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©2014, Aaron Elson



Sam Mastrogiacomo

445th Bomb Group

    Sam Mastrogiacomo, a veteran of the 445th Bomb Group, was a tail gunner who took part in the Gotha Mission, which at 2 hours and 25 minutes was the longest running battle between American bombers and German fighter planes in World War II.

©2014, Aaron Elson

Arlington, Va., Oct. 1, 2005

Sam Mastrogiacomo: We were in a bomb group that, when we formed up, you know, and trained together, we trained pretty near seven months before we got in combat.

Aaron Elson: I know that. So you were one of the original crews in the 445th?

Sam Mastrogiacomo: Yep.

Aaron Elson: This is Sam Mastrogiacomo. This is in Arlington, Virginia, at the 8th Air Force Historical Society reunion. This is Aaron Elson doing the interviewing. Anyway, so, Jimmy Stewart was with you at the origin?

Sam Mastrogiacomo: Yeah. The first time we knew about it, our crew was already formed and we were flying together, and all at once, someone, I think it was the flight engineer came up, we were in the back of the airplane, and he said, “Hey, you know who’s checking out our pilot? Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart the movie actor.”

“Ohhhh Yeah?” We were surprised, you know.

Jimmy Stewart was checking out our pilot. So we all wanted to get a look at him, you know, we’d seen him in the movies and all. So one by one we’d go up, we’d have an excuse to go up in the cockpit through the bomb bay and look at Jimmy Stewart. Ohh, we’d say, “Oh, I have to get something,” and then go forward, so we’d get a good look at Jimmy Stewart, then we’d go back in our position.

It turned out Jimmy Stewart was one of the squadron commanders. He was a captain at the time. When we were into our training, he was the 703rd commanding officer and we were the 702nd. Our commanding officer was a West Point graduate, you know, very proper and strict.

Aaron Elson: What was his name?

Sam Mastrogiacomo: Evans. James Evans.

Aaron Elson: Now what was your position?

Sam Mastrogiacomo: I started out as a waist gunner, and later on, on a mission that my tail gunner couldn’t make because he was sick, I took over the tail position, and I got to like it. So later on I said, “Hey, I like that tail,” and he said, “Oh, you could have it.” He said, “I’ll tell you what,” he says. “Before we go on the missions, we’ll flip a coin and if you get what you want, you can take the tail position.” You have a choice. So it seemed like whenever I got the tail, we got a lot of action.

Aaron Elson: What was your first action like?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Well, the first couple of missions we went on, I’m expecting, you know, like in gunnery school they told us about these German fighter planes that are gonna be coming after us and you’d be on your toes, and I’m sitting there, I was a waist gunner the first few missions, and I’m sitting there looking for any planes coming in, and I see them coming in on the bomb groups alongside of us but they didn’t come in on us. And after the second mission,  I told our navigator, he was the old man of the crew, you know, wise old man, he was old compared to us, I think he was 27 or 28, and I said, “Wow, these Germans are afraid to come in on us.” I said, “I’ll knock ’em right out of the air if they come closer.”

    He says, “Don’t be too anxious.” He says, “You just hope they don’t come in on you.”

    “Oh,” I said, “we’re trained to get ’em.”

    “Take it easy,” he said. “You’ll see enough.” Sure enough, later on, the next couple of missions I did, we did get some heavy action.

    Aaron Elson: What’s it like when they come in close? You were on the waist gun? When was the first time you actually fired at a plane?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Well, I think about the third mission an ME-109 came by and he broke off right before he got to our airplane and he broke down lower and I got a good shot at him. And I see my bullets bouncing right off of him because the sun was, at a certain angle of the sun you could see your projectiles come out. And I see them bounce right off this plane. I must have got a piece of him. And then he dived away, out of sight, I didn’t see him. So later on I found out that their belly is pretty well armor-plated, the belly of the ME-109s. It sure was, because I seen my bullets bounce off.

    Aaron Elson: How many missions did you fly in all?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Thirteen. I got shot down on the 13th mission.

    Aaron Elson: Okay. Which number was the Gotha mission?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: That was my seventh mission.

    Aaron Elson: Seventh. Now tell me about the Gotha mission start to finish.

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Well, the briefing, you know, they wake us up 4:30 in the morning. The first thing we do is, you know, freshen up, we clean up and we go to breakfast, and then we go to a briefing. The briefing, I guess people know about the briefing, it’s a room where you’re secluded and there’s guards at the door, and after everybody gets in there, the guards close the door and your briefing begins. And they usually had a map that was covered with a shade, sort of, and when the doors got closed and they let the shade go up, you could see by the red string where you’re gonna go into Germany, or whatever target you’re going to. And when we seen that long string to Gotha, Germany, it’s pretty far into Germany, and we sort of get a few beads of sweat on you. And this was, they called it the Big Week, we’re gonna go after all the German munitions and factories, anything producing the war material, you know, the fighter planes, tanks, or guns, or anything like that. So that was the Big Week.

    Aaron Elson: Did you know at the time that one purpose of the Big Week was to engage fighter planes and shoot down as many as possible?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: We challenged them, yeah, we challenged them to come up and see what they got, and fight it out with them.

    Aaron Elson: Was that explained to you?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Well, the main reason was to destroy the German production, and they said, they let us know that we have to do this before the invasion. We’ve got to weaken the Germans, weaken their arms making equipment.

    Aaron Elson: When did the actual battle known as the Gotha Mission begin? When did the fighter planes come in?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: It wasn’t long, it didn’t take long. We were into about an hour the mission. We had test fired our guns like we always do before you, when you hit enemy territory you test fire your guns, just a few rounds in each gun. So we, at that time, we didn’t have the long range escort. They tell you your escort’s gonna be, you know, halfway in, or maybe the first quarter and then the second quarter, halfway, then they’d have to turn back because they didn’t have the long range fighters at that time. So we worried about that. When we seen our fighter planes turn off, turn back, we know you’re gonna keep your eyes open because they’re gonna come in on you. And sure enough, about an hour, an hour and fifteen minutes into the mission, all at once we saw these little dots that get to be bigger and bigger, they’re enemy fighter planes. And they usually worked from the back on, at that time, to get the back planes, because they’d get a longer shot at you, they could angle on your tail. A nose attack or waist attack they would have to break off, you know, where the tail they can hang on and see where the vulnerable spots are.

    And sure enough, they started to come in on us, and I saw the nose, the yellow nose fighter planes, and we were warned about them, that’s Goering’s special outfit. Those fighter aces, they were all aces. They already had like 10, 15 planes to their credit, maybe some had as much as 100 to their credit. And they seemed to know what they’re doing, they knew where to come in on your plane, like a B-24, they know just where the dead spots are where they can come in on you.

    Aaron Elson: How many, you shot a couple of them down that day, didn’t you?

(click on the following paragraph to hear audio)

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: During the thick of the battle, bullets flying around and planes are going down, I seen a plane right alongside of us get hit, and all at once he’s climbing up, I’m thinking, what’s happening? I’ve got my eye on him, he’s right behind us to the right side. And he’s going, he climbed like a fighter plane, and all at once he looped, and he came out of the loop and then he’s flying level again. Ohhh, he’s okay, we thought, that was great, he’s all right now. And it seemed like ten seconds later, the whole plane blew up. I seen nobody get out, because the plane blew up. I figure what had happened, there must have been, the B-24s don’t, the bomb bays always had gas fumes, and a little spark would set it off like it’s a bomb. I think that’s why the B-17s took a little more punishment because their wing was on the bottom of the airplane, and the fumes didn’t come into the airplane. The fumes are like gas, you know, and one spark could set it off.

    So anyway, on to the mission, all at once I see the planes behind us are, they’re getting to be less of us, and we’re up ahead. Pretty soon we were tail end Charlie, and they’re coming in on us, and I’ve got to really be on my toes. And I got a shot at a few of them, and I seen a, it was a 110, ME-110, a twin engine plane, he’s behind us and he’s about like 2,000 yards away, and as he comes in close, I give him a blast, you know. Even though it was out of range a little bit. I’d give him a blast and he would hold off. All at once he did come a little closer, and he releases rockets. I’d never seen a rocket before. His two rockets come right for our airplane. And it seems like I’m the target. The rockets coming right towards, and I said, oh no, this is gonna be the end. All at once, when the rockets come real close to us, they were spent. They went right under our airplane. Ohhhh ... we got out of that situation. And right after that, then more fighter planes are coming in at us. No escort. And all at once there’s a splash of machine gun fire right through my turret, and an explosion in my turret. It knocked my oxygen mask off, and I was shocked, you know, from the, one of them must have exploded right in the turret. So my navigator, he would call, like every ten minutes, everybody OK? By position, “Waist gunner, right gunner, how ya doing? Left waist gunner, how ya doing?” “Fine, everything all right.” “Tail gunner, how ya doing?” And I didn’t answer. “Tail gunner, how ya doing?” I hear it over the interphone but I can’t answer. One of the waist gunners comes running back to see if I’m all right, and at that time, it made me shocked, I guess, I feel something in back of my neck, and it’s like, it’s just hot, I said, “Wow, I got hit but it don’t hurt that bad.” So I reached over, we had the leather collar, you know, the fleece lined, and I look in and it’s red, you know, and it’s on my collar. I was stunned, you know. And when the waist gunner comes back there, he says, “Sam, are you all right?” I said, like that, I pointed at my neck, and he looked and he said, “That’s only hydraulic fluid. You’re all right.” Hydraulic fluid is red, you know, for I guess identification. I thought, ohhh, what a relief, it’s only hydraulic fluid.

    I get back to operate my turret, and it’s not working, you know. I guess the hydraulic got shot out in the turret. And ... so ... my glass is all shattered, like spider webs, you know, and I can’t see out. Oh, I said, I’ve got to get rid of this glass. And I remember in gunnery school there’s four pins that you pull out, and you jettison the glass, if it becomes damaged or shattered. And so I did, I pull the four pins out, and I get back to push it out, it won’t go out. So I get back in the seat and push back and again and push real hard, and it won’t go out. So, about the third time I tried it, I prayed about it. I said, “God, give me the strength,” you know. And I pushed it a fourth time, and it comes out, and what happens, it falls right between my guns, you know, the two guns, and my guns are elevated, so I’ve got to get rid of this. I had the hand cranks, I had to use my hand cranks. So I used my hand cranks, elevation and azimuth, you know, and I put the two cranks in and I slid the glass, I put my guns down so that the glass would slide from the two guns. And about that time a fighter plane it seemed like about 200 feet away, I could see his face and he looked like he was ready to press the trigger on me, and I quick hit the foot firing, which is, the one that’s on your thumbs wouldn’t work any more because of the hydraulic failure and the electrical failure, so I hit the manual foot firing, and the guns went off and I hit him, blew him apart.

    Aaron Elson: Did the pilot bail out?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: It blew apart, I didn’t see nothing, just like a fireball, you know. So I’m getting ready for the other, other planes are coming in, you know, and I fire at another one, I see a piece of the plane come apart, you know, and I seen it spin out of control. And I did see the pilot, something come out, like a body, he must have bailed out, but you can’t see, watch him all the time because other planes are coming in, you know, and yet they wanted you to get a confirmation of shooting a fighter plane, you had to see the pilot bail out or you had to see the plane blow apart or you’ve got to see the plane hit the ground and explode or something, and you’re not going to be watching till it hits the ground because you’re like 20, 25,000 feet up in the air.

    So anyway, it was a running battle and I had to just make sure that, you’ve got to be very careful that, I’d heard of different guys that got trigger happy, you know, they’d press the triggers and the guns get so hot that they could warp your barrels. So you always give it like, maybe eight to twelve round bursts, so you, just a short burst each time. And then you’ve got to conserve your ammunition too, you can’t use your ammunition that fast, you know, because I’ve heard of guys getting trigger happy, they’d freeze on the trigger, you know, and that’s their doom, you know.

    Anyway, we’re still flying to the target, and I was told that we had a gun camera, a camera on the bottom hatch, I think the A-20 camera, it’s fitted on the bottom hatch, and I was supposed to turn that on on the IP, which is seven minutes before the target, and so I got out of the turret real fast and turned the camera on when we were on the IP and jumped back in the turret, because we were still under attack. Anyway, it was a running battle all the way, I mean, I even seen, they tried everything to stop us, I even seen these fighter planes come up above us and drop these little parachutes out, and when they get to the level of our bombers they would blow apart.

    Aaron Elson: Like little mines?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Yeah. They would try anything to stop us. That’s the first time I ever seen rockets. You know, I said what’s these glowing things coming at us? I found out later though the Germans were using rockets. We weren’t using rockets first. They were first in a lot of things, you know, they had the jets.

    Aaron Elson: Did your life flash before your eyes?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Oh, when, at the (chokes up), at the time that the, the explosion in my turret, I’m thinking of my mother is getting a telegram that I’ve been killed. I thought about that. And you think of so many things that, it seemed in about five seconds your whole life is. ... You’d been thinking why, well why did I ask for this? Why? When I went in the Air Force I said, oh, I want to go in the toughest part of the Air Force. “Oh, you want to be a gunner...”

    Aaron Elson: And you had second thoughts about it then?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Oh yeah. I’m saying, why’d I ask for this kind of job, you know? Anyway, we got one engine shot up and the oil was leaking out, and our landing gear was shot up, and I looked around the airplane I seen sunlight coming through these holes that had hit the airplane. And I’m sitting in the turret, you know, you could see the two tails like on a B-24, you could see the rudders, one rudder has got holes in it, you know, and it’s flapping like, the rudders were canvas and it was flapping.

    Aaron Elson: Now did you make it to the target?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: We got over the target. There was snow on the ground, and the tail gunner, you get a pretty good view after the bombs hit. So after our bombs hit we went away from it and I could see they had fighter planes out there like they were ready to be delivered, they were all waiting to be delivered like right out of the factory, and our bombs hit right in the midst of that, in the factory.

    Anyway, it’s supposed to have been the longest air battle ever recorded. I don’t know if anybody ever topped two hours and twenty five minutes of continuous air battle. Like, when I was flying, at that time, this is before or right after ’44, in January, we didn’t have the long range fighter escort yet, if they did they didn’t have enough, but anyway, it was kind of scary when, after, to get back, you know, we seen less and less airplanes. We had 25, a maximum effort, which is all the airplanes you could put up, and we only put up, that’s all we could put up, well, we had 28 to begin with and three turned back, mechanical failure, so over the target we had 25. Thirteen got shot down. So it was kind of lonely coming back. Then we did pick up a fighter escort when we were about one quarter of the way back home.

    Aaron Elson: Coming back, were you engaged by enemy fighters as well?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Oh yes we did. They were still coming after us. I mean, we were well-trained. I could say that, the original bomb group, when you train together, and we spent almost seven months before we got into combat, you get to know the guys in your crew, they’re like brothers, you know, like somebody’s got a muffled voice and nobody could understand him but after you know them, you understand just what they’re talking about, you know, and you get to be like brothers, you know. I already had four brothers of my own, and it was like ten more brothers, or nine more brothers. And they’re very close. Maybe too close, because you felt for each other, and you know your problems at home, and what the other went through. It was a good feeling, though, to know your own crew. In fact, like we had our own plane that was presented to us right before we went overseas. We went overseas in that same airplane. And we named it, we put a, had a lottery and we suggested names and we finally picked BTO, Big Time Operator, for our airplane. And you get to know your own airplane like you get to use your own car at home, you know. You know every little, when, every little thing about your airplane. I think once or twice our plane had to be repaired and we had to use another airplane, and it was a funny feeling flying in another airplane, because even, especially the pilot, because he knew every little thing about the airplane, his own airplane. We didn’t like using a different airplane.

    Aaron Elson: Who was your pilot?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: My pilot was ... ohhh...

    Aaron Elson: That’s all right...

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Roland. Chuck Roland. And he was an ace, I mean, he was, just a nice guy, and like, when we’d be out in the airplane and getting it ready for a mission or something, and we’d say, “Sir, is this all right?” “Don’t give me this Sir, stuff.” He said, “I’m Chuck,” he said. “When any of the bigger officers are around,” he said, “yeah, okay, you can call me Sir, and yes Sir, and,” he said, “but I’m just one of you.”

    Aaron Elson: Was anyone on your crew killed?

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Nobody got killed. We were so lucky that, when we got shot up on my 13th mission, and bullets flew all through the airplane, but nobody really got hurt that bad.

    Aaron Elson: And what happened, you landed in Sweden, was it?                  

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: Yeah. We went on the mission, I hate to say this, but there’s a lot of casualties that are brought on by our own mistakes, and what happened on this mission, we shouldn’t have gone in the first place. It was Easter Sunday, do you want me to talk about that?

    Aaron Elson: Yes.

    Sam Mastrogiacomo: It was Easter Sunday, and being a devout Catholic, I’m getting ready to go to church the next day, and here, the usual time about four o’clock in the morning they wake us up, nudge us, “You’re going on a mission.”

    “What? Easter Sunday? It couldn’t be.”

“You’re going on a mission.”

So we had to get up. And it was so foggy out, we said, “We can’t fly in this.” It was so foggy you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Anyway, we went out to the airplane after we ate breakfast and after we put our flying gear on, and we’re out to the airplane and they come by us and they say, “Mission called off. Mission scrubbed.” So we get on the truck to come back to operations. We went back to the locker room to start taking our flying clothes off, and before we even start they come out again and they said, “Mission’s on. Mission’s on.” Go back to the airplane again. It was so foggy you couldn’t see the, you know, the number of the airplane, the number on the tail. You had these flashlights to see if that was our airplane.

Anyway, we’re out there again, we’re waiting around. Once again he says, “Mission scrubbed.” We’re getting ready to go back. Before we even get back to operations, he says, “No, no, we’re going back. They found out it’s going to be clear over the target.” Okay, so we go back, and we get there okay, they start the engines, and we take off the usual, like every thirty seconds take off, every thirty seconds another airplane would take off. And it was so foggy, could it be, we’re gonna go through this stuff? And when we were circling the field, for the other airplanes to come up and join up with us, we were the lead during this mission, while we’re forming, two planes collided and just fireballs. I guess nobody got out because, it was right next to us. So we kept flying through this fog, and when we hit enemy territory it started to clear up a little bit. We’re into France already, and this time we could see the airplanes coming, we’re looking out, and here’s B-17s flying alongside of us, and we were Circle F, our bomb group, and they had Triangle J’s and Circle P’s, everything but Circle F. So finally, you had to circle around until your bomb group all gets together, and we close up, and we’re into enemy territory. And flying on it got a little bit clearer, and we’re flying on, and we say, “Where’s all the airplanes?” We’re supposed to have 130 airplanes with us. We look around and we see about 100 less. There’s only about 38. And we kept on flying, then pretty soon it was only 22 of us. And we kept on flying. Our target was Tutow, it’s along the Baltic Sea, we were supposed to hit an aircraft factory again. And they tell us that factory, they’re developing the long-range missile that’s getting ready to hit the United States, they were working on it. So that was an important mission, too.

We were flying on, all at once it’s clearing, there are fighter planes coming at us. It must have been about 200 fighter planes coming in at us. Here we are with 22 airplanes. I’m looking, where’s all our planes behind us? I didn’t see nobody behind us. This time they’re making nose attacks. I guess they changed their tactics. And those attacked, about forty airplanes come across our 22 airplanes we got left. The only thing I could do as a tail gunner, as they break back over from the nose and come lower, I’m shooting at the tail, I’m shooting right on top of them. And I did get one of them, I seen him spin out of control, on fire.

While I’m flying over there, in the tail turret, I see debris come by, pieces of aluminum, and pieces of skin, you know, airplane skin, flying past me. I said, “Oh, somebody got hit.” And they said, “Yeah, it’s us.” They hit our No. 1 engine, and the cowling came flying off, and immediately they froze the engine. A 20-millimeter must have hit a cylinder. Anyway, they couldn’t feather the engine, like you usually feather the engine so, for the slipstream, that was a big drag, so the pilot had to trim the airplane so the drag would sort of fight against it. We couldn’t keep up with the rest of the formation. So we turned off and the pilot said, “We’ve got to see if we can get back.” And all at once we find out that the No. 4 engine, an oil line got hit, and there’s oil streaking out all over, and he said, “We’ll use that engine until the oil’s out.” So, I guess about that time, we knew we couldn’t keep up with the formation so the pilot said, and we’re over the Baltic Sea, he said, “I’m gonna go close to the Baltic Sea, we’re gonna fly just...” this is about 300 feet like off the sea, he said, “This way the fighter planes can’t dive down on us,” they won’t be able to pull out, so they’re not gonna dive down on us.

So our navigator says, “Keep your eyes open for anything that looks like a fighter plane.” Anyway, we were flying close to the Baltic Sea, and all at once I see three dots. These are gonna be birds or what were they, three dots. I had my eyes on them, all at once they come closer and closer, here was three Fokke-Wulfs. So when they got, even before they got in range I blasted them a little bit, my theory was that if they see your guns flaring, they would know you’re alert, you know, it’s psychological for them too, that guy’s on the ball, let’s see if we can get another position or another airplane. So anyway, they really came in closer and they’re looking around where they can hit us right underneath, you know, they’re coming in, and I’m keeping all ready. I hit one. He spins around and he goes right into the water. Then another one, the top turret gunner got him. He’s smoking, and pretty soon there’s only one left. He hung around, and I’m waiting for him to come, you know. I don’t know if he ran out of ammunition or he figured he wasn’t gonna take us on by himself, so he disappeared. So the pilot said, or the navigator said, “We’re a hundred miles from Sweden.” So, we’d never thought about Sweden, they said, well, you know, it’s a neutral country. So we all hollered over the interphone at one time, “Let’s go to Sweden!”

So we’re heading for Sweden, and our flight engineer said, “Throw anything out of the airplane that you don’t need, anything that has any weight,” so we said, “The guns too?” “Yeah the guns.” “The ammunition?” “Throw it out.” So we were throwing the ammunition out, and I went back in the turret and was getting ready to take my guns out to throw out, and all at once I seen a plane coming towards us. I jumped back in the turret and I got a bead on him and was following him, and he’s staying off a little bit, out of range a little bit. So he came in a little closer and he turned his wings over so we see the bottom, his belly, and we see the big crown over there, it was a blue crown with three, I mean three crowns on a blue circle. And the navigator says, “That’s a Swedish airplane. Don’t shoot at it.” So when he found out we’re not gonna shoot at him, he came in a little closer, and he saw my pilot, he said, pointing, follow me. So we followed him, and there’s a strip, a fighter strip, it looked like they only used for practice or something, one strip, and it’s right off of Sweden, between Denmark and Sweden. So we figured well, we’ve got to land there. And here our landing gear’s all damaged. And two engines, so the pilot, he’s a very good pilot, he was great. He took as much room as he could right over the water and then he just about hit the beginning of the runway, and the whole airplane’s shuddering and shaking, the landing gear is all shot up. So at least one tire is blew out, and the other tire. Anyway, he had told us before to get into a crash position, you know, and we knew the crash position, you go against a bulkhead and you grab your knees and get down as low as you can. When he hit the ground, I hear screeching and rattling. I couldn’t see anything because I had my knees down in the bulkhead. All at once the plane comes and makes a ground loop. And you look out there, here’s a stone fence, and we, just before we hit that stone fence, if we’d hit that, we probably would have got ... So, our navigator said, “Leave your guns on the airplane.” You know, we carried our .45s. “Don’t take your guns with you.” So we took, we left the guns on the airplane and climbed out of the airplane, and here are these soldiers running, with machine guns running up to the airplane, you know.

We said, put your hands up, the navigator said, “Put your hands up.” We all put our hands up. He looked at us and he says, “Welcome to Sweden.”

So, you know, the navigator says, “Amerikanske, Amerikansk.”

They said, “Okay. Come with us,” and they marched us to a barracks. And then we’re gonna get interrogated, but first they put us in that barracks. Pretty soon they marched us out. He looked like a German officer, you know, with the spats and with the leggings. I’m trying to figure, is he a German, or Nazi, or is he a Swedish, I don’t know. He spoke English and he says, “You don’t have to be afraid. Just tell me where you live, where you come from, what base were you,” we said name rank and serial, all we did was give our names, rank and serial number. “That’s all right. Where’s your town? Where you live?” Name rank and serial. We’d just give him our name and our rank and serial number, that’s it. “All right.” And then one of the Swedish officers says, I think it was the pilot, he said, “I see you throw that stuff out of the airplane.” So the bombardier says, “Yeah, that was the bomb sight.”

“Oh, you didn’t have to do that. We’re not Nazis.”

Anyway, we went back to the barracks, and they gave us something to eat, and then he said, the barracks were with no beds or nothing, we said, “Where are we gonna sleep?” So the Swedish soldier said, he pointed to a pile of straw there, and these mattress covers, and he says, put the mattress in the, I mean the straw in the mattress covers. So we made our sacks like that. And we went to sleep that night. And during that night we hear antiaircraft firing. We find out where we were at, there was a antiaircraft base and they’re shooting at planes overhead. “Who are we shooting at?” We asked a Swedish soldier, “Who are you shooting at?”

“We don’t care. If they fly over, we shoot them.” It could have been German airplanes, it could have been French airplanes. It could be British airplanes.

Aaron Elson: Okay. And then you spent the rest of the war in Sweden?

Sam Mastrogiacomo: I spent six months in Sweden.

Aaron Elson: Okay, we’ve got to let the people back into the room. That’s okay.

Bill Dewey: If you’re doing an interview, could you ...