George Underwood 310th Bomb Group
310th BG, 381st BS, George Underwood, B 25's - Corsica. 68 Combat Missions MTO/ETO, Aerial Gunnery Wings, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct, ETO Medal, Victory Medal, 2 DUC for the 310th BG as well as Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert shooting and qualification medals. George recieved his basic at Fresno, CA. Then Armament School at Buckley Field, Colo. Aerial Gunnery at Lerado, TX. George was a S/Sgt. Top-Turret Gunner and an Armorer. Combat Crew Training was at Greenville, SC. with the 334th BG, the 471stBS. "Over-There, my Crew and I were assigned to the B 25 G Models, with the 75MM Cannon and Nose machine guns. We lived in tents, "HOME" on Corsica, Ghisonaccia also had some stone buildings. For me, Mission #1 was on 25 Jan. '1944 and the 68th and last was on 22 July '44.
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George Underwood, 310thBG,381stBS
WW II 1944 | Calif.
Staff Sergeant George Underwood
I was a Staff Sergeant who flew 68 combat missions over Italy from January to July 1944 assigned to the 310th Bombardment Group, 381st Bombardment Squadron. I was not wounded, save for a scratch on my nose from flying Plexiglass, nor was any member of the crew given the Purple Heart. I received 4 Air Medals for missions I scarcely recall except for one or two. Our aircraft did get hit some and we had a couple crash landings. Aside from that. nothing extraordinary happened. Out of the original six crew members there are only two of us left. I was always "the kid" of the crew, and the "older guys" took pretty good care of me.
S/Sgt George B Underwood, 310th BG, 381st BS
1944 | Corsica, France
2011; George Underwood
Corsica of 1944 and WWII remembered.
We climbed into our B-25 and cleared Valle near Phillipville (now Anaba), North Africa in the early afternoon and landed at Ghisonaccia-Gare, Corsica a couple of hours later. First thing we saw was a shot up, full of holes, wrecked, B-25 with blood all through the machine. That sight shook us up some. We had arrived with our 75mm cannon toting G models and we were now in combat. The date was January 21, 1944. I was billeted in a two story rock building along with my radio gunner Jim Heaney and tail gunner Herb Campbell again. The room, on the second floor, overlooked the main street and the old railroad station, had a great fireplace that kept us warm evenings and produced enough light, along with some candles, to let us play our Monopoly game and cook those midnight meals we enjoyed. There seemed to be enough wood around to scrounge so that was not a problem. No cots, of course, so we just slept on the wooden floor and just where the Monopoly game came from is still a mystery.
Outside our front window (we were on the second floor with windows overlooking the rock station building and the road) next to the station was a railroad engine that had been sabotaged and badly damaged by the Germans as they left. It sat near the ‘theater’ where we had occasional movies and even more occasionally live shows both British and American. Our theater chairs were upside down bomb crates. The British shows were better generally and it seemed that our shows did not provide the talent available that the British did. Maybe it was because we were in an ‘unusual’ area for shows to visit. After all we were about a hundred miles behind the German lines. Only one show stands out and that was a Joe E. Brown U.S.O. troupe and show and he was terrific. It was small but good with a couple of real live American girls in it.
Our food is very good now compared to when we first arrived on Corsica. Few ‘C’ rations and well prepared meals now and we had lots of ‘C’ rations mostly stew and dehydrated stuff early on. Now our squadron sends an aircraft to Catania, Sardinia, where they load up with fresh vegetables and fruit. Even some fresh meat from time to time and the entire squadron get the ‘trots’ from the fresh food after a time on army rations. We go back on ‘C’ rations when the fresh stuff is gone and another aircraft is sent for a re-supply.
The Red Cross Service Club finally opened and we could get doughnuts and coffee. It features a radio and we can listen to some very good swing music with comments from Axis Sally and her announcer friend ‘George’ who bombarded us with nasty propaganda trying to scare and discourage us. According to them we had lost the war already but the only piece of accurate news we got from them was a warning of a bomb raid on the 340th Bomb Group up the coast from us. They announced that they (the Germans) would bomb them out of existence soon. No dates or time of course, just soon. And it happened one night a week or so later when the 340th did loose a bunch of aircraft again. They lost all 80 of their aircraft when Mt..Vesuvius erupted in March of 1944.
I was able to visit Adjaccio on the western side of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon, on a three day pass and it proved to be a beautiful city that I enjoyed very much. I wandered through the narrow streets, along the boulevards with genuine busses running in this the most modern city I have seen so far here in the Mediterranean area. Well dressed people sat in sidewalk cafes eating and drinking. Getting there and back was relatively easy. I just stuck out my thumb and the next 6x6 truck that came by stopped and drove me over the hill from Ghisonaccia to Adjaccio. The road was very narrow and windy and in places steep and it took several hours to make the trip over the 7,000 foot snow capped ‘hills’. We crossed the narrow gauge train tracks several times but encountered no trains. The trains, I am told, are very old, small and still have an oil lamp for a headlight. The mountains were beautiful and reminded me of home and Southern California.
Home construction I saw on Corsica was interesting. There are lots and lots of rocks all over the place so that is the main building material used. A square of rock walls is built of rocks up to about 8 feet by 2 feet wide, there they stick a long log across to the other wall, add more rocks until the desired height is reached leaving openings for doors and windows. Then they either burnout or pull the logs from the walls, fill the holes with more rocks. Houses are quite small and each room seems to have a fireplace for cooking and heating. Kitchens are low, raftered, and dismally dark. Packed dirt floors or an occasional wooden floor contains a dining area also. Hanging from the rafters are various kinds of meats, spices and herbs. Lighting is by a single light bulb or oil lamps and candles. Toilets, of course, are outside the houses. The post man rides as bicycle wearing a funny hat and a uniform…very official.
Clothes washing is always done by the women in the cold, fast flowing river using rocks as washboards. Black dresses are almost always worn by the
women and water for home use is drawn from that same river, carried to the houses by women. Various kinds of water containers balanced on their heads with a bucket or pitcher in each hand. An occasional look at the animals near the house seemed to be the work of the men folk who usually sat by the fire smoking and drinking. Electricity it seems is in the cities mostly and in a few farm houses that will have a single low watt bulb hanging from the ceiling and usually in the kitchen which seems to be the equivalent of our family rooms today.
Ghisonaccia-Gare, a village on Corsica was our base. It had been a depot for the narrow gauge railroad that serviced Corsica. The nearby airfield had been a German fighter base and the runway was extended and enlarged to handle our B-25's. Our Army engineers added the pierced steel strips that made the field useable in wet weather. This village had been a railroad depot sort of town and was made up of a row of stone two-story houses with a two story building in the middle across from the row of houses. This building was the depot itself. The window overlooked the center of the village and the beautiful mountains beyond. We thought it was the best room there was in the village. This was later proved correct when the Squadron CO ordered us out to the tents with the enlisted men and he moved in.
The swampy land, where our airstrip was located, ended at the beach a mile or so away from the railroad station town of Ghisonaccia Gare. Yeah, Corsica had mosquitoes and Malaria. I had a taste of that. The Army engineers just drained and cleaned the swamp, enlarged the airfield and got rid of most of the mosquitoes in the process. They used lots of DDT again as well as oil and other chemicals to rid us of mosquitoes. Got most of them but not all. Anyway it was cooler there.
Corsica is a beautiful place. 8,000 foot mountains with snow in the winter, winding, narrow roads, lots of trees, and a narrow gauge railroad runs up and across the mountains from the east side to the west where Adjaccio (the home of Napoleon) is located. A fast moving river, the Piumorbu, runs just north of Ghisonaccia from the mountains and out to the nearby sea and I would go there for a swim or to the ocean beach also nearby. Both had cold water. Because of the mosquitoes, in the area where our field was located, (until the engineers cleared the swamps) were so thick and hungry the native Corsicans would move to the mountains in the summer to avoid them and it was also cooler in the mountains. Many just stayed and conducted whatever business they had. People in Corte, however, stayed year-round.
Corte was a medieval city with a castle on a cliff, narrow streets and houses made of stone and with stone floors. It was located a few miles north of Ghisonaccia and much higher. There was some electricity available and if they had it had only a single, low wattage bulb, would hang from the ceiling beams. Plumbing, of course, was outside. In and around rural areas the women in the household carried the water from the stream. City homes while years behind our standard of living did have water and some toilets inside. Not many.
I was delighted to find that, as in Valle, Algeria, North Africa, there was a public hot bath in a nearby mountain town. Dating back to Roman times these natural sulfur, hot baths were wonderful. In small rooms the carved stone tubs were delightful on cold Corsican winter days and were enjoyed by the Roman Legions as well as us GI’s of WWII. Rock buildings lined the narrow twisting road and a steep trail led down to the bathhouse in the small mountain town of Pietrapola.
This we visited as often as possible but it was hard to get to on windy narrow roads and not too many GI trucks used it. Hitch hiking was not good. However, upon stopping a GI supply truck for a ride, found that we could toss a couple of boxes of food over the side to be picked up later. Good idea except that in the dark we couldn't read the contents. We had eaten, for weeks it seemed, Vienna sausage. I'm not terribly fond of that particular item and guess what...the two cases we tossed off that truck were. Right! Both were Vienna sausage and probably headed for our mess hall.
George B Underwood -- 310th Bomb Group/381st Bomb Squadron WWII B-25 Mitchells.
George Underwood, Scout Master
1980 | California
A "SCOUT Story" EMERALD BAY: I think this is my very favorite summer camp. Getting there over the years has always been an adventure and it seems that each year there was a different method of arrival and a difere4nt boat to get us there and back. We started out with what they then called water taxis and they were small, open, agile, fast, wet and got everyone, almost, sea sick on the hour long ride to Emerald Bay Scout Camp. We sat on benches on the sides and across the back of these open boats with our packs stacked on the engine compartment in the middle as the boat driver (don’t think I could call him Captain) smoked smelly cigars.
Then the Crescent Bay Council (changed later to the Great Western Council) arranged for us (all the troops going to summer camp on Catalina) to use the regular Catalina transportation but the landing arrangements changed from year to year. We landed at the dock in Avalon and used water taxis to Emerald Bay some 5 miles up the coast where we would unload at the camp dock. Once we ‘docked’ at a floating dock that the Council had built. It would be towed out to sea where the Catalina boat would tie up to it and transfer our packs from the big boat to the dock to BSA outboards to the dock then return to the dock to get the scouts. Once it even docked at the Emerald Bay camp dock and that was the most practical and worked best but they only did it once…too shallow the boat captain said. They tried out Two Harbors but the dock was too small and the camp staff had to use water taxis to get our gear to camp while we hiked a couple of miles to camp, then trying to sort out our packs from the several hundred on the dock and going to our assigned camp…several troops were involved so it was a mess finding the right gear (and getting back on the Catalina boat going home always was a challenge of the way we got to camp in reverse!) but somehow we got there with the porpoise gleefully swimming alongside as we crossed the channel, was a delight to see. The seasick scouts were not.
The best way to get there, of course, was done by the Sheriff who bummed a ride by the regular run of the Sheriff’s helicopter, landing on the parade ground one lunch time, to the dismay of the Staff and the delight of the campers, Sheriff jumped out and started yelling ‘where’s troop 31’.
Then we had the BOAC bags for one trip and we were envied by all the troops in camp as we proudly carried some of our stuff ashore in these bright sky-blue flight bags that had been donated to us by George Karl who worked for BOAC locally. He did a grand job of doing a campfire for this entire camp at Emerald Bay and even today I am envious of his campfire performance. He loved cactus of all kinds and I remember the trip to Death Valley, after we stopped to see what the trouble with Mergatroid was, he dug up a couple of specimens to take back to his San Fernando Valley home for his cactus garden.
The OA (Order of the Arrow) was in charge of starting the campfires on special occasions and one I well remember. They were always trying different ways to start these fires and one really ‘backfired’ on them by setting a whole hillside on fire with a flaming arrow. Seems that they were to shoot this flaming arrow from the waterfront into the bay to start the Order of the Arrow scouts in their war canoe hidden, around the point, to the water front where they would run whooping and yelling Indian calls to the campfire circle to start the fire for the camp campfire ….their flaming arrow missed and set the dry grass on the hill on fire instead and man you talk about fire drills…we had one that night.
The camp campfire area was an arc dug from the hillside, rock and dirt seats curved to fit the cut out…about 20 rows up from the dusty dirt ‘’stage’ that contained the natural rock cemented fire circle. A carefully set wood to facilitate the quick lighting of the fire when the time arrived was centered in the fire circle. And always the snake-like water hose hooked up and ready to go in case of fire and to put out the left over campfires. Sometimes the staff under certain conditions would let the fire burn out naturally and that was nice to be able to stand nearby and get warm…needed some nights. Natural Sumac, Monterey Pine trees, native trees and one small palm tree surrounded the outside area of the campfire arc and back of the trees at the top were the canvas covered huts of the staff. Beyond the staff area was the curved cliff of Doctor’s cove that was a great swimming area. Lobsters and a big forest of seaweed made this a great adventure swimming in the clear water and watching the golden Garibaldi swim through the kelp.
I loved the fragrant giant eucalyptus trees and the cool, shady grove that housed the staff lounge, the many craft tables and best of all for most the Trading Post…frozen Snicker candy bars were my favorite. Always cool, this was the spare time area for many of us campers and staff when they were off or on break. Walking back through this grove to trees to our camp one evening I noticed a small redheaded scout walking back from the dining hall to his troop’s camp with what looked like a kite string floating in the air. I stopped him and asked about this string and he replied that he was talking his pet fly for a ‘fly’ and sure enough there was a large horsefly tied to the end of the string just humming along.
Wild boar was another series of stories long to be remembered. Snorting and hooves noisily pounding the dried, sun hardened camp ground…trash cans banging to the ground with the boar rooting in them for goodies tossed there by the scouts. Hector Lemus loved these guys and would stay up nights trying to photograph them as they wandered through our camp and even into the tents looking for treats. Scout Chris left some tooth paste in his pack and outside his tent one night and sure enough the boar ripped it open to get the toothpaste…ending the career of the great red, white, and blue pack he was so proud of taking on campouts. Then early-on in our trip’s to Emerald Bay were the memorable evening hikes to the camp dump to watch the boar eat the dining hall/kitchen ‘left-overs’ dumped there each evening. Located in a nearby canyon, an area on the grassy hillside had been scooped out to make a seating area for us to quietly wait and watch the wild boar root in the garbage. Twilight was the best time since the dining hall would have driven their truck to the site and emptied it an d the boat, after napping all day were stirring about and hungry. We could hear them heading down canyon snorting as they came.
The staff, each year, would have a contest among themselves to capture one of these wild boars (and they get pretty big and are dangerous) and put it in a cage built for the purpose. Some contest but it provided amusement and excitement for the entire camp. The staff at another camp on Catalina, Cherry Valley,did the same thing and one year caught a small boar, built what they thought was a boar tight cage and when it was almost finished placed the ‘baby’ boar inside, loosened the ropes holding its feet together, and the boar lay there quietly for a moment (they had placed some water and food in the cage for the animal) and then, in single leap, flew over the three foot enclosure and disappeared in the brush. The camp staff involved in the boar hunt and cage episode was quick to put a reinforced wire fence top on the cage and went off into the brush to hunt another boar.
H W., Mike and Brad were three that I know of and maybe a couple more from our troop were involved in a an experimental camp program older scouts called the Rugged E. It consisted of a lot of commando type activities, capturing some of the staff’s gear, catching a goat for dinner, overnight’s, and lots of hiking and swimming away from their troops so it was a special program. It kept them occupied but not enough to keep them from mischievous acts with the staff who finally ganged up on them and tossed the lot into the ocean at lunch one day with the whole camp looking on. They had gone to lunch wearing a lot of the Staff’s ‘liberated’ clothing, jackets, T shirts and sweats and that was more the staff men could take so the race was on to catch the Rugged E guys much to the delight of the camp.
Story by Scout Master George B Underwood....
Barbi Ennis Connolly, 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher and personal friends with George.... one WONDERFUL man! PRINCESSBARBI_B25@msn.com