461st plaque

461st Bombardment Group (H)

Remo L. Bacchi

Remo L. Bacchi  (Ray)

36740741 764th Squadron S/Sgt. “R”

March 2008

When I was 7 years old, my family, who were US citizens, left Switzerland and arrived in the USA in 1923 and settled in St. Louis.  I became aviation-minded when Lindbergh made his Paris flight in 1927.  Moving to Chicago in 1929, I attended high school and was attracted to the ROTC, graduating as cadet commander in 1934, and started my job as a machinist.  A month later, I enlisted in the 132 Infantry Chicago National Guard and served 6 years, reaching the rank of sergeant.

The following year I was married to Trudy Stellmach.  Being a machinist, I was deferred for 2 years and then drafted and assigned to the Air Force.  I was sent to Lowery Field, Denver, CO to attend the Power turret and Gunsight school.  Upon completion, I was assigned to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.   I was assigned to a bomb squadron, but never participated in the armament section.Bacchi

I went to work on the 2,000 yard turret outdoor range, qualifying combat crews for score on Martin and Sperry ball turret.  Several months later, I was ordered to Hammer Field, CA.  I left, unknowingly leaving a pregnant wife who returned home to Chicago.

Arriving at Hammer Field, I was assigned to the 764th Bomb Squadron armament section, which was in its last 2 months of training.  I kept busy doing minor modifications on turrets of the new incoming planes.  I volunteered to fly with the Air Echelon and was assigned to “Lucky Seven” whose nose art was 2 dice.  I did not meet the crew until takeoff.

Bacchi & FrankArriving at Morrison Field, FL, I was deplaned, shipped to New York City, and flown by ATC C-54 to Casablanca.  That was the start of a great event for me.  I took the North African shuttle C-47 whose South African pilots never flew more than 600 feet altitude due to possible German fighters.  First stop was Algiers, where we had a one-hour layover.  I knew my older brother, Frank, a regular AF M/Sgt. with some 8 years of service, was stationed in Algiers the previous two years, assembling boat-shipped planes for our allies.  I found out where he was based and ran across the field to the hanger.  Upon approaching the side, a small door opened and a G.I. emerged.  I told him my errand and he did not answer, but grabbed my shoulder in a fierce grip and said, “What’s the matter, Ray, don’t you know me anymore?”  Then I recognized the voice.  We had not seen each other for 4 ½ years.  So we had a nice visit and I resumed my flight.

Next stop was Oran and then Tunis where I rejoined the 764th and “Lucky Seven”.  Then off to Italy and Torretta Field.  We had pup tents for a week or so and then the pyramidal tents.  We lost our C.O., Capt. Witte, when his plane crashed in a storm.  I was a member of the firing squad at his funeral.  With our new C.O., Capt. Goree, we did some practice missions and then the real ones.  Several months later my tent mate and I renovated our tent. We put up four and a half foot walls of frag boxes, hot and cold running water, a small sink (1/2 of an accumulator), Italian faucets, and a regular door with a plexiglass top for better light.  We kept this tent until the end.

When the Air Force closed their African units, my brother came up to Italy and became a crew chief in the only B-17 bomb group.  I visited him several times until he was rotated home to complete 26 years of service.

And so I kept busy making sure that turrets were 100% operable, mostly replacing gun charging cables and patching plexiglass.  Ten days after D-Day, I received a cable “Mother and baby boy doing fine.”  And so I passed out the cigars my wife had sent me.

And the missions kept on.  When the supply missions started, I removed the ball turret from several airplanes.  Don’t remember ever putting them back.  With the war’s end, I had enough points and was transferred to the going home group.  I left Naples on the Frederick Victory and was seasick all the time.  I heard about the atom bomb while at sea.  From Newport News, I went by train to Illinois for a furlough and discharge.  Back to my old job as a machinist, and I also made my acquaintance with my son.

A year later I enlisted in the Air National Guard at Midway Airport in Chicago. I was in the armament section doing maintenance of central fire control on B-26 bombers.  A year later I became NCOIC of the ordnance section and promoted to T/Sgt.  When the unit was activated, I was discharged due to a technicality.  I enlisted in the 9594th AF Reserve squadron, promoted to M/Sgt. and became the 1st Sgt.  I participated in the nuclear airplane recovery program at Midway Airport.  When that program was deleted, I transferred to O’Hare Field and secured the 1st Sgt. job in the 91st Aerial Port Squadron, AF Reserve.  After 18 years, I switched to the Air Freight section.  I retired as a CM/Sgt. with 31 years of service in 1974.  In the meantime, I eventually went through several job changes and ended up as a night shift machine shop supervisor.

I retired at age 62, and when my wife died in 1979, I moved to San Diego, CA leaving 4 of my children behind.  They were all settled in their careers.  My fifth child was already in the San Diego area.  I spent the next 24 years as a volunteer at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and helped construct the layouts.  The San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park is the largest in the country which runs trains for the public every day.  I was also the Friday train engineer, running trains for the museum visitors.

In 1980 I married Marie Matousek.  In 1988 I was a widower again.  Several years later I married Anna Barthel, and 10 years later I was a widower again.  Now I’m in a private nursing home.  I’m a wheelchair and bed patient at the age of 91, but am still alert.

As I gaze at the wall plaque in my room, in which are framed my service memorabilia, I think of the many men, living and dead, it took to earn two presidential unit citations.