War Diary: 459th Group (Feb-May, 1944)

Source: Herz, Robert T. “War Diary of 459 Bomb Group (HV).” Historical Records, 14 April, 1944. Reel B0607, Microfilm 1341-1342

Feb 8 Enter Taranto Harbor after 27 day journey from Hampton Roads

Feb 9 Disembark and march 6 miles with light pack to British staging area. Much proffering of nuts, wine and oranges by bedraggled destitute Italian children. Common sight was kids of six to ten smoking.

Feb 12 Breakfast at Bari 415 and march to Taranto, board train. Pass through Bari and arrive near midnight at Cerignola. Are met by trucks. Ordered to pitch pup tents in darkness. Everyone cold, wet and miserable and appalled by prospect. Orders later countermanded and everyone sleeps in winery on estate of Marquis Pavoncelli which is to be our headquarters.

Feb 13 Men assigned area and pitch pup tents on wet ground. Some straw issued but not enough.

Feb 14 Valentine’s Day for some folks. In “Sunny Italy”, just another day.

Feb 16 Men dig slit trenches. To Thomases doubting value of trenches, daughty Frank Doujac, Gp Armament Inspector, explained that after an attack it is customary merely to toss in a little dirt over the body.

Feb 17 Spectacular vapor trails high in sky variously reported as that of our ships and also of enemy recons.

Feb 22 First formation from this field — 36 planes in the air.

Feb 23 First practice mission with bombs three 100 pounders each planes over target near Francavilla, 25 miles distant.

Feb 24 1st Sgt. Owens of 758th B.S. dies in hospital apparently as a result of something ate or drunk in Cerignola, restrictions are clamped down and warnings issued.

Feb 25 Plane from 456th, loaded with 10 500 pounders, crash lands safely on our runway

Feb 26 Col. Clarvoe goes to hospital with mild case of pneumonia.

Feb 29 EM in lower grades began looking up to Masters, Techs and staffs as first beds built were distributed to the Pre-Pearl Harbor boys.

March 1 Long-awaited mission orders received tonight. Bombs are loaded, planning conference goes into action. Briefing set for 545.

March 5 Spliced newsreel featuring the 1943 world Series, the 1943 Notre Dame Army football game, and the taking of Naples followed by a thrice-interrupted showing of “Crazy House” formed the bill as the Group movie house opened for business. Plans call for a change of program every second night, three shows daily (matinee, two evenings performances).

March 16 Snow, actual snow, came to sunny Italy this spring morn. Since our arrival here, we have had the pleasant day (Mar. 15) sandwiched in between rain (as much as 24 hours at a time), wind, frost, and snow.

March 17 Tent 6 occupants Oscar Meyers, Austin Coco, Alton Lagel, Ronald Nelson, Vern Hillesheim, and Caytan Andrysiak made off with the inspection honors today. Reward: One full course steak dinner.

March 18 Mail really arrived today: Chief recipient: Charlie Weinberger with 26 letters, four magazines. Explanation: Charlie is equally in love with four different hometown (Phila., Pa.) girls, can’t make up his mind which one is to be Mrs. Weinberger.

March 20 EM got a break on tickets to “Rigoletto”, “Madame Butterfly”, and “Tosca”.

March 21 First red alert in several days (102 hours) sent men scurrying for recently dug slit trenches. All save chief switchboard operator Charlie Fegan who stood by to call all sections and put them on alert.

March 22 Boys went to see, in person, John Garfield, the man who amazed them in the pic “Airforce” by firing a 50 calibre machine gun from a hip position.

March 31 Up at the front, according to “Mauldin” (Stars and Stripes cartoonist, scores of soldiers posed with the same bottle of Coca-Cola for pictures to send home and bolster the folks. Not so in the 459th today: There was a bottle of “coke” per man as “coke” took the place of hard candy ration as the chief attraction at the PX. On the available list for the first time was fruit juice, in limited quantity.