Art Petzold

Military Chronology of Art Petzold, as told by himself

In 1939, I received my first pilot's license through Civilian Pilot Training in St. Paul, Minnesota through Macalister College and the Grant Flying School, located at the Holman Airport. I was in college to become an optometrist and graduated in June 1940. I enlisted in the Army (there was no Air Force at the time) as a cadet. I could have enlisted in the Medical Corps as an officer, but I wanted to fly. During my school years, I was employed as a commercial artist for an optical company; the experience was useful as a cadet.

On July 6,1942, I was called in for flight training and reported to Memphis Army Air Base for one month; then on to Dos Palos, California for primary training. I flew a PT-22, a low wing trainer. 

Each of the three stages of flying (primary, basic and advanced) printed a book, like a yearbook in high school, by the cadets themselves. My art experience came to play as I became the art editor for the primary book. In it, I drew a picture of the school commander; he thanked me and signed my book.

Then I was on to basic training in Merced, California. Dot and I received permission to get married, as no cadet was allowed to get married, but it was delayed one week due to my scheduled cross-country night flight.

Then I went to Douglas, Arizona for advanced training and, again, my commercial art came in handy. This time, I was editor of the yearbook. Because I wanted to fly a P-38, this was twin-engine training. I received my wings in November of the 43J Class. My wife was allowed to be with me in Arizona, which made the time much more pleasing and enjoyable.

Then I reported to Westover Field in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Now that I was an officer, Dot could be with me. We formed our crew and flew every day to fly as a unit and continued training at Langley Field, Virginia.

We were next sent to Pueblo, Colorado for gunnery training for three months. There, we had our first experience flying with one engine that was malfunctioning. At the time, we were over Florida on a navigation exercise. We feathered the engine and made it back to Pueblo--no problem. The B-24 was a great plane and very easy to fly. More B-24s were made than any other plane during the Second World War. It could fly faster and carry a larger bomb load than the B-17. That was due to the Davis Wing--by the way, Mr. Davis was from Eau Claire, WI.

I was sent to New York City for two weeks, before being sent overseas. The Army took over a hotel for, what must have been, about a hundred crews. My wife couldn't be with me, but everyone was very good to all the Army officers. I knew a Walter Grazua in St. Paul, whose son was an actor and the president of the Actor's Guild of New York. He told me to look him up if I ever got to New York, so I called his son up to see if he could get my buddy and me some theater tickets. He was starring in a play, so I asked him if I could get tickets. He told me how to get to the theater, and he said he would have a couple of tickets at the box office for me. He invited me to his dressing room after the show, which we did, and he then asked us if would have dinner with him. Of course, we accepted at once, and he mentioned this was where the actors usually ate. During the meal, he motioned to a man to come over to our table; it was Fred Waring, who had his own radio show. We proceeded to ask him for tickets, and he said that he would have a couple tickets for us at his theater.

When we got back to the hotel, no one would believe us about our experience, so we backed up our story with some bets. About twenty or so followed us to the theater and, to collect our bets, we had to have Fred Waring come to the box office. I explained the situation to the man at the box office, and be thought maybe Mr.Waring might come out. He appeared in a couple minutes. We collected our bets, and Fred Waring told the whole group to follow him inside. He had cleared out the front row for our gang, and, during the radio show, mentioned what happened in front of the theater. At Christmas time, we received a large box of jellies, jams and sweets from the Actors Guild. To this day, I don't know how they got the name of our field (Old Buckingham) because, at the time, we didn't know.

In a few days, we received our orders to go overseas. We flew in a C-54 to Canada; then to England and, by train, to Stone Area. Our crew was designated to be electronically trained (RADAR), so we took a ferry to Ireland and traveled by truck to the air base. I was at the base only a couple hours, and my name appeared on the bulletin board to see the field commander. I wasn't there long enough to get into trouble, so I couldn't figure out why. It seemed he was checking out our orders and found out I was an optometrist and he wanted me to check his eyes for glasses, which I proceeded to do. They must have been all right; he thanked me before we left his base.

We received our orders to Old Buckingham Air Field (453rd). We flew 30 missions, 23 as lead crew. Our flight commander said we were the first crew to lead a mission and bomb a target successfully by radar. We hit Berlin three times, Paris three times, Munich two times, Cologne, submarine stalls, and St. Lo, twice in one day.

I also taught formation and instrument flying for four months.

I came home after my brother was killed in a DC-3, dropping food and munitions to those surrounded at Bastougne.

I flew out of Memphis, air transporting B-25s from Savannah, Georgia to Elgin, Mississippi, while I was the Base Processing Officer at Memphis Air Base. I remained in the service and retired after twenty-three years.

When returning: from a mission and over the English Channel, we could use, and listen to, our radio. I heard many voices say,  "Look at the large hole in the tail of that B-24!" I looked around at all the planes in sight but couldn't find the plane they were talking about. After we landed, I found out it was our B-24!  Luckily, we were flying a twin-tail plane.

England 1944. Art Petzold's 453 Bomber Crew which flew thirty missions.

Jimmy Stewart