A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a treasure trove of family photos. Photographs of my great grandfather, my grandmother when she was young, and my Grandfather's never before seen photos from World War 2. This stopped my entire family in their tracks as we tried to rebuild our story.
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WW2: Army Air Corp, 99th Bombardment Group
Using bits of information: years, locations, these new found photos, and a good bit of research on our part, his story unfolded.
My grandfather served as a bomber mechanic supporting the 99th Bombardment Group of the 15th Air Force. Wikipedia has a nice entry on the squadron, and Thunder from the South, the veterans group is also pretty informative.
Ground and support personnel and equipment made the journey by ship. Upon arrival in North Africa, the 99th was attached to the 5th Bombardment Wing of Twelfth Air Force, and was stationed at Navarin, located near Constantine, Algeria. The group came to be referred to as the Diamondbacks, due to a diamond insignia painted on the vertical stabilizer of their B-17s.
On November 2, 1943, the four B-17 groups of the 5th Wing and two B-24 groups of the 9th Air Force were combined with two fighter groups to form the new 15th Air Force.
With the Allied advancement up the boot of Italy, it was decided to relocate the 5th Wing there in order to bring more Axis targets within reach of the bombers. Each group was assigned a base on the Foggia plains, the 99th being stationed at Tortorella.
The planes arrived at Tortorella in December of 1943. Living conditions at Tortorella were very harsh. The summers were hot and dusty, the winters cold and wet. Buildings were few, and airplane maintenance crews worked out in the open. The men lived in tents using homemade gasoline stoves for heat. The men constantly had to struggle through mud and water, snow and ice, or choking dust, depending on the season.
It would seem, Gramps had a nice time in Rome.