Marvin Babbit

Wins Three Decorations in Backing Up Fighting Lines from Sfax to Deep in Italy
After a year at the battlefronts of Africa, Sicily, and Italy, bombing and strafing German troops, strong points and supply lines, the United States of America looked mighty good to him, Captain William R. Thompson, U.S. Army Air Corps, now spending a 20-day leave at his  home here, said. 

"Those cities in Africa and Italy are way behind the times when compared with American cities, and the things we miss most are the little things that are routine at home," he said. 

The Red Cross is doing a wonderful job in providing gathering places for officers and men and furnishing some of the peculiarly American things so dear to the soldiers, such as snack bars and lounging rooms, Captain Thompson said. 

Captain Thompson, son of Mrs. Anna Thompson, Old Chippewa Road, flew to Africa in a B-25 Mitchell bomber, leaving the U.S. on March 20, 1943 and arrived back in the United States this month. 

Three Decorations
He has 52 bombing missions to his credit and wears the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart. 

Flying the South Atlantic from South America, Captain Thompson flew across Central Africa to Cairo and then to the front lines in Africa around Sfax, backing up the British Eighth Army.

His squadron was stationed close behind the fighting lines at all times, bombing targets in support of ground troops, such as gun positions, troop concentrations, and supply lines. He was in on the fighting for the rest of the African Campaign, supporting both British and American troops as the Allies closed in on Bizerte and Tunis. 

Captain Thompson was in the first wave of American bombers to sweep over Sicily last July when invasion of that island started. 

Shot Down at Night 
It was on the sixth day after the invasion that he was shot down behind American lines and won his first decoration, the Purple Heart. Captain Thompson was flying a night mission. It was about 2 am and bright moonlight, when German night-fighter planes swept down and showered his plane with bullets. One engine was put out of commission and, in a few minutes, the plane caught fire and Captain Thompson ordered the crew to bail out. They were first hit while flying at about 7,000 feet but the plane was only about 1,000 feet up when it started to disintegrate and Thompson bailed out. 

He landed at the edge of a cliff, bounced off, and rolled down the side. He got out alone but has no recollection of getting out of his parachute or making his way up the hill. Picked up by American troops, he was taken to a hospital, suffering concussion of the brain and severe cuts and bruises. However, he recovered rapidly, being released from the hospital in 10 days and returned to active duty two months later. 

All members of his crew, a total of six men, parachuted safely from the stricken plane. 

Ship Hit Many Times 
In Italy, Captain Thompson operated from the airfield at Foggia and other places. The Germans did not furnish much fighter opposition in Italy, he said, but their anti-aircraft fire is heavy and accurate. His ship was hit many times; after one mission, more than 60 holes were counted. "It's not a comfortable feeling when ack-ack  starts hitting your plane," he said, as you realize it only takes one hit in the right place." 

Virtually all Italian cities anywhere near the battle zone have been bombed flat, Captain Thompson said, with the exception of a few mountain villages of no strategic importance. German gun emplacements are well-dug-in and it is impossible to knock them out without a direct hit, he said. Also they keep moving them. 

The lot of the Italian people is severe, he added. They have little food and, bombed out of their homes, they use any improvised shelter they can find. He said they're friendly to Americans and, whenever airmen are shot down in Italian neighborhoods, they are given every consideration.

Captain Thompson visited Major Otto Peterson, stationed at Algiers, but had not had contact with others from Eau Claire. In his squadron in Italy was Technical Sergeant Marvin Babbit of Bloomer. Babbit is now in the Near East and is believed on his way to India.

At the conclusion of his leave, Captain Thompson will report at Atlantic City for assignment.