Chapter 50: Bomb Kills Two. A Big Canteen. Maintenance on P-47. Strafing Near Florence. Chased By Pig. Record Combat Hours
April 7, 1944; Alto, Corsica. I did some maintenance work on my plane this morning. On a sad note today, a 500 pound bomb fell from a 64th Squadron plane while landing, killing two people. One was an enlisted man in the ground crew, and another was an officer who was in the Tower.
We were told that there would be a inspection to search for unauthorized revolvers and automatic pistols. However Capt. Benedict our squadron commander said that he wouldn’t find any, if they were hidden To the surprise of no one, no such weapons were found ! I played poker until midnight and lost $10.00.
April 8, 1944; we had a canteen today, a big one! I got 2 cartons of cigarettes, 10 bars of chocolate, matches, etc. (a canteen is the British Army word for comfort rations). we had been in the British 8th Army for over a year now, and even though we are now operating under the U.S. Air force command, we are still on the British side of Italy and supporting the British 8th Army. So it is not surprising that we are still using a lot of colorful British names for things.
We had two dive-bombing missions today.
I played poker again tonight until the lights went out at 11 PM, and won $12.00 this time.
April 10, 1944: I have been doing maintenance on my new P-47, such as adjusting oil pressure. The Pratt and Whitney service representative was around today, but he was not much help. The P-47 plane has a Pratt & Whitney air cooled Engine, and we were quite surprised that he did not know more about it. When we first received these planes we had not yet received the tech orders, which are the manufacturer's instructions on servicing the plane and engine.
You can imagine how difficult it was for us to be operating these new planes in combat without such detailed instructions.
There were three missions today, during which our planes dive-bombed and strafed two trains, leaving them in flames. They then roamed the roads strafing motor transport at will, until they expended their ammunition. Our planes returned safely with the exception of Lt. Reynolds, whose plane suffered a hole in one wing from a German 40 Millimeter anti-aircraft gun.
Our operations dept told us that the Russians are now in Poland and Czechoslovakia and are still pushing toward Germany. They said that 500 of our heavy bombers are helping the Russians every day!
April 11, 1944: Once again we flew 3 missions, today attacking ammunition dumps and motor transport north of Rome. My plane flew twice and came back OK.
In an interesting sidelight to the war itself, I was treated to a welcome diversion today. I brought some canteen supplies for my Spanish friends in the ack-ack crew, and while there I witnessed them having some fun with one of their Moorish servants (from Oran, Morocco). They use them in menial tasks only, I found. The little cook Zapato scared the life out of one of them, by picking up his little pig Charlone and chasing him with it. The Arabs are in mortal fear of pigs because it is against their religion to eat, touch or even speak of one.
It’s pathetic to her them scream and run like mad to try to avoid contact with the piglet. I really enjoy visiting these Spaniards from Morocco, because they always invite me over to eat, drink, and sing songs with them. I reciprocate by having them over to my tent for similar activities. As an added benefit, I practice speaking Spanish with them and they teach me Spanish songs, and jokes.
The following day we also mounted three dive-bombing missions near Florence, destroying two trains, gasoline and ammunition dumps and strafing motor transport. Our squadron shot up more than 150 cases of .50 Caliber Ammo, establishing a record for the most combat hours in single day. The whole group is operating a full strength and we are pulling 16 and 20 plane missions. After the last mission, I finally finished replacing expended gasoline and oil by 9 PM!
So ends part 50 of my wartime memoirs.