Alfred E. Berger

Prologue

So why after sixty plus years a memoir? Blame it on the computer.

After completing an introductory course on computers, I was awarded with my own computer. This was in November 2006. For the first year I did mostly treasures work for my Lions club. When I gave up the treasurer's job, I had to find something else to do.

Let's backtrack three years when at a high school class reunion I talked to Ken Petry whom I worked with for many years. He told me he saw my name in a book his daughter gave him for his birthday, and asked me what I contributed to the book. I told him I had no idea and we made arrangements to give me his book to read, as he had already read it. The name of the book is "The Wild Blue" written by Stephen Ambrose, a noted World War II historian about B-24s in the 15th Air Force in Italy. It is about George McGovern who was a B-24 pilot serving in Italy, and later as a senator from South Dakota ran for president of the United States in 1972. Now Ken Petry himself was a B-24 pilot, but served in England, in the Eighth Air Force. After reading his book I decided to buy one for myself, because much of it was about the area we were stationed. The author, Ambrose was a close friend of McGovern who was the U.S. Ambassador to the Italian Government for some time. Thus, Ambrose took a couple trips to Italy and interviewed Italians who lived during the time of WW II. He also spent time with the Mayor of Cerignola and learned much about the history of the area where McGovern was stationed. It was also where I was stationed during the time that we flew our last three missions. Much of the information he gathered on those trips is included in his book. McGovern's thirty-fifth mission and our seventeenth were to the same target, Linz, Austria on the same day. He flew a B-24 back to the States following the same route as we, just four days before we did.

Ambrose had an acknowledgment referring to a book "Belle of the Brawl" written by Thomas P. Reynolds, that I had to read, so I ordered one for myself because I flew five missions in a plane with that name and my curiosity was aroused. The book was a biography of Walter Malone Baskin a co-pilot of a B-24 that completed thirty missions in the 34th bomb group in the 8th Air Force in England. Reynolds, the author, was a nephew of Baskin and much of the book was written from the writings from Baskin's diary and letters he received and wrote to his family and friends. It is a day by day story of Baskins Air Force life and references to his boyhood days in Mississippi. Baskin wrote that his crew was assigned to a B-24 in Blythe, California as part of the 34th bomb group and would fly it overseas. On the way they stopped at Morrison Field, Florida where the crew decided on the name "Belle of the Brawl" and painted it on one side of the plane. They would later, during their trip to England, paint the name on the other side. After thirty missions Baskins group converted to B-17s and according to Reynolds information, "Belle of the Brawl", serial number 42-94904, was transferred to another group where it flew additional missions.

In September 2003 when I applied for veterans benefits I had to submit a copy of my discharge certificate. When looking through a barracks bag that I brought home from the service, I found it among reams of papers that I didn't remember I had. In these papers were shipping orders from place to place, a complete record of all training hours, all the flying time I accumulated from gunnery school through crew training to my last mission, a wealth of information. With this information, some notes and names I kept in a pocket sized notebook, and memory I decided to put all this in one place, hence the memoirs.