Our War Stories
Recollections of the War and Letters Home
from the memoirs of Edward Clinton Knapp, Jr. (777)
Moved to a temporary base at Goia, Italy and started our missions on 2 May
1944. The first one was to Spezia, Italy and our Group lost one plane in a mid-air collision. 25 May our other
pilot flew as co-pilot on our plane with a higher ranked officer - it was hit by flak and fighters. They were forced
to crash land and we found out later that he was captured and a prisoner of war.
The crew and I would go on missions as replacements for other crews. I
was offered the opportunity to take over as first pilot but I decided to keep things as they were. Who knows
how it would work out as all crew members returned to the states with no disabilities.
We finally were moved to a permanent base at Panatella, Italy. Still in
tents. We were on a hill on one side and the 465th was on the other side with the runway in a valley in between.
Usually they would wake us at 5:00 AM when we had a mission. We would have breakfast, then go to a briefing
where we would get info on the target - enemy fighter, flak, our fighter cover and escape route in case we had
to bail out or crash land. On return we would be interrogated about all we observed. By that time we were ready
for sack time.
At briefing the chaplain would say a prayer. This is one of them.
An Airman's Prayer
Lord guard and guide us as we
Fly through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with us as we take the air
In morning light and sunshine fair.
Eternal Father strong to save
Give us courage and make us brave.
Protect us wherever we go
From shell and flak and fire and foe.
Most loved Member of our crew
Rides with us up in the blue.
Direct our bombs upon the foe
But shelter those who Thou dost know.
Keep us together on our way
Grant our work success today
Deliver us from hate and sin
And bring us safely down again.
Oh, God protect us as we fly
Through lonely ways across the sky.
And I wrote "There are no atheists in the air."
On 7 July the Red Cross notified me that my brother George was killed
on 17 June. He was a staff Sergeant in the 9th Division Recon Troop at St. Lo, France. His squad was hit by
artillery fire. I was told that I would not have to continue in combat but I decided to finish my missions. I had 27
more to go and I wanted to get revenge.
I got a break between missions and was allowed to get some R&R in Rome.
I took the tour and especially enjoyed the visit to the Vatican. We went to an Italian restaurant, "Broadway
Bills," and had the works - including all the wine we could drink.
Back to complete my missions and, as it turned out, the 50th was the one that
scared me the most. We were hit with flak which tore a big hole in the rudder and damaged a tire.
Made it back to base without a mishap by the grace of God.
On a letter home, dated 22 August, I expressed my relief that the stress
was over and I would be waiting for my return home aboard a troopship out of Naples. After each mission the
Red Cross would offer us a shot of whiskey if we wanted. We decided that we would let it accumulate so all
finished with our missions could have a celebration party. So on 24 August we had the party but suffered the
next morning. Two of our crew weren’t there. One was missing in action and the other was a prisoner of war.
We did a toast to them.
On 26 August I got my silver bars when I made first lieutenant. 4 September I
went to the Isle of Capri for R&R. Had a wonderful time, first class accommodations, wine and untouchable
women. I went to the beach and the Blue Grotto. We listened to music while we ate, had waiters to serve us,
went to movies and dances. Sometime after 27 September I must have been enroute back to the states. We
landed in Norfolk, Virginia and then went home on leave.
I had R&R at Atlantic City, New Jersey either on my return overseas
or after my discharge. My next assignment was to gunnery school in Ft. Myers, Florida to fly B-24’s with
gunners to practice shooting at targets. I had to take a transition course in piloting, link trainer code, physical
training, lectures and orientation. Eve was with me and we had to find a place to stay since we couldn’t afford
the cost of a room at the hotel for $4.00 a day. We did find a room in a house for $8.50 a week.
I knew that my stay at gunnery school was temporary so I applied for
instructor's, engineering school and instrument school but to no avail. I bought a 1941 Nash convertible because
I was limited to using a taxi or bus to travel back and forth from town and around the airbase. There were no
cars built for civilians from 1941 to 1946 - only military vehicles.
Some of my flight time was on a PT-17, making passes at a tower so the
gunners could practice tracking fighters in combat. I really enjoyed it since it was the same type of plane that
I learned to fly. After finishing my mission with the gunners I would get permission to leave the area to a location
where I could do aerobatics. One mission on the B-24 was a night mission around the state for gunners to get
training. My co-pilot was one of the Firestones (of the tire company). I doubted that he would ever see combat.
We made a trip to Augusta and Eve stayed to wait the birth of our first child.
I returned to base and was told that since the war was almost over I would get my discharge. It seemed like a
good idea to me and so I was able to be at the hospital at Camp Gordon when George Russell was born on 2
August 1945. I worked a short time at Daniels Field in Augusta. This is where they were reconditioning military
trucks. When Russ was old enough we moved to New Jersey and stayed with Mom and Pop for awhile.
While looking for a story I came across my brother George’s high school
yearbook. One of his classmates was Robert Lewis. I knew "Bud," as I called him. He was
active in baseball and football. He was also in the German Club and the Science Club. He became a
man in U.S. history. Bud served time as a pilot during World War 2. Toward the end of the war he trained as
a B-29 pilot.
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