The First Taste of Flak

Upon temporary relocation to Ibsley Airfield as Bisterne Airfield was being reconstructed, Frisky was immediately tapped for another Rodeo mission by IX Fighter Command. Alerted for the mission on 20 April 1944 at 1200, field order/operations order # 163 came down at 1555 hours, with a zero hour of 1830 hours.

In general support of Eighth Air Force attacks aided by VIII Fighter Command fighters on No-ball targets (V-1 flying bomb facilities) in northwest France at 1830 hours and Ninth AF A-20 and B-26 attacks supported by RAF Spitfires in the Mons, Belgium area at 1900 hours, the 371FG and the 405FG were tasked by IXFC to conduct a fighter sweep in the Belgian and France areas and destroy enemy aircraft. The 371FG was assigned to sweep the Laon/Reims area of France.

Briefing, takeoff and recovery for Frisky were all over at Ibsley Airfield, as Bisterne Airfield was being rebuilt, and single 108-gallon belly tanks were used for the 48 fighters of the 371FG tasked for this mission. It was mission number 4 for the group, and was the first mission led by 371FG Commander, (then) Lt. Col. Bingham T. “Bing” Kleine.

Col. Bingham T. Kleine, Commander of the 371st Fighter group, picture here in flying gear by a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter, led the group in action for the first time on 20 April 1944. (Source:  “The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.” via Mr. Francis E. Madore, 406FS)

Col. Bingham T. Kleine, Commander of the 371st Fighter group, picture here in flying gear by a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter, led the group in action for the first time on 20 April 1944. (Source: “The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.” via Mr. Francis E. Madore, 406FS)

The group spent 35 minutes in the sweep area from about 1825 to 1900 hours, and no enemy aircraft were encountered, and weather and a late landfall in (reason not reported) precluded the desired penetration to the Laon/Reims area of France; Frisky only made it as far as the Rouen area and slightly beyond to the northeast.

German Luftwaffe flak gunners loading an 88mm anti-aircraft gun in firing position with shells.  Note the 11 rings on the gun barrel indicating 11 aircraft shot down).  It is one of several guns in the image comprising a battery weapons of this caliber could easily have reached the altitude Frisky flew at over occupied France on 20 April 1944.  The word “flak,” a general term for any kind of anti-aircraft fire, is a contraction of the German term “Flugzeugabwehrkanone” (aircraft defense cannon).  (Source:  Wikipedia entry for “Anti-aircraft warfare” and “8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41.”)

German Luftwaffe flak gunners loading an 88mm anti-aircraft gun in firing position with shells. Note the 11 rings on the gun barrel indicating 11 aircraft shot down). It is one of several guns in the image comprising a battery weapons of this caliber could easily have reached the altitude Frisky flew at over occupied France on 20 April 1944. The word “flak,” a general term for any kind of anti-aircraft fire, is a contraction of the German term “Flugzeugabwehrkanone” (aircraft defense cannon). (Source: Wikipedia entry for “Anti-aircraft warfare” and “8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41.”)

It was on this mission that Frisky apparently for the first time drew an enemy reaction – anti-aircraft fire over Rouen and northeast of it, and also St. Andrew, that was heavy, moderate and accurate up to 17,000 to 18,000 feet. The low flight in the 406FS dipped down to get beneath it, and was called out by another flight as bogies (unidentified aircraft). No aircraft were damaged by the ground fire, but nonetheless it was useful combat experience for Frisky, and a warning that his flights over occupied Europe would not go uncontested.

A flight of P-47 Thunderbolts at distance in the ETO gives one an idea for the challenge of visual recognition of aircraft – and also the dangers of combat as it appears number four is lagging a bit behind the rest of the formation.  (Courtesy 142d Fighter Wing History Archives)

A flight of P-47 Thunderbolts at distance in the ETO gives one an idea for the challenge of visual recognition of aircraft – and also the dangers of combat as it appears number four is lagging a bit behind the rest of the formation. (Courtesy 142d Fighter Wing History Archives)

References

371st Fighter Group and 404/405/406 Fighter Squadron histories for April, 1944

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

Anti-aircraft warfare, Wikipedia article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-aircraft_warfare

8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8.8_cm_Flak_18/36/37/41

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1 Response to The First Taste of Flak

  1. Paul Walmsley says:

    Great website! I was fortunate to be able to visit the 371st site in Normandy last week. I found the Farm at La Londe and the Chateau in Beuzeville-en-Plain. Also a memorial to the AAA Bn attached to defend the base.
    It is approx 1/1/2 miles NE of St Mere Eglise on D17.
    If anyone wants photos I snapped please email me. There is much use, even today, of the square mesh netting used to build the runways, which is used in fencing and gates.
    PWalmsley@aol.com

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