How Frisky Found His Way Around Europe

If you ever have occasion to read or review any of the 371st Fighter Group’s historical reports, operational reports and such, you will have opportunity to see the coordinate system used to indicate locations of some object of interest.  You will see a letter followed by a series of numbers, maybe four digits, or six, like L-1833, or V-216366.

The key to translating these grid coordinates into something usable for us today can be found in understanding the “Modified British System” used in the European Theater of Operations.  A superb overview of this is at:

http://www.echodelta.net/mbs/eng-overview.php

This chart depicts the "Nord de Guerre " grid of the Modified British System used for Allied operations in Europe in World War II

This chart depicts the “Nord de Guerre ” grid of the Modified British System used for Allied operations in Europe in World War II

Beyond the overview, this site also has an outstanding “Coordinates Translator” which will yield a latitude/longitude set of coordinates and a map which you can zoom in on to see where the coordinate lies.  See it at:

http://www.echodelta.net/mbs/eng-translator.php

Some tips on using this Coordinates Translator

1.  Be sure to select the proper area/grid from the dropdown menu

2.  You will need the full grid reference coordinate (letters for 500km and 100km grid boxes) and then omit the dash before entering the grid reference into the Coordinates Translator.

For example, on April 25, 1945, the 371FG was tasked by XIX TAC with Mission Number ZJG-1, tasked to  “Dive Bomb (Cooperate with XII Corps, contact “Kitten-face”. Perform armed recce in areas of Landshut, Plattling and Strasbing) Alternate ammo dump at V-216336.”

In order to find the location of this ammo dump, looking at operations in the “Nord de Guerre Grid,” the ammo dump at V-216336 lies in the 500km grid box indicated by the small letter  “x” meaning the complete grid reference is xV-216336.  Delete the dash in the grid reference and then enter that full combination into the translator, e.g. xV216336.

A word of caution, or expectation, however.  Coordinates used in reporting are one source of information to use in trying to understand or appreciate an action involving a particular unit at a particular location in time.  Wartime reports based on pilot observation can be quite helpful.  But in some cases, only a general coordinate will be indicated, out to four digits.  More precise locational data, out to six digits, may not often be available to more precisely identify a location.

Good hunting!

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