ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

May 2013

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various partisan groups with needed equipment etc. The first operation was in daylight on 23 Feb 44. This involved three C47s (Dakotas) towing three gliders. The flight started in Bari, Italy and headed for a farmer's field 10 miles North West of the city of Bosanski Petrovac (not far from Sarajevo). Our aircraft carried supplies for the partisans. The gliders carried very senior officers of the Russian Army together with crates of Vodka and caviar. Our base was in Brindisi, but we used Bari as a takeoff point. We slept on the floor of the plane eating K rations while the Russians were royally treated in special quarters prepared for them. We were cold and wet and none too happy with the arrangements. The weather finally cleared and we took off flying formation with a squadron of American P47 Thunderbolts as escorts. A beautiful day, blue sky, snow covered mountains and valleys and us playing the part of "sitting ducks" waiting for the first attack by German fighters. Unbelievably no fighters appeared. Once we dropped our loads the P47s disappeared and we were left alone to find our own way back. The three planes separated and flew at low levels to avoid detection - this meant going down into valleys and climbing over mountains. When the weather was clear and communications established we would take off for some remote village in the mountain valley to look for a signal fire, which did not always appear. With narrow valleys it required considerable skill of the pilots. We needed to get into a position at 300 ft to safely parachute supplies. More than once the plane would be so close to the mountainside the trees nearly scraped the plane's belly. This type of operations went on till the middle of May. Dropping agents behind the German lines in Italy and Yugoslavia provided a little more excitement. Once we were given the job of picking up escaped prisoners of war from the same field where we had dropped the gliders two months previously. We were pretty tense until we broke through the cloud to see six small fires outlining the landing strip. I was very satisfied that I had not directed the plane into a cloud that had rocks in it. We rescued 27 prisoners including a Major Jones, a Canadian, who had been working with Tito. My last flight with the USAAF was 5 May 44. I was then sent back to 205 Group. With reduced activity in the area, some planes were assigned daylight drops over Yugoslavia with supplies carried in the bomb bays. This was much easier than pushing boxes out the side door of a C47. These operations were carried out under the direct supervision of the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) of the U.S. Government, which later became the CIA. I often proclaim that I was the first Canadian to be seconded to an American spy organization. [Bill retired from service in 1945 with the Rank of Flight Lieutenant. He holds the following medals: 39/45 Star, Italian Star, Defence of Britain, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, Victory Medal, and Canadian 125 Medal. He also has the Operational Wing and Bar. (Very few ever received the Bar as it showed a second tour, and not many survived to make a second tour). After retiring, Bill went to UBC and became a high school teacher. He taught Math, Chemistry and Physics. He taught nine years in Cumberland; two years in Nigeria; five years in Singapore; one year. in Malawi, and 11 years at Oak Bay. Bill was twice widowed and is very proud of his children - Susan, Bill and Wendy who live in BC, and his youngest son Bruce who lives in Ottawa. His grandson Shawn S. Doyle has written a book about Bill's wartime exploits entitled Grandpa's War.] REMEMBRANCE HMCS St. Croix The American 1,190-ton destroyer USS McCook was launched on 31 January 1919. She was transferred to the Royal Navy as part of the Second World War United States – United Kingdom "destroyers for bases" scheme. She was then transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as HMCS St. Croix. The St. Croix brought success to the RCN as a U-boat hunter when she sank the German U-90 and helped kill U-87. But her luck ran out on 20 September 1943 while escorting convoy ON 202 south of Iceland when she was torpedoed and sunk by U-305. She was hit three times, the first Canadian victim of the new German acoustic-type torpedoes. Sixty-five crew members were lost. Five officers and 76 men were picked up by HMS Itchen after a harrowing night in the sea. Two days after that the Itchen blew up when she herself was torpedoed. Three men were rescued – two from the Itchen and one of the original survivors of the St. Croix. The St. Croix thus lost eight officers and 139 ratings and one British Royal Navy sailor, and left the lone survivor, Stoker W.A. Fisher of Black Diamond, Alberta, wondering for the rest of his life what he'd done to escape the fate of the rest of his shipmates. SHOULDER TO SHOULDER 13

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