Aviation Historian 32
A.Arthy - Two days in February (1)
Combat crews of the 97th BS, 47th BG, pose in front of one of the unit’s Douglas A-20s at Thelepte. Part of the Twelfth Air Force, the 47th BG had arrived in North Africa in early November 1942. Its actions in Tunisia, specifically during the Axis breakthrough at Sidi Bou Zid and Kasserine Pass in February 1943, earned the 47th BG a Distinguished Unit Citation.
All three Gruppen and the Stab of Bf 109G-2-equipped JG 77 had transferred from the Eastern Front to the Mediterranean theatre of operations from the summer of 1942. For desert operations, the Bf 109G-2/Trop was fitted with a sand filter for the Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine’s supercharger intake, and other minor modifications.
Still wearing its factory codes, a Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-5 of II/JG 2 undergoes engine maintenance at Tindja, near Bizerte, in early 1943. The unit used its Fw 190s strictly for the dogfighting role, whereas those of Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (Fast Bomber Wing 10) were equipped with a 250kg or 500kg general-purpose bomb on the fuselage centreline.
A Focke Wulf Fw 190 of Luftwaffe unit SKG 10 taxies out with a bomb for another sortie.
With its centreline bomb clasp empty, an Fw 190A of SKG 10 taxies in with the help of a groundcrew member perched on the wing. The third Gruppe of SKG 10 was formed in December 1942 with the renaming of Zerstorergeschwader unit III/ZG 2, which had originally arrived in North Africa with its Fw 190s in November 1942.
A Henschel Hs 129 tank-buster of 8.(Panzer) / Schlachtgeschwader 2 hides among wine barrels filled with sand at El Aouina, near Tunis, in early February 1943. The unit moved five Hs 129s to Gabes for the action at Sidi Bou Zid; little is known about their use beyond one Hs 129B-2 being lost owing to engine failure on February 15.
Based at Thelepte in Tunisia from late January 1943, the 81st FG operated three Bell P-39 units - its own 91st and 92nd FSs and the 350th FG’s 346th FS. Its unusual mid-mounted engine gave the type an excellent field of vision from the cockpit and its mixed armament of wing- and nose-mounted 0-50in machine-guns and a 37mm cannon firing through the propeller hub packed a powerful punch, especially for ground-attack missions.
Based at Thelepte, the French Armee de I’Air’s Groupe de Chasse 11/5 operated a small force of Curtiss P-40s during February 14-15, 1943. Note the distinctive “Indian’s head” motif on the fuselage aft of the cockpit.
Seen here in the standard RAF desert scheme of Dark Earth and Mid Stone camouflage with Azure undersurfaces, Spitfire VB (Trop) EP837, HL-L, served with the 308th FS, 31st FG, during the air battle over Sidi Bou Zid in February 1943.
Seated here in the cockpit of his WZ-coded 309th FS, 31st FG Spitfire, Lt Charles E. Wilson undertook three missions during the action over Sidi Bou Zid on February 14, 1943. The unit flew its Spitfires throughout the Tunisian and subsequent Italian campaign until the spring of 1944, when it was re-equipped with P-51 Mustangs.
Supermarine Spitfire VC (Trop) ES317, MX-F, seen here at Ponte Olivo airfield on Sicily in August 1943, served with the 307th FS, 31st FG, during the air operations over Sidi Bou Zid six months previously.
Sporting the stars and stripes of the American flag as well as the standard star roundel with yellow border worn by USAAF Spitfires in North Africa, Mk VB (Trop) WZ-H, possibly ER926, of the 309th FS, 31st FG, awaits another sortie in 1943. The tropicalisation of a Spitfire for desert use incorporated a cumbersome Vokes air filter for the carburettor air intake and modifications to the cowlings.
Lieutenant Len Brown of the 309th FS poses for a photograph beside Spitfire WZ-C. Brown flew two missions on February 14 as wingman to the unit’s CO, Maj Harrison Thyng.