Posted by Pasha to Combatsim.com
Sunday, February 14, 1999 - 03:33 pm:
These are some memories of the only real Thunderbolt Pilot I know.
Thanks to Tiff for the scans.
Wednesday, January 13, 1999
Been thinking about the Iron Cross. I am now convinced that at one time
one of the squadrons (we were hardly ever based together) made a pilot
who pranged one of their birds wear a German Iron Cross hung around his
neck for a period of time (perhaps for a week - just guessing).
Tuesday, December 22, 1998
I have a book here about the Jug that is interesting. The title is,
"P-47 Thunderbolt at War" by William N. Hess. Doubleday Book
Club addition. It has a lot of good things about the P-47 - how it was
developed and how it was used in the different theaters of war in WW II.
Not much about the Mediterranean, but I learned things I didn't know before
- about the 15th Air Force, P-40's being used etc. I guess each of us was
concentrating on just what we were doing. I am sure we knew a lot less
what others in the theater were doing than the Germans did.
Of note in this book:
On page 110 is a picture of Major Hugh D. "Rowdy" Dow and a P-47
with rocket tubes. Mr. Dow is the self-appointed historian of the 350 Fighter
Group now and does a good job of it. He is always hounding us for more
information and statistics.
On page 116 is the picture of the 4 P-47s of our squadron that you have
seen and which our Dutch friends put on a website for me. Problem here
is the caption states the aircraft are of the 27th Fighter Group. Really
very little difference - our jobs were the same.
The logo (actually a call-sign) I was thinking of and mistakenly said,
"Jolly Rogers" (I guess because I had seen it used in this NG)
was really "Rover Joe". Rover Joe missions were close air support
for the ground troop at the front. It was first a controller in an armored
car directing our bombing strikes. Later, controllers in L-5 aircraft were
squadrons had nicknames of one sort or another. Ours was the "Devilhawks".
One was the "Screaming Red Ass" and showed the rear of a bucking
red donkey with mouth wide open in a braying position. I can't remember
others offhand. Unfortunately, historians stick to the numbers and ignore
the more picturesque nomenclatures.
Friday, November 27, 1998
I can only recount my own experience. I don't remember if we were told
that Switzerland was a refuge for us or not, but I know I had a feeling
that if it was safe to land in Switzerland. At least, a lot safer than
landing behind German lines in Italy.
On one mission, just south of the Swiss border, my P-47 was hit and caught
on fire. I immediately headed for the Swiss border. The fire went out so
I turned around and flew to my base at Pisa. It turned out that a hydraulic
line had been severed and the fire was hydraulic fluid burning. I am sure
that the Swiss policy was to remain strictly neutral in that regard and
provide a safe haven for aircraft from both sides. Of course, I was sure
they wouln't tolerate deliberate overflight and would demand that such
aircraft land at one of their bases.
BTW, when I arrived at my home base, I was relieved to discover that
the gear came down of its own weight and locked without hydraulics. I had
no way of knowing that the tailwheel did not lock down. You can imagine
what the pierced-plank runway did to the lower aft part of the kite. The
worse of that was that it wasn't my own assigned aircaft - it was the Squadron
Tuesday, November 17, 1998
Turbulance in a Jug? You got to be kidding. How much turbulance does
a rock have in flight? (;--) Anyway, I was Art Schramm's Flight Commander
and we flew missions together. I knew he was taking pictures of us, but
never saw the pictures.
Friday, November 20, 1998
Mihiel "Mike" Gilormini...
BTW, the lead plane in the flight of 4 is piloted by my wartime buddy
and roommate, Captain Mihiel (Mike) Gilormini, a Puerto Rican, later a
Brigadier General and commander of the Puerto Rican Air National Guard..
He was the commander of "A" Flight while I was commander of "C"
Flight. We sometimes flew together. In fact, our last combat mission was
attacking the airfield at Milano. I led the attack. The flak was real heavy.
The 88 shells were bursting all around and also hitting a high bank (we
were flying real low) to my right. Mike said, "Dutch, you better bail
out, you are on fire!" Followed immediately with, "Don't bail
out, it's another guy". Unfortunately, my wingman crashed and was
Mike and I flew our last flight in Italy together giving air cover for
General George C. Marshall's visit to our group at Pisa. Mike and I returned
to the States on the same ship.
Friday, January 22, 1999
I mentioned that my WW II buddy and roommate was Mihiel (Mike) Gilormini.
He later became Brigadier General and commander of the Puerto Rican National
Guard. My photo, which he gave to me at a squadron reunion at Colorado
Springs in 1978, doesn't show the squadron markings because of the angle
(he said the picture is of "Starting P-47N for 1st official flight
of P-47 after 5 years of work of reconstruction", and he signed it,
I don't recall that we had the diamond-shaped checkerboard painting covering
the cowling. One of the NG pilots dinged the prop and I don't think they
were able to obtain another. Gen. Gilormini died a couple of years ago.
He and I flew our last two missions in the same flight. We straffed the
airpfield at Milano (I lost my wingman there) and we flew cover for General
Marshall's visit to Pisa.
BTW, during my 186 combat missions, many of which I led, I only lost
3 pilots. We sure got shot up plenty though.
Earl's Posts to bigweek.com News Group
Tuesday, February 23, 1999 11:58 AM
Not all WW II vintage fighters had tail wheels, i.e. P-39 and P-38. Of
those I flew that did have tail wheel, one needed to rely on the tail wheel
for directional control until reaching sufficient speed to attain good
rudder control. One would lock the tailwheel and then it was controlable
with the rudder. If one were to lift the tail too quickly, torque would
be uncontrollable. Just the motion of lifting the tail at full throttle
and RPM would increase torque.
It is also important to land in a 3-point attitude, or nearly so, especially
in a crosswind, because one needs the tailwheel on the runway to control
the direction at lower speeds (I observed many landing groundloops with
P-40s at an airfield in Puerto Rico that had only one runway). The same
held for the C-47 I flew.
As I recall, regarding the tailwheel fighters I flew - Hurricane, P-47,
and P-51. The tail came up of its own accord when the speed became sufficient
and the crate took off on its own - except the bomb-laden P-47. It helped
to lift mightily on the stick <g> and then, when finally airborne
and you stopped the wobbling, release your grip on the stick to let the
blood flow back into your fingers(knuckles) <g>. The answer to how
much runway the P-47 needed for takeoff was, "All of it!"
The story I heard from the guys who flew down from England was that when
they would check out RAF Spit drivers in the P-400/P-39s they would tell
them that the aircraft would takeoff by itself without pulling back on
the stick (like the Spit would). Of course, the check-outee had no choice
but to do just that when he ran out of runway.
Tuesday, February 23, 1999 9:48 PM
Dick Bong's Death...
(Dick Bong was)killed on 6 Aug 45 during take-off in a P-80.
Yes, Bong believed the Fire Warning Light when it came on and tried to
abort takeoff. I, and others I flew with, ignored the light because it
came on so often during takeoff in the older P-80s. If he would have waited
a minute, the light would have gone off, I'm sure.
Wednesday, February 17, 1999 7:10 AM
Al's Close Call...
Below is an email (excerpted here) forwarded to me by Hugh "Rowdy"
Dow to which Rowdy added some info about Al Alexander. Al is his nickname.
His name is Shuford M. Alexander.
From: Hugh Dow
Al was with the 346 Sq. from April 44. Was shot down on 1 Oct 44 while
on a flak suppression mission for B-25s. A real hair raiser from the get
go. Tried to bail, got hung up on the armor plate behind the pilot seat,
crawled back in, lost control in the process, snap-rolled below a 1000
feet (as reported by other flight members in the Missing Aircrew Report)
while without harness or chute, except for the one strung out along the
fuselage trying to pull him out; recovered, belly landed. Escaped for two
months with partisans, captured at Massa, at the end on the German line,
on the coast 25 miles north of Pisa while trying to return to Allied side.
Interrogated by the Gestapo, sent north by train guarded by these goons.
Escaped from a box car, made contact again with Partisans, returned again
to cross the mountains near Massa in the middle of winter, on 14 Feb 45.
Sunday, February 14, 1999 7:46 PM
Weren't they (A-36a Invader)forerunners of the P-51? If I remember
right, the "dive brakes" were really only flaps that had a lot
of holes - that is maybe what made them "scream". I didn't know
the A-36s were operational in North Africa though. I have to take that
anecdote with a handful of salt. Why would 20 of them dive on one target
at the same time? I wouldn't want to be dive-bombing a heavily defended
target at only 390ias. In the Jug, I started the dive at 12,000 feet and
sometimes used water-injection with full throttle. The faster, the more
accurate, other things being equal. Of course, you have to release the
bombs at a higher altitude.
I have only dive-bombed in the P-39, P-47, and the P-51. Of them, the
Jug is far superior, in my judgement.
Monday, February 08, 1999 11:37 AM
345th Fighter Squadron...
...The 346th Fighter Squadron, 350th Fighter Group, transfers from Rerhaia,
Algeria to Sardinia with P-39's.
Not my squadron, but the 345th FS, the Devil Hawks, (my squadron) moved
from North Africa to Alghero, Sardinia about the same time - but not with
me. I was in a hospital with malaria, which I contracted a dozen times
while in that theater. I joined the squadron later and found out that all
my "stuff" had been stolen by dock workers in Sardinia.
Tuesday, February 09, 1999 3:32 PM
346th Fighter Squadron...
I forwarded Rotor's info about the 346th FS moving to Sardinia to Hugh
"Rowdy" Dow, who was in that squadron at that time. Here is his
PS: Rotor, where did you dig that info up? (www.lts.aetc.af.mil/ho_www/combat.html)
Thanks for relaying the little tidbit about the 346th's move to Sardinia.
My log book shows a convoy patrol of 1:40 hours on 24 Oct 43, followed
by a :40 hr test flight on 30 Oct, (probably in preparation for the impending
move) then a 1:35 hr cross country on 31 Oct from Taher (where 347 Sq.
was located) to Elmas Sardinia (Cagliari). I seem to recall that we spent
the night at Taher, but I could be wrong. In any event we would have refueled
there before going on to Sardinia. I had turned over my log book's maintenance
to the Squadron Ops Clerk by this time. Obviously, there is a flight missing
for the Reghaia to Taher leg of the trip.
Wonder if your friend could tell us the source of the information he
quotes from? I would like to locate that document when I go back to reviewing
microfilms at the AF Library again.
Thanks for the info. Stay warm up there.
Friday, January 29, 1999 1:54 AM
Dan Johnson wrote:
Gonna quote my favorite fighter pilot book of all time. "Nanette"
by Edwards Park.
He flew P39s in the Pacific with the 35th FG. What follows is his comments
on the P39 cannon:
"People called the P39 a flying battery. We also called her a
flying coffin, but hell we called all the planes that."
We called it a Pee Dash Crash with an Allison time bomb.
Dan Johnson continues:
She had an in-line liquid cooled engine made by Allison that developed
1,150 horsepower. This big twelve cylinder engine was mounted behind the
cockpit, so the drive shaft extended all the way into the nose and there
was geared to the propeller shaft. This allowed a cannon to be fitted
inside the propeller shaft. The muzzle stuck out from the spinner, and
if you could point your machine at a target, you could presumably clobber
it. The cannon was originally a 37-milimeter antitank gun which fired
rather slowly-whump-whump-whump, like that-- and since you were sitting
on it, in the little cockpit, your legs straddling it, the firing of it
vibrated your prostate so that the whole essence of war became mildly
sexual. I do not know if this was intentional.
Not quite right. The drive shaft was between the pilots legs and made
a racket sometimes in sharp turns. The cannon, I think, was in front of
the pilot and didn't give me that kind of sensation when firing it. I did
resent the slow rate of fire - could only get two or three rounds off each
pass on ground targets. I always fired in very short bursts at all ground
targets. I classed the cannon as a ground attack weapon rather than an
aerial combat weapon.
Dan Johnson continues:
Ok Earl, whats the story on this cannon infatuation? :)
I think there is a bit of exaggeration regarding any extra sensation
on firing the cannon. What is impressive in my mind is firing the eight
50s from the P-47, especially when the bullets converge precisely on the
BTW, I never fired the 20-mm on the P-400. As to the P-39's two .50 cal.,
one on each side of the instrument panel, I didn't like them much as I
said before. Not only did they drip oil on my trousers, but the cockpit
smelled from the oil and smelled a heck a lot worse after firing the 50s.
They didn't seem to fire very rapidly either and fired erratically. Maybe
because the rounds had to be syncronized through the propellor.
Wednesday, January 27, 1999 10:29 PM
P-39 Gun Control
As I recall, all P-39 guns operated from one control, but the guns could
be fired separately. One switch "armed" the 30s, another the
cannon, and one switch armed all. Each of the two 50s had to be charged
manually before one could fire them. Once the 50s were charged, I believe
they fired with the 30s when the trigger was pulled. I know the cannon
could be fired by itself. There was only one gun trigger on the stick,
and one bomb release button, as I recall.
I am trying to remember if there was a backup system for the 30s. There
may have been a "D" handle attached to a cable coming up through
the floor on each side of the pilot's seat to charge the 30s on that side,
but I don't recall ever using them.
I never charged the 50s in anger. My beef with them was that they would
drip oil, no matter how much packing (rags, etc) was stuffed under their
breaches, and soil my trouser legs (I wore my uniform "pink"
trousers when I flew the P-39).
On one mission over Italy during Operation Strangle we were attacking
a railroad marshalling yard. When I fired the cannon, the barrel burst
at the muzzle so that it looked like a Pilgrim's Blunderbuss. Fortunately,
it didn't damage the prop enough to prevent me from returning to base.
The crews were accustomed to covering the bore of the cannon with duct
tape to keep out moisture and dirt. It was assumed that the shell detonated
when the nose of it hit the tape. An order went out to the line that henceforth
all cannons would have an armor-piercing shell in the number one slot rather
than an exploding shell.
Friday, January 29, 1999 2:17 AM
Actually, that is all we wore all the time - pink trousers, pink or green
shirt, and the A-2 flight jacket. We didn't have jumpsuits, flight suits
or coveralls during the time we were flying the P-39 and P-38, although
the enlisted mechanics wore coveralls. When we flew, we would usually remove
our jacket (depending on temperature) and always don a Mae West. We were
cautioned to remove our rank and service insignia if we had to bail or land
in enemy territory.
question Earl... how come u wore your pinks in the 39? .... just guessin
here and tryin to remember, but u were in North Africa in the 39s fore
you went to jugs, right?..they were cooler then yer jumpsuits? or is there
something more interesting.. just curious really.
Saturday, February 06, 1999 12:08 PM
Here is a current picture of Pasha . He's undercover seeking out the
"TopBunz" within the shadows of AW .
This photo reminds me of when we got the new-fangled goggles, such as
the ones this intrepid airman is wearing (See attachment).
The old goggles were individual eyepieces and when worn restricted ones
vision. Therefore, we always wore them above on the helmet. They were for
emergency use - in case a windshield or canopy shattered or blew off. (Or
to impress the folks back home when being photographed for the local papers
back home). (:-)
The new ones provided good visibility and so I wore them properly while
flying missions, especially over enemy territory.
The new-type came with different lenses which could be inserted into
the goggles frame. I think there was a clear, a grey, and an amber. The
lenses, although interchangeable, were not changed easily or while flying.
Therefore, I kept the clear lens installed, but carried the amber one with
me. The amber lens seemed to cut through fog and haze (common in the Po
Valley of Italy) better than the clear.
It was important to identify the target correctly before initiating the
dive bombing attack. I would hold the amber lens over the clear lens while
I was searching for the proper target. Once I identified the target, I
didn't need the amber lens.
Thursday, February 25, 1999 2:33 PM
Smoking in the Cockpit...
+mia/cain, in the second part of his account, described the pilot with
a 40 millimeter in his P-47 cockpit. The quote below reminded me of the
last time I smoked a cigarette in a P-47.
"I've got a 40 mm shell through the bottom of the floor, and gas is
sloshing into the cockpit."
a flight of 4 P-47s, I climbed up to 12,000 feet to be sure to clear the
Apennines, leveled off and lit up a cigarette. Over the Po Valley, after
I had put the cigarette out, a sudden spewing of gasoline from the left
side of my seat sprayed the inside of the canopy and me. The spray subsided
immediately and settled into the gasoline bubbling up in a foot-high column,
flooding the bottom of the cockpit so that I had to raise my feet up to
keep them from being soaked. My one thought was that I have had it once
the gasoline hits the exhaust turbine in the rear underside of the kite.
I had previously had hydraulic fluid from a ruptured line caused by enemy
ground fire catch fire from the turbine which immediately went out, but
that time I didn't have hydraulic fluid flooding the cockpit.
While I was trying to think what I should do, the gasoline column starting
shrinking and finally gurgled to a stop and the gasoline in the cockpit
drained away without catching fire. I reported the incident to the ground
crew, but never inquired as to what caused it. That was my last cigarette
while flying in an aircraft where I was pilot or in command.
Friday, February 26, 1999 6:39 AM
Trim the Jug...
The P-47 had its rudder trim control toward the floor on the left side
of the seat. As +Tiff reported, the Me109 had no trim adjustable in flight.
Hugh Dow, who reconstructed one in Sardinia, said that it was tricky on
takeoff because of this. In fact, while Dow was on leave to the States,
Pee Wee Page pranged it on takeoff because of this.
In divebombing, it was important to have the needle and ball centered
at the moment of bomb release or the bombs would impact left or right horizontally
of the target. Unless the aircraft was retrimmed, it would be practically
impossible to maintain the proper rudder pressure for this. As I began
my dive, I would reach down and give the knob three twists counterclockwise.
This would over trim the aircraft at that speed, but would be about right
on at the bomb-release speed. One had to retrim after the pullout.
We had pilots with control cables severed by enemy fire who could maneuver
the aircraft by the use of rudder and elevator trim and thus were able
to return to the base. Once there, the aircraft was headed out to sea and
the pilot bailed out over the field. Harvey C. Smith, my Deputy Flight
Commander, had this happen to him while flying my designated aircraft.
After I congratulated him on his safe return, I asked for the clock and
jokingly chastised him for not removing it before bailing.
Thursday, March 04, 1999 9:24 PM
+mia/cain posted the following information about the 350th Fighter Group
which will provide some perspective on the official recognition of the
efforts attributed to Earl's outfit using the then outmoded P-39
" Extract from General Orders No. 86, War Department, Washington,
D.C. 8 November 1944"
"...citation of the following unit... is confirmed... in the name
of the President of the United States as public evidence of deserved honor
and distinction. The citation reads as follow:"
"The 350th Fighter Group is cited for outstanding performance of
duty in action against the enemy in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations
on 6 April 1944. ......Although assigned exclusively to air defense and
reconnaissance because its battle-worn and outmoded aircraft were considered
dangerously inferior to enemy fighters, this group, realizing that certain
primary targets could be effectively covered only by its own airplanes,
voluntarily assumed full responsibility for this coverage. Of their own
volition and in addition to their designated duties, personnel within the
Group converted P-39 Aircraft into fighter bombers......"
".......While flying 10 missions, comprising 75 sorties, on this
day the group, in the face of intense antiaircraft fire, destroyed 1 highway
bridge and 2 railroad bridges, 2 air warning installation, 1 barracks building
and 2 trucks, and inflicted many casualties on enemy personnel and heavy
damage on numerous other military buildings and vehicles. Just as one flight
of six P-39 dive bombers was completing an attack on enemy communications
in the Grosseto-Pisa area, they were intercepted by 10 or more ME-109's
and FW-190's. Gallantly ignoring the odds against them, and despite damage
to their own aircraft, the P-39 pilots unhesitatingly turned into the larger
hostile formation and attacked with such skill and determination that five
enemy fighters were shot down, two were damaged and the remainder driven
from the battle area. Elsewhere on the same day, elements of the 350th
FG maintained vigilant fighter protection throughout their assigned areas,
vigorously turning back enemy attacks upon Allied installations along the
eastern Coasts of Corsica and Sardinia......"
"The outstanding leadership, tireless devotion to duty and extraordinary
heroism displayed by the officers and men of the 350th FG during combat
operations on 6 April 1944 have set this Group above and apart from other
units involved in comparable effort during the same period and have reflected
great credit upon themselves and the military service of the United States."
footnote.... I found this in the book written contemperaneosuly with
the Med. campaign about the 350th. There are pictures of the awards ceremony
picturing Lt. General John E. Cannon awarding the Battle Honor Streamer
to the 350th Group.. in the background you can see a Marauder. I will take
a scan or two or three tommorrow.
..... 6 Aircobras, some with battle damage coming off a divebombing
run, turning into and then knocking out 5 messies, and FWs, damaging two
others and chasing at least 3 more off......
Friday, March 05, 1999 3:32 PM
I am typing up the details of the April 2 & 6, 1944 operations.
It will be quite lengthy, so am doing a little at a time on a notepad.
When finished, will copy to a message and post it. (Or would you rather
have it piecemeal as I write it?) The units involved were the 346th and
347th Fighter Squadrons based at Ghisonaccio, Corsica while my 345th FS
was based at Alghero, Sardinia (sob). I did participate in some of so-called
skip bomb missions (actually spike bombing with delayed bomb fuses), but
each time out from Alghero had to return to Ghisonaccia to refuel and rearm
after the first mission, then fly another mission and return to Sardinia.
This was necessary because of the distances and our fuel capacity.
The citation +mia/cain refers to is called Presidential Unit Citation.
At the time I understood that it was mainly in recognition of our activities
during Operation Strangle. The citation seems to have selected a single
event to dramatize and perhaps to impress those who had the authority to
grant the recognition. But how would I know. I wasn't in the loop - just
a fighter jock!
Thursday, March 11, 1999 3:58 PM
The following was sent to me by Hugh D. Dow. I left off the quotes in
case somebody wants to copy portions of it.
Hugh D. Dow wrote:
St. Exypery, who flew the airline route from Paris to South America
in the 30s--and who became famous as an author (The "Petit Prince",
"Flight to Arras", etc.--took off from Borgo field at Bastia
on 31 July 44 on a reconnaissance flight to France--and disappeared. He
was a hero to the French and stories keep cropping up about potential discoveries
of his a/c on the sea bed, over 50 years later. A friend in Corsica who
was six to ten during the war sent this "letter" that was published
in the US during the war. He lives in a village above Ghisonaccia, having
retired from 'Air Chance' after many years as a crewman (not as a pilot,
though he did fly civilian a/c for a while). Anyway, Dominique, who used
to visit Ghisonaccia often during the war and learned to speak some English,
and how to play baseball, from the GIs, sent this along. As one who flew
missions out of Corsica I thought you might find it interesting. The French
AF also flew P-39s and later P-47s from Corsica--something I was unaware
of at the time. Dominique and one or two others are writing a book on the
WW II air operations that took place on Corsica.
"Letter to an American", by Antoine de Saint Exupery
I left the United States in 1943 in order to rejoin my fellow flyers
of "Flight to Arras". I traveled on board an American convoy.
This convoy of thirty ships was carrying fifty thousand of your soldiers
from the United States to North Africa. When, on waking, I went up on deck,
I found myself surrounded by this city on the move. The thirty ships carved
their way powerfully through the water. But I felt something else besides
a sense of power. This convoy conveyed to me the joy of a crusade.
Friends in America, I would like to do you complete justice. Perhaps,
someday, more or less serious disputes will arise between us. Every nation
is selfish and every nation considers its selfishness sacred. Perhaps your
feeling of power may, someday, lead you to seize advantages for yourselves
that we consider unjust to us. Perhaps, sometime in the future, more or
less violent disputes may occur between us. If it is true that wars are
won by believers, it is also true that peace treaties are sometimes signed
by businessmen. If therefore, at some future date, I were to inwardly reproach
those American businessmen, I could never forget the high-minded war aims
of your country. I shall always bear witness in the same way to your fundamental
qualities. American mothers did not give their sons for the pursuit of
material aims. Nor did these boys accept the idea of risking their lives
for such material aims. I know - and will later tell my countrymen - that
it was a spiritual crusade that led you into the war.
I have two specific proofs of this among others. Here is the first.
During this crossing in convoy, mingling as I did with your soldiers,
I was inevitably a witness to the war propaganda they were fed. Any propaganda
is by definition amoral, and in other to achieve its aim it makes use of
any sentiment, whether noble, vulgar, or base. If the American soldiers
had been sent to war merely in order to protect American interests, their
propaganda would have insisted heavily on your oil wells, your rubber plantations,
your threatened commercial markets. But such subjects were hardly mentioned.
If war propaganda stressed other things, it was because your soldiers wanted
to hear about other things. And what were they told to justify the sacrifice
of their lives in their own eyes? They were told of the hostages hanged
in Poland, the hostages shot in France. They were told of a new form of
slavery that threatened to stifle part of humanity. Propaganda spoke to
them not about themselves, but about others. They were made to feel solidarity
with all humanity. The fifty thousand soldiers of this convoy were going
to war, not for the citizens of the United States, but for man, for human
respect, for man's freedom and greatness. The nobility of your countrymen
dictated the same nobility where propaganda was concerned. If someday your
peace-treaty technicians should, for material and political reasons, injure
something of France, they would be betraying your true face. How could
I forget the great cause for which the American people fought?
This faith in your country was strengthened in Tunis, where I flew war
missions with one of your units in July 1943. One evening, a twenty-year-old
American pilot invited me and my friends to dinner. He was tormented by
a moral problem that seemed very important to him. But he was shy and couldn't
make up his mind to confide his secret torment to us. We had to ply him
with drink before he finally explained, blushing: "This morning I
completed my twenty-fifth war mission. It was over Trieste. For an instant
I was engaged with several Messerschmitt 109s. I'll do it again tomorrow
and I may be shot down. You know why you are fighting. You have to save
your country. But I have nothing to do with your problems in Europe. Our
interests lie in the Pacific. And so if I accept the risk of being buried
here, it is, I believe, in order to help you get back your country. Every
man has a right to be free in his own country. But if and my compatriots
help you to regain your country, will you help us in turn in the Pacific?"
We felt like hugging our young comrade! In the hour of danger, he needed
reassurance for his faith in the solidarity of all humanity. I know that
war is indivisible, and that a mission over Trieste indirectly serves American
interests in the Pacific, but our comrade was unaware of these complications.
And the next day he would accept the risks of war in order to restore our
country to us. How could I forget such a testimony? How could I not be
touched, even now, by the memory of this?
Friends in America, you see it seems that something new is emerging
on our planet. It is true that technical progress in modern times has linked
men together like a complex nervous system. The means of travel are numerous
and communication is instantaneous - We are joined together materially
like the cells of a single body, but this body has as yet no soul. This
organism is not yet aware of its unity as a whole. The hand does not yet
know that it is one with the eye . And yet it is this awareness of future
unity which vaguely tormented this twenty-year-old pilot and which was
already at work in him.
For the first time in the history of the world, your young men are dying
in a war that - despite all its horrors - is for them an experience of
love. Do not betray them. Let them dictate their peace when the time comes!
Let that peace reassemble them! This war is honorable; may their spiritual
faith make peace as honorable.
I am happy among my french and american comrades. After my first missions
in the P-38s Lightnings, they discovered my age. 43 years! What a scandal!
Your American rules are inhuman. At 43 years of age one does not fly a
fast plane like the Lightnings. The long white beards might get entangled
with the controls and cause accidents. I was therefore unemployed for a
But how can one think about France unless one takes some of the risks?
There they are suffering, fighting for survival-dying. How can one judge
those - even the worst among them - who suffer bodily there, while one
is oneself sitting comfortably in some propaganda office here? And how
can one love the best among them? To love is to participate, to share.
In the end, by virtue of a miraculous and generous decision by General
Eaker. My white beard fell off and I was allowed back into my Lightning.
I rejoin Gavoille (French pilot), of "Flight to Arras", who
is in charge of our Squadron in your reconnaissance Group. I also met up
again with Hochedé, also of "Flight to Arras", whom I
had earlier called a Saint of WAR and who was then killed in war, in a
Lightning. I rejoin all those of whom I had said that under the jackboot
of the invader they were not defeated, but were merely seed buried in a
silent earth. After the long winter of the Armistice, the seed sprouted.
My squadron once again blossomed in the daylight like a tree. I once again
experience the joy of those high-altitude missions that are like deep-sea
diving. One plunges into forbidden territory equipped with barbaric instruments,
surrounded by a multitude of dials. Above one's own country, one breathes
oxygen produced in America. New York Air in a French sky. Isn't that amazing?
One flies in that light monster of a Lightning, in which one has the impression
not of moving in space but of being present simultaneously everywhere on
a whole continent. One brings back photographs that are analyzed by stereoscope
like growing organism under a microscope. Those analyzing your photographic
material do the work of a bacteriologist. They seek on the surface of the
body (France) the traces of the virus that is destroying it. The enemy
forts, depots, convoys show up under the lens like minuscule bacilli. One
can die of them.
And the poignant meditation while flying over France, so near and yet
so far away! One is separated from her by centuries. All tenderness, all
memories, all reasons for living are spread out 35,000 feet below, illuminated
by sunlight, and nevertheless more inaccessible than any Egyptian treasures
locked away in the glass cases of a museum. Antoine de Saint Exupéry.
Stay well, Dominique
Thursday, March 18, 1999 6:09 PM
The following is from Clifford W. Nelson, a flying school classmate of
mine who flew Spitfires in WW II. The squadron he joined briefly
was the347th FS. The John F. Porter mentioned was also a classmate
and lives on a ranch in Idaho. The Gen Graves referred to was
KIA in a 75mm armed B-25 off the coast of Italy in Jan 44, right after
he became a B/G.
Cliff Nelson writes:
I first joined the 350th FG in Morocco in Feb 43 flying 39's in Coastal
Command - a bummer - flying circles around Mediterranean convoys. A
little later I heard somehow that a friend of mine, John Porter, was in
the 31st FG in front line action. I requested a transfer to
the 31st which was approved by Gen Graves, Cmdr Second Air Defense, with
the stipulation that I first spend three months as his courier pilot at
Maison Blanche in Algiers. As a result, I did not reach the
31st until the had moved to NE Sicily around 1 Sep 43.
Porter checked me out in the Spit V the next day and I flew my first
mission over Salerno the day after that - as I recall. a couple days later
we took off en masse to move to a new location at Salerno. Being
the new guy , naturally I got the oldest, war-weariest, Spit V in the outfit
to make the move. Thirty minutes later that old Spit sank to its grave
in the Tyrrhenian and I was paddling about in a one-man raft trying to
enjoy the peace and quiet after the flurry of noise and Action of a failed
engine and bail out at 600 ft. A few hours later, An RAF Walrus
plucked me out of the drink and took me to a base in Sicily. I
managed to catch a ride on an LST a a few days later and they dumped me
on the beach at Salerno where I hooked up again with the Squadron.
Thus began my inauspicious career with the 31st FG.
Actually Cliff, those are the stories worth hearing. I think
folks get caught up to easily in the idea that everyone was in those big
dogfights and becoming aces all the time. That tends to miss
the point that for every "Ace" there were many many more guys
like yourself doing your job and trying to get through the war, while maybe
"chasing the chicks" on occasion.
I spent a long time researching a couple of RAF squadrons that flew Spits
and got to know some of those guys fairly well, in fact I helped to organize
their first reunion back in 1986. No Aces, but some really funny
and classy gentlemen, who had all kinds of stories about the goofy things
they did in their off time. They didn't talk about combat much,
but that was fine with me as I got a much better understanding of what
the day to day life was like.
Listening to Earl pass on some of his experiences is much the same.
So actually I'd like to hear more about what life was like for you with
the 31st. Sounds like your ending up in that War weary Spit
and then finding yourself in the drink, was rather an auspicious start
In a followup message Earl continues...
For the record, Cliff forwarded to me his email to Dan. Here is my reply
to Cliff. .....................................................................................................................
I sure enjoyed your anecdotes. I knew you took a swim in the Adriatic,
but I guess I assumed that you had been shot down. I sent them to Hugh
D. "Rowdy" Dow, who is the 350th Fighter Group historian and
he was tickled pink to get them. At the time he was in the 346th Fighter
Squadron, but later became Squadron Commander of the 347th FS (the one
you were in briefly). He had a lot of questions that he would like answered
about some of the guys. I will relate them to you in a separate message
and you may wish to relay the answers to him directly.
Thursday, March 19, 1999 9:09 AM
Cliff's Anzio Episode...
Here is what Clifford W. Nelson sent to +Tiff. This story
is very appealing to me because of the ingenuity displayed. Cliff
(his nickname was Dick then) and I were airplane mechanics in Puerto Rico
together before we had pilot training. That experience was helpful
to him in this case.
I have an account of a B-25 running out of fuel and deadsticking into
that Anzio strip some days later. I will try to find it. I'm
not as well organized as +Tiff.
From: Clifford Nelson
Sent: Lunes 8 de Febrero de 1999 1:42 PM
Subject: Anzio Episode
It seems that my most memorable experiences with the Spit are occasions
of emergency and near disaster. e.g., the following:
My squadron was on top cover one day - about D-3 - during the Anzio invasion. We
had a very small perimeter established which included a small grass Italian
primary flight training field. At briefing we'd been told that it would
be possible to use the field in case of emergency.
Toward the end of the mission we started taking some heavy 88 air bursts. Shortly
after that, my Spit IX engine started running rough and loosing power. It
quickly became apparent that I'd not be able to make it back to our home
base. I eased the sputtering plane down toward the grass field,
dropped the gear and plopped her in. I finished the roll-out
at the north end near an old brick building where we were told an aircraft
mechanic would be stashed. I jumped down and dashed for the
building amid the damnedest deafening barrage of big-gun noises my unconditioned
Air Corps ears had ever heard. I found the mechanic in a foxhole
dug by the near wall, but he refused to come out during the heavy gun exchange. He
showed me a barrel of gas and a bucket a few yards away against the wall.
I went back to the plane and noticed a shrapnel hole in the left side engine
cowling and a smear of oil along the underside. I fished a
coin from my pocket and removed the side panel. I found the leak. An
oil line had been split open just above the left mag and drenched the magneto
with oil. I guessed that the oil had somehow grounded out the
mag and the engine had loaded-up running on right mag which caused the
power-loss. I found a piece of scrap wood on the ground and whittled a
plug that after repeated alterations fit the slit exactly. I
pressed it into the slit and found an old piece of canvas on the ground
which I tore into strips and tied around the peg. I checked
the oil reserve and estimated that I had a couple of quarts or so. I
dashed back and got a bucket of gasoline from the barrel and sloshed it
over the magneto. I then huddled against the building a few
minutes to let it dry out. I didn't have high hopes that the
"farmer-fix" would work, but I had to try something to get out
of that hell-hole, for the Navy kept shelling the Germans and they kept
shelling the Navy.
I left the cowling on the ground and clambered into the cockpit. Not
expecting the engine to run up to power, I didn't put on my safety-harness.
I flicked on the switch and pressed the starter buttons. She coughed and
spluttered for a while then burst into full power. I kicked her around
and put on full emergency power and took off snatching her airborne just
over a line of trees at the south end of the field. Some German gunner
spotted me as I climbed out and commenced pot shooting at me with an 88.
I turned out to sea and "ginked$quot; my way out of his range then
turned south and flew back to home base. I was an hour and a half or so
late, but happily back. My crew chief wagged his head in disbelief at the
'fix' I'd rigged up.
I kissed that Spit before walking away.
Thursday, March 19, 1999 9:18 AM
The 347th FS...
Below is the reply I received from Hugh D. Dow after I sent him the information
about Clifford Nelson being in the 347th Fighter Squadron.
Of the people mentioned below, I only knew Rupert P. "Rip"
Collins. Collins served with me in conducting a summer aviation
course for high school teachers at the University of Puerto Rico in 1950.
You really made my day with the input on Nelson. I had heard
that he might have transferred to the 31 FG but nothing definite. Finally,
we will be able to complete the record on him as regards the 350th. He
must have joined the 347th Sq of the 350th Gp with:
John B. Byrn, (KIA-Aug 43--while circling some aircrew in a dingy off
the coast of Algeria, waiting for an Air Rescue launch or Walrus; he misjudged
his altitude and dug a wingtip into the sea. As luck would have
it, the aircrew turned out to be Luftwaffe)
Thomas W. Byrnes, (reportedly KIA with the 31st FG. If Clif
Nelson has anything he can add to "Twig" Byrnes story, I'd appreciate
the info for the 350th Archive collection)
Rupert P. "RIP" Collins. RIP rotated to the US
in April 44. Retired Colonel USAF, died about 2 years ago; Tucson
Edward F. Gallup. Ed returned to the US after
completing his tour in May 44. I believe that he had a twin
brother? If Cliff knows anything about Ed Gallup, I'd appreciate the info. No
contact since the war.
Roy N. Judah. Roy was wounded at Djidjelli, the village near
Tahar, by falling AAA shrapnel while a bunch of pilots stood on the veranda
of the small French beach resort Hotel on the edge of town, watching an
air raid on the port area--one of the many locations where troops were
gathering along the Algerian coast for the invasion of Sicily. I
think this was the raid where two P-39s scrambled from Tahar flew right
by the Hotel (where most of the officers in the area gathered to drink
anything available [Not Much] and swap stories at the end of the day) firing
at a Jerry bomber before it escaped into low clouds; the raid occurred
just before dark. Judah was KIA in Jan 44 over Elba Island while
strafing a port facility. Pulled up off the target, entered
a thin layer of clouds, then plunged into the sea. Flight encountered
flak, did not think cloud layer thick enough to be a problem for Judah.
If Clif has any other recollections of his brief tour with the 347th
Sq. would appreciate if he could pass them along. He
probably joined the 347th at Orleansville, Warnier field, Litterally, being
a strip scraped out of a wheat field. I was there in April with
the 346th; we replaced the 347th when it went to Tunisia in April/May for
the final show in that campaign. I assume that he flew out of
Oran while flying courier runs for Col. Graves, 2 Air Def Div., later 63rd
Ftr Wg. Graves, was KIA in a 75mm armed B-25 off the coast of Italy in
Jan 44, right after he became a B/G.