Chapter 43: Dive Bombing Ships. Softball Aches and Pains. Fighter Sweep Over Jugoslavia. Mix Up Over Move to Cercola. Counter Attacks at Anzio
Feb 22, 1944 Amendola, Italy. Lt. Williams was shot down on the first of two missions this morning while dive-bombing with 500 pound bombs. Lt. Wise (who flew my airplane) said that Lt. William’s ship was hit by ack-ack, and went down in flames.
Bad weather this afternoon prevented further flights, so we were released at 3 pm and several of us went to a USO show and movie tonight at Manfredonia (a nearby town). Tomorrow I will have to change an oil cooler on my plane because it is leaking a little.
Feb 23, 1944 My plane flew one dive-bombing mission this morning. I heard that Lt. Williams, whose ship was on flame, managed to belly land on the Mediterranean beach and is safe!
The Red Cross girls were here this morning with coffee and doughnuts, and for a change they ate lunch with the enlisted men.
Bad weather in the afternoon kept the planes grounded. The Enlisted men played a softball game with the officers, and we beat the officers 7 to 0. I almost knocked the pitcher over (Lt. Wise), with a line drive.
I had a splitting headache this afternoon, probably eye strain. Vic Glickman left for the hospital today, with pneumonia. I ache all over from the strain of playing baseball the last two days. We have not exercised in so long, that our muscles rebel when we have to use them, as in baseball or football.
Three days later, our planes took off at 1.00 PM in the rain. My plane came back early, because the engine was cutting out when the belly tank was being used. I discovered that the pilot had not used the fuel pump selector valve properly, which caused the problem. Vic Glickman came back from the hospital on the 27th. Bad weather is reducing our flying time.
Feb 26, 1944 The weather has now improved somewhat and we mounted only one mission over Yugoslavia today. There was a dance held for the enlisted men tonight at the Sky Room of the American Red Cross Club. There were some women from the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) as well as Red Cross ladies. The ratio of men to women was 4 to 1 however the dance was considered a success because this was the first time our enlisted men had any contact with American women. The refreshments consisted of coffee and turkey sandwiches
Feb 28, 1944 At 10.00 AM my plane flew on a fighter sweep, with Lt. Turner, bombing and strafing motor transport and railroad trains. They did not meet any enemy planes. At 2.00 PM it flew again, this time with Lt. Wise on a mission to Yugoslavia carrying 500 lb. bombs from which they returned at 4.30 PM. My pilot and Capt. Benedict were credited with sinking a 40 ft. tug.
Capt. Leaf made a direct hit on a 200 ft. ship. They also strafed motor transport, and sank a ferry boat, and destroyed a train. One plane piloted by F.C.Stern was damaged by Anti Aircraft fire, but was able to return safely.
The next day Moulton came back from the hospital cured. 'A' Flight leaves for Naples tomorrow morning. Al Schoenfield returned from the hospital. He is either going to the hospital or coming from it. Malaria stays in your system and jumps up now and again to bite you. Only a visit to Walter Reed Hospital will provide a permanent cure for malaria. We hear that the American Army is being pushed off the beachhead at Anzio. It seems the Germans have thrown 11 divisions against them.
March Ist, 1944 Part of 'A' Party moved and part didn’t. It was a mix-up. We hear that the new field is like a lake. It is called Cercola and is just outside of Naples, not far from Caserta.
We mounted one mission over Yugoslavia today. The next day, the rest of 'A' Party moved out. There was a squadron meeting and Capt Benedict our squadron Commander said the rest of us will be leaving in a day or so, and that we can take all our creature comforts with us.
Lt. Leaf flew in a Spitfire from the other airfield at Naples and Lt. Schuren flew it back. They said that it rains every day at our new airfield, and the camp area is a sea of mud!
We are now carrying out Operation Strangle. Its purpose is to cut all the German supply lines from our beachhead to north of Rome, so as to prevent them from supplying his forces which are facing our 5th American and 8th British Armies. We are to destroy bridges, railroad and motor transport tunnels, rail marshalling yards, trains and motor transport in central and northern Italy. Our planes' dive bombing and strafing ability make it an ideal weapon for these purposes.
March 3, 1944. Our planes left at 8.30 AM. After my plane took off, I taxied number 78 out to the flying line and hit a gas bowser (tank truck) with the right wingtip. The line chief said the damage was negligible so the plane took off anyway. We are expected to leave for Naples in the morning.
So ends part 43 of my wartime memoirs