Silvio Damato of Cheshire laughs today when he recounts how he volunteered for a mission during World War II in an effort to rack up 32 missions, which would have rendered him eligible to go home.
An engineer with the 15th Air Force, drafted when he was 23 and based in Manduria, Italy, Mr. Damato was unexpectedly assigned to be the nose gunner in one of the lead B-24 bombers heading for a particularly volatile target in Europe.
When the plane began getting strafed with bullets, Mr. Damato chided himself for putting himself in such a vulnerable position. "What a stupid thing to do," he recalled saying to himself.
Luck was with him, however, and the plane and crew returned to base in one piece.
The mission was one of 28 Mr. Damato completed while serving a tour of duty from 1943-1945.
All the missions were successful except for the 13th when the B-24 he was flying in was shot down in Hungary. The crew had been in the process of bombing railroad marshaling yards in Vienna when the plane was blasted by anti-aircraft. With two engines gone, the crew baled out, landing in a field where they were picked up by a farmer and taken in a horse-drawn sleigh to a Russian camp. The Russians subsequently delivered them to Bucharest, Romania, in a freight car.
Except for a sprained ankle, Mr. Damato got through the episode unscathed.
Information courtesy of Jamie Damato, granddaughter of Silvio Damato