||Oral history interview with Louis Schriber by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences as a P-38 fighter pilot and ace in the 80th Fighter Squadron (Headhunter Sqaudron), 5th Army Air Force during World War II. Schriber was born in Oshkosh, WI on October 13, 1920. He graduated from Shattuck Military Academy in Fairebult, MN in 1942 (?). He enlisted in June 1942 in the US Army Air Force. He was assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron from April 1943 to April 1945. He was credited with 8 confirmed kills and had three possibles. He was awarded 3 Presidential Unit citations; Silver Star; 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses; 8 Air Medals; and 6 Campaign stars. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.
|Dates of Accumulation
||1993 - 1993
||Oral history interview with Louis Schriber by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences as a P-38 fighter pilot and ace in the 80th Fighter Squadron (Headhunter Sqaudron), 5th Army Air Force during World War II. Schriber was born in Oshkosh, WI on October 13, 1920. He graduated from Shattuck Military Academy in Fairebult, MN in 1942 (?). He enlisted in June 1942 in the US Army Air Force. He was assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron from April 1943 to April 1945. He was credited with 8 confirmed kills and had three possibles. He was awarded 3 Presidential Unit citations; Silver Star; 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses; 8 Air Medals; and 6 Campaign stars.
ORAL HISTORY WITH LOUIS SCHRIBER
DECEMBER 30, 1993
INTERVIEWER: GORDON DOULE
S: My name is Louis Schriber and my age is a very, very young 73. Born in Oshkosh back in 1920. My spouse's name is Ob; we were married in 1946. Today I'm sort of half-baked retired but I've got a title of Marketing Manager. I've got three kids, one living in Florida and the name is Cici and I've got two living in Oshkosh, Dan and Deedee. My schooling was cut short because of World War II but I graduated from Shattuck North High School. Then went into the service and then I went back to school. My mother's maiden name was Morgan; she was part of the Morgan clan from the miller company here. I've lived in Oshkosh all my life. Branch of service, of course, was the US Army Air Force. I enlisted. But shortly after Pearl Harbor we all went down to Chicago to join the Marine Corps. The line was about four blocks long so we went over to the Coast Guard.
Theirs about six blocks long so we went to a bar and got a little pickled and came back to Oshkosh.
D: For crying out loud!
S: About a week later the Cadet Board came through here and a bunch of us went down and enlisted in the Air Cadets. I could have gone to Fort Snelling and gotten a commission with ROTC training.
D: You would have been in the Infantry.
S: Yeah. And I could have gotten up to second lieutenant. Most of those guys that did that were in the first waves on the islands and they are not with us any longer, so I guess I picked the right thing to do.
D: You sure did 'cause it was my branch also. How would I dispute it?
You were discharged about '45?
S: I was discharged in, yeah, late '45. I was in the Reserves, and they kept me in that thing for so long I thought I might have to go to Korea.
D: And you didn't?
S: No, I told them I wouldn't.
D: Even in the Reserves you could do that?
S: They weren't about to get me to fly again. I wrote letters, my father wrote letters, I had other people writing letters...and finally I had a phone call from Detroit, they were headquarters for this district, from some guy, he said you'd be getting a letter from General So-and-So, classifying me as a...whatever, I can't remember anyway...get out of the Reserves.
D: I lucked out on that too.
S: I talked to some guy down in Chicago or Milwaukee and I said, look, you can send me over to Korea but you'll never get me in a damn airplane!
D: Enough's enough!
S: You can call me anything you want, you're not gonna get me in an airplane.
D: Not after getting shot at for four years in World War II.
What do you remember most about Oshkosh prior to your enlistment? I can remember a lot of what you're gonna say so be careful here.
S: I think I better pass on that question. [laughter] I just remember it as one super spot to live and that's why I chose to come back and stay here. I just liked everything about it.
D: Ok so what you're saying is, that what you remember most is that
it was a darn good place to live, and you can't pick out any particular [ ]
S: I think everything was great. I loved it.
D: You're not gonna even mention new country or any of that kind of stuff?
S: Well, I better not! You know about that [ ] You can write that up.
D: I remember taking kegs of beer [ ]
What was different when you returned?
S: Oh, not really a lot. Of course, we settled down somewhat. I don't think it was all that different...
D: You got married almost...
S: We got married shortly after I got back...about a year I guess it was. It wasn't all that different. There were some things you couldn't do -I played a lot of tennis before I went into the service, and I got back and nobody played it anymore.
D: The only place there was, practically, was down at the park.
S: And so I sorta gave that up. And I did a lot of sailing before the war and I did some sailing after the war. I started to play golf and it ended up so I couldn't do both, it was taking too much time, so I quit sailing and stayed with golf.
D: Were they still sailing out of where the Legion is? I remember, it used to be Oshkosh Yacht Club. I used to crew for guys.
S: I was a snipe sailor, we had that huge snipe fleet and when I came back they'd gotten rid of their snipes and they had A Boats.
D: Oh they were up to A's.
S: Sure. There were six or seven A Boats. Most of them were second hand that came down from the Kimberlys and the Shattucks from Neenah. [ ] and a whole bunch had A's.
D: Ok, starting in where... after you enlisted and so forth, your first base was Santa Ana, California...
S: I had never been in an airplane in my life, so I don't know why I ever enlisted in the Air Force, but I did. I first went out to Santa Ana for pre-flight.
D: When did you go to primary? Or where'd you go?
S: About a month, or something like that. Then I went to Arizona -Thunderbird.
Country Club. In the Air Force. Then from there I went to basic, to Pecos, Texas, which was the pits. It was such a lousy air base that they took good care of us. They gave us wonderful food...Then I came back to the Phoenix area and I graduated from Williams in twin-engine training.
D: Williams Air Force Base, is that in California?
S: Chandler, Arizona. South of Phoenix. When we were in basic, the director, we were just about ready to graduate, he said what do you want to be, a bomber pilot or a fighter pilot and I thought, gee, a fighter pilot, that sounds a little lonesome, so I chose bomber pilot. Then I went to twin engine training. Ended up a damn fighter pilot anyway. [laughter] Which was all right, I figured, I might have been over in Europe getting shot at all the time. And we trained in 38's, they were called P-322, they were the first P-38's that were sent over the England and the English rejected them. And they came back here and they used them as trainers.
D: I think I heard about that, yeah.
S: And we didn't have counter-rotating props, that's what we trained in for awhile.
D: Then you got on a boat...
S: Then we flew over on a B-24.
D: They flew you over.
S: There were twelve of us.
D: Where did you head for?
S: We didn't know, we looked at the thing and it said something like going to Ipswich, Australia. They had given us all this winter clothing, we thought we were going up to Alaska. We flew to Hawaii and then down to the Christmas Islands, then New Caledonia, on into Australia. We were assigned to the 375th Group, which was a brand new fighter group, P-38 Fighter Group.
D: What Air Force?
S: 5th. Then they took the 12 of us went over - One of us was killed in training in Ipswich so there were eleven of us.
D: Ipswich was in Australia?
S: It was near Brisbane, just outside of Brisbane. Then they assigned six, or they took eleven of us out of the 375th and sent us up to New Guinea to the...I guess there were six of us... that went to the 80th Fighter Squadron which was in the 8th Fighter Group, the other five stayed with the 375th which later moved on to [ ] as a group. We joined the 80th and they had all been flying - they had 38's when we joined up but they had just gotten them. They had been flying P-40's and P-39's. So we...
S: We worked into a veteran outfit real, real early in the war. We were there in [Darwin] and during the Coral Sea and all that. So we thought we were pretty hot shot because we had flown 38's. We had more time than they had. But we found out in a hurry that they were better pilots than we were.
D: I'm trying to think of the nickname for the P-39.
S: [Belle] Air Cobra.
D: Air Cobra, yeah.
S: King Cobra, that was a bigger one - the 63. That was a [ ] airplane, too.
D: P-40 was an early plane over there, too. [ ]
S: Yeah, that was over in India.
D: Ok, then, where did you start...
S: We joined the 80th at Fort Moresby, New Guinea. I think the first or second night we were there a couple of Jap planes come over and they hit one of the ammunition dumps, so we listened to that, woah, [ ]?!
D: 4th of July early!
S: And then, I think it was my first or second mission, we went over on the other side - Battle of the Bismarck Sea...
D: Ok, that was a hot one!
S: Well, you know, that was a nice introduction... [laughter]
D: Nothing like slam, bam...
S: [ ] isn't good at all! But then we went to New Guinea, we went...
D: Now, don't rush over those, let me know a little bit about what happened in New Guinea.
S: Well, that was a big part of the war for the 5th Air Force. We were outnumbered, that's where all the big air battles were.
D: What primarily were you up against? Zeros? Oscars?
S: Different Oscars and the Haps, the Tonys etc. - you'd get so excited you couldn't tell one from the other. As long as you shot down a Jap.
D: As long as you saw the round ball on the side.
S: I got real wise with the P-38's and we generally only flew with 38's. They didn't send us with Corsairs or 47's or anything with a single engine, that was enemy. So that made it easy, we didn't have to worry about identification. You could see the big round circles.
D: Like the Jap Oscar we got out at the hangar at the EAA.
S: They were good little planes, the Oscar was.
D: Most everybody heard about the Zero but we didn't hear much about the Oscar.
S: Well, the Oscar was a Zero. There were a number of different Zeros. There was a Hap, was a Oscar, and there was a Imp, and there was a Tony - we called them all Zeros.
D: Oh, Ok, then, essentially they were all the same plane.
S: Yeah, but they were different vintages or different manufacturers... Anything that was single engine Japanese was a Zero. They got up there - we were a lot more maneuverable. From a speed aspect you could [ ]
D: Tell me about the other P-38's. Did they have dive brakes and stuff like that?
S: We didn't get dive brakes until, I think, the Model L, which is the one they got out there.
D: That made you a little more competitive, didn't it?
S: Well, not really, I don't ever recall using the damn dive breaks. We did some dive bombing, of course we missed everything we tried to dive bomb. I guess maybe I must have [ ] We just never used them that much. I know when the first 38's we got which I think were G's or the H's, when they first came out with hydraulic controls, I got a boost with a control, oh this is terrible! You lose all the feel. But once you got used to them you're glad to have it.
D: Did you have [Allison] Engines?
S: Yeah we had [Allison].
D: P-51's converted to [ ]
S: [ ] 38 [ ] They changed and kept going up in horsepower, I think the last ones had 1600 horses on that thing.
D: That's a lot of horsepower.
S: Oh yeah, your engine... Well, you know, 38 when it was fully loaded, a 38 could carry two two-thousand pound bombs.
D: That isn't small.
S: Four thousand pounds, that's about all a B-17 can carry.
D: That's right, [ ] 26's.
S: From a weight standpoint, we could only carry two. We could either carry two two thousand pounders, or we could carry two fifty pounders, and that was it! Like I said, it was too shallow. I guess later put rocks underneath it, [ ]
D: Well, now, tell me about some of your battles? Like Bismarck Sea and so forth.
D: Wasn't that heavily engaged in aircraft carriers, also?
S: Well, we didn't see any carriers but there were supposedly some that were down in the arrears, [ ] a lot of the destroyers, and landing craft... They actually annihilated them - the B-17's and 25's, everybody was in there, strafing the damn things. Everybody was sort of brave because we were close to shore. We were close to home. You're always pretty good when you're close to home.
D: You get crippled up a little bit.
S: Yeah, and [ ]
D: Not when you have to compete with the sharks!
S: I first flew big missions were Wewak, Hollandia...
D: That's W-e-w-a-k?
S: Yeah. Those were real terrific strongholds of the Japanese Air Forces.
D: Ok, what were some of the others?
S: Hollandia - Wewak, we by-passed Wewak. We didn't even bother to capture it. We by-passed it - we used to skip. We'd just starve them out of there.
D: They couldn't get their supplies...Wewak, Hollandia, what were some of the others?
S: Lae, New Guinea...
S: L-a-e. That's where our friend, Amelia Earhart was last seen. There are a number of places in New Guinea that [ ] big ones. And then, of course, one of the big Japanese stronghold. The biggest Japanese stronghold in the South Pacific was in Rabaul and New Britain. We started some raids - I was just looking at this the other day - and I flew some missions in late October over Rabaul and I didn't even remember flying them until I looked them up. Then there was the most famous and the biggest mission in the Pacific during the whole war was on Rabaul on November 2, - November, 2 of 1943, I just had my 50th anniversary, but I flew that mission. Our squadron was - we were based at that time, we were still in Port Moresby. But we stayed down on a little island called Caroline, which was sort of a, it was in a [ ]. We flew through Caroline over to Rabaul and the mission was B-25's going after the shipping in [Simpson] Harbor. And we send the 80th [ ] the mission. And I don't know how many 25's there were, probably a hundred of them, and a couple of groups of 38's that were flying cover for the 25's. And we went in with our squadron and we had twelve lousy P-38's and we went in there, and we bumped into about 200 Japs. We were there alone for about twenty minutes.
D: How many had you lost?
S: We lost two. We shot down fourteen.
D: Before you got some help.
S: By the time they came there we were practically out of ammunition and fuel so we headed home.
D: How many did you get altogether?
S: I had eight. I had three that mission and I had five later on.
D: So you wound up an ace. You should have shot two more you'd have been a double ace.
S: Well, I didn't count those. I always said, that the [ ] was damn good, because I shot at a lot more than he ever did, I just didn't hit as many. [ ] flew with us, I should say, four or five different times. I think he got four or five Japs [ ].
D: Did you ever meet him?
S: Oh yeah, he was a funny little guy. Well, he wasn't so little...
D: He had twenty-something then, didn't he?
S: He had forty.
D: He was tops, wasn't he.
S: He could fly an airplane, alright! Our squadron was known as the 'Head Hunters' and we were the first twin engine fighter squadron in the world to get [ ] destructions. We were the famous fighter squadron in the Pacific. I think we had 24 of us that were aces. There were only 25, 30 pilots in a squadron.
D: That's quite a record.
S: Yeah. Sure was. It was quite an outfit.
D: Out of all those experiences that you had, [ ], I'm gonna call you [ ] 'cause that's what I know you by, what experience of all of those do you recall the most, good or bad?
S: You know, you never really...I don't recall ever being frightened per se, I think you were maybe after you got home...
D: Then you started to shake afterwards...
S: I never did but I think you started to think about it, but we were too busy, really, to be frightened. You just, you know, you thought, hell, nobody's good enough to get me - if you didn't have that attitude, you didn't come home. I think, most of us, we were talking about this [ ] I was in the squadron for two years, and we didn't bother to come home because we knew if you came home they'd ship us over the Europe, and we weren't about to get shot down over the damn Germans. Over [ ]. So when we had a chance to came home we said, no, let's stay over. Besides, this guy, Murphy, who I went overseas with and myself were just about ready to get to the squadron commanders.
D: He was not from here, though.
S: He was from Texas. He's still there. So we stayed on over. But I found in the study of the squadron, and it's been confirmed with other squadrons, especially in the Pacific, that once you had a hundred hours of combat flying, you were pretty good. And chances are you were gonna get home. Most of our problems were with guys before they had that hundred hours combat. No matter how many hours in the 38 they had, you had to have those combat hours. With the navigation...that was our biggest enemy.
D: Oh, I can imagine... You've got such space out there - water all over the place...
S: You take off from a little damn island and for four hours to the target there's nothing but water! Then you had to come back to that little dinky joint! So it was rough!
D: Did you have good radio contact, though?
S: In those days? We had radio, but they couldn't zero in on us. We didn't have radio compass or anything like that.
D: It wasn't like if you're flying off an airplane.
S: No, [ ] Time and distance. You got the drift wrong over the ocean, well you were, and there were several times when we did miss them. We had rules to follow, and if you didn't, they didn't hear from you again. If you followed the rules, then you got home...
D: That came with the savvy...
S: That came with not getting excited about it. Cause there were several times that I missed, and boy, what do I do now - get the little book out, and do what it tells me to do. Don't get excited...
D: Fuel isn't gonna last forever. What a nice time to be running into a half a dozen Japs!
S: Usually that didn't happen.
D: You didn't get so much of the flak like we did in Europe. That wasn't your hazard.
S: The 38 was actually an excellent plane for strafing. But it was a damndest plane for strafing because you sat right over the damn wing, and your depth perception was a little...we had a lot of guys that would tip the tops of trees and stuff...
D: Because you couldn't see straight down.
S: We had the fire power [ ] strafing but we couldn't see - visibility wasn't that good for strafing. The P-47's and 51's, you sit ahead of the wing and they were super for that.
D: Especially the P-51 after they put the double canopy in. That was a critical thing.
S: We did a lot of strafing. Going after air strips, etc. And we got shot at.
D: How many guns did you have on a 38?
S: We had four fifties and one ten mm. canon. All in the nose.
D: Then they had - didn't have to be synchronized?
S: No. We hooked them all up on one trigger. Usually, because, the 20 mm. had less rounds of ammunition but it had less firing speed. So they'd exhaust themselves at about the same time. Strafing missions [ ] because we'd go out [ ] the damn trigger down, burn out the gun barrels and then they'd get ticked off at us 'cause they had extra work and go over and set them and stuff.
I got shot down strafing up in the Philippines.
D: Oh, I didn't know that.
S: Oh yeah.
D: You got shot down? Where did you...did you land in the Philippines?
S: I crash-landed back in an old deserted Jap strip [ ]. Just north of Manila
D: Yeah, that was a very common approach, too. [ ] obviously...friendly camps...
S: I'd lost my radio contact, and one of the guys - part of my wing was gone...engine out...
D: Just a minor thing...
S: Yeah, my canopy was gone, and I must have pulled it or released it, but I don't remember doing it, and the first thing I can remember was I was feeling warm, and I looked down [ ] whole [ ] was on fire [ ] T-shirt
D: Oh my...
S: I had the hair burned off my arm and that's about it!
D: When was that, do you remember?
S: That was in February of '45.
D: There was a lot of activity going on after that...got you in another plane...
S: Oh yeah! Well, we were flying out of Mindoro in the Philippines at that time, and we'd just gotten, about two months before that we had gotten a new group commander. He was a full colonel, had come over from the States, nice guy. [Denham], Earl [Denham]. He was a very understanding guy. He outranked, of course, everybody, he was our group commander but he wouldn't take the group, and he wouldn't even leave the squadron, because he said, you guys have been here a lot longer than I have, I'll fly a wing. Well, when we were in Mindoro we got a raid - five or six Japs came over and he happened to be up that day on full patrol - and he has his one and only destruction. And after he got the destruction he had the plane came down, and he had it all shined up and he had all the group insignia put on it and he had [ ] flag on and his name, his group [ ] And the day I went on this mission my plane was out of service and I used his plane. [laughter]
D: That's the one that got shot down?
S: When I came back to the Officers' Club, I can't remember, but anyway, he came up to me at the Officers' Club, later on, some time, and 'How'd the mission go?' Oh that's right, he was doing something else. 'How'd the mission go?' 'Well, I said, not so good - we lost two pilots', which he knew, and he says, 'oh, you guys did a nice job up there,' I said, 'we had a little problem,' and he said, 'yeah, that's too bad.' I said, 'yeah, but there's one part that you don't know about.' 'What was that Schribe?' 'Colonel, you no longer have an air plane.' I thought he was gonna cry. [laughter] You no longer have an airplane.
It was funny, I landed, I came in wheels up. I must have come in about 140 cause that thing would stall out on me all the time. There was a mud strip. I was up and I did two firefights, like I say I didn't have, just a t-shirt on, and after I landed I forgot to undue my parachute harness, and I was out of that damn airplane before it stop sliding, and I came bouncing on my butt and jumping over the tail boom to get away from it...And there was a jeep there with a couple of guys [ ] I saw coming it in, way over on the side along the runway, to help me, 'cause I was in trouble. Then they all ran over towards [ ] these guys [ ] are you all right, yeah, blood all over [ ] my hand, and Holy Christ what happened to me. I'd hit my head on the gun sight. I had on a baseball cap with my insignia which put a little dinky hole in my skull. Blood streaming down. That was an exciting trip.
D: That was when you were shot down, I mean, the plane, you came in, with the colonel's plane.
S: Yeah. I only got shot up a couple times. Both times in the air [ ] but I never knew I was shot and hit until I got home. The one time I heard a noise and I felt something on the floor of the plane and went down to pick it up and geez, hotter than hell and I thought, Geez, where the hell'd that come from? You know, am I falling apart? And I was over water, and there were no ship [ ] so I must have gotten shot from some guy who snuck underneath me and I never saw him.
D: And you were sitting right over the wings.
S: Yeah, geez, I got holes all over the damn plane and I never knew it.
S: Well, I suppose I can go on all day long...
D: Well, tell me some more about your experiences there. That's what posterity is waiting for.
S: Well, you know, each mission's a little different but they're all about the same.
Most of our missions were either cover for bombers, fighter sweeps, and convoy patrol. And I think that during, towards the end of my term over there - I came home just before Okinawa. The air war was over. [ ] in the Philippines there were more P-38's [ ] to get at the few Zeros that were there. We'd be on convoy patrol and this kamikaze stuff had started.
D: Oh, ok, the big battles [ ]
S: We'd go out on convoy patrol and we'd leave late in the afternoon, 'cause we'd leave before dark. We'd come back in the morning, and we'd see forty ships when we left in the evening, come back, there'd be 35. They'd been kamikazied. That was so sad, and there was nothing you could do about it!
D: Do you remember, other than that colonel, do you have anyone in particular that you might have gotten more buddy-buddy with, more camaraderie with, while you were over there, that stands out in your mind?
S: My closest friend over there was this guy Murphy who I went overseas with, we were the only two who made it back, so we got to be very close. But I was also very close to a couple of my squadron commanders and still am with one of them, he is living down in San Antonio, he came out a three-star general. I think Murph and I were sort of - we were the booze officers who took care of the squadron [a-hem] 'supply.'
D: Did you get a regular ration like we did in Europe?
S: The booze? No. We had more booze than the entire United States Navy, I know. We'd go down to Australia on leave, and we took care of the 5th Fighter Group's aircraft. And we had a couple DC-3's, and [ ] B-25, and we did all the flying on the darn things. So when we went down there we had our own airplane. We'd stuff that thing full of beer and booze!
D: No ammunition!
S: And then if there was any room in that thing at all at all we'd let somebody ride back with us. We had booze coming out of - and we'd use it to barter for fresh meat from the Navy...
D: When you got off on the mission, though, didn't the Red Cross...
S: Red Cross would come around, and pour you a little shot, and we'd say, just put a little mark on the bottle and when it comes to a full bottle just bring the bottle down to me!
D: Well then you didn't really have briefings before and after, and de-briefing?
S: Oh, yeah.
D: Usually in Europe then the flight surgeon was there and gave everybody a shot of bourbon.
S: The Red Cross would come around to the planes, but I never could drink that stuff like that. Some of the guys [ ] keep track, [ ] bottle [ ] or bring it over to our next party. [ ] girls come.
D: About the only things those shots did was to kind of steady you down after the shakes started setting in.
S: Well, our briefings were a lot different than they had in Europe. I don't know what the bombers [ ] in the Pacific, but with the 80th, our first squadron commander we had, most of the squadrons, they wouldn't let you know if you were gonna go until the morning of the raid.
D: Keep everything quiet.
S: Yeah. We were all assigned as soon as - either that afternoon or that evening, for the next day for two reasons: one, so we could get pickled at the Officers' Club. And the other, he just felt that you should know what you're up against, and it worked! And so we always knew. And he'd go to the briefings and then he'd tell us which way we were going and that was about it.
D: Gave you your compass settings...
S: Yeah, and that was it - [ ] nap, woke up [ ] and off we went.
D: What kind of bombers did you remember escorting [ ] 17's?
S: 17s, 24's and 25's, and some A-20's I guess they had. But most of it were 25's and 24's and 17's.
D: It could have been a sister group of ours. We made [ ] before we went over and three of our groups went to Europe and one of them went that way.
S: There were some B-26's over there but I think it was only one group or something and we didn't see much of those.
D: They were heavy in Europe.
S: There were a lot of them that we didn't see a lot of. There weren't too many A-20's over there. We didn't have any 51's until just before the end of the war, 'cause they were needed over in Europe. And that's where they should have been, because we didn't need them. I flew the 51, I had about eight hours, [ ] and I loved the airplane. But we didn't need it.
D: Especially if it was [ ]
S: The P-47 was a super airplane. [ ] There were several groups of people [ ] did a good job with us. But [ ] they were needed, really, over in the European Theater.
D: We had a lot of them in Europe.
S: The 51 and the 47 and the 39 and the P-40, none of them could maneuver with the Japanese. [ ] the P-38. But the P-38 had that other engine.
D: [ ] bomb [ ]
S: You bet! And over that water. And I don't know how many planes came back...I came back five times on single engine. I would have been bailed out, or killed.
D: Was George [ ]
S: He was P-39's
D: Oh, P-39's - single engine.
S: He got shot down real in early '43 I guess. No, it was mid-'43.
D: I heard about it...
S: It was shortly after I got overseas. He got over about a week after I did but he was assigned to the other squadron. He didn't know I was in the 80th and I didn't know he was in the 36th until this guy came over and told me.
D: Then you didn't have any communication with him.
S: No, never saw him.
D: That's too bad.
S: I'd known him since grade school. I could have given him some tips. Yeah, stay out of the P-39...
D: Did you ever have anybody that, on the other side of the fence, that you just didn't like at all? That was bugging you and hassling you, and making life miserable for you or anything like that?
S: Well, no, because if they did we'd [ ]...
D: We'll censor that.
S: Murph and I'd been down on leave in Sydney, and a lot of times we'd [ ] assemble them, and test hop them, and fly them back to the islands. In fact, that was a good deal, we'd take all the ammunition we could stuff in the nose and...
D: Make a cargo trip.
S: Murph and I came back one time, just the two of us, we were at [ ] in New Guinea, and [ ] I can't remember...anyway we came back a day late. Which was no big deal. But when we came back we buzzed the camp area, and we were able to see [ ], gave a couple passes, then we went in and landed, and I taxied over to the [ ] area, and I was just starting to get out of the plane, I guess I was just standing by the wing and this goddamn jeep pulled up - 'Were you one of the guys that came over the camp area?!' I said, 'yeah.' 'Well, you're grounded', he said to me, 'You're gonna be shooting the biscuit gun up in the tower for the next week or two.' 'I said you can take that biscuit gun and stick it up you know where.' Well, we got back to the camp [laughter] they told us, it was a new group commander. He come in when we were down on leave. And we told Robins, [ ] group commander, he said, [ ] 'goddamn picked on when you came over here.' I said, 'that's what we tried to do.' 'Yeah,' but he said, that guy was even talking to me when that happened! 'He said, 'Jesus, I gotta punish you!' So he gave us a punishment under the 104th article of war for being AWOL, we had to pay $100.00 fine. We didn't have any place to spend it anyway.
D: He put it on your record and everything?
S: Yeah, but we flushed it down the john. Two days later, the new colonel group commander was no longer with us. Robins went over to the fighter command
and he said, [sound of knocking on wood].
D: Well, he wasn't the guy that dolled up the plane that you shot down.
S: I never met the guy except when he told me I was gonna shoot a biscuit gun, I told him where to put it and that's the last I saw him. He was doing all kinds of things to other guys there. He came fresh over from the States, you know, he was gonna shape everybody up.
D: Oh yeah, I know the type.
S: Oh yeah, [ ] it didn't bother us.
D: Now, did you keep in touch with any of your buddies?
S: Yeah, yeah, we've had reunions. I haven't been to all of them, but the most recent one was a year ago this past October.
D: Your fighter group number was 70?
S: We were the 80th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group. And we've had group reunions, I've never been to any of those. And the squadron reunions we started back in the late 60's. The first one was in Jackson Hole, Wyomingthe second one in Oshkosh! About three years later. They were having them every three years, and then they started every two years, then every year, which is too bloody often, but one year ago this past October was the 50th anniversary of the fighter squadron. And the fighter squadron is the only active WWII fighter squadron in existence today. And they're over, stationed in Japan, flying these fancy, whatever they are, the latest thing, you know. So they had this reunion in San Antonio, and it was absolutely fabulous. The present squadron commander flew over from Japan, he was there, a nice young chap, and some of the other past squadron commanders, from our fighter squadron from WWII, there are still eight living aces, seven of us were at the reunion. Out of the lousy little 80th Fighter Squadron, there were seven generals that came out of there. Six of them were at this reunion!
S: It was absolutely unbelievable. And these young men that are so active in the service - boy I tell you, they're something else -super young guys.
D: We were young...
S: They were so damn good to us! This one guy was talking with us, he said, you know, it's different talking to you people from WWII. This guy was like, Robins was one of our [ ] and three star general, he shot down 22 Japs. I had eight and Murphy had six, some other guy had 17, and we were all there, and this guys said, you know, you guys are a breed of cats that nobody will ever see again. There will ever be another fighter ace. Nobody's ever gonna shoot down. There isn't ever going to be any air-to-air combat.
D: When you stop to think of it, sure.
S: Today maybe in your career you might get one or two if you're lucky, but everything else it's all missiles.
D: Get them on the ground, or destroy their air fields...
S: It's fun talking to you. We just don't have aerial [ ], gee all we do is push buttons! I said, yeah, but you gotta take that thing out and land it. He said, well...
D: And their controls are so sensitive.
S: Oh.... and complicated. Everything's gotta be set.
D: F-16's, for example, I sat in the cockpit once...
S: We went out to [ ] Air Force Base and sat in one.
D: The controls - they just barely move their arm and that plane responds.
S: Well, you know, when I came back from overseas, I went out to Santa Ana again to get mustered out of the service. And I had to make up some flying time to get my flight pay. And we went over to March Field. We flew 25 courier flights down to San Diego to get some flying time and I needed sixteen hours or something like that, I can't remember. But then we went over to Oxnard, and they had P-80's over there. So I checked out in a P-80.
D: That must have been fun.
S: ...'Cause when I sat in the cockpit in the cut-away thing in the ready room for half an hour [ ] took me out to the plane and I started her up, and here you go, and there isn't much to it. The instrumentation - there's a lot less instrumentation than there was in the P-38. So I started out, [ ] going down the runway and geez, [ ] I didn't feel anything at all, and I finally [ ] the control tower and I cut the flag down, and I came back, and cleared her off the airstrip and this jeep came down, and what the hell was that? The damn thing wasn't ready to go and - it was ready, you weren't ready! They couldn't get it started again...another airplane, so they said, look, when you get round that control tower, you don't cut it back. You gotta be ready to go. So the same thing, I got there and boy all of a sudden, it was just like somebody kicked me in the butt! [noise - aroop!] Then it had those real sensitive. [ ] it has rudder controls and stuff and, geez, I went up just like this in the air. But once we got up there, the sensation was like, [ ] gone...
D: Did they have assisted take-off, rocket?
S: But you took off.
D: Much earlier.
S: They were red-lined, I think at 550 or something like that. I didn't bother to go that fast. We were 550 or 650, I can't remember. [ ] speed of sound, anyway.
D: How do you think your experiences changed your life?
S: Oh, I don't know if it did. I don't know. The war changed my life in that I didn't go to college. But my father, you know, he had this business and so I joined him. It was sort of a natural.
D: A lot of the fellas are telling me that they felt that after the war the work ethic started to subside and, before the war, people worked harder and it started to slip. Did you find that? Starting to set in that young people started to want to start out at the top of the heap, they didn't want to start at the bottom like most of the fellas did before the war.
S: I didn't see a lot of that...
D: Of course you were...
S: Maybe I was shielded from it. I think that my biggest, when I got back out of the service, I didn't want anything to do with airplanes again. I didn't want to fly, and I didn't like flying commercially - I'd take the train! I didn't think that guy up front knew what he was doing.
D: That's what I was gonna suggest.
S: It took me three or four years before I could become...I was very nervous flying commercially.
D: Even now, you don't want to fly your own plane.
S: [ ] I don't know if you remember him, he was head of the Associated Industries. He came to me and I did some work with Steve Wittman, making copies and blueprints for him and so he wanted to get me started flying again and I went out and Ob caught me, and said what are you doing that for and I said, I don't know. But it wasn't any fun. I was sitting there in the Piper Cub or whatever they were - gee, here I'd been used to speed, big heavy aircraft, [ ] loops, and this and that, [ ] and it was expensive.
D: I can understand why you feel that way.
S: Just a joy ride, I just didn't [ ] that much. Like I say, I never had the bug.
D: You never really got involved actively with EAA?
S: Not really, I've done some - donation, more than anything else.
D: You and Henry Kimberly.
S: Well, Henry is a lot better donor than I am. No, I haven't and I probably should have been...I'm interested - I love to go out and look at the planes and I do - I browse around every once in a while.
D: You came out and gave a speech once.
S: Well, and I've given them a lot of memorabilia and I got some more - I got ticked off at Tom Poberezny one time and I wasn't gonna give him anything but I've worn that off. [ ]
D: I think I'm gonna break this off now and then we can chat a little bit.
This interview is taking place on the 30th of December, 1993, with Louis Schriber, and it's being preserved for posterity, and 100 years from now we hope you enjoy our conversation.
||World War II
||6: T&E For Communication
||Schriber, Louis II
||World War II
United States Army Air Force
Pacific Theater of Operations
||Oral History Interview with Louis Schriber