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Early Operations: Ninth/Twelfth Air Force in the Mediterranean

Until mid-1943, the USAAF’s small heavy bomber force in the Mediterranean primarily attacked enemy ports, airfields, and ships to help defeat enemy ground forces in North Africa and prepare for the invasion of Sicily. 


Twelfth Air Force B-17 All-American was rammed by a German fighter while bombing enemy supply lines in North Africa.  Remarkably, this aircraft made it back to base.

93rd Bomb Group B-24 after the nose wheel collapsed on takeoff from a rough airstrip in December 1942.


British battle dress jacket, goggles, and USAAF flying helmet worn by 2nd Lt Maurice Elstun, a B-24 bombardier in the 93rd Bomb Group.  This Eighth Air Force unit was sent to northwest Africa in December 1942 for what was supposed to be a ten day period, but did not return to England until February 1943.




HALPRO Raid: First USAAF Heavy Bomber Strike in Europe


On June 12, 1942, twelve B-24s based in Egypt bombed the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, marking the first USAAF strike on Europe.  These B-24s came from the HALPRO Detachment (Halverson Project), which was en route to the China-Burma-India Theater under the command of Col Harry Halverson.  In the end, the HALPRO Detachment remained in the Mediterranean to form the 376th Bomb Group, the first USAAF heavy bomber group in that theater.



Ninth Air Force B-24 crew looks over a map before going on a mission in 1942.  Behind them is Black Mariah II, one of the original HALPRO B-24s.




Related Fact Sheets


The Memphis Belle: American Icon and 25th Mission

Memphis Belle Crew

The “Memphis Belle” and Nose Art

26th Mission: War Bond Tour

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”

Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact

Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe

Enabling Technologies

Key Leaders

Early Operations (1942 to mid-1943) - Eighth Air Force in England

Ninth/Twelfth Air Forces in the Mediterranean

Combat Box/Communication and Life at 25K

Keeping them Flying: Mechanics and Armorers

Combined Bomber Offensive: Summer 1943 to Victory

Bigger Raids, Bigger Losses, and Crisis

Deadly Skies over Europe (Luftwaffe defense)

Bomber Crew Protection

Operation Tidalwave (Ploesti, 1 Aug 43)

Regensburg/Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43)

Black Thursday/Schweinfurt (14 Oct 43)

Fifteenth Air Force (created Sep 43)


Women’s Army Corps

Fighter Escort: Little Friends

Big Week (20-25 Feb 44)

Target Berlin

Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union

Blind Bombing

D-Day Support

Strategic Bombing Victorious



Return to the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet

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