Today we go off per diem - that figures down now to where we are making as 1st. Lts .. exactly 516.68 a month for being in this damned Middle East _ somehow that doesn't seem to go with the knowledge I gained in going after my business degree. Could be lot happening with the $180 extra each month - don't guess I'll be any less mad at Jerry, though we tried to bluff the big boys into thinking it. Yesterday we got a chance to see more results of our brilliant Operations Officers' thinking. The ship I came in, No. 9, has been out getting repaired because an enlisted man let us land without a nose wheel - this repair job took 3 weeks. The plane had been test hopped, and was waiting to go on a mission, and some officers from the 17 Outfit taxied it into a ditch - knocked nose wheel and left landing gear back off. After losing one B24 by the 17 crew, I don't figure how the boys that make all the rules could trust more 24's to them, but then I guess that is why I wear only one Silver Bar. The accident came as the result of taxiing with Nos .. 1 & 4 engines, and not using hydraulic booster pump - therefore they had no brakes.
Went on a 10 hour mission after a convoy, that is, after a ship that was supposed to have a month's supply of tanks for the Desert. Eleven ships got to the target and did a beautiful job of sinking said ship. Returned home and just after landing, had the horrible experience of seeing one of our planes hit some trees and a house while on the approach to land. The plane was scattered over Hell's Half Acre - burst into flames immediately. We ran over to see if we could help - a practice not too good for a pilot morale. We helped pick up men burned and torn beyond recognition. A few seemed to be alive - 'tis hard to describe the horror of such a sight. The ones who still had a few more minutes on this earth, were clawing the air for help, and every so often getting out a scream that curdled one's blood. One man was caught between a turret and a tree; he called for help and as they rushed to him, the fire started setting off the .50 calibre ammunition. After that, he was silent. Thinking, of course, the crew were the only ones, we picked up 8 men and sent one ambulance off. Then we started finding more bodies - i.e., more shreds and pieces of bodies. When the count was· made, we picked up 16 men for there had been some Palestine Police (5) and 3 Wogs in the house.
The only one that lived till morning, was the pilot, and he is still hanging on.