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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 41: Bombing Ourselves! Lt. Barlow Found. Freezing Butts. Making a Stove. Raining - Again!

Feb 8, 1944 Amendola, Italy. Today the 57th Group flew two missions, escorting B-25 Bombers. The day was marked by one accident which might have had disastrous results. During takeoff, a 1000 pound bomb fell from the wing of one of the 65th squadron's planes and it landed about 150 yards from our squadron's flight area.(the 66th). It hit the ground, and rolled about 5 times, but failed to go off! (Our planes were loaded with a 1,000 pound bomb under each wing, 8 50 caliber machine guns, and 6 120 millimeter rockets)

We are now receiving fresh frozen meat several times a week, so we do not have to forage for cattle and fowl, as we have had to do since landing in Sicily.

On a sad note today, we learned that the remains of Lt. Barlow's plane were found in the mountains about 70 miles from our camp, and that he went down with it.

We received a briefing also about the landing of our troops at Anzio establishing a beachhead there. The news is good, in that out of a convoy of over 50 ships, only a few were lost (one destroyer and several LSTS (landing ship-tanks).

The next few days found the weather turning nasty, with low temperatures, high winds and a lot of rain. I spent a lot of time in my tent studying Italian and Spanish, and writing letters to my family. I also wrote in Spanish to several people with whom I correspond regularly. I traded an old pair of boots to an old Italian man, for 25 eggs (I think I got the short end of the stick on this deal)! I boiled the eggs and the guys in my tent and I were eating hard boiled eggs all afternoon.

The three Italian civilians who work in our kitchen, brought me a one gallon can of cocoa, which had been left over after dinner tonight. Those fellows really treat me well, because other than the Italian-American guys in our outfit, I am the only one that can converse with them grammatically with good pronunciation. They really appreciate that I would devote so much time and effort learning their language, songs, jokes, and expressions. The result is that they treat me just like one of them, and I cannot think of any higher compliment which they might pay me.

I was supposed to go on pass, but all passes for "A" Flight were cancelled so I can't go. It seems we have too many ground crews sick from one reason or another, either in our medical tent or at the hospital. Unless Gregory comes back from the hospital, I will not be able to go on pass next week.

It has become quite cold now, and we can see snow on the nearby mountains. One thinks twice about exposing his "bottom" to the elements on one of the "open air" toilet seats that are scattered about the camp area!

The stove in our tent burned out and I had to make a new one. This is accomplished by taking an empty 5 gallon engine oil can, and cutting an opening in one end with a hammer and chisel. Then you replace the cut-out piece with safety wire so it acts as a door, and set it in the center of the tent next to the center pole. Next you take an empty can with a diameter of around 8 inches, and cut it down so it is 3 inches high, and put an inch of sand in it. This is set in the center of the stove, and a hole is made through the side of the stove alongside the cut-down tin can.

You then take a length of old hydraulic line tubing and insert one end into the tin can with sand, and run the line under the ground, to alongside one of the closest cots. There it rises up from the ground and we insert a shut-off valve, so that the cot's occupant need not get out of bed to supply fuel to the stove upon awaking in the morning. His cot is close enough to the stove that he can lean over and insert a long tube of lit paper through the flap and light the fuel that has dripped into the can. The fuel line is then run underground again and rises up outside the tent, and enters the bottom of a 55 gallon drum the drum contains the heating fuel, which is a mixture of 100 octane aviation gasoline, and used engine oil. When lit with a certain amount of fuel collecting in the can, this stove and the stove pipe exiting through a hole in top of the tent, will turn white hot!

The stove pipe extending through the hole on top of the tent must be kept from touching the tent material, or the tent will catch fire. Therefore another tin can is used in the tent top, to hold the stove pipe away from the tent canvas. The last thing the stove needs is a circular hole to be cut on top, and the cut-off piece saved. Now you can use this stove to heat the tent, and/or to cook food upon!

As a furnace, leave the plate on top. As a stove, remove the plate and set a pot above the hole. You are probably thinking 1) this is an awful lot of work or 2) Is this an efficient stove? Well, let me answer this by saying 1) without this stove we would not have any stove! And 2) you bet this is an efficient room heating device, not withstanding its crude appearance. And an added benefit is that it is "cost efficient", in that we had an unlimited supply of free aviation gasoline and used engine oil! (How can you beat that?)

Evans and Glickman go on guard duty next week, and this means that they will probably scrounge some foodstuff from the kitchen. Our tent will be able to cook our own meals when we don't like what our cooks serve, and bake our own pastries also!

Today the airfield is unserviceable due to much rain and mud. We are now on this airfield 3 months. This is the longest time I have spent anywhere since war was declared.

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