April 18th the men of the 320th were settling into tents at Montesquieu. The
field was beautiful: cut through a green wheat field on a plateau high in the
Atlas Mountains among rolling hills and acres of poppies. This was the most
advanced air base; ground fighting was going on just 75 miles away as the
Allied Armies penned Axis forces into the northeast corner of Tunisia and
closed in on Tunis and Bizerte.
The men expected German air raids so they
dug in and prepared to defend themselves. Anti-aircraft guns were in place and
gunners were on the alert.
Departments and Sections got organized.
The 304th Service Squadron, which was to be with the Group for the rest of the
war, joined them.
P-40s of the 325th Fighter Group, on the
other side of the field, would escort the Marauders on many coming missions.
last familiarization flights were flown. Col. Fordyce held final instructional
meetings with the air crews.
The 320th was ordered to fly its first
bombing mission of the war April 22, 1943. Eighteen of its B-26s, escorted by
325th Warhawks, were to hit enemy shipping in Carloforte Harbor Port, Sardinia.
Nearly everyone in the Group lined the runway to watch their Marauders take
off. Capt. Ted Dorman of the 444th piloted the lead ship "Miss
Fortune" with Col. Fordyce aboard as observer. Each Squadron had B-26s on
this initial raid. There was light flak, no fighters, bombing results were
good, and all Marauders returned safely.
During the next few weeks the Group put up
missions daily as Allied ground forces tightened their ring around Tunis. The
320th concentrated on interdicting the beaten enemy trying to escape by sea.
Targets on Sardinia drew most of its attention.
American and British soldiers sprang their
final assault on Tunis and the city was taken May 7th. All German and Italian
troops remaining in Tunisia surrendered May 13th, ending the North African
Now the 320th joined in pounding the
Italian Island of Pantelleria, stepping stone to Sicily, next objective for the
On May 23rd taking off from Montesquieu
the Marauder piloted by Col. Fordyce crashed, exploded, and burned. All aboard
were killed in this tragic accident which took the life of a superb Commander,
so respected and so well liked by his men. Lt. Col. Karl E. Baumeister from the
17th was named CO.
June 1st, as the 319th resumed action, the
three Marauder groups were transferred from the 47th Bomb Wing to the
newly-formed 2686th, Brig. Gen. Robert M. Webster, CO. Pantelleria gave up the
11th marking the first time air assault alone had forced such a capitulation.
Now the Group began missions preparing the way for the Allied invasion of
Sicily. Their B-26s bombed the Island's airfields day after day.
To cut the distance to targets, the B-26
units were ordered to move a hundred miles northeast. The 320th men loaded up
and pulled out by convoy for the airfield at Massicault, 14 miles southeast of
to the next base: Massicault, Algeria]
authored by Victor C. Tannehill, Saga of the 320th