The 99th in Action


On October 7, 1943, with the Allied troops forcefully advancing, the Germans retreated to the Volturno in northern Italy, providing very little defensive response. In response to this new positioning, the 99th Fighter Squadron was ordered to join the 79th on October in nearby Foggia.

Working in tandem with the 79th produced some of the most successful missions for the 99th, as well as the most amiable relationship with a White squadron. Unlike Col. Momyer of the 33rd, Col. Earl Bates, commander of the 79th fully involved and integrated the men of the 99th in all strategic combat missions.

In the first two weeks the team of the 79th and 99th bombed several areas in Cheieti. Cheieti was suspect to be a German communication center and heavily concentrated with troops and guns. Bridges and roads were bombed to restrict the mobility of German troops and supplies.

The role of the 99th expanded, they were no longer limited to escorting bombers, but were involved in dive and fighter bombers as well as strafing missions.

The activities were frequent and intense. On average the 79th and 99th flew 36 to 46 sorties per day; additionally, the 99th flew as many as 9 bombing missions a day. While this led to war weary airplanes and pilots, the two teams persisted.

By January 17, 1944, the 79th and the 99th joined the 85th, 86th and the 87th at the Capodichino Airdrome, near Naples, in preparation for the Allied attack on Anzio. In support of the landing, the 99th successfully bombed strategic points--bridges, highways, railways and supply depots. Later they were assigned to convoy patrol missions.

While the 99th continued receiving active assignments, they reported only one victory in direct engagement with enemy aircraft. On the other hand, the 79th continued to excel. Consequently, the 79th received commendations for their aggressive assault of German positions and the destruction of 11 aircrafts and damage to seven others.

All this changed on January 27, 1944 when a group of twelve aircrafts led by Cpt. Clarence Jamison encountered a group of enemy aircrafts. Though outnumbered two to one, the group surged forward, desperately needing to validate their commitment and combat ability. In less than five minutes with five planes destroyed the German team retreated. All twelve members of the 99th returned to base exhilarated with their accomplishment.

Buoyed by the morning's success, later that same afternoon another patrol team, led by Lt. James T. Wiley, shot down three more enemy aircrafts. The 99th's only casualty was Lt. Samuel Bruce who went missing in action.

The next day members of the squadron had equally successful missions. Cpt Charles B. Hall shot down two enemy aircrafts, Lt Lewis C. Smith and Lt Diez each shot down one aircraft. Undeterred, the German Air Corps continued their advance against the Allied forces. On February 5, 1944, Lt Elwood T. Driver, in a mission led by Cpt. Clarence Jamison, shot down another enemy aircraft.

As a result of these successes the 99th finally received official commendation from General Arnold. But their accomplishment did not end there, on February 7, officers shot down three more enemy aircraft. The 99th also provided support to the ground troops in defense of Cassino by flying over 33 sorties against strategic German locations. Throughout the month of February they concentrated their bombing on these German strongholds limiting their enemy's ability to replenish supplies and move their troops.

The intensity and the excitement experienced by the men of the 99th were vividly captured in the reports sent to the AFRO by correspondent Art Carter. Art Carter gave AFRO readers a snapshot of the frustrations, fears and joys of the squadron.

 

Copyright 2001-, Terry Muse
Revised: December 30, 2001
URL: http://black_and_hispanic.tripod.com/blackhistory/
Contact: Terry Muse