On the 3rd and the 7th of September, 1942, we attacked convoys of ships. On the 3rd, it was a seven ship convoy near Crete and on the 7th it was a fourteen ship convoy in the middle of the Med. On the 3rd, we had nine B-24's and on the 7th, we had twelve planes. We took off from Lydda in the early afternoon and flew directly into the sun for four to five hours.
I am sure most of the crew remember these missions because of the ships we bombed and the running fights we had with the fighters trying to protect the convoys. I remember these missions because I was a wing man flying tight formation on my lead plane. If you want to know what that is like, go out and look directly into the sun for a few moments - not hours as I did. You had to keep looking into the sun and watching the other plane at the same time. To make it worse, I didn't like sun glasses. At the young age of sixty, I had cataract surgery on both eyes. Light causes one's cataracts to start clouding from the time we are born. These missions gave my cataracts an extra push.
Before I destroy my credibility, I should hasten to explain that I did everything I could to keep from looking directly into the afternoon sun. Sometimes I could hide behind the B-24 that I was flying formation on. Sometimes the course did not take us directly into the sun. It might be thirty degrees to the side - or up or down. It was still devastating. The worst, however, was when the sun was directly on line with your lead ship. That is when you tried to hide and every time you slipped out of his shadow you were punished. It is not true that I shook my fist at the sun. I used my fist to block out the bright sun rays.
What happened to the convoys? Many of the ships - but far from all - were sunk. We don't know how many because we couldn't hang around for them to sink. The supply ships were also protected by destroyers and gun boats and often fighters. I am not sure which were the priority target, the supply vessels or the destroyers. I would say the supply ships should come first. If they were not the more important target, then why were the destroyers risking everything to protect them?
The destroyers seemed to have priority. They were difficult to hit because their tactic was to run in tight circles at top speed. The merchant ships were easier to hit because they did not have the maneuverability of the war ships. I am told that our navy had a reverse bomb sight on its ships. With it they could predict where the bombs would hit when released. Whether these destroyers had such a capability, I do not know.
My analysis of which ships should have been the primary targets may be colored by my views on air power. The military ships were not a threat to the B-24's. They were a threat to the British submarines operating in the Med. The subs were getting their share of the enemy shipping.