The Ninth Air Force began life on August 21, 1941, as the 5th Air Support Command at Bowman Field, Kentucky, and was activated on September 1, 1941. It was redesignated the Ninth Air Force on April 8, 1942, after relocating to the New Orleans Army Air Force Base in January. Previous plans to move the Ninth to China fell through when Japanese forces captured Rangoon and cut the Burma Road, making it impossible to logistically support the Ninth in China, so a new assignment was sought.

In June 1942, victories by the German Afrika Korps in North Africa forced the British Eighth Army to pull back to Egypt, and the beleaguered British requested American support; the Ninth filled the bill perfectly. The first planes to arrive at British bases in Cairo were 23 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers under Colonel Harry A. Halverson, on June 12, 1942; 16 days later, Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton arrived in Cairo from India with his 9th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). The Ninth submission and help liberate a continent.

The art accompanying this article, painted by Lieutenant Milton Marx of the Ninth’s Executive Liaison Section, shows the daily life of the Ninth’s pilots and air crews as they survived the desert to keep the British and Americans on the attack and rain havoc on the Germans and Italians.