Chapter 104: Podraze Goes To Stuttgart. Told We Are Okinawa Bound. Our Protest to Inspecting General. Our Colonel Under Arrest. We Are to Go Home!
May 14,1945 Grosseto, Italy. We flew one mission of 16 planes this morning. My plane came back with no problems, so after servicing it up I took off for camp. After washing and dressing-up I went to the Red Cross for coffee and doughnuts.
Pete Podraza says that Col. Yates won’t let us go to Belgium and Germany by jeep, but he may fly us there in our B-25.
Everybody went to the orderly room today by rank, and our de-mobilization points were added up. We were asked if we would take a discharge if we could. I said “yes” and filled out a statement of will, etc. Rumors still say we will go to the States soon. I played ping pong in the evening and went to the Red Cross again. There is a dance held at Group headquarters but I didn’t feel up to it and went to bed early. Since Gene Schnabel and Steve Zuzze have been sent home, I have been getting their packages, so I don’t have any shortage of food from home.
May 16, 1945. Today Col. Yates flew our B-25 to Stuttgart, Germany and took Pete Podraza along. Pete apparently did not say a word to the Colonel about me, so I did not get to go along. What a rat he turned out to be!
May 28,1 945. I have been neglecting my diary again. We were told that the Group will go directly to Okinawa by ship, and immediately thereafter preparations for the trip began. Extensions were added to the exhaust pipes of all our vehicles, and we were all given cardboard placards bearing some kind of number, to be attached to the back of our uniform when boarding the vessel. It was apparent that we would shortly move to Naples and there board a vessel to Okinawa and we were not given any opportunity to avoid it.
Remember now, most of the original group had amassed a total of 125 demobilization points, and the amount necessary to return home was 75! I had found a friend in group headquarters and he and I played ping pong at group headquarters daily. One night he visited me and said that a notice appeared on the group bulletin board advising that the inspecting general would be in Grosseto the next day. The articles of war provide that before a serviceman can be transferred from one theater of war to another, he must have the right to speak with an inspecting general about it. The general has the right to prevent
such transfer of the serviceman to another theater of war if his rights have been violated.
In addition, the general has such broad powers that he can make whatever arrangements he sees fit to rectify the situation. Well, there was no such notice on our squadron’s bulletin board. We checked with the other 2 squadrons in our group (the 64th and 65th) and were told that they were not notified either. My friend from group suggested that we hold a meeting of all the enlisted men in the 66th squadron, and choose 3 men to plead our case with the inspection general tomorrow.
We gathered up all the men and held a meeting at the airfield. I explained the situation to them and suggested that they choose 3 men for the job. One man said 'Look Jerry, it is widely accepted by the squadron that you and the men in your tent are the closest thing to guardhouse lawyers that there is. You are always arguing and betting on everything and I nominate you and two others of your choice to represent us'. Everybody immediately shouted their agreement, and so it was that I and two friends went to visit the inspecting general in Grosseto the next day.
May 29, 1945 We went to see the general this morning. He turned out to be a major, and when he saw the look of consternation on our faces he said ‘I may be only a major, but I represent the inspecting general in Rome'. We explained why we should not be sent directly to Okinawa without being given the opportunity to go home first. And that after having been in combat overseas for three years and amassed 50 points more than necessary to be sent home, we deserved to be sent home.
He said that representatives of the 64th and 65 squadrons had already come to see him and that everything we told him has been exactly what they told him. He said that as a commissioned officer he was ashamed that our officers would take such advantage of us, in order to avoid replacing us with new ground crews. He said that we should return to camp and check our bulletin board regularly for news. He said that the general and his staff would be here tomorrow and that arrangement would be made to send us home. He couldn’t guarantee that after 90 days rotation at home we would not be sent to Okinawa anyway, and we said that’s OK. We just want to go home!
May 30,1945 Grosseto, Italy: The group headquarters building was located opposite our building. Around 9: AM this morning we were surprised to see an entire caravan of assorted vehicles pull into the Group parking lot. The first was a sedan with general’s flags flying from both front fenders, followed by a bunch of staff cars. Three hours later my friend from Group came over and told me what happened. The general went right to the officer of our group commander (a full colonel) and told him that trying to send the group’s old timers directly to Okinawa was unconscionable.
He said that it was a violation of the articles of war to deliberately hide from us that we were entitled to speak with an inspection general, and not to notify us that the general was to be in Grosseto the next day! He then said to our Colonel, that he was under house arrest and was not to leave his quarters until further notice! We shortly found a notice on our bulletin board advising us to check the board regularly for news. We were all excited by this turn of events, because we finally had somebody that was looking out for us.
May 31, 1945 I checked the bulletin board after breakfast and found a notice saying that I and 14 others were to be transferred to the 379 Bomb Squadron of the 310 Bomb Group in Fano, Italy. We were to board a DC-3 transport plane the next day for the flight to Fano on the Adriatic coast. That group was scheduled to be returned home and we would join them. !