The SAC and I went to Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend for Uncle Hermie and Aunt Sunny's 70th wedding anniversary and I got to talk with Uncle Hermie a bit more (the whole family had descended of course) and managed to gather a few more details of his training and service as a radio operator on a C-47. He got some basic flight training in a piper cub. The most exciting part of that was when his flight instructor looped it.
He was in the aforementioned 17th Squadron of the 64th Troop Carrier Group, but was assigned to the squadron well after the invasion of Sicily, joining the squad while it was based in France and supporting the invasion of southern France. However, he only spent a few days in France because shortly after he got there, the squad relocated back to their earlier base in Italy.
He told me that only the lead aircraft in each group of five or six had the new Loran navigation equipment, and because it was still secret it needed to be guarded. So each member of his crew (his was the lead aircraft of the group) spent one night in four or five sleeping on board the plane. He wasn't sure how effective this was, though, as one night as he was sleeping on board his C-47 parked next to the runway, a British bomber (they shared the airfield with a British bomber squadron) crashed and exploded on landing, but he slept through the whole thing.
He also told me a bit more about the variety of missions they carried out. While their training was focused on towing gliders, they rarely did that. Instead most of their missions were dropping sticks of paratroopers, often Italian or British, or airdropping supplies to partisans, or picking up wounded from evacuation units for transport to army field hospitals. Once the war was over they were assigned to Austria where they helped liberate an internment camp (several officers surrendered to him personally - resulting in his 'collecting' a luger and a walther 38) and transport the liberated Americans out of Austria.
I also learned the name of his plane: Flak Shi (pronounced Flak Shy).
He enjoyed talking about it, and for me it was a good preparation for Memorial Day.. the day when we remember and honor those who have served in the armed forces.