Our War Stories
Fire in the Night
by Fred Stanton (779)
(Ed. of the 464th BG newsletter - Fred Stanton (779)
reports on the problems which plagued the early maintenance personnel just after they
arrived at Pantanella. He had his memory refreshed by Mike Moyna, sez he. Also he
stated that Jack Shipman may possibly add to this tale.)
In the first few weeks of our arrival in Pantanella, our
maintenance crews threw up hastily built shelters of about any thing we could find. Myself
and two others put together some bomb-bay luggage racks and old tarps. 3 or 4 more
shelters were built on the flight line and the rest of the men had built dwellings on the
hill, several hundred yards above us in an old apple orchard.
We had only lived in the shanty a few weeks, when I
was awakened by a loud crackling and snapping sound. My first thoughts were that the
wheat and grass surrounding us was on fire.
Jumping up I raised the tarp window to see utter mayhem.
One plane was totally in flames, spouting .50 caliber rounds and tracers in all directions.
Before I could hardly react, she blew up, exploding a fireball mushrooming into the nite
sky. The concussion threw me to the floor without any harm.
The other two men, not knowing what had happened,
one ran into the wall trying to find his way out, not as yet fully awake.
Rushing out, I ran into a complete landing gear lying
about 30 feet from our shack. It was a scene of chaos and destruction. The exploding
aircraft had damaged two more beyond repair. The .50 caliber firing, at first, was like
being under enemy fire. Mike Moyna and several others took cover in a nearby ditch.
Some were hollerin' and giving commands to hit the ditches. Lucky for us we had these
to drop into.
Seems like it was 3-4 hours before anyone could get
near the burned aircraft to inspect the scene. This destruction was caused when armament
men were working late and were using the gasoline auxiliary engine (the putt-putt) under
the flight deck to power their lights. When this evidentally leaked and sparked, the fire
started and was too far along, when noticed, to extinguish. Men did crank up and taxi
a few airplanes from harm.
Next morning the destruction looked like a war zone. I was
crewing the Black J at the time of the explosion and fires. Parts of a supercharger from an
engine of a burning plane went thru the side of Black J and she was a couple of hundred
yards away. (Ed. of 464th BG newsletter - This damage is quite
similar to that suffered by Red J on the 2 December 44 mission to Blechhammer, mentioned
previously in this Newsletter.)
Later on we built 4-5 block houses on the flight line, with the
remaining personnel building homes on the hill side. There was a small town constructed
there. I often wondered what happened to it. (Ed. of 464th BG newsletter - People who traveled
with Joe Stewart's trip to the "Hill" a few years ago, reported that everything
had been leveled except for one building which may have been the theatre...correct?)
Back to Our War Stories.
From the Feb. '97 issue of the 464th Bomb Group Newsletter.
Published with the permission of Tony Schneider, Sec./NL Ed. (464th, 776)
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