War Diary: 759th Squadron

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WAR DIARY
759TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (HV)

By Cpl Ervin P. Sagen
Northwood, S. Dak.

February 10–We debarked at Taranto Italy, at 1800, and marched from the docks to Staging Area 3, where we were quartered for the first few days after our arrival in Italy. We marched several miles with full pack, arrived at camp about 2300 hours, and received no evening meal, and slept on the ground. Although we were in tents, the ground was wet and cold, and it was so windy, that before morning most of us were sleeping half out of the tents.

February 11–Everyone’s chief concern was to get something to eat, and to build a fire for warmth. We were short on rations, so received two meals of half rations. The countryside was searched for firewood, and that evening camp fires were rampant until black out was ordered.

February 13–Our camp was beset with peddlers who sold us oranges and almonds, and Vino on the sly. What seemed curious to us was that the best trade article was cigarettes–among old and young.

February 14–We marched with full pack back to Taranto Italy, and departed by train, arriving at APO 520, Guilia Field #1,Italy, near Cerignola, at 2030 hours. We made the last few miles by truck, and slept on the floor of farm buildings that first night.

February 15–We moved to our camp area. The flying echelon was already present. We proceeded to set up pup tents, and to fill our mattresses from a nearby straw pile.

February 22–Private Da?rl ?unger was transferred to 757th Squadron and Sergeant Arthur C. Hummel joined this Squadron.

February 25–Private Tommie F. Howe, one of our drivers, tipped over in a jeep while leading a convoy from Naples. Rain had made the road slippery. No serious damage.

February 29–Captain Arthur S. Vandervoort Jr. was transferred to 758th Squadron.

 

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WAR DIARY
759TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (HV)
By Cpl Ervin F. Bagen
Northwood, N. Dak.

March 1–Captain Masterson and Lt. Cliett began the first full day of their new duty assignments for the Squadron today. Captain Neill F. Masterson Jr. was appointed Squadron Executive Officer to fill the position left vacant by Captain Vandervoort on 29 April (Feb?). Lt George ?. Cliett was appointed Squadron Adjutant to fill the place left vacant by Captain Masterson on 29 April (Feb?).

The medics spent a busy morning today as a result of something that must have been eaten. Headed by 1st Sergeant James L. Deaton, a long line of belly aches headed for sick call, complaining that they were too busy to make so many visits to that little house around the corner.

March 2–The initial flight or first real mission of our squadron. The formation left at 0900 hours with fragmentation bombs and headed for Anzio beachhead. All planes returned at 1215, after a successful mission. Ten planes were on the raid.

March 3–Ten planes took off on a mission. One of our planes failed to return, and the crew were listed as missing in action. Ordnance and Armament sections spent all night working to get the ships ready for next days mission. All rounds were taken out of all ships and tested for short rounds and poor ammunition.

March 4–No mission today, due to rain. Cpl David ?. Beaver was the busiest man in the Squadron, taking orders for flowers, to be sent home for Easter. Staff Sergeant Steve Malice, and T/Sgt Howard ?. Plimpton finished raising the last tent in the mess area. The showers installed in our Squadron Area were finished today.

March 5–A Red Cross Van visited our Squadron for the first time in this area, and served doughnuts and coffee. Colonel Munn initiated our showers today, being the first one to try the newly installed fixtures. The stove in the transportation tent became overheated,

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WAR DIARY CONTINUED
And the top of the tent caught fire. 1st Sgt Deaton came running out calling “buckets, buckets”. S/Sgt Steve Malice was in his tent near by, and thinking he called “blankets”, he grabbed blankets from S/Sgt Woupies’ bed, and came running with them. Buckets were soon available, and the fire put out without serious damage being done.

March 6–Quiet, no mission.

March 7–Successful mission today, and all ships returned safely. M/Sgt Knight and Sgt Sauer were cited for acts above and beyond that of duty when they put out the fire in a plane which crashed on takeoff, thus saving the lives of all crew members. S/Sgt James W. Wisler was given credit for downing one enemy ship. Our Squadron began work on the new Mess Hall.

March 8–Our baker, Joe D’Orezie began baking in the remodeled Italian bakery near the Orderly Room. Frank Noviello, Supply Sergeant, brought back the first load of clean laundry since our arrival here.

March 9–no mission, as it rained in sunny Italy again.

March 10– Our first pay day since we left the states. Everyone in the ground echelon was paid in full for January and February. The Red Cross served us coffee and doughnuts. Bad weather today, and no mission.

March 11–F/O ?alarin came back from town with a live lamb and a live chicken. The chicken was eaten, and the lamb given a pup tent for its home–to fatten up for a future meal. A large tent was put up for the Italian workers in our area today. Sgt Pykus dropped a 500 Lb bomb on his foot today, and became a hospital case.

March 12–The Orderly Room was moved to its new location ,and Operation was moved to the room the Orderly Room formerly occupied. A day room was established where the Operations Room had been.

March 13–Our Tent Area was flooded by the rains of the previous night. The first man to appear that morning was Cpl George V. Simpson, who came to the supply tent and state “Is it possible for me to exchange my blankets for some dry ones? When I woke up this morning, my mattress was in water, and when I put my hand out, I stuck it in mud and water.”
As the sun appeared over the horizon, numerous other soldiers were seen hop-skipping through mud and water and were soon relating similar stories. The tent housing the Italian soldier EM’s had a stream flowing right through the center of it that morning, and before evening, many tents had been moved to drier locations. Lt Edward F. Williams and his buddies were among the ones who had to move to higher land, and before evening, his feet were so wet, and he so disgusted, that he didn’t bother to walk around a puddle of water, but went straight through over his shoes.

Pvt Jean Lakue??? Was transferred from our Squadron to General Hospital today.

March 14–Pfc John Coleman was accidentally shot in the leg today while cleaning his guns, by a tent mate who was cleaning his guns. Bad weather kept all ships grounded.

March 15–Pfc William Gunnell broke a bone in his heel as he jumped from a truck on returning from movies at Group. He was transferred to the hospital.

March 16–We had freakish weather, and some snow mixed with the rain that had been coming down all night. The snow quickly disappeared as it touched the warm earth.

March 17–Our Squadron went on a long mission. Pfc Claney, our mailman who became a gunner, went on his first mission today.

March 18–2nd Lt Charles E. Ziegler, rejoined us after a few days spent in the hospital.

March 19– Captain Smallwood Hargis was assigned to us and became our new Supply Officer. Cpl David ?. Beaver was assigned to the engineering section as clerk, leaving the Orderly Room.

March 20–??? Henry J. Campbell was reclassified from MOS 7536 to MOS 1042, and permanently assigned to this Squadron.

March 31–the first day of spring. 2nd Lt Lewis J. Velte, Jr, 27, came back from a mission with a hair raising story today. “We not only had a collision in midair and live to talk about it, but we also polished off a nazi fighter who came in to apply the finishing touches to our crash”, states the young pilot. “The formation had attained altitude and was well over enemy lines. We were in the thin air, on oxygen, flying formation headed north. Sgt Smith had levered the ball turret, Sgt Vanacour and Sgt Goakley, left waist gunner and radio man, had test-fired their guns. Wieler in the tail, who had already knocked one Nazi out of the skies on an earlier mission was grooming his twin fifties for another kill. Sgt. Schouer, engineer, had looked over the instruments and bomb bays and was getting the guns in the top turret read for action. Lt. Frazier, co-pilot, kept calling the crew on the inter-phones to check their oxygen. Lt. Graham, navigator was busy with his maps and instruments, Lt Natoli, our bombardier, was fingering the maze of switches on his instrument panel and checking his bomb-sight so we could score another bulls eye at the target. Farthest forward was Sgt Sinitsky, getting his guns ready with the thoroughness a surgeon about to operate.

“He was the first to notice black puffs, which were scattered and light to our left.’Flack at 10 o’clock level’ he called. Next seen were enemy fighter planes, to intercept us before reaching the target. But, according to Sgt. Sinitsky, they recognized him sitting in the nose and turned to circle the formation and come in from the rear, where our fighter escort drove them off.

“By this time we were ready to level off for the bomb run and the flak was really coming in earnest. Soon the bombardier called ‘Bombs away’ and we broke sharply to our right.

‘Bombs away’ and we broke sharply to our right. Then suddenly things happened. The tail assembly began to shudder and I lost rudder action. I had to regain control in that split second and the only possible way was to point the nose downward to keep from stalling completely. The ship behind me and below me had moved up meanwhile, and I could just see his nose out over ours when we started to come down. His right fin and rudder came up to us a lot faster than it does to talk about it now. For a moment I felt we might miss him, but then I heard the sickening crash and felt the wrench and we fell off to the left out of formation.

“It looked like we might hold altitude long enough to tail out but before giving orders to abandon ship I tested the controls, which seemed to respond all right, and the engines were running Okay. We had dropped about 2,000 feet before I could stop the fall, and then it looked like were going to get along alright when an ME-109, seeing us in distress, pulled in behind us and started firing its machine guns preparatory to getting the range for his 20mm cannon. But it never had a chance for that, because Sgt. Hisler again took full advantage of his opportunity and emptied his guns full into the fighter ship which faltered, hung and then went into a spin which only ended when it hit the ground and exploded.

“The rest of the trip was easy. We had been pulling so much power to get back and stay in formation with our battered nose that our gas was running low. So I went down ‘to the deck’ and on the last part of the trip we were just skimming over the surface of the blue Adriatic. Our nose turret had been completely smashed when we collided but Sgt Sinitsky had nothing more serious to report than a streak of green paint on the dial of his wrist watch–and that had come from the other ship. When we landed we found that the ship we had hit had just been just as fortunate as we were. The tail gunner was  unharmed, and Lt. Henkleman, the pilot, had found his rudder inoperative after the collision, but by skillful piloting, he was able to complete a successful landing.”

March 22–F/O ?eler?? Bought some eggs in town, and broke them in his pocket. Sgt. Ruffus Ketchum displayed his medical skill by sewing up a horse which had been hit by a car. The horse lived.

March 23–Cpl George Baldick went to the hospital.

March 24–Light ships on the mission, two returned early.

March 25–Our first serious fire occurred when Lt Donald Stevenson’s tent burned to the ground. 1st Sgt Deaton was right on the job with this hand fire extinguisher, and was able to rescue a loaded pistol before it had a chance to explode.

March 26–Clarence ?. James was assigned to our Squadron as a member of the armament section. Nine ships went on a mission today.

March 27–1st Lt Lewis Maris joined this Squadron as bombardier. We had an inspection of teeth, of weapons, and a physical inspection.

March 28–Pfc William Gunnel transferred to the hospital as a result of the seriousness of his injured foot. Nine ships went on a mission.

March 29–Eight ships went on a mission. All returned safely.

March 30–Seven ships made the mission and returned safely. Cpl Ervin Sagen had his first experience with mice in this country, for upon opening his duffel bag, he found mice had carried nuts to it, and made a nice little home in the mosquito net packed therein.

March 31–we received ribbons and star for our participation in the Battle of Italy. F/O Angelo directed the beginning of the baseball diamond near the Squadron Area.

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