Chapter 61: Blasting German Column Discovered By RAF. Puerto Rican Guards Arrive. New Friends! Benny Is Leaving! Some Pilots Glad Because Benny Wages All Out War
June 3, 1944 Alto, Corsica. My plane flew only flew on two missions, destroying motor transport, trains and bridges south of Rome. Their objective was to hinder the withdrawal of the German Army from Rome. Some RAF Spitfires spotted 3 German Divisions on the road in Northern Italy and their G2 (Intelligence) notified us immediately.
Without delay we launched a series of attacks on motor transport and destroyed an awful lot of them. All three of our squadrons in the 57th Group participated, and we did not even tell headquarters of our Fighter wing about it until noon. Immediately the entire 12 Air Force spent the whole afternoon bombing and strafing those enemy columns. The Germans could not seek sanctuary in railroad tunnels because we had skip-bombed and blocked their entrances. Under constant attack from our dive-bombers and medium bombers, the enemy columns were forced to disperse causing a massive disruption of their order of battle. One can only imagine the confusion and delay these attacks caused, when these vehicles attempted to re-form in some semblance of order. This had to be the German commanding general’s nightmare. I can just imagine him trying to contact various units via radio in order to find out just where they were.
Some of the ground crews went on leave to Naples, and were flown there by our B-25. Once in Naples, they took a ferry to the Isle of Capri for a few days.
In the evening I went to the enlisted men’s day room, played ping pong, and partook of a few gin drinks. I finally stumbled off to my tent at 12.30 PM half-potted, and went to sleep.
Today we received 200 new Puerto Rican guards for our airdrome. As you can imagine, it did not take me long to visit them and make many friends immediately. Once again I found Hispanics with whom I could associate, practice my Spanish, and mingle with them as an equal.
June 5, 1944 Alto, Corsica. Today the 66th squadron’s ground crews were saddened
to learn that our squadron commander Major Benedict was replaced by Capt. Cortland McCoy. Benny is being sent to the 87th Fighter Wing. Things will just not seem the same without Benny because he was always involved in something exciting. I felt privileged to have been able to go out on scrounging trips with him, acquiring turkeys, cattle, and pigs, and yes, airplanes! He was the champion of the enlisted men, and we will miss him.
It is true that some of the pilots did not like him because of his flamboyant ways. Others disliked him because of his all-out attitude in waging war. They felt he was endangering their lives because he swept in on enemy targets low to the ground rather than from a relatively safer higher altitude. His methods were more effective, since his bombs and machine gun fire struck the targets on a level plane.
Sometimes however, the pilots had to fly through the exploding debris of their targets as their planes passed over them. True, planes came back from such missions with damage from such explosions, but such is the risk one takes, in order to be sure the target is destroyed. Some of the pilots actually hated him because their aim was to complete their required amount of missions and return home safely.
They resented his all out attitude in waging war, and were angry with him for complicating their plans to complete their tour of duty and return home safely! So the transferring of Benny to Wing headquarters was viewed by some with relief and by others with resentment!
My plane flew a dive-bombing mission today with Lt. Irby, and returned OK.
I spent the whole afternoon and had dinner with my Spanish Algerian friends in their ack ack pit. They fed me chicken, peas, potatoes, chocolate pudding, and coffee, and I am ashamed to admit that I had seconds! Once again, my knowledge of Spanish provided me with comforts that my fellow Americans (other than Hispanics) did not have. These people were my friends and they accepted me into their intimate circle and treated me as one of them! Were I not such a laid back person, I would be bursting with pride!
After supper I went to the day room, played ping pong, had a few drinks, and then went to the tent of my assistant, Evans. He had a friend with an accordion, and we sang songs for a while, then I went home to bed.
So ends part 61 of my wartime memoirs.