The 512th Fighter Squadron
Bensinger. Kneeling: Harrell, Oller, Snow, Phelps.
Sitting: Craghead, Williams, Nylander, Long.
F LYING CONTROL: Routine duties of the unit has been the logging of aircraft in and out, seeing that the runway was kept in condition, seeing that the flare path was laid out and operating each night, keeping up on information concerning other fields, navigation hazards and aids, and similar duties.
The unexpected happenings included the Airfield Controllers (the men at the end of the runway) hitting the dirt as a plane coming in for a landing passed too close overhead; or the Tower personnel becoming prematurely grey as a "Buzz-Bomb" passed close to the Tower; or a plane blowing up on the runway; or a bomb or rocket dropping on the runway—memories of sweating in shot up fighters or bombers onto the runway 9sometimes not too successfully)—watching planes mushing in or belly landing beside the strip.
The unit lost one man who was injured by a fragment when a bomb accidentally exploded near the Tower. During overseas operations, three different Towers were constructed by the method of the "field expedient"—the last one being considered the best mobile Tower in the ETO.
All in all, all of us have had a very exciting time.
Kneeling: Peck, Hertzog, Cohen, Garrity.
FINANCE: One of the attached units to the 512th Squadron—Finance, represents a unit which is probably most popular in any field of service. Once a month we looked forward expectantly to that day of all days—pay day, which started a new series of card games and crap games, and enabled the men once more to visit the neighboring towns in quest of perfume, cognac, or entertainment.
This Finance Section was organized from personnel drawn from the Ninth Air Force Finance Detachment at large. Due to the faithful cooperation among members of this section, each individual recognizes in every other member, a friend to be long remembered. Although payrolls were computed under the Buzz-bombs of Ashford, in the apple orchards of Normandy, and in the Champagne region of France, the section lived up to the old Finance Motto—"Get 'Em Paid."
LIFE IN THE SQUADRON: We have come a long way since the "Sterling Castle" docked at Liverpool, England and we entrained overnight to Ashford, Kent in Southern England in April 1944.
Our first homes were tents, the six-man kind, into which seven were sandwiched. The outsides were decorated with foxholes which became popular with the introduction of the "doodle bugs."
Day began with chow at 6:30 or earlier if missions were pre-scheduled and frequently ended long after dark. Then the lights came out to paint the skies and the night fighters took up their vigilance of the heavens.
Daily routines were much the same, whether in the cow pastures of Southern England, the orchards of Normandy, France, or the village of Handorf, Germany.
Engineers took off before many of us were awake to pre-flight their ships. Long lines, no matter what meal of the day, were a constant plague and we'd invariably find ourselves in one—if not to eat, then to get paid, draw something from supply, or have a gun inspected.
Numerous duties aside from the routine found men putting up tents, digging latrines, building huts in Belgium, policing the area, and in other ways converting pastures, orchards, and woods into small thriving communities.
Many times "Pup" tents were the vogue, then the "air echelon" would take off in quest of new fields. Bees attacked and counter-attacked the marmalade supply at Loupeland. "Andy" offered no end of amusement to all who had time to play with him and the addition of "Susie" at A-13 paid off with a litter at Handorf, with long black ears—how about that "Thunder"?
Movies played nightly and a USO show always proved to be cause for excitement. Even during the day the Red Cross occasionally put in a much welcomed appearance with coffee and doughnuts. The NAAFI in England also did a large crumpet and tea business.
Jackson Kyes and his band made a big hit at the "club" where things happened often till the wee hours of the morning.
And when daily duties were accomplished, many of us found friends and companionship in the neighboring villages and towns wherever we were stationed.
This was life in the squadron, which brought us together each day in a manner that produced an organization whose efficiency could not be challenged.