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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