As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with retired Captain Earl Dean Milton who served in the Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1948.
MRS. CLOWER: You did not have radar before? You were just using the star navigation?
MR. MILTON: Yes. Radar wasn't any good over the ocean, and it would help when you had land and water. It shows up real good on a screen.
MRS. CLOWER: That was a challenge.
MR. MILTON: We had to bomb Japan a few times during the war with radar. When you're in clouds and your bombardier can't see, you use radar to drop your bombs, and I was the expert on radar.
MRS. CLOWER: So you would say you would give the command to drop the bomb at the right time?
MR. MILTON: Uh-huh.
MRS. CLOWER: And this was, what'd we say, 15 missions?
MRS. MILTON: Twenty-two --
MRS. CLOWER: Three fire bombs and 22 weather.
MR. MILTON: The weather mission we carried a bomb, a 500-pound bomb, and we would drop it anywhere we wanted to. So I would say I bombed Japan 23 regular times, 2 weather missions, makes 25. So I bombed Japan 25 times.
MRS. CLOWER: I'm sure that they remember you, too. Did you receive any kind of recognitions or medals?
MR. MILTON: Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Metal, and something else. I forget what it is.
MRS. MILTON: Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, Eastern Mandated Island Campaign was Bronze Star. Air Metal with two oak leaf clusters. Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Offense against Japan with Bronze Star, and then the Victory Metal for anyone who fought in the war until it was over. Distinguished Flying Cross they got from flying a low-level fire bomb mission to Tokyo.
MRS. CLOWER: That's very impressive. I'm glad you were decorated.
MR. MILTON: Yeah. My scariest time, I can tell you, 23 was — I told you we discovered the jetstream. Well, there was a big, big plan to bomb, fire bomb Tokyo. We were amongst the last ones, maybe, you know, three or four or five or 600 planes. And we came — we were coming in last. Tokyo was afire. We came in and dropped our bombs, oh, oh, oh, and all of a sudden we hit this flame. All of a sudden we were going up, up, up, up, up, up. So we finally had our radar on, but for some reason they quit working, and our pilot gave me — asked me for direction home, and I gave him what, based on when we flew up, what I had. So I gave that to him. And it was cloudy. This was the daytime, late, midafternoon, I guess you'd say. And when we got out of that smoke we were in the clouds. And I said to him — I gave him direction home. And I said, "Will you try to climb out of these clouds so I can take a fix on the sun and the moon?" My book showed me the moon would be available, visible. So we climbed and climbed, and I got up in the — where I could see my bubble, keep going up, keep going up. Finally we broke out, and I took a fix on the sun and a fix on the moon. Got back down to my desk, figured it out, couldn't believe it. So I told him what I found and new directions to get home. And, oh, my god, we were way over. I said, "Let me go check again." So I got up there and doubled up, came back down and says, "That's correct." He said, "We don't have enough gas to get home." I said, "Well, let me give you direction to Iwo Jima." I came back down and we were in the clouds again. So kept going and kept going, and finally time to be there, we still couldn't see the ground, we were in the clouds.
MRS. CLOWER: Oh, dear.
MR. MILTON: I said, "Circle, and keep going down." So we started circling and going down. Finally we broke out, bingo, there was Iwo Jima. I was sweating that one out.
MRS. CLOWER: How many people were on the plane you would normally have?
MR. MILTON: Eleven men.
MRS. CLOWER: Eleven men. You saved yourself and ten others that day. What a story. That's remarkable.
MR. MILTON: That was my scariest one.
MRS. CLOWER: Well, I would think so.
MR. MILTON: Trouble is, we wouldn't have made it if it hadn't have been for Iwo Jima. We didn't have enough gasoline to get home. Read the full interview.