We received orders to report to Topeka, Kansas. It was here
that we were assigned a brand new B-24 off the assembly line. After a few days
of instrument calibration, aircraft inspection and shakedown flight, we were
ready to go. Ray was given orders for our crew to fly this plane and report to
the Headquarters of the 15th Air Force in Bari, Italy. (Can you
imagine 10 young men who have never been out of the States, flying the Atlantic
Ocean in their own plane?!?!?)
We started our journey and flew the flowing legs:
1) Manchester, New Hampshire.
2) Gander, Newfoundland it was here that we were outfitted
with overseas combat supplies, i.e. 45 pistols, watches, flight jackets, heavy
flight gear, ammo, etc
3) Azores on this leg the Northern Lights were flashing
bright and beautiful. We were a little south of the Azores, but Van was on top
of it and made corrections.
4) Marrakech, Morocco different people, culture and dress.
5) Tunis, Tunisia We visited the King's palace and the
casaba, which was very different with narrow streets, close quarters, open
drains and women covered with veils head to toe.
6) Bari, Italy.
When we arrived the plane we flew was taken and reassigned
to another base. They also took our liquor that we tried to smuggle in. Soon we
were loaded into the back of a truck and driven to Manduria Air Base and
assigned to the 450th Bomb Group, 720th Squadron.
It was from this base that we began our combat experience in
January 1945. We flew 19 missions with the 450th, until being
transferred to the 461st Bomb Group in May, 1945, based in
Cerignola, Italy. We flew mainly humanitarian missions while assigned to the
461st, delivering food and supplies to prison camps. We returned to
the United States in June of 1945.
Robert E Riley, June 18, 2007