My time with the 456th Bomb Group was cut short when somebody at Air Force headquarters in Caserta, Italy, noticed that as a civilian I had been a writer and magazine editor, and immediately jerked me back to headquarters to write publicity for the weather squadron. None of what I did in that capacity, I promise you, did the slightest harm to the German Wehrmacht or the least imaginable good to the Allied — no, wait a minute. By gosh, I did do a little something for the ground-down enlisted men of the 12th Weather Squadron. See, they were getting screwed, and they didn’t even know it.
The 12th Weather Squadron was unusual among small military units in that it was split up into quite tiny groups, four or five officers and half a dozen enlisted men, or just enough to man a weather station for each bomb group. The people in these detachments seldom saw any of the two or three thousand other people in the squadron.
I received a copy of every promotion, so I could write a little news release about it to send to the promoted fellow’s hometown paper (who almost always threw it away). Meanwhile I had started a little, well, all right, it was pretty much a sort of fanzine — only for the B-24 groups rather than sf fans — that was circulated to all the detachments. I encouraged each of the detachments to send me little stories about what they had been doing, even if no more than occasionally playing softball. I decided to make that more interesting, so I started printing news of promotions in every issue, officers in the left-hand facing page, enlisted men in the right. As I had expected, most months there would be a couple dozen officer promotions, few or none for enlisted men.
This caused some concern among the squadron’s higher authorities, who didn’t think it was good for morale, and they dealt with it by promoting me to the post of Squadron Historian, which carried with it a few privileges, including the right to rehouse myself in the squadron’s recreational hotel, the former Albergo Eremo or Hermit Hotel, halfway up the slope of our friendly local volcano, Mt. Vesuvius. So I took the bribe, turning all my news writing and fanzine publishing over to a corporal who, I think, soon stopped bothering with any of it.
As a resident of the Eremo, I had my own room with my own sheeted and pillowed bed, made every morning by my maid, and my meals were cooked to order by Lisa, the hotel’s peacetime cook, who got us all kinds of delicacies by trading powdered eggs and Spam for fresh Italian veggies and other edibles. And I got some of my own writing done, though, unfortunately, little of it was on the squadron history.
To be continued.