By August 25th most of the Group air and ground echelons were operating out of Ramsbury RAF Station which was about sixty miles west of London. Some elements of the Group air echelon were detached for about thirty days, at Goose Bay, Greenland, and Iceland, to support US fighter group deployments on that route to England. Also, I recall that a few crews were assigned to German submarine patrol, while in Iceland. The 64th Group arrived in England well ahead of the scheduled delivery of rations so that for the first several weeks we were on British Emergency War Rations which seemed to be mostly tea, biscuits, and orange marmalade, two or three times a day.

Our stay in England was about two and a half months and the Group conducted extensive training while flying cargo, passengers, and courier missions. During this period we were assigned to the Twelfth Air Force, which we learned later was to be used in Operation Torch--the invasion of North Africa. The training and preparations for an unknown mission was a busy period and orders were given, then rescinded, which heightened our speculations. We were issued summer clothing and then winter clothing to further complicate any analysis as to where we were going next. Our planes were equipped with long range gas tanks, exhaust flame dampers and in the last few hours before takeoff we were issued small survival kits.


The Invasion of North Africa


Then on November 9, 1942, the air echelon of the 64th flew to North Africa staying well out to sea and away from all land areas and made landfall near Gibraltar. The main group elements continued on to Algiers and were able to land their British paratroopers at dawn on the 10th at Maison Blanche due to general lack of enemy resistance. While crossing the Algiers waterfront, Allied anti-aircraft gunners fired on the Group planes. However, there was only minor plane damage and a few light personnel casualties. The remaining elements of the Group completed their missions to other parts of North Africa on the 10th, or a few days later.

Three more paratroop missions were flown successfully by the Group in November 1942, to places east of Algiers called Bone, Souk-el-Arba and Depienne. British paratroopers were dropped, and fighter escort was provided by American P-38's, RAF Hurricanes, and Spitfires. No more operational airborne missions were flown by the Group in North Africa through the end of the campaign in May 1943. The weather was bad during most of that winter and we did not achieve decisive air superiority until March 1943, which was the main factor limiting airborne operations. From November 1942, until June 1943, most of the Group was based at Blida which was a French Air Field about twenty miles from Algiers.





Mural painted on the wall of the mess hall in Blida showing the composition of the 64th Troop Carrier Group. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. William A. "Genevieve" Hitchcock.)



The 35th was detached to the forward operating base of Telergma, Algeria, during January, February and most of March 1943. During the balance of the North African campaign, the Group was always committed to its maximum capabilities in evacuating wounded from the front lines to hospitals in Algiers and Oran, and in carrying food, mail, cargo, and passengers. We also conducted extensive glider training with the American Waco glider and the RAF Horsa, which was almost as large as our C-47 tow planes. We also supported American, British and French paratroop drops, and some elements of the Group were detached to the Libyan area to support the British Eighth Army in its final drive through the desert in pursuit of General Rommel.



British Horsa Glider

Photo by Del Smith, 35th TCS Pilot, WWII


Photo courtesy of Roger D. Coleson, 35th TCS Pilot


Tel Aviv, Palestine, in Summer of 1943. Roger Coleson and navigator sitting on the wing of "Geronimo." Photo was taken by the Palestine Illustrated News and an article was published on August 21, 1943, Vol. XI, No. 35.




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