Wendell M. Simmons
87th FS Personal Story-The diary of Wendell M. Simmons, KIA on 18 Dec. 1943, provided by his nephew Walter Simmons
MILITARY SERVICE DIARY OF WENDELL McCLUNG SIMMONS
79th Fighter Group, 87th Squadron
Rank…2nd Lieutenant, promoted to 1st Lieutenant Serial Number…. 14095435, CHANGED TO 0-802358
Date of birth..Oct. 25, 1921 Weight…155 Height..5’11” Hair..Brown Eyes..Green
August 4th.(1942).. Left Magnolia for Nashville, Tenn. — was classified there
August 16th.. Left Nashville for Maxwell Field (Montgomery AL) where I received my preflight training.
October 19th.. Left Maxwell for Magnolia where I spent one day at home.
October 20th.. Reported at Tuscaloosa, Ala. where I received primary flight training for two months.
December 19th.. Left for Magnolia where I spent four days.
December 29th.. Left Tuscaloosa, Ala. for Newport, Ark. where I received basic training. Stayed there for two months.
February 28th (1943).. Left for Selma, Ala. for advance flight training. Received wings and commission.
April 29th.. William Benjamin killed.
April 29th.. Left for Magnolia for ten day leave. (Graduation Exercises at Selma, Alabama. His father W. Jones attended. See page 19)
May 11th.. Left for Tallahassee, Fla.
May 17th.. Reported at Sarasota, Fla. for P-40 OTU.
July 14th.. Left Sarasota, Fla. for Tallahassee, Fla.
July 17th.. Left Tallahassee for Boca Raton and Miami. Juanita Simmons, his sister (before marriage) stated that she and Jeanne Buchanan rode the train to Miami to visit with Wendell before he flew overseas. Juanita returned to Mississippi before Jeanne because she was homesick to see Marvin. They were married on Sept. 5, 1943.
The 87th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group, transfers with P-40’s from Malta to Licata Sicily.*
Wendell was later attached to the 87th in Palagonia Sicily.
July 19th.. Left Miami, Fla. for Puerto Rico at 11:30, Flew over Bahamas Islands and over coast of Dominican Republic, landed at Puerto Rico 5:00. Went into town of Adguadilla. Left Puerto Rico at 12:00 a.m.
July 20th.. Landed in Georgetown(Guyana or British Guiana), ate breakfast, left for Belem, Brazil. Flew over nothing but jungle, flew over Amazon at mouth, 200 miles wide. Landed at Belem at 12:00 p.m. Went to town of Belem. Ate French dinner at Madame Guray’s. Went to Casino, saw floor show. (He doesn’t record the flight from Belem to Natal.)
July 25th.. Left Natal (Brazil) at 4:30 a.m. ; Arrived at 1:30 p.m. at Dakar (Senegal). In his remarks during the funeral service, B. D. Statham mentioned Wendell joined the 79th Fighter Group after flying their fighter planes to Italy via South America, Ascension Islands and Africa. They would have refueled at Georgetown, Ascension Island about 1500 miles from Natal. From Georgetown to Dakar the distance was about 1400 miles. During a conversation between Juanita Simmons Blanks and Walter, she stated they flew their fighters over the Atlantic Ocean to Tunisia.
July 26th.. Left Dakar at 5:30 a.m.; arrived at Atar (Mauritania) at 10:30 a.m. Insts.(Instruments) most of trip. Left Atar at 11 o’clock for Marrakesh (Morocco), nothing but brown sand and mountains, highest peak 13,000 ft. Arrived at Marrakesh at 4:00 p.m.
July 27th.. Left Marrakesh 7:00 a.m., arrived Casablanca 8:30. Assigned to 20th Rep. Bat. awaiting shipment to tactical unit. Stayed in Casablanca for three weeks. Had nothing to do but sit and wait.
Aug 17th.. Left Casablanca at 9:30 in the morning. First landed at Ras Elma (Algeria). It was in the desert and was surrounded by high mountains. Saw lots of planes. Next we landed at Oran (Algeria). Field was away from med. (Mediterranean) but town was at the foot of big mountains. Landed next at Algiers (Algeria) which was also in mountains. Lots of farmland close around, growing mostly grapes. The field was torn up pretty bad. We landed next at Bizerte (Tunisia) about 5:30 in the afternoon. As we landed a tire blew out so we had to stay over for the night. Saw a corny French show. Left the show, went to Courier’s office and was waiting there for a truck when air raid sounded. Time was 9:30. We didn’t think it would be a big raid so no one got excited. We were standing in a big opening when the first German plane was caught in floodlights and he was directly over the field. In about two seconds no one was standing there. I jumped in a slit trench with another fellow which some Frenchmen had visited a few hours before, but this didn’t matter to me. The other boys found a concrete ditch that didn’t offer too much protection. Shrapnel was whistling over our heads all the time from our own guns. The closest bomb was about two hundred yards away from us. It was fun talking about it afterwards, but when we could hear those bombs and the planes diving down it sure wasn’t. We would look up at the shelling every few minutes and I’d never seen anything like it before. The searchlights would get the plane located and then every battery close around would let go at him; it was really a sight. A 90 mm battery was a few hundred feet from me and it would rock the trench every time it would fire. I saw one plane explode in mid-air. The night fighters and ack-ack were credited with seven planes out of a 25 plane raid. The raid ended about thirty minutes after it started. This was my first time in a raid so it was quite an experience for me. We finally went into Bizerte to a hotel which was the only building in tact in the whole area. We got in bed at 12:30 a.m. only to be awakened at 4:30 a.m. by the ack-ack guns. Another raid was on but it was only two planes so it didn’t last long. We had to get up at six o’clock to leave Bizerte.
Aug 18th.. We had a nice breakfast down on the harbor front which was filled with shipping. There was also a good many sunken ships in the harbor from previous battles. There was not a thing left of Bizerte except a few buildings.
We finally got a ride to Tunis after waiting half a day in Bizerte. We found all kinds of shrapnel all over the field. Got a look at various kinds of German aircraft.
We arrived at Tunis and found the place pretty good considering all that had taken place there a few months before. We stayed at Tunis one night.
Aug 19th.. We left the city of Tunis and went out to a field. We finally got a plane at 4:30 for Tripoli (Libya). We landed at 6:30 and found out that we would stay there. We went to town which was about six miles from the field. The first night we stayed at the “Gran de Hotel” which was as good as any back in the states. It looked like a big mansion.
Aug 20th.. The next day we reported to headquarters and found out that we would be there another day. We visited many junk shops but couldn’t find a thing to buy. We went to a better hotel, which was really nice. It had been taken over by the R.A.F. as a rest camp and it was very nice. Had very good food there. It was next to the harbor so we spent a good bit of time watching the ships. That night we met up with some Navy (men) who invited us aboard their ship. We expected to leave Tripoli the next day, but the orders were changed the last minute.
Aug 21st.. We had very nice rooms so we got plenty of sleep the night before. Three of us went out to the ship and stayed on board about four hours looking over various things. We had mess with them and it was very good, just like we used to get in the states. The ice cream was the highlight of the meal. We learned lots about ships that we didn’t know before. That night we had a good card game which was about the only way to pass time.
Aug 22nd.. We left Tripoli about 8 o’clock Sunday morning. Tripoli was the nicest town I’d been in. The city was very noisy with army traffic, but at night it quieted. I enjoyed my stay there very much. All fighter and medium bomber groups of the Ninth Air Force are transferred to the Twelfth Air Force. 79th Fighter Group and it’s 85th, 86th and 87th Fighter Squadrons on Sicily with P-40’s.*
We arrived on Cap Bon (Tunisia) about 10:30 and received our orders. We were assigned to our tent which had Rice, Smith, Ellis, Hanson and I in it. Our field was in a dried up lake bottom and it was hot as hell, and the wind blew dust all the time. We have high mountains on all four sides. There were a few Arabs in the valley farming. An Arab blew his hand off the first day I got here with a shell the Germans had left behind.
Aug 24th.. Had my first flight over Cap Bon, saw some of the destruction that had taken place a few months before.
Aug 27th.. Donald Ellis was killed today between 8 o’clock and 9:30 on a familiarization flight. It was his second flight over the Cap. No one knew what happened. From now on deaths will probably be frequent. Who knows, I may be the next man. The living conditions here aren’t too bad. We’re living in tents. The food here could be a lot better and there could be more of it. I stay hungry all the time. We don’t have enough food for the number of men so everybody has to eat light. Maybe soon there will be plenty to eat. The cause of Donald’s crash was a wing peeled off in a dive. The poor guy probably didn’t have a chance to get out when it happened.
Sept 1st.. Left Cap Bon for assignment to squadron in Sicily. We got to the 79th Fighting Group about 5 o’clock and I was assigned to the 87th Fighter Squadron (Skeeters). Our field (Palagonia Sicily) is situated in a valley with the mountains towering on each side. Mt. Etna (east Sicily) can be seen in the distance on a clear day. We have an officers club rented from the caretaker of a baron’s estate. It has many fruit trees, grape vines and much farm land. My tent is right next to some grape vines. Watching the natives making wine makes a fellow never want to drink wine anymore. They get up in the pit and stomp all the juice out with their bare feet. It is really unsanitary.
Sept 3rd.. Today the invasion of Italy started. It was good news to all of us. I was alerted for my first flight but I didn’t get to make a hop. I guess my first flight will come off tomorrow. Twelfth Air Force: P-40’s on a sweep over Sardinia hit Pula and Capo Carbonara radar installations. In Italy, A-20’s, A-36’s, fighters and RAF light bombers hit gun positions throughout the toe of Italy, attack airfields at Crotone and Camigliatello and
hit railway yards at Marina di Catanzaro and Punta di Staletti, troop concentration near Santo Stefano d’Aspromonte and road junctions and bridges at Cosenza.*
Sept 5th.. Today being Sunday makes me think of home. I remember those Sundays I used to go to church and come home to a good meal. Well I can picture those days in my mind well.
The invasion is going pretty slow at the present time, but something should break soon. The last three days I’ve been on a thirty minute alert waiting to get my first flight in combat, and this waiting is certainly getting bad.
We can feel a bit of fall getting in the air and it sure makes me feel good. During the nights two blankets feel mighty good.
After talking to one of the natives here, I found out that they like the Americans, and that they want us to run the country after the war is won. Every one of them think that all of us are rich men. I’m hoping that first flight will be tomorrow.
Sept 7th..(1) Today at 2 o’clock I had my first mission over enemy territory. We were a bomber escort to a group of A-30’s. The target was Catanzaro (Italy). My flight turned around just before getting to the target because of a thick cloud layer. I clearly saw the bomb line and also saw a sub. We didn’t see a single Jerry so we saw no action. My first combat ride is something I’ll remember always. The flight was 2 hours, 45 minutes. In Sardinia, P-40’s hit the landing ground at Pabillonis and barges off Portoscuso.*
Sept 8th.. Went to the town of Minco (southern region of Sicily) this morning and found it very interesting. It was built up on the top of a mountain that is about 1500 feet high. Most all of the villages are built at top of mountains. Minco is supposed to be 1400 years old and it truly looked it. I don’t see how people could live in such conditions. I’ve never seen so many children in such a small place, all of them were very dirty. I saw a few people in the village that looked like they were well bred, but the majority looked very bad. This afternoon about 5 o’clock we were told about the attack that was to take place at Naples. We were given all the important dope on it by Capt. Bane, our intelligence officer. We all thought it was a mighty good plan. About 17:45 o’clock the news came over the radio that Italy had surrendered. Everyone sure was happy about it. It was just one more step toward victory and that’s what I hope will come soon. We thought then that all the fighting in Italy would be over. Everybody sure was happy about it.
Sept 9th..(2) This morning at 9 o’clock I took off on my first strafing mission. Before getting back it turned out to be a pretty good scrape. We went up to a road northwest of Cantanzaro to work over some motor trucks. The trip up went by without incident. I saw a sub fully surfaced just before we went in from the water. Just a little past Catanzaro, Jerry let us have all the ack-ack he could. The stuff was exploding all around, but luckily I didn’t get hit. One second you couldn’t see anything and then the next second a splotch of black smoke would be in front of you. None of our planes were hit in that ack-ack but later on some were hit bad. Capt. Rodgers was my element leader. We flew about six miles further on and then we went down to the attack. I was a little behind Scotty when I saw two 88’s firing. I let go everything I had and I’m sure that I knocked the guns out. On my way off the target, Scotty said he looked around and saw ack-ack missing me by only a few feet, but I didn’t hear it or see it, so it didn’t make much difference. But I could just feel some gun smacking the hell out of my plane. I was a relieved person when I finally got out of range of that ack-ack, but we still had some more to fly through. Nothing happened on our return trip. We had three planes shot up on the mission. MY SCORE – 1 gun emplacement. Length of mission – 2 hours, 50 minutes. P-40’s fly an uneventful sweep over Sardinia.*
Sept. 15th.. I left Sicily this afternoon for Crotone (Isole Base,Italy) which was about two hours flying time from our last base. We landed at Crotone airdrome and found that the place was pretty bad off. The field had been heavily bombed by the U.S. so there wasn’t much left of the place. There were bomb craters all over the field and barracks area. We slept out in the open the first night and ate meat and beans out of cans. There was only five pilots sent up with me. HQ 79th Fighter Group and it’s 85th, 86th and 87th Fighter Squadrons transfer from Sicily to Crotone, Italy with P-40’s.*
Sept 16th..I didn’t do much today. About 5 o’clock I moved into a big mansion owned by a Facist who had left. The house is very nice, has about thirty rooms and about half of them are furnished very good. All of the pilots are living here. Fruit trees are all around the house. Today I received my first word from home, a telegram from Jeanne. I certainly was glad to get it. I’ve been looking forward to getting some letters but none have come yet.
Sept 17th..(3) Today at 06:30 I had my third mission, a strafing mission, and I’ve about had all of them that I want. It sure isn’t fun flying up there with ack-ack bursting all around you, although we didn’t get much today. Our mission was up to Naples strafing a supply road. I had the hell scared out of me a couple of times. I couldn’t find a good target today so I shot up a house that looked (like) Jerry was using. The time of the mission was 2 hours, 40 minutes. There was plenty of shipping all up the coast, saw two aircraft carriers.
Sept 18th..(4) Today I had my fourth mission. We went up over the Naples area to give the ground forces support by strafing the enemy. We ran into a lot of 88 ack-ack and they covered the target quite well. The sky was covered with planes, A-36’s, Spits, Hurricanes, and a hell of a lot of 40’s. There was plenty of MT’s but I didn’t get any. I made a very gross error today that I’m going to make up for even if it costs my neck. The time of the mission was over two hours. I saw plenty of ground fighting today.
Sept 19th..(5) I went on my fifth mission today. I got nearly to Salermo and had to turn around with a bad engine.
Jack Benny, Roy Adler, and Winnie Shaw was at the field today and gave a show. It was the second time I’d seen the show so it wasn’t anything new. All of the fellows liked the show mighty well.
Sept 20th..Today we lost Robert Davis who had to bail out over enemy territory after his plane was shot up by the ack-ack.
Sept 21st..(6) Today I had my sixth mission, same old thing dodging ack-ack. I saw my first enemy plane today, a Fock Wulf 190. There was only one, but he got away from us. At that time I only got a glimpse of him. If I’d got a good look at him, I would have been in good shooting position. It sure did give me the cruds because I didn’t get a shot at him. They really threw some ack-ack at us. Our mission was strafing. I was acting as top cover so I didn’t fire my guns.
Sept 22nd.. I moved from Crotone airdrome today to a field (Pisticci) about 80 miles north of it. There is no town close by. There are mountains all around us, some of them are 6500 feet high and it sure makes a pretty
sight in the late afternoon. We set our cots up by a small stream, the water is so cold that it makes your feet numb after a few minutes, but it’s fine to bath in. The valley is very fertile land and there is a lot of farming. This is about the prettiest location I’ve been yet.
Sept 24th.. Today we left this field for another one about 50 miles up the coast. The field is right next to the water and the land is very flat all around. It looks a lot like Texas. We’re living in tents.
Sept 25th..(7) Today I had my seventh mission up past Foggia. We went about fifty miles past the bomb line but didn’t see a plane. I saw the battle going on as we flew past the line. We could plainly see the flashes of the artillery below.
Sept 27th.. Today I went up to Taranto which is about fifty miles from our field. The road was very dusty and there was convoys traveling the road, too. So it made the dust all the worse.
Taranto isn’t such a bad town. It was about the best one I’ve seen in Italy so far. The Jerries had pretty well torn the place up, but after a few months it should be okay. It compares with American cities in no way. Italian soldiers were everywhere and most of them were armed. It sure gives me the cruds the way they let the Italians do. They’re better off now than when they were on Jerry’s side.
We haven’t been doing any flying the last few days.
Sept 30th.. Today I left Pisticci for a field about 20 miles south of Foggia. We’re only about 35 miles from the bomb line here. The earlier part of the day I went down to Crotone to get a plane. I had a nice trip down in an A-20. On my way up here I flew over a lot of nice towns. Bari looked like a nice town, much nicer than any town I’ve been yet. I flew over a lot of pretty land and a lot of towns. This section looks much better than any I’ve seen yet. In a news article, a statement was made Wendell was flying his second plane- the first one having been shot up on previous missions. It could have happened on his 7th mission in the Foggia area.
Oct 1st.. I left my field for Bari this afternoon. We left about noon and got to Bari about three o’clock. I passed thru Taranto, Barletta and many more small towns. We only had a few miles (of) bad road and the rest was paved. The paved roads were very pretty. A high stone wall was at each side and shrubbery and trees were planted all along the road. Most of the land was devoted to vineyards. Bari was about the best town I’ve been in since I left the states. They have a lot of stores and a few nice hotels. We stayed in a very good one and also got some good food there.
Oct 2nd.. We left Bari at 10 o’clock after doing a bit of looking, we went in many shops, but found nothing to buy. We had some ice cream that we found in a small shop.
Bari is supposed to be the biggest city in southern Italy. We had a tiresome trip back to the field.
George Lee, Capt. Bane, and Tony Scenito went on the trip.
Oct 3rd..(8) I had my eighth mission today. We went up to a enemy field and strafed. There were many aircraft on the ground, but none came up after us. I saw a convoy on a road close by and could see the
Germans running for cover. All the planes got back from the mission.
Oct 4th..(9) I went on my ninth mission today. I was in a flight acting as top cover for some strafing aircraft. Today was about the closest ack-ack has ever come to me. A burst of three came close to my tail and the concussion lifted it up. I could plainly hear it as it exploded. I also saw plenty of it bust in my face. I could see the flash of it as it exploded. This was about the most accurate ack-ack I’ve ever flew into. All the pilots got back okay. The 87th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group, transfers from Crotone to Salsola, Italy with P-40’s.*
Oct 5th..(10) Went on my tenth mission today and I had more fun on this mission than any I’ve been on. I got one flaming truck and shot up another one. My section of four got a locomotive. Our lead saw it and we went down on it in a few seconds. After the section made two passes on it we left. The steam from the locomotive was going in every direction so we knew that it was well pranged (damaged or destroyed by aerial bombing). The ack-ack today was pretty accurate but none of my section was hit. This was the best show I’ve been on.
Oct 6th..(11 & 12) I went on my eleventh and twelve mission today, but they were very dry. We just went over enemy territory and that was all. I got a second letter from Mother today.
Oct 7th..(13) Went on my 13th mission today, but we were unable to reach target on account of weather so we came home.
Oct 9th.. I left this airfield today for another one about seven miles north of Foggia. This field was used by the Germans and pranged aircraft are all over the place. Our landing strip is grass and is about the best we’ve had. We don’t have very much water here. The mountains are in the distance and they’re very pretty. My squadron was sent a message from Gen. Montgomery commending us of the support we gave his men in a critical period during a major battle. 79th Fighter Group transfers from Crotone to Foggia, Italy.*
Oct 11th..(14) I went on my fourteenth mission today. My flight pranged a train, one fellow got a direct hit and things sure did fly. It was really an exciting flight.
Oct 17 th.. The 99th Fighter Squadron joined the 79th Fighter Group at Foggia NO-3 in Italy on 17 October 1943.*
The 99th was originally formed as the Army Air Force’s first African American fighter squadron. The personnel received their initial flight training at Tuskegee, Alabama earning them the nickname Tuskegee Airmen. The 99th were attached to the 79th Fighter Group from 16 October 1943 to 1 April 1944. Wendell possibly flew a few missions with the 99th but never mentioned it in his diary. See attached write-up on the 99th Squadron on page 19.
Oct 18th..(15) Went on my fifteenth mission today and dive-bombed a town.
Oct 19th..(16) Went on my sixteenth mission and dive-bombed a town.
Oct 22th..(17) I had my 17th mission today. We bombed a small town that enemy troops were in. The last three missions we’ve been doing close support work helping the 8th Army in their advances. The work has been very easy.
Oct 24th..(18) Had my 18th mission today. We went up to bomb a bridge to keep enemy troops from using (it).
Oct 25th..(19 & 20) We went to the same place and bombed. I had a lot of fun today but liked to got the hell shot out of me. We strafed a truck and in the process we encountered a lot of ack-ack. On my second mission I went down after a tank, but gave up the idea after I found out it was a tank. Tangling with a tank isn’t such a healthy sport. Today is my birthday and I’m very happy to celebrate it where I am.
Oct 26th.. I left today for Tunis (Tunisia) for a three day pass. I saw a lot of interesting things while in Tunis, went to Medenine (southeast Tunisia) and saw Henry Saada’s shop. I returned to my base three days later.
Nov 2nd..(21) Went on my 21st mission today. Bombed a small town.
Nov 3rd..(22) Dive-bombed troop concentrations today. Very interesting work.
Nov 7th..(23) Went on my 23rd mission today. In general our flight was messed up. Our leaders radio went out and I took his place, then my radio went out. We ran into about the heaviest ack-ack I’ve seen, but none of us got hit. We couldn’t reach the target on account of weather so some of the boys bombed what they thought was Jerry’s, but it turned out to be ours. I didn’t drop any bombs so my conscience was clear.
Nov 8th..(24) Went on my 24th flight up to Pescara and bombed some boats. This flight wasn’t very exciting, but we ran into a lot of heavy ack-ack.
Nov 11th..(25) Went on my 25th flight today and ended up about twenty miles from Rome. Our target area was completely covered with clouds so we got lost. When our flight finally turned around to come back we could see Rome in a distance. We encountered a lot of ack-ack. I saw a lot of snow covered mountains on this flight. Nearly all of the mountains are snow covered now.
Nov 16th.. I went down to Bari today and stayed about five hours. I bought clothes that I needed. Had a good time.
Nov 17th.. The 87th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group, transfers from Salsola to Madna Airfield, Italy with P-40’s.*
Nov 19th.. HQ 79th Fighter Group and it’s 85th and 86th Fighter Squadrons transfer from
Foggia to Madna Airfield, Italy with P-40’s.*
Nov ? (26) His diary indicates the 26th mission but he logs no date nor gives any remarks.
Nov 22nd..(27) Had my 27th mission today. Dive bombed a gun emplacement. I left Foggia no. 3 today and I went to a field close to Termoli. This is the worst place I’ve been yet. Everywhere there is nothing but mud, mud, mud. It has rained a good bit and that makes it worse. Our tent is very cold, guess we’ll have heat soon. This is abut the worst living conditions I’ve experienced yet. In Italy, 100+ XII Air Support Command P-40’s, B-25’s, and RAF Baltimores, attack strongpoints in the Lanciano-Fossacesia area, concentrating on gun positions; P-40’s also hit roads and railways at Fabriano, the towns of Viticuso and Vallerotonda, and as far N as Urbino; A-36’s hit chemical works, harbor and railroad yards at Civitavecchia and bomb the village of San Vittore del Lazio. The 99th Fighter Squadron, XII Air Support Command, transfers from Foggia to Madna, Italy with P-40’s.* See page 21 for additional information on Madna, Italy.
Nov 25th.. I left camp today for Naples. Ed Talmadge, Burke Allen, Ralph Specht (killed on the same day as Wendell) and myself were in the party. We left Termoli and got as far as Campobasso and found out that the road was out that way so we had to spend the night in that town. We saw a British show in the afternoon which was pretty good. That night I met a bunch of Canadians and we all had a big party. They sure were a bunch of good guys.
Nov 26th.. We left Campobasso early and started out for Naples via Foggia and Avellino. We drove through much pretty country and we also saw some of our work. We did a lot of strafing in this country so it was quite familiar. We finally got to Naples after a long and hard trip.
We had a hard time finding a place, but finally got located. About six o’clock we had an air raid which lasted an hour. Jerry didn’t do much damage so it didn’t matter so much. I spent most of it in an air raid shelter.
Nov 27th.. We’re still in Naples just taking it easy. I spent all the day just looking around Naples.
Nov 28th.. We left Naples this morning by boat for Capri. The trip took about 2 1/2 hours. Capri is about 18 miles from Naples. There were lots of people on the boat going to Capri for a sight seeing trip. Today we went up on one of the higher points of the island and saw the natural arch, and also all the peninsula close to Salerno. This island of Capri is very beautiful and quiet. The natives have all of the land terraced and planted in something, potatoes, artichokes, oranges, lemons, and many other vegetables. The village has only one street and nothing but narrow walks separate the houses. The village is very clean and everything in it is clean. Lots of nice restaurants and other shops. The people here make a living off tourists.
Nov 29th.. Today we went to the “Blue Grotto”. It sure was pretty and quite unusual. It took us about an hour to get to it from the dock by boat and it was an enjoyable ride. The cave has an outlet only about three feet high and in rough weather can’t be used. The water in the cave is the most brilliant blue I’ve ever seen. It was a very pretty sight and a most interesting one. We had to change boats at the entrance of the cave.
We looked at all the shops in the village this afternoon.
Dec 2nd.. We left Capri today for Naples and got back okay. We stayed over in Naples for the night. I went to a show and later on went to a night club where the rest of my friends were. The club was just like the ones in the states. We stayed at PBS headquarters.
Dec 3rd.. We left Naples today and after a very tiresome trip arrived at our camp. I really had a swell time on my trip and got plenty of rest.
Dec 7th..(28) Went on my 28 mission today, but on account of weather was unable to reach the target. Twelfth AF B-25’s and A-36’s bomb harbor and town of Civitavecchia. B-25’s also attack Pescara, hitting railroad, road, and town area. A-36’s, P-40’s, and DAF ftrs hit gun position W of Orsogna, towns of Viticuso and San Vittoria, and bridge at Civitella Roveto.*
Dec 8th..(29,30,& 31) Went on three missions today, all of them were close support targets. They were small towns and gun emplacement. Saw and enemy fighter being chased by Spits. Had some very good shows today. Twelfth AF B-25’s bomb bridges, industrial tgts, M/Y, and town areas of Pescara, Aneona, and Aquila. A-20’s hit gun emplacements and bivouac area near Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido. Other A-20’s, operating with RAF and SAAF aircraft attack troop concentration and gun positions near Miglianico. FBs of AAF, RAF, RAAF, and SAAF bomb tgts in spt of ground troops near Orsogna. US A-36’s and P-40’s hit comm tgts (roads, railroads, bridges) at Avezzano, Frosinone, Viticuso, Gaeta, and Sant’Elia Fiumerapido.*
Dec 9th..(32,33,& 34) Went on three missions today and saw quite a bit of excitement. One show we saw FW’s bomb a town but were unable to reach them because they (were) so far away. The British threw up a lot of ack-ack at them, but hit none of them. On one show we were to bomb a cross-roads and upon going down I saw four enemy tanks, our flight came back and strafed twice. We got a damaged and a flames. It was a lot of fun even though I nearly flew into a hill because I became so intent upon my target. Our last target was surrounded with plenty of ack-ack and they shot plenty of it at us. We didn’t get a tangle with the FW’s even though there was plenty in the air all day. Twelfth AF B-25’s bomb railway and road bridges at Giulianova, tracks at Pescara and Teramo, and M/Y and ironworks at Terni. A-20’s hit gun positions and bivouac area at Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido. A-36’s and P-40’s attack Orsogna and coastal tgts in spt of British Eighth Army, Avezzano M/Y and villages along US Fifth Army front, troops at San Pietro Infine and Viticuso and nearby gun positions, viaduct and railway bridge E of Guidonia A/F, crossing at Furbara, and trains and trucks in Rome area. Gen Beverley takes over as new CG, XII TCC (Prov).*
Dec 10th..(35,36,& 37) I flew three missions again today. We bombed gun positions the first two shows and went on a strafing mission. We were shot at plenty today, one fellow got hit twice today. The shows are getting tougher all the time. Twelfth AF P-40’s and A-36’s attack oil tanks, warehouses, railroads, and vessel at Civitavecchia, town of Acquafondata, and (with RAF, SAAF, and RAAF airplanes) hit tac tgts along British Eighth Army front, and later strafe road traffic in Canosa Sannita-Chieti area. Ftrs also bomb vessel in harbor at Split.*
Dec 12th..(38) I went on my 38th mission today. We ran a strafing mission about five miles across the bomb line. The mission turned out to be very costly. Burke F. Allen is missing as a result, no one saw him go down, no one knows what happened. We encountered a lot of ack-ack so it is presumed he was shot down and killed immediately. No one heard him say a word on the radio, so we don’t know what happened. Burke was a very good boy and was well liked by all. I was in his tent for about two months. Today Howard Smith was shot down in the same area that we strafed. He was last seen about 400 feet with his plane on fire. No one knows if he jumped or not. He was in the 85 squadron. Howard was a good friend of mine, were together a good bit on our way across. It sure has been a tough day, losing two pals, but all I can do is to pray to God that they are safe and that He will watch over them. Sometimes the going gets rough when you see your friends shot down, but we must pray to God that things turn out for the best. Twelfth AF Weather curtails operations. B-25’s bomb road, railroad, and landing ground at Terracina. P-40 and A- 36 FBs hit trucks along roads in Chieti-Francavilla area and bomb town of Itri. Ftrs fly patrols and rcn over battle area.*
Dec 13th..(39 & 40) Went on two missions today. Still close support work. The first time we bombed trucks, the next time we couldn’t find our target, so we just threw our bombs at a road. We encountered plenty of light ack-ack the first mission. Twelfth AF B-25’s bomb oil depot, harbor, warehouses, and railway yard at Sibenik and Split. P-40 and A-36 FBs attack defended points in Miglionico area; quays, roads, railway yard, and gun emplacements at Terracina; and bridges at Pontecorvo and W of Isolella. Town areas and bridges at and near Atina and Acquafondata are also hit.*
Dec 16th..(41 & 42) Got two missions today. Dive-bombed the first mission. Dive-bombed and strafed the second mission. Destroyed one, damaged four. I sure had a lot of fun strafing, but the Jerries were shooting at me a bit, so that took the fun angle out of it. I saw two Jerry tanks, but did not care to tangle with them. Three men got hit today but all got back okay. (Dec 16th is the last entry in his diary. While flying his 43rd mission on December 18, 1943, he was shot down.)
On 16 December, Twelfth AF B-25’s bomb shipping at Zara and harbor and M/Y at Sibenik. A-20’s attack gun positions near Mignano. P-40’s and A-36’s hit gun batteries and strongpoints along British Eighth Army front S and E of Chieti, gun emplacements and troop concentrations all along US Fifth Army front, especially NE and S of Cassino, and also bomb Roccasecca and docks at Civitavecchia. P-40’s and P-47’s hit vessel S of Zara and strafe T/Os on Peljesac Peninsula.*
Dec 17 th.. For some unknown reason, Wendell did not fly this mission. Twelfth AF A-20’s strike arty concentration near Sant’Elia Fiumerapido. All B-25 missions are abortive. P-40’s and P-51’s (with SAAF escort) strafe vessel near Trpanj. A-36’s and P-40 FBs bomb positions at Monte Trocchio, Cervaro, and Cardito, and M/Y, barracks, warehouses, and docks at Nettuno and Anzio.*
Dec 18 th.. (43) Wendell’s P-40 Warhawk exploded in midair before he could bail out. The group was averaging 36 to 48 sorties a day during December. Twelfth AF Weather limits operations. P-40 FBs attack positions in Tollo, Canosa Sannita, and Orsogna, and strafe schooner off Trogir. A-36’s hit defended areas near Cassino and at Viticuso, supply dump and gun emplacement near Terracina, and positions at Monte Trocchio.*
* Documentation taken from COMBAT CHRONOLOGY US ARMY AIR FORCES MEDITERRANEAN – 1943
source – http://www.milhist.net/usaaf/mto43b.html 12
LIST OF SERVICE BUDDIES:
Douglas Smith Route I Eads, Tenn.
Emile G. Kern 4211 Prytania St. New Orleans, La.
Robert E. Schultz Wauboy, South Dakota
Robert Taylor 617 6th St. Clairton, Pa.
George A. Koefoed Jr. Route # 1 Honey Brook, Pa.
Hershell E. Striet 325 Lafayette St. Gainesville, Fla.
John Taylor Jr. Box 543 Rayne, La.
Byron Walker 2137 Uni. Ave. Baton Rouge, La.
Edward St.Germain 200 E 22nd St. Austin, Texas
Chester L. Hullby Elk Mound, Wis.
Warren S. Dronen 2214 Gideon AVe. Zion, Illinois
- M. Sims 605 Mulberry St. Kannopolis, N.C.
Jack Shimke 318 22nd St. Windler, Pa.
Justin R. Hall 1907 Henry Ave. Tampa, Florida
Ralph Smothers Orlando, Florida
Wiltz P. Segura RFD #1 Box 176 New Iberia, La.
Howard A. Smith (shotdown Dec. 12, 1943) Lawrenceville, Ill.
Jerome B. Yates Hazelhurst, Miss.
Richard E. Rice 1409 W. Marshall St. Norristown, Pa.
Oliver Schultz Bear Creek, Wis.
Donald Ellis (killed Aug. 27, 1943) Miami, Fla.
Robert Davis Morrow, Ark.
(bailed out over enemy territory Sept.20, 1943; returned Oct. 20)
Whitman R. Smith (missing in action Oct.1) Gulfport, Miss.
Capt. L. G. Beamish 879 Dorchester Ave. Winnepeg, Canada
Capt. Jack Wright 12315-109a Ave. Edmonton, Alberta
Bud Bannerman 236 Bentince St. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Harry Price 30 St. Genevieve Ave. Quebec City, Canada
OFFICERS & INSTRUCTORS:
1st Lt. Donald S. Bibbert San Francisco, Calif.
- M. Pritts Basic Instructor
- E. Acocks Advance Instructor 13
THE FOLKS BACK HOME:
- Jones Simmons Box 224 Magnolia, Miss.
- J. Simmons Jr. 6708 Capitol St. Houston, Texas
Juanita Simmons 1004 W. Beach Biloxi, Miss.
Carroll Cotten John Gaston’s Nurses Home Memphis, Tenn.
Doris Reeves Penn. Ave. McComb, Miss.
Jeanne Buchanan 216 Clarke St. McComb, Miss.
” ” Box 426 Univ., Miss.
Kathleen White N. Columbus St. Louisville, Miss.
Betty Jo Carmen MSCW, Box 1692 Columbus, Miss.
Mr. Frank Wade AAFFTS Tuscaloosa, Ala.
George Hector Starkville, Miss.
Jewel Brent Kentucky Ave. McComb, Miss.
Additional Websites about the 79th Fighter Group
http://www.scribd.com/doc/36035477/WWII-79th-Fighter-Group-II (page 39)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/36036735/WWII-79th-Fighter-Group-IX (page 241)
http://www.milhist.net/usaaf/mto43b.html (COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, US ARMY AIR FORCES, MEDITERRANEAN – 1943, PART 2) 14