Wilbur Mayhew Mission January 2, 1943

January 2, 1943

We were scheduled for a raid on Christmas Day, but bad weather caused it to be cancelled the day before, so we had a really enjoyable Christmas. The way the weather looked, we would not have another raid before New Year's so we were pretty happy. As it turned out, New Year's Day was our next flight.


On New Year's Day, 1943, we were included in a flight of B-24 planes that took off at 4:00 A.M. ( 0400) and landed at Tobruk four hours later. The weather over the Mediterranean to our intended target was not too good, so we spent the day inspecting wrecked German planes that still littered the field. That night about 1:00 A.M. (0100) a formation of B-24's from another bomb group returned to the airfield after bombing farther along the coast of Africa. Unknown to any of us, a German Ju-88 stumbled on the formation over the Mediterranean and followed it home. The Germans badly damaged the last of our planes to land with cannon and machine gun fire. Not satisfied with this, "Jerry" made another run over the field and dropped a stick of fragmentation bombs through the tent area. I heard the last bomb explode, but by that time it was too late to do anything, so I turned over and went back to sleep. Not much damage was done, anyway. The tents that were hardest hit belonged to the crews that were landing at the time, so no one was injured on the ground. Several crewmen had been wounded in the air by the attack, however.

The next morning (2 January 1943) at 10:00 A.M. ( 1000) our formation of twelve B- 24' s took off and headed for the Castelli Pediada airdrome in central Crete. Planes from Crete had been giving the Allies fits in the Mediterranean region. We were part of an all-out effort that day to destroy the German airfields on that island. We bombed from 20,000 feet at 1:00 P.M. ( 1300 ).The reception we received was rather warm. The antiaircraft guns were not very plentiful, but they certainly were accurate. Nearly every shot rocked either our wingmen or us. One shell exploded under the right wing of our plane, throwing me back into the plane towards the left waist gun window. However, Mac caught me before I reached the window. Otherwise, I would have made quite a grease spot on Crete, because I was not wearing my parachute at the time. (We had the old style seat 'chutes that were so bulky we never wore them.) However, we returned to our airbase at Abu Sueir without any serious trouble.