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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 30: Booby Traps. Malaria. Jewish Brigade. Losing 6 Planes. Some Chicken Some Neck

Oct 9, 1943 (Foggia, Airfield #1) I am to go to Bari for a 3-day pass in 3 days. British Intelligence tells us that the German counter-attack was beaten off last night. I worked today, putting new coolers on my plane (#73). Today I saw a German anti-personnel bomb that had been left behind by them. It contained 150 small armor piercing bombs.

My friend, Al Schoenfield has had malaria for the 2nd time and he is really sick. He has recently returned from Sicily where he was being treated, and was therefore left behind when we went to Italy.

Oct 10th. Al Schoenfield went to the hospital again this morning, with a recurrence of Malaria. He had been alternately shivering and sweating even under a load of blankets, with high fever, losing control of his bowels, and throwing up. ( These are typical symptoms of Malaria). However we have had men that came down with Maltese Fever, with similar symptoms caused by eating cheese made with tainted goat’s milk.(See Al Schoenfield’s book 'The Saga of the Exterminators Squadron' page 191 (Oct 10th) where he tells of having terrific chills and fever and was evacuated to a British 8th Army Hospital.

In line with the above, Lt. Bowen went down behind enemy lines yesterday , flying Al’s ship. Lt. Bowen walked back after being downed, and he will be sent home.

I went on sick call today with a pain in my mouth. Our doctor drove me over to Group Headquarters to let their dentist check my mouth. He said it was an abrasion from eating British Hard Tack (biscuits)! Our Doctor went to Barletta this afternoon, and I sneaked off with him and got parts for my bicycle.

Oct 12th: I went on 3-day pass to Bari, with Lou Lederman. It took us four hours of hitch-hiking to get there. While there, I bought kitchen curtains for my mother,and found a small hotel for the night. The next day I found my three Italian airforce buddies and we spent the afternoon together in the usual manner (drinking and carousing). The following day we sat around in an outdoor cafe, drinking vermouth and spumante (Italian champagne).

The British have taken over all the French Champagne and beer and have given it to the NAAFI (their canteen service), so we will not see any of it. We met two Hebrew Airborne troops who were in the British 8th army and we all got a little “potted” They told us they were in the “Jewish Brigade” of the British Army. When we asked why they did that, they said they were a cadre of the Israeli underground army, learning the art of war, and they hoped to become the nucleus of a future Israeli Army. Israel had been a British Protectorate since the end of the First World War, as provided for by the “League of Nations”. I was able to communicate with them using the dialectal German from my childhood, and was surprised to find that they all spoke English also.

I arranged for my buddy Lou to have proper food, since he did not speak a word of Italian.

Oct 15th: We got back on the road, hitch-hiking back to camp. We got a ride from the 46th Medium Bomb Group, and were strafed while on the road just outside of Bari! When we got back to camp we found out the following:

We had lost 6 planes and 4 pilots in 2 days! Lt. Goodman was blown up in mid-air, Lt. Fox went on fire in my ship, and had to bail out. His chute did not open and he died also. Lt. Bower belly-landed behind the German lines. Lt. Burgess and Lt. Hensen crashed in mid-air, while in a cloud formation! This was the worst 3 day period we had ever experienced since starting operations at Beit Aras, Palestine in August 1942.

Oct 16th: Carl Volter (Our “A” Flight chief sent me and 'Bingle' on the Gas run. We went to Ciriniola for a few hours en route, then returned with 3-tons of aviation gasoline on a 2-1/2 ton truck. A German bomber was over last night, but didn’t do much. He did come back the next night and bombed the next airdrome, passing over us at around 100 feet on his bomb run.

Lt. Hensen came back, after having made a forced-landing at a 9th Air Force airfield. He had damaged his propeller, so the 9th Air Force ground crew changed propellers and he was able to fly it back here O.K! I found out that the German bomber attack of the previous night did some damage to an A-20 (light bomber) outfit next door. (The British call the A-20 Mitchells).

Oct 18th: Percy Green went out looking to get some chickens this morning... I had to work on 'Indian' White’s plane, #74, and he and I fixed several oil leaks behind the engine. (He was in fact an Arrowhead Indian, and a friend of my friend Ceferino Vigil, and me.)

Green came back with 6 scrawny chickens, and we took off the feathers, singed, and boiled them in a 5-gallon pot. Tomorrow we will fry them and eat them for lunch. Meanwhile, however, one of the two Texans in my tent showed me how you kill live chickens. He picked one up by the head and snapped his wrist expecting the chicken to separate itself from the head, leaving the head in his hand. Well, these were “scrawny” chickens, after a while he gave up “snapping”. He then pulled out a bowie knife and chopped off the chicken’s head! He was heard muttering “Man, these chickens are so tough, we won’t be able to stick a fork in their gravy”!

On that note, I will end part 30 of My Wartime Memoirs

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