From the Book

On to North Africa

Dear Naomi:

Conditions are a little different with me now in North Africa among the Arabs. The climate here is really swell, just like California, the soil about the same, hills in the distance & citrus fruits. It sure is a change coming from England, where one does not have fruits and vegetables & seldom see the sun, & coming down here. I really am getting a lot of swell pictures. I’ll show them to you when I get back.

The living conditions, that is the question, are not quite the same as in England, but I believe the food is just a little better, which surprised me. We came in such a hurry we didn’t pack much. The trip was a long, tiresome one & very thrilling. Will tell you about it some day.

The people here are Arabs of various kinds–French, Spanish and many others. The languages are mostly French & Spanish. We can buy oranges & tangerines by the crates, but in order to get fresh eggs, we have to give them clothing.  …(more in book)


Alfred Asch


Target Naples

The next morning after breakfast, I visited “Wham Bam” and learned from Popeye that all was well. The plane was ready for the mission that afternoon.

All my crew members were present for the briefing at 1000 hours. Col. Timberlake entered the briefing tent and went to the podium. The combat crews were pleased that the “Old Man” was briefing us because it meant that he was also going to lead the formation.

“This will be our mission,” he began. “To destroy the harbor at Naples, Italy, and the ships docked there. The formation will consist of twelve B-24s. Each B-24 will carry five 1,000-pound bombs. Bombing altitude will be at 22,000 feet, takeoff at 1500 hours. We will have a full gas load, oxygen, and ammunition. We can expect good weather to and from the target site, as well as on our return to base tonight.

We started our climb just before dusk, went over the IP at 22,000 feet and straight to the target zone. Kelly, our bombardier, worked our bomb sight, opened our bomb bay doors, and dropped the bombs on range; the formation made the course setting. There was only a small amount of flak and it was inaccurate.

I called Oscar, our navigator, and told him we would be by ourselves and would fly at 4,000 feet. “OK, we’re on the correct heading,” he replied.

Three or four Italian fighters appeared out of range on my right. They seemed to be doing acrobatics and put on quite a show. Then one fighter approached our formation with his .28-caliber gun ablaze… (more in the book)

I’m Dreaming of a “Sandy” Christmas

The next day was like all the others—no Christmas observance, not even a special menu. As usual, there was dust and sand from previous dust storms, and the men stayed in their tents until the wind settled down. For our meals that Christmas Day, we had the usual C-rations from tin cans: Spam, beans, and dehydrated cabbage, cooked in alkali water. All rations were flown in from the delta region of Egypt; fresh fruit and vegetables were unheard of.

We had two severe sandstorms that I can remember around Christmas and New Year’s Day. We were most concerned about the sand penetrating the fuel systems on our aircraft. The men used ready-made canvas covers for each of the four engines, top and tail gun turrets, Norden bomb sight, radio equipment, and other critical areas.

Airmen fighting sandstorm in desert of North Africa

Airmen fighting sandstorm in desert of North Africa

“Where did the canvas covers come from?” I asked Popeye.

“From the air depot in Egypt, I think.”

When the sandstorm subsided, I met the crew at “Wham Bam” to clean out the dust and debris. We used brushes, brooms, dustpans, and any other cleaning equipment we could scrounge from the mess kitchen. Benny Hall, our aerial engineer, and Popeye were careful to be sure that no sand or grit had gotten into the vital systems, particularly gasoline and oil.


B-24 maintenance crew working with scaffolding

When we were satisfied that “Wham Bam” was as clean as we could make her, we started the engines and ran them up, then checked all the other equipment to see that everything was functioning properly.

Reporting our status to Col. Timberlake, he said, “Good! Now get your crew ready for another night mission over Bizerte tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir!” I snapped a salute and left to notify my crew and Popeye.

Sept. 22, 1942

Dear Naomi:

Here I am in England and still remember you. It seldom happens that one writes to a girl after having just one date, but I do enjoy receiving your letters & will enjoy them much more over here. I can’t remember whether or not I wrote you since I saw you for a moment at Houghton Lake, but I am sorry if I caused any confusion; your boyfriend seemed to be very much distressed & I noticed you left immediately. It kinda made me sore his not wearing his uniform when one knows it to be a criminal offense to be out of uniform during war times. I realized he had only been in the service for a few weeks, but a good soldier should be proud of his uniform & what it stands for. That is beside the point, on with the letter.

We had a very interesting trip over here, longest one I ever took & was very tiresome. England is a beautiful place from the air, all the cities look new because of the brick structure of the buildings, but are several hundred years old. The streets are very narrow, the buildings small & health conditions not nearly as high as ours. The smells are very bad because of their sewage systems, fish & meat markets. Some places of interest I have been are London, Cambridge College & have flown over Oxford College several times. One can see the ruins of London where bombs have dropped, although the people informs us they have not had an air raid in London for over a year, which was surprising to me. Also when they say “blackout,” that is what they mean. It is so black, one can hardly get around. The cars have blackout lights on them & all right-hand drive.

The social life is at a minimum, but we have fun. Most of the people are very sociable. …….  (more in the book)

My address is:

Lt. Alfred Asch
328 Bomb Sqdn.
93rd Bomb Group
A.P.O. No. 634
Post Master General
New York City

The best way to send a letter is air mail.