RADIO BROADCAST FROM GERMANY, Jan. 21, 1944 - (submitted by George Bessler, 318th Sqn)
“This is Lord Haw-Haw from Radio Berlin . . . Today, American bombers bombed the city of Parma. Targets included were an orphanage that was completely destroyed. Estimated dead and wounded is approximately four hundred fifty children, ages from one-to-seven. Also hit was a hospital for the Mentally Retarded killing and wounding one hundred fifty seven. German and Italian officials are declaring . . .”
AT TRIOLO AIRFIELD, 14th FIGHTER GROUP - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)
A young pilot is being debriefed. He has seen a lot of combat in the last two weeks, but had never shot down an enemy, or seen a big bomber go down. Until today. There are still tears on his cheeks, and the interrogating officer pushes a glass, filled with the hard stuff, across the table to help him steady his nerves. At least he’s finally stopped babbling 'I tried to save them' over and over, thinks the officer.
“Okay, let’s go over this again. Where did this happen?” asks the officer.
“Right here,” answers the young lieutenant pointing towards the map. “We picked them up right near the rally point coming out of Parma. I saw this one bomber heading down, and me and Boggs decided to go check it out and stay with him to get him home. We were trying to . . .”
“Right,” cuts in the officer. He can sympathize with this boy, but he needs information and can't let him break down again. “Did you get the number or name of the plane?”
“Yes,” answers the pilot. “42-11758, but I couldn’t read the name on the nose.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine, the number is all we need here. What happened next?”
“Well, the Germans, they were all over them. The pilot was doing everything he could, up and down, diving, everything. Me and Boggs tried to help, we did, but there were just so many of them. I shot one down” (this was said without the usual satisfaction or boasting), “but they just kept coming. I was trying to line up another, and one came on my t-t-t-tail and forced me away . . .”
The Lieutenant breaks off and wipes his eyes. He looks away a moment, struggling to regain his composure. Finally, he looks back at his interrogator. “I pulled away and was turning to lose the bandit on my tail. That’s when I saw it going down. The port wing was in flames, and it looked like the end of it was gone. The plane started to spin out of control and started heading down.”
The officer waits a moment or two for more. “Any chutes?” he asks.
The pilot nods. “Two. That’s it. Here,” he says, pointing to the map.
The officer makes a note of the location of the chutes and thanks the pilot for his help. He looks at the map again. Poor bastards, he thinks. I hope they're okay.
S-2 INTELLIGENCE REPORTS BASED ON INTERVIEWS WITH POWs - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)
“The American aircraft was forced to leave its formation after bombing the target when the oxygen supply to the tail section was cut. This is a weakness in the Americans, sacrificing nine men so that one can live! Once they were down at 10,000 feet, our fighters showed little mercy, hitting them again and again. These B-17s show again how dangerous they are, because they can take much damage and still fly. This plane had a fire in the tail section, both ailerons knocked out, and lost tail guns, and those nasty guns on the top were knocked out. They have a self-sealing oil tank that kept it flying after it should have been knocked down, too. One of our fighters hit one of the fuel tanks, causing a mid-air explosion that destroyed the plane. Perhaps we should instruct our pilots to aim more for the wings, and less for the body?”
A HOLDING CELL IN FLORENCE - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)
Donald Shea sat on the bench in his holding cell, awaiting either another round of interrogation or transport to a POW camp somewhere. After Pearly's Pride went down, he'd been picked up pretty quickly and sent here, where ever here was. There wasn't enough food and his cell was always cold, but at least they hadn't tried beating him up, even though he gave them nothing but name, rank and serial number. He was, however, lonely; he suspected there were other Americans here, but he hadn't seen any since his capture.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of boots coming down the hall . The door opened, and the two guards entered with a third man -- an American! They shoved the man into the cell, said something and laughed, then left and slammed and locked the door. The new man looked up at Shea and smiled. Tim! It's you! Thank God! Shea thought he'd looked familiar. It was Tomlinson, one of the waist gunners from his plane.
Shea waited until the guards' footsteps faded down the corridor before speaking. "They rough you up?" he asked, jerking his head in the direction of the door.
Tim Tomlinson touched the bruises and cuts on his face and appeared to consider the question. Then he replied, "Nah, I got this when my 'chute got caught in a tree and my face hit some pretty big branches on the way down."
They shook hands. Shea was thrilled to finally have someone to talk to. "I'm sure glad to see you. Do you know if any of the other guys got out in time?"
Tomlinson shrugged. "I don't know," he said vaguely. "One minute everything was fine, the next all hell broke loose. After Lieutenant West rang the bailout button, I started for the side door hatch. I had just tossed it out and was about to jump when the wing buckled and out I went . . ." Then he changed the subject not wanting to reflect on the last moments of Pearly's Pride. "What about you?"
Shea told him that he just gotten out of the ball turret with the help of the other gunner, Tim Hatcher, and had just gotten his chute on. After the plane went into an uncontrollable spin, he some how fought and struggled to reach the hatch and jumped out. After that they chatted for a few minutes, they lapsed into silence. Tomlinson broke the silence first: "They keep asking for 'in-for-ma-tion'," he said, in a dead-on parody of the interrogator's accent. Then he snorted derisive laughter. "As if WE would know anything important!"
"Yeah," agreed Shea. "We're lowly enlisted men for Pete's Sake! The Germans must think HQ tells everyone in the Army what their big plans are."
Tomlinson looked straight ahead. "All we should give them," he said carefully in a matter-of-fact tone, "is our name, rank and serial number. That's I've told them." Then he added quickly, "You?"
Shea said that he did same thing. "Well, at least we're still alive," Shea said, "I'm thankful for that."
"You said it, pal," Tomlinson agreed. "Hell, we might even see the end of the war while we're still young."
5:30 AM, THE MORNING OF 22nd JANUARY 1944 - (submitted by Jim Pink, 316th Sqn)
Lieutenant Beckett, pilot of Darla's Bite II, strode out the infirmary and headed to the mess hall to meet Darla's new crewmembers. He had been checking on Lieutenant Thorne and his recovery after taking a 2" x 4.5" piece of B-17 to his head. The doc told Chuck Thorne that he could be back up front of Darla in three days. The bombardier was anxious to bring revenge on those bastards that killed his friends and crewmates.
As Don approached the mess he felt that this was an odd situation for him. Now the only Officer up front that was familiar with the current crew. Just seven days ago he was the new guy, replacing the fatally wounded co-pilot on Darla's maiden mission. What would he say, how does one receive new soldiers, then preparing them for the violent war in the air over Europe. Going through the door he spied three figures drinking coffee at a table next to the rest of Darla's crew. “Gentlemen, welcome to the Three-One-Six.” As the three stood to salute. With a pause and a deep breath, he continues, “Hope you're ready to take it to the Jerries tomorrow,” Don replies as he returns their salute. Beckett gives each man a quick once over. Then he spells out what he expects from them and outlines their duties. Finishing up he stressed that all three study the theater maps and read some of the battle reports to familiarize them selves with the battles that may lie ahead.
“Any questions?" quickly continuing, “None! Good. You're dismissed.”
This caught Lieutenant Johnston in mid-thought, wondering if he was a permanent addition to this crew or not. He decided to wait and ask his question at a more opportune time.
“YES, SIR!” they all replied, as Beckett turned and briskly retreated to his tent. Never liked being in command, went through Don's mind. Constantly being belittled at the family corner store, by his old man, had ruined his self-esteem. He has since shied away from leadership positions. Co-pilot had been enough for him. Now, by fate, he had to get past his feeling of inadequacies. Continuing his thoughts, you can do this Don, Elmer your old man, isn't here, he won't be breathing down my neck this time.
A SCENE FROM THE BARRACKS (Jan. 22, 1944) - (submitted by Don Lavalette, 316th Sqn)
“Hey, O’Malley, I’m headed over to see my brother Carmelo and the boys of Green Man’s Girl, wanna go?” asked Lieutenant Giovanni.
“Going to invite them to your aunt’s house for that homemade Italian food?” said Lieutenant O’Malley.
“You bet, you’re coming aren’t ya? Did you ask the rest of the crew?” asked Lieutenant Anthony Giovanni.
“Everyone will be there, Waylon, Willie and the boys,” answered O’Malley.
“Great, Aunt Rosa will love it!”
“Saint Laurent is bringing his new dollface, shouldn’t be a problem should it?” asked Tom.
“No problem, she’ll be tickled, hey, see ya later,” said Giovanni as he headed over to see the boys of Green Man’s Girl.
THE BARRACKS (Jan. 22, 1944) - (submitted by George Bessler, 318th Sqn)
“Hey, Carmelo, the boys from the Claremont Express are here with your brother Anthony. Hurry up lets go, I can’t wait to get some real Italian food,” said Joey. “Damn I haven’t had any since I left the North End in Boston.”
O’Reily snaps in, “Carmello your cute cousins gonna be there . . . you know the ones in the photo at the beach!”
“Hey, O’Reilly, if you touch his cousins his Uncle is going to make you swim with the fishes!” yells Joey.
“Hey, Capt. You comin’ to my Aunt’s house for dinner?” said Carmello.
“No, thanks, I’m headed off to the O.C. to think for awhile have fun and don't eat to much for tomorrow’s mission.”
Joey leans over to Carmello, “The Capt’s been there on all during his off duty. Hope he shakes off Mike’s death . . . Come on, let’s go. You know my Aunt will keep saying, MANGA, MANGA, MANGA!”
A SCENE FROM THE BARRACKS, part 2 - (submitted by Jim Pink, 316th Sqn)
As the 1 & 1/2 ton breezes by, Sam Albers of Darla’s Bite looks quizzically at his buddy, Dave Andrews, “Isn’t that the guys from the Claremont Express?”
Andrews replies, “Ya, and there’s that guy that came out of the CO’s office after the brawl . . . what is his name? Saint Laurence, Saint Law . . .”
“Saint Laurent,” says Albers, “I heard he got busted. Boy that crew is going to be in big trouble,” he continues.
“From the looks of it lately, that crew IS BIG trouble,” muses Dave.
Thinking out loud, Sam states, “I just hope for their sake the Colonel doesn’t find out.”
Dave laughs, “Ya, or they’ll be 'Tail-End Charlie' for the next ten missions.”
“HA, HA, HA, HA.” Both men found that quite funny, in a morbid kind of way.
AT THE MAIN GATE (Jan. 22, 1944)
The 1 & 1/2 ton truck pulls to a stop about 50 feet from the main gate. The driver, Sergeant Howell of the base motor pool, turns to his two passengers sitting in the front cab, Lieutenants Harrigan and O’Malley. “Well, Lieutenants, this is far as I can take you. I gotta get this truck back to the pool. Have a good time in town.”
“Thanks, Howell,” Ed Harrigan said as he opened the door and getting out.
“Yeah, thanks, Howell,” Tom O’Malley echoed as he slid his body outward to join Harrigan. From the back of the truck, the remaining 16 men piles out of the truck on to the dirt surface.
And as an after thought, Howell calls out before both men are out of sight. “Boy Lieutenant, I sure wish I could go with you guys. All this talk of real Italian home cooking sounds just terrific. All I got to look forward to tonight at the enlisted mess is fried Spam!”
Both pilots smiled at Howell and waved good-bye as Howell put the truck into gear and began to drive off. As the two crews set up off, up ahead the gate MPs are checking each man's identification and a valid pass in order for that man to leave the base. Any man without the proper pass signed by the their squadron CO or the group CO will not be allowed to leave the base.
After checking the outgoing crews, the MPs let the 6 men of the Green Man's Girl crew are allowed to leave while only the 4 officers and the 2 new replacement gunners of the Claremont Express were allowed into town with them. Not having the passes, the MPs are forced to turn back Sergeants Saint Laurent, Jacobs, Roy and Lapaglia. No amount of intervention by their officers could get the four men out the gate. The armed MPs were serious in their duty and meant business as they had their orders -- No one goes in or out of the base without the proper ID and pass. Dejected, the 4 enlisted men told the others to, "Go on, have a good time. No need to miss out because of us." After waving good-bye they began a slow walk back to the mess hall.
AT ROSA'S HOUSE (Jan. 22, 1944) - (submitted by Don Lavalette, 316th Sqn)
At a house in the nearby town of Sterparone, Rosa Soprano is in the kitchen preparing for the Giovanni brothers and the crews of the Claremont Express and Green Man's Girl.
“Paulie, get me that sausage from the cellar,” says Aunt Rosa to her husband.
“Yes, dear, just a minute.”
“Hurry up, Paulie, I need to get my sauce done, all those boys will be here.”
Soon Paulie returns with the sausage. “Pee-yeew, this stuff any good?” he asks Rosa.
“Oh, Paulie, it’s fine,” says Rosa as she cuts up the sausage and puts it in the pot.
DINNER IS SERVED (Jan. 22, 1944) - (submitted by Don Lavalette, 316th Sqn)
At Aunt Rosa Soprano's house; in the kitchen. Dinner is served!
“Uncle Paulie, got any gobba-goo?” asked Carmelo.
“No, we ain’t got any f%*^$#^& gobba-goo, enough already with the damn gobba-goo, it’s hard enough for your aunt to get sausage, never mind gobba-goo!” screamed an irritated Uncle Paulie.
“This food is terrific, ma’am,” complimented Lieutenant Harrigan.
“Oh thank you dear, too bad your whole crew couldn’t make it, I’ll be sure to send some food with you for them,” replied Aunt Rosa.
“So, Meadow, exactly how old are you now?” asked Anthony Giovanni of his cousin Meadow.
“I’m nineteen, Tony,” replied Meadow.
“Nineteen, huh?” grunted Tony.
“Say, Aunt Rosa, you make any gobba-goo?” asked Tony Giovanni.
“Again with the gobba-goo,” stated Uncle Paulie.
“Sure is great food,” remarked William Nelson.
“Hey, Carm, you suppose any of doze other crews are as tough as the Benders up in Brooklyn?” asked Tony Giovanni.
“Tony, did you introduce your friends to your cousins Carmela, Patty, and Maria?” asked his Aunt Rosa.
“Yes, Auntie, I did, and I know you're trying to marry them off,” chuckled Anthony Giovanni.
The hands of the clock spin as time flies, more food is eaten, more Vino is drunk, more stories exchanged, guys and girls pairing off; a relaxing evening for the crews.
AUNT ROSA'S DINNER - (submitted by George Bessler, 318th Sqn)
While everyone was eating and drinking Carmello looks around the room. “HEY, Willam, where the hell is Joey?”
“Hell if I know. He said he was going to go to the bathroom but that was about a half hour ago.”
Mickey O’Reily leans over to Adam and whispers, “I don't know but this sauce tastes funny what do you think?” Adam looks over and swigs some wine. “You Irish man don't know about good food, all you eat is corned beef and potatoes. Just enjoy the food you could be one of those poor suckers from the Express who are eating that damn canned spam and slop.”
Carmelo gets up from the table and starts down the hall just then Joey opens the door and almost bangs in to him. “Hey! Where you been?”
“Just looking around at the scenery,” says Joey. Just then Carmello’s cousin Carmella squeezes past the two of them. “Excuse me, boys, but I’m really hungry,” and looks up at Joey.
“What the hell was that about?” said Carmello.
“She just showed me everything . . . What was I supposed to do? Let a girl just stand there?” said Joey.
“All right but don't mess with her or we will have words.” Just then Auntie Rosa yells, “Come on, Boys, Manga, eat it all, here take back some of this for your friends who couldn’t come.”
Richard turns to one of the Express guys, “Are we going to get into trouble?”
“Hell no,” Dick pipes in. “What the MPs don't know wont hurt them.”
It started to get late so the boys bid farewell to the Soprano family and start to head back to the base.
LT. BECKETT'S LETTER HOME - (submitted by Jim Pink, 316th Sqn)
My deepest apologies for not writing sooner but the past month has been busy. The war is going well down here, I can't say where I am exactly, but we are in Italy. It is Beautiful here, the history in these towns are just unbelievable. We hit the main land about two weeks ago and a few days later I was posted to my current group as a spare pilot/copilot. Most the boys down here are real down to earth. They take this business seriously and are doing an A-1 job. You would like the Squadron CO, he is a fair man and has a good handle on this business of war. Haven't had much time to visit with the group CO, but he seems to be cut from the same cloth as our squadron CO. You need not worry Mother, as these two men are keeping a good eye on the new crews and making sure we are fine.
I was finally assigned to a bomber that was in need of a copilot, it's a swell plane. I've now flown six missions. During these missions we had to be on oxygen. It is quite a feeling but after a few missions you forget its there. Yesterday, I was made first pilot and now have command of my own bird. It was my first mission and every thing went like they taught us in flight school. We made it through without a scratch. So, see you need not worry.
Accommodations are a bit primitive, tents. Not like the University. And can you believe it the food is worse here than at the dorms. I do miss campus life, guess it will have to wait till this is all over.
Enough about me, How's Farther
doing. Is he still down at the barbershop with Uncle Edward? Are
they and their buddies still fixing plans on how they'd win this war? What
is Danny doing these days? I hope he is still on the freshmen football
team. Tell him not to be too much in a hurry to get into this. It is
not glamorous, I have seen some bad stuff. Stuff no one should see.
It is a dirty
business war, but it must be done. Tell little Sue I love her. And that she is still the best little sister a brother can have.
Well our day off is almost over and the boys want to go have dinner before we turn in. I'll write soon.
Your loving son,
Donald P. Beckett