Click here for a Texas Public Radio article about Gerald “Gerry” Teldon
We went to Europe on one of the famed Victory ships and because of the U-boat scare, stayed up all night playing poker and slept during the day. Other than pilots, the troops were black and not too happy to be going. In fact, some of them threw their gear overboard as they were marching up the gangplank boarding the ship. They stayed up all night singing spirituals and playing their instruments, another experience.
After about 20 days, we arrived in Oran N. Africa and spent a few hours ashore. While there, some of the troops from the boat took sheets from their beds and sold them to the natives. Others came back to the ship minus their wristwatches after shaking hands with the “locals” who were expert at working wonders with their hands.
Finally, we disembarked in the port of Naples, Italy in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, an awesome sight. Immediately we were taken to a “staging” area where we received our assignments, and within a few days and a bumpy truck ride, we’re at our “new” home on the Adriatic Sea in the suburbs of a city called Iese.
The Group’s mission was tactical support, which meant search and destroy anything valuable to the enemy, such as truck convoys, trains, rail-yards plus give local support to the ground troops, as needed.
I was assigned to the 85th. Fighter Squadron of the 79th. Fighter group. It had a considerable history of service from North Africa to the present as a part of the US 12th Air force on special assignment to the British Desert Air Force. Our insignia was a “Skull and Bones”-the 86th. The squadron was “the Comanches” and the 87th was “the Skeeters”. Each had a history that was later developed and detailed into a book compiled after the war and is a part of my memorabilia.
From the first time I thought of joining the Air Force, I had visions of living in housing with all the comforts of home and not living in the mud and under tents that were portrayed as the norm for the foot soldier.
And here we were in a field outside of Iese in mud up to our ankles and given a tent to set up if we didn’t want to sleep under the stars. There was a mess tent where we all ate, a club tent where we came together at night and after the days flying was done, and a privy tent for relieving ourselves. There was no shower. If you wanted to shower, you went to Fano, about 20 miles away on the day you didn’t fly.
My tent mate was Marlin Clancy and I called him Spike after the “Marlin Spike” I read about. He was a very gentle person and we shared our lives together in that tent. We discussed everything; our fears and successes; what happened during each mission and I’m sure we embellished the details for effect and what we would do after the war if we were lucky to live through it.
Spike wasn’t a card player or much of a drinker, and so much time has gone by that I forget how he spent the non-flying hours. Maybe it was writing home and reading.
When you got up in the morning, you heated water in your “flak” helmet over your little man-made stove, and with a washcloth gave yourself a quick “going over”. Clean officers’ clothing was kept in our bags. We lived in our flying suits, jacket, helmet, shoes and flying boots because the weather was cold and damp and we wore what was available to keep warm. Fortunately, we all smelled the same so it wasn’t too distressing. There were few amenities and no sense complaining because everyone was doing the same thing, from the Group Commander to the crew chiefs.
We would go to the mess tent and have whatever was available. Sometimes, if lucky, we had eggs from the local farmers. If not, there was toast and coffee and cereal, but very little fruit.
There was no permanent runway. As the front lines moved, so did we. We flew off 12-foot pierced steel planking that was joined together at each side so that it was easily movable. The control tower was a jeep and everything we had learned about long runway take-offs was fiction. Here we had minimal length runways, at least 1-500 lb. bomb under each wing and at times, a rocket tube, each with 3 rockets. Sometimes we also had a 100-gallon auxiliary gas tank under the belly for long-range flights. Added to that, we had 4-50 caliber machine guns in each wing, loaded with maximum ammo because our job was tactical, hit anything on land that moved (trains, cars, trucks and wagons) and create panic in the enemy’s camp. We were a flying arsenal–but they never told us about that in flight training!
Our only thoughts were “if those guys can do it, so can we”.
All of us had rehearsed over and over again (in our mind) the bail-out procedure if and when it was needed. Although each of us carried a “45” revolver with extra clips, we never had target practice, so I doubt we could do much harm if shot down and tried to protect ourselves. Additionally, many of us had a large hunting knife and I kept a rapid-fire gun under my seat so that I’d at least “get some of them before they got me”. Methinks I saw too many war movies as a kid. We knew from reports that “bail- outs” were shot on the way down to prevent them from flying again, and captured pilots were summarily shot because of their tactical support activities. We carried Italian money and identification cards in Italian along with details for our rescuers (if we were lucky) for returning us to our lines or getting us out of the enemy territory.
As a result of my previous belly landing, I thought that if it happened again, I’d know from experience what to do to survive the crash. From that point on, who knew?
My first combat mission was on December 11, and we met before dawn for the briefing as to what our role was for that mission (referred to as a “show”). When I got to my plane, I saw a cluster of three rocket tubes under each wing and realized I was going to fly with rocket tubes I never knew existed. I didn’t know how to “arm” them to make them ready to be fired from the cockpit. so Guthrie, my crew chief, the man who takes care of the plane to be sure it’s in flying condition at all times, instructed me. Even the take-off was scary. Finally, we gained altitude and at about 5000 ft. as wing-man to the squadron leader, I began to zigzag to keep my eyes alerted to any enemy aircraft that could intercept the flight. So far it was just like what I had seen in all the movies back home.
Suddenly, puffs of black smoke appeared from nowhere, and I realized they were the “88’s” (flak) that murderous German anti-aircraft response to down enemy planes. It was hypnotizing as I watched it explode all around me, knowing that it had a deadly effect from all the war movies I had seen back home and yet I was powerless to avoid it. I thought, “it’s just like in the movies”.
Then, the flight leader rocked his wings which was a signal that he spotted a target, and we started our “run” on a long combination freight and passenger train. I peeled-off after him and watched him as he started to level off to begin his attack. At what I thought was the right time, I began my pullout, but the plane didn’t react the way I expected it to. The plane alone weighed over 7 tons and with the additional armaments, I was doing about 250 mph on my way down. With a “real” 500 lb. bomb under each wing and a cluster of 3 rockets in 3 tubes next to each bomb, an auxiliary belly tank and 8-50 caliber machine guns fully loaded, the ground came up so fast that all I could envision was my making one very large hole in the ground where I left my mark in Italy.
Ever so gradually I began to come out of the dive, knowing that if I rushed the process the controls wouldn’t react in time for my recovery. Finally, as I leveled off at just about tree-top height, I was able to see the train and my squadron leader as he began to pull up from his run, and anxious to make a killing, I released one of my rockets in hopes of hitting the train’s engine. Before I could blink my eye, the rocket went over the engine and was chasing my leader while I held my breath as it luckily missed him as he pulled off the target.
Just as I was bearing down on the engine, the engineer appeared in the doorway and with all my 8- 50’s blazing, I bore down on the engine and it “blew” just as I was passing over it. It all happened so fast. The adrenaline was flowing and I scored my first engine. We dive-bombed, rocketed and strafed the rest of the train’s cars, not knowing if they were filled with troops and or supplies, and finally regrouped and returned to base.
After landing, my crew chief met the plane, whistled a greeting, and then began to take parts of trees out of the cowling around the engine. From that and the green marks on the rocket tubes it was quite evident that I was very close to becoming a permanent part of the Italian scenery.
Every time the guns were fired, a concealed camera recorded where the bullets converged. Every evening the films of the day were shown to critique the activity and confirm what the pilots said they did. When the gun camera films were developed and shown that evening, everyone thought I was a real “hot shot” for waiting so long to pull out and get down so low to “Zap” that engine and when they saw the rocket speeding after and thankfully missing my leader, they were amazed. Evidently, because I was so low on pulling out of my dive and scrapping the tree tops, the rocket tubes were slightly moved and were out of line.
If they only knew what really happened (I wasn’t going to tell them), let the facts speak for themselves. However, I’ll never forget how the engineer evaporated in my sights as my 8 50 caliber machine guns hit him.
I often asked pilots who flew in an air-to-air combat situation, if they ever thought of the personal contact. I was told that “you know that your life depends on being able to get the other guy before he gets you. At that time, it’s a contest between two machines and the ability of the pilots to outmaneuver and do whatever was necessary to destroy him before he destroys you”.
There were times in air-to-air combat situations when the two pilots of equal capability would cut- off their contact and fly to their home base and return and test each other on another day.
When you fly tactically your job is to search and destroy whatever moves, and that may be trucks laden with troops or houses filled with the enemy who are holding up the advance of your ground troops and must be destroyed. In all instances, it involves people and you try not to think of what you are doing to other individuals-but consider what they are doing to those on “your side”.
There were times when both were expected, tactical and strategic results, so there was never a fine line drawn between the two.
That may be the reason why so many with a history of serving in a war don’t like to talk about it.
Every evening most of us would go to the “club tent” to drink and play poker. After a while, we realized that many of the old-timers would await the schedule for the next morning mission, and then proceed to try to get those who were listed for early morning briefing (5:30 AM) so drunk that they would be unable to fly and then they would show up and volunteer to take their place. By doing that, they would be able to get more missions and get home earlier. That worked for a while, but the High Command began to change the rules from being eligible for home after 40 missions to 50 and finally, towards the end of the war, there was no limit set on how many you needed before going home. Consequently, in order to get as many as possible, sometimes we flew drunk and because we knew the planes so well, got away with it. My nickname was “Rubberlegs” because I kept up with all of them and sometimes walked “Kinda funny” when we quit for the evening.
We played cards till early in the morning sometimes and flew with only a few hours of sleep. There was a rule that you kept track of what you owed until payday, and then at the end of the month, settled your accounts for that month. With the losses we sustained, not much money changed hands because those that owed and those that won seemed to cancel out a great deal of debt by the end of the month.
They assigned a plane to each pilot and each had its own crew chief. He was the mechanical genius that kept the plane in shape and made sure that it was ready to go when you needed it. My crew chief was Guthrie, a mountain man from the hills of Kentucky who played the fiddle. He would play it over his head, behind his back and then the regular way. It was a shame that I was so young and never really spent the time I should have to get to know him better. After all, he was the one I relied on to have everything in top condition when I needed it. With my background playing the violin, we had something in common–but I never thought of developing a closer relationship. When I arrived at the plane early in the morning and Guthrie would sense that I needed some help after he strapped me in, he put the oxygen mask on my face which was ‘on demand’ to sober me up as much as possible before takeoff.
When the older pilots left, their planes were “given” to the newer ones. If you were lucky, you got one of the newer models that were flown in to replace those that were lost on missions or needed repairs so badly they were cannibalized for their parts.
Before I left Angelica, the advertising manager suggested that I name my plane “Angelica” which would have been great publicity for the company. In Italian “Angelica” means “little Angel” and I thought that would be too suggestive. Instead, I named it “MR. Lucky” and that seemed more appropriate.
We were all superstitious, and I made it a point to urinate on the tail wheel before takeoff. Crazy things you do without rhyme or reason, but you do it.
The Adjutant (Aaron Bell) and I were the only Jews in the group, but it didn’t bother either of us. At no time did I hear an anti-Semitic remark or reference to religion. One Rosh Hashanah, Aaron and I got a special pass to attend services in Rimini where the Chief Rabbi from Israel presided over the service. I was chosen to sit next to him and help with the matzo and whatever else he needed.
During the whole time I was overseas, I never read or heard of the concentration camps. I was shocked after the war when we were sent to Austria for the occupation that I learned of their existence!
I had kept in touch with my old Pocatello friend Ed Storms (who put his arm through the window) and learned that he was nearby with another P-47 Group. We made arrangements to meet and he flew into our base where we spent a few days “on the bottle” reliving our “youth” during the training period.
Our last base was Cesenatico, a small town on the Adriatic, and we lived in the Albergo Miramar.
Almost 50 years later Mom and I revisited it and met the owner’s daughter (she was a little girl when we lived there) who was running it.
We couldn’t find it because it was renamed the “Hotel Britannia”. At the start of the war, anything English wasn’t acceptable, so the owners changed the name to “Albergo Miramar”, and I looked for an elderly person in the town who did recall the name and gave us the directions.
She showed us around and told us that every year many of the members of the Group came with their families and stayed with her.
When we were there, it was the only hotel on the beach. When I returned, there were hotels all around it and the beach was filled with chairs.
I bought an old trombone and practiced when not flying. I made sure that when I left it in my room, that I took the mouthpiece. Everyone wanted me to get rid of it, and finally, one day I forgot the mouthpiece and they threw it away. That was the end of my “music”.
We always shared airfields with an Anzac (Australia/New Zealand) and South African Group and I swear that they had cold water rather than blood in their veins. They were fearless and they played hard and lived life to the limits. Some flew “Baltimore” night fighters, and others flew “Spits” (Spitfires). Every morning when we got up for our briefing, we would see their wrecked planes that littered the airfield after they barely made it back to base. Their losses were much higher than ours, because as we were shutting down operations for the evening, they were first taking off to find and destroy anything that moved in the night, rain or shine.
I remember returning to base after a long mission and it was just turning dark and we were lucky to find our base just in time before night set in. Because our base was up to the front lines, whenever the front moved a few miles, the engineers would put up a new airfield with pierced steel planking and we’d move everything we had, tents and all, up to that point. Therefore there were no night lights to mark the runways, so at nightfall, we were on the
ground or faced the consequences. Just after we landed and breathed a sigh of relief, the Anzacs were taking off for their nightly sorties.
Sometimes we had parties together, and they would play “Kick the can” with a #10 can of food opened with the raw edges of the top exposed enough to give anyone who came into contact with it a considerable gash that required many stitches. It was their way “out” of it. To add spice to the game, it was done with a two-man team, one on the shoulders of the other, and after a great deal of drinking and kicking, all hell would break loose. They were wild men, but having to fly as they did, anything that gave a relief in some way was welcomed.
The South Africans who were just as fierce and flew the “Spits” (Spitfires) were two-fisted drinkers and they would come over to our club to drink and teach us songs. They gave us 2 dogs that we kept as pets for the squadron. One song was “Hold them down you Zulu warrior, hold them down, you Zulu chief-chief- chief. Hi ziga zimba zimba zimba hi ziga zimba zimba zay” and then repeated several times. It was a great drinking song and we would start it at the drop of a hat.
On one mission that I recall, they were giving ground support to a British ground company that needed air support, and they had a pilot from New Jersey who they called “Jersey”. Suddenly over the interphone, one of the South AF’s shouted “Pull out Jersey-bail out” then a second or two of silence and “Damn, he bought the farm” (an expression used instead of saying he was killed) and you knew he never made it.
I never gave much thought to the fact that I was only 20 years old when I flew my first mission because that was the average age of most of us at
the time. The old timers were back home after serving their time from N. Africa to the invasion of Italy, and now the replacements (us) were filling in their shoes.
There were only a few missions that stand out in my memory. Most of them were routine flights to support the ground troops. The flight leader would be given a grid map of a specific area that the ground forces were trying to take, and our job was to coordinate their efforts with our aerial support. For instance, after take off the flight leader would tune in to the radio channel of the forward unit “controller” where the ground troops were fighting and then be directed to the area where we were urgently needed. By coordinating the precise grid on the same map held by the forward controller on the ground, we were able to know exactly where the enemy that was holding up the advance was located and attack them. Of course there was a great deal of ground fire from their side and that was where we lost quite a few planes. Our ground support resulted in the success of the ground forces. It was always scary because you never knew what was down there and usually there was more than you bargained for.
Every now and then the Deputy Group Commander would fly with the squadron on their missions, and I’ll never forget the one time I was chosen to fly as his wing man. I think they were trying to get rid of me because this guy had iced water for blood and would do the damnedest things to set an example and beat up the enemy.
On this mission we did some strafing and then on the way home he must have seen something and before I knew it, we were diving on another target that I couldn’t see. Suddenly, all hell broke loose and the sky lit up with flak and tracers. He pulled up and I followed at full speed and while I was looking forward I could see “tracers” (usually 50mm machine gun bullets with phosphorous tips that would glow as they were fired so that the person shooting could see where they were going and correct the trajectory as needed. They were usually every 5th bullet, which was what we used in our wing guns to take corrective action when strafing) coming up between my 2nd. and 3rd. gun on my left side. I was hypnotized by the steady stream of tracers and if the guy who was firing hesitated for a split second, he would have cut my wing in half and “goodbye Gerry”. Fortunately, he didn’t and finally stopped firing, giving me a chance to regroup with my leader. When we landed the “signs” of the tracers were very visible from the black marks between the wing guns, and Guthrie thought I lead a charmed life.
The Colonel congratulated me for staying with him and under my breath, I hoped he would never come across my path again.
One of the older guys was given the opportunity to be a flight leader and I was his wingman. We were loaded with bombs and a belly tank because the front lines were moving well forward and we had to go on longer missions to find targets of opportunity. The Germans were pretty good at setting traps by parking a full train with smoke coming out of the engine and sitting in the center of a “U” turn in a mountain pass. As the attacking planes approached, the Germans would fire from both sides of the mountain towards the line of fire the planes would have to take to attack it.
On this day, the new leader who should have known better led us into such a trap but before we got too close I called the “trap” and it was every man for himself to try to get out of the area as quickly as possible. I pointed my nose to the sky and gave
that plane all it had, hoping that Guthrie was on the ball–and he came through with flying colors. The sky was black with puffs of flak! It was a harrowing experience that could have cost a few fatalities if the leader wasn’t thinking of an easy kill on his first assignment as a leader instead of being more judicious in his selection of a target. Our job was to follow “regardless” and come hell or high water, we were trained to do it and did it. I wonder how many guys were killed because the flight leader made bad judgments and no one would ever know.
Once in a while, we flew with Anti-personnel fragmentation bombs that scattered shrapnel over large areas on impact. We usually dropped them from higher altitudes to cover a larger area of enemy troop concentration. For some reason, we had problems with them, because there were 2 incidents where they dropped off as the planes were taking off-probably because of the jolting from the pierced steel planking being so uneven, especially after a heavy rain.
One time, the bomb hung up and the pilot aborted the takeoff and stayed in the plane. Unfortunately, when he did that, the jolting stop armed the bomb and he was killed in the explosion. The second time it happened, the pilot, probably thinking of the results of the first, got out of the plane and that bomb went off too, killing him as he tried to get away.
Whatever happened on takeoff, the next plane to go took off over the debris because a mission was scheduled and the war went on.
We seldom talked of those who “bought the farm”– an expression used instead of saying killed, and often
wondered why, but it seemed that it was always on to the next mission, the nightly drinking and the next card game. When someone was killed, his personal baggage was sent “home”, and any equipment he had in his room was available for anyone to take. It was difficult to establish a relationship because you never knew how long it would last.
The war was almost over and the enemy was concentrated at the Po River. We flew as many missions as possible laden with fragmentation bombs to create the most possible punishment to the German anti-aircraft gunners who were throwing everything they could at the 1000 plane bomber raids that were coming from southern Italy. We’d fly at about 6000 feet through giant puffs of black anti-aircraft fire from below, point the nose down at about 60% and let go of the bombs and continue shooting blindly as we pulled out as close to the ground as possible while using evasive action so the enemy wouldn’t be able to sight you in a straight line of fire.
At times we flew alongside of the B-25’s that were on the way to their target, and encountered their P-
51 escorts flown by the only black pilot squadron. The Group Commander had a gold leaf painted on his plane to “announce” his rank. If we met them on their way back to base and we were also returning from ours, we would “engage” in a mock dog-fight and usually got the worst of it. Their planes had a better turn ratio and they were used to pulling high “G’s” in turns because their role was escort and to intercept enemy aircraft and protect the bombers so air-to-air combat was their expertise. That group never “lost” any planes they escorted. They were good!
In retrospect, I was lucky to be in a Tactical group instead of a Strategic one that tangled with enemy aircraft. Our training was as bomb-laden planes that
worked close to the front lines and theirs were to protect the bombers at all cost. After all was said and done, they had a much higher casualty rate based on air-to-air combat and anti-aircraft activity while escorting the bombers. The Germans were exceptionally good fighter pilots and were well-trained.
After a period of time, usually after completing 25 missions, we were given leave and had the option of going “anywhere”. My first leave was to Rome and on the way there we stopped at the Republic of San Marino, an “independent town” within Italy that derived its income from producing and selling the most beautiful postage stamps made in all of Europe. I did a lot of sightseeing and had a wonderful time. Years later, Mom and I visited it and were very disappointed because the whole town was a souvenir shop selling “everything” to visitors from around the world.
Whenever we’d go on leave, we would fly whatever planes were ready for maintenance so it was an excuse for being away. Returning from Rome on a navigational training mission with the repaired planes, weather unexpectedly engulfed us and as we were nearing our base, couldn’t break radio silence or put on our navigational lights. Our position was uncertain in a ceiling of about 75 feet and stacked- up (the leader was at the bottom of the formation so that if he hit something and crashed, the others would be able to pull up and save themselves). Fortunately, we sighted a front-line Aussie fighter strip and landed just as darkness closed it down. We landed with about 10 minutes of gas remaining and learned that the front lines were 3 miles ahead. You can bet your life that we had a very big party that night!
My second leave was to Paris where I met a friend from Woodmere who was staying in the Crillon Hotel (now one of the most expensive in Paris). We went to the Follies and other nightclubs and had a great time during and after with the stars of the show.
He was apparently a War Hero and on leave he kept all his medals pinned to the inside of his officer’s tunic. When the time came to impress someone, usually a beautiful woman, he’d unbutton his tunic and flash his medals-and there were plenty of them.
The third leave was towards the end of the war and I was on the Isle of Capri when the war ended. While there, I met an old friend (Howard Tannenbaum) from New York, Florida and Carbondale and we celebrated the war’s end together. We stayed at the Quisisana Hotel (the most prestigious on the island), and stayed drunk most of the time. The only rule of the hotel was “no ice in the bathtub”! That prevented some of the heavy drinkings in the rooms.
We went to the famous “Blue Grotto” cave where the entrance allowed you to get in by boat while the tide remained low, but once the tide came in, you couldn’t get out and would either drown or have to swim out through the entrance which was then under water.
At the time we were there we had been drinking a lot of beer and were ready to relieve ourselves by standing up–when suddenly a few boats of visiting Nuns appeared in a large boat in the cave and we really had a dilemma. We “had to” relieve ourselves- but how to do it without them knowing or seeing us was the problem
Fortunately, someone had a few condoms, so we took turns kneeling in the boat away from the Nuns, and gradually filled the “containers”. Now the problem
was-how were we going to get rid of them? There we were, a bit drunk and laughing so much that everyone was looking at us. We arranged ourselves so that our backs were towards the Nuns, and three of us got down on our hands and knees and very-very carefully picked up the “containers”. It was like trying to run with a plastic bag full of jelly-laughing and fearful at the same time that they would fall and break. Slowly we maneuvered them to the edge of the boat and dropped them over the side. I can still see them settling down in the very transparent waters of the Blue Grotto.
After 25 missions we were given an Air Medal and after 50 you received a cluster to the one you had as an appreciative gesture to those who survived. It became a joke and some of us wrote up the details that had to go to headquarters for approval. After
50 you were “entitled” to a more impressive medal, the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross)and it became apparent they didn’t mean anything at that time.
The war was grinding to a halt and the 1000 B-17 bomber raids that went overhead on the way to Germany forecast their surrender. We continued to fly missions but they weren’t as dangerous now that the Germans were beating a retreat and coming to terms that they had indeed lost the war.
To add insult to injury, our Group Commander decided we ought to “do a number on Hitler’s Hideaway in Berchtesgaden” and we flew there and bombed and strafed the area.
There I was, 21 years old having flown 62 missions and still alive to tell the tale. I had in a very few years crossed from a kid out of school to “manhood”-from egg to adult without the benefit of a chrysalis.
When we returned from Capri to Cesenatico, life was very different. The only flying we did was to keep the planes in running order and getting our required flying time to collect our flight pay and stay proficient.
After the armistice, the German troops were marching in the thousands to assigned camps in Italy to be interned because they were fearful of the Italians taking revenge. One camp, which was under the command of a Canadian infantry Battalion Commander, was not too far from our hotel, so one night after “Spike” and I had been drinking, we decided to visit the camp and exchange some of our scotch for some of the Canadian’s beer.
We checked out a jeep and drove to the entry gate and when we saw there was no guard to stop us, we went into the camp. There were thousands of Germans there and piles of rifles and other armaments on the ground. Then we saw a very large area and about 8 long lines of Germans in a single file. At the front of each line were 2 Canadian soldiers and piles of money, watches and cameras, and we went over to talk to them and find out what they were doing. They were “disarming” them and allowing them to keep only a small amount of money they carried. We watched and then decided to start our own line and “go into business for ourselves” and collect what we could.
We started a line and began by asking them to drop all their money, allowing them to keep anything over
$10 or 1000 lira. We had heard that many Germans were carrying large sums of counterfeit money in order to flood the market and devalue the allied currency.
It didn’t take too much time before we had a pile of money about 4 feet high and I estimate the value to be about $500,000. I wanted to leave but “Spike” insisted on staying and getting more. At that time a German General Officer was first in line and “Spike” saw his camera and binoculars–and demanded that they be turned over to him. The German knew the Geneva Conference rules and insisted on his rights which included keeping what was his personal property.
That blew “Spike’s” mind and he really got mad. Then it happened! The General demanded to see the camp’s Commanding Officer and created such a loud fuss that eventually other lines stopped and the camp’s Commander came over to see what was going on.
When he saw us, he got red-faced and demanded to know what we were doing and had us escorted out of the camp. There we were, almost retired and then– broke!
Back in camp we told them of our escapade and our
C.O. told us that he had just received word that as of that day, all Lira had to be reported and had to be from a recognized legitimate source.