20 April 1944, the old gunner flew his first combat mission to bomb the marshalling yard at Mestre, Italy in support of Operation Strangle. The first mission had been a long time coming. He had enlisted in the Army Air Corps directly out of high school in June, 1941. After completing basic, he was assigned to the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron at Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, AZ. The old gunner was initially assigned as a radio operator on B-18’s. On 8 December, 1941, the 6th Recon was moved to Muroc AAB and immediately began anti-submarine and coastal patrols. In January, the 6th Recon was attached to the 41st Bomb Group at Mather Field. The 6th continued flying ASW patrols from Hammer Field and Moffet Field in the Bay area. Now flying A-29’s (militarized Lockheed Hudson), the old gunner trained as an enlisted bombardier. The squadron was re-designated the 396th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) in April ’42 and gradually transitioned to B-25s. In August 1943, as a S/Sgt with an armorer-gunner MOS, he was transferred to the 18th Replacement Wing in Salt Lake City with a recommendation to the Aviation Cadet program for bombardier training for heavy bombers. The AAF had other needs and he was sent to Tucson and assigned to a B-24 replacement crew as armorer-gunner. In March ’44, he and three other members of the replacement crew boarded the USS Gen. W.A. Mann in Norfolk and departed for the war zone. The other 6 members of the crew would ferry an aircraft overseas later. The USS Mann landed at Casablanca and the 4 ‘early birds’ passed through Algiers, Sardinia and Sicily before arriving at San Pancrazio, Italy where they were assigned on TDY to the 514th Squadron, 376th BG. The 20 April mission was a relatively easy first mission, moderate flak in the target area and a few fighters were seen, but none attacked the 376th. The 376th had no losses, the 15th AF was spread over multiple targets in Northern Italy and lost 4 heavy bombers. The old gunner flew aboard 41-29308, a B-24H that would crash on 16 June returning from Bratislava, CZ. One mission credit, only 49 more to go.