B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

Return to Florence
by Benjamin C. McCartney, 443rd Bomb Squadron

 

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The Target Divided among Squadrons

 

The first squadron had the top part of the yards, the western part. The second squadron had the eastern, or bottom half of the yards. The yards ran nearly east and west. We were to go in east of Florence and then turn back 180 degrees and make our run from east to west.

 
 

When flying in, "you can pick up the Baptistery in front of the Cathedral pretty easily. It's very white in the sunlight".

As Nazis shell Florence, dust of renaissance architecture rises above Ponte Vecchio. Palaces, as at the left, have been mined and demolished. Now the enemy, in retreat, bombards famous churches. Here the Baptistery described by the author can be seen. A pyramidal roof is another distinguishing feature.

"Going in, you can pick up the Baptistery in front of the Cathedral pretty easily," I told Bobby. "It's very white in the sunlight.

I noticed it once when we were going in on Incisa and Florence was just off to the north

You can see it clear back by Pontedera coming in"

"Good deal," Bobby said. "You guys see it on your photos?" He pointed it out.

In a few minutes the briefing was over, and Bobby said, "Good luck. They're really counting on you."

We went out and into the end of the pilots briefing. It was dark in the pilots' briefing room, and the commanding officer was going over a lantern-slide picture of the target When he had finished, the radio officer went over the radio data, and then we all got a time tick from the group navigator.

"O.K., good luck. Really get in there today, fellows," the colonel told us.

Outside we got into the big trucks and banged and lurched out over the bad roads to the planes.

"This lousy truck ride's what gets me," one pilot said. "This truck ride's worse than flak. Lasts longer, too."

"We'll be all beat up inside when this war's over," another flyer said. "Me, I'm looking forward to that Buick convertible with springs in it. When I ain't driving it, I'm going to be sitting in it."

The truck we were riding on lurched slowly over to our squadron area and jerked to a stop by the nose of the first plane. Several flyers got off and the rest began yelling plane numbers to the truck driver: "Sixty-three," "Five zero," "Sixty-two." The driver clashed the gears and the truck moved on to the next plane. Captain Ackerman and I got down.

"See you fellows later," I called back.

"Lay them in there," Combat Lamb called to us.

"You keep that bald head out of the sun so we can see, and we will," Bob Cooke yelled at him. Bob was our co-pilot. He almost always got out to the trucks early and got into the front seat so he would be warm and the ride wouldn't be so rough.

We had had the same crew for almost a year: Capt. Leonard S. Ackerman (then first lieutenant), Lt. Robert B. Cooke, myself, and three enlisted men, Sgt. Harold Just, engineer-gunner, Sgt. Felton L. Callahan, radio-gunner, and Sgt. Richard Mensch, armorer-gunner. Later, out of the raid on Florence, Bob Cooke and I were to collaborate in writing a play at night in the orderly room and in our tent.

The enlisted men were already out working on the ship and loading the parachutes and Mae Wests and flak vests into the ship. Captain Ackerman immediately began inspecting the ship, and Bob Cooke climbed up into the co-pilot's seat. Sergeant Just, always a bit offhand with officers, called him "Ace." (Continued)


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