Wilbur W. Mayhew

Back to the Middle East

We remained at Allahabad for two days after that Rangoon raid, then we returned to Karachi by way of New Delhi. Four days later, on 7 November 1942 we took off from Karachi about 9:00 P.M. (2100). Everything went smoothly for about four hours, when suddenly No.2 engine cut out. That would not have been so bad ordinarily, but this time we happened to be in a terrific electrical storm. The instruments were out for a while, so that we did not know whether we were flying right side up or upside down. Saint Elmo's Fire was dancing on both wing tips. Luckily, Major Fennell was able to get the instruments working again off another engine, but we were still on three engines. To make matters worse, our navigator became lost in the storm, so we did not have any good idea where we were. Our radio operator could not contact Habbaniya, Iraq because of the static, so we could not even get a position bearing from the ground. After flying in this manner for about four hours, our radio operator suddenly contacted our home field (Lydda). They reported us directly over the base. This was more a matter of luck than anything else, because our navigator thought we should still be about two hours from home. However, we had had a strong tail wind that he could not possibly have detected under the circumstances. If we had continued on until daylight, or until our navigator thought we were home, we would have been well out over the Mediterranean Sea. Once again we thanked our radio for getting us down safely. We all climbed out and kissed the ground when the plane was parked that morning! We learned upon landing that our outfit was moving to Abu Sueir, Egypt the next day, so we did not get to spend much more time in Palestine.

The Germans had been driven from El Alamein about two weeks before, so we were moving right up behind them to help them on their way. We landed at Abu Sueir, Egypt about 3:00 P.M. ( 1500) on 8 November 1942 and set up our camp. Abu Sueir was a small native village about 10 miles west of the Suez Canal and about 80 miles east of Cairo, Egypt. The village was inhabited mostly by Arabs. Therefore, we had little or nothing to do with their town. We went either to Ismalia, on the Suez Canal, or to Cairo whenever we had any free time. Ismalia was not much better than Abu Sueir.

The airfield at Abu Sueir was an established British air base that was essentially turned over to the Americans. It had tennis courts, a movie theater, irrigated lawns and green trees. The officers had a room for each two men with a "bearer" that slept outside the room. The enlisted men had single story barracks that each contained several rooms in a row. The enlisted men of each crew shared one of these rooms. We now had electric lights for the second ( and last) time while we were overseas. This was one of the best bases we had while we were away from the United States.