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Memorial Day Veteran Interview With Colonel Vernon Greene – A veteran of three wars, Colonel Greene joins us to share his experiences from WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars! Tune in this Memorial Day to hear an amazing veteran interview.
Air Date: 05/31/2021
Guest: Colonel Vernon Greene
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live, talking about the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. And sometimes we take a break from the hot topics of the day, and get a little history lesson. And one of the things we love to do to bring history to life is interview our military veterans. And sometimes we get the chance to interview a World War II military veteran, and that’s what today’s program is all about.
My name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. And I’m here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and our founder here at WallBuilders, and Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders, and Tim actually had the opportunity to interview Vernon Green, a World War II veteran. So David, tell us a little bit about Vernon Green World War II veteran we’re going to have on today.
Well, interesting thing when I think about veterans and I think about wars that happened decades ago, I think about World War II and I think about the Korean War veterans, and I think about Vietnam War veterans. I don’t often think of a veteran who went through all three of those wars and conflicts because there’s such a difference between the way that we conducted war and that technology we had in World War II, and what we were using Vietnam.
And so Colonel Vernon Green is a guy who was there from the early part of World War II all the way through Vietnam. And interestingly enough, he’s 100 years old, and really, really sharp. And so to get the reminiscence of World War II is going to be remarkable. But then when you can take a guy who went through World War II and move them into Vietnam, I mean, this is going to be amazing. I remember one other veteran we talked to who flew planes in World War II and flew jets in Vietnam, you know, what a transition that would be to go from a prop plane to a jet plane. And I think that’s kind of what we’re going to get today in hearing Colonel Green story, that transition that happen over time for all his years in the military.
Alright guys, we’ll quick break we’ll be right back: Tim Barton interviewing Colonel Vernon Green.
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Today, we heard that our Founding Fathers were largely atheists, agnostics, or deist. The writings of Founding Father Richard Henry least strongly refute that assertion.
Richard Henry Lee was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and he is specifically the man who made the motion in Congress that America is separate from Great Britain. Following his death, his papers and correspondence, including numerous original handwritten letters from other prominent Founding Fathers were passed on to his grandson.
After having studied those letters, this was how the grandson described our Founding Fathers. He declared, “The wise and great men of those days were not ashamed publicly to confess the name of our blessing Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In behalf of the people as their representatives and rulers, they acknowledge the sublime doctrine of his mediation.”
For more information on God’s hand in American history, contact WallBuilders at 1808REBUILD.
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. This is Tim Barton and I am joined by special guest Colonel Green, and he’s a military veteran, but not just a military veteran from one war, actually, he was a veteran from World War II and then Korea and Vietnam, so an absolute incredible history. Colonel Green, thank you so much for being with us today.
Well, thank you.
You have a pretty incredible history in the military. We would love to hear some of your story and what you did.
Well, let’s begin from the beginning. I was born in 22nd of October 1919. I enlisted in the Army Air Force in 3rd November of 1942 close to a year after the war had started. And I went to the C-47 School, the Douglas Factory School and we took an aircraft from the time that the main beam was laid until it was pushed out the door, engines run up and test flown. So I literally knew every nut and bolt in that aircraft and that really helped during the time overseas and when we were operating off of grass strips and had to do a lot of things that you wouldn’t do here in the States.
From there, I was joined the for 41st troop carrier group, we trained there and then full gliders and all sorts of night flying and I just love to fly. I would volunteer to fly at night as a flight mechanic, come in late, refuel, and get up early the next day and go out and again. We just kind of Island top and I never will forget that night that we took off the towel for the Ascension Island.
And I’ll tell you that navigator spent the evening in the Astrodome shooting stars and all. And the next morning just about daybreak, I saw a little dot out there, and I’ll tell you, I got to catch that guy. He did a fantastic job, brought us right out on the head. We left Ascension Island and we went over to North Africa and we went through a sand storm. And when we landed in Mary catch and those carburetor air screens were absolutely almost plugged. I don’t know how the engines could run.
But we got them all cleaned up and then we flew out to an RAF base at Merry field and it was from there then we did our training and night flying and got ready for D-day. I did not make the D-day invasion. I made some missions later as a volunteer, which our Wing Commander would allow us to do. The afternoon before we painted invasion stripes on our aircraft with mops and black and white, they alternated. And it was interesting.
The next day, the German Air Force had evasion stripes on their aircraft so we couldn’t tell from friend from foe.
Yeah, so we took off one stripe, and they did the same thing, so it worked for a while. And I was the flight chief at that time. And I think, each flight Chief, we had four of them and each of us had four aircraft to manage and look after for a total of 16 for the squadron.
So you probably would have rather have gone on that flight as opposed to been off. Am I correct in assuming that?
Yes. After D-day, we packed up and we’ve prepared for the invasion of southern France and we were based at Roseto, Italy. At that time, I made the mission as a volunteer with pulling gliders. And I saw a power point ahead of me on the route to southern France that had develop engine problem, we’re seeing puffs of black smoke coming out of one of the engines. He cut the glider loose and I saw the glider descend. And they had picket ship in the Mediterranean all along the way. And this guy put the glider right down by the side of a picket ship. And that was the funniest looking thing I’ve ever seen. When it hit the water, is just like everything was slow motion, the water just foamed out and made white, and he floated and they got off, I’m assuming because we went on.
But we made that mission in southern France and I never heard a shot or saw anything, it’s what we call a “Milk Run”. It was then that I volunteered for another flight on Market Garden. I really got scared on that one, that we were flying, they tell me about 600 feet because all those windmills in the Netherlands, they had flat guns on. And from the time that we left England that day in September is about roughly 13th to 14th and they started shooting at us. From the time we hit the coast of Europe, we were pulling a double glider tow in about 600.
And we had a little fella by the name of Colonel, he was a lieutenant. He was flying copilot. And every time we’d hear a burst of flak or see it, he would sink a little lower in the seat and he got down so low and he couldn’t even feel the [inaudible 08:37] of the aircraft. And I was running back and forth in the cabin and I could absolutely hear that machine gunfire in the aircraft very plain because we had to jump door out. We cut the gliders loose and got out of there. And I got home we looked at the aircraft and I could not find one hit, not one. And I can’t believe how that could have happened because when I saw a white flag, I saw pink flags, I saw a black flag. It was exploding at all different levels to try to knock us out.
Colonel that sounds a little bit like what we would call a miracle.
Yeah, it is. It is. I don’t know how that could have happened. So after that, we got back to England, that was about the 15th or 16th of September and then we moved on to the continent of Europe at a place called Drew, France. We stayed there and did resupply missions, resupply to Patton. And many times, we’ve loaded up aircraft nose to tail with fuel. They brought out weapons carriers and five gallon jerry cans, full of MOGAS for the tanks. We taxi out and get ready to take off on dirt strip there, and he said go back he’s moved in. And that happened several times. And that was a big part of our work was a supply Patton with fuel.
And then it was in December, just before Christmas, I was in England and saw some of these burn victims that have been pulled out tanks and it was horrible. And we got the word to get back to that the weather was clear enough for us to fly that afternoon for resupply mission to the people that were encircled at Bastogne. So when we landed back from England, there were weapon carriers there waiting for us and had the packs already to hang under the pair racks which we had on the belly of the aircraft. And they got out there and resupply them that afternoon, got home by dark.
Then the next day, when the weather cleared, man, I never seen as many airplanes and the air US guys, B-17, it was a fantastic sight. Then from that point on, I guess it was the day that the war actually ended, I was at Nancy, France. And really, that was the most dangerous part of the whole time that I was in Europe was that evening. These anti-aircraft guys, they had something to drink and they found someplace. And man, I’ll tell you the guns were going off in their weapons and it was really a dangerous time.
But I didn’t get hit or anything, we got out of there and got back, and then things move pretty fast. And I was married at that time and had two children, so I had a lot of points to come home. So it was a latter part of [inaudible 11:37]. And when we got back to the stage, we say oh, by the Statue of Liberty and I’ll tell you, that was a moving moment. And we looked to the right, which would have been north and I could see black spots on the Empire State Building and that’s where that B-25 had to hit, I don’t know what floor it was. And you can see that spots where the aircraft hit and then it fell to the ground and burn.
And then they moved by train to Fort Sheridan, Illinois and got us ready to be discharged, mustered out of the service. And I guess, I was smart enough to stay in the reserve. So I come back in the Air Force in July of 1947. Well, in April of 1948, I was scheduled to go to Japan, so I did.
Wow. So this is freshly after the wars ended in Japan. And so…
…this is this is a pretty interesting time to be over there.
It was. So I went over. And when I got there, I found out dependents were there, they said well, yeah, you can bring them over, so I did. And in October, then the family come over October of 1947.
And then how long were you all in Japan before maybe you got a different assignment?
It was in January of 49 that I was selected as the crew chief for an aircraft for a mission, United Nations mission to India and to supervise the troop withdrawals. The Pakistanis and the Hindus were absolutely tearing each other up after the British had left in 48. We left Japan and refueled at Saigon and I heard gunfire in the city at that time. And this is 1949, January 49, there was gunfire in Saigon.
We got over there and we had quarters at the embassy in New Delhi. We had various officers that were acting to supervise the trooper withdrawal, because these people were just attacking each other up, so we’re trying to get them to back off. And we would fly right down the frontlines and they had those guns pointed at us, they could have blown us out of the sky if some trigger happy guy had… But anyway, we had diplomatic immunity. So if we got shot down or the aircraft crashed or something, we’ve survived, that people could know, that we were friendlies.
The most interesting mission that I made was at a place called Gilgit in Skardu, and those mountains would be flying as high as we could fly and they had to bow down and look down to look up, and the weather would close in, you’d be a casualty. So we had an Indian navigator that went with us to make sure that the weather was right and he knew how to get in and get out.
And we landed up there in a dry riverbed and they were talking to these Balkan tribesmen and I’ll tell you that was a ragtag army. They had the shoes were all wore out, they wore heavy clothes all on weapons, I don’t know what kind of guns they were. They were dark eyed people. And they were the people that actually cut themselves and lay their arms on each other, so they were blood brothers. And I’ll tell you, I didn’t get very far from the aircraft either when we landed there, because those were scary people.
When I got back then to Japan then in unit 49, and I was over there six months. Then in 51, they needed some maintenance officers in Korea. So there were eight of us that got direct commissions. We were told to get to the orderly room and get discharged, get downtown and buy us a new uniform and be at the Air Force headquarters on Monday morning at eight o’clock to be sworn in as officers. A couple of the guys had been in World War II as officers and they were recalled as captains, I was a Butter Bar, Second Lieutenant, we were getting ready to go to Korea.
And there was a fella by the name of Colonel Grub over theme calm, he said, you’re not going over there, you’re going to come work for me. So that’s the way it was. He had flight test and I was working in flight test, getting all the 263 equipment together for these airplanes that we repaired and getting ready to send back. And this doesn’t make sense at all what I’m going to say.
I got orders to be [inaudible 16:13] Air Force Base for the purpose of getting over there taking airplanes out of the dirt over there and getting them back to where they get repaired and get back into service. So anyway, that’s the way thing work. And I reported into [inaudible 16:27] and looked at my order, and he said, well, I’m sorry, your unit is not here. I said what? And I said I was assigned to the 131st fighter bomber wing. They said well, they’ve moved to George Air Force Base in California and they’re getting ready to go to Korea. I said I just come from there. So they gave me some travel money and we drove to George Air Force Base. And this was in October and of course, the desert was drying everything.
When the next spring come and the rains come, that desert was absolutely beautiful, gorgeous. And I spent 5.5 years at George Air Force Base in tack and I was assigned as a base and transient maintenance officer there. We handled everything that tack had at that time, 51 and F-86 is also, we had a bunch of guys that were really knew what they were doing. So the move along, I knew I was going to have to go back overseas or something.
So a fellow that knew me in Japan who was our adjutant called me up one day and he said, hey, we kind of opening down here in Inglewood, California with the missile program that we need somebody overseas. So I said yes, I’ll take the assignment. So I went down there in the spring of 56. Our unit was based at Los Angeles International Airport with the Air Research Aviation Corporation. We had some B-25 and we had some B-26s. And I had another fellow that flew me over to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base at the boneyard over there. We had a part that we needed for a B-26 nose gear and we couldn’t get it through the supply system. So we went over there and cannibalized it. We got our part and flew out from Davis–Monthan.
But I met a lot of people there and knew people that was in this missile program. And I’m going to tell you. When that Sputnik went over, when we heard that beat, beat, beat, I’ll tell everything went into high gear at the Western Development Division. We had a brickbat 1A priority and when we would go into any place and say we needed something, and we give them that priority, and they jump say when do you needed, when you needed it, how quickly? So that was a great assignment with the Ballistic Missile Division.
And then after that, I went back to Japan in 61. I stayed there and I spent two winters on the alert pad at [inaudible 19:09] at KA. And that was quite an experience of it was cold winters, I’ll tell you that wind coming out of Siberia, it was way below zero. And we would smoke the engines. Sometimes they’d let us taxi open the gate, they actually to the end of the runway and we didn’t know whether it was real, whether the balloon had gone up or not. But they would get to the end ready for takeoff and then they’d call it off, the element was an exercise from the third Bomb Wing at Yokota Air Base, wonder there.
And then in the 62 come home and I was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base. I saw John F. Kennedy off on Tuesday, I believe it was I slowed the airplane as he passed by. And on Friday, I saw him come back and be loaded in front of ops and in fact, my son, younger son and myself were in the alert tower, and I saw the airplane drive in. And President Johnson was there, and McNamara he was Secretary of Defense, he was there and all the other government officials. And I saw the people offload the casket at the back of the airplane on the left side. And Mrs. Kennedy wrote down with it, and she could still see the bloodstains on her skirt and hat. And I turned to my son, and I said, we ought pinch ourselves, we’re seeing history being made here.
Yeah. Wow. So Colonel, how long were you part of the military?
About 32 years.
That’s a pretty long career in the military.
I started out at Scott field in 1942. I come back just about 32 years later and retired at Scott Air Force.
You made it full circle.
I made full circle.
What are changes you’ve seen in the nation, maybe good or bad that you think either we should fix some things or that it’s a positive thing we’re going this direction? What do you think?
Well, I’ll tell you. When we used to go out to maintain an airplane, it mechanic took off toolbox. Today, they take a laptop computer. That’s how it’s changed. I think the airmen today are much more educated, are much sharper. And in my day, I couldn’t compete with these people today, absolutely.
But there’s something to be said when you are building a new where every nut and bolt, well, that’s pretty incredible.
That’s right. I’ll do every nut and bolt.
Certainly, we’re grateful for the new technology. And certainly, for the men and women who are serving our military now and what they’re doing, big picture, we are so grateful for you, for your 32 years of service, for what you did for this nation. Where everything that we celebrate in our nation today, we only can celebrate because there were men and women like you who served this nation to help protect us and keep us free. So Colonel, from the bottom of my heart, from all of us at WallBuilders, we want to say thank you for your service.
It’s been a great experience talking with you.
We’ll be right back with David Barton and Rick Green.
Hey, friends, if you’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible.
One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here. On WallBuilders Live, once in a while we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines that have made incredible sacrifices have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people. One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War II veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live from folks that were in the band of brothers to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived being Indianapolis to so many other great stories you’ve heard on WallBuilders Live. You have friends and family that also served.
If you have World War II veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live.
We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. And man, Tim, how many World War II veterans have we got an interview over the years? Pretty cool stuff.
Definitely really cool stuff. I would say we have not got to interview enough. But I’m dad, as you mentioned, even in the pre-interview, as we were talking leading into the interview, how unique it is that not only was this a World War II veteran, but somebody that was in the Korean conflict and then in Vietnam, the things that he saw that were different. And even acknowledging some of what he saw in the different conflicts with having to work on planes that had been part of the D-day invasion, and they’re coming back and they’ve largely been crippled, and how are they even holding together as they are flying back with bullet holes through them.
And then you go to Korea and Korea is at such a totally different conflict. And of course, his position changes as he’s doing this. But as he becomes an officer, as he moves up the ranks even in Vietnam, where he’s overseeing so many projects, it’s such an interesting thought that not only was this guy there for these major conflicts, but he’s also somebody firsthand saw such transition in the military, even from the notion of even philosophy, World War II where we’re going to go in and we’re going to do what it takes to defeat Hitler.
Because we saw that even in America where America factories changing, what we’re doing to have planes and to have ships, we’re going to do whatever it takes to go defeat Japan, defeat Germany, defeat Italy. And then you get to Vietnam, and it’s much more of a political war. And so now we don’t have the same rules of engagement. It’s not clearly defined we’re going to win and here’s what winning looks like, and just so interesting to be firsthand experiencing so much of those different conflicts.
Well, I was so impressed, just listening to100 year old man, and he was rattling off dates and times and places and locations like it had happened just a couple of weeks ago. I mean, it was so fresh in his mind, it was so clear on it. And I was super impressed. I think that says a lot about Colonel Green. The fact that he starts out as a mechanic, but he moves from being a soldier to an officer, and he moves from prop bombers to be in head of aviation units, being the mechanic inside the plane to now being the guy who directs aviation units, I mean, that says a lot about him personally to be able to go through that kind of transition over that many years with that change of technology. And as you pointed out, that change of philosophy, man that says a whole lot about him, which is why we love these guys. I mean, they are heroes in so many ways. And Colonel Vernon Greene is one of those heroes. What a blessing to hear him.
Well, we’ve actually taken some of those interviews over the years and put them on a CD that folks can get at wallbuilders.com, it’s is called “Warrior Heroes: By Land, By Air, By Sea”. You can get that at the website. You can also scroll back in our archives and get some of the more recent interviews that we played over the last few weeks and months. It’s a great way to educate yourself and your family on history by bringing it to life through those interviews. And so thanks to Tim for grabbing this interview and for all the veterans out there that have made themselves available for us to be able to bring their stories to life.
We appreciate you being a part of it today by listening today at WallBuilders Live. Be sure to visit that website wallbuilderslive.com and also we’ll have a link to that “Warrior Heroes CD. Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live.