Chapter 53: Dive Bombing Northern Italy. Attacked by Ju-88. Destroying 6 Me109s.
April 22, 1944: Alto, Corsica. The last couple of days were fairly quite. In two dive-bombing missions over Northern Italy near Florence, our planes shot up more railroad trains and motor transport in compliance with our specific instructions to destroy all German supplies and troops moving down from Austria to the Italian front.
Today however things are different. The weather has cleared and we had three missions over Northern Italy, dive bombing and strafing Enemy communication lines, and a railroad bridge. Major Benedict was on one of those missions and he skip-bombed a 1000 pound delayed-action bomb into the mouth of a railroad tunnel. The ensuing explosion completely wrecked the tunnel!
The whole group had a total of 9 missions today. There was a German Ju-88 medium bomber over the camp area today, probably taking pictures. All our ack-ack heavies opened up on him but were unable to hit him. There was a recommendation on our bulletin board today from General Brereton, commending us for the critical support we are providing our soldiers on the front line.
April 23, 1944; our squadron flew three missions today and destroy and three tunnels. My regular pilot, Lt. Williams went home today. We got 12 new pilots today replacing those lost in combat or rotated home. In the early hours of the morning we were awakened by the firing of heavy ack-ack guns nearby. We could see flares lighting up the sky possibly 20 miles away near the coast. The next morning we were told that a German destroyer had shelled Bastia from the sea, while a few German planes dropped flares to light up the harbor area.
There were three accidents on the airfield today, however no one was injured. Lt. McCoy of our squadron went off the runway as he was taking off. His landing gear collapsed and the gasoline-filled belly-tank and two 500 Lb. bombs broke loose. Fortunately the plane did not catch fire and the bombs did not explode! He was OK, but the plane was a total loss.
April 24, 1944: There was action today. On a 6.30 AM mission of 12 Planes, they dive-bombed a convoy of 7 small German and Italian boats. No direct hits but several near misses. In another mission was against German airfields near Florence in Northern Italy, we destroyed 6 ME-109 Fighters on the ground. There was a training mission today for some of the new pilots.
April 25, 1944. They woke us up at 4 AM this morning, I did a pre-flight inspection of my plane and I had to taxi it in the dark to the flying line. The planes took off at 6 AM . They dive-bombed and strafed two German destroyers off the coast. No hits, but several near misses. There was another mission at 2 PM, in which we dive-bombed a bridge successfully.
Lt. Bettinger flew my plane twice today, without suffering any damage. We are told that our squadron will set a record for bombs dropped. We expect to drop over 200 tons this month!
I visited my Spanish friends at their tent tonight and we sang songs while Juan supplied the music with his accordion. These visits are providing an opportunity for me to practice speaking Spanish.
So ends part 53 of my wartime memoirs.