Irving F. Hlava

Irving F. Hlava was a Staff Sgt. in the 515 squadron. He served in the communications group.

He wrote the following about his experiences:


FEB. 14, 1943 (Valentine's Day) Little did we know when we boarded the USS West Point (formerly the SS America) in San Francisco that it would take 42 days to reach Cairo, Egypt, with stops in Wellington, New Zealand; Melbourne, Australia; and Bombay, India. From Cairo, we were dispatched by train to Benghazi, Libya, in March of 1943 where we camped for 6 months; then we convoyed along the Mediterranean coast until we arrived in Enfidaville, Tunisia and then eventually on to Tunis. Then we flew to our base in San Pancrazio, Italy, where the 376th remained for the duration of the war.

The point that I am making is that on the morning that we were preparing to leave San Pancrazio for the U.S.A. (Sept. 1945), we were all listening to Axis Sally on the radio. To our amazement, she greeted the members of the 376th Bomb Group and then proceeded to tell us that she knew that we were leaving San Pancrazio for Bari, Italy, that AM and would board the USS West Point that afternoon. She told us something that we didn't know! She then bade us farewell and said that we would never get to see our parents, wives, friends, etc. because we would be torpedoed when we went through the Straits of Gibraltar.

Naturally, we were a bit apprehensive and sweated out the trip through the straits. However, nothing happened, and thousands of us breathed a sigh of relief. We were fortunate enough to have had Red Skelton aboard, who kept us in a happy frame of mind. To have boarded the USS West Point in San Francisco, spend 2 1/2 years overseas, and then have the opportunity to board the same ship to come back to the good ole USA was quite and experience and coincidence that I thought would be worth mentioning.