West Africa Study Circle

History of the U.S. Air Transport Command Africa and the Middle East May 1941 to July 1944

Following the Second World War this very detailed history was written in three parts:
History of the Ferrying Command in Africa and the Middle East (29 May 1941 – 30 June 1942);
History of the Africa Middle East Wing (1 July 1942 – 15 December 1943);
History of the Central African Wing (15 December 1943 – 1 July 1944).

All parts are now available as PDF downloads from this site, linked at the end of John Wilson's introduction to Part I. Part I is nearly 200Mb and Part II nearly 600Mb. Part III is 85Mb. If any reader requires downloads in smaller portions, please contact the webmanager of this site.

Introduction to Part I

History of the Ferrying Command in Africa and the Middle East (29 May 1941– 30 June 1942)

This 300 page report was compiled at the end of World War 2 and eventually placed on microfilm record. In accordance with a personal belief that records of this kind should be made freely available for all collectors and researchers, I purchased these records and spent some time recovering the faded images before re-assembling them in hopefully legible form.
As received from AFHRA the image of each page is a reproduction of a microfilm reduction of the original document. These images are quite poor, varying from being hard to read to virtually impossible to decipher. I took each image individually and processed it for legibility and alignment, then cropped it to remove all unwanted boundaries and restore it to a proper size and format. Having done that for all images I assembled them into PDF (Portable Document Format) files for each of the three sections of the report, followed by further optimisation and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR can only recognise and interpret reasonable images of typefaces, and the recognition software can have difficulty in finding every occurrence of a word or phrase from the poor images in this report. However, intelligent use of “partials” can help. As an example, I find the location Habbaniya spelled in the report as: Habbaniyeh, Habbaniyah, Habbanaya, Habbanyia and Habbaynia, so searching for our modern spelling of the complete word misses all of these. On the other hand, searching for “Habb” picks up all of them. One learns the tricks, and it is certainly an improvement on visually searching every single page.
The complete report comprises three sections and I propose to make each section a stand-alone PDF document with an introductory index and explanation of relevant sections written by me as an aid to use. I will place no interpretation of my own on the report text, since each user and reader should be free to make their own analysis according to their particular interests and knowledge.
For many years the events following on from the military takeover of Pan American Airways (Africa) remained a mystery. This first section of a three part report explains many of the preliminary moves made by the United States military in pursuance of the takeover and also contains much of general interest to the West Africa collector, including an assessment of the history of air transport in Africa prior to American involvement in December 1941. Here is the first page of the Index to give a guide to the contents of Part I. There is a fifth section entitled “Fuel Control” which is of little relevance to postal history but it is included for completeness.

sample page

It may be thought that inclusion of seemingly irrelevant information is unnecessary, but as with my previous “Free‐to download” resources I prefer to present all the available information without comment or personal analysis, so that the readers can form their own conclusions or interpretations without any bias that could be (and sometimes is) introduced by selective quotations in articles.
Note that there is a difference between the Index page numbers and the image sequence within the file. This is due to my processing of all images in the original microfilm including the cover pages. For example, Page 19 in the Index “A Strategic Air Line....” is image 25 in the file, and so on. I hope that this does not detract from the real interest one can find in this previously unavailable resource.
I place on record my thanks and appreciation for the help given to me by the staff at the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (USAFHRA) and their confirmation that these documents are all de-classified and in the public domain.

John Wilson, March 2015

Links: Part I,     Index to Part II,     Part II,      Part III