Mount Vesuvius

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March 18-23, 1944 eruption of Italy’s big volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

These photos were taken by Eddie Little of the 489th Bombardment Squadron, the 340th Bombardment Group.  As awful as it was, to put this 1944 eruption into perspective it’s important to note that the volcano’s eruption in 79 A.D. completely buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum with 13-30 FEET of ash as the result of pyroclastic flows (hot gases that run down the slope of a volcano at high speed, killing everything in its path). That event caught many people unaware and the flow’s hot gases killed them where they stood or slept.

Tuskegee Airman Joe Gomer had also mentioned seeing the bright red lava flow when flying over Vesuvius while he was in Italy. He called it, “a beautiful sight.”

The contents of the hot ash cloud it belched out for almost a week did a number on about 80 parked USAAF B-25s from the 340th Bombardment Group at the Pompeii Airfield, not to mention the ash and cinder buildup on everything as it landed and cooled.

The weight of the cinders and ash caused these B-25s to sit back on their tails. Their Plexiglass noses, etc. are covered to try and save them from melting due to the hot cinders falling from the volcano’s ash cloud. Note the ash piled on the ground around the airplanes.

The tail “fabric” was destroyed by the hot ash and cinders from Vesuvius (in background).

The 324th Service Group was brought in to help salvage the bombers. It was a tough job since the ash and cinders were still on the ground around the area and each step raised a cloud of dust.