MASTER SERGEANT JOHN
To the best of my knowledge when the war started I had
graduated from high school. I got a job
at the Winchester Gun Factory in New Haven, Connecticut. I had been working on the rifles our
soldiers were using. My job was
assistant machine adjuster. I worked on
the rifle part where the bullets were inserted into the gun, which is called
Around September 1943 the rumor around the shop was that any
person under 24 years old, with no children would be drafted. The rumor was that the regular army or navy
was taking these persons. I did not
want the regular army because I was afraid of the jungles and I did not want
the navy because of the ocean being cold.
On October 6th of the year 1943 I joined the United
States Air Corp. I was sent to Fort
Devens for basic training and a physical examination. I was there for about three weeks when a captain asked me to sit
down because he wanted to talk to me. I
sat down and we talked. He said I
passed all the tests except for one. I
was disappointed because the rumor going around was that any person flunking
any tests was not going to fly, but could become a cook. The Captain stated I could not fly at high
altitudes because I had a broken nose.
He stated that I could not fly at 30,000 feet or above because of my
nose. At one time one of my brothers
and I had a fight and he punched me in the nose and broke it.
I waited about a week when I got orders to go to Laredo,
Texas to gunnery school. I kept records
of my plane flights for about month. My
records showed that I flew eight times and I passed as a gunner.
I received orders to go to Westover Air Force in
Springfield, MA. When I arrived I was introduced to my first squad and I was
assigned to be a tail gunner on a B24.
We got orders to take a plane and drill as a crew to go into the
war. In four weeks we practiced and
were ready. We flew twelve times and
visited Batiste, Cuba in our practice runs.
We flew the northern route. We
hit Michael Field, Goose Bay, Labrador, Blue West Iceland then England and
landed at Burguswood, England. I was
the tail gunner on a B-17 in England.
For the first time I was stretched out in the tail of the plane on the
floor. In the B-24 I would be in a
It seemed that at every airport where we stayed a few days a
dentist would work on my teeth. I think
it was so they could get experience.
After a couple of weeks our pilot received a letter from Doolittle, who
was in command, stating that the Italian Air Force of America needed men. The
order was to take a man off the crew and send him to Italy. Tail gunner, ball gunner and two waist
gunners drew cards. Since I drew a 2, I
was taken off the crew. The day this
happened the rest of the crew went on a mission into Germany. When they came back, four of them were taken
to the hospital.
My orders were to go to Manchester, England to go on a ship
with about 500 Americans and Canadian Air force personnel. I cannot recall how
long it took us to get to Naples, Italy where we disembarked. I received orders to report to Manduria,
Italy. When I arrived in Manduria I was
told that I was classed as a spare gunner, which meant that I would fill the
spot of any crew whose tail gunner was unable to do his job.
It happened that my first five trips were with the commander
of 450, squadron 720, and I was his eyes in the back. I sat in the tail turret facing the opposite direction of the
pilot. My assignment was to keep my
eyes on the ten planes in the squadron and inform the pilot if any plane was
having any trouble with engines or when a plane was flying away from his
position. I was also to report any
sightings of German planes. Before we
went to our plane we went to a briefing room.
In this room we were told and shown where we would be going, our target,
and the German planes that we might encounter.
I don't remember how I found out the Polish Army was
stationed with the British Army near us.
Every Friday was PX day. Any
soldier at Manduria could buy a small box of goodies. The goodies were 2 packs of cigarettes at 10 cents a pack,
chewing tobacco, shaving cream, after shave lotion, razor blades, smoking
tobacco, lighter fluid, and other items.
We paid $2.00 for the box and were very happy. The Polish commanding officer spoke with me about the
goodies. (Because I had gone to Polish
parochial school, St. Stanislaus, in New Haven, CT, I could understand most of
what he said.) Once I met the Polish
Staff Sergeant, I began buying bigger boxes of goodies that our boys didn't
want. They were then distributed to the
boys in the Polish Army.
On one of our expeditions, I don't remember the target, I
radioed the pilot that I saw a German squadron coming at us. We always flew with an escort squadron. On this day a Negro squadron that was
considered the best was escorting us.
The squadron successfully fought off the Germans and we were able to
proceed with our bombing mission.
My 36th mission was to Yugoslavia. During the
briefing we were told that we probably would not encounter any German planes
and thus we would not have our Negro escort.
A general was flying in our plane, we were plane number one, for this
mission which was completed successfully.
As a result the general got a Purple Heart and each officer received another
bar up. Everyone else just got credit
for the trip. In total I have 42
mission credits. Most of the missions
were carried out at night. We would get
up around 10 PM, eat a little and be in the air by 11 PM.
My 50th plane trip was a night mission to
Binyamin, Poland. We were successful,
but we were in the plane for about 8 hours.
On this mission we encountered flack and our plane was injured. The pilot called us all together and asked
us if we wonted to try to land safely or go down in the Adriatic Sea where we
would only last about 5 minutes because it was cold. We were also told that Sea
Bees were in boats going up and down the coast, so we did have a chance of
rescue. We voted to keep going and attempt
to land at the landing field. As we
attempted our landing in this British controlled airfield, an injured British
plane was landing on the same runway.
The two planes were headed right for one another. The British plane was smaller than us. The pilot of our plane was able to pull up
enough that they were able to fly under us.
We made it, but I came back with wet and soiled pants.
On November 4, 1944 we went to bomb Munich, November 6 we
went to bomb Brenner Pass, Nov. 16 we went to bomb Munich, Feb. 28 we went to
bomb Brenner Pass in northern Italy, March 12, 1945 we went to Vienna, Austria,
March 22 we went to bomb Vienna, Austria.
I have an air medal, president's citation, two battle stars, and four
ETO ribbons. When the Germans gave up
we were notified that the war with Germany was over, At this time I waited for my orders to go to the Pacific front
since I needed 8 more missions to be ending my active duty. The day that we were notified that the war with
Germany was over I was a staff Sergeant and we had our own bar.
When the Germans were defeated the Clubs were opened up all
day for anyone from corporal to master sergeant. For the first time I became so drunk that I couldn't even
walk. I crawled with help back to my
cabin. I was sick for two days, while I
continued to wait for my orders. Lucky
for me the Japs also surrendered.
I was sent back to the states, and was assigned to Chatam
Field in Savanna, Georgia where I was in charge of all perishables such as
meat, eggs, and bread. These items were
kept in the icehouse, a building that was about 10 ft by 20 ft. I was
responsible for keeping track of everything including the amount of ice
used. It was warm, and the building was
filled with holes. When I told the
commanding officer, who was quite mean, that we had been through 250 pounds of
ice I caught holy hell. From that point
on any person who came for ice signed papers for double the amount to cover
myself for the melted ice. I was
stationed here for about 35 days before being discharged on October 20,
1945. The first sergeant told me if I
stayed he would protect me from the major, but by this time I had met my first
wife and wanted to get out of the service.
I met my first wife in Springfield, MA at a Polish dance and
I wanted to get married. She was under 18 at the time so we went and were
married in New Haven, CT, where I had a political friend who knew her age.