A Frisky Medic Remembers D-Day

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, D-Day. In past years, this web log has endeavored to share details of the role that the 371st Fighter Group played on that day of destiny. Having examined the official records, one might wonder what else is there to say about what Frisky did on that day.

Truth be told, there are still tales to be told, from the servicemen who were there. Thanks to the work last year of Washington Times reporter Meredith Somers, a little more of Frisky’s D-Day story is revealed. Her article is titled “For each man, a D-Day duty: Fearless fighters turned the tide of World War II.”

Ms. Somers interviewed several veterans for her story, including Herbert H. Wood, Jr., who was a Medic and a Corporal in the 406th Fighter Squadron of the group. Wood hailed from Port Angeles, Washington, and Ms. Somers documented the following D-Day recollection from him:

“Herb Wood knew something big was about to happen when he saw a line of low-flying planes in the English sky above him.

The 406th Fighter Squadron carried three Herberts on the roster, Herbert Wood, Herbert Slomin and Herbert Grace.  This photo, is from the 406FS section of Frisky's warbook, and is simply captioned "Little Herbie."  It is unknown if this Herbie is Herbert Wood or one of the other Herberts in the squadron.  (Source:  The Story of the 371 st Fighter group in the E.T.O.)

The 406th Fighter Squadron carried three Herberts on the roster, Cpl. Herbert Wood, 2nd Lt. Herbert A. Slamin and S/Sgt. Herbert W. Grace. This photo, is from the 406FS section of Frisky’s warbook, and is simply captioned “Little Herbie.” An enlisted man, it is unknown if this Herbie is Herbert Wood or Herbert Grace. (Source: The Story of the 371 st Fighter group in the E.T.O.)

Far from his home in Washington state, the 21-year-old had enlisted with the Army Air Corps after college and was assigned as a medic with the 371st Fighter Group, stationed in Hampshire, England.

Unbeknownst to him, hundreds of thousands of U.S., British and Canadian troops were preparing a massive incursion into Nazi-controlled France, to storm the beaches of the Normandy coast in the D-Day invasion that was a key turning point in World War II.

On June 5, 1944, Mr. Wood was working outside when he looked up and saw about 30 planes in a row.

“They turned right over me and went back right across the [English] Channel,” he told The Washington Times at his home at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Virginia. “It would be impossible [for the invasion] to have been any other day but tomorrow.”

He spent hours that day painting black-and-white stripes onto the planes’ bodies and wings.

371st Fighter Group Commanding Officer, Colonel Bingham T. Kleine, is pictured here with a couple of the ground crew that kept his aircraft operational.  Note the D-Day recognition stripes beneath the P-47 wing behind them.  The stripes were a measure to help Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen quickly identify Allied/friendly aircraft in the crowded skies over Normandy.  (Courtesy John Kleine)

371st Fighter Group Commanding Officer, Colonel Bingham T. Kleine, is pictured here with a couple of the ground crew that kept his aircraft operational. Note the D-Day recognition stripes beneath the P-47 wing behind them. The stripes were a measure to help Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen quickly identify Allied/friendly aircraft in the crowded skies over Normandy. (Courtesy John Kleine)

“The reason was so that they wouldn’t be confused with German planes,” he said. “You can see in old pictures, you know when the picture was taken because the plane either has black-and-white stripes or it doesn’t.”

Early the next morning, the planes joined Allied troops as they forced their way onto the French sand.

Mr. Wood said the men at his camp made it a point to monitor the “bomb line” on the map.
“We were interested how we were doing, where was the front,” he said. “We looked at the map, the black line, every day.”

That black line showed where the allies had pushed forward. The farther east, the better they were fighting.

The invasion, Mr. Wood said, “was not only well-planned, it was planned in great detail. It’s probably a masterpiece in planning in great detail.”

“There was no other way to deal with Hitler except to get him out of Europe,” said Mr. Wood, 91. “It was an essential first step that had to be done. Everybody expected that. D-Day was not just any day.”

How many more D-Day memories are out there, waiting to be shared? It’s an imponderable question. But the search for them continues, as it does for any of Frisky’s history, that the group’s record of achievement, of sacrifice, might be preserved for future generations.

Our country has been through difficult times before, and will likely do so again, given the way the world is these days with chaos breaking out all over. The example that the men (and women) of the 371st Fighter Group team provides, of perseverance through adversity, is a source of inspiration for those who will make the effort to study it.
Read Meredith Somers’ complete article at:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/5/for-each-man-a-d-day-duty-fearless-fighters-turned/?page=all

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