B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

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

 

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Preparation for the Attack

 

Now the war had come full cycle. Ancient Florence had to feel the new war

Slowly, that morning, the bombardiers' briefing room filled up as the trucks arrived from each squadron. The bombardiers were talking and smoking and discussing the course line on the wall map, and I looked at them.

These men, like the pilots briefing in the next room and the navigators briefing across the room from us, were young men, 18 and 20 and 25-young men who would be far from the peace table when the treaties were haggled over and signed. But they would have known what responsibility was.

We were all dressed in heavy flying equipment for high altitude, and some of us already wore Mae Wests and flying helmets. Several had on parachute harnesses.

These were the men whose skill would determine whether this supreme test of precision bombing would succeed. Behind them were the many raids all over the Mediterranean theater, the long, hot, tedious afternoons and mornings of formation flying in Florida and Louisiana, the hours of flying and bombing back at the flat and dusty airfields of the flying schools in Texas and New Mexico and Arizona and California.

The group bombardier came in with an armful of maps and photographs and data sheets. He crawled under the table and came up in the little open square in the center.

"I guess you guys know what the story is," he said.  The bombardiers had all moved over to the square table now. "They decided to bomb Florence and we're the ones to do it. It's a great compliment. The only thing is, we cant screw up. If we screw up it'll really be our necks."

"Who all is going?" one bombardier asked him.

"Just us. We got the hardest target, too. So we really got to be in there. Here 're the maps." He handed out the 1:250,000 maps of the Florence area of Italy, and we opened them up and folded them so that Florence and the course in were on top. (Continued)


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