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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 98: Christmas and Cold. Making Ourselves Cosy. Attacking Brenner Pass. Seeking Chickens!/p>

Dec 25,1944, Grosseto, Italy. Very little going on today and we were released early, possibly because it is Christmas. I took the opportunity to wash up, write letters and just lounge around.

Around 4:30 PM , Ceferino (Cisco) and I went to an Italian movie in the afternoon and we found it enjoyable, since we both speak Italian now. I spent the evening in my room, giving the Bull an Italian lesson for an hour. Stanford dropped in and he accompanied our singing with his guitar. Lts. Moody and Matula dropped in for a while. Later, Lt. Mayberry came to visit me and we shot the bull for while. We then went downstairs to the bar and had a few gins. I finally got to bed at 12:30 PM.

Dec 26, 1944 , Grosseto, Italy. Not much doing the last few days. We have been busy making our room livable because some windows were missing and there was no heat when we moved in. We took turns replacing windows and making a coal burning stove. Until now the room has been like a refrigerator, cold! Now it is finally comfortable and we are happy to have a warm home with a solid roof over our heads.

The day before yesterday we flew five missions, from which four of our planes were shot-up. We are still attacking trains and road transport, as well as any bridges we can find that are still standing. I helped R.C.Clark change the right aileron on his plane that had been damaged by anti-aircraft fire. My plane flew once today on a two and a half hour flight. While it was gone I studied Italian. When he returned the radio was not working.

I helped Della-Volpe put a new gasket on the oil cooler of his plane. My plane flew another two ande a half hour flight in the afternoon, returning at 5:00 PM. We flew 36 sorties today, dive bombing targets in the Brenner Pass (the Alps). From today’s action one of our planes (number 84) was shot down.

I got three letters from my brother Murray at this evening’s mail call, and answered them immediately. 'A' Flight is going to hold a New Year’s party on Dec 29th in Castigleone (a nearby town.) The Entrees will consist of turkey, steak, and lamb chops, which will be washed down with whiskey, gin, cognac rum and beer.

Dec 27 ,1944 Grosseto, Italy. My plane flew two and a half hours this morning with Lt. Kruse at the controls, and it returned OK.

I studied Italian until lunch time. Afterwards Lt. Pernica flew it and while he was airborne a curious thing happened. A Messerschmitt 163 (jet propelled) flew over our field. Captains Johnson and Lt. Pernica tried to catch it. They found it impossible to do so because the jet plane was simply too fast. We could actually see the vapor trails he left behind as he streaked across the sky. I stayed home all evening, writing letters and chatting with friends.

While we were fooling around, Schnable and I somehow knocked Surle’s jaw out of place! Schnabel and I made a meal of soup, with bacon and sardine sandwiches. We both always reeived packages containing various foodstuffs from home, (thank God!).

Dec 28,1944, Grossseto, Italy. I pulled a 10 hour inspection on my plane (No. 73), which was required after an engine change. This morning we found ice covering the water puddles, so it must have been quite cold last night. I was going to send my plane up for a test hop to check the supercharger and water-injection systems but I did a pre-flight first and found an oil leak. Gene Schnabel came over and helped me and we got it fixed by 4;00 PM, which was too late for it to fly.

Schnabel drove me back to camp on his motorcycle, with the squadron’s dog Swazi sitting on the gas tank in front of him. After dinner, Wallace and I dressed up and went to an Italian show. We heard a rumor that 900 mechanics from the entire Group are to be sent home. I do not think it will happen because the higher-ups all want chickens on their shoulders, and they won’t risk the group’s efficiency record! (The chickens I referred to are the insignia of a full colonel) !

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