B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

The Story of My Military Service with the 320th B.G.
by Benton B. Banchor, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Final arrival to our new home, Tafaroui-Algeria

 

Our route then took us through a mountainous area to Yundum Field at Bathurst, Gambia. We continued to Marrakech, French Morocco, going over the Atlas Mountains to Tafaraoui, Algeria.

To our surprise, Martha Raye, a famous comedian, was there to entertain the troops and raise our spirits. Later, when we were at the movie and the film broke, Martha Raye, wearing an officer's uniform, stood up and yelled at the projectionist "don't you guys know how to splice the film? Let's get this show going." Now that was really entertaining!


Montesquieu, Algeria

 

On 18 April 1943, we went to Montesquieu, Algeria. On the first night there was a terrible rain storm and the tent flooded; I woke up to find water under my cot. We had to walk on hay bales to go to chow because there was so much flooding. My foot slipped off into the mud and when I lifted my foot and my boot stayed stuck in the mud! It was funny to watch the Generals and other officers trying to stay dignified walking in all the mud. Because the Germans had sunk the supply ships, all we had to eat was K-rations and C-rations; everyone was sick & lost weight. We had to use mosquito netting to sleep. One morning a camel stuck his head into our tent!

In order to avoid malaria, we were given Adabrin tablets, which made some men sick. Water had to be treated with chlorine to kill bacteria. G.I. ingenuity had converted a French machine to pump water out of a well and despite being salty, it felt wonderful to take a shower and cool off. The heat was so intense that before we got back our towels blew dry! Changing engines in that extreme heat was laborious and the chance of being burned was very high.

We had two runways made of corrugated steel mats that crossed in the middle. We made bombing runs over the Mediterranean Ocean for the purpose of destroying German submarines. I could see the rock of Gibraltar and the north coast of Africa at the same time; they seemed so close.

Arabs were very colorful. A wedding ceremony lasted three days and when they sang it sounded pretty exotic. In the middle of the night, Arabs would sneak into officers' tents and steal their uniforms. The following day, the MP's went in all directions to catch the thieves and retrieve the uniforms. 

Combat

 

 

 

 

1943, North Africa - A successful landing after being fired at by Italians, Germans & even Americans! But, it was a successful raid over the coast of Tunis, as they were able to stop escaping Germans. The plane was damaged, but they landed safely

On one mission, supposedly a safe route, due to poor communications everyone shot at us, including other Americans! But it was still a successful raid over the coast of Tunis, as we were able to stop escaping Germans. Some planes ran low on fuel, but our plane returned safely. Our next mission was to bomb the Sardinia railroad yards in Cagliari, Sardinia –Italy. The city is near the coast. Flak was intense. I held my helmet down and it sounded like hail hitting the helmet.

Planes returning from missions were often desperate to land. Some were out of fuel, some carried injured men, and some had damage to the plane. On one occasion, a plane coming from one direction had a dead engine and another coming from the other way had lost its hydraulic fuel and also had injured personnel. The pilot of the plane with the dead engine maneuvered to fly over the other and both panes overshot the runway before they could stop. It took all the emergency equipment on the ground to rescue everyone. On another mission, I heard the pilot call out, "engineer come forward! We have a gas leak!" I had to remove my helmet, flak jacket and Mae West (inflatable vest) to squeeze thru the narrow catwalk to the forward bomb bay. There I saw the navigator holding a gas hose which was spraying 100% octane all over the bombs! I yelled "Major, let me get by to shut it off", but he was so dazed he couldn't move. I had to knock him on the shoulder to get him to move so I could reach around and shut off the valve. I told him "Major, you're supposed to be up in the navigation position to lead 8 planes to the target. You do your job and I'll do mine." He replied, "good man, Banchor".

So I got the hose repaired and transferred fuel from the auxiliary tanks to the main tanks. I then checked the pilot's instruments to be sure everything was OK. When I returned to my position and looked down, I saw German 88's (anti-aircraft guns) pointed straight at me with fire in the barrel. Flak tore a hole in the wing and tail. Luckily, Captain Simms was a skillful pilot and we were able to complete our mission and return safely, unlike many others.

One time General Doolittle joined us. As we shook hands with him, he chose my plane to fly in.
(Continued)


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