Kenneth DeLong was the engineer on the Therman Brown crew.
Ken wrote about his time in the service in story entitled "Benghazi Nights." Click on the mission dates to read about them.
MISSIONS (and time in between)
SPECIAL--EVACUATION OF FAYID--Rommel was still advancing! Alexandria now was in danger. Orders arrived to move all B-24's to Lydda, Palestine (now Israel).
Tues. 6/30/42--Preparations began ... we put in right bomb bay tank and two baggage racks .... there was a paratroop alert that evening. Four crew members stood guard at our #17.
Wed. 7/1/42--left Fayid at 0900 in #17 ... aboard were 18 men and their baggage ... landed Lydda, Palestine at 1030 hrs ... trucks took us to the living quarters two miles away (crew 9 and 17 shared the same hut).
Our new home had a modern Administration Building and improved runways and Control Tower. Couldn't say the same for our living quarters ... had to go back to eating from mess kits ... however, the city of Tel Aviv was only a short bus ride away ... it was more like our American cities than anything we'd seen so far .... and many people spoke English.
We barely got settled before the next mission was posted.
Lt. Clark's crew flew our plane on a mission 7/6-7/7. They made a safe landing with #3 propellor feathered ... #3 tank was empty.
#11, with Capt. Nestor and crew aboard, failed to return from that mission. My notes do not indicate what happened to them.
SPECIAL NOTE Up to this point, all or our missions had been night missions, where we reached the target area after midnight. Now, a decision was made to begin daylight attacks ... where we reached the target area before sunset ... this could result in increased enemy action, particularly in the use of fighter aircraft ... only time would tell.
July 13, 1942 - no mission credit
SPECIAL---OFFICIAL FLAG RAISING CEREMONY AT LYDDA AIRPORT, PALESTINE U. S. ARMY AIR CORPS
Fri. July 31, 1942 at 1400 hrs, Col. Harry Halverson made a short speech from atop the Administration Building to assembled HALPRO group.
Sat. August 1, 1942--First 98th Bomb Group plane arrived ... called "pink lady", because of the paint color.
THE CRASH OF #23---Returning from a mission, "Hellsapoppin" hit the native railroad station ... shortly after midnite Sun. 8/2. There was a terrific crash, followed by numerous explosions and fires. It jolted wide awake those of us who had retired early (because there was no show that night). It was a grisly scene ... large trees were sheared off, plane wreckage and bodies covered a wide area. Fourteen bodies were found (8 crew members and 6 natives). My records show that only the pilot survived---and that G. Pearce was the Flight Engineer (he was on HALPRO crew #23 C Flight, that left the states 5/26/42).
The Group History shows the pilot, Lt. Swope, was killed in the crash. Others listed were: officers--Moore and Straight. enlisted men-Jenkins, Trumbel and Burdette. It shows Glenn Pearce as gunner, instead of flight engineer. Only Pearce was HALPRO.
GROUP MEETING AND 14 DAY PASSES, LYDDA
All officers and enlisted men were called to an important meeting at 1400 hrs on Saturday 8/8/42. We assembled next to the airport windsack. Lt. Col. McGuire first read an account of the Air and Sea Battle of the Midway Islands. There was cheering as the good news about progress in the fight against Japan was announced. Finally, things are looking better!
Then came the real surprise!!! Effective immediately, all combat crew personnel were to be issued 14 day passes (with per diem). We were allowed to live off base ... and report back to base on Sat. 8/22. Everyone assembled let out a big cheer! The Group History shows a total of 37 missions completed at that point.
Our crew returned to Lydda Airport quarters at 1500 hrs. Saturday 8/22, for a scheduled lecture (which was cancelled). We were rested and relaxed after two weeks of sight-seeing, restaurant meals and hotel beds. There still was a war to fight ... we wanted to get it over and go back home to our loved ones.
August 30, 1942 - no notes
September 3, 1942 - no notes
SPECIAL NOTE--General Brereton visited our base on 9/10/42. Candidate Wilkie landed again. This was an official visit (9/11). General Brereton and Colonel McGuire and a guard of honor welcomed him at 0900. All of the American personnel gathered around him for an informal question and answer session, after which Wilkie left for Jerusalem.
SPECIAL NOTE--Tail Gunner Al Izzo was promoted to Sergeant effective 9/10.
Our pet dog “Ack:Ack" was killed by jackals on 9/19.
Same day, officers defeated enlisted men in softball 4 to 3.
SPECIAL NOTE--I had to dress for guard of honor duty at 1000 hrs next morning .... General Brereton gave out 20 Silver Stars.
Fri. 10/2, Generals Maxwell and Brereton made tour of inspection. Sat. 10/3, had scattered showers ... first rain since Brazil in May!
Sun. 10/4, Severe wind and rain storm hit area at 1600. It wrecked RAF theater and unroofed a number of buildings.
Mon. 10/5, 9th Squadron ground crews left on transports. Heard inspirational speech by British Air Vice-Marshal Cunningham at 1530. He said we must be prepared to give "supreme sacrifice".
SPECIAL WEATHER NOTE--It poured down rain and stormed all day Sat. -and Sun. 10/17-18. Most of us stayed in Tel Aviv on pass. Returned to base on Tues. A bridge in the road was washed out. There was no electricity. Everywhere, there was mud. A mission did take off. Some planes were stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out. A number of October missions were cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
SPECIAL NOTE--On Mon. 11/2/42, Halpro and Ninth were split into squadrons. Crew #17 was assigned to the 514th under Capt. Long.
From "Illustrated Story OF World War II"(Reader's Digest) page 280. "When Montgomery launched his offensive on Oct. 23, 1942. Rommel was decisively outnumbered and outweaponed, under skies held by enemy air power. He favored immediate disengagement to salvage his depleted forces. Hitler, however, ordered resistance until 'victory or death'. Though he considered the order sheer madness, Rommel accepted battle and devastating losses before deciding to retreat on Nov. 4. In 15 days he fell back 700 miles.
Allied armies under General Eisenhower had by that time invaded French North Africa, trapping Rommel in the longest pincers in history, from the Nile Valley to the Atlantic. Fighting hopeless rearguard actions against the British, he in due time confronted Eisenhower's fresh forces in Tunisia. In March, 1943, seriously ill, he returned to Germany”.
SPECIAL NOTE--Ratings came out Sat. 11/7. I made T/Sgt ... other promotions ... Lt. Col. McGuire to full Colonel, Maj. Payne to Lt. Col., Capt. Long to Major.
Same day, orders issued to make move to Abu Sueir, Egypt. Ground crews left in truck convoy at 1630. Combat crews had last opportunity to visit Tel Aviv (had my last ice cream at Esther's).
Moving day for combat crews was Sunday 11/8. Eighteen men and their baggage took off in #17 at 1430 ... flew west and landed at our new home, Abu Sueir, Egypt at 1600. moved into barracks #92 with Urich and Dwyer crews. Put bomb bay fuel tanks back in planes (removed to hold baggage for group move).
Sun. Nov. 8, 1942, British and American forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, landed at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers in "Operation Torch".
SPECIAL NOTE--from Reader's Digest Illustrated Story of WWII, page 298 "Rommel began his flight from Alamein on Nov. 5, 1942 with Gen. Montgomery's armored columns in hot pursuit. The retreat almost became a rout, as undisciplined Italian infantry milled about the coastal road that Rommel had chosen for his escape. RAF strafing and bombing wreaked havoc among the fleeing troops, and everywhere the road was littered with smashed and broken-down vehicles. The chase continued for three months and covered 1400 miles.
Thurs. 11/12--Decoration ceremony at Abu Sueir ... Gen. Brereton received DFC. Silver Stars and Purple Hearts also were awarded.
11/18--we were informed British had captured Derna and were headed for Benghazi. The U. S. Navy announced the Battle of the Solomon Islands had resulted in the sinking of 24 Japanese ships.
11/23--Heard British captured Benghazi!
11/24--HALPRO left USA 6 months ago today. U. S. and British troops reported to be only 20 miles from Bizerta and Tunis. Already, rumors are circulating about "going home". Operations checked out combat flying hours for crews--mine checked out at 247:55.
11/26/42 FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY OVERSEAS--got ration of 3 packs Chesterfield cigarettes in morning. Had very good meal at noon. "Physical" inspection at 1300 hrs. Saw movie "Time Out For Rhythm" in afternoon. All planes returned from a mission to Tripoli at 1730. Crews reported good results.
12/2--more promotions ... T. A. Smith to T/Sgt ... Anthony Filippi to S/Sgt ... Crew Chief Pat McClosky to M/ Sgt.
Operations began grounding air crew-men with more than 250 combat flying hours.
Above mission was our first to the advanced desert base in the Tobruk area. First mention of our crews using it was on 11/21. Refueling was possible. Tents were available for overnight stays.
SPECIAL--A number of us got 3 day passes late Sun. 12/13 and headed for Tel Aviv, knowing it was our last opportunity to visit there.
Rode train there, expecting to catch flight back. However, flights were limited. Finally, Lt. Miller arranged for truck to take us to Abu Sueir on 12/18 .... two days late. More details later.
One day later, Tues. 12/22, the First Sergeant informed me I was officially grounded ... because of my combat flying hours (290:35). I wanted to continue flying, but reported to #39 ("Wash's Tub) early Wed. morning.
SPECIAL REMARKS--CHRISTMAS EVE OVERSEAS--12/24/42 Several planes took fellows who wanted to spend Christmas in Tel Aviv. I didn't go. Saw movie "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary" in the evening. Things were quiet. Was kind of depressed about being grounded. All the boys were thinking about home and loved ones.
SPECIAL REMARKS--I was assigned as Assistant Crew Chief of B-24 #40 "Boilermaker" (Crew Chief was M/Sgt. Weizenegger) ... on 12/30/42.
12/31/42 was just another day on the line. Checked batteries on #40 and washed down engines and props. Dug hole and dropped left bomb bay tank in order to add 3 more 500 lb bombs for the next mission. Worked until 1800. Caught up on my letter writing after eating. There was little New Year's Eve celebrating.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1943--Prepared #40 for mission. Briefing was at 1030. Twelve of our Liberators took off at 1300 to bomb airfields on island of Crete. Capt. Sibert's crew took #40. All returned safely after a successful mission.
Mon. 1/4/43 Decoration ceremony scheduled today. A bad dust storm was raging outside ... couldn't see runways ... barracks floor covered with, dust ... Ceremony was moved indoors to large hangar behind Administration Building ... Movie-Tone News coverage was cancelled due to adverse weather ... Generals Timberlake and Brereton presented 25 Distinguished Flying Crosses ... there was an honor guard and each recipient was called up individually ... Col. McGuire, Capt. Brown, T/Sgts. Ballentine, Meek and I were among those honored.
TRIP TO GURA AIR DEPOT, Eritrea (near Ethiopia) Sun. 1/10-Wed. 1/13/43 Took off at 0800 in #52 "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Aboard were Captains Whitlock and T. D. Brown, Lts. Clayton, Tahsequah, Helms, Ebert, Sgts. Knox, Nappi, Cook, Morgan, Ransdell, Van Gilder and I.
Flew west, then south over the Red Sea. Landed at 1445 on very rough runway up in rugged mountains at the 7000' level. Assigned rooms at the Douglas Hotel. Had ice cream and cokes! Went sightseeing and night clubbing in Asmara, 30 miles away on an extremely hilly and winding road (by bus).
Visited Asmara again Mon. afternoon, as our replacement planes were not yet ready to be test-hopped. This depot repaired heavy bombers for return to combat status.
Tues. 1/12, Capt. Brown, Lt. Tahsequah and I made a test hop in #15 "Ripper the 1st" and gave it an OK, after 1 hour flight. Capt. Whitlock checked out #14 "Mabel". That afternoon, Capt. Brown, Lt. Ebert, Sgt. Van Gilder and I took an Italian Taxi to Kampare to check out a supply depot. Later, we saw a very good show "Star Spangled Rhythm" direct from the States.
Took off for home at 0920 Wed. and landed at Abu Sueir at 1540.
BAD NEWS--BLACK DAY for our group and our crew.
Soon after landing from Gura trip, we were informed that our planes had made a daylight raid on Naples, Italy yesterday (Tues. 1/12). It was so cold that some of the guns froze up. Anti-aircraft fire was very heavy. Fighters attacked the formation. One ME-109 was seen to shoot down #31 and #48, Pilots were Col. Payne and LT. Prchal. Fighter got them from close range. Both planes went down in flames. Only 4 chutes were seen, and 2 were on fire. Lt. Prchal's plane was seen to literally fall apart in the air. Col. Payne never gave up. He kept his plane flying level, engulfed in flames, to give his crew a chance to bailout.The other B-24's in the formation shot down the fighter plane. It was reported as seen to hit the ground.
Seventeen men were missing on the two planes. Our crew was hard-hit. We lost Lts. Matheny and Schoonmaker and Sgt. Carr. In addition to Col. Payne and Lt. Prchal, missing were Lts. Angel, Ziesal, Lewis and Capt. Brown (Bombardier) plus Sgts. Andrews, Drazwoski, Lavender, Krager, Woody, Vaness, Cotham and Buttram.
Latest news! 8th Army reported 40 miles west of Tripoli. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill had completed secret 10 day meeting in Casablanca.
ANOTHER TRAGIC DAY FOR THE 376th--Sun. 1/31/43
I woke up as 10 crews were roused at 0200 hrs for a mission. Watched them take off at 0330 for LG 139, then went back to bed. Nine planes took off from LG 139 at 1230. Each carried 3-2000 lb bombs. They reached their assigned target, Messina Harbor in Sicily, at dusk. The bomb run was made at 23000ft. Results were good.
Anti-aircraft fire was very heavy and accurate. One shell scored a direct hit on the left wing of the lead ship (#46--Major Toomey's crew). It knocked out 2 engines and the left landing gear fell off. Soon after that, 5 fighters attacked the formation. Major Toomey lost a third engine, and his plane was seen to hit the water and break in two. Some survivors were seen in life rafts. Those fighters were driven off, but 5 more appeared. Damage from anti aircraft fire and enemy fighters was heavy. Three ME-109's were downed and credited to the formation.
Only 3 of our planes made it back to LG 139. Four planes headed for Malta ... #37 had heavy damage and 4 injured aboard, #53 washed out landing gear upon landing (no injuries) ... the other two landed safely.
Efforts to find Major Toomey's aircraft or crew were unsuccessful. #46 "Malicious" had 48 completed missions when it went down.
SPECIAL---MOVE TO ADVANCE (DESERT) BASE
Fri. 2/5/43 Group moving schedule was posted. Each plane was scheduled for two trips to LG 139 tomorrow. The rear convoy of trucks was to leave early tomorrow. I was scheduled for the second flight.
Sat. 2/6 First flight started to take off at 0730. Each plane carried 17 men and their baggage. I was scheduled for the second trip in #32, with Pilot Capt. Walsh. We took off at 1445 and landed at our new sandy desert home at 1655, where a GI truck took us to the tent area ... Sgts. Van Gilder and Ransdell had already set up a tent for us(Sgt. Vance Brown, Sgt. Taylor Van Gilder and I).
Sun. 2/7 Up at 0715 ... ate in mess tent ... put more stakes around our tent and dug water ditches around it for drainage … built latrine for our use … drew from supply two candles and roll of toilet paper.
CLOSE FRIEND MISSING IN ACTION
I wasn't scheduled for the mission to Naples on Sun. 2/7/43, but Flight Engineer T/Sgt. Henry Ballentine was. He had come overseas with us ... HALPRO Crew #16-B Flight ... Pilot Lt. Oglesby. I attended the briefing with him that morning. Nine of our B-24's began taking off at 1230 to bomb Naples at dusk. They joined planes from the 93rd.
Mon. 2/8/43 ... heard the sad news at breakfast .... Anti aircraft fire was very heavy last night over Naples and 5 German fighters attacked the formation. #47-Pilot Capt. Brereton, was hit by anti aircraft shells and had to leave the formation. The ME-l09's attacked and shot him down in flames. No chutes were observed. This was the crew Ballentine had agreed to fly with.
Eight men were lost ... others I knew well were S/Sgt. Hartley (Radio Operator) and a boy we just called "Junior" (Tail Gunner).
Three German fighters were downed and credited to our group.
Henry Ballentine was one of our most respected Flight Engineers .... a quiet, caring man of high ideals ... a friend to all who knew him. He had recently confided to me that he didn't think he'd survive this tour---as missions were getting rougher. He said it without bitterness ... accepting the risks involved as a part of his commitment to his comrades and his country.
Tues. 2/9/43 Awards ceremony by the flagpole at Group Headquarters Tent at 1200 hrs. Brig, Gen. Timberlake presented the medals I received an Oak Leaf Cluster to my Air Medal).
SPECIAL NOTE Sat. 2/13/43 Meeting of all personnel at 1645 hrs. by flagpole at LG 139. Col. McGuire announced the group was moving again in a few days .... to a base near Benghazi. The meeting was cut short by a sudden sand storm, which lasted through Sunday.
Tues. 2/16/43--The advance (truck) convoy left for new base at 0530. Three new combat crews arrived from the States in a C-47 on 2/15 ... Capt. Sibert was promoted to Major on 2/16 ... Thirty-five new ground crewmen arrived from Fayid on 2/17.
Thurs. 2/18 Another awards ceremony at 10:30 ... General Brereton presented the medals---among them were DFC's to Sgt's. Ransdell, Van Gilder, Barnes and Powell.
Fri. 2/19/43 Everyone assembled at 1245 hrs. for an announcement ... Col. McGuire made a farewell address ... he was going home to the good old USA!
SPECIAL NOTE Sun. 2/21/43 Col. K. K. Compton took over as new Group Commander … made speech at 1100 hrs … at age 28, he was said to be the youngest Colonel in the Air Corps.
SPECIAL NOTE Mon. 2/22/43 was designated as moving day to our new base.
Another severe sand dust storm was raging outside , it began about 0230, visibility was poor when we went to breakfast ... strong gales made walking difficult. Despite the horrible conditions, the first air echelon started take offs at 1000 hrs ... The runway was almost invisible, but all planes got off okay.
Capt. Soukup appointed Sgt's. Jackson, Van Gilder and me to head up the tent removal detail. We loaded 4 truckloads, before we had to give up for the day at 1500--due to severely restricted visibility.
SPECIAL NOTE Mon. 2/22/43 … Learned that planes would not be back today, because of the storm. Col. Compton arranged for us to use the 93rd Bomb Group orderly rooms for sleeping quarters. Ate supper and breakfast at the 344th Sqdn. Mess Tent.
The sand storm raged all night long .... we had difficulty sleeping. Early morning, there was intermittent rain, which settled the dust some. Our planes returned from Soluch at 1200 Tues. 2/23. Capt. Brown was assigned to #32. We loaded the baggage and took off at 1300 with 20 men and their baggage. Landed at new home, Soluch, the southernmost of 3 bases around Benghazi, Libya ... it was 25 miles southeast, in the desert. All roads and runways were hard sand. We landed at 1445 … slight problem ... nose wheel did not extend fully ... part of the baggage, a B-4 bag had shifted ... pulled bag out of gear and made normal landing.
Air crews, including officers, slept in one of the windowless and doorless rooms of the former Governor's mansion in the town of Soluch, adjacent to the airfield. The buildings showed signs of bomb damage ... and indications of occupation earlier by Italian and German troops.
SPECIAL NOTE-GETTING SETTLED Thurs. 2/25/43--Up at 0630 ... all planes returned safely from last night's mission to Naples, Italy ... roll call at 0800 ... tent assignments were announced ... helped erect mess tent ... Barnes, Van Gilder and I put up our own tent .... filled 25 sand bags to put around tent ... used bomb truck to move our baggage from Governor's mansion to tent ... drew lantern from supply.
Fri. 2/26/43 Up at 0630 … roll call at 0800 ... our crew cleaned guns all morning at #55 ... our group now has 24 planes ... new mess hall went into operation. Dug out the inside of our tent to a depth of 2 1/2 feet, so cots were below ground level .... set up kerosene stove ... tent is a bit cozier now ... Van shot a mole that was digging in a side wall. We were about two miles from our planes ... caught a ride, when we could, but often walked there.
MISCELLANEOUS Thurs. 3/4/43 Capt. Brown was grounded--named Finance Officer of the 514th Sqdn. Orders were received from Cairo to ground all combat crew members with more than 300 combat flying hours. I verified mine with Operations ... 362:55 ... tops in the Group at that time. The 514th Sqdn. issued orders grounding nine officers and twelve enlisted men (including me).
SPECIAL--MEMORIAL FLIGHT (NON-COMBAT)
Tues. 3/9/43 Flew as Flight Engineer in Group Commander Keith K. Compton's plane from 4PM to 4:50PM .... practice formation flight of 6 Liberators ... buzzed field at 300' and peeled off for two abreast landing.
Upon landing, was informed this practice run was for a special 5PM flight over the burial ceremony for S/Sgt. G. W. Cook, who was accidentally killed when his head got caught between fully elevated 50 caliber machine guns and the ammunition cans in an upper turret.
The 5PM flight went off beautifully! The wing tips of the 6 bombers seemed to almost touch as we roared over the burial ceremony. Col. Compton peeled off like a fighter pilot and made a flawless landing:
Also aboard were Capt. Nesbitt, Major Gillet and Lt. Schmidt.
SPECIAL--ANOTHER DECORATION CEREMONY--Wed. 3/10/43 I served on the Honor Guard at 1530 hrs, as General Brereton awarded Silver Stars.
SPECIAL ... WORD ABOUT GOING HOME!!! Wed. 3/10/43 After the evening meal, several of us got together to pass and kick a football, until it was almost too dark to see. Suddenly, a fellow from our squadron (can't recall who he was), came running up calling my name. He'd just been to the Orderly Room and had seen a telegram from Cairo, authorizing one complete combat crew to return to the UNITED STATES. He said I was one of them. It was stunning news! Can it be true?
Thurs. 3/11/43 He was right. I checked with Personnel after breakfast. and saw an order listing the following: (it was dated 3/7/43)
Pilot George A. Urich Flight Engineer Kenneth R. De Long
Co-pilot Justus A. Emens Radio Operator Anderson T. Patrick
Navigator Arnold W. Postelle Armorer Gunner Hugh S. Powell
Bombardier Ernest M. Duckworth Ass't. Engineer John Nappi
Tail Gunner Charles A. Griggs
We packed our things (allowed only 77 pounds for travel by air) ... got clearance sheets ... began saying "good byes" ... a most difficult thing to do ... mixed emotions ... wish all could go.
Went to see Capt. Brown ... owe so much to him ... an excellent pilot and fine man ... reminisced some.
Fri. 3/12/43 Up at 0615. Took my bag to Group Headquarters after breakfast ... said goodbye to my crew members and others (too numerous to list).
Take off was at 1015 in #51 (Old HALPRO #1), with Major Hahn at the controls--Co-pilot was Capt. Dwyer (Co-pilot of our original HALPRO crew). Major Sibert also was aboard. Landed at Heliopolis, near Cairo, at 1345 .... went to Kilo 13, home of the 13th Replacement Center, awaiting air transportation for the homeward trip ... still finding it hard to believe that we soon would be back home.
Did some sight-seeing in Cairo Sat. and Suno On Mon. we were assigned KP duty! How could they do this to us "war heroes"? Dished out food and washed pots and pans after all three meals. It had a happy ending. Upon being relieved at 1830 hrs., we were informed that we had seats on an early morning flight.