Chapter 56: Our Pioneering War Making. Early Dawn Attacks On German. Those Citations. Our Scrounge B-25 Loads Up Liquor.
May 4, 1944 Alto, Corsica. There was canteen today, and I purchased a carton of cigarettes and 4 bars of candy. I played ping pong on our new table in the new enlisted men’s day room.
Our early morning mission was held up by poor weather conditions, so we just hung around the tent and relaxed. The group’s 65th squadron had a casualty this afternoon when their flight was taking off on an anti-shipping mission. A 500 pound bomb dropped from one of their planes and the pilot was killed when the plane blew up and burned.
We had a miserable supper scheduled for tonight, spaghetti, with no meat, carrots and peas, with coffee and bread. Knowing this, I instead visited my Spanish friends at the French ack ack camp. Their cook, Zapato took me into their kitchen and fed me a lamb chop, with spinach dipped in vinegar, and vegetables. I stayed with them afterwards, chatting in Spanish and singing their songs. When I got back to my tent and told my tent mates what I had to eat they were jealous.
May 5, 1944 we had two missions today over Northern Italy. One was anti-shipping, and the other the usual railroad bashing and motor transport strafing. My diary tells of one notable event livened up the day for me. Our flight chief, Carl Volter came to our tent and told me and my assistant Bernard Evans, to go over to plane No. 84 and help Al Schoenfield change two tires. While we were putting air in one of them and four of us were sitting on the tire, it blew up and threw all of us 6 feet in the air!
Al’s right arm was sprained and a vein damaged. Evens suffered a black eye, and was lucky not to have lost the eye from flying tire fragments. We were all shaken up badly!
After lunch when we had calmed down a bit, we went back and finally changed the tires, with no further problems In reading this event in Al Schoenfield’s book (The Saga of the Exterminators Squadron) I was surprised that he did not even mention that I was helping him at the time. I am quoting from his book as follows: 'Had a narrow escape. While changing one of my tires, it blew up and knocked three of us about ten feet. Left me with a badly sprained arm. Evens nearly lost an eye from the tire fragments. The five of us were staggering around like a bunch of punch drunk fighters. Some of the damnedest things happen when you least expect it'. I find it curious that Schoenfield did not even mention that I was helping him and was one of the ones thrown up in the air!
On one of today’s mission’s a 65th Squadron pilot returned to the airfield wounded, and the plane all shot up. He baled out a quarter of a mile from
shore without further injury, and was promptly rescued.
I finished the day by stopping off at Zapato’s kitchen and visited with my Spanish-speaking Algerian friends, for a while.
Today a DC-3 brought our squadron 4 new men, two of them mechanics and one was assigned to our flight. This will be of help to us, because we have been operating short-handed, which means we have been helping each other maintain the plane, rather than working on our own planes. My social life is non-existent right now, because my Algerian friend Zapata is on pass in Bastia. (The capitol of Corsica).
The next day saw our B-25 come back from Naples. It brought back the men who went to Naples on pass and then visited the isle of Capri. Another interesting event occurred when we received a mail call today. I got 5 letters, and Gene Schnabel invited me to his tent for a snack of salami and pickled herring that he had just received from home. I contributed some of my mothers cookies, and we really enjoyed these home-cooked delicacies!
Speaking of delicacies from home, I note that I have not mentioned that I have been constantly receiving packets of Liptons chicken noodle soup in individual letter envelopes from home. One packet fit perfectly in an envelope, and since I have been overseas I have been eating that soup. All it required was some hot water, which was easy enough to provide. You kicked a hole in the sand (in the desert) or the ground elsewhere, poured some gasoline in the hole, put a can with water on it, lit it, and voila, you had an al fresco stove! When the water boiled you emptied the packet of soup in it, and after a while you poured it into your mess kit, and drank it. If you could find anything to mix into it while cooking, such as onion or garlic, potatoes etc that would add to the taste.
Interestingly enough, you used the same cooking method outlined above to brew tea. The difference was that when the water was boiling, you threw some tea leaves in it, removed the can from the fire, covered it, and let it steep. The tea we received from the British 8th Army was called English Breakfast Tea. It came in aluminum lined tea chests (plywood boxes) from India, and the British military had priority on the supply. To this day I have never enjoyed tea as much as I did using that tea, and cooking it in that way!
So ends part 56 of My Wartime Memoirs.