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Normally I've let the 404th's Group and Squadron Air Historical officers lead off these monthly record pages. For June there is a lot of material, not surprising as it covers D Day. I have therefore produce a summary first for the not quite so dedicated reader, however fear not the verbatim histories follow on afterwards for those who like to follow every twist and turn of the story..
Summary of Group activities : June 1944
During the month of June, the 404th Fighter Bomber Group commenced a routine that continued until the last days of the war in Europe. Virtually every day, weather permitting, the 404th or elements of that group would fly multiple missions. These missions were routinely in support of allied ground forces, either dive bombing, armed reconnaissance missions or fighter patrols, or escort duties for bombers and transports.
The Group's squadrons also, for the first time, conducted their own operations and by the end of June, even individual flights from each squadron were operating dedicated missions of their own. Each squadron normally flew with 16 aircraft, 4 flights of 4 aircraft. Very often spare aircraft were taken to replace aircraft which had to return, or to act as communications relays. The armament and fuel arrangements for the aircraft became increasingly standardised. Aircraft assigned to dive bombing missions were usually equipped with two 500lb bombs on wing mountings and a 108 US gallon fuel tank, whilst aircraft on fighter patrol and escort duties dispensed with the bombs. As the beachhead was established and the aircraft operated into Normandy from Winkton, the short range enabled them to dispense with the fuel tanks and a 500lb bomb was carried under each aircrafts belly as well as 500lb or cluster bombs under each wing. Later in June, as ground fire became increasingly effective, some aircraft carried two or three clusters of six 100lb bombs or clusters of small fragmentation bombs instead of the 500lb bombs to help suppress ground fire.With this weapons load, during armed reconnaissance missions the aircraft could select targets of opportunity as well as attacking targets designated by forward air controllers on the ground or operational planners on board ships of the invasion fleet.
click on the highlighted text for a map of the 404th patrol areas in June 1944
On the evening of the 2nd June 16 aircraft of the 507th squadron led by Major Charles M Hood dive bombed rolling stock at Amiens and Arras, hit locomotives at Bapaume and Cournay railyards and a train was attacked with gunfire and explosions seen. A rail yard in the vicinity of Roye/Amy was attacked with 4 hits on the track as was another rail yard at Pavilly near Rouen and a train near Albert. The stationary targets were attacked at a 45 degree angle from 12,000 feet, with aircraft pulling out between 1000 and 3000 feet. Moving targets were attacked by skip bombing.
The same evening 15 aircraft of the 506th squadron lead by Major Harold G Shook attacked railway rolling stock at Abbeville, Amiens, Tergniers, the marshalling yard at Chauny, 50 barges on a nearby canal and marshalling yards at Nesle and Perane. The 506th attacked from 6000 feet with a 70 degree angle of dive, pulling out at 1000 feet.
Finally that evening 15 aircraft of the 508th squadron lead by Major Leo Moon attacked targets at Chauny and Cambrai, hit railway at Hesdin - 50 wagons at Montreuil, and 25 oil cars at Frevent.
That routine was typical of June. Through out the month the 404th targeted railways, bridges, vehicles, artillery sites and troop concentrations, with railways the most common target. Listed below is a brief summary of the ground attack missions flown.
Group action to dive bomb highway bridge at Courceilles sur Seine, 47 aircraft, 31 bombers, 16 escorts .
506th Squadron bombed the railroad near of St Sauveur and Lendelin and the highway between St. Sebastian and Le Mesrul Vigot. 507th Squadron carried out an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Carentan, Bayeux and St Lô. They bombed the main route through Tour-en-Bessin near Bayeux. On the return trip they investigated an empty dinghy 25 miles north of Pointe de Barfleur. 508th Squadron also carried out an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Carentan, Bayeux and St Lo. They were ordered to destroy a gun position at Quettehou but were unable to locate it. Two flights dive bombed a gun position south of Montebourg whilst two flights bombed railroad cars in Montebourg.
The same morning the 506th was airborne again to dive bomb marshalling yards at St Lô, also a paper mill on the bank of the Vire river. The station in the yards was destroyed. The 507th was airborne at 12:00 on another an armed reconnaissance when it was directed to the Foret de Cerisy near Bayeux to attack ground. At 1355 the 508th was off on an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Carentan, Bayeux and St Lô and they bombed vehicles at the junction of the railroad and the highway 4 kms north of St Lô as well as bombing the railroad 5 kms east of St Lô and at Torigni sur Vire, and a railroad bridge at Camier.
(The irony of this particular action is that the first target of the 508ths attack must have been very close to the village of St. George Moncocq. The village of Bransgore which borders the eastern end of the landing ground at Winton is today coincidentally twinned with that same village).
The day was still not over with both the 506th and 507th carrying out further attacks that day, the 507th eventually landing back from a raid on St Lôs railroads at 18:55.
At 07:47 the Group returned to attack by dive bombing the Bois de Molay forest. Between 13:25 and 13:45 the three squadrons took off to attack two rail bridges and one road bridge at Pontaubault. The 507th destroyed the road bridge whilst the 506th and 508th destroyed the two rail bridges. That evening the three squadrons dived bombed railway lines, railway stock, locomotives and a switch tower (signal box).
The 508th carried out an armed reconnaissance mission and attacked targets of opportunity in the area of Avranches, Villedieu-les-Pòêles, Percy, St Lô and Torigni. They hit gun emplacements at Mesnil Sauvage, and Coulain, railroads at St. Quendes Besaces and Tarques, tanks at St. Andre de Fontenay. Second Lieutenant Lucien D Herrera bailed out over channel and was later picked up by an air sea rescue flying boat. The 506th carried out an armed reconnaissance mission and dive bombed a railroad bridge at Pontaubault. The 507th also carried out an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of St. Lô to Avranches but the targets were obscured. Later that morning the 508 attacked targets of opportunity near Avranches, Villedieu-les-Pòêles and St. Lô, attacking artillery, bridges and Cherbourg airfield. Second Lieutenant Ralph L Smathers was seen to bail out of his aircraft and is missing in action.
All three squadrons carried out an armed reconnaissance mission and attacked targets of opportunity and railway lines in the area of Coutances, Marigny, Granville and Villedieu-les-Pòêles. The 507th hit a tank column between St Martin le Bouillant and St Ceciles, other targets were trucks, highways, bridges and railway yards. On returning to Winkton, one aircraft returned with 3 bombs hung up which it had not been able to drop or jettison. On landing one fell of behind the aircraft and exploded.
Trouble on the runway at Winton ... Here's an egg we didn't want to hatch...Watch out for the broken nose fuse --Looks like she's ready to blow
(Accompanying text to these photographs from the 404th official history "Leap Off")
That evening the whole group carried out an armed reconnaissance mission in the vicinity of St. Martin de Besaces, Vire and Mortain. The intelligence report from the mission is very detailed with lots of targets engaged, but it can be summarised briefly as a very bad day for trains.
The three squadrons departed on an evening armed reconnaissance mission in the area of St. Lô, Vire, Domfront, Mortain and Flers. The 507 hit railways, the 508th road and rail targets and the 506 trains, vehicles, tanks and a water tower. One of the returning aircraft crash landed at RAF Holmsley South short of gas.
The group was assigned to escort B26 bombers and then dive bomb Rennes marshalling yards. The group failed to rendezvous with the bombers, but did not miss the rail yards. Later the 507th made rendezvous at Beachy Head with some bombers who were escorted to 10 miles south of Caen. The squadron was then released for dive bombing duties but the primary targets were obscured. The secondary target, the rail yards at Villedieu-les-Pòêles was clear however and it was bombed by the 16 P47s. That evening all three squadrons were airborne by 18:45 to attack troops and vehicles on the roads into Malestroit, St. Guyomard and Serent.
The 508th had an abortive mission to bomb Valognes railroad targets as they were obscured by weather.
All three squadrons were in action all day. Unfortunately the history records are of poor quality but what can be deduced is a day of maximum effort with the group pouring in repeated attacks in support of ground forces from dawn til last light. Lt Martin Adams of the 506th shot down an ME109 but it was bad day for the group as both Lt Benjamin F Kitchens and Lt Bert Espy were killed when they collided in mid air. Lt Espy's ship exploded in mid air, the other span into the ground, no parachutes emerged from either aircraft. (for a more detailed description of the missions flown on this day see the 508th squadron records below).
The bad luck continued. Lt Russell S Fredenhalls plane was hit by light flak just north of Foret de Cinglais while flying at 200 feet. His ship was seen to crash and exploded at 10:15.
That day the 508th conducted an armed reconnaissance mission in the vicinity of Orleans, Vierzon and Blois attacking fuel and storage facilities at Chabris. The 507th was also on an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Le Mans, Tours and Vendome attacking supplies, warehouses and gun emplacements. The 506th dive bombed a radar station.
The 508th conducted a second armed reconnaissance mission near Granville, Villedieu-les-Pòêles, Vire and Percy. A bridge was destroyed. On the return only one pilot landed at Winkton before the weather closed in, the others landed away in France, or at the RAF bases at Thruxton and Tangmere.
That morning the 508th flew an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Chartres, Alençon and Argentan area, attacking some trucks. The 507 also operated in the same area, and on returning to Winkton at 1146, some fragmentation bombs on Lt Greens ship fell off and exploded, killing him and destroying the P47. Lt Green was not the Groups only casualty that day. The 506th were attacked from above near Evereux by 14 German fighters (10 Me109s and 4 Fw190s). Lt Hochadel was shot down, two enemy aircraft were damaged. These missions were to prove Winkton's swansong. The next time the 404th flew in anger would be from a new home in France.
First Lieutenant Robert W Green, the picture taken on 12 May 1944 at Winkton.
On 30 June Lieut Green returned from a mission over France with some armed fragmentaion bombs "hung up" on his P47. When he landed the bombs fell off and exploded destroying the aircraft. Lieut. Green died in hospital of his injuries received at Winkton. The other photograph was in his escape kit, it shows him in civilian clothes and was to be used for forged documents if the pilot was forced down over occupied France.
Not all the 404th missions were ground attack. On June 6th 1944, D DAY, the invasion of Europe found the 404th providing fighter cover over the invasion beaches, a mission they were to repeat on the 7th.
by Gordon Alchin
And the dewy plain
Awakes to life and sound -
Where on the flying-ground
The ghostly hangars blaze with lights again.
The giant birds of prey
Creep forth to a new day,
And one by one,
As morning gilds the dome,
Leave the grey aerodrome -
The day's begun.
And the vanish'd sun
Still streaks the evening skies:
Below, the prone earth lies
Darkened, wherever warring Night has won.
The 'planes, returning, show
Deep black in the afterglow,
And one by one
Drop down from the higher airs,
-Down, down the invisible stairs -
The day is done
6th and 7th June
The group flew four fighter patrols a day from Winkton mainly in the Caen-Bayeaux area with 48 aircraft planned for each patrol. The olive green finish of the 506th's aircraft would contrast vividly with the newly applied black and white recognition stripes on their rear fuselage and wings, whilst the polished silver fighters of the 507th and 508th with their new stripes would remind first world war veterans of the garish paint schemes used by the German Air Force in 1918. Each patrol was of about one hours duration over the beaches, total flight time about two and a half hours per mission, ten hours per day. The patrols were generally uneventful, however on the 6th the Group drove off four Fw190s dive bombing landing craft near Cabourg and were shot at by allied forces for their trouble. Sadly on the 7th of June they lost 1st Lt Vivian who was last seen at 3000 feet over Grandcamp having difficulty maintaining height. The homing station lost contact with him at 23:36.
Click the highlighted text for a map of the invasion beaches.
During these patrols the group reported seeing what may have been air to ground rockets deployed by the Germans. They reported two white smoke trials observed at 9000 feet NE of Bayeux and they were watched up to 18000 feet where they seemed to explode in large white clouds. The trails were odd in flight tending not to follow straight courses. They reported more smoke trails around a B24 Liberator at 2000 feet over Caen aerodrome and objects like pink confetti observed drifting in clusters 10 miles SW of Lisieux.
16th and 17th of June
The groups squadrons flew fighter patrols to provide shipping cover over the beaches and their associated sea lanes
21st, 22nd & 23rd of June
They flew fighter patrols over the invasion beaches. On the 22nd 2nd Lieutenant Charles E Labno went missing. His aircraft experienced engine trouble over the patrol area. He was ordered to bail out and was believed to have done so near Grandcamp at about 05:27 hours.
Also on the 22nd individual flights from the group were detached to escort a C47 Skytrain (the US military classification for the Douglas DC3 Dakota) from advanced landing ground E-1 in France to England, and later to escort four more C47s to the continent.
25th of June
A flight of the 507th escorted a C47 to the French coast and another flight escorted a fleet of 25 C47s from Selsey Bill to Carentan. A further similar escort mission that day by the 507th required the escort to land in France due to bad weather and return to Winkton at 20:25.
27th of June
The 506th escorted 2 C47s, the 507th collected a C48 ( an ex civil DC3 airliner impressed into military use) at Heston aerodrome near London and escorted it to E-1 on the French coast. The 506 and 507th were on beach patrol, and conducted their second and third patrols from site #7 in France before returning to Winkton that evening.
29th of June
An attempt was made by the 506th to repeat the exercise of 27th of June, but site #5 was not ready and the squadron landed at site #3. It took three hours to refuel everyone so they returned to Winkton after refuelling.
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UNIT HISTORIES FOR JUNE
404TH FIGHTER GROUP
UNIT HISTORY FOR THE MONTH OF JUNE
2ND LT WILLIAM P CORLEY
AIR CORPS HISTORICAL OFFICER
12 July 1944
1. Group redesignated as 404th Fighter Group on 13 June 1944
2. Strength on last day of Month (30 June 1944): 30 Officers, 83 enlisted men.
3. The Air Echelon departed from Station 414 at Winkton, Hants on 27 June 1944 and arrived at Site 5 on the continent 30 June 1944.
5. Awards to pilots on 7 June 1944:
Colonel Carroll W McColpin Air Medal
Major Charles M Hood Air Medal
1st Lt John A Marshall Air Medal
Lt Colonel James K Johnson 2nd Oak Leaf Cluster
6. Awards to pilots on 24 June 1944:
Major Charles M Hood 1st Oak Leaf Cluster
1st Lt John A Marshall 1st Oak Leaf Cluster
Relieved from ASGT 84th FTR WING and assigned HD IX TAC effective 16 June 44 per GO 10 IX TAC 116 June 1944. - this last comment is a hand written additional comment on the document.
The month of June found the 404th Fighter Group well settled at Station 414. Most of the operational difficulties experienced initially had been overcome by this time and the organization was functioning smoothly in the U.K.. Both officers and men were now thoroughly schooled in the British monetary system, and all the local pubs had been located and charted after extensive reconnaissance by Group Headquarters personnel.
Scheduled missions for June 1st were cancelled due to bad weather, this as usual placed Lt Crosthwait, the Group weather officer back in the proverbial doghouse. However he came back into favor the next morning with "CAVU" (cloud and visibility unlimited, the modern version is CAVOK, cloud and visibility OK) and the pilots flew one of our most successful missions so far against rolling stock in the le Treport, Tregnier and Cambrai area.
June 3rd also brought good weather and morale soared as the pilots of the "fighting 404th" pasted the highway bridge over the Seine at Courcelles sur Seine. The following day fog and rain again prevailed hence all flying was called off. Capt. Buckberry the Group special services officer came to the rescue, however, with movies in the briefing room, giving an other wise utterly miserable day a pleasant ending.
Just before last light faded into darkness an order came in stating that all aircraft would be painted with large black and white stripes before dawn on the 5th. This brought forth a volley of unmentionable remarks from crew chiefs and other line personnel who spent the night painting in the rain.
The morning of the 5th the field was alive with rumors, the base had been restricted and speculation ran high as to what was in the wind. At a special briefing held in the late afternoon, pilots and key ground officers were informed that the invasion was under way and allied forces would be landed on the northern coast of France at 06:30 the next morning.
Everyone went to the "sack" that night with one thought predominating, "Tomorrow is D Day and the big show is opening."
The 404th had been assigned top cover over the beach where the landings were to be made and all pilots were itching for a crack at Jerrys aircraft. Surely if anything would bring them up to battle this was it. Very little sleep was possible this night as the incessant stream of our troop carrier aircraft and the night raiders of the RAF roared overhead throughout the night, with the bombers of the 8th and 9th Air Forces joining them before dawn. The following day the sky was filled with allied aircraft of all descriptions in almost unbelievable numbers.
The 404th continued to fly top cover on the 6th and 7th but for the most part the reports were always the same "Patrol Uneventful". Jerry just wasnt coming up for a fight even to attempt a blow at our invading forces. During this period every plane that landed was surrounded by crew chiefs, armorers, clerks and KPs all seeking first hand information as to how the fight was going.
Dawn of the 8th brought a new assignment, armed reconnaissance in the St Lô, Carentan and Bayeux area. On this mission several marshalling yards were attacked with good results. All of our aircraft returned safely but Nazi trains were missing. The Group was released from operations on the 9th, this brief respite was enjoyed by all as everyone was in need of a little rest and relaxation, after the additional work, loss of sleep and general excitement occasioned by the operations of the last few days.
Saturday night, the 10th was a night to be remembered, the officer personnel gathered at "Ye Old Wagon Wheel Pub", the name given to the newly founded Officers Club. This was an old barn on the base, which under the capable guidance of Capt. Templin had been turned into a very attractive club. Our thanks also to S/Sgt Henderson for the art work which adorned the walls and bar. Lt Pesigna of Special Services secured the liquid refreshments and Col. McColpin arranged for Nurses, WAAFs and an Orchestra. It was indeed a memorable occasion.
Operations were back to normal for the next few days, the officers spent most of their time either packing excess clothing and equipment for shipment back to the states or "sweating out" transportation into town for a bath. Since bathing facilities were nil on this station, it was indeed a treat to get into Bournemouth for an occasional bath. The officers travelling Post Exchange arrived on the 15th and as this was its first visit to station 414 it did a rushing business catering to the individual needs of pilots and ground officers.
Capt Connor, the Group S-2, returned from a meeting in London on the 18th with almost fantastic stories about, which later proved to be correct, of flying bombs, pilotless aircraft, or robots which were causing considerable damage and casualties in the London area. He had spent the night before in an air raid shelter there and after telling his story no less than a dozen times to interested individuals, had gone off to bed, leaving everyone quite up in the air over this latest Nazi secret weapon.
Lt. Clonts, the first pilot of the 404th group to be lost over the continent returned to the group on the 25th. A meeting of all pilots and intelligence officers was called for 7 oclock in the briefing room and Lt. Clonts related the story of how, after being shot down by an Me 109, he had successfully evaded capture by the Germans and returned safely back to England.
On the evening of the 26th orders came for the Advanced Echelon to move to the marshalling area outside Southampton in preparation for the move to an advanced landing ground in France. The following morning the departure was made in a downpour of rain, and Lt. Jack Weir the group supply officer was almost left at the last minute as he had forgotten to load his personnel luggage until the trucks were pulling out. The rear echelon was out in force to see them off and as the convoy moved out of the gate such remarks as "Dig that foxhole deep and narrow", "Give em hell" , "Give my regards to Mademoiselle" and "Dont drink all the wine before I get there " filled the air.
With the advanced party gone, the work was doubled but those behind didnt seem to mind and all pitched in to see that the work was finished and that the planes stayed in the air. Bad luck again visited the Group on the 30th when Lt Green of the 507th squadron attempted to land with fragmentation bombs on his Thunderbolt. The ship was carrying 18 bombs, all of which fell off on landing. Ten of the bombs exploded immediately, resulting in the death of Lt Green. But our hats are off to Lt. Pell, the Group ordnance officer and Lt Young and Sgt Moon of the 507 armament section, who by risking their lives in performing a service above and beyond the call of duty carried the remaining eight bombs in a sensitive condition, off the runway in their arms so that the other pilots might land safely.
Air Echelon to Normandy
Here is an account by "Cotton" Rogers detailing activities of
the Air Echelon in the move from Winkton to A-5 in Normandy right after D-Day.
At the Oklahoma Reunion I challenged some D- Day landing dates given. I landed with a small group of approximately 20. I well remember all the events leading up to my landing in France. While at Christchurch I went on a pass to London to visit my brother who was attached to Eisenhower's headquarters for three years. On my return to the base three mechanics and I were put on detail to paint black and white stripes on our airplanes on the night of June 5th. We were told we would have the next day off. We finished about daylight, and my assistant crew chief came to preflight my plane. He and I were talking when the pilot (a young pilot) who was to fly my plane came up and said, "Men this is it! D- Day!" I had never heard of the name D-Day. While I watched the planes take off, a voice came over the loud speakers telling everyone to go to the orderly room.
Major McManus told us again that this was D- Day. Then he said that a group called Air Echelon would be leaving later in the day. He read the list of men assigned to the echelon, and mine was the last. He told us to get our duffle bags and things ready to ship out. There I was with my dirty clothes and underwear and no time to wash. My good buddy King, the supply sergeant, came to my rescue and traded me some new underwear and coveralls for my dirty ones.
My group got on a six by six truck and went to the Southampton terminal. The vehicles were taken to a motor pool for waterproofing. They were a week behind us. We loaded onto our ship around dark the evening of June 6. In charge was Captain Clarence Woodall from Denton, Texas. We were stuck in the hold of the ship with a quartermaster group above. Around 8 p.m. we had a drill, and it took us almost an hour to get out for the quartermaster crew panicked and wedged in the narrow doors. The chow was nothing but mutton and codfish. We had three days of K-rations, which most of us ate instead of the chow offered on the ship. Four of us took our blankets and stayed together on deck for the rest of the trip.
On the morning of June 9 we heard the anchor going out near us. The quartermaster crew was unloaded first. We had to take our gear back into the hold about 8 a.m. and were unloaded into "ducks" and dropped on Omaha Beach. Then we walked about a half a mile up the hill to the top where they were burying the dead. On the trail up we saw dead Germans lying on the left and Americans on the right. We borrowed a jeep and picked up some K-rations and spent the night sleeping on the ground near the dead soldiers.
Next morning we were picked up by a six by six and taken to the field where bulldozers and engineers were busy clearing an apple orchard for runways and a mat strip. We went to work putting up tents that someone had left at the field. The vehicles arrived about a week later, and supplies began to come in. I would say about two weeks later the planes came in after missions and then would take off again. At night they would fly back to England until the entire 404th was relocated in France. Just wanted to give a picture of what happened to us. I stayed in Air Echelon group for the balance of the war, moving up ahead with the rest of our outfit following later.
506th Fighter Squadron (S.E.)
404th Fighter Group
UNIT HISTORY FOR THE MONTH OF JUNE
Capt. JOSEPH COHN
Strength: As of the first day of June the Squadron had 50 Officers and 251 enlisted men for a total of 301.
Date of Arrival and Departure in the ETO: Negative.
Losses In Action:
1st Lt. Joseph H. Vivian, 0663802, has been missing since the night of June 7th. While flying in an overcast while patrolling the beach area he became separated from the squadron. He was probably in the vicinity of the coast off Isigny when last seen. Now carried as MIA.
2nd Lt. Charles E.Labno 0811930 was KIA in the vicinity of Grandcampe on June 22nd. His engine froze and he called that he was bailing out. The cause of his death is unknown.
1st Lt Charles B. Hochadel, 0796143 was shot down in the vicinity of Evreux on June 30th by E/A. His plane was burning and he was not seen to bail out. Now carried as MIA.
On June 25th 1st Lt. Charles P. Clonts, 0794204 after being shot down over France some
six weeks earlier returned to the field. Lt. Clonts was transferred a few days later to
Awards: During the month the following Air Medals and Clusters were awarded to the squadron pilots:
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Major Raymond P Elledge Jr.||Major Harold G. Shook|
|Captain George W McLaughlin||Captain Harold W. Freemantle|
|Captain Thomas R. Litchfield Jr.||1st Lt. Ivan V. Allen Jr.|
|1st Lt. Harry F. Baker||1st Lt. Robert F. Bealle|
|1st Lt. Robert W. Huse||1st Lt. James H. Jones Jr.|
|1st Lt. Arthur E. Justice Jr.||1st Lt Carlo S. Parsons|
|1st Lt.Ollie O. Simpson||1st Lt George W. Stovall|
|1st Lt Wilbur F. Vinson||1st Lt. Leo Westerinen|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Captain Jack W. Engman||Captain Joe Nichols|
|1st Lt. Martin E. Adams||1st Lt. Harvey P. Bates|
|1st Lt. Max W. Conn||1st Lt Charles B Hochadel Jr.|
|Captain Seth T.Parker||1st Lt. Jim B White|
|2nd Lt. Rowland W. Dalberg||1st Lt. Thomas C. Leake|
|1st Lt. Theodore P.Welgoss|
|Air Medal||Captain Charles W. Tribken||1st Lt. Earl Fisher Jr.|
|2nd Lt. Harry E. Anderson||2nd Lt. John L. Barth|
|2nd Lt Chester L.Dunmore||2nd Lt. Robert G. Fenstermacher|
|2nd Lt. Charles E. Labno|
These awards were from General Order no. 18, 24 June, 1944, Headquarters Ninth TAC.
Part Played in the War Effort:
The squadron flew a total of 555 sorties. The toughest missions were probably at first light and last light missions while flying cover over the invasion beaches. Neither flak nor E/A were the real opponent, it was the weather. 10/10 at all times was the order of the day. On the 24th 1st. Lt. Martin E.Adams got his first E/A a Me109 which he destroyed following a dive-bombing mission at Granville.
The squadron during the month flew all types of missions. Practically all of these were briefed and interrogated within the squadron. The pilots as well as the ground officers took quite a beating on the early morning missions, several times being awakened at 0315 to the refrain of "Rise and Shine its briefing time". The enlisted men really had the rough deal on being pulled out of their sacks. Time after time orders would come in to first put on wing tanks, 30 minutes later they would be told to take off the tanks and hang bombs, and in all probability another hour would find the tanks back on and to top it off mission scrubbed. All in all it was a good month in experience gained.
The big event of the month was of course the invasion of Normandy. This squadron played an important part in this opening of the first front, flying four missions on D-Day. The first mission was airborne at 0653 and the last mission landed at 2350.
During the month the 506th flew a total of 39 missions, consisting of 14 becah cover, 4 shipping cover, 10 dive bombings, 8 armed recces and 3 escorts.
The morale of the men remained high despite all of the hardships. Everyone was sweating out the ride to the "far shore". Finally on June 30th the first part of the air echelon landed on he beach near St. Laurent-Sur-Mer. It is quite an event, one which the men will long remember.
During the month, promotions for the officers came through with a bang, Raymond P. Elledge, operations officer, made Major; Seth T. Parker and Edward W. Petoskey, asst operations officer and engineering officer respectively made Captain. John M. Porter, Leo Westerinen, Thomas C. Leake and Wilbur F. Vinson, pilots, made first lieutenant.
FROM THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE
507th FIGHTER SQUADRON
404th FIGHTER GROUP
On June 18 this organization dropped the "Bomber" from its title, and became simply the 507th Fighter Squadron (per G.O. no. 160, Hq Ninth Air Force, 13 June 1944).
During the month three new pilots joined the squadron, and two were lost First Lieut. Russell S. Fredenhall killed in action June 25, and First Lieut. Robert W. Green, who died after a landing accident June 30. The new pilots, Second Lieuts. Edward C. Manchester and William H Palmer Jr., and Flight Officer Francis E. Abt joined the squadron June 3 from Hq and Hq Sqdn., 495th Fighter Training Group (per Par 1, SO No 89, Hq 404th Ftr. Gp., June 3 1944). First Lieut. Warren G Harding was assigned on detached service from the 9th Weather Reconnaissance June 7, (per Par 2, SO no. 90, Hq 404th Ftr. Gp., 7 June 1944) but never joined the outfit. Officers promotions for the month were as follows: First Lieut. to Captain - - Steven V. Leonard, June 15 (per Par 1, SO No. 162, Hq 9th AF (Rear), 16 June 1944; John E. Ray, June 24 (per Par 6, SO No. 167, Hq ETOUSA, 15 June 1944); Second Lieutenant to First Lieutenant - - Russell S. Fredenhall, June 8 (per Par 8, SO No.153, Hq ETOUSA, 1 June 1944); Floyd F. Blair, Leroy Graham and Arthur Washburn Jr., June 24 (per Par 7, 8, and 9 respectively, SO No. 167, Hq ETOUSA, 15 June 1944).
Enlisted mens promotions were as follows: Tech Sergeant to Master Sergeant - - Clyde J. Howell; Sergeant to Staff Sergeant - - Robert N Holway, John Houser Jr., Fernwell G. Summitt, and E. J. Thomas; Corporal to Sergeant - - Elwyn R. Harris, Milton H. Liberty and Eugene Setzer.
As of June 30th, the Squadron had 53 officers and 253 enlisted men "present and absent".
On June 27, the "air echelon" commanded by Capt. Rolland G. McCartney, Adjutant, left Station 414 Winkton for a staging area between Eastleigh and Southampton, spent two nights and a day there, embarked on the Victory ship "Empire Crossbow" at Southampton June 29. The party landed on the Normandy beach at St.Laurent-sur-Mer, awaiting transportation inland to landing strip A-5.
June 25 First Lieut. Russell S. Fredenhall, killed in action by enemy light flak
5 miles south of CAEN.
June 30 First Lieut. Robert W. Green died of injuries incurred when live fragmentation bombs fell of his wing and exploded while landing after the mission of June 30.
|Name and Rank||Awards||Name and Rank||Awards|
|Clay Tice Jr., Major||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Robert A. Reiff, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Howard L. Galbreath, Capt||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||John C. Ross, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Ray C. Langford, Capt.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Charles C. Lutman, Capt.||Air Medal||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Denver W. Smith, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|James A. Mullins, Capt.||Air Medal||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Thomas L. Weller, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Duane K Ash, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Richard H. Arnold, 1st Lieut||Air Medal||Clarence S. Wydner, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Paul M. Buckles, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Benjamin F. Yeargin, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Buford S. Courtney, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||
2nd Oak Leaf Cluster
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Floyd F. Blair, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Sherman N. Crocker, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Rufus A. Cox Jr.,2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Raymond T. Donnelly, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Donald D. Dove, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Robert W. Green, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Robert L. Duffy Jr.,2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|George C. Hughes 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Lewis E Eldredge, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Duane D. Inthout, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Russell S. Fredenhall, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Ernest J.P. Kovats, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||Leroy Graham, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|William M. Lee, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||Edgar E. Grove, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||John F. Phelps, 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|Stephen V. Leonard, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal||Arthur W. Washburn Jr., 2nd Lieut.||Air Medal|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster||1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster||2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
|John E. Ray, 1st Lieut.||Air Medal|
|1st Oak Leaf Cluster|
|2nd Oak Leaf Cluster|
"There may be a time - - I cant say more than that when some
painting will have to be done on the planes, and done quickly. We will probably get the
word to start, and exact details on what to do, some evening; When that happens, each
squadron must finish painting its aircraft in 24 hours, even if it is necessary to work
all night. This is vital, and I want all your Engineering officers to be planning to meet
such a demand
.. Anything that has been said here tonight is not to be discussed
outside of this room
(from remarks by Col. Carroll W. McColpin, commanding the 404th Fighter Group, to selected members of the Group and Squadron Staffs, at a closed meeting on June 1).
The last plane touched down at 1610, Saturday, June 3. Sixteen planes were airborne - - top cover for the rest of the Group on a dive-bomb mission against a Seine River Bridge at Gaillon. Some heavy and light flak over the target, and three Mustangs made a tentative pass at the squadron near Rouen. Otherwise it was uneventful, so the interrogation wound up in a hurry and everyone hustled for chow.
It was after supper and we stood inside the hangar gaping at the new and sudden activity.
"I dont know what the hell to make of this, Captain," commented Staff Sergt. Clarence "Stubby" Kuhl, armorer, as a dozen "wheels" (flight chiefs), "gears" (crew chiefs), and "wipers" (mechanics) swarmed over Major Clay Tice Jr.s plane with brushes, spray guns and cans of paint.
"Looks like a god-damned zebra to me," he added as black and white stripes began to appear on the wings and fuselage, after much spraying by Corp. Jerome "Zombie" Catherwood, squadron painter, and daubing by Tech Sergt John T Schaefer, assistant maintenance chief, and Staff Sergt Charles W. "Charlie" Snyder, crew chief.
We made no comments but thought excitedly: "Twenty-four hours Mondays the Day!"
Sunday the 4th came and brought rain, and the crews swore at brand new paint washing off in streaks. In the dry spells they went back to work with brush and spray, and 16 aircraft were ready by Sunday night. About 9 pm pilots and Intelligence officers from all squadrons were called to the Group briefing room; and when we saw the covered maps on the wall, and our "bigoted" officers, Lieut.Col. James K. Johnson and Capt. Dudley W. Connor, standing at the head of the room with an armful of notes and official papers, we knew what was up. From them and from Col. McColpin, we received our introduction to Operation "Neptune" and to J.P.A.E.O. (Joint Air Plan and Executive Order - - the invasion bible air operations).
With our burden of information we fretted through the entire day, sweating out the weather, finishing the paint-jobs on the rest of the aircraft, waiting for the word to go. It came during the night, and on Tuesday morning June 6, at 0649 oclock, led by Col. McColpin himself, the squadron took the air to cover the most important military operation in all history.
June 6 and 7 the squadron flew eight 16-ship missions with the rest of the Group, alternating with the other two squadrons on patrol in areas "East", "West" and "Easy", covering the ships in the Bay of the Seine from Le Havre to Pointe de Barfleur, and the battle areas inland from Bayeux to Caen.
The first bunch of pilots were in their planes at 0630 in the morning; the last bunch climbed out after midnight. They reported U.S. gliders parked nose to tail and wing-tip to wing-top in fields around St. Mere Eglise and the Cherbourg peninsula, and white coloured parachutes scattered all over the countryside; they reported British Horsa gliders on both sides of the Orne River north of Caen, all looked rather beaten up compared with the American gliders, but also jammed up like autos in a downtown Detroit parking lot. Major Tice reported one lone Horsa out in a field by itself, at least a mile from the others.
"That crew must really have a story to tell," he said, "if theyre still around to tell it".
North of Caen, Major Tice and Lieut. Washburn reported the British battleship "Nelson" (thats it al right - - - a big clumsy thing with those three huge turrets all in the bows") throwing black billowing broadsides into fields north of Caen.
"Hell, Id look out of one side of the cockpit and see all this flame and smoke covering the "Nelson" and then Id look out the other side and watch the explosions on the ground where the shells would hit," said the Major.
They reported lines of ships moving in and out; a possible warship sunk off the Iles de St. Marcouf; landing craft like breakwaters lining the beaches.
"Theyre moving in things that look like floating docks," Major Tice reported on the 7th. And later he said, "Theyve got about eight large ships lined up end to end off-shore, as if as unloading platforms; and theyve got the cargo vessels anchored beyond this line-up with small boats dashing back and forth, and more small boats shuttling between the stationary line and the shore."
" I know where we can get some steaks," reported First Lieut. Arthur W. "Wash" Washburn. "I just saw em dozens of dead cows all over Normandy".
They reported Caen and Bayeux and Grandcamp ablaze, and red ball tracer on the ground, streaking from the coast inland. First Lieut. Russell S. "Freddie" Fredenhall saw a large ship, possibly a tanker, slide slowly along the canal into Caen from the north, pause while a large bridge swung aside like a gate, and ease on into the Caen Harbor basin. And they spotted the flatlands flooded by the Germans around Picauville.
General Impression from the air was that the landing was a cinch; in fact according to "Freddie", "I watched one of these assault boats come in on one of the British beaches near Courseulles-sur-Mer, run ashore, and drop the nose. A whole bunch of infantry filed off, lines up on the beach as if they were calling the roll, and then marched away". And "Wash" added, "the only movement Ive seen on the ground was our troops moving inland".
Someone using the callsign "JIVO" called the Group and all three squadrons by their proper callsigns and said "ten trains on Omaha beach, go down and attack". Col. McColpin called the Groups home station "Drainsink" to find out who "JIVO" was, and the strange calls ceased. The Group later received a commendation from General Quesada for not answering an enemy attempt to interfere with our operations.
But no enemy reaction, meagre flak north of St. Lo once, on the second morning mission June 7, but otherwise a "nil" for fighters and a "nil" for flak. Most repeated comment was "Where the hell is the Luftwaffe?" and the daily teletypes from "Ninth Tac" reporting enemy sorties over the battle area caused great surprise and elicited remarks like "Well for Christs sake, we never get to se any"!
The squadron got off beach cover the 8th and went on dive bombing, running three more missions for a total of 11 in three days. First bombing target was a road junction in the small town of Tour en Bessin, on the main East-West highway four miles northwest of Bayeux, and the squadron, led by Major Tice, was directed onto it by "BULLET", a fighter control ship off "Omaha" beach. Just to make sure the Major challenged the controller with the sign "APPENDIX ABLE 75" and received the proper reply "TARE JIG LOVE" before starting his dive. Forty 500-pounders went right into the town,, exploding up and down the main road and knocking rubble from a block of buildings into the roadway. Here for the first time, the Major tried a stunt hed been thinking about for several weeks; after his dive and peel up, he circled over the target area taking pictures out of the side of his cockpit with a camera gun rigged up with a pistol grip and trigger by Sergt. Milton Liberty, squadron photo technician. He ended up with 50 feet of good film, showing a string of smoky explosions down the centre of the town marking the position of the highway.
The second dive bomb mission the 8th was a run at an enemy mobilization in the Foret de Cerisy, 10 miles southwest of Bayeux, led by Capt. Howard L. "Skin" Galbreath, Operations Officer. In poor weather conditions under a 2500 foot ceiling, the boys attacked the Bois de Molay, north of Cerisy. The mission reported they "mistook" the target; and apparently the Group Commander heard about it from higher headquarters, for the squadron intelligence officer who wrote the report "heard about it" too, through channels.
On the 10th, the squadrons flew on a Group mission actually assigned this time to find artillery positions in the Bois de Molay that were shelling our main lateral East-West highway, Isigny-Tour en Bession-Bayeux, and holding up the advance of the First Division. The bombing and strafing seemed to have hit the target this time, for the following morning the assistant ALO, Paratrooper Lieut. Jack "Geronimo" Edak, came dashing down from Group Headquarters to the squadron briefing room to inform the boys that the first division had pushed off immediately after the report of our bombing came through, and had moved four miles right on through and beyond the woods.
Our 37th mission the afternoon of June 10 was one of those things you read about in the papers. Captain took one flight of the squadron down on the deck to skip-bomb a large highway bridge across the Selune River at Pontaubault, south of Avranches. Major Tice, who led the whole Group on the mission, circled overhead with the rest of the squadron whilst Capt. Galbreath sneaked in with Lieuts Frank Yeargin, Robert W. Green and Clarence S."Yank" Wydner at zero altitude. "Skin" and Lieut. Yeargin took chunks out of the road surface at the north end of the bridge, while Bob Green and the "Yank" toppled the main pilings underneath the south end of the bridge. The rest of the Group then dive-bombed, and Major Tice after his bombing run took some more pictures of the results, which showed a column of smoke billowing up from the south end of the bridge on the way down. "Skin" Galbreath had this little note to add:
"After we pulled up and over the end of the bridge we zipped across a plowed field at about 50 feet. Some farmer was out in the middle of it with a rake or something, and hell, he never even looked up".
Captain James A. "Hoss" Mullins topped off a big day by leading the squadron on its third mission of the day on armed reconnaissance along the railroads from Chartres to Paris. They found something all right in the 9.30 twilight about 20 miles southwest of Paris on a main line. According to the "Hoss", "the track was dark against a light roadbed. I saw the glow of engine boilers, then greyish white smoke. There were two trains approaching each other from different directions, and "Lad" Lutmans flight dropped its bombs right on the track stopping the two of them side by side "
"I fired until the muzzles of my guns began to droop" said the
"Lad". "My flight dropped six bombs either on the trains or right in
between them, reported "Freddie" Fredendhall. "Two box cars
blew right up in the air onto the other train. As I peeled up I could see red tracers shooting past my left wing. That made be sore, so I split -essed back down from 2000 feet with Lieut. Grove, and the two of each took a train and went right down the line, all eight guns firing. There was a hell of an explosion and we could see big fires when we left".
First Lieut. Floyd F. "Ramblin Wreck" Blair commented "that place was just covered with tracer", then added, all excited and laughing, "these milk runs are getting boring".
Capt. Galbreath led an uneventful tour over Avranches June 11, then Major Tice led a dive-bombing and strafing attack that caught a convoy of more than 12 heavy tanks and trucks near St. Martin le Bouillant, 40 "goods wagons" in the yards at Polligny, and a crossroad southeast of Villedieu des Poeles. There was at least one direct hit on a tank; The Major and "Freddie" got hits 20, 10p and five yards from another tank, the crossroad was thoroughly cratered, and the wagons and track were ruined.
June 12th Capt Charles C. "Lad" Lutman jumped into the Intelligence trailer full of enthusiasm. "Lad" is one of those people known as a "character", superficially happy-go-lucky, underneath quite earnest. He likes to affect a funny manner of speech, and pretends to act dumb; everyone knows him as conscientious, careful flight leader and laughs with him at his little "act". He spent a year at Annapolis, graduated from the University of Maryland, and once studied for the priesthood.
"Hey-hey-hey", he exclaimed: "I got my Air Medal ! At least theyve got the ribbon and two other little whozamadoodles for me up at Group. I have to wait on the General to give me the medal now. Dont know when hes coming down havent talked to him recently".
June 13th the boys had another zero altitude field day, with "Skin" in on this one too.. One flight beat up 50 freight cars east of Vire, another flight damaged a highway bridge north of La Graverie, Lieut. Denver W. "Smitty" Smith getting a large oil storage tank there, which blew up and burned, and the fourth flight sow a moving train between Flers and St. Pierre.dEntremont. The train was left burning. Silent Smitty as usual had nothing to say about his oil tank.
"How the hell are those guys holding out!" "Skin" wanted to know. "You have to look too hard to find any targets now, and Im getting tired of plastering these railroads. Every railroad siding, every crossroad, is just pockmarked. Their transportation is so crippled now theyll need crutches to move.."
That afternoon Major Tice took a flight and mothered a C-47 over to Normandy, then the very next day "Skin" led another deck show. Fifteen planes hit two trains near Villedieu les Poeles, two railroad bridges near Montsecret and tracks at La Haye Pesnel and Grandville, doing all their bombing under 50 feet.
The 16th and 17th were spent on "submarine patrol" - - uneventful shipping cover over the channel from the Isle of Wight to the Bay of the Seine. Capt. Stephen V. Leonard, "Wash", "Lad" and "Skin" each leading a 12-ship mission. Back on dive-bombing the 18th-band that afternoon was something special.
There was a hurry-call to load up with frags (fragmentation bombs) - one of those S. A.
P. (soon as possible) missions - and a vague word drifting out of Group Operations about
French guerrillas in open warfare with German infantry on the Brest Peninsula. All three
squadrons got off: six of our twelve ships carrying frags. They arrived in the target
area, about 20 miles northeast of Vannes, and carefully scouted all the roads leading to
the triangle Serent-St. Guyomard -Malestroit, around a wooded ridge.
"All we saw there were two small fires burning in the woods," said Major Tice of the 507th, "so we went after the secondary targets we were briefed on. My squadron hit a chateau about three miles south of the ridge. We couldn't knock the thing down with frags, of course, but we dropped strings of clusters on it anyway. I never saw so many hits on a single target before in all my life; they just covered the place. We let the rest of our load go on a sawmill nearby. Then we went back and strafed the woods just south of the ridge, found some long crates that looked like they might be some dispersed enemy supplies and strafed them too. They burned."
The following day, at a secret session in the Group Briefing Room, Capt. Michael R. D. Foot, a dark, slender, alert-eyed paratrooper of the British Royal Artillery, from Headquarters, Special Air Service Troops (Commandos), gave the "gen" to all the pilots who had flown the mission.
"Along about D-Day," he related, "we dropped some Fighting French parachutists on the Brest Peninsula, to organize the resistance groups there, and to push sabotage and guerrilla warfare. They wore the regular British battle dress, but they were all former French Army officers and non-coms. They all knew what to do when they hit the ground; for most of them were heading straight to their homes. They had trained specially for their job during the winter, living out in the mountains in Scotland. Their leader was an amazing fellow, a former flyer in the French Air Force who lost an arm in Africa. He was a big man who used to stride up and down swinging the stump of his arm when he got excited.
Anyway, apparently he had little difficulty recruiting personnel, for he suddenly found himself with a small army of 2,000 on his hands, with all the attached problems at supply and administration - can unenviable spot for a guerrilla leader, for guerrillas should never mass together. We gather that they had been shooting up a lot of stuff down there, for we had supplied them 450,000 rounds of ammunition by air, till finally yesterday the Germans sent a force down from their big camp near Rennes to investigate the disturbance.
They caught our one-armed friend on a woody ridge - which is usually fatal for guerrillas. We caught a brief radio transmission from him about noon, yesterday saying he didn't think he could hold out, and asking for help. Naturally he had to transmit on the run, so to speak, through irregular channels, so the location of his set couldn't be picked up and pin-pointed by German monitors. We started a call through Army channels for air support, but we didn't have much hope. In fact, it wasn't till we heard that your aircraft were on their way that we knew a Group had been allocated for the job, what with all the other demands for air at the main battlefront.
Now the reason you didn't see anything when you got down there is that the battle was over. It was about six hours from the first call for help until you arrived, what with delays in transmission and stops in the various headquarters, and by some stroke of luck or providence or whatever you want to call it the French fought so hard for four hours that the Germans left. After your attack, we got another message from our friend saying 'Thanks very grateful air support but land battle completed'.
We were interested, however, in the targets you actually hit. That silo that the 508th
hit overlooked the very meadow where we had been dropping them supplies, which made things
very ticklish. And the chateau that the 507th took care of was a local German
headquarters: so all in all, we thought the material results were well worth while. But
what is more important, you showed all the French in the neighborhood that we have command
of the air, that we can and will give strong fire-support to our friends on the ground.
That kind of thing is just what was needed to give heart to the resistance movement; in
Brittany the French will flock to help; the news will be all over France, and in time,
word should even penetrate to Belgium and Holland."
It shows that the Allies are definitely taking an interest in what goes on behind the lines, as well as the main battle. You are all to be highly commended for your part in the mission."
After Capt. Foot's visit, the Group received a formal commendation from General Lewis E. Brereton himself, Commanding General of the Ninth Air Force.
Weather stopped activity for two days, then three more days were spent on uneventful patrol over the beaches, marked only by our first eyewitness reports of conditions "at the Front". "Ramblin Wreck Blair flew Number Two position in a special flight composed of Lieut. Col. Johnson and Major Hood of Headquarters and Capt. Freemantle of the 506th which escorted General Ralph Royce of the Ninth Air Force Headquarters to Normandy in a C-47 transport, and landed near St., Laurent sur Mer on Omaha Beach. Blair's story:
"I spent a few hours roaming up and down the beach; foxholes all over the place, but not a casualty in sight. I passed a PW stockade, and saw a German in there that I swear didn't look over 14 years old. An MP was telling me that half of them were German, and the other half were Poles, French or Russians who had been told to either fight or be shot. They're either old men, or guys who were shot to pieces on the Russian front, or kids. The French don't seem to be too happy to see us - they look rather indifferent about the whole thing. They've got plenty to eat, but no clothes or shoes. They're all running around in wooden shoes. Anyway, I got my first good look at some Germans, and they sure don't look like supermen to me."
June 24th was our first four-mission day since D plus One, and the first on which all four were dive-bombing missions. Capt. Galbreath led the first one: three highway bridges and four trucks; Major Tice led the second and the fourth: two bridges, 10 vehicles and one flak position; and Lieut. Col. Johnson led the third ("Best bombing mission Ive been on"): an ammunition warehouse at Auxais, five miles south of Carentan.
The squadron intelligence officer started wading through the normal confusion of interrogation after Mission Number 58, June 25th, extracting details from one pilot, then another; pinning down the facts that first; a huge supply depot south of Le Mans was left in flames ("three warehouses full of holes, and three simply disappeared" said Major Tice); second: there was nothing moving on the roads between Le Mans and Tours; third: intense flak was received from the Foret de Cinglais, south of Caen. He reached First Lieutenant Buford "Steve" Courtney, checking on the location of the flak.
"It was right here;" Steve pointed to the map. "I was following Freddie down when it came up around us and hit him."
"Hit him? How bad - is he all right?"
Steve looked up gravely.
"He didn't come back."
Freddie was our first combat casualty. It was particularly rough because he was the first, and because it was "Freddie" - the friendliest, happiest, most good-natured boy in the squadron. He was a good pilot, to boot; before his promotion during the month, he was leading flights as a second lieutenant, with first lieutenants flying his wing. ("Freddie's got a pretty good dive-bombing flight; we'll put him on that pinpoint," the Major would say). He had a young wife, whom we all had seen at Myrtle Beach; we all knew her name was Joan because he had it painted in big letters on the side of his ship. On the cowling he had a new insignia designed by her: the words "Freddy-Hopper", with a happy grasshopper firing a machine-gun. We thought of her and "Freddy-Hopper" when they picked up his effects to send home - his footlocker, his uniforms, his wallet (filed away when he picked up his escape-kit), all his little odds and ends.
We watched Art Washburn, Freddie's tentmate and best friend in the squadron, to see how he was taking it. He disappeared from view after the mission; the next day he appeared looking all right; a few days later he mentioned something about Freddie and flying in casual conversation without a "catch", and the strain disappeared.
Courtney described what had happened: "We were coming back from Le Mans, when Freddie asked the Major if he could go down and get a truck he'd spotted in a town south of Caen. He got an okay, and dove down, with me on his wing. Then he lost the truck. Its hiding down there in between the houses he said over the radio 'I'm going to make another circle and come back over the town again.' He was down to 300 feet by this time, with me behind him at 1000 feet, and all these tracers were up at us. The Major called him, 'Come on back up out of that flak!' but Freddie kept cruising in a gradual turn. I saw hits on his cockpit, and followed him down as his ship hit in a field and exploded."
Five days later, Bob Green had an accident. Returning June 30 from an armed recce with fragmentation bombs south of Avranches, Bob waited till the rest of the squadron was down, then landed with a frag cluster still hanging on one wing. When he landed it fell off and exploded. The medics, saw him jump out of the plane, which began to burn; and as they ran to support him, he collapsed. Five minutes after the frags went off, he was in the Group Dispensary, receiving morphine and plasma. He was sent to the 95th General Hospital at Ringwood, and died there before dawn the next day. He was reported as a calm, smiling patient, who asked that letters be written to his mother, and to his girl friend, telling her he wished they had been married before he left the States.
Back on the landing strip after the accident, with eight live frags still on the runway and no trained bomb-disposal men on the base, someone in a headquarters a safe distance away kept insisting that the runway be cleared. So Lieut. Warren L. Pell, Group Ordnance officer, with Lieut. Charles W. Young and Staff Sergt. Glenwood F Moon of the 507th Armament section crawled out on their stomachs, looked over the bombs, decided that three were "safe." Then carefully picked the five "live" ones and took them in a jeep half a mile on the bumpy perimeter track to the firing-in butt and left them there to be detonated later by Bomb Disposal men. Lieut. Young drove, Lieut. Pell held one bomb in his hands, and Sergt. Moon sat in the back holding the other four on the seat cushion.
June 27, after waterproofing, de-waterproofing and finally re-waterproofing the vehicles again, the Air Echelon got the long awaited word to pull out for movement to the continent. Led by Capt. Rolland G. McCartney, adjutant, "key" ground officers and men, including the Squadron Surgeon, Capt. James P. "Doc" Proudfit, Capt Andrew F. Wilson, S-2, First Lieut. Vincent R. Kerrigan, Ordnance, Second Lieuts. William H MacMelville, Supply, John F. Volker, Engineering, and Kenneth L. Dodd, Personal Equipment moved by truck to a staging area north of Southampton, between Eastleigh and Romsey. They lingered there two nights and a day, boarded ship June 29th at the docks on the southern tip of Southampton after being pelted by a two-minute hail storm on the way down by truck, and got under way that night. The "vehicle party" and the "marching party" were separated at the staging area, the former embarking on an LST and the latter on a California built British Victory ship, the "Empire Crossbow". They didnt get together again for the rest of the trip. Staff Sergt. Seely V. Hall Jr. with the "vehicle party" watched some of the heavy loading and, and saw a Sherman tank converted to 30 tons of fin rusted junk when a wildly swinging crane dropped it over the boat-side into the Solent.
The marching party set out freshly supplied with K-rations, D-rations, one "Hot-Box" fuel tablet, a bottle of halazone tablets, matches, a razor blade, a can of "Insecticide Powder for Body-Crawling Insects", one box of "Motion Sickness Preventitive" and two strong paper bags, just in case. We sighted France - Pointe de Barfleur- off our starboard bow about noon, and spent an afternoon passing the Cherbourg Peninsula on our right in the distance, watching C-47s coming in for landings. Ships at anchor appeared ahead of us in ever increasing numbers, and we finally moved in and stopped close to the beach off St Laurent sur Mer near two "Capetown" class British light cruisers. We could see the low flat gap in the land made by the Vire Estuary on our right, then the tops of buildings in Grandcamp, and the low rolling hills that ended in bluffs at the beach. New brown bulldozed roads ran up the bluffs and dead ahead of us on the rising ground above the beach we could see parked Thunderbolts and C47s and more C47s coming in to land from our left.
The number and kind of ships off the beach were beyond description. They lay about at anchor as far as the eye could see; wrecks stuck up out of the water close inshore, and white and sea-grey landing crafts of all sizes completely covered the beach. Between us and the shore stood eight hulks of ships lined up end to end, decks awash we remembered Major Tices aerial observation of the "breakwater of ships".
For pictures click here
We piled into small assault boats that were hung on davits on our ship side, and in them passed around the "breakwater". Seven of the eight ships appeared to be old cargo vessels; the eighth with the typical "British" bridge and rambow seemed to be a stripped-down vintage-1910 British battleship or monitor. When we got inside the Breakwater and looked back we could see no open water: through one small gap an American cruiser of the "Northampton" and "Pensecola" class lay at anchor; elsewhere hulls, masts, stacks and cranes spread in a complete arc around us. Within the basin formed by the big ships, the little ones plowed back and forth.
Our assault boats put us off on a floating metal unloading platform, and we formed in a
long file for the hike up the 300 - foot bluff. The squadron intelligence officer was
Number One man in the file, and about halfway up the trail that wound past a long
barrelled German gun sticking out of a concrete emplacement in the hillside he was about
ready to fold up. The column managed to stagger on up to level ground, and halted to gain
fresh wind. A line of MPs behind us strode right on by, contempt in every face, but
we were to fagged to give a damn. Two C-47s then proceeded to land about five feet over
our heads, so we got moving again
.. Past a small stockade with about 30 German
prisoners; down a dusty little road between Norman stone farmhouses, little French kids
hanging on the wall wearing G.I. Garrison caps piped with Infantry blue; across some
pastures and into an orchard marked "Transit Area 8", just west of St. Laurent
sur Mer. There we ended the month of June, gazing excitedly as a British bomber
"stream" of hundreds of Lancasters and Halifaxes lumbered in towards Caen and
back, eating our K-rations, jumping at the heavy noise of 90-mm ack-ack test-firing,
"sweating out" our transportation. Junes last hours -- "D plus
25"-- were damp and chilly, as we left the inadequate shelter of apple trees to crawl
in and under quartermaster trucks, out of a French drizzle.
508th FIGHTER BOMBER SQUADRON
404th FIGHTER BOMBER GROUP AAF
June 3 1944; 1st lt. Harold J. Buelow, 0-796658; 2nd Lts Gerald H. Perlysky, 0-818923; Edwin W. Pole, 0-818423; all pilots assigned and joined Squadron per par 1. S.O. #89, Hqs., 404th Fighter Group.
June 11, 1944; 2nd Lt. Ralph L. Smathers. 0-801344, duty to missing in action.
June 9, 1944, 2nd. Lt. Lloyd J. Geist, 0-524195, promoted to 1st. Lt., per Par 8, S.O. 161 dated 9th June 1944.
June 15 1944; 2ns Lts., Drexel D. Morgan, 0-799230; Bert Espy Jr. 0-580870; Francis T. Gillespie, 0-803969 promoted to 1st Lts., per Par.8, S.O. 167, per Par.7, S.O. 167, per Par.8, S.O. 167, Hqs. ETOUSA respectively. 1st Lt. Harry J. Nystrom, 0-791141, promoted Capt., per Par 6, S.O. 167, Hqs. ETOUSA.
June 24th 1944; 1st Lts., Bert Espy Jr., 0-432252, Benjamin F. Kitchens, 0-671664, duty to missing in action.
June 25th 1944, Capt. Joseph K. Sherwood, 0-432252, promoted to Major, per Par 6, S.O. 177, Hqs. ETOUSA.
1st Lt. Harold J. Buelow, 0-796658, relieved from assignment to Det. of Patients, 4147, U.S Army Hospital Plant, per Par 39, S.O. 63 Hqs 203rd General Hospital.
June 30, 1944 254 Enlisted men, 48 Officers.
3. DATE OF ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE FROM STATIONS OCCUPIED IN THE ETO:
Stationed at Station 414 for period June 1 to June 30, 1944. Advanced Echelon departed Station 414, Winkton, England for Site 5, Chippelle, France on June 26, 1944.
4. LOSSES IN ACTION:
June 11, 1944: 2nd lt. Ralph L. Smathers, 0-801344, reported missing in action after being hit by flak in vicinity of Valognes, France. He was observed to bail out and his chute was seen to open.
June 24, 1944: Lts. Bert Espy Jr., Benjamin F. Kitchens reported missing in action vicinity of Periers following a mid air collision involving aircraft piloted by both officers.
5. AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
The following named officers were awarded the Air Model and Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights in the European Theatre of Operations.
|Air Medal 3 Oak Leaf Clusters||Major Leo C. Moon|
|Air Medal 2 Oak Leaf Clusters||Major Joseph H. Sherwood||1st Lt Robert W. Johnson|
|Captain. Harry J Nystrom||1st Lt William M. Kerr|
|Captain John W. Robinson||1st Lt Joseph Landa|
|Captain Ernest D. Tibbetts||1st Lt Clarence E. Nelson|
|Captain Jack L.Tueller||1st Lt Claude R O'Brien|
|1st Lt William J. Abraham||1st Lt Edward M. Selkrigg|
|1st Lt Wayne H. Anacker||1st Lt Jerry B. Tullis|
|1st Lt Robert W. Colwell||1st Lt Charles M. Viccellio|
|1st Lt Jack L. Conner||1st Lt. Walter J. Williams|
|1st Lt Lloyd Geist||1st Lt. Giles C. Wright|
|1st Lt Francis T. Gillespie||1st Lt Drexel D. Morgan|
|1st Lt Benjamin F. Kitchens||1st Lt. Bert Espy Jr|
|Air Medal 1 Oak Leaf Cluster||Captain Edwin H. Pounds||2nd Lt. Luciano B. Herrera|
|2nd Lt Theodore A. Lundeen||2nd Lt.Joseph E. Wilson|
|Air Medal||2nd Lt Charles W. Caldwell|
The month of June has been without doubt the busiest and most eventful month in the history of the squadron, both from the standpoint of operational activity and administrative activity. During this month a record number of missions were flown and a complete overseas movement of the entire group was planned and partially accomplished.
Things started out with a bang on the 2nd of the month with a dive bombing attack against rolling stock in the Amiens area in France. Approximately 100 goods wagons were bombed and straffed with good results.
June 3rd a highway bridge at Gaillon was attacked with fair to good results. 13,500 pounds of bombs were dropped on the bridge and approaches with fair to good results. Light intense accurate flak was encountered at the target and two of our ships suffered battle damage.
For the next three days weather set in and no missions were flown.
June 6th, 1944: The long awaited day had arrived, "D Day!" Our part in the initial invasion was flying top cover over the beach areas to protect landing craft from enemy air attack. Four missions were flown. "D Day" and on the third three enemy FW 190s were seen to dive bomb landing craft at Cabourg. Jack Tueller and Bill Abraham dove after them, but before interception could be made the 190s escaped in the clouds. On our fourth mission of D Day, the Germans by jamming radio channels and sending false messages to our mission leader, Major Moon, attempted to obtain information. This ruse did not deceive Major Moon, and he refused to answer the German radio or follow its false instructions. For this action our Group was given a commendation by General Quesada.
June 7th 1944: Four uneventful missions were again flown giving top fighter cover for the assault beach areas, although they were uneventful as far as enemy action was concerned; they certainly were eventful in giving our pilots a complete aerial picture of the invasion itself.
June 8th 1944: On this day we relinquished our role of top cover and started to attack targets giving air support to our ground forces. Our mission was to attack targets of opportunity in the Carentan, St. Lo and Bayeaux area. Targets destroyed were a gun position south of Montebourg and 15 railroad cars north of Montebourg. Railroad cars were also bombed at Balleroy with good results. Over Montebourg we encountered flak, but again Jerrys aim was inaccurate and no damage to our ships occurred. Mission No. 2 on the same day carried our squadron to the famed city of St.Lo where 8 armored vehicles and 10 railroad cars were attacked. A railroad bridge near the city of Camisy was also hit.
June 10th, 1944: On our first mission we attacked a gun position in the Bois du Molay forest, very excellent results were obtained. Sharp explosions and huge pillars of smoke were observed after the target was attacked. The second mission carried us to Pontaubault, where our target was a railroad bridge. Drexel Morgan proved to be the bombing expert on this bridge scoring direct hits on the bridge itself. Robby (Capt Robinson) silenced the flak at the target by dropping his bombs on the flak gun position at the southern end of the bridge. Mission 3 on this day was what Jerry Tullis called a field day. Our target was to attack rail lines in the Chartes area and the following results will readily illustrate his statement. The railroad tracks were cut in fourteen different places, 15 tank cars were left blazing, the old man himself, Major Moon, claimed one locomotive probably destroyed, 12 goods wagons were damaged, Tibbo , Capt.Tibbets, destroyed a switch house, and Jerry Tullis climaxed the mission by straffing some German Barracks, all in all quite an eventful mission, and an eventful day.
June 11th 1944: Up at 0445 for another busy day. Our first mission called for an armed reconnaissance in the Avranches, Villedieu, Percy region. Three different gun emplacements were wiped out and the rail junction at St. Queredes des Besaces was destroyed. Hiawatha, the Latin Lover, (Lucien Herrera) got hit by flak and got his oil line broken; with Doc Williams escorting him he tried to return to our base. About 10 miles south of the Isle of Wight he had to bail out; successfully inflated his dinghy, broke out his sail and was rescued by an RAF Walrus seaplane. Eight hours later he as back in the relating his experiences. Mission No. 2 took the squadron back to the same area; meanwhile the weather closed in over the continent forcing our pilots down to 3000 feet. Gun emplacements, bridges and the airdrome at Cherbourg were attacked. The flak at St Giles and Tollevast was terrific, coupled with a low ceiling made this mission very very hot. Ralph Smathers got hit near Valognes and Bill Abraham saw him bail out at 400 feet, and believes that Ralph got down safely; we all hope his return to the squadron will be speedy. Bill Kerr did a very heroic act; although there were wing of his airplane and his airplane was severely damaged he elected not to return to the base but fulfilled his primary mission by dropping his three bombs and neutralizing a gun position. Jerry Tullis ran into bomb blast and did an excellent job of piloting in bringing his badly riddled ship back to our base. Ed Pounds also picked up considerable flak damage to his ship.
June 12, 1944: Armed reconnaissance again in the Coutances Marigny, Granville, Villedieu sector. Vehicles attacked near Vire and the rail junction north of Vire was bombed. Joe Wilson got a staff car by strafing on this mission.
June 13, 1944: Armed reconnaissance Vire, Domfront, Mortain and Flers area; a gun emplacement at St. Martin des Besaces was hit and 10 railroad cars west of St Martin des Besaces were bombed. Results were good. Also, three gun emplacements in the Forest lEveque and 15 box cars at Vengeons were attacked and neutralized.
June 14, 1944: Armed reconnaissance again, this time in the St. Lo, Vire, Domfront and Flers area. Trucks were hit on the road south west of St. Lo and 20 box cars were hit at Mortain. A highway bridge at Lessay was hit and 2 hits were also scored in the marshalling yard at Messet. A radio truck was destroyed at Viessain by strafing. Intense light flak was encountered at Cherbourg. Charlie Koerner came back low on gas and crashlanded at Homesley South running out of gas over our field at Winkton. Luckily he escaped injury.
June 15, 1944: Back again on fighter cover for the assault beaches, mission uneventful.
June 16, 1944: We continued our fighter cover for the assault beaches, mission uneventful.
June 18, 1944: we had a rather unusual mission serving as both escort to B-26s then dive bombing the same target. On this mission we escorted B-26s to the marshalling yards at Rennes, let them bomb and dropped our bombs on the same target. Lord Nelson (Clarence Nelson) said our bombing was more accurate then the bombing of the B-26s. Mission No. 2 was one which seemed simple at the time, but one for which much praise, thanks and commendation was received. In support of some Free French troops fighting the Jerries in the Malestroit, Serent, St Guyon areas; our squadron attacked military activity destroying two radio stations and an ammunition dump. Commendations from a liaison officer attached to the French and General Brereton were received.
June 19, 1944: We were off again to attack an ammunition dump at Valognes, but were recalled after becoming airborne due to weather.
June 21, and June 22, 1944: On these days we again flew top cover for the assault beache areas, missions uneventful.
June 24th, 1944: Again we were on armed reconnaissance; on this occasion in the Avranches, Villadieu, Granville area. All bombs were dropped on a gun emplacement in the hills north of La Haye du Puits. Walio (Lt Geist) strafed two trucks near Coutances and 10 goods wagons were damaged at Periers. Mission No.2 found us returning to the same area. 30 box cars were bombed with good results at Coutances. On this mission we lost Bert Espy and Ben Kitchens. Bert after dropping his bombs collided with Ben Kitchens ship and both ships crashed. We hope that both boys got out without injury, and we will see them return some day. These pilots were both from our original outfit and were amongst the best liked pilots in our squadron. Mission 3, back to the same area, excellent results were obtained on goods wagons and tank cars at Fougeres and 10 goods wagons were damaged at Ponterson. Mission No. 4 again we went back to the same area. Excellent results were obtained on goods wagons in the marshalling yards at Villedieu and Folligny.
June 25th, 1944: Armed reconnaissance again, on this occasion we went to the Blois area. Excellent results were obtained on fuel tanks at Chabris and rail cars in the marshalling yards at Blois. This mission was what the boys back at Winkton called a sweater. The ceiling came down to the ground and visibility was reduced to about ¼ of a mile after the pilots took off. Consequently some of our ships landed in France and the rest at various other bases in England. Bill Kerr and Denzil Lee landed at the strip at Carentan, France, and had the unfortunate experience of being present whilst Jerry was shelling the field with 88s. After the shelling subsided they got out of their foxholes and flew back to England. Joe Wilson flew under some telegraph wires before he safely set down in England. It was with a sigh of relief that we received the news that all our pilots had been located safe.
June 27, 1944: Again we were back on the grind of fighter cover for the assault beaches area, missions uneventful.
June 30, 1944: Our mission was armed reconnaissance in the Chartres, Alençon area. Senator Johnson, the handlebar moustache man, (Bob Johnson) dropped all of his frags on a convoy of eight trucks destroying them all.
June was truly a busy month as is shown in the narrative of operations. A total of 39
missions were flown including armed reconnaissance, dive bomb, fighter cover and escort
missions. Targets attacked in June included approximately: 35 tank cars, over 500 goods
wagons, one locomotive, 6 bridges, 2 rail junctions, 1 marshalling yard, 8 armored
vehicles, 2 staff cars, 18 motor transports, 20 gun positions, 2 radio stations, 1
ammunition dump, 1 fuel dump and 1 barracks area. All personnel are eagerly awaiting the
squadrons next tour of duty in France.
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