Chapter 35: Hepatitis. Mustard Gas in Bari. Rejoined American Air Corps. Special Scrounge Group
Amendola,Italy Dec 5,1943. Foster Carman and I are quarantined in the Medics Tent. We cannot eat, and we exist on drinking No. 10 cans of fruit juices. We have decided to give up smoking for a while, because it isn’t doing us any good. The doctor visits us each morning, and gives us a dose of salts, which is supposed to clean out our digestive tract. The problem is that we do not have any solids in it, so we are not evacuating anything.
This morning, the doctor admitted that the medical profession knows of no cure for Infection Hepatitis. He says the malady must run its course, and the patient either lives or dies! (Thanks a lot!). We are told that there is no ground support right now because the visibility is so bad! The British 8th Army is still pressing ahead, and now has control of the coast road to Pescara and should be there in a few days. The Flying Fortresses moved up to Foggia landing Ground tonight, numbering about 200 Planes. We are close enough to the front to hear the artillery, and they kept us awake for most of the night, continuing into the next morning!
Dec 6 1943. The port of Bari, Italy was attacked by German planes, in which raid an American ammunition ship was blown up that carried mustard gas bombs for use against the Germans if they were to use this chemical against us. We understand that many of these bombs exploded and many sailors and military personnel died from the affects of the mustard gas.
Parts of the Port of Bari were evacuated due to the heavy cloud of mustard gas. The port was not able to go back to normal for about 3 weeks. Herb Kates joined us this morning in the isolation tent- He is a pretty sick man! Our line chief Lt. Reilly says we are scheduled to get those P-47 fighter bombers. My skin itches at night and I scratch it a lot. We had a good turkey meal for lunch today and Carman and I ate everything (for a change). However, we did not have any appetite dinnertime.
Dec 11, 1943; this is our 10th day in the Isolation Tent. My eyes and urine are still yellow. We hear that Red Benedict will be named Squadron Commander. I hope so! It will mean a square deal for everybody on the flying line. My skin itches like the dickens, due to the bile running around loose.
We had two ground support missions yesterday, both against German heavy artillery positions and troop concentrations.
The Doctor says I will be out of here in a few days. Foster Carman will be leaving tomorrow. I’m sick to my stomach all the time and yellow all over.
Generals Marshall and Spaatz visited us 2 days ago but being in isolation I did not see them and hear what they had do say. British Intelligence told us we could expect heavy German air raids tonight, so we are all digging our slit trenches a little bit deeper! No operations due to a water-saturated airfield.
Dec 16th: Hooray! The doctor released me, to return to my tent. He told me to take it easy for a few days. I caught up on some household chores, such as washing clothes.
Red Benedict (Benny) our new squadron commander, called a meeting and said that we would have to work harder, but, we would make it up to us by getting us better food and better living conditions. We now have four Italians working in the kitchen, so that we do not have to do KP (Kitchen Police) which is a menial job. So that is a “plus”! The officer’s mess and enlisted men’s mess are separate now. We chip in a dollar apiece and the cooks buy food with it, from the surrounding towns.
Dec 18th, I went back to work today, on my airplane, changed the carburetor, repaired a supercharger oil line, replaced the cowling, and had it ready to fly again by 3.30 PM. We are now back in the American Air Corps again.
Today we received a commendation from General House for our operations of the 14th of December.
Today we put a bar in the enlisted men’s club and several more chairs and tables that were scrounged in Manfredonia, a nearby town. I went to a show there tonight and saw a movie entitled 'My Favorite Blonde' with Madeleine Carroll and Bob Hope!
Lt. Martin “ test hopped” my plane and said it was OK.
Dec 20th: Our group is now getting P-47s (Thunderbolts) to replace our P-40s. 11 are due to arrive tomorrow and the 65th squadron gets them first, then the 64th squadron, then us (the 66th) squadron. My plane flew on a 2.00 PM mission today and Lt. Williams (the regular pilot) said it ran OK.
Dec 21st, the enlisted men’s bar opens tonight, with free wine and cognac for everyone!
We lost Lt. Chapman, when plane no. 97 made a forced landing in Yugoslavia due to engine trouble. Another sad event occurred, when Evan’s dog had his head chopped off by the propeller of a B-25.
My plane flew on a 2 hour mission over Yugoslavia, and Lt. Williams said it ran OK.
Dec 23rd, Lt’s Schurin and McCoy shot down a JU-88 over Yugoslavia today.
We got over 50 turkeys this afternoon from our 'special scrounge' department for Christmas day. We have learned not to ask from whence comes all the goodies which our 'special scrounge' department finds.
After the war there was a book entitled 'Catch 22' which tells of similar exploits utilized by a Bomber squadron, to provide creature comforts that the U.S.Army Air Corps did not believe the troops required! What do those Generals know anyhow!! It is common knowledge that if you want to know something in the Army, you don’t go to a General. You go to a Sergeant!
So ends part 35 of my wartime memoirs.