McHenry & Becchetti Air Corps Service After Combat



After completing thirty-one missions and the parachute jump over England in 1944, I spent eight days in the hospital with a sprained ankle. I walked on crutches and drove around the base on a bicycle; then I learned that I had been reassigned to the States.

It took four weeks for me to get shipping orders to the U.S. I sailed to the U.S. on the French liner "Pasteur" with about 200 other American airmen and 600 German prisoners headed for prison camps. The Atlantic crossing took eight days. We changed course every fifteen minutes to foil enemy submarines. The Americans had to guard the Germans, who were no problem. Because of the heat and crowded conditions, I spent the entire eight days lying in a lifeboat on the top deck. We arrived in New York Harbor on a cool, damp morning and passed under the Statue of Liberty, which made me very proud and caused me to weep with emotion. We docked at Navy Pier, where a group of shipbuilders, USO workers and a small band greeted us. They cheered us and gave each of us a small pouch containing shaving needs, food and other articles.

We boarded a bus to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland; then I went home to Indiana and finally to Miami Beach, Florida, for a period of rest and rehabilitation.

After the luxurious stay in Miami Beach I was transferred to Scott Field as a radio instructor, with a week's leave enroute with my parents in Huntington, Indiana. I spent only two weeks at Scott Field before I was shipped to gunnery school in Yuma, Arizona, for a refresher in case I was needed in the South Pacific.

At Yuma I was put in charge of a platoon of gunnery students. I ended my tour in Yuma as a member of a work detail to preserve the planes which had been parked out on the desert for possible use against Japan.

With the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, I was shipped to a base in San Bernardino, California, where I did clerical work in an air freight shipping operation. I took a leave back to Indiana, but by the time I returned, the Air Corps had converted San Bernardino into a mustering-out base, so I began the process of getting out of the Air Corps.

After thirty-three months of service in the military, I received an honorable discharge and returned to Indiana.


My last combat mission was on August 14, 1944, a bridge in France with no flak, no opposition of any kind. A milk run. I kissed the ground in Tibenham. The next day, I had to move out of my hut to make room for new combat flyers.

On August 22, I officially became a Second Lieutenant and received the Distinguished Flying Cross just before leaving the 445th BG base at Tibenham. I left England at 11:15 a.m. on September 3, 1944, on a C-54 out of Prestwick, Scotland; arrived in Washington D.C. at 5:04 a.m. on Monday, September 4. I made some visits in Texas, spent a few days with my family in Albuquerque and reported to Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, where they assigned me to Santa Monica, California, for ten days of rest and rehabilitation.

Before leaving Santa Monica, I applied for cadet pilot training, but my immediate assignment was to Midland, Texas, where I was to be trained as a bombardier instructor. After three months of that training, on January 8, 1945, I shipped out to my assignment as bombardier instructor at Carlsbad Army Air Base, New Mexico, but I took a furlough to Albuquerque and did not report until January 19.

On reporting to Carlsbad, I learned that the Army Air Corps had acted on my application for pilot training, so I immediately took a train from Carlsbad to San Antonio, Texas.

In San Antonio, for more than a month, I took more or less the same tests that I had taken there when I was first classified to go into bombardier cadet training. The tests this time did not qualify me for pilot training, so on February 28, 1945, I returned to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and took up my assignment as a bombardier instructor.

For seven months, I gave bombardier instructions to cadets, some of them Nationalist Chinese. It was a relaxing seven months, during which several momentous events occurred: President Roosevelt died, the war in Europe ended, the atom bomb was tested just over the mountains near Alamogordo, New Mexico, we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and on August 14, 1945, World War II ended with Japan's surrender.

The war ended on August 14, and by September 20 I was on my way to Fort Bliss Separation Center in El Paso, Texas, where I was discharged on September 23, 1945, at 7:10 p.m., so that by September 29, 1945, I was home in Albuquerque celebrating the birthday of my favorite cousin. Music, dancing and laughter. The perfect ending to almost 1,000 days of direct participation in the war. I was 23 years old, and war had robbed me of two years and nine months of those 23 years.