Wilbur W. Mayhew

June 1942

In early June I was assigned as the permanent ball turret gunner on Major Max R. Fennell's crew. Our crew consisted of Major Fennell, pilot; Captain William (Jumbo) Stewart, co-pilot; Captain Lewellyn Daigle, navigator; Master Sergeant Joseph

(Joe )Taulbee, bombardier; Master Sergeant Joseph ( Joe) Rose, flight engineer and upper turret gunner; Sergeant Keith ( Mac) McJunkins, radio operator and waist gunner; Sergeant Augustus ( Pat) Patrick, tail gunner; and Sergeant Wilbur ( Bill ) Mayhew, ball turret gunner. Captain Stewart had trained with Jimmy Doolittle for the Tokyo raid from the aircraft carrier "Hornet" as a spare pilot, but he did not go on that mission. Instead he came to India and became Major Fennell's co-pilot. We flew shy one gunner because our pilot was somewhat superstitious. He had to kick one gunner off our crew earlier and he was afraid to possibly add another "weak link" to the crew. Our B-l7E was eventually named "Fennell vs. Rommel" (Serial number 41-9029).

In late June and early July 1942 Major General Lewis Brereton took all the remaining 17 heavy bombers ( 12 B-l7Es, 4 B-24Ds and 1 LB-30 ) of the 7th Bombardment Group ( all were assigned to the 9th Bombardment Squadron at that time) to the Middle East to try to help stop Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. At that time Field Marshal Rommel was pushing the British 8th Army out of Libya and threatening all of Egypt. As there were few heavy bombers in that area to help stop him, we were sent there to help. Twenty crews were sent to the Middle East. We became part of the 9th Air Force.