For all its awesome history as a battleground between civilizations, the Middle East did not strike American strategists as an area in which the European war could be expeditiously won. On the other hand, they recognized it as an area in which the global war could be very speedily lost. So, although large-scale U.S. offensives, air or ground, did not figure in the plans for the Middle East (the offensive function against the European Axis being largely reserved for the more convenient United Kingdom base), aid for its British defenders was never stinted.1 In fact, it was the large degree of logistical support afforded the Royal Air Force in the Middle East that finally, in the spring of 1942, brought the decision to commit an American air force there. The difficulties which shortly thereafter beset the British Eighth Army only advanced the date for that air force's appearance.
Section I: The North African Campaigns
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Beginnings of AAF Operations
Crisis in the Middle East
The story of the logistical support begins properly before the U.S. entry into the war, with the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March of 1941.* When in April the British cleared the Italians from the last of their Red Sea ports, the President promptly, on the 11th, proclaimed the area open to American shipping. Already a trickle of Tomahawks (early model P-40's) had begun to reach the Middle East, brought by ship to Takoradi on the Gold Coast for erection and flown across central Africa to Khartoum over a primitive air route pioneered by the British in the thirties. In March the Air Corps had dispatched a few officers and enlisted men to aid in the operation and maintenance of
* For a discussion of policies shaping pre-Pearl Harbor aid to the British and U.S.S.R., see Volume I of this series, pages 126-35.
these planes. Besides aiding the RAF in technical matters, these men supplied Washington with firsthand information on the desert air war. In this endeavor, their efforts were supplemented by manufacturers' representatives who reported on the performance of the various American aircraft already in use by the British.2
The enormous Axis successes in the Mediterranean area during the spring of 1941 made it abundantly clear that the flow of American personnel and supplies to the Middle East would continue and grow. Moreover, the larger role now assumed by air power had swelled by so much the demand for American aircraft. The Germans had rapidly engulfed Yugoslavia and Greece; and in May the German Air Force put on an air show over Crete, in the process badly battering the British fleet. From Sicily the newly arrived GAF dive bombers were performing so earnestly against British naval power that it became an open question as to whether the German Fliegerkorps or Adm. Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham's tars ruled the waters. Since the defense of Egypt, and of the whole eastern Mediterranean, had been predicated in the first instance on sea power (a conception previously validated by the fine handling of the British fleet), the premises upon which the British had waged war in the Mediterranean area were now subject to modification.3
The RAF's severe losses in the Greek campaign had been partially made up by June, when the German invasion of the U.S.S.R. took the heat off the Middle East; but the British still viewed their aircraft situation with misgivings. Rommel's desert army kept the threat to Egypt very much alive; and the British feared that the Axis, operating over its short Mediterranean supply lines, might soon be able to concentrate forces for a blow at Suez. In contrast, the defenders labored under the disadvantage of the long Cape haul; their one direct air route, Gibraltar-Malta-Egypt, was not practicable for short-range fighters, and its bomber and transport traffic was increasingly threatened by the active GAF in Sicily. The Takoradi-Khartoum air route assumed new importance.4
In Washington, late in June 1941, the British began discussions with the Air Corps and lend-lease authorities. They proposed that their central African airway be hooked up with American aircraft factories by a ferry route running from Florida through the Antilles to the hump of Brazil at Natal, thence across the narrows of the South Atlantic to Bathurst in Gambia, to Freetown in Sierra Leone, or to
Monrovia in Liberia. There were difficulties: the limited facilities of the Takoradi-Khartoum leg had been responsible for a good many plane crashes; neutral Brazil's permission had to be obtained for flights across her territory; of the available American flyers, few were qualified to undertake transoceanic operations. But some obstacles were rapidly surmounted. With Brazil's assent, Pan-American Airways, which had already undertaken to deliver twenty transports to the British for service on the trans-African run, created three subsidiaries to carry on a ferrying and air transport service. Funds came mostly from lend-lease. The contracts were signed on 12 August. However, largely because of the shortage of trained pilots, only a few transports had been delivered by October. Late in that month, on the 29th, the President authorized the Air Corps Ferrying Command to deliver aircraft to the Middle East; and after Pearl Harbor it was decided to use Ascension Island as a steppingstone to bring Africa within the range of the light bombers badly needed by the RAF, Middle East.*5
While Pan-Am was surveying its new responsibilities, Americans had become involved at the farther end of the route, extending aid to the RAF, which was engaged in echeloning to the rear some of its repair and supply depots after its Delta installations had been severely damaged by GAF bombings in July and August. Halfway down the Red Sea, Port Sudan had been selected for the erection of deck-loaded Bostons and Havocsþ and crated P-40's, thence to be flown to dispersed storage units near Wadi Halfa and Cairo. The British had decided to fly no more P-40's over the central African route because of the frequency of crashes. Early in September, American technicians and factory representatives arrived to assist the RAF mechanics at Port Sudan.
The RAF was, not unnaturally, handicapped by its lack of familiarity with American aircraft and equipment, even entertaining some prejudice against certain planes on this account. Consequently, factory representatives endeavored to initiate the RAF into the mysteries of American handbooks while U.S. officials undertook to see that the best use be made of lend-lease materiel. Brig. Gen. Ralph Royce, a member of the Harriman mission which visited the Middle East in June of 1941 and Maj. Gen. George Brett, who surveyed the situation in the fall, both advised that greater control over U.S. personnel and installations
* For a fuller discussion, see Vol. I, 319-28.
would enhance their efficiency. These recommendations were observed in the establishment of the depot at Gura in Eritrea. Gura, designed to overhaul all types of American engines and planes currently in use in the Middle East, grew out of a British request in the summer of I 941. By a contract signed in December, the Douglas Aircraft Company undertook to operate the depot on lend-lease funds. Gura utilized an old Caproni assembly plant and an airfield near Massaua; it was expected to be in operation by April 1942.6
By mid-1941, the growing numbers and diverse activities of American military personnel in the Middle East, and the certainty that more personnel would be sent, called for a new administrative agency. On 27 September, in accordance with an earlier presidential directive, the War Department created the United States Military North African Mission. Brig. Gen. Russell L. Maxwell was charged, in instructions issued on 21 October, with establishing and operating supply, maintenance, and training facilities for the British or other friendly forces in his area. Over the ensuing months, he would also supervise and control the activities of American companies under contract to the British. Brig. Gen. Elmer E. Adler was appointed chief of the mission's important air section. Adler was to have the additional task of advising, on technical aircraft matters, the United States Military Iranian Mission, which, under Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler, was preparing to enter Iran to help open a southern supply route to the USSR.7
In flying out the members of the Maxwell group, the Air Corps Ferrying Command took the initial action for establishment of a regular transport service to Cairo, Adler leaving on the first plane on 14 November.* Maxwell arrived via Pearl Harbor, India, and Iraq on 22 November. Little time passed before the shock of Pearl Harbor, and with the subsequent Italian and German declarations of war, the mission found itself aiding not a potential but an actual ally. With this new status of affairs, there inevitably rose the question of deploying U.S. combat units in the Middle East.8
The Washington air planners had already considered the area. AWPD-1,þ proposed in September 1941, envisioned Egypt-based B-29's adding their weight to an ambitious bomber offensive against industrial Germany. But the choice of Egypt did not arise out of any strong conviction of its value as a strategic area. The planners' information
* See Vol. I, 326-27.þ For a full discussion of this basic air war plan, see Vol. I, 131-32, 145-50.
suggested that the United Kingdom air base might become overcrowded, and Egypt was the only location available for the overflow-for the balance of the force calculated as necessary to weaken fatally the German war potential. The plan had no relation to the war in the Middle East, except that it assumed the possession of the area by friendly powers.
Following Pearl Harbor, when the American and British staffs met in Washington to lay the basic strategies which were to govern the conduct of the war, they designated the Middle East an area of British responsibility and suggested that because of its distance from the seats of enemy power the as yet weak United Nations' forces might there engage the Axis on comparatively favorable terms. But the ARCADIA conference came up with no specific recommendation for the early deployment of U.S. troops in the Middle East: first call for available forces went to previous commitments in the Atlantic and to the emergency born of Japanese successes in the Pacific.*
One thing was evident enough: the Middle East had become as important to American communications as it had traditionally been to British imperial communications. The loss of Guam and Wake, in December 1941, had prevented the reinforcement of the Philippines via those islands. The air route employing the island ladder between Hawaii and Australia inaugurated by three B-17's in January 1942 was still in the stage of feverish development. By reversing Columbus' principle it was possible, however, to reach the Indies by flying east. Brett had already flown from Bolling Field, D.C., through the Middle East to Basra at the head of the Persian Gulf. The air route was now extended across Iran and India for delivery of supplies and planes to Java and Burma.
A good part of the Middle East's efforts in early 1942 was absorbed in bolstering the defenses of the Far East, breached by the February disasters at Singapore and in Java and by the menacing Japanese move into Burma. Late in February, Wheeler was ordered to India to develop the port of Karachi. The U.S. Tenth Air Force had been established in India by early March under Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, who immediately requested that Adler be assigned to head his air service command, but Adler did not arrive in India until 26 April.9 With the closing of the lower portion of the Burma Road in the first week of March, an air route from Burma to China became a necessity, and when it was
* For a discussion of the ARCADIA conference, see Vol. I, 237-45.
inaugurated in April Pan-Am's trans-African run lent ten DC-3's.10 The Combined Chiefs had already recognized the de facto interdependence of the China-Burma-India theater and the Middle East.11 If, so far, the CBI had been mostly favored by this association, it was soon to pay its debts.
Meanwhile, the British had been pressing for the dispatch of an American air force to the Middle East, and a number of tentative plans had been drawn in Washington. In response to a January request by Sir Charles Portal, British Chief of Air Staff, Task Force CAIRO was set up, on paper: two groups of pursuit for June 1942 commitment. A little later the AAF opposed augmenting the proposed task force by one heavy bombardment group on the ground that any heavy groups would have to come out of commitments to the United Kingdom. But by mid-March--Portal having made another plea--the problem of air reinforcements for Egypt was being approached from a different angle. It was thought that from the American production allotted them the British might furnish American aircraft types at Cairo; the AAF would furnish personnel. Under this plan the AAF hoped that two medium, one light, and two pursuit groups could be provided at an indefinite future date.12
Advent of USAMEAF
The decisive step was taken in conversations which General Arnold and Rear Adm. John H. Towers opened on 26 May with the RAF in London, conversations which resulted in recommendations as to the allocation of aircraft among the several United Nations. Middle East allocations proved a thorny question in these discussions. The AAF was faced with alternatives, neither of which it relished. Either it could acquiesce in the Middle East's swallowing up large quantities of aircraft and stores to maintain an RAF which had built up its force to a considerable extent with American equipment or it could send its own combat units, replacing altogether an equivalent RAF strength and utilizing aircraft previously allotted to the British. With the growing output of the AAF's training establishment, the latter course was finally chosen, in deference to the principle that if powerful U.S. air forces were to be developed every appropriate American aircraft should be manned and fought by a U.S. crew. By 30 May, nine groups had been tentatively agreed upon for the Middle East: one heavy group complete by 1 October 1942; two medium groups complete by 1 March 1943;
six pursuit groups, two available in the theater by September 1942, two by December 1942, and two by April 1943.*13
Developments since Pearl Harbor had furnished fresh evidence of the importance of air power in the Middle East. In Libya, where the Axis armies were almost totally dependent on sea transportation for their sustenance, secure sea communications were a primary requisite for success. The ably led British Mediterranean Fleet had almost cut off Graziani's supplies at one point in 1940, but of late its surface operations had been greatly circumscribed by the Luftwaffe. However, British submarine and air forces working from Malta and Egypt had been able to redress the balance, so much so that when Rommel began his comeback from El Agheila in January 1942 he started with three days' rations and subsisted mainly on British stores in his drive to the Egyptian frontier. Before supplies could be accumulated for another effort in the desert, the Axis found it necessary to neutralize Malta's air and naval bases and mounted a scale of air attack on the island which cost dearly in Axis aircraft but paid off in cargoes for Rommel. The enemy was also meditating an amphibious assault permanently to remove the island's threat. As Malta inevitably lost some of its effectiveness, Egypt-based planes and submarines were forced to greater efforts.14 Not only was additional air strength badly needed by the British in the spring of 1942 but because of the long flights necessary to interrupt the Axis sea communications, heavy bombers were particularly prized. Brett had thought B-24's especially suitable for the theater; Col. Bonner Fellers, the U.S. military attaché at Cairo, believed that the big planes could control the shipping in the Mediterranean;15 that the British appreciated their value can be seen from the repeated attempts they made to persuade the United States to send a heavy group to the Middle East.
As it turned out, the debut of U.S. heavy bombers in the Middle East was prompted by other circumstances: a combination of Japanese success in Burma and the American desire to render all possible aid to the U.S.S.R. The bombers were B-24's of the Halverson Detachment, a prize example of a unit pulled hither and yon by the alarms and crises of early 1942.þ The unit was originally set up under the code name HOLPRO and trained in the greatest secrecy for the bombing of Tokyo out of Chinese bases, with the proviso that its employment would depend on the global strategic situation which would
* See below, p. 14.
þ See Vol. I, 341-42, 493.
obtain when the unit was ready for commitment. When that time arrived, in mid-May, the deteriorating situation in Burma rendered unlikely the prospect that the B-24's could be logistically supported in China. General Marshall then secured the President's approval to divert the aircraft to Egypt for a surprise raid on the Ploesti oil refineries, an enterprise designed to put a spoke in the wheel of the summer drive the Germans were preparing against the U.S.S.R. Negotiations were set in motion to obtain the use of landing grounds in the Caucasus (the Soviet approval came too late to be of any use) and two AAF officers were rushed to Cairo for liaison between Col. Harry A. Halverson and headquarters of RAF, Middle East. The detachment was instructed to proceed to Khartoum and await orders. When the orders came, they directed Halverson to the Delta for the Ploesti mission, and, because of the full-blown emergency which quickly developed in the Middle East, his bombers were fated to remain there.16
The RAF made available a plan, on which it had been working for two years, which involved flying via the Aegean, rendezvousing near the target at daybreak for a formation attack, and returning to Egypt over the same route. Halverson, however, whose command constituted an independent task force, finally decided to return to Habbaniyeh in Iraq despite the hazard of violating Turkish neutrality. Late in the evening of 11 June, then, thirteen B-24D's took off singly from Fayid, an RAF field near the Canal; twelve proceeded individually to the target, which they reached and bombed at dawn through and below an overcast at about 10,000 feet. Only four of the returning aircraft made Habbaniyeh; three others got down at other Iraq fields, and two put in at Aleppo. Four B-24's were interned in Turkey, and the heavy loss-another B-24 had crash-landed-contrasted with the negligible damage sustained by the oil installations. Probably the most favorable aspect of the raid was the impression the big bombers produced on the intensely interested citizens of Ankara.17
Despite its modest results, this strike of 12 June was as significant in its way as any the AAF had flown in the six months since Pearl Harbor. It was the first American mission in World War II to be leveled against a strategic target, if the Tokyo raid be excepted. It struck at an objective which later would become a favored target for American bombers. It was the first blow at a target system whose dislocation contributed mightily to the final German collapse. It was the first mission by what later came to be known as the Ninth Air Force.
In June 1942 the British in the Middle East underwent another of their recurrent crises, the gravest and the last they were to sustain. If a year before it generally had been considered that only the requirements of Hitler's drive into the U.S.S.R. had saved Egypt, this time seasoned military observers conceded its possible loss. On 12 and 13 June, just after Halverson's planes had carried out the Ploesti mission, the battle which had been raging for two indecisive weeks in Libya took a turn for the worse. Rommel succeeded in luring Maj. Gen. Neil Ritchie's numerically superior Eighth Army into a tank trap in the Knightsbridge area, the "Cauldron" of sad memory. In the Cauldron 230 British tanks were destroyed.18
While their desert army staggered under its appalling tank losses, the British were anxiously watching the progress of one of their periodic provisioning expeditions to Malta. The island had been in receipt of a savage Luftwaffe blitz (an invasion, for which a German parachute division was being prepared, had been scheduled to follow Rommel's blow at the Eighth Army). The blitz had all but knocked out the RAF fighter defenses, forced the Royal Navy to abandon Valetta as a base for surface units, and somewhat lessened the worries of Rommel's quartermaster.19
Passing ships through to Malta was at best a perilous enterprise; and in hopes of forcing a division of enemy efforts the British had decided on a large operation involving two convoys, one from the east and one from the west, to berth at Malta within twenty-four hours of each other. The convoy westward from Egypt faced the grimmer prospect because it was liable to a greater weight of air attack-from Crete, Libya, and Sicily; the danger here had, moreover, increased, since the RAF no longer held fighter airfields on the Cyrenaican hump. The British chiefs of staff were unhappily convinced that the Axis knew all about the projected blockade run and was preparing a warm reception. Thus, when Halverson's long-range bombers made their appearance in the Levant, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, the air officer commanding Middle East, perceiving their value in the event of a sortie by the Italian fleet, requested through British channels their assistance in fighting through the convoy. After some hesitation the War Department approved on 10 June, just before the Ploesti mission.20
Convoy A passed eastward through Gibraltar on 13 June, took its losses, and came into Malta on the 16th. Convoy B, westward from Egypt, had been in motion three days when, on 15 June, seven of
Halverson's B-24's and two Liberators of 160 Squadron, RAF, were ordered out with torpedo-carrying Beauforts against the Italian fleet, which had now put to sea. Locating the fleet, the Beauforts sank a cruiser, and five of the USAAF planes bombed, claiming hits on a Littorio-class battleship and a Trento-class cruiser. Had their British bombs been heavier (2,000-pounders instead of 500-pounders) the damage might have been crippling; as it was the fleet did not reduce speed. According to the RAF, however, the damage inflicted by the Beauforts and the B-24's kept two battleships in dock for the ensuing three months. Returning to base at minimum altitude, the bomber formation encountered and shot down an Me-110, achieving the first aerial victory in which Americans had participated in the Middle East. Convoy B, however, was forced to turn back, its ammunition expended fighting off repeated air attacks.21
The Delta and Related Areas
Because of the difficulties which HOLPRO as an independent task force had posed in combined operations with the British,22 on 16 June General Maxwell suggested to Washington that Halverson be instructed to report to him as chief of the North African mission.23 The War Department, for its part, had been planning for some time to
appoint Maxwell commander of a U.S. Middle Eastern theater with boundaries coterminous with those of the British Middle East Command-a measure calculated to establish unified control over the bulk of the Army activities in the area.24 In fact, by the 16th, a letter had been prepared relieving Maxwell of his mission command and designating him commanding general of U.S. Army Forces in the Middle East (USAFIME). The cable which went out on the 17th to advise him of his new status also informed him that the Halverson Detachment had been directed to assemble in the vicinity of Cairo and report to him, the news of the attack on the Italian fleet having evidently convinced the War Department that, for the time being at least, the B-24's would be most useful in the Middle East.25 On 19 June, Maxwell formally assumed command of USAFIME. He was given to understand, however, that if the parlous situation in the Middle East necessitated the sending of an American ground-air task force, its commander would also command USAFIME.26
Maxwell was still pondering his sudden elevation and new responsibilities when the British suffered fresh disasters. Gen. Sir Claude Auchinleck had had no intention of allowing any part of his forces to be shut up in Tobruk, but enemy successes on its flank finally isolated the fortress. Nevertheless, ninety-day provisions for a garrison of over 25,000 were stored behind the port's fortifications. With Tobruk constricting Rommel's supplies, the Eighth Army could stand in the strong frontier positions at Sollum and Halfaya Pass, and before ninety days it could expect to be back. Rommel overwhelmed Tobruk on a single day, 20 June, and what had been a limited drive in the desert became an all-out attempt on Suez.27
On 17 June, Churchill had left England for the United States and another of the periodic war conferences. As he afterward admitted to Commons, at the time of his departure neither he nor Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, had been made fully aware of the disaster befallen the Eighth Army at Knightsbridge. Once in Washington and apprised of the danger, Churchill made a powerful plea for American military aid, and especially air aid. His sentiments were seconded by urgent messages from Colonel Fellers warning that only the employment of Axis energies elsewhere had so far saved the Middle East. Should the enemy immediately take the offensive, the only assistance that could be provided in time would be that of the heavy bombers.28
The American Joint Chiefs, who were interested in husbanding their resources for decisive air and amphibious actions in western Europe in 1943, were thus presented with a dilemma. To lose the Middle East meant to lose the southern supply routes to the U.S.S.R. and the main air ferry route to India. India itself would be rendered difficult, if not impossible, to defend, and the life line to China would be correspondingly endangered. Loss of the oil wells in Iraq and Iran would be a most severe blow, tantamount to cessation of Allied air and naval activity in the Indian Ocean. The economic gain to the Axis, although admittedly substantial, would not be so great as the economic and strategic loss to the Allies. And the key to the Middle East was Egypt: the best hostile avenue to the Persian Gulf, the Allied base most convenient for reinforcing any threatened part of the Middle Eastern area.29
Despite the vigor of the Prime Minister's demands, the Americans succeeded in the end in restricting their troop commitments to Air Corps units, although for a short time it was planned to send an armored division under Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and generous amounts of materiel continued to flow to the Middle East.30 Especially useful for the desert war were the new Sherman tanks for, as an English observer put it, at that date in the war the British had still not produced a tank capable of taking on the Panzers on even approximately equal terms.31
The Air Corps' commitments were set forth in the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement, signed on 21 June and approved by the U.S. Joint Chiefs on the 25th.* As agreed in London in May, nine combat groups were to go to the Middle East; but the dates for their commitment were advanced, and in contrast with other earlier paper commitments the Combined Chiefs bent every effort to get the units in motion. A group of heavies was to be at full strength in the theater by October 1942, one group of mediums operational in the theater by September and another by the end of the year. Six groups of pursuits were to be sent on the following schedule: one by 1 September 1942, one by 1 October, two by 1 January 1943, and two more by 1 April. On 27 June, The Adjutant General gave Maxwell somewhat more detailed information on the tentative build-up of the air force for his theater. Besides the groups listed above, there were "on order" headquarters units for an air force, a fighter command, and an air service command.
* For full detail, see Vol. I, 566-70.
The air service command would comprise two air depot groups, sailing in September 1942 and March 1943, and five service groups, one each moving in July and October 1942, two in December, and the last in March 1943.32 These USAAF units were understood to be in lieu of RAF units which otherwise would have gone to the Middle East.
As always, the chief difficulty in deploying these units consisted in finding shipping for them without deranging other approved military movements, such as the BOLERO concentration of US. forces in the United Kingdom which at this time took precedence over the various global commitments. By 25 June some progress had been made: Admiral King had approved the use of the aircraft carrier Ranger to ferry P-40'S to Takoradi, whence they could be flown by their pilots over the established route across central Africa and by way of Khartoum to Cairo; the British had agreed to the use of the S.S. Pasteur, a fast 22-knot personnel ship, to bring 4,000 Air Corps troops into Egypt. Since the initial AAF combat groups were to go minus maintenance units, the Air Ministry had already advised Tedder that British maintenance personnel would have to be provided.33
For more immediate aid to the hard pressed British, the War Department turned to India. Fellers had previously recommended that the CBI furnish heavy bombers for the Middle East. In his opinion, if the Middle East went, so went India; the converse, which he alleged to be the British strategic emphasis, he regarded as untrue. The War Department may have shared his views, or reasoned that the imminent monsoon season would ground the CBI bombers. At any rate, on 23 June a message went out to Brereton, ordering him to Egypt on temporary duty to assist Auchinleck. Brereton was to take with him such heavy bombers as he could muster. On arrival he was to make use of Maxwell's headquarters for liaison and coordination with the British; and eventually, when the emergency had passed, he would return to India. General Stilwell was so advised. Brereton interrupted a staff meeting at New Delhi to read the cable ordering him to Egypt. He combed from his by no means redoubtable air force nine B-17's of the 9th Bombardment Squadron; "near cripples,'' they were described. Two days later he left India. Altogether 225 men flew in his party, in bombers and transports, prominent among them Adler and Col. Victor H. Strahm.34
On 2 8 June, upon Brereton's arrival at Cairo, Maxwell's headquarters issued orders placing him in command of the U.S. Army Middle East
Air Force, comprising the Halverson Detachment, the Brereton Detachment, and the air section of the North African mission. Brereton then activated the USAMEAF in his first general order.35 Subordination to Maxwell came as an unexpected shock to Brereton, whose instructions were merely to use Maxwell's headquarters for liaison arid coordination with the British. Brereton's initial reaction to USAFIME was that it was an extra and unnecessary link in the chain of command, likely to cumber relations with the British and, consequently, his combat operations-a link, moreover, presided over by a ground officer junior to him. Whatever initial coolness this situation caused between the generals soon gave way to cordial relations which endured throughout Maxwell's tenure as theater commander, a tenure which from the outset was understood to be temporary.36 Also activated on 28 June was the Air Service Command, USAMEAF, of which Adler assumed command. Adler's chief immediate duties were to see that requests for supplies and equipment went to appropriate RAF elements, for no service units or Air Corps supply existed in his command.37
Brereton's initial force was small, but in the former air section of the North African mission he gained the services of a number of men quite familiar with the tactical and logistical problems of the Middle East. The help earlier extended to the British was paying dividends. At Gura was a depot for the repair of American aircraft. Moreover, the North African mission had turned to account its observations of the Mediterranean war by laying plans for the advent of an American air force, a development its members had considered only a matter of time.38
Furthermore, in its formative days USAMEAF could lean on the RAF, Middle East, a fine fighting force destined to pass on to Brereton's command, and eventually to the whole Army Air Forces, lessons it had learned in the stern school of experience. Except for its hopeless struggle in the Greek and Cretan campaigns, the RAF, ME had consistently maintained an ascendancy over its Italian and German opponents. In June 1942, at the moment when USAAF reinforcements were being rushed to the defense of the Delta, the RAF was carrying out a furious offensive against the Axis columns rolling into Egypt. When the military observers had the leisure to study the campaign, they concluded that the RAF's unprecedented offensive protecting the retreat of the Eighth Army had prevented that retreat from becoming a rout. The army might not have stopped at El Alamein.39
Under Tedder there were a number of principal subcommands. Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, as the commander of the Western Desert Air Force, had the primary responsibility of cooperating with Eighth Army headquarters. Air Headquarters, Egypt, defended the army's lines of communication, the Canal, and the cities of the Delta, while Air Headquarters, Malta, operated the RAF squadrons in that beleaguered isle. No. 201 Group cooperated with the Royal Navy on such matters as air protection for friendly shipping, reconnaissance of and strikes against Axis shipping, and antisubmarine patrols. No. 205 Group operated what heavy and medium bomber squadrons the RAF possessed. It should be mentioned that there was no unified British command in the Middle East. Tedder as air officer commanding in chief enjoyed a coequal status with the army and navy commanders in chief, at that time General Auchinleck and Adm. Sir Henry Harwood.40
While Brereton had been stripping India of bombers preparatory to departure for the Middle East, the Halverson Detachment, as the only AAF combat unit in Egypt, was adding what weight it could to the efforts to stop the drive on Suez. As ordered by Washington, it worked under the operational direction of the RAF (No. 205 Group), and it struck at the harbors serving Rommel. Halverson had hoped to go on to China, but the War Department, after consideration of the situation in Burma, ordered him to stay on in the Middle East, once again "temporarily." On the night of 21/22 June, nine of the B-24's raided Bengasi harbor after British Wellingtons had lit the target with flares and incendiaries. Three nights later the mission was repeated; after this raid Bengasi passed out of range of the Wellingtons as the progress of the Axis armies forced the RAF successively closer to the Delta fields. Tobruk was added to the list of the detachment's targets on the 26th when a diversion was flown by the B-24's for an Albacore attack on two merchant vessels.41
At the end of June, when USAMEAF was set up, the British were feverishly preparing the defense of the Delta. Auchinleck had sent posthaste to Syria and Lebanon for the British Ninth Army's only effective units. If he could hold until the reinforcements coming from England by the Good Hope route could reach him, he might not only save Egypt but the Eighth Army might eventually once again pass over to the offensive. But it was with no thought of an immediate offensive that Auchinleck took over personal command of the Eighth. By
1 July he had dug in at El Alamein on a thirty-two-mile line stretching from the sea to the Qattara Depression, the desert's last good defensive position. By 3 July the heavy units of the British fleet had withdrawn through the Canal to the upper reaches of the Red Sea, and a general civilian and military exodus from Egypt had begun. Brereton and Maxwell were perfecting plans to fall back with their heavy bombers toward the Persian Gulf area, in case the Eighth Army were destroyed.42
Brereton had already on 30 June sent his B-17's to Lydda in Palestine, but the Halverson Detachment stayed on at Fayid until 16 July. Both units operated directly against Rommel's supplies, which were becoming increasingly inadequate owing to the normal difficulties of administration under conditions of mobile warfare and to the considerable distance separating Tobruk, the nearest major port, from the battle line at Alamein. Between 26 June and 5 July, nine missions were flown, all but one against Tobruk. The B-17's of the 9th Squadron participated in two attacks, one by night, and the B-24's, sometimes in company with the RAF's Liberator squadron, also operated both by day and by night. All missions were, by later standards, on an extremely small scale, no more than ten American bombers setting out on any single occasion; moreover, available records do not give any detailed estimate of the damage inflicted. Generally speaking, the opposition, either by AA or intercepting fighters, was not very effective. One B-24 failed to return from a mission on the night of 29/30 June, during which an enemy night fighter appeared, but no connection was established between these events and the crewmen were simply put down as missing. The only attack not directed against Tobruk was carried out after dark against an enemy convoy and succeeded in firing a tanker.43
The immediate threat to Egypt subsided in a series of stubborn battles on the Alamein line in which the initiative gradually passed to the Eighth Army. The Axis units had been pushed to the limit of endurance in their career into Egypt, while the Eighth Army had fallen back on strength. Moreover, the RAF, despite the necessities of successive retreats, continued to best the GAF and the IAF and to harass the weary enemy ground forces. The RAF bag of Stukas was particularly comforting during these operations. Although stalemate had been reached on the Alamein line by the end of the first week in July, not until the end of the month did the opposing armies accept the situation and settle down for rest while awaiting reinforcement.44
For the war in the Western Desert there were what may be called, for convenience, primary and secondary lines of supply. The primary lines were the water routes over which the sinews of war moved to the African ports. The secondary supply lines extended from the ports of entry to the front. In the first category the Axis always had the advantage of the short haul across the Mediterranean. Because the Mediterranean was closed to the Americans and the British, their haul was, on the other hand, of fantastic length--it is 13,000 miles from England to the Suez via the Good Hope route--and, although this supply line was never seriously endangered by air or submarine attack, it imposed an almost intolerable strain on Allied shipping resources. In one particular, however, the Allies had the advantage--their proximity to the oil refineries in Iraq. From Bahrein and Abadan came 100-octane gas.
The Tide Turns
When the battle line was stabilized at El Alamein, the secondary lines of supply began heavily to favor the British; the Suez depots, if anything, were a little too close to the front. Rommel, on the contrary, had overextended himself: he was relying largely on British supplies captured during his advance; his nearest port of any size lay at Tobruk, 350 miles to the rear. He controlled as well, of course, Matruh's small harbor, 150 miles back, and Bengasi, 600 miles away. If the enemy powers could have supplied and fueled a large air force and wrested air superiority from the RAF, they might have, with bomb and aerial mine, severely impaired the flow of Allied supplies at Suez. In the nature of the case the Axis could do neither, and its own supply line began to fail under air and sea attack.
The main Axis shipping routes to North Africa gave Malta a wide berth. One route was as follows: leaving Naples the ships made for Palermo, skirted Sicily's western tip, ran for Cap Bon, kept close inshore along Tunisia and Tripolitania to Tripoli; from there they might hug shore to Bengasi or undertake to dash across the Gulf of Sirte. Smaller craft then crept on to Tobruk, Derna, or Matruh. Alternately, ships out of Naples could proceed by way of the Strait of Messina and the heel of Italy and join the route leading from Brindisi and Taranto along the Greek coast and thence across to Tobruk. A variation of this eastern route involved a passage through the Corinth Canal and a stopover at Crete.
Convoys plying these lanes were given aerial as well as naval protection. On the southward runs from Greece and Crete the Germans provided day-fighter escort, Me-109's or 110's from both Libya and Crete, the Me-110's carrying antisubmarine bombs and depth charges which they jettisoned on approach of hostile aircraft. During the summer of 1942, the enemy introduced a new feature to ease his maintenance problem at Alamein--tank landing craft (F-boats) which sailed in convoy from Tobruk to Matruh. But after some experimentation the RAF found a method of attacking the heavily armed F-boat which forced the enemy pretty largely back on road and rail transportation for moving supplies east of Tobruk.
An incessant campaign against enemy provisioning was carried out by airplanes and submarines based on Malta and in Egypt, the importance of the Delta gaining as the recurrent blitzes hindered Malta's operations. The RAF's Egypt-based 201 Group had been formed in September 1941 in anticipation of the attempted neutralization of Malta, and with the cooperation of 205 Group, of Air Headquarters, Western Desert, and of the newly arrived USAAF the battle went on unabated during the critical summer months of 1942, with special attention being paid to tankers. The Americans began to take their heavy bombers not only to Tobruk, Bengasi, and Matruh but to Navarino Bay in the Peloponnesus and Suda Bay off northern Crete, assembly points for convoys, and to places as distant as the Corinth Canal.45
On 20 July, the Brereton and Halverson detachments at Lydda, previously given squadron designations, were organized under Halverson's command as the 1st Provisional Group. Their combined strength was not impressive, being reported by Brereton as nineteen B-24's and nine B-17's, of which on 19 July seven and three, respectively, were operationally fit. At this point, however, the promised reinforcements began to arrive from the States, the air echelon of the 344th Squadron of the 98th Group (B-24's) coming into Ramat David, Palestine, on the 25th. By 7 August the complete group was in the Holy Land under Col. Hugo P. Rush, two squadrons apiece at Ramat David and St. Jean d'Acre. The 98th carried with it enough small spare parts for the anticipated period before its ground echelon would arrive, a wise precaution considering the limited facilities of USAMEAF Air Service Command.
For targets westward of Egypt it was normal course for USAMEAF's
heavies, which received their mission orders and plans from 205 Group, to stage through Fayid where the briefing was accomplished and whence the bombers took off for Tobruk or Bengasi. Unfortunately, communications were not too efficient and the necessary warning orders were not always early enough for the American commanders in Palestine. This problem led to the establishment of a small operational staff at Fayid and of Maj. Alfred F. Kalberer as liaison officer with 205 Group at Ismailia.46 Malta and Egypt sent out the photoreconnaissance Spitfires and 205 Group determined the targets. From 5 July to 30 August the American planes carried out an average of five missions a week, working by day in the excellent Mediterranean summer weather or going out on night strikes with the RAF. The B-17's, unable to reach Bengasi harbor from Fayid, concentrated their efforts on Tobruk, which as Rommel's most important depot attracted the greater share of the combined bomber effort. Attacks on convoys at sea or in Greek waters accounted for about a third of all the USAAF heavy bomber missions. On the night of 5 July, however, the Hal Squadron, the redesignated Halverson Detachment, struck at Bengasi and caused a terrific explosion, thought to represent a hit on an ammunition ship in the harbor.
Four days later, on an unsuccessful hunt for a convoy, six of Hal Squadron's B-24's were attacked by four Me-109's; two of the fighters were shot down, but a B-24 and crew were also lost. When convoys were engaged, however, the results were often excellent: on 22 July, Hal Squadron hit two ships in Suda Bay; on the 27th it hit two more in the open sea; on the 30th a merchantman in Navarino Bay took a bomb. RAF reconnaissance confirmed that as the result of an attack on 1 August a 10,000-ton tanker, one of a class supplying the bulk of Rommel's oil and gas, went to the bottom. On 21 August nine B-24's from two squadrons of the 98th Group engaged a convoy just southwest of Crete; two more merchant ships were scored as probably sunk. Two Me-110's and an Me-109 attacked the bombers and forced one B-24, which was straggling, to come down in the sea. Three days later an unsuccessful attack was made on the Corinth Canal. The damage inflicted on Tobruk or Bengasi by any single attack during this period is hard to evaluate.47
Although USAMEAF operations proceeded on a modest scale, they demonstrated the larger fact that the Middle East was an area in which the employment of heavy bombers was peculiarly lucrative. Brereton
made this the central theme in his first strategic estimate, dispatched home by cable on 5 August, after he had found time to study the general character of the Middle Eastern war.48 He indicated three major objectives for the Allied air forces: to assist the destruction of Rommel by direct and indirect air support to ground troops; to secure the sea and air communications on and over the Mediterranean; to carry out a sustained air offensive against Italy and the vital oil installations at Ploesti and in the Caucasus, should the latter fall into Axis hands.
Brereton believed additional bombardment aircraft necessary before the Eighth Army could take the offensive with good prospect of success. He asked, therefore, in order to meet this first requirement, that the established schedule of USAAF units for the Middle East be revised to permit the sending of the units "at the earliest possible date"; and that two heavy groups, preferably B-24's, and two light or medium groups, preferably dive bombers, be added to the Middle East commitment and dispatched "immediately." These aircraft were to be used for direct action against the Axis army, against the desert-based GAF and IAF, and for "indirect support" against ports and sea lanes.
The attack on the ports and sea lanes would forward the second objective: securing the sea and air communications in the Mediterranean. Brereton pointed out that Malta, formerly the best base for interfering with enemy convoys, had seen its effectiveness restricted by repeated bombing attacks; nor was the British surface fleet in any condition to interfere. The bombardment aircraft based on Palestine or Egypt was the only available weapon to fill the gap. Therefore, to accomplish this second objective, Brereton asked for two additional heavy groups and two torpedo-carrying dive-bomber groups over and above the current commitments to USAMEAF. He reminded the War Department that Mediterranean weather was favorable to air operations, that airdromes were easily constructed and airdrome space presented no problem, and that enemy defense against air attack was weaker than in northwestern Europe. Moreover, the British were prepared to furnish initial maintenance for USAAF groups moving by air.
If the Eighth Army could defeat Rommel and thereby secure Cyrenaica's airdrome sites, the sustained air offensive against Italy, Ploesti, and other strategic targets (objective number three) could become a reality. Malta would be more easily supplied and her offensive capabilities revived. Then a heavy bomber offensive based on Malta and
Cyprus would bring all of Italy, and the Balkans south of Bucharest-Budapest, within range; if combined with an air offensive out of England against Germany, the result might be to knock Italy out of the war. Two more heavy groups would be necessary for this phase.
Brereton believed the strategic opportunity so great-the Mediterranean could be opened in the sequence of these operations-that diversions from other theaters were justified to find the ten groups necessary. "Nibbling" at such vital targets only gave the enemy time to prepare his defenses.
Others besides Brereton--and besides Maxwell and the British chiefs in the Middle East by whom his strategic estimate had been approved--thought the time ripe for a blow to open the Mediterranean, although their thinking was not so much influenced by the realization of a strategic opportunity at hand as by the seeming imminence of a defeat of catastrophic proportions. The Germans and their puppet armies on the eastern front had devoted July of 1942 to clearing the Soviet forces almost entirely out of the Don bend. The next Axis move obviously would be towards the Volga and the oil-rich Caucasus-the land bridge to Asia. Loss of the Caucasus might not put the U.S.S.R. altogether out of the war, but it would imperil the vital Persian Gulf area and endanger Egypt and the lands between. These possibilities seemed to put flesh on the nightmare of Allied strategists, the junction of European and Asiatic enemies on the shores of the Indian Ocean. That Germany and Japan had no such plans for a coordinated strategy was not then known to the Allies.49
The deteriorating situation on the eastern front occasioned a major revision in Allied strategy. By August the American and British governments had decided to mount in 1942 Operation TORCH,* landings on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Northwest Africa, as the most practicable means of relieving the pressure on the U.S.S.R. and of removing the menace of Rommel from Egypt. TORCH was to be coordinated with a renewed offensive by the Eighth Army. It replaced ROUNDUP, the landing in France projected for the spring of 1943.
By these circumstances the Mediterranean achieved a higher relative importance as a theater of war. Hence, it might have been reasonable to expect that Brereton's plea would have found favorþ and that
* See below, pp. 46-47.
þ Brereton probably was not aware of TORCH when he dispatched his strategic estimate.
USAAF forces in the Middle East would be reinforced for the coming operations. But just prior to the receipt of Brereton's cable the Joint Chiefs had successfully resisted a similar suggestion from a higher quarter. On the evening of 30 July, General Arnold had received a summons to the White House. He found there with the President, Adm. William D. Leahy, Brig. Gen. W. Bedell Smith, and Colonel Fellers, the last just back from Cairo. Fellers had delivered a very pessimistic report on the British ability to hold the Nile. On the President's querying as to what the United States could do to help, Fellers had indicated aerial reinforcements as the most practicable form of aid. These planes, explained Fellers, would operate against Rommel's supply line. Arnold commented that substantial reinforcements were already on the way to Egypt and that any further reinforcements to the area would injure the Eighth Air Force, TORCH, or the Pacific theaters. The President nonetheless desired that the Joint Chiefs look into the matter.
On 1 August the AAF, in a memorandum to the Operations Division of the War Department, set forth existing air commitments to the Middle East and suggested paring down allocations to the Caribbean as the most suitable means of providing reinforcements for USAMEAF. According to General Arnold, the question of Middle East reinforcements was taken under advisement by the Joint Chiefs as early as 3 August, two days before Brereton's strategic estimate was dispatched. The upshot of their deliberations was that USAAF aid to the Eighth Army could be best accomplished by speeding up the movement of units already allocated to USAMEAF--admittedly a limited solution.
Thus when the reply to Brereton's request for reinforcements went out to Cairo on 8 August it indicated that "because of other important projects" it was not "probable" that his air force could be increased beyond the present commitments. TORCH had clearly become the No. 1 project on the Allied agenda, and although the Middle East shortly received a priority in shipping second only to TORCH it was soon to become evident that with the limited Allied resources only the No. 1 priority was really comfortable.50
This was borne out by diversions shortly inflicted on USAMEAF. It was generally understood that Brereton's command would be redesignated as the Ninth Air Force and, as promised in June, the AAF was training headquarters units for an air force, a fighter command, and an
air service command. In August these units ran afoul of the needs of the new Twelfth Air Force being set up for TORCH, were diverted, redesignated, rushed to England, and eventually landed at the opposite end of the North African littoral. Not until November did USAMEAF become the Ninth Air Force.*
Potentially more serious was the diversion of the 33d Fighter Group (P-40's). The 33d was intended to fulfill the schedule set up by the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement by which the second fighter group allocated to USAMEAF was to arrive in the theater by 1 October 1942.þ On 5 September, however, Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle, commanding the Twelfth, requested that the 33d be turned over to him for use in the action against Casablanca in French Morocco. The reaction to this proposal was mixed, for it was generally believed in Washington and London as well as in the Middle East that a high degree of air superiority in the Western Desert would be a great help to TORCH. Moreover, the 33d was ready to depart for the Middle East. The matter was finally left up to Eisenhower as TORCH commander; the 33d went to Casablanca. At the same time he stressed that P-40's were urgently needed in Egypt, and the War Department, taking the same view, set up the 79th Group as a replacement.51
The initial reinforcements promised by the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement, however, had moved quickly to the Middle East. The aircraft of the 57th Fighter Group--of which Lt. Col. Frank H. Mears, Jr., was commander--left Quonset, Rhode Island, aboard the Ranger on 1 July; when the carrier was within 100 miles of Africa the P-40's were flown off to begin their journey over the ferry route. The movement across Africa was very skillfully accomplished. Ground crews in transport planes followed the fighters, spending the nights readying the P-40's for the next day's flight, so that a negligible percentage of aircraft was lost. By 31 July the complete air echelon was at Muqeibile, Palestine, where a small number of the 57th's key personnel, traveling entirely by air, had arrived two weeks earlier.52
At about the same time the 12th Bombardment Group (M), commanded by Col. Charles Goodrich, was added to USAMEAF. Proceeding via Florida, the Antilles, Brazil, and Ascension, the air echelon also took its B-25's across the central African route, completing the movement without losing a plane. The aircraft left Morrison Field, Florida, between 14 July and 2 August and were all in the Delta by
* See below, p. 39
þ See above, p. 14
mid-August, the 81st and 82d Squadrons at Deversoir and the 83d and 434th at Ismailia.53
When the Pasteur came into Port Tewfik on 16 August, not only was the personnel of USAMEAF greatly augmented but its supply and maintenance prospects materially improved. Aboard were the ground echelons of the 57th Fighter and the 12th and 98th Bombardment Groups; their arrival permitted the relief of the unarmed RAF squadrons previously attached to take care of the base and maintenance requirements of these groups. Only the 1st Provisional Group was left still leaning on similar British assistance. Moreover, also on the Pasteur came the 323d Service Group, which promptly became a jack-of-all-trades in USAMEAF Air Service Command.
General Adler had been facing several problems unusual in an air service command. No American depot existed nearer than Gura, 1,200 miles down the Red Sea, and the RAF suggested that it take over AAF supplies and make them available to AAF units through RAF distribution depots. Adler and Brereton, knowing the way of depots, reasoned that the AAF would get very few of these supplies back. The alternative, of course, was an AAF depot. That meant a depot site. Because the British, backed up against the Delta, were using every available Egyptian airdrome, a decision was finally taken in favor of Rayak in Syria, which offered the desired facilities-a good airdrome, hangars, warehouses, and quarters. Although Rayak's location was far from ideal, the choice was justified. At the time, most of USAMEAF's combat groups were stationed in Palestine, with the 57th even having a squadron training over in Cyprus; moreover, Rayak permitted the use of American methods of supply which Brereton believed a matter of the utmost importance. The 323d Service Group, as the only service unit in the theater, took on the job of running Rayak. It also furnished detachments for unloading at the ports and for base unit and quartermaster functions at the heavy bomber airdromes. In fact the group did about every job except the one for which it was trained, and performed excellently in all capacities.54
The American heavy bomber units, the Brereton and Halverson detachments and, later, the 98th Group, had gone into action immediately after their arrival in the Middle East. Heavy bombers were scarce and badly needed in the struggle against Rommel. With these AAF organizations, unit training and command experience were adequate for operations against ports and convoys; as no long-range
fighter escort could be provided, the aircraft could be employed fairly independently of other commands. On the other hand, the 12th Bombardment (M) and the 57th Fighter Groups, entering upon a highly cooperative type of air warfare under unfamiliar desert conditions, were fed into existing RAF formations. The training they received and the accumulated experience made available to them contributed greatly to their subsequent successes.
Elements of the 57th's advance air echelon, arriving in mid-July, were trained at Muqeibile and in actual combat in RAF formations in the Western Desert. The squadrons, which arrived in mid-August, were trained in the back areas, in Cyprus and at Muqeibile; elements of the 66th, however, did participate in the operations opposing the Axis smash at the Alamein line early in September. Not until 17 September did the entire group assemble at Landing Ground (LG) 174 in the desert. Here its P-40's served as an air force reserve and saw only occasional action until well into October. The 57th's pilots were filtered into the three-echelon V formation then in use by the RAF, flying first top cover, then support, then in the most exposed low-echelon position. The group discovered that all RAF fighter units were completely mobile and that their ground echelons were divided into A and B parties for the leapfrogging technique used in the recurrently fluid desert war. The 57th was initially short of the vehicles necessary for such mobility, but by mid-September, after some difficulty, enough had been secured.55
The 12th Group, based along the canal, began under the tutelage of RAF and South African Air Force (SAAF) light bomber wings. A month's training ensued, including five missions intended to acquaint the crews with the aids to navigation available in the Middle East. The first of these missions, night operations against the port of Matruh and the enemy airdromes at Daba and Fuka, proved that without flame dampeners to black out the bright spurt from their exhaust pipes the B-25's were easy targets for AA and night fighters. Further difficulties arose in locating targets by day in the monotonous desert. By the end of August, nonetheless, the group had made rapid progress and it contributed forty-eight sorties to the light bomber effort at the time of the Axis repulse.56
The Western Desert Air Force, to which USAMEAF's fighters and mediums were attached, had developed techniques of air-ground cooperation representing the first sensible advance over the system of
intimate "support" employed with such telling effect by the Luftwaffe in Poland and France. The men associated with these techniques, the long-term effect of which was to emancipate both the RAF and the USAAF from subservience to ground commanders in land campaigns, were Coningham, the AOC Western Desert, and Tedder, top air officer in the Middle East. Coningham's force had performed magnificently in the disastrous action precipitated by Rommel's May attack on the Eighth Army's Gazala position; in the RAF, Middle East's own words, "Any lingering idea that the R.A.F. was simply a useful adjunct of the land forces . . . was finally swept away."57
Brereton quickly grasped the importance of drawing on Western Desert Air Force experience. Ten days after his arrival in Cairo he was urging the War Department to dispatch qualified observers to study Coningham's employment of fighters and light bombers; and on 22 August he submitted to AAF Headquarters a report on the "support" rendered the Eighth Army in the period 26 May to 21 August.58
By general admission, the foundation of the RAF's success in cooperating with the army lay in the sympathy and understanding normally existing between the commander of Western Desert Air Force and the commander of the Eighth Army. Although operations against the Axis armies proceeded, naturally, under the general direction of the ground arm, the army and air commanders maintained a joint air-ground headquarters embodying the idea of coequal striking forces.* There they worked towards a common goal, neither commanding the other's forces, yet each cognizant of the other's requirements. Even the headquarters location was a compromise between the needs of the two arms: the air commander had to be within ten miles of the bombers and fighters he controlled and adjacent to a landing ground for his own use; a position forty to sixty miles behind the front was usually acceptable to the ground commander.59
With his forces centralized under his own control, Coningham had been able to seize and hold the ascendancy in the air without which he could not have efficiently aided the Eighth Army. Under him, No. 211 Group controlled the fighter squadrons, the basic weapons of air superiority. By use of an efficient radar screen the group directed the squadrons in their constant war with the enemy fighters and in their
* The Brereton report evidently did not refer in this particular to the situation during Auchinleck's personal command of the Eighth Army. Auchinleck's headquarters was separate; Montgomery moved back with the RAF. (Cf. Francis de Guingand, Operation Victory, p. 138.)
escorting of the bombers to hammer the enemy airdromes. To construct its airdromes 211 Group controlled a detachment of Royal Engineers; to protect the fields, it provided armored-car squadrons and an antiaircraft brigade. Its fighter types consisted of the obsolescent Hurricane, American-made Tomahawks and Kittyhawks (P-40D's and E's), and Spitfires, the last considered the best answer to the Me-109, although the Kittyhawk could handle it under 12,000 feet.
Besides 211 Group, WDAF employed light bomber wings of Bostons (A-20's) and Baltimores (A-30's), whose bombardment operations were augmented by bomb-carrying Hurricanes and Kittyhawks. The extensive use of fighter-bombers by the RAF was itself an indication of the degree of air superiority it had achieved, for without air superiority the fighters would have had enough to do in their normal roles. The operation of the Bostons and Baltimores had become very skillful, and the fighter escort kept losses from enemy interception to a minimum.
Coningham's coequal status with the army commander allowed him to exploit to their mutual advantage the peculiar capabilities of air power. His planes were not tied down to ground formations in "penny packets." They were not wasted on fleeting or unsuitable targets but were available for concentrated blows. Since his force had been kept fully mobile, it could perform uninterruptedly, a matter of the utmost importance in the seesaw desert battle. Communications, however, had proved to be a limiting factor in air operations, and there was always the troublesome problem of identification of friendly troops.60
In mid-August, when the British shook up their command in the Middle East, their army received two new general officers who were to prove as successful ground commanders as Coningham and Tedder were air commanders. Auchinleck had resisted Rommel's first assault on the Alamein line but had used up his own reinforcements in attempting to drive his adversary out of Egypt by an abortive series of attacks which he opened on 21 July.61 The replacements were Gens. Harold L. Alexander, who took over the theater command, and Bernard L. Montgomery, who assumed command of the Eighth Army after the untimely death of Lt. Gen. W. H. E. Gott. Montgomery's influence was felt at once. The Eighth's morale improved with rest, with better rations, and upon the new commander's making clear that he planned no further retreats, that the battle for Egypt would be fought out at Alamein.
The rival forces recuperated during most of August, but it was universally appreciated that the Axis armies would mount another attack despite their numerical inferiority in men, tanks, and aircraft. The Nile was so close, they were so visibly losing the reinforcement race, and their commanders were believers in the tactical offensive. On 29 August the Axis troops were informed that in a matter of two or three days they would be in Alexandria, and just after midnight of 30/31 August the attack began. The result was the battle of Alam Halfa, named for a key hill in the British defenses.62
The main attack flowed around the Eighth Army's southern flank, the British withdrawing before it to ground of their own choosing. After the first day of the battle the RAF found continuous good flying conditions and thenceforth subjected the enemy concentrations to an almost uninterrupted pounding. The Axis intentions were plainly to draw the British armor from its prepared positions for a battle in the open, an honor which the British, with the tank trap at Knightsbridge fresh in their memory, firmly declined. The enemy accomplished nothing but the waste of his resources in futile attacks. USAMEAF aircraft were active in their several capacities. The heavy bombers scored a hit on a merchantman in a Mediterranean convoy while the B-25's attacked truck columns and the P-40's flew sweeps and escort.63
On 2 September the enemy exhibited reluctance to resume the offensive. The Eighth Army had already laid plans to restore the Alamein line and meanwhile had been carrying out harassing operations designed further to weaken the Axis battlefield supply position. On the night of 3/4 September the 2 New Zealand Division initiated action to close the mine-field gaps through which the attacking Axis columns had driven. The enemy fought stubbornly and, after pushing him back somewhat, Montgomery decided to break off, leaving the German-Italian forces a slice of the British mine fields for their trouble.64
A feature of the eight-day battle was the nonstop effort put forth by the RAF, which had switched its Wellingtons from attacks on ports to battlefield bombing. The total of Allied bombs dropped ran to 868 tons; over 3,500 sorties were carried out, to which the 12th and 57th Groups contributed 48 and "over 150," respectively. Coningham's fighters, moreover, finally destroyed the fearsome reputation of the Stuka, the Ju-87's jettisoning their bombs when the Allied pursuit approached. Despite a vastly larger number of bomber sorties, the RAF lost only seven bombers, the GAF and IAF, twenty-six. The fact
that the RAF lost forty-three fighters to the enemy's twenty-two was largely a reflection of the Hurricane's inferiority to the Me-109 and the Italian Mc-202.65
Alam Halfa, besides keeping the Axis out of Alexandria, gave rise to hopes that the answer to Rommel's tactics had at last been found. The British forces had not been committed piecemeal nor in the hither-to disastrous mobile tank actions, and the morale of the troops improved with success. Moreover, Montgomery had exhibited a lively appreciation of the role of air power in the land battle.66
For the Axis the supply situation had continued unsatisfactory, particularly in the category of petroleum products. Lack of aviation gas robbed the enemy of the full capabilities of his air force and, specifically, was thought by the British to have forced a four-day postponement of his Alam Halfa offensive. Lack of fuel and lubricants had slowed hostile tank movements and forfeited the advantage of surprise. By Middle East calculations, 100,000 gross registered tons of shipping made Axis ports in North Africa in August 1942; in the same month 80,000 were sunk by the efforts of the USAAF, the RAF, and the Royal Navy. Of the 80,000 tons, 40 per cent represented the handiwork of the air forces. The net cargo tonnage which the enemy received enabled him to improve his supply situation only slightly; he was sustaining but could not sensibly augment his forces, despite some improvement in September. With these statistics at hand, Montgomery was able to proceed methodically to develop his own offensive in the comfortable certainty that with each day the odds lengthened against his adversary.67
Malta, despite its perennial aviation fuel shortage, had been able to increase its exertions in the vital period when the opposing armies were building strength for further efforts. Its antishipping sorties were somewhat more numerous and its fighters even carried out some aggressive actions. But the Axis sea and air forces in the area, if not able to knock out the island, dealt violently with its reinforcement. From the heavily escorted supply convoy which passed Gibraltar eastwards on the night of 9/10 August, nine merchant vessels were lost plus the carrier Eagle and three other warships.68 The loss of the Eagle directly affected the calculations for TORCH, which by then was in its initial planning stages.69
For the Egypt-based bombers, Tobruk and Bengasi remained lucrative targets, so vital that the Middle East forces even sent commandos
on a vain attempt to block their harbors on the night of 13/14 September. After Alam Halfa, the RAF turned the full weight of its mediums back on Tobruk, scarcely a night passing without twenty or thirty Wellingtons over the port; and when on 14 October three USAMEAF B-17's reportedly sank a lighter and hit a large motor vessel in its harbor, it had been already so badly mauled that Axis shipping had been largely diverted to Bengasi. The long-range bombers followed. A feature of the combined assault on Bengasi, of which the U.S. B-24's carried the brunt, was the raid of 22/23 September. The B-24's blew up an 8,000-ton ammunition ship lying alongside one of the main piers, the explosion appreciably reducing the harbor's unloading for several weeks.70
Strikes at shipping at sea and in ports to the north continued when reconnaissance picked up profitable targets. On 3 September an Axis convoy of three destroyer-escorted merchantmen was attacked in the Mediterranean by elements of the Royal Navy, the RAF, and the USAAF, and the one surviving merchantman was left ablaze.71 A few days afterward, in Candia harbor, Crete, the 98th Group scored direct hits on a power station and left fires in the dock area.72 The effectiveness of the naval and air campaign can be illustrated by the career of thirty tanks which were loaded for Africa in three shipments of ten each. One vessel was beached off Corfu, one was sent to the bottom, the third reached Bengasi only to be partially sunk in the harbor.73 To reinforce his troops and maintain his supplies, particularly of fuel, the enemy used air transports, which flew down by night from Crete. By the end of October, when the Alamein battle was on, this traffic, maintained chiefly by Ju-52's, had precipitated a series of U.S. bomber raids on Malenie airdrome, whence the transports took off .74
On the administrative side, events of August and September 1942 put an end to the anomaly whereby a large number of officers and men fighting in the Middle East remained assigned to the Tenth Air Force. The Tenth's new commander, Brig. Gen. Clayton L. Bissell,75 feeling keenly the loss of the key staff officers and combat crews who had gone to USAFIME in June and July, pressed for a clarification of their status.76 The upshot was that Brereton was assigned to the Middle East on 16 September, as were the staff officers in question.77 The Tenth Air Force had already got back most of its transports and it was arranged that it would also retrieve the greater part of the ground echelon which had originally accompanied its B-17's from India.78
A development of some importance in the career of USAMEAF manifested itself administratively on 12 October when orders were cut assigning nine officers to the IX Bomber Command, which organization was then and for a month afterwards unofficial. This command had its roots in a discussion on 5 September between Tedder's senior air staff officer, Air Vice Marshal H. E. P. Wigglesworth, and G-3 officers of USAMEAF, during which Wigglesworth asserted that he had control, delegated by Tedder, over the target selection for the U.S. heavy bombers. Col. Patrick W. Timberlake, G-3 of Brereton's staff, took a serious view of this assertion in that it violated the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement that American combat units assigned to theaters of British strategic responsibility were to be organized in "homogeneous American formations" under the "strategic control" of the appropriate British commander in chief. In a memo of 7 September, Timberlake granted that this canon might be justifiably violated in the case of the 12th Bombardment (M) and 57th Fighter Groups, but he could see no reason why operational control of the 1st Provisional and 98th Groups, comprising four-fifths of the heavy bomber force in the Middle East, should not be vested in American hands. Subsequent negotiations carried the point with the British, who even turned over their 160 Squadron (Liberators) to the operational control of IX Bomber Command.
On 12 October a small staff moved into Grey Pillars, RAF headquarters at Cairo, and thenceforth USAMEAF's bombers operated only under the "strategic" direction of the British. Timberlake headed the organization, with Kalberer as his A-3 and Lt. Col. Donald M. Keiser as his chief of staff.79
Now the time was ripening for the second British attempt to eject Rommel from his menacing proximity to the Delta, the first having been Auchinleck's July attacks. Across the thirty-two-mile neck between the Qattara Depression and the sea the Eighth Army faced Axis positions which were naturally stronger than its own and which had been considerably improved by three months and more of artifice. Triple belts of mine fields and defended localities were known to adorn the northern sector while the southern defenses, if not so formidable, were sited to canalize penetration. No practicable way offered to take this line in flank as it was anchored on the south by the forbidding
Qattara quicksands. Hard fighting into heavy defenses would be necessary before the customary desert mobility could be regained; in a long-drawn battle, however, it was expected that the enemy's disadvantageous supply position would tell against him.80
Montgomery's original conception envisioned strokes against both extremities of the fortifications, pushing the British armored divisions athwart the enemy supply line in the north and destroying the enemy armor in detail. His final plan was novel, if less ambitious. It preserved the multiple attack designed to keep the enemy armor dispersed, but contemplated as first priority the destruction of the enemy infantry while the British armor stood off the Panzers whose axes of approach would be restricted by their own mine fields. The offensive could not open before the full moon of 24 October, for, if semidarkness was required to clear a path through the enemy mine fields, some light was necessary for infantry operations.81
As early as 21 September, Coningham had outlined the air force's role in the impending operation to a meeting of all group captains and wing commanders. Stepped-up counter-air force action would commence 20 October to gain the high degree of air superiority without which Montgomery would not move. The enemy air dislocated, WDAF could intervene freely in the ground battle and, it was hoped, insure a certain initial tactical surprise by denying the enemy air reconnaissance. The period preceding 20 October was to be utilized in preparation-training and the repair of vehicles and of aircraft.82
Various administrative preparations were also put in hand by the RAF and USAAF. An advanced American air headquarters was attached to Advanced Air Headquarters, Western Desert, to gain experience in handling air forces in the field and to look out for American interest.83 For instance, it was arranged that night missions by the B-25's could not be flown except in extreme emergencies without direct authorization of the commanding general of USAMEAF (four B-25's had been lost on a night mission against Sidi Hanaish airdrome on 13/14 September).84 This American advanced headquarters became on 22 October the Desert Air Task Force Headquarters, with Brereton in direct command and Adler attached with the advanced headquarters of the service command. Chief of staff for the new organization was Brig. Gen. Auby C. Strickland, commander since 17 August of IX Fighter Command, who had arrived in the Middle East in July and overseen the training of the 57th Group. The Desert Air Task Force
continued under that name until February 1943 as the administrative control over the American units operating as an integral part of WDAF.85 Although the arrangement did not conform to the terms of the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement, the letter of that agreement could not have been efficiently applied in operations with WDAF, as the following battle assignments illustrate.
No. 211 Group, RAF, was prepared to go forward with the advance, and to its 239 Wing (Kittyhawks) the 57th Group's 66th Squadron was attached. The 66th, regarded as the best trained of the 57th's squadrons, all now ready for combat as units, arrived at LG 91 on 6 October. The 57th's other squadrons came under operational control of 212 Group, which had been set up to give WDAF a second fighter control formation, and continued to operate from LG 174 in conjunction with 233 Wing, RAF. The 12th Group with the addition of a Baltimore squadron made up 232 Wing and operated under the bomber control of 3 Wing (SAAF). In the middle of October the 12th's squadrons, reduced for mobility to essential operational strength, moved to LG 88, about fifty miles behind the front line, leaving administrative work to be done at the Delta bases.86
WDAF did not hesitate to interrupt training when opportunity offered for a blow at the opposing air force. Photo reconnaissance of 6-8 October revealed that the Axis forward landing grounds in the Daba and Qotaifya areas had been waterlogged by heavy rains. On the 9th, therefore, USAMEAF's B-25's contributed 16 sorties to a 292-sortie attack on the mudded-in aircraft of which 10 were assessed as destroyed and 22 damaged.87
Of the Axis air forces, the Italian Air Force, despite some recent aggressiveness with its Mc-202's, was not assessed as particularly formidable; it was disposed rearward to protect shipping. What was more, the condition of the Luftwaffe, disposed forward and expected to provide the main opposition, had fallen so low as to cause concern in Berlin. Maj. Gen. Adolf Galland, General der Jagdpieger,* had flown into Fuka in September, interviewed Von Waldau, the commander, and looked over the situation. Kesselring was supposed to have resented Galland's inspection and, according to the latter's possibly apocryphal story, Goering dismissed as dummies half of the 800 aircraft
* The duties of this headquarters position changed from time to time and with the incumbent. In fighter matters, Galland was variously adviser, consultant, administrator, inspector, formulator of doctrine, and operational authority.
shown to be on RAF fields. Rommel, not on good terms with his supporting air, neglected to ask for reinforcements until too late.88
Goering would have done better to have taken the photos seriously. On 16 October the RAF, ME had a total of 1,098 aircraft, of which 813 were in commission: 628 fighters, 383 bombers of all types, and 87 sea reconnaissance types. The USAAF could muster 56 P-40's' 46 B-25's, 10 B-17's, and 53 B-24's; of these were operational, respectively, 49, 35, 6, and 40. The Axis air forces, on the other hand, boasted only 218 Italian and 165 German fighters, about 150 bombers, 75 Italian CR-42 attack planes, and smaller numbers of seaplanes and reconnaissance aircraft. Serviceability was estimated at not over 50 per cent because of the severe shortage of materiel and spare parts. The Allied air forces, therefore, enjoyed superiority before the air offensive started, for which they could thank in part their own efforts against the German-Italian supply lines.89
On 19/20 October the preliminary air offensive began. Calls from the ground forces were answered, reconnaissance flown, M/T and artillery emplacements attacked, but the main emphasis was put on the destruction of the enemy air force: patrols were kept over its landing grounds which the bombers hammered day and night. At least 800 counter-air force sorties had been flown before the infantry moved to its assault positions on the night of 22/23 October, and as a result the British concentrations were not molested from the air at a time when the roads were clogged with their transport.90
The Eighth Army commanded such numerical and logistical superiority in all categories that it was appreciated that it could not fail to win if properly handled in the forthcoming battle. In manpower, it had almost a 2 to 1 advantage, 165,000 to 93,500, and if the quality of its troops was uneven the same could be said for the Axis. Of medium tanks the Eighth Army mustered 600 against 470 for the opposition; of guns of all types, 2,275 to 1,450, The German troops-15th and 21st Panzer Divisions, 90th Light and 164th Infantry Divisions, plus miscellaneous units-had been disposed so as to stiffen the Italian forces, which consisted, in the forward area, of six infantry and two armored divisions. In the forenoon of 23 October, Montgomery's message to his troops, "The Lord mighty in battle will give us the victory," was read to all hands and that night the battle got under way.91
The assault troops had spent the day of 23 October unobserved in trenches beyond the British forward positions. At 2140 hours massed
artillery opened on known locations of enemy batteries. Twenty minutes later the infantry started a westward trek that would lead it in time to Tunisia. In the important northern sector where two corridors were to be forced through the enemy defenses, substantial, if uneven, progress resulted from the first two days of fighting, but the British did not succeed in pushing their armor into the open.92 They had undertaken elaborate deception measures to convince the enemy that the main assault would be in the southern sector and this delusion they fostered by heavy but costly attacks. On the 25th, Montgomery ordered the pressure in this area eased to preserve 7 Armoured Division's strength; as the division pinned down the 21st and Ariete armored divisions opposite, it was not, however, withdrawn. By that date the British tanks had got forward through the northern gaps and were in position to beat off and punish armored counterattacks. Behind this armored shield, Montgomery began the methodical destruction of the enemy infantry and cast about for a way to pass his tanks through to the Rahman area, key point of the enemy supply system. His drive, however, began to lose momentum in the deep enemy defenses, which contained in the north nine, not three, mine fields, and on the 26th he decided to regroup for further action.93
The hitherto comparatively inactive GAF and IAF apparently chose the 26th to challenge the Allied air. In this endeavor they lost by RAF calculations six Me-109's, eight Mc-202's, and three Ju-87's against Allied losses of four fighters. Moreover, an Axis ground concentration was prevented from forming for attack by the light-bomber shuttle service which the WDAF reserved for worthwhile targets and in which the B-25's joined.94 The 57th Fighter Group was showing up well in battle: on the 26th its claims ran to four Mc-202's, and reports credited it with a like number of Me-109's the previous day. Pre-daylight of the 27th found the P-40's taking off by the glare of truck headlights for a surprise dawn fighter-bomber raid on one of the Fuka landing grounds, carried out at minimum altitude to avoid enemy radar detection, and later in the day a P-40 contingent came off victorious in a battle with assorted CR-42's, Ju-87's , Mc-202's, and Me-109's-the Italian fighter units involved admitted to four Mc-202's downed.95 The main ground action on the 27th consisted of sharp attacks on Kidny Ridge by the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions, the latter having come north during the previous night. These assaults were thrown back,
and on the 28th the WDAF light bombers and USAMEAF's B-25's succeeded in preventing preparations for their resumption."96
At this point Montgomery envisioned a breakout northward to the sea and a push along the coastal roads and railway to cripple the enemy's supply. Montgomery was now matching wits with Rommel, who had been in Berlin when the battle opened. That the Axis command no longer credited the feints in the southern sector had been demonstrated by the transfer of the 21st Panzer on the night of 26/27 October; accordingly, Montgomery moved his 7 Armoured north to promote designs of his own. On 28-29 October he attacked with 9 Australian Division, aiming to pinch off the coastal salient formed by earlier British gains in the north.97 During the renewal of this attack on the 30th occurred one of the finest examples of tactical air force action in the whole campaign. The Australians were attempting to push their wedge to the coast. The air force shouldered the responsibility of preventing sizable counterattacks from Thompson's Post, within the enemy pocket to the east. Despite a bomb line that shifted constantly in an extremely restricted (nine-mile square) area, over 300 sorties were laid on, no sizable counterattacks developed, and none of the 95 tons of bombs fell on friendly troops.98
Rommel sensed that the Eighth Army now meant to concentrate on the coastal sector. He brought the weight of his German formations to bear, and fierce fighting resulted from his attempts to extricate the defenders of Thompson's Post. When on the morning of 29 October Montgomery learned that the famous 90th Light had moved into the Rahman area, he realized that the enemy had fathomed his intentions and so he changed his plans for the last time-for a drive against the Italians farther south which would break his 10 Corps (Armored) into the open.99
The decisive phase of El Alamein then ensued. While Australian pressure on Thompson's Post evoked furious counterattacks, 2 New Zealand Division moved forward at 0100 hours on 2 November and cleared a new path across the Axis mine fields through which 9 Armoured Brigade had passed by first light. Although the brigade was subsequently severely punished by an antitank screen, 1 Armoured Division also came through and gave as good as it got in a savage tank battle near Tel el Aqqaqir. Behind the antitank screen the crumbling Axis forces began to withdraw along the coastal road. On the night of 3/4 November the infantry (including 4 Indian Division) turned the antitank
screen and let the British armor loose. El Alamein was over.100 The air force was already scourging the traffic on the coastal road, over 400 sorties being delivered on the 3d.101
Montgomery hoped to cut off and destroy Rommel at Fuka or Matruh. On the 4th the rear guard stood briefly at Ghazal; by then the landing grounds east of Fuka were reported vacant. On the 5th there was a brief stand at Fuka escarpment, terminated after a short, sharp engagement. At this point, on the 7th, the rains characteristic of the season cheated Montgomery of his opportunity, immobilizing his armor's supporting M/T in the desert and miring WDAF on the newly occupied Daba landing grounds, on one of which A party of the 57th Group had already arrived. In the southern sector of the former Alamein line the air forces were dropping food and water to groups of prisoners which the Eighth Army had not had time to round up. Four Italian divisions had been entirely abandoned by the Germans.102
IX Bomber Command had not been inactive during the stubborn land battle. Besides its raids on Maleme, it combined with RAF Liberators and Beauforts to sink a tanker and a merchantman just off Tobruk harbor on the night of 25/26 October; these were the Tergestia and the Proserpino, which the Italians subsequently admitted were lost on this occasion. It sent five B-17's over Tobruk on 2 November to score hits on two medium-sized merchant vessels and start fires in harbor installations which were seen blazing two days later. Reflecting the rapid advance of the army, after 6 November no more USAAF heavy bombers went to Tobruk; Bengasi, and then Tripoli, became the principal targets.103
While Rommel was being cleared out of Egypt, the nomenclature of the American air forces in the Middle East was at last regularized. On 8 November, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews took over the USAFIME command; an airman fresh from the Caribbean, where he had introduced a type of air force organization widely adopted by the overseas air forces, he was a logical choice to succeed Maxwell. On 12 November, by general order, he established the Ninth Air Force. On the same day, accordingly, Brereton was able to activate Headquarters Squadron, Ninth Air Force, and IX Air Service Command. IX Bomber Command was finally set up on 27 November, utilizing the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 19th Bombardment
Wing which had sailed into Port Tewfik on the Mauretania on 12 November.104
As all things are added to the victors, the Middle East's strategic objectives, which Brereton had stated back in August, grew suddenly nearer accomplishment with the flight of the Axis armies. On 15 November the Martuba airfields, beyond Tobruk and Gazala, were in the Eighth Army's hands, in time to cover a convoy which sailed next evening out of Port Said for Malta. No merchant vessels were lost on the passage. By then, IX Bomber Command's heavies had moved their bases from Palestine to the Delta; and on the night of 21 November, staging out of Gambut, they raided Tripoli. Moreover, on 8 November, TORCH had materialized on the beaches of Northwest Africa.105
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (Foreword) * Next Chapter (2)
1. Memos for C/S from Brig. Gen. D. D. Eisenhower, AC/S, OPD, 16 Mar. 1942, and Brig. Gen. St. Clair Streett, Acting AC/S, OPD, 21 Aug. 1942; draft memo for C/S from Brig. Gen. T. T. Handy, AC/S, OPD, n.d. but probably June 1942.
Notes to Chapter 1:
2. AAFRH-8, The AAF in the Middle East: A Study of the Origins of the Ninth Air Force, pp. 5-45 and notes.
3. Philip Guedalla, Middle East, 1940-1942: A Study in Air Power (London, 1944).
4. AAFRH-8, pp. 7-10 and notes.
5. Ibid., pp. 13-18 and notes.
6. Ibid., pp. 20-34 and notes.
7. Ibid., pp. 34-39 and notes.
8. Ibid.; memo for A. F. Simpson, Air Historical Office from K. R. Greenfield, Army Historical Div., 16 June 1948.
9. AAFRH-8, pp. 47-49, 56, and notes.
10. Ibid., pp. 55-57 and notes.
11. CCS 39/1, 14 Mar. 1942.
12. Memo for C/AC from Lt. Col. J. B. Cooley, Asst. AAG, 17 Jan. 1942; CCS 46, 20 Feb. 1942; CCS 47, 22 Feb. 1942; CCS 56, 5 Mar. 1942; memo for Lt. Gen. H.H. Arnold, ns., 17 Mar. 1942; memo for the President from Gen. Marshall, 18 Mar. 1942.
13. Memo for Portal from Arnold, 30 May 1942.
14. Hugh Gibson, ed., The Ciano Diaries, 1939-1943 (New York, 19461, entries for 12 and 13 May 1942; Italian Air Ministry, The Plan for the Invasion of Malta, and Memorandum on the Malta Situation, 10 May 1942, British Air Ministry Air Historical Branch (hereinafter cited as BAM[AHB]) Translations VII/47, 10 Oct. 1947, and VII/57, Dec. 1947; RAF Middle East Review No. 3 (April-June 1943), p. 114.
15. CM-IN-6491, Cairo to Milid, 1149, 19 June 1942; CM-IN, Brett to Arnold thru Fellers, 119, 5 Oct. 1941.
16. Memo for DMR from C/AS, 13 Mar. 1942; memo for AC/S, OPD from C/AS, 20 Mar. 1942; memo for DMR from C/AS, 31 Mar. 1942; memo for TAG from Col. 0. S. Ferson, 17 Apr. 1942; memo for CG AAF from AC/AS, Plans, 15 May 1942; memo for the President from AFAEP, 15 May 1942; copy of radg., AFROM to AFMAG, 1 5 May 1942; ltr., AFAEP to A/M McDill, Brit. Embassy, 15 May 1942; memo for the President from Office of C/S, n.d.; ltr., Harmon, C/AS to Maj. Gen. A.I. Belyaev, Soviet Purchasing Commission, and memo for Marshall from Arnold, 16 May 1942; CM-OUT-2725 (6-12-42), Arnold to AMSEG, Cairo, 1012, 12 June 1942; CM-IN-3669 (6-12-42), Moscow to AGWAR, 7, 12 June 1942; memo for Dir., War Orgn. & Movement from Brig. Gen. L.S. Kuter, DC/AS, 15 May 1942.
17. 9th AF Mission Record; CM-IN-4509, Halverson, Cairo to CG AAF, 13 June 1942; CM-IN-5246 (6-17-42). Maxwell to Marshall, AA4SEG 1472, 16 June 1942; AAFRH-3, The Ploesti Mission of 1 August 1943, pp. 16-17; CM-IN, Steinhardt, Ankara to State Dept., 607, 15 June 1942; AFSHO Special File 77 (msgs.).
18. AAFHS-30, Ninth Air Force Participation in the Desert Campaign to 23 January 1943, p. 2 ; RAFME Review No. 1 (May-Dec. 1942), p. 5.
19. Bartimeus [Ritchie], East of Malta, West of Suez: The Official Admiralty Account of the Mediterranean Fleet, 1939-1943, pp. 199-200; The Ciano Diaries, entry for 12 May 1942; IAM, Plan for Invasion of Malta, and Memo on Malta Situation.
20. Memo for AVM Slessor from Arnold, 6 June 1942, and incls.; CM-OUT-2175 (6-10-42), AGWAR to Cairo, AMSEG 990, 10 June 1942; RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 5, 67-71.
21. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 5, 67-71; 9th AF Mission Record; BAM (AHB), A Summary of Naval Cooperation, October 1941 to January 1943.
22. CM-IN-11071, 12 June 1942; CM-IN-6213 (6-19-42), Ankara to Milid, 178, 15 June 1942.
23. CM-IN-5246 (6-17-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSEG 1472, 16 June 1942.
24. Memo for C/S from D. D. Eisenhower, AC/S, OPD, 8 June 1942; CM-OUT-3813, AGWAR to AMSEG, Cairo, 1048, 15 June 1942.
25. CM-OUT-3989 and 3990 (6-17-42), Arnold to AMSEG, Cairo, 1053 and 1054, 17 June 1942; CM-OUT-4135 (6-17-42), AGWAR to Cairo, 1063, 17 June 1942; File 77 (ltrs.).
26. AAFRH-8, p. 67; CM-OUT-4189 (6-17-42), Ulio to AMSEG, Cairo, WD 1066, 17 June 1942; memo for WDCMC from OPD, 17 June 1942.
27. General Auchinleck's Despatch, 27 Jan. 1943, in London Gazette Supplement, 15 Jan. 1948, pp. 326-27; Military Intelligence Service, Campaign Study 4, Libyan Campaign, May 27-July 27, 1942, dtd. 18 Jan. 1943; Alexander Clifford, The Conquest of North Africa, 1940-1943 (Boston, 1943). pp. 300-302; Russell Hill, Desert Conquest (London, 1943), pp. 75-85.
28. Desert Conquest, p. 66; CM-IN-6008 (6-19-42) [Fellers to WD], 1154, 17 June 1942.
29. Joint Intelligence Comm., Memo for Information 29, Axis Capabilities and Intentions in the ME, 3 Oct. 1942; Maj. John North, "Lessons of North African Campaign," Military Affairs, VIII (1944), No. 3, pp. 161-68; two CM-IN, Fellers, Cairo to WD, 24 Sept. 1941 [Report of Col. Harvey S. Burwell to Gen. Arnold]; CM-IN, Fellers to WD, 9 June 1941.
30. Ltr., Brig. Gen. Asa N. Duncan to Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz, 23 June 1942; Notes on War Council, 29 June 1942, comments of Gen. Marshall; memo for record from Brig. Gen. T. T. Handy, AC/S, OPD, 25 June 1942.
31. Clifford, The Conquest of North Africa, p. 388.
32. CCS 61/1, 22 June 1942; ltr., Maj. Gen. James A. Ulio to CG USAFIME, 27 June 1942.
33. Memo for Sec., WDGS and Flag Sec., Hq. CINC U.S. Fleet, from Lt. Col. J. C. Holmes, Asst. Sec., JCS, 8 July 1942; Extract from Minutes, CCS 29th Mtg., 25 June 1942; CCS 87, 28 June 1942.
34. AAFHS-30, pp. FII; [Frank O. Haile] Desert Campaign: The Story of the Ninth US. Army Air Force in Support of the British in Africa, p. 1; interview with Brig. Gen. Elmer Adler, 18 Jan. 1943.
35. CM-IN-9610 (6-29-42), Cairo to TAG, AMSME 35, 29 June 1942; GO 4, Hq. USAFIME, 28 June 1942; GO I , Hq. USAMEAF, 28 June 1942; CM-OUT-6204 (6-25-42), OPD to AMSME, Cairo, 1136, 24 June 1942.
36. CM-IN-9515 (6-29-42), Cairo to TAG, AMSME 34,29 June 1942; CM-IN-0044 (7-1-42), Cairo to TAG, AMSME46, 30 June 1942; Notes on War Council, 29 June 1942, comments of Gen. Marshall.
37. Hq. USAMEAF GO 2, 28 June 1942; Hq. USAMEAF Air Service Comd. GO 1, 28 June 1942.
38. Adler interview, 18 Jan. 1943.
39. CM-IN-I1622, 1595, 1633, 1606 (8-5-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 526-28, 530, 4 Aug. 1942; rpt. by Gen. Brereton, Direct Air Support in the Libyan Desert (hereinafter cited as Brereton Rpt.); Clifford, The Conquest of North Africa, pp. 292-93; Auchinleck's Despatch, p. 367.
40. MID Report 47052, London, 23 Mar. 1942; Bartimeus, East of Malta, West of Suez, p. 205; memo for Brereton and staff, The British System of Command in the Middle East, n.d.; RAFME Review No. 1 , p. 60.
41. CM-OUT-3989 (6-17-42), Arnold to AMSEG, Cairo, 1054, 17 June 1942; AAFHS-30, p. 5.
42. CM-IN-7465 (6-23-42), Maxwell to Arnold, AMSME 8, 22 June 1942; CM-OUT-4477 (6-18-42), Marshall to Maxwell, 1079, 18 June 1942; CM-IN-7266 (6-22-42), Cairo to Milid, 1156, 26 June 1942; CM-IN, Cairo to AGWAR, AMS-ME 62, 3 July 1942; memo for the President from Gen. Marshall, 30 June 1942; Hill, Desert Conquest, pp. 82-84,89 ff.
43. Hill, Desert Conquest, p. 109; Administrative History, 9th AF; History, 376th Bomb. Gp.; 9th AF Mission Record.
44. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 19-26.
45. Ibid., pp. 52-57; North, Lessons of North African Campaign," loc. cit.; interview with Lt. Col. Horace M. Wade, 23 June 1943; Notes on CCS 29th Mtg., 25 June 1942.
46. AAFHS-30, p. 12; History, IX BC, 12 Oct. 1942-12 Oct 1943.
47. History, IX BC; CM-IN-2014, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 561, 5 Aug. 1942; 9th AF Mission Record; Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries, 3 Oct. 1941-8 May 1941 (New York, 1946), entry for 1 Aug. 1942
48. See cables in n. 39.
49. CCS 91, 7 July 1942.
50. Memo for JCS from Brig. Gen. W. B. Smith, Sec., JCS, 1 Aug. 1942; Conference with Gen. Arnold at his Headquarters, July 31, 1942; memo for the President sgd. H.H. Arnold, 3 Aug. 1942; memo for AC/S, OPD from Stratemeyer, C/AS, n.d. but probably 1 Aug. 1942; ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 9 Sept. 1942; CM-OUT-2450 (8-8-42), AGWAR to Cairo, WD 309, 6 Aug. 1942; Extracts from 27th Mtg. of JCS, 4 Aug. 1942; Notes on CCS 36th Mtg.; CCS 100, 8 Aug. 1942; interview with Col. Bonner Fellers, 3 Aug. 1942.
51. CM-OUT, AGWAR to USFOR, R526 and R757, 8 and 14 Sept. 1942; CM-IN, Eisenhower to Marshall, 2149, 13 Sept. 1942; CM-IN-8195 (9-19-42), London to AGWAR, 2396, 19 Sept. 1942; msg. 6569 (9-19-42), OPD to CG Eastern Defense Command, 487, 19 Sept. 1942; CM-OUT-6211 (9-18-42), Marshall to Eisenhower, R918, 18 Sept. 1942; memo for Lt. Gen. H.H. Arnold by G.E.S. [Stratemeyer], 5 Sept. 1942; CM-IN-7943 (9-18-42), Cairo to AG, AMSME 1373, 17 Sept. 1942; CM-OUT-7145 (9-21-42), Marshall to AMSME, 914, 21 Sept. 1942; CM-OUT-8214 (9-24-42), Dir. of Air Defense to AMSME, 957, 23 Sept. 1942; History, 79th Fighter Gp.
52. AAFRH-8, pp. 75-77; History, 57th Fighter Gp.; Administrative History, 9th AF.
53. Administrative History, 9th AF; History, 12th Bomb. Gp.
54. Ltr., Brereton to Arnold, 21 Nov. 1942; Adler interview; report of Col. John Upston, Observations of Air Force Activities in the Middle East, Oct. 1-15, 1942; CM-IN-1123 (8-4-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 513, 3 Aug. 1942.
55. Administrative History, 9th AF; interview with Col. Frank Mears, 10 Aug. 1943; comments by Col. John Upston, 27 Nov. 1942; comments by Brig. Gen. Auby C. Strickland, 23 Jan. 1943; Col. Arthur G. Salisbury, Record of Combat Activities of the 57th. Fighter Group (1 July 1942-23 Jan. 1943).
56. Interview with Col. Curtis R. Low, 23 July 1943; History, 12th Bomb. Gp.; AAFHS-30, p. 18; RAFME Review No. 1, p-35.
57. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 26.
58. AAFHS-30, p. 23; Brereton Rpt.
59. Brereton Rpt.; Clifford, The Conquest of North Africa, p. 291.
60. Brereton Rpt.; RAFME Review No. 1, p. 6.
61. Auchinleck's Despatch, p. 366; CM-IN-9810 (7-28-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 415, 27 July 1942. For other actions towards end of July, see CM-IN-10400 (7-30-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 447, 29 July 1942; CM-IN-10879 (7-31-42), London to Milid, 3110, 31 July 1942.
62. CM-IN-103 (8-27-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 946, 26 Aug. 1942; CM-IN-9236 (8-24-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 876, 23 Aug. 1942; Bernard L. Montgomery, El Alamein to the River Sangro (1946) (hereinafter cited as Eighth Army) , chap. i.
63. Eighth Army, chap. ii; AAFHS-30, pp. 33-34.
64. Eighth Army, chap. ii.
65. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 35-36.
66. Ibid., p. 36; Eighth Army, chap. ii.
67. CM-IN-13081 (9-30-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1607, 29 Sept. 1942; CM-IN-1135 (9-3-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1080, 2 Sept. 1942; CM-IN-10757 (8-28-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 964, 27 Aug. 1942; CM-IN-11295 (8-30-42). Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 981, 28 Aug. 1942. See also The Ciano Diaries, entries for 2-4 Sept. 1942.
68. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 38, 70-72,74-76.
69. Memo for the President from Gen. G. C. Marshall, 20 Aug. 1942.
70. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 37-38; 9th AF Mission Record; History, 376th Bomb. Gp.; CM-IN-11468 (9-26-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1539, 25 Sept. 1942.
71. CM-IN-1500 (9-4-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1107, 4 Sept. 1942; 9th AF Mission Record; History, 376th Bomb. Gp.
72. CM-IN-3250 (9-8-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1193, 8 Sept. 1942; 9th AF Mission Record.
73. CM-IN-07273 (10-17-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1910, 17 Oct. 1942.
74. CM-IN-13307 (10-31-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 2246, 31 Oct. 1942.
75. Hq. 10th AF GO 20, 18 Aug. 1942.
76. CM-IN-11424 (8-30-42). Stilwell to Marshall, AMMISCA 64, 28 Aug. 1942.
77. CM-OUT-5599 (9-17-42), OPD to AMSME, 839, 16 Sept. 1942.
78. CM-OUT-5599 (9-17-42),CG AAF to AMSME, Cairo, 842, 16 Sept. 1942; AAFHS-12, The Tenth Air Force, 1942, p.58.
79. History, IX BC; memo for CG USAMEAF from Col. P. W. Timberlake, Actg. C/S USAMEAF, 7 Sept. 1942; Hq. USAMEAF GO 7, 2 Nov. 1942.
80. CM-IN-07734 (10-18-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1938, 17 Oct. 1942; Eighth Army, p. 13.
81. Eighth Army, pp. 13-16; Field Marshal Alexander's Despatch, 23 May 1947, in London Gazette Supplement, 3 Feb. 1948, pp. 851-52.
82. Brereton Rpt., supplement (covering air support for period 19 Oct.-8 Nov. 1942).
83. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 37.
84. Hq. USAMEAF FO 1, 15 Oct. 1942; History, 12th Bomb. Gp.; CM-IN-6377, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1299, 14 Sept. 1942.
85. Comments by Gen. Strickland, 23 Jan. 1943; Administrative History, 9th AF.
86. Administrative History, 9th AF; Hq. USAMEAF FO 1, 15 Oct. 1942; RAFME Review No. 1, p. 37.
87. RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 38-39.
88. Hq. USAMEAF FO 1, 15 Oct. 1942; interview with Gen. Galland, 15 Aug. 1945, ADI (K) Report 373/1943.
89. Brereton Rpt., supplement.
90. Ibid.; RAFME Review No. 1, pp. 39-40; Eighth Army, p. 18.
91. CM-IN-07734 (10-18-42), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 1938, 17 Oct. 1942; Military Attaché Report from Cairo, Narrative of the Battle of El Alamein, 18 Dec. 1942; Brereton Rpt., supplement; Eighth Army, p. 18 and Map 2.
92. Eighth Army, pp. 18-19; Brereton Rpt., supplement.
93. Eighth Army, pp. 19-22.
94. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 42.
95. History, 57th Fighter Gp.; IAM, Air Operations by the 5th Squadra Aerea between October 20, 1942 and January 31, 1943, BAM(AHB) Translation VII/66, 24 Mar. 1948, pp. 3-4.
96. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 43; Eighth Army, pp. 23-24.
97. Eighth Army, pp. 23-25; Narrative of the Battle of El Alamein.
98. Brereton Rpt., supplement; Low interview.
99. Narrative of the Battle of El Alamein; Eighth Army, pp. 25-26.
100. Eighth Army. pp. 25-28.
101. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 44.
102. Ibid., pp. 44-45; Eighth Army, pp. 28-29; Narrative of the Battle of El Alamein; Administrative History, 9th AF.
103. AAFHS-30, p. 70; 9th AF Mission Record; The Brereton Diaries, entry for 7 Nov. 1942; extracts from BAM(AHB) translation of Italian doc., Italian Merchant Shipping Sunk in the Mediterranean between 10 June 1940 and 8 September 1943.
104. Administrative History, 9th AF; History, IX BC.
105. History, IX BC; Eighth Army, p.32; RAFME Review No. 1, p. 73.