Eager and Ready:  Remembering the 371st Fighter Group on D-Day

Saturday, June 6th, 2020, marks the 76th anniversary of the 1944 Allied landings in Normandy, France on D-Day, and the 371st Fighter Group, designated now as the 142d Wing, was part of the operation.  The group’s 75 P-47 Thunderbolt fighters were part of an aerial armada of some 13,000 Allied aircraft which supported the air and surface landings involving over 160,000 troops on the beaches and in the interior of France.  The group’s efforts on that day helped the Western Allies to gain a foot-hold on the Continent to defeat the forces of the Third Reich and liberate millions of people in Western Europe.

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The 405th Fighter Squadron’s “Damn Yankee,” Republic P-47D-16-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-76099, sports a hungry mouth (eye obscured by propeller blade) is pictured here awaiting fuses for 500-lb bombs beneath the wings, likely at Beuzeville (aka La Londe) (Advanced Landing Ground A-6), near Ste-Mère-Église, France sometime after D-Day in the summer of 1944.  The P-47 sports numerous missions symbols for bombing, fighter sweeps and top cover, and served on with the squadron until at least until 8 October 1944 when it was badly damaged in a taxiing accident at Dole/Tavaux Airfield (Y-7), France. (Image via both Tom Silkowski and Jon Berstein)

To give a flavor for what it was like for the unit that day, here is the pertinent entry in the 405th Fighter Squadron (today’s 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho ANG) monthly history for June, 1944:

“D-Day, 6 June 1944, found the pilots of the 405th eager and ready to get into the fight.  They were assembled in the Pilot’s tent on the line, listening to the late news, some standing, others playing cards.  This was the day everyone had waited for so long a time.  However, most of the day went by without the 405th participating in any mission.  Finally the order to get to the briefing room came through, and shortly after “Gremlin Joe”, “Geronimo”, “Ida No” and other planes of the squadron took off on a dive bombing mission and roared across the field to add their bit to the invasion battle raging across the channel.  Later that evening two ships returned riddled by gunfire and flak. Everyone got down safely.”

For some other previously published accounts of the 371st Fighter Group on D-Day and in the subsequent Normandy Campaign, please check out the following articles at the links below:

“The 371st Fighter Group in Operation Overlord: Remembering Normandy at 75,” published June 06, 2019, at:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1868126/the-371st-fighter-group-in-operation-overlord-remembering-normandy-at-75/

“First Blood in the Air” (8 June 1944), published June 10, 2014, at:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864380/first-blood-in-the-air/

“D-Day, June 6, 1944, The Longest Day,” published June 06, 2014 (70th anniversary), at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864382/d-day-june-6-1944-the-longest-day/

“The French Farm Girl of the Flying Field: Yvette Hamel and the 371st Fighter Group,” published August 28, 2013, at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864399/the-french-farm-girl-of-the-flying-field-yvette-hamel-and-the-371st-fighter-gro/

“The 371st Fighter Group on D-Day, June 6, 1944,” published June 06, 2013, at:  The 371st Fighter Group on D-Day, June 6, 1944 > 142nd Wing > Display

 

References

D-Day:  June 6, 1944 information at:  https://www.army.mil/d-day/

405th Fighter Squadron monthly history for June, 1944

“Damn Yankee” serial number information found at:  http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1942_4.html

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