Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: November 15, 2007

1st LT Burt Newmark USAAF

Speaker Photo

WWII Combat Fighter Pilot, ETO

* Earned Silver Wings at Moore Field, Mission, TX, Class 44C
* Assigned to 84th FS, 78th FG at Duxford, England, flying P-47s then P-51s
* Primarily task of fighter escort for B-17s, B-24s, then targets of opportunity during return
* Flew 25 combat missions, first in P-47s, then transitioned to P-51s
* On return leg of 25th mission, hit by a "silver bullet" from a flak car after destroying the locomotive
* Barely survived the bail-out, then captured immediately on February 21, 1945
* POW in Stalag Luft 1; liberated by General Patton's 3rd Army late April 1945 WWII Combat Fighter Pilot, ETO

* Born August 14, 1924 in Brooklyn, NY
* Entered military in NYC September 1942 with goal to be a fighter pilot
* Earned Silver Wings at Moore Field, Mission, TX, Class 44C
* Crossed Atlantic to Liverpool, then training-center for 2 weeks
* Assigned to 84th FS, 78th FG at Duxford, England, flying P-47s then P-51s
* Primarily task of fighter escort for B-17s, B-24s ... , then targets of opportunity during return
* Flew 25 combat missions, first in P-47s, then transitioned to P-51s
* On return leg of 25th mission, hit by a "silver bullet" from a flak car after destroying the locomotive
* Barely survived the bail-out, then captured immediately on February 21, 1945
* POW in Stalag Luft 1; liberated by General Patton's 3rd Army late April 1945
* In POW barracks, many high-level RAF and USAAF bomber pilots - debates on best tactics ...
* While a "Kriegie", questioned by Luftwaffe master interrogator Hanns Joachim Scharff
* After WWII, remained in Reserves as a pilot and built strong business career with Wang Labs
* Lecturer at San Mateo Main Library, sharing history

USAAF Combat Fighter Pilot, ETO

"Most of my time was escorting bombers that didn’t need escorting, and then going down to the ground and strafing targets of opportunity."

The speaker for the November 15th, 2007 Golden Gate Wing meeting had a number of memorable experiences in his 25 combat missions in the ETO, first in P-47s, then in P-51s. Among them was questioning as a POW by the renowned German interrogator Hanns Scharff.

Burt Newmark was born August 14, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. He entered the U.S. Army in September 1942, with the goal of being a fighter pilot. Within two years, he had earned his Silver Wings, graduating at Moore Field in Mission, Texas, a member of Class 44C.

"After my training was over- my last combat training in the United States- we had a session with Bob Johnson (high-scoring ace with the famed 56th FG "Zemke’s Wolf Pack), who told us a lot about fighter pilot tactics against the Luftwaffe. Unfortunately, for me, during my 25 combat missions, I never came close to a Luftwaffe fighter plane. We would see the jets up in the sky, head towards them and they were gone."

Duxford, East Anglia, 84th FS, 78th FG

"Duxford was originally an RAF fighter base, dating back to World War I. It was a wonderfully comfortable field. The field itself had no runway. It was all…they called it grass…but it was all mud or hard earth.

Newmark says on his first day with the 78th, he was out on the tarmac, when the horizon filled with returning aircraft, which began an airshow.

"When we went on a mission and there were no injuries and no damage, we would get back into formation and come back across the field in an airshow for our ground crews who had worked so hard for us."

Newmark says the 78th’s commanding officer continually worked to improve the shows for the waiting maintenance and armoring personnel …

"After a while, he started to refine this. What we would do is come in a flight at a time. The four of us would dive down at the runway, probably at 200mph, and we would all peel off in this beautiful echelon. We would put our wheels and flaps down at the top of the chandelle, come down and land. We had to do it in 45 seconds form the time we passed the end of the runway.

"Our commander would do it in about 42 seconds."

Newmark says he has no question that the P-47 was the best fighter aircraft.

"We used to call the ’51 the ‘Spam Can’. It was a beautiful airplane to fly but it was not the equivalent of the P-47".

Project Aphrodite

By mid-1944, the Germans were deep into developing a series of V-weapons: rockets, guided missiles and huge guns, all capable of carrying large explosive payloads. Launch facilities for these weapons were huge bunkers with roofs of steel-reinforced concrete thicker than ten feet.

Heavily defended, these sites were attacked by the British in night raids with 12,000 pound "Tallboy" bombs, which failed to penetrate the roofs of the sites. It was determined that huge steel doors provided the weakest link in protection for V-weapon facilities, and that stripped-down, explosive-laden bombers had a good chance of penetrating those doors.

Project Aphrodite was created to test-fly the concept.

"They tried to invent the first guided missile, says Newmark. "They took an old B-17, stripped the insides, and then loaded it with RDX explosives. They would create an arming mechanism so they didn’t explode on takeoff. The pilot and co-pilot would take that airplane off. The co-pilot would bail out. The pilot would make sure the mother ship had control of it, and then he’d bail out. Both went into the English Channel and were picked up by Air/Sea rescue boats."

Newmark says he was involved with one of 18 such tests.

"There were four of us playing cards in the squadron room, and were asked if we’d like to fly a combat mission credited, but there would probably be no combat. It would be an easy flight.

"What they wanted us to do was to go up and cover a single bomber with certain markings. That bomber was going to be controlling another airplane which we were not to go near, even if it was attacked, because it would be dangerous for us.

Newmark recalled the flight he escorted: "This thing just fluttered into the ocean."

Not to be outdone by the Army Air Force, the U.S. Navy conducted similar tests under the codename Operation Anvil, using its version of the Consolidated B-24 as the "guided missile". On one of the missions, a first pilot named Lt. Joseph Kennedy, the older brother of John Kennedy, took off with co-pilot Lt. Bud Willy in an explosives-laden bomber. Willy bailed out and just before Kennedy did so, he turned to arm the explosives, which detonated prematurely, killing both men.

Dangerous weather

Getting a fighter back on the ground after flying home from missions over the Continent proved a unique challenge for the 78th.

"We had no homing mechanisms at all, because they didn't want the Germans to home in on any radar or whatever. We would have to find our field in the fog by finding this tall tower at Cambridge University that was our guide to the field, maybe six or eight miles south of Cambridge. At the field, when they knew we were coming – we would call them – they would shoot up white flares at either end of the runway. From the height and direction of the flare, you could pretty well come home. That happened several times."

"On one of these missions, my friend, Herbie Hill who lived right across the hall from me, missed the field. He could not spot the two flares and crashed into a hill about eight miles past our field. He was a wonderful, wonderful man."

If a returning fighter pilot found his aircraft short on fuel, Newmark says he could seek out a field in France established for British bombers. The field’s FIDO system (Fog Intense Dispersal Operation) was a British answer to heavy fog, in which thousand of gallons of fuel per hour would be burned to burn off fog to the height of several hundred feet.

"They were huge runways lined with gasoline burners. From far away, through the fog you see this glow and you could safely land. I did that one night, slept on a cot and flew home the next day."

Target of Opportunity, February 21, 1945

By Christmas of 1944, Burt had switched aircraft, from his beloved P-47 to a P-51. The aluminum skin of his Mustang sported the name ‘Lady Eve’, for his girlfriend of that time, and nose art depicting a German helmet being conked by a rolling pin.

Two month’s later, he was with four dozen other pilots sitting in Hangar Three in a briefing session for a mission to Nuremburg, Germany.

"The C-O, whoever was leading the group, would tell us our target, possible enemy activity and timing. This mission was to escort bombers and to bomb the marshalling yards in Nuremburg, which were very important to Germany, because that’s where all traffic seemed to go through.

"The distance was probably 350 miles. The mission took about six hours."

Burt recalled the work of his crew chief Tom Vraible, who had been up two hours earlier than Newmark, making sure the pilot’s aircraft was ready to perform its long distance task.

With the seatbelt and shoulder harness in his P-51 cinched tight around him, Newmark was mindful of three other Mustangs as the squadron took off four abreast, nearly wingtip to wingtip, across the hard earth of the Duxford’s airfield. The P-51s maintained close proximity as they penetrated winter cloud cover and shared airspace with some 900 other fighters and 1400 bombers, all headed to the same target.

The 78th climbed above the bomber stream, seeking out a group of B-17s with boxed letters painted on their tails, marking them as members of the 3rd Bomber Division. Being above the bombers would offer the P-51 escorts an advantage over enemy fighters seeking to attack from out of the sun.

"The bombers were at about 23,000 -28,000 feet. We would fly at about 30,000, and if we were called by our controller that there was any activity above us, we would go up to about 40,000 feet.

"We wore gloves. The cockpit was heated, because you have heat coming off of the engine. But your hands are on the side of the canopy and it’s about 40-degrees below zero out there. The first glove was silk, the second was wool, and the third glove was leather. Some guys still got some frostbite, but I worked out okay.

Newmark says as the bomber stream approached the marshalling yards at Nuremburg, black puffs of antiaircraft fire began appearing around the aircraft. Wings would come off bombers, engines would catch fire and crews would bail out of crippled aircraft.

"Because no German fighters were going to fly though the flak, we left the bombers. We picked them up on the other side of the target. We would then take them back to the rendezvous point. If there was still no German activity, we would go down on the deck and look for targets of opportunity, primarily trains. We wanted to stop traffic going across to the front lines.

"We would break up into flights of four or two airplanes and go hunting across Germany to see what we could find. We would shoot up trucks, tanks, and troop movements… If we found an airfield, which I never did, we would shoot up airplanes on the ground."

Newmark showed a photo of a strafing run he and his wingman made on a train. He says that after he fired the P-51’s six .50 caliber machine guns at the steaming locomotive, he pulled up to see what he had done.

"I heard my wingman yell, ’Flak car!’ The Germans, because their traffic was so badly beaten up and destroyed, had started putting antiaircraft guns on their trains. They were hidden until this thing would open up and there would be a gun."

Newmark said a single bullet had hit the cowling of his Mustang.

"I knew I was in trouble because I saw a little leak coming back alongside the fairing. Within about three minutes, my engine was running rough. It was smoking and then started on fire. I tried to climb as far as I could. I think I got up to about 1000 feet, before the fire started coming back through the firewall, so I knew I had to bail out. I wasn’t about to try to ride down in a burning airplane.

"I thought I disconnected everything-I can’t remember how many things I was connected to-and I went over the side. I had a little back pressure on the stick and let go. I got caught halfway out of the cockpit and I blacked out, with smoke and fire coming back at me. I actually had liquid aluminum pellets coming back at me from the fire."

Newmark says he was fortunate to be conscious enough to pull the ripcord on his parachute. He remembers the ‘chute opening, and then his feet immediately hit the top of a tree. He hung from the tree for a few moments until managing to pull himself to the trunk and slip down. But below, as he looked around the couple of rows of trees, he saw he had a ‘welcoming’ committee.

"There was a crowd of farmers, I think, with pitchforks and shotguns, and there was one man who seemed to be in the lead... I tried to crawl so they wouldn’t see me.

Then I heard somebody yell, ‘Halt!’ I think he was a hunter out in the field, and he was aiming right at me. So of course, I surrendered."

"The head guy, I think he was home guard, because he had some kind of a uniform, but he wasn’t really a soldier. He asked me for my .45, took it from me and asked me to show him how to shoot it. I showed him how to take the safety off, and he fired it into a hill."

Newmark says his captor was so pleased with the gun that he used his pocket knife to remove the .45’s clear plastic handle covering a picture of Bert’s girlfriend, Eve, and gave the picture back to the pilot. Then, Newmark was taken into the town of Kriegsfeld, escorted by two uniformed soldiers, who took him ‘visiting’.

For many Allied bomber crews and even some fighter pilots, being captured in or near a town that had been bombed meant abuse or possibly death at the hands of the locals. Newmark was fortunate that Kriegsfeld had been untouched by bombs.

"The people really were very nice. I was part of the party. We would sit down and they would serve tea. We’d all be sitting and I could tell these two guys would be telling this couple that they had shot me down, and they were making quite a story of it!"

Prisoner of War

The visits went until late night, about 11 o’clock. Newmark says by then he was beside himself, tired and scared, and sure that he was going to be taken out in the woods and shot. Instead, he was taken and put on a train to Frankfurt. There he was transported to the little town of Oberursel.

"I was put into a little solitary cell. Mine didn’t have a window or a table. It had a cot and a pot. I just laid down on this thing and went fast asleep. I don’t know how long I slept. I was really out of it. A guard knocked and brought me a bowl of soup, a little later on, and I went back to sleep. Then the guard came back and said, ‘come with me.’

"He walked me to an office down the hallway. And in this office was this gentleman. His name was Hanns Joachim Scharff. Hanns looked at me and he said, ’What are you doing in my country?’ "

The pilot says he replied, "Burt Newmark. Second Lieutenant. 716204."

Scharff responded, "Why are you telling me that?"

Newmark said, "My government told me that’s all I need to tell you to prove I’m a soldier."

According to Newmark, Scharff told him that was incorrect. The interrogator reached behind him to pull a book off a shelf and open it, stating, "The Geneva Convention says that that is not sufficient to prove you are a soldier."

"If you don’t believe me, look at my dogtags," said Newmark.

"Would you like to look at my dogtags. I’m Colonel Bullshit. You arrive at my country by parachute. You’re not wearing a uniform. You’re a spy, and I’m going to have you shot," said Scharff.

Newmark, seeing Scharff motion to a guard by the door, countered. "No, no, you can’t do that. Your people saw my parachute in the tree. They saw my airplane burning on the ground. Spies don’t fly airplanes like that."

"Oh," said Scharff, "you’re a flier. Look, for you the war is over. For me the war is going to be over in three months. My wife is living in New York, on Riverside Drive. She’s buying American war bonds…"

Newmark says he thought, "What kind of crap is this?"

Scharff continued, "If you will tell me the two letters on the side of your airplane we’ll see what we can do for you."

Knowing the Germans had seen the airplane and should have noted its coded fuselage, Newmark replied,"W-Z."

"Oh, the 84th Squadron," Scharff shot back. "How is Ray Smith?"

Ray Smith, Newmark recalled, had been in an accident at Duxford, had crash-landed and was recovering from some cuts. Newmark was surprised and in disbelief that Scharff would know this.

Newmark has a copy of a document Scharff created and signed. It is marked with a "J" for jager (fighter) and "H" for Hebrew. During the conversation Scharff also said, "Because you have an "H" on your tag, if I turn you over to the SS, it would be very, very bad for you."

On a motion from Scharff, the guard took Newmark from the office. Soon he was being transported to a Prisoner of War camp near Nuremburg, about eight miles from the railroad marshalling yards targeted by the B-17s Newmark had been escorting.

British, Dutch and American flying officers populated the camp, and conditions, Newmark says, were not too bad. The first thing he was told was to take a burlap bag outside and fill it with pine needles. The bag was then laid on four wooden slats on a bunk frame, his bed for his 2-1/2 months in the camp.

"We didn’t get much food. It was terrible and very rare. We did get Swiss prisoner of war packages. I think I got two in the entire time there. These things were fantastic because they contained American cigarettes. We had an escape committee that used the cigarettes to get from the German guards guns, radios and wire cutters.

"We were all concerned the Germans would kill us rather than doing something else. We had a plan that we would take the guns we had and shoot a couple of soldiers. Then we’d have four guns. And just keep trying to expand that and maybe that would save us."

Newmark said one night, a mixed group of POWs compared notes on precision bombing techniques. One of the British pilots offered his explanation:

"First thing we do is send a pathfinder over the target area. The pathfinder drops a white flare over the target. In the light of that white flare, a Mosquito drops a red and green cascading flare in the center of the target.

"For hours, our bombers will come in individually at different altitudes, from different directions and drop their bombs on the red and green cascading flare. And that flare will be renewed by Mosquitos when necessary."

Newmark recalled that about that time, an air raid siren went off. The POWs went running outside and saw a red and green cascading flare floating down over the marshalling yards. Right after that, two Mosquitos came down to drop white flares around the prison camp.

"That was the first time we knew that somebody knew who we were and where we were. And all night long, just as he had said, British bombers came in, one at a time, from different directions dropping bombs. And some of them were delayed action bombs, so that the Germans couldn’t get the repair crews in too quickly. So, that marshalling yard was pretty badly damaged."

As the spring of 1945 approached, the POWs in the Nuremburg camp found themselves being moved to Moosberg near the Bavarian Alps. It was a forced march of some 90 miles along German roads that had been bombed. The POWs were given parcels of basic provisions and then set off on foot with guards. Newmark says the trek took him twelve days, while some POWs were faster and some, slower. There was little in the way of sustenance on the march.

"We had to scrounge eggs from old farmyards where maybe there were a couple of chickens still alive. Aside from that we had very little to eat. I lost about 35 pounds during my 2-1/2 months in prison camp.

"One of the things that happened as we were marching along this roadway, we were crossing a railroad line. There was a big lumberyard right near the line, and a train parked right outside the lumberyard. Just as we crossed the tracks, someone looked up and said, "Oh look. Four Me 109s."

"Somebody else said, ‘109s, hell! Those are P-47s!’ "

Newmark says that just as those words were spoken the P-47s started to dive on the train. The POWs ran for the logs for protection.

"Those guys came down and wrecked the train, killed two of the prisoners of war. A couple of guys were wounded. And I’ve never heard from the ground side what strafing sounds like. If you picture 700 rounds a minute out of eight guns, with four airplanes, hitting the ground-each bullet sounded like a sledgehammer hitting the ground. It was just incredible. You just can’t imagine what it sounded like."

It was late April 1945 when Newmark and the rest of the POWs had made it to the Moosberg camp, and another sound made an indelible mark on his memory. A deep rumble on that day heralded the arrival of armored vehicles. The sound of U.S. 3rd Army tanks made the Moosberg guards take off, and drew the POWs to the front gate.

"A tank came up nearby and the tank commander motioned everybody away. He was instructed, apparently, not to lift the hasp that held the gate closed. They ran it over with the tank. And guess who the guy was who asked them to do that. It was General George Patton…"

The liberated Allied pilots were taken to Camp Lucky Strike, which Newmark describes as being almost worse than the prison camps. But after he was there for two weeks, Newmark and his buddy, Ewing Miller got up on the roadway and hitched a ride with two officers driving a jeep into Paris.

"You can imagine, as the war was ending, what Paris was like. And the worse thing that happened to me in the war was that I came down with infectious hepatitis that night and they put me into the hospital.

"Fortunately, I was able to talk to a reporter before I went into the hospital and he said he’d send my name home. And my mother did get this telegram that said I was okay. "

The hospital stay lasted a week, before Newmark was transported to a hospital ship for an eight-day cruise back to America.

After the end of World War II, Burt Newmark remained in the Air Force Reserves as a pilot. He also built a solid business career with Wang Labs. Today, in retirement, he shares history as a lecturer at San Mateo Main Library.

Hanns Scharff

(Wikipedia & other sources)

Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff (December 16, 1907 – September 10, 1992) has been called the "Master Interrogator" of the Luftwaffe and possibly all of Nazi Germany. He has also been praised for his contribution in shaping U.S. interrogation techniques after the war.

Scharff was of German birth, his family having moved to South Africa before World War II. Hanns had returned on a visit to Germany, when the war broke out and he was drafted as a panzer grenadier for the Wehrmacht. He was allowed to become an interpreter and trained in British military organization.

Merely an Obergefreiter (the equivalent of a senior lance corporal), he was charged with interrogating every German-captured American fighter pilot during the war after his becoming an interrogation officer in 1943. He is highly praised for the success of his techniques, especially considering he never used physical means to obtain information. No evidence exists he even raised his voice in the presence of a prisoner of war (POW).

Scharff’s interrogation techniques were so effective that he was often called upon to assist other German interrogators in their questioning of bomber pilots and aircrews, including those crews and fighter pilots from countries other than the United States. Additionally, Scharff was charged with questioning V.I.P.s (Very Important Prisoners) that funneled through the interrogation center, namely senior officers and world-famous fighter aces.

After the end of WWII, Scharff was invited by the United States Air Force to give lectures on his interrogation techniques and first-hand experiences. The U.S. military later incorporated Scharff’s methods into its curriculum at its interrogation schools. After the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was revealed in the early 2000s, Scharff’s name was again brought to the forefront as investigators questioned why his methods, which continue to be taught in military intelligence and interrogation schools, had been ignored in favor of more physically abusive tactics by U.S. military personnel and U.S. defense contractors alike to obtain desired information from Iraqi detainees.

After the war, Scharff immigrated to the United States from South Africa. From the 1950s until his death in 1992, Scharff redirected his efforts to artistry, namely mosaics. He eventually became a world-renowned mosaic artisan, with his handiwork on display in such locations as the California State Capitol building; Los Angeles City Hall; several schools, colleges, and universities, including the giant Outdoor Mosaic Mural facade of the Dixie State College Fine Arts Center; Epcot Center; and in the 15-foot arched mosaic walls featuring the story of Cinderella inside Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Burt Newmark on Hanns Scharff

"Hanns Scharff never sent a pilot to the SS," says Newmark. "They were all put into Luftwaffe prison camps. Hanns Scharff was the smartest, brightest, nicest interrogator that ever existed in the world. He’s famous unto this day, and there’s a book about him called The Interrogator (by Raymond Tolliver). At the end of the war, the Pentagon took Hanns Scharff around and had him talk to their interrogators, to teach them what he knew."

"In his book," Newmark adds, "he talks about the fact that he takes the measure of a man by threatening him. But he never did anything about those threats."