Boeing B-17Es under construction. This is the first released wartime production photograph of Flying Fortress heavy bombers at one of the Boeing plants, at Seattle, Wash. Boeing exceeded its accelerated delivery schedules by 70 percent for the month of December 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first elements of the U.S.A.A.F. were now arriving in Britain, the beginning of a huge armada of men and machines that would join the RAF in attacking the German occupied continent of Europe. The flight to the southern English bases from the USA could not be undertaken directly but went via Maine, Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland.

1st Lt. Will S. Arnett was less than impressed when he first landed in Britain, where they transitted through Prestwick in Scotland:

I thought I’d seen everything but this place takes the cake. The people are so backward it is pitiful. This seems to have been a wealthy place at one time. The homes and buildings are just like the pictures. The streets are narrow and very crooked, bicycles are the main means of transportation. There are very few cars the and traffic is left-handed. The busses are two deckers and very old.

Fortunately the situation improved when they arrived in England:

July 28, 1942 Final Destination – Bovingdon, England

It’s wonderful to know that we are actually going to stay in one place long enough to learn what it’s all about. This is certainly beautiful country from the air. We arrived here at 5:30 P.M. This is a new field and was turned over to the U.S. Army for a training and Combat station. We will operate out of here. The post is somewhat scattered because of the possibilities of attacks. We walk 1/4 mile to the showers and latrine, the club is situated close to the showers. We have private rooms with a coal stove, a dresser and a high single bed with a round straw pillow.

The trip all the way was very interesting and we were extremely lucky to have good weather.

We left Westover Field, Mass. a week ago this morning. All our planes and P38’s got through except three. Had to leave two at BWI and two at Prestwick for repairs. They will be on later. We were the first squadron to get through without losing a plane.

Read the whole diary at War Diary of W.S.Arnett, for more on the USAAF at Bovingdon see Dacorum Heritage Trust.

James Stewart in famous recruiting film Winning Your Wings 1942:

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Jul

27

1942

Canadian Spitfire Ace scores four over Malta


27th July 1942: Canadian Spitfire Ace scores four over Malta

The 27th was my biggest day on Malta. At six A.M. Bryden, Willie, Georgia, Scarlet, Micky Butler, Hogarth, Hether, and I scrambled to intercept a fifty-plus attack from seven Ju 88s and their lighter escort.

We slammed up the hill to 25,000 feet where the fighters were covering the bombers. The Ju’s were just going to work on Takali when we came along and they plastered the joint, leaving the drome pocked with bomb craters.

I was the lucky lad who spotted the sweep and called into the RT: “Enemy aircraft at four o’clock, slightly below!” and led the gang in, with everybody hotfooting after me. I spotted four Machis running in line astern and took Number Four.

Jul

26

1942

SAS raid hits German airfield at Fuka


26th July 1942: SAS raid hits the German desert airfield at Fuka

“Right lads, we haven’t got much time. At the edge of the aerodrome form a line abreast and all guns spray the area. When I advance follow me in your two columns and on my green Very light open fire, outwards at the aircraft – follow exactly in each other’s tracks, 5 yards apart – speed not more than 4 mph. Return to the RV independently moving only by night.”

Jul

25

1942

‘Routine’ mining flight off the French Coast


25th July1942: ‘Routine’ mining flight off the French Coast

We were on the target now and I could hear the Navigator counting the seconds as the Bombardier released the mines. “One, two, three”. As the third mine left the aircraft a load of hell was hurled up at us from another flak ship, which according to the direction of the fire, was directly beneath us.

Before we had chance to avoid this second lot, we were hit all along the fuselage. Flames started to shoot past both sides of my turret. I immediately called up the pilot, but I received no reply.

Then suddenly to my horror, I realized the inter-com was dead, this being the only means of connecting me to the rest of my crew. From now on it meant that I had to work on my own initiative. I tried to rotate my turret but the hydraulics had been shot away. So I tried operating it manually.

Jul

24

1942

Air attack on the Eastern Front trenches


24th July 1942: Air attack on the Eastern Front trenches

The light singing transforms into a rattling howl, which now fills the air for hours. Each night is the same awe-inspiring picture; hundreds of lightning flashes burst into the air. Shades of white, green, and red splatter the sky; long yellow-orange streaks shoot into the air, and are accompanied by the hard knocking of 2cm anti-aircraft artillery.

Jul

23

1942

The ‘Gross Aktion’ begins in the Warsaw Ghetto


23rd July 1942:The ‘Gross Aktion’ begins in the Warsaw Ghetto

Everyone suddenly became eager for work. Everyone is prepared to give up hot meals and a comfortable bed at home to go and live in barracks, if only to stay put. To be deported means to prepare for death, and it is a lingering death which is the hardest kind of all.

The deportees are, to begin with, taken for killing. They are not qualified for work. And as to food, even if a crust of bread were available, would the Nazis give it to them? It has become known that the Nazis flay their corpses, remove the fat, and incinerate the bodies.

This accords with a prestated plan: The strength of the healthy and productive is to be exploited for the needs of the German army; the weak, the crippled, and the aged are to go to eternal rest.

Such a plan could have been invented only by Satan.

Jul

22

1942

A narrow escape in the Desert


22nd July 1942: A narrow escape in the Desert

The Aucklanders and my own H.Q. crew were hard at work, scraping shallow foxholes in the silt of the depression, and the battle looked like pausing until first light. Might as well rest a bit, ready for the day ahead; so I got down on the old bed-roll and “died”, leaving Crowley to dig in the Div. wireless set against possible trouble.

Forty minutes later, Cliff George woke me up, reporting his safe arrival. I told him what the plan would be at first light, and to rest his men until we could see enough to put them at it. The hour was probably about a quarter to five. He disappeared into the dark and I started putting my boots on.

Then hell broke loose. An Auckland carrier came dashing in across the depression, yelling “Stand to! Tanks! Lots of the bastards”. But that was obvious. A deluge of “golden rain” fell on us from the northern edge of the depression about four hundred yards away.

Jul

21

1942

Churchill: “severe, ruthless bombing of Germany” needed


21st July 1942: Churchill: severe, ruthless bombing of Germany needed

We must regard the Bomber offensive against Germany at least as a feature in breaking her war-will, second only to the largest military operations which can be conducted on the Continent until that war-will is broken. Renewed, intense efforts should be made by the Allies to develop during the winter and onwards ever-growing, ever more accurate and ever more far-ranging Bomber attacks on Germany.

Jul

20

1942

British and American military argue over strategy


20th July 1942: British and American military argue over strategy

At 12.30 we went round to 12 Downing Street to meet American Chiefs of Staff with PM! We had originally intended to meet them at 10 am ‘off the record’ for a private talk, but PM very suspicious and had informed me at Chequers that Marshall trying to assume powers of C-in-C of American troops which was (constitutionally) President’s prerogative!

After lunch at 3 pm we met [General] Marshall and [Admiral] King and had long argument with them. Found both of them still hankering after an attack across Channel this year to take pressure off Russia. They failed to realize that such an action could only lead to the loss of some 6 divisions without achieving any results!

Jul

19

1942

Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein


19th July 1942: Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein

On the third day, 19 July, around noon, we received an order to proceed south to the El Taqa Plateau. One of our carriers was trapped and we had to try to rescue the crew. We reverted to an infantry section and manoeuvred our truck to a sand dune near where they were trapped. I had a wee look over the sand dune to assess the situation before taking the section any further. I observed a plateau about 40 feet high with soft sand nearly up to the top and a little escarpment at the top of 4-5 feet. On the right was a soft sand track leading to the top.

The carrier was halted half way down the track and it looked as if it had been trying to get to the top of the plateau. It had then been hit by a small anti-tank gun and had reversed back down the track. I could see the officer, Lt Hunt, hanging over the left side of the carrier, but no sign of the crew by the vehicle. Up above though, sheltering under the low escarpment, was a sergeant with a section, but they couldn’t move because the enemy was delivering concentrated fire from a Spandau machine gun.