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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 80: 120mm Rockets. Family Dance at Castiglione. Spanish with Rivera. Present from Cuba

Sept 30,1944 Grosetto, Italy I awoke this morning with a sore throat and a pain in the right side of my back. I hoped it was not pneumonia. M/Sgt Podraza inspected the flying line this morning and said that it was in operating condition. We went to the field at 10 AM and had the first mission in the air by noon.

Due to the heavy schedule of flights, our cooks brought our lunch down to us at the airfield. We flew 4 more missions in the afternoon, all dive bombing, each plane carrying two 500 lb. bombs. The 65th squadron has been off operations for the past two weeks. Three 120 millimeter rocket tubes are being installed under each wing. We are supposed to operate two days, then the 64th two days, then the 65th two days. At that rate we should have the next 4 days off after working two days.

Pay call was at 7.00 AM. We went back to camp for dinner, and then returned to the flying line to service the last two flights of planes. We finally got back to camp 7 PM.

First Sgt. Pettis was angry, but we told him we had been working, so he said he would see us after breakfast tomorrow morning. With the money I received at pay call, I paid off all my debts and went to my tent. My side was still hurting and I wondered what is causing it.

Oct 1,1944. Grosetto, Italy. I awoke at 6 AM this morning, with my back still hurting every time I move. After breakfast I went to the orderly room and put my name on the sick book. While there I heard that First Sgt. Pettis is going to Rome, where he is to set up a house where our men on pass can stay.

Afterwards I went on sick call, and the Doctor gave me some sulfa pills. I stayed in bed all morning and brewed up coffee t 11 AM. After lunch I went back to bed and slept for an hour or so and studied Italian. Della Volpe is going to Rome to take care of our new house there. He said he would be there for several weeks (the lucky dog!). He was chosen because he speaks Italian. Right after dinner, Ceferino Vigil and I took off to visit Castiglione which is a nearby fishing village.

A dance is being held there, and we went first to see Vigil’s girlfriend upon arrival. Her name is Danielle and she had a real pretty girl cousin who became my date. We went to the dance at 8.30 PM and were surprised to see that whole families were there, rather than individuals. It was so crowded that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves. Lt. Knauf and Lt. Anderson drove us back to camp in their Fiat automobile, at midnight

Oct 2,1944 Grosetto, Italy. I awoke at 7 AM this morning, and after breakfast everyone had to go to the flying line. Yesterday, somebody in 'B' flight did not remove the airscoop intake plug from one of our planes. When it attempted to take off, it crashed. Fortunately the pilot was not injured.

I was assigned to plane No. 80 today because Vic is on pass in Rome. Today the 65th squadron is scheduled to fly, so we are off duty. After lunch, Flight Chief Volter had me greasing all the ships in 'A flight (forcing grease into all the fittings in the landing gear). I only had time to do five planes because some of the guys needed the Cat to do their struts.

The Cat was the Caterpillar tractor used by the squadron on the flying line, to service the planes. It was fitted with a lubricating grease gun, compressed gas cylinders, and other servicing equipment. It had levers to control the speed and foot pedals to direct it. We had no trouble learning how to operate it, because the foot pedals were operated the same way the brakes were operated in the airplanes. To go left you depressed the left pedal, to go right you depressed the right pedal. We were surprised to find our engineering crew installing pilot’s clothing heaters in the planes.

My friend Rivera visited me after supper, and we chatted in Spanish for a while. Later I gave him an Italian lesson as I have been doing for some of my friends. I got mail from home, as well as well as a package from Aunt Toby containing canned sardines, salmon and anchovies. I received a letter from a girl named Graciela in Havana, Cuba. I have been corresponding with her for 2 years now and it has helped me learn Spanish. Rivera repaid me be giving me a raincoat. Someone had stolen mine some time ago.

I heard that Major Dyer wants to bust the two men working on plane No. 96 because of negligence (bust means reducing them in grade).

So ends part 80 of my wartime memoirs.

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