In February, 1945, Frisky moved yet again, to his fifth airfield since arriving on the Continent in June, 1944, the sixth if one recalls the water displacement to Dijon in the rainy autumn of 1944.
The move was from Tantonville (Y-1) to Metz (Y-34) began on 12 February when the 371st Fighter Group received word it would be moving again. The next day, Col. Kleine and Lt. Col. Bacon left for Metz along with an advanced echelon of the group. As Metz was an operational airfield already, the transition would be relatively smooth as compared to going into Tantonville.
In fact, Metz was also well-known to the Luftwaffe, which attacked the base on 1 January 1945 as part of Operation Bodenplatte, destroying a number of P-47’s on the ground which belonged to the 365th Fighter Group, the “Hell Hawks.”
By 15 February, the 371FG flew its last combat missions from Tantonville, with the aircraft landing at Metz after completing their missions. A C-47 was provided to help the move, running a shuttle back and forth between the two fields – about half of the group made the move aboard this shuttle. By the 18th the rear echelon departed Tantonville, closing out Frisky’s presence at that expeditionary airfield in France.
On 16 February, the group flew its first combat missions from Y-34, and by 18 February the Rear Echelon showed up from Tantonville, completing the group’s movement to Metz.
Metz was a fairly robust facility, with the airstrip composed of sod, concrete and pierced steel plank. There were permanent wooden buildings for office use, and one building was large enough to serve as group headquarters with a main briefing room. The flying squadrons also had access to hangars for the maintenance and servicing of aircraft, which led to an improvement in operational aircraft availability.
Two P-47 groups operated from the field – the 371st shared it with the 368th Fighter Group. Frisky moved into the spaced vacated by the mauled 365th Fighter Group, which had been hit hard by the Luftwaffe on the 1 January 1945 Luftwaffe offensive against Allied airfields in Western Europe.
Some were to miss the proximity of Nancy, where members of the group could see a little civilization again. Noted were the Mirabelle Twins, Yvette and Yvonne, who ran the Hotel de la Gare and offered special dinners. But most probably looked forward to the move and improvement in conditions, as well as being near to another French city.
One of the big benefits of the move was that the officers and men were able to quarter in former German-occupied barracks and in apartment houses in Metz proper. All the group’s enlisted men were billeted in the Caserne Raymond, a huge three and four-story stone structure at the edge of Metz about a mile from the airfield. An Enlisted Men’s Club was set up in a building in the caserne, “…complete with bar, piano, lounge room with easy chairs, and South Tyrolean murals.” Special Services set up Foxhole Follies Number 5 (the unit movie theater) in an attic space above the Red Cross Aero Club.
Group and squadron officers were housed in homes and apartments on the Boulevard Clemenceau, a tree-lined street in Metz itself.
It wasn’t long before the group received a visit from brass, as with the move to Metz, the unit returned to the XIX TAC and the 100th Fighter Wing, supporting General Patton’s Third Army. For most of the men it seems the change back to XIX TAC subordination was a welcome development after the difficult conditions and months to the south in XII TAC with the 1st Tactical Air Force (Provisional). General Homer L. Sanders, Commanding General of the 100th Fighter Wing, paid the group a visit on 20 February.
Reassignment back to XIX TAC was a tonic for Frisky, after over four months of work in XII TAC with three months under the 1st TAF. Both organizations operated in a different manner than XIX TAC did. Being part of XIX TAC again made Frisky feel like he was back on the first team, again supporting Patton’s Third Army, just as Patton was preparing to push into Germany after the German failure in the Battle of the Bulge. At Metz, Frisky felt like he was back in the big leagues after his southern sojourn.
371st Fighter Group History, February, 1945
The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO
USAAF serial numbers for 1944, at Joe Baugher’s website: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1944_2.html
USAF Biography for Major General Homer L. Sanders, at: http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/105718/major-general-homer-l-sanders.aspx
General Patton picture, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_S._Patton_slapping_incidents