Ditching in the Adriatic by Joe Mangano

THE MISSION OF 22 MARCH 1944 against the Verona Marshaling Yard was a memorable one for members of the 32nd Bomb Squadron.

SGT. JOE MANGANO was a ball-turret gunner on this mission and recalls the following:

SHORTLY AFTER turning on the bomb run, Me I09's shot out the number-four engine of our bomber, number 44-1398. Our pilot, Lieutenant Douglas Moore, had trouble feathering one of the two props after the number-three engine failed. We continued on the bomb run and released our bombs. While losing altitude, Lieutenant Moore ordered us to jettison all unnecessary equipment. I had gotten out of the ball turret by this time, and we tried to dump the ball turret and even shot the mountings with our .45-caliber pistols, to no avail. In all the excitement we threw out several parachutes. This meant our only option was to ditch in the Adriatic Sea. By this time we were at about 500 feet, and our pilot was able to regain level flight. The full power of the port engine was enough to just exceed stalling speed. At about 5 miles from the coast the number two engine blew up, forcing us to ditch off Pascara. I found out later that we had claimed two German Air Force fighters destroyed.

IT WAS A ROUGH DITCHING, and we had to swim like the devil to reach the rafts. Luckily, they hadn't been hit by enemy fire from the Me I09's, and I believe that saved us. We were picked up that night by the United States Navy and finally made our way back to our base in Lucera, Italy. I was scared to death, and truly think that we survived because we were all so young. I finally finished my fifty missions and was on my way back to the States when D day started. I sincerely believe that the man upstairs was looking after us that day. The members of our crew were Moore (P), Hunter (CP), Garrity (N), Upton (B), Flasiznstein (E), Frascatorf (RO), Gatrost (WG), Fish (WG), MacDonald (TG) and Mangano (LT).