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T/Sgt Irving J Schaffer
1944 | Italy
"Red Skies at Night"
***** Exerpt from Irving's BOOK "RED SKIES AT NIGHT"
ONE OF THE MOST HEROIC LANDINGS I WITNESSED IN WW 11
Our 321st bomb group moved from Corsica to Falconara, Italy, in early April of 1945. British ground troops had captured this airfield where Mussolini trained his air cadets. It is about fifteen miles west of the city of Ancona, on the west coast of the Adriatic Sea. Our crew was part of a mission that targeted railway bridges on the west coast of Yugoslavia (Matobar).
To reach the target, we flew across the Adriatic Sea. Because the bridges were absolutely vital to the Germans to transport war materials to their troops, the targets were heavily defended from the ground. They knew we were coming and they were ready. Flack filled the sky and was pummeling our entire formation of planes. No matter what, when on a bomb run, you have to stay on course until you reach the designated target and the bombs are dropped; there can be no deviation to avoid flak. And on any mission, it is a bomb run where we lose most of our planes, sustain the most injuries and deaths. So with enemy fire filling the sky all around you, tension intensifies as you get closer and closer to the target, with the enemy firing everything it has.
After we dropped our bombs, our ships dived out of formation to scatter and try to avoid the heavy ack ack ground fire All the planes on this mission was pretty well shot up. Limping home to base, we all heaved exhausted sighs of relief when our plane touched down in one piece. We crawled out and stood with the other crews that had landed safely, and watched the other planes straggle in one by one, wanting to make sure everyone got back, and in one piece. And until we saw a plane, we did not know if that crew had made it out alive or not. Tension was high.
Suddenly an incoming plane sent up a red flare in the distance. We all knew what this meant. They had seriously wounded or dead men on board. We could see the pilot was struggling to bring the plane into some kind of a landing pattern, but he was having trouble. Then we saw his right engine had been shot out and, in fact, the whole plane was shot to pieces.
When a plane is so crippled that the pilot thinks he may crash on landing, he informs the crew and they are given the choice to bail out or stay with the ship. And to their credit, if there are wounded men who can’t bail out, their comrades don’t abandon them. If the crew does bail out, the pilot is left to bring the ship in by himself, at great risk.
This entire crew stayed with the ship. We all waited, holding our breath. We watched him fighting to bring the plane around to line up with the runway, with only one engine. To do so, he had no choice but to bank toward the right, the side with the dead engine. To do so was almost suicide. The plane could go into a tailspin and kill everyone. Tension high and holding our breath, we watched him fight to control the plane. Miraculously the plane leveled off and he made a perfect landing. (The old man upstairs was certainly guiding the pilot.) We yelled and cheered ourselves hoarse to witness a "win" in the midst of so much tragedy.
Irving J Schaffer
2009 | Arizona
I am Barbi Ennis Connolly, 321stBG Historian and I have spoken with Irving on the Computer for several years.... in 2009, he says he is "slowing down" and at 91, I guess he may. He has been wonderful in helping us with the History part of the 321stBG, he wrote "Red Skies at Night", True Diary. How DO you survive Combat, then return to a "normal" life" ? ? ?
Meet Irving J. Schaffer, “a nice Jewish boy” from Amsterdam, New York. Schaffer, a technical sergeant in the United States Army Air Force, flew 65 combat missions during World War II, both as a radio operator and photographer. He recounts these missions, his return to civilian life, and his romance with wife-to-be Shyrle in his diary, .
Beginning in August 1944, Schaffer shares the daily events of his life including the most mundane of details such as the time he wakes up, goes to bed, and what he eats at each meal. Sprinkled in between are the particulars about the dangerous missions, life overseas during the war, and his long distance romance with Shyrle. Schaffer also shares his thoughts about his fellow servicemen, movies and shows he saw, people he met, and books he read.
The diary entries themselves are a bit on the dry side, revealing more facts than emotions, causing the reader to wonder how Schaffer can appear so unaffected by the tragic situation around him. As the diary unfolds, however, certain entries indicate that Schaffer is, in fact, a very sensitive man who internalizes his deepest thoughts and fears.
“My Shyrle is entitled to anything I have. I only hope she does not want to read this diary. However if she sincerely wants to I’ll permit her. Many of my inner thoughts are not recorded as when I am low I feel differently than when I feel OK, so I do not record,” he writes.
Ranging from a fear of dying to the loneliness he feels without his family and Shyrle and his concern for an unknown future, Schaffer tries to put his best foot forward as he consistently pushes down his emotions. Instead of displaying these painful feelings outwardly, they crop up in the form of fatigue and illness. The diary continues through Schaffer’s honorable discharge from the service and his search to find his place in the world as he reintegrates back into civilian life.
Perhaps even more interesting than the diary itself is the foreword written by Schaffer. In this section, he explains his reasons for starting the diary in the first place and why he has left it unread for so many years. He allowed the diary to resurface following the events of Sept. 11, 2001 so that others might learn from his experiences. For those who follow the Iraqi war or who have loved ones fighting, reading this diary is critical to their understanding of the myriad of emotions facing each of our servicemen. It is also critical to those of us who feel removed from the situation-- may we gain a greater understanding of the insanity of life during and after war.
Irving Schafffer's Family, 1920 Census
1920 | NY
1920 Census Place/Albany/Ward 18/Albany Co./New York/Roll 1082/Enumeration District: 104Page: 10B
Benjamin Schaffer 35
Jane Schaffer 33
Elliot Schaffer 7
Merian Schaffer 4yrs- 6mos
Jennie Schaffer 4yrs- 6mos-->JEROME
Irvin Schaffer 2yrs- 6mos