MY LOST TOMMY
This story tells about a somewhat serious, but still laughable incident that happened to me at our first air base in England, near Raydon Wood. Orders had been received from intelligence command that the Germans were planning a paratrooper attack on forward air bases in England. Squad leaders were to be selected to lead squads in case of an attack and the squad leaders were to be issued Thompson sub machine guns (which we dubbed Tommy Guns) to replace their carbines. At this point in time the Germans were very aggressive and doing daily bombing raids on various selected targets in England. The 362nd squad leaders were selected by our 362nd First Sergeant, Henry Ramm, who had checked the records of each soldier for their proficiency with the Tommy gun on the firing range. I was one of the ten selected to be a squad leader and I sort of hated that, as the Tommy gun was a lot heavier to carry than the standard carbine.
It was explained to us, that in case of an attack we would take charge of our selected squads and would be the leaders of our squads. In case of a paratrooper attack, since we had no idea of when, where or how it would happen, we were supposed to use our own common sense judgement and instinct to deploy our squads in order to protect the base and our equipment.
At this point in my tale, the main thrust and central point of the story begins. After a short stay at our first base near Raydon Wood, the 357th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force was to trade assignments with the 358th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force, which was based at an air base near Leiston. The 358th had P47 Thunderbolts and the 357th had P51 Mustangs. It was determined that the P47's were more efficient for low level-short mission type work, whereas the P51's were more efficient at high altitude, long range missions to escort our bombers into the heartland of Germany and to challenge the German Fighter Planes. The 9th AF was used as the air force that followed the infantry onto the continent after the invasion after a foot hold had been made, whereas the 8th AF was to remain in England and be the strategic air force, that did all of the bomber escort work, plus selected bombing and strafing missions.
On a preselected day the switch was made. As we were preparing to leave Raydon for our move to Leiston, I was selected by the officer in charge of the move to head up a loading detail. My question was "Who will make sure my gear and weapon is transferred to the new base?" The answer was "We will take care of that." We spent the larger part of the day loading 6 X 6 trucks and when we were finished we were loaded in 6 X 6 trucks and headed over to Leiston and our new base. Upon arrival I went to the unloading point to pick up my gear and weapon. Finding no Tommy gun I reported it to our orderly room and immediately started worrying. I took a lot of kidding for a few days. A good buddy of mine, George Pressgrove use to say: "Parmer, you are the bravest soul in the ETO-the only one without a gun."
I sweated this out for a few days and then one day First Sergeant Ramm called me in and told me that they had found my weapon at the old base. The 358th FG said that they wanted to keep it, as they would probably have more use for it, because they were going onto the continent and we were remaining in England, so the swap was made. At one point I thought I was going to have to sign a statement of charges for approximately $185 and that would have really hurt on a soldiers pay at that time. I breathed a big sigh of relief and accepted a much lighter carbine to carry for the duration of the war.