"The only thing big about the Rome raid were the mission and the headlines. Otherwise it was just another routine raid for us - in fact, one of our easiest."
Lieut. Donaldson B. Hurd of Indianapolis, Ind., shifted his gum as he flicked off this remark; continued chewing with the composure of a big-league pitcher. For the pilot of a B-24 he seemed rather young - young as an OCS graduate. But so were the rest of his crew: Lieuts. Jack Reiter of New York City, Frank C. Wright of South Dakota, and Kermit P. Hansen of Hartley, Iowa; T/Sgt John K. Farnam of South Carolina, T/Sgt. Harry W. Crampton of Lebanon, N.J., S/Sgt. Donald J. Emaus of Grand Rapids. Mich., S/Sgt. Alfred S. Farrington of Kokomo, Ind., and S/Sgt. Arthur L. Johnson of Keokuk, Iowa.
But young or not, these are the boyfriends of Teggie Ann, and Teggie was leader of the All-American bombing of Rome's marshalling yards; she was first over and led the others on the right track.
An Experienced Crew
After last week's Roman holiday, Teggie and the boys took a Cairo holiday. Pilot Hurd was too cool for a hot summer day.
"Y'know," he confided, "we were pretty glad to learn Rome our target. It took long hours of flying - and boy that helps towards our goal of 300 hours of combat flying.
“Can’t say there was any special thrill to the mission,” he continued. “We know this was the first blow at Rome, that we were the first B-24 to strike it. We got a kick out of that. But it was my thirty-first raid, and the twenty-ninth or thirtieth of the rest of the crew - so it was just another raid.
“You’ll remember, the RAF dropped leaflets on the capitol, telegraphing our punches. We expected a welcome party of fighters, but it didn’t materialize. There was little ack-ack on the way in and out of Rome, and less than that over the city. And the target was easy to pick up because of its outstanding checkpoints. We sighted Rome 50 miles away.
Pilot Hurd spit out his gum and automatically unwrapped a new slice. He was enjoying the luxuries of Cairo by becoming a chain chewer.
He patiently related: “We were at 5:30 in the morning for the raid. Emphasis was put on the long run that we should take as a precaution against destroying cultural and religious objects which were less than five miles away. The curious fact is that we really didn't bomb Rome proper. The railroad yards were on the outskirts with very few buildings around it.
A Flurry of Trouble
“On the way home we had some excitement - a little too much for comfort. Southeast of Sicily, half way across the Med, at 5000 feet, three engines cut out. We had trouble with our fuel transfer system; it wasn't feeding the engines. We started to drop. Sgt. Crampton radioed an SOS; told other planes in the formation to watch where we hit. The crew responded wonderfully. Each did his own job and stood by for the landing in the water. Each man strapped on his canteen. Sgts. Farrington and Johnson got the emergency floating radio ready in the waist to be tossed out. Hansen grabbed the water jug. Crampton and Farnam filled their pockets with flares and the flare pistol. All stood bv.
"But thanks to co-pilot Wright and engineer Farnam, we didn't crash. They did an amazing job in fixing the fuel line. We had dropped 3000 feet by then. Our pulse dropped too. From then on it was smooth sailing home. And the moment we landed Sgt. Johnson leaped out and double-timed around the plane shouting, 'Good ole terra firma was never firmer!'
"We were all tired, hungry - but happy. We hadn’t eaten for seventeen hours, but we didn't mind. Although we didn't eat, we knew Mussolini did. We made him eat his heart out!”