My seventeenth mission was to Benghazi. Again it was at night. It was a special mission in support of a British commando unit that was to attack Benghazi from the ground while we dropped bombs, one at a time, to keep Jerry in his fox hole. There was a similar commando raid on Tobruk at the same time. This bombing raid took place from two to four o'clock in the morning of September 14, 1942. The idea of dropping one bomb at a time was to prolong the raid and give the impression that the attacking force was larger than it actually was. The impression worked. The Italian radio said that one hundred heavy bombers had attacked Benghazi that night.
This was like several combat missions all wrapped as one. We made the usual bomb run taking the search lights and the flak from a well defended target. We would then circle around and come in again from the same direction for another run. We were doing more than trying to keep the Germans in their bomb shelters. We were also trying to do some damage with each bomb we dropped.
Lt. Norman Davis was the navigator-bombardier. When he finished the first run, he announced that all our bombs had dropped on the first pass over the target. Norman thought we should go home. I saw it differently. The commandos were depending on us to keep the enemy pinned down for a critical two hours while they got in place. We were obligated to keep making the bomb runs to give that illusion of a large attacking force. Ken DeLong's records show that we made four passes at the target.
The plane was much lighter without the bomb load. On each pass we would come in at a higher altitude. Our chances of picking up some flak damage was that much less. We were still doing our job. Everyone complained of the bitter cold.
This was an eleven hour and forty minute mission. With so much time in the target area, there wasn't a lot of extra gas at the end of the flight but everything worked out well. We had no trouble finding our little beds that night.
We later found out that the commando unit did not make it to Benghazi that night. They were still forty miles away. It appears that no commando attack was made at all. The commando raid on Tobruk that night was more successful.