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S/Sgt. Vernon D. Hasley
723rd Squadron




Above Information courtesy of 450th Bomb Group (H) The "Cottontails" of WWII and Turner Publishing Company



Daryl, aged 22





Fort Myers, 1942



Salt Lake City, 1942



Manduria, 1944



Gunnery School, ID Card



Flight Time, Page 1



Flight Time, Page 2



Specialist Certificate

War Diary of Vernon Hasley – 723rd Squadron, 450th Bombardment Group (H)

 

Original Crew Of the "Tung Hoy" 

 

2nd Lt. John H Lane – Pilot

2nd Lt. Robert G Zink – Co-Pilot

2nd Lt. Dale F Robertson – Navigator

2nd Lt. Chris E. Dalgish – Bombardier

Sgt Leroy F Adams – Engineer/Gunner

Sgt Edward J "Red" Macafee – Nose Gunner

Sgt John B "Gene" Tierney – Radio

Sgt James "Ack Ack" Keleshian – Waist Gunner

Sgt William R "Bill" Campbell – Ball Turret

Sgt Vernon D Hasley – Tail Turret

 

ITALY DIARY

Raid No. 1

 

Date – Jan 8/44

Combat Hours – 4 hrs.

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Lane

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Mostar, Yugoslavia

 

Story:

            This target was an airfield, but we missed the target and our bomb hit a minor airfield on the wrong side of the river. It was our first combat mission, and the flak was accurate and heavy. The plane went out of control and the alert for bail-out was given, but control was regained and I came back from that one. Had 40 P-38's for escort. One enemy fighter came up but the P-38's got him. The target was later demolished by other bombers.

 

Raid No. 2

 

Date – Jan. 13/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Lane

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Perugia, Italy

 

Story:

            We didn't observe where the bombs hit on this raid. Our 5 plane formation got separated from the main group, and three ME-109's attacked us, but didn't do much damage. None of them were shot down. We got flak three different times after we left the target, but  they weren't too accurate. My tail guns were out, and all I could do was watch the fighters come in – rough!

 

Raid No. 3

 

Date – Jan. 15/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt Gernand

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Prato, Italy

 

Story:

            We were supposed to hit Prato, but we screwed up, and never got to the target. Our 5 plane formation got separated from the main group, and we had a sight-seeing tour over the Isle of Corsica. On the way back, we dropped our bombs on some German fish circulating down in Allied water. It was what is known as a bombardiers wet dream. This was the second lone wolf job we had done, and we were getting tired of it. We saw some JU-88's on the way back, but they didn't bother us, nor we them.

 

Raid No. 4

 

Date – Jan. 16/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Gernand

Crew – Different crew

Target – Ossopo, Italy

 

Story:

            Bill and I volunteered to go on this mission. We couldn't locate the target. So we dropped our bombs on a bridge. We got separated from the main group again. We caught flak for 25 miles to the coast after we left the target. As we went over the coast 18 ME-109's attacked our formation of five planes. They shot down one of our planes, but all the crew bailed out. Four of the ME-109's were shot down and Bill got one of them. Four of the crew in another ship got the Purple Heart for being wounded. My tail guns were out again, and all I could do was help the waist gunners. They got two ships to their credit to. I think this taught them a lesson about lone-wolfing.

 

Raid No. 5

 

Date – Jan. 20/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – Capt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew, except the Co-Pilot, Bombardier and Navigator.

Target – Guidonia, Italy

 

Story:

            We were supposed to hit Guidinia today, but the bombardier couldn't find the target, so he dropped his bombs too late, then he saw the target. We had a little flak, but it was inaccurate. My tail guns were out, but it was okay, for we didn't see any enemy fighters. The target was an aircraft research laboratory, and experimental station. We had no fighter escort on this mission.

 

Raid No. 6

 

Date – Jan. 22/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – Capt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew, except Co-Pilot, Bombardier, and Navigator

Target – Arezzo, Italy

 

Story:

            This raid was a major raid helping an invasion. We had no fighter escort, but didn't need one. We really hit this target, and blew it off the map. No enemy fighters attacked us, and there was only a little very inaccurate flak. The formation was perfect all the way to the target and back. We saw the invasion taking place 15 miles south of Rome, as we were coming back. This time my tail guns were working perfect.

 

Raid No. 7

 

Date – Jan. 27/44

Combat Hours – 9 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Istres Le Tube, Southern France

 

Story:

            Practically the whole 15th Air Force struck out to raid this target. It was a fourteen hundred mile trip. We got within 45 minutes of the target and No. 4 engine quit completely, so we had to turn back. Just before we turned back, our P-38 escort fought off a bunch of ME-109's and we were afraid we would be picked up by them on the way back, but luckily we weren't. We were in the air 9 hours and 15 minutes. We heard from the rest of the boys after they came back, that it was a really rugged mission. One of the planes was lost, and only six men bailed out. There was 26 heavy flak installations around the target and they were really accurate. The P-38's kept off the fighters. The boys were burning the fumes off their gas tanks when they came back. The most important point was that the target was completely demolished. It was such a good job that General Twining, the Commanding General of the 15th Air Force, complimented the Group on doing such a good job. We liked to have not got credit for this one, but since we had flown so far into enemy territory, and stood the chance of getting shot down by enemy fighters, we got credit for it.

 

Raid No. 8

 

Date – Jan 29/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours

Pilot 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Siena, Italy

 

Story:

            There wasn't much excitement on this raid. No enemy fighter or flak to bother us. We had no fighter escort, but didn't need one. An hour before we were to hit this target, P-47's flew over all that area to pick up any enemy fighters that might be there. There was an undercast and we were unable to see the target, but we bombed it by E.T.A. (estimated time of arrival), from the I.P. (initial point), and we think we might have hit it, regardless of the clouds. All the guns were working perfect. This raid was a milk run; the kind I like. When we came back, and landed one ship came over and was unable to lower on landing gear. He circled the field for 2 ½ hours, and each time he came over, two men would bail out. Eight men bailed out, so that left the Pilot, and Co-Pilot. They flew the ship down to Lecce, and crash landed it without too much damage, and without hurting themselves. None of the guys were hurt who bailed out, but they'll probably realize now, the importance of a parachute. 

 

 

 

Raid No. 9

 

Date – Jan. 30/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Udine Campformido, Italy

 

Story:

            This was a nice raid this time. We had a perfect mission I think. It was the first time I wasn't sweating. The formation was perfect all the way there and back. We had 35 P-38's for escort. As we went over the target we got quite a bit of flak. One of the boys here in the barracks, got a piece of flak in the leg, and the Squadron Commander of the 720th got shot in the guts by flak and died. The target was an airfield, and we really knocked it off the map. After we left the target three ME-109's attacked us, but they didn't do any damage. 18 P-38's took after them and shot them down. I was disappointed because I didn't get to fire a shot at the ME-109's. We listened to American music over the B.B.C. (British Broadcasting Company) coming back.

 

Raid No. 10

 

Date – Feb. 3/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Pomtasieve, Italy

 

Story:

            We left to raid this target today, and when we got up pretty close to the target, we saw that there was an undercast 10/10, (complete undercast), over the target, so we turned back, and hunted for a target of opportunity. We found a hole in the clouds, and there was a factory down there just waiting to be bombed. We dropped our twelve 500-pound demos, (demolition bombs) and apparently we missed the target, as did everyone else. There was a little flak, one burst went off right under us, and it about half way scared Bill to death. We still don't see how it kept from hitting him. We didn't see any enemy fighter, and had no escort, but 15 minutes before we hit the target and 15 minutes after, P-47's and P-38's were to hunt out that area for enemy fighters. We had two generators out, and our heated suits didn't work, and we liked to have frozen. Just after we landed and were still coasting, the left tire went flat. If it had been flat before we landed we would have been splattered all over the runway now. The factory we bombed was in the town of Avezzano, Italy.

 

Raid No. 11

 

Date – Feb. 4/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Toulon, Southern France

 

Story:

            We were supposed to raid the submarine base at Toulon but we got up to the Isle of Corsica, and were called back on account of weather. There was an undercast, and an overcast, and we turned to the right, and a place opened up in the clouds. We found out we were in enemy territory and over the mainland of Italy, for the simple reason they started shooting flak at us. Three of the ships were hit lightly. We were missed somehow. If we had have gone on to Toulon, it would have been a rough one. We had no escort, and there was reported 60 to 70 enemy fighters there. The flak was reported at briefing as heavy, intense, and accurate. If all of us had have come back, it would only have been by sheer force of numbers, for eight groups were to have hit this target; our Group and seven more. We were to hit it in Squadrons, and 15 minute intervals. Maybe we are lucky we were called back.

 

Raid No.12

 

Date – Feb. 8/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 35 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Viterbo, Italy

 

Story:

            We left to raid Viterbo. We were to rendezvous with another Bomb Group, and all of us headed for the target. We hit the I.P. a little off course, and were unable to hit Viterbo (two short of a turn for a sky full of B-24's) but fortunately there was three airfields in a 20 mile radius, so we dropped on another target nearer to the coast on our way out. Hangars, barracks, and administration buildings were hit by the other Bomb Group, and we hit the runway and destroyed 10 or 12 planes. We were to have encountered 60 to 70 enemy fighters, and the flak was supposed to be medium, intense, and accurate. No one knows why, but no fighters, and no flak was seen, just luck I guess. We had no fighter escort, and my tail guns were almost inoperative. I sweated a little on that account, but nevertheless here I am writing down the account of this raid. The target we hit was Bolsena, Italy.

            The reason we didn't raid between Feb. 4 and Feb. 8, was because of rainy, snowy and sleety weather.

 

Raid No. 13

 

Date – Feb. 14/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Verona, Italy

 

Story:

            We left to raid this target today way up in northern Italy. It was a big marshalling yard. Lots of the planes turned back, before we got to the target, because of different things that went wrong with the planes. We had a P-38 escort and rendezvoused with another Bomb Group here over the field. When we got up to the target we couldn't tell where it was, because of an undercast. Lots of the planes just dropped their bombs on targets of opportunity, and some of them hit another railroad yard with about 200 cars on the tracks, at another little town on the way back. They removed it from the map. The flak over the target was very heavy, but we went around it. We were jumped by ME-109's, but the P-38's took care of them. We lost one plane, because of fighters. It was a Pilot we had flown with previously and another Pilots' crew. Most of the crew was here in the barracks with us, but the bunks are empty now, and their buddies are gathering up their clothing to turn it in. We saw some of Goerings "Yo Yo Boys"' (they are called that because you never see them unless they are going straight up or straight down). P-47's from a formation of B-17's, took care of them. Most of the crews are grounded today, because of frostbite. It was 60 degrees Fahrenheit below at 25,000 feet; the coldest we have ever encountered. My heated suit burned out, but I was lucky, for I didn't freeze. Bill and Ack Ack are grounded because of frostbite. We had two generators on the plane burned out, and the guns were iced over, so it was a good thing the P-38's kept the ME-109's off. Somehow or other, each mission seems to be getting tougher. 

 

Raid No. 14

 

Date – Feb. 16/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 30 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew except left waist gunner

Target – Pontassieve, Italy

 

Story:

            This was a pretty nice mission. We had no escort. There was no flak, nor enemy fighter. We really knocked this marshalling yard off the map. After we left the target No. 1 engine started leaking gas, so we had to feather it. We made it back alright. There was one thing today, we were flying just above the clouds all the way up and back, and it looked like we were in another world, all covered with snow, with big fluffy mountains all around. It was very pretty.

 

Raids No. 15 and 16

 

Date – Feb. 22/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Miller

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Regensburg, Germany

 

Story:

            This was our first raid in Germany and it was a long rugged one. There were about eight Groups going to this target. It was cloudy all the way up, and we were unable to see the target too well, but some of the other groups found a hole in the clouds earlier, and really plastered it. We had no fighter escort, but P-38's were supposed to pick us up an hour after we left the target, but they were a little too late. Before we got to the target 18 JU-88's circled around behind us and lobbed a few rocket shells at us, but they soon left and didn't do any damage. The flak over the target was terrible, but they couldn't see very well to shoot at us. After we got back south of the Alps in northern Yugoslavia, just when the P-38's were supposed to show up, about 40 ME-109's and FW-190's attacked us, but no P-38's to help us. The battle lasted about 30 minutes, and they got five of our planes. About 17 of the fighters were knocked down by us. I got one and Bill got one. Two of our buddies, Hahn and Vaughn, went down on one of the ships, but they bailed out. I was grounded because of frostbite on my fingers and face. 

 

Feb. 23/44 – Steyr, Austria

 

            My crew with our new Pilot, 2nd Lt. Barbati, flew today, but I couldn't go because of frostbite. This one was even worse than Regensburg. They were attacked by all kinds of enemy fighters, before the target, over the target, and after the target. They shot down around 37 enemy fighters, and we lost 7 of our bombers. Lots of the boys here in the barracks were lost. In fact only my crew and what few are left out of another crew are left here in the barracks. They got our Squadron Commander, and two more crews that I know, but I don't know the others. It's a pretty sad sight to see their buddies gathering up their belongings, and the big tears rolling down their cheeks, but this is what is known as war. I'm hoping and praying that our turn isn't next. These missions count two each, for they are so rugged.

 

Raid No. 17

 

Date – March 7/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 2nd Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Certaldo, Italy

 

Story:

            This was a milk run – one of those kind I like. This was a marshalling yard, and we hit it pretty well. There was no flak, nor enemy fighters, but there was a little excitement when we saw around 40 fighters in the distance, but when they came in closer, we saw they were our friends, the P-38's. The bomb release mechanism was broken and we were unable to drop our bombs on the target, after a perfect run, but when we got back out over the ocean, Bill and Leroy, and Chris released them one at a time by hand. One plane dropped his bombs thru his bomb bay doors, for he couldn't get the doors open – otherwise it was a quiet mission.

 

March 7 to 17

            My crew and I were sent to Rest Camp, a quiet little coastal village between these dates.

 

Raids No. 18 and 19

 

Date – March 17/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati (he got a promotion)

Crew – Regular crew except for a new Co-Pilot, 2nd Lt. Benz, who will be with us from now on, the other one made 1st Pilot, and has a crew of his own. His name is Lt. Zink.

Target – Vienna, Austria  

 

Story:

            We left to raid Vienna today. It was quite a long mission, and was supposed to be a rugged one, as all of them are over the hump. We were leading our wing, which consists of around 2 or 3 hundred B-2 dozens. We caught a little flak as we went over the coast of Yugoslavia, but here was no hits. We have long range escorts now, so three groups of P-38's escorted us up to the target; that was about 75 P-38's. P-47's were to be circling over the target when we got there. There was a 10/10 undercast and we had to drop our bombs on E.T.A. at the target. Everyone else turned back except us; we are known as the suicide Group. No fighters came up to attack us, and there was no flak over the target, so we made out alright, except we were on oxygen so long, and it was pretty cold. You are always given out after a mission like that.  

 

Raid No. 20

 

Date – March 18/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Lavariana, Italy

 

Story:

            Everybody went up to hit targets in this area today. We were to hit this airdrome that was under construction, while other groups hit other airdromes. We had no escort and again we were leading our Wing. It was a very clear day, and we really hit this target, destroying runways and about 15 enemy planes on the ground. No enemy fighters attacked us, but there was a good bit of heavy flak, that did no serious damage. You always get a few flak holes, but that doesn't matter. On the way back we saw where a couple more airdromes had been hit, and at one of them black smoke was rising from burning planes. This wasn't a bad mission at all. We did see a little accident when we got back. The left landing gear folded up on one plane and it tore it up beyond repair, but no one was hurt. That is a daily occurrence tho.

 

Raids No. 21 and 22

 

Date – March 19/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 20 minutes

Pilot – Lt. Colonel Gideon with our Squadron Commander, 1st Lt. Kellman as Co-Pilot.

Crew – Bill, Myself, and Keleshian were replacement on this crew.

Target – Steyr, Austria

 

Story:

            We were to hit this target again today. My crew was up there the 23 of Feb. We were following another Bomb Group today and they were leading our Wing. We had P-47's and P-38's escort today. We got within 30 minutes of Steyr and saw there was an undercast, so everybody else turned back, except our Group, as usual. We knew we couldn't see the target so we bombed Graz, Austria, a little ways this side of Steyr, and really layed it wide open. There was a hell of a lot of flak, and one plane was hit and had to fall back. Since the fighter escort went back with the rest that turned back, we had none, so as it always happens, four ME-109's attacked this plane that straggled back, and he went down. Two of the German fighters were knocked down before they got him, the crew that went down was a new replacement crew that was here in the barracks with us. Their buddies are gathering up their things tonight, and keeping their cigarettes and things that the supply room don't want. One of the boys just gave me a half dozen stamped envelopes that belonged to one of the boys. The mission otherwise was okay; we had several flak holes, but that is not unusual.

 

Raid No. 23

 

Date – March 24/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Steyr, Austria

 

Story:

            We were supposed to hit Steyr today, but as usual there was an undercast and we couldn't see the target that is, we were called back by the weather man, because he knew there was an undercast over the target. To start with we had to go up thru an overcast, and every time we do, the formation gets split up, and are scattered all over the sky, but we finally got back together pretty well, when suddenly about 300 yards in front of us two planes in one of our other Squadrons collided; one split half in two and they both dropped almost straight down for 6,000 feet into the ocean. No one got out, so that meant the death of 20 men right in front of our eyes. The strange part about it was that we were supposed to be flying in the position of one of the planes that went down, but when we got split up coming thru the overcast, we lost our place in that formation and had to move back to the next formation behind. You can call it luck if you want to. Boy after those two planes collided we were really jittery then. When a plane came anywhere close to us we reported it to the Pilot. After we had got all messed up coming up thru the overcast, we were 15 minutes late for our rendezvous with our 4 groups of P-38's escort, so they never showed up. Soon after that tho, we were called back to the base on account of bad weather over the target. We all came back except 8 ships from another one of our Squadrons, who had a new Colonel leading who thought he would get some glory. They struck out for northern Italy to hit a target over there. Their bombs didn't hit the target, and they were intercepted by 30 enemy fighters and 3 more of their planes and crews were lost. This Colonel may be in trouble for disobeying the order to come back to the base. The only reason we got credit for the mission, after dropping our bombs harmlessly in the Adriatic, was because the whole Group gets credit for a mission, and not a Squadron, so they couldn't help but give us credit, after three planes were shot down by enemy fighters.

            When those two planes collided when we were coming up thru the overcast, our radio operator sent in an S.O.S. to the base, and since we were supposed to be flying in that certain position, they thought it was us that went down. They had already assigned our crew chief to another plane, so when we came in to land, our crew chief and several more fellows came running out to our plane. We didn't know what it was all about until they told us about the S.O.S. It's a strange feeling to come back when you aren't expected to.

 

Raids No. 24 and 25

 

Date – March 23/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular Crew

Target – Bolzano, Italy

 

Story:

            This was a big marshalling yard, about 60 miles out of Brenner Pass. It was on the main rail line to the Brenner Pass. Three Wings hit this target, and we were in No. 4 position in the 2nd attack unit of the 1st Wing. We had two groups of P-38's escorts; our guardian angels. We saw about 10 enemy fighters, but they didn't attack because of the P-38's. The 1st attack unit ahead of us went through a solid wall of flak to hit the target. One of their B-24's went down. Quite a few of the flak guns went out of commission by bomb hits of the first unit. We caught a hell of a lot of flak, but we didn't lose any planes. We really hit this target, and from the pictures we took, the target was completely destroyed. We probably won't have to go back there for quite a while.

 

Raid No. 26

 

Date – March 30/44

Combat Hours – 3 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Sofia, Bulgaria

 

Story:

            This was only a short mission, but it was a hot one. At briefing they told us to expect anything. We thank God that we are back from this one. Before we got to the target, plane in No. 6 position in our Squadron lost control, did a snap roll and went down. We had two groups of P-38's escorting us to this target, there and back, and P-47's were circling the target when we got there. The flak over the target was the worst I have ever seen. Just before we were ready to drop our bombs two bursts of flak hit very close to us. One burst about six feet from the nose of the ship, tearing up the bombardier's instrument panel, and hit him in the shoulder, he salvoed his bombs. Macafee was hit in the leg, but it only raised a knot. Adams in the top turret was hit in the leg, but it didn't bring blood. I was hit in the foot when the second burst, burst between the rudder and my tail turret. It only bruised my foot a little, although there were two flak holes the size of hen eggs within a foot of my head. One passed in front of my head and the other behind my head, for there were identical holes on the opposite side of the turret, where the two pieces of flak had passed through. When the first burst hit wounding Chris, it knocked out all the hydraulic system and the electrical system. Our interphone system was knocked out too, and we had no way to communicate with each other. Three engines quit running momentarily, and we fell back about two miles behind our formation. As I have said before when a plane straggles their chances are very slim. We were attacked by two FW-190's at one time, and singly by two more. All the other turrets were out, and mine was the only one that could be operated manually. Of course we had two waist guns, but we didn't have much chance at that. The P-38's were too busy to help us, so we had to fight them off ourselves. I shot down the third plane that attacked us, so he won't be attacking anyone anymore. One of the Pilots up in our formation called up the P-38's and asked them to come down and protect us, and they slowed up the formation till we could catch up. That's the only way we were saved. Six P-38's stayed with us till we caught the formation and got out of danger. When we got back to the field, we had no hydraulic system, so we hand cranked the landing gear down, but we couldn't get the flaps down, and it's almost impossible to land without flaps. We circled the field and shot two red flares, so the ambulance could be waiting to take Chris when we got down. Lt. Barbati gave us the choice of hitting the silk, or riding her down. Bill and I and Tierney were ready to jump, but Tierney and Bill backed out, so I wasn't going to jump by myself. So with no brakes and no flaps we started in to try and land. 7 men were in the tail of the ship, to weigh the tail down and drag it in, so it would stop before we hit the trees at the other end of the runway. The tail wouldn't go down, so the Pilot pushed the brakes all the way to the floor, and thank God, there was enough pressure left to slow it down to a stop. The ambulance was waiting there and they bandaged up Chris's arm. He is in the Hospital, but he'll only be there a week or so. Our plane won't fly for about two weeks; it was flaked up so bad, (55 holes in vital spots, besides the little ones). We were riding with God this trip.

            When we got here we found that one of the Pilots that was shot down over Yugoslavia, had escaped with 4 of his crew. Two of the boys, are here in the barracks now telling their story of escape. They are coming back to the States in a few days. We don't have too long to go tho. We also had our Air Medal presented to us when we got back. Our crew was first to receive them because we are the oldest crew here, and have the most missions. We are mighty proud of them too.

            Oh yeah, the purpose of this mission was to sorta convince Bulgaria that it would be a good idea to get out of the war; from the way we hit this target, they may be convinced.

 

Raid No. 27 and 28

 

Date – April 4/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew - Regular crew except the Bombardier was Capt. Jefferson, who was taking Chris's place, since he is in the hospital from the flak wound.

Target – Bucharest, Rumania

 

Story:

            This was another convincer mission, and they should be convinced too, from the damage we did. The convincer paid yesterday on Budapest, Hungary, had the radio giving the news that they were evacuating it today. We had two groups of P-38's covering the whole 15th Air Force going up, but they got pretty busy, and we had no escort over the target. P-47's were supposed to pick us up at the target and escort us back, but they never showed up. We threw tinfoil out over the target to mess up their radar controlled AA guns, and it really did the job, for the flak never came anywhere close to us. We were attacked by 3 or 4 FW-190's after we left the target, but they didn't do any damage. I got two good shots at two of them, but I didn't have any luck knocking them down. None of our ships were lost, but I think another Bomb Group had 7 shot down by fighters. I thought it was a pretty good mission and I wasn't scared a bit. We really left that target in flames and ruins. There was smoke all above the town when we left, and three more wings hit it after we did.

 

Raid No. 29 and 30   

 

Date – April 5/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew except Capt. Jefferson was taking Chris's place as bombardier

Target – Ploesti, Rumania

 

Story:

            Well again today to Rumania to knock out the Ploesti oil fields and we really did a good job too. We were supposed to have two groups of P-38's meet us at the target and escort us back, but they showed up after the battle was over. The fighters, FW-190's, about 50 of them attacked us for 32 minutes before, during, and after the target. The first attack was about 27 FW-190's from high to head on. The first pass they knocked down three B-24's out of our high right Squadron. One of the old crews out of our Squadron was lost. Three crews were lost out of one of our other squadrons, and another Bomb Group operating out of our field lost 6 ships out of one Squadron. Another one out of that Bomb Group cracked up on take off and exploded, and only one man miraculously escaped. The rest were blown to bits. The flak over the target was very heavy, accurate, and intense, but we didn't notice it, for we were too busy with the fighters. They attacked right thru the flak. My tail guns were out, but the rest of the guns were working okay, and we kept them fought off pretty well. Tierney, Keleshian (Ack Ack), our two waist gunners, and Macafee, our nose gunner, all three shot down a plane apiece. That makes us all a ship now. Macafee has one, Adams has one, Campbell has two, Keleshian has one, Tierney has one, and I have two. That makes eight ships for our crew. This was a pretty rugged mission today, but I wasn't too scared. God must have been riding with us. I'd say there was about 16 or 20 B-24's lost all together today, but the biggest part of the men bailed out. Tomorrow we don't fly, because it's raining now.

 

April 16/44

            A B-24 caught on fire on the runway today, and exploded. Two firemen and three more fellows were killed. Two more B-24's nearby were wrecked, and the fire truck looked like someone had shoved it together like an accordion.

 

Raid No. 31.

 

Date – April 17/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew with Chris, who is back from the hospital, and a new waist gunner. He is taking Bill's place, who is going back to the States to train for a gunner instructor, then come back here to instruct replacement gunners.

Target – Sofia, Bulgaria (Chris is a little jittery, for he got hit with flak on the former Sofia raid) 

 

Story:

            We raided Sofia again today with 40 one hundred pound bombs. There were 4 or 5 groups raiding this target and targets nearby. We had a P-51 escort. They were really on the ball too, for only one enemy fighter got close enough to make a pass at us, and he got quite a bit of lead thrown at him, and so naturally he left, and the P-51's took care of him. They are going to be our own escort from now on. They are old hands at the game, for before they became Pilots on the P-51's, they were Spitfire pilots for 8 or 10 months here in Italy, so they know their business. Our group threw window (tinfoil) out over the target to throw their radar controlled AA guns off, and it did a good job too, for we didn't get a flak hole, and there was only one or two planes that got any at all. There was lots of flak, but they didn't come anywhere close to us. This was my first mission as ball turret gunner, and I think I'm going to like it. We really left this target in flames. The whole town was burning.

 

Raid No. 32

 

Date – April 20/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except Barch is taking Bill's place.

Target – Treviso, Italy

 

Story:

            Practically the whole 15th Air Force went to raid this target today. It seems that all the other rail lines and communication lines from Germany to the Italian front have been knocked out except this place, and a few more on the Adriatic side of Italy, so we were to bomb this place and finish things up, because they were getting supplies thru. Well we had an escort of P-51's, but didn't need them for we never saw any enemy fighters. There was quite a bit of flak, but there was an undercast, so we were unable to hit the target. Alternate targets were hit. We dropped our bombs in the Adriatic, and killed a few more German fish.

 

Raids No. 33 and 34

 

Date – April 23/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Schwechat, Austria

 

Story:

            This was an aircraft factory, and our Wing was to hit this target today. That includes 4 groups of 42 planes each. It was a clear day; perfect for a raid. We had P-47's, P-38's, and P-51's for escort off and on all the way to the target and back. We did a pretty good job on this target, only one plane was lost, not in our Group, but the flak was the heaviest I have seen in some time. It darkened the sun. We were using window which was a very good help, for very few planes got too many hits. We only got five holes. One man in one of our other Squadrons got hit lightly, but nothing serious. We never saw an enemy fighters. That's the way I like it.

 

Raid No. 35 and 36

 

Date – April 24/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Ploesti, Rumania

 

Story:

            Today was the marshalling yards at Ploesti. Our Wing hit this target, and another Wing hit Bucharest, only 40 or 50 miles away from Ploesti. We didn't meet our escort on the way up, but P-51's were over the target when we got there, and 20 P-38's picked us up after we left the target. We couldn't see the target for the smoke, for the B-17's had hit it 10 minutes before we got there, but we dropped our bombs and blew the hell out of the bunch of oil storage tanks. There was four more groups behind us, so I imagine there won't be much left of this target when they all get through with it. We saw no enemy fighters, that we could really say were enemy fighters. The flak was heavy, very heavy, although we were using window. There was supposed to be 300 heavy AA guns there, and don't ever forget it, they were there. We got about 40 or 50 holes, and I got one thru the ball turret that bounced off my rear, but it didn't bring blood. They were coming close tho. Three planes that we saw were lost. 8 men got out of one of them. Only one was from our Squadron; a new crew on their 2nd mission. We don't know whether any of them bailed out or not, but he was leading our Squadron, and when he got hit two of his engines caught fire on the same side, but he put them out. He almost cracked into us when he got hit, but we pulled out of formation and were out alone for about 20 minutes. If there had been any enemy fighters around, our goose would have been cooked. When we got back to the field one plane came in with a flat tire and feathered engine. His landing gear folded up and he spattered it out on the side of the runway. It was pretty well torn up, but I don't think it was anything serious. This is the 4th day in a row, rather 4 missions in a row for us, and we are flying again tomorrow.

 

Raid No. 37

 

Date – April 25/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Varese, Italy

 

Story:

            Well we struck out again to raid the MC-200, aircraft factory. They probably knew because of the weather that we would never be able to see the target, but nevertheless we went anyhow. We got up to our landfall at Ancona, and encountered heavy clouds at 21,000 feet. Our leader tried to take us thru them. He was trying to climb above them, but it was too steep of a climb, and our air speed dropped to 130, 10 miles slower than flying speed, so we nosed out to keep from going into an almost fatal stall. We couldn't see where we were going, because we were in clouds. The pilot called and gave orders to put on our chutes for fear we would run into someone in mid-air. We were lucky and got away without getting killed. Three more ships behind us stalled out and went into a spin. Two of them were lucky and straightened them out after falling almost straight down for 12,000 feet. Two guys bailed out of one of these ships. The third ship never pulled out of the spin, so they are splattered all over enemy country up there somewhere. We couldn't find the formation, and were afraid we would be jumped by enemy fighters. Our escort, the P-38's were supposed to be there about that time, and sure enough we saw way off in the distance, and then saw the B-24's. We saw the P-38's circling around, and thought they were just were playing around, but when we got back to the base, we found out that they were having a dog fight with enemy fighters. Before they got to the formation of B-24's tho, enemy fighters knocked down four of them. We ought to be thankful that we left when we did, for we were the only ship out of our formation of five planes that got back. Besides that four planes were off by themselves, and a group of P-51's, they looked like, escorted them for a few minutes, then attacked them and shot down 3 more. They were ME-100's with American Insignia on the wings. We dropped our bombs on a little town near the coast, just a village, but we got credit for the mission. One of the crews was here in the barracks that went down.

 

Raid No. 38

 

Date – April 28/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Orbetello, Italy

 

Story:

            Well here we go again to raid this port above the beachhead. They are shipping supplies in through this point by water, since we've played so much havoc with their rail shipping in Italy. We were supposed to be enemy fighter bait on this raid, for we were routed to fly up the Adriatic, across Italy to this port on the Mediterranean side, then all the way back across Italy to the Adriatic side and back home. A P-38 escort was supposed to pick us up just before we made landfall, but we were 15 minutes late for rendezvous, so they went on to the target and was there when we got there. It was a perfectly clear day, and we had a perfect bomb run, but as usual, the lead bombardier got his calculations wrong, and only one string of bombs hit the target, and the rest hit in the water in the harbor, doing only slight damage. The flak wasn't too heavy, but nevertheless two B-24's were hit and went down. All the men got out of one, which was the new Commanding Officer and crew of another one of our Squadrons. Don't know about the other one, for we didn't see them go down. No enemy fighters came up to intercept us.

 

Raid No. 39

 

Date – April 29/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Alessandria, Italy

 

Story:

            This raid today was one big marshalling yard. It was supposed to be a raid to stop supplies coming to the Italian front, but a hint was given, that it was a soften-up raid preceding an invasion. No one knows when the invasion is to be or where but between Corsica and the French coast, 4 Allied Aircraft Carriers are moving up. That could mean something. It was cold and cloudy here when we took off this morning, but when we got up in the Adriatic near northern Italy it cleared up, and was clear all the way to the target. Our P-38 escort was on the ball today. They picked us up at the landfall on the coast of Italy above Ancona, and there was 48 of them, our personal escort for our Group. They were right with us all the time too. We had a perfect bomb run, but a formation of B-17's came across our nose and liked to have ruined our run, but nevertheless we got 25 direct hits in the yard, destroying two choke points, knocking a bridge out, and tearing up about 300 yards of track and rail cars. The rest of the bombs hit on warehouses and a factory district near the yards. Not one burst of flak came up, but on the way back two little towns shot at us, but never came anywhere near us. This was what is known as a milk run, and I'd like for the rest of mine to be just like that one, but that's too good to be true. There were 5 more Wings hitting targets in that area. No enemy fighters came up to intercept us, but on the way back two of the P-38's had engine trouble, and as they protect us, we protect them, so they came down under the formation and flew close under us for protection. One of them flew formation with us all the way back. They are beautiful ships, and our guardian angels.

 

Raids No. 40 and 41

 

Date – May 5/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Ploesti, Rumania – our old friend. I have been on three of the four raids this Group has made to this target, and I can truthfully say, it's the roughest target I have ever had to fly over.

 

Story:

            Well for the past three days we have been briefed to go to Ploesti, and weather over the target held us back until today, and we made it. A group of P-38's, our escort, picked up inland on the Yugoslavian coast. We weren't the only ones hitting this target. Ten different groups were hitting this target in ten minute intervals before, and after us. We were the 2nd group over the target. It was pretty well torn up when we got there, but after we all got through, I imagine it was in quite a mess. When we got to the target P-47's and P-51's were giving us general cover over the target, since the P-38's had to turn back, because their gas supply wouldn't last. As usual, the flak over the target was heavy, intense, and accurate, even though we did use window, and we had some souvenirs when we got back, such as flak holes. There were quite a few enemy fighters there, but between us and the P-47's and P-51's, we took care of them. Seven of them, FW-190's attacked us over the target, right in the flak. I got several good bursts at them, but they weren't too brave today, and we didn't get much chance to shoot any down, although a gunner on a ship several hundred yards from us, sent one down in flames – the pilot bailed out. One FW-190 that attacked us from the tail had another one on his tail. He turned in toward us and fired a few burst, but the plane on his tail was a P-51, and he sent the FW-190 down in a hurry, but some of the new jerks, that have come in as replacements, kept shooting at our P-51, and if he hadn't have gotten out of the way soon, they would have shot him down. He probably got several holes in him. We only saw one bomber go down, but there was probably a few more went down out of the groups following us. None was lost out of our group. After we left the target, a group of angels picked us up (P-38's) and escorted us back to the Adriatic, and safety.

            Day before yesterday, when we took off for this target, but was called back on account of weather, one of the B-24's out of another Squadron, cracked up on take off, tearing it completely up, but no one was hurt.

 

Raids No. 42 and 43

 

Date – My 6/44

Combat Hours – 7 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except Lt. Robertson, our Navigator, who was sick all the way up and back on this mission. He has gall stones, and went to the hospital when we got back. I don't imagine he'll fly anymore. 

Target – Brasov, Rumania

 

Story:

            Well we went again today on a double header. It was a big marshalling yard, supplying the Germans on the Russian front. We had an escort of P-38's, and were the first of 11 groups to go over the target. (That makes about 500 planes) We really knocked the heck out of this target and you can imagine how it looked after 450 more planes went over dropping 1125 more tons of bombs. The flak was pretty heavy, but not too accurate. No planes were lost. Just after the target, as we were coming back over the Danube River, a half dozen fighters jumped us, but they didn't stay long, so we didn't have much chance to shoot at them. This wasn't too bad of a mission, and I'm well on the way to completion. Hope it won't be long.

 

Raid No. 44

 

Date – May 12/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 30 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except we had Chris as Navigator-Bombardier, and he did a pretty good job too.

Target – San Stefano, Italy

 

Story:

            This was a very secret mission. Enlisted men weren't even briefed, for fear they would spill the story. The officers were briefed at 8:00 last night, and we were woke up at 3:10 this morning to get ready to fly. This we found out this morning was an all-out raid by both the 12th Air Force, and the 15th Air Force. We thought it was a fore-runner of the invasion, but it wasn't. Targets from the front lines up all over Italy were hit today. This was a little port on the Mediterranean side above Rome, but it was an important port. The other Group was leading us over the target, they totally missed the target, but we came along behind and knocked the devil out of it. The flak wasn't heavy at all, but they know how to shoot there at that place. They got 4 direct hits on 4 different B-24's. Three of them went down. At first two were hit, one went out of control to the left, and the other one had the tail shot completely off and the ball turret shot out. Those two boys went down with the turrets, for they don't wear parachutes in the turrets, and they never had a chance to get out. No one got out of this ship, and it crashed into the ocean, and exploded. A little bit later another got a direct hit on the tail, tearing one side off. This one fell out of formation, and went into a spin. 6 guys bailed out, and the other four went down with the ship. We hope these boys didn't die in vain. Otherwise the mission was a success. We weren't attacked by any enemy fighters, and had no escort, since most of the fighters had bombing missions of their own. There was supposed to be another raid when we got back, but the weather wouldn't permit it.

 

Raid No. 45

 

Date – May 13/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours

Pilot – Lt. Miller, our one time Pilot, and two more officers, not our own, as Co-Pilot, and Navigator-Bombardier. All the enlisted men on my crew flew.

Crew – Regular crew, with the above exceptions

Target – Placenza, Italy

Story:

            Well this was a continuation of the mass operations of yesterday. We had an escort of P-51's today, and they stayed with us to the target and back. Strange there was no flak over the target, and no enemy fighters. We did a pretty good job over the target. We flew over our front lines to give the Infantrymen confidence in the B-24's, and the result, they moved the line up over a mile. They gave the worst Allied artillery barrage since Alamien, in Africa, when Rommel was beaten. There may be quite a push up there and maybe the invasion. Adams and Tierney finish up tomorrow, and then we are on pass Monday and Tuesday. Then Red and I have four missions to go. Happy day!   

 

Raid No. 46

 

Date – May 14/44

Combat Hours – 6 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Barbati as Pilot, and Lt. Zitler as Co-Pilot, taking Lt. Benz's place, since he was sick.

Crew – Regular crew

Target – Vicenza, Italy

 

Story: 

            Well this was a sweet mission for Adams and Tierney, the 50th mission. It was a marshalling yard in northern Italy. We were loaded with incendiary bombs. Quite a few planes went on this raid. We caught quite a good bit of flak on the coast as we went inland, but there wasn't any over the target. We weren't supposed to have any fighter escort, but we had P-51's and P-38's anyhow. We went over the target and was unable to drop our bombs, because of a wide turn, and there was quite a bit of smoke from Groups that had hit it before us. We passed over the target, made a 360 degree turn, and came back over again, but another group scheduled brought them over at the same time, so we had to turn away again, but we made another 360 degree turn, and back over again. Boy, this was really sticking our necks out, since the escort had gone on, but this time we dropped our bombs. No one hit the target that we were supposed to, but Chris's. We had a camera on our plane, and it showed Chris's bombs as the only ones hitting the marshalling yards. Of course, the others hit in the town and started quite a few fires, but our bombs were the only ones to hit the appointed target. Adams and Tierney were really sweating, but made it okay. No ships were lost, and no enemy fighters were seen.

 

Raid No. 47

 

Date – May 18/44

Combat Hours – 4 hours and 50 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except two waist gunners taking Adams and Tierney's place.

Target – Ploesti, Rumania – our old friend

 

Story:

            Well here we went again. The same old stuff; 50 enemy fighters, and 157 heavy guns, not counting the light guns, but thank God weather turned us back, and we tried to hit two alternate targets, but they were clouded over. We went over some town in Yugoslavia that really shot the flak up at us. We got a couple of holes in the tails, and one in the radio compass in the nose of the ship, wrecking it. A heck of a lot of ships were hit, but none went down. We had P-51's and P-38's escort, but we saw no enemy fighters. This was a pretty easy one. We were unable to see any place to drop our bombs, although some of them beat the weather to the alternate targets, and bombed them. We had to bring ours back with us.

Raid No. 48

 

Date – May 23/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except Sgt Cobbledick as tail gunner, Sgt Petroski as waist, and Sgt Tfiabar as radio operator- waist gunner

Target – Grop aferato, Italy

 

Story:

            Well this was a raid helping the push at the front. We were to bomb the German troops, as well as 19 groups up there, all of them bombing Germans; that's 800 planes, with 5,000 pounds of bombs each. We had engine trouble and had to feather No. 3 engine. We couldn't stay up with the formation, so we went over the target alone. A group of B-17's crowded us out of the target run, so we dropped our bombs, and headed for the coast alone. The flak was pretty heavy, but we didn't get much. We saw one plane go down; a B-24 from another group. We didn't lose any. We saw no enemy fighters, and we had and escort of P-38's.

 

May 24/44

            Today the group went to Weiner Nadstadt, Austria, the P-38 escort never showed up till after the target. They are jumped by around 200 enemy fighters before the target, and our Group lost 8 planes, 3 of them from our Squadron, and all old crews. Three of the boys could have finished up today, but they won't now. Me and my crew weren't flying, thank God!

 

Raid No. 49   

 

Date – May 25/44

Combat Hours – 5 hours and 45 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except two waist gunners and a tail gunner. They were new men and it was their 1st mission. Two of them were okay, but one didn't know from nothing.

Target – Porto Marghera, Italy

 

Story:

            Well again up to northern Italy to bomb targets to stop German supplies. 20 different groups were to go up in that area to bomb different targets. Our group had this oil storage dump to knock out. Our crew was the lead ship in the low left formation in the 1st attack unit. That's the first time Pat Barbati ever led a formation, and he did a pretty good job. We didn't have an escort, but we were suppose to have P-38's at the target when we got there. We never saw them, but they must have been around near, but no enemy fighters came up to intercept us. There was very little flak over the target and we really hit this target. Smoke from fires shot up to at least 10 thousand feet. We won't have to go back there for awhile. Only one to go….Am I sweating? Yes!

 

Raid No. 50 (and) that is ALL

 

Date – May 27/44

Combat Hours – 8 hours and 15 minutes

Pilot – 1st Lt. Barbati

Crew – Regular crew, except three new replacements

Target – Marseille, Southern France

 

Story:

            Well here was the last one, and naturally I was sweating. We got up at 3:10 this morning to make this mission. That was mighty early to be getting up, but up we got. We took off at 6:00 and was at the target at 10:45, and got back to the base at 2:15. That's an 8-hour day and a hard one. We were hitting a marshalling yard in Marseille. We had an escort of P-51's, and they were on the ball. We saw no enemy fighters. The flak over the target and at a couple of other little towns before the target was heavy, intense, and pretty accurate. Most all the ships had flak holes, and our leader had an engine shot out. No planes were lost, and thank God I'll never have to risk my neck again.

            I'll never have to go thru flak so thick you could walk on it. I'll never again have to kill or get killed. I'll never again have to stare down the barrels of two 20 MM cannons, and 4 machine guns. All I can say is I'm so thankful to still be around. Well that's all for this diary.

 

                        FINETO

 

                        ALL FINISHED



The front of Daryl's flight jacet
Painted with the name of his wife



The back of Daryl's flight jacket
Painted with the name of his aircraft



Daryl and LaRue (his wife) and Mr & Mrs T/Sgt. Ralph L.Wiley



Daryl and LaRue (his wife) and Mr & Mrs Wiley



Taken in St. Louis after returning to USA



Taken at home in 1945



Daryl and Albert Merlis in Virginia, 1945









Information provided by Daryl Hasley, 723rd Squadron

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