U.S Ninth Air Force

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Lieutenant Colonel
Apr 1, 2004
I know I wrote this in the Tactical Airstrikes thread, but because it helps me remember and teaches others about the war ... I thought I'd start my own thread on it. Sorry for the duplication. It's also, as always, up for discussion or any questions... since most of the USAAF light shines directly on to the U.S Eighth Air Force.

History of the U.S Ninth Air Force

The story of the U.S Ninth began when twenty-three B-24D Liberators landed in the Middle-East. These planes belonged to Halverson Detachment (CO Col. Harry A. Halverson) which was on it's way to China with the plan to attack Japan from airfields there.
The planes were held-up in the Middle-East by an order to attack the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania, the largest supplier of oil to the Axis war machine. On 11 June thirteen Liberators took off from Fayid, Egypt arriving individually over target at dawn on the 12th. Ten bombers the Astra Romana Refinery at Ploesti, one attacked the port at Constanta and two dropped bombs on other unidentified targets. This was the first mission of planes that would become part of the US Ninth Air Force later in the year.

HALPRO (Codename for Halverson Detachment) was then ordered to stay in the Middle-East as the only force capable of striking the Afrika Korps supply line at it's head. They attacked the supply ships in open sea, and in the ports of Tobruk and Benghazi throughout June.

On 28 June, they attacked motor transport and tanks on the Sollum-Matrah Road. The emergency of the situation was so great, these heavy bombers were at times thrown into the tactical role. On the same day seven B-17E bombers arrived at Fayid, these were from the 9th Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Group. The squadron had arrived from the India where it had been fighting the Japanese. The commanding officer, Major-General Lewis H. Brereton, was placed in command of the United States Army Middle-East Air Force (USAMEAF).

Both the B-17s and B-24s joined up starting in July to continue their attacks on the Axis shipping. On the 5th, five more B-17Es arrived from 9th Bomb Squadron and 436th Bomb Squadron. On 20 July, 1942, the heavy bomber forces in the Middle-East were formed into the First Provisional Group based at Lydda, Palestine. This consisted of the Halverson (B-24Ds) and Brereton (B-17Es) squadrons. This group and RAF 160 Squadron (with Liberators) were the only heavy bombers in the theatre.

During July three new groups began moving toward the Middle-East, these were 98th Bomb Group (Heavy), 57th Fighter Group and 12th Bomb Group (Medium) equipped with B-24D, P-40F and B-25C respectively. The first mission by any of these groups was on 1 August, 1942 when seven B-24s from 344th Bomb Squadron (98th BG) attacked Mersa Matruh.

The 98th BG had fully deployed by 20 August, and had brought 34 B-24s to the theatre (35 were sent, but one was lost on route with it's crew).

57th FG arrived in full on 17 August, but had started operations before then. It had brought 72 P-40F Warhawks to the Mid-East, which were mostly brought across aboard USS Ranger.

The 12th BG arrived last, fully forming on 18 August but flew it's first mission on the 16th. This group brought 57 B-25C Mitchells to the Mid-East.

Picture: Malicious. A B-24D originally of "C" Flight, HALPRO. Pilot was Capt. Richard C. Sanders.


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57th Fighter Group

The 57th Fighter Group arrived in the Middle-East at Muqueibila, Palestine ,under the command of Col. Frank Mears, during July 1942. The air units then began intensive training while the ground staff were still on their way. The ground staff arrived on 17 August making the 57th Fighter Group fully operational with seventy-two P-40F Warhawks in three squadrons, the 64th, 65th and 66th Fighter Squadrons.

As soon as the Group arrived in the Middle-East it's fighter pilots were integrated with the RAF fighter units in the area. During this period, the RAF trained the USAAF pilots in tactics and operations in the desert. This gave the U.S pilots valubable operational training without delaying combat. The 57th Fighter Group were also dependant on the RAF for intelligence, briefing, airfield facilities and servicing. Brigadier-General Auby C. Strickland (CO of IX Fighter Command) commented that the success of the U.S fighter units in North Africa was largely due to the excellent training and experience of the British fighter units.

On 9 August, 1942, the 57th flew it's first mission. Five days later came the first combat when six P-40s escorted 12 Baltimores and 11 Bostons to bomb El Fuka airport. When the formation was attacked by five Bf-109s, the P-40s turned into the attack and Lt. William O'Neil shot down two Bf-109s before being shot down himself. He was rescued later in the sea.

Through August and September 57th Fighter Group continued training with the RAF where they learnt formation and combat tactics over the desert. On 16 September the Group came under operational control of Air Officer Commanding, Western Desert. The 64th and 65th FS became a seperate wing in RAF 211 Group while 66th FS was transferred to RAF 239 Wing on 6 October.

It would stay this way until the activation of U.S Desert Air Task Force on 22 October, 1942.

Picture: 64th Fighter Squadron P-40F at Foggia airfield.


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12th Bombardment Group (M)

The 12th Bombardment Group (Medium) entered the desert in August under the command of Col. Charles Goodrich. The air echelon ferried it's fifty-seven B-25C Mitchells across the Atlantic without loss. The first elements to arrive landed at Deversoir Aerodrome on 31 July. The ground units arrived on 18 August to fully form in the Group. However, the first mission had been flown two days before the ground crews arrived.

Mid-August was a time of stalemate in the desert so 12th Bomb Group began training with 3 Wing, SAAF, as it's teacher. However, this was interuppted by Rommel's offensive against El Alamein on 30 August. During the six day battle for El Alamein, 12th Bomb Group flew 47 sorties against Rommels supply and armoured columns. Air Vice Marshal Coningham radioed the 12th Bomb Group with "many thanks" for their performance and contribution the battle.

During September 12th Bomb Group was formed as RAF 232 Wing with a squadron of Baltimores. In this month the 12th Bomb Group started to perform more offensive operations against the Axis forces. On the night of 13/14 September, in co-operatoin of massive raids by the "heavies" against Tobruk and Benghazi, 12th Group sent six B-25Cs with the SAAF against Sidi Haneish. The Group protested, and demanded flame dampeners for their exhausts before performing night operations. This proved to be a well-founded protest as the B-25s became easy targets in the night when lit up by their exhausts, four were lost. One of which had Col. Goodrich CO of 12th Bomb Group at the controls. He was taken prisoner and served the rest of the war in Germany. Col. Edward N. Backus replaced him.
In the latter half of September, and earlier half of October 12th Bomb Group put it's main effort into training for the coming British offensive. From 6 September to 22 October the Group only flew 80 sorties, mainly against enemy landing grounds. One such time on 9 October was against Daba amd Sidi Haneish when it was discovered these two bases were waterlogged. 12th BG had sixteen sorties against the airfields on this day, along with 144 sorties from RAF light bombers and 32 sorties from fighter-bombers.

On 22 October U.S Desert Air Task Force was formed with General Brereton as CO. This unit brought 57th Fighter Group and 12th Bombardment Group (M) under it's command. A small staff was maintained at the British Advance Air HQ to learn how to command large air forces. Chief of Staff for this unit was Brig. Gen. Auby Strickland.

Picture: Elements of 12th Bombardment Group (M) flying over the desert in B-25C Mitchells.


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Heavy Bombardment Groups: 98th Bombardment Group (H) and 1st Provisional Group.

On 20 July 1st Provisional Group was formed when the Halverson Detachment and 9th Bomb Squadron were consolidated. This created a mixture of B-17E and B-24D heavy bombers split into the Brereton and Halverson squadrons respectively.

The first air units of the 98th BG (H) arrived in the Middle-East on 25 July when 344th and two HQ planes landed at Ramat David, Palestine. The Group commander, Col. Hugo P. Rush, led the way in the first B-24D of the Group to land. On 1 August seven 344th squadron planes attack harbour facilities and a tank repair depot at Merso Matruh, making the first 98th Group mission. By 7 August the entire Group had arrived in the Middle-East.

Throughout August and early September 98th Group was thrown into the fight against Axis supply. The RAF would send out photo-recon Spitfires from Eygpt and Malta to cpnfirm the target, and this would be passed on to the American HQs. Information on the departure, course and arrival time would also be gathered by British code-crackers and then the American 'heavies' would attack the convoys while they form in Greece and Crete, when they crossed and when they moored in Tobruk or Benghazi. Tobruk was reported at 60% capacity on 10 August.

On 12 October Bomber Command, USAMEAF was formed. This new command included the 98th Bombardment Group, 1st Provisional Group and RAF 160 Squadron with 13 Liberators. The 1st Provisional Group then had four squadrons, the 514th and 515th both with B24Ds from HALRPO, 513th made up of the B-17Es from India and 512th existed on paper only.

On 1 November 1st Provisional Group was redesignated the 376th Bombardment Group (H) with Col. George F. Mcguire as CO. Col. Halverson had returned to the U.S in August.

Picture: "Lily of the Desert". B-24D #41-11595 of 376th Bombardment Group (H).


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Thank you. I don't care if anyone is interested in the history or not, reading about it then writing about it helps me remember. And if anyone cares and is learning, it's another plus. Pictures of the right planes, at the right time, in the right unit are hard. That P-40F is in the wrong time, 'cos Foggia is in Italy. But it was too good a picture to pass up.
Here's the beginning of the images I promised from the other thread D.

But first a bit of info:

HALPRO (Codename for Halverson Detachment)
The 'HALPRO' B-24s originally destined for China in order to bomb the Japanese mainland are often referred to as the 'Halverson Detachment', as you've done here, or as the 'Halverson Provisional Bombardment Detachment'. However, although these terms are generally accepted by many, the term 'HALPRO' is an acronym for 'Halverson Project', or 'Halverson Project 63' which was the official name for the operation.

The planes were held-up in the Middle-East by an order to attack the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania...
Upon arrival in the Middle East, (Khartoum, Sudan to be exact) it was not the order to conduct operations in this area which held them up. It was the fact that the operation to hit Japan from China was no longer possible because the Japanese had captured the airfield from which these attacks were to have been mounted. I do not have the exact date on which they arrived in Khartoum, but the HALPRO crews spent a number of days waiting for orders before it was decided that they were to be used for the raids that eventually took place on June 12th.

This next may seem trivial to some, but it really isn't. Many folks think the term USAAF stands for 'United States Army Air Force', when it really stands for 'United States Army Air Forces'. Similarly, 'USAMEAF' stands for 'United States Army Middle East Air Forces'.

Lastly, the image of the 64th FS P-40 you've posted shows a P-40K, not a P-40F.

Alrighty, I'm starting with images showing B-25Cs the 12th BG... the 'Earthquakers'. The other groups will follow soonly, I hope.


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust


Image source: Air Force Colors Vol.2 - ETO MTO 1942-45 by Dana Bell


Image source: unknown

This next shot shows a group of Earthquakers gathering next to B-25C 41-13123, 'Old War Hoss Boo'.


Image source: Air Force Colors Vol.2 - ETO MTO 1942-45 by Dana Bell

These next two photos also show 'Old War Hoss Boo'.


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust


Image source: Air Force Colors Vol.2 - ETO MTO 1942-45 by Dana Bell

The next photo shows the ship that's in the background of the above photo. I think the name of this particular B-25 could be translated as 'F*ck You Too'.


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust

This next photo shows what at first appears to be the same ship as pictured above. But there are a couple of discrepancies which make me wonder, such as the demarcation line between the upper and lower colors and and lack of the 'II' next to the artwork. This could be the original 'F*ck You'.


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust

This ship is B-25C 41-13195, 'Desert Vagabond Jr.', and is one of several Earthquaker Mitchells to carry the OD over NG paint scheme during operations in North Africa.


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust


Image source: The 9th Air Force in W.W.II by Kenn Rust

This last image shows Earthquaker Mitchells and RAF or SAAF Baltimores. In the background can be seen a lone P-40 from the escort.


Image source: National Archives holdings of the Library of Congress
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Fade to Black...
Excellent, thank you. I have The 9th Air Force in World War II by Kenn Rust so have seen those pictures, but I don't have a scanner. And you seem to have brought them out clearer. I will continue with the history tomorrow.
DerAdlerIstGelandet said:
Great info pD.

Good pics Blackwolf.

Hey notice how someone who was argueing so much in the tactical thread does not come into the thread and post

LMFAO there Chris, I choked on my Pepsi when I read that.
USAMEAF over El Alamein. October 19th to November 4th.

Air Attacks: 19th - 23rd October.

With the USAMEAF formed in the Middle-East, the US had now joined the war over North Africa in force. The four Groups under USAMEAF were in preparation for support of the upcoming British offensive at El Alamein. This support began on the night of 19 October to gain absolute air superiority over the Axis air forces before the coming offensive.

The aims were to destroy the enemy fighter force, and prevent enemy reconnaissance, destroy enemy supply and communication in the Tobruk-Sollum area and break the morale of the enemy troops.

From 19 to 21 October, the Allied air forces flew 409 sorties against enemy landing grounds, 228 in direct support of 8th Army and 54 patrol sorties. On the 22nd and 23rd all efforts were directed at enemy landing grounds with heavy bombers even hitting Maleme Airdrome on Crete. Fighter sweeps rarely encountered enemy opposition and it was clear that the Allies had air superiority. In fact, the Allies had 605 fighters, 254 light and medium bombers and 61 heavy bombers serviceable while the Axis had 347 fighters, 72 dive bombers and 171 medium bombers serviceable.

Infantry Advance: 23rd - 31st October.

At 2140 hours, 23 October the British artillery opened up on the Alamein line. It was followed twenty minutes later by the infantry advance which initiated the last Battle for El Alamein. The USAMEAF was no directed to support the ground formations as much as possible. On the 24th the 12th Bombardment Group flew 50 sorties against enemy vehicles with the 57th Fighter Group as escort. On the 25th the 12th Bomb Group flew 30 sorties against enemy vehicles while 57th, once again, flew escort. On these two days, the 57th Fighter Group shot down three Bf 109s without loss.

On the 26th the Axis counter-attacked the British infantry on the ground, and counter-attacked the Allied air forces in the skies over the desert. 12th Bomb Group flew 18 sorties on this day, while 57th Fighter Group flew 72. In the air the Axis lost six Bf 109s, eight MC 202s and three Ju 87 'Stukas'. Four Allied fighters failed to return. Also on this day the heavy bombers made an appearance over Tobruk to hit convoys.

On the 27th the 57th Fighter Group used a new tactic in attacking German airfields. Taking off in darkness, the P-40s attacked Fuka at low-altitude and strafed the airfield destroying several planes, trucks and tents. 65th and 64th squadron P-40s engaged in heavy combat later in the day when, while on a fighter-bomber mission, encountered twenty CR-42s, twenty Ju 87s and twenty Bf 109s. The P-40s turned into the enemy claiming seven destroyed, three probably destroyed and three damaged without loss.

On the 28th Allied fighters claimed nine enemy fighters destroyed, four of these were claimed by 57th Fighter Group. The second phase of the British offensive began on this night aimed to drive into the enemy flank and cut his supply. The Allied air forces kept pressure on the Axis air forces and ate away at their supplies.

On the night of the 29th 1st Provisional Group was the first USAMEAF, Bomber Command unit to lose a plane when one was lost while attacking Maleme Airdrome. On the 30th RAF 160 Squadron attacked the same target. On the next night, the 31st October, 1st Provisional Group and 98th Bomb Group attacked Maleme once again. 1st Provisional Group landed back at base as the 376th Bombardment Group as the redesignation came into effect at midnight. These operations against Maleme were in an attempt to halt the supplies being flown from there by Ju 52s.

From the 19th October to the 31st, 12th Bombardment Group (M) flew 300 sorties with the loss of two B-25s. 57th Fighter Group flew 743 sorties, claiming 27 aircraft destroyed, 6 probably destroyed and 15 damaged with a loss of two P-40s. The AAF bombers claimed 7 enemy aircraft destroyed and 4 probably destroyed. The one heavy bomber was lost.

Armour advance: 2nd - 4th November.

On 2 November, British armour moved over the ground won and cleared by the infantry. German resistance was stiff, they used their 88 mm FlaK guns and own armour to great effect and casualties were heavy on both sides. 600 Allied sorties were flown in support of the armour on this day, 12th carried out 40 of those. The 57th flew 70 sorties on this day, some were strafing and fighter-bomber sorties. Seven enemy planes were caught on the ground during the dawn sweeps of enemy airfields. 376th sent five B-17Es to Tobruk on this day where they caught two "medium-sized" merchant vessels with direct hits, and set the harbour ablaze.

The 3 November saw the Axis attempt to save the battle with a use of their own air forces. The Allied fighters claimed 18 bombers and 7 fighters destroyed or probably destroyed. The 57th claimed two Bf 109s destroyed and one probable in the 88 sorties the Group flew on this day. The 12th flew 45 sorties against the enemy traffic on the Daba - Fuka road and against enemy strongpoints. Over 300 vehicles were left burning or immobilised during these operations.

The 4 November saw the heavy bombers raid Benghazi. The Axis forces had now been thrown into full-scale retreat. The British began massive drives into the enemy lines, and pursued the retreating enemy. The air forces continued support, attacking the enemy traffic moving westward across the coastal road. 12th Group carried out 42 sorties on this day.

Picture : 66th Fighter Squadron - P-40 Warhawks in the desert.


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curious where are you pulling this up from ? .......... Ken Rusts book on the 9th AF or ?

there still needs to be a book covering 9th AF ops as they are still confusing especially the 9th AF B-26 ops which the bomb groups seem for some oddity do not like to share info with outside sources/researchers............me for one.
A lot of it is from The Ninth Air Force in World War II. And no, I'm not copying it. The details are "copied" but you can't exactly make that up. I've missed a lot of the book out for obvious reasons. I've got The Earthquakers on order, so a bit more information will come from that book. I was going to get 79th Fighter Group history too, but it's £40 ... more than I can spare at the moment.

And yes, the U.S Ninth does need a history of operations.

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