Howard M. Conlee was a gunner on Alexander Munsell's crew.
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Howard kept a diary of his time with HALPRO and the 376. It follows:
I flew over as an assistant A. E. on
Lt. Munsell’s crew. We left Morrison Field West Palm Beach, Fla. on
July 12, 1942. We flew to Africa by way of Trinidad, Belem Brazil, Natal
Brazil, then to Roberta Field in Liberia. Then down to Accra and on over to
Khartoum. We were part of the Halverson detachment headed for China. We were
delayed in Khartoum and received new orders. The orders sent us to Gura
Eritrea, where our plane was dismantled
for spare parts. We made the rest of our journey to Lydda Palestine in a DC-3.
Having no plane our crew was split up and from that time on I felt like a spare
part. I flew missions with 13 different Pilots including--Major Payne, Col. McGuire, Lt. Patterson,
Lt. Medford, Lt. Peek, Capt. Oglesby, Lt. Milam, Capt. Britt, Major
Lavin, Lt. Bley, Lt. Gluck, Lt. Tim Holt, Lt. Stan Lee. I completed my
tour of duty and returned to the states in Sept. of
1943. I had qualified for Flying Cadets before going overseas. I was
get reinstated and went through the Cadet in the South East Flying
Command and graduated with the class of 45-A as a 2nd. Lt. Fighter
never saw anymore combat.
From Khartoum we flew to Gura, Eritrea. (At Gura our plane was dismantled for spare parts) Gura is up in the mountains in East Africa. It is about 7000 ft altitude and it was quite a relief from the heat. We visited Decamere and Asuijra. The population was mostly Italian and we saw some of the damage that had been done while the English were taking over. I saw my first wild baboon while on the way to Asmyra. We stayed at Gura about 5 days and then boarded a DC3 to go back to Khartoum. This time we stayed at Khartoum 2 days then we left out early one morning and flew down the Nile valley to Cairo. We stopped at Cairo just long enough to eat dinner and then flew on to Lydda, Palestine. We didn't know it but this was our destination.
Our crew was split up and we were made a part of the Halverson Detachment. Lydda is a pretty nice place - it isn't too hot and it is about lo miles from Tel Aviv a summer resort town on the Mediterranean Sea.
When I first arrived at Lydda they were so in need of office help that I volunteered and worked in the office for about a month. Before long the urge to fly took hold of me and I asked for combat. Major Payne accommodated me and made me a member of his crew.
Mission #1 Click here to read his account. (Oct 1, 1942)
Mission #2 Click here to read his account. (Oct 11, 1942)
Mission #3 Click here to read his account. (Oct 20, 1942)
Mission #4 Click here to read his account. (Oct 26, 1942)
Mission #5 Click here to read his account. (Nov 1, 1942)
Mission #6 Click here to read his account. (Nov 6, 1942)
Mission #7 Click here to read his account. (Nov 15, 1942)
After mission number seven the group moved to Abu Sueir, Egypt and the rest of the missions were from there. I hated to leave Lydda but was anxious to see new country. Abu Sueir is about 10 miles from Ismalia. I went to town but it was just another wog village.
Full of vendors and filthy.
Mission #8 Click here to read his account. (Nov 26, 1942)
Mission #9 Click here to read his account. (Dec 7, 1942)
Mission #10 Time 3:20 We went as spare ship to the advanced base - traded ships and returned. (editor's note: Did not count as a mission.)
I spent a quiet day in camp. The mission from Naples returned and told us that the 98th had a ship shot down. One of our ships washed out its landing gear while landing at Gambut. The mission was successful. No mail.
I have just returned from a few days leave. I stayed in Cairo the night of the 15th then caught a train to Alexandria the next day. We stayed at the Metrepole Hotel the 14th and 15th. We visited the catacombs and gave the city the once over. We returned to Cairo the evening of the 16th and stayed all night returning back to Abu Sueir this morning by train. There was a letter from Mother and Dad waiting for me when I got here.
Mission #11 Click here to read his account. (Dec 24, 1942)
Returned form an unsuccessful attempt on Naples yesterday afternoon.
Received three letters today. I spent most of the day around the barracks and went to the show this afternoon. I see by the bulletin board that I have been placed on Capt. Oglesby's crew and they have me listed as Staff Sergeant. I hope it isn't a mistake. The crews returning from yesterdays mission on Souse said that the ack-ack was terrific. Capt. Edmonds was killed but all the ships returned. The Germans and the Iti's are getting desperate.
Returned from a 3-day leave in Cairo today. I stayed at the "Grand Hotel". I played a round of golf at the Gizera Golf Course and attended the horse races. I spent New Years Eve making a round of the Cairo nightspots but was unimpressed. On returning to the Post I see that I have been promoted to Staff Sergeant.
Mission #12 Click here to read his account. (Jan 7, 1943)
1/8/43 #90 Click here to read his account. (Jan 8, 1943)
Spent the last few days up at Gambut. I participated in two missions while there.
Mission #13 Time 11:15(Editor's note: not a mission)
We landed just at the end of a 20-minute air raid during which 2 out of 5 Jerrys were shot down. (Mistook field for ours 50 gal drum passed under #3 and 4 props. I opened bomb bay and almost jumped into a foxhole.) We spent a cold night and returned to Abu Sueir. On returning here I find that I am scheduled to fly again on the next mission. (Jan 10, 1943)
Took off on the 11th (my birthday) and flew to the advanced base.
We had dinner and found out that our target was to be Naples.
Mission #14 Time 3:30 (January 11, 1943)
Click here to read his account. (Jan 11, 1943)
I have been spending the last few days quietly around the barracks, going to a show in the afternoon and just taking it easy. It looks as if we will move up to Benghazi within a few days. When that happens it will be pretty rough, but we’ll be in a position to really drop eggs. Will probably get some dropped on us too but I believe that they expect to take North Africa soon.
I have been on spare since I last wrote and haven't flown a mission also Tripoli has been taken over by the Allies. President Roosevelt has been conferring with Churchill at Casablanca and General Arnold has been visiting North African camps, he didn't come to our post however. Half of our outfit has advanced to our new base near Tobruk. The rest of us will move up in a few days. This place is bad enough but I hate to think what it will be like out on the desert sleeping in tents and with a limited water supply. I have been out there enough to know how cold it gets and to know how the sand grinds in. I’m getting my fill of this life and wish to be back home. If I ever get back to the States they are going to have a struggle getting me to leave again. Europe can fight and lie in its own blood I don't want any more of it. I am scheduled as a spare on the next mission and will probably leave for the advanced base tomorrow. The way I feel now I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't try for a job on the ground. I have lost my nerve, all I am anxious for is to get back home.
I am still on spare and haven't been on any missions lately. We lost three ships on the last mission which bombed Messina, Sicily. Major Toomey and crew went down in old #46. At least part of the crew is thought to have been picked up by the Italian as they landed on the water and got aboard the portable life boats. Four men on one ship were injured and a couple on another ship. They were forced to land at Malta because the ships were shot almost to pieces. I just heard a rumor that another of our ships was shot down on the raid today. I hope it is just a rumor.
From the latest information I have received, we will move to the advanced base at 139 on the sixth. I am slated to drive a truck. That should give me a good chance to see the desert from the ground and also to take a few pictures.
I went into Ishmalia yesterday and spent most of the day on a rented bicycle. While in town I bought some films, eight rolls for just $8.00. Am I crazy? I didn't get up for breakfast this morning. I stayed in bed until almost noon and then ate chow and went to the show this afternoon. What a life!
I have been on the move since I last wrote. I drove in the convoy from Abu Sueir to Landing Ground 139 in Libya. I volunteered to drive, as I wanted to see the desert from the ground. I have seen it from the air quite a few times. It was a nice trip - it took three days steady driving to make the trip. We drove through Cairo and passed near Alexandria and then right along the edge of the Mediterranean. We drove where the battle had been fought and I got to see a lot of wrecked tanks, guns, trucks, and planes and also a lot of graves and mine fields.
I was decorated yesterday with the “Airman's Medal" by Gen. Timberlake. There were seven enlisted men decorated.
We lost another crew over Naples a few days ago. They came across in my outfit and were all good friends of mine. The buddies were "Junior" Gardner, Schembri, Hartley, and Henry Ballantine. They were shot down in flames and the formation retaliated by shooting down three MEI09's. If they don't give us some relief or send us home soon there won't be anyone to send home.
I was slated to fly on the spare crew today to raid Palermo, Sicily but we didn't have to go. I was ready but not anxious. I am in a tent with James Leaman and Robert Kessler. They are both from the east and we get along pretty good. It isn't bad here on the desert except for the water shortage. A person just doesn't take a bath out here.
I received a carton of cigs and 4 letters from home today so I can go to bed feeling pretty good.
I haven't been on mission since I last wrote but the boys that have been out say that it is plenty rough. On yesterday’s mission over Naples all the ships returned and four men were injured. I have been put back on Lt. Patterson’s crew and I suppose that we will fly on the next mission. We are getting ready to move to our new base near Benghazi.
Mission #15 Time 10:00 hours
Click here to read his account. (Feb 20, 1943)
A lot has happened since I last wrote.
We moved from LG139 here (Soluch) about a week aqo. I flew as engineer on the move and we made two trips hauling 17 passengers and baggage per trip. This place is a little nicer than it was at Tobruk as there is more grass and less sand flyinq around. I have been on sick call the last few days with a cold or hay fever and I don't know which.
Yesterday I rode in to Benghazi in the ambulance truck but I didn't get to see much of the town and harbor. Talk about a rough ride - wow!
I am going through the necessary red tape to put in my application for "Flying Cadet" again. I guess they never will catch up with me on the last one.
There are a few crews arriving now and then but it doesn't look probable that there will be any immediate relief for us here. I wish Africa would fall maybe something would happen then. Received a letter from home today - the first in two weeks.
Haven't been on any real raids since I last wrote. I have been on two practice missions though. We were forced down at Eladem on the first one and stayed over night. The Pilot had us ready to bail out. He thought the ship was worse off than it really was. Sat out in the cold and watched a Naafi show while there. Returned back to Soluch next day.
The next day I was on K.P. duty at the officers mess. Some fun!
Went on another simulated bombing run today. One of the boys (Cook) was killed in the upper turret of one of the ships. He accidentally strangled himself in the turret mechanism. He had a military funeral and was buried this afternoon. I tendered my application for Av/C this afternoon – here’s hoping!
Went on a raid on Naples on the 13th.
Mission #16 Time 10:50
Click here to read his account. (Mar 13, 1943)
I haven't been on any raids since I last wrote. I have been spending most of my time around my tent. This place sure gets monotonous. The food is always the same and there is no place to go. The boys with over 300 hours have been leaving. I sure wish I was going home with them.
I was advanced to Technical Sergeant the first of the month. I now draw $205 a month.
I have been on two missions since I last wrote.
Mission #17 Time 8:30 Click here to read his account. (Apr 4, 1943)
Mission #18 Time 7:45 Click here to read his account. (Apr 6, 1943)
Half of the Group has moved to a new base closer to Benghazi and I guess we will move in a few days. Any kind of a change will help me I'm so tired of this place it is terrible and the food is getting worse instead of better.
They have been keeping me busy the last few days. I have been on two more missions. On the eighth we bombed Naples and got a couple of good hits. We sank a destroyer and made a hit on the harbor.
Mission #19 Time 9:30 Click here to read his account. (Apr 10, 1943)
Mission #20 Time 8:10 Click here to read his account. (Apr 12, 1943)
Returned from a 10 day leave at Tel Aviv, Palestine yesterday. I stayed at the American Red Cross Club and had a swell time. I had about ten letters awaiting me when I got back.
The mopping up is taking place in Tunisia and I guess we will be moving from Benghazi before long.
I am flying with Capt. Britt tomorrow. I don't know where the mission is headed to. While I was gone some more of my buddies went down. Lt. Deffner and Lt. Lonqstreth the bombardier and Navigator on the ship I came across were among them.
Mission #21 Time 7:00 Click here to read his account. (May 11, 1943)
It’s time I was catching up. I have done a lot of things since I last wrote.
On the 20th I engineered a ship to Tel Aviv carrying a load of 39 in all. We brought the ships back the next day and stopped at Heliopolis for dinner and at Devosueir to pick up a load of cameras. Arrived back here at 12:00 midnight. I went out and cleaned the guns on #81 this afternoon. I’m scheduled to fly on it wit~ Capt. Britt the next mission. He is ready to fly again. There is a rumor that we may move. I kinda hope its true. Wyatt went home the other day. That leaves Lt. Foster and I the only ones left here out of the original crew that I came across with. I take it back - -------- and Stemple are still around only they aren't flying, so is Ison. Pilot Munsell is in the hospital, Foster was co-pilot, 1st Engineer Wyatt is home, 2nd Engineer, myself still plugging away. 1st Radio Operator is working ground radio and so is 2nd Cpr. Stemple. Tail Gunner Ison is grounded and is working in the chemical warfare section. Lt. Longstreth the navigator, and Lt. Deffner the Bombardier went down over Messina with Lt. Swarner and crew.
If I ever get three hundred combat hours in they're supposed to send me home. I spent the day recuperating from a raid on Messina yesterday. We bombed the ferry slip and did quite a lot of damage. The ack-ack was intense accurate - terrific. I really don't see how we manage to fly through it. One of the gunners in a ship flying next to ours was killed by a shell.
Mission #22 Time 7:45
We were attacked by pursuits but kept them away with our gun fire and returned safely. I am scheduled to fly again tomorrow. I hope it is an easier target.
Mission #23 Time 9:15 Click here to read his account. (May 28, 1943)
I was scheduled to fly again today but the mission was cancelled. I will be on Major Lavin's crew as Capt. Britt has his 300 hours in and is ready to depart for home. I sure wish I was in his shoes.
Mission #24 Time 9:00 Click here to read his account. (June 4, 1943)
Since that mission I have been taking it as easy as is possible around an army post.
Mission #25 Time 7:20 Click here to read his account. (Jun 19, 1943)
Since I last wrote there have been a series of alerts for paratroops etc. It seems that some Jerry paratroops landed down the coast from here and have mined some ships in this area. They succeeded in blowing up two of them. I was on guard duty on a 30 cal machine gun for a 24 hour stretch. I believe that most of them have been captured by now.
I have flown two missions since I last wrote. The first was to the airfield just north of Taranto harbor. I flew with a new crew to help them in case they had trouble with their oxygen etc.
Mission #26 Time 8:45 Click here to read his account. (Jul 2, 1943)
Mission #27 Time 8:00 Click here to read his account. (Jul 5, 1943)
If everything goes well, I should be able to finish up in a couple of months unless they change the combat time needed. I now need 64 hours to finish.
Mission #28 Time 6:45 Click here to read his account. (Jul 8, 1943)
My year overseas was up yesterday. I am wondering how much longer I will have to stay over here.
Mission #29 Time 7:15 Click here to read his account. (Jul 14, 1943)
Mission #30 Click here to read his account. (Jul 19, 1943)
I have been on two missions since I last wrote.
Mission #31 Time 12:45 Click here to read his account. (Aug 13, 1943)
Mission #32 Click here to read his account. (Aug 16, 1943)
Mission #33 Time 9:45 Click here to read his account. (Aug 21, 1943)
Didn't finish keeping diary for last 5 missions.