Chapter 34: Preparing for Thunderbolts. Endless Rain. Scrounging for Thanksgiving. Recce over Yugoslavia. See Naples and Heave. Driving with Mustard Gas. Monty's Thanks. Jaundice
Amendola,Italy, Nov 11,1943. I have been sick the last few days with a cold and sore throat, and I got the medics to give me some medicines.
We are told that we will be getting P-47s (Thunderbolts), and we are sending 4 pilots and 4 mechanics to Tunis, Tunisia so they can fly and service the planes for a while. Then the planes will be flown to us. Moulton, Remo, Ryan and C.M.Clark are gong on this detail (as mechanics).
Nov 14th.We had quite a rain and windstorm last night, which caused the mess-hall and the enlisted men’s day-room to collapse. This resulted in my being put on a detail putting them back up again.
The weather is miserable, raining every day. I had to work on Plane No. 77 today. It wouldn’t start and I changed the starter.
We lost Lt. McMahon today. He bailed out behind the German lines.
We are told that our infantry is taking a beating right now.
We send a small group of men out on a scrounging mission for livestock, and they just returned with 50 Turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner.
It rains every day, making things miserable. We are all working on other men’s airplanes, because some men are away on pass. We received only 20 Turkeys from the quartermaster for our Thanksgiving dinner. What a laugh! 20 Turkeys for 200 men! It’s a good thing we don’t depend on our army for anything. We just send details out to scrounge around and get what we need one way or another. We learned this from the British 8th Army in North Africa!
Louis (the Mole) Lederman is going to go on pass with me shortly, to Naples.
Nov 25th: Our planes made one mission this morning, dive-bombing. In the afternoon we made 3 more such missions, and received a commendation from the British 8th Army for direct support of their ground troops and accurate bombing. They said we were the only fighter group in operation today.
Lt. Chapman bellied plane No. 74 on landing today, due to shrapnel damage to the landing gear. He was not hurt.
Nov 26th. My plane (No.73) made a reconnaissance mission over Yugoslavia today at 6.00 AM. The whole group made three dive-bombing missions before lunch. The medium bombers were busy today also.
There are rumors circulating now of a peace conference with Roosevelt, Churchill, Molitoff, and Ribbentrop in Tunisia. Also that all the paratrooper divisions are in England now and rumor has it there will be an invasion of the French Coast soon. The Red Army is in Poland now. I am supposed to go on pass with Louis lederman tomorrow noon.
Nov 28th: Louis is sick today and can’t go on pass with me today, so Joe and I left the cmp area at 1.00 PM, and went to Foggia Main airfield and caught a DC-3 Transport for Naples after a 3 hour wait. We got to Naples at dusk and found the Hotel Rebecchinio that everybody is talking about. We went out looking for female company but struck-out because there was a 6.00 PM Curfew. So, we returned to the hotel and went to sleep. We almost froze that night because there were not enough blankets!
Nuovo Hotel Rebecchino
Nov 29th- Naples: We spent the morning shopping for souvenirs for various family members. In the evening we met Pettis, Podraza and Gluckman, who had a car. So, we all ate supper at the Air force Mess. After supper we discovered that the car burned up. We saw a movie, and then had to walk the seven miles back to the hotel. We are moving to the other side of town in the morning, because without the car we are too far from the center of things here.
Nov 29th-Naples: Joe and I moved to the center of town today. Pettis and his gang moved into our hotel today. We went out and bought smelts, apples, walnuts, bread, olives and a lot of booze and we all had a party in our new apartment after seeing a USO show (with our landlords). We all had a swell time: Pettis, Podraza and Gluckman all got drunk on Champagne.
Dec 2nd-Naples: My stomach was hurting all day yesterday, and still hurts today. Herb Gluckman went to the hospital here today and was diagnosed with Yellow Jaundice (Infectious Hepatitis). I think I may have it too!
Joe and I bought 6 steaks, potatoes, etc and expect to have a feast tonight after the USO Show. We met some British Commandos that we had known on the desert and spent several hours talking over old times. We had that feast, and Podraza got sick from too much Champagne again. My stomach still hurts.
Dec 3rd-Naples. I had the dry heaves this morning. Right after breakfast we started hitchhiking home. We caught a ride on a 2-l/2 ton truck and as we climbed on back of the truck, the Black American driver asked if we minded riding with cans of gas. We said we didn’t because we were used to working around gas. Well, when we got to the top of a mountain in Avellino. He turned the truck around in a narrow crossroad, hitting two trees in the process. He said we could hitch another ride from here and asked if we minded riding with gas again.
We said we were used to working with aviation fuel. He then said, oh no, we are carrying 2-l/2 tons of mustard gas! He added that one of their drivers fell asleep at the wheel, hit a tree and one of the canisters broke, killing him!
We arrived back at camp at 2.00 PM today and I feel quite sick. My skin is yellow as well as my urine.
Dec 4th- Amendola,Italy: After breakfast this morning I went on sick call. The Doctor said I have yellow jaundice and have to move into the Medic’s quarantine tent I had no appetite and just lounged around drinking fruit juices and eating candy.
It seems our group stopped a German counterattack single-handedly, and received a congratulations message from General Montgomery. The Doctor gave me a dose of salts, so it’s just like having dysentery all over again.
So ends part 34 of my wartime memoirs