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The B-26 units were ordered to shift northward to air bases on the Island of Corsica. In mid-September the 320th's ground men loaded equipment and supplies on LSTs for the thirty-hour voyage from Cagliari to Porto Vecchia. They unloaded and drove their vehicles to Alto Airfield, just south of Bastia on the rocky-cliffed northeast coast of Corsica, a few hundred feet from the sea. Naturally, it rained for most of the move.

      The men bivouacked in tents. Group and Squadron offices were set up in prefabricated huts. The Air Echelon came in from Decimo and the first mission from Alto was flown September 22nd. Takeoffs down its steel mat runway had to clear hills to the north, and with full loads were too close for comfort. Some equipment, and waist guns and gunners, were removed.

      Word that the 319th over at Serragia was going to switch from B-26s to B-25s was received glumly by the men of the 320th early in October. Throughout the month the Group fought the elements in order to fight the Germans. Missions were much shorter now: two and a half hours instead of five. When weather permitted, the airmen were briefed and the B-26s droned over Northern Italy at fairly low levels to bomb almost without opposition. Luftwaffe or RSI fighters seldom appeared.

      The war became one of brisk, businesslike efficiency for the Maraudermen. Group and Squadron Sections did their work with professional skill. Individuals performed the hundreds of tasks necessary to get the B-26s ready. Crews were briefed...suited up...taxied out...took off, formed up, and flew on to bomb another Italian target whose name they couldn't pronounce.

      Generally the 320th men liked Corsica, the picturesque French island with its scenic woods and beautiful mountains. The cool waters of its rivers were great for skinny dipping. Base was comfortable, when it wasn't raining. At Alto there was baseball, football, mail call... and taking it easy on days off.

      On October 20th the men got dressed up for a big parade and review. General Cannon presented the Group with the Distinguished Unit Citation for its outstanding action against the Germans at Fondi May 12th.

      Early in November the Marauders commenced attacks on the northern limit of the German supply line in Italy--the Brenner Pass railway. Col. Ashley B. Woolridge assumed command of the 320th on the 2nd, succeeding Col. Fletcher who was being rotated back to CONUS. Col. Woolridge had come across with the 319th and had been CO of its 439th Squadron. He had 88 Marauder combat missions to his credit at this time, more than any man in the Air Force.

      Despite the heavy blows from the air on enemy communications during this period, complete paralysis was not achieved, nor was it even approached. The German transportation system had many devious routes and a remarkable recuperative capacity. On days when our planes were unable to take off, German workmen were busy repairing damaged tracks and roads. Reports on train movements indicated that the enemy was very successful in restoring rail service quickly. The Marauders had to make repeated attacks against the same objectives to knock 'em out and keep 'em out.

      Flak was heavier than ever...the Germans had concentrated their guns around key targets. The 88s continued to take their toll. The 320th devised counter-techniques. Decoy flights, carrying no bombs to lighten them for speed, first went in low to draw flak away from the main formation. Other Marauders dropped "Chaff" aluminum strips to confuse German radar. These "razzle dazzle" tactics were very effective in reducing losses over important and well-defended objectives.

      The ground war in Italy bogged down as winter approached and Fifth Army got stuck in the mud around Bologna. In mid-November 42nd Wing, with the 17th and 320th, was ordered to move to Dijon in East Central France. They were to join the First Tactical Air Force (Provisional) supporting American and French armies pushing towards Germany through Alsace-Lorraine.

The Group's Ground Echelon began pulling out of Alto during the latter part of November to load up for a twenty-four hour LST voyage, debarking at Marseilles, France. Forming up, they drove on to Dijon. The 320th's B-26s continued to fly missions from Corsica until end of the month, then they flew to Dijon. As expected, weather throughout the move was terrible. [Go to the next base: Dijon France]

-Text authored by Victor C. Tannehill, Saga of the 320th


[Mac Dill/Drane, Florida][Tafaraoui, Algeria][Montesquieu, Algeria][Massicault, Tunisia][El Bathan/Djedeida, Tunisia][Decimomannu, Sardinia][Alto, Corsica][Dijon, France][Dole, France][Germany]

 

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