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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 78: Flies, Bees or Mosquitoes. Mud. To Rome!

Sept 23 1 944 Grosetto, Italy. With no operations scheduled this morning, I hung around our tent installing lights and similar necessary improvements. I hung my mosquito netting over my bed, because the bees around here are really thick. It seems we always have a condition around our camp area to make our lives miserable. It can be flies, mosquitoes or bees. In this case it is yellow jacket bees, and the good news is that they seem quite harmless as long as they are left alone!

Several of the men have had their mouths bitten badly while eating because the bees had inserted themselves in the food. You see we have opened number 10 (large) cans of marmalade on the tables, and the bees are attracted by the yellow color. Invariably some of them get stuck in the marmalade. I almost became a casualty at breakfast this morning. I had just taken a bite from a slice of bread with marmalade on it, when I noticed that the man sitting opposite me suddenly stopped chewing and gaped at me with his mouth open. He was so surprised that he became inarticulate and could only point at my mouth while stuttering.

I removed the piece of bread that I had bitten off, and found one half of a yellow jacket on one edge of it. By some stroke of luck, I had bitten him in half and was spared a painful sting which could have resulted in a dangerous swelling of my mouth or throat!

We now have several Italians working in the kitchen and they were quite surprised at my ability to speak Italian so well. The greater majority of our men never bothered to become fluent, being content to just learn certain phrases. After lunch I went to town and tried to scrounge several desks from a schoolhouse near the beach. Unfortunately I got caught, and had to leave them there. Major Benedict is trying to get our First Sgt. (Leland Pettis) transferred to his squadron, and he probably will be successful.

Sept 24,1944 Grosetto, Italy Several shorts developed in the lighting system of our tent and I fixed them. In addition I chopped down all the weeds around the tent and dug a trench all around the tent to prevent water from seeping into the tent when it rains.

After lunch I played casino for beers with Della Volpe, Woodrow Sorell, and Wallace. I came out the loser by one bottle. At 2.00 PM we had to go to work, moving all the planes to the east end of the field before morning. The taxi strips have mud holes every 20 feet or so and we had to lift the wings to help the Caterpillar tractor pull the planes through the mud.

'B' Flight started first, and when they were through we ('A' Flight) dragged ours out. It took three and a half hours to move 12 planes to the east end of the runway. We worked from 5.00 PM to 11.30 PM. Moulton had told Stripling to take over the operation, however Stripling took off, which left me in charge, so I was Flight Chief for an evening! When we finally got back to camp tonight, we had the cooks make us dinner.

The field is a horror as far as operations are concerned. The engineers had tried to construct a drainage system around the field, but soon realized that it could not be satisfactory for operational flying. That is why they had to be flown to the main landing field at Grosetto.

Sept 25,1944 Grosetto, Italy. First Sgt. Pettis put me in charge of the Jewish men in our Squadron that are going to Rome Tuesday for services. This is just fine with me, because I consider it as payback for the many hours I spend learning Italian.

I turned in a pair of shoes and 3 pairs of undershorts for salvage this morning. No operations this morning, we just hung around our tents. My Mexican-American friend Ceferino Vigil has a girl friend in Castiglione that he is crazy about. He even wants to marry her!

I borrowed $100.00 from Woody Sorell in anticipation of the trip to Rome. I spent several hours studying Italian adverbs and adjectives, got my laundry back and played casino. Our planes took off at 4 PM and flew over to the main landing field at Grosetto. One plane from 'B' flight could not go because of mechanical problems.

I set my duffle bag outside the tent containing clothes for the Rome trip, for a quick take-off in the morning!

So ends part 78 of my wartime memoirs

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