Please take the opportunity when ya get a chance to visit the DHS Seniors '68 website.
The Memorial Page is rilly special to me http://classof68.myevent.com/3/miscellaneous5.htm
Tomorrow I will finish reading Catch-22 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22
for the first time since having the knowledge that the author Joseph Heller and my Daddy Earl both served together in the 57th Bombardment Wing of the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean during WWII.
I MUST finish reading the novel tomorrow because I'm less than 100 pages away from the end & I promised THE BARRISTER that he could have the novel Monday afternoon when he comes to Happy Hour at the Possum Den Lodge #2.
I spent a lot of time with my father because, like my son, I worked with my Daddy and, like myself , Daddy liked to spend his spare time with me just like I enjoy spending my spare time with Christopher.
We were best friends.
He described his WWII experiences in detail because he believed his experiences surviving in a mindless bureaucracy whose only purpose was to kill him would help me if I ever got in a scrap.
One of the saddest stories he told was of a night in Corsica.
The day before he'd gotten permission to drive his personal two & a half ton Mercedes Benz truck up into the mountains. Daddy worked this out because he owned his own truck (captured from the Nazis in North Africa & decorated with a Confederate flag and the words THE REBEL painted on both sides of the truck.Daddy hauled that truck to Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Naples. It's the same kind of truck that Indiana Jones does the fight scene on when he's trying to capture the Holy Grail out in the desert. The first time I saw that movie, I blurted out, "That's my Daddy's truck!" )
& he volunteered to go up in the mountains to this Nazi Army rest camp and defuse the boobie traps.
He and his buddies didn't defuse anything.
They didn't even go into the rest camp.
They parked THE REBEL outside the camp, went hunting, then camped on the rocks overlooking their airfield & got stoned.
So my Daddy's drunker than Cooter Brown sitting up on this rock at 3:30 in the morning and the Germans attack his unit's airfield located at the foot on the mountain below him. For 75 minutes Daddy sat up on his rock watching the Germans knock out his unit's anti-aircraft guns, drop flairs on the airfield, cut on their bomber's landing lights and fly 50 feet above the ground strafing his buddies' tents.
All Daddy could do when it was all over was pass out on his rock and wake up the next morning so he could drive THE REBEL down the mountain and help clean up the mess.
Daddy always said that German spies had to have directed the attack because it was so successful.
Well, Joseph Heller,
our Brooklyn N.Y. Hebrew brother with a mother of a similar color, just happened to be down there at Alesan Airfield that night & he used the incident in his novel Catch-22.
Text courtesy of http://budslawncare.com/57/index7.htm
The base of the 340th. Bombardment Group AAF, Alesan Airfield, Corsica, was attacked under a waning moon in the early hours of 13 May, 1944, by the German Air Force. Extensive damage to planes and other equipment and many personnel casualties resulted. The operation gave every indication of being thoroughly planned and carried out accordingly. The gun control room of the anti-aircraft units defending the airfield reported the first enemy plane was plotted at 0335 hours. Aircraft spotters identified the craft as Beaufighter (presumably captured by the enemy for pathfinder use.)
Some few minutes after this craft was plotted, it dropped flares on the airfield and almost immediately other enemy planes attacked, dropping more flares, which thoroughly illuminated the area, and loosing demolition and anti-personnel bombs, including delayed action as well as butterfly bombs. As the attack progressed the enemy resorted to strafing, dropping down to within a few feet of the ground. The enemy planes were identified as JU-88's, FW-190's and possibly ME-109's, DO-217's, and HE-111's. Some of the fighters strafed ack-ack positions on the beach bordering the airfield and on the ridges north and west of the field. The attacking force was estimated at from twenty to thirty planes.The specific targets attacked were the airfield proper, the gasoline dump, and the ground radio station trailer due west of the center of the field and the adjacent highway, the operations intelligence building close by, and the 489th. squadron area about three quarters of a mile north of the field. A pattern of fragmentation bombs intended for the Headquarters tent area a mile and three quarters north of the field, fell a few hundred yards off shore into the sea.
The attack lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, which was from the time that the first enemy aircraft was plotted to the time that the last one departed. Attacking the airfield the planes seemed to come over first at about three thousand feet, but when the field was well lighted by flares dropped by the pathfinders and by burning aircraft, and when the anti-aircraft barrage was found to be ineffective, they dove down as low as fifty feet on strafing runs. Two courses were flown in the attack. Although some of the planes seemed to come in from different directions after circling off the target. These courses were approximately northwest-southeast and southeast-northwest.Most of the 340th Engineering personnel. Armament men, and ordnance men had their tents on the airfield proper, and although many had slit trenches to use, casualties were exceedingly high from the bombing, from the strafing, and from our own planes blowing up, many of them with a full bomb load. Some men did not wake up in time; others who did regarded the air alert as just another nuisance raids similar to those to which we had been subjected to for so long - many of them were killed in bed. Some took shelter in slit trenches, ditches or under vehicles. Others were to terrified to run a few feet to shelter once the devastating anit personnel bombs began to explode all around them. Still others were even injured or killed in their slit trenches as a result of the thick carpeting of the area with these bombs. personnel detailed to the airfield crash truck started to put out fires before the last attacking planes left.
The attack was preceded by a raid on the Poretta Airfield about fifteen miles north of Alesan Field at 1000 hours, During which twenty-five Spitfires were knocked out and a number of men killed. other casualties in the raid on the 340th. Group included dead and wounded in the 324th. Service Squadron, which had been doing third echelon maintenance for us, and also dead and wounded in the anti-aircraft organization protecting the area.
From report of flashing lights in the hills south of the village of Cervione and west of the airfield, both on the night of the attack and in the weeks previous, it appears that enemy agents aided or attempted to aid the attackers. It is known that German paratroopers had been landed on the island in considerable number earlier in the year.
Anti-aircraft artillery personnel defending the field claim to have shot down two of the aircraft in the attack. Allied Beaufighters report destroying two other planes.
Regularly each night for weeks before this heavy attack which was reminiscent of an earlier and more competent era in the G.A.F. history, air raid alerts were the accepted nightly routine. An hour or two after midnight the sirens broke the deep silence of the Corsica night with their screaming warning. Most of the men in complete darkness groped for helmets, gas masks, and guns, and then, scantily clad, stumbled out of their tents and into slit trenches. This was a nightly occurrence with Jerry overhead taking pictures. It was evident that a day of reckoning would come.from Michael S. Scoggins' JOSEPH HELLER'S COMBAT EXPERIENCES IN CATCH-22
One of the most memorable episodes in Catch-22 is the incident where
Milo Minderbinder, a pilot in Yossarian’s squadron, bombs his own airbase
After being appointed the base mess officer, Milo forms an international
business syndicate that includes as members not only the Allied
nations but the German government as well. He signs a contract with the
German military to bomb and strafe his own men in order to save his syndicate
from bankruptcy (264-6).
It is no coincidence that Alesan Airfield on
Corsica, the base for Heller’s own 340th Bomb Group, was bombed and
strafed by the Luftwaffe in the early morning hours of 13 May 1944.
Although Heller’s base was not bombed by friendly aircraft as in the novel,
it is interesting to note that the first enemy plane over the field was actually
a Bristol “Beaufighter,” a twin-engined British night fighter operated by
both Great Britain and the United States in the Mediterranean Theater. The
340th Bomb Group staff officers speculated that the Beaufighter had been
captured by the Germans and put to use as a “pathfinder” aircraft, whose
job it was to drop lighted flares over the target before the main force came
in for the attack. The Germans apparently left the British markings on the
Beaufighter intact in order to fool the Americans into mistaking it for a
The German aircraft used in the raid were identified as twin engined
Junkers JU-88 medium bombers, similar in function to the
American B-25s, and Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter planes.
In addition, there
were unconfirmed reports of Dornier DO-217 and Heinkel HE-111 medium
bombers and Messerschmitt ME-109 fighters (History of the 340th).
men in Heller’s group were killed, and two hundred and nineteen were
wounded; only seven aircraft were airworthy the next day (“Chronology”
1). The description of the attack on the 340th Group’s online history bears
a close similarity to Heller’s description of Milo’s raid in Catch-22.
I am not aware of any instances where Heller alluded to this similarity in
print, the conclusion seems inescapable that Heller has once again has
taken an episode from his own combat background and, with some important
changes for dramatic effect, incorporated it into his novel.
M & M Enterprises verged on collapse. Milo cursed himself hourly for his monumental greed and stupidity in purchasing the entire Egyptian cotton crop, but a contract was a contract and had to be honored, and one night, after a sumptuous evening meal, all Milo's fighters and bombers took off, joined in formation directly overhead and began dropping bombs on the group. He had landed another contract with the Germans, this time to bomb his own outfit. Milo's planes separated in a well-coordinated attack and bombed the fuel stocks and the ordnance dump, the repair hangers and the B-25 bombers resting on the lollipop-shaped hardstands at the field. His crews spared the landing strip and the mess halls so that they could land safely when their work was done and enjoy a hot snack before retiring. They bombed with their landing lights on, since no one was shooting back. They bombed all four squadrons, the officer's club and the Group Headquarters building. Men bolted from their tents in sheer terror and did not know in which direction to turn. Wounded soon lay screaming everywhere. A cluster of fragmentation bombs exploded in the yard of the officers' club and punched jagged holes in the side of the yard of the wooden building and the bellies and backs of a row of lieutenants and captains standing at the bar. They doubled over in agony and dropped. The rest of the officers fled toward the two exits and jammed up the doorways like a dense, howling dam of human flesh as they shrank from going farther.
Colonel Cathcart clawed and elbowed his way through the unruly, bewildered mass until he stood outside by himself. He stared up in the sky in stark astonishment and horror. Milo's planes, ballooning serenely in over the blossoming treetops with their bomb bay doors open and wing flaps down and with their monstrous, bug-eyed, blinding, fiercely flickering, eerie landing lights on, were the most apocalyptic sight he had ever beheld. Colonel Cathcart let go a stricken gasp of dismay and hurled himself headlong into his jeep, almost sobbing. He found the gas pedal and the ignition and sped toward the airfield as fast as the rocking car would carry him, his huge flabby hands clenched and bloodless on the wheel or blaring his horn tormentedly. Once he almost killed himself when he swerved with a banshee screech of tires to avoid plowing into a bunch of men running crazily toward the hills in their underwear with their stunned faces down and their thin arms pressed high around their temples as puny shields. Yellow, orange and red fires burning on both sides of the road. Tents and trees were in flames, and Milo's planes kept coming around interminably with their blinking white landing lights on and their bomb bay doors open. Colonel Cathcart almost turned his jeep over when he slammed the brakes on at the control tower. He leaped from the car while it was still skidding dangerously and hurtled up the flight of steps inside, where three men were busy at the instruments and the controls. He bowled two of them aside in his lunge for the nickel-plated microphones, his eyes glittering wildly and his beefy face contorted with stress. He squeezed the microphone in a bestial grip and began shouting hysterically at the top of his voice,
"Milo, you son of a bitch! Are you crazy? What the hell are you doing? Come down! Come down!"
"Stop hollering so much, will you?" answered Milo, who was standing there beside him in the control tower with a microphone of his own. "I'm right here." Milo looked at him with reproof and turned back to his work. "Very good, men, very good," he chanted into his microphone. "But I see one supply shed still standing. That will never do, Purvis- I've spoken to you about that kind of shoddy work before. Now, you go right back there this minute and try it again. And this time come in slowly...slowly. Haste makes waste, Purvis. Haste makes waste. If I've told you once, I must have told you a hundred times. Haste makes waste."
The loud-speaker overhead began sqawking. "Milo, this is Alvin Brown. I've finished dropping my bombs. What should I do now?"
"Strafe, " said Milo.
"Strafe?" Alvin Brown was shocked.
"We have no choice," Milo informed him resignedly, "It's in the contract."
"Oh, okay, then," Alvin Brown acquiesced. "In that case I'll strafe."
This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him. High-ranking government officials poured in to investigate. Newspapers inveighed against Milo with glaring headlines, and Congressmen denounced the atrocity in stentorian wrath and clamored for punishment. Mothers with children in the service organized militant groups and demanded revenge. Not one voice was raised in his defense. Decent people everywhere were affronted, and Milo was all washed up until he opened the books to the public and disclosed this tremendous profit he had made. He could reimburse the government for all the people and property he had destroyed and still have enough money left over to continue buying Egyptian cotton. Everybody, of course, owned a share. And the sweetest part of the whole deal was that there really was no need to reimburse the government at all.
"In a democracy, the government is the people," Milo explained. "We're people, aren't we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'd like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry. If we pay the government everything we owe it, we'll only be encouraging government control and discouraging other individuals from bombing their own men and planes. We'll be taking away their incentive."
Milo was correct, of course, as everyone soon agreed but a few embittered misfits like Doc Daneeka, who sulked cantankerously and muttered offensive insinuations about the morality of the whole venture until Milo mollified him with a donation, in the name of the syndicate, of a lightweight aluminum garden chair that Doc Daneeka could fold up conveniently and carry outside his tent each time Chief White Halfoat came inside his tent and carry back inside his tent each time Chief White Halfoat came out. Doc Daneeka had lost his head during Milo's bombardment; instead of running for cover, he had remained out in the open and performed his duty, slithering along the ground through shrapnel, strafing and incendiary bombs like a furtive, wily lizard from casualty to casualty, administering tourniquets, morphine, splints and sulfanilamide with a dark and doleful visage, never saying one word more than he had to and reading in each man's bluing wound a dreadful portent of his own decay. He worked himself relentlessly into exhaustion before the long night was over and came down with a sniffle the next day that sent him hurrying querulously into the medical tent to have his temperature taken by Gus and Wes and to obtain a mustard plaster and vaporizer.
image courtesy of http://57thbombwing.com/index.php
My Daddy,William E. Register(serial number 34333122) was drafted along
with the rest of the Dothan gang on Valentine's Day 1942.
He served in the 446th Bomb Squad of the Army Air Corps' 321st Bomb Group
of the 57th Bomb Wing of the 12th Air Force.
The 57th was the only Mitchell B-25 bomb wing in the entire 12th Air Force.
A cat named Bob Ritger has put all of the issues of the 321st Bomb Group's WWII newsletter,HEADLINES, on the Web.
The material I found on the Web this afternoon is nothing more than a miracle for me because my sister Becky has a copy of HEADLINES
in our family album and this
publication by Daddy's Bombardment Group
gives spectacular details which confirm all the war stories told to me by my Daddy.
You can't imagine the comfortable feeling surrounding me as I read
all about my Daddy's unit this afternoon.
I lost almost all of Daddy's WWII stuff because it was in storage at McGough's house when it got flooded by Frederic back in '79.
I was also pleased to find that a cat from Lakeland, Florida has devoted an entire portion of his website to 57th Bomb Wing!
But here's the kicker!
Anne M. O' Conner at Maxwell http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/
copied the ENTIRE DECLASSIFIED TOP SECRET HISTORY OF THE 446TH SQUADRON(usually manned by about 100 officers & 350 enlisted men)
put it on the Web!
Insignia of the 321st Bomb Group of the 12th Air Force's 57th Bomb Wing
Bugs Bunny riding a bomb while firing six shooters in each hand
Insignia of the 446th Bomb Squad
images courtesy of http://57thbombwing.com/446th_History/446thSquadronHistory.htm
There are hundreds of photographs
(Mitchell B-25 nose art for The Pink Lady, The Grim Reaper, Blossom Time, Princess Paula, Pennsylvania Polka, Patches,Missouri Waltz, Dollie, Arkansas Traveler II, The Madam of St. Joe the 2nd)
plus all the debriefings and descriptions of over 600 bombing missions.
It's got every date, addresses for every target, the number of planes and the types of bombs used on every mission.