days.

Interviewer: How many times in that 30-day period?

Levine: Oh I probably, what, 15 or 20 times and you get credit for flying
time, you know. That’s it, not a mission.

Interviewer: What I was going to ask; that does not appear . . . .

Levine: No that’s not a mission. That’s flying time. I got flying time
here out of my ears. And . . . .

Interviewer: So when you look at this record, there’s a lot more to . . . .

Levine: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes.

Interviewer: missions. Okay.

Levine: That’s what I meant by “other activities”. As a matter of
fact . . . .

(tape fades out temporarily)

Interviewer: (laughter) I think we better, okay. You were about to describe
at the end of the Side 1, you were just about to describe one of these other
kinds of missions than bombing missions . . . .

Levine: Well.

Interviewer: where you life was at risk.

Levine: Yes. The co-pilot, he usually needs a little more training and they
decide that they’re going to go up in a B24 to train and they need only one
other man with them besides the pilot. And in most cases it’s me because I’m
the navigator. Well if he decides to land “hot” which means very fast
and you blow out a nose wheel when you land, you can get killed. (laughter) So
that happened a couple of times. I mean, that’s about the closest I think as
far as doing extra things that you don’t even think about that you’re going
to be doing because if, God forbid, something happens and the ship blows, you’re
done. That’s it. It’s the end.

Interviewer: Why would he land hot?

Levine: Well he needs experience. See he’s trying to learn how to land that
big, heavy, like his pilot does and he just has the speed too hot and mostly . .
. .

Interviewer: And this was in Europe?

Levine: Oh sure.

Interviewer: Why wasn’t he trained in the States?

Levine: Oh they train ’em, they train ’em. But it’s still, you know,
you can train all day long to play football and then you go meet the first team.
Right? And then what do you do? So every so often when they wanted to go up and
fly, I’d tell them, “Go find somebody else. I’m not going to get
killed.” (laughter) See I’m laughing now because it wasn’t funny when
it happened. ‘Cause a nose wheel blew and luckily our pilot was very good. He
was absolutely excellent and he was a farmer’s boy. Never been in a plane in
his life. The army trained him. His name was Seward Mortimer Meitzma from
Minnesota, a farmer.

Interviewer: How long was he your pilot?

Levine: Through the whole war. Through the whole war.

Interviewer: How about weather conditions when you were coming back? You
often see in some of these war films, you know, the weather has moved in and
socked in and . . . .

Levine: Well.

Interviewer: you can’t find the field. Did that ever happen?

Levine: Okay. Yes. It happened twice. You are correct. And so each time we
had to find a new field to land at, which was my job. And it’s always a hassle
because I know where I’m supposed to be going so I head that way and the pilot
looks down and sees the field and he wants to go down and I’m saying,
“No, we’re going this way.” And he thinks I’m wrong and he wants
to go here but we go that way and I land at the correct field. And somebody didn’t
land at the correct field. And we landed on English bases mostly. That was a
nice change of pace with the landing on the English base. They didn’t know
what do with the loud Americans and the whatever.

Interviewer: So what you’re saying is this was not a United States Air
Force base you landed at? These were British people?

Levine: These were English, English bases. And they were very gracious to us
because, you know, they didn’t have all the food in the world and they had tea
time. And so we would run up there to get our tea and sandwiches and the
sandwiches were beet sandwiches. Did you ever have a beet sandwich? Baaaa. Our
airfield was in the middle of a beet field in England.

Interviewer: Really?

Levine: And the English people were very gracious to those of us that were
nice. I mean there were a lot of probably ugly Americans. But they had a rough
time of it. They really did. They were getting bombed, displaced, their children
moved and if you saw a fellow that was my age at home or something, you knew
damn well that he had some kind of a government job that they had to keep him.
Otherwise he was in the service. And but we did operate differently. They had
their tea time. They stopped for their tea time. We had dinner and we played
football or we played baseball and they didn’t know what in the hell we were

Interviewer: Let me ask you this about the British. There have been some
complaints from some people that it was more dangerous for the Americans to fly
because they flew during daylight and the British flew at night. Did you . . . .

Levine: That’s correct.

Interviewer: Did you guys have any opinion about that during the war?

Levine: Well that’s absolutely correct. They almost disbanded the Air Force
after the raid on Ploesti, the Romanian airfield. We lost 50 ships and 500 men
and the English would not fly pinpoint bombing in the daytime. They did area
bombing in the nighttime. So our commander, Eisenhower, decided that we would be
the ones to do that because you had to absolutely knock out a target. And it was
more dangerous of course. And but I didn’t feel any animosity to the British
for that. That was a command decision. After all our commander could have done
the same thing but he chose for us to have daylight. And until we had fighter
cover in France, it was very bad because you didn’t have any protection.

Interviewer: So you flew at times without full . . . .

Levine: Oh absolutely.

Interviewer: fighter cover.

Levine: Yes, yes, sure.

Interviewer: Well how about your machine gunners? Did they ever get engaged
with anti-aircraft?

Levine: They shot at them. They never shot anyone down.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And I think that was a very rough job, you know, sit there on a
8-hour mission and just stare into space to see if you’re going to get hit by
a plane.

Interviewer: Well I was going to ask you too, eight hours?

Levine: Yeah it was.

Interviewer: What do you do, I mean that’s four over, four back . . . .

Levine: Eight hour mission, yes. You have, you’re busy. You’re busy
looking. You’re busy flying. You’re busy plotting. Whatever the case may be,
the time is not like sitting in an aircraft today for four hours. And you’re
busy trying to stay in formation and you come back sometimes on an 8-hour
mission, huhhhhhh, with maybe a gallon of gas left in those four engines because
they’re big heavies. And Nuremburg was the farthest I think that we went and .
. . .

Interviewer: Did you have food?

Levine: Food? They gave us a K-ration, either cheese or chocolate, which of
course froze and you cannot take off your oxygen mask to eat. You don’t eat.

Interviewer: You didn’t eat?

Levine: You don’t . . . .

Interviewer: The entire mission?

Levine: You don’t re—, no, you don’t relieve yourself either ’cause
everything freezes. So when we used to come down after the mission, well the
first thing you headed for was the latrine, you know. You could die sometime
trying to go to a bathroom. And then you would go in to be debriefed and of
course they always gave you a glass of whiskey if you liked it and those who
took it, I think they got drunk right away anyhow because they hadn’t had
anything to eat. And then over there they had barley bread which was very thick
and I’d have a cup of coffee and barley bread or something. I couldn’t even
eat. You were tired. That’s all. And it wasn’t the glamour they’re talking
about. It was glamour on the ground, not there. On the ground.

Interviewer: How much rest time were you given until the next mission?

Levine: It depends. I told you one time we flew two days in a row there. Then
we flew one. Then we were, it’s two, three days in a row. Here’s one, 24,
December you’re talking about, 24, 25th, 26th and the
31st. So you’re wacked out and you don’t know it.

Interviewer: That would be the critical time during the Battle of the Bulge.
Did you know that that battle was taking place?

Levine: Yes. We sent them our overshoes. And when we came back from a
mission, we were instructed to fly over the Battle of the Bulge because then the
Germans would lift their 88s and shoot at us and give them a rest.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Levine: And that should be in the history books.

Interviewer: You have a date here, January 10, 1945, “Shoneberg,
German”. I know of a Shoneberg, Belgium. Do you have . . . .

Levine: Bingen. I don’t know what it is.

Interviewer: Uh huh. “Results unobserved.”

Levine: No the coverage wasn’t bad, was bad, I mean you couldn’t know for

Interviewer: Bingen is on the Rhine River. So you’re bombing on the Rhine

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: Just a wide variety of . . . .

Levine: Well you remember when Van Rumstead made his breakthrough and was
close to, I think something like 15 miles from the coast, that was a time we
might have been flying a lot of sorties because we were given orders to bomb
anything we thought would be of value, a bridge, you know, anything, which we
did. And then of course when they finally came, and they got the Germ—, they
found that there was nothing wrong with their equipment. They couldn’t get
their supplies through because we blew up everything, everything.

Interviewer: That may be it. Bingen may have had the bridge there and you . .
. .

Levine: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure.

Interviewer: You had two missions there. Bingen is a very small village on
the Rhine.

Levine: Yeah it has to be the bridge then.

Interviewer: Yeah. Well then I see in October you’re at Homburg, Germany or
Hamburg. That’s an enormous city, one of the biggest. Where the firestorm was.
I think you would have met a lot of that flak there.

Levine: We did. And we probably dropped incendiary bombs on a city like that.
Now that, you could see them going down like toothpicks. And then you’d see
little flares. They’re about 2200 degrees Fahrenheit and they will immediately
start a fire.

Interviewer: And you could observe that?

Levine: You can see that. Oh sure, sure, sure.

Interviewer: . . . . Did you ever have an incident where bombs dropped on
another airplane below ’cause I always wondered . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: always wondered how we were able to get those bombs dropped.

Levine: Well no one was below you.

Interviewer: Aircraft stacked.

Levine: Well they were just like that, that’s all. But they weren’t below

Interviewer: Weren’t actually. That would be a mistake then if anybody . .
. .

Levine: If he was below you, you were in trouble, yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I see a mission here to Auchen, Germany on November 16th.
I have just done a study of Auchen, Germany and there was a major bombardment on
the 16th.

Levine: Yeah that’s me.

Interviewer: It was a carpet bombing similar to the one at St. Lo. Did you
know that?

Levine: Yeah. They had, Auchen is where the paratroopers, if I remember,
jumped into the for—, there’s a big forest there?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Levine: And they liked to get killed there with the Germans.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well this day of the 16th, it, to me there
was a carpet bombing event to end the battle for Auchen, Germany. So you must
have been involved in that?

Levine: I’m sure we were.

Interviewer: What I would say, if you could recall that you might recall
hundreds and hundreds of bombers. That’d be a good incident, just to think
about the sheer size and numbers of bombers at any particular time. Do you
recall a mission where you were particularly impressed by the number of aircraft

Levine: There was one but I can’t remember. Let me see. I’m trying to
think. In a group I think we had 36 bombers or something like that and I think
that all the groups went for some particular reason. I don’t know whether it
was Templehof Airdrome. I know we went close to Berlin and I think it would have
been something like that because you needed that. They were very good at
repairing the damages. Of course they used slave labor but regardless, they were
very good at it. They had a lot of practice so you had to really tear it apart.
Their marshalling yards, railroads and so forth and I’d say by and large we
did a good job and I’m sure it would have been a a lot more difficult if we
didn’t drop bombs, for the men on the floor. But everybody had to do their
part or nobody would have won.

Interviewer: What about on the ground, your experience? Did you have a chance
to get over to the Continent from England?

Levine: No.

Interviewer: You never saw the Continent?

Levine: Nope. Just saw it from up there.

Interviewer: What did it look like from up there?

Levine: Well you could see as you approached the cities.

Interviewer: What did you see? What world? How high up, you’re how high?

Levine: We were anywhere from 20 to 30,000 feet high.

Interviewer: Which could be four or five miles high?

Levine: I had no difficulty seeing through the bombsight because that’s
made for that purpose and you could make out factories, a smokestacks, houses,
you could do that. With the naked eye you wouldn’s see all of that but you
would see a city and I could see where the bombs dropped because it didn’t
take long for them to hit the ground.

Interviewer: Oh really? About how long?

Levine: A couple of minutes at the most.

Interviewer: And you knew that was . . . .

Levine: Because they come out at the speed of the aircraft and then they
slowly and they go . . . . And that’s the trail distance you have to put into
your computer, hand computer. They didn’t have computers. And if you did it
right, the trail distance would be exact because the bomb never maintains the
speed of the aircraft as it leaves. It just, and hopefully if you did it right,
you hit the target. Of course if you got within 100 yards, 200 yards of the
target it didn’t matter. You’re going to destroy it anyhow because it’s
going to keep blowing. And two ships had the bombsight, the A and the B and
everybody else dropped their bombs on those ships. They all didn’t have the

Interviewer: Oh is that right? You all didn’t have the bombsights?

Levine: Nope. They did to begin with in the war but then they found they didn’t
have to have it that way.

Interviewer: Did you have, speaking about the secrecy about that bombsight,
had you been given any particular instructions?

Levine: Sure. You had to shoot it, destroy it if you were going to go down.

Interviewer: How would you do that?

Levine: Oh with a 45. We had 45s.

Interviewer: What about yourself, having been trained in use of it? Was there
anything you were supposed to do?

Levine: You mean in case, oh no.

Interviewer: Or give a funny story about what you really did or, how would
you survive interrogation for example?

Levine: Well first of all, as far as we knew, if you jumped you don’t want
to get caught by the German people because they’re a little upset with you for
bombing their town. The military had great respect for the Luftwaffe, the Air
Force. And if you got caught by the military the odds were all they would do was
send you to the camp like, you know, interrogate you, send you to the camp and
that was it. And of course, fortunately, I didn’t have to jump because I had
two stripes and I was a also Jewish and you carry that on your dog tags.

Interviewer: You wore the dog tags?

Levine: Sure, absolutely. After all if I get killed they got to know who I am
and each one of us had an escape pack. We had a map, money, you know, things
like that. And if you had to use it, you use it. I don’t really think anybody
stopped to think about it until they do it, you know like, if they say,
“Men we’re going to jump.” So you’re busy getting ready and
worried about jumping and finally you jump. Now you got a problem, you know, you’re
going to have to land. What’s going to happen? Nobody knows.

Interviewer: Did you ever have any practice drills in getting out . . . .

Levine: Uh we had practice jumping from a tower.

Interviewer: How about while in England? Did you do any practice of that?

Levine: Oh you mean jumping from the plane?

Interviewer: Yeah well while you got there I mean.

Levine: No, no, no, no jumping from the plane

Interviewer: It was all finished? Well I mean, just a repeat while you’re
in England, any training activity . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: while in England?

Levine: No, all we did was fight the war. They didn’t have time for
training. You either were good at what you did or you got killed. No different
than the boys on the ground. And part of it was luck of course. And because our
whole crew came back and that’s most unusual, you saw the “Memphis
Belle”, I mean, that’s pretty lucky. You get shot up there or you forget
to clear your oxygen. I had a little statement here, what did I say, “There’s
no place to hide.” You see, you’re up there five miles. Where are you
going to go? There’s no place to go. It isn’t, you’re not on the ground
where maybe you can jump in a foxhole or in a building where, there’s no place
to go. Not only you have to reach your target and hopefully do the best. Now you
have to try to get home. And the Germans are well aware of everything you’re
doing. Believe me, they’re well aware. And they’re going to try and stop you
and that’s it.

Interviewer: I think before we began our discussion, you had mentioned the
Germans gave a greeting when you, when you, on your first mission.

Levine: Yes. They greeted us, they greeted us and said, “Good morning,
Lincoln Blue.” That was our colors. “We just want you to know that we
know you’re here. Enjoy yourself today. We’ll get you tomorrow.”

Interviewer: And what was the number of your bomb group?

Levine: 466th.

Interviewer: And the squadron?

Levine: No squadron.

Interviewer: No squadron? 466th Bomb Group?

Levine: You bet.

Interviewer: Okay. Take you back up in the air again. You’re looking out.
Did you know on your bombing missions or at any time while you were there, did
you know about the Jews, the concentration camps and the Holocaust?

Levine: Well I knew about the concentration camps. I didn’t know of course
that there were six million wiped out.

Interviewer: Did you know that anything was going on like that, execution?

Levine: I had heard. I had heard, yeah.

Interviewer: Did that . . . .

Levine: That was part of the reason that I wanted to join the Air Force and
do what I did because at home we had heard, you know, the rumors about it and
there was enough I think facts to show that they were doing something. And so
that’s why I wanted to go in there and do my part. And I think per capita,
percentage wise, there were probably as many Jews, if not more on a percentage
basis, because after all we were a minority there. I think we’re 3% of the
population. Course a lot of people say we weren’t there and I let them know I
was there and . . . .

Interviewer: You are a member of the Jewish War Veterans?

Levine: Yes, I was a Commander too. And I let ’em know. And remember it’s
only a war if somebody’s shooting at you, right? That’s it. If they’re not
shooting at you, everything is fine. Let’s see . . . .

Interviewer: All right. Let’s think about other aspects. How about

Levine: Souvenirs? No I, you see we weren’t over there really.

Interviewer: So you had no contact with soldiers who had come back loaded
with pistols and daggers and swords or . . . .

Levine: Not much at all.

Interviewer: bargaining and we often hear that the Air Force guys would try
to bargain because they couldn’t get down there, you know, where the souvenirs

Levine: Maybe the fighter pilots. But the bomber, the only time I saw a lot
of G.I.s was when I was going home on the boat.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: They were loaded with the G.I.s. And a lot of them made money there,
I’m sure and, but we never had that opportunity or at least I didn’t. And we
were just busy because on my last mission we were so delighted that we had just
finished bombing and we are getting ready to celebrate when we said, “No
wait a minute. We better wait until we get home first.” You know, you don’t
know. Well we made it back to the field and the major, Major Lawbreck, and I’ll
always remember. We came back and he said, “I put you guys in fifteen
minutes to go home whether you made it or not.” When you finish your
missions, they put in for you go to home. I did not fly home. I heard too many
times where they flew a war-weary ship as I call it home to the base. Buzz the
field. Crack up and you’re done. So I took the boat. I forgot the war was
still on. Took 15 days to cross the Atlantic. We had destroyer coverage and
whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop. Well you know the war was still on.

Interviewer: That would be, yeah, in March of ’45 or so?

Levine: Yeah. The war was still on. I got home is when they finally
surrendered, fur—, when I got home for a furlough.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And so I took the boat home and they landed in, oh I remember when we
saw the Statue of Liberty. I thought we’d capsize the boat, you know, all
looking on one side there.

Interviewer: Do you recall the name of the boat? Was it a famous ship like
the Queen Mary?

Levine: It was a, I forgot what kind they call it, a liberty ship.

Interviewer: They all, one of the liberty ships. It’s a rather small

Levine: Rather small. But I didn’t have any problems. I didn’t get

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: I told you that pilot fixed me up, whatever he did.

Interviewer: I remember that. Well you were going to share a little bit about
that next-to-last mission when you found out that you were a father for the
first time.

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: How did you know? How did you get notification?

Levine: Well I got a telegram on Valentine’s Day so I thought my baby was
born Valentine’s Day. Of course it turned out later she was born on the 11th
but it took all that time for the telegram to get there. So we took off, I think
it was for Berlin, which was a bad enough mission and that was the only time, or
it might have been Nuremburg, that I can remember being nervous thinking about
it, you know. But we did get through and everything was fine but I remember
being, that’s the only time I was ever nervous.

Interviewer: You say you were nervous. What do you mean by, I mean, anyone
would be nervous about a flight?

Levine: Well . . . .

Interviewer: What do you mean by “nervous”? It must be something,
something deeper about it?

Levine: Well no, no, I mean not nervous. It’s just thinking about. You
know, there’s somebody else there now besides my wife and I and we’re going
to a very bad location. And you know, just thinking about it, you think about it
in a different way. When I was, before that, I only thought about the mission
and what I had to do and we did it. I’m one of the, I guess, rare breed. I don’t
get frightened by things like that because I always feel there’s nothing I can
do about it. If I can do my job good and my pilot does his job good and the
gunner does, then we’re going to be okay, you know. And that’s the best way
to do it because otherwise you’re going to be a nervous wreck and then you’re
not going to be able to do it and you’re going to kill your buddies ‘Cause
you only got nine men up there and everybody’s depending on you.

Interviewer: Nine men or was it ten on a crew?

Levine: Ten, I’m sorry.

Interviewer: Ten counting yourself.

Levine: I always lose one.

Interviewer: I didn’t know, sometimes they could be short.

Levine: And everybody’s depending on everybody else in that ship.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And you can’t, if you can’t do your job, you’re going to kill

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And that’s the way you have to think.

Interviewer: So that was your experience in your next-to-last mission you

Levine: Yeah that was a bad thing to do. (laughter)

Interviewer: About the . . . . a little bit here. Back on the ground again
supplying General Patton’s troops or . . . . The general topic is did you see
any personalities? Did you see General Patton up there?

Levine: No I did see of course the G.I.s there who did the unloading and
everything but we never got close enough to, they wouldn’t let us do anything
but stay by the plane.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well how about in England? Did anyone famous come your

Levine: Only bandleaders. Glenn Miller.

Interviewer: Oh you saw Glenn Miller?

Levine: Oh yeah. Got, just after he became a major and Glen Gray and in our
group, and I can’t think of his name now and I’m so sorry. His father was a
Hull, Henry Hull. He was an old-time actor and his son was in our group. So he
was head of the things to bring in things for us so that we can see people,
stuff like that. And for the Jewish holidays when we were on the ground, they
let us go to London to the synagogue, which was very nice, and we met English
people there who were very nice and invited us to their homes to share and that
part. And I saw some of my buddies I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Interviewer: Were these English people of the Jewish . . . .

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: They’re all over. (laughter)

Interviewer: Well on one of those topics we want to hear about are your
opportunities for, you know, religious observance.

Levine: Not much on the base.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: We were so busy and I’m, I was not that religious to start with.
Although some of them were. Bob Levine, the one I told you lost it, he would
read the prayer book every night and things like that.

Interviewer: Yes now you’ve mentioned him and pointed his photo out in the
group you were in there. You said he was a nice man, a good friend. Was he in
your group? How far did he go with you?

Levine: He wasn’t in my group overseas but he was overseas and I had heard
that he got killed on the second mission. They blew up the nose of the ship.

Interviewer: He was a crewman on a B24?

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: He went through training with you?

Levine: Yep, yep, yep.

Interviewer: I see.

Levine: And I wasn’t that religious. I really think I didn’t stop to
think about it. I knew I was Jewish, that part.

Interviewer: Well did you carry any Jewish relics with you, any religious

Levine: Any Jewish relics?

Interviewer: Well . . . .

Levine: Just my dog tags.

Interviewer: There’s something called a mezuza, isn’t it? Did you
have that?

Levine: A mezuza? No, no. Most of us didn’t carry too much of any
Jewish nature in case you got caught.

Interviewer: Because you were so vulnerable being in the air that . . . .

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And that is the major reason that you didn’t do that.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And so that wasn’t a big part of it. Except of course we did go to
High Holydays when they allowed us and we were on base, which was fine.

Interviewer: That was a trip in to another location or?

Levine: We would train over to London.

Interviewer: I see. How about on base? Was there any opportunity? Did you
have a rabbi at the air base?

Levine: I don’t believe we had a rabbi. We had a Protestant minister and he
would do anything you wanted for you.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And of course if they prayed Protestant, I don’t care. I’d pray
too, you know. It comes out the same. And as far as I know, there’s only one
God. So religious-wise, I wasn’t one of the very religious and if I was, I don’t
know that I could have done what I did because you are still killing people
regardless. And I didn’t stop to think about it at all. I know, unfortunately,
we probably killed civilians as well as military. But that’s war. What are you
going to do? My religious faith was average. Never thought about it. But being
Jewish doubled my resolve, you know, to get as many of them as I could.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: I really have no complaint with the U. S. Army Air Corps. They
treated me very well. Never had one word out of line like some of my buddies who
were in the ground service of the regular army. They said they really got beaten
up pretty good being Jewish.

Interviewer: Huhmmm.

Levine: But I didn’t have that trouble.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: I’m sure the war left me, at least for quite a while when I came
home, any loud noise and I’d kind of head for the floor.

Interviewer: Did you?

Levine: Sure did.

Interviewer: Did you have what we call now “flashbacks” or
nightmares of anything?

Levine: I would call it that I suppose because I was more prone to do things
like that if something happened till finally it worked its way out. Because you’re
used to over there that the minute you hear that loud noise, you got to get out
of the way ’cause somebody’s going to blow you up or something. And I don’t
know, never, luckily I didn’t get wounded except for this part here and but I
was nervous when I came back. Coming back to a family I think is a pretty tough
thing right away, you know. You’re home and you have other things now and here
for the last year or two years you’re doing only one thing. And of course what
they train you for is no good for a civilian life. But, I could have stayed in
but I didn’t think that was the place to raise a child. I may have made a
mistake, I don’t know. My brother stayed in and he retired when he was 55,
full colonel. So . . . .

Interviewer: Well what did you do when you came back then for work?

Levine: Yes, hmmm, I would say within about three months I went to work. And
then I went to Case College for two years and then I went to work.

Interviewer: What did you study?

Levine: Electrical engineering and that was before they united with Western

Interviewer: Oh.

Levine: They were strictly a science college. And I heard from my radio man.
For a number of years we corresponded and then we kind of lost touch with each
other and no one, and I think often of my pilot.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: If I go to Minnesota, which of course is a big place but hopefully
maybe he’s in Minneapolis, I’m going to look up that name. It sure is an odd

Interviewer: Well I got to ask you too, did you have a nickname for the

Levine: Oh yeah. What the hell was . . . .

Interviewer: Often they would paint some sort of what they called nose art on
the aircraft too.

Levine: We had, yeah . . . .

Interviewer: A cartoon character or a figure of some kind?

Levine: I can’t. Just because you asked me. Blame it on my mind.

Interviewer: Okay, well maybe we . . . .

Levine: I’m sure we had it.

Interviewer: Maybe that’ll come back.

Levine: Oh God, yeah. And then we painted the missions on there, you know,
the bombing missions.

Interviewer: Oh yeah, the bombing missions so that . . . .

Levine: And we had the same aircraft throughout the entire war which was
unusual. We had a fantastic crew chief. He was so good. We took off for a
mission and we blew a pop governor. We flew back to base. 45 minutes later we
were up again. I mean that was their baby. They gave them a ship to take
care of. You didn’t go place to place to place.

Interviewer: Now I would think the practice would be you’re grounded for
the day.

Levine: Uh uh. If he got you off within a reasonable amount of time and when
I think about the way they fly today sometimes. We used to land, oh every two
minutes. Take off every two minutes. Now once in a while a ship wouldn’t make
it and it would blow up but you still take off.

Interviewer: Did you witness any blow-ups?

Levine: Yeah I did that. That I did on the runway. Because you have airways
back there and all. But you had to take off. And today the way some of the
missions are, most of the time I’m correct when I tell someone what I think
happened. In most cases it’s pilot error. They’re not looking out the window
or whatever they did. You can’t tell me somebody’s going to fly into a
mountain if he’s looking out the window and, although they fly much faster
today too. But sure. And that’s the way you had to do it because it was war.
You had to get up there and you had to fly.

Interviewer: We were talking about your work experience then. What did you do
with your college education?

Levine: Frankly not much. I wound up being a salesman which was fine and I
enjoyed it. And I sold originally plumbing and heating supplies. The only bad
part, I started out selling on the road which means I had to leave the family,
you know. You know how it goes. And then I finally opened my own little place
here and I had that for about five-six years.

Interviewer: What was it, the name of the business?

Levine: Harvey Supply Company.

Interviewer: Harvey Supply Company? Where was it located?

Levine: 781 E. Main Street, about 17th and Main.

Interviewer: Close here.

Levine: Yeah. It was not a bad neighborhood then. I’ve been here in
Columbus since 1952 so that’s a long time.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Levine: And I stayed in that until finally it got rather difficult because of
strikes and everything and so then I went out selling real estate, whatever,
whatever you had to do to make a living, you know. So I’ve been selling most
of my life and I still enjoy it. One-on-one I enjoy. Today I sell through a
computer and a telephone and it’s not the same thing. I can’t see the guy.

Interviewer: Do you leave home to go to an office or you do it . . . .

Levine: Not any more.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: No. I don’t do that any longer.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: But my wife passed away, my companion, seven years ago.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: We were both the same age, grew up together. We were supposed to do
everything together but it didn’t work out that way.

Interviewer: How many children do you have?

Levine: I had three daughters. Three daughters, two son-in-laws and three
grandchildren. As a matter of fact, I’m going next week to the very large city
of Bettendorf, Iowa. I think it’s across from there. My youngest daughter
moved there with the family. I’m going to go visit before the snow sets in in
Iowa and I’ll see them next week. But I’ll be selling at the same time. I’m
going to go stop and see some customers.

Interviewer: So you’re still active there in your . . . .

Levine: Yeah I go to work every day, especially since she passed away. I don’t
want to stay home. As a matter of fact, I was only working part-time and then
when she passed away, I talked to my boss and he took me on full time. I didn’t
want to stay home. What am I going to do at home? No good. Anyhow, you brought
back a lot of memories for me. I’m sure there are a whole lot more.

Interviewer: Well you had some notes there. Did we cover all of the items
that you wanted to share with us?

Levine: Well the Air Force Museum was a delight to me because I didn’t know
that they had each and every Air Force Bomb Group on a plaque and it’s around
a park there. They didn’t have that originally.

Interviewer: Outside, the park outside?

Levine: Yeah. So man I saw that and I rushed inside and I said, “466th,”
and they showed me where it was.

Interviewer: When were you there?

Levine: Oh I was there probably about five-six years ago.

Interviewer: I see.

Levine: That’s when I took the picture of the plaque. I didn’t realize we
lost that many . . . . .

Interviewer: The memorial to your bomb group.

Levine: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: I didn’t know. Let’s see, I told you about the one where we
landed in a P51 Mustang. A bombing run, yeah. Two minutes of hell, that’s all
really. You’re going straight into the enemy.

Interviewer: Did you ever have air support, protection, from P47s?

Levine: Not on the bomb runs. That’s too dangerous even for them because
everything was fully focused at that time on us and it was only flying two or,
not P47s, P51s.

Interviewer: P51s?

Levine: P47s was mostly ground cover.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And the P51 was the work horse.

Interviewer: . . . .

Levine: Yeah. That was a marvelous ship.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to meet any of those pilots at any time?

Levine: Once.

Interviewer: Kind of a, okay.

Levine: One time.

Interviewer: Can you describe anything there?

Levine: No. Just that it was a wonderful feeling because I thought they were
the most terrific pilots in the world. I mean, they did everything. They did
weather. They protected the heavies. They did ground. They fought ship-to-ship.
I mean they were terrific. They were terrific.

Interviewer: Okay, well that’s good.

Levine: If you had to do it over again, maybe that’s what I would have
done. I think we covered it.

Interviewer: Uh huh. . . . .

Levine: I don’t . . . .

Interviewer: Covered most of it.

Leving: The leadership was excellent as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t
have any problems.

Interviewer: Your officers, your commanding officers?

Levine: Yes. My major wanted me to stay. He said, “Come on Harvey, you
stay and I’ll make you a captain today. Stay.” And I said, “Make me
a PFC . . . . you know a poor, a civilian.”

Interviewer: So you were a what, Lieutenant, First, Second?

Levine: I was a First Lieutenant at that time

Interviewer: First lieutenant. Yeah.

Levine: And I’m sure if I’d have stayed, I’d have done what my brother
did and retired, you know, Colonel. We both went in, let’s see, I was 22 years
old fighting the war over there so you put in 30 years which is maximum. You’re
only 52, 55 the most . . . .

Interviewer: Yeah.

Levine: And that would have been it. But never thought about raising a family
in the service and ’cause they always transferred you somewhere. My God, just
the short time I was in the Air Force, we were at San Antone, Big Springs,
Midland, Ellington, Shreveport, Lincoln, Topeka, Kansas. I mean you never stood

Interviewer: Yeah it says here in that survey ten years ago that you were in
your last assignment helping train Brazilian cadets . . . .

Levine: Yes.

Interviewer: in Midland, Texas.

Levine: Yep.

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: I was able to fly the plane then. The pilot would let me fly.

Interviewer: Really would?

Levine: Sure.

Interviewer: Uh.

Levine: And I had just found Sally a room, we just found a place for her and
called her up and they dropped the bomb on Japan so I called up and said,
“Stay home Hon cause I got points.” You know, we got points for being
. . . . and I was home 30 days after the bomb.

Interviewer: Out of the service?

Levine: Out of the service.

Interviewer: Within 30 days of that . . . .

Levine: Yep.

Interviewer: August date? And then later on you did join the Jewish War group
and served . . . . .

Levine: Yes I did.

Interviewer: And became an officer . . . .

Levine: And I became a Commander.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: And that was quite nice and I don’t frequent it as much now as I
did then. And we’re all older, you know, and we lost a lot of guys as the
years progressed and most of them were from World War II of course and so we’re
all about the same age, in the 70s there somewhere. It happens to all of us.

Interviewer: Well Harv, I think we’ve covered the topics that are sort of .
. . .

Levine: I would only add I think the one thing . . . .

Interviewer: comments.

Levine: that most people don’t understand. I’m proud of what I did and if
it was a necessity and I could do it again today, I would do it again.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Levine: I would do it again.

Interviewer: Have you ever had any meetings with your former
comrades-in-arms? The . . . .

Levine: No.

Interviewer: pilot . . . .

Levine: No they all lived out west at that time and we corresponded by mail
and so forth and then finally it just kind of evaporated and I do think about
them. I really do. And it was quite an experience. You throw together ten guys
all about the same age you know and man, you live with each other, you breathe
with each other and you fight, you know. This is it. There’s no if, ands or

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: A lot of boys didn’t make it home as you saw by that thing there.
Just in our group alone when you stop and consider, 333 people and then multiply
it by all the groups . . . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh. And we have Stars and Stripes magazines
and things like that. If there’s anything that you would consider donating to
the Socieity, why I mean . . . .

Levine: Yeah well, I can only think of a couple I did have . . . .

Interviewer: for the archives.

Leving: a thing in the, when they had the, out in the hall there that time. I
had that, some of the stuff out there.

Interviewer: Okay.

Levine: So I’ve been going through it and trying to decipher and my
daughter, my daughter just made this up for me.

Interviewer: That is a nice display that she’s . . . .

Levine: . . . .

Interviewer: shoulder patches.

Levine: My eyes were good then. Sharpshooting, a rifle and a carbine.

Interviewer: Well I think we’ll wrap up the interview and we’ll look at
some of your memorabilia here. So this will conclude the whole interviewer.

* * *

Transcribed by Honey Abramson

Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz

Edited by Toby Brief

Corrected by Harvey Levine