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"We Remember"
by Dwayne O'Brien



Historical Record - February 1945




450th BOMBARDEMNT GROUP (H)  NARRATIVE FEBRUARY 1945

 

February used to the month back home when bills cam knocking at our doors a little earlier, this month being the shortest of the year. Overseas it simply means that we sign the payroll or pay voucher before we have had time to gamble, squander, or otherwise dispose of our last lira. With the weather warming up a bit during this month, Spring will soon be here unless this changeable wind blows from the alpine regions, in which case we shall continue wearing long handles and burning a wee bit more fuel to keep our cases, tents, or barracks warm until the snows melt up north.

 

ACTIVITES

 

A soldier said the other day: "I don't mind being told that I stink, but when I can smell my own self, then I think it's time to take a bath." There need not be such a soldier in the 450th at all, for Capt. Hessen has secured a portable 32-man shower unit with a 1000 gallon tank which is now being installed by S-4. When this unit is ready to serve enlisted men and officers, they should all be able to perform their ablutions before they reach the intolerable stage.

 

And speaking of buildings, the S-4 department did not do so bad. First they were in the lean-to back of the hangar, then they went to a rambling building where the Wing once held fort, and then someone chased them into a narrow quarters that looked like an overgrown sausage. Tired of being kicked around, they decided to build in the elite neighborhood where all prosperous departments have homesteaded. Captain Robinson supervised the building and saw to it the Engineering, Inspection, Gunnery, Safety Equipment, Supply, and Statistics had a comfortable room or cubicle wherein to carry on.

 

Another Group building of no small proportions was the new hospital on the base, completed during February. First it was to be tents, then lumber, but it ended up as a tuffi, two wing affair with private offices for the Squadron medics, supply rooms, officers' ward, EM ward, indoor bathrooms with hot and cold running water, and every convenience that could be made. Communications put in a speaker that keeps the patients informed of the news, and Special Services supplied all sorts of reading material, games, and a late showing of the day's film. Very cozy for a bunch of men who are supposed to be hospitalized.

 

OPERATIONS BUILDING FOR 720TH

 

The 720th Squadron also got the building fever, a fever which may well be undulant or recurrent, for the 450th suffers from it constantly. This bunch is the buildingest outfit in the Air Force. They say that when two Italians get together the embark upon an argument throwing the arms wildly about, but when two members of the 450th get together and gesticulate they are talking about the dimension of some building they have decided to put up.

 

Anyhow, the Operations officer of the 720th engaged Major Stevens in conversation and before they parted they had plans for a new operations building which was finished and occupied in February. So much building has taken place around camp that Italian quarries have spring up everywhere trying to supply the Americans with their tuffi stone blocks.

 

A NEW FLAG POLE

 

No Headquarters looks like a Headquarters unless it has a good size flag pole in front to set it off. First they put up a 35ft. pole, but it did not suit the Colonel, so Capt Hessen was asked to bring down a mast from a cruiser in Taranto if necessary. Now our garrison flag floats proudly and we stand retreat as it come down 1700 daily to the "canned" notes of the National Anthem.

 

BOTTOMS-UP WILL SOON BE UP

 

"Bottoms Up" the veteran of 100 missions isn't through yet. Right now she is undergoing a complete overhaul after which she is expected to fly over the Axis and continue the same good record it now has. Crew Chief Witherspoon was taken the old ship apart and claims he can make her airworthy again.

 

INSPECTION IS COMING

 

We used to laugh at the "Eyeties" for their inveterate use of whitewash on every house interior and wall. Calce the natives call it. But it's their turn to laugh at us. Every inspection calls for no less than 75 tons of the slimy stuff and it is daubed on any protruding board, tin, or wall until it is snow white. During the end of February one had to keep on the move, for orders were out that anything stationary would be white-washed. The fellow who stopped to look at a formation in the sky felt a brush stroke graze him, and before he could turn around he had a white streak from head to toe. "Scusa, please," said the astonished "Eyetie" as he picked up his bucket full of calce and proceeded to the next wall. Anyhow, the 450th won the last Wing inspection with their paint, white-wash, spit and polish and they intended to do no less on March 3 when the big boys come around to look.

 

"MOLTO BUONO" IS MOLTO NEW

 

On March 1, 1944 a very cleaver mimeographed four page paper was published by the 723rd Squadron under the direction of Capt. Luke Quinn, "Molto Buono" was the name. By the end of the month it assumed the role of a Group news-weekly and it was printed at the orphanage in Oria. It was an unpretentious little paper, but it had the usual 450th growing germ.

 

The combined efforts of Special Services and poop from the Public Relations office kept the paper alive until it grew to its full size. But it was definitely a chore. The type was hand-set in Oria by a bunch of teen year olds whose knowledge of English did not go beyond "Allo, Joe, Gomma?" "W, J, H and Y" were letters that gathered dust on the shelf, and when they came down to be used in setting up an American paper they were just as likely as not upside down. The boys tried their best, but their errors were numerous. Then too there were festas about every other week, and the electric power was only available on certain days of the week. Finally the paper was given to the I & E Officer, but he was short-handed so one day the Colonel asked Public Relations to do the Honors. During February 1945 this department assumed responsibility for writing, setting up, and publishing the Group newspaper. They expect to unload it on the Mess Office next.

 

DOGS MUST GO

 

A dog's life in our camp meant the life of Riley, or at least it did until the rabies menace decreed that those canines which had not been inoculated the year previous would have to leave. No vaccine was available so there was no way out. "Nero" the big black hound who hounded the "Eyeties" on the base was loaded on the truck along with a host of squealing, howling pooches of all descriptions. Now the dog owners are Sad Sacks with out their pets.

 

FIREMEN SAVE MY PANTS!

 

It was a nice morning, one of those Spring mornings when it is nice to sleep late. The "Quinn-Hessen chateau" was quiet as the truck backed up and started to fill the gas tank back of the house. Suddenly, flames burst out and enveloped the tank, the truck and the driver. A fire call went out and the truck driver was hauled to the hospital to have his burns dressed. Meanwhile, the occupants of the house came running out with as much of their personal effects as they could carry. Fires on the base were now new thing, but it was new to these officers. Water poured through windows and doors as the firemen tried to keep the entire gilding from going up in flames. Pajama-clad Quinn looked quizzically at the impending catastrophe, saved by the speed of the firemen and declared that hereafter he would sleep fully clad.

 

"THIS IS THE GENERAL SPEAKING"

 

Capt. Hunt, the Group dentist, was in no mood to play. He had been grinding away at molars and filling cavities all day. The phone rang and the voice informed him that General Rush was speaking. A joke is a joke, but a busy Doc has work to do so he answered the prankster with: "Oh, blow it!"

The voice insisted on speaking to the Surgeon, whereupon Dock Hunt decided to listen to the voice. When all apologies were personally made, and accepted, Doc Hunt complained: "How was I to know it wasn't some of these guys who are always calling themselves 'general'!"

 

LEISURE IN CAMP

 

Some men go to the dogs in their leisure time, but Lt. Maurer of the 722nd Squadron goes to his crayons and starts doing portraits. His favorite subject is his pretty wife, and wives of his fellow officers and enlisted men. Now and then he reproduces a curvaceous pin-up with a couple of alterations. When the Colonel found out the young artist's talent he pressed him into painting insignias in Headquarters. Doc Throp also asked for appropriate insignia for his hospital and got it. The lieutenant is quite busy now-a-days with his crayons.

 

Transportation being what it is in the army, despite the fact that it is winning the war, some men try to figure out a way to get around without having to walk. Even jeeps shy off the road when they see some of these creations coming down the ramp. Pfc. Sam Schpok of the 723rd devised a "whoosa-whazzit", a cross between a put-put, and "Eyetie" motorcycle, and the back end of a Fiat going south. This deep sea monster haunts the field back and forth to the line, and even the Libs dare not cross its path. "Anyway", says Schpok, "it's transportation."

 

GIFTED GABSTERS

 

The Wing promised a five-day trip to Rome to any officer or enlisted man who won the public speaking contest sponsored by them. The subject: "What to do with war criminals."  We all love Manduria, but a trip to the capital is a trip to Rome, so several men went out to show their wares. Sgt. Nocolosi of the 722nd Squadron had the most to show and enough to place him on the list of contenders for the Wing play-off. Sgt. Metchik of the 723rd showed but did not place. When the Wing contest was over, the 722nd Sergeant was still on top of the 47th Wing.

 

PURELY SOCIAL

 

The first thing an Italian civilian wants in these parts is a cigarette. If he manages to wangle a fag he immediately informs his benefactor that he has been in America or that he has a cousin, sister, or grandfather in the States. If all the relations claimed were in the States, there would be no Italians left in Italy. Many Italian-American soldiers run across some of their kin when they come to Italy. Sgt. Alleruzo of the 723rd not only looked up his family in Sicily but he laid claim to a bit of property that he had coming to him, and what's more he made his claim stick.

 

HOME-COOKED SPAGHETTI

 

Sgt. Salvatore Ferrante of the 723rd also visited Sicily where he paid a social call to some of his near of kin. The visit was returned when a dozen of his relatives showed up at the Albegro Manduria and asked him to a big feed. He invited several of his buddies and off they went to a big spaghetti dinner such as Momma used to make back in New York City. Now all soldiers of Italian descent are writing home to enquire about any parenti in the vicinity. They too would like to have a home-cooked meal of spaghetti.

 

TEXAS RODEO

 

The boys from the Mexican border, who also declared war on Hitler, decided it was high time they showed Americans and Italians how to stage a party, so they took over the Town Hall in Manduria for the occasion. With lariats dangling, guns totin' and boot heels clicking the Texans got together and held a round-up party where they ate, sang and drank toasts to their former haunts in the sagebrush. Twangling guitars and jingling spurs were music to their ears. Some guy from Brooklyn got in by mistake and they almost "moidered de bum."

 

MEN WACKY ABOUT WACS

 

1st Sgt. Cherry of the 721st Sq., aided by a committee of six, decided to have a bit of style for their party, particularly since they would have ladies present. Theirs was no brawl, feed or round-up. The 721st held a Buffet-Supper-Dance at the Municipal hall in Manduria where they all munched delicately to the strains of a salon ensemble. "Shet yer goddam trap!" said on of the "Boys" aincha got no manners?"

A company of Dziewczenta Polskie was escorted to the dance and for four hours the Squadron enlisted personnel dined, wined, and danced. The gallant men wanted to walk their ladies home, but they had come from a sixty mile distant camp, and walking would have been too strenuous.

 

VISITORS

 

An Italian Colonel showed up at camp during February to inspect the building which had been turned over or constructed for the base. Thirteen months after the 450th had occupied the lean-to the hangar, the signor Collonnello decided that the roof was very badly built by the Italian engineers. He upbraided the contractor and said that nothing was too good for the Americani. We had gotten so used to the building, defects and all, that we hated to see it torn up, so Connonnello Lewis was thanked for his solicitude.

Lewis did not sound Italian, but he claimed that name and added that he was related to the Lewis of Lewisite gas. You can never tell about gas.

 

STARS FEEL ON THE 450TH

 

Rumors prevailed that General Doolittle would visit the base, so the usual army spit and polish was applied to everything in sight. There were a least a half dozen photographers ready to take pictures of all the dignitaries that would come in the entourage. Last minute plans prevented the General from visiting the 450th, but there was a shower of stars when the C-47'ws and the B-17's arrived, and we don't mean Hollywood stars either. Lt. Gen. Eaker from MAAF, Lt. Gen. Spaatz, Major Gen. Twinning of the XV AFF, B. Gen. Boren and B., Gen. Rush made up the constellation of visitors. Photo amateurs and camera addicts were on hand in addition to the official Public Relations photographers. The Generals were very observant of military punctilio in catching the salutes that eager officers and men gave them, and they returned them with equal gusto. Some Pfc. was heard to remark: "Dem big wheels is easy to talk to!" After typing out and reading so many directives and correspondence signed "By command of…" the men wanted to know just what these commanders looked like.

 

ATHLETICS

 

You wouldn't associate bombing with ping pong, but even Majors and higher get all hepped up about a point in ping pong as they do over bombs on the target. Of course, over the target it's bombs, but when the little pill is in the air and about to make a landing on the southeast corner of the table, then it's do or lose another point. Basketball too is a popular sport. Upwards of twenty teams participated in February in intra-group tourneys with the 720th Combat officers winning top honors. With such tall timber as Capt. Daniels of S-4, Capt' Jackson, and Group Adm. Inspector, Sgt. Cunningham of Special Services and Lt. Wm. Courtney of the 720th, the Group made a bid for distinction. When they went after the Wing pennant they were caught at one of their worst moment, succumbing to the 449th with the close score of 35-32. 

 

WALKATHON

 

Men who live in the 723rd area and work beyond HQrs do their daily dozen by walking back and forth to chow. And when the men are eager to get in line before the other fellow gests there, they must do a 440 run in record time. Some of them are hungry by the time they get back to duty. The mess Sgt. is thinking of issuing K rations to these commuters.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

USO shows played once to the 450th in February. There was the singer of sentimental songs that made the men remember. The marionette manipulator was more than an amateur and the audience reminded him of it with their applause. They kept yelling for more and more, but the only thing the marionette did not do is fly a Lib. The clay molder was no mud slinger, even if he did caricature a few members of the audience. With a deft hand and a pretty girl to "help" him to keep up the interest he drew many a belly laugh. Then there was the pretty little miss who coyly sat and stood and tapped and danced and mostly showed a wicked leg. Now there was a gal who used her personality to win friends and influence GI's. She called her number: "Invitation to the dance" but the audience never went beyond the first word.

 

GIRL ORCHESTRA IN LECCE

 

Sgt. Shain was in the fourth balcony in the Apollo theatre in Lecce when the director of the girl orchestra asked for volunteers to lead the band. Before he could get through talking Shain was stretching out a hand for the baton. He was eager for music. Said he: "Think I'd miss a chance to be next to dem babes?" The orchestra was good, but the lady from Louisiana was brutal – the way she sang those moon in your eyes songs, languorously, softly, purringly, persuasively, and all with her beautiful hair caressing those lovely shoulders. Even Major Engstrom and other gentlemen had to restrain themselves, but their eyes spoke volumes!

 

THIS AND THAT

 

Letters are regularly coming in from our "Alumni" back in the States. At first they are glad to be back on home soil, but there is something about American complacency and American black market that galls them. Soldiers and civilians have grown far apart. There is so much mail order house business at home that they are trying to run the war in the same way, according to returnees.

 

GROUP CITATION RETURNS

 

Some of the home papers are running stories about Private Joe Doakes who "won the Distinguished Unit Citation for flying 200 missions over enemy territory."  And when Private Doakes happens to be a clerk in the orderly room his is really on the spot. The home town expects him to be another Sgt. York. The original release read: "who is a member of a group that has flown 200 missions."

 

FIGHT AND VINO

 

Last year we admired the large fresh figs grown in Italy and ate them avidly. This year we saw them being grown and harvested so no one cares a fig about a fig. They grow on trees where the passing trucks cover them with dust from the road and they are harvested and handled…nuff said. Vino, the kind that used to warm the soldier's innards on cold nights, was drunk until we saw it made. Now it's niento vino.

 

ORANGES

 

The orange of North Africa is hard to beat, but some of these Sicilian oranges are a bloody log, as the Limeys would say. One look at the blood streaked pulp and you are driven to drinking canned grapefruit juice! The California navel orange is not popular here, but even so, fresh fruit is fruit and we have enjoyed it during February.

 

HIS HANDIWORK

 

The Intelligence reports announced: "One plane went down and two are missing." When the plane is beyond control, the crews hit the silk and quite often we find the boys are back on the field ready for more, particularly now that we have won so much territory. It's an experience that few want to repeat, but once they have come through it they enjoy having had it, hard though it may have been.  In February a 720th crew ran into trouble while bombing Vienna and bailed out. After being picked up by Hungarians they even enjoyed a dinner with Russian Generals and made their way back to the base with the usual aid of friendly forces. That is a story that hundreds of our gang lived to tell.

 

"PAOLI LOCAL'S" LAST RUN

 

One of our most publicized planes form the 723rd Squadron made its last run when its crew had to abandon it near the field. Flak had disabled her beyond control so she spiraled when she was already in the traffic pattern. Its original pilot is a POW in Germany.

 

"MIGHTY MOUSE IS NO MORE"

 

The 720th Squadron boasted of a Mighty Mouse piloted by Lt. Haines, but a trip to Vienna disabled the ship beyond control and the crew bailed out over the field. Vienna will not bring memories of waltzes and rhythmic music to the crews of the 450th. A trip up there means only accurate, heavy and intense flak from 329 guns.

 

AWARDS AND DECORATIONS

 

The Distinguished Service Cross, the highest award ever earned by a member of the 450th was awarded posthumously to Lt. Lael of the 723rd Squadron. In his attempt to see every member of his crew safely out, the valiant Lieutenant lost his life riding his craft to a crash.

 

Next highest award this month went to M/Sgt. "Pop" Witherspoon, crew chief of the famed "Bottoms Up" whose enviable record of over 100 missions earned for "Pop" the Legion of Merit. The proud sergeant is even more eater now that his efforts and good work have been so well recognized an rewarded.

 

Lt. Col. MacWorter becomes "third row" Man when he added the Silver Star to his bemedalled breast this month. All in all, the month of February was a good month for awards.

 

            Distinguished Service Cross                       1

            Legion of Merit                                              1

            Silver Star                                                      2

            D.F.C.                                                             30

            Oak Leaf Cluster of DFC                             2

            Bronze Star                                                    3

            Soldier's Medal                                             1

            Air Medal                                                       205

            OLC to Air Medal                                          132

            Purple Hearts                                                10

            Oak Leaf Cluster to PH                                1

 

PROMOTIONS

 

The Commanding Officer got his eagles just as the month was drawing to a close. It was a pleasant surprise to Col. Jacoby when Col. Kyle, Wing Deputy Commander, reached up to the "Old Man's" shoulder and replaced his silver leaves with a bright pair of "chickens." The C.O. of the 722nd also was upped another notch to Lt. Colonel. It is now Col. Legg, grin and all!

 

OPERATIONS

 

Better weather conditions enabled the Group to run more missions, 18 in all, mostly against communication lines and supply centers in the Reich. In view of the Russian advance into German, many bombings were coordinated directly in support of the Russian army. The percentage of bombing accuracy was not as high as it might have been, despite the fact that for the fourth successive time we led the Wing with 48%.

There were a total of 531 sorties for the month, 51 of which were uneffective due to mechanical failures that caused planes to turn back, or to drop elsewhere than on enemy targets.

 

STRENGTH

 

Our strength is on the upgrade with 520 officers and 1988 enlisted men at the beginning of the month and 539 officers and 2030 enlisted men at the end, making a total respectively of 2518 on February 1, and 2569 on February 28, a gain of fifty-one in all.

The heavily defended targets in German, particularly Vienna and Linz took a small toll of crews. Four men were killed and forty-two are missing in action, while thirteen have been wounded. A total of 59 casualties.

































































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