It was on September 11, 1943, just
off Salerno, that the USS Savannah was hit. A German radio-controlled bomb damaged the ship’s forward and killed almost
200 of the crew. It was under its own power that it vacated these waters and was returned to the United States in December
of 1943 for much needed repairs.
The repairs were extensive and resulted
in the total replacement of the five-inch second battery. The hull of the Savannah was also widened during the repairs. This
repair was finished in September 1944.
On January 15, 1950, these 11 sailors were buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
S1C Blair, Robert Alan US NAVY
S1C Douglas, Laurence R US NAVY
GM2C Dwyer, Henry
EM3/D Herman, Irving US NAVY
BKR3C Layman, Floyd L US NAVY
S1C McColm, Gilbert A US NAVY
S2C Miklinevich, Salvatore US NAVY
COXWAIN Mitchel, Ronald G US NAVY
S2C Smith, Roland J
SC3C Ulrich, Charles V US NAVY
S1C Wiggins, James L US NAVY
Rites Noted For Robert Alan Blair
for Robert Alan Blair, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Merle O. Blair of Anamosa, former Louisa County residents, were conducted
Sunday afternoon at the Methodist Church in Columbus Junction. Robert was killed in action Sept. 11, 1943. A quartet composed
of Melvin Dicks, Mrs. S. A. Dwinell, Mrs. B. O. Roundy, and H. Lee Huston sang with Mrs. H. Lee as the accompanist. Robert
Blair was born at Morning Sun on Jan. 11, 1924, and moved with his parents to Columbus Junction when four years of age.
He attended Columbus schools and the Methodist Sunday school. Two days after his 17th birthday, Jan. 13, 1941, he enlisted
in the U.S. Navy in Burlington. He was inducted in Des Moines on Jan. 28, 1941 and went at once to Great Lakes for his
boot training. There after he was assigned to a ship and for a time was in the Pacific fleet but later was transferred to
the Atlantic fleet. He took part in the landing of our troops in Africa and later in the invasion of Sicily. Further confirmation
of his death in action was received by his parents this past week in a communicating that stated that Robert was killed Sept.
11. He is survived by his parents, a bother, Dean of Anamosa; his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. R. S. McDaniel of Iowa City and
Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Mulhern of Columbus Junction; his great-grandfather Cord McDaniel of Columbus Junction and his uncle and
aunt Mr. and Mrs. Rex McDaniel and one cousin Billie Maxine McDaniel of Indianapolis, Ind.
Alan Blair - Seaman 1st Class - was killed in action Sept. 11, 1943 when the USS Savannah was bombed at Salerno, Italy
Seaman 1st Class Gilbert A. McColm served aboard the USS Savannah (CL-42) and was killed
in action on September 11, 1943 off Salerno, Italy.
The USS Savannah was the first United States ship to
open fire against the German shore defenses in Salerno Bay. She silenced a railway battery with 57 rounds, forced the retirement of enemy tanks, and completed eight more fire support
missions that day. She continued her valuable support until the morning of 11 September, when she was put out of action.
A radio-controlled Fritz X glide-bomb had been released at a safe distance by a high-flying German plane and exploded 49 ft distance from Philadelphia. Savannah increased her speed to 20 knots as a Dornier Do 217K-2 bomber came in out of the sun. P-38 Lightnings and Savannah's gunners, tracking the plane at 18,700 ft, failed to stop the Fritz X smoke-trailed bomb. It
pierced through the armored turret roof of the No. 3 Gun Turret, passed through three decks into the lower handling room where
it exploded a gaping hole in the bottom, and tore open a seam in the ship's port side. For 30 minutes, secondary explosions
in the gun room hampered fire-fighting efforts.
Working quickly, the crew sealed off flooded and burned compartments, and corrected her
list. With some assistance from Hopi and Moreno, she got underway on her own power by 1757, bound for Malta.
Savannah lost 197 men in this action. 15 others were seriously wounded,
while four were sealed in a watertight compartment for 60 hours. These four were not rescued until Savannah had already arrived at Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta on 12 September.
McColm was from Hutchinson, KS.
This B25 Mitchell, 44-29371, and
crew were assigned to the 71st Squadron of the 38th Bomb Group. They were shot down by Japanese ground
machine-gun fire on May 6, 1945 during a reconnaissance mission over the Philippine Islands. Four crewmembers and three US
Army Sixth Army Infantry soldiers were buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on January 27, 1950 in Section E284-285.
Capt Ferrell, James G US ARMY INFANTRY
2/LT Bruno, Louis Jr Navigator
Major Kenner, Forrest L US ARMY INFANTRY
1/LT Kurth, George B Pilot
T/SGT McLaurin, Wilson M Gunner
1/LT Nancolas, Robert C US ARMY INFANTRY
S/SGT Waskewich, Walter Gunner
S/SGT Kirby, James F. Radio/gunner Manila American Cemetery
2/LT Ames, Clyde Copilot Manila American Cemetery
1/LT John F. Reardon
US ARMY INFANTRY
The war on Luzon consisted of one battle after another, one patrol and then another, one attack followed by another
– all repeating in hundreds of areas simultaneously.
1/LT John F. Reardon had been charged with the responsibility of
obtaining intelligence of Japanese “capabilities and intentions” in the Dingalan Bay for a task force. With that
information, he was to design plans for measures to prevent enemy attacks and keep the Japanese from escaping north.
Even with the Lieutenant’s personal involvement accompanying
patrols, interrogating POWs, and interviewing guerilla and A Company patrol leaders, still no definite information could be
obtained about the massing of the Japanese troops.
Yet, the guerillas insisted that their “bamboo telegraph”
runners reported that the Japanese were assembling south of the Umiray River and moved to new bivouac areas frequently.
Reardon had the reputation for making sound, mature decisions. He
knew he had to find a better way to investigate these reports. If they were true, the task force remained in danger.
Only one way to effectively survey a vast wilderness – from
the sky. Lieutenant Reardon journeyed by truck to the Lingayen Strip, a temporary air base constructed by the Sixth Army near
Lingayen Bay directly across Luzon from Dingalan. There he met other observers from I Corps who would be going on the flight:
Major Forrest Kenner, Captain James Ferrell, and 1/LT Robert Nancolas. The presence of these officers gave Reardon the opportunity
to convince I Corps that the task force needed more men and weapons to effectively battle the large group of Japanese at Dingalan
Bay if they existed, observing the enemy from the plane would give the “brass” the proof needed.
They boarded an Army Air Force B25, serial number 44-29371. The
young crew was already proceeding with the checklist in preparation for takeoff: 2/LT George Kurth, Pilot; 2/LT George Ames,
Copilot; 2/LT Louis Bruno, Navigator; SGT James Kirby, radio/gunner; T/SGT Wilson McLaurin, gunner; S/SGT Walter Waskewich,
gunner; 10 men on board, 6 crewmembers and 4 US Army officers.
The B25 was assigned to the 71st Squadron of the 38th
Bomb Group and had the usual .50 caliber machine guns – a total of twelve, eight “fixed” in the nose section,
one at the left hand turret, one at the right hand turret and two at the tail section. Thirty-five hundred rounds of ammunition
were loaded for each machine gun.
Their official record stated that 44-29371 was sent on a reconnaissance
mission to aid the Sixth Army in planning future operations in the Baguino area. However, it wasn’t until 7 days after
takeoff that LT COL Peter Colza, the Adjutant General from I Corp revealed in a letter to General MacArthur the plane’s
true mission, “Destinations were Baguino and Dingalan Bay areas.”
On May 6, 1945 at 0837 hours, the B25 lifted into clear skies and
with “visibility unlimited” set its course at forty degrees. From that moment on there was no radio contact with
In a little more than an hour the men on board had gathered the
visual knowledge they needed over the Baguino mountainous area and set the aircraft’s course almost due east toward
They approached the Sierra Madres and, flying at about 150 miles per hour,
banked to the south, barely missing the highest mountain peaks. Then LT Kurth lowered his craft as it streaked over the Umiray
Suddenly, the B25 began to recive fire from the ground. LT Reardon
had found his elusive Japanese force but it was too late to react. No time to break radio silence and give the location of
the Japanese. No time to even radio a distress call.
LT Kurth and LT Ames struggled with the controls attempting to gain
altitude but enemy machine gun fire had done serious damage to the lumbering aircraft. The B25 bomber, surely visible to the
Japanese, nosed earthward and slammed into a wooded hillside. All ten men on board were killed either by the crash or the
fiery explosion that followed, including LT John Reardon.
The information needed by the taskforce, the actual size of the
Japanese force, their bivouac area, and their weapons died with LT Reardon.
There was another mystery.
With no radio communication with the B25, the 71st had no idea where the wreckage was located. Search planes were
dispatched, seven on the morning of May 7, three more that afternoon, and two more on May 8th.
The news of LT Reardon’s disappearance reached the task force
midday on May 8th but the staff had already feared the worse when he did not return from the mission.
This B24 Liberator, 44-41116,
and crew were assigned to the 484th Bomb Group. The plane was apparently lost to fighters over the village of Rabakecol,
Hungary on a mission to Vienna on August 22, 1944. This may have been the crew’s first mission. Four members of the
crew were buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on August 18, 1949 in Section E147-148.
S/SGT Gunthorpe, Robert J Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
PVT Notarantonio, Richard A
Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
SGT Woods, Irving C Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
S/SGT Wright, Philip W, Zachary
Taylor Nat’l Cemetery
2//LT Ruthenberg, John J. Pilot Lorraine American Cemetery
Bombardment Group (H) was trained in Harvard, Nebraska in 1943 with B-24s and deployed to Italy in March 1944. The group
arrived in Cerignola, Italy where the gently rolling mounds of the Foggia plain awaited them. In pre-war days the Italian
Air force trained near Foggia, too. The 484th BG took over farmland where wheat was once grown. Dual North and
South runways were laid out and paved with crushed gravel, and later improved with pierced steel planking, a dubious improvement
especially when it rained.
group brought 60 new olive drab B-24s to the airfield at the Torretta crossroads about 12 K southwest of Cerignola, itself
35K south of Foggia. The group started out with about 3 trained crews of 10 men for every B-24. This would vary
depending on losses and availability of replacements. In the one year of combat operations over 5,000 soldiers and airmen
passed through the group. Replacements were brought in to fill in the Table of Organization (TO) due to casualties,
illness and to replace flight crews who had finished their combat tours. For a battle area that was expected to offer
light resistance tours were set at 50 missions. However resistance was stiff from both fighter aircraft and flak cannons.
Credit was shortly reduced to 35 Missions, and modified again by giving double credit to long and arduous missions.
Flight crews were given leave to rest camps at the halfway point of 18 sorties. Ground echelon personnel were given
leave also when conditions permitted it. One such camp was on the Isle of Capri.
The B-24 Liberator Bomber
Consolidated B-24 Liberator was designed and built in such great haste such was the need for a heavy bomber in 1939, when
Germany invaded Poland. By taking the long Davis Wing and empennage from a twin-engine seaplane and installing them
on an oval fuselage the B-24 was born. To improve ground handling visibility, the whole assembly was set on tricycle
landing gear. The design was both good and bad, Good: The Davis Wing in combination with the supercharged Pratt &
Whitney R-1830 engines and the Hamilton Standard hydromatic propellers worked well together. Bad: The nose wheel, built
up of welded steel struts was too weak and failed when over stressed due to hard landings, strong cross winds, or rough runways.
The fuel quantity indicators were of a simple boiler gauge style that required level flight for accurate reading, except that
the aircraft actually flew slightly nose high to get additional lift from the fuselage. (The Lockheed Constellation
was purposely designed to obtain fuselage lift). The fuel selector valves could be set for all engines to feed from
the crossfeed manifold which held about 60 gallons. When this was used up all four engines would quit, not handy during
the take off roll. The outboard auxiliary or Tokyo tanks of early model B-24s up to the "H" model did not have any fuel
quantity gauges at all. When the fuel pressure dropped when feeding from these tanks it was time to transfer back to
the mains before the engines quit.
Primitive Repair Facilities
numbers of serviceable aircraft for each mission varied too, due to the repairs needed to make the planes air worthy after
receiving battle damage. Because of its longer range, the B-24 was needed in many theaters of war, impinging on the
number of replacement available to any one group. Squadron maintenance was undertaken by crew chiefs and helpers who
worked without shelter, rain or shine. It was the rule rather than the exception in the 484th that most of the aircraft
would sustain some damage from the dreaded flak both slight and heavy on each mission. Most engine change tools were
hand made or adopted from what was on hand.
in a straight line to maintain formation order, mandated flight routing directly into a flak bursts just ahead or above just
prior to and on the bomb run. The steel fragments (shrapnel) would nick the props, punch holes into the pushrod covers
causing oil leakage and lacerate the fuselage bottom with holes and rips. Spent shrapnel would bounce off the thin aluminum
skin sounding like pebbles falling on a tin roof. All of this required inspection and repair.
Luftwaffe JU-88s Bomb Bari Harbor
shortage of supplies and parts for use by the Fifteenth Air Force came about because of a very effective attack on Allied
supply ships lying at anchor in the harbor at Bari, Italy on the Adriatic coast by Luftwaffe JU-88s in December of 1943, just
two and a half months after the establishment of the Fifteenth Air Force itself. Many of the supplies intended for the
new Air Force ended up at the bottom of the harbor. They were not easily removed because of the contamination caused
by exploding gas shells. Thus the midnight auto supply came into being. Mechanics and armorers had to beg, borrow,
or steal from outlying sources. Damaged B-24s uneconomical in time and material to repair were soon cannibalized.
It was known that lesser quality stovebolts were sometimes substituted for high strength A&N hardware, and so it goes.
of repair procedures of aircraft and components were distributed through "Tech Orders" in the Army Air Corps, but were not
usually transmitted from one command to another. As an example bombs would not always drop when selected to do so.
The shackles that secured the bombs to the aircraft would often freeze depending on the severities of the weather encountered
at bombing altitudes. It was not unusual to encounter -30° temperatures. The coldest temperatures were encountered
nearest the bomb bay doors so the lowest bombs would freeze and the others above would leave their protective arming wire
and fall sharply in a heap on top of frozen bombs thus leaving the upper bombs live when only a slight jar would set
bombs were probably first encountered by the English based Eighth Air Force because the Eighth Air Force had been established
earlier and had flown many tough missions before the Fifteenth Air Force became operational. It is not known if a fix
was ever found, and if there was, a quick way to pass on this information to other commands was not easy and at best and there
was no time to wait for conventional mail. With the satellite not yet invented this is understandable. Without
the quick transfer of information to both the Eighth Air Force and the Fifteenth Air Force, they were to suffer the same problems.
of bombs as can be seen from the foregoing was a very dangerous condition with loss of life and/or loss of the aircraft heavily
threatened. To face this problem in the heat of combat with flak bursting all around and without tools or prior instruction
required quick thinking. The idea of course was to get rid of the damn things in any way one could which meant there
was no control as to when the bomb would drop and, because of the delay the assigned target was far away by then. The
possibility of other aircraft below was always there. Casualties caused by falling bombs on other aircraft were not
unusual. Which all brings the story back to what was said earlier, better know your equipment thoroughly. Comments
on hung bombs from other flight crews and armorers are welcomed here too.
the Italian based Fifteenth Air Force, anti-aircraft (flak) accounted for more casualties than fighter planes. Bomber
crews feared the dreaded 88 mms and higher caliber flak cannons with a passion. When flak jackets became available,
extra sets were brought on board not only to wear but to sit or stand on. The need for protection from below needs no
the enemy needed to protect the oil refineries and installations, flak cannons were mounted on railway flat cars and were
moved about as needed but also to fool our intelligence. The flak trains were often hid in railway tunnels at night
for just this purpose. The next day they would be somewhere else.
in the war when the fuel situation was becoming acute for the Axis Powers the more mobile guns such as the versatile 88s were
moved from the eastern front and placed aside the oil refineries, such as Brux, Moosbierbaum, Odertal, and Vienna. The
88 had a high mount that permitted elevation of the gun barrel for use as an flak gun as well as fire against tanks making
it a dual purpose weapon. In the larger cities flak towers were erected so the gunners could have free fields of fire.
On the top of the towers, 88s as well as larger caliber guns were installed behind well protected concrete barriers.
Some of these steel and concrete structures still stand.
Luftwaffe was also charged with the responsibility of defending German occupied territory from the ground as well as from
the air. In reality the Germans were defending three fronts after June 6,1944, The Western Front, The Eastern Front
and the Air Front overhead. Over 1,000,000 men were assigned to the defense of the Reich. They were also aided
by civilians, including high school students. The Allied oil campaign began to have effect on fighter activity in mid
1944, and the capture of Ploesti by the Russians at about the same time contributed to the fuel production drop. The fighter
attacks on the bomber streams began to weaken sharply. Anti-aircraft fire was more intense than ever. In these
desperate times the Luftwaffe also sent its Jet fighters into action against the bomber streams with deadly effect.
Fortunately for the USAF, and unfortunately for the Luftwaffe, the jets were few in number and not quite battle proved.
England crash sites were evacuated and hard items such as guns, engines, and propellers that would survive a crash, even after
decades in the hard ground. The aircraft parts were lifted out, cleaned up and put in small museums at former USAF airfields
in the East Anglian farmland. When asked why the English wanted to preserve the material of the American Air Forces,
their reply was, "It happened here on our land."
Curiosity about The Air War 1939-1945
was similar curiosity when one of the 484th aircraft was shot down over Europe and the Balkans where citizens, enemy or friendly,
took great interest in the crash site. They wanted to know all about the mission, how the plane was brought down, and
so on. Citizens and soldiers alike would often care for the wounded and dead by seeking medical aid, and arranging for
with the cold war over and many citizens of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe enjoying their new freedoms,
they are more curious than ever about the air war. They seek information from the National Archives in Washington, DC,
and at Maxwell Field in Alabama. They seek aircraft numbers, crew lists, bombing missions, and related data. Regular
mail inquiries began about 12 years ago, from men who witnessed the war as children in Germany and Austria, and related to
us their experience of dodging bombs while being awe struck from the drama of thousands of bombers awakening the neighborhoods
with their thunderous engine roar; of sunlight bouncing off the silver airplanes, and too of fluttering aluminum parts that
catch the light like a falling metal leaf.
have had inquiries from overseas from interested parties who want to know everything about the bombing missions of the American
Air Forces. Because of the effect the bombing had on their lives, the memories are forever etched in their minds.
They have expressed special interest in the disposition of the flight crews, and the aircraft, serial number, and the aircraft
name. Some members have returned to the spot where they fell. The citizens of friendly and former enemy countries
who witnessed a particular crash have invited the Americans back with their families. Members who have returned to Europe
have reported that these visits were very enjoyable.
No Tests Given In Training
In training during the war due to the expediency of getting troops into battle quickly, grades were not often given
at the end of classes. If one hoped to survive and return home after the war, the soldier had to pay close attention
to what was being taught. A flyer had to learn his aircraft and weapons like the back of his own hand. There was
no cheating or use of crib sheets in combat. It was best to get the information stuffed between your ears for instant
recall, or your butt and those of your aircrew buddies would be put in doubt.