James Berotti

By Christine Baldwin

James Berotti was born in Italy, but lived his youth on Long Island, NY. He was the middle of three brothers. One brother was in the Army, while the other joined the Navy. James entered the Army Air Corps in 1942 and went to RAF Station in Spanhoe, England. In September 1944 James had the following experience:

James, MSGT Joe Keith and TSGT Charley Peterson went into town to have a few pints of ale, play some games of darts and sing songs. Even though bed checks were done at 11:30 p.m., they weren’t worried about getting back in time. Unfortunately, their name got to the Major’s desk and they were assigned four days of KP. The first two days went well because they could eat well, but they broke a lot of dishes (officers ate on China)! On the 3rd day, a hot mission came up, so KP ended.

On September 17, 1944, James got his airplane ready for a paratroop drop in enemy territory. The 1st mission of the 82nd Airborne Division over Eindoven, Holland, was successful, as was the 2nd using British troops over Nijmegen, Holland. But on September 21st the mission was canceled to Arnhem, Holland, due to bad weather. Unfortunately, James’ group didn’t get the order, so they took off to their target, Arnhem Bridge, which was used to cross the Rhine River into Germany. All of a sudden, their plane was under attack by the Germans and the troopers began to jump prematurely. Once they were all out, the plane began performing evasive actions to dodge the bullets. As James was trying to pull in the static line, a large red streak came out of the right engine. He could hear shells going through the fuselage and he knew they were in trouble. He went to the cockpit and saw that they were only 40-50 feet off the ground, with a forest in front of them. Captain Stevenson, the pilot said “I can’t set her down here, we’re going too fast! I’m going to pull up!” James went back to brace himself for a sure crash. But in a few minutes, the door opened and the radio operator said, “We’re on the ground, Jim.” and ran out. Later the navigator and co-pilot left without saying a word. Even though things were smoky inside the plane, Jim checked the cockpit and found the pilot trying to open the top hatch. He was bleeding and disoriented, so Jim helped him out. What an experience!

James married Marie Aida Allegra June 30, 1946, and they had three children. During his career, he was assigned to the C-124’s, C-133’s and C-5’s. as a flight examiner and engineer. James retired from the Air Force on February 1, 1974, after serving 30 years, 3 months and 17 days. He couldn’t find work right away, so he went to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., where he enjoyed the beaches and the city and even made the Dean’s List! James said they treated him very nicely as a veteran. He had children to support, however, so he quit school and took a job at the Post Office. After all three children made it through college, James took his dear wife and went to Europe for three months. They spent their retirement between St. Augustine, Fla., in the winter and Camden, Delaware, in the summer. While in Delaware, James liked to volunteer at the Retiree Office at Dover AFB. He came to AFRH-W in December 2011.