PARKER, GERALD ARTHUR. 1) e-mail 28 APR 2001. “…Judy asked me to write another email about my experiences. I’ll start at the beginning of leaving the States. The 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron left our home Base of Pope Field, Fayetteville, NC on May 3, 1943, for West Palm Beach, FL. Our aircraft were equipped with four additional fuel tanks in the fuselage. They were 80 gallon tanks and held about 75 gallons each in addition to our four wing tanks that carried 200 gallons each. This gave us about 12 hours of flying and we averaged about 150 miles per hour. We departed Florida on May 5th to Puerto Rico; Georgetown, British Guyana; Belem, Brazil; Natal, Brazil; Ascension Island; Dakar, French West Africa; and arrived at Marrakech, Morocco on May 13. It was an interesting trip. The Amazon River looked like 5 Mississippi Rivers at the mouth and the mud dirtied the ocean about 100 miles out to sea. We flew through heavy rain storms in South America; so heavy I was surprised that out engines got enough air to keep running. So much water came in through leaks around the windshield that we put on our rain coats. Each day there were several types of aircraft moving on the same route and since we were the slowest we departed first each morning and arrived last each afternoon. We spent an extra day at Natal and everyone bought and extra watch or pair of boots. From Marrakech we moved near a small town of Lourmel about 30 miles west of Oran. There we pitched our tents and spent a lot of time flying our ground echelon and supplies from Casablanca. We filled a mattress cover with straw to sleep on. By the second night it was like sleeping on the ground. A few weeks later we received 16 air mattresses and they were given to the pilots on a seniority basis and I received the 16th one. We never got any more of them! We also did some flight training but were short on fuel, so not very much. About this time the German Army was driven out of North Africa. In early June we moved to Kairouan, Tunisia, about 650 miles east of Lourmel. It is inland near Sousse. It was really out I the desert and daytime temps were over 120°F. It is chilly at night and we slept under two or three blankets. Our time was spent flying personnel, supplies, and equipment from Lourmel and training for the invasion of Sicily. The air echelon moved to Djerba, Tunisia, with our glider pilots so we could release the gliders over the water and they could practice landing on our strip right on the waterfront. The strip was about 30 feet higher than the water. Some of the power pilots tried to fly the glider too so we would know what it was back there with no power after the release. I enjoyed that one flight but was glad that I was a power pilot. After all of our training towing gliders, we dropped the 82nd Airborne Paratroopers in the invasion of Sicily on July 9th. We dropped them in the vicinity of Gela during the night before the invasion forces made their landings from the sea. There were few searchlights in our eyes but very little enemy fire. The American and British Navies had about 2,500 vessels in their armada. On Sunday night July 11, we flew our second mission, again dropping paratroopers. This night we suffered considerable firepower, almost all from our Navies, both going in to drop and coming out after our drop. We lost one aircraft before the drop and almost all were hit coming out after the drop. My aircraft only had seven penetrations including one in each engine but they continued to run OK. There was a breakdown in communications between the Navies and Air Corps. A few days later the engineers had bulldozed a strip so we could start flying in supplies and evacuating the wounded. We were pretty green then but got the job done. In August we were able to move to Licata, Sicily, and we were glad to trade the desert for our new area in an olive grove. After a few weeks we moved to Sciacca to prepare for the invasion of Italy. The plan was to fly troops to Rome and land instead of dropping them. The Italians had agreed to capitulate and they were to help our troops fight the Germans. Before exercising this plan the Navy put two men ashore near Rome to check out the presence of German forces. They reported back that the German had moved in several troops and Panzer Divisions near Rome so the mission was changed. In September the Fifth Army landed at Salerno, Italy. The airborne wasn’t used since the Italians were going to help our forces. About the 5th day after the invasion I was flying Generals Ridgeway and Gavin on a tour of northern Sicily. Shortly after taking off from our base a P-51 landed. This was very unusual for our strip so I kept my headset on as we climbed above the mountains and headed north. About 20 minutes later the tower called and asked if Ridgeway was on board my aircraft. They said there was an urgent message from General Mark Clark and would we return to base. After reading the message General Ridgeway asked if we could make a drop that night in Italy. I told him we could but he would need to check with our Commanders. We put maps out on the floor of the aircraft and did the preliminary planning for the paratroop drop that night. It was the fastest planned Mission that we had and there wasn’t time for anything to go wrong. It was our best Mission during my time over there. We dropped about one mile on our side of the front line and they had lights (fires in gasoline drums) to guide us in. I had one paratrooper that didn’t jump (I would have been scared too) and he asked if I would go around and give him another chance. There was a severe penalty for those that didn’t jump so I went around again. I told the crew chief to help him out if he hesitated. I never did ask if he needed any help but he did join his outfit on the ground. I think I’ve put in too much detail but of course there is much more that I could tell about. Maybe another time if anyone besides Judy is interested.”
2) email dated 10 MAY 2001. “…I thought I would cover more about North Africa and Sicily before moving to Italy. When we arrived at Lourmel we had he essential things that we brought with us. Our biggest problem was water. We were given one canteen full (a little more than a quart) per day. After about two weeks our C.O. required that we shave daily. I was so young that I could do it every other day and get by. I learned to do it in a quarter-inch of water in my mess cup. When we finally received a truck we would have a run to the Mediterranean Sea where we could swim and wash ourselves. The little children had come down to see what we were doing had never seen soap. It was fun to lather them up after they found out that it didn’t hurt them. One day one of the trucks hit a calf along the road. We bought it from the Arabs and took it to camp for the cooks. Our Flight Surgeon was out of Med School about a year and he said “no way”. A couple of fellows took it to town and traded it for wine (I’m not sure that was any better for our health! I hadn’t started drinking so didn’t have any). After moving to Kairouan we still didn’t have any fresh meat and an ambulance ran down a cow and brought it home. This time the Flight Surgeon enjoyed it with the rest of us. At Kairouan we had Lyster Bags that held about 25 gallons of water and it wasn’t rationed. It didn’t taste good and it was awfully warm. We were able to purchase small clay pots in Sousse that we put our drinking water in. The water would seep through the clay and evaporate and that cooled the water in the pot. It was very hot and dry so it only took about an hour to cool. We would always have a pot of water close at hand. Even though we drank a lot of water we would only have to urinate the first thing in the morning. The food was a major problem. We had a few canned fruits and vegetables and almost everything else was dehydrated (we were in Sicily several weeks before we had our first bread). In Africa we had green beans three times a day. They were heated in butter! The butter came in gallon cans and was made by the Standard Oil Co. It would melt at 165 degrees. After the beans hit your mess kit it would cool and form little globs that were still hot enough to burn your mouth. Powdered eggs just don’t taste like eggs. Dehydrated potatoes are little cubes about one quarter inch. Our cooks didn’t have the skill or equipment to make them taste good but we ate them anyway. Toilet paper was in very short supply and many of us had severe dysentery. When you got a roll of toilet paper you guarded it and hid it carefully. While in North Africa I often dreamed of getting back to the States and I was going to get a hotel room, have them fill the bathtub with ice cubes, and spend a day soaking in it. As luck would have it I arrived in Boston and it was 16 below zero but that was more than a year later. In North Africa, Sicily, Italy anyone could drive a jeep or weapons carrier but we didn’t have roads near the base so it wasn’t something we did very often. In England they were more formal and you had to request a vehicle and a driver and justify the use so we didn’t get around much. There were so many Americans there that they had to control vehicle use. I forgot to mention that between Lourmel and Oran was a large lake. We could watch the white caps and the waves and it was very pretty. As you walked toward the water it moved away and if you went far enough it would be behind you but it was always dry while we were there. It was on our maps as a dry lake but it sure looked like water even when flying over it. If you looked straight down it appeared dry in a small round area that moved with you as you flew along. Enough for now.”
3) e-mail dated 19 JUN 2001. “…After our paratroop drops in Sicily we were visited by a Red Cross representative. He said that he could get us some ice cream if we could gather certain ingredients. We were able to get most of what we needed and I flew him to Algiers. We were there for three days but he finally was able to make two large (about five gallons each) containers of chocolate ice cream. We flew back to Kairouan at a higher altitude so it wouldn’t melt. We served it right from the aircraft with the troops lining up with their mess cups. It was a great feeling to bring that cold ice cream to the desert. We made a volleyball court in Sicily by chopping down some olive trees. I don’t remember how the teams were decided but we had quite a round robin of games. There were usually several spectators that wanted to take on the winning team, too. In September [it actually began October 19th] the Air Echelon of the 53rd Squadron was moved to Italy. Our base was a concrete strip just east of Mt. Vesuvius near the town of Pomigliano. In town there was a three story building a block long with several wings extending about a block to the rear. We were housed in the outside wing on the south side. There was electricity and water part of the time. We didn’t drink the water and we didn’t use the toilet facilities. Instead of sitting down they would squat. We weren’t able to do that comfortably so we had our own latrine dug across the street in a potato field and used that. There was a tent pitched over it for privacy. There were a few shops in the front building including a barber shop. I splurged one day and had a haircut and a shave. The barber didn’t have any soap so it felt like he was pulling the whiskers out. I didn’t take the luxury of another barber shave. They had given each of us that flew the second drop in Sicily a bottle of whiskey. I didn’t care for it then so just put my bottle of Four Roses in my bag. I also had a bottle of hair tonic that I brought from the States. Most of us had our hair cut to about ¼-inch when we left the States and mine was just getting long enough to use the tonic. When they threw my bag off of the truck the two bottles hit together and broke the hair tonic bottle. I immediately gave the Four Roses to a friend and then caught the dickens from some others that heard about it. They thought they should have it. The first night we were there we had an air raid. We were all out to see the action and mostly standing in a row on the curb. The tracers from the ships in the harbor filled the sky. It was the first time we had seen it looking up and we were remarking how much better it was than flying through it. Then there was a very loud explosion that blew us off the curb. We hit the ground running and went about ½-mile to a railroad track and laid down next to it. We could hear things ‘whish’ through the air and thud on the ground around us. The next day we learned that the explosion was from a British Gun Battery of six 90-millimeter Ack-Ack guns that was very close to us. Also learned that the thuds were the shells from the ships coming back to earth. We went through the same drill the next night – not too smart. After that we stayed inside our building. Earlier, just a couple of days after dropping the paratroopers at Salerno, we had flown in supplies from Sicily and landed. While there we were strafed by four ME-109’s. They were flying toward the ships that had participated in the invasion and the Navy shot down all four. While we were stationed there we flew to North Africa and Sicily, as well as twice a day “milk runs” to Foggia, Bari, and Taranto and home to transport mostly personnel and information. The front line bogged down for several weeks just north of a line from Naples to Foggia. We also did a few training paratroop drops. Our engines were getting too many hours by then but we didn’t have replacements so we kept flying. On one of the practice missions I had an engine fail just as we were ready to lift off. I was able to gain altitude to about 500 feet on one engine and drop the paratroopers. I’m sure they were surprised to land where they did; I think they walked back to our base. I also had a tire blow out after takeoff in North Africa with a load of supplies. We knew that we needed new tires but they were very scarce. This one blew out after the wheel was retracted but luckily didn’t harm anything in the wheel well. We just had one runway at Pomigliano and there was a strong crosswind. I wasn’t sure that I had a blown tire but soon found out as we touched down. About half way down the runway I cut the engines so there wouldn’t be a fire if I ground looped and broke the gear. The crosswind then caught the tail and I did ground loop and ran into a British Spitfire. They always had them parked next to the runway so they could get airborne quickly if we had an air raid. The damage was minimal to each aircraft and I caught a little static about the incident [from Capt. Dayton E. Shermer]. I had an instrument check ride while we were stationed there. The pilot would have a curtain up so he couldn’t see out and the check pilot watched for other aircraft. Navaids were nonexistent so we couldn’t do much, but the check pilot would turn off the fuel to one of the engines to make sure that you knew how to identify the dead engine and not feather the wrong one. This time within a couple of seconds of the engine quitting the other one quit also. We were able to restart the good engine and get back to base. I estimated we were within a mile of the front line when this happened. Not Good! Enough for this time.”
4) e-mail 30 NOV 2007. “…Our squadron was made up of an Air echelon and a Ground echelon. The Air echelon had about 85 personnel and the Ground echelon had about 250. We had 13 airplanes with 13 crews and 3 spare copilots when we went overseas. The Air echelon arrived in North Africa on May 13, 1943 and after a couple of days we arrived at a concrete landing strip about 3,500 feet long. It was near the small community of Lourmel about 35 miles west of Oran. We were given six-man tents to set up. We each had two mattress covers and a pile of straw was provided to fill one of them to sleep on the ground. By the first morning we knew that it was not working. By then the straw was pretty powdered and would not stay under your body. Each aircraft was equipped with 24 litters so we each retrieved one and used that for a bed for the first few weeks until we were issued a canvas cot. We did not have electricity so we went to bed when it was almost dark and didn’t need to be called in the morning. We were ready to get up at daybreak. We had boards about four feet tall to stand at for a table. We ate out of our mess kits. They consisted of a bottom and top about six inches long, four inches wide and an inch deep and a knife, fork, and spoon. The top could be held on the handle to give us two compartments for food. A cup came with our canteen. To wash these items after use there were two tubs of warm water to swish them in. We did not have refrigeration so all food was dehydrated or canned. Breakfast was warm canned grapefruit juice (to take our quinine and salt pills), dehydrated eggs (powdered), dehydrated potatoes, canned green beans and coffee (I hadn’t started drinking coffee then). Our butter was made by Standard Oil Co., and it melted at about 165 degrees - it came in gallon cans. They put on the beans and it would solidify by the time you were ready to eat them and it was still hot enough to burn your mouth. Water was very short, so we were given one canteen full (about a quart) per day and that included washing and shaving. Needless to say, no one bothered to shave - we needed the water to drink. Temperatures were only in the 90’s while we were there. After a few days the squadron commander ordered us to shave daily. I was young enough (20) I only shaved every three days then and no one noticed. After about ten days we received a truck and we used that to drive a load of us to the Mediterranean Sea for a cool swim and to wash. Little children would come to watch us and we coached them to get wet and soap their bodies. They had never seen soap and didn’t know how good it felt to get in the water. The trip was a daily activity. We were short on gasoline for the aircraft so did very little flying at first. The fuel was in 55-gallon barrels and had to be hand-pumped into the airplane. Lunch consisted of canned green beans, macaroni and coffee. We didn’t have bread until we arrived in Sicily. The evening meal also had canned green beans, canned pork luncheon meat (we called it Spam) and canned or dehydrated items. I wasn’t enthused about the food and don’t remember what we had most of the time. I arrived there weighing about 145 pounds and was down to 100 pounds when we moved to Sicily. Our Ground echelon came over by ship and arrived at Casablanca two to three weeks after we arrived. We then flew many flights to bring them to Lourmel. We always made sure to fill up with gasoline in Casablanca and we would pick up a box of food for the crew. We would normally send two people to get food so we would have some for another day. Our squadron commander [Howard M. Betts] was our boss. He was not into military customs so we had practically no saluting. We called him by his rank (Captain, Major, and then Lt. Colonel) or Howard. We all appreciated his relaxed mode of operation and would do anything for him. Our mission was to get our two echelons together and eventually participate in the invasion of Sicily. My best friend was one of our pilots, Don King. A few weeks before we went overseas, I had my first flight as a first pilot (pilot-in-command). It was a practice parachute drop and Don was my copilot. It was his first flight after joining our Squadron. We often flew together while in the Mediterranean area. We always lived in the same tent. When we moved to England we were both first pilots with our own crew and airplane. A crew consisted of a Pilot, Copilot, Crew Chief, (in charge of maintaining the aircraft) and a Radio Operator.”
5) e-mail 26 JAN 2008. “…The climate was much better in Sicily and the food was a little better than North Africa. Most our flying was back to the northern coast of Africa. One of these missions sent eight aircraft to Tunis to do what they asked us to do. We started flying aircraft gasoline in 55-gallon drums to Sardinia. We were there for several days making two trips a day. Each aircraft took 20 drums on each flight. That made the load about 7,900 pounds and the loading put the aircraft center of gravity out of tolerance. As a result the takeoff was marginal and the climb out very slow. Also, there was a hill about 300 feet high near the airport that we couldn’t climb over so we had to turn to avoid it. We slept on litters in the aircraft or on the ground under the wing. One night we had a storm with hail that shredded the canvas ailerons and elevators of all our aircraft. We had enough fabric and glue to repair one aircraft and it then flew to our home base to get enough fabric and glue to repair the rest of the planes. The fuel was for a fighter base that would open when we had enough fuel there. Our last day several B-17’s from England heading for North Africa were low on fuel so they landed and took all the fuel that was planned for the fighter aircraft. One of the unusual loads that we hauled was P-38 belly fuel tanks. We could get 20 of them inside our cargo area. The problem was they filled the airplane so the only way we could get to the cockpit was to climb on the tail and walk (or crawl) up on top of the fuselage to the cockpit ceiling hatch. That was the only exit also and was not a way to bail out if necessary. The hatch was so small it would be difficult to get out with a parachute on and the propellers were behind you. Luckily, we never had to try that option. Our troops built us a large shower. It had a wooden floor and about 20 shower heads. The drawback was the water was pumped from a trough the natives used to water their livestock. Often when we were showering they would come past with a wagon full of family and stop to water the mules. They weren’t bothered by seeing us and we got used to seeing them. A large dog adopted us and had a large litter of pups. We named her Mable Zable because the glider pilot that looked after her was named [Marvin P.] Zable. We spent a lot of time watching those puppies. We built an Officer’s Club about 40 by 30 feet that was covered with a blue tap. The walls were made in sections so we could put it in an airplane and take it with us if we moved. We just finished it when we were moved. We just finished it when we were moved. It had a bar on one end with pictures of exotic drinks that were available. The only problem was all drinks were actually whatever one thing was that were available. I was too young to drink then so don’t know what they served. Unfortunately, our glider pilots didn’t have much to do and we had 40 of them. They would hang around in the Officer’s Club and when we would come back from a flight there wouldn’t be a place for us to sit. So one day [Gurvis L.] Cummins flew over real low and added full power as I hit the outside wall with a couple of gas cans. Of course the place emptied to see the ‘crash’ and I walked in and sat down. When they came back in asking what that was all about I said ‘at least I found a place to sit down’. After that most of them would get up when a power pilot came in after a flight and I really felt bad when we had done that. After a short time we moved our squadron to Sciacca, about 60 miles west of Licata. There we had a gravel strip about 3,500 feet long with a drop off on each end. We were about 700 feet above sea level and five miles from the coast. The airport lighting consisted of a light at each corner of the runway and about three lights on each side. Barely adequate. We removed a few olive trees and made a volleyball court and had a good round-robin among the teams. Here our shower was a single shower with a concrete floor. We had an aircraft radiator (from an Italian aircraft) that we could light a gasoline fire under to heat the water. I have taken a shower there when it was snowing and there never was enough hot water to warm the floor. It was always a quick shower. We had spaghetti that we liked and some bread. At one period we were allowed two slices of bread a week so we had them both at the same meal so we could have a sandwich. We had tuna in gallon cans so you could have a lot of tuna in a sandwich. Special! One day I was flying Generals [Matthew B.] Ridgeway and [James M.] Gavin to an airport in eastern Sicily for an airborne demonstration. When we arrived the airport was closed for the demonstration. I had General Ridgeway come to the cockpit and told him we couldn’t land because the airport was closed. He said that they had to be there since the Joint Chiefs of Staff were there from the states for the demonstration. I told him I could get him on the ground if he could take care of the ‘chaff’ we would get. He assured me he could handle that. The airport had a single runway with a taxiway from each end at about 45-degrees to form a Vee. There were brick revetments along the taxiways to protect the parked aircraft from aerial strafing. I landed on one of the taxiways with the tower telling me not to land and shining a red light in my face. We rolled to a stop behind the grandstand they had for viewing dignitaries. A Colonel came running to us and I motioned that I would see him at the exit door. He got there in time to see the Generals get off and he was not there when I got back there. I never heard any problem so I guess General Ridgeway took care of it. After departing, General Ridgeway came to the cockpit and asked if there was any way we could go to another airstrip so he could meet with another General. I assured him all he had to say was say: ‘take me to such-and-such airport’. He wanted make arrangements for the crew for supper and a place to sleep. I told him we had rations (K) on board and could sleep in the aircraft. He knew he didn’t have to ask but he was such a nice person he asked anyway. A few days later (about September 7, 1943) I was flying Generals to Palermo and northeastern Sicily. Shortly after we took off a P-51 landed on our strip. This was very unusual so I kept my headset on and listened to our control tower. After about 20 minutes the tower called and asked if General Ridgeway was onboard. There was an urgent message from General [Mark W.] Clark in Italy. This was the fourth day of the invasion of Italy. When we landed a Colonel handed the General a message. After reading it he turned to me and said, ‘Clark needs us at Salerno, can we drop tonight?’ I asked my crew chief how long it would take to get pararacks put on aircraft. He said a couple of hours so I told the General we could drop that night but he better check with higher authority. Everything was pit in motion and we dropped that night and it was probably our best drop. I had a paratrooper that didn’t jump and he begged for another chance. There didn’t seem to be a lot of antiaircraft fire so I went around and over the drop zone again. I told the crew chief to help him out if he needed help. I didn’t ask if he jumped or was pushed, so I only know that he did join his unit on the ground. About four days after our drop I was on the ground on a recently bulldozed strip near Salerno when four ME-109’s flew over strafing our strip. They were immediately approaching the Navy in the bay and all four were shot down as they crossed the shoreline. After the front line moved past Naples/Foggia our squadron Air echelon moved to Pomigliano, a small town just east of Mount Vesuvius. We were billeted in a three-story apartment building. The units did not have bathrooms but had a large bathroom for several units. We used only part of one wing and there were about eight wings with small businesses in the front building. The first night there was an air raid so we all lined up on a curb to watch the action from the ground. The ships in the harbor were doing the firing and searchlights lit up the sky. All of a sudden there was a large blast that blew us off the curb. We hit the ground running. After running about a quarter of a mile there was a railroad track about six feet above ground. We laid down on the side of the slope and listened and watched. There were a few more large blasts and things hitting the ground. After it was over we found out that the blasts were six 90-mm antiaircraft guns the British had near our building. The thuds hitting the ground were the shells from the Navy coming down around us. We finally determined that we were better off staying in our buildings. We still fed in our mess kits. There was always a line of women and children waiting for any food we might have left to throw away. They were very well-mannered and we soon learned that if you didn’t have any leftovers the person in the front of the line had to go to the rear of the line. We always made sure we had some food for them. Most of our flights were to North Africa or Sicily but we had one milk-run that flew to Foggia, Bari, Taranto, and back home twice a day. The good part of that duty was one when you got behind schedule you would spend the night where ever you were when it was about dark. My favorite was Bari: there were nice restaurants and some even had live entertainment. You couldn’t tell that the war was only a few miles north of town. We also had time to go to Naples and Pompeii occasionally. The front line was pretty much stalled due to the terrain and winter weather and we moved back to Sciacca in late December. Then we started preparing our aircraft for the flight to England. I didn’t keep a journal and my flight log book doesn’t show any destinations for my flights so all of this is from memory. I hope it makes sense. It has been good to remember some of the events of long ago.”
6) e-mail 26 AUG 2010. “…We arrived at our first camp at Lourmel, North Africa in the middle of May, 1943. The weather was dry and warm but quite tolerable. The 61st Group was there together. There was a single concrete runway but I don't remember any buildings. The first day we pitched our tents and were issued two mattress covers: One to fill with straw and the other to sleep in, instead of sheets. We stuffed as much straw in as we could from a pile of straw that had just been cut so it was about six inches thick. We slept on the ground at the beginning. We had five to six men to a tent and my memory is that your Dad and I were in the same tent (or hut in England) every time we moved. Before morning, the mattress was less than an inch thick and when we emptied it to refill, we found that the straw was full of bugs. We started flying supplies and our ground echelon from Casa Blanca and one of the first things was a load of army cots. They aren't real comfortable but much better than straw! A couple weeks later we received 16 air mattresses and they were passed out to the first pilots by seniority and I received the 16th one. What a blessing! We never received any more after that. We had boards about 4 feet high to stand by for our meals and we used our mess kits. It was a 61st Group mess. There were a couple of barrels of warm water to swish our mess kits in when we were through eating. The daylight was long enough that we didn't need lights. I don't remember that there was any refrigeration for food. Everything was dehydrated or canned. The eggs were edible but not recognizable and the potatoes were about one quarter inch cubes. We had canned green beans almost every meal (yes, breakfast too) and warm canned fruit. I often wondered if they had intended to order NAVY beans and received green beans by mistake. For breakfast we also had canned pork luncheon meat. They called it Spam and it was very salty. I still can't eat spam or any of those meats like it. Our butter came in a gallon can and was made by the Standard Oil Company. They put a healthy amount on the green beans and it would solidify at about 165 degrees. The lumps could burn your mouth. We didn't fly a whole lot other than back and forth to Casablanca. We had to pump the fuel into the aircraft by hand so we would always fill up in Casablanca. We were very short of water and in the beginning only had one canteen of drinking water a day. We were looking raunchy (especially the older men) so Major Betts ordered us to shave every day. You can do it with less than an inch of precious water in your mess cup. We started getting jeeps and a couple of trucks and were able to get more water. We also ran the truck to the Mediterranean almost every day so we could swim, wash and cool off a little. A group of small children would come to watch us and after a few days they were willing to let us soap them, and they would rinse off in the sea. I think they liked the change of smell because they would ask to be soaped after that. One day the truck ran over a calf. We paid the Arabs for it and brought it to the mess tent for the cooks to make a stew. Doc Eisman, our flight surgeon, said "no way" so they took it to town and traded it for some homemade wine. I would have rather had the stew. About a month later (after we moved to Tunisia) an ambulance ran one down and we had the stew that time. That was the first fresh meat we had that I can remember. Most of our time at Lourmel was getting the group assembled and obtaining supplies. We moved to Kairouan after four or five weeks. There we were farther from the sea so no swim truck. The food was about the same but we had a Squadron Mess instead of Group Mess and it was much hotter there. A slice of bread or a sandwich would have been a special treat. The temperatures were over 130 in the afternoon and I used three blankets at night. We slept under mosquito nets because of the fear of malaria (my older brother did get malaria in the South Pacific). This time we had two parallel runways that were bladed in the sand to remove the grass clumps that grow in the desert. We also used them for a baseball field in the evenings when it cooled down. Our planes were scattered so they wouldn't all be destroyed if we were attacked. Occasionally we would get to Sfax on the coast. There wasn't much there but I bought a watermelon about two feet long. When we got home and cut into it we found that it was a large cucumber. The next time we went over there I asked them to plug the watermelon so I could see what it was. They acted like they didn't understand, so whoever I was with pulled out his forty five and shot a hole in it. It was a watermelon so we bought it for two dollars (equivalent). We did a certain amount of training getting ready for the invasion of Sicily. Before the invasion the air echelon and Glider Pilots spent about two weeks at Djerba. There the sand runway started at the cliff of the sea. We would tow them out over the sea and release them and they could learn to glide back and make a landing. It was suggested that each power pilot take a flight in a glider so we would know what it was like to fly one. I did that. On takeoff when the airplane hit the power you could see about five feet of rope. I survived that and enjoyed the rest of the flight and made it back to the landing strip. I never found another power pilot that took up the offer. While we were there we lived in pup tents but it was great to get out of the heat. After all of that special training for our glider pilots we ended up dropping paratroops in Sicily and other Troop Carrier Groups towed gliders. There were several that landed in the sea and weren't able to glide to land. When we dropped in Sicily we may have missed the drop zone but we were in formation when we dropped so they should have at least been together. When you are busy flying night formation it is difficult to keep track of your location. I think I have told you of my recollections of the second drop on July 11. We encountered a little firepower before we made landfall and the search lights in our eyes made formation flying more difficult. I don't know if Ehnot was hit on the way in or not but from my position in the formation I think he hit one of the white mountain tops as we tried to clear them. The moonlight made the mountain tops quite visible. At any rate it was a horrendous crash. He seemed to bounce off of the mountain top and do a loop hitting the ground. The jumpmaster in the doorway fell out and survived. All of the others were lost. After the first drop in Sicily we had donuts and coffee and everyone said it was a piece of cake. After the second mission we were very somber and they gave each pilot a bottle of whiskey. I was too young to drink so I put mine in my barracks bag. I don't know if the crew chief and radio operator received one too or not. Edgar Lanning stuttered a little and when he saw me he said "How how did di did you get ba back so so soon?" He thought I had been the one that crashed. He was Major Betts' copilot on the Sicily missions. Their crew chief (the assistant) [Clarence P. Jablonski] was killed that night. We even took a few passengers on the second night since the first night was a "piece of cake." We had four motorcycles, two German and two Italian. The German ones were large and heavy but the Italian ones were very light. I only rode the Italian ones. When you drove across the desert you had to avoid the grass clumps and they were three to six feet apart so it was a zig zag trip. One day I came across a small garden and there was a camel there walking down an area cut in the desert about 20-feet deep. He had a harness of sorts that tied him to this area and as he walked down a goat skin would fill with water and as he walked up it would go to the top and spill into the garden. I didn't see anyone near there. I took a couple of onions and left. Ernie Laws had an accident with one of the heavier bikes and broke his leg. While we were here is when I taught your Dad [Donald E. King] to drive a Jeep and a Weapons Carrier. He had trouble with the truck because it had to be double clutched. I understand the Flight Surgeon asked him to drive him someplace and he said he didn't know how to drive a vehicle.
7) e-mail 30 DEC 2014: “…I believe Don's report more than John's. I don't remember that anyone made a belly landing that night. There was more than one that came back with injured on board because red shots were fired from the Very pistol to let the ground personnel know so an ambulance could be at the aircraft when it stopped. I missed some of the landings because they were serving food in the mess tent. One memory I have was when I walked into the lighted area, Edgar Lanning saw me and turned white - and said "How How How Did DID you get back so early?" They had thought Willy and I had been the one that crashed over there. I think Edgar was Betts' copilot and being in the lead aircraft they couldn't see what happened. Many years later Cummins and Beverly and I visited Col Betts in Colorado Springs. When I started to mention Ehnot's crash he stopped me quickly and repeated what the official report said. Don and I saw the same thing and we were behind or even with Ehnot in the formation. They hit near the top of the mountain and there was an explosion (I thought it was what was in the bundles) and the aircraft continued up and completed the loop at the top and went straight down and exploded when it hit the ground. It was very close to us when it came down and Willy [Harold V. Williams] was flying so I could watch it all of the way up and down.”
8) e-mail 25 JAN 2015: “…I graduated from high school in June 1940. Jobs were very scarce and there was talk of a draft to increase the size of the military. The Germans were conquering countries at will and joining an alliance with Italy that became known as the Axis. On July 16 (my 18th birthday) I went to our Army Air Corps recruiting office to enlist for three years. I wanted to attend a trade school in the military and I did not want to be drafted into the infantry. The recruiter looked at me and said I would have to bring my high school diploma for him to see. I rode my bike home and got it to show him. Then he said I would have to bring my parents down to permit me to join the Air Corps. That took several days but my dad finally was available to go with me. The recruiting Sergeant then said "When would you like to report." I thought of the fun I could have playing baseball that summer so I said October 1, 1940 (I was still getting into the movie theaters for 10 cents-under 12 years old). October 1st I was sworn into the Army in Chicago and given a train ticket to St. Louis, MO and assigned to Scott Field, IL near St. Louis. When I reported there I was told that I had been transferred to Jefferson Barracks, MO also near St. Louis. Jefferson Barracks had been an infantry base and just changed to Army Air Corps. Any infantry men that transferred to the Air Corps were given a one stripe promotion and many took advantage of it. So there I was among old infantry soldiers. There were a few new recruits besides me but the average length of service in our newly formed squadron was 20 years. At that time there were signs in the windows of the bars in St. Louis "No dogs or soldiers allowed." These signs disappeared immediately after Pearl Harbor was bombed and strafed. The first six weeks was spent drilling (marching). After roll call at six a.m. we would police the area which was mostly picking up cigarette butts. That is when I vowed to never smoke and I never did. Next I was put on guard duty. We were expanding our numbers and space was getting tight. Guards were moved to a large metal cell in our jail. My upper bunk was about 18 inches from the metal ceiling. The prisoners were crowded into the other large cell. At that time we were getting hundreds of draftees. They were issued WW-I clothing and guns. The expansion was so fast that some of the enlistees didn't receive uniforms for weeks and were wearing the suit they arrived in every day. We were paid in cash the last day of the month, $21.00 minus laundry and old soldiers' home charge and any charges at the Post Exchange. Our base pay went to $30.00 after 4 months and a $10.00 a month bonus after a year. Next, to get out of jail I volunteered for funeral duty. We were pall bearers at veterans’ funerals. Usually it was two a day with three on Sat and Sun. One rainy day the lead private on my side slipped and fell into the hole before we lowered the casket. He was hollering the whole service so it was hard to keep a straight face while holding the flag over the casket. After the people left we raised the casket to get him out. Our tip was usually a good cigar. In early December our squadron was shipped to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and experienced the Japanese attack a year later. I was waiting for assignment to Airplane Mechanics School so remained at Jefferson Barracks. My next assignment was to take care of the furnaces in the officers homes. There were six big two story brick homes on the edge of the parade ground. Each had a stoker and I had to fill the hopper each day and make sure they were operating properly and remove the ashes and cinders. My next assignment was to the Supply Sergeant. He put me in charge of getting the new recruits and draftees shoes resoled. By that time we had 3,000 draftees in our tent city. There were 300 to 400 pairs to re-sole each week. I was able to set up a system so they received the correct pair back. One benefit we received, on Sundays when the hockey pro team was playing at home they would send 10 or 12 buses to take us to the games free. Finally, I was transferred to Chanute Field to attend Airplane Mechanics School in early May, 1941. The course consists of 13 two week sessions. There were two sessions of classes, 6 AM to 2 PM and 2:30 PM to 10:30 PM 5 days a week. I was in the morning sessions. I had KP duty at least once each two week period. KP was a hard 12 hour day, especially if you were assigned to washing pots and pans. I was able to hitch hike home each weekend, usually starting Friday after noon. I would often return after midnight Sunday and then be awakened before 4:30 to march to the mess hall for breakfast. If you didn't make it to breakfast you missed that day of school. At that time they realized they were not able to train as many pilots as they needed due to the requirement of two years of college to apply for Aviation Cadets. So they started a new program called Aviation Students that permitted enlisted men with one year of military service and age 19 to 22½ to apply. After graduation we would be Staff Sergeant Pilots while the Cadets were 2nd Lieutenants after graduation. I applied on my 19th birthday and went through their physical tests and a three day test of knowledge. I didn't hear any results so assumed I was not accepted. After graduating from Airplane Mechanics School at the end of November I was transferred to Cochran Field, Macon, GA with a 15 day delay enroute which I spent at home in Aurora, IL. I was at home alone when Japan struck our Navy Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The next day I put on my uniform and Mrs. Miller, our next door neighbor, wondered how I got into the military so fast. Before war was declared we always wore civilian clothes when off base. Cochran Field was a Basic Training School with the Vultee BT-13 aircraft. I was assigned as the maintenance crew chief of BT-13 № 353. I would start the engine each morning and warm it up, make sure it was full of fuel and check the log book to see if there were any remarks that required repairs. I also learned to taxi it. I was only there about 27 days. The food for the enlisted personnel in my Squadron was so poor that I lost 20 pounds. I
9) e-mail 09 FEB 2015: “…On January 17, 1942 I arrived at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama for Pre-flight Training in Class 42-H. It was a completely new life style. We were housed in brick one story buildings with three students to a room. Each of us had a bed, a large desk and a closet and plenty of room. We did share the bathroom. I was still a Buck Private so I was still paid $40 per month. The cadets that were assigned here were paid $75 per month and were taking the same courses that we were taking. The cadets were also learning to march so we had an advantage on that score. We also learned to eat square meals. No talking, eyes straight ahead, get the food on your fork and bring it straight up to the level of your mouth and then to your mouth. We walked on the right side of the sidewalk, made square corners, eyes straight ahead, spoke to all you passed, (Good Morning Mister) and no idle chatter with anyone. We had two hours of ground school and two hours of exercise in the morning (calisthenics, basketball and physical testing) and four hours of ground school in the afternoon. The course was 4½ weeks long. The classes were often on what I had learned in Airplane Mechanics school plus navigation, Morse Code and flight theory. We always had homework so we needed the desk. There were about 200 Students and about as many Cadets. When our 4½ weeks ended the Cadets and half of the Students moved on to Primary Flight Schools. One hundred students (including me) were moved to an old empty two story brick clothing factory in a residential area of Montgomery. We were now in Class 42-I with 100 new students. We had double deck bunks on the second floor with 200 in a single room. The kitchen, dining area, toilets and showers and class rooms were all on the first floor. (Back to the real world!) The caliber of the food was quite poor and we discontinued the square meals. It was a repeat of the same schedule and classes for 100 of us but we survived another 4½ weeks. Finally, we are ready to start our flying training. About 50 of us were sent to the Mississippi Institute of Aeronautics near Jackson, MS. It was a civilian flight school and all of the instructors were civilians. Each of the three flight courses were 9 weeks. There were two officers (2nd Lieutenants) there to give each of us a 20, 40 and 60 hour flight test. All of the aircraft were Stearman primary trainers, PT-17s, a biplane with the landing gear quite close together. The landing area was a square grass area. I now received flight pay, half of my $30 basic salary so I was now paid $55 a month until graduation. Unfortunately, I was airsick on most of my flights. My instructor was mean and gave me a hard time until I started vomiting. He would watch me in his mirror and when I vomited over a side he would make a steep turn to the opposite direction and as I changed to the other side most of it would go inside the airplane. Then my class was over for the day and after landing I had to wash the airplane. As underclassmen we flew six days a week and Wednesday was our day off. By the second Saturday I was awake all night deciding what I was going to tell him that I wanted to drop out of the program. As luck would have it, I had a new instructor that Sunday morning. Since I had spent the whole night figuring what to say I decided to tell the new instructor. He pleaded with me to keep trying. They had given him six students and he planned to get us all through the training. He said, "It is a beautiful day and we should take a little flight and I will help you wash the airplane". I said OK. He was the nicest man and did get 5 of his students through the program. The other student ground looped and damaged a wingtip and that was automatic washout. He had to be a remarkable instructor to get 5 of us through. The washout rate at that time was about 50%. I did not get airsick on my three flight tests with the officers. We did have hazing at that time but our upper class was pretty good about not doing much of it. We were all Regular Army and not interested in that sort of thing. We flew first thing in the morning, then had our PT before the noon meal with four hours of ground school in the afternoon. We were busy all of the time, it seemed. Our next session was at Cochran Field, Macon, Georgia with the Vultee BT-13. This was a real airport with concrete runways and a control tower. The aircraft had a 450-HP engine, landing flaps, a two speed propeller, landing lights, trim tabs and a radio for communications. Many more things to keep you occupied while you were learning to fly. It would stall at any speed if you made a fast movement with the controls, you had to readjust the elevator trim tab after landing, remember the flaps and change the prop speed for takeoff or your takeoff may not be successful. Our upper class was all British and half of our class was also British so we did not have any hazing. The instructors were all officers and mine was very nice and capable. I never had a sign of nausea in the BT-13. There was very little washout in this course and the next level. We had one fatality of a classmate that I knew of. Our upper class had several fatalities while we were there. The food was outstanding and my mechanic friends there were still losing weight at their mess hall. I did get to fly the aircraft that I had been the crew chief of. We each flew a daytime and night cross country flight while there. On the way back to Cochran on my daytime flight I saw two thunderstorms with a light area between them. A big mistake to try to fly between them. There was heavy rain, a lot of lightning and turbulence and it seemed to go for miles. It was really a good test of my progress of learning to fly. My night cross country was less eventful. There were rotating green and white beacon lights marking our route. We did quite a lot of night flying and our link trainer practice helped us very much. The other event that I need to write about was the time I stalled out as I was ready to turn on final approach to one of our practice airports, a grass field. My instructor was sitting in an aircraft on the field to watch us shooting touch and goes (landing and takeoffs). When my aircraft stalled it went straight down a couple hundred feet and the controls were like they were all disconnected. I tried to pull the nose up and nothing happened. Luckily it was automatically heading to the landing area. When a wing went down I tried to bring it up but the control was loose in my hand. As I approached the field the left wing was low and about to hit the fence when the aircraft leveled (probably from ground affect) and it cleared the barbed wire fence and the wheels hit the ground on the airport and I applied the brakes. I taxied over by his plane and shut off the engine and got out. I told him the controls were not working properly. He told me I had to fly it back to Cochran or pay for it. Then he held an aileron and I couldn't move the control stick and I finally realized that I had stalled out. I had slowed down for spacing from the plane landing in front of me. I was very nervous on the next takeoff. He never brought the matter up after that day. I hope I can finish the flight training in the next email.”
10)undated e-mail: We are finally ready to finish my structured training. From Macon, GA I was transferred to Napier Field, Dothan AL, an AT-6 training base. It is about 180 miles from Macon so we were surprised when we were to travel by train and depart Macon late in the evening. We were more surprised after boarding to find that we each had a seat and a bed for such a short trip. It was a 13 hour trip and we stopped at farms to pick up milk. The AT-6 was a very sensitive aircraft and it was fun to fly. I never was airsick while flying it. We learned fighter tactics that I am sure were never used by fighter pilots during the war. They really didn't make much sense but ending up flying C-47s for almost 3 years I didn't have a chance to find out if we had learned what would help us in actual fighter combat. We did a lot of fun things like formation flying and follow the leader (our instructor). When the weather was foggy we would go to the skeet range and shoot skeet which trains you to lead a moving target. The last two weeks we moved to Eglin Field in North Florida for gunnery training. There each AT-6 had a .30-cal gun in the nose. We had ground targets, towed targets and we did ground strafing. The bullets were painted so you could tell who was hitting the target but they never told us how many hits you had. I'm not sure the paint system really worked but gunnery practice was fun and we didn't have ground school so we often played cards in the afternoons. I graduated on October 9, 1942 and was finally promoted from Private to Staff Sergeant and my pay was $141.00 per month including flight pay. There were 25 of us from Cochran and most of us were then transferred to a new airbase near Knob Noster. MO. (later named Whitman AFB). We were expecting to learn to fly P-38s but all they had were C-47s and some variations of the DC-3 that the airlines had been flying. Our instructors were Staff Sergeant Pilots from earlier classes. They would take 4 students for four hours and each student would fly for an hour. The three hours of just riding made me airsick and after a few days I talked them into taking just two of us at a time. I still was sick but only for an hour. We each received 30 hours of practice. Most of that time was making take offs and landings including touch and goes. On weekends we would make a cross country flight. I was able to get a flight to Denver, St Louis and New Orleans on three of my weekends. After we finished our 30 hours of C-47 transition training, the operation and all of us were transferred to The Dalles, a base near Austin, Texas to await orders to an operational Squadron. After several weeks I was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron at Dalhart, TX. When I arrived there I found out that the Squadron had been transferred to Stuttgart, AR. All of this travel was by train. At Stuttgart I found that our job was towing CG-4A Gliders for Glider Pilot Training. In the process the C-47 pilots were getting considerable training too. There were 8 to 10 2nd Lieutenants and 20 some Staff Sergeant pilots and copilots in the Squadron. We were towing 24 hours a day in 6 hour shifts. The Officers always flew the 6 AM to noon and the noon to 6 PM shifts and the enlisted pilots flew the other two shifts plus any day shifts they could get. We made six tows per shift of about 45 minutes each and after releasing the glider we would drop our rope at the designated area, land and taxi into position to hook up for the next tow. We would practice single engine landings on some of the flights. We bunked in a building with the cooks and they would have a good breakfast for the crews getting off of the 6 to midnight shift in our barracks. Our group of enlisted pilots was gradually shipped out to the Pacific Theater of Operations until we only had 8 of us left. We were all promoted to Flight Officer effective January 5, 1943 but we weren't advised until late March. During March I flew to San Antonio, TX with Lt Howard Betts, our Squadron Commander, to buy my Officer uniforms. We arrived in freezing rain and our windshield deicer was not working. There were two panels of the windshield about six inches wide that could be opened. You opened the side window and the one in the windshield and you could see to land but the cold rain hit you in the face and there was some sleet too. He couldn't get his opened so I made the landing. It was the first time we had flown together and he was concerned. He wanted me to stay where I could see the runway all of the time but I didn't think it was necessary. Our landing was smooth and I could hear the ice breaking off of the wings when the weight was shifted to the landing gear. On weekends when we weren't towing gliders we did some pilot training. We tried low level night formation flying and found there were quite a few ducks out flying and we were concerned we might get one through the windshield. We were also able to make some small paratroop drops. In March we moved to Pope Field to be near the 82nd Airborne Division. We did a little Glider towing there but mostly dropping paratroops and a little cross country flying. Many of the gliders were made by the Ford Motor Car Company in Michigan. I flew to Grand Rapids, MI and to Detroit, MI to pick up two new Gliders. On the Detroit trip we ran into a heavy snow storm in Ohio and landed at the military field at Columbus. When we saw the runway we released the glider and they landed OK. We flew out a couple of miles and landed on the same runway in the opposite direction. Not a good operation but we both made it OK. The next day we encountered heavy turbulence and the glider pilots cut off. We flew on to Pope Field. A week later we heard from the glider crew that they were in Pulaski, VA. The next day we flew up to Pulaski to get them. They were treated like celebrities so were in no hurry to get home. It was warm when we landed and we broke through the sod and made two ruts across the field about six inches deep. We had a tractor pull us out of the ruts and waited until the next morning to take off. We set the departure time at 6 AM so the ground would still be frozen. The whole town was out there at the airport to see our take off. In April we made several training paratroop drops and I was certified as a First Pilot in late March or early April. My first flight as the first pilot was a Paratroop drop and Don King was my copilot. It was his first flight in the 53rd. (Not a lot of experience in the cockpit!) We were close friends from then on and it was his aircraft that Scott Glover owns and is so kind to let us fly in from time to time. It has been really exciting to be able to attend the events we've been able to in that special C-47. We continued Training and on May 3rd we started on our actual journey to North Africa and WW-II. I hope I can remember some of the interesting things that happen to us in future writings. Gerald.
11) e-mail 05 APRIL 2015: “…We had 13 C-47s in our Squadron. For our trip to North Africa one was assigned to the 61st Troop Carrier Group with a pilot and the other 12 flew together in formation. We had 16 first pilots and 12 copilots at that time. The three newest pilots flew as copilots and three of the copilots were passengers. We had 4 or 5 other passengers also. I was number 16 on the seniority list of first pilots so I flew as a copilot with Lt. Guy J. Ward. He was a great person to fly with. Our first stop was in West Palm Beach, Florida. We were there for one full day while each aircraft was thoroughly checked for items not allowed for overseas flight and to be weighed. We were allowed a gross weight of 31,500 pounds. At that weight it was very critical that the center of gravity be within the allowable tolerance so each aircraft was thoroughly checked. The airlines had been keeping their loads below 26,400 pounds so we were really much heavier. Later, we were allowed to go to 32,000 pounds gross weight and I'm pretty sure we exceeded that on some of our flights. Besides the 800 gallons of fuel in our wing tanks we had four 100-gallon tanks in the cargo area. The main problem with them was the slanted floor. If the tanks were full when on the ground fuel would spill out when we were in level flight. We could plan on about 80 gallons in each tank and the rest would leak out. I didn't approve of smoking in the aircraft with gasoline running down the floor but I was a copilot on the trip overseas, not the one in charge. We estimated we had fuel for 12 hours of flight. We needed the extra fuel for the flight to Ascension Island from Brazil and the flight to Africa from Ascension Island. Our ground echelon departed the same day by train for New York to board a ship to Casablanca, Morocco. There were several rumors about their destination before they learned the real destination. I don't remember how far we went before we knew our destination. On May 5, our first leg took us to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico. It was one of our shorter flights so we had time to check out the sandy beaches. It didn't take long for several of us to strip down and get into the water. After some horse play we realized that the Officers Club was just a couple hundred feet above us and some officers and their wives were on the veranda watching us skinny dipping. Shortly after that we were a little embarrassed to be up there for our dinner too. The next day we flew to Atkinson Field near Georgetown, British Guyana. We were usually near an island on this leg so we could make a landing in an emergency but all of our planes performed as expected. Our quarters were two story buildings with an open area for the first floor and a screened area on the second floor with about 60 bunks. We were visited by some native boys probably selling something and we were so surprised that they spoke the Kings English. It hadn't dawned on us that everyone there would be speaking English. The next leg was over dense jungle to Belem, Brazil. On this leg we realized there were hundreds of aircraft flying each leg each day. We were always first off in the morning and last to arrive in the afternoon since we were the slowest. The air was quite still when we took off and wake turbulence from the preceding aircraft was a problem. We called it Prop Wash. On this leg we went through a torrential rain. It was so heavy I was surprised the engines were getting enough air to keep running. We had to put on our rain coats because there were leaks around the windshield and we were getting soaked. When we crossed the Amazon River a little north of Belem we let down to get a closer look at it. It was like crossing five Mississippi rivers, it is so large near the ocean. The water was very muddy from all of the silt flowing out to sea. The muddy area extended many miles out to sea. The next day we flew to Natal, Brazil. We always flew at 9,000 feet where it was cooler and smoother air than lower levels. On longer legs we would decrease our RPM (on our propellers) and increase our engine manifold pressure to stretch our fuel. On this leg we were in sight of the ocean so we could relax our navigation activity. The only navaids on the trip were at the destinations. We spent two nights at Natal and were permitted to go to the town the second day. Most of the fellows bought shoes that came up the leg 6 to 8 inches. I bought an Omega watch for $25.00 from a street peddler with a suit case full of watches. I lost the glass cover a couple of months later and the hands kept getting bent and needed to be straightened often. When I got back to Aurora, IL I took it to a jeweler and asked if he thought it was worth fixing. He said he would give me $100.00 for it so I had it cleaned up and a new glass cover for it. It was one of the best watches I have owned. After our extra day of rest we were ready for the long flight to Ascension Island. We were able to receive the directional radio beacon when several miles from the Island. Our instruments at that time pointed to or from the station but did not show which one. After flying about an hour we decided to make sure if it was ahead or behind us by flying a couple of headings off course. It was still ahead so we relaxed for a while. We finally saw the Island. It is very small! The runway reaches from sea to sea and at high tide you lose runway on both ends but that was not really a problem for our aircraft. After landing we were directed to a taxiway that circled the volcanic hill and took us to the top where they had leveled an aircraft parking area. About half way up John Wood turned to his copilot, Don King and said, "Just like driving a truck in the mountains." That is when the left wing tip hit the mountain and damaged it. They decided to wait for a replacement wing tip so the rest of us left without them. I think they only stayed one day and realized it would take several days to get a new wing tip so they trimmed it and taped it with duct tape. The food on the Island was minimum and they gave us baloney sandwiches to eat during the next day’s flight. We were scheduled to fly to Roberts Field next but they told us we would have to make the longer flight to Dakar, Senegal because they were out of fuel at Roberts. I believe this flight was over 10 hours. At Dakar we slept in a two story building with no first floor. A couple of native children came through our bunking area selling baskets and saying, “Chop Chop” (requesting food). We gave them our leftover sandwiches and they were happy. It took several hours for their body odor to clear out of our sleeping area even though the walls were just screens from floor to ceiling. The final leg of our trip to our original destination, Marrakech, Morocco, was flown east of Spanish Sahara and mostly over desert. We encountered severe updrafts. With the manifold pressure reduced to 20 inches we were indicating 210 miles per hour and climbing at 500 feet per minute. I was surprised we didn't seem to have much turbulence. We had been told that if the Atlas Mountains just south of Marrakech were clouded over we should cross them at 18,000 feet so we let the up drafts take us up to 18,000 feet. The mountains were clear so we had a long descent into Marrakech. Marrakech was a very mysterious place. At night there were minimum lights due to the proximity to the war activity and these Arabs dressed in white sheets were flitting about. Nobody except the military spoke English so we really didn't know what was going on. I don't remember our Quarters there so I guess they were OK. We were only there a couple of days and then we proceeded to Oujda, Morocco, and were billeted in a French Foreign Legion base. We spent a couple of days there. The Enlisted men had clean tents and we were in a filthy infested building. Our food was K Rations and C Rations. They are OK for short terms. Our next move was to a concrete landing strip near Lourmel, Algeria. There was one small hanger there and nothing else. We put up tents and were issued two mattress covers. One was stuffed with straw so it was about 10 inches thick. You slept in the other one as though it was two sheets. We were also issued an Army blanket. By morning your 10 inches of straw was about 1/2 inch and you were itching something fierce due to the critters that were in your straw. After the first night we slept on the ground until we were issued a canvas folding Army cot. A few weeks later the Squadron received 16 air mattresses. They were issued to the pilots on a seniority basis and I was very fortunate to get the 16th one. There were never any more available. Our days were getting warmer but only up to about 90 degrees. Our first job was to pick up our ground echelon personnel in Casablanca. We would also load up with gasoline in Casablanca because our supply was very limited and it had to be hand pumped from 55 gallon drums. We ate from our mess kits while standing at rough tables we made and the food was dehydrated. Water was scarce and each received one canteen of water per day. We weren't washing and shaving so the Commander ordered that we had to shave daily. For me that was every three days since I was only 20 years old and not growing much whiskers. Washing and shaving was done with about 3/4 inch of water in your mess cup because you needed the rest to drink. After about three or four weeks we had water in the Lister bags and we could have all of the water we needed to drink. Each afternoon a truck would take about 25 of us to the Mediterranean Sea for a swim and to wash ourselves. The native children would come and watch us but they didn't want us to soap them. Someone finally caught one child and soaped him and rinsed him off. He smelled so good the rest of them wanted to be washed. After that they would ask to be soaped. They called it "soapo". Our location was at the end of a dry lake about 25 miles long that stretched almost to Oran. We were a little above the lake level and you could see the waves and even white caps on occasion. As you walked toward it the water disappeared and it would be dry sand. Flying over it there was always a dry area around the shadow of your aircraft. It was shown on our maps as a dry lake and it sure looked like a lake. Shortly after getting everyone from Casablanca we started moving our Squadron to Kairouan, Tunisia. It is about 125 miles South of Tunis and about 45 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Enough for this time. Gerald.
12) e-mail dated 19 APR 2015: “…It was more than 700 miles from Lourmel to Kairouan, Tunisia and at our normal ground speed we planned about 4 hours flight time in each direction. With 8 hours of fuel this became critical. We figured any wind would be balanced out on the return flight. The maps that were available were practically useless for navigation. My first trip to Kairouan was the second day of moving equipment. Virgil (Willie) Williams and I were assigned together with a navigator, crew chief and radio operator. Willie and I were from the same class in Flying School so we alternated left seat (pilot) duties and he flew over and I flew the trip home. We had seven aircraft go that day. The flight over seemed uneventful except there was a lot of turbulence and downdrafts. As a result, we used close to 5 hours of our fuel. Two of us decided we would go to Algiers to refuel. The other five said they had enough fuel to get home. Only one made it home. We did not fly in formation due to our fuel being critical and adjusting the throttles to stay in formation would use more fuel. We were the last aircraft to get unloaded and started out for Algiers. The only weather information we had was what we could see. The only electric navigation aid was at Algiers and there is a mountain range just south of the city. The other aircraft going to Algiers was an hour and a half ahead of us. When he cleared the mountain range and called the tower for landing clearance he was told the airport was closed due to fog. He flew back inland and made a forced landing. The next day he took off and flew over the mountains and was told the airport was still fogged in so he made another forced landing. When we were near the town of Constantine it started to rain and get dark fast so we looked for a B-25 base in the area. Our map was so poor it was no help. Of course there were no lights on at the airport. I picked out an area that looked reasonable for a forced landing, told the crew to put on their parachutes and I would drop them near where I planned to land. When I flew over the area they didn't jump. They said they would jump when we did. So that wasted some valuable time as it was getting darker. We quickly made our approach. I wanted to land as slowly as possible and stall in the last few feet. Unfortunately, we were landing downhill and my descent angle was about the same as the terrain. After a couple 1,000 feet Willie was nervous and said "We have to get on the ground" and pushed the wheel forward and our right wheel hit something. The landing gear strut dug in and turned us sideways and we went about 1500 feet down the hill. It turned out we had hit a large boulder and blew the tire and broke the landing wheel. We had K-rations and some drinking water on board. The third night our radio operator was able to contact a C-47 flying overhead and tell them where our home base was and what we needed. The next day our Squadron Commander flew into the B-25 base we couldn't find with a jeep and trailer with what we needed. We were the first of six missing aircraft that they heard from (all of us eventually made it home). The other pilot that was heading for Algiers took ten days to get home. He started walking over the mountain range. The second day he bought a horse and rode to the airport where he talked a gasoline truck driver into driving out to the aircraft and gas it up. There were not many roads in the area. Since I had flown the last leg Willie thought he should fly this leg (he was a 1st Lt. and I was a Flight Officer). For our takeoff we cleared a strip of large rocks about 2,000 feet long down the hill, taxied into takeoff position, set the brakes, added 1/2 flaps, set takeoff power and released the brakes. The right wheel didn't immediately release and we turned 90 degrees and decided we could get airborne in that direction. It was close but we had about 1,000 feet of altitude when we went off the edge due to the drop off and obtained flying speed easily. We flew to Telurgma about 50 miles south and gassed up and flew home. Good Experience! I don't remember any other problems moving our Squadron to Kairouan. Our base there consisted of two landing strips where the clumps of grass had been bulldozed and taxiways and aircraft parking areas also were scraped off. Our aircraft were spaced about 100 yards apart and our tents were pitched in twos about 50 yards apart to make it difficult for the Germans if they came to strafe us. The food was still marginal, but mostly dehydrated (powdered eggs and small cubes of potatoes). Our cooks tried to be constructive and sometimes they were successful. We had canned green beans morning, noon and night. They put large gobs of butter on them. When hot off of the stove the butter was melted but the butter would solidify at about 165 degrees. It would still burn your mouth. The butter came in gallon size cans and was made especially for the desert by the Standard Oil Co. I forgot to mention that while we were at Lourmel one of our trucks killed a calf. The Arabs skinned it and we bought it. Our young flight surgeon said we could not eat it so it was taken to town and traded for wine. About six weeks later an ambulance ran down a calf and we ate that one. The cooks made something like a stew with it and that was the only fresh meat we had before going to England. With the poor food and my airsickness and diarrhea I weighed less than 100 pounds, down from 155 pounds (after 10 months in England where we always had good food and plenty of it I still weighed less than 100 when I arrived home). We always used our mess kits for meals in North Africa. It was really hot while we were at Kairouan. We had plenty of water and each of us had two locally made jugs for our water. We filled them and set them out in the sun. The water would seep through the sides of the jug and evaporate. In about an hour the water in the jug was quite cool. While you were drinking one jug the other one was getting cool. In the heat of the day it would be above 120 degrees and at night we slept under blankets. During the day we wore shoes, socks and shorts or swimming trunks. There was no sun screen in those days and we didn't know about skin cancer. In the evenings it would cool enough so we played baseball on one of the landing strips. We assumed we would be towing gliders on the invasion of Sicily or Italy since we had spent so much time towing them and so little time dropping paratroopers. Our air echelon moved to Djerba for two weeks of glider pilot training. It is about 140 miles south of Kairouan and on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Several of us paired up and pitched our pup tents on the edge of the cliff at the water’s edge. Each of us had a half shelter so you needed two to make a pup tent. The sand landing strip started at the edge above the 20 foot drop off to the sea. We would tow the glider out over the sea and they would release when they thought they could reach the strip. Some were a little high but that was corrected with spoilers. If you were too low there was no correction. No one crashed into the Sea. While we were there it was suggested that each power pilot fly a trip in the glider to see what it was like. I did that. On takeoff the power plane put so much sand in the air that you could only see about 5 feet of the 300 foot tow rope. The glider could take off at about 45 mph so you were soon up where you could see the aircraft. Naturally I came in with extra speed and altitude and I was amazed how the spoilers took care of eliminating the problem and I was able to make a decent landing but I felt like I was dragging my butt on the runway. The C-47 cockpit is about 12 feet higher than the CG-4A Glider cockpit. Later I asked most of our pilots how they liked flying a glider. I never found another one who made the flight. It was a respite from the heat at Kairouan. After we returned to our base we were visited by a Red Cross worker who said he could get us some ice cream in Algiers if we had certain ingredients and fly him to Algiers. I was assigned to fly him there. It took him four days to get the job done. The crew slept in or under the airplane and had K-rations for food. We liked that better than the mess at our base. We arrived back in the afternoon and served the 15 gallons of chocolate ice cream out the cargo door of the airplane into their mess cups. The map shows a town at Kairouan but I never saw any sign of one near us. I rode an Italian motorcycle in the desert several times and the only unusual thing I saw was a garden all by itself and a camel walking down into a dug out area about 15 feet deep and back up. Each trip brought water up and poured it on the garden. He seemed to keep going all day. Nothing was ready to eat but I'm sure the Arab family would be back when the garden was ready to produce. It was fun riding between the clumps of grass. Gerald.
13) e-mail dated 28 MAY 2015: “…It was about the 20th of June 1943 when we were back from Djerba. Our last flight to leave Djerba took off with the elevator lock still on (the elevators, ailerons and rudder locks are always installed whenever you plan to leave a parked aircraft to keep them from flapping in the wind). This presented a serious problem since the pilot lost normal up and down control. He can make minor changes by changing the power and there is a controllable trim tab on the elevators but it works in reverse of normal with the lock or locks on. We almost always use the trim tab when landing to relieve the pressure required on the control wheel to pull the aircraft nose up. The pilot was able to circle the airport and get lined up for landing and made a good approach but when he was ready to pull the nose up to reduce speed it appeared that he turned the trim tab in the normal direction and the plane made a very hard landing and burst into flames. I believe there were 10 persons on board and there was only one fatality. The pilot [Frederick A.E. Saltmarsh] and copilot [Donald C. Gentner] were seriously injured and the pilot was returned to the states for treatment. The copilot was treated in North Africa and returned to the Squadron a few months later. This accident was the result of human errors. Each aircraft had a check list of actions before taxiing and takeoff and it was not followed on this flight. I believe we had one more practice paratroop drop before the invasion of Sicily. For the invasion we were surprised that we were dropping paratroopers instead of towing gliders since most of our training was with gliders. If we were given our choice we would rather drop paratroops than tow gliders. Our 61st Troop Carrier Group flew 36 aircraft, nine by each squadron. We took off about 2300 hours (11:00 PM) on July 9 and flew a stepped down formation. The lead aircraft was about 200 feet above the water and the wing men were just low enough to see the flame dampeners on his engines. That was easier to fly than trying to see the blue lights. We had three blue lights for night formation flying on the top of the fuselage and each wing. They had a cover on them with an open slot toward the area where you could see the light if you were in the general area where you should be when flying formation. It is important to the paratrooper’s mission that they all be dropped together. That particular night we didn't need any lights. It was a clear night with a very bright moon above. We flew east from our air base past Malta Island and then north to Sicily with the drop to be near Gela on the southern coast. When we were about twenty miles from the coast we started getting a search light in our eyes. I was amazed how bright it was and how it affected our vision. We were able to stay in formation and after land fall we turned west to our drop area. There was limited antiaircraft fire and none of our aircraft were hit. We turned left after the drop and flew over the ships that were to start the invasion at dawn by powdering the shoreline and dispatching troops on the beaches. This was the largest Naval force ever used in an invasion; there were 2,500 vessels involved. We returned to base and all said, “It went just like a practice mission". "A Piece of Cake". I haven't mentioned our systems we had to avoid friendly fire from the Navy. We had what was known as "Friend or Foe" radios that were always on when we flew over water. We also had three downward lights (red, green and white) on the bottom of the fuselage, an Aldus light with several colors to put on and the pilot or copilot could flash it out the side window with a Morse code letter and six colors of Very pistol flares. All of these were changed every six hours on Greenwich Mean Time. We were always making sure we had current information of the proper colors and time to change them. After the invasion we were told that the Navy was not aware of this system. We are not sure this is correct information. We were scheduled to make another drop two nights later and everyone wanted to go on this mission. We even took a couple of passengers from our intelligence department. Their leader was a WW-I veteran! The crews were shuffled so everyone flew on at least one flight. I was assigned as copilot with Virgil Williams. The routine was very similar to the first night with the drop zone moved inland a little and it was a little harder to locate at night. We had several bursts of antiaircraft fire both from a couple of ships and when we were over land. There were some mountains with pointed white tops showing in the moonlight and one of our wing men was climbing to clear one of these. He seemed to hit it with the bottom of his aircraft and there was a flash (probably from the paratrooper’s bundles that could contain anything they might need when they are on the ground fighting). The airplane continued upward making a loop and plunged into the ground. We learned that the Jumpmaster fell out of the door and was the only survivor. The official report on this accident is different from my report but this is what I saw and I was never asked what I saw. In addition to this crew our Squadron Commander's crew chief was killed that night by friendly fire. After the drop we flew over the naval armada as we did the first night only this time they opened fire on us. We did not lose any additional aircraft but there were several with many bullet holes. We had eight separate hits including one in each engine but none of them caused a problem. I was busy flashing a red "M" (Morse Code) with the Aldis lamp until I saw the tracers come at it. The tracer bullets really lighted up the sky and then we learned that only about 25% are tracers. Virgil wanted to get down to the deck but I wanted 500 feet of altitude so we could make a controlled landing in the water if necessary. We stayed at 500 feet. We did not fire a red flare, the color at the time, because we wanted to be sure and have one to signal to get immediate medical assistance when we landed for anyone on board that was severely injured (No one on our aircraft was injured). After landing and parking our aircraft we all gathered to exchange stories about flying through the barrage the Navy put up. The Squadron Commander's copilot saw me and turned white and said, “H-h-how d-d-did you get b-b-back here so fast?" Then I realized that they thought it was my flight that crashed in Sicily. There was a fellow there from the Red Cross passing out a real treat. Donuts and coffee but I hadn't started drinking coffee yet (I had my 21st birthday on the Friday after the Sicily Missions). The donuts were a treat. About 40 years later I read in the Readers Digest that each ship had received the following message that day. "We are expecting a parachute drop tonight". Apparently most of the recipients assumed they meant an enemy drop. Lesson learned! Don't fly over the Navy! They also reported that the American and British Navies had shot down 35 C-47s that night. Another tragedy was reported that many gliders were released too far out to sea and they landed in the water and so many soldiers drowned due to all the equipment and supplies they had on their bodies. We normally carried 18 paratroopers and six bundles that averaged 350 pounds. The troops also averaged close to 350 pounds because each carried three days of food, water and ammunition plus two parachutes, clothing and firearms. The bundles were color coded so they would have an idea what they contained and the pilot hit the release switch to release them right after he gave the green light to the paratroops to jump. Communications equipment was very bulky and also unreliable in those days. Starting with the invasion of Sicily we were learning as we progressed. On my birthday I was copilot for our Squadron Commander on the first flight delivering supplies to Sicily. We were to land on a newly bulldozed dirt strip about one half mile from the sea and we were to bring a load of litter patients back to a hospital in Tunis. There was nobody at the strip except us so we unloaded our load and waited for the patients. About 5:00 we decided to fix something to eat. We normally would have K-rations but since he was Commander he had a new ration known as the five-in-one ration. It was supposed to provide a meal for five or five meals for one person. He asked if I knew how to cook and I said yes before thinking so I cooked. We had two small Coleman gas burners on each aircraft. I think we opened a couple of gallon sized cans and heated the food in the can. One was baked beans and I don't remember the other can but I burned the beans on the bottom and the ones on top were cold. When he tried them he said "Boy, they're good ". After dinner I decided to climb down into a valley and go up the other side to pick some grapes I saw when we flew in. I had an undershirt on and put about five pounds of tasty green, ripe grapes inside the shirt. As I started down the other side of the valley there was a shot fired and the bullet ricocheted off of a boulder near me. I fell behind the boulder and smashed the grapes. I laid there for about 10 minutes and there were no more shots so I started to crawl out and there was a volley of shots and bullets ricocheting all around me. Then I heard voices down at the bottom and they were talking in English so I hollered at them. It turned out they were infantry and trying out a couple of Italian or German guns. We slept on the floor of the aircraft that night. The patients or anyone else did not arrive so we left the next day in the early afternoon and went back to our base. We always had better arrangements after that experience.
14) e-mail dated 25 JUN 2015: I notice that I skipped Chapter 6 when numbering the last chapter. It was actually chapter 6 and this will be # 7. We spent the next three weeks flying supplies to Sicily and evacuating the wounded back to hospitals in Tunis and Algiers. There were no nurses available but depending on the injuries of the wounded we occasionally had a medical specialist with the patients. We would always have a full load of 21 litter patients. On these Missions we would fly 10 to 12 aircraft over in formation and fly back individually as we were loaded. It took a lot of ambulance trips to load that many aircraft so some flights returned to home base empty. It made you feel good to fly a load of patients to a hospital away from the war. When this activity slowed down we were paid a visit by a USO Troop. It was Bob Hope, Francis Langford, and Jerry Colonna. It may have been Bob Hope's first of many trips. It was very entertaining and not real hot in the desert that day. The high point came when Bob Hope was on the flat truck stage and Francis Langford was behind a curtain with some 82nd Airborne Troops. They fired a bazooka to show her how it sounded. Bob Hope went off the stage and dumped the two benches that were set up in front for Lt. Colonels and above to sit on. The rest of us were on the ground or on the trucks around the back of the viewing area. I was on a truck. We had one other show while we were stationed there in Tunisia. It was three young dancing girls and they were trying to dance barefoot on a flatbed truck that sat out in the sun all day. It burned their feet so had to be cancelled. In early September the Air Echelon moved to Sicily where we were based at Licata on the southern shore. The field had been a German or Italian fighter base and then a P-40 Base. It had three concrete runways but the rest of the field was very muddy when it rained. One of our first projects was to build our officers club. It was built in 5 foot sections so we could take it with us when we moved. It was 49 by 24 feet and covered with a single large tarp. Over time our ground echelon personnel were added. One day the operations officer told me to go to Kairouan and bring the rest of the squadron to Sicily. When I arrived I was surprised when I learned that there were 35 men still there. Our attitude had been, if it fits in the aircraft, you can fly it. With our crew of four there were 39 of us and all of the worldly belongings of 35. We were able to keep the center of gravity within tolerance by getting as many bodies as we could into the Navigator's area for takeoff. The C-47 is a great aircraft! Eight aircraft were sent to Tunis to haul stuff. When we arrived we learned that we were to fly gasoline to Sardinia in 55 gallon barrels for a proposed fighter operation. We could get 20 barrels in each aircraft which added up to a little over 8,000 pounds. The load extended too far to the rear of the cargo area so our center of gravity was out of tolerance. There was a hill about two miles off the end of the runway that was about 400 feet tall. We never were able to fly over it due to our weight. We flew two trips a day. On the third night we had a severe thunderstorm with hail. Our aileron and elevator surfaces were really damaged. We had enough dope and fabric to fix one aircraft so it could fly back to Sicily for more dope and fabric so we lost a day. A week later we finished our part of the job and that day several heavy bombers from England that bombed Ploesti, Romania and were to land in North Africa landed in Sardinia and took most of our gasoline. I had the honor to fly Generals Ridgeway and Gavin on three separate days. They were the number one and two generals of the 82nd Airborne. The first day we were returning to home base from the northeast corner of Sicily and we encountered severe turbulence probably because I got too close to Mount Etna. Mount Etna is over 10,000 feet tall. I was really surprised they would fly with me again after their wild ride the first day. The second trip was so they could attend an Airborne demonstration at Agrigento. When we arrived the airport was already closed for the demonstration. When I told General Ridgeway the airport was closed and we couldn't land he said "I have to get there, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are here from the States". I told him I could get him on the ground if he could take care of the chaff. "Let’s do it." There is a single N/S runway at the airport with a taxiway from each end on an angle to form a V to the west. I landed on the northern taxiway. There were several concrete block revetments around the aircraft parking spots for protection from strafers. I had taxied there a few days earlier so I knew I had a couple feet clearance on each side. I told the Tower it would be safer if they turned that bright red light in my eyes off but they didn't turn it off. There was a large grandstand in the center of the V and I parked behind it. A colonel came running out shaking his fist at us as I shut the engines off and opened the window and told him I would see him at the back door. He was there as the generals deplaned and ushered them to their seats. I never received any problem about landing on the closed airport. After we took off and headed home he came to the cockpit and asked if there was any way we could go to an airport in southeast Sicily. He needed to talk to Mark. He said he would see that we were fed and had a place to sleep. I said it is your aircraft and we will go wherever you need to go and we have our sleeping bags and food and water. So we spent a night there sleeping in the aircraft. I am sure it was General Mark Clark he wanted to see to let him know that the 82nd was close by and ready to participate in the invasion of Italy. We had a plan that had us flying the 82nd Airborne to Rome and landing on the airport. The Italian Forces would capitulate and turn on the Germans and help us take Italy. I never thought that was a good plan. How many of the Italians would get the word and how many would do what we wanted them to do? (And there was a language problem). Our Navy put two of our spies on shore near Rome and they found that two additional German Tank Divisions had moved into the Rome area. So the invasion was started in the boot of Italy instead of landing in Rome. The Italians started to slowly lay down their weapons as the front line moved north toward Naples. About 50 miles south of Naples the terrain was more mountainous and our invasion force needed help. The third time I flew Generals Ridgeway and Gavin we were going to Palermo and then east to two bases on the north coast. Just after takeoff I noticed a P-51 land at our strip so I kept my headset on and stayed on our tower frequency. About 20 minutes later we received a call that there was a message for General Ridgeway. We returned to base and landed. There was a colonel there with the message. After reading it he said "Mark needs us at Salerno. Can we drop tonight?" I asked the crew chief how long it would take to install the bundle racks on the belly of our planes. He said about an hour. I told General Ridgeway there were enough C-47s on the ground for a mission and we could do it but he should check with higher authority. He sent the message that they would be there tonight. Then he went to our operations office to coordinate the parachute drop. It was probably our best mission because there was no time for second guessing and changes. I was Guy Ward's copilot that night and one of our paratroopers didn't jump with the rest. He came to the cockpit and asked if we could make another pass so he could jump. I told Guy I thought we should go around again because this young man's life was ruined if he went back to base with us. There wasn't a lot of ground fire so he said okay. I told our crew chief we were giving him another chance. I had him put on his chute and help the young fellow out if he didn't jump on the green light. I never asked him if he had to help him out the door. I hope he didn't have to help him. I don't believe any of our aircraft were hit that night. The next night we had another drop but I did not fly on that mission. It is difficult to remember the exact timing of events but about this time we moved west about 75 miles to Sciacca, Sicily (we pronounced it Shah ca). There was one gravel strip about 3,500 feet long and 200 feet wide with a drop off at each end of the Runway. It was at 700 feet MSL and about 7 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. We pitched our tents and our officer's club in an olive grove. We had six of us in our tent because no one wanted to move out. It was next to the club and was the best tent. We had a 5 foot door with a plastic window, a wooden entry floor and a woven rug on the floor from a landing mat. We also had a good place to hang our clothes in the center of the tent. We all received a sleeping bag roll too. The first week we removed a few trees to make a volley ball court and had several hard fought games to establish the best team (that was never really determined but it was fun).
15) e-mail dated 09 AUG 2015: “…We were only at Sciacca a couple of weeks and the Air Echelon was moved to Pomigliano, Italy. It is at the base of Mount Vesuvius on the north side of the mountain and had a single concrete east/west runway. At that time Mt. Vesuvius was smoking and had a red glow that could be seen for many miles and that was our main navigation aid while there. We were housed in a large three story Apartment building. The front was about two city blocks long, with small businesses and there were about 10 apartment wings off of the back that were about 600 feet long. Our spaces were in the southern wing. There was a common bathroom in each wing that had showers, sinks, urinals and instead of toilets there was a hole with two foot pads where you could squat to pass your body waste. Besides being uncomfortable the water was only on twice a day for an hour or so and there was no hot water. The squatting problem was resolved by digging a large hole in the ground with a wood frame with 8 holes and a tent over it across the street in a potato field. The first night there was an air raid so most of us were outside watching the action in the sky. There were search lights and tracers all over and mostly from the ships in the harbor at Naples. All of a sudden there was a huge explosion that blew us about four feet and we hit the ground running across the potato field and to a railroad track that was raised about 8 feet and we laid down on the side of the incline. We could hear the hissing sounds of ammunition in the air and a thud when one hit the ground. When the action ended we were able to learn that the explosion was from six 90 millimeter guns the British had near our building and the hissing was from the Navy ammunition coming back to earth. The hole for our latrine was about 8 feet deep and Don King jumped in it and found it was already full of people and he was on top of our Squadron Commander, Col Betts. The same thing happened the second night and then we finally learned to stay inside during air raids. We liked looking up at this kind of action rather than looking down at it from our aircraft. We could see a few aircraft in the search light beams. At that time the front line action was about 20 miles north of our strip and we had some low level bombing and strafing missions by the Germans. The front extended across Italy a little north of Foggia on the eastern end. We were there until the middle of December and the front line was fairly static due to the mountains and the weather conditions. We ran an air service for mail and personnel from Pomigliano to Foggia, Bari Taranto and home twice a day. Once in a while we were behind schedule and would remain overnight in Bari. There was a night club there that had a live combo, they had good food available, (at a price) and all of the patrons except us were very well dressed. It felt like you had left the war zone. Don King and I often were assigned on this duty together. Several flying personnel were also treated to a week on the Isle of Capri just off the coast near Naples. I didn't get to enjoy that but I did get to tour Pompeii and a few trips to Naples. While at Pompeii I had dinner in a restaurant. There was no meat available so I ordered Spaghetti. It was just about six strips of flat dough about ½-inch wide and six inches long and fried in olive oil. Not very tasty but about as good as we had in our mess. We flew several practice paratroop drops with three or six aircraft. The runway was too narrow for us to practice formation takeoffs. Our aircraft engines were exceeding normal time to be changed but we were not getting enough new engines. We were told to keep flying until they quit running. I had my first engine failure right at lift off with a load of paratroopers. It really gets your attention immediately. If in an actual mission we would fly the mission if possible but in a practice mission Safety was the primary concern. So I turned on the red light over the rear door that was their signal to stand up and hook up. When I was able to reach 600 feet of altitude and was over farmland I turned on the green light and they went out the door. The hook up part was their ten foot static line that opened their main parachute automatically. An empty aircraft is very easy to control on one engine but that engine is probably in the same condition as the one that quit running. My other noteworthy experience while there was a loud pop just as the landing gear retracted into the nacelles on takeoff at Tunis with a heavy load of freight. We guessed it was a tire blowout but that didn't make a lot of sense. When we were ready to land at Pomigliano there was a strong crosswind to deal with. I had decided that if it was a flat tire I would cut the engines because I didn't want them running if I ground looped. The large vertical tail on the C-47 makes it difficult to keep from turning into the wind. I kept it on the runway until we were almost stopped but did veer off in the last few feet of roll out and stopped nose to nose with a parked Spitfire. My props were still turning a little and my left prop hit the prop of the Spitfire. There were two Spitfires parked next to each end of the runway for quick flight in the event of an air raid. I received considerable static from our Operations Officer about trying to land with a load in a crosswind and with a flat tire. We knew the tires needed changing but we were short of new ones. While we were in Pomigliano three of us came down with Yellow Jaundice. Our Flight Surgeon didn't know what to do with us so they put us in one apartment (that had a bathroom) and gave us canned fruit juice for our food. I can't drink canned grapefruit juice to this day. We didn't feel very peppy and we looked terrible with the whites of our eyes yellow and our skin very pale. After a month we felt better and were put back on flying status. Many years after the war I read a report that said there was a contaminated Yellow Fever Shot given to soldiers that caused yellow jaundice. I think I had my Yellow Fever shot in 1940. While there our mess was set up with the kitchen in the building and we ate outside between two of the wings using our mess kits. We had waist high boards to put our mess kit on and we ate standing up. Food was still very short in supply so the cooks dished the food onto your kit. There was never enough and when you finished eating there was a long line of Italians, mostly women and children, waiting to get what was left on your kit before you washed it. They would have an empty can to scrape it into. They would then go to the back of the line and hope to get to the front again. Many of the women would be holding a baby and you knew they needed the food as much as you did. It was very depressing to eat there. The line was always managed very well with everyone following their rules. While there it was time for my annual instrument flight rating to be renewed. John L. Woods was our new Operations Officer and we took off in C-47 № 42-32832 (John's aircraft and also the very same magnificent C-47 that Scott Glover owns today). We put up the curtain so I couldn't see out and went through turns and stall recovery. After about 30 minutes an engine stopped and I was supposed to identify which engine had stopped and explain the feathering procedure. Before I could do that the other engine also stopped. At that time the curtain came down and when we were able to get an engine running we realized that we were too far north and in enemy territory. Our efforts were to get the other engine running and get back across the front line. The only reason both engines would quit may have had something to do with the position of the cross feed valve. It was good experience and I passed the check ride. In the middle of December 1943 we moved back to Sciacca to prepare for our flight to England.
16) e-mail dated 24 AUG 2015: “…In mid-December we moved back into our tents in Sciacca, Sicily. By then it was getting quite cold for tent living. They had rigged up a home-made heater for our Club so we would spend our evenings there and only use our tent for sleeping. When we first moved there they made a large shower next to the animal watering trough that was spring fed and used by the natives to water their animals. There were about 20 shower heads and the pump ran whenever you pulled a chain at a shower head. Of course the water was usually very cold. Also, the families would stop there in their buggy to water their mule or horse while we were showering, especially on Sunday mornings when they would be returning from church. It was too cold now for that arrangement so they rigged up a hot water shower for us. There was a small concrete building about 8/10 feet open on one side and large window openings near the roof without glass. The water was put in a couple of 55 gallon drums on the roof. It ran through an aircraft radiator that had a small trough under it. There was also a small tank of gasoline. We could run a little gas into the trough and ignite it and it would heat the water for the shower. There wasn't a lot of hot water so you had to be quick. We were there until February so I had plenty of times to use it. I have been in there when there was snow coming in the open window areas and ice on the floor. You had to really need a shower to use the facility. We did some training flights but the main effort was to get the maintenance of our aircraft brought up to a level where we could plan to successfully complete the long journey to England. We were finally able to get needed engines and other parts including tires. When Guy Ward's aircraft was equipped with two new engines we were advised it was ready for a test flight. These flights were usually four hours and not very exciting (boring). I was still assigned as Guy's Copilot so I was on the schedule to fly but I was in a poker game and probably losing a little so I asked if anyone would like to take my place. Bill Elliott volunteered and took my place. Several navigators also were on the flight to adjust the compasses to give proper readings with the new engines. Take off was apparently normal and a turn toward the sea was made. Before getting to the shoreline they experienced severe shaking and one of the new engines came off of the plane. The shaking and buffeting continued so they throttled back and made a landing in the Mediterranean Sea. All were able to get into life rafts and they were rescued without injuries by a fisherman that was in the area. I missed a very exciting flight! The aircraft was apparently recovered and ended up in another Group because the records show it was ditched in the Mediterranean again at a later date. The food had improved considerably. We were allowed two slices of bread a week so we saved the first slice so we could have two slices and make a sandwich. The main item for sandwiches was canned tuna and it came in gallon size cans so we heaped quite a lot on our bread. The bread was from a round loaf and different from what we have now. It was a heavy bread but tasty. We had spaghetti with a tomato sauce each week and it was good. We even had turkey and dressing for Christmas Dinner. We were able to get our volley ball games going again also. Our landing area was a gravel area about 250 feet wide and 3,000 feet long with a deep drop off at each end. There was a red light at each corner and three weak white lights on each side of the area (I don't call it a runway). A couple of days before Christmas one of our other Squadrons was making a three ship V formation take off at night. The lead aircraft may not have lined up properly and the right wingman was in our parking area before getting airborne and hit three of our aircraft. Unfortunately that cost four aircraft and three lives. We had quite a lot of rainy days and minimum flying so we were really pleased that we had built our club house. In early February Maintenance reinstalled our cabin fuel tanks and each aircraft had to test flight for at least two hours using them to make sure they were perfect. There were four 80-gallon tanks for each airplane. That would give us a little over 12 hours of flight time. After flying for 15 minutes with one engine on the cabin tanks we turned the other engine onto the cabin tanks. After about an hour I decided to make an approach to our field and a low pass. On downwind leg at mid field and 600 feet above the runway both engines quit. We switched back to our regular tanks told the tower what had happened and started a steep turn to try to land on our landing area. I could see that I would need to make another 60° bank to get lined up with less than half the length of our landing area to land and stop. Of course the Crew chief had taken over the wobble (fuel hand) pump. We were aiming right at the tower so the controllers jumped out. Just before starting my final turn and at about 100 feet of altitude one engine started and I was able to continue over the tower. I was so thankful that I didn't have to complete the landing attempt. The odds of being successful were not good. We then spent another two hours flying around over the Sea. We were not able to tell what actually caused the fuel to shut off but it might have been the reduction of power to slow down. They say that there are no Atheists in trenches or fox holes and I say there were no Atheists in the aircraft Pilot seats during the war. I had an invisible helping hand more than once when I really needed one. February 15, 1943 was set as our DAY TO START FOR ENGLAND. After getting all aircraft ready for the long flight and our personal belongings packed we flew to Casablanca. The next day we went south to Marrakech which added about 105 miles to our long flight. It is a larger airport and had the facilities to handle the air crews. We were briefed about our flight and each aircraft was assigned a Navigator. We had 5 Squadron Navigators and were given 8 from their pool for the flight. Guy Ward and I were assigned one of the temporary men. Our route was to fly out to the 12th Meridian on a specified heading and fly north to Ireland and then across St. George's Channel to our destination in Wales. Southern Ireland remained neutral during the war and if you had to land there we were told we would be interned and only released if there were a similar number of Germans to be released. They had large concrete numbers on the ground and our map showed us where they were. A very nice assist to navigation. We were assigned takeoff times and ours was about 3:30 AM and we had 10 minutes between departures. That didn't make sense to us. We were off on our time and all seemed OK. Our Navigator was very busy taking our position using the stars or moon. Every time I asked if we needed to change heading he said we were on course. About 5:30 there was a rotating beacon light with Green on one side and White on the other side in front of us. We were able to determine that it was on the surface and he thought it was a ship at sea. I told him it had to be an airport and we were off course. When daylight came we saw land under us and turned to the west. It took almost an hour to get to the ocean so we must have been over Spain instead of Portugal. This made our flight longer than planned so we reduced our propeller RPM and increased our manifold pressure to maintain the same speed and save fuel. It was generally cloudy over water that day and about 10:00AM flying between cloud layers we saw a flight ahead of us. We decided to pick up our speed and fly in with the other flight but it must have been a faster plane and we lost sight of him about 30 minutes later. Finally we had sight of Ireland and soon were close enough to see the number on the ground. It was # 36 and we were pretty close to where we expected to be. It was getting dark when we started across the Channel. We estimated it was about 75 miles so when we estimated we were half way we started a slow descent for landing. There was considerable turbulence and the sea was very choppy. After about another 40 minutes we called for a QDM. That was a special system Great Britain had to help pilots that were uncertain of their position. They had a dedicated frequency for the system and at least three stations would receive your call and they could tell you your position and give you the magnetic heading to your destination. The call went like this "Hello Nemo this is Darky en route to so and so Airport requesting a QDM". In about 30 seconds you received an answer. We were on course with the heading they gave us. We were busy making sure we used all of the available fuel in each fuel tank so any fuel we had would be in our main wing tanks. About 30 minutes later we called for another QDM with the same result. So we flew on since we didn't have enough fuel for an alternate plan. We finally saw the shoreline and called the tower for landing instructions. Thirteen hours and 25 minutes after takeoff we landed. One engine stopped running while taxiing to the parking area. Later we learned that we had 90-MPH head winds after we left Ireland. One of our 13 planes landed in Ireland because they were low on fuel. They were held a couple of days and were sworn to secrecy about what happened in Ireland so I never found out what they went through. I don't remember the name of the city in Wales where we landed. We stayed there a couple of nights. Then it was off to Grantham and Barkston Heath Airport. We arrived at mid-day in a heavy snow storm and flying formation. At that time runways where we flew were numbered by the closest 10° magnetic direction of the runway and drop the zero. So an east/west runway would be 9 going east and 27 going west. In Great Britain the first runway to the east of north was number 1 and if there were three runways the other end would be number 4. The others would be 2/5 and3/6. You can see where we could have a problem with the change. The Squadron Commander [Captain Howard M. Betts] was leading the first 3 ship element and our Executive Officer [1st Lt. Clark O. Thornton] was leading the second three. At that time we all would slip into a single line for landing. As we circled the field to land the Commander went past the assigned runway and the Exec decided it would be better to go ahead and land in this snow storm. The Commander landed on the next runway and there were three close calls at the first intersection as we crisscrossed. Luckily we missed each other even though we were closer to each other due to the poor visibility. After that the Exec was transferred to the 82nd Airborne and did a great job coordinating between Troop Carrier and the Airborne. We had 9 inches of snow that day and no snow removal equipment so there was no flying for a week and a half. That was OK for most of us after the long trip over the Atlantic.”
17) e-mail dated 25 SEP 2015 “…We are ready for the invasion of northern France. I believe our forces had already started the invasion in the Mediterranean area of France but I don't remember for sure. We had about 14 Troop Carrier Groups in England and most would be flying 72 loaded C-47s, most with paratroops and a few towing gliders. It was almost midnight on June 5, 1944 when we departed. Considering the number of aircraft involved (over 1,000 C-47s) we were all assigned times for each group to make their drop and most of the Drop Zones were in the area of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Our route of flight took us south from Grantham over the Isle of Wight, SSW around the west side of Guernsey Island, around Jersey Island and then east to the Cherbourg Peninsula. There were a few clouds over water but when we reached land there was a very heavy low cloud deck over land. We flew our 72 ship formation underneath the clouds and our nine aircraft were able to stay in formation. It is more important to stay together and drop together than actually hitting the DZ (then they have a large group together and a lot of supplies and are better able to complete tasks). Our leader actually stayed with one of the aircraft from the lead nine ship formation and our Squadron drops were in two locations a few miles apart. When it was about time and place to drop a red light was flashed by our leader and it was very bright on the Clouds. It is our signal to "Stand up and hook up "so we all gave the red light to our paratroops and started climbing into the clouds to get to the 600 feet altitude desired for jumping. Before reaching that altitude we saw the green light flash through the clouds and we gave our troops the GO light and released the bundles underneath the ship. We had not been able to see any other aircraft after entering the clouds. Our assigned route was to turn left and fly over Omaha Beach and all of the naval ships there. After our experience leaving Sicily I think we all continued climbing to on top of the clouds and then flew along the coast to Calais before heading back to England to avoid flying over the Navy. There is no question that a lot of paratroops found themselves in the wrong place on the ground. The weather was the worst it could be so most dropped in the general area. About seven years ago I was able to talk to one of the paratroops that I dropped that night. He said that his Unit was dropped in two places and it was a couple of days before they were reunited. They were put into the fight immediately capturing a bridge. He said it was a tough assignment and he would have rather been on his DZ and completed his assigned tasks (he had gone back to Normandy twice and his second trip was with Tom Brokaw and 5 other troops from his unit with everything paid). When I talked to him he was living alone in his cabin in northern Wisconsin. I am sorry I didn't get to meet him. Information that David Elliott gave me about our drop that night was that 8 aircraft from the first 9 dropped together and the other 10 dropped together. Besides being very lucky that we did not have any mid-air collisions in our group my problem was staying awake on the long flight to the DZ area. I poured water from my canteen into my lap on my flak suit and splashed it in my face. I also had to slap my forehead to stay awake. My copilot that night was a brand new replacement pilot. He came to one of our last Squadron reunions and I was going to introduce him to the attendees and first asked him what his job was in the Squadron. His answer: "I was your copilot on D-Day." I was very embarrassed to have forgotten him. Our Squadron flew another mission the next night but I didn't participate and we had one aircraft shot down. The pilot [Clyde E. Roach] was unable to feather the prop on the dead engine so he landed in the sea close to the Navy. The radio operator had been hit and he died before they were rescued. The pilot had joined us in Sicily. After the war he became a pilot with Eastern Airlines and is still living in the Miami, FL area. Before D-Day our military had made believe that General Patton's army was assembling along the coast of England and would be attacking in the Calais area, the shortest distance across the Channel. The German High Command was convinced of this plan and figured the real invasion was a distraction. As a result they held back on sending support to the real invasion area for about 36 hours. After securing the beaches it took a couple of weeks to get enough men and supplies ready to move east. We started flying supplies in and landing on a bull dozed strip about ¼-mile from the sea. We also were evacuating the wounded on our return flight. General Patton's army then started their run across France. We were heavily involved in this advance. We were making daily flights loaded with ammunition or gasoline in 5-gallon cans (for the tanks, trucks and jeeps). We would then load up with the wounded and take them back to England for treatment. Often we would have 18 aircraft on these flights with a nurse on board each to tend to the patients. Our system of stacking the litters was improved and we took 28 patients on each flight. As the Army moved across France we had many missions planned to drop Paratroops in front of them but the Missions were always canceled because they were past the planned DZ. During this phase we were operating on landing strips that were being bull dozed when we departed with our load. We would fly to another airport in England to load up, fly to the new strip, unload our freight, help load the patients, fly to an airport usually in southern England, help unload the patients and then fly home. These were very long days and we ate as we could between breakfast and midnight. There were a lot of ambulances but never quite enough at each end. In mid-July the air echelon flew to a neighboring Air Base for a review by General Eisenhower. We were hoping he was going to tell us we were going home. When we went overseas they told us to plan on being there for six months. We were in our 15th month so we were ready to go home. After going through the ranks and asking a few questions like 'how long have you been overseas’ and ‘how old are you’? Then he addressed us and all he talked about was bigger and better operations ahead. I guess he was talking about the invasion of Holland that became known as "A Bridge Too Far". At this time most of the support for General Patton's army was cut off and switched to General Montgomery's plan to invade Holland and move to Berlin from there. The main problem with the plan was getting the tanks up to Arnhem and Nijmegen since the road was on an elevated dike and would be blocked if a vehicle broke down. The first day we dropped the British 1st Airborne near the bridge at Arnhem and they were to capture and hold it until the tanks could get there. This was a daylight drop and there was no problem hitting the DZ. In my discussion with the Jumpmaster before take-off, I asked him why we were dropping 7 miles from the bridge. His answer "your general said that was as close as you could fly to the bridge". After dropping we made a right turn and went right over the bridge. Our Group flew 72 aircraft on this mission and it was a surprise to the Germans and we had very little damage. The second day the 59th Squadron and our 53rd each flew 20 aircraft towing 20 CG-4A Gliders to a landing area near Nijmegen. Unfortunately we flew the same basic route and at 2,200 feet. That was high enough for Ack-Ack to explode just below us and at our altitude. Towing a glider slowed us to 100 miles per hour and they had brought a lot of fire power into the area of our route of flight so we were in their view and range for longer than we should have been. We had three ships shot down and one of them landed on the glider landing area with all hands safe. I'm sure several others were damaged too. You could see, hear and smell the flak and the sky was full of tracer bullets. I watched McClintock's aircraft go down and three parachutes opened when it was about 200 feet above ground. Later we heard that all 4 crew members survived and were captured. We also learned that Mac couldn't find his parachute pack to snap on his harness (after removing his flak suit). He finally found his chute and snapped it on and jumped. When he woke up he was sitting in a plowed field with his head in the dirt between his legs and no serious injuries. His chute was behind him and ready to roll up and pack. It had not opened. The plane was on fire. The third day we flew a resupply mission to Nijmegen. You guessed it: we flew the same route again. This time we flew at tree top level and really shortened the time any gun could get a shot off at us. In addition to the six bundles in our racks underneath we each had 10 bundles inside to be pushed out the door. We had volunteers from Quartermaster to push them out. Two of them jumped out immediately after they finished pushing. They may have been surprised when the aircraft dove to a lower altitude for a safer flight or maybe they planned to do it to get to the action of the war. I don't think we had any major hits or losses on this mission. Between D-Day and Holland 5 of our pilots were selected to go home for a 30 day leave. It took almost three months for them to return. I have no idea how the selections were made. When they returned all of the original first pilots started leaving for home and reassignment. I should have been promoted to Captain right after D-Day but we were too busy for that and when the others left my promotion just fell through the cracks. I did get a new C-47 assigned to me and my crew and I was never airsick in it. When I was told that I was released to go home in early November our new Squadron Commander asked me to stay and be the Squadron Operations Officer. But going home sounded like a better idea. I did regret that decision after I was home a few months.”
18) e-mail dated 30 JAN 2016 “…In October  our new Squadron Commander, Major Chuck Harruff, came to see me and told me I was cleared to go home but he wanted me to stay and be his Operations Officer. I was still a 1st Lieutenant and had been eligible for promotion to Captain for a couple of months but promotions were set aside during the Holland invasion and then so many were released to go home nobody was there to start the paperwork. I was concerned that there would be a couple of pilot friends that would be upset because I was junior to them (they didn't get the position anyway). So I decided to go home and I really was upset by that decision when I ended up in the Training Command. When we were overseas we concentrated on getting the various assignments completed and everything we did seemed to be related to the war effort in our area. The Training Command had training objectives but they added other items to keep us occupied that didn't seem to fit into their mission of training. By November 1944, all of the original first pilots except ones that had returned from their 30 day leave at home, had now left for home and reassignment so I thought it was a good time for me to apply too. I was given my choice; fly home in the back of an aircraft or return by boat. I didn't want to spend all of that time being airsick so I selected boat. The point of demarcation was in Wales so I went to a military base near the sea in early November. I don't remember the name of the base. I was there waiting for space on a ship until December 17th . There were a lot of bomber crews and fighter pilots returning home at that time. It would get dark about 3:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon. The walk to the mess hall was across the parade grounds and they had trouble seeing their way so they would get a Troop Carrier Pilot to lead them. They couldn't believe we could really see in the dark but they didn't walk into any posts or get lost if they went with us. There were no outside lights and it was often low overcast, really dark. I played a lot of bridge and cribbage those days to pass the time. It was a fun time because WE WERE GOING HOME. I finally boarded a small Hospital Ship, The Santa Rosa. I rechecked my orders and they said I was being transferred to the States to have my appendix removed (I did have my appendix removed on Labor Day 1957 after it had ruptured). Instead of being airsick several hours I was seasick for 11 days. My last meal on the ship was breakfast the first morning before getting under way. The sea was very rough and our small ship did some serious tossing around. The props would come out of the water and then jar the ship when they hit the water again. The noon meal was a sandwich on the main deck but I could get only part of it down. I was assigned 12 state rooms to make sure they were kept clean. Each had 12 troops in hammocks stacked 4 deep, so we were very crowded. I spent my time in my bunk or aft where they threw the garbage overboard. While I was in the desert of North Africa I often thought about my return. I would land in New York, get a hotel room, order enough ice cubes to get about four inches of ice in the bathtub and spend several hours just lying there and being cool. I arrived in Boston on December 28, 1944 when it was 16 degrees below zero. No ice bath needed. The Red Cross gave us hot coffee and donuts and we were put on a troop train for Chicago. Our train was put on a siding in Gary, IN and the engine left us for other duty. Without an engine it was soon as cold inside as outside. We were there long enough to try several methods to get warm to no avail. Finally an engine came the second night and took our train to Fort Sheridan. I was given orders to have 30 days at home and a date to report at rest camp in Santa Anna, CA. My parents had sold our home and bought a farm in Michigan while I was overseas. My oldest brother, Vern, lived a few houses up the street from our former home in Illinois so I went there first. I weighed 97 pounds so I had not put any weight on while in England where the food was really plentiful and good. I arrived there on Dec 29th or 30th. Vern and Ardis had a New Year's Eve party at home so I invited Beverly and proposed that night. She accepted and we decided to wait until I was situated at my next duty assignment. After a few days I went to Michigan to see my parents. I don't remember how I got there but I remember I put on 16 pounds in eight days. Dad sold me their car, a 1939 Dodge, for $700. They had a pickup truck and could get along OK without the car. They were able to get a new Dodge for $700 in 1946. After my 30 day leave I drove to California. There were no freeways so it was route 66 and the National speed limit was 35 MPH. It took six days. My Mother's Uncle Bob went with me to visit his sister. He told me to keep track of the cost of gasoline and he would split it with me. It was just under $20.00 so he paid for all of it. We stopped at the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon on the way. Shirley and Don King were at the Del Mar Resort on the beach in Santa Monica for his Rest Camp so we were able to enjoy the area together a lot of the time. We were both sent to Ellington Field near Houston next to fly Student Navigators. The main thing we did at Rest Camp was EAT and the food was special. At Ellington we were required to have our gas mask over our shoulder all day and on your face from 10 A M until 11 A M on Tuesday. We never thought of having a gas mask when we were 5 miles from the front lines in Italy so it didn't make any sense in Texas. The officers in charge had never been overseas so they made strange decisions. I worked my schedule out so I was off base on Tuesdays. We would fly about 3 and one half hour flights with 12 student navigators in the back. Each had a desk with the readings from the cockpit instruments. They were always so busy and often were way off on their calculations. By the end of their training the flights were over water which made their task harder. After about three hours we had each one come to the cockpit and point out on the map where we were making landfall. It was amazing how far off they were sometimes. One day an engine quit on takeoff and I flew the normal route and time and made landfall. When I asked them our position it was apparent not one of the students had noticed the airspeed was 105 instead of 160. When I was on final approach at about 100 feet altitude I mentioned to the tower that we were landing on one engine. The controller cleared us to go around. I argued but they insisted, Airport rules required the crash trucks to be at the intersection of the runways. So we flew around while the equipment moved out on the field. They parked just off of the active runway on the dead engine side. It might make a big difference on a windy day because the wind on the vertical part of the tail can turn the aircraft in that direction. I was able to get on the taxiway heading toward my parking area and they wanted me to stop. I finally did stop and they opened the back door and stuck their large foam dispenser inside. It is about two feet in diameter and would trap all of us inside the aircraft if there were a fire. Beverly and I had decided to get married on March 25, 1945. I had used most of the gasoline coupons I received from family members, 4 gallons per coupon. I was able to get some coupons from the government for my trip to Texas so I headed home. I could see the inner tube on a rear wheel so I expected a blowout. I had one near Searcy, Arkansas but it was a front tire. I was in uniform and finally talked a gas station owner into selling me a tire. They were very scarce. On our way south the rear tire finally blew and we were close to Searcy again. It wasn't easy but I did get another tire from the same gas station. There were no Motels back then so we stayed in Hotels or boarding houses. It was quite an experience. A couple times we checked the bed and left to find cleaner place. Rooms were 2 or 3 dollars for a night then. I better mention that we had a very nice wedding at the 4th Street Methodist Church in Aurora, IL that we both had attended growing up. The reception was at Beverly's home. We spent our first night in Joliet, IL and the second night in St Louis, MO in fine hotels. Our homes were in the same block on streets one block apart so both neighborhoods were there. When we arrived in Houston we found that Shirley and Don King had rented a two bedroom home and furniture for us and I was able to almost carry Beverly into our first home. By then my weight was at 160 pounds. Shortly there was a request for volunteers to transfer to Miami and check out in the four-engine DC-4 to fly troops home from Europe. Don King and I both signed up to get out of the Training Command. We were selected and sometime later informed that we had applied to get out of the service when the point count system materialized so we were taken off of the list for DC-4s. I had planned that this would be my last chapter but I decided to add at least one more chapter later…. [there was no final chapter authored – Lt. Parker died in October 2017].