Sunday, November 14, 2010

With the Help of Rebel Soldiers the Crew Makes their way to the Adriatic Sea

(Continuation of Captain Estes's War Memoirs)

"Close to evening we came to a large barn-looking-building,
and they indicated that we were to go inside and we did.
It was what you would probably term a hostal, but was
in the middle of the mountains and it was there for people
traveling through to stop and spend the night. Well,
one of the soldiers went over to this ol' potbelly stove
and put some wood in it and got a fire started. And
there were some raw potatoes on the floor in the corner,
and we guessed that we would eat potatoes for supper.
And sure enough they took 'em, put 'em in the fire, and
cooked the potatoes for a little while, and pulled 'em out,
and each one of us got a potato, and it wasn't bad.

So we had our -- we still had our heavy flying clothes
on. They were not leather, they were cloth and I had
on my pants and my jacket as did the rest of the crew
did, and we were fairly comfortable. We were warmer
than they were because they didn't have anything on
but just their uniforms and they were not quite heavy
enough, with the snow outside on the ground and the
cold like it was, for them to be as comfortable as we were.
There was some straw laying around on the floor so we
heaped up a little here there and yonder, and each one
of us found us a place and we settled in; we were tired
so it didn't make much difference what we were lying
on, we went onto sleep. The next day we got back
on the trail and walked some more.

We finally came to a railroad train or railroad track,
and there was kind of a half station there, and we
stopped there and they went in and talked to the
people inside, and they determined that we were
going to ride on the train. And it was a narrow
gauged train; it was very narrow -- the tracks were
not as wide as our train tracks, and the trains were
not as big either. They were small trains. They didn't
have any heat in 'em except for a potbelly stove in each
one of the cars, and they didn't have any stacks or any
pipes going up to take out the smoke; they just had a
hole in the roof and the smoke went up to the top and
went our the roof. It worked all right so I guess there
wasn't any use in arguing about it or even thinking about
it. So we rode on the train until we got to a place where
they stopped or the train did, and we got off the train, and
there was some old Dodge trucks there. And as far as we
could tell none of 'em would run. And the Yugoslavians
they didn't know anything about mechanics, so they
didn't know how to make 'em run. When they quit,
they just quit. Well, anyway, one of the men on my
crew had a knife with a file on it and he pulled the
distributor cap off and got in there and filed the points
on the distributor, and the old truck cranked up;
it backfired a few times, but it started to run.
And the Yugoslavians soldiers just didn't know
what to think. They had no idea anybody
could make those trucks run.

Well, we got three of 'em running and we loaded
up in the back of 'em and they started out on
the road. We didn't know where they were going
to take us but we wound up in the outskirts of a
pretty large town, and it turned out to be Split,
which is in Yugoslavia, S-P-L-I-T. Well, Split
evidently was large enough to have an embassy
there where the English had a representative,
and the United States had a representative, and
we went to each one of 'em and explained who
we were and why were there and what we needed.
At the English Embassy they gave us a bottle of
White Horse Scotch. That wasn't exactly what we
needed but we took it. And at the American Embassy
they gave us a can of pork and beans and of course
we enjoyed that; that was something different for

We got them to contact our people in Italy and they
did and the message came back that they were going
to send a plane over to pick us up. There was a little
island just off the coast of Split named Vis, V-I-S, and
we were very much encouraged and looking forward
to getting back to Italy. When the weather turned bad
they let the embassy -- the American Embassy at Split
know that they were not going to send a plane; that
we just had to find another way to come. And so
they put us on a boat that full of refugees. They were
Italians and they were going -- they had come to
Yugoslavia to get out of the way of the Germans
over in Italy. And they each had a wife and two or
three children, and dogs and cats. When we left the
port everybody got seasick, all of the refugees did, and
it was an awful sight; it was kind of terrible, but we
lived through it. They had given us some rooms on the
boat, and the refugees they were out there on the deck
just doing the best they could. So we were treated
real well. The trip across the Adriatic to Bari, Italy
didn't take too long. I think we spent one night
on the boat and that was plenty. "

(To be continued.)

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