Immediately on arrival in Palestine, Squadrons,
sections, individuals went many ways in the course
of getting acclimated - living with the weather
- living with available supplies - and learning
about the enemy and realigning personnel as necessary.
Orientation included drill, rifle practice, and
routine duties, while the P-40 aircraft flew "training""
The American pilots in those early
days of training flew on RAF operations and were
assigned to various British and South African
Air Force squadrons, and widely distributed. They
were entirely dependent on the British for intelligence,
briefing, air field facilities and ground servicing,
and became integral parts of squadrons, flights
and even sections.
Thus they were schooled in desert
warfare by the "Ole swimmin' hole" method
of throw 'em in and the result of that instruction
formed the brighter side of thise close association
in combat, the binding of closer Anglo-American
While in Muqueibila during their
off-duty days many of the men made trips to some
of the famous towns in the Holy Land: Jerusalem,
Haifa, Tel-Aviv; and practically every afternoon
a truck left camp to drive ten miles to the Mediterranean
for surf-bathing enthusiasts.
After being scattered for 3 or more
weeks, the Group was brought together on Sept.
16, 1942 for final acclimation and training on
L.G. 174 near El Alamein, Egypt. The men learned
everything about living in the field. No provision
had been made for American rations or supplies
and the British rations were hardly comparable
to garrison rations back in the States. The cooks
did their best to camouflage the few staple items
into tasty dishes, and everyone regained the weight
lost coming overseas as well as acquiring a healthful
An R.A.F. Wing gave the Group countless
valuable pointers on setting up camp and making
the best of the primitive environment. The importance
of motor transport was seen. Every gallon of gasoline,
every round of ammunition, every case of food,
and every drop of water had to be transported
into camp from dumps miles away entirely by truck.
The procedure of building an airfield
in this county was unique. One of the numerous
level areas near a highway was simply marked off
by gasoline drums at each of the four corners,
a wind sock was erected, and the field was ready
for business. The tent area covered a considerable
amount of space due to the dispersal of the tents.
To concentrate anything here - aircraft, gasoline,
ammunition or personnel - was to invite disaster.
Each tent had five occupants, two of whom maintained
the aircraft parked close by it. At first a sentry
mount of two score roving guards was tried but
German reconnaissance aircraft over head tended
to make light sleepers of all the men so the plan
was abandoned in favor of a guard post in the
ration tent throughout the hours of darkness.
There was time off. Every day many
men left camp at noon to spend twenty-four hours
in Alexandria, where diverse entertainment was
readily found. The movie houses showed fairly
recent films and there were countless restaurants
and cafes. Each Squadron set up a tent as a bar
and daily hauled a supply of canned beer and soft
drinks from Alexandria. This was sold every evening
to the men who gathered for a few hours of singing
and joking. The disadvantage of spending too much
time at the canteen tent was the probability of
losing track of one's tent and spending most of
the night wandering around in the dark.
Group trucks went to Cairo several
times weekly and a few of the men rode along to
combine the job of picking up an aircraft engine
with the thrill of visiting the Sphinx and the
In Egypt, the men learned something
about money and its value. Heretofore the American
dollar could purchase anything from clothes to
entertainment and those who had money in their
wallets could perform miracles. Now money was
of no practical value whatsoever. The little things
which were readily taken for granted and obtainable
for the sum of five cents such as Coca-Cola drink
or a cigar, were not purchasable at any price.
The men were paid in Egyptian pounds, each worth
about four dollars, and was spent wildly on night-life
in a twenty-four hour leave. It wasn't unusual
to spend fifty pounds in a "big" night.
Back in America the equivalent two hundred dollars
would really have purchased something, but here
the only tangible evidence was usually a red Egyptian
fez and a throbbing headache. The ever-present
card and dice rolling sessions also took their
toll. When the bettor said "Bet one Pound"
no one realized that it wasn't a dollar but rather
four times that amount.
Fighters of the fledgling Fifty-Seventh
within the period up to September 13 had made
158 sorties. The missions were mostly bomber escort
with only two offensive sweeps. Operations were
still in conjunction with British fighters. Mission:
to eliminate the enemy Air Force and simultaneously
support the British Eighth Army on the ground.
A better proving ground for a Tactical Air Force
than Africa could not have been found. Here were
all the elements of the greater battles to be
fought later, and the mistakes made here would
not be too costly.