Ship No. - 07
Serial No. - 41-29362
We had just returned from a fun trip to Naples. My, if the tax payers knew we flew to Naples they would have a fit. Going from left to right (the fellow with the parachute harness) is Pilot Ed Veiluva. Next to him is Heflin, then Ryder and the next fellow is his Navigator. That little short fellow wearing the parachute harness is me. Left to right on the bottom row is Pusso, our engineer. He is embracing our Top Turret man Thomas. (Those Italians are so romantic.) Next to him is Zimmerman our ball gunner. I was quite surprised one day when Zim stopped by my place. He had been living about forty miles from here and I did not know that until he showed up. He died a few years ago. His daughter called me last year and wanted me to say a few words at a memorial she had organized at the National Cemetery near Riverside. Next to him is MacAfee, and next to him is our Navigator Verlyn (Dusty) Rhodes.
Courtesy of George Leffler
George V. Leffler is far right
I am the only one left of crew 7 of the 764th Squadron and 461st BG. Some time ago the tail gunner on our crew, Hans J. Kursawe, sent me a copy of his diary. Hans was born in Germany and came to the US when he was nine years old.
Since there has been some discussion about the Southern Route to Italy, I thought I would give our version of the trip.
I will give you a brief summary of the trip as it looked from the nose and Kursawe will give you his version (day by day) as it looked from the tail of Lucky Seven.
Hammer Field, Fresno, Ca
My mother had come down to visit me and unfortunately I delayed sending her back home so she was at Fresno when I left for overseas.
As we taxied out I opened the upper hatch and sat on top of the aircraft. Mom was at the main gate and we had to taxi by there on the way to the runway. I waved at Mom as we taxied by and she waved back.
As we turned on to the runway I closed the hatch. Ed pointed Lucky Seven down the runway and we took off.
Our first stop was Hamilton Field near San Francisco. Here our equipment was checked and rechecked. Our old equipment was traded for new. Shortages were made up. Last Wills and Testaments taken care of. Our ship needed a TO compliance and it took three weeks to get the parts. Well, what better place to spend time than San Francisco.
Departed Hammer Field, Ca for P.O.E. and cross country hop in "Lucky Seven," our combat ship. We don't know where we are going but Crew Seven is ready for anything.
5 February 1944
Still at Hamilton Field being processed. Chow is very good but we have to stand guard on our ship and orderly room is handing out detail but can't seem to locate crew 7. We went to San Francisco but it was quite a disappointment. It isn't what they say it is.
On 7 February we took off for Phoenix, Ariz. We left Phoenix the next day for Midland, Texas.
Arrived at Midland, Texas. Texas is hot but it does not go good with me. Hope we leave in the morning.
8 February 1944
Arrived at Memphis, Tenn. Swell air base here, swell food and nice barracks but couldn't enjoy it because Bruce and I stand guard on ship tonight. Saw first B-29 "super fortress." Quite a ship, ought to be good in combat.
9 February 1944
Arrived at Morrison Field Florida. This is our POE. Went through POE exams. This sure is a lot of bunk. It takes too damn long.
10 February 1944
We left the states at 6:00 A.M. Sure felt funny wondering what the next few months will bring. After take off the whole crew got to go to the flight deck to see our orders and find out where we're going - destination - AFRICA.
We left these United States and headed out over the Gulf coast. About one hour out Ed opened the sealed and secret orders which read destination Africa.
Forgot to mention that Ed had the plane blessed by a Catholic Chaplain.
We arrived in Puerto Rico the next day. Lovely little place and the weather was ideal.
12 February 1944
Took off for the next stop, landed at Waller Field, Trinidad. Crew pulled a 25-hour inspection on the ship. I pulled and cleaned all the guns and cleaned our sidearms. Picked up 8 cases of liquor for use in combat.
Waller Field, Trinidad is a British possession. Picked up 8 cases of rum for the Officer's club which was yet to be built in Italy.
13 February 1944
Landed in Belem, Brazil during rain storm.
Rained all the time we were in Belem. An old German hangar was located just a short distance from our field.
15 February 1944
Landed in Porteleza, Brazil. Swell field but we had to pull a 50-hour inspection on "Lucky Seven". We worked in the rain and hot sun. Bruce and I had to stand guard on the ship but the rest of the crew went to town (illegally of course).
(What are you trying to do Kursawe, get us impeached or something?)
Some of the fellows bought monkeys. They were able to purchase them for three or four dollars.
16 February 1944
We worked on the aircraft all the next day getting it ready for the long overseas hop. I forgot to mention that when we left Morrison Field we picked up a pair of carrier pigeons. At each stop we would exchange these for two more pigeons. The idea was that in case we went down we would release these pigeons.
We received our orders to take off. The whole crew was pretty well sunburned. Veiluva tried to get permission to stay another day but the CO of the base did not see it that way.
17 February 1944
After 12 hours of flying arrived in the "dark continent". Our Navigator Lt. "Dusty " Rhodes proved his skill again - brought us right over runway at Dakar, Africa. Stood guard, slept in waist of ship under net.
We took off at 2 AM. Prior to TO we had been briefed to be on the look out for false distress signals being given by German submarines. One crew descended to a lower altitude to investigate and was shot down.
The dust was blowing and the visibility was almost zero when we landed. French African troops were guarding our airplanes. They made quite a picture with their high red hats and snappy salutes.
18 February 1944
Left Dakar and landed at Marrakech, North Africa. Very dusty here and hot as well. We (crew) went horseback riding with French Cavalry Captain. Went through forbidden city of Medina.
21 February 1944
Departed Marrakech. Crew ordered to search for crew who ditched. We searched in vain though flew at "wave clipping" altitude. Landed at Oudna (Tunisia). Saw Algiers and Oran.
23 February 1944
Still at Oudna. Wish the hell we'd leave. Chow P-poor, mud terrific and no stoves in tent.
After every meal at the mess hall one could see Arabs standing around the garbage cans waiting for the men to throw away the food they had not eaten. For clothes they wore an old blanket or a sack or even a mattress cover. They would pay $20.00 for a mattress cover.
There were two Italian prison camps on the base. One was controlled by the Americans and the other by the French. The French camp was well guarded and the living conditions looked bad. On the other hand the American prisoners were working at various jobs such as cooks, KPs, etc., and were making a little money as well.
25 February 1944
Left for Italy today. We landed at Torretta Field. The runway was muddy and the taxi strips just barely passable. Almost every ship in the formation got stuck except us.
Our ship was the first to land on the field and the first crew to drive into the Squadron area. Col. Glantzberg was standing on the end of the runway and I guess he thought we might not get the aircraft stopped as we did use up a lot of the runway. Anyway, old Glantzberg got out of the way in a hurry.