Chapter 29: Electricity!. Booby Traps. Front Line Fighting. William Benedict Scores. Over Yugoslavia. 200 FW-190s Arriving!
Oct 4, 1943: Foggia, Italy. Today was a red-letter day for the 6 of us in my tent. This afternoon, we hooked up an electric light to our tent, by running a wire from the generator in the officer’s mess. Operating on the principal that "God helps those that help themselves" we ran that part of the wire near the generator, below the surface of the ground.
Due to our ingenuity, it was never discovered and we had an electric light during our stay on this airfield! It was the first time we had a light bulb in our tent, and as you can imagine, we were quite delighted with it!
Another interesting thing happened today, in that Major Reich (our squadron adjutant) made all the officers erect their own tents as well as the officers mess tent. Now, this was quite a departure from normal procedure, and we enlisted men were walking around wondering what had brought it about, and being pleased that it happened.
Oct 6th: "A" Party left for the new airfield this morning, which is located about 25 Miles from Foggia. We ('B' party) will leave tomorrow. We were instructed not to do any scrounging (souvenir hunting) when we get there because the place is all booby-trapped. Today was eventful for another reason:
I started to draw additional pay because I completed three years service. It doesn't seem like three years, because I have been moved around so much. This good news is tempered by bad news, because I have to do "guard duty" tonight from 1 AM to 6 AM. The good news however is that I will have a chance to 'confiscate' some rations for our tent, such as Sugar, Tea, marmalade, bread, etc.
Oct 7th: We broke camp this morning, in the rain and therefore were quite miserable during the move. The new field is north of Foggia, and is about 20 miles north of the front line.
The trip took 2 hours, but it seemed like forever because trucks kept getting stuck in the mud.
Upon arrival at the new airfield we put up our tent, and dug slit trenches all around it (this was standard procedure for us). When we went to lunch we were told that we are now 30 miles from the bomb line (the front), and that British Intelligence believes the Germans will counter-attack shortly.
Upon resumption of operations here at Foggia #8, on one mission over Yugoslavia, our squadron destroyed 6 Stuka dive bombers in a 5-minute engagement. These were the first enemy aircraft destroyed over Yugoslavia by any American fighter unit.
The attack was lead by Lt. William P Benedict, undoubtedly the most colorful figure in our squadron, who shot down one of these JU-87s. The following day, General Doolittle decorated several of the 57th Group's pilots. One of our outstanding pilots, Lt. Charles C Leaf, received the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross during the ceremony.
Now the squadron is starting to suffer losses after having avoided them during the past summer. Several pilots were lost due to heavy German anti-aircraft fire in action over heavily defended enemy territory.
Our operations consisted of dive bombing German positions on the Sangro River and reconnaissance over Yugoslavia, which brought exceptional results. We frequently received messages of commendation from Army Headquarters, after our pilots had destroyed enemy strong points only a few yards from friendly troop positions.
We have now completed 16 months overseas, 15 of which consisted of continuous combat, with no end in sight.
"A" Flight moved to a new airfield, Foggia #1. It is north of Foggia, and about 20 miles from the Bomb Line. This is a normal place for the 57th Group to occupy, and one in which we have found ourselves since El Alamein, Egypt.
We have been the forward airdrome during the North African campaign and since arriving in Sicily we have continued in that role! We hear that the Germans are counter-attacking, and we received news from British Intelligence (G2) that the Germans have brought in over 200 new Focke Wolf Fighters. If it is true, we will be in for a lot of trouble, as they are formidable fighter planes.
So ends part 29 of My Wartime Memoirs.