ZP-14, "The Africa Squadron" and VPB-63, "The MAD Cats" of Fleet Air Wing 15, NAS Port Lyautey
PBYs of USN patrol squadron VPB-63 had been conducting anti-submarine warfare (ASW) using magnetic anomaly detection (MAD)
in the Atlantic and especially around the Strait of Gibraltar. However, the
low altitude (<100 feet) required for MAD was dangerous for the PBYs and B-24s at night or in heavy fog. According to my uncle's notes,
it was rumored in Blimp Squadron 14 that the use of blimps to conduct nighttime MAD operations at Gibraltar was Winston Churchill's idea.
Anyway, the blimps made their record-setting transatlantic flights
and along with the PBYs, conducted 24/7 MAD surveillance around the Strait of Gibraltar from June of 1944
onward. It's not surprising that very few MAD detections were made and no U-boats were sunk during
this period because the Germans had decided to stop sending U-boats through the "magnetic fence" at Gibraltar about
the same time the first two blimps arrived there on June 1, 1944.
The last U-boat sinking in the region was on May 15, 1944 after two Port Lyautey-based VPB-63 Madcat PBYs
piloted by Matthias Vopatek and Hubert Worrel tracked the U-731 through the Gibraltar fence and damaged it with bombs.
The sub was eventually sunk by depth charges from HMS Blackfly and HMS Kilmarnock.
The following shortwave radio message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt
announced Operation Torch to the people of southern Europe and North Africa
on the morning of Sunday, November 8, 1942:
"Mes Amis, We come among you to repulse the cruel invaders --
have faith in our words -- help us where you are able.
All men who hate tyranny, join with the liberators who
at this moment are about to land on your shores. Vive La France eternelle."
*Craw Field was named for Colonel Demas T. Craw who
volunteered to deliver a message from American General Lucian Truscott
to the French Commander at Port Lyautey requesting that the French surrender.
After the Torch landing on the beach near Mehdia
under hostile fire, Craw and his French interpreter, Major
Pierpont Hamilton, were driven behind enemy lines by Private Orris Correy
in a light truck to the French headquarters at Port Lyautey. Colonel Craw
was killed by machine gun fire and Correy and Hamilton were captured.
Although imprisoned, Hamilton helped persuade
the French to surrender.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
presented the Medal of Honor to Major Hamilton on February 19, 1943
and Colonel Craw, posthumously, on March 4, 1943.
These two members of the 12th Air Force were the only airmen
of World War II to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism on the ground. Ironically, the only medal of honor recipient
from the 12th Air Force to be honored for heroism in the air was
1st Lt. Raymond L. Knight of the 350th Fighter Group. See also,
Private Orris V. Correy was promoted to sergeant and
reportedly submitted for the Distinguished Service Cross but
he apparently never received any award.
Left photo: President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Port Lyautey in 1943 and laid a wreath at the graves of the US Task Force soldiers who lost
their lives during Operation Torch (November 1942). Right photo: American, French, and Moroccan personnel associated with Fleet Air Wing 15 at Port Lyautey attended a memorial service for Franklin D. Roosevelt in April of 1945. Photographs from the Library of Congress.
In 1933 the Moroccan city of Kenitra was renamed Port Lyautey in honor of French Marshall Hubert Lyautey.
The name of was changed back to Kenitra after Morocco regained its independence in 1956. Photo from the Library of Congress.
Unless otherwise stated, the photos on this page are from the five-volume pictorial history Blimpron 14 Overseas by squadron photographic officer Lt. (jg) R. C. Kline, A (V) N, USNR and squadron photographers
mate PhoM1/c Stephen J. Kubarych.