Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Off to North Africa
President Franklin Roosevelt send my outfit to North Africa to appease Stalin. I soon found out we were expendable. As we entered Oran and turned toward Algiers I saw strange sights, such as camels and men riding jackasses. Then I saw veiled women, in some cases as many as seven, following a man who appeared to be their husband. Finally we rode a 40 and 8 box car (fortymen and eight horses) to Tunisia where we arrived at a primative airbase named Youks les baines. (Place of the bath} This contained an ancient Roman spa in the side of a cliff. We set up a landing strip flanked by 40 P-38 fighter planes. One of the first things I did was to dig a deep trench outside headquarters, which was a cave inside a hill. The Germans had night bombers and they flew over every night looking for us. We turned out all lights and temporarily evaded them. Then one day General Jimmy Doolittle, who had flown over Tokyo and bombed it several months earlier, showed up on our tarmac and taxied up to headquarters. He had a squadron of B-25s based at Maison Blanche airport at Algiers and he flew one of them to our advanced Tunisian base. Aboard with him was the same crew chief who had walked out of China with him. Soon it got dark and the German JU-88s began circling overhead. On top of the hill was a nervous GI with a machine gun. He began firing at the JU-88s. Every third round was the equivalent of a flare and it was like drawing a diagram for the enemy. I heard the bombers change course and I went to Doolittle's plane and told his crew chief I had a bomb shelter. "Oh no thank you, I must remain here as the general may need me at any moment," he replied. I left and dived into my trench and the bombing began almost immediately. The bombs rolled me over in my hole like a squirrel in a cage. Finally the bombing ended and I went out to look. There had been a direct hit on Doolittle's plane and all you could see was a few pieces of the fuselage. The crew chief and most of the plane had been blown apart. All of our fighter planes had been destroyed. Doolittle had survived at headquarters but we had to send him back to Algiers in a jeep. He had beenplanning a mission but there were no fighter planes left to accompany it.