Wilbur W. Mayhew

July 1942

All the planes of our Group were assembled at Karachi before departing for the Middle East. The morning of 4 July 1942 four of our B-l7Es left Karachi for the Middle East. About 45 minutes after take-off Major Fennell had to turn back to Karachi because of engine trouble. The other three planes continued on. When engine repairs were completed, we took off again at 11:45 ( 2345 ) that night.

These four planes and crews were:

Pilot

Co-pilot

Navigator

Bombardier

Engineer

Radio Operator

Gunner

Gunner

Gunner

Major Fennell

Lt. Stewart 

Lt. Daigle

T/Sgt. Taulbee         

Sgt. Dague             

Sgt. McJunkins

Sgt. Patrick

Sgt. Mayhew

Sgt. Siler

Lt. Nelson

Lt. Stratford

Lt. Bacesky

Sgt. Puleo

Sgt. McGuire

Sgt. McCain

Sgt. Coats

Sgt. Milstead

Sgt. Bentley

Pilot

Co-pilot

Navigator

Bombardier

Engineer

Radio Operator

Gunner

Gunner

Gunner

Lt. Thomas                 Lt Murphree

Lt. Emens                   Lt. Milner

Lt. Postelle                 Lt. Gordon

Sgt. Stowe                  Sgt. Stevens

Sgt. Bergin                 Sgt. Brum

Sgt. Madsen               Sgt. Hicks

 Sgt. Griggs                Sgt. Simms

Sgt. Shelley                Sgt. Harris

Sgt. Hall                     Sgt. Fletcher

Lt. Thomas                 Lt Murphree

Lt. Emens                   Lt. Milner

Lt. Postelle                 Lt. Gordon

Sgt. Stowe                  Sgt. Stevens

Sgt. Bergin                 Sgt. Brum

Radio

Sgt. Madsen               Sgt. Hicks

 Sgt. Griggs                Sgt. Simms

Sgt. Shelley                Sgt. Harris

Sgt. Hall                     Sgt. Fletcher

Some of these crews were modified in the Middle East.

The planes we took to the Middle East were: ''Fennell vs. Rommel", "Jerk from Albuquerque", "Sea Breeze", "Mormon Meteor", "Suzy Q", "Watch Out There Now", "Yankee Rebel", Double Trouble", "Baby Me", "Gee Gee", "Judge's Jury" and one whose name I forget.

Our movement to the Middle East was typical for the squadron. Our first stop was at Sheiba, Iraq, which we reached after a flight of nearly eight hours. That town is a short distance from Basra, Iraq. All you could see in any direction was sand, sand, sand. We were there only one day, but that was enough for us. Our next stop was Habbaniya, Iraq, which was about 20 miles from Bagdad, Iraq. Some of the fellows went into Bagdad that evening, but I had seen enough of the place while flying over it to suit me. When the boys returned from their trip, I was glad I'd stayed at the airdrome. They certainly did not like it. The airdrome at Habbaniya has a high plateau overlooking it. Early in World War II the Axis troops had gotten as far as the plateau, and the airdrome still showed the effects of the shelling it received. All the hangers were riddled with holes, and the barracks looked pock marked.

The next day (7 July 1942) we took off again, landing four hours later at Lydda, Palestine which is about 5 miles from Tel Aviv, Palestine. We were now 3,000 miles west of Karachi. The flight across most of Iraq and Trans Jordan was over scrub desert. However, when we reached the Jordan River between Trans Jordan and Palestine, the appearance of the land changed spectacularly. Now we were flying over grain fields, vineyards, orchards, and citrus groves. I could imagine we were flying over southern California. After nearly four months in the Sind Desert of western India, then Iraq and Trans Jordan, we could hardly believe such lush places still existed in the world.

When we left India our new base was to have been on the banks of the Suez Canal at Fayid, Egypt, approximately 250 miles west of Lydda. However, by the time we reached Lydda, we received orders to set up our base there. By this time the Germans were so close to our original base that it was unsafe to base heavy bombers there. Naturally, this situation did not help our morale any. We expected to see "Jerry" come marching down the road from Cairo, Egypt or drop parachutists from the sky any day. This move to the Middle East meant that at this time we were the only American combat group to fight the Japanese, Italians and Germans ( all the Axis partners ). Our B-17 crews began flying combat missions immediately to the harbor of Tobruk, Libya and after convoys in the Mediterranean Sea.

1st Provisional Group

On 20 July 1942 the 9th Squadron was combined with Halpro (a B-24 outfit that had been stopped in Egypt while on its way to China) to form two squadrons of the First Provisional Bombardment Group. We referred to these two squadrons as Halpro (B- 24Ds) and "Brereton's Bastards", "Orphans", "Bengal Bombers", or "Toomey's Flying Circus" (B-17Es).

Our facilities at Lydda (today Ben Gurion International Airport) were the best we had experienced since leaving the States. We were housed in stone barracks shaped like Quonset huts. As we had arrived with little equipment, we had to sleep on the cement floors for several nights until cots could be located for us. We each had only two blankets, but the temperature at that time of year was mild, so it was not bad, considering what we had come from. The airfield had been built by the Germans before the war. In our early days there, our crews had difficulty locating the field from the air, because it was so well camouflaged.

We had brought a limited number of ground personnel from India. Sufficient maintenance personnel was always lacking. A normal ground crew for a B-17 was 32 men. The 9th Squadron in the Middle East had 19.

Tel Aviv was a modem city only 25 years old. It possessed excellent beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. Many European refugees were included in its population at the time. Consequently, we enjoyed our stay at Lydda.

376 ARCHIVES

At the 2017 reunion, the board approved the donation of our archives to the Briscoe Center for American History, located on the University of Texas - Austin campus.

Also, the board approved a $5,000 donation to add to Ed Clendenin's $20,000 donation in the memory of his father. Together, these funds begin an endowment for the preservation of the 376 archives.

Donate directly to the 376 Endowment

To read about other endowment donation options, click here.

2018 REUNION

DATES :  TBD

CITY : Dayton, Ohio

HOTEL: TBD

2018 reunion details


previous reunions

For Sale

The Other Doolittle Raid


The Liberandos


Three Crawford Brothers


Liberando: Reflections of a Reluctant Warrior


376th Bomb Group Mission History


The Last Liberator


Full Circle


Shadows of Wings


Ten Men, A "Flying Boxcar," and A War


I Survived Ploesti


A Measure of Life


Shot Down In Yugoslavia


Stories of My Life


Attack


Born in Battle