Chapter 69: Bombing Along Arno. Knock Out Blows To Bergamo. Don The Barber Arrives. Offensive in Southern France
Aug 8, 1944 Alto, Corsica. After lunch today I pulled my plane out of Engineering and returned it to my revetment. When I ran it up however rocker arm housing was leaking oil, so I replaced that cover, finishing at 4.30 PM.
The next day Lts. Yoder, Wise, Bailey and Kaiser went home on rotation. The rumors are that we will move to Arezzo in Italy soon. We hope so because after 6 months here we are fed up with the place! It rained all afternoon. The following day the rain continued but we flew three missions anyway.
My plane flew the first, and came back throwing oil once more. I filed down a rocker arm cover so it would fit properly.
Our missions today were against coastal guns in South France. The bomb line now runs along the Arno River from Pisa to Florence, and then it continues for a few miles above Perugia, and from there to above Ancona. (The Bomb Line is that area where we operate.) Our P-47s attack lines of communication as well as tunnels, bridges, railroad trains and yards, motor transport and any concentration of enemy troops or equipment. We are told that the American 5th and British 8th Armies are stopped at the Gothic Line.
Aug 9, 1944 My assistant 'Google' and I fixed the oil leak. Today our fighter group was dive bombing and strafing the German's most important air installation in Northern Italy at Bergamo-Seriate, knocking out their ack ack guns guarding the airfield. As a direct result, the B-26 medium bombers were able to bomb that airfield without the loss of a single plane.
On Aug 11th due to an all night rain our tent almost came down. We had to replace the tie down stakes all night.
The following day our planes flew on three missions, dive bombing coastal guns in Northern Italy. The men who are to join the B-29 Group are now scheduled to leave Aug 13th, and Tillson and Reno have been added to the list.
There was one more flight in the afternoon, and we received three new replacements from the Rotation plan. One of them was named Don, and I took him to the Day Room where we both proceeded to get potted on gin and beer. I played ping pong until I could no longer see the ball! Then I took him home at 12 PM.
Aug 13, 1944: Brady, Tillson, M.G. Clark and the others all left for the States this morning. My new friend Don is a barber and we are going to try to get him moved to our tent. He gave me a haircut. There is now a new system of operation, in which everyone goes to work every day, which has caused all the enlisted men to become quite unhappy.
We are told that the American Army is now just outside of Paris. On our front, Florence and Pisa are now in Allied hands.
Aug 14th. Alto, Corsica. There was a department head meeting this morning. 'A' Party is supposed to disembark for France the 16th of this month. Tomorrow, General Cannon is expected to present us with our third Presidential Citation. We were quite upset to hear that the AMG (American Military Government) is trying to take away our Italian K.P.’s (Kitchen workers).
Our Intelligence Officer said that the Americans are starting a new offensive in Southern France tomorrow, and we are expected to mount 7 missions tomorrow in all out support of that operation.
Aug 15,1944. Alto, Corsica. We were awakened at 3.30 this morning, we pre-flighted our planes and the first flight took off before dawn, at 4.30 AM. By 7.30 AM our squadron (the 66th) had 5 flights in the air, dive bombing gun positions and patrolling the beachhead. We flew 9 missions before lunchtime.
The shelling on Southern France began at 5 AM and the first troops hit the beaches at 8AM between Marseilles and Toulon. My plane flew at 7 AM with a 1000 Lb. bomb under each wing. We carried 1000 lb. bombs all day, working in two shifts. We suffered three bombing accidents during the day, in which one 64th Squadron pilot was killed.
Everyone had to work on the line today, no exceptions! All day long flights of planes passed overhead on the way to the beachhead. They were of every description, fighters, medium bombers, and heavy bombers, and the droning of their engines filled the air until nightfall. Our 'A' Party is supposed to move out before the Ist of September, and all departments are making crates to carry their equipment. Spirits are high! The radio says the invasion is going according to schedule. The troops are certainly getting plenty of air support. I am in 'B' Party, the last to leave.
So ends part 69 of my wartime memoirs as the invasion of Southern France begins.