The aerial photograph of Alesan Air Field, base for the 340th bombardment group, shows the
airstrip and the parking areas for the B-25s, especially clear in the right foreground. The
first map (below left) is of the same general area. The view is roughly west to east with
the Tyrrhenian Sea in the background and the main road running along the coast. Bastia is to
the north and Ghisonaccia is to the south. The runway is in yellow and the parking areas
for the B-25s are in red. The Alesan River is on the left, north of the airfield and the Bado
River is on the right, south of the airfield.
The second map on the right shows where the 489th tent camp was relative to the airfield. The crews
would pile into trucks
and jeeps to get to their planes at the airfield.
The light house and the old railroad station where a woman named Rose lived with her sons
Guy and Ange, are also shown. Photographs and maps from Dominique Taddei.
"There was a truck park by the Operations Tent and the showers were down on
what I suppose was the Alesani River about a mile down the road. If you wanted a shower you
could hitch-hike but you could also borrow a truck if available. I had to teach myself how
to double-shift." My father took the picture on the right of Ange with his
wagon. It looks to me like he may have been collecting old bottles (I used to do that).
"What you see is the prime 489th area with the mess area at the bottom of
the hill and the administrative area off to the right. Most of the enlisted men bunked here.
The officers' area was out of the picture to the right. My tent was the large white one in
the left foreground." The old RR station/house where Rose, Guy and Ange
lived is marked. That's the Tyrrhenian Sea in the background. My dad said that if they could
see the island of Elba (or possibly the islands Monte Cristo and Pianosa) when they woke up
in the morning they knew they were going to fly missions that day.
("Able was I ere I saw Elba." Try spelling that backwards. Napolean was born on Corsica by-the-way).
Picture on left: "Boxes of B-25s forming into formation after take-off."
Picture on right: "Spitfire at Alesan."
Left picture: B-25J 9C over the sea on a mission. Right picture: "This is a P-38 buzzing
the 489th campground."
"9M and 9B adjacent to my plane on a mission." Photograph by Quentin Kaiser.
Here's a fascinating 489th Bomb Squadron story told by Walker Harris:
This is T/Sgt. Radio-gunner Walker Harris of the 489th Bombardment Squadron in a picture taken before he was shot down
on November 4, 1944 in B-25J 9E 43-27746 on a mission to Casale Monferrato. In this photo,
Walker Harris is standing in front of B-25J 9J (016) "That's All Brother," maintained by crew chief Tom Sullivan.
"I was with the 489th Bomb Squadron, 340th Bomb Group in 1944.
On a mission to bomb a bridge at Casale Monferrato in the Po Valley, I was shot
down near Alessandria and was picked up soon after by partisans under the command
of 'Capitano Tino' near Canelli. Together with a Lt.
Ardell Klemme I was sent to
another partisan unit in the mountains above Cuneo which was served by a British
SAS mission. Unfortunately, before any plans could be developed to get us out, the
Germans mounted a heavy rastrellamento and we had to split up. Lt. Klemme went with
another P-47 pilot from his unit, so I teamed up with
Lt. Reginald Jorgenson and we
walked south and west to join partisans above Taggia (Imperia). That unit, il 3a.
Battaglione Garibaldini(Caudido Quizzola), was led by 'Commandante Gori' (Domenico Simi).
I later heard the Capitano Tino was killed in the same rastrellamento that has caused us
to split up above Cuneo (Mondovi). After about two months with the partisans near Taggia,
we were moved to a location near Ceriana where we were hidden in a cave dug into a
terrace in an olive grove. There we were captured by the Germans through betrayal by
the former political commisar of the partisans. He was probably trying to save his life,
but I dont know if he succeeded. The Germans took us to a hotel in San Remo which they
used as a headquarters and then to a villa on a hill on the west side of San Remo which
was used as a holding jail for prisoners. After perhaps a week, during which the town was
shelled by a destroyer, we were transported to Genova where we were lodged in the Carceri
di Marrassi. Later, I escaped when partisans opened fire on a bus that was supposed to
transport us to Germany."
"There is not a lot more to tell about 4 November 1944. When we were hit I was standing
by the window on the left side and was hit on my nose and inside the elbow of my left arm.
I hadn't had my parachute on because it was a seat pack and I rolled around on the floor
trying to get into the harness and tighten it. I remember seeing Mallicoat hunched over
the guns in the tail and yelled at him but got no response. This was about when we fell
off into a spin. It was difficult to crawl over to the hatch release on the left side
above the rear hatch and pull it. When the hatch dropped away I rolled out head-first
and I still remember seeing the belly of the plane between my legs as it passed over.
All of this took some time and according to Alex Stewart, his tail gunner was told to
watch for chutes but did not see any. When my canopy opened, it seemed that there were
only a few oscillations before I hit the ground in a plowed field. Alex Stewart, by the
way, died last year, according to "Men of the 57th" newsletter. We are dropping like flies
after a killing frost. It took only a few minutes for some Italian civilians to come running
across the field while I was gathering up the parachute with the idea of burying it, but that
much nylon was too valuable so the Italians took it. I also gave them my .45 pistol since I
had only one clip for it and figured that was hardly enough to hold a perimeter and couldn't
depend on a re-supply of ammunition. I was taken to a house and had my nose and arm bandaged
then after dark to another house where I spent the night. Over the next several days I was
escorted to a little town of Canelli, where a partisan band led by a Capitano Tino had headquarters.
There I was introduced to Asti Spumanti, the beginning of a long and continuing friendship.
Capitano Tino also provided me with funds and an escort to another village where I joined up with Ardell
Klemme, a P-47 pilot who had been shot down. I talked to him just last night when I heard that Eric
Erickson, a P-38 pilot and long-time friend of his had recently died. Klemme lives in Harshaw, WI, and
Erickson lived in Northern Minnesota.
Klemme and I walked to the mountains above Mondovi where we stayed for a few days with the partisans
led by Piero Cosa. There were several American airmen as well as a British mission there in a little
town called Prea. If you get a detailed map of Piemonte, Alessandria is south of Novara.
Asti is west of Alessandria and Canelli is almost due south of Asti. Today, as it was then,
this is important wine country. The Castelli di Canelli is a world famous label. It took us
several days to reach Prea since we were only able to move at night. My wife and I are
returning to that area this coming Fall. We would like to retrace the route so long as
memory serves as we did last year in Liguria. I am attaching a picture of Ardell Klemme in
the cockpit of his P-47. We were the prisoners of Lt. Commander Georg Sessler of the Kriegsmarine who
was on the staff of General Anton Dostler. Sessler testified at the trial of Dostler, who was
courtmartialed and later shot for having ordered the execution of about 20 commandos near LaSpezia,
I believe, in 1943. If you have any contacts in Germany, I would like to locate Sessler, who always
treated us well, within the limits of his authority and circumstances. Of course, he could well be
dead by now."
This is Walker Harris' wife, Donna Harris with Pietro Cosa, the son of partisan Piero Cosa (who protected
Klemme and Harris in 1944) alongside Walker Harris near Cuneo in 2000 during a visit to Italy.
"In October-November 2000, my wife and I went to Italy and visited most of the places
I've mentioned. We found partisans who had been with the band led by Gori (Domenico Simi) near
Taggia and also we found his nephew and great-niece. We found the son and wife of Piero Cosa near
Cuneo (Pietro and Francesca Cosa) and Father Aldo Benevelli, chaplain to the partisans of Val di Pesio.
He remembered Jorgensen because Reggie had been with the partisans since he was shot down in the summer
of 1944. We also met and still correspond with Sergio Costagli, a historian in Cuneo."
This is the flight schedule for Walker Harris' 47th mission on November 4, 1944 to Casale Monferrato on which he was shot down.
"In July, 1989, J. J. Walsh sent me copies of all my mission schedules (47 of them).
Reading those schedules, you can almost smell that aromatic military fuel and the hot aluminum when you
boarded the planes in the Corsican sun, even early in the morning. We were fortunate to have had
officers like JJ and Len Kaufman. That is probably the reason I can't think of any disciplinary
problems in our squadron, either before or after I was there. They were true gentlemen in the best
sense of the word."
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