Chapter 93: Eye Trouble. Bombing the Brenner Pass. Getting Set for Capri!
Nov 29, 1944 Grosetto, Italy
Yesterday my lane flew on two flights, strafing German trucks and cars on the road. There might be some kind of flood in the area because the water level was high when we arrived at the airfield this morning. When we returned to camp, it had reached the level of the bridge. I had applied for a 7-day sick leave, but was told that the doctor at the group hospital had to approve of it in writing.
So this morning I stopped off at the hospital and got the Doc to give me a statement on my condition so I could get the sick leave and then I went back to work. My plane flew at 10.00 AM and returned at 12.30 with no problems! Then it flew again at 1.00 PM, so I hung around Operations talking in Italian with the fellow that works in the officers lounge until it returned at 4.30 PM. Once again there were no problems on this the 36th consecutive mission. This new plane is really a Crew Chief’s dream because other than servicing it with gas and oil, the only other maintenance required was replacing some hydraulic fluid!
Operations were over at 5.30 and we returned to camp. Late in the evening, Gene Schnabel made some chicken noodle soup for the two of us. One good thing about being in the field while in the armed forces, you generally learn to do things for yourself, such as doing your own laundry, as well as slaughtering game and cooking food! I studied Italian and algebra. Our operations today were against two trains and motor transport in the Po Valley.
Nov 30, 1944: We launched one 8 plane flight at 6.30 AM, and then another. My plane came back with and oil and a gas leak. Ceferino Vigil (my Mexican-American) buddy came by and helped me. We worked right up to lunch time in a drizzle. In the afternoon when the leaks were fixed, I ran the ship up to make sure everything was OK.
During dinner today, for the first time ever, we had music playing over a loudspeaker system! I still have to see the doctor about that sick leave. It was drizzling most of the time today, making for uncomfortable weather in which to work. Our targets today were two trains and a load of motor transport, much the same as yesterday’s operations. I played blackjack from 9 PM to 22.30 AM and came out winning $250.00.
Dec 1, 1944 I went on sick call this morning and saw the group surgeon Doc Orbach. He tested my eyes for glasses, and I showed him the medical condition statement I received several days ago. After a little persuasion, he fixed me up with a 14 day 'sick leave to the Island of Capri' - effective immediately! I then gave it to Lt. Sexauer and he signed it.
After lunch, my plane flew twice. When it returned from the second flight the left magneto was cutting out and had to be replaced in the morning. Aafter dinner I played blackjack in the 'A' Flight building here, from 9.00 to 12.00 PM. I had a run of good luck, winning $190.00 which broke the game up!
We flew 38 sorties today and were feeling pretty good about it, until Major Leaf said he wants 48 sorties a day. We can’t do that many sorties a day because our engineering dept has to travel too far to get gasoline. Today our planes blew up two trains, and lots of truck on the road. They strafed three different rail marshalling yards up near the Brenner Pass.
Dec 2, 1944 I went to work changing the left magneto on my plane the first thing this morning. With Steve Zuzze helping me, we were done by 12 Noon. The Group inspectors came around to inspect the plane and were satisfied with the repairs we had made.
My plane flew at 2.00 PM piloted by Lt. McDonnell. While it was up I studied Italian and slept for a while. When it returned the right wing was damaged. The group inspectors came around and said that I had to take it over to the service group in the morning. After returning to camp at 5 PM I made a $40.00 bet on Navy for the Army-Navy game this evening. I dropped a few dollars at a Craps game, and quit.
I packed up my clothes in case I should be called for the Capri trip. We flew 36 sorties today; dive bombing strafing and firing rockets at targets on the Brenner Pass. We hit several trains and a load of trucks during these raids. Searles, Schnabel and White all went to the dace tonight at Castiglione.
Dec 3,1944 Louis (the mole) Lederman woke me up at 7 AM and kept pestering me unti I got out of bed. After breakfast I taxied my plane over to the service squadron’s area. On the way over there the left magneto went dead. I couldn’t do much about that because it was already 11.00 AM, so I drew spark plugs from supply and brought my tool box over to the plane.
I started a spark plug change, and then it was time to quit. One of the technical crew removed the damaged propeller cuff, welded the break and re-installed it. After dinner Eddie Doyle told me that I leave for the isle of Capri in the morning, and gave me my travel orders.
Our B-25 takes off at 9.00 AM and I am to be on it! I washed up, put on clean clothes and packed my bag. The squadron is scheduled to move into the town of Grosetto while I am gone so I will have to pack up all my belongings tomorrow morning before I board the plane. At 10.30 PM I went to the day room for coffee and sandwiches and hit the hay. We flew only 12 sorties today because the weather over the Brenner Pass was pretty bad.