Chapter 40: Learning the P-47. Stealing Hogs and a Cow. No More Doubled Decking. Incendiary Bombing
Jan 28, 1944: Amendola, Italy. When doing the preflight (run up) of my new plane this morning, the right brake was bad, so I got Reno and Nichols to help me, and we bled it. It’s OK now. Nobody knows anything about these new planes ( P-47 re15s), and we have no Tech Orders, which are the makers guide to maintenance.
The 79th and 338th groups are being sent to India we are told, and 3 of our pilots are going with them (Lt’s Chapman, Kris, and Abbot).
The canteen was here today, and I bought 7 pkgs of cigarettes, candy, and a cigar.
We are to be transferred to the Strategic Air Force soon and our APO is changed to 560. The Heavy bombers went out on a 6 hour mission today, and our planes did not fly.
The next day I worked all day on my new plane. Glenn Eipper, our artist, painted my number (73) on it. I got some white paint from him and painted Lt. Williams name on it.
Lt. Turner flew it today on a test hop and it was OK. The oil cooler still leaks and I will probably have to change it soon.
The heavy bombers went out on a 100 plane mission today, for 6 hours. Our APO number was changed today to 650.
Some of our officers went out last night, and stole 39 small hogs and a cow. We will have fresh meat for a while now! The cooks needed a 50 gallon can of slops and a case of cabbage with which to feed those hogs, and I was tapped to go along to town with them as interpreter.
On Feb Ist , Lt. McCoy said he would take me up in my ship this afternoon, but when he went to Operations for permission they said there would be no more flying today because the field was being repaired. He said he would take me up tomorrow. The P-47 is a single-seat Fighter Plane, so one of us would have to across the knee of the other in the bucket seat. There would be no room for the seat-parachute of the pilot, so it would have to be left behind!
My eyes are bothering me again, squinting a lot. All our trucks but 4 were taken away, and our gas masks were collected and stored in the Supply Tent.
The next day, Spracks and I went to Foggia to spend the day, and we saw a couple of WACS (Female Soldiers), for the first time. Tonight Schoenfield, White, Brady, Tilson and Evans drove up to San Marcos in Lamis (on top of Mount Fogia). They ate and drank themselves into a state of semi unconsciousness at Angelo’s restaurant. They now have two Volkswagons, which makes it easy for them to get around in their leisure time.
Feb 3rd: Was remarkable in that our new airplanes finally flew on a mission. They were bomber escorts for B-25s, on an uneventful mission north of Rome. I worked all morning on the 'bubble' canopy of my plane, because it was loose. I won’t get that ride with Lt. McCoy, because the pilots held a meeting and decided there would be no double-decking (piggy-back) for a while.
My eyes are still bothering me so I didn’t go to Manfredonia with the boys to see a movie. All the crew chiefs are busy now making necessary modifications to the new planes to make them serviceable.
During February our living conditions improved somewhat due to several factors. Our food was better with fresh meat often, and our mess hall was a Nissen hut instead of a large tent.
Flight Officer Fox who was shot down last October is in a prisoner of war camp in Austria, and has recovered from his wounds. Lt. Weber returned to us via the Yugoslavia underground after having been downed there on Jan 21st. He claimed he gained weight having been fed a lot of heavy meat meals.
Doc Aldes is leaving today, he is going to India with the 33rd Fighter Group.
The weather has been miserable, cold with gale winds; sometimes our tents are blown down! The men are like robots, working every day as are approaching our second anniversary of overseas combat. Tilson and Evans went on pass today.
Sgts Beck and Price are no longer working on our B-25, because they could not get flying pay. Flying pay is earned by personnel who are required to fly, and it consists of
an additional 50 percent of your base pay per month.
The Flying Forts went out on a 5-hour mission today. Lt Benedict our Squadron Commander told us that our operations would be curtailed somewhat during the next 10 days. This generally means that we are being saved for something special- or it could be that our supplies are running low.
We now have a new Doc by the name of Wallach.
Pryzblek and I had put in for a 7 day pass to begin the 10th of this month, but we were told that we can’t go until one of those guys come back because we were already short-handed when they went to the hospital. We are now told that our group has more VD than the Negro Quartermaster Corps in this area! This is obviously the result of long-term overseas combat, which causes a feeling of remoteness in the troops. One feels detached from the constraints of normal life, which results in a loss of normal moral inhibitions. In our case we feel justified in appropriating and using anything that could make our life more bearable. (The British called that scrounging and we learned our lessons well from them)!
The next day, Lt’s Benedict and Bell practiced dropping incendiary bombs, which are actually 52 small bombs in one large outer casing.
So ends part 40 of my wartime memoirs