Wilbur Mayhew Mission January 12, 1943

January 12, 1943 ( editor's note: January 8 ? )

We did not have anything more to do until 12 January 1943, when we received orders to go on a raid to Bizerte, Tunisia. Major Fennell had just been ordered to return to the United States as an instructor, so our co-pilot, Bill Stewart, took over as first pilot. As this was to be the first raid without the "old man" aboard, we did not quite know whether we wanted to go or not. However, before we landed at Tobruk, Captain Stewart proved that he was capable of handling the job. About two hours away from Abu Sueir, he called the crew on the interphone to tell us to put on our parachutes. He said we might have to leave the plane. I looked up through the bomb bay and saw there was a fire burning under the flight deck. Needless to say, I was in my 'chute in no time, but our flight engineer got the fire under control before we had to jump. We took our 'chutes off and sat back, taking life easy again. About an hour later, Mac, our radio operator, came running back through the plane, looking for his parachute. He yelled, "Put on your jump-sacks again---we are on fire". As soon as I was in the parachute harness I looked out the escape hatch and saw we were only about 500 feet off the ground. When we saw this, Pat, our tail gunner, and I just took our 'chutes off They would not do us any good at that altitude. If we had "hit the silk" from there, it would have been almost certain death. We were just circling the field at Tobruk for a landing at the time. The pilot was able to land the plane safely before the fire spread too far. As soon as we stopped rolling, we were all in there trying to put the fire out, and it was under control in no time. We had not fought the fire in the air this time because all our fire extinguishers had been exhausted during the first fire. We had to wait until we were on the ground where we could get sand from the runway ( it was a dirt runway). After his cool handling of the plane under those trying circumstances, Captain Stewart automatically was the best pilot still in the business, as far as our crew was concerned. Our crew worked most of the night getting the spare plane ready to go the next day, but misfortune still dogged our footsteps. About halfway over the Mediterranean we discovered the ground crew had failed to connect one of our gas tanks, so we had to return without reaching the target. This turn-back was extremely disappointing to us. We had had to turn back three times that month, from one cause or another, so some of the other crews were beginning to think we could not take it.

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.

Click here to go to their main website.

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.

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