25th Air Service Group

Hq and Base Services Squadron 35th Air Engineering Sq 578th Air Material Sq

This page is dedicated to Joseph Pelizza

 

 

 

From an interview with Mr Pelizza....

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

I was inducted at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts after being drafted.  We went to Miami Beach, Florida for three weeks for Basic Training.  From there we went by train to Glendale, California to Curtis Wright Tech (sheet metal school).  After graduating we were just a number, just a "fill in", for any outfit that needed a sheet metal man.

From Glendale I went to San Bernadio, then to the desert for three days, then to El Paso for a few weeks, then to a replacement pool in Kelly Field, Texas.  By this time any of us who were bounced around like that had lost any motivation we might have had.

My next move was to Stimpson Field in San Antonio.  There, the outfit was going over seas.  Three of us hadn't had a furlough since we got in the Army.  Out of the kindness of their hearts they gave us eight days - three days home, two days at home, and three days back.  We three decided we were going to take ten days.  When we got back the outfit had shipped out.  Not knowing what to do with us they put us back into the "Replacement Pool". 

Finally we went to an outfit in Aiken, South Carolina. You have what happened next.

What did your days look like in India and on Tinian?

In India we woke at 5:30am, ate and were at work at 7:00am.  We stopped at 11:00am.  From 11 to 3 we ate lunch and would be in the sack for three hours.  The heat got up to 125-130 degrees at that time.  Our tents were waterproof cloth - double thickness.  This is to ward off the heat.  They worked pretty good in the rain.  I've never seen it pour as hard as the monsoons.

The buildings we worked in were corrugated steel with a layer of 6" of straw on the roof.  This kept it from being like an oven.  When the monsoons came, down came the straw. 

We worked two shifts on Tinian compared  to one in India.  I'm trying to think of what we did with our days in India.  The planes seldom got shot up.  It wasn't until we got to Tinian that all that good stuff happened.  Even so, we didn't feel the heat until we had to work inside the planes for any length of time.  It was pretty routine on Tinian.

One thing in India that we didn't like - Buzzards were always diving at the planes when they were coming in for a landing.  They would hit the leading edge of the wing.  They'd punch a hole in the leading edge and splatter all over the inside of the wing.  Unpleasant isn't the word.  We worked with gas masks on and then for only about 20 minutes at a time.

What was your first impression of India/Tinian?

India: Poverty from Bombay across to Calcutta & Kharagpur.

Tinian:  Very rich soil and green.  We planted flowers from seed and within a month we were pulling them up by hand to get rid of them.

How did you spend your time after the surrender?

After the surrender we spent time packing stuff to be sent home.  The 15 or 20 aircraft outer wings we were in the process of repairing were put in a pit and run over with a bulldozer and buried!  "All our work!!"

I don't remember how long we had to wait before going home.  We flew to Hawaii and then to Sacramento.  Then a train to Ft Devens and OUT.

Tell about your leaves.

From Kharagpur we went to Calcutta on leave.  Mostly because of the food and liquor.  I wish we had gone to see the Taj Mahal or Madras.  We did go to Jamshedpur.  They have one of the world's largest steel mills there.  If you know someone my age they will remember Ed Sullivan on TV.  One of his first sponsors was the Tata Steel Co.

There were no rest camps.  Going overseas we stopped at Freemantle and Perth for one day and on the way to Tinian from India we stopped for one day in Melbourne.

What did you do when you got home?

Nothing for about two weeks and then went back to work at Allegheny Ludlurn Steel (43 years).

Tell about the air raid Christmas night Kharagpur, 1944. 

We sat on the side of a trench and watched the Jap plane fly across the air strip once.  The British manned the anti aircraft and chased the plane away.

Did you ever go to the forward bases in China?

I made one trip to China.  I didn't know flying over the Hump was considered a combat mission.  It's quite a sight when you look out and see the top of a mountain.  No landing places up there. 

The Chinese were very supersticious.  They would run in front of a plane taking off and just make it  [out in time]  so the golbins would be cut in pieces by the props.  We saw one case where the guy didn't make it.  What a mess.  The plane was able to stop.  One prop where it hit the runner was a mess. The Chinese thought it was a great joke as they picked pieces of flesh off the bent prop.

What did you do for recreation?

In Kharagpur there was a U.S.O. sort of club that had movies and that was it.  Tinian also had movies.

Other thoughts

I know a carton of cigarettes went for $35.00 in China.  We paid 35 cents for one.  Ball points went for $20 to $25.  Wristwatches, wow, that's another story.

The maintenance crew for the Enola Gay came over and camped next to us for 2 weeks.  They dropped the bomb and then packed up and went home.  We all said, "Hey, wait a minute  We've been here for 2 years, how about us going home."

[Regarding outer wing repairs] Those wings were taken off and put back on by aircraft mechanics.  I guess if it took more than 16 hours to repair they changed wings.  Most of the time they were repaired right on the plane.  Everything was pretty wide open in the outer wing.  Repairs went quickly.