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THE TAKORADI ROUTE - THE JOURNEY TO EGYPT C.B.I.

7)ON TO KARACHI INDIA


By Bob Dethlefsen.


The trip from Accra to Karachi was memorable for a couple of reasons. It had now been almost six months since I had been in a pilot's seat, and would soon be ineligible to collect flight pay. The trip across Africa was long and tedious so it didn't take much to convince the crew that I could serve as an instant auto-pilot.


By the time we reached Karachi, I was able to add 11 hours of C-53 co-pilot time to my log-book. There was an overnight stop in Khartoum and another chance to enjoy the "Entertaining Wanderers", refugee Central European singers and dancers who had become marooned in Africa.


The stop at Aden, was extended to the point that we were able to make a sight-seeing trip to Cleopatra's Wells and surroundings, a real once-in a-lifetime experience. The following day, after six months on the road, I finally arrived at New Malir Cantonment, Karachi, India. It was the 15th of December, 1942.


With orders from the Karachi American Air Base Command, I immediately reported to the 341st Bombardment Group, 490th Bombardment Squadron and was welcomed as the "Prodigal Son". New Malir, spread over a very large area, housed elements of the RAF, the British Army, the Indian Army, the US Army, a well equipped hospital, and sundry other smaller detachments. With the associated airfield and the city itself being some miles distant, transportation was required to get to almost anywhere.


In our case, we were allotted 2 1935 Ford 4dr sedans for the entire group of officers, which didn't quite do the job no matter how many we tried to jam in. At the time, the 490th owned more aircraft than pilots necessary to fly them so I was back in the air, in a B-25, the day after reporting for duty. It didn't take long though as new crews were showing up almost daily, and on January 8, 1943, 24 days after arrival, I was checked out as first pilot and given the squadron's 10th airplane.


Bombing, gunnery and formation flying training filled our days with 16mm movies and an occasional wild trip to town took care of the nights for the next few weeks, but by the 1st of February it was time to get serious, and move out. It was still a long way to the front but with one final stop at the US Army Supply Depot at Agra, we found our new home and operational base at Ondal, India. Along with a B-25 of my own, came a pair of shiny silver bars!


A few days after joining the 490th, my new CO did what he could to make up for my being Shanghaied, for so long, by the Ferry Command and got me promoted to 1st Lieutenant. The days really were beginning to look a little brighter. The living conditions at Ondal were quite tolerable and except for the ever present mosquitoes at night there were few complaints.


New flight crews and airplanes continued to arrive and in about two weeks we were fully staffed and ready to go to work. Not only ready, but eager, and with a strong feeling that we were going to do a good job. For reasons that I don't fully understand, the 490th was a "detached squadron", operating separately from the 341st group and receiving operational orders directly from the 10th Air Force. 



Karachi from the air. Photo credit: Jim Augustus/son, 493rd BS, 7th BG, presented by the 7th BG. By www.wisconsincentral.net


 

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