Richard R. Dahlstedt's diary, part 5

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092643

I feel desert fever coming on again. The stinging sand and blowing dust we must soon find a better field. Prayer answered; we are moving and I am flying advance once more in Bomboogie, perhaps I would learn more on the ground. Our new base is EnfidiviIle, Tunisia, no longer too far out of range. Flying in we had flown over Carthage quite thrilling and had seen Lampedusa (This island had surrendered with out a shot being fired) my kind of place. It would be great if Sicily took the hint.

 

Our new base was green, quite a relief with the Atlas Mts. framing the background. These battlefields had known no rank for here was a Major buried between two private soldiers. Great, great losses had been taken here and not that long ago.

 

We located a war worn but flyable Hawker Hurricane, going over it with a fine tooth comb I felt it was free of booby traps. For a few days this was my plaything, Walter Mitty became alive. Our joy was short lived for the British had decided to invade the Dodecaneese Islands and tomorrow we must return to BG. The mission returned and we were about to settle for the night when there was an explosion from a tent two North of ours followed by screams A mechanic had needed hot water and foolishly had thrown gasoline on a lazy fire. It backfired burning him seriously.

 

Back to BG. (We think the Dodecanese venture is just political) While serving this task we get all our meals from the Service Squadron. One afternoon upon leaving the mess building, the sand blew so furiously that a friend and I got hopelessly lost, trying to find our way back to our tents. This Kamseen was the worst as it often knocked us down and we soon were lost. To survive I removed a sock and cut holes for breathing and slits for eyes wearing it as a mask. These painful minutes were as hours, as we sat in the sand our backs to the wind and our heads bent low. Could life get worse than this dry steam bath? We sat still, after what seemed an eternity we heard an engine running laboriously, not wishing to be run over with this limited visability we wisely chose to stand. A British Lorry approached and the driver called out, "What in hell are you yanks doing out here?" "Out where? We are damned if we know”

 

Entering the truck we thanked him and removed our masks. We had strayed afar. His destination was just where all this hell started our Service Squadron, and he drove us there. Arthur, our driver said each Summer he finds many lost souls, but no one ever dies as we are too near the sea for that. We returned to our tent totally beat and with exhaustion passed out for hours.

 

Thinking back on that day, it was a good thing we started out on that adventure with out thirst for we could have easily panicked. More and more support missions were flown, not a drop of rain, water is scarce and poor tasting my weight drops back to 128 lbs. We are sick at our souls and our stomachs.

 

Back to Enfidaville, hope we are wrong but we think the British were kicked in their Island efforts. We hope we are wrong for we had a few good friends with that outfit. One of these lads made fun of me as I ran for shelter when the rockets were fired from BG. My fighter plane was gone, where it had been was a large pile of ashes, IT HAD BEEN BURNT BY THE ADJUTANT WHO THOUGHT IT WAS BOOBY TRAPPED. You are older and wiser, Scotty don't kill the SOB. With a British field five minutes away he could have at least asked them. But the war would not go on forever and he would have to hunt work. We had missed Bob Hope, Ernie Pyle, but Jack Benny was great. One of Jack's jokes, a good one, was targeted strictly for desert rats and went like this: Air travel is just great, breakfast at Khartoum, Lunch in Cairo and dysentary at Benghazi.


There is much sickness, I used to comb my plane for leftover scraps of K Ration crackers for they would stay on my stomach. I was desperately hungry and unable to eat. In a stupid attempt to survive I almost finished myself off. Enfidaville had one thing in abundance, almond nuts, so I bought l5kg. of them for us and sat down with my brass armorer hammer and ate my fill and they agreed with me. I had been saved. Some of my friends did this and became jaundiced. Joe D. was hospitalized and I was told to stay in my tent and remain quiet.

 

I remember wishing the tent had a bathroom for often there was near 20 BM's a day and you cannot get weaker than that.

 

The mission had been called off. I agree with Gen. Patton, "If I get home alive I will lock myself into a clean bathroom for ever" The way to go, Pat.

 

Boogie's new crew chief was not told I was ill and accused me of negligence. One other crew man knew me and suggested a complete check over of the plane's armament they checked and I was exonerated all was found for a plane that old to be in great shape. I am glad the chief was sent home, as I never was treated more carelessly.

 

I remained a corporal and armorer on my favorite plane that was now showing her age. Had I have been found lacking, as sick as I was at the time, I might have committed, Hara Kiri, rather than have the combat men thinking I didn't give a damn. I hold no lingering malice for the chief for he believed he was protecting the men too. I am glad that he went home.

 

M/Sgt. Ula Taylor, was Boogie's first chief to this day I honestly believe I would have died for this fine, capable man, (Halpro man)

 

As you may judge, the almonds had nailed me, but I had real good luck; for I had found a leaflet on jaundice and remember one statement in the article quite clearly, " Jaundice symptoms must be treated with a very low fat, extremely high carbon diet" CARBON, sugar, I reasoned so I rushed like a mad man through the tent area asking for the assorted lifesaver candy that no one bothered to eat. Collecting just under 100 packs, my fellow men watched and laughed as I crunched away, day after day. I had won the battle, my eyeballs were no longer yellow. My, how much better I felt.

 

One thing we miss that was back at BG was the British bath house. There was warning signs all over the place warning not to drink the water as it was not up to drinking standards, but mighty refreshing. One day I was in the bath and started to whistle, "I’m a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer" From another part of the bath came a loud vulgar voice, " You God damned Yanks even steal our college songs... piss off. I miss it anyhow. We had a young British buddy, Lamb, a lance corporal, Lamb drove a lorry or a fire engine. Lamb, young as he was had been in the desert for years. He was always chosen to be last vehicle out on retreat generally with his old fire engine. We hope he has survived, his worry was he was ambitious, but back in Civy Street, if your father was a lorry driver that is what you would be.

 

Some future for a man who has served his country so long. Wine in 100 octane cans seems deadly, but better than no wine at all. We all want Italy cleared of Germans and we have had some great news: we have been chosen to be the first heavies on Italian land. A while back we had been loading bombs when the surrender of Italy had been announced.

 

I noticed the vast difference between the younger men and myself for most of them left the planes and went to cellebrate while we continued loading for the mission was in no way changed. One former assistant armorer on Bomboogie got drunk and took his tommy gun and shot the grasshoppers out of his tent. No one was hurt, but we all were scared and their tent was a leaky mess. but the grasshoppers were gone. On firm orders there was to be no more of that kind of childishness. Not going by boat, I am once more in the advance group.

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