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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 68: 'Rabbi' Beck Going Home. 30 Bubble P-47s. 250 Bottles Gin Arrive. Ice from 30,000 ft! Morale Bad Blah Blah. Outr 2000th Mission!

Aug 2, 1944 Alto, Corsica. This morning my assistant and I washed the engine down and located the leak. It was one of the rocker box covers, and after I obtained a replacement from supply I installed it. I then ran the engine up to test it, and it did not leak.

I took the afternoon off, slept 3 hours, and took a dip in the stream. We were told that 'the Rabbi' (Howard Beck), our line chief is going home tomorrow, and when he heard the news he proceeded to get roaring drunk. I dropping in on him to say good-bye, and found Capt. King there also.

At this point I had already known Sgt. Beck for three years, because he was my Drill Sgt for 8 weeks of basic training at Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York Oct 29, 1940. There were 600 of us recruits in one hangar, and our cots were lined up so close that all of us had banged up shins from bouncing off them as we navigated around the hangar. Howard was probably in his 40’s at that time and had probably been in the Army Air Corps for 20 years already.

The Red Cross girls were here today with coffee and doughnuts. I hear we are going to get 30 bubble canopies (P-47s with a round canopy resembling a bubble), and I hope to get one. This plane of mine is driving me crazy. My assistant Barney 'Google' had to bleed one of the brakes this afternoon, because it was spongy.

Aug 3, 1944 my ship flew on a 6 AM mission, and came back with the right wing bent. It flew anyway on a 2 PM mission.

Lt. Ridley came back from a visit to Catania, Sicily with 250 bottles of gin and cognac! Major Leaf took his plane up today with water in his two wing tanks and reached 30,000 feet for two hours. When he returned we had ice for our drinks!

We hear that in France, our troops have advanced 60 miles into Brittany on their new offensive. In the afternoon, I walked up the mountain to visit our laundry girls. The Patrone promised to get me a hand carved pipe.

Aug 4, 1944 my plane flew on a 5 AM and an 8 AM mission this morning. The list of personnel to go to the B-29 (4-engine bomber outfit) came out from 'A' flight, and leaving are Glucksman, Fox, Moulton, M.G. Clark, and G-Bar. They are to fly back to the States via the Army Transport Command through South America.

Major Mallet (Our adjuntant) thinks there will be another list within a month. I took the whole day off today, and 'Google' is taking care of things for me. I went for a dip in the stream with my dog 'Ace' and washed up. Howard (the Rabbi) Beck left for home today. He is to fly to Naples and go the rest of the way via steamer. I played ping pong for several hours and when we heard that we are to be released tomorrow; half the camp got plastered tonight in the enlisted men’s day room!

Aug 6, 1944 my plane came back from one day’s detached service to Rome, and the engine was throwing oil. In addition, the trim tabs were inoperative.

The Major gave a speech and said that the maintenance was bad, the morale was low, and there were too many rumors floating around! We of course, listened gravely to his remarks, making slight clucking noises frequently and nodding our heads sagely. This was canned music which we had heard before. We asked ourselves 'what on earth can they expect, after two years overseas in combat?'

Barney and I towed our plane to the maintenance crew who will work on it for 3 days.

I have been faithfully studying my Italian verbs and I can see the benefits of this labor daily in my conversation with our Italian kitchen help and the laundry girls.

The guys who are supposed to leave for the States to join the B-29 outfit are still hanging around waiting for orders to leave.

The next day I went to work with the engineering crew and we accomplished a lot in the morning. After lunch I rigged up an electric pump with a battery and washed my plane down with aviation gas. I worked right up to 5 PM and had it inspected.

We celebrated the squadron’s 2000th mission, which is quite a feat!

I played ping pong for an hour, took a dip and washed up. I then went to Eipper’s tent for coffee and there heard the news. It is all good. I studied Italian for a half hour before going to bed.

So ends part 68 of my Wartime memoirs.

P.S. I next saw Sgt. Beck in 1949 when I visited him at his home in Jamaica Village, Long Island,N.Y. At that time he had been discharged from the Army for medical reasons. He had a bad heart and was disputing the medical pension he was receiving. A short time later I learned that he died from a heart attack.

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