A Foggia story
At MacDill Field, near Tampa, Florida, I met my co-pilot, navigator, engineer, radio operator, tail gunner, ball turret gunner, and two waist gunners. We spent the next six weeks training together. Then on to our port of embarkation, Savannah, Georgia, where we got a brand new B-17G to fly to our combat destination. It had a great new-aeroplane smell. After a few days getting to know it, we flew to Bangor, Maine where we got “sealed” orders. We knew it would be either England and the 8th Air Force, or Italy and the 15th, but we could not open the orders until out of the continental US.
As soon as we were airborne everyone clamored to know our destination, but sticking to the book, I waited until our navigator, Ardrah “Ike” Buddin, announced that we were over Canada, opened the envelope and on the intercom announced that we were headed for Italy.
Other crews had the same orders but we flew individually and at each stop would meet, eat, shower, compare flights, and sleep. First stop out of U.S.A. was Goose Bay, Labrador, then the Azores, then Rabat, Tunisia, then Cairo, Egypt, then Gioia, Italy, and finally Foggia, where we set up a tent with officers of another crew, pilot, Roy Arndt, co-pilot, William McDougal, navigator, Eugene Cowen. Our enlisted crews, six men each, had two tents directly across the unpaved company street.
The first night we gravitated to a toufa stone hut that served as the officers’ bar. Those with their final mission to go, the 35th of 35, got toasted. A bombardier being toasted held his drink so shakily, wine slopped out. A captain, Caduceus on his shirt showing he was a flight surgeon, said, “Poor bastard has only one more mission or I’d ground him.”
The day before our first mission, Ike, my navigator, needled Roy Arndt, who was a professed atheist.
“Wait until you see flak exploding. You’ll start believing in God.”
Arndt, from Wisconsin, taciturn to the point of sullen, said nothing. We were waked for our mission at four in the morning. That evening after returning, Arndt looked at Ike and said, “I’m still an atheist.”