Chapter 70: Bombing Southern France. Planes Shot Up. Courts Martial. Finding Friends Post-War
Aug 16, 1944 Alto, Corsica. Today was a very long operations day for us. I was awakened for a 5.30 AM mission on which my plane carried two 1000 pound bombs and dive bombed a bridge near Brignoles, which was considerably inland in France. Because of this greater distance to targets, we now have to mount wing tanks on the planes, which reduces our bomb load to just one 1000 pound bomb in the belly rack.
Our squadron flew three missions before noon. My plane flew again at 10.00 AM with Lt. Dodds as pilot. We are mounting an all-out operation now, with everyone working on the flying line, with no exceptions. Plane no. 77 piloted by Lt. Callan bellied in at the French beachhead, but he was unhurt, and was picked up by a British destroyer.
We are told that the invasion of southern France is going well, and practically no opposition has been encountered. We kept 20 planes in commission today out of 30, and morale is higher than usual due to the way the invasion is going. By the time I got finished servicing and checking my plane after its last mission today, it was 9.00 PM. It was too late to go for a dip in the stream and I was tired, so I just went to bed.
Aug 17, 1944 Alto, Corsica. Our first flight was at 6.40 AM, and when they returned at 10.15 AM two of them were shot up by ack ack. My plane had a flack hole in the belly tank and Google and I changed it before lunch.
Today, three new 'bubble-jobs' came in today (P-47s) but I did not get a replacement for my P-40-F. Plane No. 88 was shot down near the beachhead in France. The 64th squadron (of our group) shot down a Focke Wolf fighter today.
My assistant 'Google' has a fractured leg and is going to the hospital tomorrow. That may mean I will be transferred to 'A' Party, which we hear may go to the southern France beachhead in a few days. A 7.30 PM flight was called off because of rain. The beachhead in southern France now occupies 500 square miles of land from Cannes to Toulon. We expect a 4.30 AM takeoff tomorrow morning. So to bed.
Aug 18, 1944 Alto, Corsica; There was a mission at 7.00 AM with wing tanks of gasoline. At 10.00 AM my plane flew with two 500 pound bombs. Shortly thereafter it rained like hell for hours, which made our airfield inoperable, so our planes had to land in Italy. As a result we were released for the day. On this last mission we lost three planes.
Mine force-landed in France but Lt. Danks the pilot, was OK. The other two crashed while landing in Italy. I will probably get a new P-47 now. All our equipment is being packed up in preparation for the upcoming move.
Aug 19,1944 Alto, Corsica; With no plane of my own I thought I might have some time off, but Flight Chief Volter came around this morning and said I had to go to the line and help out the other crew chiefs. Nothing to do in the AM but after lunch I helped Steve Zuzze hang wing tanks on his plane.
We mounted 4 flights today, dive bombing bridge, and strafing German motor transport on the road. One of those flights was jumped by three Me-109s. Lt. Pridgeon sot down one, and we had no casualties. From all our flights today, two of our planes returned shot up. After supper, Sgt. Volter sent me down to the flying line to help my friend Gene. Schnabel. His plane has cylinder head temperature trouble, and we still weren’t through by dark.
I am scheduled to co-drive with Sgt. Volter (our flight chief) on Jeep No. 4 on this next move. The Red Cross girls were around tonight with coffee and doughnuts.
Aug 20, 1944; Alto, Corsica. I went to the flying line this AM and helped Gene Schnabel on his ship. Afterwards I visited my Algerian Spanish friends. Our cooks are being shook up. Two of them have to come to the flying line and stay on our flight truck, watching how we operate. I guess they have to help out because we are shorthanded and working quite hard.
There is a new mess hall procedure now because of the high rate of malaria. We are given the atabrine tablet before the cooks will serve us.
I hurt my left heel somehow today, and it really bothers me. We flew 5 missions today, and we received three new planes in the afternoon. I had to help Woody Sorell with the receiving inspection on his new plane. We were almost finished by dark.
After dinner, our squadron was visited by a Special Service Spark Plug man. We had to go back to the line to hear his speech.
After that there was a squadron meeting in which the Articles of War were read. This is the code of Federal Military regulations which governs our lives. In place of a Judge or Jury trial, we would be judged by a Courts Martial in which the judge and jury would be made up of Commissioned Officers. Such a court even has to power of a death sentence!
I then took a dip in the stream and went to bed.
So ends part 70 of my Wartime memoirs.
P.S. I mentioned Gene Schnabel (above) in Aug 19th; Gene came to my wedding when I married Doris Wendorf on Sept 22, 1945. He then drove us to his mother-in-law’s hotel in Fallsburg. N.Y. (The Catskill Mountains) where we honeymooned for a week. Years later when I tried to contact him I could not locate him. Last year when I learned of the 57th Fighter Group web site, and contacted several men I knew, I located Louis Lederman, of whom I had also lost track. Louis gave me the addresses and phone numbers of several of my former cronies, and it was thus that I located Gene Schnabel. It seems he changed his name to Gene Sloane and moved to south Florida, and that is why I could never locate him. He is older than be by a couple of years, and in poor health suffering from cancer. We were close friends prior to shipping out, and during our whole 37 months overseas, even to the point of sharing our packages from home and going on pass together frequently.