|A Double Whammy by the 17th BG, September 17, 1943, Part 1
by Joe Donato
The middle of Sept. '43 was touch and go for our GIs at Salerno, Italy.
The Germans where on high ground all around the landing beaches at Salerno pounding our forces as they landed on the beaches along the Amalfi Drive. One of our landing points was Miori, my mother-in-laws birthplace before she came to the U.S. in the early 1920's.
On the Sept 17 '43, the 17th BG, was briefed on a target, Practica di mare airfield, about 20 miles south of Rome. Where a large number of German transports where in the process of landing. Each transport was towing a glider, loaded with German troops to add to the German forces at the Salerno beach head.
Intelligence had alerted our airforces in North Africa to this target while the Germans were still airborne.
The 17th made landfall east of the target area. We made our run through heavy flak, our bombs covered a large part of the dispersal area and our frags were very effective against this type of target.
Today I flew tail position instead of the waist which was my regular position. The tail position would give you a good view of the target area as we left it. I could see considerable destruction to our targets on the ground. Soon we were back over the water, heading for A.P.O. 520 at Djedieda and ready for the regular after mission interrogation.
Double Whammy Part 2, Sept 18, 1943
I was scheduled again for today's target. When our pilot came back from briefing he told the enlisted crew that out target for this mission would be a place called Practica di Mare near Rome! The pilot was not on the mission there the day before.
I began to smell the cordite from the 88's before we took off. We used the same flight plan as the day before. As we started our bomb run I could see a lot of wrecks on the ground. This time we were given a early greeting by the 88s. And it was intense and accurate. A box barrage tight over the target and on our altitude. We could hear the woomph of the shell bursts and smell the corite as we passed through them - this was a time for a lot of praying! There was also some burst of a red flak we had never seen before. It didn't seem possible our group could pass through this barrage without a loss. As we left the target area we could still see the 88s twinkling at us from the ground saying "good bye, but we'll get you next time."
During the next few days I think all of the mediums in the 12th Air Force paid a visit to this target.
The next mission for me, on the 20th of September, was to the road junction at Formia. No flak, no fighters, a milk run.
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