Inside stories: North African air war

The desert skies of North Africa were perilous for Allied fighter pilots during the autumn of 1941. A fine example of the dangers they faced came on the morning of October 12, as Andrew Arthy explains


A pair of Bf 109E-7s of I./JG 27 flying over the North African desert in 1941. Both carry the white fuselage band used by Luftwaffe aircraft in the Mediterranean theatre ROBA

Three squadrons of Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighters were sent on two missions to the front on October 12, 1942, and ran into skilled and deadly pilots of the Luftwaffe on both occasions. As a result, 12 P-40s were damaged or failed to return to base, two pilots were killed and four were wounded. Although these were heavy losses, the Allies were lucky not to have suffered more casualties – they’d come up against some of the most accomplished and successful German fighter pilots of the entire desert war.

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