Am getting worthlessly lazy, so this past month will be in retrospect - while back Capt. Urich returned from a trip to Naples with one engine feathered and hydraulics out; landed at L.G. 139 without brakes or flaps; ran 1/2 mile out in desert to avoid hitting Ak-Ak gun at end of runway. He had to fly ship back with the No. 1 engine out and all his trim tabs shot out - nice job. On this trip, he had Ak-Ak come straight thru window and break arm of top turret gunner (knocked out one inch of bone in upper arm). Lt. Parker had one gunner hit and nav. wounded, so he had to get home by himself - also well done. Three more crews came in, and going home rumors ran amuck, but naturally only to our complete dismay. And, of course, we had moved from Abu Seuier to L.G. 139 (Gambut) for permanent change of base. Had several air raids and saw brilliant show of Ak-Ak defense off Tobruk. The Beaufighters knocked out 3 of approaching J.U. 88's one night. Ak-Ak knocked down 3 J.U.'s and there were 7 Nazis running loose in our area. While at 139 we lived in tents, of course, had a canteen of water a day to drink per day (usually), and a canteen to wash in. Stayed there from Feb. 6 till Feb. 22 and went without bath all that time; in fact, haven't had a bath for nearly a month now. The dust at Gambut was indescribable. Came up every day and filled eyes, ears, nose and throat beyond endurance. Visibility didn't exist during these storms. Food at Gambut was excellent. Got a ration of beer every so often (twice) and stole beer from 33rd Bomb Sq. (also stationed at 139). Got so we had to drink every nite to keep from going nuts. Things began to change at bomber command so we had hopes.
As highest hopes for rumors of going home to materialize - we used to gather around a bottle of C.C. or V.O., with a swallow of beer for a chaser, listen to sweet sentimental tunes on Helms' victrola - talk of home and women - war was at its most hellish - at worst when nostalgic memories were beset by hardship of existence and mail from home.
'Twas rough riding to live in that sand lot. The Group went thru a complete change of command and, as usual, our leaders walked out on us. Col. Mickey (bless that petrified example of a C.O.) left for the States - have cussed the ability or rather lack of ability of that man endlessly, and still even on his exit, I think just as little of him. Col. Saunders left for Bomber Command; Maj. Zuckerman to Bomber Command. Nearly all the old boys with rank have gone now, but the flying, fighting personnel continue without promotion. More ground officers have been promoted _ Capt. Owens now (Tech. Sgt, on Halpro's leaving Florida). Maj. Cox (Radio, M/Sgt .. at Ft. Myers) and Sibert is Major now. Col. K.K. Compton of 93rd took over 376th Group, and we were elated at change. He is fine lad; very young, but a real man and leader. Moved from 139th to Soluch (South East of Benghazi) on Feb. 22. Still in tents, but have a tree or two close by. Went on nite mission to Naples - had to sweat it out per schedule for No. 4 was about out, when No.3 had to be feathered - flew home (all way) on 3 engines and was continually worried stiff about No. 4. All electrical power went out for while, but finally came back after check on battery solenoid. Got lost on way back and navigator took us 250 miles out of way. While over target, saw wierd sight of flaming onion (or something) - appeared to be continual burning Ak-Ak at 25,000 ft - lasted several minutes. Ran into four nite fighters - when they closed to attack, we dodged down under and lost them - rather a rugged trip; had Mooty's crew with new co-pilot, and bombardier. Have 328 hours of combat now, and am plenty ready for rest. While at Gambut, 8 men of 93rd were blown up in land mine in tent area - we found mines at all turns. Lt. Reffner was our sapper, and qualified excellently on 1st three letters of word! Went into Tobruk and saw what we'd been doing all summer - there was not a building that hadn't been shattered. Benito Mussolini School was in shambles. The harbor was crammed with sunken ships - airports loaded with crashed or burned J.U. 88's" 87's, 52's M.E. 109's 110's, gliders, etc.
While at Gambut, the water tasted nearly exactly like kerosene; here at Solluck, the water tasted like Sal Hepatica ~ it would take a swallow of whiskey to chase it properly.