Chapter 62: D-Day At Last! Two Years In Combat. Two Pilots Crash. 5th Army Loses Contact With Enemy. Stomach Pains
June 6th, 1944. My plane flew the 5.45AM early mission, which required the ground crews to be up at 4.30 AM. Our targets were communication lines north of Rome, motor transport, railroad tunnels, and bridges. Their purpose is to slow the Germans retreat. My plane came back with a bad oil leak and the right brake inoperative. I fixed the oil leak, added hydraulic fluid to the brake cylinder and it tested out ok.
At 8.00 AM we heard radio reports that the Allies have made the long-awaited landing in France. We are all elated by the news, as you can imagine, because the sooner the war is over, the sooner we can be sent home. It is one month short of two years since we got on a ship and headed for the Suez Canal and the great unknown! When we take out a moment and think of where we have been, what we have seen and done, what we have learned, and what effect it has had upon us, we realize that our lives have been changed forever!
My plane flew another mission at 4.30 PM, with Lt. Bettinger as pilot. They dive bombed a train north of Rome, and hit it!
To the sorrow of the ground crews, Major Benedict has been transferred to the 87th Fighter Wing, and Lt. Mc Coy is now Squadron Commander of the 66th.
There was an air raid at our field tonight, with little damage. The Ack-ack barrage that lit up the night however was picturesque.
June 7th, 1944: I did a pre-flight inspection on my plane, and then sat around with my Algerian Ack-ack crew chatting in Spanish On our first mission two of our pilots were shot down from anti-aircraft fire. Lt. Charles W Turner bailed out of his plane and his chute was seen to open. He landed near Lake Bolsena. Lt. George F Deckert said he had engine trouble and was seen landing his plane in a field east of the town of Pereta.
On the second flight of the day (at 7.00 PM ) we shot up any moving motor transport. I met some of our new Puerto Rican guards, and made friends with them. My Chicano friend Ceferino Vigil told them that we would come over to their tent after dinner to chat and sing songs with them.
Today our targets were road blocks caused by our having destroyed bridges, which provided our pilots with many targets of opportunity. Our planes dive bombed and strafed these congested areas until they actually ran out of ordinance. There was a canteen today, of cigarettes, candy, etc. Looking back on the last two days, I couldn’t help think that it was filled with many interesting events!
June 8th, 1944: I awoke this morning with a heck of a stomach ache. I told the line chief (Moulton) that I wasn’t going to be able to work today. I went on sick call and the doctor gave me a dose of castor oil. I went back to bed and at noon time I still had stomach pains.
The news is that the 5th Army is now quite a way past Rome and they have lost all contact with the enemy! The radio reports that the invasion in France is proceeding according to plan. My assistant did a 25 hour inspection on my plane today. If I am well I will return to work tomorrow.
June 9th, 1944: I am still sick this morning, couldn’t even eat breakfast. I went on sick call again, and the Doctor gave me some chalky looking stuff, and said it would put a lining on my stomach. At night I played some ping pong at the enlisted men’s day room, and when I went to bed I still had stomach pains.
June 10, 1944 Alto, Corsica. When I went down to the flying line this morning, I found that my plane had a flat right tire, and I changed it. Then I spoke with my Algerian Spanish friends for a while. With a mission scheduled for 7.30 AM I had some time, so I took a dip in the stream and slept for a half an hour. The planes took off at 7.30 and bombed and strafed ask ack guns that were on the move. The Germans are pulling out, and our troops are 60 miles north of Rome and still going. We hear that the Russians have started another offensive. I still have stomach pains as I head for my bed.
June 11,1944 Alto, Corsica. Not much doing today. When I got to the flying line I found all the hydraulic fluid from the left brake was on the ground. I pulled the wheel, made some repairs, bled it, and when I taxied it, it was O.K.
Then I spent some time with my Algerian friends chatting in Spanish. It rained cats and dogs for two hours this afternoon! The afternoon mission was cancelled because of bad weather, so I headed for my tent, soaked to the skin. I will probably take tomorrow off, because of the way I feel.
So ends part 62 of My Wartime Memoirs.