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.