Interview with Domenick D’Adamo
Conducted by James Triesler
D’Adamo: I am Dominick D’Adamo, Jr. and I was born October 12, 1920 on Columbus Day. My father wanted to call me Columbus, but my mother wouldn’t let him. I was raised in Richmond. My entire life was in Richmond, Virginia. I went to Saint Benedicts Parochial School and from there I went to Benedictine High School. I graduated there in the Class of ‘37. I went to work in a dental laboratory and I worked there until 1942.
One of my brothers had already enlisted in the Air Corps and been sent down to Florida and I was determined that I was going to get in. I always wanted to join the Navy. I used to build model ships and model airplanes and everything and I thought the Navy was a good thing to be in. But then when the Army Air Corps started their Aviation Cadet Program they weren’t getting enough people to fly, I think. So, they started this program where you could go through pilot training school, navigation school, or bombardier school, whatever they selected for you. We took some tests and they determined what you would most adapt to. So I was classified as a bombardier.
I enlisted in the Air Corps because they lowered the requirements too. At first they wanted people that had to have a two year college education. And then they said, either have that or pass a test. Well, I had to take the test and I was classified as a bombardier. It is so long, I don’t know whether you want to go through the training or not.
Triesler: It is fine, if you would like to talk about the training, sure.
D’Adamo: (2:43) I went to what we call Ground School Training in Santa Anna, California. That is where you got a lot of different things – navigation and mathematics, all kinds of stuff like that. And from there we went to flight training at Roswell, New Mexico. And there I was commissioned on December 12, 1942. And then we were assigned crews, which consisted of ten man crews on the heavy bombers, the B-24s and the B-17s. Our crew was formed and we were put in B-24s. We felt very fortunate because we got one of the brand new B-24s, which they say came off of Willow Oak, you know the Ford Plant, [known] especially for building B24s. From there we went through our phase training. We went through our first phase, which was Tucson, Arizona. And then the second phase, which was more advanced, at El Paso, Texas. And we wound up the third phase [which] was Denver, Colorado. While I was there I caught pneumonia and I thought my crew was going to have to move on without me. We had been together so many months, but anyhow, this doctor signed a waiver, and it said I still had a spot on my lung, but they thought I was able to go. So from there we went to England and we weren’t there very long. We were training in England and finding out how bad the RAF was getting banged up and everything. And they figured that the most missions anybody could take would be 25, but the majority of them didn’t make the 25. So we hadn’t been there very long, hadn’t done any missions, we’d been training, you know, formation flying and everything, and they sent us down to Africa. So we were at Benghazi, Libya, for two months, flying missions out of Africa. This was during the time of getting ready to invade Sicily. So we made quite a few missions down there.
I guess the most important one was, well all of them were important. I can remember my first mission was supposed to be on an airdrome in Malamy Creek, because it was supposed to be a milk run. But when we hit there, there happened to be a German fighter squadron and, you know, they banged us up pretty good. I think everyone had a baptism by fire. It was the first time for me to see an aircraft go down in flames. Everything else was great, but when it comes to the combat and you see something like that, it changes your mind a little bit. Anyhow, we didn’t do too good on that bombing mission. We did lose one plane and so many of us got shot up, some of them pretty bad. I had some missions that stand out along with the rest of them. I think it must have been my second or third mission. We weren’t allowed to bomb Rome, but we bombed the railroad yards north of Rome and coming back, that was about a 950 mile trip. Coming back, something knocked out our number 3 engine and we had to fly all the way back to the base on three engines. We found out what happened. A little piece of flak hit the oil line and oil was leaking out and the pilot had to cut it off. Here’s the little piece of flak [D’Adamo laughs and hands a piece of flak in a plastic bag to Triesler]. It knocked out the oil line on the aircraft and the mechanic who worked on it gave that to me.
Triesler: That was nice. Good souvenir.
D’Adamo: Yeah, I don’t guess it is any good to anybody but me, but I’ve kept it all those years. And then I guess the most famous raid was the one on the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania on August 1, 1943. Up to that point it was the longest bombing trip of the war, but of course it was exceeded later. We lost six aircraft out of our group. There were five groups that bombed there. Am I rattling on too much?
Triesler: You are doing great! You really are. Thank you for sharing.
D’Adamo: There originally were two B-24 groups in Africa, so we were in the 8th Air Force and the 8th Air Force sent our three B-24 groups down there, with Cicely and all the other bombing. We bombed Ploesti at 250 feet, which was almost on the ground. After we bombed them we had to get down low so fighters couldn’t get under us. We had five groups on that raid, counting the two from Africa, and out of that we lost 54 aircraft. Some of the others got back so badly shot up they’d never take off again.
Triesler: About how many planes are in one fighter group, sir? You said there are five groups. How many planes would that be?
D’Adamo: Each group had four squadrons and each squadron would put up six aircraft. On a maximum effort like this, they would fly everything they could get in the air. But ordinarily it would be four squadrons with six aircraft each. Of course you had your regular formation and you had to stay in as close as you could. I guess one of the most memorable air raids I went on was the submarine pens at Vegesack, Germany. We had bombed our target and come around to go back. I was standing in the nose and the navigator had a table to work behind me. Flak hit our aircraft and I was standing right there and it knocked out two glass panels of the nose. If it had been six inches closer it would have got me. The air was just rushing in and so we pulled the tabs on our flak suits and I dropped them over the hole there and sat on them all the way back to keep the air from coming in. When you are going a couple hundred miles an hour, you can imagine what the air pressure would be.
Triesler: The temperature was pretty cold when you got up high?
D’Adamo: Oh yeah, usually about 40 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Of course when we were flying out of Africa and Italy and Cicely the temperature was a little warmer. And the water was so bad, our drinking water in Africa, that we would take our canteens up to altitude level where it would get a little colder and it would deaden the taste of the iodine or whatever they put in it. Anyhow, we had another long raid which was in Austria which was Vienna, Wiener-Neustadt or something like that. And we did that while we were down there because it took a long range, you know, but then we went back to England and did some more training and then they sent us back down to Tunis. And we were down there a month.
Triesler: Did you ever do any bombing in Africa against the German tanks?
D’Adamo: No, they had gone. You could look down at the desert and see millions of tank tracks and truck tracks. It always looked like a can of worms down there. It was quite a sight. But, they had been moved out, pushed out by the time we got there. And I was stationed at Alconbury, in England. That was our permanent base. In fact, it was our base before we left, our home base, you know. We were just on temporary duty in Africa. Then we started regular bombing trips, and then I think it must have been about December that I was with the 389th Bomb Group. I was in the 566th Squadron. I think they took four aircraft from our group, including my crew, and they sent us to Alconbury, which was about sixty miles north of London. It was a big radar base. And they were going to get us trained so that we could do all the flying and bombing by radar and come back and lead other crews. We did that for a good while and then they decided to make our base a school for radar navigators. All the groups wanted their own crews to lead, so they made it more like a school. Then they had us flying night missions. The night missions we would drop leaflets, and also the navigator would be photographing. We would come in on towns like it was a bomb run and he could see on the radar what the town looked like. And actually we would have two bomb runs on the same target cause we would take the pictures going in and then you would make an abrupt turn and go the other way and get a picture of it from another angle, you know. We did that for quite a while. They counted those as night missions for us, which they should have. Sometimes we would see an aircraft somewhere around and hope they didn’t see us [D’Adamo laughs]. It wasn’t too bad flying night missions, although we did get caught in a cone, which is three lights. They were so bright it lit up the inside of our aircraft. But the pilot, he was a good pilot, he must have dropped about 10,000 feet, and I couldn’t move myself, I mean for gravity. And he finally got out of the searchlights. We never got hit or anything.
Triesler: Who was your pilot?
D’Adamo: Cecil Whitener from Fredericktown, Missouri. He was an excellent pilot. He was a Major when the war ended. He was a little bit of an iron ass, though. He had trouble with his co-pilot. He didn’t have trouble with any of us, you know, but he always had trouble with his co-pilots. I don’t know why. Probably because they didn’t do things the way he wanted them done, you know. I am sure everybody runs into somebody like that sometime, but I mean, he was an excellent pilot. I used to take off and land in the nose all the time. I just loved to see that runway. One day we were getting ready to take off on a mission and he had just turned and we got a flat tire, right then. If it happened later, and I was up in the nose, no telling what would have happened. If you get up speed, a flat tire like that on one of the main tires…. From then on he wouldn’t let me stand in the nose during takeoff anymore [laughing].
Triesler: Did you ever have any other problems with takeoffs or landings?
D’Adamo: That was the only time that I was flying. One time, later when we were flying the night missions and I was flying with a different crew, there was a pilot from Lynchburg and he and I flew several missions together after the school was formed. I am trying to think of his name now, but it doesn’t matter. Anyhow, we were taking off and whoever serviced the plane forgot to put the gas cap on the wing, so he had to carefully maneuver over and get onto a taxiway. That thing could have exploded anytime, you know. But other than those two incidents, I can’t think of anything else. We went to Berlin once. That was in, must have been in March or ’44, I recon. No, it might have been in ’45.
Triesler: Did you get a lot of resistance from the enemy going to Berlin?
D’Adamo: Lot of flak, but other than that, well I said Berlin, this was a suburb of Berlin. I could see the train station in Berlin, it had a gold dome on it.
Triesler: What kind of targets did you usually have?
D’Adamo: Aircraft factories, oil refineries, munitions factories. It was always a strategic target. We never did bomb for the fun of it. I think the RAF took care of that by leveling cities you know, which was fair for the game.
Triesler: The one that was so famous was Dresden, in February ’45. Was it the British who primarily bombed Dresden?
D’Adamo: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that it was all British.
Triesler: I talked with a German veteran about Dresden and he was still angry at Winston Churchill for the bombing of Dresden.
D’Adamo: On D-Day, they put up everything they could, anything that would fly. They had three missions that I know of, an early mission, a secondary mission, and we were put on a B-17. Our pilots were pretty good. They were checked out on B-17’s and 24’s and they could fly either one of them and they would go half and half. I think they liked the B-17, because it was easier to fly [D’Adamo laughs].
Triesler: So you were flying out of England on D-Day? Were you in an early mission or a secondary mission?
D’Adamo: We were in the last mission of the day.
Triesler: And was that late in the day?
D’Adamo: It was still daylight. It was daylight coming back too. They were on double daylight though.
Triesler: What target did you have for D-Day?
D’Adamo: To tell you the truth, there was a crossroads that the navigator couldn’t even find because it clouded up. They told every group that if you miss the target, just follow the pattern and come on out. Don’t try to do it again, because there were so many aircraft coming in that you’d be flying in the face of them if you tried to turn around. So, we had to bring our bombs back. We didn’t drop on anything.
Triesler – Were you allowed to land with bombs on the plane?
D’Adamo: Well, we put the cotter pins back in them. You had to land with them, unless you wanted to drop them somewhere in the North Sea or something. But we took them; the bombardier didn’t arm the bombs until you got up off the ground and got in formation. And they had cotter pins in all the fuses and you had to take those out and the bombardier had to have them and keep them and save them, in case you had to put them back in. One time we did get a bomb hung up and the gunner and I had to go out on the catwalk. There was a catwalk through the aircraft. In a B-24 there is a forward and aft bomb bay. I guess the catwalk is about ten or twelve inches wide. We had to get out on that catwalk and try to disarm the bomb. You had to hold an oxygen bottle while you were doing it, because we were at a high altitude. And it wasn’t too much fun, really. But the gunner was good and he knew more about anything than I did.
We still flew missions after D-Day, of course. I guess the next big thing was when the war in Europe ended and we flew back to the United States.
Triesler: Did you think you would have to go fight in Japan at that point?
D’Adamo: We planned on it. In fact, most of our group signed up to go train in B-29s and go over there. But they told us they were going to hold the group together, you know, and then we got to, let me see, it was Victorville, California. We were there when the war in Asia ended, when they dropped the atomic bomb.
Triesler: What did you think of the atomic bomb?
D’Adamo: Well, at that time I thought it was a great thing. More people died in Dresden than died from those two bombs really. Of course it is a terrible thing and now you think it over and you realize how terrible it is to use something like that. But at that time we were gung ho to end the Japanese war. But then they broke their promise to us too, they broke the group up. So, most of us signed up to get out, which I did too. And we got our 30 day R n R.
Triesler: So did you leave California and come back to Richmond?
D’Adamo: Well, we had to get out of the service. We came to Fort Meade in Maryland and that is where they gave us our 30 day leave and everything. And then I took a train from there to Richmond. And my family didn’t even know I was coming home. I surprised them. A funny incident was that I was a captain at that time so I had to handle the group that was on the train, which may have been twenty people. I had a lieutenant under me, so he did most of the work (laughter). I found out he was going to get married when he got home. I said, “Who are you going to marry?” and he said, “I am going to marry Elizabeth Kratz.” I said, “Well I know her! She’s a good friend of my cousin’s.” So, he had called her and told her about meeting me. So, when I got to Broad Street Station, my whole family was in the station there [laughter]. I never even told them I was coming home.
Triesler: Is that the station that became the Science Museum?
D’Adamo: The Science Museum. It was the RF & P Railroad at that time.
Triesler: So, that was a nice surprise for you then?
D’Adamo: It was. It knocked me off my feet.
Triesler: Did they have any parades at the end of the war in Richmond that you were part of?
D’Adamo: Not that I was a part of. I don’t recall them doing it. They could have. I am trying to think of something else. I guess that’s enough hogwash anyway.
Triesler: Well, I have got a bunch of questions, if you don’t mind?
D’Adamo: It might stir up something that I will remember.
Triesler: I hope so. Some of them are just basic questions. Did the planes that you flew in ever have names other than B-24?
D’Adamo: Oh yes, the original plane was Tondelao. I’ve got a picture of it somewhere.
Triesler: Where did that name come from?
D’Adamo: Well the crew selected the name and it came from a movie. Hedy Lamarr was the leading actress in it. And they were all gung ho about Hedy Lamarr. She was a German actress but she was in this one picture called, I think it was called Tondelao. I found out later there were a couple of planes named the same, not in my group or anything.
Triesler: Did your plane have artwork on the side?
D’Adamo: [Hands photo to Triesler] Yes, it was pretty crude. Our radio operator was the artist. That’s my crew of course. I used to have a bigger one [photo] than that. Here’s a picture when we came back from Africa the first time. I could direct who they are. I don’t know if it would be useful to you or not? This is my pilot. My navigator is back here. He was about 6 foot, 3 or 4 [inches] and I was little. It was like Mutt and Jeff.
Triesler: You said that you were on more than one plane. Do you remember the names of any of your other planes?
D’Adamo: Not really. I remember the name of the B-17 that we flew home in. That was called Trigger Dick. We didn’t have anything to do with that. We just had a plane that was available to take the whole crew and some others home.
Triesler: How many missions did you receive credit for flying?
D’Adamo: I was credited with 22. We had a couple others that we lead, one of them in particular we lead over France. The weather kept building up and up and up, until we couldn’t get over it. We were not too far into France and had to turn around and come back. We call that an abort. And the group that we lead got credit for the mission and we didn’t, but that’s just the throw of the dice.
Triesler: What do you feel was the biggest difference between a night mission and a day mission?
D’Adamo: Well, a night mission you were by yourself in an individual plane. Just like the RAF, their bombers went over individually. In the daytime you were in formation. For me I think the night missions were safer. There might be a little more trepidation about them. The thought of you having to bail out of something at night would affect you a little more than bailing out in the daytime [He laughs].
Triesler: Did you wear a parachute during the missions?
D’Adamo: I was a coward. The pilot had a seat parachute. It was in his seat and he had it strapped on. And I wore this backpack, and everybody else on the crew wore the chest pads. You had to fish them out if something happened and hook them on before you could jump. But I was ready to go. I had my rosary and my parachute [laughter].
Triesler: How hard was it to find your target at night, verses day? Did you have to do anything different looking for your target?
D’Adamo: Well, we had the radar to go by and a lot of time I would do a dead reckoning at night. And in the daytime you’d do piloting, which you do on a clear day.
Triesler: Was someone responsible for taking photographs of the target when you were doing a bombing run?
D’Adamo: Some aircraft in the group would. They would get the pictures. They had oodles of pictures. How much you missed the target by and weather you hit it direct and all.
Triesler: How would you rate yourself as a bombardier? How do you think you did?
D’Adamo: [Laughter] I guess I was as good as any. I’m not going to say I was excellent. I could hit my plate with a fork. Someone in a movie said that.
Triesler: How did the British people treat you?
D’Adamo: Very good. That’s another thing I would like to commend. I think the British people at that point were the finest people in the world. They were just as brave as they could be. They didn’t know when they were going to run for the basement or a bomb shelter. You could be in London riding in a taxi cab going somewhere and you’d see them out there sweeping up all the debris where they had just been hit. They were brave people. We’d go to theaters sometime and they would have these signs on both sides, “bomb raid,” you know. None of them got up. They just stayed in the theater and finished the show.
Triesler: Were you in London most of the time you were over there?
D’Adamo: No, no. We’d have to have a pass. We could get a two-day pass to London. And I went there one time. And I’m telling you, I heard so many V2s land and you’d be surprise at the explosion. I’d be in a hotel, or the Red Cross or somewhere. And man, I was ready to go home.
Triesler: What does a V2 sound like before it explodes? Can you hear it coming?
D’Adamo: Oh no, you can’t hear that one. The V1s are the ones that sound like an outboard motor. And when it cuts off you know they’re gliding in somewhere. They’re really nerve racking. But on one mission, coming home at night, we could see them launching the V2s. There would be a great big fire on the ground. Then you would see a light go up slow, and then zoom, just take off heading for London.
Triesler: Did you ever experience any air raids where you had to go seek shelter?
D’Adamo: Yeah, when we were first there, there was an air raid, and it didn’t bother us, but we had to run for the bomb shelter. Didn’t last long though.
Triesler: Did you get to listen to the radio much when you were in England?
D’Adamo: All the time. Somebody in the barracks had a radio.
Triesler: What did you listen to when you were there?
D’Adamo: We tried to listen to that German girl a whole lot. What would she sing? Marlene something [Lily Marlene]. Anyhow, we would listen to the news and stuff like that.
Triesler: Do you remember hearing any speeches by Winston Churchill or President Roosevelt on the radio?
D’Adamo: No I don’t believe so; it wasn’t memorable if I did.
Triesler: What about movies, did you get to go to the movies when you were there?
D’Adamo: Yeah, but not too frequently. If we were in London we might hit a movie or something, but we were more interested in hitting the bars than we were movies. We had Officer Clubs and Junior Officer Clubs for anybody from major on down.
Triesler: Did you ever come across any German prisoners of war while you were in England?
D’Adamo: Oh yeah, I think they used to use them on KP sometimes. I bought a ring that one of them had made out of coins, just a simple little ring. I bought it from him and I don’t know what he did with the money, but it didn’t cost much anyway. That thing wore out or somehow I lost it or something. But, other than that, I never got in any contact with them, but some of them did do menial work.
Triesler: What was your day like, when you had to fly a mission?
D’Adamo: Most missions you’d have to get up early. When we were sent to the 482nd Bomber Group, somebody would wake us up around midnight, if we’d gone to bed by then. And we’d have to go get something to eat and prepare ourselves and fly to another base, and then refuel and I think we’d eat again or have something to eat. From then on it would be an ordinary mission. But we had to do that every time we lead. And we’d go to briefing, of course. Briefing would be the first thing after breakfast. They’d have a whole wall covered with a curtain, you know. And then they pull the curtains and you’d see the little twine go in [laughter] from one town to another. And then you hear all that, “oh!” [Laughter] There would always be a gripe about where you had to go, but some of them were worse than others.
Triesler: And then when you boarded the plane…
D’Adamo: Yeah, we would get on a jeep and run out to where the plane was parked. And then you get all kinds of signals, pistol signals from a tower. The tower wasn’t any taller than this house really, they were all little, short buildings. You’d see when it was time to take off and when it was your turn with the taxi and take off. And they probably took a half hour or more to form. We’d have these group planes painted all fancy with designs on them, so you could pick them out. You’d find your group and start forming on that plane, and keep forming until all of them were in formation and then head off. Of course, as soon as we’d head off and got over the sea, all the gunners would have to check their guns. And on the B-24, the navigator and I had three guns up in the front, and we’d have to check those, make sure they fired and everything; ready to go. And from then on it was just ride until you hit the continent or hit some action.
Triesler: Did you ever have to fire your guns at enemy planes?
D’Adamo: Oh yeah. On the first mission we did. Those fighter pilots were coming so close it’s a wonder they didn’t knock us down. They were coming straight in on the cockpit. I know some of them (enemy fighters) got hit too. But I don’t know whether they claimed any. But I mean that’s the way it was, ordinarily on a mission. Then you’d get to what they called the initial point. That is where you start your bomb run and you turn in on that. The bomb run could last anywhere from two to five or six minutes. And the longer it lasted the more chance they had at you, you know. You would see some fighters, but not on every mission. Some were milk runs, and you didn’t see any. You’d see fighters, and then when they quit, you knew the flack was coming up. And sometimes they have so much flak over your target; it would look like a coal yard up there. They were already filling it (the sky) up with flak; didn’t do much good until you got in to it, but they knew exactly where you were coming, or they’d figure it out.
Triesler: Does flak make a certain noise when it hits your plane?
D’Adamo: Oh, yeah. Sounds like gravel hitting a tin roof, unless you’re close enough to hear the explosion of it. On one mission, you could see a shell come up through the roof of the plane ahead of us. It came in right through the bottom of the aircraft and came out of the top. You could see it and it exploded right up above the plane. And it must have knocked out all of his controls, because he just fell out of formation and went on down. And they started counting the parachutes out of him. I was upfront, so I don’t really know what happened to them. But there are incidents like that, you know.
Triesler: Since the enemy planes are moving so quickly, how would you fire at them? Would you have to aim really far in front of them?
D’Adamo: Very carefully [He chuckles].
Triesler: How did you avoid hitting other planes in formation?
D’Adamo: Well, one time in training something went wrong. A propeller is real solid and when they landed, they found out the top gunner had put a 50 caliber bullet hole right through one of the blades on the propeller. Apparently they were pretty good, because I don’t know of any planes that got shot down by their own crews. You had to be very careful.
Triesler: As the bombardier, when you got close to your target, did you get control of the plane?
D’Adamo: Well, they had what they called an automatic pilot. People say the bombardier controls the plane and think they got to control the wheel and do all that fancy stuff, but you didn’t. To begin with, you light the bombsight with the automatic pilot. And then when you are on your bomb run you flick a switch, and the pilot releases all his controls, and then the plane is controlled by the knobs on your bombsight. You turn it one way and go so and so, you know. The Norden bombsight was probably one of the first computers, because… you put the information in it properly and it would do the job.
Triesler: What did you have to look for to know when it was time to release the bombs?
D’Adamo: The bombsight did that. See you have a microscope and they’re connected to a gyro. And as you turn a knob the telescope moves and you had to get it moving in coordination with the speed of the aircraft. So when you get it exactly right, that crosshair stays right on it; aiming for the target. When you get it perfectly right, you know. Of course all that is visible bombing. When we had radar bombing, you would do it all blindly.
Triesler: Could foil be used to disrupt radar?
D’Adamo: That’s what it was. It looked like icicles off a Christmas tree, and the gunners would throw that out when you’re approaching targets or if you saw flak. And a lot of it was made here in Richmond, I think. It was aluminum foil. The radar would pick up all those [pieces of aluminum foil].
Triesler: Did you get sick on any of the missions, while you were up in the air?
Triesler: What happened if you had to go to the bathroom when you were on a mission?
D’Adamo: Well, most of them had a little can, but to urinate we had these cones and every position on the plane had a tube and you just peed on the Germans. We called them relief tubes. And there was one at nearly every position.
Triesler: Did you ever see anybody famous when you were overseas?
D’Adamo: When I was in Africa I had a USO show, with Jack Benny and Frances Langford. They really put on a good show. Funny thing was though; our latrines out on the desert were just oil cans with seats on them. There were maybe a dozen of them and they were real close to the road. You would be sitting there and see a bunch of people come by on camels and donkeys and everything [laughter]. But if we had a USO show, or something like that, they would put canvas all around it. I don’t know why they didn’t just leave the canvas. [There were] a lot of funny situations. Oh, and once here in the United States, I forget where it was now, we had a USO show and it was in a boxing ring and it started raining. Dinah Shore was there, and she said, “If y’all want to stay, I’ll keep singing.” And everybody stayed and she kept singing until the program was over.
D’Adamo: I forgot to tell you my rank and serial number. Well, I was a captain in the Army Air Corps. That’s what it was known as when I got in. And my serial number was 734316. That was my officer serial number. I had one previous to that when I enlisted as a cadet. I got an enlisted man’s serial number, 13062114, I think that’s right. Well, you get it so much when you’re in, you can hardly forget it.
Triesler: You said you did get to see Jimmy Stewart with the 8th Air Force, but he flew in a different group than your group?
D’Adamo: Well, yeah, he was in a different…He was in the same division…The Eight Air Force had three divisions, First, Second, and Third. The First and Third Divisions were B-17s, and the Second division, which I was in and Jimmy Stewart, was B-24s.
Triesler: And what were you celebrating when you saw him?
D’Adamo: The hundredth mission of the 389th, my original group. They always had a big celebration if you lasted that long.
Triesler: When you were on bombing missions, did you have American fighter planes that escorted you?
D’Adamo: When we first went over, we didn’t have any fighters. And then they got the P-47 and that would escort us into France. Down in Africa, we didn’t have any, none at all. And then the P-51 came out and they could escort planes pretty far and they would have one group of them come in so far and then another one would fly straight in and surpass them and finally they would have pretty good coverage sometime over targets.
Triesler: Did you ever have the Tuskegee Airmen escort you?
D’Adamo: You know, not that I could recognize. I think they were flying out of Italy, escorting the B-24s that were bombing down there.
Triesler: You never had to fly over the Alps on a bombing run did you?
Triesler: When you wrote letters, who did you usually write letters to? Who did you receive letters from?
D’Adamo: Well, I would write to my brothers and my mother and father, of course. And then I had this lady, who was an aunt of one of my cousins, and she started writing me letters and I answered her every time. She was just as faithful as she could be. We didn’t get mail normally. We’d get mail in bundles. You know how bad getting back and forth was then with mail.
Triesler: Since you were an officer, did you ever act as the censor and have to read the mail?
D’Adamo: Yes. I didn’t like it. I passed over a lot of stuff, I really did. What harm could something like that do? I think most of the officers felt the same way as I did. I never did take something out. The ones I read, I never saw anything fit to take off. And I didn’t see anything fit to read, really. I felt like I was, I don’t know, getting out of bounds. I guess somebody had to do it. And I didn’t get it [censor duty] but so often anyway.
Triesler: Who would censor your mail?
D’Adamo: Some other officer. When I first was assigned a group and we were going somewhere, I had a code of where I was going. I would write about different countries or certain things about them. I would mention a country and they could tell where I was going. And once I told them I was going somewhere in the Pacific and they changed their mind after I had already notified my family that I was going to the Pacific. I told them how easy it was going to be in the Pacific, rather than how hard it was going to be. So that didn’t go over too well.
Triesler: So you wrote back and set them straight?
D’Adamo: More or less.
Triesler: How many brothers did you have?
D’Adamo: I had two. Both of them are older than I was.
Triesler: And were they both in the service?
D’Adamo: Well, the oldest was married. And of course, he didn’t volunteer. He wanted to really, but he was going to be drafted anyway. And the brother next to me, he volunteered. And he got a pretty good deal. He had his choice of three places to go to and he picked Florida. And he stayed there most of the war. In fact, the war was almost over when he finally got a transfer that he wanted and he got in a glider group, which was suicide. But fortunately the war ended shortly after that. But my oldest brother, he was drafted. And after training and everything, he was a radio operator in communications. He went straight to Italy and he went through all that fighting in Italy. He got a bronze star for hanging on to a radio during a retreat or something. All three of us got back safely. I had the most fun, of course. That’s what I tell everybody, anyhow. I had a four year vacation with free room and board, flights all over Europe, and I got paid for it!
Triesler: When you look at it that way, it sounds like a good deal. Did you ever see the movie, The Memphis Belle?
D’Adamo: Yeah, a couple of times. I thought it was very good.
Triesler: What did you do when you came home from Europe?
D’Adamo: I got my old job back and there was a girl working there that I took a liking to and we eventually got married.
Triesler: Did you know her before you went overseas?
D’Adamo: No. A friend of mine that was working there sent me a picture of her while I was overseas. I have still got that picture. It’s a little Kodak picture. And when I got back we just started going together. I started working for the same boss (as before the war) at Richmond Dental. I was a dental technician. Well she’s been deceased eighteen years, the 9th of this month (February, 2015) and her name was Shirley Massie D’Adamo. We got married in 1946.
Triesler: And you always stayed in the Richmond area?
D’Adamo: Yeah. We had three children and seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Triesler: Wow, that’s great!
D’Adamo: It is great until it is Christmas (Domenick laughs).
Triesler: Well, how do you feel the war changed your life?
D’Adamo: I don’t know that the war had such an influence on me, I mean, I wasn’t sorry for anything that I did during the war. And I don’t know that it changed me in any way.
Triesler: Do you think the military helped give you more discipline?
D’Adamo: I got all the discipline I needed at Benedictine. And I knew more than most of them. They would get you to direct a drill and so forth, forward march, halt, and all that kind of stuff, and anybody that they thought had some experience, would take over for a few hours or a day or something. I think I had more discipline in my school days. I was ready for the service. I knew what to expect. I knew how to do about face and all that stuff.
Triesler: Now, you were a teenager during the Great Depression. So, what was life like? What are some of the things you remember from the Depression, things you had to live with or deal with in your life then?
D’Adamo: Well, for one thing, my father was out of work. He was a musician. And he played in the pit orchestras for all of the Vaudeville shows that used to come to Richmond. And then the talking pictures put Vaudeville out of business almost. He was teaching music and he was working with one of his compatriots, who came over with him, in a confectionary. At one point he was out of work for almost a year. We had some good family and everything was well taken care of. The man we rented from let my father take care of the place, the grass and stuff, you know, all that kind of work like that. He helped us a whole lot as far as rent was concerned. And other than that, we did without a lot of luxuries. We didn’t mind it. My mother knew what to cook and stuff like that. My grandparents helped us out, bringing groceries, things like that. And all of us had paper routes and I would give my mother a dollar every week from what I collected. She didn’t want to take it. When I was in the Service, as soon as I was commissioned, I sent an allotment home every month. I think we did real well during the Depression.
Triesler: Where did you live in Richmond when you were young?
D’Adamo: Most of the time, 3114 Hanover Avenue.
Triesler: Do you know if it is still there?
D’Adamo: Oh, yes, they modernized the places and everything else.
Triesler: Your last name is Italian, right? When did your family come from Italy?
D’Adamo: My father came from Italy before the 20th century. I forget when he came over.
Follow up Interview with Domenick D’Adamo. July 2017
Triesler: Domenick, you mentioned that crews were assigned to airplanes, but there were not enough airplanes to go around so you had to share your plane with another crew. Do you mind telling us about that, how you felt about it and what happened?
D’Adamo: Well, we were extremely upset about it, because we felt it was our airplane and we didn’t want anybody messing around with it. Anyhow, they took it on this mission and they didn’t return. They were shot down. We never, I heard from them again.
Triesler: Was that your plane that had been named Tondelao?
D’Adamo: Yes, that was our plane.
Triesler: So you and your crew would have been shot down!
D’Adamo: If we had had our way, we probably would have. I mean, you don’t know what the chances were. It just seemed like it was going to get knocked down. We were going to be in it if we could.
Triesler: Wow. Now you just showed us a pin, a button, and it says A slash C on it. What does that mean?
D’Adamo: It means Aviation Cadet.
Triesler: So you would wear this on your uniform when you were in training in Roswell, New Mexico?
D’Adamo: Yeah, and in Santa Anna too, when we were at Ground School. We had ground school first and had a lot of math, weather, and stuff like that.
Triesler: When I was here last time, you had a piece of flak. May I take a picture of it? Did it almost hit you when you were in the nose of the airplane, about 6 inches away? No, that is the one that broke the…
D’Adamo: – …the oil line. That is the one that broke the oil line. The one where the nose was broken up was on a trip to Vegesack, Germany, it was a submarine pen that we [were going to bomb].
Triesler: You know I tried to look up Vegesack, how to spell it, and I struggled with it on the computer. Do you have any idea how to spell that?
Triesler: I found a Vegesack Hotel that was near Bremen, near the water on the NW coast of Germany, so I was assuming that Vegesack was probably close to Bremen.
D’Adamo: It probably was, I have forgotten all of those things. Let me see if I can find it (flak).
Photographs of Domenick D'Adamo are located in the Images section of It Took A War.