Chapter 28: Bari for Good Food. Lady Chasing with Italian Friends. Freezing Cold. Foggia. 100 Plane Strafing
Sept 29 1943 Gioia,Italy Carl Volter and I went to the town of Bari this morning for a 3-day pass. It was about 30 Kilos away and we hitched a ride without any trouble.
Bari is the first town which we have seen since leaving Alexandria which was not heavily damaged, and where we could eat at restaurants and sleep at hotels. The main street was quite wide, and the populace was enjoying a rather normal life.I had a picnic eating good meat meals and drinking good wine. I attended a Vaudeville Show at the Teatro Petrucelli, and was able to follow the Italian dialogue fairly well.
Sept 30th. I ran into three Italian soldiers with whom I had befriended, and they took me out for a good Italian meal, bar-hopping, and lady-chasing. I found a jeweler and had my watch repaired. At 2.00 PM, I was sitting on
the curb of the main street, when 'A' Party (my party) came driving down the road headed for our new airdrome. Lt. Sexaur stopped in front of me long enough to say that my 3-day pass was over and I should return to camp. When I got back to camp, I found that 'A' Party had taken our tent, and all my clothes and bedding with them. So I had to spend the night in the ambulance and almost froze to death!
Oct 1st: This AM I asked Major Reich (our Adjutant) for permission to hitch-hike to our new airfield so I could rejoin 'A' Party, and he said OK. After starting out, I ran into a truck from our 65th squadron headed to that airfield and caught a ride. It was a 60 Mile trip to Bari over rough roads, and I convinced the driver to stop at the town of Bari for a while, enroute. He did and I ran into my three Italian friends from yesterday, so we spent some more time together wandering around, eating and drinking lunch. At 2.00 PM I got back on the truck and hit the road again, arriving at the airfield at 6.00 PM. Everyone was surprised to see me,and I was pleased to find that all my personal effects were in order. There are now 9 men sleeping in our newly acquired American Pyramid tent.
Oct 2nd: Our airplanes arrived from the previous airfield during breakfast. My ship (#73) was overheating and was grounded. There is nothing I can do until our supply dept can get me new 'coolers'. 'B' Party arrived this afternoon. It rained 'cats and dogs' and our tent was almost flooded out. The tent-pegs kept coming out of the soggy ground and we had to continually re-insert them in the ground or the tent would have collapsed. We are told we are now going back on British Army rations tomorrow, as we are on the side of Italy where the British 8th Army Operates.
An interesting thing happened on our airfield today. Lt. Sneff force-landed, on a damaged B-24, and we got to talking about when we were both recruits going through 8 weeks of basic training, billeted in a hangar with 600 other recruits, at Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, in October of 1940! He was in a B-24 outfit, on a bomb-run over Austria, when they were jumped by ME-109s and the ship was set on fire. The tail and waist gunners bailed out but he managed to bring the plane back, with the pilot killed and the bombardier wounded!
When we entered the city of Foggia, three days after its capture, we found that they heavy bombers of the 12th airforce had done a thorough job of destroying the railroad network in that area. During the next couple of months, the 66th squadron would be based on three different airfields on the Foggia Plains, flying in close support of the British 8th Army.
There were no American service units in the area yet. The weather was bleak, and chilly nights and rainy days found us shivering with cold for the first time (a novel experience after two hot summers.) We had to check our barrack bags for winter clothing.
The rainy weather with mud constantly underfoot served to make our life miserable. We consoled ourselves with the thought that had we been in the Infantry we would be forced to live and die in the mud! It was then clear to us that we were going to have lots of time off, due to the rainy season.
It rained like hell this afternoon. Our planes did fly however, and strafed about 100 German fighters and bombers, on the ground at airfields.
During de-briefing, our pilots said they left a lot of fires on the ground, as evidence of the effectiveness of our attacks.
So ends part 28 of my wartime memoirs.