Richard R. Dahlstedt's diary, part 4

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We feel our leader, Col. KK is the best there is and we would have followed him anywhere he would lead. What a contrast our first leader, Maj. Flash in the pan as we were about to debark at Suez issued the command: In case of air attack I want every man to put on his helmet and stand in rigid formation. I did myself harm with some by begging that this dumb order be changed. A shavetail, Lt. H--- agreed that we should scatter, but a 2nd Lt. may never change an order from a Major. WE ARE LOST, THE PRIVATE SHOUTED. I realized being older I just might save a few lives. We are constantly aware of pilot skill for often a nose wheel will collapse or a tire will blow out. but in all cases the day has been saved by the pilot's right emergency actions. When you figure the B-24's high landing speed that is quite an accomplishment.

 

There is a different feeling here at the base for we have no contact at all with the natives, at our old base we were very close. It is hard for us to understand that these people with very little are so content. There is so little of wealth that you never see a nut or a bolt or even a bent nail along the roads, not even a tincan. Every such item would be cherished wealth and something would be made from what we consider junk. They proceed unhurried, seeming to ignore war as our problem. When they ask for buckshee, (something for nothing) only one of our men to my hearing ever asked for a gift in return and he got one, how much we must learn if not too late.

 

A desert is not a sand filled hell to them, but home and they know how to thrive there. One Arab boy back at base #1, near waterless, was growing a water melon. Not too far back the Italians in effort to control these Arabs had taken the spiritual leader of the Senoussi tribe to nearly 10,000 ft. and then thrown him out without any parachute in front of all. Perhaps that saved us from the commando raid.

 

Rumors on moving are constant, so are peanut butter, marmalade, battery acid, bad coffee, bully beef, mutton and a canned item called Spam which we know isn’t. I am finding some of this food, C rations of meat and beans, vegetable stew, hash quite hard to keep down so I give them up and now I am hungry. We must soon move that mission to Wiener-Neustadt was much, much too long. These poor flying men on missions that long, I can’t see how they can take it that long.

 

The sand and dust is destroying men and planes. This day will go down in history for today, John Dolcich connived to get us passes, ten day, to Tel Aviv and the holy land. Our plane was to be an old Cossak runner, that had been stripped for that purpose. Came the day for our flight, weather was good, dust was low and all 20 of us awaited take off.

 

Our pilot was Lt. Iovine, a hot rock pilot (Please deliver us from hot rock pilots) They should be piloting fighters. We packed on in for take off about three quarters of the way down the runway we were airborne around 20 ft. when all four engines conked out and down we came. I must give Iovine his due for he reversed the plane and we landed to the side of the runway with no one on the plane or ground hurt.

 

We waited hours for another airplane and I talked to the engineer and asked what had gone wrong. His answer left me not too keen on going for the pilot had blamed him for cutting off the fuel switches and he blamed the pilot. I was much older than these soldiers 'and had to be talked into going. I am glad I gave in as our second take off was routine.

 

Once airborne we entered the bomb bay and we perched like birds on pipes fitted lengthwise inside the bays. When all had assumed position, the bomb-bay doors were opened and we had a marvelously frightening view of the well preserved tank battle tracks and the relics of war that we had se en from the ground as we came out of Egypt. Now and then we could see the Med.

 

Flying on East the desert lost its copper and pink tones and looked like great gobs of maple nut ice cream with an occasional burnt nut (black rock) This flying as an observer I really liked. The man sitting next to me was a flyer and said that the Cairo field was small and he hoped we could land there. We soon vacated the bomb-bay for a routine landing and after a delay had a thrilling take off for Tel-Aviv. Night had fallen and now and then we could see lights below. We thought we were once again in trouble for we were still in the bomb-bay and the pattern of lights below repeated over and over. Once again we vacated our perches, but the people at Lydda refused to light the field for our landing for perhaps we were Germans. In desparation Lt. l.  shot the colors of the day and told them we were coming in lights or not. They lit the runway and he made a great landing. We were met at the plane by a truck whose driver took us to The Red Cross Hotel in Tel Aviv.

 

Sorry boys! officers only. Dad, cancel that $40.00 check at once! She laughed, but we didn't. "You men must take the truck to camp. Thanks a lot Red Cross Angel. We left for camp Televinski. We had asked how about a commercial hotel and were told we could not afford it. Reaching the camp and we identified ourselves as 376th men. A T/Sgt. said, "Your passes have been cut to three days. Ouch! Your base has been put on alert. A few of our men decided to spend the entire time in a local bar, but John D., Don Brugeman and several others and myself voted to see all we could before time vas up. We had a great time, were ripped off now and then, had good food and saw many holy and unholy sights. The trip in itself is a self contained yarn and if I remain energetic may at some time write it down and tell what really did happen.

 

We were now flying back on old #54. On the long trip back to BG we talked about what we disliked most about service. First on the list were untrained people who had authority and covered up their lack of know how by meanly treating those serving below them. Second were the thieves, one from Atlantic City had stollen canned chicken and sold it on the black market. One SOB stole the valuables that were put in his care when men were on combat missions. One crew returning a day late caught him. This same punk had come aboard the Maraposa wearing dark glasses, as he had been caught at base camp stealing and they corrected his vision a bit.

 

Rejoice, we have been in over a year and four or five bad apples ~ very few. A city man would face many more than that in a year plus. Nearly 30 miles from home, Berka, lI, we were petrified to see our field completely screened off by a Kamseen, (Sand and dust cloud) Great God! how can anyone land into a blinding storm like that with such unpredictable gusts. Lt. l. we wish you good luck and your luck will rub off on us all. Iovine made repeated attempts to land but each time he approached what he believed to be our runway a double red flare was shot. Making contact with the tower we were told that the double red was what we were to aim for if we were to land safely. On the next attempt he made a capitol landing. Just prior to Ploesti l had seen lovine belly skid his bomber to another aborted takeoff we fell on the ground in frozen horror this plane with fragmentation bombs and feared the worst.

 

512th B-24, Mizpah was lost today, I did not know this crew, but the bell still tolls for me. Mizpah, quite a lovely name, but not at all sensible for a plane going out against a German enemy.

 

Once again we feel drained, these storms grow longer and longer the heat at an all time high, dryer than ever and the damnest locust plague thrown in. (What the world refers to as a locust back in Pennsylvania is known as a grasshopper) My question, is it edible or isn't it safe to eat. When they find no food they eat each other, just another plague out of Egypt. Yesterday, I heard an officer say that he thought our field would be a nice present to give Hitler on his birthday.

 

I went on sick call, wanting something to read, l picked up a German leaflet from the floor. For the longest time l sat there stunned for inside was a picture of a young man who had flown once on Bomboogie who was now a prisoner of war. He was pictured because of our squadron's insignia, the skull and cross props as an American murderer. We prayed extra that day. I wonder if he lived through the war.

 

Late morning swims and often guard duty at night. I often go walking alone and now and then find some wicked looking German explosives which l cautiously survey. S/Sgt. Joe Kirshner brings the BST to the plane in evenings to ride the armorers back to the tent area. One strange night Joe was in a hurry and decided to drive in a straight line across the desert going as fast as the loaded truck could go. On this night we suddenly at very high speed dropped into a 30 ft. bomb crater our speed carried us up and out. We were shook up, but Joe was unruffled. One night I walked back to our tent area, but that is a story in itself.

376 ARCHIVES

At the 2017 reunion, the board approved the donation of our archives to the Briscoe Center for American History, located on the University of Texas - Austin campus.

Click here to go to their main website.

Also, the board approved a $5,000 donation to add to Ed Clendenin's $20,000 donation in the memory of his father. Together, these funds begin an endowment for the preservation of the 376 archives.

2018 REUNION

DATES :  TBD

CITY : Dayton, Ohio

HOTEL: TBD

2018 reunion details


previous reunions

For Sale

The Other Doolittle Raid


The Liberandos


Three Crawford Brothers


Liberando: Reflections of a Reluctant Warrior


376th Bomb Group Mission History


The Last Liberator


Full Circle


Shadows of Wings


Ten Men, A "Flying Boxcar," and A War


I Survived Ploesti


A Measure of Life


Shot Down In Yugoslavia


Stories of My Life


Attack


Born in Battle