Chapter 91: My Plane's Super Reliability. Drinking With Pettis. Decisions on Home Leave. Lost Carbine. Pilot Killed in Mountain Crash
Grosetto,Italy Nov 17,1944 We awoke to a very cold morning, went to work at 7.00 AM, and flew three training missions before 12.00 noon. My plane flew once, and then I pulled a progressive 50 hour inspection on it. I greased the landing gear and cleaned the oil sumps.
Lunch was brought to us at the airfield and in the afternoon we flew two bomber escort missions. My plane flew on one of them and after servicing it up I did some more work on the inspection. They won’t let me pull it out of service for the inspection because we are short of airplanes right now. We lost plane number 79 this afternoon on a take-off accident, but the pilot is O.K.
After dark (at 5.45 PM) we returned to our camp area. We had a ration of candy and cigarettes to replace the one we lost in the flood. I took a helmet bath, played blackjack for a few hours coming out a little ahead. We heard that Ist Sgt/. Pettis is going home on a 30 day leave of absence. Since the outbreak of war there have been no furloughs. I still have the remnants of that cold, which shows no signs of leaving me.
Grosetto, Italy. Nov 18, 1944 We went to the flying at 7.00 AM this morning and flew four missions before lunch time on which Lt. Mayberry flew twice. My plane flew on one of them and it returned O.K. It has now made 22 consecutive missions without any problems. It is a “dream” airplane and all I have to do is service it and pull regular inspections.
Once again lunch was brought out to us from our camp. After lunch I drained and changed the oil, as well as cleaning the air strainer. We returned to camp at 4.30 PM, where I washed up, wrote a letter to my brother Murray and studied some Italian.
First Sgtr. Pettis and a few of the guys came over carrying gin, beer, cognac and rum and we all enjoyed copious libations. We assumed this was a going-away celebration in honor of Pettis who is expected to go home shortly. After a while they staggered off in a somewhat tipsy condition, carrying their booze with them. Stanley
Czuszicky finally received his transfer to an Air Transport outfit. It is cold as hell outside, and it and all the signs point to a really severe winter!
Nov 19, 1944 we got up at 5 AM for a 6.30 AM take-off. The usually long ride out to the airport in a two and half ton truck before sun-up was no pleasure trip. The cold wind whistling through the canvas covered truck made for a miserable ride. We flew four missions in the morning on which my plane flew once. I spent the rest of the morning continuing the
50 hour inspection which seems to take forever due to the frequent interruptions.
Lunch was brought out to us from camp once more. In the afternoon we flew three more
missions on which my plane flew twice. I placed it on a red diagonal status because the wheel bearings have not yet been re-packed with grease. In the Army Air Corps, each airplane has a log book which follows it around everywhere it goes. Before a pilot can sign out for a flight with a plane, Operations must determine if it is flyable and the log book will indicate that status.
As the sun was setting we headed back to camp where I washed up and just sat around chatting with Bengal. He thinks he has pneumonia! Our toilet bowl is overflowing regularly and flooding the whole area. We will call Utilities tomorrow to come fix it.
Nov 20, 1944 our whole flight was awakened at 7 AM only to find that the cooks were slow in preparing breakfast. Utilities is putting up a pre-fabricated mess hall which is upsetting the mess operations. We left for the flying line at 8 AM where I marked my ship out-of-service at Operations. I jacked it up and repacked the wheel bearings.
And then spent some time chatting in Spanish with some Mexican-Americans I met in the engineers area. Lunch was brought out to us again and afterwards I changed the tail wheel because of a stone-hole. Lt. Mayberry came over afterwards and we chatted for two ours. There are no missions scheduled for today, so we have a stand-down condition.
I returned to camp on the back of Gene Schnabel’s motorcycle. Our officers are deciding whether to send men home on 30 days leave, or on rotation. If it is to be leave, 10 men will go every month. Everyone seems to think that is best. Bengal is in the hospital with pneumonia. Herb Katz came over to visit with Schnabel, and he was crying because Major Mallet kept him from being promoted to Sergeant. Schnabel and I had a snack of aalami, melba toast, deviled ham and coffee. We played some blackjack before hitting the sack.
Nov 21, 1944 we awoke at 7 AM to a very cold morning. After breakfast we left one man to clean up the house and we went to the flying line. I just discovered that I have lost my carbine during the flood. My plane flew once in the morning. We lost one plane with a new pilot, when it caught fire and flew into a mountain.
Lunch was brought out to us again from camp, to avoid interrupting our operations. My ship flew once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Both pilots said it ran fine, which raised the consecutive OK flights to 28! One plane, Number 70 had the whole tail section chewed off by plane no. 91’s propeller, damaging the prop severely.
We headed back to camp at 4.30 and arrived as night was falling. I ran into an Italian man who spoke Spanish. His home is on the Swiss border. Our new mess hall is almost completed. Ray and I both have the day off tomorrow, and are going to spend the day in the hills in his Fiat automobile. After supper we received applications for either a 30 day leave of absence in the United States, or for rotation, whichever you preferred.
So ends part 91 of my wartime memoirs.
P.S. Sometime after 2000 I received word from Dave Hutton who writes the newsletter for the 66th squadron, that Al Schoenfield has passed away. He was the man who was with me that night at the Mareth Line in Tunisia when we were lost on guard!