the 320th's Ground Echelon arrived at Tafaraoui November 22, 1942, they found
it had been heavily bombed and shelled during the invasion. The men had to
pitch their pup tents in a sea of mud caused by the steady rain. Thanksgiving
came and went...but the downpour continued into December.
To make room for another group staging
through, on December 19th the ground men packed up and moved in freight cars 75
miles east to the field at Relizane.
By January 2, 1943, the last of the Flight
Echelon Marauders had flown in to Tafaraoui. The 320th had brought fifty-nine
B-26s safely across, losing just one en route. Outstanding, considering the
losses the 319th and 17th had suffered crossing.
319th had passed through Tafaraoui shortly after the invasion. Since its first
mission November 28th it had suffered heavy losses on low-level attacks
supporting the Allied "race for Tunis". The 17th had also moved
through to join the 319th at Telergma and had gone into combat December 30th.
the 320th's fliers expected to be rushed into combat with the other two B-26
groups, they were sent to school instead. Crews and aircraft shifted over to
nearby La Senia field, where the Ground Echelon joined them January 8th.
Ground classes soon began there at Twelfth
Air Force Combat School. The airmen were taught medium-level bombardment
By the end of January School was finished
and the 320th moved back to Tafaraoui. Now the field was an even worse mud
hole. The weather was miserable: wind and rain.
Squadron Commanders pushed hard to get
their men ready for action. Ground and flight training continued for all.
Takeoff and landing accidents happened...the flyers could never take the B-26
Starting February 9th, 320th
planes--bomb-bay racks modified to carry depth charges--began flying daily
antisubmarine patrols looking for the Axis U-boats that were preying on Allied
shipping around Oran. On the 12th, the Group scored its first victory of the
war, sinking a sub.
The 319th was ordered withdrawn from
combat early in February and pulled back to rest and reequip, leaving the 17th
the sole B-26 group in action. German Panzers struck through Faid Pass on the
13th and threatened Algeria. The concerned 320th men thought they might be
thrust into the battle, but by the 22nd counterattacking Americans had beaten
Rommel's Afrika Korps back at Kasserine.
Patrolling, practice combat flights and
ground training classes went on into March. The men endured the mud, worked on
their planes, and waited impatiently. British Royal Navy Swordfish took over
the anti-sub patrol from the Group the 10th. Being relieved was seen as a good
sign by the men...maybe now they were going into action. On the 15th Lt. Col.
John R. Fordyce took command of the 320th, succeeding Col. Garrison who had been
injured in a jeep accident.
With April came the
news they had been waiting for...move east 700 miles to a forward airfield at
Montesquieu, Algeria. On the 7th a long convoy of 320th vehicles pulled out.
Crews flew their Marauders forward. Other personnel, along with equipment and
supplies, were airlifted by C-47s; the first time the AAF had flown a group
into a combat zone.[Go
to the next base: Montesquieu, Algeria]
authored by Victor C. Tannehill, Saga of the 320th