Chapter 60: New P-47s Arrive. Red Cross Girls. We Drop More Bombs Than Ever! Serious Injury At The Party
May 24, 1944 Alto, Corsica. After breakfast I returned to my tent and washed out some clothing, and brewed up tea. At 10 AM Sgt. Podraza came and told me to go to the flying line. Two new P-47s had arrived and Major Benedict (our Squadron Commander) was getting one and so is Major. Leaf (his old RAF buddy). They are giving Major. Leaf’s ship to me, and it has only 160 hours on the engine. It had brake problems, so I bled the brakes and changed the master brake cylinder. After lunch I cleaned the cockpit.
The Germans are moving troops up to the Anzio front, so we flew six missions this afternoon, strafing and dive bombing troops, motor transports and any enemy motorized vehicles. Our planes, flying together with the British, devastated the German reinforcing troops and equipment. We destroyed more than 300 Motor transports, attacking rail lines, bridges, and ground forces. Our targets were below Rome, in particular against the reinforcing troops behind the enemy lines. This afternoon Lts. Edwin Flood, Robert Kaiser, Bill Ehney, and George Kriss each shot down a FW 190 German fighter plane. Both British and American Armies are advancing across a broad front.
May 25, 1944 Alto, Corsica. I was awakened this morning at 4.30 AM to prepare my plane for a 5 AM takeoff. There was another mission at 10.30 AM, from which my plane came back with the tachometer inoperative and one soft brake. I bled that brake, taxied the plane around a bit to be sure the brakes worked all right. There was another mission at 2.30 PM. We launched a 7 PM mission to search for a bomber crew that baled out near the French coast. They returned at 9.30 without having located them. The Red Cross girls were here with coffee and doughnuts this afternoon. We hear that we may receive another Presidential Unit Citation for today’s work in support of our ground troops.
May 26, 1944 Alto, Corsica; I took the day off today. After breakfast I washed some clothes and just relaxed. The stove in our tent was acting up so Stripling, Brady and Della Volpe fixed it. Here in the mountains, it gets quite chilly at night. I went for a dip in the stream and played ping pong. Some of the men are building a day room for the enlisted men alongside the stream.
Meanwhile our air assault against enemy troops and equipment moving across Northern Italy continues daily. It is now harder to locate motor or rail transport, due to the mauling to which we have been subjecting them. Evidence of this is the fact that during the month of May, the 66th squadron pilots have flown more sorties, expended more ammunition and dropped more bombs that in any other period in our history! Lt. Bangiola was injured today on a dive bombing mission. He was shot in the left hand and right arm by ground fire, but he brought the plane back and belly-landed it in a nearby deserted field.
June I, 1944 Alto, Corsica. The last few days were fairly uneventful. We had the grand opening of the men’s day room, and the bar was filled with all manner of wines and liquors which had been brought in by means of our B-25, from Alexandria. Three quarters of the enlisted men got drunk, however Percy Gruen (the man who had supervised the constructions of the building), was seriously injured. During the evening he made a swan dive off the balcony into the shallow stream water. He was hospitalized with an injured spine, which marred the otherwise joyous occasion.
My plane flew one mission today, and upon returning blew out the right tire opposite the 65th squadron’s side of the airfield. After changing the tire, and while taxiing the plane to our side of the field, the left brake went dead, and I almost rammed another plane while stopping it. I finally got it to my new area, and found it to be next to the ack ack pit of my Moroccan friends. All in all, this day did not finish on a happy note!
So ends part 60 of my wartime memoirs