WAR DIARY: 449TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP
Prepared by: Damon A. Turner 1st Lt., Air Corps (Group Historian)
A word of Explanation
This is the War Diary of 1st Lt. Damon A. Turner. Lt. Turner was assigned duties as the Group Historian for the 449th Bomb Group. His daily diary begins on 22 November 1943. At that time the 449th had completed its training and had moved from Bruning, Nebraska to Topeka, Kansas. At Topeka, the aircraft were receiving last-minute engineering changes prior to the Group beginning its transit overseas.
Lt. Turner’s diary was discovered in the 449th files of the Historical Research Agency. The diary covers the period from 22 November 1943 through June 1944.
After the war, Damon Turner wrote a history of the 449th Bomb Group. His history of the Group was published by the 449th Bomb Group Association in 1985 as Book I in the Association’s history series.
AIR – A wonderful place this Topeka. Except for appointments the men are free to go as they please. GROUND – Considerable relaxation after the concentration for P.O.M.
AIR – Colonel Alkire is jubilant. At last he goes overseas. GROUND – Drills and hikes with full pack are the order of the day.
AIR – Many wives have followed their husbands to Topeka. They are determined to stay until the end.
AIR – Parties, juicy steaks, plenty of liquor — Topeka is a paradise; Kansas City a happy playground. GROUND – Orders received for entraining. There is much secrecy.
Ground echelon departed Bruning, Nebraska, for Port of Embarkation.
Colonel Alkire led the air echelon out of Topeka. His destination was Morrison Field, Florida. He was piloting a plane of the 719th Bomb Squadron. We are taking B-24-H’s equipped with a new Sperry sight overseas.
Ground echelon arrived at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, late in the evening.
Camp Patrick Henry is the staging area for Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation.
Processing at Topeka, Kansas, was quite simple. For once the army had at hand every thing required for issue. The ground echelon is at Bruning, Nebraska.
For those of the air echelon fun and good times mark the days. The plan is for planes to leave Topeka at various times. They will fly to Morrison Field. There they come under orders of the Air Transport Command and will set out via the South Atlantic route to Europe.
Camp Patrick Henry is so well concealed that it’s difficult to determine its exact location other than it’s twelve miles from Newport News.
The first plane of the 716th Bomb Squadron departed Topeka. The ground echelon boarded Liberty ships. We are on our way.
Squadron 717 and Squadron 718 are aboard the same ship ‘William S. Young.’ Squadron 716 is aboard the ‘Benjamin S. Milam.’ Squadron 719 is aboard the ‘S. S. John Harvard.’ Headquarters is aboard the ‘Henry Baldwin.’
There must be over one hundred ships in the convoy. We seem to be well escorted by destroyers. There is an aircraft carrier along. Planes continue to depart Topeka. The route varies for the different aircraft. In general the route to be followed takes us to Puerto Rico, thence to Trinidad, to various airfields in Brazil, thence to Dakar, thence to various airfields in Africa including Casablanca, Marrakech and Tindouf, thence to Chateaudunn or Tunis.
Quarters aboard the Liberty ships are rugged. Most of the men are stacked five deep in the holds. Officers and high ranking non-coms have what are alleged to be rooms.
America has been at war two years today. Now we individual Americans are traveling by plane or ship to carry on the fight.
Captain David L. Council, C. O. of Squadron 719, and thirteen persons aboard his plane were killed near Marrakech when their aircraft hit a mountain. The first of Sq 717 and Sq 718 left Topeka.
The weather aboard ship has been surprisingly mild. There has been little sea-sickness. Fire and abandon ship drills are held from time to time. No one speaks of submarines but few have not thought about the danger.
One nice thing about flying across is the time one has to spend in strange parts of the world. It’s long enough to look around and short enough to avoid living in these places.
The sea is getting rougher and a few of the men are sick. Liberty ship food is uniformly bad. Some of us are reduced to eating C-rations which is better than the ship’s chow. The merchant marine live like kings.
Airplanes take off, airplanes land. One by one, like a game of leap frog, the crews move on to their rendezvous with destiny. Lt. Zimmerman of Sq 719 crashed his B-24 in Puerto Rico.
At sea the ocean is fairly smooth again. Just a tip: If you abandon ship do so without helmet. The helmet strap will break your neck when you hit the water, according to the Naval officers.
Most of the planes have reached Brazil and are waiting favorable weather to fly the ocean or have already done so. 15 Near Meknes, North Africa, a B-24 piloted by Captain Hiero Hays, Operations Officer of Sq 719, was lost. Capt. Hays’ parachute failed and he was killed. The rest aboard bailed out successfully.
The convoy is in dangerous waters near the Canary Islands. The novelty of the ocean voyage has changed to eagerness for the sight of land — any land.
These African airports are satisfactory for the airplanes but the accommodations for personnel are worse than nothing. Colonel Alkire arrived at Grottaglie Air Base in Italy.
Casablanca and Marakech! Long will they be remembered by the air echelon.
Airplanes are gradually reaching the last points in North Africa preparatory to crossing the Mediterranean.
At sea – submarine alert! The convoy came to a halt at sunset. Escort vessels scurried through the convoy. Soon depth charges could be heard but that was all.
Land! Early in the morning lights from Cape Spartel on the African coast could be seen. Later dim lights from Cadiz, Spain, then Tangiers, lit up like a Christmas tree. By daybreak we were passing through the Straits of Gibraltar.
Several ships left the convoy at Oran including the ‘William S. Young’ with Squadrons 717 and 718 aboard.
Colonel Alkire flew over to North Africa and convoyed six B-24’s to Grottaglie. Living conditions at Grottaglie are rough!
The convoy situation is certainly SNAFU. The 717 and 718 are ashore at Oran; 716, 719 and HQ are still sailing.
Will the 449 Bomb Group ever reassemble? Airplanes are scattered all over South America, North Africa, and Italy. The ground echelon is scattered over the Mediterranean.
Squadron 717 and 718 have boarded the “SS Johann de Witt” a fast liner which will be part of a convoy of liners bound for Naples.
Headquarters aboard the ‘SS Henry Baldwin’ is en route to Bari. Squadron 716 has put into Bizerte for twenty-four hours and is now en route to Palermo, Sicily. Squadron 719 duplicated the process but is now en route to Naples.
Conditions at Grottaglie are bad. There are no lights, no latrines, poor food, no beds, bombed out buildings, no heat, no nothing. So this is war!
At Grottaglie its become a matter of survival. What we would give for a bath!
Squadron 719 is being staged at Naples. ‘Staging’ is a fancy name given by the army to the process of having you wait for orders. The staging area is the former Count Galeasso Cieno College for Fascist Indoctrination.
What an end to the old year! May we never see another New Year’s Eve like this one. The only squadrons with half a break are Squadrons 717 and 718 who lie at anchor in Naples Harbor.
Will Grottaglie ever be a satisfactory base? To the newly arrived Group it looks doubtful. Long lines stand before latrines. Officers and EM alike take their turn.
Naples Harbor certainly has been blasted. Moles are torn up, sea walls blasted, hulls of ships lie in the water and building after building stands as an empty shell. Here we have the ultimate product of Fascism. Headquarters echelon arrived from Bari.
Ground echelons of 717, 718 and 719 are together in Naples. 1st Lt. Burr Tarrant, Group S-2 now that Major Arthur Harvey is hospitalized, had the honor of briefing the Group’s first mission. The target was the Yugoslav port of Makarska but the mission was canceled after briefing.
At Grottaglie airplanes are arriving rapidly. Today the 719th Ground echelon arrived from Naples.
Everyone lives in two large stone buildings. Gasoline stoves made of empty cans give heat but are dangerous.
There are no officer’s clubs here. Hundreds of men of all ranks sweat out the same chow line.
The 717th Squadron arrived today. So did the 718th.
This was a solemn occasion. Today the 449th went into action. The target was the airdrome at Mostar, Yugoslavia. How happy we were to see all our planes return.
They must need us badly. The target was Zara, Yugoslavia. Seventeen of our planes made the attack which was unsuccessful due to overcast. The mess is still a mess.
Eighteen of our aircraft attacked the M/Y at Skolpje, Yugoslavia, and knocked the yards out for twenty days according to ground reports. No one has received any mail. Its critical!
But today the first big batch of mail arrived. There are showers in nearby Taranto, a happy discovery.
Two squadrons and headquarters personnel are living in the headquarters building. Shaving is done in water heated in helmets — it’s not done often.
Twenty-eight of our planes hit Perugia A/D. The results were poor. This field surely took a pasting. The major debris has been removed but buildings stand as shells, their open roofs gaping at the blue sky.
The Group has lost its first aircraft in combat. Today’s mission was against Mostar, Yugoslavia. A 718th ship piloted by Lt. Pickard was hit by falling bombs from another aircraft.
One of our planes, piloted by Lt. Frones, is missing in an attack against Prato M/Y. The effort expected by Wing and Air Force seems excessive. Everyone is dirty, tired, sleepy and hungry. The 716th ground echelon arrived today.
The target today was Osoppo L/G. Results were poor. We lost an airplane.
Today’s mission was against Arezzo M/Y. Results were poor. 18 Today’s mission against Pisa M/Y was highly successful. Twenty-six planes put sixty-five tons of 500 pound G. P. bombs in the yards. It must have been sad for the Nazis. Our last airplane arrived today and at long last the Group is back together.
Again Perugia A/D. Lt. Phillips’ ship went down at the target. Tom Dawson after nineteen months made first lieutenant.
Guidonia A/D was the target and definitely not a success. One airplane returned early and crashed on landing. Fortunately no one was injured.
Pontedera M/Y was hit with good results. Returning crews reported two or three hundred ships off all types north of the battle line. What does it portend?
We attacked a road defile at Terracina hard and well. Later we learned that troops have landed south of Rome. That accounts for the ground support work we’ve been doing.
There have been several bad gasoline fires. This evening one severely injured several men.
Living conditions are getting many of the men. Sleeping on floor, breathing gasoline fumes have caused scores of colds and put a few men in the hospital.
At least we get a bath occasionally. And the Officer’s Club in Taranto is pleasant.
The weather has been bad and we have stood down today. This has been a terrific month.
We have plenty of company on the field. There are Spitfire squadrons, Beaufighters, Wellingtons, supply outfits, ordnance and anti-aircraft. The British seem very friendly.
Today the boys hit Ferrara M/Y. Results were poor.
Likewise with today’s attack on the M/Y at Arezzo.
It appeared the Luftwaffe had deserted Italy upon learning of the Group’s arrival. But today was a different story. The attack was highly successful against the target — the airdrome at Udine, Italy, but airplanes were all over the sky. We lost three B-24’s against six enemy planes destroyed, one probable and two damaged. Colonel Alkire reported Wing officers had said this Group and the 450th have set something of a record for missions during the month. I can believe that.
Colonel Alkire is missing in action. Its unbelievable but true. Two planes went down over Aviano A/D. The report spread like wild fire after the planes returned without the Colonel. What can one say?
Group set out to attack Budapest A/D. Turned back because of weather.
Col. Darr H. Alkire dropped from the strength report of the organization. Lt. Col. T. J. Gent, Jr., assumed command of 449th Bomb Group.
Mission against Toulon Harbor. Planes turned back after reaching Corsica due to bad weather.
Maj. R. C. McIlheran and Maj. Cecil Pettersen were appointed to Group Flying Evaluation Board. Mission against Prato M/Y canceled due to weather. Weather has been cold and sky overcast for several days. Occasional rains create a quagmire.
Thirty-three planes attacked Prato M/Y. No flak, no fighters encountered. Dropped 82-1/2 tons of GP bombs through overcast covering target area. Results believed poor.
Mission canceled because of continued bad flying weather. Considerable personal and Group equipment arrived.
All available A/C attempted to bomb enemy installations at Genzano, Italy, in support of our Ground Forces on the Anzio Beachhead who are in need of immediate assistance. Today’s mission was unsuccessful due to adverse weather conditions.
Our bombers were prepared to attack the installations on the beachhead south of Rome, and were ready for the take-off when word came of cancellation of the mission. Great progress has been made in preparation of better living quarters for the Group Headquarters personnel.
Preparations were made for 2 missions and one formation practice. All were canceled due to bad weather. Pfc Leon Dickstein’s masterpiece entitled “Briefing to End All Briefings” met with howls of laughter from the combat crews. Lincoln’s birthday passed unobserved.
Sunny Italy is not sunny in February. We don’t get much rain but clouds are forever present and the chill wind has a way of keeping us perpetually cold. Briefing a mission and then canceling same keeps the crews on edge. They want to be briefed and then go out to do the job. Living quarters are approaching the point of being comfortable, while everyone has by now become acquainted with the possibilities of Grottaglie and Taranto.
Crews were briefed to bomb Prato M/Y. Due to overcast, bombs were dropped on the following targets of opportunity: Prato M/Y, 27.5 tons; Pisa M/Y, 35 tons; Pontedera A/D, 7.5 tons; Pisa A/D, 7.5 tons; Tracks or Road at 4358N – 1108E, 2.5 tons. Results on all targets are believed to be fair. Air Force requires Group A/C to display insignia on tails. In accordance with such directive, the A/C of this Group now display a “Bar A” (-A-) in honor of its Group C. O. lost on the mission to Aviano on 31 January 1944. The “A” for Darr H. Alkire, Col., A. C. This bar was added as being further symbolic of “The Old Man” and is based upon the following story. Upon arrival at Grottaglie A/D, Col. Alkire directed that all jeeps assigned to the Group be numbered and for identification (449th) asked that a -D- (“Bar D”) be also painted on the vehicles, stating that a -D- was his father’s old “Brand”.
Weather, principally cloud cover, is the best friend the Nazis have. All month it has prevented missions or made bombing very difficult. Today was no exception. An attack was made on the Poggibonsi M/Y by 32 ships. Six were forced to bomb targets of opportunity. The remainder dropped 45 tons of bombs on what we hope was the M/Y. But the clouds prevented observation and adequate pictures. Everyone feels a little discouraged, combat and ground personnel alike.
Another attempt was made to knock out Poggibonsi M/Y with about the same results as yesterday. So far February has not been a month of which we are especially proud. Col. Gent’s order against gasoline stoves in quarters is wise but it surely is cold in these unheated stone rooms.
Today’s mission was in support of the ground forces in the beachhead sector. A bivouac area near Lake Nemi was attacked. Flak was the most intense this Group has seen. Combat crew members said the enemy raised a virtual wall of the stuff. Our results were only fair. All 35 planes suffered flak damage; two were so serious they had to land at friendly airdromes. One man was killed; four were wounded. A B-24 from another group crashed near the base today. Those who went to investigate and to aid returned with a harrowing tale. The bomber had been loaded with bombs when it crashed. Nothing much remained but a hole in the ground, a mass of wreckage and broken, shattered, dismembered bodies. The silent, blanket-covered bodies lay in the Group dispensary as mute but eloquent testimony to the violence and suddenness of death in the Air Forces. Late at night ambulances carried the remains away ——.
Happy Day! Wing ordered a stand-down. To Group personnel it seems like we should do this more often. Twenty-four hours rest hurt no one and it gave the engineering people the opportunity to repair some of the damage sustained by our planes in yesterday’s mission.
Weather caused cancellation of today’s mission. Work is proceeding on HQ Officers’ club. It may be a pretty nice place when completed. A Volley Ball court is in operations. Tennis and basketball courts are nearly completed. Special for Today …FLASH … for a few minutes we thought a bomb had struck the Group S-2 Office. Upon investigation we learned that instead of a direct hit… it was …1st Lt. Burr Tarrant, Jr, 1st Lt. Westlake, and 2nd Lt. George Richards just received word of their promotions. Now, the bars of Captains and First Lieutenants really decorate the office.
The day started off with and bang, and what a bang. The combat personnel and S-2 personnel were up on the shrill sound of the whistle and ready for the day’s adventure. The men’s spirits were high, a smile on their face and eager for the mission. Everyone was in a mood to strike a blow at the enemy forces on the beachhead. A few minutes after take-off the sky was black with Liberators heading in the direction of the axis held territory. Thirty-seven B-24’s were aloft within a limited time… YES… that is right they ran into a complete overcast, snow and bad flying weather causing nineteen to return early, but eighteen of the pilots plunged on through the treacherous weather, to deal a terrific blow to the enemy. The results as stated in a very few words by one of the pilots on the mission — “We pasted the hell out of them” — Unfortunately, bomb strike photographs failed to equal the enthusiasm of the returning pilots.
More bad weather. A representative from Air Force was down to instruct combat crews in small arms and handling of airplane weapons.
There was no celebration of the “Birthday of the Father of His Country.” A great air offensive has begun against Germany. As part of the offensive twenty-five planes from this Group attacked the Regensburg Obertrabuling A/C Factory. The weather was foul and it is doubtful whether we hit the target. A big air battle took place and our boys claimed eight enemy fighters shot down and six probables. It was costly. Four of our bombers are missing, two crashed in friendly territory after the crews bailed out, and one was down at Bari. George Stout, S/Sgt 716th Sq, S-2 clerk and one of the keeper’s of this diary was on one of the missing planes. George had been trying for days to go on a mission. Today he had his chance. His cheerful smile, clear understanding of instructions and steady influence will be greatly missed in the S-2 clerk. Just learned the boys get double credit for the Regensburg deal. Seems only fair.
The air offensive continues. Today we hit Steyr A/C Factory, Austria. Some of our ships put bombs in the target, a difficult feat. Reconnaissance after the raid showed many hits in area but few vital buildings were hit. We lost one plane over the target. A second plane crashed about twenty miles from this base on take-off. Apparently the pilot was trying tocrash land. One of his bombs went off while trying to salvo. No one lived. A B-26 crashed on take-off very near the field. One of its engines cut out. S/Sgt James Y. Hom was informally presented the Purple Heart by Lt. Col. Gent in front of the building this morning in a very simple ceremony.
A stand-down came as a welcome relief to the two preceding days of hard work, excitement and tragedy. In almost no time headquarters was deserted by everyone not on duty. Most of the men went to Taranto. The British have an excellent show called the “Rainbow Revue” starring an exceedingly slick chick named Fausta Bentini. Unhappily, the lovely Fausta seems to be married. ** “Tex” Christian, Group Navigator, won his majority.
For the record time in three days the target was Regensburg. This time the target was the Prufening A/C Factory. Twelve of our planes tacked on to another Wing and bombed Graz. Fifteen hit the target. Apparently the target was hit hard by all groups concerned. We hope so, for we paid a heavy price. Four of our planes failed to return. Two are definitely known to be lost over the target. Weather was very bad on the trip to base. Two planes, one form the 450th and one from the 98th, landed here. Four of our planes had to land at friendly A/D’s. Our fine stone building leaks in spots we discovered. Officers now eat in an officers mess and hope they have abandoned mess gear for the duration.
Stand-down. Oh, Happy Day! Lt. Col Sullivan, 15th Air Force A-2, inspected the S-2 section today. One nice thing about overseas inspectors and higher echelons is their consideration, pleasantness, and understanding, a decided contrast to some of the vain, glorious peacocks in certain parts of the States. Mutual experience and mutual suffering probably is the answer. We find it a pleasure to receive inspecting officers. ** The medics have been conducting a drive to boost all typhus immunizations. There is a typhus epidemic in Naples. How they love that needle.
Another stand-down, and the rains came! How it rained. The field is a quagmire. Not only did it rain but large pieces of hail came down in the afternoon. ** Lt.’s Turner and Sorillard of S-2 received notice of promotion to First Lieutenant. It was a long sweat. ** There has been considerable cementing of Anglo-American and Polish-American relations in Taranto over Cognac, tea, and ice cream. What a combination! What heads!
Nothing today. Most of the HQ personnel are now pretty well rested. Quite a number of Officers and EM made a trip to Lecce today. Reason for the journey was a performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Lecce Opera House. ** The “Supply Problem” was discussed in a meeting conducted by Col. Kyle, Deputy C. O. 47th Wing, with representatives from A-4 of the 15th Air Force. All units on this field were represented. The 449th was complimented in that higher echelons look upon the Group as one of the best, if not the best, in the 15th Air Force.
What an odd month this has been. Throughout February the weather has been very bad for flying. Just three times during the month were we able to get decent missions off. But how the Axis paid for those days. Another B-24 crashed near here last evening. It was not one of ours.
Work has started on building a “day room” for the enlisted men. The building is just north and across the street from HQ building. Such comforts! Furniture arrived for the Officer’s Club, just in time for the gala opening.
The Officer’s Club opened with a dance. Guests included the Red Cross girls from Manduria and Nurses from 35th Field Hospital. From all accounts it was a most enjoyable evening.
This weather situation is still a problem. At present the field is sticky with mud. Its hard to plan our work. Major Simmons who has been with us as Tactical Inspector from the 376th BG, was transferred out preparatory to going home. Captain Bartlett assigned as 719th S-2.
No change in the weather. No mission.
The morning report reads: “No mission — Usual camp duties.”
Anglo-American relations are on the highest level if the number of officers visiting Taranto could be said to reflect the cementing of relationship.
Instruction given Bombardiers and Navigators on “Priority Target Identification:” by Capt. Nugent, Group Navigator. Same thing and more of it — “Mud”.
Col. Gent held a meeting in War Room giving Combat Officers instructions in how flying formations can be improved. Captain Kay, commander of the Royal Artillery Unit here at Grottaglie Field, gave a lecture on the effectiveness of Ack Ack fire. Lt. Howard gave lecture on “Escape Aids and Procedure.” More of the same weather — Mud! No mission.
The Officers entertained the Polish Nurses at a dance in the Officer’s Club. Few of the nurses could speak English but some things are understood in all languages. Majors Pendleton and Blake were down from Wing for the dance. Continued”Mud” keeps our planes on the ground. Major McIlheran, Deputy CO of the Group, now wishes to be known as Colonel. Those silver leaves arrived.
Major Arthur Harvey arrived today to assume his duties as Group Intelligence Officer. Col. Fleisher held a meeting of all officers of the Group headquarters. Officers were reprimanded for their laxity in “Military Courtesy.”
And still it rains. About now is the tine for a crop of rumors. One has it that we’ll fly from Manduria. The originator of this rumor didn’t stop to figure out how to get the planes off the field. Late at night many were kept awake by a Halifax which circled the field continuously. Its pilot used up his gas and then came in for a belly landing flat in the center of the field. No one was hurt.
Great improvement has been made in the general appearance of the grounds, streets and walks around our base. Wreckage has been cleared away and with the coming of Spring, our hopes are that the place will become even more livable.
Another group of officers and enlisted men left for the rest camp today. Many are reluctant to go, may be due to the fact we have had fried eggs — fried ‘fresh eggs’ for the past two mornings. News travels fast, on days we have fresh meat, there is a long waiting line for the mess hall door to open.
A new Group insignia has been adopted. The Bar “A” insignia previously adopted was a Group idea submitted to the Wing and approved. The new insignia is painted under 15th AF directive to provide a uniform means of identifying aircraft in flight. On the upper half of the vertical stabilizer is a white circle thirty-six inches in diameter. Within that is a blue equilateral triangle its sides being six inches thick. This identifies the 47th Wing. In the lower half of the vertical stabilizer is a similar white circle bearing within the blue number three which identifies the particular group. On the rudder will be a number to designate the particular squadron.
St. Patrick’s Day — a great day for the Irish. There was good natured ragging of the Irish but no orange ribbons appeared. The field is still muddy and non-operational.
The sun was out most of the day and it is hoped the field will soon be open. Idleness has been rough on everyone. A pretty fair ground school program has been under way each day in Group HQ or in the squadrons. Lt. V. P. Vallero finally made Captain. His case has been a peculiar one. Apparently he was promoted in the States for his name appears in the “Army Navy Register” but the letter has not come through. Finally, it was submitted to 15th AF.
Our first mission since 2 March completed with Knin M/Y as the target. Results were very satisfactory, no enemy opposition was met and all our bombers returned. It is now Major Bartlett in our S-2 section. Congratulations!
Mission prepared and briefed but then ordered canceled. More rain and more mud!
Chaplain McNamara has been trying to arrange some Italian language classes for some of the men. A local priest seems willing to teach.
Big doings in the officers club — Polish nurses, U. S. and English officers. It seems like whoever is responsible should get on the ball and complete the EM day room. Mission prepared, briefed and canceled.
On of the Crypto boys was idly listening to a German propaganda broadcast when he heard the usual listing of Allied prisoners. He was electrified to hear the names of Col. Darr H. Alkire and Lt. George K. Gordon announced as prisoners of war. What a thrill its been to the Group! How we hope it can be believed!
Some of the natives claim this is the worst winter in years. We think of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Over Yugoslavia today we lost an airplane piloted by Warren Ridgeway of Erie, Pa.
Another mission briefed and canceled. The enemy’s greatest ally during March has been the weather. Everyone is cold, uncomfortable and “browned off” as a result.
Today is a duplicate of yesterday with plenty of wind and rain. One good thing — it keeps the mosquitoes in check. We even had a little snow.
Today there was no mission. Again weather has been the great fly in the ointment. A practice formation was flown. One airplane, piloted by Major Tope, took a run up to Naples to photograph Mt. Vesuvius which has been displaying considerable activity. Big event of the day was the presentation of awards and decorations, mostly Air Medals, to flying personnel of the 716th and 718th squadrons. Even then the weather man would not give us a break but gave us a shower in the midst of the ceremonies. Col. Rush, Wing C. O., did the honors aided and abetted by Lt. Col. Gent.
We finally got a formation over the target. Today our planes attacked Mestre M/Y near Venice. Results were considered good. For so vital a target the enemy air activity was very slight and encouraged the boys considerably. But it’s still cold and disagreeable in these parts. Some of the men complain that their feet have not been warm since arriving at Grottaglie. There is a movie on the base and the British operate a Theater in Grottaglie where movies and stage shows can be seen. There are also several British theaters in Taranto.
Today’s mission was against Bolzano M/Y, Italian terminus of the Brenner Pass. On take off we lost one airplane, “Holy Joe” of the 717th Squadron, lost an engine on take off and crashed. Two men were killed, the others suffered severe injuries. Results were not too good although we hit the M/Y. One of our planes was missing over the target.
Sofia caught it today. Best of all, all our planes returned. We have Capt. B. Davis with us in S-4. He is a Floridian and claims Florida’s weather is much superior to “Sunny” Italy. No one will dispute the fact with him. Several of the officers talked the “Padre” into locating an English speaking Italian priest. This priest, Father Pezza, conducted his first class this evening at the Group Officer’s Club.
Stand-down today. We hope with the passing of March that we’ve seen the last of this miserable weather. Now in April we can look forward to mosquitoes and malaria! What a country!
Another day — another mission — but it was canceled due to weather.
Our bombers were out to aid the Ground Forces today. The following word has been received: An American Division on Anzio Beachhead stated today — “Front line troops elated over bombing of railroad lines of Cisterna this morning. Fortifications badly damaged, heavy casualties inflicted.” Major Fleisher, hard-working Group exec, is now Lt. Col. Fleisher; very becoming those silver leaves.
A mission to the Treviso M/Y was prepared, briefed and canceled. It looked for a while as though this month would duplicate last month for inactivity. For those who work up the missions to have them called off at the last moment is disappointing to put it mildly.
But today was a different matter. For several weeks now the aircraft components factory at Steyr, Austria, has been much in our mind. It has been briefed and canceled; briefed and canceled. In fact late in February the Group actually attacked Steyr. Today the entire Air Force took a resounding crack at this target. We lost three planes as a result of a collision over the target but our results were good and we destroyed twelve enemy aircraft. Capt. John A. Joseph returned from detached service at 15th Air Force.
Milton B. Coon, boss of the EM in the S-2 section, made Master Sergeant. Continuing its heavy attacks on enemy targets the Group hit Budapest, Hungary, and its vital Marshalling Yards. This was in support of the Soviet advance into Rumania, a new turn in our operations. Although flak was heavy, intense and accurate we lost no planes. This made the mission a successful one from the stand point of those who sit and sweat, although our results were only fair. There is a big push on to get mosquito nets up. It seems like everyone is hammering and sawing to out wit ‘Ann’, the name given by the medicos to the Anopheles Mosquito.
What a day this has been! The support of the Soviet Armies continued with a heavy attack on the vital Marshalling Yards at Bucharest, Rumania. Twenty-eight aircraft from this Group were over the target and dropped 70 tons of general purpose bombs. Our results were good but we paid a heavy price. Seven of out planes were lost to the enemy fighters. The fighters hit one box from the 719th Squadron and accounted for five of the six planes in the box. None of our losses are worth a “Gruppe” from the Luftwaffe but since we had to take the losses it is comforting to know the boys took forty enemy fighters and it was warm outside.
Ploesti has been a name to conjure with. The groans were many when the combat crews knew they were to attack this “bugaboo’ of the airman but they hit it well with incendiaries and we had no losses. A factory representative of the Sperry Co. has been attached for rations, quarters and special duty. Lt. Bradley and five of his crew who were lost over Regensburg are back with us. They are filled with tales of their adventures among the Yugoslav partisans. Three others of the same crew are safe and on their way back. One lad was killed in action.
Although so common-place that we never think of it, it is well to set down our associated Groups in this air force. The 449th is one of five bombardment groups in the 47th Wing. The other groups are the 98th, 376th, 450th and 451st. The 98th and 376th are veteran groups which have seen service from El Alamein to Italy. The two younger groups came overseas along with the 449th.
We lost one aircraft in attacking the Mestre M/Y but our results are among the best this Group has accomplished. Bomb strike photographs show as pretty a bomb pattern in the yards as the most exacting briefing officer could ask. Lt. Bradley’s crew, all nine and one posthumously, received the coveted D. F. C. from General Twining at Bari. This crew alone claims fifteen enemy aircraft on the Regensburg mission. An interesting little note was General Twining’s presentation of 15th AF patches to each man.
The weather is rather nasty again. The Group personnel have exhausted their resources in wise-cracking about ‘Sunny Italy’. 2nd Lt. Stewart H. Voloshin was assigned as Group Personal Equipment Officer.
Believe it or not, headquarters personnel now have showers! It is an anti-climax after all the discomfort of being without baths for so long and some men continue to go into neighboring Taranto for their baths. Habit is a compelling thing.
Three more of Lt. Bradley’s crew arrived. What stories these boys will have to regale the hometown with! For once tragedy has shown its brighter side. The small Group officers’ Italian class fathered by Chaplain McNamara is hard at work trying to master the “Eyetie” tongue.
This was another stand-down. The weather is mild again and it seems like spring will soon arrive. Between getting set for malaria and watching the V. D. rate rise, the medical department boys have their hands full. Progress on the EM day room is still very slow. One of the boys remarked it would be ready in time for opening the night before the Group departs for the Chinese Theater of Operations. Someone is not on the ball.
The aircraft factory at Weiner-Neustadt took a pounding today and so did we. We lost three planes; the enemy lost six fighters. Interrogations are now carried on at the ships and at tents set up near the ships for that purpose alone. It is more convenient for returning crews than to travel to Group Headquarters. One casualty of the plan has been the Red Cross doughnut girls; oh, my shattered morale!
Today Budapest-Vecses airdrome caught it. But the thirteenth was an unlucky day for one ship in this Group. Apparently, it was bombed by another B-24 and went down in flames. A series of operas are being offered in Lecce. Many officers and EM avail themselves of the opportunity to hear good music. Spring is still elusive. Each day it seems the weather might be good. Then suddenly the clouds appear and we have rain and cold. Most peculiar.
Publicity to the States finally came through for this Group. We received a copy of the AAF release to accompany the Communiqué for the 8th of April. It described the terrific air battle over Bucharest in which our Group accounted for forty enemy planes. No mission today. PX supplies have improved in variety and quality. Two candy bars, coke, matches and similar items have appeared at the exchange.
Col. Rush, Commanding Officer of the 47th Wing, arrived to meet the aircraft returning from today’s mission against Bucharest M/Y. For once we lost no ships but the target was completely overcast and returning crew members could not say what success we had. Mosquito nets are now being used nightly. Perhaps we are eager. But it does not hurt to be prepared. We understood the mosquitoes attack in formation over here.
The Group attacked Brasov M/Y today. Brasov is an important communication center in Rumania and our attack was in support of the advancing Red Army. We lost three airplanes. The weather is improving again. Now we have another problem. Dust on the landing strip will be troublesome in the coming months.
Lt. Col. Thomas, Wing A-2, was present at briefing this morning. It will cost two dollars for each Group EM and one dollar per attached squadron EM to get the Day Room started. Now that they are after money we hope to see some action. There is a red hot volley ball league in the Group. The various headquarters offices each have entered a team and S-2 leads the league but the other teams are in close pursuit. Two days ago a B-24 shot down a P-51. The P-51 was a casualty to inadequate training in aircraft recognition. To remedy the situation a P-51 was sent over to the base so that the combat crews could get a good look at the fighter. But tragedy struck this plan: Its pilot was “buzzing” the field and crashed into one of the two skeleton dirigible hangars. It was a terrible sight but the pilot never knew what hit him. His manglednbody was found near the flaming airplane.
15th Air Service Command has sponsored a series of operas at Lecce. Various personnel have visited the town to hear these operas. The performance today was “Rigoletto” which was rather well done. These operas compare about to the standard of our U. S. San Carlo company which for many years has toured the States. G. I. enthusiasm is very evident. A Lt. Terry of the British Navy was with us today. He operates off the Island of Vis which is a Partisan stronghold.
Lt. Col. Robert McIlheran returned from the hospital after a joust with yellow jaundice. Although the sun shines almost daily it remains cold at night. With tongue-in-cheek we say the rainy season has ended. Added to malaria we will have dust. When the airplanes take off or land it is impossible to see across the field.
47th Wing Administrative inspector paid the Group a visit today. We hope they are satisfied. A mission was run against the M/Y at Treviso, Italy. Clouds completely obscured the target. We hear the EM day room is well on its way to completion. Tickets are being printed, the bar has been installed and it looks like there will be a gala opening in a few days.
The boys started out on a mission today but were called back after take off. Nearby there is a delightful little Italian town called Martina Franca. It is located about twenty miles from here in the general direction of Bari. Its people are very friendly and the town seems so much cleaner than most Italian towns. Martina Franca has been relatively untouched by the war. It seems strange to walk its streets and see no British or American troops.
The headquarters volley ball league is operating at a fast pace and the games are hard fought. S-2 was toppled from the lead by Major Tope’s S-3 aggregation.
Col. Gent has issued orders that military courtesy and discipline be improved. Unquestionably there has been laxity in this respect. Perhaps it can be attributed to our civilian backgrounds. Few of us are soldiers at heart. Our aircraft hit Schwechat aircraft factory near Vienna. It appears that this Group was the only one to do any substantial damage. We lost two airplanes. Aboard one was Capt. Bailey, Asst. Group Operations Officer. He was a fine chap and his loss is keenly felt. Captain “Art” Swan, C. O. of the 719th Squadron, was seriously wounded by flak over the target. Progress on the EM day room has slowed down to a near halt. After a burst of energy, work has all but stopped. What the exact facts are we do not know but some EM claim it is because of work on a separate officer’s mess. This sort of thing, if true, is bad for morale and, whether true or not, is believed by many EM.
Lt. Col. Robert C. McIlheran was transferred to 47th Wing. Lt. Col. George R. Blase is the new Group deputy commander. Today’s mission was against the Ploesti M/Y. It is quite thrilling to know this Group is helping the Red Army which is now in Rumania. All of our aircraft returned safely. This attack was the fiftieth Group mission.
Today’s mission was abortive. When well on the way to Varese, Italy, the Group encountered bad weather and returned without bombing. Some of the departments have organized softball teams. Those inclined toward athletics have every opportunity to pursue their interests. The Eyeties look with amazement on the effort expended in developing baseball diamonds.
S/Sgt. Robert Damewood was transferred to the 716th Squadron from HQ S-2. Lt. Col. Blase was named Group Air Inspector. After briefing today the mission was canceled when bad weather developed. Although the weather is cold, preparations for the advent of “Ann”, the anopheles mosquito, continue. Prize question of the day is put to Major Patterson by a distressed EM, “Sir, a mosquito just bit me. What shall I do?” There was a riot in Taranto this evening. It involved, Eyeties versus Americans and British. How it started no one knows.
Taranto has been declared off limits by the 15th Air Force. Rumors had it that this action was taken as a result of yesterday’s rioting. Actually, we find there has been a small pox epidemic raging in the town for several weeks. Taranto is the only large city nearby and it has been a convenient spot for relaxation and play. Also its’ British showers were for long the sole means of keeping clean.
The EM day room was opened with a decided bang this evening. From all reports it was a colorful affair. A five piece orchestra was on hand as were five Eyetie girls. The girls were well chaperoned but nonetheless were in great demand. Colonels Gent and Fleischer were on hand. “Eyetie” beer brewed in Naples is now available. Mission today was a milk run according to the flyers. The attack was against the Port of Orbetello, Italy. Results were not too good. Major Cecil Petterson, Group surgeon, went on the mission but not by choice. He claims he was “shanghaied” by Major Tope who flew the ADO ship and suddenly decided to go on the mission.
Toulon Harbor was today’s target. Results are not yet clear, but it should have been hard hit for seventeen groups were over the target. Pity is not to be wasted on the enemy, yet such a tremendous force must be awe-inspiring to the comparative defenseless people on the ground. Several pools have been organized in the Group. These pools are guesses as to the time and place of the second front. Many rumors are current.
Today ends the first year of the 449th Bombardment Group. Tomorrow is its anniversary. No elaborate plans have been made but all members of the organization are conscious of the tremendous changes which have effected every member of the Group during the past year. An attack was made against the M/Y at Alessandria, Italy. One airplane was lost. The strange Italian spring continues to disprove the travel ads. Today was cold and uncomfortable. Many changed into their winter underwear!
The first day of the Group’s new year passed uneventfully. No mission was scheduled. Colonel Gent released some poop concerning the Group’s achievements during the past year. We face the new year prepared for whatever it may bring. The medical boys are doling out stabrine tablets for use against malaria. One problem we find over here is the presence of lice and fleas in our bed clothing. It is an ingenious man who has the answer to a change of bedding. So one simply takes the problem to the medics and presto — a delousing gas.
Again the weather is improving. The mission was canceled after briefing and the day devoted to maintenance and ground school.
Nor was there a mission today. The mess varies from good to bad in a cycle. Sometimes we eat steak, pork chops, chili con carne, and at other times C-rations. It is difficult to understand these variations. Compared to front line troops, however, we eat very well and have no real complaints to make.
Major John Walker’s British light ack ack is moving out. We are sorry to see them go for they have been good friends. The depart for a base near Brindisi.
Today we ran our first mission of the month. It was an attack directed at the Ploesti M/Y. The return was a sad occasion. Our formation was hard hit by enemy fighters and flak. Five of our bombers failed to return. Worst of all is the fact that the target was cloud obscured and our results are doubtful. Here are some pre-invasion bets made by the S-2 crystal gazers. Major Harvey has bet Major Bartlett that the invasion will start on May 15th and will be over within ninety days of the actual landing date. Lt. Turner has bet Major Harvey that the war in Europe will not be over until 1 January 1945 or later.
Today we flew against Brasov to attack buildings on the edge of the airdrome. The attack was successful and we had no losses.
Sunday is like any other day in the week. Chaplain McNamara holds mass for the Catholics and there are Protestant services available in a nearby Nissen hut. Aside from the church services, and many men are not church go’ers, there is little to mark the day. So far as operations is concerned Sunday is as good a day as any to drop bombs on the enemy. Today our fliers started out for Bucharest but turned back due to bad weather. Some groups went on to attack the target.
The volley ball league is divided into two halves. S-2 won the first half. S-1 at present is leading the league in the second half. Although the weather about here is very pleasant apparently it has been poor in our target areas. Old man weather prevented today’s formation from leaving the ground. Major Tope, Captain Joseph and Colonel Gent returned today from rest camp at Santa Cesarea. Colonel Gent said “I’ve come back for a rest.” Rest camp sounds like a good “deal” to us.
When missions are canceled ground school and practice missions take over. That is the case today. Some of the eager ones at headquarters go into Grottaglie to practice Eyetie on the natives. Major Tope is practically an Eyetie by now. Taranto, Lecce and Francavilla are all off limits to service personnel due to small pox.
The S-2 boys have been hard at work on their histories for the past month. This is an interesting project. We hope it will be available to the members of the organization after the war. Today the Group stood down.
Today we had another stand down. Big things seem to be brewing. Awards and decoration ceremonies were the order of the day. S/Sgt. Siegel was assigned as full time PRO.
Terrific artillery barrages said to be greater than El Alamein heralded the opening of a great Italian offensive. The ground forces are under way and we hope this is the beginning of the end. The entire air force went out over Italian targets today seeking to disrupt and destroy enemy communications. Our Group attacked the harbor and roads at Porto San Stefano.
Today the Group achieved perfect bombing results. In attacking the M/Y at Piacenza our hits surrounded the aiming point. Hardly a single bomb landed outside the target area. Since Piacenza is on the vital Milan-Rome line, the importance of this attack can hardly be over estimated.
2nd Lt. George A. Brobeck was assigned to the S-2 section. Today’s mission was directed against Vicenza, Italy, with special attention being paid to the round-house. While not as spectacular as yesterday’s results we did hit the target. A message arrive from Wing conveying General Twining’s congratulations on the Piacenza attack. Needless to say the Group was elated.
Today the Group stood down. Because some of the Group joined the organization one year ago it was decided to celebrate a second regimental day. A huge, delicious cake was served in the mess. The officers really tied one on at a party held in the evening. At two o’clock in the morning the boisterous officers could be heard in the building waking up their more discreet brethren.
Today the Group stood down. Some of the devices for rigging mosquito nets are ingenious to say the least. The ideas range all the way from Lt. Lorillard’s collapsing pulley to two pipes pushed into the wall. All keep ‘ann’ at bay — we hope.
An excellent mission was flown against the harbor and mole at Orbetello, Italy. The aiming point was obliterated, so the reports said, and this was substantiated by the bomb strike photos. We lost one plane to flak. There is something impressive about the uniformity of uniform change. All Group personnel now wear khakis.
Today’s attack against Ploesti refineries turned into a visit to Belgrade, the Yugoslav capitol. The results were not good.
Some of the boys who find relaxation in Bari report rides are hard to get lately. Lt. Gil Howard, inveterate Bari goer, had to stand on the road for over an hour near Gioia.
Capt. Ed Westlake went to rest camp. Santa Cesarea is thoroughly satisfactory for resting purposes but after a few days it becomes monotonous for there is positively nothing to do. The recently submitted monthly installments of unit and squadron histories bounced back to the annoyance of all historians. Much time had been spent in trying to work up these histories.
Today an airplane piloted by 1st Lt. Joseph Brown of Squadron 717th crashed near the field. What caused the accident no one knows although one chap who happened to be watching the plane said it suddenly nosed straight down. Eight men were killed instantly by the violence of the crash, “Joe” Brown, a Cincinnati boy, was one of the best liked officers in the Group and his loss was a severe blow to everyone. Two ground boys had gone along for the ride.
Despite terrible weather over the Adriatic Sea, the Group set out on a mission. There were so many clouds that flying became a rat race. Eventually targets of opportunity were attacked along the eastern Italian coast. Corporal Leon Dickstein’s weekly news sheet “Table of Disorganization” has died some after its birth. The exact reason for the trouble is not clear. Lt. Ernie Day, well liked Crypto officer, has been transferred to 47th Wing.
Everyone is much excited about the progress of the 5th and 8th Armies toward Rome. After the long stalemate in Italy, it is very encouraging to see the ground forces breaking loose. To help matters along the Group went up to the Beachhead to attack enemy troop concentrations. Heavy bombers, at least those from this Group, do not seem to accomplish much on these anti-personnel missions.
Lt. Turner returned from the hospital. This is getting to be a standing joke for he has been hospitalized four times since the first of the year. He claims he is building up a case for a C. D. D. Weiner-Neustadt Wallersdorf A/D was today’s target. It was bombed by pathfinder and the results were poor.
Porto Marghera, an oil storage area near Venice, felt the effects of Group bombing today. Results were excellent. We had no losses. Taranto is no longer off bounds to personnel of the Group. This meets with everyone’s approval for the big city is easy to reach from the base. Taranto is a dirty town, seeming never to be clean. We are scarcely in a position to be critical, however.
When the planes returned from Nice today green flares sprinkled over the field indicating that the fliers had hit the target. The target was a railroad bridge over the Var River, a difficult target for precision bombing, yet six bomb hits were plotted directly on the bridge. Everyone was highly pleased. We lost one airplane.
Back to the French coast went the Group today. The M/Y at Marseilles was the target. It was well hit. Briefings are held very early in the morning. By the time most of the Group personnel get up in the morning the planes have already departed on the day’s mission.
After six straight days of bombing the Group caught a stand-down today. It was a welcome respite. Many took off for Taranto and Bari. Captain Nugent takes full advantage of stand-downs. His bombing classes are held as regularly as there are stand-downs. To stimulate interest in bombing, Captain Nugent has instituted a bombing pool. It costs fifty lire to guess the percentage of hits on the target. The idea is catching on for an average of twenty dollars per day goes into the empty bomb case used as a receptacle for bets. Considerable prognostication now takes place on such matters as whether the leader is a “fast track horse” or a “mudder.”
Today’s mission was a rough one. Wiener-Neustadt was the target and we lost two airplanes. The pilots were Lt. Fergus and Lt. Henggeler. Both were old members of the Group, having trained with us in the States. We had an alert last night. A German Recon plane was overhead. Standing by the air raid shelter one could hear the thump of the Taranto ack ack and could see the bursts of flak. Our quarry eluded us.
Bari, headquarters of the 15th Air Force is a fine town. It is on the shore of the Adriatic and has fine port facilities. It’s buildings are either modern or old, but well built. The town has an atmosphere of activity and energy which is in contrast to other southern Italian towns. Bari’s Theater Opera, Red Cross Clubs and shops interest many of the Group personnel. Outside Bari on the Taranto Road is the United States Military Cemetery. Simple but impressive ceremonies were held there today it being Decoration Day. Colonel Fleisher represented the Group. Some damn fine men from the Group rest at Bari Cemetery. Ebreichsdorf factory was the day’s target. Results were poor. Capt. West lake was named 718th Squadron S-2.
Ploesti came in for a pounding today. Results are not known for the target, the Rumanian Americano Refinery, was obscured by a highly effective smoke screen. Interrogations are now conducted at the Squadron parachute department enabling the fliers to complete the process sooner. The Group volley ball league continues at a fast pace. S-2 is leading. Headquarters has a baseball team which includes such luminaries as Major Bartlett and Colonel Blase. Major Bartlett takes the games seriously and it is said that umpires need full field equipment (M-1 defensive) before calling one wrong.
For several nights now a German reconnaissance plane piloted by a flier dubbed “Fearless Freddie” has been over the field. The Taranto ack-ack fires on him but without success. To see the shells burst is at once a pretty and disturbing sight. Tonight “Freddie” was over about midnight. Batteries about the field have not opened up. Captain Kay of the British heavy flak says Jerry probably hopes we will open up thus disclosing his gun positions. Today was airdrome defense day. The chemical warfare boys had a gay time spraying tear gas about. They have a queer sense of humor. German parachute equipment has been found near the field resulting in an increase in our guards. Sabotage is the fear. The guards have itchy fingers as a British Major learned when he failed to halt his jeep. Fortunately he is uninjured. However, he is certainly more careful.
The first attack of the month was against a M/Y at Simeria, Rumania. Results were poor. We hope today’s attack is not a harbinger of June results in general. Capt. Nugent held a critique for all bombardiers to analyze the results of the mission. 2nd Lt. Robert H. Swaboda was attached to the Group for special duty from the HQ 12th Weather Squadron.
U. S. bombers are now using Russian bases! This news has created much interest among headquarters personnel. We wonder if our men will join the shuttle service soon. Lt. Lou Lalla is at Naples for a course in Orientation. A notice appeared on the bulletin board asking all personnel who speak French to register. What does this mean? “Fearless Freddie” was conspicuous by his absence this evening.
Captain Edwin E. Myers has joined the Group. Captain Myers has been a squadron S-2 with the 376th Bomb Group (H). He comes to us with seventeen month’s experience and should be a very valuable addition to the S-2 section. Unable to see the primary target today Colonel Gent led the Group over the small port of Savona, Italy. An accurate bomb pattern smashed Savona’s docks. There were no losses.
Bologna was hit today. Preliminary reports indicated the target was plastered. Unidentified lights have been seen flashing in the nearby hills at night. The weather is now so warm that we sleep without blankets at night. With the coming hot weather we also have insects of various assorted sizes and shapes. They arrive in droves.
D-Day! This is the day Europe has awaited for four years. We consider this seriously. Not just our fate as individuals but the fate of the world depends on the success of these landings at Normandy. Our men flew to Ploesti again. Results were doubtful for the Nazis had covered the area with smoke.
No mission today. The Group news center has become the most popular spot at headquarters. All day excited knots of men await the latest posting of the news. The landings in France have made a much greater impression on us than did the fall of Rome.
Again we stand down. A Squadron Leader Collins of the RAF is here today. He is lecturing to the combat crews on ditching procedure. Squadron Leader Collins has done this work for four years and is an expert.
Our target today was an airdrome near Munich. However, the Group attacked an alternate, the oil storage facilities at Porto Marghera near Venice. Once each week the S-2 section puts on a news analysis for the benefit of various service groups stationed at the base. The news is well received. Major Bartlett is now Group S-2. Major Harvey has been hospitalized.
An attack was made against Trieste, the important Italian port at the head of the Adriatic Sea. Our assignment involved the smashing of refineries. German reconnaissance planes were over very early in the morning. One of these days we will learn why. An enemy attack on gasoline dumps in Taranto harbor is not impossible. There are two PBY’s now based at this field. The “cats” are huge, ungainly craft but are eminently airworthy. They are employed in air-sea rescue work.
More reconnaissance planes today. They were overhead during briefing causing blackout during that time. Ack-ack awakened many of the Group. Today many fliers saw the Black Sea. An attack was made on the port facilities and oil storage at Constanta, Rumania.
Stand down. Lt. Barclay is now in the insignia business. He has located an “Eyetie” who can make the metallic Group insignia. Orders are said to be pouring in. Among the other accomplishments of this versatile gentleman is the painting of the Group Officer’s Club. Lt. Barclay has his hands full for S-5, the enlisted men’s club has been decorated cleverly by S/Sgt Damewood and other enlisted artists.
Munich caught hell today. The entire Air Force was up there. Our men reported the flak as heavy, intense, and accurate with emphasis on every syllable. We lost no planes. Fifteen Halifaxes landed on the field today and have given rise to many rumors. It is said the bomb dump is empty, that the Halifaxes will take over the field while this Group moves north.
Scotching the Halifax rumors we learned they are here only to carry supplies to Yugoslav partisans. The huge bombers load their bomb bays with food, medical supplies, small arms and ammunition which they drop on predetermined spots in Yugoslavia. Being on the scene we find it impossible to accept America’s attitude toward King Peter’s government in exile. The Partisans are doing the fighting and dying. The Group attacked a small oil refinery at Osijek, Yugoslavia, today. Results were excellent. Our losses have been very light this month. We hope it continues this way.
There was no mission today. Many individuals are completing their fifty missions and are leaving the Group for home. For ground personnel the change is quite noticeable. The turnover in combat crews in now nearly one hundred percent. Few old faces are seen. Even some of the replacement crews are nearing the fifty mark. We were thrilled with the news that B-29s had attacked Japan. The S-2 news center is visited by scores of persons each day.
Captain Frank (Sinatra) Donovan has received his twin stars. Very becoming, Captain! A highly successful all out attack was made on oil storage facilities at Bratislava, Slovakia. It is a pleasure to know the Group participated in the first attack on this lone virgin (i.e. — not bombed) satellite capitol. A fine, new, outdoor theater has appeared in the skeleton of an uncompleted addition to a hangar.
At Brindisi there is a tremendous pile of stone sitting by the harbor edge. It has been constructed in the form of a gigantic rudder and has some significance in connection with the harbor. The British officers requisitioned the offices of an Italian steamship company and have used the facilities to set up a charming officer’s club. It is in sharp contrast to the club in Taranto where boisterousness is characteristic of the club.
With the close of the volley ball season a baseball league has been organized at headquarters. Four team are prepared to contest in the league.
This is the third straight stand down. Weather has been the cause. “Fritz” Crisler, the weather man, blames front conditions all over Europe. With the landings in France in mind the Group impatiently awaits improved flying conditions. For the people in Germany and the satellite countries this must be a welcome respite.
A mission was briefed and canceled. Progress is being made in all squadrons toward the establishment of S-2 alert rooms and pilot lobbies. There is considerable divergence of opinion on the value of such rooms but orders are orders. Perhaps they will turn out very well. A series of room inspections are under way much to the disgust of the officers who are strictly off the base in this regard. The enlisted men generally present a smooth and shiny room. Many are the married men who complain that their wives always did these things. An interesting development has been reported from Bari and Naples. Red Army Officers are about! One feels a sense of humility in the presence of these men whose country has performed so magnificently against the Hitlerites. One is proud to salute them!
Clouds ranging up to 30,000 feet along the route caused cancellation of today’s mission. An order is out prohibiting ground personnel from flying on combat missions. Several ground officers recently have slipped aboard B-24’s thus participating in a mission. The Group orientation program is slowly getting under way. Attendance has been poor owing to the voluntary nature of the meetings. The next move probably will be compulsory attendance. One would think that soldiers above all ought to have some interest in the events which bring death to some and threaten the future of the rest.
At last we set out to attack a target. In the target area there were so many clouds that even alternates could not be seen. The Herrenvolk were lucky again. Wing and Air Force brass hats were here on an inspection tour of the Group. The medical boys discovered the Group barber has lice. What a blow! Everyone imagines now that we have lice. Maybe we do. Oh, beautiful, sunny Italy!
The S-2 news presentation is really catching on. Even the British are now coming to the War Room on Friday mornings for the news. The Group started out for Ploesti but turned back because of the weather.
Today the Group did go to Ploesti. The Nazis have one of the most effective smoke screens at Ploesti that we know of. Time and again our attacks are unsuccessful for this reason. The Romano Americana Refinery is all Jerry has left. Major Bill Tope, our genial S-3 now insists upon being called Colonel. Those silver leaves made their appearance to the pleasure of all not least among whom we must include Bill. We are still sweating Colonel Gent’s chickens.
We know how badly we are needed by the ground force. Strategic bombardment’s day is at hand. Yet for over a week the weather has been impossible. Today we set out to attack Toulon Harbor through very bad weather. The fliers were never certain when they were over the French coast so thick were the clouds. Scattering like wounded rabbits they scurried homeward. Gasoline was short, bombs were jettisoned by some, some sat down at Corsica, Naples, Bari, etc. It was a grand rat race. But we will try again. The Fascists must be thanking their crazy Fuehrer. There was much friendly jesting at the expense of the hard working weather officers who were accused of using such devices as rheumatic legs and Dr. Mills calendars in their trade.
Schwechat really caught it today. Returning fliers said the sky over Vienna was covered with aircraft. Poor Adolph! His teeth must be chattering still. Major Paul Nugent spent the afternoon swimming. On the base there once was a swimming pool. A Negro soldier who could not swim decided to step in for a cooling dip. Apparently he must have stepped into a crater in the bottom of the pool for he drowned. Paul dove to the bottom many times to recover the body.
Brod M/Y, an alternate target, was an example of precision bombing at its worst. Bombs fell all over the town leaving the marshalling yards untouched. With a stand-down scheduled for tomorrow many were the parties in officer clubs and EM day-rooms.
Many were the hang-overs this morning. Some have gone to the beach near Taranto. It is an excellent beach and makes one think of home. This evening at the open air theater an RKO picture called “Bombardier” was shown. So technically incorrect was the movie that cat calls and hoots marked the progress of the film. Such things as B-17’s flying to Japan and back, bombardiers leaning out of camera hatches to untangle parachutes, and bombing the middle of a twenty foot square raft from 20,000 feet happen only in the movies. What corn!
We have with us Lt. Col. Jack A. Randolph as Air Inspector. Colonel Randolph is a West Pointer and a command pilot. There was no mission today.
The Group set out to attack Zagreb airdrome today but the target was obscured by clouds. Very few of the original Group flying personnel are left with us. Many have gone down while many others have completed their fifty missions. The old order changeth. Many officers and men are trying to figure out a way to reach Rome. Rumor has it that certain eager beavers have visited the Eternal City already.