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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 74: Washing in 100 Octane. Our Pilot Killed. Francs into Lira. Italy!

Sept 7 1944 Alto, Corsica. It has been raining for two days now, making it miserable to work on our airplanes out in the open. A group of DC-3 Transports arrived today, and they transported the Lafayette Escadrille (Free French Squadron) to France.

Rumor has it that we will depart for Italy several days from now. My friend Gene Schnabel made some chicken soup for us and it was delicious. We drew a ration of 8 bottles of beer and two bottles of coke. Tomorrow we will get a large ration of candy. However, this does not offset the fact that we have been out of soap for a whole month. We wash ourselves and our clothes with 100 octane aviation gasoline, knowing full well that any of us can come down with lead poisoning, as have some of us mechanics while in Africa.

No operations for two days due to bad weather. It sure is a pleasure to have my airplane back (no. 73). Now I don’t have to be on call to help any of the crew chiefs that need help. It is quite unsettling to work that way!

I went to the officer’s mess today to see Lt. Ridley (my pilot). He went on pass to Alexandria, Egypt and was supposed to get my watch fixed. Well, he got drunk, was 'rolled' and my watch was stolen. He promised to get me a pilots stop-watch and a pair of pilot’s boots.

Carl Volter (My flight chief) came around this evening and said that 'A' party will move at 6.00 AM tomorrow morning. We will have to move out of this tent because it is going with 'A' Party. I am staying with 'B' party!

Sept 9, 1944 Alto, Corsica: After a restless night in which I experienced a bad stomach ache, I awoke at 7.00 AM. The officers are eating at our mess hall, theirs having been broken up until we get to our next airfield. We were already to go to the flying line when First Sgt. Pettis grabbed us for a detail to pack up a few tents, which resulted in our arriving at the flying line somewhat late. When I told Capt. Skorpowski why he said he would see that it does not happen again.

There was an 8 plane flight at 9.15 AM, another at 1.15, another at 2.00 PM and still another at 5.00 PM. There were only 8 mechanics in 'A Flight, 'B' party and we had to keep 15 planes flying! As evidence of what we had to go through under these conditions, I had to take care of 7 different planes today at different times!

Our cooks were complaining when we came to have lunch at 2.30 because of this heavy schedule with few ground crews. And Major Leaf gave them a verbal brow-beating!

I was sick to my stomach last night, and it hurts like the Dickens today.

One of our planes was shot down near the coast of Italy today and we sent two planes there to see if they could help. My plane was sent to Naples today, and we had to work until 9. PM tonight.

Our tent is empty, just Woodrow and myself (the others having gone forward with 'A' Party). We are told that our new airfield is 70 miles from Florence and 90 miles from Rome.

Sept 10, 1944: Alto, Corsica: Once again I had a restless night with a stomach ache. I took care of two planes this morning, and we only flew one dive bombing mission. It was against an ammo dump, and we left it ablaze. The pilot who was shot down yesterday was killed.

Yesterday’s 2 plane cover flight spotted only scraps of his dinghy. The shore batteries must have gotten him when he tried to paddle ashore. Lewis was busted (reduced in grade) because he didn’t have his truck at the camp area at 9.AM to pick up the ground crews.

I rode back to the airfield with Gene Schnabel on his motorcycle. Our Intelligence says that 'A' party should have boarded the boat last night, for the trip to Italy. My plane came back from Naples today, with no mechanical problems.

Sept 12, 1944. Alto, Corsica. My plane went on a 6 AM mission with two 500 pound bombs. At noon we had to turn in all our francs for Italian lira.

My plane flew on a 22.30 PM dive bombing mission. B-26 (2 engine) bombers have been arriving all day and now there is a large group of them on the airfield where the Lafayette Escadrille used to be. My plane returned from the last mission OK.

I did not have to work after dinner because we have a perfect status (all planes operational), except for two which were shot-up on the last mission. Schnabel called me over to his tent for some more of his Chicken Noodle Soup, and after a dip in the cold stream. The water is very cold (it originates in the mountains) but one has to stay clean.

So ends part 74 of my wartime memoirs.

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