B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

  Eight Months of Human Contact in a POW Camp
by Joseph R. Armstrong, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Low Point

 

As a combat pilot in the 12th Airforce, I was based on the island of Sardinia. From this island we bombed military targets in Italy and southern France.

The southern tip of the island pointed toward Africa, and the northern tip toward the Island of Corsica. There was a valley in the center of the island with precipitous mountains on each side, but the approaches for plans on each end of the valley were very good. An airfield had been constructed, so wide that we normally took off five ships abreast to conserve rendezvousing time above the field. The theory behind five abreast takeoff was that any ship that blew a tire or had to abort, before it could swerve into the ships on either side, these ships would be past before there was a collision. It apparently worked, as we never had an accident where one plane swerved into another.

We were quartered in a cactus field some miles from the runway, and had to be transported by truck to and from our planes. When first arriving on the island we were quartered in tents. We soon learned, however, that local masons would build a two room adobe bungalow with a tile roof for fifty dollars, and furnish all materials. Another fellow named Joe, a navigator, and I quickly built our Sardinia house, and called it "Sloppy Joe's".

The espirit de corps among officers, crew members, and ground personnel was usually extremely high, and all were willing to do anything possible for another. We had a volley ball court some three hundred yards from our house, and one afternoon while playing there I leaped high at the net to spike a ball and came down on a stone. I could hear a sharp crack in my left ankle, immediately stopped playing and began to hobble toward the house. The pain became too severe, and midway between the playing field and the house I had to sit down. I was blocked from view of the volley ball court by cactus hedges, and my loud calls could not be heard due to distance and the noise players were making. I finally rose to one leg and tried to hop, but the jarring of the ankle caused such pain that I stopped and sat down again.

After about a half an hour I heard steps coming on a path through the cactus, and two ground crew men, a corporal and a sergeant, came right beside me. I was overwhelmingly glad to see them, and knew I had the help I needed.  As they approached I said, "Sergeant, I have either badly sprained my ankle or broken it, would you two men help me to that house?" They were two men I had never seen before, probably from another group. The sergeant looked at me and said, "Some of your buddies over there can help you." and turning, the two continued down the path. (continued)


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