Chapter 38: B-24 Crash Lands. Making Pies. Survival Priorities. Paratroops to Yugoslavia. Rifle Inspection. Skip Bombing.
Jan 15, 1944 (Amendola,Italy) Today was remarkable because a B-24 force-landed near the mountains when returning from a mission. It was all shot-up, and the pilot and co pilot were both badly wounded, and had to be removed by medics. The enlisted men in the crew are staying with us, and the officers are staying at the officer’s mess.
Stripling returned from a pass in the mountains with 5 suckling pigs and we ate part of one for dinner, with potatoes, peas, coffee, and chocolate pie. In case you are wondering where the pie came from, the cooks made pie for supper, and I got them to give me the excess dough. I made the pie shells and the rest of the ingredients for the pies and side dishes all came from our friend 'Fox' who is on guard duty this week.
This is not very strange when you remember that we are now overseas 18 months and during the first year and a half in the RAF and we have learned what Napoleon knew all along. That is “an Army marches on its stomach”. He never bothered too much with providing food for his soldiers, knowing full well that they would not let themselves starve, and would forage for food at the expense of the civilian population!
A religious person might find it appropriate to quote the scriptures in this regard, saying, “God helps those that help themselves”! What the reader must understand is that living on the brink of death for long periods of time has the tendency to cause a realignment of one's priorities. The following list became my “blueprint” for survival, and I did not feel a bit ashamed about it !
1) Staying alive.
2) Finding shelter
3) Finding food
4) Avoiding hazardous situations
5) Satisfying ones physical needs
6) Maintaining relations with family and others at home
7) Finding a hobby or similar endeavor to pursue
8) Finding satisfaction in your relations with friends in your group.
With regard to Items 7 and 8 (above) I was able to immerse myself in the study of the Italian language, continue learning Spanish, making and maintaining close relations with men in our squadron. These things made my life bearable during the 37 months I was overseas in combat. In all fairness however I cannot offer this as a panacea for others to follow. As the song says “I did it my way” and each of us must find his own way!
Jan 16, 1944 was remarkable because 14 of our planes with belly tanks of gas met 6 Savoia Marchetti 3-engine transports loaded with Italian parachute troops. We escorted them to Yugoslavia in a 4-hour flight, leaving at 9 AM and returning at 4 PM. Upon their return we found out that they could not drop the parachutists because of bad weather over the target area! Fox made chocolate pie with my dough and it was delicious. (You see, men can learn to live without women! (But they may not enjoy it)!
Jan 17, 1944: Fox and I baked a raisin cake and a peach pie from the dough that was left over from 2 days ago. Ebarb returned from being on pass in San Severo, and brought back 9 pounds of onions. The 64th squadron of our group now has all P-47s, so we of the 66th will be next to get them. The next day our planes dive-bombed a ship with 500-pound bombs, and strafed a train in Yugoslavia, on a 14 plane mission.
In the afternoon we hung belly gas tanks on the planes, and at 2 PM they strafed a German merchant ship. In an interesting sidelight to operations, the 64th squadron is in the process of getting a new Squadron Commander and First Sergeant, and they had a surprise rifle inspection catching one guy with a dirty rifle. They tried to put him to work in the officer’s mess as punishment and he told them where to stick it!
So they made him dig a trench all around the officer’s mess hall, three feet deep and three feet wide. Well, the whole squadron pitched in that night and did it! This is our 19th month overseas, and the enlisted men are fed up with the Army’s usual spit and polish that is customary in peacetime!
During this period of our combat operations, Captains Benedict and Leaf pioneered 'skip bombing' in the Mediterranean Theater. It is the art of rolling a delayed action bomb into the mouth of a railroad or motor transport tunnel from a low flying fighter bomber. Thus the enemy was deprived of a safe haven for his rail and motor transport. It is a dangerous procedure requiring nerves of steel and a masterful control of the airplane !
So ends Part 38 of My Wartime Memoirs.