When we think of the combat groups that flew and fought in World War II, we typically think of the fliers and the folks who kept the aircraft going, the mechanics, or in today’s parlance, the aircraft maintenance troops. In World War II a combat group such as the 371st Fighter Group was a lean, mean, fighting machine, and fight it could, all the way from England to Austria and victory in Europe. A single engine fighter group of 1945 had an authorized strength of 994 men, including 183 officers and 811 enlisted men.
A sample of the personification of this combat capability is shared in the great 2008 interview that the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) conducted with 371st Fighter Group/405th Fighter Squadron pilot Anselm Dees. He was shot down by flak two weeks after D-Day, but successfully evaded capture and returned to friendly lines. His 38 minute interview, including discussion of this experience, can be viewed at:
But when we think of Frisky’s ability to stay in the fight, to sustain himself for a prolonged period of combat employment, with the all the bombs, beans, bullets and repairs that come with it, we have to remember and acknowledge the vital contributions of the additional 600 men of the “attached units.”
Frisky’s attached units provided a variety of specialty functions necessary for the efficient and effective operation of an airfield complex and the sustainment of that deployed capability. With these attached units, Frisky could make the most of the 371st’s combat power. Page 170 of Frisky’s Warbook provides a fuller description of what all these attached units provided, and he would be the first to admit that without the attached units, the 371st Fighter Group wouldn’t have made it to first base. These attached units included the following organizations:
98th Service Squadron
1590th Ordnance, Service and Maintenance Company
2204th Trucking Company (Aviation)
1028th Signal Company
1242nd Quartermaster Company
2062nd Engineering Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
1194th Military Police (Aviation)
Detachment “J” of the 21st Weather Squadron
Detachment “J” of the 40th Mobile Communications Squadron
Detachment “V” of the Ninth Flying Control Squadron
This year, in April, 2013, the EAA accomplished another fantastic interview, of a 371FG-attached airman, Mr. Albert Tesch, who served in the 1590th Ordnance, S. and M. Company. For an insightful view of Frisky’s war effort from a Service Team member’s perspective, see his 38-minute interview can be viewed at:
If you have viewed them, you’ll probably agree that these EAA interviews are well-done.
I know some men have accomplished an audio interview and those are good too. Your stories tell us something we cannot find in Frisky’s Warbook, or in the official histories for the group and flying squadrons. Many of us have heard such stories, but unless they are also recorded, and made available like EAA has done, few people will have any idea of what it was like for Frisky overseas – only you veterans can tell us what it was like to serve in the 371st Fighter Group during World War II. The rest of us can only read about it, or if we are fortunate, to watch interviews such as EAA has accomplished.
Many organizations reach out to veterans to accomplish such interviews; take a gander at the Veteran’s History Project for some ideas on how to accomplish such an interview, at:
I encourage any 371st Fighter Group veterans who wish to record an interview about his time with Frisky to do so if at all possible, and to share it with others, including the History Office of the 371st Fighter Group, known as the 142nd Fighter Wing today.
“To know your future, you must know your past,
each stepping stone that has been cast.
Remember the good, as well as the bad,
and feel the emotions of happy and sad…
To know your future, you must learn from your past,
if you want to provide well-being at last.
The future depends on how well you learn,
to observe mistakes and how to discern….”
Excerpts from the Poem “To Know Your Future,” by Margaret Jang