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The War Diary Of Will S. Arnett, 1st Lt. USAAF: January 2, 1943

by ateamwar

Contributed by 
ateamwar
People in story: 
Will Seaton Arnett, 1st Lt. USAAF
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4647765
Contributed on: 
01 August 2005

The following story appears courtesy of and with thanks to Will Seaton Arnett, 1st Lt. USAAF and John S. Green.

Briefed at 9 o'clock for a raid on Tunis. Took off at 10:15 and were over the target at 12:10. We were really tested today and I ain't fooling. They must have sent up everything they had with their anti-aircraft but the kitchen sink and I think part of that was in it. I have never seen so many ME 109's in my life and they weren't fooling around about coming in. We had to throttle back to let our #2 man catch up and take the lead because he had been hit in his #3 engine and it was out. That was when we caught hell after the rest of the Group ran off and left us. Everyone got back OK but had three injuries. The 97th didn't catch anything yesterday.

January 3, 1943

Nothing happened today but routine until this evening just at dusk when ten JU 88's came over and dropped a few bombs but no damage was done. The anti-aircraft kept most of them away and they didn't get to drop many bombs. They seem to come over just a dinner time everyday, but not as many as today.

January 4, 1943
Took off to go on the "milk run" to test "Flak Alley," Bizerte in other words, at 1:15 and had to turn back 30 minutes short of the target because that damn #3 engine went out again. Its just as well though because it was covered over anyway. The only thing is that the rest got credit for a mission and we didn't and this would have been my 16th one in North Africa. Now we will be out for a week and maybe longer because #3 engines are hard to get.

January 6, 1943

Routine. No engine for #3 yet and discovered today that #2 gas tank had a bullet hole in it and has begun to leak, so it has to be changed. Therefore, we will be out of commission indefinitely.

January 8, 1943

Went out to the field this morning and with nothing in sight for the day but before we knew it we were being briefed for another raid on Bizerte. I had no hopes of going since our plane was still out of commission, but one of the other co-pilots slept in so I went with Slack on Swenson's plane.

There wasn't much to the raid because it was partly clouded over and we fooled them by making a different approach to the target. They put up their usual barrage of "flak" but it was no where near us. No fighter opposition was encountered so all I got out of it was another stopped up head.

January 9, 1943

Served as duty officer for the group last night and had to sleep in headquarters. Nothing happened so there wasn't anything to it.

The day was more or less routine.

January 10, 1943

A mission was planned this morning and I was supposed to go along with the new crew (Calvert) that just arrived, but a big sand storm came up and brother it was plenty RUGGED. I'm still digging sand out of my ears and spitting mud.

A JU-88 came over tonight and dropped some bombs on the field. I watched it from the hotel roof but didn't know how much damage was done. One pretty big fire was started. Sure hope he didn't hit ole "67".

January 11, 1943

I under estimated the raid last night tremendously because when I went out there this morning I learned that there was at least five planes making dive bombing attacks. Three planes were completely demolished, one B-17 burned, one C-47 got a direct hit and one P-38 got hit by bomb fragments and set on fire. My plane is in the so called "bone yard" for repairs and the two of the above were within 20 yards of it. One bomb hit in front and two at the rear making a triangle and it got hit from all angles. It is repairable but will take about two weeks to do it.

One man was killed and several injured. One kid that I run around with a lot, Calcote, got a bomb crater about ten yards from his tent. He came in and slept with me the rest of the night.

January 14, 1943

Our plane was made Tech supply this morning much to my joy, because I didn't ever want to fly it again after the plastering it got the other night by the bombing.

It happened again last night about 8 o'clock. It sounded like they were blowing the whole field off the map but discovered this morning that they missed it entirely. They bombed a decoy light about two miles away which was lit after they dropped their first load. They aren't so smart after all.

There is one hell of a sand storm in progress today. You can hardly breathe out at the field.

January 15, 1943

Packed again or rather closed up my bags again for another move some place closer to the front lines tomorrow. I don't care where it is just as long as we get out of this d-- dust and sand.

January 16, 1943

Up at 6:30 had breakfast and were at the field for a 9:30 take off to out new field. Was supposed to have ridden in a transport since we no longer have a plane, but I managed to stow away on one of our own. We finally took off at 12:00 o'clock and had no more than started when we landed at our new home at 12:00. Don't know just yet where it is only about 20 miles from Constantine in a valley 2500 feet in elevation.

Spend the afternoon putting up our pup tents and getting fixed for the night. Kuncel and I put our tents together and made one long one.

January 17, 1943

I never spent a more miserable night in my life. I was so cold and shook so hard my crash bracelet was off this morning. Boy, it was really cold. I washed my face with ice chunks in the water. The ground was snow white with frost this morning. After the sun came up it actually got hot and everyone began shedding what they had put on not an hour ago.

Had to move the location of our tent this afternoon and have it fixed up pretty comfortable now. Spent the rest of the afternoon digging a fox hole and boy is that ground hard. The sun has been down about an hour and it is already cold.

Incidentally there is no dust, just solid grass, even on the airdrome.

January 18, 1943

Started on another mission but didn't get any farther than Biskra where we were supposed to have joined the 97th, but when we got there they had already left with all the P-38's, so we came back since there were no more fighters for escorts.

Continued…
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