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Memorial Names




1 LT



Plaque : Wall 2, Row F, Col 2

I enlisted in the US Army Air Corp in May, 1942 and was called to active duty in February, 1943. >>>Basic Training was in Lincoln, Nebraska with freezing temperatures, and snow on the ground. No uniforms were issued until we shipped out to Des Moines, Iowa. It was a cold waiting period. About a month later, I was shipped to Santa Anna for my physical classification and pre-flight schooling. I was classified as a pilot and took basic flight training at Thunderbird II in Phoenix, Arizona. My instructor was transferred to another base and in oversight, I wasn’t assigned a new instructor, so I cranked steerman aircraft and flew occasionally as the opportunity arose. Midway through my training at Thunderbird II, the Air Corp sent a team in to check on flight schools. When they finished their lecture, they asked, “any questions?” and I responded that I didn’t have an instructor. Immediately they cleared the hall of cadets and I was told to wait outside. An instructor was assigned to me and told me to ‘suit-up’ because I was going to fly. When airborne, he told me to land at the other side of the air base. Then he told me to shoot three landings. On the third landing, he held up 2 fingers to assign two more landings yet. When I got on the ground, he had me take the plane up solo, and of course, I did! And he told the commander I did a good job. When we finished training, the instructor came up to me and asked if I knew why he put those two fingers up for two more practice landings. I responded that I didn’t, and he said the he had wanted to know if God was helping me, or if I was doing that well on my own. The truth was, God was with me. >>>In Basic Training with BT-5’s, my instructor said that I was a fighter pilot and not a Bomber pilot. So I was transferred to Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona. While at Luke, they were registering pilots for B51 night fighters, so I trained to be a night fighter in the AT6. Upon graduation from Luke, I’d earned my pilot’s wings and a rating of 2nd Lieutenant, and was ready for training in twin engines in B52 bombers at Mather Field in Sacramento, California. >>>After three months of training in California, our unit was transferred to Greenville, South Carolina for overseas combat training. From there, we were sent to Savannah, Georgia and given our B25’s for overseas flight. We flew our planes to the Southern route, down through Brazil and across to the Ascension Island, in the Mid-Atlantic. Here we were detained for three days because of a severe sand storm in the Sahara Desert. They had no supplies for us, but candy, because all the supply ships had been sunk. When we were able to leave Ascension Island, we flew up the West coast of Africa to Air Base in Marrakech, Morocco. Here they gave the airplanes a 50 hours inspection before we continued towards Tunis, with our final destination being Naples, Italy. During this flight “Axis Sally,” the German Propaganda Radio contacted us. They knew our 3 officer’s names, ranch and family names, our exact destination, squad numbers and ranks. They told us that we would never make it to join the 489th squad base on Corsica, our exact destination. However, we did successfully made it, and remained in Europe until the war was over. >>>I flew 25 missions against the Germans in Italy and flew over the Balkans helping the Russians. Of all the missions I went on, three were most monumental. The first one was my last mission as co-pilot when we bombed a railroad. Our plane was not shot at once, but I watched another group of bombers lose most of their airplanes. Another mission worth mentioning was in the same target area, but this time I was leading the mission. As the first and second element went over the site with no enemy shooting, I expected our plane to be bombarded with enemy fire. But, there was no enemy action. I was so scared at the time that I could not release my hands from the controls of the planes. My co-pilot had to pry my hands off and took over the flight for awhile. >>>The third mission that stands out in my mind is when the Canadians were crossing the Poe River in Northern Italy and the Germans had a diversion going to attack them. Our squad was 5 miles behind the American trooper line and we were on our way to bomb the Germans. We were flying in the Echelon Formation so I was the last one to drop my bombs. Suddenly there were 4 or 5 anti-aircraft guns directly in front of us. We heard the blasts and smelled the gun powder after the shrapnel hit our plane. We immediately tried to contact other planes and crew members to see if everyone was okay, but no one answered. A moment later I realized that my intercom was unplugged. Once contact was made, we thanked God for our safety, and began to address the plane structure problems as a result from the hit. A fuel leak from the left engine meant that we had to return to base for an emergency landing. The base told us to land on the grass and not the runway, so we did. We landed safely and were greeted by the ground commander who was examining the plane and cursing furiously. He and the mechanic were angry because they had never had a plane returned to Base so ‘shot up.’ I reassured him that it wasn’t our idea. The next morning the crew chief brought me a piece of flack 3 inches long that had hit the engine. It turns out that it was a 105mm artillery shell which tore into the construction of the plane and wrecked the wing base so the plane was not repairable, but a candidate for the scrap yard. >>After the war ended, the operations officer came into the men’s mess hall one night and announced that all 1st pilots were promoted to 1st lieutenants and all the pilots spoke loudly and said “what about Marsh? He’s flown 25 missions and not been promoted!” A few days later I was transferred a Masa Squad and given a 3-day leave while they converted a B25 into a military transport. While on leave General Eisenhower came by and needed transportation by B25 to return stateside. I wasn’t available to go, so they sent another pilot. So, instead, I was assigned to the Commanding Officer of the Supply Depot at Bari, Italy. While I was flying for the Commanding Officer, I received a call from Naples, to bring my B25 over and exchange it for a C47, which I had never flown or been introduced to. I was surprised about the switch, but they just said, “take it and go.” So I figured it out and had a safe return trip. When I returned, the officer we were flying needed to make a trip to Sophia, Romania. He was taking care of some business in town so the crew toured the area. While there we were approached by a young lady who seemed eager to talk with us in English. We made small talk and continued on our way. The next morning, the crew chief went out to service the plane and returned shortly, frightened, white as a sheet and speechless. When our crew made it to the air field, the Russian Commander was there, and refused to let us leave. He said, “No one goes.” We contacted the American Ambassador to Romania and found out that the young woman we had talked to the day before had been the crowned princess. The Russian commander thought that we were trying to help her escape the country. After six hours of waiting, we were finally released and allowed to leave the country. But, on our way back to Italy, we had a “yak” on each wing tip, escorting us out of the country, back towards the Adriatic Sea. >>>Another time when we were flying the Base Commander to Rome, we spent the night in a fancy hotel that the 5th army had commandeered. They had a sign outside the front, which read “no Air Force,” but of course, our Commanding General took us right in anyway. When inside, a big fat Major came running up to us saying “No Air Force Allowed!” Our Commanding officer stood his ground and questioned the Major as to where he gets his supplies. “Base,” the Major replied. Our Commanding officer let the Major know he was the Commanding General on Base, and that if the Major wanted to keep getting his supplies and food, then he had better register our crew immediately. He also insisted that the same thing be done whenever we were in town in the future. >>>The personnel I flew were always courteous and respectful of the US Air Force needs. I enjoyed my many flights as a pilot for VIPs and even made it to Switzerland twice while working. It was also during this time that I found out that the freeze on pilots was lifted, and that I had enough points to go home. By this time I was ready to go home and join my family again. I stayed in the Reserves until retirement with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.







Theatre of Operation


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