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S/Sgt. Robert D. Chandler - 419th Squadron

Visit http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.01564/transcript?ID=sr0001

Name: Robert D. Chandler Date of Birth: 1925 Place of Birth: Belvidere, IL Gender: Male Race: Unspecified Home State: IL War or Conflict: World War II, 1939-1946 Status: Veteran Dates of Service: 1943-1945 Entrance into Service: Drafted Branch of Service: Army Air Forces/Corps Unit of Service: 301st Bomb Group, 419th Squadron Location of Service: Italy Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant Prisoner of War: Unknown Service Related Injury: Unknown On May 25, 2002, Mark Tanner interviewed Robert Chandler as part of the Veterans History Project. The following is the transcript from that interview: Mark Tanner: When did they ask for your serial number? Robert Chandler: They assign one to you as soon as you go in. Mark Tanner: Kind of like a Social Security number? Robert Chandler: Yeah, right, right. Mark Tanner: Did you always have to give it to everybody? Robert Chandler: When you're in the Army, you're a number. You aren't a human being any more. My age now, I suppose, huh? You young people wouldn't understand, but this is part of my airplane that got hit here. You can see that. Antiaircraft fire blew that big hole in there. Mark Tanner: Oh, wow. You were the pilot? Robert Chandler: No, I was a tail gunner. Mark Tanner: Oh. Robert Chandler: Here's me right here. Mark Tanner: Wow. Robert Chandler: And this is my first mission I went on. And of course by the looks of that hole, the was the gunner that was standing right there. He got killed. It blew him right back inside the ship. This is a part of the ship. Mark Tanner: How did the plane land? Robert Chandler: Well, it continued flying. Here is a picture of it after it got hit. Mark Tanner: How did you get the picture? Robert Chandler: Well, there's a--you have to read the back of it. That explains everything. Here is a piece of these--they are antiaircraft shells is what they are, and they come up and explode like that and blow all these little pieces all over. Mark Tanner: Wow. Robert Chandler: And I found that one inside of our plane after we landed, and this part of the plane. Mark Tanner: That's incredible. So, did you--when it got hit, did you think you were going to die? How did you feel? Robert Chandler: I tell you, I passed out about 30 seconds after we got hit. My oxygen line that comes back to the tail--. Mark Tanner: Uh-huh. (Affirmative response.) Robert Chandler: It blew that apart and so I didn't have any oxygen. And we were at like, oh, probably 28,000 feet, so there isn't much oxygen up there. So I passed out from that. And then when I woke up, we were over the Adriatic Sea and I knew there wouldn't be any German planes or anybody around there, so, I decided...my intercom got knocked out, too, so I couldn't talk to anybody anywhere else in the plane. And so I walked, or I crawled up to the waist where that hole is, and I had a hard time getting across that. There's no way you--well, you can tell by that hole, there is no bottom in the plane there. I had to hold on to these stringers and walk on the bottom stringers to get across that hole. Mark Tanner: Wow. What's a stringer? Robert Chandler: Airplanes are made with little things that--it is hard for me to explain anyway. Mark Tanner: We'll look it up later. Robert Chandler: All these things are put together, and then they put aluminum on the outside of that. Mark Tanner: Okay. And so you are crawling across? Robert Chandler: Yeah. These other guys were all--they were all huddled up in the radio room which can you see as soon as you get out of my compartment. And I asked them--well, I kind of used sign language, they couldn't hear me. But I had my parachute on, should I jump out or try to get across this hole. So they said, well, I don't care, whatever you want to do. So I thought as long as I had the parachute on, I might as well try going across the hole. And if I did fall, I could always open the parachute. Mark Tanner: Wow. So, did you get across? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Yeah, I got across all right. Mark Tanner: Holding on to these stringers? Robert Chandler: These other guys gave me a hand when I made it across. (Clapping) Mark Tanner: They were clapping for you. So, when you--so you're--were they flying lower, is that why you woke up? Is that why you got more oxygen? Robert Chandler: Yeah. After we left, this happened in Austria, and after we left our target and got near friendly territory, well, they started coming down lower and then that woke me up. Mark Tanner: Oh, okay. Wow. When was this? Like what year? Robert Chandler: This guy--. Mark Tanner: Oh, there it is. Valentine's day? Robert Chandler: Yeah, Valentine's day, 1945, yeah. Mark Tanner: That's exciting. Robert Chandler: This guy that took this picture, he made these extra copies for me, and he is from Minnesota. I didn't know him at the time. I didn't know him until after the war. Some way or another we got introduced to each other, and so he sent me these photographs. I had--I had this one and this one, and he took--he sent me this one that he had taken from his plane. He was from a different group. And when we got hit, we kind of came dohttp://www.loc.gov/standards/mets/mets-board.htmlwn like this, and he took a picture of the damage. Well, all that information is on the back there. Mark Tanner: Sure. So when you got back, did you go right back in the service again? When you landed the plane or anything? Robert Chandler: Yeah, we couldn't land at our regular air field. Our airfield was out in the sticks between a couple of Italian towns, so we landed in town at the main, they called it Fojia (ph) main. I think we landed there because they would have to junk the airplane anyway, and they didn't want it in the way out at our regular airfield. Mark Tanner: Wow. When did you--when did you get drafted into the war? Or did you get drafted? Robert Chandler: Yeah, I got drafted when I was still in high school, in fact, but they let me finish. That was in 1943, and I graduated, and a few days after I graduated, bang, I was in the Army. Mark Tanner: Wow. And were you in there until 1945? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: Just after the war ended then? Robert Chandler: Yeah, after they dropped the big bomb, I was home on furlough at that time in fact. And when I heard about that bomb, I knew it wouldn't be long then before the war with Japan ended, too, so. The war in Europe ended in May of '45, so, I had enough points then, I could come home. Mark Tanner: So you got to come home right after the war ended? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Well, I had to wait for a ride. We flew one of our planes back--we flew from Italy down to south Africa, and then from south Africa up to--I can't think of the name of those islands. There's some islands off the coast of Portugal. Mark Tanner: The Canary Islands? Robert Chandler: No. Mark Tanner: I don't know. Robert Chandler: My mind is getting worse every year. Mark Tanner: So you flew there and then you flew across to the states? Robert Chandler: Yeah, then we flew from there, we landed up by Nova Scotia. And then we stayed there overnight and we flew back to, I think it was New Jersey from there. It was kind of nice to look out and the pilot said: There's the US Mark Tanner: So when you joined the--it was the Air Force, right? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: So when you joined the Air Force, how--like you were talking about how you were just a number once you were in the armed forces? Robert Chandler: Well, it is kind of like that. But I guess--well, your name comes up some, too, on that bulletin board. If you are going to get K. P. or they want to let you know something, your name is on the bulletin board. But when you get paid, you have got to go in and give your service number in order to get your pay each month. Which wasn't very much, but it was better than nothing. Mark Tanner: Was it like on the movies where they have you all line up straight, and then some Sergeant comes along and tells to you do pushups or something? Robert Chandler: Well, they had something like that, too, yeah, in basic training. I had my basic training in a nice place. It was down in Miami Beach, Florida. So, we would go out and do our--well, it was like a ten mile march and things like that. But after we did our things during the day, we got to go out on the beach and go swimming. We did calisthenics out on the beach. There was kind of a soft place to have basic training, not like some of the--I'm glad I wasn't in the infantry. That was bad, bad, bad. Mark Tanner: So, did you--like how many people slept in the same room and stuff like that? Robert Chandler: Well, we slept--you mean in the states? Mark Tanner: Yeah, when you were in basic training. Robert Chandler: There was probably oh,--well, we had a regular hotel that we stayed at in basic training. Mark Tanner: Oh, really? Robert Chandler: Yeah, so it was probably four guys to a room or something. After basic training we went to a regular--had regular barracks, and it would be like, oh, probably anywhere from 30 to 40 guys in a barracks. Mark Tanner: How big were they? Robert Chandler: Oh, I don't know, probably 30 foot wide by 50 foot long, something in that order. Everybody had their own cot and you had a foot locker, they called them. That's where you kept all your stuff in there. And then they would come around every day--not every day, but they would have inspections, so you had to have your shoes shined and your clothes looking nice, your bed made nice. It was good training for a young person. I wish my son could have got in that. It would have made a better man out of him. Mark Tanner: What did they do if you didn't have your shoes shined? Robert Chandler: Oh, well, you could get disciplined by--oh, one place they sent us out to dig ditches. And another place they had--send you down to have what they call close order drill which was--you would be marching and they would say to the right flank march, to the left flank march, turn left, forward march, go forward, and a bunch of stuff like that. Just do--that's just to let you know who's boss. Mark Tanner: Where were you living when you were in the barracks? Were you still in the states or Europe? Robert Chandler: Several different places. I started out in Camp Grant up by Rockford, Illinois. And I went from there to Truax Field, Wisconsin. That was just--they just sent us up there for something to get rid of us for a while because basically--you couldn't get in basic training yet. And then we went down to Miami Beach for basic training. And from there I went to Nashville, Tennessee, for some college training program. Mark Tanner: How long were you there? Robert Chandler: About--I think about three months or something like that. While we were there, they taught us everything about--oh, a little bit of everything. And they also--we also had some flight training in these little light planes. You know--do you know what a Norocka (ph) is, or a Piper Cub? They are just little light planes that hold two people. So I had 15 hours instruction in those. And-- Mark Tanner: Did you have any flight instruction before? Robert Chandler: No. No. Mark Tanner: That was it? Robert Chandler: No, that was my flight instruction. I got good enough so they let me take over. You didn't have a wheel, you had a stick to move back and forth. Mark Tanner: Did you enjoy flying? Robert Chandler: Oh, yeah, very much. That's what I--when I got in, I tried to get in the Air Force because I wanted to be a pilot, which I had an older brother that was a pilot. And he flew C-47s which carried paratroopers and towed gliders. He was stationed over in England and then in France. So I wanted to be like my big brother. But they--I got in a little bit late in the war and they found out they had enough pilots and navigators and bombardiers and all that stuff, so, they washed us all out. They called it washed out. They discontinued our program. Fifty thousand of us all at once. And then they gave us a choice of either you can go to the infantry or you can go to gunner school. So I thought I'd rather ride than walk, so I went to gunner school, and turned out to be a tail gunner. And then we went and went several more places before I went overseas and went to--I had my overseas training down in Louisiana. And from there we went to an overseas--went to, I think it was Hampton Roads, Virginia. And then we went over by boat, or ship I should say. Not boat. We call them ships. And that was an experience. You go in, it was like bunk beds, only they are made out of canvas. There's probably about six of them stacked up. And if you are lucky, you get the bottom one. If you aren't, you get one up higher and you have got to climb up, and then there's danger of falling out. Our trip overseas took us about 12 days on that ship. And we had--there's still a danger of submarines then, so, we had to go like this. We were in a convoy, but it was such a big convoy, you could barely see any of the other ships. Mark Tanner: Did you ever get sea sickness? Robert Chandler: No, but there was a lot of them that did. The sea wasn't that rough, I didn't think, but there was probably--any time you went to...They called it the--what did they call it? In the Army they called it a latrine. In the Navy they called it a head. You went down there, there would be like 20 guys throwing up, and it kind of made you sick just watching them. And when you had your dinner or breakfast, lunch--you only had two meals a day on the ship--you stood up eating because the ship would move. And they had tables like this with sides on them sohttp://www.loc.gov/standards/mets/mets-board.html anything that came over the side wouldn't fall off on the floor. And ask me some more questions. I don't--I'm not too good at talking. Mark Tanner: What did you do after you crossed the Atlantic? What was your first duties that you recall? Robert Chandler: We landed at Naples, Italy, our first day, and then we went to a placement center which was north of Naples, probably, oh, just a few miles, and we stayed there probably about four or five days, maybe a week, I'm not sure. And we slept in tents. There was no--it was during the winter, February of 45, and winter over in Italy is just about like over here. There's snow on the ground, and I halfway froze my feet the first night. And then we went--the next night we went over in some friend's tent, slept inside their tent, they had a fire right inside their tent, which was against the rules, but it was better than freezing to death. And then after we left there, we got on a train and went up to Fojia (ph) Italy. And then they took us by truck out to our base. There was mud about that deep on the roads up between the tents. And they would say, okay, you here, you two guys here, you guys in this tent. So I got in a tent with--I was lucky enough to have one guy from my crew in our tent, and there was four other guys in there. And I was really very happy to meet everybody. And they told you about flying and they told you about getting shot at. And they had--they had a regular mess hall that they would eat at every morning. If you went down early enough, you could have eggs and bacon fixed just the way you wanted them, which was kind of nice. Otherwise you had to take whatever they had. And I was in that tent for quite a few days. And then one guy didn't return from a mission, and I can't remember his name. We called him Goldie because he had blond hair. And I have never heard--never heard from him since. But I think he was in a P. W. camp someplace. And so he had a nice down-filled sleeping bag, and all I had was two G.I. blankets sown together, or zipped together. And I was cold all the time. So when he didn't come back, they come and take all your things, and so I took--I took his sleeping bag. It was so nice. Nice and warm. And then they come up and take all his stuff and send back to his parents and so forth. So then when I went on my first mission, this happened. Mark Tanner: So this was your first and last mission? Robert Chandler: No, I got in 18 missions before the war ended. Mark Tanner: Did you have any as exciting as that one? Robert Chandler: No, I was kind of nervous after that one. I told the guys, I said, "Are all of them like this?" They said, "No." Mark Tanner: Were you scared or nervous to go into, like your first mission? Robert Chandler: Yeah, I was. Mark Tanner: You were? Robert Chandler: Yes. Especially after this happened, I was scared from then on. Mark Tanner: Did it ever let up? Did the fear ever let up as you got more experience? Robert Chandler: You kind of got used to it. Some missions didn't have this flack. They had aircraft fire. Some missions you wouldn't have any, which we called milk runs. And-- Mark Tanner: When you say you didn't have flack, you mean they didn't shoot at you? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: Okay? Robert Chandler: And it was towards the end of the war when I was over there and we had bombed Germany and Austria and all the German factories so much that they didn't have much oil left to put fighters up in the sky. So we didn't have to worry too much about fighters either. They didn't have the oil to fly them. Mark Tanner: Did you go out with a lot of the same people on the different missions? Robert Chandler: This first mission I went out with a different crew, and they were supposed to kind of teach you while you were--I was supposed to be in the waist where this guy got killed. And then you would be near somebody that could help you out if you needed help with your oxygen and so forth. But there was two of us that were on our first mission, and this guy that got killed, he took the waist and I took the tail. So I come out with--I had had a charmed life I thought after that. And then when we landed, there was a guy at the field we landed at took those two pictures there. And then this other fellow was in another--he was from another--he was from our group, but not our quadrant. He took a picture of our plane as we were kind of going down past him. Mark Tanner: Where are you in this picture? Robert Chandler: Right there. Right where your finger is. Do I look like it? I was a little bit younger then. About 19. Mark Tanner: So how did you--how did you end up getting along with the people you stayed in the tent with? Robert Chandler: Oh, we got along good. Mark Tanner: Did you? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: Make friends? Robert Chandler: I got to tell you about something that happened while I was in the tent. My folks and different relatives would send us goodies, like cookies and stuff like that. And that's stuff we didn't get much of over there. I had this little orange crate at the end of my cot where I kept my odds and ends and my food. And I could hear this gnawing, and a mouse was in there. So we had 45-caliber pistols, and there it is on my side there. But they also gave us somewhat--they called bird shot, which is lot like shotgun shells. And so I just laid on my cot and waited for that mouse to come out, and I went bham and blasted him with that bird shot. Mark Tanner: How much food did he eat? Robert Chandler: How much what? Mark Tanner: Food had he eaten out of your crate? Robert Chandler: He didn't get to eat much. I heard him gnawing right away. That's the only way. We didn't have mouse traps, so I thought that would be a good way to get rid of them. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Huh? Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Yeah, I got other pictures at home that I couldn't locate right off the bat. And one of them we're outside of our tent. Some of my buddies lined up there with the newspaper. The war is over, or D-Day, the war is over, something like that. And we used to get the stars and striped paper. That's how we kept track of things. And we got--every time we came back from our flight, our mission, they would give us two shots of whiskey. You being church people probably don't believe in that. But anyway, it kind of pepped you up after you got home safely. You had that to think about. But a fellow from the tent next to ours and I, he had a whisky bottle and we saved our two shots up until the end of the war. So we had--we had over half a bottle when the war ended. So to celebrate, we just took off across country. We were out in the middle of nowhere. We just took off across country and started drinking and getting drunk and celebrating. Celebrating the end of the war. Mark Tanner: What country were you in? Robert Chandler: Italy. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: No, we had points that were given to us by a number of years we were in the service, and also the number of months--or number of months in the service, and also the number of months overseas. And when the war ended, I had just about enough points to get out. So, we flew back on a plane right away, or not right away, but we had to wait our turn. And I thought I would be able to think of the name of those islands we landed at by now. You don't know the names of some islands off the coast of... Robert Chandler: Azores. Azores, yeah. We landed in the Azores and spent the night there. Because I don't think we could make it all the way to the United States on one tank--one fueling. So-- Mark Tanner: Do you have any friends that you made in the war that you kept in contact with? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Our--our waist gunner, I still keep in contact with him. He lives out in--out near Seattle now. And my---our crew chief, don't call him crew chief, engineer, I still write to him every Christmas at least. He's been out here to see me and I have been out there to see him. He lives in Merced, California.. He was--we thought he was an old guy when he got on our crew. And after the war, I found out he was only about four years older than me. So he's probably about--he would be 81 now, I guess. He had kind of a fake name. His name was James Jones. That's a name you use if you go to a motel and don't want anybody to know who you are. Mark Tanner: Yeah. What did you do after you got home? Robert Chandler: (Inaudible). Mark Tanner: You met your wife? Robert Chandler: Yeah, my wife. She was a friend of my sister, so she had seen my picture and she wanted to meet me as soon as I got home. And after I met her, she was still in high school when I got home. As soon as she finished high school, we got married and been married for 44 years before she passed away. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible.) Robert Chandler: Pardon? Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Eleven years ago in February. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Yeah, we had a real good marriage. I was true to her and she was true to me. But after she passed away, I got--my sister-in-law was in--her husband had passed away and she was in the Hospice group. Have you heard of Hospice? Mark Tanner: Yeah. Robert Chandler: So, my sister-in-law got me into that. And we had this--met a lot of nice people if this Hospice group. We went to lunch every Sunday someplace. And visit with all these people, because all the people that were in that group were in the same boat that you were. Men and women. They are all widows or widowers, so it made it kind of nice to have people that understood how you felt. Mark Tanner: How many children did you have? Robert Chandler: Two. A boy and a girl. The boy lives here in Sycamore and my daughter lives out in Clare, Illinois. She teaches school at West School. She has been there--she has taught kindergarten for about 25 years now. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Yeah, right. You know her, huh? Mark Tanner: I went to school there. Robert Chandler: Oh, did you really? I should know you, but I can't place you. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible.) Robert Chandler: Bingham. I don't quite recognize the name, but one of the teachers that taught at West School, Heinz. Yeah, his wife is an employee over at Hospice. Bill Heinz. And she is a good friend of mine now. I met her through--she knew my daughter. And in fact, she was in charge of this--we had a dinner for volunteers last Saturday. I guess it was Saturday. Hospice and also the hospital put on this volunteer appreciation dinner for us. They had a nice program there. Good food, which I don't really need any more. You'll have to ask me some more questions. I can't-- Mark Tanner: Did you ever--were you able to stay in touch with your family when you were over in Italy? Robert Chandler: Yeah, we wrote back and forth. And letters were very--very nice to get when you are over there. My folks wrote me, and some of my aunts and uncles wrote. And they sent cookies and stuff like that to us. Mark Tanner: Did you ever get a chance to talk to--to talk to any of the other people that you were fighting against, the Italians or the Germans? Robert Chandler: No, but we did after the war was over. We flew supplies up to northern Italy and landed in a base up there. And they had Germans--Germans unloading these supplies from our airplane. And one of the fellows on our crew could understand a little German because he was of German descent. And after the--after we got--after these Germans left our plane, he said they were talking about how young the American soldiers were. Well, we all were kind of young. We were all 19, 20, 21 years old. Germans thought that was quite amazing. But later on in the war, a lot of their young people got in the war, too. I mean, younger than 15, 16 years old, some of those German soldiers were. Okay, ask me something else. Mark Tanner: What did you guys do to entertain yourselves? Keep yourselves busy? Robert Chandler: You mean while we were overseas? Mark Tanner: Yeah. Were there entertainers that came through? Robert Chandler: Well, they had the one Italian town, there were some entertainers. I can't remember who it was now, but you were so far away from them. It was probably 10,000 soldiers there, and you were in the back row. But it was nice to see entertainment like that anyway. Other than that, we were--for entertainment we would go into town and have what they--what they would call--the Italians called fish and chips. Which was fried potatoes and eggs. It wasn't fish and chips, it was eggs and chips. So you go to an Italian apartment and this family would fix eggs for you and fried potatoes. And they would sit a couple of bottles of wine on the table, of course. And that was--well, then they--we did go to a--they had a Red Cross building there that you could go and have coffee and a cookie if you want. And they had a trip once that took us out into the country to a place where a German antiaircraft place was. So we got to see that. They had tunnels underground in case they got bombed. And I think about it afterwards, but it is a wonder we didn't step on a land mine or something on that place where the Germans were. I'm running out of gas. Mark Tanner: Did you guys pull pranks on each other? Did you joke with each other? Robert Chandler: Yeah. I don't want to tell you what some of them are though. If it was just him here, I might. No,--well, I guess I could--while we were in the states--we didn't do much in the way of pranks overseas. But in the states they would--I guess I can tell you this. The guys would be sleeping on the cots, and maybe their hand would be hanging over like this on the cot. Somebody go get a pail of warm water and stick their hand in it and they would pee the bed. Mark Tanner: Did anybody ever do that to you? Robert Chandler: No. No. But I made a lot of friends. A lot of friends in the service. Mark Tanner: It must have been a real cross section of people? Robert Chandler: Yeah. Yeah, you did. You met all kinds of people. We had basic training. We had this Italian guy that his name was--I had it on the tip of my tongue there, Espasino (ph). I can't think of his first name. But you met a lot of nice guys. You didn't meet too many different ones when you were overseas. Mainly the guys in your tent. And then maybe a neighboring tents. And they had--you were allowed rations. I think once every two weeks you would get to sign up for them. You'd get candy bars, cigarettes. You had to pay a little bit for them, but it wasn't much. Cigarettes were like two or three dollars a carton. That's the reason I don't smoke anymore. They are about twenty some dollars for a carton of them now. Maybe more than that, I don't know. But over there, we got our cigarettes pretty cheap. Most all the guys smoked. The ones that didn't smoke, they would take their cigarettes to town and sell them to the Italians for like $15 a carton or something like that. Mark Tanner: Did you keep a journal when you were there? Robert Chandler: I kept track of where we flew. I wish I would have kept a journal. I'm not good at that kind of thing. But every time we got back from a mission, I wrote down where we went and how much flack we had. Aircraft fire. And if we lost any planes. That's about all I would write down. We had a little dog over there with us for a while. It was kind of a camp dog. He got run over--he got out in the road and got run over by a truck or something. And so we gave him a military funeral for our dog. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Oh, Senate. I have heard of him, yeah. Mark Tanner: He served in World War I ________. And this guy had two German Shepherd dogs. And the guys in the outfit, they were artillery. They hated those dogs. He fed those dogs as good as he fed them. And they were pretty resentful of the dogs. They figured out how to get rid of these dogs. I don't know if they poisoned them or what they did, but _________. They tied blocks around these dogs and threw them in the lake and pushed them over. He was upset about it and started to put a reward to get these dogs. Everybody was out their fishing to get the dogs back. Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: That's kind of things that go on, isn't it? Robert Chandler: I did construction work after I got out of the service, and at one time one of my bosses was named McCormick. Bert McCormick from De Kalb. Do you know him by any chance? Mark Tanner: No. Robert Chandler: He's passed away by now. I worked for Slepburn (ph) and Associates east of town here, and he was one of the--one of the bosses. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Yeah. We took a tour of the whole place and walking along and came across this tool belt. Mark Tanner: (Inaudible) Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: On each side of this tomb there's these two marble German Shepherd dogs. And we all laughed and laughed. Robert Chandler: McCormick. He furnished a lot of that _______, I think. Mark Tanner: He did. You have been there, haven't you? Robert Chandler: Yeah, I have been there. Many years ago, but I have been there. It is probably a lot different now. Mark Tanner: Well, they improved it. Robert Chandler: My stepdad was still living and he took the family over there one day. My stepdad was Al Tycz (ph). I don't know if that name rings a bell. Was Sheriff of De Kalb County here at one time. In fact, I lived in the jail they had--they have torn that down now. But down where the main county building is now, the county jail used to be there. And the family of the Sheriff lived in the jail. There was--let's see, two sisters and four brothers lived there. One regular brother and two stepbrothers. Two regular brothers--no, three. My head isn't--brain doesn't work good anymore. I took a spill three years ago and broke my neck. So,--and I had to wear a halo. Have you ever heard of one of those? A halo? Mark Tanner: Yeah. Robert Chandler: They screw it into your hair, your head. And then this doctor I had here in town, he's not right in town here, but he screwed one of the screws in too far and it went into my brain and I got infection in my brain. So I had--you can't see it, but there's a place where you can feel right over here where I had surgery there, and they had to cure that infection in my brain. So, my--that's my--my excuse now, they didn't put all my brains back in there. Mark Tanner: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the war? Robert Chandler: I don't know. I liked my position as a tail gunner on that bomber. I always liked to shoot guns. I liked when we were in gunnery school. I liked to shoot those machine guns. Mark Tanner: Was there anything you would do, like for good luck, you know, each time before you went out? You would do something special? Robert Chandler: No, but while we were up in the plane and they were shooting at us, you could hear those--you could hear those things. Even though there's a lot of noise inside the plane, could you hear these explosions in the antiaircraft fire, sometimes you could hear them hit your plane. Little pieces like that. You could hear it hit your plane. So, when that was going on, I was saying a prayer. I recited part of the 23rd Psalm. I think that's what helped me come back alive. Sorry if I have to take a break at times. Mark Tanner: You have earned the right. Robert Chandler: Pardon? Mark Tanner: You have earned the right. Robert Chandler: Well, I didn't do that much in the war, but what I did do, I'm proud of. I feel sorry for all these guys who were in the infantry. And I saw a movie last night on TV about Iwo Jima. Did you see that by any chance? Mark Tanner: (Negative response.) Robert Chandler: The guys that put that flag up, Suribachi. A lot of them--well not a lot, but some of those guys got killed after they put that flag up. Mark Tanner: You're lucky. Robert Chandler: Yeah. A charmed life. I should have had--I had a little piece of flack hit me in the back, but I had what they call a flack suit on. It is what they have nowadays, they call them bulletproof vests. It was something like that. And I had one of those on my back. And that little piece came right through the plywood door on the back of me and hit me in the back. That's how I found that little piece. But I had a charmed life then, and I think I had a charmed life when I took this fall and broke my neck. That should have killed me right then. Well, I don't know what else I can tell you. I could probably rattle on and on and on, but I can't think very straight anymore. When you get old, there's a lot of guys older than me, you know, but when you get up in your 70s some place, well, you can't think real straight anymore. Mark Tanner: Well, you have been doing really well. Robert Chandler: Well, I want to thank you people for taking this job on yourselves to take these interviews and everything. I think it is nice to--that kind of honors the veterans, too. Mark Tanner: We definitely appreciate what you went through. Yes, we do. This has been interesting. Robert Chandler: Pardon? Mark Tanner: This has been interesting to come and do this. Robert Chandler: I hope so. My daughter--or my granddaughter, I told you that she went to school in Walkersville, Wisconsin. You guys aren't from Wisconsin though, are you? Mark Tanner: (Negative response.) Robert Chandler: Anyway, she went to college there. And she--I'm not sure what you call what she graduated now a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure what her--I can't think of words. I think she is going to work with children and orphanages and older people, maybe, too. That's the reason she took that trip to China. She was at an orphanage over in China for about two weeks. Mark Tanner: I was in El Salvador for two years. Robert Chandler: Oh, were you? Mark Tanner: Yes. So I wasn't in a war or anything, but I could relate how you got along with your friends in the Air Force and how you would pull pranks on each other. Robert Chandler: You probably did stuff like that, too, in your group? Mark Tanner: We sure did. I went to an orphanage there El Salvado, and I had never really appreciated adoption until I had been there. There were about 30 babies in different cribs. They were all screaming. And you just go and pick one up and it stops crying and it is totally happy. Robert Chandler: Yeah. Mark Tanner: You put it back down and it reaches its arms out and starts crying again. Robert Chandler: Yeah. My granddaughter told me about things like that, too. In fact, she wanted to bring one of those little kids home with her. She wanted to bring it home and adopt it. There's such poverty over there. Mark Tanner: Yeah, that's how I feel. I want to adopt sometime. They found one child in a trash can. Robert Chandler: Oh. Mark Tanner: Yeah, it was just horrible how some of them-- Robert Chandler: You find that in Chicago. Well, I guess I have taken up enough of your time. Mark Tanner: Could I get you to sign this real quick? Robert D. Chandler http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.01564/transcript?ID=sr0001 Belvidere IL 00000 http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.
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