DECEMBER 1942
by Eric Hammel

Copyright © 1994 by Eric Hammel



December 1, 1942


ENGLAND: Upon receiving orders from LtGen Dwight D. Eisenhower, LtGen Carl Spaatz leaves for Algeria to serve as Eisenhower's air adviser. MajGen Ira C. Eaker replaces Spaatz as commanding general of the Eighth Air Force.

TUNISIA: A regular pattern of air attacks is opened by the Twelfth Air Force against Tunis/El Aouina Airdrome. In the first of these, conducted before 0900 hours, the base is attacked by six A-20s and 13 B-17s, which are followed closely by nine A-20s and six RAF Bristol Bisley light bombers. An estimated 30 aircraft are destroyed on the ground, and a 14th Fighter Group P- 38 pilot downs an Bf-109 in the air over the airdrome. During the afternoon, an attack by 12 B-26s destroys an estimated 15 GAF aircraft on the ground. XII Fighter Command P-38s attack German Army tanks near Djedeida.

December 2, 1942

ENGLAND: BriGen Newton Longfellow replaces MajGen Ira C. Eaker as commanding general of the VIII Bomber Command.

TUNISIA: Twelfth Air Force A-20s, followed by B-26s, attack Tunis/El Aouina Airdrome; Twelfth Air Force B-17s attack Bizerte/Sidi Ahmed Airdrome and Bizerte harbor; and Twelfth Air Force B-25s attack flak batteries near Gabes Airdrome. A total of nine GAF fighters are downed during the day by pilots of the 1st, 14th, and 52d Fighter groups undertaking a number of escort missions and aggressive sweeps into enemy territory.

December 3, 1942

TUNISIA: 97th Heavy Bombardment Group B-17s attack shipping and port facilities at Bizerte at about 1030 hours. Forewarned by radar, GAF fighters attack the bombers, but they are attacked in turn by 1st Fighter Group P-38s. Three Bf-109s are downed against the loss of five P-38s. 15th Light Bombardment Squadron A-20s, escorted by P-38s, attack Tunis/El Aouina Airdrome, and P-38s and Spitfires attack a variety of ground targets while on far-ranging sweeps and reconnaissance missions. While on these missions, pilots of the 14th and 52d Fighter groups down three Bf-109s.

December 4, 1942

ITALY: In the first USAAF air attack directly upon the territory of a European Axis nation, Italian Navy warships and port facilities in Naples harbor are attacked by 20 IX Bomber Command B-24s. Hits are claimed on several of the warships, including a battleship. There are no USAAF losses.

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s, followed a half hour later by B-26s, attack shipping and port facilities in Bizerte harbor. While escorting the bombers and conducting far-ranging sweeps and reconnaissance missions, pilots of the 1st, 14th, and 52d Fighter groups down five Bf-109s and a Bf-110.

December 5, 1942

ALGERIA: LtGen Carl Spaatz is named Acting Deputy Commander-in- Chief for Air of the Allied Force in Northwest Africa. The 3d Reconnaissance Group, equipped with F-4 and F-5 aircraft (P-38 variants), arrives at Oran/La Senia Airdrome to support the Twelfth Air Force.

LIBYA: The Ninth Air Force's 12th Medium Bombardment Group, in B- 25s, is recommitted to combat following a period of retraining. From its new base at Gambut, the group is to join the 57th Fighter Group and RAF light-bomber units in applying pressure to Axis air groups supporting the German Army battle line at El Agheila. During the early part of the month, USAAF and RAF pressure specifically against the Axis air establishment eventually drives all Axis aircraft from all the landing grounds within 90 miles of the front.

TUNISIA: Aircraft of the Twelfth Air Force's XII Bomber Command and XII Air Support Command open a concerted bombing campaign against German-held port facilities in Tunisia. The objective is to hamper the flow of German troops and supplies into Tunisia while Allied ground forces prepare for an all-out offensive to liberate the entire country. Kicking off the new venture, XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by 14th Fighter Group P-38s, attack shipping and port facilities at Tunis. 14th Fighter Group P-38 pilots down two Bf-109s near Bizerte Airdrome. Twelfth Air Force B-25s attack Bizerte/Sidi Ahmed Airdrome, and A-20s attack German Army positions at Faid Pass.

December 6, 1942

ENGLAND: The 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, in B-24s, is reassigned to the VIII Bomber Command's 2d Heavy Bombardment Wing.

FRANCE: In the day's main effort, 37 of 66 VIII Bomber Command B- 17s dispatched attack a locomotive factory at Lille. Losses are one B-17 downed and nine damaged, one crewman killed, two crewmen wounded, and ten crewmen missing. Although 44th Heavy Bombardment Group B-24s are recalled from a mission against Abbeville/Drucat Airdrome, a squadron of six of the heavy bombers fails to receive the order and presses on. One B-24 is lost and another is damaged, at a cost of ten crewmen missing and three crewmen wounded.

TUNISIA: Fifteen XII Bomber Command B-17s attack the port of Tunis; 15th Light Bombardment Squadron A-20s attack the bridge over the Medjerda River at El Bathan; and 14th Fighter Group P-38 pilots down a Ju-88, two Bf-110s, and a Ju-52 in two separate actions. The 33d Fighter Group's 58th Fighter Squadron, in P-40s, moves to the rather sparse forward fighter field at Thelepte and thus becomes the first USAAF unit to be based inside Tunisia. The unit will be primarily responsible for supporting ground troops and for undertaking low-level attacks on transportation targets such as rail lines, bridges, and road traffic.

December 7, 1942

ALGERIA: Three squadrons of the Eighth Air Force's 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, in B-24s, arrive in Algeria to bolster XII Bomber Command. (The group's fourth squadron remains in England to conduct night-operations experiments.)

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by P-38s, attack shipping and port facilities at Bizerte. Also, A-20s, escorted by P-38s, attack German Army tanks in the Teboura-El Bathan area, but other A-20s dispatched to attack La Hencha and Sousse are turned back by bad weather. Two Ju-52 tri-motor transports are downed by a pair of 14th Fighter Group P-38 pilots near Sfax.

December 8, 1942

FRANCE: Findings of a recent bomb-damage assessment reveal that low-level bombing of submarine pens in western France has not been able to penetrate the roofs of the pens with the bombs available in the U.K. at this time.

ITALY: IX Bomber Command B-24s attack targets at Naples. One 376th Heavy Bombardment Group B-24 is downed by flak.

LIBYA: 57th Fighter Group P-40 pilots down seven Bf-109s in a morning battle over the Marble Arch Airdrome.

TUNISIA: Although bad weather halts bomber operations, numerous sweeps and reconnaissance missions are mounted by Twelfth Air Force fighter units.

December 9, 1942

ALGERIA: One Ju-88 medium bomber is downed by a 33d Fighter Group P-40 pilot in his unit's first combat encounter of the war.

December 10, 1942

EGYPT: On the first anniversary of Germany's and Italy's declarations of war on the United States, a 57th Fighter Group P- 40 pilot downs an Bf-109 in a battle over the Marble Arch Airdrome.

December 11, 1942

ALGERIA: Col Charles T. Phillips replaces Col Claude E. Duncan as commanding officer of the XII Bomber Command. To better oversee flight operations and administration in the huge area for which it is responsible, Twelfth Air Force establishes five regional commands: the Moroccan Composite Wing, the West Algerian Composite Wing, the Central Algerian Composite Wing, XII Bomber Command; and XII Fighter Command.

ITALY: IX Bomber Command B-24s attack port facilities and the area surrounding the Naples port. One 98th Heavy Bombardment Group B-24 is downed by flak.

LIBYA: In anticipation of a British Eighth Army offensive against the Axis El Agheila Line--set to begin December 14--the 57th Fighter Group moves forward to a landing ground at Belandah.

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-25s, with fighter escort, attack rail bridges at La Hencha.

December 12, 1942

ALGERIA: A pair of 1st Fighter Group P-38 pilots down an Italian Air Force flying boat over the Mediterranean north of Philippeville.

ENGLAND: The 315th Troop Carrier Group air echelon arrives from the United States following a forced one-month layover in Greenland caused by bad weather. The C-47 unit is assigned to the VIII Air Support Command as a general transportation organization.

FRANCE: Seventy-eight VIII Bomber Command B-17s are dispatched against Romilly-sur-Seine Airdrome, but they are prevented from bombing by heavy cloud cover. In the end, 17 of these B-17s do manage to locate the Rouen/Sotteville marshalling yard, upon which they drop 40 tons of bombs.

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s attack the port facilities at Sfax for the first time; B-17s, escorted by P-38s, also attack port and rail facilities at Tunis; and B-26s dispatched to Sousse and La Hencha abort due to bad weather. 1stLt Virgil H. Smith, a P-38 pilot with the 14th Fighter Group's 48th Fighter Squadron, achieves ace status when he downs an FW-190 over Gabes Airdrome during an afternoon mission.

December 13, 1942

LIBYA: Following a stalemate of several weeks--during which the British Eighth Army prepares for an all-out offensive to clear Libya--German Army forces holding the El Agheila Line suddenly withdraw at the last minute toward Tunisia. As British ground forces struggle to pursue the Germans, the WDAF, including the Ninth Air Force's 12th Medium Bombardment Group and 57th Fighter Group, maintain pressure and attempt to interdict routes of retreat. 57th Fighter Group P-40 pilots down two Bf-109s near El Agheila.

TUNISIA: Seventeen 97th Heavy Bombardment Group B-17s attack port facilities at Tunis; ten 301st Heavy Bombardment Group B-17s and 19 93d Heavy Bombardment Group B-24s attack port facilities at Bizerte; B-25s attack port facilities at Sousse; B-26s attack a bridge north of Sfax; P-38s escort the medium-bomber missions, fly patrols, and attack Axis road convoys and individual vehicles north of Gabes.

December 14, 1942

ENGLAND: A new report points out that efforts to build up and supply the Twelfth Air Force at the expense of the Eighth Air Force is producing a critical drain on the latter's ability to complete training cycles and mount combat operations.

LIBYA: 57th Fighter Group P-40 pilots down two Bf-109s at the cost of one P-40 and its pilot lost.

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-24s attack shipping and port facilities at Bizerte, and B-17s attack shipping and port facilities at Tunis. During the morning, nine 15th Light Bombardment Squadron A-20s, escorted by eight 14th Fighter Group P-38s and twelve 33d Fighter Group P-40s, attack the Sfax railroad station. During the afternoon, nine 15th Light Bombardment Squadron A-20s, escorted by P-38s, attack the same target. P-38s attack several Axis vessels at sea off the Tunisian coast, strafe traffic on the coast highway between Tunis and Bizerte, and strafe trains near Kerker and La Hencha.

December 15, 1942

ALGERIA: Col Carlyle H. Ridenour replaces Col Charles T. Phillips as commanding officer of the XII Bomber Command.

LIBYA: Ninth Air Force B-25s and P-40s continue to attack tactical ground targets in support of the British Eighth Army. Eighteen 12th Medium Bombardment Group B-25s join with 36 RAF light bombers in a particularly effective attack against a motor- vehicle concentration west of the Marble Arch. While flying with the 57th Fighter Group, a 79th Fighter Group P-40 pilot draws "first blood" for his unit when he downs a Bf-109.

TUNISIA: Three 15th Light Bombardment Squadron A-20s attack several bridges linking Gabes with Sfax; six A-20s attack Pont-du-Fahs; XII Bomber Command B-26s attack Tunis/El Aouina Airdrome; and XII Bomber Command B-17s attack port facilities at Bizerte. In the IX Bomber Command's first mission to Tunisia--to help XII Bomber Command close Tunisian ports and lines of supply to German reinforcements and supplies--nine 376th Heavy Bombardment Group B-24s attack a railroad yard, roundhouse, and repair facilities at Sfax. The B-24s obliterate a locomotive repair shop.

December 16, 1942

LIBYA: Ninth Air Force B-25s and P-40s attack and harass German Army troops in the El Agheila area.

TUNISIA: In separate missions, A-20s of the 15th Light Bombardment Squadron and the 47th Light Bombardment Group's 86th Light Bombardment Squadron (the latter on their unit's first combat mission of the war) attack Axis vehicle columns on the road between Mateur and Massicault. These are the first of many such attacks that will destroy an estimated 100 vehicles along this road by the end of the month. XII Fighter Command P-38s attacking Axis ships at sea off Tunisia's northern coast claim a direct bomb hit on one vessel, and a pair of 1st Fighter Group P-38 pilots down a lone Ju-88 at around noon.

December 17, 1942

TUNISIA: A total of 36 XII Bomber Command B-17s attack port facilities at Tunis and Bizerte; A-20s attack targets north and west of Gabes Airdrome and the Axis landing ground at Sidi Tabet; XII Bomber Command B-25s and B-26s dispatched to attack Axis ships in the Gulf of Tunis fail to locate their targets; XII Fighter Command P-38s escort all the bombing missions; and 1st Fighter Group P-38 pilots down a Ju-88 and two Bf-109s in separate midday actions.

December 18, 1942

LIBYA: The pursuit by the British Eighth Army of German forces retreating toward Tunisia bogs down. XII Bomber Command B-17s attack shipping and port facilities at Sousse. The Eighth Air Force's 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, in B- 24s, is transferred from the operational control of the Twelfth Air Force to that of the Ninth Air Force. The group begins moving to the Gambut Main Airdrome.

TUNISIA: Thirty-six XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by 16 1st Fighter Group P-38s, attacking Bizerte through German fighters and flak claim a direct hit on one vessel. However, four P-38s and a B-17 are downed over the target by GAF fighters, and another B-17 is written off after it crash-lands at a friendly base. Eleven XII Bomber Command B-26s, escorted by P-38s, attack a marshalling yard and other rail facilities at Sousse. Flak downs two B-26s. Twelfth Air Force A-20s, escorted by P-38s, attack a landing ground, dispersal areas, and the rail facilities at Mateur. One Ju-88 and an FW-190 are downed during the day by 33d Fighter Group P-40 pilots.

December 19, 1942

TUNISIA: Twelfth Air Force A-20s, escorted by 33d Fighter Group P-40s, attack the marshalling yards at Sfax, and a 33d Fighter Group P-40 pilot downs a Ju-88 near Sfax.

December 20, 1942

FRANCE: In the first mission in which the Eighth Air Force's four operational B-17 groups operate under the supervision of the 1st Heavy Bombardment Wing and its one operational B-24 group operates under the supervision of the 2d Heavy Bombardment Wing, 60 B-17s and 12 B-24s drop more than 167 tons of bombs on Romilly-sur-Seine Airdrome. Fighter opposition is extremely heavy. Whereas bomber gunners claim an incredible 53 GAF fighters downed and 13 probably downed, enemy fighters and flak definitely down six B-17s, cause unrepairable damage to one B-17, and damage 29 B-17s and one B-24. Also, two B-17s crash-land in England. Crew losses amount to two killed, 58 missing, and 12 wounded. Overall, these are the worst losses for a single day sustained by the Eighth Air Force so far in the war.

TUNISIA: IX Bomber Command B-24s dispatched against Sousse harbor abort in the face of bad weather, but three of them claim the destruction of an Axis ship north of Sfax.

December 21, 1942

ALGERIA: 14th Fighter Group P-38s scrambled from their base at Youk-les-Bains down three Ju-88s during the afternoon.

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s are prevented by bad weather from attacking Sfax or Gabes, and 93d Heavy Bombardment Group B- 24s, operating under IX Bomber Command control, are prevented by bad weather from attacking the port at Sousse. However, XII Fighter Command P-40s destroy a tank and several motor vehicles near Kairouan.

December 22, 1942

TUNISIA: Bad weather prevents XII Bomber Command B-17s from attacking Bizerte or secondary targets at Sfax and Sousse; and only two 93d Heavy Bombardment Group B-24s dispatched against Sousse penetrate bad weather to the target, but a number of those aborting manage to attack Monastir and railway facilities at Mahdia. Two GAF medium bombers are downed during a midday mission by 33d Fighter Group P-40 pilots.

December 23, 1942

ALGERIA: The 17th Medium Bombardment Group, in B-26s, arrives following a direct move from the United States via the southern ferry route.

BAY OF BISCAY: Two Ju-88 medium bombers are downed by 82d Fighter Group P-38 pilots while the unit is transiting from England to Gibraltar for eventual deployment in North Africa as part of the XII Fighter Command. This unexpected encounter is the 82d Fighter Group's combat debut.

EGYPT: The 376th Heavy Bombardment Group, in B-24s, moves to a base in Egypt from Palestine, and the 8th Fighter Wing headquarters begins overseeing several Ninth Air Force fighter groups.

ITALY: During the night of December 23-24, IX Bomber Command B- 24s attack Naples harbor and one B-24 attacks Taranto.

TUNISIA: The winter rainy season officially begins. Impenetrable cloud cover causes XII Bomber Command B-17s to abort their briefed attacks on airdromes at Tunis and Bizerte.

December 24, 1942

ENGLAND: The first consignment of USAAF P-47 fighters arrives aboard ship from the United States.

TUNISIA: LtGen Dwight D. Eisenhower decides to abandon the Allied ground attack on Tunis until the rainy season ends in early 1943. However, the British Eighth Army will continue a cautious advance in Libya. IX Bomber Command B-24s dispatched to attack Tunis abort in the face of bad weather.

December 25, 1942

ALGERIA: 82d Fighter Group P-38s arrive at Oran/Tafaraoui Airdrome from England by way of Gibraltar. A number of them are immediately dispatched to fly a long anti-submarine patrol to protect two Allied convoys that are moving into the area.

ICELAND: The 25th Composite Wing is activated in Iceland to oversee USAAF units and personnel assigned to the defense of the strategically important island.

TUNISIA: XII Fighter Command P-40s bomb German Army troops near Sfax. A pair of Italian Air Force Mc.202 fighters are downed by a pair of 52d Fighter Group Spitfire pilots.

December 26, 1942

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s attack shipping and port facilities at Sfax. GAF fighters and heavy flak down two B-17s and two P-38s, but a flight of four P-38 pilots from the 1st Fighter Group's 94th Fighter Squadron down three of the GAF fighters. XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by P-40s, claim three Axis ships damaged while mounting a second attack against shipping and port facilities at Sfax. While conducting reconnaissance patrols, XII Fighter Command P-38s strafe three locomotives and a number of motor vehicles. During the night of December 26-27, three IX Bomber Command B-24s attack port facilities at Tunis, one B-24 attacks Sfax, and one B-24 attacks Sousse.

December 27, 1942

TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by P-38s, attack shipping and port facilities at Sousse and claim direct hits on four vessels.

December 28, 1942

TUNISIA: IX Bomber Command, XII Bomber Command, and RAF heavy bombers (the latter controlled by IX Bomber Command) mount four separate attacks during the day and evening against shipping and port facilities at Sousse. Claims are made for heavy damage to shore facilities and direct hits on several vessels. During the course of several air-to-air actions through the day, P-38 pilots of the 1st and 14th Fighter groups down a Ju-88 and four Bf-109s.

December 29, 1942

ALGERIA: A 52d Fighter Group Spitfire pilot downs a BF-109 near Bone. TUNISIA: XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by P-38s, attack the harbor at Sousse; Twelfth Air Force A-20s attack bridges at La Hencha, and escorting P-40s strafe a locomotive and rail cars at Ste.-Juliette; and XII Fighter Command P-38s attack a German Army tank depot near Pont-du-Fahs, followed by an attack on the same target by A-20s. IX Bomber Command B-24s dispatched to attack Tunis harbor during the night of December 29-30 are diverted to Sousse because of bad weather.

December 30, 1942

FRANCE: Forty of 77 VIII Bomber Command B-17s dispatched attack the U-boat base at Lorient with nearly 80 tons of bombs. Bomber gunners claim 29 GAF fighters downed and seven probably downed. Three B-17s are lost and 22 are damaged, with crew losses put at two killed, 30 missing, and 17 wounded.

TUNISIA: In their unit's combat debut, six 17th Medium Bombardment Group B-26s, escorted by 14th Fighter Group P-38s, attack Gabes Airdrome during the afternoon. Five of the B-26s sustain damage from flak and attacks by Bf-109s, and one B-26 is written off following a belly landing at Telergma Airdrome. A P- 38 pilot downs one Bf-109 near the target. XII Bomber Command B-17s, escorted by P-38s, attack the marshalling yards and port facilities at Sfax, and then XII Bomber Command B-25s attack the marshalling yards again; Twelfth Air Force A-20s attack German Army troop concentrations, Gabes Airdrome, and a fuel dump near El Aouinet; and P-40s escorting the A-20s strafe ground targets of opportunity near El Guettar. 1stLt Virgil H. Smith, a P-38 pilot with the 14th Fighter Group's 48th Fighter Squadron, who achieved ace status on December 11, is shot down and killed near Gabes.

December 31, 1942

TUNISIA: IX Bomber Command B-24s, accompanied by RAF Liberators, attack shipping and port facilities at Sfax; XII Bomber Command B-17s, with fighter escort, also attack Sfax harbor; Twelfth Air Force A-20s, with fighter escort, mount two attacks against the marshalling yards and port at Sousse; Twelfth Air Force B-26s, with fighter escort, attack Gabes Airdrome and shipping and rail bridges in the Bizerte and Tunis areas; and XII Fighter Command P-38s on reconnaissance missions claim the destruction of several motor vehicles.