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A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940–1945 by Christopher Shores

A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940–1945 by Christopher Shores

Author:Christopher Shores
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Grub Street Publishing
Published: 2017-06-15T00:00:00+00:00


Meanwhile, with the Casablanca conference over, Tedder and Coningham arrived at Maison Blanche on 31 January to have discussions with Spaatz and Robb. Next day, however, the former pair were flown to England in a B-17 for ten days well-earned leave. On 8 February Spaatz wrote to Gen George E.Stratemeyer, US chief of air staff:

“The new organisation here is about to go into effect and there are many problems which can only be settled at very high level, the most serious being the fact that it is difficult to treat aviation as coequal with the army and navy in our set-up whereas the RAF will not submit to being considered in any other way; in particular, it will not accept that air support ‘belongs’ to an army commander or that he may direct its employment. Coningham, a ‘full fledged’ veteran of the Battle of the Mediterranean, has plenty of prestige and it can readily be seen that something is bound to break out in a very short period.”

That Coningham had a flair for the dramatic, etc, is, to say the least. A month later Spaatz wrote to his wife, describing Coningham as:

“somewhat like a combination of Bob Olds and Billy Mitchell, with possibly a bit of MacArthur thrown in for good measure (the three most flamboyant officers he could think of). The problem of integrating these individuals with their ambitions. Not simple.”

Larry Kuter, holding the fort pending Coningham’s arrival, recorded:

“Since all ground officers are expert air chief marshals my job is to keep ground forces from swallowing the air forces, to keep the RAF from swallowing AAF etc. Nice bunch of cannibals in Africa! And Casablanca! And London! And Washington!”

On 18 February at about 0900, he learned that Coningham would arrive at the joint army-air HQ, about 50 miles south-west of Constantine, near Ain Beida, in 15 minutes. “He came in at full steam. Coningham is all out for his unlimited authority as an air force commander. He said Spaatz agreed last night. Suits me, but I asked him to get our written charter revised.” On meeting Coningham, with whom he would later become good friends, Kuter’s initial impression was of: “a big, self-confident, forceful and clearly ambitious fellow. He made a long loud speech on the fact that he wouldn’t be an ‘Air Support’ commander and had changed the name to North African Air Force. He meant just that! Command of everything with wings.” Kuter responded that he was happy to fight both Anderson and the Germans, but not ‘Tooey’ Spaatz as well. “‘Tooey’” he thought, “is going to have a tough time between the charming Tedder and the bellicose Coningham.”

Kuter at once proposed sending an officer to 1st Army HQ to co-ordinate a programme of airfield construction with planned ground operations. “To hell with that,” was Coningham’s response, “we’ll set up the airfields and 1st Army will conform to our plan.” Kuter felt that behind this self-assurance, force and ambition “…there is remarkable blunt charm which enables him



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