by Dave Hutton
I was assigned,
with 10 other replacement pilots, to the 66th Fighter
Squadron. Several were close friends that I had
been through pilot training with. We had our overseas
training in P-40s at Waycross, Georgia and arrived
at Alto Field in Corsica. As we circled to land
all I saw were P-47s all over the field. Many of
us had never seen a P-47 before so the day after
we arrived we were assigned to training flights
let by experienced combat pilots. Six of us, who
had never flown a P-47 were involved. I and two
others were in a flight led by Steve Bettinger.
My closest friend, Bob Bittner, and the other two
were assigned to another pilot.
We took off, practiced combat formations including
dive bombing and landings where we came in on the
deck, peeled off, made a tight 360 degree turn and
touched down as quickly as possible. We also did
slow rolls, chandelles, etc. I felt the P-47 handled
well but also stalled out at a much higher air speed
than the P-40. We were up about 45 minutes when
our leader led us back to Alto Field.
As we came over the field I saw a P-47 burning just
off the end of the runway. I don’t why but
I suddenly got a sick feeling in my stomach and
hoped it was not my friend. We circled until the
fire had been stopped and we were cleared to land.
When we landed I asked the crew chief who had crashed.
He said he had no idea. I climbed out of the cockpit
and went over to the control tower and asked. They
said it was one of the new pilots named Bittner.
He had stalled out on approach.
Here I was, my 2nd day with a fighter squadron and
my best friend killed, not on a combat mission but
on a training flight. I did not sleep well that
night thinking about how I would write to his parents
about his first and last flight in a P-47.
Dave Hutton 2005 57th FG
Reunion, Hartford CT