B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

Remembrances of the B-Dash-Crash & My Experiences with the 320th
by John (Jack) S. Harpster, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Former Italian soldiers on our base

 

You might recall that Mussolini was the third party in the Axis efforts against the Allies. I understand that he was captured in the summer of 1943 which was just prior to my arrival in combat. The Germans later freed him and he set up a puppet government in Northern Italy. The will to fight and the moral support of the Italian armies, however, was rapidly fading. As the war effort went against them, many Italian troops were left behind the ever receding lines. At our camp in Sardinia there were quite a few of these former soldiers. They were allowed freedom of the base and were more or less assigned to a particular tent for menial tasks.

A former soldier named Emiho Bozelli was assigned to our area and we all grew to like and feel sorry for him. You might well be wondering if there was a point to this story and trust me - there is. Emiho was a devout Catholic. He loved his family and very much missed his homeland up in Northern Italy. There was a destroyed German JU-88 dive bomber rusting away on the perimeter of our airfield and somehow Emiho dug some plastic out of the canopy and brought it back to our tent. To keep busy he worked and worked for days and kept his project quite secret. Finally, one day he came up to me with something in his hand and he said in very broken English:

“You lika dis - I givea you”

What he had made for me out of the destroyed German JU-88 Plexiglas window was a fine little cross as pictured here. I fought back moist eyes and said in my best Italian:

“Tanto Gracias”

 
 

 

which means thank you so very much. Probably my Italian was worse than his English, but it nonetheless came from the heart. I carried this cross along with my dog tags on all the rest of my USAF flights for the next 31 years. I’m sure you recall the old saying that a cat has 9 lives. Fortunately for me, this cross must have held the same magic during the all too many close calls and less than Phi Beta Kappa episodes of my career. (Continued)


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