Meet George Schneider

     Sometime, in each of our lives we have regrets of not taking time to listen to others.  Everyone from every walk in life has a lesson of wisdom to teach.  My request to you is to open you ears, eyes and mind to this 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Where would our world be if WWII was lost?  Where would we be if our survivors could not share their experience with us?  Sometimes it’s the quiet ones that we have the most to learn from.  

Uncle George’s WWII story 1944     Written by niece Kitty Schneider Dunbar      May 3, 2014

                As the 70th anniversary of WWII approaches, my husband Henry and I are preparing a trip to Europe to visit some of the battlefields.   With this in mind I decided to contact an Uncle who was in WWII,   George Schneider.  Lucky for me he is still alive and able to share his experiences.  I remember when the movie Memphis Belle came out and Uncle George was interviewed by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester NY.   The newspaper contained a comprehensive article of his experience with the B17 bombers   My life, like others of my age, was full, busy and stressful.  I didn’t take the time to look past the photo of him next to a B17 bomber to read the article nor see the movie.  It wasn’t until we had breakfast with him two years ago where Uncle George shared details of his experience that I really listened. 

                In my 63 years of knowing my uncle I was clueless of his WWII  exploits.     He’s always been quiet, kind and thoughtful.  I am so grateful, Uncle George.  Thank you for being the special person that you are.  

                Notes from a telephone interview with Uncle George Schneider of 240 Inspiration Point, Webster NY 14580    phone (585) 671-3562.
February 6, 2014. 

                In World War II he was stationed in England and he was a Ball Gunner for B-17 bombers.  He trained in Florida, Las Vegas, Denver, Oklahoma and Lincoln NB, preparing for bombing missions in Germany. His first station in the Army/Air Force was in Florida.  He remembers going to a meeting in a huge theater.  As his buddies looked around, they noticed that all the recruits were similar height and size and stature.   That's when they were informed that they had a special job for the people who were his height.  They were going to fly the ball gunners for the B-17s.  Uncle George was  5’4”    The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets.

                From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a potent, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself, and to return home despite extensive battle damage.  It quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of notable numbers and examples of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.  Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.  These planes weighed 34K pounds empty and  up to 65.5k pounds loaded with military equipment [2]


 Near the end of his lengthy training in the midwest, the recruits were surprised with the arrival of 50 brand new bomber planes!  They were to fly them to England.  As they prepared the planes for takeoff,  it surfaced that there was one large mechanical flaw in all 50 B-17 bombers.   All 50 planes were immediately  grounded.   This  meant the military had to go to plan B to get the men over to England.  Uncle George with his buddies were sent by train to NYC then by boat to England.  They were told their ship was a sister ship to the Queen Elizabeth passenger  ship, only this one was 100% military.  (hmm I wonder about their luxury amenities…).

                Leaving NYC by boat their first stop was in Nova Scotia then Ireland and finally England.  The ship did not go directly to the sites;  they zigzagged to confuse any other ships that were attempting to trace them.  Finally, getting to England Uncle George was based just northeast of London in a small country side village called Barry Saint Edmonds.  
                The B-17 bomber was called The Flying Fortress.   It held 10 men: Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator, Bombardier, Flight Engineer (top turret gunner), Radio Operator, 2 Waist Gunners, Tail Gunner and Ball Turret Gunner.  The Ball Gunner was Uncle George’s job

Ball Gunners position on the B-17 bomber. 
                There is a ball just below the belly of the airplane with only one way to crawl in and out.  The site scope he used to seek his target was in the center.  He had to position his legs to encompassed around the 12”x12"x12" scope viewer.  While in position he could maneuver his gun 360° around and 0 to 90° up and down;  therefore he felt confident he could hit any target within his shooting range. Uncle George was small enough that he fit comfortably in the bomber seat.  In position he found a little extra room on the side of his left leg. With that he was able to put an emergency chest chute.   He was happy to have had room for this chest chute, even though it was not strapped on.  His weapon was a 250 caliber machine gun.  He completed  successful missions into Germany; but , as he was in-flight of his 4th or 5th mission, he felt a  strong flutter and his body became weak (large palpitations or seizure) and  his pounding heart didn't feel right.  He called up to his comrades in the upper part of plane.  The pilot said "no problem" and turned the plane around and headed back to the base.  When they landed in England the plane was met by an ambulance which whisked him to the hospital.  By that time he felt was he was pretty much recovered; however,  the military  was cautious as he had had a similar but smaller experience as a young teen. 

Plane shot down:
                This is the day that most all of the bombers left England to bomb Berlin. There were many planes.  It was a big day.
                Uncle George felt good, was dressed and ready to go.  When he arrived at the plane, the navigator told him that they got another ball gunner to take his place.  There were lots of spare gunners waiting anxiously to fly missions.     You see when a gunner goes on 25 missions they get to go home or they get to go to another location  not in the war zone area. mostly to help train new recruits in the US. 
                He met his substitute the spare gunner as the crew was boarding   His name was Anderson...
                An interesting twist came about just before the plane took off…
During all the flights each man carried his own gun 45 for defense in case of  one to one combat.  As the plane was almost finished  loading, two of the officers handed Uncle George their 45’s.  He thought it was unusually strange that they would leave their guns in England at the base.  
Returning from Berlin his airplane was hit.  The two wing  gunners in the back were killed in the airplane during flight.  The copilot bailed out just before the airplane fell into the North Sea.  The Air Force thought all were killed;  but later found that the copilot who bailed was picked up by a German ship and became a POW.  The copilot was from Binghamton New York.  Since the war uncle George has met with him several times. 

                Uncle George trained with the other 9 men for one year preparing for these missions.  He still feels remiss about being ordered to stay back for the Berlin bombing…
 What if?  What if? What if?
November 17, 2013 Uncle George turned 90.   He remembers vividly this time in his life.  Every day; every single day for the past 70 years he thinks about all the men in his crew.  His pals, the comrades who learned together and depended on each other.  

                What if he flew in that mission?  And had another seizure?  Or maybe didn’t and his sharp shooter skills could have helped to bring the plane home?  Or not?  Could Uncle George have made a difference??  What really happened on that mission?  After all, the B17 Flying Fortresses were designed to be “combat resistant”.  But, of course the 911 Twin Towers in New York had a web type structure that the engineers touted to be airplane proof.  Many times being the survivor is haunting.  Very haunting.  Grateful at times but endlessly searching why did it happen this way?  Why me? Why not me?  Same with other survivors in horrific events,  holocaust, titanic, 911 and all battlefields.  

                Sometime, in each of our lives we have regrets of not taking time to listen to others.  Everyone from every walk in life has a lesson of wisdom to teach.  My request to you is to open you ears, eyes and mind to this 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Where would our world be if WWII was lost?  Where would we be if our survivors could not share their experience with us?  Sometimes it’s the quiet ones that we have the most to learn from.  


Katherine (Kitty Schneider) Dunbar 2235 Lazy River Drive Charleston SC 20414

1. George Schneider   240 Inspiration Point, Webster NY 14580    phone (585) 671-3562.

The movie Memphis Belle, was based partially on 1944 documentary film about a B-17 than had 25 successful missions, .
The videos below will give you incredible insight on these planes and the men in them.


Make a Free Website with Yola.