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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 63: CO's New Plan. Percy Geuin Dies. Invasion of Elba. Tillson Goes Berserk. Lt. Barlow Crashes and Burns

June 13, 1944 Alto, Corsica. Very little happening the last two days. I located the camp of the Puerto Rican guards and visited them we sang songs and chatted for hours. They fed me dinner and gave me a cot so I spent the night there. They were hungry for information about the war effort because nobody bothered to keep them up to date on events. So they treated me royally and in exchange I told them what had been happening in our theater of war.

Once more, due to my ability to speak Spanish, I found myself at home with people from another country, who treated me as one of them rather than an outsider.

June 14, 1944 Alto, Corsica. The next morning, I ate breakfast with them and headed back to my airplane. I checked the brakes, they were OK, so I marked the plane fit for combat, and headed back to the camp area. The next mission took off at 4.30 PM, with Lt. Ridley at the controls.

They dive-bombed tanks and bridges, and there were no mechanical problems with my plane upon its return.

I washed out my trousers and shirts with 100 octane gasoline. We have to hang wing tanks (gasoline) for an upcoming bomber escort mission. The Lafayette Escadrille (on the other side of the airfield) has already. I have little to do today because my assistant, Barney Evans is to take care of things. There was a meeting of 'A' Flight today, it seems that our Commanding Officer tried to put through a new plan of work today: only one crew chief on a plane, and everyone else is in engineering.

Engineering will pull all the inspections and do all the work. Our flight chief (Moulton) said that we were going to protest it! We are happy with things as they are!

I played ping pong for an hour of so, gave my laundry to the Italian girls. Woody Harrelson and I are going to build a little shack out of empty gasoline belly tanks.

Bad news today, Percy Geuin died today from his swimming injury. He had broken his neck diving from the balcony of our new day room, into one foot of water!

June 17, 1944. Alto, Corsica. After breakfast I got a 24 hour pass from Leland Pettis (Our first Sgt.) and headed for the town of Bastia (the capitol of Corsica). I hitch-hiked there and as we pulled in, I saw a huge number of French Colonial Black Troops marching through town heading for the Docks to embark for Elba.

It seems that the invasion of Elba actually started last night! I saw the Spanish Jewish family that I knew and told them that their son Isaac was OK, and I ate lunch at the Red Cross. I met a lad from the RAF there and we commenced to become tipsy. At 5.00 PM I headed back to camp and got there too late for dinner. The cooks gave me a can of salmon and a slab of bread with 3 onions which I ate and went to bed.

June 18, 1944. Alto, Corsica. Last night Tillson got drunk and went raving mad, trying to bite people and things with his teeth. He broke a sapling (young tree) and bit through it with his teeth. Then he saw one of the men that he didn’t like and tried to bite his jugular vein. It took five of us to hold him down, and we had to wrap him in chains and inject him with morphine to do it.

Everyone slept with a gun in their hands all night!. These actions by Tillson were not considered unusual by us, since he is a full blood Cherokee Indian. When he gets drunk with hard liquor he goes berserk. The first time I met him was at Langley Field Viginia, when I found him occupying a toilet seat alongside me in the latrine. When I asked him about the scars on his chest, he said that they were boils caused by soot from wood burning train engines, when he was a hobo.

He said that while in the army doing basic training he burned them off with a soldering iron. He said that the medics wanted to send him to a lunatic asylum. When he was with our advanced cadre, headed for Palestine via the Air Transport Command, they stopped at Accra, Africa. While at a bar one night, drunk on beer, he attempted to bite someone in the throat and it took 7 men to hold him down.

We are awakened at 3.30 for a 4.30 AM flight. I did a pre-flight inspection on my plane, but the mission was called off because of the news that the island of Elba had been captured.

I played ping pong in our day room for 3 hours without being beaten. During the day a helicopter arrived with men in white coats, who loaded Tillson aboard, still wrapped in chains, and carted him away. I gave 'The Bull' his daily Spanish lesson, and went to bed.

June 24, 1944 Alto, Corsica. My plane flew on two missions today. The engine was throwing oil on the windshield and I had to shave down the rocker box covers. We have been dive-bombing bridges north of Genoa recently. Two days ago we had to turn in all our Springfield rifles. We are supposed to get carbines which are a small rifle with a clip of 8-50 caliber ball cartridges, like those used in the Army Colt 45 Automatic Pistol.

We had a casualty today. Lt. Barlow undershot the field while landing and burned with the plane.

In another unusual event, we all had to go through a “gas chamber” to test our gas masks.

So ends part 63 of My Wartime memoirs.

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