Our new home was in the midst of an orchard of almond, peach, olive, and apricot trees as well as some whose fruits we did not recognize. We found lima beans, giant peas, scallions and wheat all ripe and ready for picking.
The dirt and grass landing field was in pretty good shape although there were craters and un-exploded bombs over the whole area. Wrecked ME 109's and Italian planes were plentiful evidence of the effectiveness of raids by several of our boys not so many days before. Souvenir hunters had a field day.
While the group was credited with seven missions flown with the 12th Group at Medenine, it was at Sfax that we really began to function but briefing was still done by the 12th who were located a mile or so away and using the same field.
Easter Sunday was a black day for us. It dawned bright and fair with no hint of tragedy to come. Church was held in afield bright with poppies under the wings of the planes. Just after noon we were briefed for a run to Soliman South and the planes took off an hour later. As they were circling to join up, two ships of the ---th collided, plummeted to Earth and burned, killing both crews - eleven men in all.
May 6th, another bad day. On the early morning mission, Colonel Mills' ship received a direct hit over enemy lines and there seemed to be no hope for any of the crew. Later, after Tunis fell, Capt. Marcan, th C.O., was found convalescing in a former German hospital and evacuated to the states. Eventually word was received the Lt Zarega, Group Navigation officer, was home. Capt. Bachrach, flying co-pilot in a ship from the ---th, brought it in with bombs hung and no landing gear, the pilot having been fatally wounded. To wind up the day one of the ----th planes came back with hydraulic system out and bombs hung. After circling over the field, the pilot headed out to sea and the crew bailed out. THe ship made a wide turn and crashed a mile beyond the wreckage of the collision of a few days previous. Lt-Col Tokaz took over as the new Commanding Officer.
And so at Sfax the 340th had settled down to the business of war although we chafed at the policy which kept us tied to the apron strings of the 12th Group. We dug slit trenches in the orchards and wheat fields as the Germans had done before us. And just as they had done, we ht the trenches when night after night, raiders came over and the ack-ack started.
On May 9th, having driven the enemy into the Cap Bon peninsula, we left the mopping up to the infantry and turned our attention to Pantelleria, stepping stone to Italy. The reduction of this vaunted impregnable island fortress was entirely a matter of pinpoint destruction --coastal defenses on the island perimeter while the airfield and harbor were practically ignored. One after another the coastal batteries were destroyed in a smothering crescendo of falling bombs. The result was the complete demoralization of practically all defenses. After this, the first all out aerial offensive, white crosses of surrender were displayed on the ground and our ground forces were able to occupy the island in a mere matter of minutes.
When we transferred the pressure to Pantelleria to Cap Bon, the German 90th light took heart and continued to give trouble around Enfidaville. They were warned that unless the agreed to surrender, the "Golden 18's" (their name for our B-25'2) would be over in twenty minutes. They didn't we did-- and the battle of Africa was over. The newspapers didn't play it up exactly that way but you'll note that in six weeks after the 340th as a unit went into action, the Axis folded up in Tunisia. The blooming British think Eighth Army did it but we don't mind.
May 13th. Breakfast -- grapefruit juice Cream of wheat, hot cakes and sugar syrup, bacon, jam and plenty of coffee. F' evven sake! Do we have to win a campaign to get something other than "Vienna sausage"?
The rest of the stay at Sfax was practically a social affair although everybody was at this time busily catering to that horror of war known as the GI's. Two necessary elements in this sport are speed and accuracy. Some made it, some didn't and some simply gave up trying and bought new underwear and pajamas. The net result was more a frequent re-locationing of targets and a general loss on average of twenty pounds weight.
The remnants of the group which had been left at Kabrit showed up at the end of May and as soon as they had their tents up, somebody discovered that the war wasn't over after all. THE orderly rooms were rolled up, the latrines knocked down and it was moving day again.
Sfax, Tunisia - April 1943 Celebrating Easter under the wings of the planes. The plane is Sand Blower - the 486th Commander's plane Louis Keller. The Earthquaker is from their time attached to the 12th Bomb Group, known as the Earthquakers.
Wrecked Italian Fighters at Sfax - Fiat G 50
Wrecked German plane at Sfax
Remains of the collision of two B-25s over Sfax