Again I'm behind - on about March 1 or 2, went on raid to Naples. Nine of us started and seven got to target. After flying allover Italy for an eternity, we found Naples solidly overcast, so turned back to Messina. How we managed to surprise them I'll never fully understand, except that they, no doubt, figured we'd unloaded at Naples. We got directly over target, and I had to feather No. 20 Pursuit jumped us and all the old Luke Field boys came to rescue. Cy Peak and Johnny Medford popped up on my wings nearly as soon as prop quit turning – Maj. Hahn (leading flight) wouldn't stay for cover and nearly got caught alone when he left - but "p" shooters decided we were too far out by then. Came on home on my three engines and got in without difficulty. Much more of the "three. engine time" and they'll take my four engine rating away from me. Was with Mooty's crew. This boosted time to 337 hours and a bit, which leads any man in the group.
On March 6, we found out that we were relieved from combat flying, except in dire necessity. New crews have been coming in, so Col. Compton is taking time off operations to run a week of training for them. We "old" pilots ride as command pilots and help train the fresh blood. Also fly transition for the old co-pilots, so they can check out. Red decoration on March. 10 for cluster to Air Medal - damn if Hot Foot Louie Brereton didn't keep us waiting 2 hours and then not even bother with any decoration under D.F.C. - naturally, he made himself extremely popular. The first of the Halpro leaves for the States on the 12th. Capt. Urich and Lt. Duckworth are going back and are the envy of all of us.
The boys wanted to quit combat so bad that about 10 volunteered for a deal that was entirely unexplained - turned out to be test hopping at Bazrah - a hot hell hole - but the five selected were considered lucky. The rest of us decided we'd rather hang on and hope out more combat with vague chance of going back before too long.
Life around here has been restful - all the boys buy "eekes” from the Wogs for 2 piastres an egg. We call the Wogs stupid, but 2 pts. per egg is 51.20 a dozen at home - yeah, stupid - like a fox! The weather has been quite windy of late - cold as the devil at nite. Have two P-40 boys in to train the gunners by m8king passes at the formation - excellent idea.