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American fighter pilots pose in a Spitfire for the benefit of the press with the famous rock of Gibraltar as a backdrop. Left to right, they are Colonel Harold B. Willis, Major Marvin L. McNickle and Captain Arnold Vinson.
In preparation of the Operation Torch, 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups USAAF were transferred from Britain to Gibraltar. The groups’ Spitfires Mk. V were loaded onboard a convoy and shipped from Clyde on 10 October 1942. The personnel of both groups followed onboard another convoy on 26 October. After the arrival in Gibraltar ten days later, the Spitfires were assembled and tropicalized, including the addition of Vokes air filters. Records of these events help to date the photo to the first days of November 1942, immediately prior to Torch.
Lt Marvin L. McNickle was the C/O of 307th Squadron, 31st Fighter Group. Arnold Vinson flew with 2nd Fighter Squadron, 52 FG. In April 1943, Captain Vinson did become the first American Spitfire ace in the Mediterranean, but was sadly shot down immediately after achieving his 7th victory. [American Memory]