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15th In Italy
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C.B. (Red) Harper
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RUSSIA - POLTAVA - AND FRANTIC

During World War II the United States was provided three temporary air bases in the Soviet Union. The largest of these was Poltava and was headquarters for the Eastern Flying Command. The purpose of these bases was to serve aircraft of the England based 8th Air Force and the Italian based 15th Air Force when they flew missions deep into Germany and German occupied territory. The concept was designed to provide a place for bombers and fighters to land, refuel and rearm their aircraft in order for them to fly another mission while returning to their home bases; thus these missions became known as shuttle missions.

The negotiations to obtain the three air bases is a story of American effort to initiate collaboration with the Russian leadership and is fraught with frustration, where yes meant maybe and maybe meant nyet, Russian for no. To Stalin every deal with the Aliies was on a tit for tat basis. The Russians couldn’t understand giving without taking. Having granted the Americans air bases in Russia, Stalin demanded an air base in Italy so the Russians could fly to and from their mission to Tito in Yugoslavia. The request was granted but it touched off a problem of establishing a “bomb-line” dividing the Red Air Force and the Mediterranean Army Air Force’s spheres of activity in the Balkans and eventually in Poland.

Three small cities in the Ukraine were chosen for the Allied bases, Poltava,, Mirgorod and Pyratin, all three of which were woefully inadequate. None of the runways were oriented toward the prevailing wind...

Next...Target - Oil Storage and Refineries

Continued...

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