1st Lt. Leonard and his radar observer Flight Officer Raymond Christensen, were night fighters for the 417th NFS, U. S. Army Air Force. Both were killed in action when their plane was engaging a Nazi night fighter over the Tyrrhenian sea. Their plane disappeared from radar and presumably crashed into the sea after being shot down. F/O Christensen was my great-uncle.
Much of the work of the 417th NFS was to protect boat convoys as they transported allied suppies and soldiers. As you can imagine, these convoys were prized targets of the Nazis. Also, the 417th were sent on missions to check out "bogies" that showed upon their radar, and if found to be an enemy plane, engage in combat.
These excerpts resume in Tafaraoui, Algeria. F/O Christensen was radar observer for all of these flights, so I have not mentioned him specifically. Other passengers are noted. The quotes are from the flight summaries of 1st. Lt. Leonard. Notes between brackets are mine. All crews from the 417th are named "Bishop 50, Bishop 51," etc. Note the crazy hours these guys fly!
Nov. 1, 1943. Beau 806. Practice Interceptions with Stalecrust [ground control]. 5 am - 7 am. "Dawn patrol and practice interceptions with Stalecrust and Bishop 70, ran about 7 interceptions in all thru the clouds. Joe Howard was a little off the beam, ran into some low cloud, 700 ft., east of field, ship, R/T [radio transmitter] and AI [airborne intercept radar] OK."
Nov. 4, 1943. Beau 806. Patrol with Fishbone [ground control]. 6:05 pm to 7:25pm. "PI [practice interceptions] with [Bishop]70, but the oranges were sour [?] so 70 stayed on the ground. Patrolled with Fishbone giving the vectors. Cloud base at 7000 but 5000 over sea, A/C [air craft] OK."
Nov. 7, 1943. Beau 760. Patrol with Fishbone [ground control]. 5:00 am - 7:30 am. "Patrol with Fishbone and [Bishop] 59, Patrol, Patrol, Patrol, too tired to do PI [practice interceptions]. [Bishop]59, Damn him, shot me down when coming back to base. A/C [air craft] in good shape."
Nov. 10, 1943. Beau 806. Practice Interceptions with Stalecrust [ground control]. 5:45 pm - 8:15 pm. "PI with Bishop 59 on Stalecrust with Joe Howard intercepting, made 5 interceptions apiece and got a beautiful workout from 59. My knees are stiff from kicking rudder, beautiful night, beautiful A/C [air craft] good R/T [radio transmitter] and AI [airborne interception radar] OK."
Nov. 13, 1943. Beau 814. Practice Interceptions with Stalecrust [ground control] at night.
Nov. 16, 1943. Beau 760. Patrol with Fishbone [ground control]. 5:45 am to 7:50 am. "Patrol with [Bishop] 59, ran a couple of impromptu interceptions, had a dog fight, R/T [radio transmitter], A/C [air craft] OK. Weather fine."
Nov. 20, 1943. Beau 819. Practice Interceptions, returned due to bad engine. 5:35 am - 7:09 am. "PI with Bishop 53. Stalecrust [ground control] did a fair job. My port engine went a little haywire and cut out several times. Instruments all checked up but it used about 100 gallons more gas than the starboard. Very cold, and they Africa is hot!"
Nov. 21, 1943. Patrol duty. 5:20 pm - 8:15 pm. "Patrol with Perform [ground control] doing the vectoring. Uneventful as all hell. Ship, AI [airborne intercept radar], and R/T (radio transmitter] OK. The night was black, and hazy and black!"
Nov. 25, 1943.
Flight 1: Beau 814. Practice Interceptions with Perform [ground control]. 6:15 am - 8:45 am. "PI with Bishop 70 on Perform. Bradshaw [Tafaraoui RAF Aerodrome control] really had their head up this morning. W. W. was really on the ball on 4 interceptions. Ship, R/T [radio transmitter], and AI [airborne intercept radar] were OK."
Flight 2: Beau 814. Navy Co-op. 1 hour, daytime.
Nov. 28, 1943. Beau 819. Convoy Patrol. 5:00 pm to 7:35 pm. "Uneventful patrol of "Decode [name of convoy?]." Saw Wellington, one "Snowball" ship and 4 P-39's took a close look at me. Used flood for landing; best flood yet. A/C [air craft], AI [airborne interception radar] and VHF [very high frequency communications] OK."