Eleven Junkers Ju-52/3m transport planes skimmed the waves of the Mediterranean on December 12, 1941, their green-and-black camouflage contrasting sharply with the brilliantly blue water. They were heading for the coast of Libya in North Africa to bring desperately needed supplies to the famed German Afrika Korps, led by General Erwin Rommel.
Determined to deny the Germans those supplies were 16 Martin 167F Maryland bombers flying for the British Royal Air Force (RAF), crewed by men from South Africa. That day the South Africans were using the twin-engine bombers as improvised long-range fighters, and when they first swooped down on the Junkers Ju-52s about 50 miles from the coast, the Marylands had an easy time of it. Two of the transports were quickly set ablaze. Their crews leaped from the planes without parachutes before the burning aircraft plunged into the sea.