Oh, Those French!
From the war diary of Kassel Mission tail gunner, Sgt. Herbert R. Schwartz
September 17, 1944 Today was a red-letter day. For the 1st time in the ETO, I flew a “pleasure” mission. Our group has turned unoperational for a while as we are hauling supplies to France. We were making 2 trips today. Our 1st trip carrying 200 5 gal. cans of gasoline and our 2nd trip carrying blankets and stretchers. I was asked to fly [with] Lt. Heitz and I agreed to fly.
Take off at 6:00 & landed 7:00 p.m. A long day but a real day to remember. We flew at 1500 ft., no flying clothes and the radio man had music on while flying & all we had to do was to be ready to help in case of an emergency. Our supplies were going to St. Quentin to be carried to the front lines.
We landed our ship at this base after quite a thrill. Our load was heavy, and plane was hard to control. We had a rough landing. Quite a coincidence as just 7 months prior to yesterday, the 445th hit this identical field then under German hands as our target and we could now see results of same. We did a good job, but craters were filled up and it was possible to land but not to smoothly.
We were one of 64 ships to bring in supplies and the 3rd ship to land. About 20 negroes came to the ship, unloaded it and we were ready to take off for our second load. Colonel met our ship and we 1st asked for Cognac, a drink between a wine and a whiskey. He told us that the day before, they had uncovered 2000 cases of Cognac, wines, & champagnes & 1000 cases were given to the men stationed on the field. He told us we could have all we wanted, but due to limited time, we did not have time to pick it up.
On this field was a group of P-38’s that were used on alerts to and bombers landing should they meet fighters.
We boarded the ship ready to take off, and while taxiing on the runway, we blew a nose wheel tire. Heitz pulled over to the edge and a jeep came with high ranking officers told us they would have us ready to take off in 45 min.
We got permission to leave the ship to visit with some young Frenchmen about 200 yards away. We started to walk toward them.
When we reached them, they said “Airmen?” We shook our heads “yes” and they climbed all over us. They were really glad to see us. They started shaking our hands & before I knew it, I was shaking hands with everybody. I had on flying pants, and they were anxious to see the fur lining & before I knew it, one of the girls were unbuttoning my flying pants. A little embarrassed, but who was I to complain. They also started fooling with my pistol which I was wearing.
One of the girls could speak English and we had an interpreter until she left. She invited us to a dance at 6 pm & we were later told that dances were held nightly from 6 pm to 6 a.m. We asked her for cognac & she offered us all we could drink at her home five kilometers away. We didn’t have time to go but one of the other girls gave me a quart of it which we drank on the way home—all except the pilot.
I had a little card which had American sentences translated in French, so I asked a girl in French just for the hell of it if she could hide me. She answered, “Wee Wee,” meaning yes, yes.
French were dressed very nice, silk hose, cosmetics etc., & girls were very pretty. They all kissed us good-bye & we proceeded to the ship. I asked an MP for some French money, which he gave me. I felt indebted & offered him cigarettes. He refused them. He said they had everything we had except one thing—England—and we could ram England up our nose. They told us a pack of cigarettes or a bar of soap meant a “night shack job” as people did not have these. They loved it there. Even the Negroes liked them & France.
I could picture my brother Leslie. Imagine he will have some real tales.
We then took off for Southampton, Eng. to pick up a second load & back to France. On our second landing, we were greeted by not less than 10,000 Frenchmen. They covered the field and as we taxied by, they all waved.
We gave away K rations, cigarettes, candy, gum, etc., & went thru the usual process of hand shaking, greetings, etc., unloaded our supplies & started for our home field. We were going to knock out all generators so we could ground the ship & stay overnight but pilot did not think this too wise. I hated to leave.
They really made us feel at home, but we had to take off, and I had a real experience out of it. Saw bombed hangars, wrecked FW 190’s & ME 109’s, all sorts of German equipment, etc. Women over there impressed me more than anything.