Chapter 99: 3000 Missions! New Year's Eve Party of Parties. Hammering Po Valley. Mills Shoots Lowther on Guard Duty! New Exec Officer Trouble
Dec 31,1944 Grosseto, Italy Today the 66th Squadron had the honor of flying the 57th Group’s three thousandth mission ! I spent the day washing my plane with aviation gasoline. Every once in a while I had to take time out to go to the shack and warm up.
It was bitter cold out, with a half inch coat of ice on everything. In the afternoon, Ceferino Vigil and Gene Schnabel went to Castiglione to prepare our 'A' Flight’s party. Open House was held at the officers club and free drinks were served at the enlisted men’s bar, which had just been completed.
The squadron received a new executive officer today. He made a speech around 5.30 PM and immediately afterwards we started the celebration in advance with lots of gin. By the time we all piled into the Italian truck and took off for the party we were all partly potted. We were served turkey, roast lamb, fried fish and salad. Dessert was coffee and cake. We also had pies which our cooks had made especially for our party. Our guests were Sgts. Podraza, Booher, Eipper, and the photographer.
By the time Cisco Torres and I went to the dance, we were feeling no pain!
I didn’t miss a single dance, and we all had a wonderful time. We hitch hiked a ride back to camp in a jeep in the bitter cold. Upon arrival at 3:00 AM we swiped coffee, sugar and milk from the mess hall and brewed coffee .Before going to bed I noticed that I had burned a hole in my combat jacket. All things considered, we felt that our New Year’s Eve celebration was a success!
Jan 1, 1945 Grosseto, Italy. Apparently everybody got potted last night because there is a sorry-looking bunch of guys walking around this morning! Out of the whole engineering crew only three men were in condition to report for work. As a result no work was done on the engine changes because those three chaps were the drivers of our gas and oil trucks.
This morning we were again hammering at railroad targets in the Po Valley, but now we have K-25 Aerial cameras on several of the planes and claims of destruction were substantiated by developing the films a few hours after the aircraft landed! These pictures were helped the Intelligence Section considerably in determining and assessing the flight’s damage results.
We were released after lunch and at 3:30 PM we were paid. I drew $120.00; collected $50.00 owed me from friends. Major Leaf says he was told to slow up on this all-out business. Instead, he says we’ll maintain our full speed operation! This new executive officer has a lot of new ideas and he is an eager beaver. I believe he is going to create problems for us.
Last night Mills who was on guard in front of the officers building shot James Lowther in the leg. This was not surprising, given that all the guards were stewed at the time! The radio men wrecked the officers club bar the night before last so we can’t even drink at their bar and they cannot drink at ours.