WORLD WAR II
Oral History Interview with Charles D. Schilling.

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Record 51/959
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Admin/Biog History Oral history interview with Charles D. Schilling. He was born January 15, 1932 in Oshkosh, WI. He discusses living during the Great Depression, World War II homefront; his father's service in World War I, and the death of his brother John E. Schilling who was a crew member on a B-24 bomber, who was a nose gunner.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation September 16, 2003
Abstract Cassette recorded oral history interview with Charles D. Schilling. He was born January 15, 1932 in Oshkosh, WI. He discusses living during the Great Depression, World War II homefront; his father's service in World War I, and the death of his brother John E. Schilling who was a crew member on a B-24 bomber, who was a nose gunner.

Charles Schilling Interview
16 September 2003
Conducted by Bradley Larson

{B: indicates the interviewer, Bradley Larson; C: indicates the subject, Charles Schilling. Open brackets [ ] or bracketed words denote a word (or phrase) not understood, or for which the spelling is uncertain, respectively).

B: This is Brad Larson and it is September 16, 2003. I'm sitting in my office with Chuck Schilling and we're going to talk a little bit about his remembrances of World War II and his brother. So if you're ready then I guess I'm ready.

What I'll do partway into this Mr. Schilling is, I will stop the tape. I just want to make sure we're getting good sound qualities. So after we talk for a couple of minutes, I'll stop.

So why don't we start out by, why don't you tell me your date of birth and your mom and dad's full name?

C: Date of birth is January 15th, 1935. My mother's name was Lydia Schilling. My father's name was Edward Schilling.

B: So you were born right in the midst of the Great Depression, right in the heart of the Great Depression. Do you have any memories at all of the depression or were you a little bit too young to have…?

C: Yes. I was too young for that. Soon after, well my mom and dad, they built their home, well it must have been close to when I was born. I was the last of the family to be born. My dad was in World War I. He was in the midst of the fighting over in France. And he was also wounded.

B: What division was he in? do you remember?

C: I don't remember. I have a, I saved, I believe it was his ah, when they were, when he got out of service. This is called… He had a big picture of himself and describing his getting out of service.

B: Discharge?

C: Discharge. It was a beautiful thing. I framed it. My mother had it up in the attic. And I got that home. And he was a medic in World War I.

B: He was wounded?

C: He was wounded in the arm or hand. And they picked up all the wounded. He was right in the midst of the fighting over there. And he ah, when he came out of service I believe he went to a, he went to a college in Appleton. I can't remember what that was again. And he did qualify or he applied for a job at the Post Office here in Oshkosh, when the Post Office was on Washington Boulevard.

And they built a home, a new home on Powers right off of East Irving. And I think I was, I must have been born soon after that. But he did get a position in the Post Office which was a good thing at that particular time because you know the post office, you know. They don't. generally they weren't laid off or nothing like that. He didn't lose his job because of this, I believe of the you know, the depression area.

B: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

C: Well I had my brother John here and my sister was an older sister. She was 12 years older than I and my brother John was 10 years older than I. And I did lose my, we did lose my sister in 1980. All of a sudden, she didn't tell us right away, my mother or me and my wife at the time. She had, we found that she had leukemia.

B: It's too bad; I'm sorry.

C: And she, well at that time they didn't have you know, the proper stuff at that time in the medical field. But anyhow I was tested for my, what is that, for the transplant? Bone marrow? And I went to Milwaukee because she was in a Milwaukee County Hospital at the time. And she was going there for transfusions and I didn't, we didn't even know about it. She didn't want to tell us and worry my mother. But then we found out and they asked if I would go down there for a blood test, which I did.

B: I'm going to check our tape now.

Okay, what are some of your first recollections of World War II? What are some of the very first memories that you have of the war?

C: Well I do remember a lot of these, you know when this happened it was an awful shock to my parents. I remember that. He was reported missing in action for a couple of months, I suppose it was. And then of course they got word that he was found.

B: How did they get word?

C: Well, from the War Department. They got word finally that he was found and I believe from what I know he was buried in Holland. Some place in Holland. And all our guys that were buried there at the time, they had these women from Holland; every woman was assigned to a grave and they took care of a grave. I know they received a letter from this particular woman that they took care of the graves; and flowers and stuff like that.

B: Do you remember the day that your parents received the news?

C: Sort of. I mean, you know it's…. Very vaguely. But I mean like I say, my father and my mom, they both took it very hard because it was a bad situation. But he was in for such a short period of time. See he, as soon as he got out of, he graduated from high school, him and a few other buddies, they, he wanted to go into the Air Force because he loved planes.

B: He did, huh?

C: He built model planes.

B: This was something that he always wanted?

C: Yes, he wanted to be a pilot. He wanted to get in pilot's school but pilot school was really filled up at the time. But they did enlist because he wanted to get into the Air Force rather that be drafted into you know, the regular army.

B: How did he come up with that love of flying? Do you have any idea of what sparked it?

C: Like I say, from young on he built model planes and he just loved the flying part of it. That's what he wanted to do. So then like I say, he got into the gunnery school, so that's what he ended up. He was a gunner on a… But they trained in, oh I got cards and I got a, actually the only thing I did get back after this is his scrapbook. And you know, I keep all his stuff in the scrapbook. And he, they had training in Florida. One period I remember because they housed all these guys in these hotels right on the ocean I mean, at that time. And you know, they, then I think he also had training in Texas.

B: So your family must have received letters from him periodically describing his training and…

C: Oh yeah. I got the cards and stuff at home too in the scrapbook. And then they, after his basic training he was assigned to an air base and it was Walla Walla, Washington. And there they, you know, they actually did more intensive flying and training. And he was assigned to this one, oh what do you call it, this one group. Ah, my mind is a blank. The group that he was training with, I know this happened. They, this came, they were out flying missions of course. Training missions. And they didn't need the gunnery guys on for this mission, for this training of the night flight thing. And I suppose the pilots and navigator, and the rest of the guys, bombardier and stuff like that. But they had, these guys went out and finding out, they crashed into a mountain out there in Washington. So that was the first crew that he was actually assigned with.

So that really, that scared him very much and he, I know he wrote home and said that, "Geez, I'm all through flying," you know. And all this and that. And all the guys, all the gunnery guys from the plane. And they took it very hard that they lost their pilot, co-pilot and the rest of the guys that went out that night. But…

B: Sure. I suppose they were very close to …

C: Yeah. So then he was assigned to this ah, this new group, crew. And actually I got some newspaper strips on that where their crew was the top crew on the base. They were, you know, voted the top crew on the base.

B: When abouts was he sent overseas?

C: Then they were sent…

B: Do you remember when he went to England?

C: Let me see now.

B: Well, maybe it'll come to us in the course of the conversation here. And you brought a flag in I see. That's the flag that your folks received?

C: Well the large flag's on the bottom. And just for the heck of it I brought this flag also. That was on his casket when he was…

B: Let's take a look at that.

C: He was brought, they sent him, you know they sent the guys back. Sent the bodies back. Well his, he was sent back in '49. And they hadda, 'course with every serviceman that was sent back, there was an Army or Air Force guy accompanying the body home. I mean, that was the ruling then. And as I remember he was there and they witnessed the… He had a full military funeral with a firing squad, the whole works. I remember that. And they had him at the Konrad Funeral Home the night, and the day after was the funeral. The military funeral at the cemetery.

And I had this made up. This is, I had this enlarged. I had a small picture of this and I had this made up at Walgreen's. This was the crew.

B: This was his first crew or second?

C: This was the main, his second crew. And this was my brother right here.

B: Oh. Handsome lad.

C: And down below were the of course, the pilot, co-pilot and his navigator, bombardier I believe. And these guys were all, mostly the gunnery. You see, they had quite a few turrets on their ships. In fact I built a model of that plane.

B: What position was your brother in? Do you remember?

C: He was actually a nose gunner on the B-24. Which is right up in front. But, see when they got this, in fact I got that letter at home. I probably could have brought that one along. They were on their way to their target, flying in formation and the Germans had these ah, I think at that time they called them B-2 rockets? And they shot these up into the formations, you know. The planes were going in for their bombing run. And his pilot and that, they evidently seen it coming and swerved the plane and he actually collided with the plane next to him. And so I mean actually I mean, this, you know this and of course then when they collided, both planes evidently were, you know went down. But anyhow the tail gunner, that day my brother was assigned, he was a side gunner of the plane. There was two side gunners, tail gunner and the tail gunner, I know they got word that he, when they collided of course whatever happened, the oxygen was shut off. And he said the last he saw of my brother, he was on the floor of the plane. And he came too and he was floating in a parachute. So maybe something broke off, the tail or something. They had the twin tail on that plane. And he came down in his parachute and he was picked up by, they had these German teenagers that, these young German teenagers that picked up our American guys. You know they were watching for them to come down you know. And he was abused and I know I remember that he was abused and kicked and you know, and everything else. But he was in prison but he was taken to prison and there was word that the, I believe the pilot must have survived the incident but he died in the hospital. I remember that part of it.

B: Do you recall the date of this, when it happened?

C: Well this was March 3rd.

B: 1945.

C: Yeah. This was March 3rd. Because I do have the letter that came from one of the [ ] telling about this.

B: All of those letters, scrapbook items, clippings, all of that make that flag much more valuable historically. Because the flag then becomes a symbol which we can tell a story about one person in the context of the war. So all of those documents and photographs are really important for the whole story that we would try to tell with this flag. After the funeral then, the flag was presented to your parents?

C: Right. This particular flag. I mean the one that was on the casket, you know. But the other one, the large flag that you know, I originally told you about. That was, I don't know how it was presented but it was presented to my mom and dad. I don't know if that came locally in the Oshkosh area or what it was. The veterans or what. I can't remember what that, how she received this flag.

B: Do you remember if it was sometime shortly after your brother was pronounced as killed in action?

C: Right.

B: Or was it after the war?

C: I think it was before after the war. It was before the time, yeah. Because see, this was a time when they were bombing Germany day and night, you know. And of course right after that, you know the war was over. The Germans surrendered and whatever.

B: Do you remember the day the Germans surrendered? The victory in Europe day?

C: No, I don't.

B: Did your family or you or your folks do anything to mark that occasion or the anniversary of his death?

C: Well the only date I remember was you know when this, like I say, when this supposedly has you know, this supposedly happened, you know. Like I say I do have that letter at home. I coulda brought that along too.

B: These are pretty important artifacts to your family though. I can tell that.

C: Oh yeah. I mean this, and ah…

B: It's very good that you've preserved them so carefully. And you recall the story of your brother. I think that's really wonderful.

C: This is what, like I say, my older daughter - I have two daughters - this is her fiancé. She lost her, we lost our son-in-law. She was married and we we, had the one grandchild. She was seven years old at the time. But we lost him due to a liver transplant. He was only 37 years old. And that was 1995 and our granddaughter was, they just had the one child and she was seven years old at the time. Now she's sixteen. She was sixteen this last July.

Anyhow, this is what I had made up. And her, I call her my fiancé now. Or her fiancé. He printed it up on the computer for me.

B: Could we have this or make a copy of it?

C: Yeah, yeah. That's the reason why I had it made up.

B: Thank you very much. This is very good.

C: He made it up on the computer and he's pretty, he knows what to, I gave him the information. He made it up.

B: Well, he sure did a good job. You'll have to thank him for us.

C: He's quite a nice guy and he's, he, he's doing a lot for our grandchild. I mean he's, he's helping her. I mean she has a little hard time in school. She's not, now this year she's a sophomore at West High. And he helps with her schoolwork and quizzes here and; he's quite a guy. So, but like I say, they're not married yet but I'm sure they will be.

B: Is there anything more we should talk about Mr. Schilling, about your brother or the flags? Or are we, you think we're pretty much… Oh, you have photographs.

C: Now there's a large, a larger one but I thought this would be more appropriate because it's, and this, my mother had this. And there's a large one like this also. That was his flight uniforms.

B: Sure. There he is in his goggles and leather helmet. Would you allow us to copy this? We would return the original to you of course. Would you?

C: Sure. Sure.

B: That would be wonderful. Well, thank you very much. We'll turn this off if we're done talking and then you and I can talk.

C: Okay.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.55
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
Location of Originals Oshkosh Public Museum
People Schilling, Charles D.
Schilling, John E.
Related unit of descrip .
Subjects World War II
World War I
Homefront
United States Army Air Force
Bombers
Casualties
Title Oral History Interview with Charles D. Schilling.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009