S E C R E T
W A R D I A R Y O F 7 5 6 T H H E A V Y B O M B E R S Q U A D R O N
February 8 – Pull into Tranto Harbor, which is loaded with shipping; prepare to disembark
9 – Stay on ship
10 – Disembark in lighters, march 6 miles to British “rest camp” and find sleeping quarters in darkness.
12 – March back to city and take train for Cerignola; are met by trucks and taken to area. Everyone cold, hungry and quite miserable in darkness. Order finally revoked and men sleep in winery.
13 – Areas assigned and men pitch pup tents; estate is that of Marquis Pavoncelli
22 – First group formation; 36 planes in air
23 – First practice mission; 30 planes take 3 bombs each and drop on point near Francesvilla, 250 miles distant.
March 1– Routine training waiting for first actual mission to take place.
March 2– Freshman mission was flown today, in support of ground forces at Anzio beachhead. Chow line at lunch was comparatively small. Ground echelon worked overtime preparing for this mission. All planes came back safely with crews thankful to have finally taken the plunge.
March 3– Major Harrison H. Christy of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, our squadron commander led this squadron on its second mission today: destination, an airdrome near Rome. All planes returned safely although a few suffered their first flak holes.
March 4– Mission for today was cancelled out because of weather. This provided a welcome rest for air crew members. The enjoyment of the restful day was increased by paymaster getting into action. It was payday.
March 5– Rain rubbed out another planned mission today. First movies.
March 6– For the third time in a row mission was cancelled out by weather.
March 7– First enemy fighters were encountered on todays mission. They were Focke Wolfe 190’s, but did not attack aggressively. Heavy flak was encountered at the target and beyond. The target was the airfield at Viterbo. All our ships returned safely.
March 8– An abortive mission took place today. Take off was at 0740 but all planes were called back and returned by 1000. Visibility over the target was poor.
March 9– Mission scheduled but called off on account of weather. This weather is discouraging to the combat crews, who after this first few days had visions of completing their “50” missions in about 60 days. However, a cheering note was added today when carpenters started building bunks to get us off the ground. They are to be distributed according to rank.
March 10– Once again licked by General Weather, who looks like a pretty rough opponent in this theatre.
March 11– Take off time for today’s mission was 0915, but by 1105 all planes in the first element were back because of weather. Major Christy and nine other pilots who followed his daring leadership, formed a “brave little band and continued on to the target. They found it, did a workmanlike job, and all came back safely. The target was the marshalling yards at Prato. All who made the trip were in good humour at having come through by a combination of skill and good fortune.
WAR DIARY Page 2.
March 12– Very heavy rains today, cancelling out another mission. This is the 25th day it has rained since we arrived here on February 12.
March 13– Mission cancelled out, weather. Lt. Salsberg of the Bronx, New York has completed 37 missioin with the 8th Air Force. He was recently transferred to our squadron.
March 14– Weather at 0600 looked hopeful but by 0730 it had closed in sufficiently to cancel us out. A review was held in the squadron area this afternoon for the presentation of the first Purple Heart to a member of our squadron. Staff Sergeant William Koency was the recipient, with Major Christy doing the presentation honors. Sergeant Koency had been hit by flak during the Viterbo raid, but not too seriously. This ceremony gave us our first opportunity to wear Class “A” uniforms since we arrived here. There was mjuch discussion, with the question never adequately settled, as to the propriety of “congratulating” a man who has just received the Purple Heart.
March 15– A “doubleheader” mission was tried today. Ships left for the first target at 0800. They bombed it successfully and returned without incident. Fast work on the part of the ground crews enabled them to take off again at 1330 but poor weather prevented the mission coming off, and they had all returned by 1430 with an abortive.
March 17– Today we suffered our first losses. The mission was a long one, over 6 hours. Over the target, Lt. William Allen’s ship, “La Barracha”, seriously disabled by flak broke in two in the air and rammed Lt. Baldridge’s ship, “Smoky”. Both went down with no chutes seen opening. On the ground one of the officer’s tents burned to the ground. Not too cheerful a St. Patrick’s Day.
March 18– Received a replacement crew and a new ship today. Routine mission flown. No losses, mission successful.
March 19– Successful mission to Klagenfurt today. All planes returned. Pilots won from enlisted men in baseball today.
March 20– Fox holes being dug by every tent for protection against air raids or ground strafing. “Oscar” a German recon plane has been seen hovering over us for the last few nights. No mission today, although a practice mission was flown. Commendation received from 15th Air Force for the work done at Klagenfurt.
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March 21– Mission cancelled out. Last night enlisted men beat officers in baseball game.
March 22– Take off held up today by weather, but finally made it. Bombed Bologna and all our ships returned.
March 23– Abortive mission today. Hovered over field three hours hoping for a break in the weather and then came in.
March 24– Mission successfully flown today. No enemy fighters and very little flak. Spam again for chow.
March 25– Strong wind, rain and snow were served up by General Weather today. No mission. Work is progressing nicely on our new brick mess hall. Italian laborers are doing the work.
March 26– Ships took off and completed another successful mission today. No losses.
March 27– No mission today. Group is sponsoring a show and a call has gone out for amateur talent. Mess hall nearing completion.
March 28– Mission took off today at 0850. Came back all hands uninjured, although the ship “Fearless Fosdick” was pretty well shot up. A squadron insignia has been approved, havvng been voted the best one submitted. It represents Walt Disney’s Pluto dropping a bomb on target.
March 29– Perfect spring day today. Ships took off and bombed Milan, encountering no flak or enemy fighters.
March 30– Mission flown successfully today. No losses.
March 31– No mission today. Practice flight was held. Payday. All enlisted men contributed a dollar apiece to start an enlisted man’s club.