Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 28, 2007


Host: Steve Goldstein

Falcon Field


  • A look at the annual ceremony at Mesa Cemetery to honor those who died at Falcon Field while training to be pilots.
Category: Military

View Transcript
>>Steve Goldstein:
Tonight on "Horizon", veterans remember the horrors of the second world war. A ceremony honoring those fallen at mesa's Falcon Field, and a pilot whose name is remembered beyond the west valley. Next on this special edition of "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". I'm Steve Goldstein. The Arizona Heritage Project is a collaboration between students at Cactus Shadows High School, and local war veterans. The students record and document the veterans stories in a book. At a recent event for the project, "Horizon" spoke with two veterans of the second world war. The first, Harold Bergbower, describes his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese.

>>Harold Bergbower:
The first day of the war, December 8th, 1941, at about 10 minutes to one, they said the "Jap's" planes are here. I went outside going to my duty station. I stopped to look up. There they were. As I looked down, I saw the first bombs land on Clark Field. And then when I come to, I was in the morgue at Fort Statzenberg. So -- there was about 30, maybe 40 people in there on the floor., and I was one of them. And I crawled out and went back to my squadron, and they fixed me up. I made three missions in a Martin B-10, and then, we had no more aircraft. So, I joined up with the 26th cavalry of Philippines Scouts on horse back for two and a half months. I fought with them. You know, food was so scarce that they ate the horses and the mules and everything else on Bataan. Bataan is a peninsula about 40 miles long, and maybe 20 miles wide. And you put 100,000 people in there, and no supplies coming in, and they don't last very long. The Japanese didn't defeat us. Malaria and Dysentery really took the biggest toll. Rations were down to about a fourth of what they should have been. So, General King decided that we couldn't go any longer. We had one more day of supplies left, and that was it. So, he surrendered the people on Bataan. But before that went through, I got with three Philippine scouts, and we took an outrigger from Bataan down to Mindanao, which was the southern island of the Philippines. And I joined my outfit on the Pelogi River. They were the second line of defense from Davao, and I was on patrol duty when they surrendered, when General Waynewright surrendered all the islands. And I went into a patrol -- Japanese patrol, and they captured me. On Bataan, they surrendered in April, and the rest of the islands the 6th of May. And I was on patrol duty. And I didn't know anything about it until I ran into this Japanese patrol and they captured me and wanted to know why I was still fighting, and I said, " well, we're at war". "Well", he says, "You've surrendered. All your people in the Philippines have been surrendered." I said, "Well, that's news to me". So that's when they took me back to the first prison camp there on Mindanao.

>>Larry Lemmons:
They spoke English, obviously?

>>Harold Bergbower:
This guy, yeah, he was educated in the [United] States. He was a major in the Japanese Army. I don't recall his name. We called him "Handlebar Hank" because he had a big old black mustache. But he treated me real good, until we got back to the prison camp. But [indiscernible] and Davao penal colony were probably the best camps that I was in.

>>Larry Lemmons:
You mean so far as it wasn't as brutal as some of the others?

>>Harold Bergbower:
That's right. And I was there until August of '44. And then they shipped -- they were going to ship me to Japan to be -- work in the factories up there. And the ship that I was on was torpedoed by an American submarine. And it limped into Manila. I was in a prison there for awhile. They shipped me to this place for a while, back to Bilabi on another ship that went to Japan. We called those ships "Hell Ships". The reason for that, because they packed you in there so close, so tight, that you couldn't sit down. People would die just standing up. At O'Donnell, they have planted 31,000 trees, one tree for each guy that died at O'Donnell. Now, that's American and Filipino. In about the first 40 days, I guess, they died. But see, people, if their arms get broken and legs broken, guys being beheaded just for no reason whatsoever. Bayoneted. So, just to look -- if you looked wrong at one of the guards he could bayonet you or shoot you. If I had to use one word to describe my experiences, I'd have to use the word "hell." but that doesn't even begin to describe it.

>>Steve Goldstein:
In this next segment of war veteran memories associated with the Arizona Heritage Project, Jack Nemerov describes his experience shortly after landing on Omaha Beach, coming upon the Concentration Camp at Dachau.

>>Jack Nemerov:
Well, you have to keep in mind that by the time we were getting closer to Germany, we were pretty hardened fighters, tough. My young men were the best fighters in the world. And we kind of became inured to what we saw in the battlefields. You know, you do it or break up, one or the other. So we could keep going. But when we entered Dachau, we were completely horror stricken at what we saw -- we're human beings. Yes, we were fighters, we're there to fight a war. But that was more than we could digest, what we saw there. When we entered Dachau, and there were still some German guards there. They weren't armed. I don't know what they did with their armament, but they were still there. And we saw these poor, emaciated human beings. Dachau, the main camp, only held male prisoners. The women and children were about a mile away from there. And we saw these walking scarecrows. Skin and bones, that's all they were. And the odor of the camp, horrendous. Just horrendous. Now, Heinrich Himmler had issued orders that all prisoners were supposed to be killed. Most camp commandants did not obey those orders because they knew, "well, what's the difference? We lost." Another week, two weeks, month, the war is over. So all they did was throw the gates open and say, "Go." The Prisoners of War didn't go any place because, they figured, "what's the use?" Our own forces will be here sooner or later. So where are we going to go? The poor devils in these butchering camps were too weak to go any place. But we came in, the Commandant of Dachau was obeying the orders. He had bodies all over the place recently shot. And the poor devils that were still alive seemed to have the compulsion that if they kept moving, they would stay alive. So they were barely able to stand on their feet but they were barely walking around. And they'd walk around the corpses on the ground. When we came in, they gave us a kind of a strange look, because they were used to the idea of men coming in wearing different colored uniforms to come in, shoot some of them, and then leave. Because the Nazis had developed killing squads. Some of the killing squads wore black uniforms, some wore gray-green uniforms, some wore brown uniforms. We came in wearing khaki uniforms. So they figure, "well," you know, "another killing squad, another uniform." And they just kept moving around. So I walked up to a couple moving around, and I stopped them like this. And I spoke to them in Jewish, and I said, "I'm Jewish, and we're Americans." and they all started to gather around us. And apparently they didn't believe that we were real. Because they reached out to feel the fabric of our uniforms. And when they felt that the fabric was real, they grabbed us by our arms and wouldn't let go. They just hung on. And where some of them found enough moisture in their bodies to cry, but they cried. We did, too. I must admit that. And then as tough as our young men were, they were still big-hearted Americans. They reached into their pack, and took out the canned food that they had and handed it to some of these poor walking scarecrows, and that was a serious mistake. A couple of these poor walking scarecrows took the food out, gulped it right down and dropped dead right in front of us. I mean, this was an experience -- we could have killed everybody in sight. That's how we felt. Two of my young men went absolutely wild. They just went out of their mind. They went after the guards standing in the back there, the German guards with the rifles. They didn't shoot them, but they started to hit them with the butt of their rifle. And they had some of them down on the ground, and they were hitting them with the butt of their rifle. And I knew I had to stop it. There were all these people that go by the book. And I knew if some top brass would walk in then and see what was going on, those two young men of mine could have got five years in prison for what they were doing. So I started to rush them back out toward the gate. As I was pulling them out, they handed their rifles to a couple of these poor walking scarecrows. And these two devils, two walking scarecrows tried to finish the guards on the ground, but they were too weak to do any real damage. So then I took the people that I brought in with me, I took a few truckloads of the workers from the BMW plant in with me, and the reason why I did that was because they said they didn't know, you know. And I took them toward the back of the camp, and there was a big wooden shed back there. And that was locked. So, we broke the lock, we got into that shed. And the shed was back by the crematorium. When we got into the shed, we saw there was bags and bags and bags of lime and all kinds of tools in there. So I had some of the people that didn't know to dig a ditch back by the crematorium, and take some of the bodies that were decomposing, and put them in that ditch and cover them with lime and cover them up with dirt. And then, I had them make a marker, 500 poor unknown souls buried here. And that was just the best we could do. Just no way we could identify them. They were decomposing. We had to get them buried. We were there about -- in Dachau, about four hours doing that. And some major walked in. And he bellowed at me, "get out." so I took my guys, and I left. Later, it turned out that he was from the 43rd Infantry Division. And the 43rd, the General of the 43rd had some newspapermen with him and writing up the story of 43rd. And the General wanted the credit for liberating Dachau. So we had to get out. They did write the story. And I found the story that they had liberated Dachau on May 2, 1945. We were there May 1.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Every year, former cadets of Falcon Field in Mesa return to Mesa Cemetery to honor their comrades who died while training. Before the United States had entered World War II, Falcon F ield became a training facility for Royal Air Force pilots. American and British instructors trained pilots who would replace those killed in the Battle of Britain. In all, 29 British and American comrades would die serving their country at Falcon Field.

[Bagpipes Playing]

>>Bill McCash:
It is a privilege to be here, and to address all of you attending this annual memorial service in order to pay homage to our 23 Royal Air Force comrades who lie here. But at the same time, I ask you not to forget the five Americans who served and died with them. [applause]

[Choir Singing]

>>Larry Lemmons:
Every year at the cemetery in Mesa, former British pilots return to remember the men who died while training at Falcon Field during World War II. It's a unique ceremony, celebrating the bond between the United States and Great Britain in war and peace.

>>Bill McCash:
We who were involved in the scheme will never, frankly, forget what you did for us.

>>Edward R. Murrow
[Appearing in archive footage]: Hello, America. This is Edward Murrow speaking from London. There were more German planes over the coast of Britain today than at any time since the war began.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Before the United States had entered the war, the British were desperate to train new pilots. What the United States did for Britain was to participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme.

>>Bill McCash:
We didn't have good weather. We didn't have the airbases. We didn't have the airplanes. We didn't have the gasoline, of course, for it. And there was always a chance we'd be shot down. General Harp Arnold came across after the Battle of Britain and offered places at the American schools, and the idea came up they should have some British schools running through the British syllabus run by American instructors with RAF supervision. It was exceptionally important that we got pilots from every source we possibly could, because the death toll was pretty high in the early days, as you can imagine.

>>Larry Lemmons:
One of the new schools, Falcon Field, was established in Mesa, and flying operations began in 1941. Today, Falcon Field Airport is home for nearly 1,000 aircraft and multiple businesses. Here at Falcon Field park, very little remains of the site where the RAF cadets lived and trained. A swimming pool served as an initiation ritual.

>>Bill McCash:
When you did your first solo on the airplane, into the pool you went, uniform and all. Yes, indeed, it was a great thing.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A hearth still stands, although the building around it does not, where cadets once relaxed and talked about their daily challenges. The old hangars are still at the Field, although the area surrounding them has changed, and activity at the park today is more likely to be play rather than work. For the surviving pilots, however, the place still evokes memories.

>>Ken Beeby:
We came down by train to Chicago and changed to come to Phoenix on the railroad. It was air conditioned with evaporative cooling. However, we arrived at the Mesa Station, my course did, in August of 1942. And when those doors opened on the train, it was like walking into a wall of fire. And there were two Mesa schoolbuses parked outside that had been there for a couple of hours. And we all had RAF uniform on, about half an inch thick wool. And by the time we got to Falcon Field, six miles away, we'd all lost ten pounds.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The recruits were trained primarily on Stearmans and the AT-6. Although some of the young pilots had never driven a car, they were nonetheless expected to fly.

>>Very Reverend Jack May:
I was taxiing rather too fast in an AT-6A. And I put on the brakes, and up went the tail and down went the nose. And I had to sit there and wait until they pulled the tail back down. Having done quite a bit of damage, I'm sure, to the prop.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Most of the aircraft maintenance was done at night, and frequently was performed by women. They played a large role in Falcon Field's success.

>>Tom Austin:
We were invited over to the State Teacher's College [later Arizona State University] at Tempe for some formal dances, et cetera. And we met some very professional young ladies over there, which, eventually, we used to go out on a Saturday afternoon in the desert for weenie roast. And we remember once that we were out there enjoying our weenie roast when we saw in the distance, there must have been about six chaps who were at least 6 foot 6 [inches]. The girls said to us, "Don't start trouble". I gather that they were part of the football team. Anyway, so in actual fact, we met them, and we finished out as the best of friends.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A testament to his training at Falcon Field, Tom Austin eventually became a highly-decorated pilot during the war. Ultimately, the result of training at Falcon Field was to create not only a bond between the young pilots that has endured to this day, but also a connection between these British men and the Mesa Community.

>>Tom Austin:
I can't speak highly enough of the local population, how they accepted us. I mean, when we actually arrived, on the first Saturday that we were allowed out, we had exactly 200 cars came to the main gate to request us to join them for the weekend.

>>Larry Lemmons:
That Anglo-American relationship also continues to this day, reflected perhaps most poignantly in the annual ceremony honoring the fallen pilots. On this day, in this cemetery, the pilots have, in a way, come home. For there will always be a small, but significant piece of British history in the heart of the City of Mesa.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Luke Air Force Base is named in honor of Frank Luke Jr. He was one of the greatest American fighter pilots of the First World War. He was born in the Arizona Territory and died in combat. He was awarded a posthumous medal of honor.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Few 21-year-olds have statues erected in their honor. Fewer still are the number of young men who accomplished what Frank Luke Jr. Did. He was America's "Top Ace" at the time of his death, having shot down at least 18 enemy airplanes and balloons in World War I.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
He was given a job and he did it. And he was a daredevil, he was.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Bill Luke Jr. Never knew his uncle, but learned plenty about him from family members.

>>Bill Luke Jr:
When he was in High School, he had the brainy idea that he'd like to see if he could use an umbrella and jump off the Auditorium of the Phoenix Union High School. His principal said, "Why don't try this first with a dummy?" He did that, and found that there was a lot of damage. So, he decided that wasn't a good idea.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Before Luke joined the army in 1917, he worked the mines in Ajo.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
there was a person who came to the mining camp. And he decided he'd challenge the guy, and he won.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke was sent to France in the spring of 1918. He reported to the front a couple months later.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Major Hartley told Lieutenant Luke when he first came out, and there was combat. He says, "If you last two weeks, you may be assured of having the knack of being able to survive." and two to three weeks was considered normal life expectancy for the pilots who flew these airplanes.

>>Mel Derry:
All these aircraft, as I mentioned early on over there, are fabric-covered, which is bed sheet. Same thing you sleep in every night.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Mel Derry gives tours at Champlin Fighter Museum at Falcon Field in Mesa. The museum has a replica of Luke's airplane, a French built SPAD XIII. Luke preferred to go after the most dangerous of all targets: Observation Balloons.

>>Mel Derry:
It wasn't uncommon. If you went around the balloon, trying to shoot it down, you'd end up being shot down yourself from people on the ground. That was the reason most people avoided it.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke's passion for downing balloons earned him the nickname "The Arizona Balloon Buster."

>>Cpt. Eddie Rickenbocker (Actor):
He was the most daring aviator, the greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life was one of the brightest glories of our air service. He went on a 8-day rampage and shot down 14 enemy aircraft, including ten balloons. Captain Eddie Rickenbocker.

>>Paul Atkinson:
After his two closest friends died on balloon busting missions with Luke, the Arizonan began going it alone, and was ground by his commander.

>>Mel Derry:
On the way back he shot balloon down, came in and landed and his Base Commander said, "Put yourself on house arrest. You're going to be court-martialed." So that really upset him, so he went out, got in his airplane, and left a note and said "watch the three bags on the river".

>>Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Balloon Buster found more than a half dozen German fighter planes waiting. Nearby French residents claim Luke downed two German planes, but were never confirmed. He went on to shoot down all three enemy balloons. But Luke would not return to base to face the consequences of defying orders. He had been hit by anti-aircraft fire.

>>Mel Derry:
Luke saw the congregation of German soldiers and went down and strafed them and supposedly killed maybe six of them, and then went around and landed adjacent to the village. And that's when the Germans approached the airplane, expecting to capture him and he wasn't there.

>>Paul Atkinson:
No one knows for sure what happened next. Historians believe Luke got out of his airplane but died from his wounds before the Germans could kill him. Luke's death made the headlines back home. His brief life gone, but not forgotten.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
I think he was an extraordinary boy who met an extraordinary challenge and did the best he could.

>>Paul Atkinson:
An Air Force Base is named in Luke's honor, a reminder of his success and sacrifice.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Many men and women served as peacekeepers, and a lot of them have lost their lives. Frank lost his life. He was a symbol. They were symbols, they were heroes, and they're my heroes.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke is buried in a Military Cemetery in France. A simple cross does not boast of his accomplishments. Those speak for themselves.

>>Steve Goldstein:
That concludes this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". Thank you for joining us this evening. I'm Steve Goldstein. Good night.

Frank Luke


  • The story of World War 1 Flying ace, Frank Luke, after whom Luke AFB is named.
Category: Military

View Transcript
>>Steve Goldstein:
Tonight on "Horizon", veterans remember the horrors of the second world war. A ceremony honoring those fallen at mesa's Falcon Field, and a pilot whose name is remembered beyond the west valley. Next on this special edition of "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". I'm Steve Goldstein. The Arizona Heritage Project is a collaboration between students at Cactus Shadows High School, and local war veterans. The students record and document the veterans stories in a book. At a recent event for the project, "Horizon" spoke with two veterans of the second world war. The first, Harold Bergbower, describes his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese.

>>Harold Bergbower:
The first day of the war, December 8th, 1941, at about 10 minutes to one, they said the "Jap's" planes are here. I went outside going to my duty station. I stopped to look up. There they were. As I looked down, I saw the first bombs land on Clark Field. And then when I come to, I was in the morgue at Fort Statzenberg. So -- there was about 30, maybe 40 people in there on the floor., and I was one of them. And I crawled out and went back to my squadron, and they fixed me up. I made three missions in a Martin B-10, and then, we had no more aircraft. So, I joined up with the 26th cavalry of Philippines Scouts on horse back for two and a half months. I fought with them. You know, food was so scarce that they ate the horses and the mules and everything else on Bataan. Bataan is a peninsula about 40 miles long, and maybe 20 miles wide. And you put 100,000 people in there, and no supplies coming in, and they don't last very long. The Japanese didn't defeat us. Malaria and Dysentery really took the biggest toll. Rations were down to about a fourth of what they should have been. So, General King decided that we couldn't go any longer. We had one more day of supplies left, and that was it. So, he surrendered the people on Bataan. But before that went through, I got with three Philippine scouts, and we took an outrigger from Bataan down to Mindanao, which was the southern island of the Philippines. And I joined my outfit on the Pelogi River. They were the second line of defense from Davao, and I was on patrol duty when they surrendered, when General Waynewright surrendered all the islands. And I went into a patrol -- Japanese patrol, and they captured me. On Bataan, they surrendered in April, and the rest of the islands the 6th of May. And I was on patrol duty. And I didn't know anything about it until I ran into this Japanese patrol and they captured me and wanted to know why I was still fighting, and I said, " well, we're at war". "Well", he says, "You've surrendered. All your people in the Philippines have been surrendered." I said, "Well, that's news to me". So that's when they took me back to the first prison camp there on Mindanao.

>>Larry Lemmons:
They spoke English, obviously?

>>Harold Bergbower:
This guy, yeah, he was educated in the [United] States. He was a major in the Japanese Army. I don't recall his name. We called him "Handlebar Hank" because he had a big old black mustache. But he treated me real good, until we got back to the prison camp. But [indiscernible] and Davao penal colony were probably the best camps that I was in.

>>Larry Lemmons:
You mean so far as it wasn't as brutal as some of the others?

>>Harold Bergbower:
That's right. And I was there until August of '44. And then they shipped -- they were going to ship me to Japan to be -- work in the factories up there. And the ship that I was on was torpedoed by an American submarine. And it limped into Manila. I was in a prison there for awhile. They shipped me to this place for a while, back to Bilabi on another ship that went to Japan. We called those ships "Hell Ships". The reason for that, because they packed you in there so close, so tight, that you couldn't sit down. People would die just standing up. At O'Donnell, they have planted 31,000 trees, one tree for each guy that died at O'Donnell. Now, that's American and Filipino. In about the first 40 days, I guess, they died. But see, people, if their arms get broken and legs broken, guys being beheaded just for no reason whatsoever. Bayoneted. So, just to look -- if you looked wrong at one of the guards he could bayonet you or shoot you. If I had to use one word to describe my experiences, I'd have to use the word "hell." but that doesn't even begin to describe it.

>>Steve Goldstein:
In this next segment of war veteran memories associated with the Arizona Heritage Project, Jack Nemerov describes his experience shortly after landing on Omaha Beach, coming upon the Concentration Camp at Dachau.

>>Jack Nemerov:
Well, you have to keep in mind that by the time we were getting closer to Germany, we were pretty hardened fighters, tough. My young men were the best fighters in the world. And we kind of became inured to what we saw in the battlefields. You know, you do it or break up, one or the other. So we could keep going. But when we entered Dachau, we were completely horror stricken at what we saw -- we're human beings. Yes, we were fighters, we're there to fight a war. But that was more than we could digest, what we saw there. When we entered Dachau, and there were still some German guards there. They weren't armed. I don't know what they did with their armament, but they were still there. And we saw these poor, emaciated human beings. Dachau, the main camp, only held male prisoners. The women and children were about a mile away from there. And we saw these walking scarecrows. Skin and bones, that's all they were. And the odor of the camp, horrendous. Just horrendous. Now, Heinrich Himmler had issued orders that all prisoners were supposed to be killed. Most camp commandants did not obey those orders because they knew, "well, what's the difference? We lost." Another week, two weeks, month, the war is over. So all they did was throw the gates open and say, "Go." The Prisoners of War didn't go any place because, they figured, "what's the use?" Our own forces will be here sooner or later. So where are we going to go? The poor devils in these butchering camps were too weak to go any place. But we came in, the Commandant of Dachau was obeying the orders. He had bodies all over the place recently shot. And the poor devils that were still alive seemed to have the compulsion that if they kept moving, they would stay alive. So they were barely able to stand on their feet but they were barely walking around. And they'd walk around the corpses on the ground. When we came in, they gave us a kind of a strange look, because they were used to the idea of men coming in wearing different colored uniforms to come in, shoot some of them, and then leave. Because the Nazis had developed killing squads. Some of the killing squads wore black uniforms, some wore gray-green uniforms, some wore brown uniforms. We came in wearing khaki uniforms. So they figure, "well," you know, "another killing squad, another uniform." And they just kept moving around. So I walked up to a couple moving around, and I stopped them like this. And I spoke to them in Jewish, and I said, "I'm Jewish, and we're Americans." and they all started to gather around us. And apparently they didn't believe that we were real. Because they reached out to feel the fabric of our uniforms. And when they felt that the fabric was real, they grabbed us by our arms and wouldn't let go. They just hung on. And where some of them found enough moisture in their bodies to cry, but they cried. We did, too. I must admit that. And then as tough as our young men were, they were still big-hearted Americans. They reached into their pack, and took out the canned food that they had and handed it to some of these poor walking scarecrows, and that was a serious mistake. A couple of these poor walking scarecrows took the food out, gulped it right down and dropped dead right in front of us. I mean, this was an experience -- we could have killed everybody in sight. That's how we felt. Two of my young men went absolutely wild. They just went out of their mind. They went after the guards standing in the back there, the German guards with the rifles. They didn't shoot them, but they started to hit them with the butt of their rifle. And they had some of them down on the ground, and they were hitting them with the butt of their rifle. And I knew I had to stop it. There were all these people that go by the book. And I knew if some top brass would walk in then and see what was going on, those two young men of mine could have got five years in prison for what they were doing. So I started to rush them back out toward the gate. As I was pulling them out, they handed their rifles to a couple of these poor walking scarecrows. And these two devils, two walking scarecrows tried to finish the guards on the ground, but they were too weak to do any real damage. So then I took the people that I brought in with me, I took a few truckloads of the workers from the BMW plant in with me, and the reason why I did that was because they said they didn't know, you know. And I took them toward the back of the camp, and there was a big wooden shed back there. And that was locked. So, we broke the lock, we got into that shed. And the shed was back by the crematorium. When we got into the shed, we saw there was bags and bags and bags of lime and all kinds of tools in there. So I had some of the people that didn't know to dig a ditch back by the crematorium, and take some of the bodies that were decomposing, and put them in that ditch and cover them with lime and cover them up with dirt. And then, I had them make a marker, 500 poor unknown souls buried here. And that was just the best we could do. Just no way we could identify them. They were decomposing. We had to get them buried. We were there about -- in Dachau, about four hours doing that. And some major walked in. And he bellowed at me, "get out." so I took my guys, and I left. Later, it turned out that he was from the 43rd Infantry Division. And the 43rd, the General of the 43rd had some newspapermen with him and writing up the story of 43rd. And the General wanted the credit for liberating Dachau. So we had to get out. They did write the story. And I found the story that they had liberated Dachau on May 2, 1945. We were there May 1.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Every year, former cadets of Falcon Field in Mesa return to Mesa Cemetery to honor their comrades who died while training. Before the United States had entered World War II, Falcon F ield became a training facility for Royal Air Force pilots. American and British instructors trained pilots who would replace those killed in the Battle of Britain. In all, 29 British and American comrades would die serving their country at Falcon Field.

[Bagpipes Playing]

>>Bill McCash:
It is a privilege to be here, and to address all of you attending this annual memorial service in order to pay homage to our 23 Royal Air Force comrades who lie here. But at the same time, I ask you not to forget the five Americans who served and died with them. [applause]

[Choir Singing]

>>Larry Lemmons:
Every year at the cemetery in Mesa, former British pilots return to remember the men who died while training at Falcon Field during World War II. It's a unique ceremony, celebrating the bond between the United States and Great Britain in war and peace.

>>Bill McCash:
We who were involved in the scheme will never, frankly, forget what you did for us.

>>Edward R. Murrow
[Appearing in archive footage]: Hello, America. This is Edward Murrow speaking from London. There were more German planes over the coast of Britain today than at any time since the war began.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Before the United States had entered the war, the British were desperate to train new pilots. What the United States did for Britain was to participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme.

>>Bill McCash:
We didn't have good weather. We didn't have the airbases. We didn't have the airplanes. We didn't have the gasoline, of course, for it. And there was always a chance we'd be shot down. General Harp Arnold came across after the Battle of Britain and offered places at the American schools, and the idea came up they should have some British schools running through the British syllabus run by American instructors with RAF supervision. It was exceptionally important that we got pilots from every source we possibly could, because the death toll was pretty high in the early days, as you can imagine.

>>Larry Lemmons:
One of the new schools, Falcon Field, was established in Mesa, and flying operations began in 1941. Today, Falcon Field Airport is home for nearly 1,000 aircraft and multiple businesses. Here at Falcon Field park, very little remains of the site where the RAF cadets lived and trained. A swimming pool served as an initiation ritual.

>>Bill McCash:
When you did your first solo on the airplane, into the pool you went, uniform and all. Yes, indeed, it was a great thing.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A hearth still stands, although the building around it does not, where cadets once relaxed and talked about their daily challenges. The old hangars are still at the Field, although the area surrounding them has changed, and activity at the park today is more likely to be play rather than work. For the surviving pilots, however, the place still evokes memories.

>>Ken Beeby:
We came down by train to Chicago and changed to come to Phoenix on the railroad. It was air conditioned with evaporative cooling. However, we arrived at the Mesa Station, my course did, in August of 1942. And when those doors opened on the train, it was like walking into a wall of fire. And there were two Mesa schoolbuses parked outside that had been there for a couple of hours. And we all had RAF uniform on, about half an inch thick wool. And by the time we got to Falcon Field, six miles away, we'd all lost ten pounds.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The recruits were trained primarily on Stearmans and the AT-6. Although some of the young pilots had never driven a car, they were nonetheless expected to fly.

>>Very Reverend Jack May:
I was taxiing rather too fast in an AT-6A. And I put on the brakes, and up went the tail and down went the nose. And I had to sit there and wait until they pulled the tail back down. Having done quite a bit of damage, I'm sure, to the prop.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Most of the aircraft maintenance was done at night, and frequently was performed by women. They played a large role in Falcon Field's success.

>>Tom Austin:
We were invited over to the State Teacher's College [later Arizona State University] at Tempe for some formal dances, et cetera. And we met some very professional young ladies over there, which, eventually, we used to go out on a Saturday afternoon in the desert for weenie roast. And we remember once that we were out there enjoying our weenie roast when we saw in the distance, there must have been about six chaps who were at least 6 foot 6 [inches]. The girls said to us, "Don't start trouble". I gather that they were part of the football team. Anyway, so in actual fact, we met them, and we finished out as the best of friends.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A testament to his training at Falcon Field, Tom Austin eventually became a highly-decorated pilot during the war. Ultimately, the result of training at Falcon Field was to create not only a bond between the young pilots that has endured to this day, but also a connection between these British men and the Mesa Community.

>>Tom Austin:
I can't speak highly enough of the local population, how they accepted us. I mean, when we actually arrived, on the first Saturday that we were allowed out, we had exactly 200 cars came to the main gate to request us to join them for the weekend.

>>Larry Lemmons:
That Anglo-American relationship also continues to this day, reflected perhaps most poignantly in the annual ceremony honoring the fallen pilots. On this day, in this cemetery, the pilots have, in a way, come home. For there will always be a small, but significant piece of British history in the heart of the City of Mesa.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Luke Air Force Base is named in honor of Frank Luke Jr. He was one of the greatest American fighter pilots of the First World War. He was born in the Arizona Territory and died in combat. He was awarded a posthumous medal of honor.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Few 21-year-olds have statues erected in their honor. Fewer still are the number of young men who accomplished what Frank Luke Jr. Did. He was America's "Top Ace" at the time of his death, having shot down at least 18 enemy airplanes and balloons in World War I.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
He was given a job and he did it. And he was a daredevil, he was.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Bill Luke Jr. Never knew his uncle, but learned plenty about him from family members.

>>Bill Luke Jr:
When he was in High School, he had the brainy idea that he'd like to see if he could use an umbrella and jump off the Auditorium of the Phoenix Union High School. His principal said, "Why don't try this first with a dummy?" He did that, and found that there was a lot of damage. So, he decided that wasn't a good idea.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Before Luke joined the army in 1917, he worked the mines in Ajo.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
there was a person who came to the mining camp. And he decided he'd challenge the guy, and he won.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke was sent to France in the spring of 1918. He reported to the front a couple months later.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Major Hartley told Lieutenant Luke when he first came out, and there was combat. He says, "If you last two weeks, you may be assured of having the knack of being able to survive." and two to three weeks was considered normal life expectancy for the pilots who flew these airplanes.

>>Mel Derry:
All these aircraft, as I mentioned early on over there, are fabric-covered, which is bed sheet. Same thing you sleep in every night.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Mel Derry gives tours at Champlin Fighter Museum at Falcon Field in Mesa. The museum has a replica of Luke's airplane, a French built SPAD XIII. Luke preferred to go after the most dangerous of all targets: Observation Balloons.

>>Mel Derry:
It wasn't uncommon. If you went around the balloon, trying to shoot it down, you'd end up being shot down yourself from people on the ground. That was the reason most people avoided it.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke's passion for downing balloons earned him the nickname "The Arizona Balloon Buster."

>>Cpt. Eddie Rickenbocker (Actor):
He was the most daring aviator, the greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life was one of the brightest glories of our air service. He went on a 8-day rampage and shot down 14 enemy aircraft, including ten balloons. Captain Eddie Rickenbocker.

>>Paul Atkinson:
After his two closest friends died on balloon busting missions with Luke, the Arizonan began going it alone, and was ground by his commander.

>>Mel Derry:
On the way back he shot balloon down, came in and landed and his Base Commander said, "Put yourself on house arrest. You're going to be court-martialed." So that really upset him, so he went out, got in his airplane, and left a note and said "watch the three bags on the river".

>>Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Balloon Buster found more than a half dozen German fighter planes waiting. Nearby French residents claim Luke downed two German planes, but were never confirmed. He went on to shoot down all three enemy balloons. But Luke would not return to base to face the consequences of defying orders. He had been hit by anti-aircraft fire.

>>Mel Derry:
Luke saw the congregation of German soldiers and went down and strafed them and supposedly killed maybe six of them, and then went around and landed adjacent to the village. And that's when the Germans approached the airplane, expecting to capture him and he wasn't there.

>>Paul Atkinson:
No one knows for sure what happened next. Historians believe Luke got out of his airplane but died from his wounds before the Germans could kill him. Luke's death made the headlines back home. His brief life gone, but not forgotten.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
I think he was an extraordinary boy who met an extraordinary challenge and did the best he could.

>>Paul Atkinson:
An Air Force Base is named in Luke's honor, a reminder of his success and sacrifice.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Many men and women served as peacekeepers, and a lot of them have lost their lives. Frank lost his life. He was a symbol. They were symbols, they were heroes, and they're my heroes.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke is buried in a Military Cemetery in France. A simple cross does not boast of his accomplishments. Those speak for themselves.

>>Steve Goldstein:
That concludes this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". Thank you for joining us this evening. I'm Steve Goldstein. Good night.

Memorial Day


  • Two World War II veterans, Harold Bergbower and Jack Nemerov recount their war experiences.
Category: Military

View Transcript
>>Steve Goldstein:
Tonight on "Horizon", veterans remember the horrors of the second world war. A ceremony honoring those fallen at mesa's Falcon Field, and a pilot whose name is remembered beyond the west valley. Next on this special edition of "Horizon".

>>Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". I'm Steve Goldstein. The Arizona Heritage Project is a collaboration between students at Cactus Shadows High School, and local war veterans. The students record and document the veterans stories in a book. At a recent event for the project, "Horizon" spoke with two veterans of the second world war. The first, Harold Bergbower, describes his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese.

>>Harold Bergbower:
The first day of the war, December 8th, 1941, at about 10 minutes to one, they said the "Jap's" planes are here. I went outside going to my duty station. I stopped to look up. There they were. As I looked down, I saw the first bombs land on Clark Field. And then when I come to, I was in the morgue at Fort Statzenberg. So -- there was about 30, maybe 40 people in there on the floor., and I was one of them. And I crawled out and went back to my squadron, and they fixed me up. I made three missions in a Martin B-10, and then, we had no more aircraft. So, I joined up with the 26th cavalry of Philippines Scouts on horse back for two and a half months. I fought with them. You know, food was so scarce that they ate the horses and the mules and everything else on Bataan. Bataan is a peninsula about 40 miles long, and maybe 20 miles wide. And you put 100,000 people in there, and no supplies coming in, and they don't last very long. The Japanese didn't defeat us. Malaria and Dysentery really took the biggest toll. Rations were down to about a fourth of what they should have been. So, General King decided that we couldn't go any longer. We had one more day of supplies left, and that was it. So, he surrendered the people on Bataan. But before that went through, I got with three Philippine scouts, and we took an outrigger from Bataan down to Mindanao, which was the southern island of the Philippines. And I joined my outfit on the Pelogi River. They were the second line of defense from Davao, and I was on patrol duty when they surrendered, when General Waynewright surrendered all the islands. And I went into a patrol -- Japanese patrol, and they captured me. On Bataan, they surrendered in April, and the rest of the islands the 6th of May. And I was on patrol duty. And I didn't know anything about it until I ran into this Japanese patrol and they captured me and wanted to know why I was still fighting, and I said, " well, we're at war". "Well", he says, "You've surrendered. All your people in the Philippines have been surrendered." I said, "Well, that's news to me". So that's when they took me back to the first prison camp there on Mindanao.

>>Larry Lemmons:
They spoke English, obviously?

>>Harold Bergbower:
This guy, yeah, he was educated in the [United] States. He was a major in the Japanese Army. I don't recall his name. We called him "Handlebar Hank" because he had a big old black mustache. But he treated me real good, until we got back to the prison camp. But [indiscernible] and Davao penal colony were probably the best camps that I was in.

>>Larry Lemmons:
You mean so far as it wasn't as brutal as some of the others?

>>Harold Bergbower:
That's right. And I was there until August of '44. And then they shipped -- they were going to ship me to Japan to be -- work in the factories up there. And the ship that I was on was torpedoed by an American submarine. And it limped into Manila. I was in a prison there for awhile. They shipped me to this place for a while, back to Bilabi on another ship that went to Japan. We called those ships "Hell Ships". The reason for that, because they packed you in there so close, so tight, that you couldn't sit down. People would die just standing up. At O'Donnell, they have planted 31,000 trees, one tree for each guy that died at O'Donnell. Now, that's American and Filipino. In about the first 40 days, I guess, they died. But see, people, if their arms get broken and legs broken, guys being beheaded just for no reason whatsoever. Bayoneted. So, just to look -- if you looked wrong at one of the guards he could bayonet you or shoot you. If I had to use one word to describe my experiences, I'd have to use the word "hell." but that doesn't even begin to describe it.

>>Steve Goldstein:
In this next segment of war veteran memories associated with the Arizona Heritage Project, Jack Nemerov describes his experience shortly after landing on Omaha Beach, coming upon the Concentration Camp at Dachau.

>>Jack Nemerov:
Well, you have to keep in mind that by the time we were getting closer to Germany, we were pretty hardened fighters, tough. My young men were the best fighters in the world. And we kind of became inured to what we saw in the battlefields. You know, you do it or break up, one or the other. So we could keep going. But when we entered Dachau, we were completely horror stricken at what we saw -- we're human beings. Yes, we were fighters, we're there to fight a war. But that was more than we could digest, what we saw there. When we entered Dachau, and there were still some German guards there. They weren't armed. I don't know what they did with their armament, but they were still there. And we saw these poor, emaciated human beings. Dachau, the main camp, only held male prisoners. The women and children were about a mile away from there. And we saw these walking scarecrows. Skin and bones, that's all they were. And the odor of the camp, horrendous. Just horrendous. Now, Heinrich Himmler had issued orders that all prisoners were supposed to be killed. Most camp commandants did not obey those orders because they knew, "well, what's the difference? We lost." Another week, two weeks, month, the war is over. So all they did was throw the gates open and say, "Go." The Prisoners of War didn't go any place because, they figured, "what's the use?" Our own forces will be here sooner or later. So where are we going to go? The poor devils in these butchering camps were too weak to go any place. But we came in, the Commandant of Dachau was obeying the orders. He had bodies all over the place recently shot. And the poor devils that were still alive seemed to have the compulsion that if they kept moving, they would stay alive. So they were barely able to stand on their feet but they were barely walking around. And they'd walk around the corpses on the ground. When we came in, they gave us a kind of a strange look, because they were used to the idea of men coming in wearing different colored uniforms to come in, shoot some of them, and then leave. Because the Nazis had developed killing squads. Some of the killing squads wore black uniforms, some wore gray-green uniforms, some wore brown uniforms. We came in wearing khaki uniforms. So they figure, "well," you know, "another killing squad, another uniform." And they just kept moving around. So I walked up to a couple moving around, and I stopped them like this. And I spoke to them in Jewish, and I said, "I'm Jewish, and we're Americans." and they all started to gather around us. And apparently they didn't believe that we were real. Because they reached out to feel the fabric of our uniforms. And when they felt that the fabric was real, they grabbed us by our arms and wouldn't let go. They just hung on. And where some of them found enough moisture in their bodies to cry, but they cried. We did, too. I must admit that. And then as tough as our young men were, they were still big-hearted Americans. They reached into their pack, and took out the canned food that they had and handed it to some of these poor walking scarecrows, and that was a serious mistake. A couple of these poor walking scarecrows took the food out, gulped it right down and dropped dead right in front of us. I mean, this was an experience -- we could have killed everybody in sight. That's how we felt. Two of my young men went absolutely wild. They just went out of their mind. They went after the guards standing in the back there, the German guards with the rifles. They didn't shoot them, but they started to hit them with the butt of their rifle. And they had some of them down on the ground, and they were hitting them with the butt of their rifle. And I knew I had to stop it. There were all these people that go by the book. And I knew if some top brass would walk in then and see what was going on, those two young men of mine could have got five years in prison for what they were doing. So I started to rush them back out toward the gate. As I was pulling them out, they handed their rifles to a couple of these poor walking scarecrows. And these two devils, two walking scarecrows tried to finish the guards on the ground, but they were too weak to do any real damage. So then I took the people that I brought in with me, I took a few truckloads of the workers from the BMW plant in with me, and the reason why I did that was because they said they didn't know, you know. And I took them toward the back of the camp, and there was a big wooden shed back there. And that was locked. So, we broke the lock, we got into that shed. And the shed was back by the crematorium. When we got into the shed, we saw there was bags and bags and bags of lime and all kinds of tools in there. So I had some of the people that didn't know to dig a ditch back by the crematorium, and take some of the bodies that were decomposing, and put them in that ditch and cover them with lime and cover them up with dirt. And then, I had them make a marker, 500 poor unknown souls buried here. And that was just the best we could do. Just no way we could identify them. They were decomposing. We had to get them buried. We were there about -- in Dachau, about four hours doing that. And some major walked in. And he bellowed at me, "get out." so I took my guys, and I left. Later, it turned out that he was from the 43rd Infantry Division. And the 43rd, the General of the 43rd had some newspapermen with him and writing up the story of 43rd. And the General wanted the credit for liberating Dachau. So we had to get out. They did write the story. And I found the story that they had liberated Dachau on May 2, 1945. We were there May 1.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Every year, former cadets of Falcon Field in Mesa return to Mesa Cemetery to honor their comrades who died while training. Before the United States had entered World War II, Falcon F ield became a training facility for Royal Air Force pilots. American and British instructors trained pilots who would replace those killed in the Battle of Britain. In all, 29 British and American comrades would die serving their country at Falcon Field.

[Bagpipes Playing]

>>Bill McCash:
It is a privilege to be here, and to address all of you attending this annual memorial service in order to pay homage to our 23 Royal Air Force comrades who lie here. But at the same time, I ask you not to forget the five Americans who served and died with them. [applause]

[Choir Singing]

>>Larry Lemmons:
Every year at the cemetery in Mesa, former British pilots return to remember the men who died while training at Falcon Field during World War II. It's a unique ceremony, celebrating the bond between the United States and Great Britain in war and peace.

>>Bill McCash:
We who were involved in the scheme will never, frankly, forget what you did for us.

>>Edward R. Murrow
[Appearing in archive footage]: Hello, America. This is Edward Murrow speaking from London. There were more German planes over the coast of Britain today than at any time since the war began.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Before the United States had entered the war, the British were desperate to train new pilots. What the United States did for Britain was to participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme.

>>Bill McCash:
We didn't have good weather. We didn't have the airbases. We didn't have the airplanes. We didn't have the gasoline, of course, for it. And there was always a chance we'd be shot down. General Harp Arnold came across after the Battle of Britain and offered places at the American schools, and the idea came up they should have some British schools running through the British syllabus run by American instructors with RAF supervision. It was exceptionally important that we got pilots from every source we possibly could, because the death toll was pretty high in the early days, as you can imagine.

>>Larry Lemmons:
One of the new schools, Falcon Field, was established in Mesa, and flying operations began in 1941. Today, Falcon Field Airport is home for nearly 1,000 aircraft and multiple businesses. Here at Falcon Field park, very little remains of the site where the RAF cadets lived and trained. A swimming pool served as an initiation ritual.

>>Bill McCash:
When you did your first solo on the airplane, into the pool you went, uniform and all. Yes, indeed, it was a great thing.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A hearth still stands, although the building around it does not, where cadets once relaxed and talked about their daily challenges. The old hangars are still at the Field, although the area surrounding them has changed, and activity at the park today is more likely to be play rather than work. For the surviving pilots, however, the place still evokes memories.

>>Ken Beeby:
We came down by train to Chicago and changed to come to Phoenix on the railroad. It was air conditioned with evaporative cooling. However, we arrived at the Mesa Station, my course did, in August of 1942. And when those doors opened on the train, it was like walking into a wall of fire. And there were two Mesa schoolbuses parked outside that had been there for a couple of hours. And we all had RAF uniform on, about half an inch thick wool. And by the time we got to Falcon Field, six miles away, we'd all lost ten pounds.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The recruits were trained primarily on Stearmans and the AT-6. Although some of the young pilots had never driven a car, they were nonetheless expected to fly.

>>Very Reverend Jack May:
I was taxiing rather too fast in an AT-6A. And I put on the brakes, and up went the tail and down went the nose. And I had to sit there and wait until they pulled the tail back down. Having done quite a bit of damage, I'm sure, to the prop.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Most of the aircraft maintenance was done at night, and frequently was performed by women. They played a large role in Falcon Field's success.

>>Tom Austin:
We were invited over to the State Teacher's College [later Arizona State University] at Tempe for some formal dances, et cetera. And we met some very professional young ladies over there, which, eventually, we used to go out on a Saturday afternoon in the desert for weenie roast. And we remember once that we were out there enjoying our weenie roast when we saw in the distance, there must have been about six chaps who were at least 6 foot 6 [inches]. The girls said to us, "Don't start trouble". I gather that they were part of the football team. Anyway, so in actual fact, we met them, and we finished out as the best of friends.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A testament to his training at Falcon Field, Tom Austin eventually became a highly-decorated pilot during the war. Ultimately, the result of training at Falcon Field was to create not only a bond between the young pilots that has endured to this day, but also a connection between these British men and the Mesa Community.

>>Tom Austin:
I can't speak highly enough of the local population, how they accepted us. I mean, when we actually arrived, on the first Saturday that we were allowed out, we had exactly 200 cars came to the main gate to request us to join them for the weekend.

>>Larry Lemmons:
That Anglo-American relationship also continues to this day, reflected perhaps most poignantly in the annual ceremony honoring the fallen pilots. On this day, in this cemetery, the pilots have, in a way, come home. For there will always be a small, but significant piece of British history in the heart of the City of Mesa.

>>Steve Goldstein:
Luke Air Force Base is named in honor of Frank Luke Jr. He was one of the greatest American fighter pilots of the First World War. He was born in the Arizona Territory and died in combat. He was awarded a posthumous medal of honor.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Few 21-year-olds have statues erected in their honor. Fewer still are the number of young men who accomplished what Frank Luke Jr. Did. He was America's "Top Ace" at the time of his death, having shot down at least 18 enemy airplanes and balloons in World War I.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
He was given a job and he did it. And he was a daredevil, he was.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Bill Luke Jr. Never knew his uncle, but learned plenty about him from family members.

>>Bill Luke Jr:
When he was in High School, he had the brainy idea that he'd like to see if he could use an umbrella and jump off the Auditorium of the Phoenix Union High School. His principal said, "Why don't try this first with a dummy?" He did that, and found that there was a lot of damage. So, he decided that wasn't a good idea.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Before Luke joined the army in 1917, he worked the mines in Ajo.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
there was a person who came to the mining camp. And he decided he'd challenge the guy, and he won.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke was sent to France in the spring of 1918. He reported to the front a couple months later.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Major Hartley told Lieutenant Luke when he first came out, and there was combat. He says, "If you last two weeks, you may be assured of having the knack of being able to survive." and two to three weeks was considered normal life expectancy for the pilots who flew these airplanes.

>>Mel Derry:
All these aircraft, as I mentioned early on over there, are fabric-covered, which is bed sheet. Same thing you sleep in every night.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Mel Derry gives tours at Champlin Fighter Museum at Falcon Field in Mesa. The museum has a replica of Luke's airplane, a French built SPAD XIII. Luke preferred to go after the most dangerous of all targets: Observation Balloons.

>>Mel Derry:
It wasn't uncommon. If you went around the balloon, trying to shoot it down, you'd end up being shot down yourself from people on the ground. That was the reason most people avoided it.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke's passion for downing balloons earned him the nickname "The Arizona Balloon Buster."

>>Cpt. Eddie Rickenbocker (Actor):
He was the most daring aviator, the greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life was one of the brightest glories of our air service. He went on a 8-day rampage and shot down 14 enemy aircraft, including ten balloons. Captain Eddie Rickenbocker.

>>Paul Atkinson:
After his two closest friends died on balloon busting missions with Luke, the Arizonan began going it alone, and was ground by his commander.

>>Mel Derry:
On the way back he shot balloon down, came in and landed and his Base Commander said, "Put yourself on house arrest. You're going to be court-martialed." So that really upset him, so he went out, got in his airplane, and left a note and said "watch the three bags on the river".

>>Paul Atkinson:
The Arizona Balloon Buster found more than a half dozen German fighter planes waiting. Nearby French residents claim Luke downed two German planes, but were never confirmed. He went on to shoot down all three enemy balloons. But Luke would not return to base to face the consequences of defying orders. He had been hit by anti-aircraft fire.

>>Mel Derry:
Luke saw the congregation of German soldiers and went down and strafed them and supposedly killed maybe six of them, and then went around and landed adjacent to the village. And that's when the Germans approached the airplane, expecting to capture him and he wasn't there.

>>Paul Atkinson:
No one knows for sure what happened next. Historians believe Luke got out of his airplane but died from his wounds before the Germans could kill him. Luke's death made the headlines back home. His brief life gone, but not forgotten.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
I think he was an extraordinary boy who met an extraordinary challenge and did the best he could.

>>Paul Atkinson:
An Air Force Base is named in Luke's honor, a reminder of his success and sacrifice.

>>Bill Luke Jr.:
Many men and women served as peacekeepers, and a lot of them have lost their lives. Frank lost his life. He was a symbol. They were symbols, they were heroes, and they're my heroes.

>>Paul Atkinson:
Luke is buried in a Military Cemetery in France. A simple cross does not boast of his accomplishments. Those speak for themselves.

>>Steve Goldstein:
That concludes this special Memorial Day edition of "Horizon". Thank you for joining us this evening. I'm Steve Goldstein. Good night.

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