Chapter 49: Baseball Against Officers. AWOL. Bad Food. Pub Fight. Squadron Reunited
April 2, 1944: Alto, Corsica. Not much doing this morning. In the afternoon I started to work on that air filter. Our group pulled a dive-bombing mission in the Po Valley (Italy), hitting a large bridge and a railroad terminal.
As a relief from our normal day-to-day operations, the enlisted men and the officers played a baseball game, and the enlisted men won 18 to 2 (I am not prepared to say what that means). We, the enlisted men made 3 double plays, which might explain to some extent, the lop-sided score! Lt. Smith ran in to me during one of those double plays, and he was knocked almost unconscious! Nevertheless, the game served to relax tensions and to let us forget for only a few minutes, that a war was raging all around us!
Last night, Ebarb got potted (drunk) and he and 4 African Americans shot up a café in town. It is expected that they will have the book thrown at them! (In military terms that means they will be up the creek without a paddle!)
It is interesting to note, that just one year ago today, the 57th Group (with top cover from 24 RAF Spitfires) made military history by shooting down 58 German Heinkel transports and 16 Me 109 Fighters in one aerial engagement. This was the largest aerial engagement in history, other than the battle of the Coral Sea, where American Carrier planes and Japanese carrier planes fought each other. This took place on Palm Sunday, 1943 and you can judge its importance by the banner headline of the next day’s New York Times under the title of 'Palm Sunday Massacre'!
April 3, 1944: My airplane is still grounded for lack of an air filter. So I offered my services to others to help them. Caporosso and his friend came to see me this afternoon and took my extra laundry to Felices’s house to be washed. We brewed tea and the two Spanish guys took off for home at 9 PM. They gave me a bottle of wine, and I sold it to Duchan. It is now permissible to say that we are in Corsica in our letters.
April 4, 1944: I am still changing the air filter on my plane this morning. Line Chief, Sgt. Beck got mad at Evans (my assistant) and me, for having taken time out to smoke a cigarette, and he had us washing airplanes. We were feeling quite put out by this turn of events, however we soon saw the humor in it when we observed Lts. Yoder, Wise and Bailey similarly occupied! Evans and I had a good time all day, kidding around with them.
As to why they were being punished, it seems they all got drunk and took off without authorization. It is called being absent without leave (AWOL)! It is interesting to note that these three pilots were commissioned officers, yet they received 'company punishment' the same as enlisted men did! Company punishment is meted out by the squadron commander for minor infractions of military regulations. (Similar to a 'Captains Mast' in the Navy or Marines.)
The meals are bad, and have been since our arrival on Corsica. Since we are off by ourselves in a separate task force, it seems nobody bothered to include us in the Food Supply chain. Engineers are laying a metal runway on our airfield now, and we are told it would take 20 days. Italian prisoners are doing the labor involved, and I chat with them from time to time.
April 5,1944 ; The air filter on my plane is now repaired , however it didn’t fly this morning, so I just washed it up. Then Lt. Yoder and I washed plane No. 88, Lts. Bailey and Stern washed No. 79, and Lt. Wise washed his own plane. Once again, we all had a hell of a good time, kidding each other. Our pilots are all great guys!
On a sad note ,
Ebarb and some others got into a fight at a pub in Bastia with some Frenchmen in which Ebarb was wounded twice, and Lawrence Dyer of the 65 Squadron killed. These locals are a tough lot! I went to a dance in Bastia today. Our squadron sent a special truck in for that purpose and it later brought us back. We had a fairly decent time; however I didn’t dance too well. I just couldn’t remember the dance steps, not having had much chance to practice them. While in town we found out that there is bad blood between the French and Italians here.
Last night a bomb was thrown into the French-Italian Police Office, and the night before that a Frenchman bayoneted an Italian. Got back to camp at 7.30 PM, and was surprised to find that our cooks had saved supper for us. Will wonders never cease!
April 6, 1944: My plane flew on two missions this morning. I had to do some maintenance on it though. I bled the left brake, and washed the back of the engine and the cockpit. The engine may have to be changed because it is cutting out and using too much oil. In the afternoon my plane flew on a 16 plane mission, attacking enemy shipping at Genoa, sinking one ship.
On the way home they dive bombed a German airfield, and strafed motor transport and trains. Two of our planes were damaged but returned safely. All in all, a busy fruitful day for the 57th group.
The day ended on a happy note, as our 'B' Party arrived from Italy after supper, and we of 'A' Party had a good time with them, now that the squadron is whole once again !
So ends part 49 of my wartime memoirs