Chapter 52: Presidential Citation 57th Group. Stopping the German War Machine. Benedict Promoted to Major.
April 16, 1944 Alto, Corsica. Today our squadron commander, Capt. William Benedict told us what the 57th Group had accomplished during the past two weeks. For that period we are supposed to get a Presidential Unit Citation, possibly two, which will give you an idea of the importance of our work in this theater of war.
We were instrumental in preventing enemy reinforcements and supplies from being used against our troops at the beachhead in Italy. Within 30 days, it is expected that the push for Rome would begin he said that our group was operating more or less on our own, isolated as we are on this island. We do receive operational orders from the Wing, but we are allowed a lot of latitude on how we interpret them. This is because we were sent here on our own, as a separate task force, with one purpose. That is, to disrupt the German Army from moving supplies and men down from Austria to the Italian Front.
April 17, 1944: Another rainy day with curtailed operations. Today we were visited by a writer from 'Yank' (Aarons), and one from The Chicago Tribune. They took Group photos with two planes in the background.. Around 4 PM we had one flight take off, but returned an hour later because of bad weather over Northern Italy.
Just before dark the weather cleared and we were able to see the islands of Elba and Montecristo. I spent the day playing baseball, visiting my Spanish friends. There was a notice on our bulletin Board saying that our squadron (the 66th) has dropped more bombs, expended more ammunition, and made more sorties than any other squadron in our group!
April 18 1944 we are told that the invasion of Europe will begin after the push for Rome starts. It is believed that this would prevent the Germans from transferring men and equipment from the Italian front, to the Allies European beachhead. We are now receiving the summer uniforms which we turned in to Supply last fall. We had a canteen today, and purchased comfort rations (candy, cigarettes,etc).
We had one mission today, of 16 planes this morning. They dive-bombed a bridge and cut railroad tracks in several places. They also strafed and left a train in flames. On the way home, they destroyed a few German planes on an airfield, and strafed motor transport. When the planes returned it was raining heavily which made things quite miserable.
April 19, 1944: I spent part of the day helping my friend Gene Schnabel do a 50 hour inspection on his plane.
My plane flew on a dive-bombing flight, which blew out two arches of a 9-span bridge, also strafing and burning a train. My plane was not damaged from these operations. To the delight of all the enlisted men, Capt. Benedict received a well earned promotion to Major today.
We are now required to take atabrine daily to stave off malaria, now that summer almost here. Today was laundry day, and I washed out all my dirty clothes.
Our operations officer told us today that due to the group’s untiring efforts, the Germans are unable to move men or equipment during daylight hours. From Rimini to Pisa we are pounding their rail and motor transport, bridges, rail terminals and shipping. This has to have a major effect on the German Wehrmacht’s ability to wage war.
I visited my Spanish friends, and got the words for a popular Spanish song for Ceferino Vigi who is my best friend, ( a Chicano of Mexican extraction). It's strange how we enlisted men just keep slogging along, day after day, with no hope of an end to hostilities after a year and a half in combat! You would think that we would have become embittered to the point of not caring about our work and our well-being. Well, maybe after the European invasion, we might get to go home!
So ends part 52 of my wartime memoirs.