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ATLANTIC CROSSING AND ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND.
April 20, 1944. After two days in sub-tropical Florida, we took off, leaving the U.S. at 12:26.40 p.m.EST. We landed in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at 12:00 noon. We were scheduled to leave Trinidad the next day, but we were grounded by weather until April 22, so we swam and enjoyed the balmy weather.
April 22, 1944. After a day or so of exposure to British-type culture such as driving cars on the left, we took off from Trinidad at 1:00 a.m. and crossed the Equator at 9:07.30 that morning on the way to Fortaleza, Brazil.
April 23, 1944. After landing in Fortaleza, Brazil, at 11:00 a.m., we did some engine maintenance and had a day and a few hours' exposure to Brazilian culture.
April 24, 1944. We took off from Fortaleza at 9:10 p.m. and crossed the Atlantic with Vince Hamilton doing celestial navigation to Dakar. On the way, we saw flashes of St. Elmo's fire around our wing tips. Eerie!
April 25, 1944. We landed in Dakar, French West Africa, at 8:15 a.m. and had to stay overnight in very primitive quarters, but it was a thrill to be in Africa.
April 26, 1944. We took off from Dakar at 5:00 a.m., but bad weather forced us to land at Tindouf Ramp. We took off from Tindouf at 2:00 p.m.and flew through a violent thunderstorm which brought us near to crashing into the rugged peaks of Atlas Mountains. We landed in Marrakech, where we cleaned and loaded our .50 caliber machine guns for the final lap to England, which would take us into the war zone, where we were vulnerable to attacks by German aircraft, even though we would be out over the Atlantic.
April 29, 1944. We took off from Marrakech at 8:00 p.m. after three days exposure to Arabic and French culture and made an overnight flight along the western edge of Europe, almost flying over Lisbon because of a navigational misunderstanding between the pilot and navigator. One of the more interesting things that we did in Marrakech was to see the movie "Casablanca," just a few miles from the real Casablanca.
THE SOUTHERN ROUTE TO ENGLAND
April 30, 1944. We landed in Nutts Corner, Wales, England, at
6:30 a.m. and reluctantly surrendered the new B-24, something we had expected from the moment we took off from Topeka. Wales was such a charming place that it was hard to believe that we were in a country that had endured since 1939 the most brutal attacks in the history of warfare. Our understanding was that we would have to fly 25 combat missions.
May 1, 1944. After witnessing the beauty and charm of a May Day among the Welsh, most of whom were carrying flowers in the morning or placing flowers in their doorways and windows, we left by train at 8:30 a.m. for Stone, England. We were in Stone for four days and nights, during which we were able to go dancing and even meet and date English girls; although Becchetti was put to work censoring outgoing mail.
May 5, 1944. We left Stone by train and arrived at our base, Tibenham, England's 445th Bomb Group, in the afternoon. We understood that we would have to fly 25 combat missions. At Tibenham we learned that we would fly 30.
May 7, 1944. We had been assigned to 702nd Squadron, and our first practice mission over England was from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
May 8, 1944. The second practice mission was an evening mission at 7:00 p.m. for 45 minutes. Bolton did the takeoff. He made a night landing.
May 9, 1944. Our third practice mission was a three-hour flight over England, with another pilot.
TIBENHAM AIR BASE
445TH BOMB GROUP
May 11, 1944. We flew our fourth practice mission, on which I dropped four bombs, with another bombardier looking over my shoulder. Vince Hamilton, meanwhile, was called for his first mission. Because of a group shortage of trained navigators, he was assigned to a lead ship, even though he continued to share quarters with us, he never again flew as our navigator. Becchetti would become the navigator.
May 13, 1944. After Becchetti had been to navigation classes and learned to use the
radar Gee Box, we flew an afternoon practice mission.
May 15, 1944. We got up at 2:00 a.m. for briefing and then took off and joined a
formation which was actually going on a combat mission. We took a position in
the formation and flew across the Channel. We turned back at the French coast,
and Becchetti navigated back to base.
May 19, 1944. Becchetti has been studying navigation intensively, so that he has become ready to take over the crew's navigation duties. Today we were placed on alert for tomorrow's combat mission, our first real mission in the 445th Bomb Group, 702nd Squadron of the Eighth Air Force.
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