MY STAY IN ITALY – Dec. 1943 – May 1945
By: Lamar H. Good
450th Bomb Group (H)
720th Bomb Squadron (ORDNANCE)
We arrived in Bari, Italy December 31, 1943. The first night
was spent in a camp west of the city. After several days here, we were convoyed
by 2 ½ ton trucks to an air base near Manduria.
Lieutenant Correia asked for volunteers to return to Bari to
search for the 450th Bomb Groups equipment so the planes could begin
flying from this location. T/Sgt Zeller and myself were sent. We made the trip
in a Jeep. The 15th Air Force Headquarters was our lodging place.
Sleeping on cots in a warm building was quite a treat after the pup tent I left
at Manduria. We checked ships and their manifests daily. After a three week
fruitless search, we made our way back to our base.
We returned to the tents and the rain. It rained and rained
and rained some more. My geography books had always told me that Italy was a
sunny place. Did I ever get a surprise?
Crew Chiefs were Buck Sergeants. There were 5 crews – 1 chief
and 4 men to a crew. The chiefs were notified in the afternoon of the number of
the ship and the missions to be flown the next day. About 3 or 4 o'clock in the
evening, the fellows would commence to load the bomb trailers with bombs. The
bombs were taken to the assigned planes and were left under the bomb bay. Later
the Armament Group came to crank up the bombs and load the plane.
Following their work the ordnance men returned to fin and
fuse then an arming wire was hooked to bomb bay rack and through nose and tail
fuse. A B-24 plane prepared for a mission carried 10 – 500 pound bombs. Some
times a mission called for 100 pound bombs. A load contained 30 to a ship. Then
at other times fragmentation bombs were needed – 120 on either side of plane.
20 incendiary was a load.
2 – 1000 pound bombs made up a load. These were only used on
two different missions. They were used at Regensburg and again in Southern
The Ordnance crews would work until 1 or 2 o'clock in the
morning. Finishing our job for the night, we made our way to the Mess Hall. We
seldom got up for breakfast except when pancakes and fresh eggs were served.
To receive a package from home one had to write a letter
requesting what one wanted or needed. The letter would be taken to the Post
Office along with items being sent. The letter would be stamped and dated as it
could only be used one time. My aunt was always writing please I want to send
you a package. A soldier always thinks of food so I wrote asking for candy.
When her package arrived it was a 5 pound box of hard rock candy. You couldn't
eat it or give it away – even the Italians wouldn't eat it. I learned to be a
little more specific.
Some time later we wanted to play poker but soon remembered
that we didn't have any poker ships. One of the fellows came up with a bright
idea of using Good's candy. The candy was brought out and was used until a
piece became too sticky at which time it was replaced with a fresh piece. My
aunt never heard about the poker games had she learned, she would never have
spoken to her nephew again.
In our free time we wrote letters home, played poker, read
and some times listened to Axis Sally on the radio. Her programs were filled
with propaganda but many times contained half truths. For instance before we departed
Italy, she announced that the Cottontails were being sent home but we would
never make it across the Atlantic. The ships would be sunk. She had an inside
track on what was going to happen. Shortly after that announcement, orders came
for us to return to the States. The soldiers listened to her because she planed
the latest American songs.
I took advantage of some of the USAFI (United States Armed
Forces Institute) courses taught by officers from Headquarters. I attended
these classes several times a week. When I was discharged from the service, I
enrolled at the University of Houston. I received credit for 18 semester hours.
During the spring of 1944 Arnold Quackenbush, Fred Chapman,
Lawrence Rice, Lamar Good and Bernard Sutton decided to pool their monies and
have a tufa block house built in the olive grove on the base.
An Italian builder was hired. The builder was driven by
truck to the tufa quarry where he selected the blocks to be used. A concrete
floor was poured and the tufa blocks were used for the sides then a fireplace
was added. The incendiary bombs came packed in elongated wooden boxes that were
lined with tin. We used the tin to roof our house with. The fuse boxes were
squared wooden ones that made excellent foot lockers hat personal items were
At a later date a bedroom was added to our house. This room
had a wooden floor instead of concrete. It was then that Carl Tussy came to
A man and his wife with 3 daughters lived in an olive grove
back of our house but a distance away. We would load up our truck with laundry
and take it to their place to be washed and ironed. I do not know the names of
this family but I do remember that they called me Sargente Buono.
One summer day John Phillips, Fred Chapman, Arnold Quackenbush
and Lamar Good drove to Taranto for the day. We did the usual things like shop
and sight see. Before leaving the city we paid a visit to the British Red Cross
where we were severed tea and crumpets.
Rome was liberated in June 1944. Shortly afterwards a B-17
was sent to take John Phillips, Norris Johnston, Fred Chapman and Lamar Good
there for five days of R and R (Rest and Recreation). The B-17 was used because
it had more space up front to carry passengers than did the B-24. The pilot
gave us a never to be forgotten ride by circling Mount Vesuvius while battling
with a troublesome engine. In spite of the engine we finally arrived in Rome.
Our first night in Rome was spent at Mussolini's Youth Camp
east of the city which was quite a distance from most of the places we desired
to see. The next day we located a room in a private home downtown.
The Germans surrendered on the 7th of May
The 14th day of May 1945, we fellows were loaded
on B-17's and flown to Naples. We spent 2 days there in an old building that
had been converted to accommodate service personnel. It had a Mess Hall, bunk
beds to sleep in and rest rooms. This place was near the docks.
The 16th of May we boarded the USS West Point. We
were on the high seas for 8 days before we arrived in Newport News, Virginia.
It took us 29 days going over to Italy on a liberty ship so this was like a
dream come true. We were sent back home to train to service B-29 planes then be
sent to the Pacific. Thank the dear Lord that the Japs gave and that never
My wife and I were among the 30 people of the 450th
Bomb Group who made the trip back to Manduria to dedicate a marker that stands
at the entrance of the old air base. Mayor Caprino and men from San Vito took
part in the program held there on April, 1991. It was a happy and emotional
experience. That evening we dined and were entertained at San Vito. Mayor
Caprino graciously invited us to visit him at his office in Manduria.
On April 12th all 30 of us boarded our bus to
Manduria where we were met o the outskirts of the city by police who escorted
us to Mayor Caprino's office. The Mayor presented the fellows with 3 bottles of
Mandurian wine. Mrs. Caprino sent toilet articles for the wives. We were given
such a warm welcome that we will always remember our happy time spent in Italy.
There's one thing I would like to mention here. When I was
there during WWII, I remember a well in downtown Manduria. We were told that
Hannibal had watered his elephants here. I found this so interesting that when
I came home I told all of my friends about it. I couldn't find it in 1991. What
happened to the well?
Lamar H Good