US Army Air Force, 8th Air Force, Air Combat Command,
B-24 Bomber Pilot
World War II
Lawrence “Larry” Daniels was twenty-two years old and lived in the United States when he was drafted into the fighting of World War Two. He received a fair amount of training at different locations around the United States, each location bringing harder training. Test-taking had always been his strength, before and throughout his military training. This is the main reason Daniels became a part of the 8th Air Force. Since the beginning of his training, he had been a “lousy pilot”, having to straighten out the plane and fly straight for some time before engaging in another flip or twist. However, when he confronted his Colonel and asked what he could do, the Colonel simply told Daniels that with the marks he received on his tests, he could do whatever he wanted. So, Daniels decided to become a B-24 bomber pilot. With the news that he would have to move overseas, Daniels had to bid farewell to many of the family members and friends he had to leave behind, including the woman he loved, Evelyn.
Shortly after arriving at the airbase in Northern Britain, in which he would be staying, Daniels received news that he would have to fly his first mission. Daniels ended up flying thirty-five of these short notice bombing missions, most over Cologne, in the time he served in the 8th Air Force. It is utterly remarkable that Daniels is still alive because his division of the Air Combat Command received the highest number of losses of any division of military in World War II. In fact, Daniels’ entire crew lived to see the end of the war. The first five of Daniels’ missions were flown in daylight, which meant that there was no cloud cover and that the Germans could visibly see the targets that they were trying to shoot down.
In one of these daylight missions, Daniels and his crew came the closest they ever would to death. The German Anti-Aircraft or AA shells were filled with flack and would explode once the fuse, that had been lit of the ground, was fully burned. Because of the fact that Daniels’ massive B-24 had no cloud cover caused the Germans to easily spot them which resulted in one of these AA shells going straight through their wing. Luckily, the shell had not exploded in the wind, but above it. If the shell’s fuse had been cut a mere millimeter shorter, Daniels May not have survived. According to Daniels, the scariest part of the war was hearing the plane engines revving up the night before a mission and knowing that the next day, you may die.
Bombing and air raids played a major role in the Allied victory in World War II. Cologne, Germany was one of the most heavily bombed cities during the war. The city endured exactly 262 air raids, which almost completely destroyed the center of the city and also caused about 20,000 civilian casualties. Cologne was also the site of the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force. Almost 1,050 bombers carrying 1,455 tons of explosives attacked the city. The raid lasted seventy five minutes and approximately 486 civilians were killed. However, forty bombers were shot down and, unbeknownst to the British public, he city was operating normally again within two weeks. Sir Arthur Harris, who was in charge of the Bomber Command, knew that the raids were ineffective, but argued that they were good practice for future raids.
Although Daniels did not help bomb at and around the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, he did fly over the beaches after the landing had occurred. Total combined number of killed, wounded and captured allies was about 10,000. The total number of Axis dead, wounded, and captured was between 4,000 and 9,000. Seeing the devastation of these landings would be horrific. World War II was one of the important wars in the history of man. To learn and know more about it is even more important.
Toward the end of Daniels’ service in World War II, the Germans developed new jet aircrafts which could easily take down an entire bomber from close range. In one of Daniels’ last missions, they were met by such jets. Luck again was on Daniels’ side. His plane was not shot down or damaged by these jets. One memory that will stick with Daniels the rest of his life was seeing the face of a German pilot, as he maneuvered his plane around Daniels’ plane, almost touching it.
After Daniels’ thirty- fifth mission, he was released from Air Combat Command. When asked about his best day, Daniels simply said, “There was no best day, there were pleasant memories, but there was no best day.” After Daniels was released, he came back to America and moved to the Bay Area. When deciding which college to attend, Daniels decided on Stanford over Cal because his girlfriend, Evelyn, lived closer to Stanford. Daniels later married Evelyn.
Lawrence Daniels does not particularly like the idea of war. He persevered through the hardships because at the time, he knew it was his duty. Daniels said, and I quote, “every experience in a person’s life changes them in some way.” His only regret is that the war had occurred. I feel very lucky to have interviewed such an interesting and thoughtful man.
I think World War II definitely affected the life of Lawrence Daniels. Knowing that the next day you may not be alive has to affect someone in some way. Daniels said that the war did not have a positive or negative effect on him and that “it is what it is”. However, experiencing World War II taught Daniels how terrible war could be and I think that is why he strongly opposes it. When talking about how war had become a “glamorous” thing to some people and how the “glamorous” presentation is one of the reasons many teenagers and young adults join the war in Iraq. Daniels asked me if I had a solution to war. This really touched my heart and made me want to figure out an answer to how to make non-violence a part of every society. I am deeply honored to have such an opportunity like this.
Interview by Cameron Croteau in June 2009.
St. Mark’s School 8th Grade WWII Veteran Oral History Project
Faculty Advisor: Mike Fargo