NORTH AFRICA AND THE MEDITERRANEAN
The Air Transport Command became involved in planning for the North African invasion as early as 10 October 1942, four weeks before the launching of the attack. On that date General George was informed by the Air Staff that plans should be developed immediately for the extension of ATC's services into the invasion area. Col. Harold R. Harris, chief of the command's planning section, and his assistant, Lt. Thomas M. Murphy, went to work at once on a preliminary report on possible routes for ATC's supply effort. Colonel Harris and Lieutenant Murphy were handicapped by the scarcity of information on airports and other facilities in Vichy Africa, but their report showed a sound grasp of the problem of supplying Allied invasion troops by air. It was completed in time for General George to take it with him when he flew south on 12 October to confer with his wing commanders in the South Atlantic and Africa.1
French North Africa was by no means easy of air approach. From British bases in the north, General Eisenhower would move down most of the aircraft employed in the initial stages of the attack, but for several reasons this route was unsatisfactory for maintaining continued air communications on a large scale with the Allied forces. While it extended only 1,300 miles from southern Britain to Casablanca and Oran, aircraft had to fly dangerously close to the German-occupied French coast and had to steer clear of the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. Enemy interception was a constant threat, foul weather was commonplace, and the Gibraltar air base, the only potential refueling point along the way for short-range craft, was too
vulnerable to permit heavy aircraft concentrations there over any period of time. Finally, a large proportion of the planes and aircraft supplies moving from Britain into North Africa had first to be flown across the North Atlantic, a route which would be all but closed to normal traffic during the winter of 1942-43. Obviously, the main flow must come via the South Atlantic and over one or more of three possible branches stemming from the established trans-African route.
Cairo, about 2,000 miles from the Oran beachhead, might have served as a jumping-off point, but it was quickly dropped from consideration. The airports in Egypt were already congested, and it would be necessary to move planes and materials across 3,400 miles of central Africa before doubling back to Oran.2
By far the best approach, and the one that eventually became the main route, was along the string of coastal bases from Accra in the Gold Coast colony up through Roberts Field (Liberia), Hastings Field (Sierra Leone), and Bathurst (Gambia). The Bathurst airport, the most northerly Allied base on the coast, was separated from Casablanca by only 1,550 miles, but it lay in the very shadow of Dakar. From the British and Free French experience in September 1940,* it seemed clear not only that Dakar would be held to the last but that it might well become a base for a counterattack by Vichy French and Axis forces, a forbidding threat to large-scale air supply operations up along the west African coast. Furthermore, aircraft taking off for Casablanca would have to curve inland over French territory or out over the water in order to avoid the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro. Along the inland route several Vichy desert air bases offered convenient points for launching air attacks on Allied planes in transit.†3 Thus, this route, too, was discounted.
Having decided that the coastal route would be untenable until Dakar and other points had been cleared of hostile air and ground troops, Harris and Murphy recommended that North Africa-bound aircraft, after crossing the South Atlantic to Accra or other coastal bases, proceed eastward along the central African route about 780 miles to Kano in northern Nigeria, and thence northwestward across the Sahara to Casablanca or Oran, 1,800-1,900 miles away. Kano,
* A Free French force and a British naval squadron which attempted to seize Dakar were sharply rebuffed by stoutly resisting Vichy French.
† Once Vichy France had surrendered, these same bases, particularly Atar and Tindouf, became important links in the main airway into North Africa.
having been for some time a major base on the regular central African route into Cairo, was a satisfactory stopover; gasoline stocks and other supplies were adequate; the weather was favorable; and heavy concentrations of aircraft there prior to the invasion would not arouse suspicion, nor would they be in danger of attack from the air or ground.4 General George accepted these recommendations, and Kano became during the initial stages of the invasion the main take-off point for both ferried and transport aircraft.
General George, accompanied by Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Hanley of the Air Staff and by Colonel Harris and other members of his staff, left Washington on 12 October ostensibly for an inspection trip to the Caribbean area. At Atkinson Field, British Guiana, he conferred with Brig. Gen. Robert L. Walsh of the South Atlantic Wing and Brig. Gen. Shepler W. Fitzgerald of the Africa-Middle East Wing. Without divulging the secret of the imminent invasion, George and his staff were able to obtain information that aided greatly in developing plans for ATC's part in the coming operation.5
The Air Transport Command was charged with two initial undertakings in connection with TORCH: the establishment of a four-engine transport service from Accra through Kano to Oran and the support of ferrying operations from Florida through Natal, Accra, and Kano into the North African area. Ferrying plans, as of 23 October, called for the movement of the following combat groups along the South Atlantic route during the sixty-day period following the invasion.
Type of Aircraft
Number of Aircraft
Due to Arrive
All the aircraft involved were to be staged at Morrison Field, Florida, and go by way of Ascension Island to Accra, with final staging, prior to take-off across the relatively unknown Sahara route, at Kano or Maiduguri— Roberts Field in Liberia being a possible alternate. The ATC would provide adequate supplies of gasoline, oil, and rations along the route and assume responsibility for briefing the crews and
monitoring the flights. The Air Service Command was to supply, at stopping points along the way, a balanced list of spare parts for the various types of aircraft. ATC commanders in South America and Africa were to be informed of the projected invasion but were to receive only the minimum information necessary for performance of their tasks.6
No heavy bombers were included in this first scheduled movement of ferried aircraft. Four-engine planes were still going to the United Kingdom by the North Atlantic route, and at the outset North Africa was to be supplied with B-17's and B-24's from Britain. However, as the ferrying plans were being completed, the Air Transport Command learned that heavy-bombardment groups originally scheduled to go from the United States by way of the North Atlantic and Britain would go by the southern route instead.7 All heavy-bomber ferrying was shifted to the South Atlantic route in December.8
The A-20's of the 68th Observation Group, scheduled to reach North Africa six days after D Day, began arriving at Morrison Field on 30 October. They were organized as the KIT project, with Lt. Col. Louis T. Reichers, an experienced and highly qualified officer, serving as project commander.9 Reichers, whose service with the command predated Pearl Harbor, had been the first pilot to traverse the whole of the South Atlantic route in an east-to-west direction. On this flight, after having piloted one of the two B-24's carrying the Harriman mission from Britain to Moscow in the fall of 1941, he had then brought his plane home by way of the Middle East, Africa, the South Atlantic, and Brazil. It was a hazardous, trail-blazing flight along a route still in an extremely primitive condition.*
Upon arriving at Morrison Field, Colonel Reichers organized a staff consisting of several experienced ATC officers. As no arrangements had been completed with the Air Service Command for spare parts, the staff went to work immediately on the supply problem and had Wright Field make up and ship to Morrison Field a spare parts kit not to exceed 200 pounds in weight for each airplane. An additional 7,500 pounds of operational spares were also to be shipped out on a C-87 transport to Oran to arrive about the same time as the A-20's. When the first A-20 reached Morrison Field on 30 October, it was immediately tested for weight and balance. The loading was thoroughly out of balance, so the plane was reloaded as a criterion
* See Vol. I, 318.
for the others. A close inspection of the planes as they came in also found many obvious malfunctions of radio equipment, instruments, generators, and other parts. These defects could be corrected, but there was one glaring mechanical deficiency that could not be, short of replacing the engines—the defective pistons and rings of the A-20B power plant. These caused the Wright 2600-11 engine to give trouble all the way into Oran. Another major problem facing Reichers was the greenness and inexperience of the crews. Had he realized this as fully at the beginning of the 9,000-mile flight as at the end, he would probably have insisted on more training in navigation and formation flying. He had been told that the pilots were "pretty good" in instrument flying, but this proved to be very much of an exaggeration. Actually only six of the thirty-six pilots held instrument cards; the others had received only Link training.10
The thirty-six A-20's were divided into four flights of nine ships each, each flight to be led by a heavier convoy plane flown by an ATC crew. These flights were: TIGER, led by a B-24 commanded by Colonel Reichers; SHARK, led by a B-25 under Capt. Rodney S. Lamont; PANTHER, led by Maj. Marion E. Grevemberg in a B-24; and FOX, led by a B-25 under command of Capt. John M. Tillman. It was planned that TIGER and SHARK flights would comprise the first echelon, flying each leg on the same day, and that PANTHER and FOX flights would follow a day later.11
Colonel Reichers' TIGER flight departed Morrison Field on 8 November, and here began a series of mishaps of varying degrees of seriousness that resulted in general from the greenness of the crews or the bad mechanical condition of the planes. Time was lost at the very start as Reichers circled Morrison Field in his B-24, trying to pull the nine A-20's together before heading out for Borinquen Field. One plane, left behind because of difficulty in starting the engine, came on later with the SHARK flight; another circled aimlessly around the field and never did join the formation but somehow reached Borinquen on its own. About an hour short of Borinquen Field, the main flight encountered a front much heavier than the forecast had indicated.12 Reichers himself narrowly escaped disaster from the panicky maneuvers of his green pilots, who had tried to follow his B-24 instead of dispersing for instrument flying as directed. There were several near-collisions. One of the pilots came out of a low scud to find himself headed straight for the tail of Reichers' B-24
lead plane. In order to keep from cutting it off, he rolled the A-20 on its back and peeled away in a dive. This caused the baggage to shift, and a musette bag became entangled in the controls. As the plane headed for the water, doing somewhere between 370 and 400 miles an hour, the crew chief managed to disentangle the gear just in time. When the pilot pulled violently out of the dive near the water, "the wings seemed to point straight up into the air and there was a very loud crackling noise." The dive tore off the radio antenna, broke open the escape hatch, with the resulting loss of some of the baggage, and buckled both wings along the leading edge just beyond the engine nacelles. It was only by great good fortune that the plane got into Borinquen. It had to stay there for major repairs while the others moved on.13 Two A-20's were lost: the tail plane of the formation piloted by Maj. Thomas E. Johnson, temporary commander of the 68th Group, and another by 2d Lt. James K. Parker, only five months out of flying school. Available evidence seemed to indicate that Parker, sticking too close to his commander, had collided with the other, causing both planes to go down at sea with a total loss of the crews.14 The other flights were more fortunate on this first leg of the journey, although SHARK flight was so long delayed in assembling that it was called back by the control tower and held until the next day, the 9th. On the 10th the other two flights under the general command of Major Grevemberg departed in good order.
At Borinquen Field Reichers' TIGER flight laid over two days. The morale of the crews was good, in spite of the loss of a respected leader and the two crews, and in spite of very poor transient service at the base—so poor that the "kids," as the pilots were described in an official report, flew to Atkinson without either breakfast or lunch.15
Colonel Reichers reported that the 3,000-mile flight from Borinquen to Natal, with stops at Atkinson Field and Belem, was "more or less routine," although the pilots frequently lost visual contact, with some resulting confusion. Upon arriving at a landing field, Reichers would circle the strip in his B-24 while sending out homing signals on his radio; or, after getting a general description of the country from pilots who were "lost," he would tell them where they were and how to head toward the airport. Of the thirty-six A-20's that left Florida, thirty-three reached Natal. On the take-off from Natal, one of the A-20 pilots retracted his landing gear too soon, and one propeller scraped the runway for 300 yards. In spite of orders
from the control tower and advice from his crew chief, he stayed with the flight into Ascension Island, a distance of 1,437 miles, where a complete engine change was necessary.16
All thirty-three of the planes got across the Atlantic, though not without other mishaps caused by engine failure or poor navigation. On 24 November they flew from Accra to Kano, except for one plane left behind because of engine trouble. At daybreak of the following morning, Colonel Reichers with TIGER and SHARK flights took off on the 1,800-mile jump across the Sahara to Oran. Four planes lost the leader and had to turn back to Kano. One plane was forced to land on a desert airport at In-Sala; the others ran into a heavy front in the mountains near Oran, and it was only through the skillful work of Reichers that they reached Tafaraoui Field, where the radio range and homing beacons had quit operating. Reichers remarked in his report: "Our arrival at Oran was not under very favorable circumstances due to the lack of communications, bad weather, shortage of food and lack of sleeping accommodations, resulting in our being very unhappy."17
The four planes which had turned back to Kano were divided between the other two flights. PANTHER flight under Major Grevemberg, leaving Kano on the 26th with ten A-20's, had better luck. At Oran Colonel Reichers used a portable Signal Corps radio set to bring seven of the planes into Tafaraoui Field; the other three landed at La Senia Airport nearby. FOX flight under Captain Tillman also got off on the 26th but turned back when four A-20's developed engine trouble. One plane was badly damaged in an emergency landing at a water hole where the crew found some Arab herdsmen.18 All members of the flight had been briefed on the danger of being captured by Vichy forces or unfriendly Arabs, but here the natives proved hospitable. They killed a goat and roasted some of the meat for the crew, in return for which they were given candy, cigarettes, and chewing gum, and the chief was presented with several French gold pieces carried for such emergencies. The next day a C-47 was sent out from Kano to pick up the crew and strip the A-20 of removable parts. The native chief, in return for the gold coins, insisted that the pilot take one of his daughters with him. When the pilot refused, the chief was so insulted that the greatest diplomacy had to be employed to prevent an ugly incident.19
because of engine trouble. Two others were forced to land at Ft. Laperine; the rest of the flight made it to Oran, but not without difficulty, because the portable Signal Corps station at Oran had been commandeered by a Signal Corps officer for other work. When last seen "it was going 40 miles an hour down the road to Algiers." Other agencies were no more helpful than the Signal Corps. When Tillman tried to get assistance from the Bomber Command in removing the crews and salvaging the planes at Ft. Laperine, he "was politely told that we were running a war and not a nursery school." Fighter Command was unable to help, but a "kind colonel" in the Air Service Command promised to do all he could.20
Of the original thirty-six A-20's of the KIT project, only twenty-three had reached Oran by 28 November, twenty days out from Florida. The remaining ten planes that had gotten across the Atlantic came in during December. Fortunately, the experience of the 68th Group proved to be exceptional, but it serves nonetheless to emphasize the varied hazards that had to be overcome before ATC could view the ferrying of combat planes and crews to overseas theaters as a routine operation.* ATC officers stressed in their reports two obvious conclusions: that combat crews must be better trained for long-range ferrying and that the aircraft must be in better mechanical shape at departure. Colonel Reichers recommended at least a week of special crew training prior to departure in group take-off, assembly, formation flying, dispersal, reassembly, and landing procedure. He asked also for more instruction by the Training Command and the OTU's in instrument flying and formation flying.21 Other officers were concerned with specific improvements in the A-20's Wright engine22 and in bettering housekeeping and health conditions for transients along the route.23 Hazards encountered because of inadequate communications, weather reporting, and navigational aids at stations along the route would be overcome gradually, but not until the AAF had suffered severe losses in the heavy movement of aircraft into North Africa during the 1942-43 winter.24
Opening a Transport Service
While helping to ferry combat planes, the Air Transport Command had been busy inaugurating a transport service into North
* Happily, the early development of a coastal route northward from Accra made further attempts to ferry aircraft across the desert from Kano unnecessary.
Africa. Since a regular transport route already extended to Accra and across central Africa, the chief problem at first was to get long-range cargo craft for the long jump of 1,800-2,100 miles from Kano or Accra across the desert to target points in the north. On 20 October, General George had asked for an early delivery of eight C-87's to provide one daily round trip across the desert by 15 November and a second by the 25th. Six new C-87's were promptly assigned to ATC, together with extra engines and other spare parts. The movement of the C-87's to Africa was intrusted to Major Edward Coates, who christened his own plane Old Saint Nick because she was to take Christmas mail on her first flight into North Africa. As the planes came off a Fort Worth assembly line, they were flown directly to Morrison Field. Here they were held up for two days because the base authorities wanted to give the brand-new planes a major overhaul and their crews new physical exams and a fresh set of shots. Coates could not divulge the secret mission of the flight but by some frantic telephoning to Washington finally got the planes cleared. They left Morrison Field on 11 November and arrived at Accra on the 13th.25
A threat to divert the C-87's to the trans-African run to Cairo as replacements for C-47's needed by the advancing British failed to materialize, and on 16 November Coates and his crew left Accra for Kano. There he waited until 2200 before beginning the flight over French West Africa, supposedly defended by Vichy French squadrons at the desert air bases of Gao and Colomb-Bechar. Coates reached the coast at daylight and worked along it until he sighted Oran. In spite of the heavy load aboard his C-87, he landed safely on Tafaraoui's runway, which was only 3,500 feet long. In addition to the Christmas mail, this pioneer transport flight into North Africa brought in spare parts for the 68th Group's A-20's and miscellaneous supplies. Because the field had only hand-operated gasoline pumps, refueling time for the C-87 was ten hours. On the night of 19/20 November, Coates returned direct to Accra, making the non-stop flight of 2,150 miles in a little over ten hours. A second plane left on the 18th and two more on the 19th, carrying aircraft parts, a 1,200-watt radio station, and gasoline pumps, the latter two items badly needed at Tafaraoui. After the fourth or fifth trip, the detour via Kano was omitted, and flights were made directly between Accra and Oran. Still far from satisfactory, however, the new trans-Sahara service was considered
only a temporary expedient until the coastal route could be cleared and both the two-engine and four-engine transports could operate across shorter distances.26
After the Allied position in Morocco and Algiers had been made secure, negotiations were opened with Pierre Boisson, Vichy Governor-General of French West Africa, for the peaceful occupation of Dakar and the whole of that Vichy-held territory. On 7 December, General Eisenhower reached a broad understanding with Admiral Jean Darlan and Governor Boisson, and negotiations were then turned over to Boisson and Brig. Gen. Cyrus R. Smith, ATC Chief of Staff, who had gone out to Africa as chief of a special United States Army West African Mission. By terms of the Smith-Boisson agreement, the United States secured the use of airdromes, harbors, roads, and other facilities in French West Africa and the authority to construct a new airfield near Dakar for which both the United States and the colony would contribute labor and materials.27 This base (Dakar/Yof or Mallard Field) was not completed until 1944. Meanwhile, the United States, finding the runways on the existing French bases in the area too short to accommodate heavy bombers and large transports, took over a small field near the town of Rufisque and about seventeen miles out of Dakar. Within a few months, two 6,000-foot runways were ready at Eknes Field, as it was named, which became the main ATC base in the Dakar area until June 1944, when all personnel and facilities were moved to Mallard Field.28Dakar's location at the most westerly point in Africa made it a natural landfall on the airway across the South Atlantic to North Africa and Europe. By taking the direct overwater route from Natal to Dakar, the distance was cut down to only 1,872 statute miles, nearly 1,400 miles less than the route by way of Ascension Island, Accra, and Roberts Field, Liberia. The limited range of some aircraft made it necessary for them to take the longer route, but four-engine planes could easily make the jump direct to Dakar.
Between Dakar and Casablanca, and to the east of Spanish Rio de Oro, were several desert airfields of which Atar in Mauritania and Tindouf in western Algeria became important ATC bases after extensive improvement of their runways and facilities. Early plans to use Casablanca as the main northern terminal point of the coastal route were changed when General Smith found that base facilities and weather conditions were better at Marrakech, about 137 miles to the
south of Casablanca and 75 miles inland. Marrakech soon became the center of ATC operations in the north and remained so until the end of 1943.29
Air Transport Command had next to find the personnel to man the bases on the coastal route. One source of manpower was found in the 14th Ferrying Group, previously assigned to the Congo route, the alternate airway to Khartoum and the Middle East by way of bases in French Equatorial Africa, the Belgian Congo, and Kenya Colony.* The group's headquarters had been set up at Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo, and one of its three authorized squadrons had been activated when Allied successes in the north rendered the Congo route superfluous. It was decided to use the 14th Group on the new route into North Africa, leaving only a few skeleton detachments to man the equatorial bases. Group headquarters was moved to Bathurst on 12 December 1942, a few months later to Dakar, and then to Marrakech. The three subordinate squadrons were assigned to Bathurst (later to Dakar), Marrakech, and Algiers. Detachments were placed at Atar, Tindouf, Casablanca, and Oran.30
With the extension of ATC activities into North Africa, the jurisdiction of the Africa-Middle East Wing was broadened to encompass these new operations. The wing's authority already spanned a territory of vast distances. From Accra on the west African coast to Karachi in India, the main air route extended nearly 6,000 miles, while auxiliary lines, exclusive of the now inactive Congo route, brought the total mileage to over 10,000. Nevertheless, General George decided to maintain for the time being a unified command in this immense region, to insure flexibility in the utilization of equipment and manpower and in the routing of aircraft and supplies. As the North African operations of ATC advanced with General Eisenhower's progress along the Mediterranean shore to Tunis, a more decentralized control became necessary, but General George still held to the principle of a single unified command. Accordingly, in June 1943 two sectors were established within the Africa-Middle East Wing—the North African Sector, with direct control of operations north of Dakar, and the Central African Sector, which began at Accra and extended across the older African route to Cairo and beyond to Karachi. The sector organization remained in effect for six months, with several changes in boundary lines, the most important of which was the placing of Cairo
* See above, pp. 54–55.
and dependent stations farther east (all the way to Karachi) under the control of the North African Sector. This shift, which occurred in October, reflected the growing predominance of the Mediterranean coastal route to Cairo and India over the older route through Nigeria and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Finally, on 15 December 1943, the Africa-Middle East jurisdiction was divided into the Central African and North African Wings.31
For several months after the invasion of northwest Africa the ferrying of combat planes for General Doolittle's Twelfth Air Force continued to be the heaviest responsibility imposed on ATC by the invasion. Close on the heels of the 68th Group, two B-26 groups, the 17th and 320th, passed through the Morrison Field staging base during late November and December 1942, with a few stragglers departing as late as January.32 The advance echelon of the 17th Group arrived at Accra on 26 November. Because its B-26's as then equipped and loaded lacked the necessary range for the Kano-Oran flight by about 100 miles, they were then routed up the coast through Roberts Field to Bathurst to await developments beyond that point. After a two weeks' delay, during which time Governor Boisson had surrendered Dakar and French West Africa, the B-26's took off for Marrakech.33The A-20's of the 27th Group started moving through the Morrison Field port of embarkation in mid-January,34 and a month later the 321st Group, equipped with B-25's, began arriving in Florida to prepare for the overseas journey.35 All four groups went by way of Ascension Island and Accra and then up along the coastal route to Marrakech.
Meanwhile, the approach of winter had caused the diversion of all ferrying from the North Atlantic to the South Atlantic route. Severe losses suffered by the 319th Group (B-26's) and the 47th Group (A-20's) on the North Atlantic ferry route had led to a decision in late October to send all light- and medium-bomber reinforcements to the Twelfth Air Force by way of the South Atlantic. By mid-December, heavy-bomber ferrying across the North Atlantic was also suspended.36 Until the northern route was again opened to traffic in the spring, all ferried aircraft going either to the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa or to the Eighth Air Force in Britain were dispatched by way of the southern route. The first heavy-bomber units to reach
North Africa via the South Atlantic were the 99th Group, which passed through the Morrison Field port of embarkation early in February, and the 2d Group, which came through in March. Both were equipped with B-17's.37 At first the heavy bombers went through Ascension and Accra, but later they were dispatched from Natal directly across the Atlantic to Eknes Field near Dakar, where one 6,000-foot steel-mat runway had been completed in February. The peak of heavy-bomber ferrying for the North African campaign was reached in April, when 117 were delivered over the coastal route through Dakar to Marrakech.38
The fighter aircraft employed by American forces in the early stages of the North African campaign—P-38's, P-39's, P-40's, and British Spitfires—were either ferried down from Britain by their own crews or, in the case of the P-40's, brought in by aircraft carriers and flown from their decks to airports in the vicinity of Port Lyautey and Casablanca. Thereafter, pursuit reinforcements were brought in by every possible means. Some P-38's followed the original units down from Britain, some were flown across the South Atlantic, while others were sent in as deck loads on cargo vessels. A large number of P-40's, including the air echelon of the 325th Group, was brought to Casablanca on board the carrier Ranger during January and February; others came on cargo vessels and were assembled at Gazes Field.* After February, however, the P-40 reinforcements were sent to ports farther south on the African coast and ferried up the coastal route to Marrakech. At the time the coastal route was opened to traffic, P-40's were being shipped by water to Lagos in southern Nigeria for assembly and flight across central Africa to the Middle East. As early as January 1943, some of the P-40's were being diverted north to the Twelfth Air Force,39 but, in moving P-40's into Morocco, it seemed better to establish an additional assembly plant farther north in the Dakar area. By mid-April, shops had been set up at Ouakam Field, a small airport near Dakar, where the aircraft brought in by ship were assembled and then flown a few miles east to Eknes Field. Here they were organized into convoys for the flight north.40
During 1942, P-38 fighters had been ferried successfully to Britain over the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland route,† The transoceanic hops from Natal by way of Ascension to Liberia were somewhat longer
* See Vol. II, 57–60, 75–77, 130–31.
† See Vol. I, 639–45.
than any single leg of the northern route but not too long for the twin-engine fighter when equipped with extra gas tanks. Consequently, when early in 1943 the AAF Director of Photography asked ATC to ferry a small group of P-38's modified for photo-reconnaissance work to the Twelfth Air Force, the job was willingly accepted. Control of the flight and provision of crews were made the responsibilities of the 2d Ferrying Group (based at Wilmington, Delaware), which had participated in the P-38 movement to Britain the year before. The twelve P-38's were divided into four nights, each flight led by a B-24. They took off from Wilmington on 7 February, flew down through the Caribbean and Brazil and across the Atlantic without mishap, and landed at Roberts Field on the 23d. Here most of the planes were turned over to combat pilots, but a few were flown by ATC pilots all the way into Casablanca. A second movement of P-38's (all told, forty-one aircraft) began in March and was completed in May. At first the planes were divided into flights of six, each led by an A-20, which had a cruising speed that was ideal for the purpose. The first flight left the Ferrying Division base at Memphis on 12 March, and within ten days a total of five flights had departed. After a long delay occasioned by the shortage of qualified pilots, the remaining planes moved out on almost an individual basis. There were a few losses, resulting largely from the inexperience of the pilots and bad weather in northern Brazil.41
Deliveries of aircraft along the coastal route through Bathurst, Dakar, and Marrakech increased from month to month as the North African campaign grew in intensity. During December 1942, the month the route was opened, 107 aircraft were ferried to Marrakech and other delivery points. The peak of the movement coincided with the final phase of the Tunisian campaign in May 1943, when 573 deliveries were completed. By the end of June, just before the invasion of Sicily, deliveries for the seven-month period had reached a total of 1,985. About half of these (927) consisted of light and medium bombers, but there were 569 heavy bombers, 298 twin-engine transports, 182 fighters, 5 PBY's, and 4 gliders.42 These figures included aircraft flown from North Africa to the Eighth Air Force in Britain, but by far the largest number of the planes in all categories were intended for service in North Africa and the Mediterranean.43
Air transportation services into North Africa developed much more slowly than did the ferrying operations, principally because of the
shortage of transport aircraft and the relative speed with which supplies could be brought in by water.44 The six C-87's which had been placed in operation between Accra and Oran soon after the invasion continued to fly the trans-Sahara route direct until February 1943.45 Early in January 1943 a regularly scheduled service, using C-47's began operating between Accra and Bathurst with three flights a week.46 On the 27th this service was extended northward through Atar and Tindouf to Marrakech, with Dakar as a regular stop as soon as Eknes Field was ready. At Marrakech ATC's two-engine service tied in with a theater transport operation conducted by Twelfth Air Force troop-carrier and RAF transport units, which served Casablanca and Oran, and from Oran flew on westward to Algiers.47
North Africa's Link with Britain
At Marrakech a link was also established with the air route joining North Africa and Britain, a route inaugurated during the initial phase of TORCH as bombers, fighters and loaded troop transports of the Allied air forces moved down from Britain to landing fields in the target area. Replacement aircraft continued to flow south from Britain until the very end of the Tunisian campaign, by which time a total of 1,072 replacements had been dispatched from the United Kingdom to American air units in North Africa.48 In the meantime, with the closing-down of the North Atlantic ferry route in December 1942, a reverse flow had started from Africa north to Britain. Two-engine and four-engine bombers assigned to the Eighth were flown thereafter across the South Atlantic and up to Marrakech, and thence to fields in southern England. During the first six months of 1943 a total of 356 aircraft reached Britain by this route.49 This traffic diminished rapidly, however, after the North Atlantic route into Britain was reopened in April. During the next winter season (1943–44) the European theater again received most of its ferried aircraft by the long southern route, although some 300 planes a month were still sent across the North Atlantic.*50
For several months following the North African landings, the only air transport service between North Africa and Britain was that maintained by the Eighth Air Force Ferry and Transport Service, which intermittently dispatched a B-17 to Africa, primarily for the movement of high military officials. The need for some more regular service
* See below, pp. 100–102.
had prompted ATC to propose the use of Stratoliners flown by civilians under a contract with TWA.51 When objections were raised to using the outmoded Stratoliners on a route involving a 14,000-foot crossing of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, it was decided to use C-54's and to keep the Stratoliners on the South Atlantic crossing.52 An ATC survey party left Marrakech in a C-87 on 26 December with an ATC military crew, headed by Maj. Harold Skelly and Maj. Hamilton Heard, and with a TWA civilian crew aboard. Upon arriving in England, they obtained permission to use St. Eval in Cornwall as the northern terminus of the line and for the ATC to set up there its own point-to-point and air-to-ground communications system.53 Before their return to Marrakech, the ATC men found an opportunity to observe at first hand the hazards of flying the U.K.-North Africa route. At St. Eval on 3 January a B-17 came in from Gibraltar full of holes and with one crewman dead. On the following day two B-17's of the Eighth Air Force shuttle service arrived from Africa "completely shot up." They had been flying at about 500 feet in order to avoid radar and had been caught off Brest by JU-88's. Still another hazard arose from the habit American aircraft had of flying into Britain from the south without giving warning of their approach. The ATC's C-87 had done just that on its maiden flight, after which the crew was warned by the RAF that British fighter patrols were currently manned by young and excitable Polish flyers who were under orders to shoot down all unannounced aircraft flying under 1,000 feet. When almost immediately two AAF B-24's came in from Gibraltar unannounced, the British, feeling perhaps that the honor of the Fighter Command was involved, warned again that orders had been given to shoot down all unexpected aircraft.54
On 11 January a detailed plan for the operation of the TWA shuttle service into Britain was sent to all ATC wing commanders along the South Atlantic route.55 This called for the extension northward to Britain of TWA's Washington-to-Accra C-54 service. The original schedule called for two flights a week from Washington to the U.K., with Prestwick rather than St. Eval designated as the northern terminus.
Heavy demands for special mission flights in connection with the Casablanca conference in January delayed the inauguration of this service,56 but by the end of that month the C-54's were making one flight a week from Washington to Britain via Marrakech, carrying
only the highest priority cargo and passengers.57 Effective 8 February, the Washington-Marrakech-Prestwick schedule was ordered stepped up to two flights a week, with each C-54 making an extra shuttle between Marrakech and Prestwick before returning to the United States.58 Actually, the records show nine arrivals in the United Kingdom during February, nineteen during March, and in April thirty-two, most of these last coming over the reopened North Atlantic route.59
Special mission work between North Africa and Britain occasionally interfered with the regular cargo and passenger service. In March 1943 the ATC C-54's moved the personnel and equipment of the 2037th Anti-Submarine Wing from St. Eval, Cornwall, to Port Lyautey, French Morocco. Eight flights were required to carry the 175 passengers and 23,229 pounds of equipment.60 In September the command completed the emergency movement of aircraft, personnel, and equipment of the 2d Bombardment Wing from St. Mawgan in the U.K. to North Africa. On the night of the 16th, forty-six B-24's were cleared from St. Mawgan, and, by the 21st, forty-four others were dispatched. To complete the movement of aircrew members, mechanics, and other ground personnel, as well as their equipment, all available C-54 aircraft were diverted from Prestwick to St. Mawgan to carry 307 passengers, 31,682 pounds of gear, and 7,582 pounds of tools.61 During October there was an even larger special movement in the opposite direction, when Ninth Air Force personnel from Cairo, making a permanent shift from the Middle East to Britain, and Twelfth Air Force men from Algiers, were transported via Marrakech to Prestwick. Between the 4th and the 18th, almost 1,000 men were carried on thirty-one special flights, and an additional 71 on regular flights which were resumed on the 19th.62
When C-54 transports had again started flying the North Atlantic route, in April 1943, the Prestwick-Marrakech shuttle became an appendage of the North Atlantic operation rather than of the South Atlantic; in other words, transports coming into Prestwick from the north made one or two shuttle trips to Marrakech before returning to the United States. Although this new arrangement increased the lift between Britain and North Africa, the arrangement was not too satisfactory, and by September 1943 plans had been developed for divorcing the U.K.-North Africa shuttle from all transatlantic operations and assigning to it exclusively a small fleet of C-87's.63 After some
delay the C-87's began arriving in March 1944, and at the end of that month the first regularly scheduled flight left St. Mawgan, the new terminus in the ETO, for Casablanca, which had replaced Marrakech as the southern terminus.64 Concurrently, in late March, a new shuttle service between St. Mawgan and Naples via North Africa was instituted. For about two months this was a single operation extending across two theaters, but in June, in order to utilize the aircraft more effectively, ATC's European Wing was ordered to fly only as far as Casablanca.*65
Probably the most important single project later undertaken by the St. Mawgan–Casablanca shuttle service was a special mission for USSTAF's FRANTIC project. Mission ELEVEN, as the operation was designated by ATC, consisted of the movement of USSTAF cargo and personnel from Britain to Africa, across North Africa and the Middle East, to Tehran, and thence to the Poltava region of western Russia, where three bases had been made available to American forces for the shuttle bombing of Germany,† The movement from the U.K. began on 13 March 1944, and by 10 May a total of 479 passengers and 143,700 pounds of equipment had been transported to Casablanca. From Casablanca the North African Wing carried men and materials arriving from Britain and direct from the United States on across Africa and the Middle East to Russia. The bases were first used by U.S. bombers on 2 June 1944. Fortunately, in the surprise German attack upon the Poltava airfield on the night of 21 June, an attack which destroyed thirty-nine of the seventy-one B-17's caught on the field, the three ATC transports then at Poltava escaped with only minor damage.66
Expansion to the East—Absorption of MATS
The Air Transport Command's two-engine transport service northward from Accra through Roberts Field, Bathurst (later Dakar), Atar, and Tindouf had reached Marrakech on 27 January 1943, and there it came temporarily to a halt except for an occasional trip to Oran.67 At Marrakech the men and materials brought in by ATC were picked up by troop-carrier planes and distributed locally within the theater. But, when the fighting moved on east into Tunisia during
* Cargo and passengers moving between Casablanca and Naples were carried on the regularly scheduled aircraft of the North African Wing.
† See Vol. II, 308–19.
the spring, ATC began to expand in that direction, originally on a very small scale. On 16 April ATC assumed responsibility for a two-engine passenger service between Marrakech and Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. This arrangement, agreed on at the Casablanca conference by Brig. Gen. Cyrus R. Smith, ATC Chief of Staff, and General Spaatz's staff, was supposed to release troop-carrier aircraft for tactical operations at the front.68 It is doubtful, however, if this purpose was accomplished to any noticeable extent. ATC employed only four aircraft in the new service, while American troop-carrier units and RAF transport units continued to operate a constantly expanding air-cargo service between the rear areas in Morocco and Algiers and the combat zone in Tunisia.69 Supplies coming in by ship to the ports of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers when earmarked for air shipment to the front were picked up by troop-carrier and RAF transports and moved forward.
Theater air transport activities had so grown in size and in diversity that in May 1943 it was deemed advisable to bring them all under a single controlling agency, called the Mediterranean Air Transport Service (MATS). MATS exercised control over the operations of a polyglot group of air transport organizations which included: (1) American troop-carrier squadrons of the 51st Troop Carrier Wing, some of which operated under the control of the Air Priorities Board of the Mediterranean Air Command, while others were employed by North African Air Service Command in hauling cargo and personnel for theater air forces; (2) the 216th Transport Group of the RAF and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) which flew regular schedules between the U.K. and Cairo through Gibraltar; and (3) Air France and the French military air-cargo service.70
This development naturally raised questions regarding the control of ATC operations within the theater. A conference early in May, held in the office of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder at Algiers, accomplished little more than to define the problem.71 But ATC was represented in a second conference held late in the same month by General Smith, ATC chief of staff. At this time General Smith gave forceful presentation of the mission, jurisdiction, and operations of his organization, stressing the fact that ATC was not subject to the control of local theater authorities but was governed by appropriate directives of the War Department. He cited particularly War Department Memorandum W95-6-43 of 26 February 1943, which had stated
that ATC was a War Department agency operating under the direct supervision and control of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces. In the light of this directive, there was some question whether MATS could rightfully exercise any control whatsoever over ATC's operations, but General Smith did not insist on complete freedom within the theater. Instead, he made a clear distinction between through operations which extended across theater and national boundaries and which served more than one theater and local operations which were conducted primarily for the use and benefit of a single theater. Insofar as local intratheater services were concerned, General Smith conceded the right of MATS to allocate priorities, establish schedules, and even to divert ATC aircraft temporarily from scheduled operations to perform other services in cases of emergency. But the interruption of through services could not be permitted, "except in cases of gravest emergency."72
MATS continued to control priorities and schedules on ATC's local Marrakech-Casablanca-Oran-Algiers passenger service, but at the same time it kept its hands off ATC's intertheater operations—that is, the service up from Accra through Dakar to Marrakech and the operations between Marrakech and Great Britain.73 Indeed, when MATS was organized, its jurisdiction was limited to that part of the theater north of thirtieth parallel, which in effect exempted the coastal route and the operation to the U.K, from MATS control.74
Probably the one matter that worried ATC most at this time in its relations with the North African Theater (NATOUSA) was the latter's desire to delay the inauguration of a C-54 through operation that would extend across the whole of North Africa from Marrakech to Cairo and would provide the missing link in a shorter route from the United States to the Middle East and the CBI.75 Already, experimental flights were being made from Newfoundland direct across the middle Atlantic to Marrakech,* and there was a good prospect that the Azores would soon be opened to full Allied war traffic. There were some in the Air Transport Command who were inclined to blame NATOUSA's attitude on the machinations of the British or, more particularly, BOAC. It was assumed that the British did not like the idea of the American contract airlines flying the North African routes because of a fear that this would give the same airlines a postwar claim to operating through the area.76 General Eisenhower had forbidden ATC to
* See below, p. 88.
employ contract operators in the theater except for the TWA service up through Marrakech to Britain.77 But ATC intended to make the Marrakech-Cairo run a purely military operation employing military crews exclusively, and on this basis the plan was finally given approval.
At the conference of ATC and theater officials held in Marshal Tedder's office early in May, the Marrakech-Cairo transport service had been ordered "held in abeyance,"78 but at the second conference General Smith secured the authority to start the service in July.79 It actually got under way on 7 July with two C-54's flying a twice-weekly schedule. When two other Skymasters arrived in August, the schedule was stepped up to five trips a week. The only stop made en route was at Algiers.80 By the end of 1943 the North African airway was well on its way to becoming the main route into the Middle East and India, overshadowing the older central African route to such an extent that all the Middle East bases from Cairo to Karachi were transferred to the jurisdiction of the North African Sector and its successor, the North African Wing.81
It was becoming by this time a general policy of the Air Transport Command to take over from troop-carrier units or other local transport agencies significant responsibilities for intratheater operations when asked to do so by the theater.82 Heretofore, ATC's air supply routes had generally terminated on reaching the theater, both because of ATC's limited strength and because the areas controlled by the theaters of operations were still relatively shallow (NATOUSA controlled for a time no more than a narrow strip of North Africa), with the result that local transport agencies could handle easily enough internal distribution of supplies and men. But now the problem was changing, and very rapidly at that, as may be illustrated by the experience of NATOUSA. When General Eisenhower's troops moved into Sicily and Italy, MATS was put under a heavy strain to meet the needs of a theater whose transport lines now reached back from Italy to Morocco and Algiers. The strain was attributable in part to the large forward concentration of troop-carrier planes that was demanded by tactical operations which included a succession of troop-carrier drops. In these circumstances, MATS could see the advantage of having ATC establish regular services between the rear and forward areas. ATC, for its part, was willing enough to undertake the task, for in its view the African continent was fast becoming a rear zone of communications in which the interests of strategic air supply
outweighed those that were more closely related to the immediate needs of tactical units at the front. And strategic air supply was the business of ATC.
In the fall of 1943 theater authorities agreed that MATS should surrender its operating responsibilities in North Africa to the ATC and the RAF Transport Command, retaining only a staff or coordinating function. The decision was reached at a conference on 2 November attended by Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, Maj. Gen. C. R. Smith of ATC (on his way to India to inspect the Hump operation), Brig. Gen. Robert Kauch, the MATS commander, Air Commodore Whitney-Straight of the RAFTC, and others. It was agreed that by 1 January 1944 all North African continental transport operations would be turned over to ATC and RAFTC, the transfer to take place as promptly as new aircraft could be procured. As MATS withdrew from Africa, its resources were to be devoted for the time being to the operation of services from the Continent to Italian points (MATS had started flying into Italy in October), but by 1 March 1944 the trans-Mediterranean services from the mainland to Italy were also to be transferred to the two transport commands. Thereafter, MATS would function merely as a staff agency, determining air transport requirements, establishing priorities, co-ordinating the work of the two carriers, and acting as arbiter on behalf of the theater in cases of disagreement between the two.83
The conference also decided on the division of responsibility between ATC and RAFTC in Africa. The former was given primary control over transport services and facilities in the western sector of the theater from Casablanca to Tunis, while its British counterpart would have primary responsibility from Tunis west to Cairo. Either was free to operate such through services over the other's territories as were reasonably required, and each could engage freely in the ferrying of aircraft across the theater.84
In the final months of 1943 the two transport commands took over MATS operations in Africa and early in the following year prepared to move north. While occasional special flights had been made by ATC into Sicily, Sardinia, and southern Italy, it was not until 7 March 1944 that regular operations were inaugurated to Naples, which soon became the hub of transport services in the Mediterranean. Although Capodichino Airport was to become the main ATC base in the Naples area, the inaugural flight was made to the nearby Pomigliano base under
somewhat inauspicious circumstances. As Lt. Robert L. Johnson brought his transport in over the airport, the AA batteries of Naples opened up with a barrage that fortunately failed to score a hit. It was claimed that the barrage was the result of Johnson's improper approach to the field, but there was reason to believe that the nervousness of the crews manning the antiaircraft guns was partly responsible.85
During March, 80 transport landings were made at the Naples base, and in April, 433.86 The April landings included ATC C-87's flying from St. Mawgan to Naples by way of Casablanca and Algiers. By June, the Naples base had become one of the two most important in the whole North African transport network, the other being Casablanca, the point of convergence of air supply lines reaching into North Africa from Britain and the United States and from Accra and Dakar to the south. Casablanca led all other bases during June in the amount of air cargo received and sent out, but Naples handled more passengers during the month, with 11,744 passing through the base.87
ATC operations spread out from Naples to the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily and to points in the southern part of the Italian peninsula, each requiring only a small ATC detachment.88But as Allied forces moved up the peninsula, the command began to carry a heavy traffic north into Rome. The first ATC flight into Rome, made by Lt. Henry J. Webb piloting a C-47, landed at the Littoria Airport on 20 June 1944. The initial schedule of three flights daily from Naples to Rome was increased by 1 July to five flights daily.89
ATC operations continued to spread in the Mediterranean area as Axis troops were driven out. In September the North African Division began flying into Marseille; the base was turned over to the European Division the following month.90 With the entry of Allied troops into Greece, ATC was assigned Eleusis Field near Athens. An ATC base unit (the 1269th) was formally activated on 1 November, and on the 15th the first scheduled transport flight arrived at Athens from Naples.91 With the acquisition of bases at Marseille and Athens, ATC's European and North African Divisions were soon operating an intercontinental transport service or series of services that originated in England and extended down through Paris, Marseille, Rome, Naples, and Athens to Cairo, tying together the European, Mediterranean, and Middle East theaters.92 From Cairo an infrequent shuttle service had been operating into Adana, Turkey, since early 1944 for
the convenience of the American ambassador and his staff. In order to give a civilian appearance to the flights, ATC went in disguised as the "American Transport Company," and the few ATC officers and men stationed at Adana wore civilian clothes. When the German threat to Turkey was removed, the command was permitted to throw off the disguise and to extend its flights to Ankara, Istanbul, and for a time to Poltava, in Russia, via the Turkish bases.93 In 1945, after the Balkans had been cleared of Axis troops, the ATC made occasional flights into Belgrade, Budapest, Bucharest, and Sofia with the permission of the Russian occupying authorities.94
New Route to India via North Africa
While the Air Transport Command had been extending its network of airlines over the whole of the Mediterranean area, an even heavier transport traffic had developed across North Africa as part of a great air or air-sea movement of materiel and men from the United States to India and China. Some mention has already been made of the C-54 transport service across North Africa between Marrakech and Cairo that began on a small scale in July 1943.* At the end of the year there were still only four Skymasters on the run, making six trips weekly from Marrakech to Cairo and one weekly flight on to Karachi, India.
This trans-North African route grew in importance during 1944 as the strategic situation changed. The new developments had been anticipated by ATC, a fact which explains the eagerness of General Smith and other ATC officials to overcome NATOUSA objections and to make an early start on the Marrakech-Cairo service.95 After an air base in the Azores was opened to American use late in 1943, it became possible to send a large volume of air traffic directly across the middle Atlantic to the North African coast and thence across Africa and the Middle East to the CBI. Earlier, aircraft and airborne supplies bound for the India-China area had been forced to go by the older South Atlantic-Central African airway, which traversed a distance of 14,000 miles from Florida to Kunming, China. Over the newer route, which passed through Newfoundland and the Azores to North Africa, or came up from Miami through Bermuda and the Azores to the North African coast, the distance from the United States to China was cut substantially.
The deployment of B-29 units of the XX Bomber Command in
* See above, pp. 82–83.
India and China in 1944 gave added importance to the newer and shorter route to the CBI. A large share of the supplies and reinforcements required to keep the B-29's in operation was sent across the middle Atlantic to North Africa by air or by water, and thence by air to the Calcutta area and over the Hump to advanced bases in China. The basing of B-29's in China made necessary a great increase in the volume of Hump tonnage, and this in turn required a heavier flow of aircraft, supplies, and men from the United States to ATC's India-China Wing. Much of this "company traffic," like that destined for the XX Bomber Command, went by the shorter route across North Africa.
American efforts to obtain a military air base in the Azores go back to the pre-Pearl Harbor days of 1941, when Colonel Olds of the Ferrying Command was looking for an alternate route into Britain for ferrying operations during the winter. Portugal refused to grant landing rights at the time, principally because of fear of reprisals on the part of Germany.* The North African landings a year later gave the Azores a greater strategic importance, since they could provide the most direct air route for support of the North Africa operations and a shorter airway to the Middle East, India, and China. Furthermore, General George of the Air Transport Command had the imagination to see that a base in the Azores would be vitally essential to the support of any future military operations on the European continent. Following the lead of Colonel Olds, General George brought pressure upon General Arnold and indirectly upon the State Department to make further efforts to secure concessions from Portugal, but Premier Salazar refused to budge for another year.96
Finally, in October 1943 Britain secured the right to use the Lagens airfield on the island of Terceira and the port of Horta, primarily for the purpose of antisubmarine warfare,97 and a few weeks later the United States managed to come in through the back door by means of an arrangement with the British. On 1 December 1943, British and American military representatives signed a joint agreement, approved shortly thereafter by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, whereby ferried and transport aircraft of the United States would be permitted to make a limited number of landings at the Lagens Airport. In return, the United States agreed to assist the British in improving and extending existing facilities at Lagens to handle a maximum of 1,200 landings.
* See Vol. I, 325–26.
a month by aircraft of both countries.98 On the last day of the year Premier Salazar gave his oral consent to this arrangement with the understanding that operations were to be under British control.99 Meanwhile, on 9 December the first American bomber to be ferried through the Azores landed at Lagens. By the end of that month a regularly scheduled transport operation through the Azores to North Africa had started.100
While waiting for Salazar to make up his mind, the Air Transport Command had proceeded on its own initiative to attempt the opening of a route direct from Newfoundland to Marrakech in North Africa, bypassing the Azores.101 The initial survey flight over this 2,600-mile overwater route was made on 17 April 1943 by a C-54 flown under contract by American Airlines and piloted by John F. Davidson, ship's captain.102 With a cargo load of 4,705 pounds and two passengers, the plane took off on the early morning of the 17th and fourteen hours later landed at Marrakech with only an hour-and-a-half supply of gasoline left. One of the passengers was Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Giles, commanding the ATC North Atlantic Wing, who went along to get a close-up view of the Azores. Unfortunately, the islands were completely obscured by clouds as the transport passed over them. The C-54 returned to the United States by way of Scotland and Iceland, since prevailing winds over the North Atlantic favored an eastbound flight and made the long flight in the opposite direction impossible. Although precluding large-scale transport operations, the winds would not affect the one-way flight delivery of heavy bombers, and subsequent planning for use of the route seemed to stress ferrying rather than transport operations.103104 This proved clearly enough that the ferrying of four-engine bombers with bomb-bay tanks installed was practical, but before ferrying could get started the Lagens base in the Azores became available, and the unbroken hop across the Atlantic was no longer necessary.Eighteen hours after the C-54 departed Newfoundland, a B-24 piloted by Capt. Charles O. Galbraith of the ATC Ferrying Division took off on a fifteen-hour flight over the same route and landed at Marrakech with a five-and-a-half-hour supply of gasoline left.
Within two weeks after the British-American agreement had been made, a plan for transport operations through the Azores to both the United Kingdom and North Africa had been drawn up and schedules had been published.105 The first scheduled flight went through on
29 December, but, because of inadequate weather and communications facilities and adverse weather conditions, it was well into February 1944 before schedules were regularly met.106107American Airlines and TWA, the two contract carriers then flying the North Atlantic into Britain, were selected to inaugurate the new central Atlantic services, since the Azores schedules were closely enmeshed with the older North Atlantic and South Atlantic schedules. Some of the "round-robin" aircraft, for example, which had been going to Britain across the North Atlantic and returning to the United States by the long South Atlantic loop in order to take advantage of prevailing winds in both areas, were now sent home by way of the shorter Azores routes.
Most of the American and TWA flights through the Lagens base turned northeastward to Prestwick in Scotland.108 The lift into North Africa began to pick up only when two other carriers, the Ferrying Division and Pan American Airways, were assigned to the route. In February the Ferrying Division inaugurated the CRESCENT service that originated at Wilmington, Delaware, extended through Newfoundland and the Azores to North Africa, and proceeded thence across Africa and the Middle East to India.109 CRESCENT was one of the several overseas military transport services which had been decided upon in the fall of 1943 as experienced military crews became available in large numbers. Contract carriers, using their own civilian crews, had heretofore provided most of the lift from the United States to foreign areas; a trend toward militarization of transport services now began, and before the war ended about 81 per cent of the traffic was being carried by fully militarized services. Two of the new military transport services supported the Hump operation of ATC's India-China Wing: CRESCENT and FIREBALL, which originated at Miami and extended down along the old southeastern route and across central Africa to the CBI.*
In May 1944, three months after CRESCENT got under way, Pan American Airways began flying the middle Atlantic route,110 going from Miami through Bermuda and the Azores to Casablanca. Pan American began with one round trip daily between Miami and Casablanca. This was stepped up to two round trips in June111 and to four in August, when Pan American's C-54's were withdrawn from the
* See below, pp. 129-30.
South Atlantic run and the whole fleet, amounting to twenty-seven transports (C-54A's and C-54B's), was concentrated on the middle Atlantic run to Casablanca.112
In addition to the increased air traffic into Casablanca during 1944, a larger volume of waterborne traffic to North Africa became possible with the decline in the submarine menace. There were two streams of traffic, then, coming into Casablanca—airborne and water-borne. All of it, however, was being shipped on eastward by air transport, some to Italy, and a small proportion that was off-loaded in the Middle East, but the heaviest flow was on across the Middle East to the CBI.
As traffic from the United States to the North African coast grew in volume, it became necessary to increase the size of the transport fleet operating eastward from Casablanca. Early in 1944 ATC decided to substitute for its small C-54 fleet a much larger two-engine fleet of C-46's and C-47's.113 C-54's were still in short supply, but the smaller craft were now plentiful and were well suited to operations on a land route where the bases were fairly close together. The North African Wing then had, in addition to the four C-54's and a few other craft, a comparatively small fleet of forty-seven C-47's flying the old MATS routes as far east as Tunis. The wing's operations into Italy had not yet started. By May C-46's began to arrive in quantity, and the size of the fleet had more than doubled. At the end of 1944, when North African transport operations were at their peak, the fleet had grown to tremendous size—185 C-46's, 84 C-47's, and 22 of other types.114
During 1945 the North African Wing (or Division) turned back again to the C-54's, now more plentiful, but the smaller two-engine planes carried the heavy stream of traffic on the "Rocket Run," as the North African transport operation was known, during the peak year of 1944. One exception to this general statement should be made. In April 1944, in connection with Mission TEN, the initial movement of equipment and ground personnel of XX Bomber Command to India, a fleet of twenty-five C-54's was thrown into North Africa for a period of about two months. The men and materials involved were first brought from New York to Casablanca in six surface vessels, and the entire project was then moved from Casablanca to India by air. The movement comprised 1,237 passengers, 250 B-29 spare engines, 60,000 pounds of radar equipment and gun heaters, and
61,000 pounds of other equipment. This extraordinary effort required 155 flights by the C-54's and the few C-46's that were used.115
There was also a great passage of ferried B-29's across North Africa on the way to the XX Bomber Command in the CBI. Out of a total of 257 of these big bombers, 146 were ferried under the code name of WOLFE project.116 The B-29's were, of course, only a small part of the ferried traffic through North Africa, which during the peak year 1944 included a total of 9,306 aircraft en route from the United States to overseas destinations. The largest number, 4,498 went to the Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the MTO; 3,408 went to the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces in the ETO; 603 were ferried to the Tenth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth Air Forces in the CBI; the others were transports going to the North African Division or tactical craft ferried to France after D Day.117
No discussion of the work accomplished by the North African Division would be complete without some mention of the part it played in certain major operations or projects which were of such scope that they require more general treatment elsewhere in this volume. The Division, for example, participated in a large air evacuation program in which thousands of sick and wounded were transported by air from forward areas in the Mediterranean theater to hospitals in North Africa and thence by air across the middle or South Atlantic routes to the United States. In the great redeployment movement after V-E Day, the North African Division handled a large proportion of the personnel and aircraft moving out of Europe and across the Atlantic on the way home. The PIPELINE project of 1945, a heavy passage of C-54 transports and supplies back and forth across North Africa on the way to or returning from India, will be discussed more appropriately in connection with the Hump augmentation program in the last year of the war. Finally, the North African Division made an important contribution to the success of Mission SEVENTEEN, the transportation by air of the President and the American delegation to and from the Yalta conference, probably the most difficult single job accomplished by the Air Transport Command during the war.
Contents * Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
1 Hist., North Africa—the First Phase, AFATC, pp. 1—3; ATC Plans Report #12, Special information assembled for General George for trip leaving Washington 12 Oct. 1942; ATC Plans Rpt. #19, Rpt. and information on possible ATC transatlantic and African ferry routes.
2 ATC Plans Rpt. #12.
3 ATC Plans Rpts. #12 and '19.
4 ATC Plans Rpt. #12.
5 Hist., North Africa—the First Phase, p. 3.
6 Ibid., pp. 6–7; memo for CG ATC from Col. Richard H. Ballard, 23 Oct. 1942.
7 Hist., North Africa—the First Phase, pp. 7–8.
8 ATC Wkly. Rpt., 18 Dec. 1942.
9 A very complete record of the KIT project has been preserved. Upon completion of the project, Col. Reichers, Maj. Edward A. Abbey, the medical officer, and the various members of the ATC flight crews submitted detailed reports which, with supporting documents, were bound together in a single volume. The account of the project given here is based on these reports and on a brief history, entitled "Kit Project," written by the ATC historian during the war.
10 Reichers Rpt.; Hist., Kit Project.
11 Hist., Kit Project and various reports.
12 Reichers Rpt.
15 Abbey Rpt.
16 Reichers Rpt.
18 Ibid; Tillman Rpt.
19 Reichers Rpt.; Tillman Rpt.; Hist., Hist., Kit Project.
20 Tillman Rpt.; Reichers Rpt.
21 Reichers Rpt.
22 Tillman Rpt.
23 Abbey Rpt.
24 Hist., South Atlantic Div., ATC, Part III, pp. 42–73.
25 Hist., North Africa—the First Phase, pp. 8–9.
26 Ibid., pp. 9–13.
27 Ltr., Brig. Gen. C. R. Smith to M. Pierre Boisson, 15 Dec. 1942; ltr., Boisson to Smith, 17 Dec. 1942; ltr., Smith to Boisson, 17 Dec. 1942, Rear Adm. William Glassford to Boisson, 20 Dec. 1942.
28 Ltr., Capt. Inslee A. Hopper, Intelligence Officer, 14th Ferrying Group, to Intelligence Officer, Africa–Middle East Wing, 7 Feb. 1943; ATC Station Survey, Eknes Field, Dakar, 15 Jan. 1944; ATC Station Survey, Mallard Field, Dakar, Oct. 1944; Operational Hist., North African Sector, Africa–Middle East Wing, ATC, pp. 5–6, 25–26.
29 Msg., Smith to George, 14 Dec. 1942; Operational Hist., North African Sector, pp. 6–7, 26–27.
30 Administrative Hist., North African Sector, pp. 2–5, 20.
31 Ibid., pp. 8–19, 60–66.
32 Hist., Caribbean Div., ATC, Part III, pp. 158–61 and appendix, "United Movements, July 1942, through June 1943."
33 See The Army Air Forces in World War II, II, 129.
34 Hist., Caribbean Div., Part III, 161–62.
35 Hist., 321st Bomb. Gp.
36 ATC Wkly Rpts., 11 and 18 Dec. 1942; see also Vol. II, 128.
37 Hist., 99th Bomb. Gp.; Hist., Caribbean Div., Part III, appendix, "United Movements, July 1942, through June 1943."
38 Operational Hist., North African Sector, pp. 5–6, 25–26, 61–62; Msg. #ATC 2349, Walsh to Fritz, 22 Feb. 1943.
39 Msg. #AMEW 395 J. AMEW to ATC, pp. 62–63.
40 Operational Hist., North African Sector, pp. 62–63.
41 Hist., Ferrying Div., Part III, appendix, "United Movements, July 1942, through June 1943."
42 Hist., North African Sector, pp. 61–68A and appendix.
43 Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, p. 99 and statistical appendix.
44 Operational Hist., North African Sector, p. 28 and appendix.
45 Msg. #AMEW 212, Fitzgerald to George, 15 Feb. 1943.
46 Operational Hist., North African Sector, p. 36.
47 Ltr., Maj. J. C. Stewart to Chief, Air Priorities Division, ATC, 27 Jan. 1943.
48 See AAF in WW II, II, 619.
49 Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, p. 99 and statistical appendix.
50 Ltr., Lt. Col. H. B. Longfellow to Col. R. W. Ireland, 30 Dec. 1942; Msg. #6583, Hartle to George, 20 Jan. 1943; Msg. #AMSME 4301, Arnold to Stratemeyer and George, 28 Jan. 1943; ltr., Lt. Col. John de P. T. Hills to Col. R. M. Love, 10 May 1943.
51 Memo for Col. R. J. Smith et al. from Col. L. G. Fritz, 12 Dec. 1942; memo to CO Caribbean Wing, ATC, from Col. P. N, Montague, 12 Dec. 1942.
52 Ltr., George to CG South Atlantic Wing, ATC, et al., 11 Jan. 1943; memo to CG ATC from Maj. Hamilton Heard, 16 Jan. 1943; "North Africa—the First Phase," p. 17.
53 Notes of a discussion between representatives of the U.S.A.A.F. A.T.C. and D.G.O. held in the D.G.O.'s office, Bush House, S.E. Wing, 28th December 1942, by Wg. Comder. P.S. Foss; msg., Air Priorities Sec., Hq. ETOUSA to AGWAR, 28 Dec. 1942; msg., Air Priorities Sec., Hq. ETOUSA to AGWAR, [28 Dec. 1942]; note of a discussion with representatives of the Air Transport Command at No. 44 Group, Gloucester, on 30th December, 1942 [by Wg. Comder. P. S. Foss]; ltr, Lt. Col. H. B. Longfellow to Col. R. W. Ireland, 30 Dec, 1942; memo to CG ATC from Maj. Hamilton Heard, 16 Jan. 1943. Major Skelly died shortly after the group reached England; Major Hear then took charge of the negotiations for ATC. See memo to CG ATC from Heard, 18 Jan. 1943, commending Major Skelly for his devotion to duty as chief of the mission prior to his death.
54 Memo to CG ATC from Heard, 16 Jan. 1943.
55 Ltr., George to CG South Atlantic Wing ATC, et al., 11 Jan 1943.
56 Msg., George to Smith, 23 Jan. 1943; ltr., Capt. Robert B. Hotz to Resident Contract Carrier Supervisor, 11 Feb. 1943; ltr., Lt. Col. James G. Flynn Jr., to Capt. H. W. Helfert, 20 Feb. 1943.
57 Msg., #ATC 522, Blake to Smith, 27 Jan. 1943.
58 Msg. #ATC 1005, George to CG AMEW, 6 Feb. 1943.
59 Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, Stat. App.
60 Ibid., pp. 26–27.
61 Ibid., pp. 104–5.
62 Ibid., pp. 105–6; AAF in WW II, II, 642–43.
63 Msg. ATC #4013 & 666A, Fritz to CW EWATC, to Apr. 1943; msg. ATC #4245, Ireland to CO EWATC, 15 Apr. 1943; msg., ATC #4367, Ireland to Montgomery and Longfellow, 19 Apr. 1943; msg. ATC 1472, Burrows to CG NAWATC and CG ATC, 1 May 1943; msg. ATC #5506, 12 May 1943; ltr., Col. Robert M. Love to CO EWATC, 15 May 1943; ltr., Maj. Robert E. Montgomery to CG AMEW, 5 June 1943; ltr., Col. T. L. Mosley to CG ATC, 18 June 1943; consolidated transport schedules, United States to United Kingdom and North Africa, effective 29 August 1943, incl. to ltr., Lt. Col. James G. Flynn Jr., to CG NAWATC et al., 20 Aug. 1943; Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, pp. 50–51, 89, 91–96; ltr., Lt. Col. James G. Flynn Jr., to CO EWATC ,15 Sept. 1943, and 1st ind., Col. James C. Jensen to Hq. ATC, 21 Sept. 1943; Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, pp. 95–97.
64 Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, pp. 96–97, 191.
65 Ibid., pp. 191–93; Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943–30 Apr. 1944, pp. 43–45.
66 Maj. Warren W. Wheaton, Rpt. on ATC's participation in Mission 11, incl. in ltr., Wheaton to Brig. Gen. Earl S. Hoag, CG EURD ATC, 18 Aug. 1944; Hist., European Wing, ATC, early 1943 to D Day 1944, pp. 193–95; Hist., North African Wing, ATC, June 1944, pp. 35–41 and App. XXXVIII; ltr., Capt. Harry Rammer to CG NAFW, ATC, 3 July 1944.
67 Ltr., Maj. J. C. Stewart to Chief, Air Priorities Div., ATC, 27 Jan. 1943; Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, p. 37.
68 Msg., Smith to George, 22 Jan. 1943; msg., George to Fitzgerald, 4 Feb. 1943; Msg. #9796 , Boughner to Ireland, 16 Apr. 943; memo to Col. Douglas from Brig, Gen. C. R. Smith, 12 May 1943; ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 17 May 1943; weekly reports of activities of ATC, 29 Jan. and 5 Feb. 1943; Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, p. 38.
69 Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 38–39.
70 Hist., Mediterranean Air Transport Service, 25 May 1943—31 May 1944; Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 20–33; Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 17–22.
71 Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 22–23.
72 Ltr., Smith to Tedder, 1 June 1943; msg. from Algiers #W1656, Smith to George, 30 May 1943; Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 23–26.
73 Ltr., Col. T. L. Mosley to George, 22 June 1943; ltr., 1st Lt. Carleton H. Jones to CO North African Sector, 24 July 1943; ltr., Col. T. C. Macaulay to Det. Comdr., 48th Transp. Sq., 30 July 1943; ltr., Col T. C. Macaulay to Brig. Gen. H. A. Craig, 30 July 1943; ltr., Col T. L. Mosley to ATC Det. Comdrs., 30 Aug 1943; Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 18–21; Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 26–33.
74 Hq. MAC GO 4 [25 May 1943]; Hist., MATS, 25 May 1943—31 May 1944, pp. 2–4; Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 21–22.
75 Rpt., Col. T. C. Macaulay to Brig. Gen. S. W. Fitzgerald, 19 Apr. 1943; draft ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 17 May 1943; memo for Gen. Hanley from George, 20 May 1943; draft ltr. to Eisenhower, 21 May 1943, prepared to Hq. ATC for Gen. McNarney's signature.
76 Draft. ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 17 May 1943; draft ltr. to Eisenhower, 21 May 2943; memo to Lt. Col. Samuel E. Gates from Maj. Eliot Bailen, 25 Apr. 1944.
77 Memo to Gates from Bailen, 25 Apr. 1944; msg from Algiers #395, Smith to George, 14 Jan. 1944.
78 Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, p. 23.
79 Ltr., smith to Tedder, 1 June 1943; mag. from Algiers, #1656, Smith to George, 30 May 1943.
80 Operational Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 47–50; ltrs, Col. T. L. Mosley to George, 9 June 1943 (two ltrs., same date, on same subject); msg. from Algiers #368, Hoag to Ireland, 16 July 1943; msg. from Marrakech #332, Mosley to George, 9 Aug. 1943.
81 Administrative Hist., North African Sector, ATC, pp. 63–65.
82 In connection with North Africa, this policy is implied in the following: memo to Col. Douglas from Brig. Gen. C. R. Smith, 12 May 1943; draft ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 17 May 1943; draft ltr. to Eisenhower, 21 May 1932. For a more general statement of the policy, see, for example: memo for Gen. Nowland from George, 21 Dec. 1943; memo to Col. Mason from Col. James H. Douglas, 4 Mar 1944.
83 Ltr., Smith to George, 3 Nov. 1943; msg., Smith (Algiers) to George, 3 Nov. 1943; Hist., MATS, 25 May 1943–31 May 1944, pp. 36–37; Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943–30 Apr. 1944, pp. 21–22, and App. XIV–XVIII.
84 Ltr., Smith to George, 3 Nov. 1943.
85 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943–30 Apr. 1944, pp. 21–22, 33; June 1944, pp. 31–32.
86 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943–30 Apr. 1944, pp. 38–39.
87 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, June 1944, p. 31.
88 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, June 1944, p. 33; Hist., North African Wing, July 1944, p. 12 and App. XIV; Hist., North African Div., ATC, Sept–Nov. 1944, pp. 4–5, 12.
89 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, June 1944, p. 33.
90 Hist., North African Div., ATC, Sept.–Nov. 1944, p. 5.
91 Ibid., pp. 5–9.
92 Ibid., pp. 213–19; Hist., North African Div., ATC, Dec. 1944–Feb. 1945, pp. 7–9; Rpts. of activities of ATC for months ending 15 Oct., 15 Nov. 15 Dec. 1944.
93 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943—30 Apr. 1944, p. 36; July 1944, pp. 101–19 and App. LXXXI; Hist, North African Div., ATC, Sept.—Nov. 1944, pp. 11–12; 1 Mar.–30 Sept. 1945, p. 27; Report of Activities of ATC for month ending 15 Oct. 1944.
94 Hist., North African Div., ATC, Sept.–Nov. 1944, pp. 92–93; Dec. 1944—Feb. 1945, pp. 115–17.
95 Memo for Gen. Hanley from George, 20 May 1943l draft ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 17 May 1943; draft ltr. to Eisenhower, 21 May 1943.
96 Memo for Arnold from George, 15 Nov. 1942; memo for CG AAF from Brig. Gen. C. R. Smith, 16 Nov. 1942; msg. #1803, Sec. of State to American Legation, Lisbon, 30 Dec. 19432; msg. #6, American Legation, Lisbon to Sec. of Sate, 2 Jan. 1943; Short History of U.S. Interest in Aviation Facilities in the Azores, 19 Nov. 1943.
97 Short History U.S. Interest in Aviation Facilities in the Azores, 19 Nov. 1943 and Tab. G. Report on Status of Development of Facilities in the Azores—Air and Naval.
98 Ltr., AVM G. R. Bromet, Capt. C. H. Sanders and Col. David A. Morris to CG ATC, 1 Dec. 1943; CCS 270/13, 6 Dec. 1943; CCS 270/14, 6 Dec. 1943; Amendment to CCS 270/14, 10 Jan. 1944; ltr., Brig. Gen. Bob E. Nowland, C/S ATC, to CO North Atlantic Wing, ATC, 3 Jan. 1944.
99 Memo for CG AAF from Col. Robert M. Love, 16 Dec. 1943; msg. CM-OUT 9009-759, Marshall to Fuqua, 23 Dec. 1943; msg., 3151, Norweb to Sec. of State, 31 Dec. 1943.
100 Rpts. of Activities of ATC for months ending 15 Dec. 1943 and 15 Jan. 1944.
101 Memo for Lt. Col. J. G. Flynn from Col. L. G. Fritz, 20 Feb. 1943.
102 John F. Davidson, Narrative Rpt. on survey flight C-54A airplane #137273 for the Air Transport Command by American Airlines, 29 Apr. 1943.
103 R&R, George to OC&R, 18 May 1943; ltr., Maj. Fred M. Glass to CG North Atlantic Wing, ATC, 31 May 1943; msg. from Cincinnati ATC 516, Campbell to Dupont, 8 June 1943; ltr., Col. L. G. Fritz to CG North Atlantic Wing, ATC, 8 June 1943.
104 Ltr., Capt. Charles O. Galbraith to Col. Robert H. Baker, May 7 1943; report of Capt. Charles O. Galbraith, incl. to ltr., Maj. Charles G. Conly to CO Ferrying Division, ATC, 12 May 1943; "Two Stops to Cairo," account of Capt. Charles O. Galbraith's survey flight, Gander to Marrakech, incl. in ltr., Maj. Gordon A. Rust to CG ATC, 9 Aug. 1943.
105 Ltr., Col. Harold R. Harris to CO North Atlantic Wing, ATC, et al., 10 Dec. 1943, in Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943—30 Apr. 1944, App. XX.
106 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943–30 Apr. 1944, pp. 41–43 and App. XXI.
107 Ltr., Harris to CO North Atlantic Wing, ATC, et al., 10 Dec, 1943.
109 Msg. #ATC 0226, Harris to CO North Atlantic Wing, ATC, et al., 4 Feb. 1944.
110 Hist., Caribbean Division, ATC, Part IV, p. 62.
112 Hist. Caribbean Div., ATC, Aug. 1944, pp. 37–39.
113 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943—30 Apr. 1944, pp. 29–30; May 1944, pp. 10–11 and App. VIII.
114 North African Div., ATC, Annual Rpt. 1944, in Hist., North African Div., ATC, Dec. 1944—Feb. 1945, App. I.
115 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, 15 Dec. 1943—30 Apr. 1944, pp. 46–57; May 1944, pp. 19–27 and App. XXX–XXXIII; Rpt. of Activities of ATC for month ending 16 June 1944.
116 Hist., North African Wing, ATC, May 1944, p. 21.
117 North African Div., ATC, Annual Rpt. 1944, p. 22.