Editor's note - Therman says July 7. It was probably July 8.
Two of the several airfields that we used, Fayid and Abu Sueir, were on the west side of the Suez Canal. On the east side of the Canal, there was a large prisoner of war camp. These camps were always brightly lit at night. The Geneva Accords, I suppose.
On July 7, 1942, we were returning from a mission to Benghazi late one night. We had stronger head winds than anticipated. When our ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) was up, there was this body of water running north and south which should have been the Suez Canal. There was just one problem. The P.O.W. camp was on the wrong side. We couldn’t find the base. We began flying up and down the body of water trying to solve our dilemma. A check of the tanks showed that we were almost out of gas.
Bill Dwyer, the co-pilot, went down into the nose with the navigator Norman Davis. It was not long before they knew where we were. We were just south of Cairo over the Nile River. It also had a brightly lighted P.O.W. camp but it was on the west side of the Nile. The nearest airport was Heliopolis on the edge of Cairo. We didn’t know much about Heliopolis except that it was an airport.
We came in high to avoid obstacles, slow so we could make a short landing, and braked hard to cut the roll to a minimum. The British met us, debriefed us, and sent a message to our base that we were all right. They fed us and put us up for the night. The British officer that debriefed us was a very pretty lady, but I was too tired to care.
The next morning we went out to see our B-24. I was startled to see where we had landed. It was as if we had landed in the Rose Bowl. The airfield was surrounded by two and three story buildings. I didn’t see how we were going to fly our B-24 out of the place. We did, however, by taking on a minimum load of gas, holding the brakes until we had full power, and taking advantage of a little wind. We made it with room to spare.