Walter J. Wagner was an engineering officer in the 515 squadron. He recalled his work in January 1945:
On Monday, January 8, 1945, Capt. Walter Wagner, Engineering Officer of the 515th Squadron, was flown to Jesi Airfield just off the main highway between Ancona and Rimini. Jesi Airfield was a remote emergency landing strip near the Adriatic Coast where disabled Allied aircraft landed because of engine failure or flak damage. During Walter's inspection of the grounded aircraft at Jesi it was discovered that four of the seventeen aircraft there were from the 376th Bomb Group. All needed major repairs.
The detachment of men who went to Jesi on this repair assignment was made up of about 36 men, eight from the 376th. They were quartered for their stay in an abandoned paper mill. The permanent party at the field furnished messing, medical facilities and transportation - which consisted of two Jeeps and three 6x6's for the three officers and thirty-two enlisted men.
It was the desire of both Walter and the Engineering Officer of the 96th Service Center that the eight(8) men from the 376th begin work on an airplane that had not previously been worked on. None from the 376th, however, had not been started by the permanent party personnel, consequently Walter's group decided to repair the most difficult job first, which was the completion of work on the 376th's airplane (A). The major repairs to be made on all the four aircraft were as follows:
Airplane (A). Complete horizontal and vertical stabilizer change. No. I and No.2 engine change. No. 4 propeller change. Nose wheel assembly change. Other minor damage.
Airplane (B). No.6 fuel cell change.
Hydraulic lines to be replaced and main landing gear emergency lowering mechanism to be reset. Other minor damage.
Note: The above two aircraft were worked on by a depot repair unit several weeks before our detachment arrived. None of the repairs that they began were completely accomplished. They removed two engines from airplane (A) and many of the parts were lost or misplaced. No attempt was made to protect the newly exposed lines from the weather. All the lines had to be flushed out or exchanged. Some of the parts of the newly installed nose wheel assembly were missing and had to be acquired and installed before a retraction test could be accomplished. The fuel cell to be replaced on airplane (B) was removed by the depot repair unit and most of the fuel cell access plate attaching screws were lost and had to be acquired from other sources before the plate could be installed.
Airplane (C). No.2 and No.4 engine change. Other minor damage.
Airplane (D). No.3 engine change. Other minor damage.
Work on airplanes (A) and (B) was abandoned for a short period and work on (C) and (D) was progressing very slowly due to a critical shortage of men, supplies and equipment. Cold. snow, rain and mud also were serious handicaps.
It took three weeks to get the four aircraft in flying condition, but by the end of January the detachment from the 3 76th had pre-flighted all four of the planes and made the necessary minor repairs. The pilots who flew the aircraft out of Jesi Airfield knew that if the engines reached full power they could fly them out, so all fOllr planes were flown back to the 376th for duty. Who knows - all four aircraft were probably still around when the 376th flew the last mission on April 15, 1945.
As for Walter - he departed Jesi Airfield on a 5 day delay en route - vacationing in Rome. From there he hitchhiked a ride on a C47 to Naples, Bari, and then back to San Pancrazio. Back to his job of "keep em-flying." He returned to the States with the 376th in April of that same year.
After WWII ended and the Group disbanded, Walter spent the balance of his 20 year Air Force career in two different assignments - first in counter intelligence, working in Germany and England. Later he worked with the atomic/thermonuclear weapons program. He retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel in September of 1961.