Biography of George Underwood

S/Sgt, 381st Bmb Sqdn, 310th Bmb Grp, 57th Bmb Wg, 12th AF, USAAF

     I was a Staff Sergeant who flew 68 combat missions over Italy from January to July 1944 assigned to the 310th Bombardment Group, 381st Bombardment Squadron. I was not wounded, save for a scratch on my nose from flying Plexiglass, nor was any member of the crew given the Purple Heart. I received 4 Air Medals for missions I scarcely recall except for one or two. Our aircraft did get hit some and we had a couple crash landings. Aside from that. nothing extraordinary happened. Out of the original six crew members there are only two of us left. I was always "the kid" of the crew, and the "older guys" took pretty good care of me.  

   A couple pages of my memoirs follow, more will be added soon.

***

     Aerial gunnery school in Laredo, Texas proved to be an exciting follow up after Armament School at Buckley Field just north of Denver, Colorado. I was closing in on my way to combat at last. The North American "Texan" AT-6's used for gunnery training created its share of noise while taking off and landing on the airfield near our barracks. At times I could even hear the distant yammer of machine guns being fired.

     Among the sayings in Texas was "step off the back steps of your barracks and you'll fall knee deep in mud and have dust blowing in your face." It was true… The weather was unpredictable.

     We fired all kinds of weapons. .45 cal. Thompson Machine guns, .30 cal. Carbines, M 1Garand rifles, .30 cal. Springfield's, various models and gauges of shotguns, and .45 cal. Automatics. Several "ranges" were available for our use throughout the day. We shuttled from skeet to trap ranges, then to BB gun (high pressure air)_ machine guns shooting at clay/metal aircraft sailing around the range. Plenty of .22 cal. Shooting at fast moving targets.

     We learned to "snap" shoot. Quick. Aim and fire. Quick-Quick! Shoot-Shoot! The old Army range training of squeezing a round off was soon in the past.

     Finally onto the moving ranges. Turrets mounted on trucks speeding up, down and around a track with clay pigeons being shot out across the road where we were fired from shotguns mounted in the turret. Some fun.

     Then, on to firing single air-cooled .50's form heavy steel pipe tripod mounts. Targets were mounted on jeeps, running on tracks, behind berms of earth so that just the targets showed. The jeeps engines started with the throttle set, at a pre-determined speed; sped driverless around the track so we could fire at them with color-coded bullets. Those .50's just bounced the heavy pipe tripods all over the concrete deck. One day I scored high, and since I was smaller than others in the group I was asked to shoot for score from a Sperry ball turret mounted on a 6x6 truck. The term 6 by 6 is actually a misnomer because it really had ten wheels. The Sperry ball turret which had been mounted on this truck had not been bore sighted which meant that the guns and the sight didn't match one another and I had to use the tracers to aim those two .50's at the fast moving target. I was small enough to fit in the small ball turret and though it was comfortable enough, I didn't score as well as I had hoped.

     Then at last the day arrived. We were in the back seat of the AT 6's in flight wearing a cloth helmet, leather gloves, leather jacket and goggles. I was issued and wore a bulky seat pack parachute so that in case there was a problem we could bail out. A safety line attached to the airplane and through my parachute harness and the handles of my machine gun supplied the security for me. It was difficult to meve around with that thing on in the cockpit of that small ship. The weapon was a single hand held .30 cal. Air-cooled machine gun mounted on a swivel in the back seat.

     The bullets were color coded with different color paint for each trainee so that our scores could be determined upon our return to the field. Another AT-6 was the tow-target plane that towed a sleeve about 600 yards behind it and allowed us to shoot at the sleeve form different angles and speeds. Gunners fired from the side of the aircraft.

     Upon command from the pilot, we unlatched the weapon, swiveled it to the right or left, inserted the cartridge belt, pulled the charging handle a couple of times to chamber a live round and again on the pilot's command were cleared to shoot. The pilot, of course, admonished us to shoot the tow target only NOT THE AIRPLANE and keep our eyes on our wing and tail! Shooting squirts, using that thumb trigger between the spade handles and watching the tracers arc toward that tow-target was truly exciting. We flew many training "missions" between the rainstorms in Southern Texas.

     Gunnery schools were usually situated outside the town and were lacking in creature comforts. The training days were hot, wet, cold, dry and dusty, but not without excitement. It was a happening for one being prepared for aerial combat.

     Myrtle Beach was a small town and laid back. The air base there was neat. Entirely camouflaged with netting covering the tar papered, single story barracks, tucked into the pine forest. The hangars and utility buildings were also covered with camo nets.

     This was an advanced, gunnery school and we were really busy there learning more about this gunnery business. We flew in B-25's following an elliptical course loading and firing turret guns while at a 60-degree angle all the time. Talk about negative "G's" we had them. The ammunition cans we loaded weighed 110 pounds (that 50 caliber ammo is heavy) and we loaded the turret while flying low at 100-150 feet and at a speed of about 200. It was hot and muggy in that South Carolina sun and it was hard work.

       The turret is designed to protect the airplane from attacks in the upper hemisphere. The guns rotate 360 degrees and swing from horizontal to vertical. (90 degrees to 0 degrees). The field of fire and limits of the gun movements in azimuth and in elevation are automatically controlled by cams and s witches. The gunner can follow a target freely, firing as required without the bullets striking any part of the ship or without the gun barrels bumping into any part of the fuselage.

     Each night after shooting most of the day we loaded ammunition into belts, then loaded the belts into cans that fit the turrets which we shot the next day. Each box of 350 rounds weigh 110 pounds and those 50's had voracious appetites firing 750 rounds per minute. We physically were getting stronger and realized that the black and blue bruises and sore muscles bore this out. Our targets were lined up on the beach so that we could shoot at them from offshore so the spent bullets headed out to sea where they could do no damage. Finally the training was over and we were ready for war.

***

This Way To The War

   During my enlistment in the Army Air Corps during WWII, it was my understanding that the usual method for replacement combat crews to reach their overseas destinations was for them to fly in groups of 6 and in their own aircraft or be transported in convoy troopships while crossing the ocean. This was not the way our crew was shipped to Valle, Algeria in late 1943. Ours was ‘unusual’ since we were a single replacement combat crew. But we were a B-25 crew without our own airplane.

   Around Greenville, South Carolina, it was the practice for the pine trees to be cut back from the highways. This allowed our aircraft just enough room for our "Hot Pilot" Lt. Storey Larkin to fly on the deck (low flying) lifting up over cars on the highway to the surprise and ire of motorists! We were ‘issued’ a brand new olive drab B-25 G. Our crew checked it out with interest. In our new airship we flew a load test to Atterbury, Indiana where we picked up a little wing icing and made an RON (Remain Over Night) out of it. It was our pilot’s hometown, so we decided to ‘buzz’ his farm home there. It was a kick.

   Designed for low-level strafing missions the G model had the awesome 75 mm ( 3-inch) cannon, twin .50’s in the nose and package guns on each side, each with two .50 caliber machine guns. At the time it the most heavily armed aircraft in the world. Our ‘G’ had a tail number of 42-65152. Training on the Advanced Gunnery Ranges at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, reflected the low–level concept of strafing and skip bombing techniques on the various ranges. My first 10 missions from the island of Corsica were low-level sea sweeps.

   We had about 30 hours on her when one afternoon when flying on another low level training mission, we came back to the base with some telephone wires trailing behind us stuck in our right wing. It didn’t seem to matter much that we flew that low but we were shortly thereafter on our way overseas and obviously training for our crew was over. Our enthusiastic response was shot lived when we learned that we couldn’t take our own aircraft. It needed a little repair work and I suspect they wanted us shipped out quickly for other reasons too. We were dispatched via ATC (Air Transport command) with our barracks bags, B-4 bags, and lots of ATC cargo.

   A temporary stop–over in Miami, Beach, Florida, was our last destination in the USA. There I was assigned a room in The Floridian Hotel with a pool and if that wasn’t deep enough for the crew, we had the Atlantic Ocean to swim in. It was rich surroundings for us all prior to moving on for overseas duty. This is where we first started taking Atabrine pills, supposedly to keep you from getting malaria. There was malaria in some areas we were heading for, and, as we learned later the disease was prevalent on Corsica too.

   We took off at 4:30 a.m. from Morrison Field-west of Palm Beach, for Puerto Rico. There we refueled and flew on to Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). We spent the night there in some dreary barracks and left early the next morning aboard a C-46. In flight I spotted a crashed aircraft in the jungle and reported the sighting to the ATC pilot who relayed it to the tower in Belem. It was a missing C-54 that they had been searching for and were elated that it had finally been located.

   We continued flying south to Natal, Brazil but had to make an emergency landing at Adcento Field, Fortaleza, Brazil. The C-46 had developed a bad engine that had to be shut down and the prop feathered. We spent a couple of enjoyable days there consuming the fresh pineapples dumped from a dump truck on the mess hall steps daily. The crew enjoyed leisurely hitchhiking into town to eye the sights and get a complete T-bone steak dinner for 45 cents and chicken dinners for a whopping 35 cents. For us it was all bargain prices. I even bought a pair of tan leather lined boots for five bucks. The price then in Fortaleza. If only they hadn’t worn out. Finally we continued on our way to Natal, this time in a C-47. Enroute to Natal, Brazil we crossed the equator and participated in a short but impressive ceremony.

   The ATC crewmembers signed us up in the "Short Snorter Club".

   Natal, Brazil was the jumping off spot for Dakar on the coast of Africa; a hot spot we were destined to reach. At Natal we saw film star Joe E. Brown who was in town and put on an USO show for the troops. It was a fun show. And for some of us the first opportunity to see a real live movie star.

   Flying from Natal on the coast of South America to Dakar on the African coast was the shortest distance across the Atlantic with only Accession Island out there somewhere. Our first exposure to enemy flak came from a surfaced German submarine, which took a couple of shots at us. Thankfully, they missed, but it added some spice to a long, and otherwise boring flight. We were flying in a converted B-24 heavy bomber, called a C-87. The aircraft had been stripped of all its armaments and had extra gas tanks in the bomb bay for the long flight across the Atlantic. It was a very long, uncomfortable, cold ride in a rattling ship. This aircraft was used exclusively for the ferrying of troops back and forth across the Atlantic.

   Our next stop was on the West African Gold Coast. Dakar, Africa, a 10-hour flight that brought us there in the afternoon with the golden sun slanting across the airfield and town.

   If only I had a camera. Speaking of the town, Dakar was dirty, small and smelly with drainage ditches along the road used as latrines by anyone, anytime. The base had a good PX, but outside the heat, dust, flies, and mosquitoes were almost over whelming. We looked over the town from a 6x6 truck that transported us to our quarters for the night.

   Leaving Dakar we flew in a C-47 across miles and miles of brown, dry desert. The Atlas mountain range showed up with snow covered mountains. Peaks there reach 14,000 feet and since we needed fuel our aircraft landed in Atar, smack dab in the middle of a very hot nowhere. What greeted us was a small collection of red mud huts and a couple of limp, dusty, palm trees and lots of gooks, a not too good term for the local natives. Hordes of monstrous flies buzzed into our mouths and nostrils and you quickly learned to breathe through your nose that meant keeping your mouth shut, and nose and ears covered while the refueling took place. The ground crew poured 100 octane aircraft gasoline through chamois skin filters into the aircraft from 55-gallon cans, a timely process. Then when the C-47 was ready for take off the engineer crew chief closed the door and adding more discomfort, walked through the plane spraying DDT from several spray cans left us all choked up. While it got rid of the flies it sickened our crew. The dirt strip airfield was aimed towards the north and that direction, was ours.

   We flew on to Marrakech, Morocco, which we really enjoyed. Mud walls, date trees, a very exotic looking place. Colorfully robed street vendors sold deep-fried breads, dates, ices, many varieties of fruit and all sorts of leather goods.

   After a 6 a.m. take-off we arrived in Casablanca at noon. It was cold there after the desert heat and we welcomed it. It was a nice city to visit and was our first time landing on perforated steel runways. Then to Oran for fuel and on further east to Algiers Maison Blanche Field.

   That night we were treated to our first air raid. It involved the harbor, ships and the city close to it and was very exciting…our first taste of war. Searchlights slashing the sky, anti aircraft bursts, throughout the sky, bombs bursting around us while, aircraft engines were growling overhead. Some fires set by the raid were threatening. Visiting the Casbah was an exciting adventure while wandering through the narrow, smelly, dark and dank streets it wasn’t long before our little band of flyers wanted to get back to the safety of the field. While there it rained most of the time making it muddy and cold. It was, after all November the wintertime in North Africa.

   Leaving Maison Blanche we headed southeast but were diverted to Tunis. The airfield at Telergma our original destination was socked in and we could not land. All around the Tunis strip were shell holes, bomb craters and many deep slit trenches that zigzagged the area; it was truly a war zone. The next day we arrived in the "repple depple" (replacement depot) in Telergma. It was a windy, barren, rocky, cold place with some barren hills to the south. We had lots of difficulty driving those oak stakes into the ground to hold our tent in place allowing us to get out of the rain.

   Going to chow was no delight. Meals consisted mainly cans of C-rations heated in big GI garbage cans. We would trudge over that rocky, windswept ground, messkits rattling, to a building, which had 4 or 5 gasoline heaters with 55-gallon garbage cans on them located outside on a concrete pad. Two were full of C-ration cans heating in water and the others contained hot water for cleaning and sterilizing our mess kits. The water was so hot that you dared not drop your mess gear into it or else. Our menu was stew. We ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This went on for a week or so until we supplemented our canned C-ration meals with dates, oranges, tangerines, eggs and some Arab bread. It was rainy, windy and cold most of the time and even three wool GI blankets were not enough to keep any of us warm on that hard, rocky Algerian ground. Somehow we managed.

   Using a 3- day pass I hitchhiked rides into Constantine some 40-50 miles south of us further into the desert. There, I found and bought, in the local outdoor bazaar, a Coleman type gasoline, pump up stove. This we used extensively for our snacks and supplemental meals in Telergma, Valle, Algeria and Corsica. It cost 300 francs, about $3 American. We used tin cans for pots and pans. My gasoline stove cooked up a storm for us in those pyramidal tents. While the stove provided needed heat unfortunately it didn’t improve our meals too much. There wasn’t a cook among us.

   It wasn’t too soon when we were ordered to move on. With our gear in hand our crew climbed up onto the usual 6x6 truck slammed the tailgate and off we went with closed canvas top, banging in the wind. We bounced over narrow, winding roads hanging on as well as we could on the 80-mile ride to Valle. Camp for the squadron was located amid rolling hills in a Cork Oak tree forest at the edge of the desert. Phillipville (now Anaba) was 4-miles north of the camp and on the shore of the blue Mediterranean Sea. Arriving in the rain we were assigned to a "G" outfit…the 381st Bombardment Squadron, 310th Bombardment Group.

   Our pilot Lt. Storey Larkin and bombardier Lt. Art Vlahon were re-assigned to other crews and we gained a veteran pilot of 20 combat missions in Lt. Leonard Heller and a 'cannoneer" in S/Sgt. Harold W. Smith who had experienced 6 combat missions. This meant we had finally arrived and with in our crew in place...we were ready for action.

***

NORTH AFRICA AND BEYOND – 1943

   The 381st squadron, when we joined it that November 1943, was bivouacked on the side of a hill in a forest of cork trees. We were assigned to a partially occupied tent and went about getting acquainted with our new tent mates. They suggested that we go to a small nearby barn and collect some cork bark stored there to use for beds instead of sleeping on the wet, muddy ground. The cork, harvested by the local farmer, was in big slabs about two inches thick and quite long. They had been carefully peeled off the trees and stacked in his barn. We promptly commandeered some of this stock of cork using it as a bed and for walkways through the slippery, sticky, mud around our tents. Cork trees look a lot like Oak trees but with a thick cork bark. The farmer was not happy about this at all.

   After about a month the local’s started selling woven mats that we used instead of or on top of the cork slabs. They were a lot smoother, more comfortable and seemed to have some insulating properties but not as good as the cork. The bamboo reeds used were plentiful along the creeks around the area. It rained a lot that year and going up and down the sloppy, muddy hill in camp was a chore. It rained so much that several tents collapsed from the weight of the water. Latrines dug on the top of the hill washed out and ran down the hill. It was a wet, muddy, smelly mess.

   Valle was about 4 miles south of Phillipville, (now Anaba) Algeria on the edge of the desert. This was where the 381st Bomb Squadron was located for G model training and to whom we had been assigned. Here our crew reunited having been separated as officers and enlisted men for the trip overseas. For us it was ‘ more’ low level G model cannon and skip bomb training having had a bunch of that in the states. Going into town was interesting for a number of reasons. One being the natural hot spring mineral water baths whith large tubs carved from stone. They were located just up the road from the Algerian pipe-manufacturing place where I purchased a couple of nice briar smoking pipes for almost nothing. There were nicely shaped and well made. We used the baths here as often as possible for showers were not available in camp for enlisted men. The alternative, of course, a bath from our GI helmets. Not a pleasing thought.

   Phillipville overlooked the blue Mediterranean Sea and was nestled in a valley leading to the sea. The steep valley sides were covered with many homes all using narrow concrete stairways to reach them and the business area seemed to be in the valley bottom. In the center of town there was a large ‘promenade’ around which most of the townsfolk strolled in the evenings when it wasn’t raining, walking around and around it until’ dad’ decided is was time to go home and by 9 p.m. the promenade was empty. It was good for girl watching too. The shops did not have much to sell but the were open and doing some business. Candy shops sold mostly tree and sun sweetened dates and what candy they had was saved for the locals. Local bars were busy.

   We would hitchhike the short distance and one time I got a ride in a British weapons carrier. It was a fun ride. This small vehicle had rubber-covered tank type tracks upon which to ride and instead of bumping up and down; it just seemed to roll over the bumps smoothly in a rocking motion. It was, of course, open and the wind created by the speed made for an exhilarating ride into town rolling and hanging on to the windshield post. I liked the Valle area since it reminded me of my home in Southern California with the eucalyptus, palm, bamboo and cork trees as well as the other plants and flowers around the town. The weather, while wet and rainy this November of ’43, was like home too, moderately cold in the winter.

   We went hunting there too. I had obtained an Italian 25-caliber carbine and some ammunition and along with some tent mates decided to go on a hunt in the North African forest. Many wild pigs (boar) had been reported in the area along with other wild life but the boar were what were the most prevalent. They were small but nasty with short dirty tusks and no one wanted to mess with them without a gun I hand. So one day when the training missions were set aside, as they were from time to time, we set out. Up one valley and over the hill pushing aside the undergrowth around the oaks and wild cork trees winding our way up and away fin camp. Suddenly we heard some snorts and loud crashing in the brush and then all hell broke loose. It seems that half the camp was just hunting that day and the poor little boar didn’t have a chance. It was shot to pieces and had so much lead in it that the cook just couldn’t remove it all so I was a little ‘crunchy’ in spots. Aside from my 25-caliber carbine there was the usual .45 pistols, .30 M1 carbines, GI rifles, and a sub machine gun or two. A day or so later the notice on the bulletin board read NO MORE HUNTING by order of the Commanding Officer.

   On Thanksgiving Day in 1943 we had a genuine turkey dinner. It was delicious and very much appreciated by all of us. The menu consisted of turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, salad, sweet potatoes, fruit cocktail, some hard candy and coffee. It was a great day.

   Our in camp bar built by and for he enlisted men of the 381st “The Kuku Nut Gruve” opened its doors the day before Christmas 1943. Decorated for the event of the opening it featured stacks of sandwiches and a big pile of ripe, tasty tangerines. It all disappeared quickly. The Gruve had been a small in covered barn in our camp and was commandeered by the enlisted men of the 381st. Tables and benches were built from boards scrounged from around the camp and using more scrounged paint were painted white and green. A ’wall to wall’ woven reed mat covered the floor. That Christmas Eve a choir group from Valle sang Adeste Fidelas for us that cold night. Snow capped mountains gave us the feeling of living in a Christmas Card scene with the bright stars above.

   The Gruve featured a bar running the full width of the building which was probably 20 feet wide and the legend ‘381’ was burned by a blowtorch on the front of it in the center. The torch was used to burn various patterns on the rest of the bar giving it a rustic look. It featured a bar-length railing for your foot to rest on. A cabinet standing about 6 feet tall was behind the bar and housed, under lock and key, all the liquors for the enlisted men of the 381st. When the bar was open bottles were displayed on its top. Identification cards were printed for 381st members to use to gain entry. My card is in my scrapbook so if the ‘Gruve’ opens again I can get in easily.

   In the usual Army tradition training continued for the 380th, 381st and the 428th Squadrons with the 379th squadron was still very active operating from Gambut in Lybia, about 40 miles west of Tobruck. They were flying the ‘cannon toting’ G models on sea sweeps in and around the Greek Dodecanese Islands of Keros, Leros and Samoa.

   A teen-ager who lived nearby befriended us and brought fresh fruit, dates and some eggs for our ‘snacks’. We, of course, reciprocated by giving him whatever we cold scrounge from the mess hall and some of the goodies we had received from home. His real interest, however, was in learning English-American having learned German from them while they were bivouacked in the same area. He, of course, knew French and the native Arabic used in Algeria.

   Christmas dinner was a repeat of the Thanksgiving dinner and it too was great. It rained again but not as hard as before and by then we had developed the camp better and it was set up for the wet weather. The Kuku Nut Gruve was doing a land office business but the trips into town continued. Training missions also continued and we welcomed some Greenville pals who arrived in their new G model 25’s. Merle Archer, Wilson Prall and Ray Davilla among them.

   In January 1944 when we landed on the pierced steel runway for the first time at Ghisonaccia-Gare the very first sight we encountered was a shot up B-25C just off the end of the runway. It was a mess. The formation had been attacked by FW 190’s and this aircraft had been hard hit. The nose gear had extended and locked but not the main gear. The wheels were down but not locked. The pilot, Lt. Arnoult, did a great job in landing mostly on the B-25’s tailskid so the landing damage was light. There were hundreds of 20mm and machine gun bullet holes in the fuselage and wings and it had crash landed, ground looping to the right and stopping just off the runway. The damage was not only to the aircraft but also to its crew. Wounded were the top turret gunner, co-pilot, radio gunner and photographer and there was lots of dried blood inside. Later that afternoon the aircraft was dragged to the ‘bone yard’ to be ‘cannibalized’ for whatever good parts were left.

   The field had been cut from the tough ‘maquis’ brush in a large flat area between the sea and the mountains. The strip had been just big enough for German fighters to use for emergency landing. Our engineers extended, widened and added the pierced steel mats for our heavier B-25’s. The field was located just north of Ghisonaccia and the landing strip headed generally north/south. The 381st took over the stone buildings in town and the wooden barracks built by the British, across the tracks, were used for squadron operations and intelligence units. We lived in one of those stone buildings until the 16th of January when the headquarters group took over and we moved into tents again.

   Ghisoncia-Gare existed because of the narrow gauge railroad that ran north and south along the Corsican coast and the station was located in this village. The main road from Ghisonaccia Ville, seven miles west, entered the village and became the main street. It was the worst malaria zone on the island and Corsica the worst in the Mediterranean area. We were issued mosquito nets for our cots and the Atabrine regimen started again. I was delighted to find that, as in Valle, Algeria, there was a public hot bath in a nearby mountain town. Dating back to Roman times these natural sulfur, hot baths were wonderful. In small rooms the carved stone tubs were wonderful on cold Corsican winter days and were enjoyed by the Roman Legions as well as us GI’s of WWII. The rock buildings lined the narrow twisting road and a steep trail led down to the bathhouse in the small mountain town of Pietrapola.

   During an R&R (Rest and Rehabilitation) session, one of two I received while overseas, I had my leather A2 flight jacket painted. I still have that jacket although the fine painting of a G model done on the Isle of Capri has faded almost completely. The lettering is still on it. The jacket is typical Army. In a word PRACTICAL. It is lined with tan/brown cotton, has a leather collar, knit cuffs and waist and two patch pockets but no hand warmer slits as there are in today’s jackets. It cost a pretty penny then to have it painted but I did want it done, it was beautiful and I loved it.

   I do not remember being issued a fleece lined jacket or the pants and we did not have those fancy electrically heated suits either. On missions I wore long johns, uniform shirt and pants, summer flight suit, sweater and the A2 flight jacket, a yellow Mae West, parachute harness, gloves, sun glasses and a baseball cap, GI boondockers and heavy wool socks for my feet and nothing in my pockets but flight required items. My dog tags completed the outfit. It was tight fit in that top turret for me and I was not all that big.

   The cannon toting B-25 had the greatest number of guns of any aircraft at the time. It had a tail turret, top turret, waist windows, 6 forward firing .50’s and my turret that could fire forward also. The later H models carried a couple more .50’s. I flew only 10 ‘G’ missions that were all low-level and very exciting. We were to interdict German shipping all along the Italian coast and we attacked many barges, E-boats, tankers, cargo ships and even a German destroyer or two and all low-level flying. Radar stations, harbors and airfields were also targets opportunity for these awesome aircraft.

   As I remember it the first pilot of a new crew was made a co-pilot of an experienced crew so that he could gain combat experience. The new crew got an experienced pilot first pilot. Our crew got an experience pilot in Lt. Heller who had 20 missions when he joined us as first pilot. The cannoneer S/Sgt. Smith had 6 missions. Later when we began to fly medium altitude missions our original co-pilot became our pilot but by then we were flying with or without our original crews on almost an ‘as needed’ basis. I continued flying with other crews long after my crewmembers had ended their combat missions.

   In the C and D models we flew with a crew of 6. Bombardier/navigator, in front (in flight) with his crawlway to the nose compartment under the pilot (on the left) and the co-pilot seated in the cockpit right seat. The enclosed bomb bay that had a crawlway to the back of the aircraft, over the top of the bomb bay. It was about 18 inches tall and there was a round ‘hatch’ in the deck to allow entry into the bomb bay. The radio compartment was in back against the bomb bay bulkhead and the radio gunner fired the two hand held waist guns just behind his radio area. Most waist gun openings were just that – open to the elements. The top turret gunner was next in his electrically controlled Bendix turret. The tail gunner who was either prone or with one or two hand held 50’s followed him. In the G model we flew with a pilot, co-pilot and cannoneer in the front section. Back of the bomb bay were the radio/waist gunner, top turret gunner and the tail gunner now in an electrical turret squatting on a seat of sorts. The H model did not have a co-pilot so there was the pilot, cannoneer and top turret gunner (turret had been moved to the front in the H and J models). Back of the bomb bay again was the radio/waist gunner with two hand held .50’s and the tail gunner in his turret.

   Our lovely J’s had the full compliment of 6-crew members again. Bombardier/navigator, pilot, co-pilot and top turret gunner in front of the bomb bay and the radio/waist gunner with enclosed gun emplacements and tail gunner in his turret. Our ground crews did not like the J’s since they had to cover them with the heavy camouflage netting while the aircraft was on the ground. The olive drab painted aircraft did not require the netting.

   On January 25th 1944 I started my tour of combat flying. My first mission was a low-level sea sweep along the coast of Italy. We were belting along at little over 200 miles per our, this sunny afternoon, at about 50 feet altitude when lots of black ‘puffs’ surrounded us. Our pilot, Lt. Heller, quickly announced over the intercom “that’s flak guys” while taking evasive actin. Luckily we flew through it with out damage and swapped a few shots with an E-Boat as we made a couple of passes at it. Our 75mm and .50 caliber’s against 88mm, 40mm and 20 mm cannons - not a good trade off.

   The first medium altitude mission I flew was to Piombino harbor. Interestingly it was a milk run and we bombed successfully from 9,600 feet. A milk run was a mission where we had little or no fighter attacks of flak fired at us. There were not many of these missions. The second was no milk run, and we bombed successful again. This time at 10,500 feet and we dropped on the harbor at Sestre Levante and caught some flak. Following the lead ship, a C model with a bombardier and a Norden bombsight, in our G model, our pilot opened our bomb bay doors and toggled out the bombs when he did. From this mission on we no longer flew those exciting low-level sea sweeps and the G model B-2’s were retired from action in our theater of operations. Our location on Corsica was 85 miles from the Italian coast or less than 30 minutes flying time so our missions would all be short in time even those into the heartland of Italy and into Southern France.

   The 310th Bomb Group would stay in Ghisonaccia for well over a year but I would be ‘rotated’ back to the states in September 1944 having gotten myself grounded after flying 68 combat missions.

***

     Finally all three groups of the 12th Air Force B-25 Medium Bombers were on Corsica, The 310th, 321st and 340th were now in the 57th Bomb Wing. The 15th Air Force, while in the same area, was comprised of "heavies" the B17's and B-24's. They were stationed in Italy and had longer ranges, carried bigger loads, were larger and were targeted for different areas. The ground war in Italy had slowed along the line from Monte Cassino to Anzio, where the army had a beachhead. While the 321st and the 340th groups were involved in close support our group, the 310th, continued operations hitting German shipping and harbors. that meant targets like Piombino, Leghorn, San Stefano, Telemone and many RR bridges were bombed often by our group.

     At the begining I flew in a B25G. I flew only ten "G" missions and they were the ones we had trained so long and hard for in Myrtle Beach and Greenville. The first of our missions were sea sweeps along the coast of Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea and they were very exciting. On these missions the entire crew could participate shooting at vessles, aircraft, and machine gun emplacements and all at minimum-level flying. Our propellers kicked up a mist of spray as we buzzed the ocean top on shipping raids. It seemed that the highest elevation we attained while on these sea sweeps was when we returned to the field and got all the way up to maybe 500 feet to circle and land.

     Our formation of four, in line off Spiza, shot down a DO-24 German three-engine flying boat which was flying in the opposite direction and very low trying to hide from us in the misty haze. It was big, slow, boxy and ugly and it made a gigantic splash when it hit the water and broke up. It didn't have a change with eager gunners in four aircraft shooting at it. I don't think any of us claimed this "victory" since so many were shooting and the thought of painting one-eighth of a German cross on my turret did not seem appealing but it was a confirmed "kill". We got some flak on the mission but no fighters.

     E-boats were different. About the size of our PT boats they were moving flak platforms mounting 88's, 40mm, 20mm cannons and machine guns. They were dangerous with speed and all that firepower and their crews were "experts". We tangled with them on several occasions and came out about even. We hit many but sunk none. They hit us but downed none.

     Sea sweeps often meant dawn patrol to us. We were up at 3:30 am. Climbed onto 6x6's and were driven to the line and to our hardstand. Once at our aircraft we pulled the props around four or five times to get the oil that had settled in the lower cylinders equalized, got it pre-flighted and warmed up ready to go. Bomb loads were checked and I made sure, as Armorer/Gunner, that the ammo belts and cans were full and that we had a full load of 75mm cannon shells for our 3" nose cannon.

     These 75mm cannon shells were 26 inches long and weighed 20 pounds each. Just above the cannon breech was a rack that would hold 20 rounds. We carried mostly high explosive shells with a few armor piercing thrown in for good measure and just in case we met the dreaded German destroyers prevalent in the area. The cannon breech and ammunition rack was just behind but much lower than the pilots seat. This cannon could fire as fast as it could be loaded and would toss shells some miles but usually in sea sweeps 2,000 yards was the maximum range. We had a wooden "paddle" to use in shell loading, which got tossed quickly since it just got in the way. Hand loading was easier and faster but dangerous if you missed and got your hand caught in the up-sliding breech, not the way to earn a Purple Heart!

     The cannon was a standard M4 with a specially constructed spring to absorb some of the recoil shock. The barrel extended forward under the cockpit through the tunnel formerly used by the bombardier in reaching his nose position. The muzzle emerged from a concave port on the left side of the nose.

     We were flying B25 G's and H's. Both models were "cannon toting" which, in addition to the 3" cannon (75mm), carried 3,000 pounds (6x500) of bombs for skip bombing, and up to eighteen .50 caliber machine guns for strafing or defense.

     I was top turret gunner. This turret, a Bendix, was located on the top of the aircraft, rotating 360 degrees and the guns could be elevated 90 degrees. Twin .50 caliber machine guns were mounted on each side of my shoulders and the ammunition containers mounted on the turret each containing 440 rounds of .50 caliber bullets enough for just a few seconds of continuous firing. I sat on a folding bicycle seat and operated this electrically operated turret with my hands on hand grips upon which were controls for regular speed, fast speed, intercom and the trigger which fired the twin fifties. The gunsight was optical and lighted. While I was up in the turret, it and my head were constantly rotating, looking for the enemy.

     In the B-25 G's the turret was mounted in the rear. We trained on the newer model H's that had the turret "up front" just behind the pilots. It was much more comfortable there than in the back. The turret had some built in cams and electrical stops to keep me from shooting out tail fins off while following a target across the back of the airplane. Propellers were protected the same was too. If you (in the upper turret) wanted to fire your guns at objects below the aircraft you had to ask the pilot to "drop the wing" (right or left) as needed.

     The pilot and co-pilot got briefed for the mission and the squadron "Dawn Patrol" was in the air before 5. Breakfast was usually a can of orange juice tossed to us as we boarded the trucks and headed for the line. Our parachute harnesses and chest-pack parachutes were already on board the aircraft and since we usually flew the same aircraft each mission we were set. The pilots, of course, had the heavy seat packs and were larger (the parachutes, not the pilots) and more sensitive to weather (the "greenhouse" leaked lots) they brought them with them from the briefing. The enlisted men did not often get to attend these briefings and got the news about that day's target at the line.

     Upon landing after a mission and our ship was topped on the hardstand we were loaded into trucks for a short trip to operations for a debriefing session. We all reported, individually, to an officer(s), the mission results we had noted: i.e. fighter opposition, flak, lost aircraft and all the myriad of details while still fresh in our minds. Then, as in the case of sea sweeps, we headed for the mess hall, under a very large, sagging canvas tarp, for breakfast. This mostly consisted of apple butter on pancakes with mushy reconstituted eggs, a slice of Spam and coffee in our GI canteen cups. Then when finished dumping the leftovers (if any) into a GI garbage can and on to the washing cans. One was filled with soapy water and one for rinsing and both heated over stoves. Small wire handled brushes hung form the sides so that you could "swab" out the mess kits. Then you shook off as much water as you could, folded up your mess kit and you were finished.

     For me the first of these "G" missions was a sweep the West Coast of Italy. From our base in Ghisonaccia, Corsica it was a short 15-20 minutes to the target area. B flight took off and headed out. We had as escort four P-39's piloted by Americans from a nearby base. It was good weather and as we cruised the coast it Italy we spotted a German E boat. A fast, heavily armed flak ship. It was loaded ack ack and our formation engaged it. Our ship fired twice with the 75 and got one hit. No enemy fighters were encountered that day, the 30th of January 1944.

     In single file formation, we flew down between rows of houses in Leghorn harbor, after spotting some ships tied up at docks, with German gunners shooting at us from windows. We shot at those buildings and into windows as we flew by. We were flying at about 200-225 miles per hour so shooting was quick but it seemed like slow motion to me in the upper turret. I could see details that I later didn't believe. On these missions we usually flew, in diamond formation, a box of four aircraft. When we attacked targets, shipping, airfields, E-boats, destroyers, harbor installations or whatever the mission called for, the number four plane would slide under the number three as number two moved behind and below the lead ship. Thus we arrived over the target in one awesome, roaring line spitting cannon and machine gun fire strafing the target resulting in some enemy ships sunk.

     Later our group blocked the seaward entrance to Leghorn harbor by sinking a couple of ships at the entrance, which effectively stopped German access to the sea.

     The Germans used small coastal ships, boats and barges to transport their war supplies. The reason, of course, was that all the bridges both road and rail had been bombed out. So shipping was our main target. We also carried bombs for skip bombing but I don't remember doing any skip bombing even though we had trained for it at Myrtle Beach and Greenville on those long, hot, humid summer days never to be forgotten!

     San Stefano, actually Porto S. Stefano, was a favorite and necessary target. It was situated inside a curved causeway connecting the mainland with an island. There was a German seaplane base, a German garrison, and a radar station all within the hook of land. We would just circle around over the city, head towards the sea and the island, shell and strafe the seaplane base, the radar station on the island and the garrison barracks and shipping on the mainland. Around and around we went until our supply of ordinance was depleted. Each time the pilot fired his forward firing .50's and the 75mm it felt like the airplane had hit a soft, but solid wall in the air. The ship would fill up with cordite smoke, which quickly blew on out, while Smitty (our Cannoneer) slammed another shell into the cannon breech for the pilot to shoot. As he loaded the shell, usually high explosive the up sliding breech would push his hand out of the way. He then would step to the side to miss the recoil of the cannon. Then slam another shell into the breech. Four or five shells were used on each run with the .50's up front, hammering away too. Then we could go to work. Waist gunner, my turret and the tail gunner could shoot as targets came to bear and the range closed. I could shoot at those ground targets only when Nat Heller, my pilot dropped a wing to give me an opening. As we pulled off the target, Smitty would toss the spent shell casings out of the ship so he wouldn't slip on them on the next run. We shot up a lot of coastal shipping on the sea sweeps. Mixed in with these minimum altitude missions were some medium altitude bombing missions, with the rest of the group busting bridges and smashing railroad-marshaling yards.

     Our squadron was on a sea sweep from San Stafano to Leghorn Harbor. This time it was an afternoon sweep and my 2nd mission. We had an escort of American piloted Spitfires protecting our flight of four aircraft all consisting of G models. Visibility was a couple of miles and the ceiling was about 1,500 feet. We were "way" under that and just skimming the waves. Off the coast, but close to it, we found a coastal steamer and sank it with our 75mm cannon fire. Then continuing on we flew into Pianosa Harbor and shot up some warehouses on the docks which we left burning after a couple of tremendous explosions caused by our forward firing machine guns and the 75. All during our attack German 20mm and 40mm cannon, machine gun and rifle fire was being sent our way and we picked up a few holes for our visit. German tracers just seemed to float up at us. The Spits got in the act too by chasing a couple of ME-109's away from us.

     Then we did some medium altitude bombing. Didn't like it at all. Got lots of flak bombing at 10,000 feet, in ten-degree temperature. We bombed off the lead ship a C model, which had a bombardier. We were in our G with no bombardier. When the lead ship opened his bomb bay doors we did too. When he dropped his 8x500 pound bombs, we did too. And that is the way it was with medium altitude bombing. At least until we got into newer models later in the year. This mission was my first shot at Piambino.

     The most pleasant words spoken and heard in our earphones during a medium altitude (9,000 to 12,000 feet) combat mission was "bombs away!" At that point the airplane gently lifted up after releasing the bomb load and we could resume our evasive action which was most often a sharp diving turn away from the target and all that flak. Bomb runs were very stressful. That is when the flak was the heaviest and the fighters would attack. We had to fly straight and level for bomb runs.

     Bomb loads varied with the mission and its objective. We carried six 500 pound bombs for our sea sweeps and the possibility of skip bombing targets. Other missions called for eight 250 pound bombs, three 1,000 pound bombs, eight 500 pound bombs, clusters of fragmentation bombs and on a couple of missions "chaff" which was aluminum foil strips which was dropped near the target to confuse enemy radar controlled anti-aircraft guns firing on us. One other item regarding bombs. We never ever heard our bombs explode as they impacted. Unlike the movies and documentaries where you are able to hear the bombs whistle and explode as the formations leave the target… it just doesn't happen. We heard flak explode… but only when it was very, very close… and only then!

     After taking off for a medium altitude mission we would gather in our boxes of six aircraft, then into squadrons and finally into the group formation, while all the time gaining altitude for the mission requirements. The formations would gently move up and down in the air currents until the Initial Point was reached where we made the final turn toward the target. All gunners were very cautious when large, towering cloud formations were nearby knowing that enemy fighters liked to "hide" in these clouds and pop out to attack bomber formations. At the Initial Point the most violent evasive action would take place. Aircraft, in formation, wing to waist window, would move up and down and from side to side trying to make the German gunners, below, miss.

     When we reached the target area and started our bomb run we would have to fly "straight and level" to make a smooth bombing platform for the bombardiers to accurately drop our load. This meant that no evasive action could be taken at all during that important bomb run. In our case the pilot was acting bombardier. He opened the bomb bay doors and released the bombs when the lead ship, which had an actual bombardier, released its bombs. The shudder and wind noise started and continued until we dropped our bombs and the bomb bay doors closed again.

      Our escort fighters would often be with us in the flak. An amazing show of courage on their part since they didn't have to be there at all. A group of these fighters, on one of our missions, had been flying escort for the heavies. These B-17's and B-24's had very long bomb runs of several minutes and we didn't. As a result we left those fighters in the target area catching flak while we made our diving turn away and headed for home. They caught up with us shortly.

      Our crew "volunteered" for a nickling mission or two. This was a "chaff" or aluminum foil-dropping mission. This chaff would float down toward the ground and confuse the radar sights that the German 88mm anti-aircraft cannons used. The nickling airplane usually flew alone, but near the formation, and would drop this chaff to protect the formation when over the target.

      It was about this time that I made Staff Sergeant and it was also the time that I got one landing completed. I had flown some in the states, at the suggestion of Larkin, and so I had collected a few hours of "stick-time". He always felt that in case something happened to the pilots, someone else in the aircraft should be able to fly the thing and return it to base. Since I was up front and was interested I got the job. It was grand. I loved it. I just "greased it in" with the help of the pilot, of course, and the guys in the back said, that, "had we known that you were gonna land this plane we would have bailed out!" But I did it and without them having to hit the silk!

      Our squadron got a group, a squad, I guess, of GI's from the Anzio beachhead to fly with us on some missions. We sent a few guys there to see how the other half- lives. Interestingly, neither group would trade with the other. The Sergeant who flew with our crew, on a milk run, would not trade. He said that down there he could dig a hole and climb into it… while up in an airplane there was no place to hide… not even in a cloud.

     Our entire 57th Bomb Wing mounted a mission on the Herman Goering Division. This was a mobile division, heavily guarded by 88mm, 40mm and 20mm cannon as well as all other types of anti aircraft guns that could be brought into action. We clobbered them but got shot up pretty good in the process. This one elite division was located on the north edge of Elbino Lake. Our ship along with the others in our B-25 group were loaded with "frags". We had, in our bomb bay, 32 clusters of fragmentation bombs, which meant 132 bombs total. Our formation(s) dropped these babies on an area covering a mile-and-a-half by three miles. Their flak was heavy and deadly and with our ship taking some hits. What was interesting to us was the large number of aircraft participating in the raid. Besides our three B-25 groups, there were 3 groups each of B-26's, A-20's and seemingly hundreds of fighters (of all varieties) dive bombing and strafing. Really a sound mission. The poor Germans on the ground were confused since they weren't sure whom to fire on. There were so many of us.

     As I recall, there were a couple of missions that were really "rough", as we used to say. My 16th mission was a medium altitude mission bombing from 9,500 feet. Target was Piombino Harbor. We had 36 aircraftwith 20 Spitfires as escort and we carried a "normal" bomb load of six 500 pounders. The date was March 14, 1944. The flak, as usual, was very intense and accurate. Our squadron lost 2 ships immediately once over the target. We barely made it back to Corsica. No wonder we had 82 holes in our ship and one of our two engines shot out. We did a wheels up belly landing. It was a smooth crash landing in spite of the difficulties and grass, rock, dirt and dust flew up the crawlway as we skidded on the dirt alongside the metal stripped field.

       The day had started out as usual. Breakfast in the dark, getting our flight gear, climbing on the truck, riding to the line, checking the aircraft while awaiting our pilots from the mission briefing, and all those other things that we normally undertook before the mission takeoff. Pulling the props, starting the engines, warming up, taxiing off the hard stand, getting in line and waiting for the green flare from the tower, taking off and circling to form up,(and for a change we were in the lead element not "tail end Charlie" where we usually flew) and, as wegained altitude for this medium altitude bombing mission, we kept circling the field because Corsica and the mainland are not too far apart, and it would not take long to reach our target. Our approach to Piombino Harbor was from the south. I guess one of the things that the weatherman did not count on was that the wind blew in the opposite direction from our attack approach and we were heading into the wind instead of going with it. This obviously meant that our ground speed had been cut down considerably, leaving us sitting ducks for Germans fire. As we made our IP and turned for the bomb run, the flak started. It was terribly accurate, no brackets, just hits.

     Surprisingly, no one aboard our ship was hit or even scratched, amazing in itself! Others in our formation were not so lucky. I often wondered what had actually happened over Piombino. Our squadron lost 3 aircraft that day, two got back to Corsica and one was missing. The two that made it back, so badly battered they were junked and used for spare parts. The enemy flak was very accurate and we were in the lead element. One, two and three. The German 88's had us nailed! The lead ship nosed over and went down, the number two aircraft made a sharp diving left turn and it never did recover from that dive while we banked abruptly making a diving right turn and finally did pull out close to a hundred feet off the ocean. We headed in limping fashion toward Corsica. The other three aircraft in our box, four, five and six, got some holes from the German anti-aircraft fire which meant that in the lead element of six aircraft, from our group, three at least were shot down or, at least, badly crippled. The red flak flashes and bangs meant flak bursts, were close and they certainly were, as inspection of our ship bore out upon landing.

     One engine, ailerons and rudder controls had been shot out as was the hydraulic system controlling the lowering of our wheels. When I tried to use the emergency system by manually pumping the wheels down, it didn't work either so we made the wheels up landing. We also had one engine shot out and flew back from Italy on a single, sputtering, smoking engine.

     As we approached the downwind end of the field the remaining engine gave up and the last thing I remember seeing (before I ducking into my crash landing position), was another B-25 landing on the metal runway heading directly toward us and looking like we were going to crash. Our pilot and the "Sky Pilot" really took care of us that day with much skill and daring.

     There were three of us gunners in the back, behind the bomb bay, of this model B-25. The tail gunner, radio gunner, and myself, the top turret gunner. So when I climbed over the bomb bay to see what was going on up front I really startled the pilots a lot. One cannot see the pilots from the back of the ship unless you literally climb over the bomb bay to the front. It seems that they had punched the bail out bell and as it turned out, it too had been shot out and didn't work. Since they thought all the gunners had bailed out over the target they were very surprised to see me.

     The intercom had also been shot out so I climbed back over the bomb bay and told the guys in back, that the aircraft was tail heavy and we were to throw out as much as we could to lighten the load. Out went the radios, ammunition boxes, guns and anything that was loose and not bolted down was tossed out into the Tyrrenian Sea. We did retain some small amount of ammunition for the turret "just in case" but with an American Spitfire on our wing, flying cover for us, we didn't have to worry about German aircraft bothering us.

      In April 1944, our Bomb Group participated in "war games" with the French Army stationed on Corsica. Our crew of enlisted men (the officers were not involved in this affair to my knowledge) had to guard one of the entrances to the airfield. We did a splendid job because we captured two armored cars and a motorcycle courier. After the capture (the captured and the capturers) sat around and tried to talk to one another in some bad French, mostly hand signs or pantomime with a few words thrown in.

      A beautiful, brand new, shiny, silver B-25-J with tail number 327507 was delivered to us in May of 1944. On her first mission we saw fighters but they did not bother with us since our covering Spits bothered them. No holes in our new baby but lots of accurate flak was directed at our formation and some aircraft in the group got hit…but luckily none of our ships were lost. At least none on this run. I slept pretty good this night.

     Only one other mission was as important to me as my 16th mission to Piombino Harbor and that was another crash landing after being shot up over the target. This time it was Leghorn. Another harbor! My 58th mission that occurred June 22, 1944.

     We got hit hard by flak over the target and limped back over the sea to Ghisonnacia on one dead engine with feathered prop while the remaining "good" engine spewed oil and smoke into that blue Corsican sky. We made it to the airfield and hand pumped the wheels down, using the red emergency handle. The hydraulic system had been shot out and we landed normally not knowing that flak had damaged the nose wheel.

     The main gear "chirped" on the pierced metal runway and as we slowed down enough to settle on the nose wheel, it collapsed with a loud, hard thumping smash we were stopped, nose buried in the runway and the tail high in the sky (photo). We counted over 100 flak holes as well as one 88mm hole through our left wing (which meant that one 88-mm shell had passed through the aircraft without exploding!) but NO ONE was hurt. I got a scratch on my nose from a chip of Plexiglass from flying flak which hit my turret and Campbell, our tail gunner, wrenched his back when he "stepped out" of the rear hatch and landed 20 feet below on the runway. I guess we should have warned him about that first big step but in the excitement just forgot to.

     I had often wondered what had happened on this mission to cause so much damage to our lead flight (box) of six aircraft. This was explained many years later by a pilot who had been flying in our formation. His theory was that as our bombs were released from the bomb bays and armed themselves, a burst of flak caused them to explode very close to the formation doing all this awesomely sever damage. We'll probably never know for sure, but the theory is a good one.

     We flew many missions into the interior of Italy looking for railroad marshaling yards, bridges, and flak trains. One of these missions might be of interest here. Seems that our original "hot pilot" Storey Larkin was leading the entire formation away from a target in the north of Italy. He had become a flight leader, he was that good, and he provided us a good look at the leaning tower of Pisa. We flew past it only a few hundred feet high after weaving our way out of the mountain valley leading to the Ligurnian Sea with Germans shooting down at us from the mountaintops above. All 36 B-25's roared safely out to sea and home. I had many more missions with lots of flak over our targets resulting in many holes in our plane for the ground crew to patch so that we were airworthy for the next day's mission.

     The last part of July we were issued flak jackets although I had almost finished my ETO combat tour but I did feel better wearing it. Some of the guys, gunners, pilots, anyone flying combat on air crews had scrounged pieces of armor plate and had placed them in their positions aboard their planes. It worked in many cases, saving us from nasty flak wounds. Most "sat" on the steel plates but in the turret of a B-25 there was no room. I sat on a bicycle seat.

     I continued flying missions until my 69th. I flew that mission three times without getting mission credit. The rule was that unless you dropped bombs the mission did not count. We got heavy flak all three times and I figured "that was it". I then went to the flight surgeon and was grounded. I was "flak happy". The 69th just seemed to be the one I would not get through. It turned out to be a milk run but I was happy not flying anymore. I had had enough for now!

     I wrote these memoirs a year or so ago primarily for my family and after talking to a class in my Grandson's elementary school about the war. I was rewarded by a thank you note from one of the kids in the class. He wrote, "I Hoped you enjoyed the War, Mr. U." C'est la guerre.

     As a side bar I have a neighbor who is related to the late composer, Jimmy McHugh, who penned "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer". It was exactly that. "Coming in On a Wing and a Prayer." Truer lines were never spoken.

(MORE TO COME)

----- George Underwood

        gu310@comcast.net

LINKS

B25J and 1929 Model A Ford, Recent Photo

My 58th Mission, Photo

My First Combat Crew in Ghisonaccia, Corsica 1944, Photo

My Combat Crew on Hardstand Ghisonaccia, Corsica with new Co-Pilot, Photo

George Underwood by B25 Top Turret, 1944, Photo at Corsica

George Underwood by B25 Top Turret, 1998, Recent Photo

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