You’re in the Army now!

Those were essentially the words given to some members of the 371st Fighter Group at the end of January, 1945.  As the group continued close support missions for the troops on the ground, armed reconnaissance, escorted bombers, etc., the serious situation on the ground caused American Army commanders to scour Europe to find replacements for depleted Infantry units.  The Battle of the Bulge, and the yet battling of Operation Nordwind by US Seventh Army around Strasbourg, had caused significant losses in many Infantry units.  Those losses needed to be replaced if Allied Armies were to push back the Bulge, defeat the Northwind and then embark on the final offensives into Germany and end the war in Europe.

Even though the group was fully engaged in demanding wintertime combat operations, as evidenced by Frisky’s statistics for January, 410.2 tons of bombs dropped;  196,171 rounds of .50 cal machinegun ammunition expended;  11 enemy aircraft destroyed and 10 P-47 pilots lost, the outfit was asked to do more to defeat the enemy.

And so it was, as the call came to the 371st Fighter Group to provide Airmen who were “eligible” for transfer to the Infantry.  Rosters were scrubbed, men examined and those who passed were placed on another list, as January ended on an anxious note for many.  Eighteen men were ultimately identified to transfer from the Air Corps to the Infantry.  They sadly, some perhaps even bitterly, said goodbye to their buddies, with whom they had been through so much already, and left Frisky behind.  It was a powerful and sobering reminder of how the war could reach out and touch anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the European Theater of Operations.

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