I was married when I entered the Army Air Corps, and now had the first son, John M., who was one-year-old. I was too embarrassed to return home in my present condition. The Capri thing sounded too much like me running away from the war, after having felt the barbaric experience of combat. I was no hero, but I felt that there were many real heroes in the outfit, and that they needed whatever help I could offer. I stayed with the heroes.

When I returned to the 16th squadron, there were no noticeable negative responses, nor was there any unfavorable treatment directed towards me. Also, I learned that other Group members had been permanently grounded, and that I was not alone. But, I decided not to wear my wings. One day I was walking down the street and Col. Cerny passed by and noticed that I wasn't wearing my wings. He proceeded to tell me that one's wings should be worn, and that they had been earned. After many years of conjecture on my part, that was finally accepted.

At the time Col. Cerny made the comment about the wings, I had already been awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf cluster, and had been told that a second cluster had been recommended. Looking back at my twenty-six months of overseas duty, I had been part of seven campaigns, three related to air support and four in ground support, had spent two months with the Air Transport Command in Trinidad, and helped inactivate the 64th Group at the end of WWII. Though not a hero, I'd lived and breathed, drank and flown, with heroes of the 16th squadron. In reflection, those were the real glory days that seem far, far away, yet so near in my memory.

I received the American Defense Ribbon--serving before Pearl Harbor); the American Theater Ribbon--submarine patrol advanced training missions in the Atlantic out of Miami; the European-Mediterranean ribbon with one Silver Campaign star and two Bronze stars; the Good Conduct ribbon, plus the Presidential Unit Citation and Victory medal and ribbon.

Ciampino, Italy

After Comiso we moved to the airbase at Ciampino, Italy, in July of 1944. Ciampino is about 10 miles south of Rome. We got into Rome often for R & R leave, or just for an hour or so. We lived in housing in Ciampino. One of our men was killed by a land mine planted in one of the buildings. Name? N/A. We got to the Pope's summer home south of Ciampino, where we had delicious citrus fruit available.

There is a deep mountainous lake there where Bob Locke, Frank Walker and I took a quick and cold skinny dip. While in the Rome area, we took in the Vatican, St. Peter's Cathederal. At one audience I was privileged to have Pope XII bless my forehead.

Pope Pius XII had accepted an audience which was filled with hundreds or thousands of military forces. I was alone from the 16th at the time. A large group of Polish soldiers, attached to the British 8th Army, were standing right behind me. When the Pope entered, being carried in on the shoulders of six strong bearers inside a "carriage," the Poles let out a yell of adoration, and charged forward like LSU football offensive linesmen! Their charge forward swept me forward, and others out of the way, like the defensive linesmen of Indiana

Their charge carried me forward to a roped off lane, and near the Pope as he proceeded alternating from his left to right, blessing servicemen on their heads at random. I was one of the lucky ones. One of his aides also handed out a little keepsake of literature. In those days I would always wet my hair before combing it. In respect for the Pope, didn't wet it for some time after that.

The Pope spoke to us in the various languages, French, Polish, Italian, and English. At that time there were Brazilian airmen and elements of the Palestinian Army in the area, besides Japanese-Americans and African-Americans of the American 5th Army. However, I don't recall the presence of the last four groups. The latter were segregated at the time, the Afros.

As I recall, it was at Ciampino where the 64th Grp was engaged in flying Scottish paratroopers in the invasion of southern France. I was a ground officer then, but assisted in the loading the troops, where and when each Scot was issued a jump rifle and a pint of Scotch whiskey. As you probably know, the Germans were well prepared, and there were casualties and prisoners taken. But, they were soon released to the 7th US Army.

An American paratrooper outfit was stationed a few miles from us at Ciampino. They had a reputation of taking the vehicles, jeeps etc from other units when they were parked in Rome. Being the transportation officer, when one of ours was missing, I'd just drive over to their base and would find the missing one there, or abandoned nearby. Their administrative officer was cooperative and helped. It was a case of individuals knowing how to take a jeep, and then using it for a ride or an evening's entertainment. We started the practice of removing the steering wheel in Rome and storing it with the American Red Cross until we were ready to return to base.



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