Bob and and Bar Wilson have sent me a scan of the patch on his A2 jacket. It looks to me like this is the real patch for the 523rd Squadron. I would appreciate any input on this.

      I have found a picture among the combat pictures of George Hebbel that shows a pilot with the "Wilson" patch on his A2 jacket. The pilot is unknown to me and I would appreciate an identification if anyone recognizes him. I will accept that for the time being.
      I still would appreciate any information any of the people from the 523rd can give me.

      Lowell Smith of the 27th Headquarters sent me the following. "The picture of the patch Bob Wilson sent you was the official 523rd patch. It was made there in Italy. The squadron had a contest when we were in Gaudo, and that was the winner. The paper work was sent to higher Hdqs. For some reason it never made it back to Washington.
      About the pictures of Col Nevitt and Gen Seville, that was taken at Loyettes France around late September as it got very wet and cold, muddy as all get out, look at their shoes & boots, I am in the process of locating one of the pins we had made around 1980."
      For this last comment, see:

March 1944

      In WWII combat fatigue was not a recognized psychological problem but it was a known phenomenon. It was combatted by sending people occasionally to "Rest Camp".
      Various hotels or resorts were kind of taken over and people were given permisson to use them for a period of tme. I was sent twice for a week to the Hotel Morgano (now closed) on the Isle of Capri. The Hotel Quisisana was also used and is still open and opulent! Once I got a one day pass to the Hotel Excelsior, the "infantry" hotel in Rome.

Capri        28 February - 7 March

This picture and the one of the Blue Grotto were on postcards collected by another pilot in my group, Lt. Robert J. Workman, scans of which were went to me by his son, Sott Workman. Thank you Scott.

      It's amazing how little I remember about Capri. But then I seldom left the hotel. I didn't visit the Blue Grotto or Tiberius's Castle. I vaguely remember the square and the orange groves on the hill going up to the square from the boat. I have a vague memory that there was a funicular railway. I remember the not too pleasant ride over and back from Naples in a little "tug boat".

      My wife and I had a chance to re-visit Capri, and there is indeed a funicular railway. But the trip over to Sorrento and back is now done by hovercraft, a fast and comfortable airboat!

      We did not get a chance to see the Blue Grotto because the weather was too rough. I would really like to have seen it since I missed it the first time too.

      I remember having my picture done in pastels by an artist who spoke no English, as I spoke no Italian. We got along in very primitive French. He told me that he had a famous studio in Rome before the war. He preferred working in oils but couldn't get them at that time.
      He also said that one of clients had been Mussolini's doctor and that this doctor had told him that Mussolini had syphilis and that it hit his brain about 1935. That made sense to me because that's about the time he started doing odd things like invading Ethiopia.
      Actually, Mussolini did many great things for Italy in the 20's. He built primitive farm houses, drained the Pontine marshes and built farm implement factories. They came as close to being self sufficient as they ever have been.
      When we docked on the way back we were met by the next wave. One of them pointed to my 2nd Lieutenant bars and said, "Well, those aren't any good anymore." Being naturally pessimistic about the military, I thought, Good grief, they've just demoted all 2nd Lieutenants to Flight Officers for the duration. Then he smiled and said, "You're a 1st Lieutenant now!" And so, it was back to Pomigliano and back to work!

Vesuvius      18 March 1944

      About the 20th of March we observed a rather rare event, Vesuvius exploded. One could always see a red glow at night around the peak. And one night some German bombers came over and bombed the harbor at Naples. It was a non-extinguishable beacon, making such a mission easy. Around mid-March, the red glow quit and everybody on the side of the mountain started celebrating, "Vesuvio e morte!" Over and over. Apparently the mountain got mad and sent a huge column of smoke up to about 15,000 feet where it bent over and went out to sea, right over Pompeii and Herculaneum. Apparently much the same as it had in 79 AD. A B-25 group on that side of the mountain escaped with their lives and little else. They lost all their planes.
      We would sit out on the roof of the apartment we lived in and watch it. It had its own weather. The rest of sky could be clear but there would be a ring of cumulus clouds around the smoke column with lightning. A group got together with Glen Maltby and they flew the B-25 over to get a good look. They went through a pretty little cumulus cloud and just made it back the base. The cloud was full of rocks and the plane was quite battered.
      A bit later, several of us drove up to the end of one of the lava flows. It was butted up against a small town, pushing it off the mountain very slowly, but inexorably.
      It was a bed of black coals, probably a hundred feet across at least and about twenty feet high. As it moved a large black boulder would roll down the side of the pile leaving a vivid red streak of hot coals behind, which rapidly blackened. It was so hot we couldn't get closer than about thirty feet.
      It was butted up against a house and the people that lived there were casually, resignedly going in and out, removing what they could. The wood frame of the door was on fire, but flickeringly small. I never felt so powerless in my life. It was awesome. And we were probably two miles from the crater!

      Sometime around this time they sent the B-25 to Malta to get a load of "good" whiskey. The Officers were allowed to order and I think I ordered two bottles of Scotch. When it came, I didn't get very much of it. I took it down to the crew chiefs and I remember them as making short work of it.

      It takes about 120 airplanes to keep a group going and we couldn't get any replacements. Only 500 were made in the beginning. There was a training group in Baton Rouge LA, a group in Burma and two groups in Italy. We were losing planes for one reason or another and we and our sister group, the 86th were down to around 60 planes each. It was getting increasingly difficult to operate. So someone came up with a great idea. The two group commanders would flip a coin and the winner would get all the airplanes. We lost.
      Having flown P-40's in the States, I was one of the pilots that were taken to various dumps around Italy picking up war-weary P-40's and bringing them back home!
      I remember being stupid on the way back on one trip and I looped the P-40 from 700 feet. It was not a good loop however because, being fundamentally a chicken pilot, I came out of the loop at 1200 feet!
      A further complication was that the A-36 had an Allison engine with American style nuts and bolts. These P-40F's had Rolls Royce Merlin engines which were metric. And our crewchiefs had no metric tools. I never asked how they did it but they must have kept these planes in the air with crescent wrenches! I understand that sick call every morning had a number of crew chiefs with infected hands when the wrench slipped and they would bang their hand on the engine and cut it.
      But they kept us alive, somehow!
      My P-40 had a scorpion painted on it, left over we believe from one of the squadrons of the 33rd Fighter Group. We didn't paint any of our planes because they were temporary. (I just found out that this P-40 was part of the 64th Squadron of the 57th Fighter Group.) An exception of course was mine with the name Patty B II painted on it. She was the girl I was stuck on in high school, and I believe was the only one that wrote me a couple letters while I was overseas. It was our way of hanging on to things back home.
      I think you can get some idea of the condition of the planes. We even had a directive from group operations that if any mission reached the bombline with less than four aircraft, we were to abort and return. Our crew chiefs worked wonders and we were all very grateful for the extraordinary and beyond the call work that kept us alive.

      I've said it before but I'll say it again. Thank you to all of you unsung heroes and particularly to mine, Tiny Hunter.

      My P-40 was peculiar. It behaved in a most unaerodynamic manner.
      To explain, you must realize that when an airplane is in the air, out of contact with the ground it must observe the laws of aerodynamics. One of them is a great demonstration of one of Newton's Laws. The huge propellor rotates clockwise as viewed from the cockpit. But there has to be a reaction to this, so the airplane would tend to rotate to the left. This is called torque. So changes were made to counteract this. The trailing edge of the left wing was washed in (The trailing edge was bent down somewhat to increase lift.) But this increased the drag on the left wing and made the plane turn to the left. To counteract this, the vertical fin, the non-movable part of the rudder, was offset slightly to counteract this tendency to turn.
      Of course these corrections could be made for only one speed, and this had to be the normal cruising speed.
      This meant that when one is taking off the corrections were not enough and it would tend to roll to the left.
      But we used these planes for dive bombing so we spent time at considerably more than cruising speed and then the corrections would overcorrect and the plane would roll to the right.
      We had trim tabs on all movable surfaces so that we could make the subtle adjustments needed. Then we could dive with a little better control. But since the speed was constantly varying, we had to do most of the work with our legs on the rudder pedals giving rise to rather overdeveloped leg muscles which we called P-40 legs!
      I said, in a dive, the plane would tend to roll to the right. Mine rolled to the left. This makes no aerodynamic sense and people that understand aerodynamics probably won't believe me. They will probably think I don't know the difference between a tab on a fixed surface and a tab on a movable surface. I want to assure them that I do know the difference and this plane was backwards!
      Before going into a dive in a P-40, one adjusts the electric trim tab for that dive. Normally you would want to counteract a roll to the right. This means you want to raise the left aileron to decrease lift on the left wing. To do this you need to lower the trim tab on the left aileron. But in mine you had to do the opposite. And if you didn't you were in trouble.
      My P-40 lacked zip and I used extra gas to keep up with everybody else. This did worry me a little. So I talked to our engineering officer, Joe Glover, and he agreed that what I wanted to do was possible.
      I wanted to remove the sheet metal wing tips and replace them with square, P-51-like wooden wingtips. We got permisson from Maj. Kelly, the squadron commander, and set about doing it. We took the regular wingtips off and then Major Kelly drove up and told us to replace them. Again, they couldn't figure out how to explain it if something went wrong!

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