Chapter 58: Return From Corte. Huge German Attack Kills Many. Move To Mountains. Push on Cassino. An Excellent New Camp
May 14, 1944 Alto, Corsica: This is my last day on pass here in Corte: This morning I met a young Corsican who spoke Spanish and we spent the whole morning together. He is a Sephardic Jew (they were driven out of Spain in 1492 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella), and they still speak the archaic Spanish language of those times. I was puzzled about how he pronounced certain words, like 'agora'. They explained that it was now spelt and pronounced 'ahora' because Spanish was modernized starting in the 1500’s, whereas Portuguese wasn’t.
So in effect, he now spoke Portuguese, because both Portugal and Spain originally spoke one language, Spanish. I found this fascinating, because here I could learn a new Latin language quickly, simply by studying the difference between Spanish and Portuguese!
Our squadron truck came for Gene Schnabel and me at noon and an hour later we were back at camp. I took a shower, washed some dirty clothes, picked up my mail, and drew my rations. I brought some candy over to my Spanish ack ack friend Zapata.
We were told that last night the 325 Fighter Group and the 340 Bomb Group (on either side of us) were bombed. There were over 120 wounded, of which 40 have died so far.
There were about 50 German planes in the attack, dropping anti-personnel bombs and strafing the airfields and camp areas. 30 of our planes were destroyed on the ground, which must be considered a serious loss both in personnel and in airplanes. Fortunately for our group, we apparently were not the chosen targets last night!
I was surprised to hear that Al Schoenfield received his orders three days ago to return home. This was probably arranged by our medical doctor, because Al kept getting recurrences of malaria which required sending him to hospitals for long periods of time. Al, if you will remember, was on guard duty with me at the Mareth Line in Tunisia, when we were lost for an entire night!
I was told about our operations of May 12th, in which we mounted three dive bombing flights along the main front, near Cassino in northern Italy. We hit railroads, and motor transport. Our big offensive against Cassino and Rome began on May 11th with a barrage of 1600 Cannons. It is an all out effort on the entire front, with the Canadians, Ghurkas, and Polish playing the leading role.
Before this barrage, the Cassino sector was hit by 800 bombers to soften up the area. The latest reports say that the enemy is in full retreat all across the Gustav line in Northern Italy.
Today, May 14th our planes struck railroad tracks, bridges, and gun positions north of Rome. In short, the news from the Northern Italian front couldn’t be better.
May 15, 1944; our squadron provided close support of the ground troops at the Gustav line today. We struck gun positions, motor transport and bridge, and destroyed petrol dumps. These operations cannot help but have a positive effect on our ground operations. The enemy, while resisting stubbornly, is seriously handicapped, because he cannot bring needed reinforcements and supplies down from Austria, as he did before the 57th moved to Corsica! The results speak for themselves, because the Allied armies are advancing on all fronts in Northern Italy!
One other event today deserves mention; in that the 66th camp area was moved into the nearby Corsican Mountains This was brought about after the deadly German air raid several nights ago. The camp area is situated two miles from the airfield, between two mountain sides with a stream running through it. It was the best camp sight we enjoyed so far and it permitted the ground crews to bathe and swim in the stream after the days work was through. We built a club house near the edge of the stream, and evenings were made bearable by the bar which was stocked with all manner of alcoholic beverages that our B-25 bomber-transport brought in from far away places.
May 16, 1944: We continued to support the British 8th Army ground assault as we have in the past. We hit railroads, bridges, motor transport along the battle front on two missions. The third mission today was a 16 plane show to dive bomb airdromes near Rome.
Sadly, Lt’s. Hunter and Gains were shot down, and 6 of our remaining planes were damaged. Our planes destroyed 8 Focke-Wolfs on the ground. Our squadron commander Bill Benedict, says there will be a 4 AM take-of tomorrow morning. He wants to hit the enemy just at dawn, to catch them before they can hide in a railroad or motor transport tunnel!
So ends part 58 of My Wartime Memoirs.