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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 48: Dive Bombing at Po. Make Do and Mend. B Party Arrives. Red Benedict Flies In. Lafayette Escadrille Lands.

March 30,1944 Alto, Corsica. Our planes flew on a dive bombing mission in the Po Valley (Northern Italy) at 2.00 PM, in which several planes were shot up. My plane returned with a malfunctioning tachometer (this instrument shows the amount of revolutions per minute (RPM’s) developed by the engine). Its information is essential to the proper and safe operation of the airplane, and it had to be replaced. Our supply department did not have one in stock unfortunately, and located one in a wrecked plane in our graveyard. I removed it, installed it on my plane (#73), and then ran the engine all the way up to full throttle to test it. It seemed to function correctly, so I went to our operations tent and had the plane returned to operational status.

Now you may think that this is a strange way to fight a war, and you may be right. However, when you are at war and in the field far from your base of supplies, a different set of rules will apply in the U.S .Army Air Corps. Those rules are not to be found in our operational manual, because our manual only deals with prescribed methods of aircraft maintenance. Instead, you follow an unwritten code which requires you to do whatever it takes to keep your aircraft flying!

This evening my Spanish friends in the French ack-ack crew came to visit me. I had my Mexican-American friend Ceferino Vigil, come over, and we had a great time chatting with them in Spanish. Our B-25 came in this afternoon with some more mechanics from our 'B' party, and that will be a big help as we are presently understaffed. 'B' party is due to arrive here next week. Very little else going on today.

March 31, 1944. My plane flew today on a 12 plane training mission, and returned OK. Capt. Benedict flew in today from our old airfield in Italy, in plane #86. We are told that our squadron (the 66th) was the only one in the group that flew today.

It is interesting to note that we cannot get the Corsicans to wash our clothes, for love or money! This may be because they are too well off and don’t need additional income, or because their belligerent nature precludes performing menial tasks for us. Napoleon Bonaparte for example was born in the port city of Ejaccio. Corsicans are fiercely independent, and can be quite mean.

In a future part I will tell how a Corsican shot at us with a Lupara (shotgun) as we were driving away from his farm, with about 20 of his turkeys on board! Remember now, we were about 10 Pilots and ground crews, and all of us armed, some with Thompson machine guns! It is an accepted fact that the Corsican Mafia is considered to be more ruthless than the Italian Mafia!

The French Lafayette Escadrille (Squadron) has now joined us on this airfield and we will operate together. They are the squadron whose heroic deeds during the First World War earned for them the accolades of all the Allies, and much notoriety in the U.S. Press!

April 1st, 1944 We had only one dive-bombing mission over Northern Italy today, but my plane did not participate. We dive-bombed a railroad bridge and put it out of commission with one direct hit. My plane did not participate because it was grounded for lack of a replacement air filter. You see, the sand or dirt is sucked into the intake scoop and winds up in the carburetor and the engine. The results are catastrophic, because the engine dies, and the airplane stops flying.

I hope Supply can obtain a replacement filter soon.

I visited my Spanish friends in the French ack-ack crew this afternoon, and one of them called me 'caporosso' (in Italian it means ‘redhead’) and showed me a place where I can get my laundry done by two girls called Felice and Maria.I said I’d be back with my laundry. He came to my tent tonight and spent 3 hours chatting and singing Spanish songs with me and my friend Ceferino.

I brewed coffee for all of us, and they told me of their life and experiences. It was a real enjoyable evening, and another chance to practice my Spanish

So ends part 48 of my wartime memoirs

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