Frisky’s Transfer Travails, Three Years after the Day of Infamy

December 7, 1944, found Frisky caught up in a prolonged move from Dole Airfield (Y-7) to Tantonville Airfield (Y-1). In the first week of December, an advanced echelon of the 371st Fighter Group under the command of Lt. Col. Philip E. Bacon, Jr. was sent from Dole to the new field.

In the case of the 405th Fighter Squadron, as an example, the advance echelon was alerted to move on 5 December, the aircraft on the 7th, and the rear echelon the next day, 8 December. By now seasoned to thus transient life in the ETO, the squadron historian recorded: “So, here we go again! The same old cry is heard “Keep only a minimum here to service the last mission before the planes leave!” (Each time this happens and then doesn’t happen) the size of the minimum increases. Getting caught short that first time was enough to teach us all a lesson.”

In accordance with the plan, about 100 men from the 405th accompanied the non-essential/lower priority cargo of the unit and set out in a convoy on 5 December. In addition, the squadron’s heavy equipment, tentage and flooring filled up five boxcars destined for the new field.

The squadron’s aircraft were supposed to move on December 7th, but Mother Nature kiboshed that. The 405th history for December, 1944, conveys some of the frustration:

“December 7th – the day for the planes to move! Did they move? Nope! And so we begin the second phase of the squadron “movement” cycle, i.e., “When will they move?” To that, nobody knows the answer. We pick up routine life again, while those who left with the advance echelon become forgotten souls.”

The 406th Fighter Squadron historian recorded a similar experience going into 7 December:

“5 (December) (With the Advance Cadre) Approximately one hundred men left Dole for Tantonville at 0900 by motor convoy. The route followed was by way of Pesmes, Gray, Langres, Neufchateau, and Vezelise, a distance of about 135 miles. Men had coffee and pastry at the Red Cross in Langres. Most of the men arrived at the field after dark tonight, wet and hungry after the long ride. After the baggage was unloaded tents were erected in the area to cover the men for the night.

tents were set up in the mud and made snug with tar paper, box sides and flooring.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Tents were set up in the mud and made snug with tar paper, box sides and flooring. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

6 (With the Advance Cadre) Breakfast was served at a Group consolidated mess in the front yard of a chateau in Tantonville. During the morning and afternoon the men erected more tents and began construction of gravel walks as a part of the mud control program. Strangely enough there was a large amount of mail tonight.

7 (With the Advance Cadre) Last night was a very cold one for the men who had no stove in their tent. The truck carrying stoves broke down on the way and did not arrive when expected. The day was spent in building more walks. Men are using tar paper to cover the ground beneath the tents. It rained all day long.”

Frisky's Advanced Echelon faced the challenge of establishing an airfield in a veritable sea of mud at Tantonville, France, in December, 1944.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Frisky’s Advanced Echelon faced the challenge of establishing an airfield in a veritable sea of mud at Tantonville, France, in December, 1944. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Most of December the weather proved flyable for the group, 24 days out of 31, but not on December 7th. Frisky’s War Diary recorded the day as follows:

“7 – Weather, which was good at briefing, soon socked in and no flying today.”

Tracking back in the Group’s War Diary, one can see Frisky’s movement madness unfold:

“4 – The railroad cars with our equipment, and left today enroute to Y-1 (Tantonville). With much of the equipment away and operations still going on a usual from Dole, we are short-handed and the 302nd Airdrome Squadron has been helping refuel and rearm our aircraft.

5 – Truck convoy of personnel and equipment left for Y-1 today. Flew three close support and one escort mission in spite of unfavorable weather conditions. The 4th French Group dropped a bomb just off the end of the west end of the runway and it exploded – – – then everyone got up off the floor and went back to work.

6 – Word from Y-1 is that our new field isn’t ready. We have learned to expect delays like that. We got five new planes yesterday and also have a B-25. Telephone communications complete with Y-1.”

That was the December 7th experience of the 371st Fighter Group in 1944, three years after the Japanese attack in the Pacific. The United States reeled from the shock of the Day of Infamy, but bounced back to project military forces worldwide, all the way to the doorstep of Germany and back to the Philippines, among other places.

Still, no one could know that by the fourth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Second World War would be over. But on Dec 7, Frisky was worried about making the move from one muddy field to the next in wartime France, and there were many more missions to be flown before that victory was achieved.

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Frisky’s Thanksgiving, 1944

Across the group, a sample of Frisky’s Thanksgiving Day, 1944 activities, Thursday, 23 November 1944, shortly after the group returned to Dole Airfield from Dijon Airfield, following the flooding at Dole earlier in the month:

371st Fighter Group Official History, November 1944
Nineteen replacement pilots arrived and were assigned squadrons. Everyone had plenty of turkey and other good things for Thanksgiving, but very little other celebrating took place.

371st Fighter Group hand-written War Diary, 23 November 1944
Nineteen replacement pilots arrived today and assigned as follows4 to 404th, 3 to 405th and 10 to 406th. Only 17 of the 19 pilots arrived and all squadrons enjoyed a good turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

404th Fighter Squadron
“…six more replacements arrived just in time to partake of the gala Thanksgiving fare. At the party, attended by such group dignitaries as Col. Kleine, Lt. Col. Bacon, Major Hughes, and Major Schill, the new replacements were solemnly assured that they were attending an unusual and not a usual event.

The new men, all 2nd Lts., are George E. Kaspar, Darrel G. Shumard, Daniel A. Maynik, Robert A. Latchin, William P. Swanton and Alfred Thalmann.

405th Fighter Squadron
No mention of Thanksgiving in the November, 1944 squadron history.

406th Fighter Squadron
1st Lt. Jack, 2nd Lt. Clausen, O’Brien, Comelli, Byrne, Myers, Clark, Kirkland and Neale asgd and jd 23 Nov.

No flying due to adverse weather conditions.

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The 371st Fighter Group on Armistice Day, 1944

Seventy years ago, according to the 371st Fighter Group War Diary for 11 November 1944, Frisky recorded the following:
“11 Nov. – ARMISTICE, but hardly the cause for elation as in 1918. We were informed we would conduct operations from Dijon and not be off ops until our return to Dole as previous orders had indicated. Weather too bad for flying. Birthday party and steak dinner held for Col Kleine at Group officers BOQ.”

The whole flooding episode was a little much for Frisky, as field conditions were already basic without becoming impossible.  Still, the Thunderbolts flew from Dijon whenever the miserable weather permitted… (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

The whole flooding episode was a little much for Frisky, as field conditions were already basic without becoming impossible. Still, the Thunderbolts flew from Dijon whenever the miserable weather permitted… (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

The 371st Fighter Group flew from Dijon for a period of 11 days before a B-26 group moved in and forced Frisky back to Dole, where the overflowing waters of the Doubs River had departed the airfield and returned to the river.

The River Doubs flooded Frisky’s flight ops out of Dole from 10 to 21 November, 1944, and the P-47s flew from Dijon instead, when there was flying weather…

The River Doubs flooded Frisky’s flight ops out of Dole from 10 to 21 November, 1944, and the P-47s flew from Dijon instead, when there was flying weather…

On this Veterans Day, 2014, we salute the men of the 371st Fighter Group, and the women who supported the group directly too, like the Red Cross ladies, as well as their families, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation. May God bless them, one and all!

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Like something you would see in the movies: 371st Fighter Group Air-Drops for the “Lost Battalion”

Down came the rain. And it rained and it rained and it poured. It was miserable weather for flying for man and fowl alike – in fact, there wasn’t much of any flying going on.

So it was at Dole/Tavaux Airfield (also known as Advanced Landing Ground Y-7) in France in late October, 1944, where elements of the 371st Fighter Group hunkered down and withstood the deluge. A month before, after working with Patton’s Third Army in the dramatic advance across France, the group had been ordered south in France to support the US-French 6th Army Group as it approached the Franco-German frontier from southern France. This army group landed in the second amphibious invasion of France in World War II in August, 1944, and made good progress all the way up to the Belfort Gap and the approaches to the Vosges Mountains.

But in October poor flying weather became a real problem. The 371st Fighter Group was grounded for most of the month, and only flew on 13 days, including seven days of limited operations.

The location of the "Lost Battalion" of World War II is noted in this view of the Domaniale DeChamp Forest (the High Vosges are in the background)  Source:  Clarke, Jeffrey J. and Smith Robert R., “United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, Riviera to the Rhine,” page 330.

The location of the “Lost Battalion” of World War II is noted in this view of the Domaniale DeChamp Forest (the High Vosges are in the background) Source: Clarke, Jeffrey J. and Smith Robert R., “United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, Riviera to the Rhine,” page 330.

In the miserable weather, however, the fighting on the ground continued. In late October the bulk of the understrength 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment of the US 36th Infantry Division, was cut off and surrounded on a hilltop in the Vosges Mountains southwest of St. Die, France, by German forces. Try as they might they could not breakout, and the rest of the 141st Infantry and other units in US Seventh Army were ordered to break through to them, including the famous Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT).

A squad leader with the 442nd RCT keeps watch on a German position (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

A squad leader with the 442nd RCT keeps watch on a German position (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

But the enemy, the terrain and the weather combined to make any relief a difficult proposition. The isolated unit soon became known as the “Lost Battalion,” but not for any navigation reason. Soon the Lost Battalion’s ammunition ran low, rations ran out, as did medical supplies as well as the life of the batteries for the radios they had to communicate with the outside world. It was a grim situation.

Major John W. Leonard, Commanding Officer of the 405th Fighter Squadron, pictured here in 1944, was a well-regarded combat leader in the 371st Fighter Group and led missions to help the Lost Battalion.  Unfortunately, he was fatally wounded in a dogfight with German fighters near Worms, Germany, in January, 1945.  His older brother William was a distinguished Navy fighter pilot and ace in the Pacific. Source:  (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

Major John W. Leonard, Commanding Officer of the 405th Fighter Squadron, pictured here in 1944, was a well-regarded combat leader in the 371st Fighter Group and led missions to help the Lost Battalion. Unfortunately, he was fatally wounded in a dogfight with German fighters near Worms, Germany, in January, 1945. His older brother William was a distinguished Navy fighter pilot and ace in the Pacific.  (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

With the battalion cut off, aerial resupply was a natural way to seek help, but the lousy weather grounded everything. Everything, that is, except for the pilots and P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers of the 371st Fighter Group’s 405th Fighter Squadron. The group was essentially grounded since October 23 by fog, thick clouds and constant, near-freezing rain. But pilots in the 405th, commanded by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) John W. Leonard, knowing the desperate situation on the ground, volunteered to risk flying in the poor weather to help the men of the Lost Battalion. Sergeant Louis Cellitti, an armorer with the 405th Squadron who rigged aircraft with ammunition for the mission recalled: “Trucks were brought in and the supplies were stuffed into the belly tanks and affixed to the planes to be dropped.”

Armorers of the 405th Fighter Squadron such as Sergeant Louis P. Cellitti, third from the left atop the wing of this P-47, loaded relief supplies instead of bombs on the squadron’s P-47 Thunderbolts in order to help the Lost Battalion.  The other men seen in this view are, on wing left to right, Ras Rogers and Earl M. Berkley.  Standing are Benjamin H. Deller, Dan M. Nall, Irving J. Gnehm and Earnest P. Toma.  Kneeling are Rudolph D. Jennings and Albert Martinez.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 126)

Armorers of the 405th Fighter Squadron such as Sergeant Louis P. Cellitti, third from the left atop the wing of this P-47, loaded relief supplies instead of bombs on the squadron’s P-47 Thunderbolts in order to help the Lost Battalion. The other men seen in this view are, on wing left to right, Ras Rogers and Earl M. Berkley. Standing are Benjamin H. Deller, Dan M. Nall, Irving J. Gnehm and Earnest P. Toma. Kneeling are Rudolph D. Jennings and Albert Martinez. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 126)

The first aerial relief effort was made on October 27, in terrible weather. All of Ninth Air Force and the XII Tactical Air Command were grounded except for the 405FS. Eight aircraft, each carrying two-150 gallon wing tanks filled with ammunition, food, medical supplies and radio batteries, made their way at low level, trying to reach the Lost Battalion by flying under the clouds hugging the surface. When lack of visibility forced the airmen above the clouds, 1Lt Robert A. Booth crashed on the ascent through the weather and was killed. In the poor visibility on the way back Major Leonard accidentally smacked a wing tip into a tree and lost a portion of it but was able to land his damaged aircraft safely.

Foul weather during the first supply drop mission led to the loss of 405th Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt pilot 1st Lt. Robert A. Booth and his aircraft on October 27, 1944.   (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 120)

Foul weather during the first supply drop mission led to the loss of 405th Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt pilot 1st Lt. Robert A. Booth and his aircraft on October 27, 1944. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 120)

On October 28 the 405th flew four air drop missions. The first “show,” a flight of four P-47 aircraft, took off at 0750 and was over the “Lost Battalion” drop zone at 0830, greeted by German flak that was reported as “intense, accurate, and heavy.” The four successfully made their drop and returned to Dole. Down came the much-needed supplies suspended beneath yellow, orange, and red parachutes. Though some of the supplies landed outside the American perimeter, the soldiers fought to secure them.

The second show was also led by Major Leonard. With ten Thunderbolts, he decided to try two ships at a time in hitting the drop zone. But by the time Leonard reached the drop zone it was totally obscured and he had to return to base. His wingman Milton Seale remembered what happened on their return to Y-7: “We were going along fine just under the clouds that gave us 200-300 feet above the ground. All of a sudden, we passed over a small valley, a stream of tracers were directed straight into John’s plane. I was too low to get my nose down to fire back at the source, but I did see that it was our own people with a half-track vehicle mounted with quad .50 caliber machine guns. As I looked over at my partner, I said ‘John, you’d better get out of that thing…It’s on fire.’ John, in his southern accent, said, ‘Yeah, it’s getting a little warm in here. I think I’ll bail out.’”

.  Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter-bomber of the 405th Fighter Squadron, flown by 1st Lt. Robert L. Griffith, at left, with an unidentified NCO, likely the crew chief of the aircraft.  The effort to help the Lost Battalion was one of Lt Griffith’s early missions, and he was concerned more about the nasty weather than he was about the enemy. Source:  (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

. Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter-bomber of the 405th Fighter Squadron, flown by 1st Lt. Robert L. Griffith, at left, with an unidentified NCO, likely the crew chief of the aircraft. The effort to help the Lost Battalion was one of Lt Griffith’s early missions, and he was concerned more about the nasty weather than he was about the enemy.  (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

Leonard rolled his aircraft over on its back, bailed out and quickly landed in a tree, with his feet about six inches off the ground, not far from the command post of an Army general. A jeep was dispatched to pick him up. One of the 405th’s armorers, Robert Lindsay, remembered what happened then: “The general dispatched a jeep to pick-up Major Leonard from where he landed in the trees. The major found the soldier who commanded the quad-50 gun crew and had a heated “discussion” with him – most likely about Allied aircraft identification.”

Corporal Robert H. Lindsay, 405th Fighter Squadron Armorer seen here standing, fourth man from the left, witnessed the lucky return of Major John Leonard, who was shot down by “friendly fire” during a supply drop mission for the Lost Battalion.  He told of the Major’s encounter with the anti-aircraft gunners who shot him down.  Other men pictured are, from left to right, standing, Charles D. Stebbins, Harold J. Baker, Jack P. Starr and at far right, Louis Lopez.  Kneeling are Clyde C. Arthurs, John M. Mann, Gerald E. Kinter, Francis J. Flinn and Ezra W. O’Connor.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 126)

Corporal Robert H. Lindsay, 405th Fighter Squadron Armorer seen here standing, fourth man from the left, witnessed the lucky return of Major John Leonard, who was shot down by “friendly fire” during a supply drop mission for the Lost Battalion. He told of the Major’s encounter with the anti-aircraft gunners who shot him down. Other men pictured are, from left to right, standing, Charles D. Stebbins, Harold J. Baker, Jack P. Starr and at far right, Louis Lopez. Kneeling are Clyde C. Arthurs, John M. Mann, Gerald E. Kinter, Francis J. Flinn and Ezra W. O’Connor. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 126)

In Major Leonard’s absence, 1st Lt. Edward J. Hayes led the third show of 28 October, with four P-47s. The flight was over the drop zone by 1245 and was greeted by German flak described as “intense, accurate, and heavy.” Unfortunately the supplies landed south of the drop zone.

The fourth and final mission of the day used ten P-47D aircraft. The flights of this mission were over the target by 1630. All supplies landed in a wooded area near the top of the hill.

With the weather creating uncertainty about getting enough supplies to the beleaguered battalion by aircraft, ground commanders ordered an alternate resupply plan put into effect. This new plan called for one hundred 105mm and 155mm artillery shells filled with chocolate “D” ration bars, sulfadiazine wound tablets and halazone water purification tablets. The special shells were fired just after the last air delivery, starting at 1640. Said the acting commander of the Lost Battalion, 1st Lt. Martin J. Higgins, Jr., “Those shells may have had chocolate in them but if they hit you, they’d kill you. We decided to take a chance. We figured, if you don’t get hit – you eat.”

But some of the aerial supplies dropped by the 405th did indeed reach the Lost Battalion on this day, and feedback on the mission for the successful flyers came swiftly. On the afternoon of October 28, Major General Ralph D. Royce (of the famous Royce mission to the Philippines in April, 1942), commanding general of the First Tactical Air Force (Provisional), passed along a message received from walkie-talkies of the Lost Battalion using batteries the 405th dropped: “Thank our pals in the Air Corps. We eat for the first time in three days!”

Brigadier General Gordon B. Saville (the “father” of American air defense), commander of XII Tactical Air Command, added his endorsement to this commendation as he passed it down to the group, “It is with great pleasure that I forward the above commendation; the timely execution of this mission, in spite of adverse conditions, reflect great credit on all concerned.”

But the Lost Battalion was not out of the woods yet. October 29th, the sixth day of being surrounded, was the hardest day for the Lost Battalion. The unit was down to three rounds of ammunition per man by the morning, and the enemy kept up attacks throughout the day. Fortunately, the 405th was right on-target with ammo to help them fight.

The squadron flew two supply missions on this day, with the first “show” over the drop zone at 1045. Fifteen planes dropped external tanks loaded with ammunition and medical supplies including blood plasma. Major Leonard reported 22 landed inside the drop zone. The final supply mission of four aircraft arrived over the drop zone in the late afternoon and delivered seven supply bundles in the drop zone. The supplies dropped by the 405th arrived in the nick of time.

First Lieutenant Higgins recalled the air-drop scene: “It was like something you would see in the movies, shells falling with food, planes zooming and dropping parachutes, and belly tanks loaded with supplies — it was really something. Most of the men cried like kids. You just can’t put into words how we felt. I ordered all the food brought to one point for a breakdown and equal distribution. And not one man stopped to eat anything. They brought the food, piled it up, and looked at it. It was the strongest discipline I ever saw. Some of the men had to shoot their way to the rations as they landed near the Jerries who tried to grab them first. We had the same sort of trouble at the water hole. Jerry placed snipers there.”

Men from the “Lost Battalion” of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, 36th Division rejoin their unit after the battle).  Source:  Clarke, Jeffrey J. and Smith Robert R., “United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, Riviera to the Rhine,” page 332.

Men from the “Lost Battalion” of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, 36th Division rejoin their unit after the battle). Source: Clarke, Jeffrey J. and Smith Robert R., “United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, Riviera to the Rhine,” page 332.

In the mid-afternoon of the next day, Monday, October 30, 1944 the Nisei soldiers of the 442nd RCT broke through the German lines and reached the Lost Battalion. Of the 270 men of the “Lost Battalion” at the start of the battle, 211 answered muster that morning.

Grave marker for 1Lt Robert A. Booth in Plot B, Row 12, Grave 23, of the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, Epinal, France. For his service 1Lt Booth was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. Source: (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

Grave marker for 1Lt Robert A. Booth in Plot B, Row 12, Grave 23, of the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, Epinal, France. For his service 1Lt Booth was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.  (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

The bravery and persistence of the pilots of the 405th Fighter Squadron in conducting these daunting aerial resupply missions proved vital to the ability of the Lost Battalion to hold out. The squadron dropped enough supplies to enable the battalion to continue effective resistance against repeated enemy attacks until they were relieved.

After the battle.  A 150-gallon drop tank delivered by a 405th Fighter Squadron P-47 is seen still on the World War II battlefield of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains of France. (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

After the battle. A 150-gallon drop tank delivered by a 405th Fighter Squadron P-47 is seen still on the World War II battlefield of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains of France.
(Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

Echoes of the 405th’s contribution to this epic battle continue to today. The famous “Sgt Rock” comic book series told the tale of the Lost Battalion in a special multi-issue story in 2008-2009, with notable artwork by William Tucci. The 405th Fighter Squadron was given due credit and illustration in this special.

The stone memorial to 1st Lt. Robert A. Booth, located outside the town of Le Val d’Ajol, France, was dedicated by grateful French citizens and American diplomatic and military personnel on July 15, 2012. (US Consulate General, Strasbourg, France, US State Department)

The stone memorial to 1st Lt. Robert A. Booth, located outside the town of Le Val d’Ajol, France, was dedicated by grateful French citizens and American diplomatic and military personnel on July 15, 2012.
(US Consulate General, Strasbourg, France, US State Department)

More recently, an important event occurred in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, at the small town of Le Val d’Ajol. On July 15, 2012, the people of the town gathered with nearly 50 military personnel to dedicate a stele, a stone memorial, to 1st Lt. Robert A. Booth, near the site where he crashed on October 27, 1944. He is buried on a plateau 100 feet above the Moselle River, in the American Cemetery and Memorial in Epinal, France. Let us also remember him, and the other Airmen who came to the aid of the Lost Battalion of World War II.

References:

Clarke, Jeffrey J. and Smith Robert R., “United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations, Riviera to the Rhine,” Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 1993, accessed on 29 October 2014 at:

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Riviera/index.html#index

Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial webpage on the American Battle Monuments Commission website, accessed 29 October 2014 at:

http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/epinal-american-cemetery

Herzig, Jürg, “The Battle of Bruyeres and the Rescue of the Lost Battalion in October 1944,” posted on Mr. Herzig’s “Stand Where They Fought” website, accessed on 29 October 2014 at:

http://standwheretheyfought.jimdo.com/the-vosges-2009-battle-of-bruy%C3%A8res-and-the-relief-of-the-lost-battalion-by-the-442nd-rct/

“Like something you would see in the movies,” on the 142nd Fighter Wing website, Oregon Air National Guard, accessed 29 October 2014 at:

http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123429876

“Not Forgotten,” posted in the Cyberambassador, the blog of the U.S. Consulate General in Strasbourg, France, accessed on 29 October 2014 at:

http://cyberambassadorsblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/not-forgotten/

“The Story of the 371t Fighter Group in the E.T.O.,” Army & Navy Publishing Company, Baton Rouge, LA, 1946

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National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2014: Caged Thunderbolt

On the occasion of the 2014 observation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, “Caged Thunderbolt: The POW experience of 371st Fighter Group/405th Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot William V. Schleppegrell” can be viewed at the 142nd Fighter Wing (Oregon ANG) website, at:    http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123425504

We should also remember those members of the 371 st Fighter Group who are still missing all these years since World War II:

Pfc. Herbert Feit, 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, from New York, New York, went missing on Apr. 1st, 1945, near Metz, France; he went on pass in Metz and just never showed up again. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.

Flight Officer William Gorman, 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, from Brooklyn, New York, went MIA on Aug. 7th, 1944, over St. Nazaire, France; he failed to return from a dive-bombing mission. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He was awarded the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.

Flight Officer Edwin S. Humphreys, Jr., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron, from Chicago, Illinois, went MIA on June 8th, 1944, over France; he was separated from his flight during an engagement with ME-109’s and did not return to base. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.

Capt. George D. Pieck, 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron Operations Officer, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, went MIA on Aug. 10th, 1944, over France; his plane was shot up by flak, he bailed out four miles east of Mayenne, France, and landed safely about 15 miles inside enemy lines, but was not heard from again. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He was awarded the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

Capt. Uno A. Salmi, 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, went MIA on June 16th, 1944, near St. Lo, France; he led his flight away from a flak concentration and disappeared into the clouds flying downward through overcast. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

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Frisky’s First Purple Heart

On August 7, 1782, General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, established the original Purple Heart, then called the Badge of Military Merit. August 7 is now known as Purple Heart Day.

General George Washington taking Control of the Continental Army, 1775.  (Wikipedia)

General George Washington taking control of the Continental Army, 1775.  (Wikipedia)

The Badge of Military Merit was never abolished after the Revolutionary War, nor was it used again. Interest grew over time to revive the Badge of Military Merit, and after general Douglas MacArthur became the Army Chief of Staff in 1930, he directed an effort be made to do so. Army heraldic specialist Elizabeth Will was tasked to redesign the newly revived award, and created the design sketch used for the present medal.

Elizabeth Will, former illustrator at TIOH, receives an award for her work on the design of the Purple Heart Medal.  (U.S. Army)

Elizabeth Will, former illustrator at The Institute Of Heraldry, receives an award for her work on the design of the Purple Heart Medal. (U.S. Army)

The new Purple Heart Medal was first awarded February 22, 1932, on the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. It was a fitting tribute to Washington’s memory and military achievements.

The Purple Heart, a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed, while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military.  (Wikipedia)

The Purple Heart, a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed, while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. (Wikipedia)

On June 5, 1944, Major Edmond A. “Buster” Goolsbee, Operations Officer of the 406th Fighter Squadron, became the first member of the 371st Fighter Group to be honored with the Purple Heart. He was the first pilot in the group be wounded in action against the enemy, which occurred on May 21, 1944, during a “train-busting” mission at Rennes, France.

The whole 371st Fighter Group flew out on a train hunt in France on that day, led by the commander of the 405th Fighter Squadron, Major Harvey L. Case, Jr. Two trains were destroyed and another badly damaged, but it wasn’t without a price.

As Major Goolsbee passed over the first train, German light flak found the range. A piece of it pierced his canopy and hit him in the shoulder from behind, wounding him; his instrument panel and gas and hydraulic lines in the cockpit area were smashed or damaged. “Ground crews and officers, gathered around the loudspeaker to listen to the progress of the mission, chilled to the sound of his voice, high with excitement, whining through the air. “Someone lead me in; I’m a cinch for the Purple Heart!!””

Hit and bleeding, “Ma” or perhaps better known as “Buster” Goolsbee returned to Bisterne Airfield in England, landed his flak-ridden P-47 safely and received prompt medical attention. Perhaps a bit too prompt as this quote from the 406 Fighter Squadron’s history for May 1944 suggests: “In spite of this (wound and damage) he was able to make his way across the channel OK and land at home base in good enough shape to bitch loudly at the Medical Corps for not feeding him before hacking the shell fragments out of his shoulder.”

Major Goolsbee left the hospital a few days later of his own volition and returned to duty with the usual well-chewed cigar in his mouth.

The second train cost Frisky something too, when 406FS P-47 pilot Lt. Robert R. Meyer lost two cylinders on his engine during his pass from a well-placed 20mm shell. He sweated his return back across France and the channel, oil pressure dropping along the way, until there was no pressure left. Fortunately he was able to recover at Warmwell Airfield and a safe landing.

Lt. robert Meyer is pictured inthe center of this group of "Yearling (406th Fighter Squadron) pilots (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Lt. Robert Meyer is pictured in the center of this group of “Yearling” (406th Fighter Squadron) pilots (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

The third train was no different from the first two, insofar as cost was concerned, as Lt. Francis E. “Francisco” Madore found out. Making a minimum altitude approach to reduce his exposure to enemy fire, he took evasive action against the light flak as he neared the target. But a tree suddenly interposed itself between him and the train. His mighty Thunderbolt clipped the top of the tree with a wing, chopping off a portion of both tree and wing, and bringing some of the tree back with him to England in the wing and fuselage. “He (Madore) claimed that the wing would stall out at IAS.” Fortunately he was able to get his beaten aircraft back across the channel for a safe landing.

406th Fighter Squadron damaged by collision with tree(s).  This may be the ship flown by Lt. Francis E. Madore on his 21 May 1944 "train-busting" mission. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

406th Fighter Squadron damaged by collision with tree(s). This may be the ship flown by Lt. Francis E. Madore on his 21 May 1944 “train-busting” mission over France. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Two weeks after the “train-busting” mission over France that fairly busted Frisky’s chops, pilots assembled under a “mottled-gray sky” in the field behind headquarters used for a baseball diamond. Those slated to receive an award were “slicked up in Pinks, and wearing blouses.” On June 5, 1944, Brig. Gen. Alvan C. “Ack-Ack” Kincaid, Chief of Staff, IX Tactical Air Command, presided over the ceremony, and presented 371FG members with awards earned during the group’s early operations in the ETO. Gen. Kincaid, himself a recipient of the Purple Heart, presented Maj. Goolsbee with the Purple Heart. And so it was, on this day before D-Day, Frisky received his first Purple Heart, the first of many more.

Major Edmond A. "Buster" Goolsbee, 406FS Operations Officer, receives the Purple Heart from Brig. Gen. Alvan C. Kincaid, IX TAC Chief of Staff on June 5, 1944 at Bisterne Airfield, England.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Major Edmond A. “Buster” Goolsbee, 406FS Operations Officer, receives the Purple Heart from Brig. Gen. Alvan C. Kincaid, IX TAC Chief of Staff on June 5, 1944 at Bisterne Airfield, England. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

References
“The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.,” Army & Navy Publishing Company, Baton Rouge, LA, 1946

371st Fighter Group and 406th Fighter Squadron histories for May and June, 1944.

 

“Purple Heart,” Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Heart

Image of Elizabeth Will receiving award in “The Institute of Heraldry celebrates 50th anniversary,” at: http://www.army.mil/article/47234/the-institute-of-heraldry-celebrates-50th-anniversary/

“General Alvan Cleveland Kincaid,” at: http://signaturesofwar.com/id38.html

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First Birthday Shindig in Normandy

Saturday, 15 July 1944, marked the first anniversary of the 371st Fighter Group’s 15 July 1943 activation at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia. In the period immediately preceding this birthday anniversary, Frisky was quite active, flying numerous missions from dawn to dusk out of A-6 airfield near Ste Mère Eglise.

As the 15th started, the group was in action again. Twenty-six dive-bombing P-47’s, covered by another 13 P-47’s as escorts, a total of 39 Thunderbolts, took off at 0926, in a show led by Major Goolsbee of the 406th Fighter Squadron. This was also the 404th Fighter Squadron’s 100th combat mission of the war.

Due to the overcast weather, 8/10 stratus from 1,500 to 4,000 feet which forced the show to fly in at low altitude, Frisky was unable to find the primary target, didn’t have the gas to reach the secondary target, but improvised successfully and hit an alternate target at 1017. In at low altitude and into a lot of light flak which damaged two Jugs, they managed to hit a marshaling yard at Dreux on the river and cut the rails in several places and damaged 25 box cars and an engine. Fifty 500-lb bombs rained down on the target – two did not release due to stiffness in the manual bomb release mechanism during the dive. Frisky then made it through the weather back to A-6 by 1100 hours.

One reason why Hitler's armies were not fed or supplied with ammunition. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

One reason why Hitler’s armies were not fed or supplied with ammunition. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

A release from further operations for the day came through in the morning. And so Frisky made plans for a celebration of the day, taking advantage of what local resources were available.

Behind the group’s chateau headquarters, the enlisted troops gathered in a green field to participate in sport contests. There were baseball games, relay races, and a tug of war, among the events.

Race at Frisky's First Birthday Party in Normandy.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Race at Frisky’s First Birthday Party in Normandy. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

At the far end of the field, the cooks in the group were busy preparing huge sections of beef “slowly barbecuing over deep pit fires.”

BBQ, Advanced Landing Ground style - not strictly according to Emily Post, but practicable.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

BBQ, Advanced Landing Ground style – not strictly according to Emily Post, but practicable. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Special Service provided some entertainment, including a reported first-rate show by comedian Eddie Hill.

Eddie Hill's troupe and the 371st Fighter Group's own, the Jive Bombers, entertained on Frisky's first anniversary.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.) anniversary

Eddie Hill’s troupe and the 371st Fighter Group’s own, the “Jive Bombers,” entertained on Frisky’s first anniversary. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Even Normandy gave something to the party, with Calvados (an apple brandy specialty of the region) and apple cider to accompany the delicious BBQ.

CPL Andrew Jost, New Milford, CT - an enlisted member the 371st FG, has a hard time concentrating on his mess kit full of American barbecue.  Mademoiselle Charmagne cheerfully  listens as Cpl Jost tries a snow job, with a French accent, yet.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

CPL Andrew Jost, New Milford, CT – an enlisted member the 371st FG, has a hard time concentrating on his mess kit full of American barbecue. Mademoiselle Charmagne cheerfully
listens as Cpl Jost tries a snow job, with a French accent, yet. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

There were also some news correspondents and newsreel men on hand to watch the festivities. The festivities continued until nearly midnight.

It was at this party that Frisky’s Commander, Col. Bingham T. Kleine, announced that Frisky had become a father. That is by way of an “adoption” if you will, of a young French farmgirl named Yvette Hamel. Yvette had been grievously wounded by German artillery while milking cows at the family farm near La Haye du Puits. An Army medic administered life-saving first aid, and an Army field hospital near Ste Mère Eglise had saved her life and stabilized her condition, but then the hospital had to move on. Col Kleine agreed to take over care of Yvette to help her in the early stages of recovery – he realized there really wasn’t anywhere else she could go to get the medical care she desperately needed.

Young Yvette Hamel receives a show of friendly Frisky visitors in her convalescence tent during her stay with the 371st Fighter group in the summer of 1944.  Courtesy "Sunward I've Climbed," by Annie Laurie Morgan)

Young Yvette Hamel receives a show of friendly Frisky visitors in her convalescence tent during her stay with the 371st Fighter group in the summer of 1944. Courtesy “Sunward I’ve Climbed,” by Annie Laurie Morgan)

Col Kleine asked the members of the group to donate money to be used to help Yvette’s recuperation. The 405th Fighter Squadron history records this response: “As a result of his plea, the squadron raised more than $1000.00 (over 50% of the group total) as a gift for the girl.” Yvette was in good hands with the 371st Fighter Group, and would spend several months with the group before she went to Paris for rehabilitation. For more on Yvette’s story, see “The French Farm Girl of the Flying Field,” on the 142nd Fighter Wing website at:

http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123361404

Frisky’s respite was brief – by the afternoon on 16 July, the shows were launched again, and totaled six missions for that day. But at least the members of the group could feel that they suitably celebrated the 371st Fighter group’s first birthday.

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Improving Frisky’s Chow Situation

With all the group’s personnel together once again at Ste Mère Eglise, the unit regained an ability to better feed its members. As the 405th Fighter Squadron History for July, 1944, noted, “We “had joy” with the beginning of Class B rations on the 9th of the month as we put away K and 10-in-1’s.”

To be included in a unit history, a fact such as this must have been deemed significant. As an air force flies on its stomach, to paraphrase Napoleon (or was it Frederick the Great), improvements in chow could probably be correlated to improved morale and sustained levels of performance.

With regard to what Frisky had been eating since arriving at A-6 Advanced Landing Ground, let us briefly examine K-rations and the 10-in-1 Ration that Frisky started out with in France, as compared to the B ration he received beginning on 9 July 1944.

The Field Ration, Type K, or the K-ration was designed as a short duration, pocket-sized, individual “assault” ration for paratroopers and other specialized light infantry forces. It was fielded in three separately boxed meal units: breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper. It saw first use in 1942 and was improved as the war went along, and many other units also used it, including the 371st Fighter Group.

K-Rations: “Food for Fighters” is a short, ten-minute, US Office of War Information film circa 1943. It gives some background on rations in general and at about 6:24 gets into the K ration. View it at:

Although three kinds of K-ration meals were made, the standard issue to the troops was only intended to be one K-ration per man per day. Calorie content of a single K-ration was ultimately improved to 2,830 calories, which was probably adequate for some personnel, but inadequate for highly active men. And during the Normandy campaign of 1944, Frisky was VERY active. This was noted in the combat zones around the world, and a 1943 field report did not recommend the use of the K-ration in excess of 10 days given its nutritional limitations.

K-ration Breakfast Unit: canned entrée Veal (early version), canned chopped ham and eggs (all subsequent versions), biscuits, Dextrose or Malted milk tablets (early version), dried fruit bar, pre-mixed Oatmeal Cereal (late version), Halazone water purification tablets, a four-pack of cigarettes, Dentyne or Wrigley chewing gum, instant coffee, and sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed).  (Courtesy Wikipedia)

K-ration Breakfast Unit: canned entrée Veal (early version), canned chopped ham and eggs (all subsequent versions), biscuits, Dextrose or Malted milk tablets (early version), dried fruit bar, pre-mixed Oatmeal Cereal (late version), Halazone water purification tablets, a four-pack of cigarettes, Dentyne or Wrigley chewing gum, instant coffee, and sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed). (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Fortunately, Frisky apparently had access to another ration in the early days at A-6, designated as the Ration, 10-in-1, usually called the “10-in-1” ration. This ration was intended to provide one meal for ten men. Development began in 1943, inspired by early experience with various other rations that were discontinued in mid-war, such as the Mountain ration, Jungle ration and the 5-in-1 ration, as well as the British “compo” or 14-in-1 ration.

Te Ration, 10-in-1, was introduced in service after experience gained with other field rations for troops engaged in combat operations around the world.  (Courtesy  X )

Te Ration, 10-in-1, was introduced in service after experience gained with other field rations for troops engaged in combat operations around the world. (Courtesy US Army Quartermaster History)

Essentially superseding the 5-in-1, used successfully by US forces in the North African campaign, the 10-in-1 was built as two 5-in-1s, which allowed for a greater variety in the contents. The number of menus was increased to five as compared to the three of the 5-in-1. A complete group breakfast and supper was provided in the 10-in-1, with a partial dinner (lunch) unit.

Contents of the 5-in-1 ration, an early war ration adapted for use in the 10-in-1 ration.  (Courtesy Y)

Contents of the 5-in-1 ration, an early war ration adapted for use in the 10-in-1 ration. (Courtesy US Army Quartermaster History)

A typical menu included such canned items as meat units, vegetables, biscuits, cereal, butter-substitute spread, jam, beverages, soluble coffee, evaporated milk, , pudding, candy, salt, and sugar.

Accessory items were cigarettes, matches, can opener, toilet paper, soap, towels, and water-purification (Halazone) tablets.

The partial dinner (lunch) unit was enclosed in a cellophane bag-in-carton for easy distribution to the individual soldier for his noontime meal. Within the unit were biscuits, a confection, beverage powder, sugar, gum, and a can opener. These items were provided on the theory that an individual “snack” was sufficient for midday meals, when there would be neither time nor opportunity to prepare the ration for group feeding.

Although at first report it was a welcome shift from the K ration and 10-in-1 to the Ration, Class B, or Type B ration, there was apparently some similarity between them, in that the B was prepared using canned or preserved ingredients, and did not use any fresh, frozen or refrigerated ingredients as found in the Class A ration. The big distinguishing feature seems to be that the Class B ration was prepared in a field kitchen, where it could be hot, better prepared, better seasoned and with a full dinner (lunch) meal made available.

"Speaking of firsts - here's the first mess hall in Normandy and naturally - the first chow hound.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

“Speaking of firsts – here’s the first mess hall in Normandy and naturally – the first chow hound. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

But any improvement in the field is welcome, and Frisky was better fed at Ste Mère Eglise for the change. The Class B rations would suffice until perhaps some fresh, frozen or refrigerated ingredients of the Class A ration variety could be found or supplied, giving the unit yet another way to improve the fare that kept Frisky flying, fighting and winning.

371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt two-ship takeoff.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt two-ship takeoff. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

References

The 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., Army & Navy Pictorial Publishing, Baton Rouge, LA, 1946

405th Fighter Squadron History for July, 1944

Army Operational Rations – Historical Background, US Army Quartermaster History, at: http://www.qmfound.com/army_rations_historical_background.htm

K-ration, entry on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-ration

10-in-1 ration, entry on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10-in-1_food_parcel

5-in-1 ration, entry on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5-in-1_ration

B-ration, entry on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-ration

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Lost and Found

As the campaign for Normandy continued, the 371st Fighter Group settled into its new home at A-6 Airfield near Ste Mère Eglise. By the 8th of August, it had really become a mystery as to where the ground echelon of the group was at.

The last members and equipment of the group had rolled out of Bisterne on 30 June, and should have arrived at A-6 already. The group’s “attached” units found their way to A-6 in the first week of July.  But not the remainder of the group itself.  One had to wonder if they got lost looking for A-6, or was it known as Ste Mère Eglise? Or should it be called Beuzzeville, or perhaps La Londe? Having several names from which to choose, the new airfield could be a bit elusive to those unfamiliar with Normandy.

A Navy LST disgorges a jeep on the shores of Normandy, 1944 (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

A Navy LST disgorges a tiny jeep on the shores of Normandy, 1944 (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Members of the 405th Fighter Squadron also speculated on this matter, and expressed such thoughts as “They’ve gone back to the States, why didn’t I stay with them?” or “They’ve all been sunk in the channel. I’m glad I didn’t stay with them.” But as the war continued on anyway, they all seemed to agree that Frisky was “…doing right well without them anyhow.” This impression was, in part, due to the fact of the arrival of increased numbers of replacement pilots and the type of mission being flown.  As a result the flying time for the veteran pilots was cut back a bit.

But the missing ground echelon and change in individual pilot tempo did not allow for missed missions, and whenever the weather was good, Frisky flew. Such was the case on July 8, 1944. The 405th Fighter Squadron flew a morning mission of armed reconnaissance on that day, which is described in an operational report generated afterwards by the 371st Fighter Group which read:

John W. Leonard led the 405th Fighter Squadron morning mission on 8 July 1944.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Capt. John W. Leonard led the 405th Fighter Squadron morning mission on 8 July 1944. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

“The 405th Sq. led by Capt. Leonard, took off at 1045 to perform armed recce south to T-673508. Sq. arrived over target 1115-1200. Results of bombing good. 6 hits on or near bridge at T-2352, 1220 B, 1 miss S of bridge, bridge still standing when left. 2 hits on flak position T-2521; 2 on flak position T-5050; 2 jettisoned in woods T-4851. 1 bomb ret. 7 A/C with bombs, 4 as top cover. 1 staff car, one half track destroyed, one truck damaged. One staff car stopped at T-7026. Half track going NE, both were strafed and left burning. Truck damaged at T-7026 while stopped. Gun positions and troops at T-2449. 2 plus gun positions silenced by Capt. Leonard. Flak intense and accurate at T-4015. 10/10 stralics (sic) with base at 4,500, vis. Under 3.4 mile except in rain. T. D. 1250.”

German Wehrmacht halftrack destroyed by 9th Air Force fighter-bombers on 29 July 1944 in France.  (Courtesy Air Force Museum)

German Wehrmacht halftrack destroyed by 9th Air Force fighter-bombers on 29 July 1944 in France. (Courtesy Air Force Museum)

During the mission, Captain Luther P. “Luke” Canup was hit by flak near Vire, some 24 miles south-southeast of St. Lo, while leading his flight in P-47D-20 serial number 42-76454.  Forced to bail out, he did so just before his stricken aircraft exploded. The 371st report on the mission succinctly noted the event: “Capt. Luther P. Canup hit by flak and was seen to bail out and floating down in open parachute at T-4015,” no doubt a victim of the “intense and accurate” flak reported above. For the rest of the month squadron members hoped he would be able to evade capture and turn up at A-6 but as things turned out, this veteran of 41 combat missions was captured and became a “guest” of the Third Reich.  He was placed in care of the Luftwaffe, at a “Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager,” a POW camp known as Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Silesia, in eastern Germany.

Luther P. Canup of the 405th Fighter Squadron completed 41 combat missions before he was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire on 8 July 1944 over France.  He was taken prisoner and spend the rest of the war in various POW camps.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Photo of Lt. (later Capt.) Luther P. Canup of the 405th Fighter Squadron, who completed 41 combat missions before he was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire on 8 July 1944 over France. He was taken prisoner and spend the rest of the war in various POW camps. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Stalag Luft III is well-known as the place of the “The Great Escape,” which occurred in March, 1944 – although there were no Americans involved in this epic prison break, unlike depicted by Steve McQueen in the movie. Less well known is the smaller-scale escape by three men, involving a sort of Trojan Horse, which occurred in October, 1943.

Aerial view of Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Germany, during World War II.  The camp was the site of “The Great Escape” in March, 1944, and was later evacuated as Russian forces approached, the POWs being force marched west in winter weather. (Courtesy XYZ)

Aerial view of Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Germany, during World War II. The camp was the site of “The Great Escape” in March, 1944, and was later evacuated as Russian forces approached, the POWs being force marched west in winter weather. (Courtesy Pegasusarchive.org)

Luke Canup did not stay at Stalag Luft III, however, for as the Russians advanced later in the war, the Germans force marched 80,000 POWs from various POW camps to other stalags farther west. He eventually ended up in Bavaria, at Stalag XIII-D, Nürnberg Langwasser 49 11, according to POW information at the ww2pow.info website. (Note: there were other Stalag XIII camps, e.g. Stalag XIII-A, XIII-B and XIII-C) Stalag XIII was a real stalag, not the Stalag 13 of “Hogan’s Heroes” comedy fame, unfortunately. A number of POWs did not survive this wintry trek, though Luke did, and he survived the war. (Luther Canup passed away in 2010)

In fact, it appears that Canup survived another POW evacuation by the Germans, based upon a move of POWs from Stalag XIII-D on 12 April 1945 and the presence of his hand writing on a Nazi flag that once flew over the city hall in Moosburg, Germany, located some 94 miles southeast of Nuremberg and 35 miles northeast of Munich, Germany.

The Moosburg POW flag, which flew over the city hall in Moosburg, Germany, before it was replaced by General Patton’s troops with the American flag in Late April, 1945.  It was signed by more than 100 former POWs, including Luther Canup.  (Courtesy 303rd Bomb Group Association)

The Moosburg POW flag, which flew over the city hall in Moosburg, Germany, before it was replaced by General Patton’s troops with the American flag in late April, 1945. It was signed by more than 100 former POWs, including Luther Canup. (Courtesy 303rd Bomb Group Association)

Moosburg was the site of Stalag VII-A, and was the largest POW camp in Germany, with over 80,000 men by the end of the war in a camp designed for holding 10,000.  Even as German forces retreated before the Allied onslaught they tried to retain control of POWs.

Aerial view of Stalag VII-A near Moosburg, Germany, site of the largest German POW camp in World War II.  (Courtesy XYZ)

Aerial view of Stalag VII-A near Moosburg, Germany, site of the largest German POW camp in World War II. (Courtesy Moosburg.org)

When he was liberated by the soldiers of General Patton’s 14th Armored Division on 29 April 1945, Luke Canup became one of over 100 former POWs who signed the Nazi flag that was removed from the top of the city hall in Moosburg when that flag was replaced by the American flag. The POW flag was returned to the US by a member of the 303rd Bomb Group, and was eventually donated to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia.

Closeup view of the Moosburg POW flag, showing the rank, name and hometown of 405th Fighter Squadron pilot Luther P. Canup.  (Courtesy 303rd Bomb Group Association)

Closeup view of the Moosburg POW flag, showing the rank, name and hometown of 405th Fighter Squadron pilot Luther P. Canup. (Courtesy 303rd Bomb Group Association)

Meanwhile, back at A-6, the loss of an experienced pilot such as Luke Canup had several implications. One was on morale of the unit, as it was a telling event to young and bold fighter pilots to see an experienced comrade suddenly vanish from their midst. They were not so invincible.

Another effect was on the combat efficiency of the unit, as an experienced leader would have to be replaced. Fortunately, experience was being accrued all the time, and a unit never ceased operations because of such individual losses. Depending on the level of loss, say for a flight commander, operations officer, etc., the ripple effect could be greater, and several people might be given new responsibilities as they stepped up in echelon to replace the vacancy resulting from the missing man.

But any way they looked at it, loss or not, the show still went on, and so it did in the 405th Fighter Squadron and the 371st Fighter Group, with a war yet to be won.

Aerial view of A-6 Advanced Landing Ground, outside Ste Mère Eglise, France, in 1944.  The 371st Fighter Group flew from A-6 from June to September, 1944.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Aerial view of A-6 Advanced Landing Ground, outside Ste Mère Eglise, France, in 1944. The 371st Fighter Group flew from A-6 from June to September, 1944. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

However, as Saturday, 8 July transpired, there was a small joy to be had at Ste Mère Eglise when the remainder of the ground echelon finally showed up. They were greeted “…with the usual “horror” and “hero” stories of the veterans who had been here (at A-6) since “practically D-Day.” Finally, the full 371st Fighter Group team was together again, on the continent, in action against the enemy. The new arrivals would soon be put to work helping the rest of the team continue to batter the Wehrmacht in Normandy and beyond.

References
405th Fighter Squadron history, July, 1944

POW Database information for Luther P. Canup, at: http://www.ww2pow.info/index.php?page=directory&rec=50797

Biographical information on Luther Paul Canup, at: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~lbpage/page-frick/ps33/ps33_116.html

Stalag Luft III, entry in Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_Luft_III

Stalag Luft III aerial view, at: http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/SL3/PicSL_3_Aerial.htm

Stalag XIII-D, Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_XIII-D

History of the Real Stalag 13, at: http://www.uncommon-travel-germany.com/stalag_13.html

The March (1945), Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_March_%281945%29

Moosburg POW Flag, at: http://www.303rdbga.com/pow-moosburg-flag.html

Stalag VII A: The Liberation, at: http://www.moosburg.org/info/stalag/14theng.html

Stalag VII A: Aerial views, at: http://www.moosburg.org/info/stalag/luftbilder.html

 

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Saved by a Shagbat

On 2 July 1944, the 371st Fighter Group was off operations. Lousy weather, fit for fighting but not for flying, kept the group out of action. Taking advantage of the break in operations, 406th Fighter Squadron Commander Maj. Taylor decided to take four of the new pilots in the squadron on a cross-country flight from A-6 Airfield across the English Channel to England. It seemed just a routine hop as Maj. Taylor took off for Great Britain with Lts. Miller, Landrum, Flory and Pippes.

406th Fighter Squadron Commander and leader on both D-Day missions was Major Edwin D. Taylor.  He led the squadron from July, 1943, to September, 1944.  (Courtesy “The 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.” via 406FS P-47 Pilot Francis E. Madore)

406th Fighter Squadron Commander, Major Edwin D. Taylor. He led the squadron from July, 1943, to September, 1944. (Courtesy “The 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.” via 406FS P-47 Pilot Francis E. Madore)

But as life goes, what seemed normal did not turn out that way. Airborne over the Channel and halfway across, Lt. James N. Landrum in P-47D-20-RE serial number 42-76523 reported the oil pressure on his powerful Pratt& Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine beginning to drop away fast. Maj. Taylor told him to climb, and he reached about 1,500 feet before the engine cut out completely, just before Landrum bailed out. The flight contacted Air-Sea Rescue for help and shortly thereafter an RAF Supermarine Walrus seaplane headed out to fetch Lt. Landrum from the sea off the southwest tip of the Isle of Wight.

Supermarine Walrus airacft as used by the RAF in the Air-Sea Rescue role during World War II.  (Courtesy Wallpaperhere.com)

British Supermarine Walrus aircraft as used by the RAF in the Air-Sea Rescue role during World War II. (Courtesy Wallpaperhere.com)

The RAF’s No. 276 Squadron, an Air-Sea Rescue unit based in the southwest of England, may have been the unit which recovered Lt. Landrum from the sea. The Supermarine Walrus, nicknamed the “Shagbat” among other things, was designed by the same designer of the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter, R.J. Mitchell. Although it was an ungainly looking aircraft compared to the sexy Spitfire, but it did its job very well, and was a mainstay in RAF ASR during World War II. Of note, British ASR squadrons also used the Spitfire fighter in a spotting role to look for downed aircrews at sea. No. 276 Squadron had the Spitfire Mk VB variant for this role at this time of the war.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB, serial BL591, code BA-U, of RAF No. 277 Sqn ASR, circa Mid 1944.  (Courtesy Axis and Allies Paintworks.com)

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB, serial BL591, code BA-U, of RAF No. 277 Sqn ASR, circa Mid 1944. (Courtesy Axis and Allies Paintworks.com)

For the unfortunate fliers, the weather was lousy in England too, but through dint of persistence, the flight was able to locate Christchurch Airfield, on the English coast in Dorset, some seven miles south of Frisky’s first home in the E.T.O. at Bisterne Airfield. The icing on the cake was yet to play out, however, and as the aircraft landed at Christchurch Airfield, Lt. Robert J. Miller in P-47D-11-RE serial number 42-75265 overran the end of the runway and then his aircraft overturned, being completely demolished in the process. Fortunately, the spine of the Razorback version of the Jug keep him from being crushed, and he came out of it unscathed.

View of a nosed-over P-47 Razorback from another unit, the 375FS of the 361FG, 8th Air Force.  The Razorback spine offered a chance of pilot survival from such a mishap.  (Courtesy  website)

View of a nosed-over P-47 Razorback from another unit, the 375FS of the 361FG, 8th Air Force. The Razorback spine offered a chance of pilot survival from such a mishap. (Courtesy Asisbiz.com)

Operational losses of aircraft and personnel were frequent during the war, and for all kinds of reasons. They added to the attrition affecting a combat unit. In the case of the 406FS, these losses gave valuable experience in airmanship and survival, if somewhat traumatically administered by circumstance, to a pair of young pilots flying and fighting for our country in a time of war. Fortunately, replacement P-47 aircraft could be made readily available – , and the 406FS continued combat operations without missing a step.

At The Liverpool docks, a huge 60-ton cranes gently lifts a 6-ton Republic P-47 Thunderbolt from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.  Note aircaft i foreground seemingly precariopusly perched atop a truck that will bring ti through Liverpool's streets and out of town to an airfield.  (Courtesy Warbird Information Exchange)

At The Liverpool docks, a huge 60-ton crane gently lifts a 6-ton Republic P-47 Thunderbolt from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Note aircaft i foreground seemingly precariopusly perched atop a truck that will bring ti through Liverpool’s streets and out of town to an airfield. (Courtesy Warbird Information Exchange)

References

371FG and 406FS histories for July, 1944

July 1944 USAAF Overseas Accident Reports, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jul1944O.htm

Joe Baugher’s USAF serial numbers, at: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1942_4.html
RAF – 276 Squadron History, at: http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/276squadron.cfm and also at http://www.rafweb.org/Sqn276-280.htm

Galdorisi, George and Phillips, Thomas, “Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue”

Supermarine Walrus painting from Wallpaper Here website, at: http://www.wallpaperhere.com/Supermarine_Walrus_61960/download_1152x864

Spitfire painting from Axis and Allies Paintworks.com website, at:  http://www.axis-and-allies-paintworks.com/download.php?view.443

P-47 image from Warbird Information Exchange website, at: http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=51576

P-47 nose-over image from Asisbiz.com website, at: http://www.asisbiz.com/il2/P-47D/Republic-P-47-Thunderbolt.html

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