Salerno, Italy - Mt. Vesuvius in background
photograph by Lt. Ernest A. Erickson August 1944
My father spent time in early August of 1944 in Italy after completing four
missions as part of shuttle bombing run. It was his longest assignment that
began on August 5th, 1944, when the Lili of the Lamplight (44-6085) took off
from Horham Airfield in England on the first in a series of five consecutive
shuttle bombing missions which spanned the width of the European continent.
During that ten-day run Ernest and his crew encountered barrages of deadly flak fire
and some Luftwaffe fighter resistance. After flying missions over Rahmel and Trzebien
in Poland, and Bazau in Romania, the squadron landed at Poltava Airfield in the Ukraine,
where they refueled and rearmed. They carried out one final mission in Eastern Europe
and then headed towards the Mediterranean.
They landed at the 15th Air Force base in Italy, formerly controlled by the Germans
at Tortorella Airfield, referred to as Foggia Satellite No. 2. He spent the time in
and around Foggia unwinding from the long week of flying. Soon enough he and some of
the crew commandeered a jeep.
They visited the Mediterranean cities of Salerno & Naples and my father had a chance
to photograph the allied ships which were moored in the harbor andscattered throughout
the waterways. In Foggia, a crew member captured what I have always thought were
classic photos of my father standing in front of various abandoned Luftwaffe bombers.
The photos were taken not long after the Allies had taken over the airfield. Abandoned
equipment and airplanes were strewn across the countryside. The images in these photographs
seem surreal. I look at them and imagine the chaotic retreat of the once highly disciplined
and invincible German military. By mid August the ship and crew left Foggia and completed
one more mission, their 34th, over Toulouse, France before heading home to Horham.
By late August my father and crew awaited the day they would complete their last and final 35th mission.
The cards laid out for that mission on August 26th, 1944 took a very uncertain last minute diversion.