Buongiorno Dottor Mattesini,
purtroppo non sono ancora riuscito a procurarmi il libro di Robert Dorr sul Settimo Bombardment Group, ma ho scoperto che su Google Libri è possibile consultare alcune pagine. ( https://books.google...epage&q&f=false )
Trascrivo dunque quanto è riportato alle pagine 129-130 di "7th Bombardment Group/Wing 1918-1995" da Robert Dorr:
"“…..One of the major battles participated in by the B-17s of “Brereton’s Bastards” occurred the night of 13-14 September 1942. The Allies were going to land between 40.000 and 80000 from the Long Range Desert Group commandos (- evidentemente un refuso -) at the ports of Tobruk and Benghazi, in an attempt to capture them. If the commandos were successful, this would cut off nearly all supplies to Rommel’s troops at El Alamein, thus ending the Battle for North Africa.
At least 300 planes were involved in the total operation. Some planes had been over the target all the day.
The Brereton B-17 were to be part of the 101 (35 heavy, 66 medium) British and American bombers making a seven hour shuttle bombardment of Tobruk that night; 20 B-24 were going to hit Benghazi. The attack from the air would continue until 3:00 a.m. on the 14th, when the commandos would attempt to land and fight until dawn.
Mayhew continued, “Our five B-17s were scheduled to hit Tobruk around midnight. Each plane would be on its own, ut we would fly at different preset altitudes to reduce the chance of colliding over the target in the dark. Fennell was leading our attack, so our plane was scheduled to be the first over the target. Our job was to keep the gunners on the ground busy, so commandos would not be discovered sitting offshore. Consequently, we were supposed to remin over the target at least 30 minutes.
“We took off from our advanced base at Landing Ground 224, west of Cairo, at 2030 on 13 September. We approached the target at 180 mph fro 25,000 ft. The temperature was 50 degrees below zero [Fahreneit] at that altitude that night. We could see the battle raging long before we reached it. There was a 50 per cent overcast, and the reflections on these clouds of anti-aircraft fire, bombs bursting on the ground, and shells falling from naval vessels a few miles offshore, made an eerie scene in front of us.
“We dropped three of our 500-lb bombs on each pass. As we approached the target on our first pass, a searchlight caught a British “Wimpy” (Vickers Wellington medium bomber) in its beam. Instantly, the other searchlights converged on that spot, making the Wimpy look like a moth in candlelight. There were 29 searchlights in a circle around one master beam. There also were 29 radio controlled antiaircraft guns that operated automatically with these lights. These guns now set up a cone of fire within the beam of the searchlights. In a few seconds the plane exploded. Less than a minute later the process was repeated with the same results. In the darkness, these planes appeared to be at our altitude, whereas actually they were attacking from 4,000 ft. Nevertheless, I was certain this would be our fate I a few minutes when we reached the drop zone.
“one small caliber (probably 40-mm) antiaircraft gun picked us up just before we dropped our first bombs. The line of tracers coming up from that gun looked like they were headed directly for my turret. It was very unnerving to watch the slow approach of that line of steel coming at me. However, when these shells reached what I would guess was about 15,000 ft, they fell back toward the earth. From then on I enjoyed watching those gunners waste their ammunition on us as they followed us across the sky.
“Joe Taulbee, our Bombardier, released the first string of bombs, and a few moments later there was a terrific explosion on the ground directly beneath us. He had hit an ammunition dump. I could have read a magazine in my turret, if I’d one, from the brilliant light that filled the sky. Flame and debris flew several thousand feet into the air, then fell back to earth.
“The other two bombs run over the target were somewhat anticlimactic for our crew, except that longerwe stayed over the target the greater the chance of being shot down. Finally, around midnight, after 40 minutes over the target, we headed for home.
“Our problems were not over. Number three engine lost oil pressure and had to be feathered. Then around 1:30 a.m., number one engine gave off a shower of sparks. Now we were flying essentially on two engines, and we didn’t know how long they would continue to function. At the time we were flying over the Mediterranean about 60 miles from shore and about 200 miles from Lydda.
“we reached Lydda at about 2:35 a.m. that morning and joined the circling B-17s and B-24s. We were nearly out of gas and flying on two engines, so we were given the preference for landing.
“The next morning we learned the results of the battle and also the conditions of our remaining engines. Many of the new engines that succeeded in bringing the B-17s home were in such poor condition, due to corrosion, that our crew chief said they could have failed anytime. Five engines, including our two, failed during mission. We learned years later that Senator Harry S Truman conducted a Senate hearing about the poor quality of new B-17 engines at that time. As the result of that investigation, one Army Air Forces General later was sent to prison.
“The battle had not been a total success, since neither Tobruk nor Benghazi had been taken. In addition to the hundred of commandos killed, about 600 were captured. Although all our B-17s returned safely, the British lost 22 planes over Tobruk. They also lost the destroyers Sikh and Zulu out of the six cruisers and destroyers used I the attack. One launch and one motor boat were also lost. On the other hand, a great deal of damage hd been done to Tobruk by this combined air-naval-commando attack.
Oil and gas installations were burned, ammunition dumps were blown up, etc. We learned we had distracted the Germans enough to allow thousands of commandos to land, destroy many enemy installations, and reoard their ships. General Sir Harold Alexander, Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, sent a message to congratulate us for our efforts at Tobruk. ........”"