The 513th Fighter Squadron
Unit History of 513th
Period ending 31 May 1944 (continued)
The preceding installment of this squadron's history covered the period of transition from the States to becoming established in the United Kingdom. The first two weeks at our new location were weeks of pioneering and "breaking ground" for future operations. By the end of the month, however, things were beginning to take shape and we could see the ultimate end in sight.
The period of time from the 30th of April until the 9th of May might be termed the "polishing off" period; there were soon to be operational missions, and all had to be in readiness for them. The Intelligence Section received a quota of magazines and publications for the pilot's use in the briefing and interrogation tent; escape and evasion kits were obtained, the pilot's pictures taped on them, the kits put in individual pilot's compartments.
The receipt of new and additional material and the straightening up of the old was carried out in all departments. The Armaments Section finally got 500 pound bombs and some ammunition; the Engineering Section drew external fuel tanks and fittings; the Communications Section received additional test sets and radio parts. It began to look as though we should soon be ready for our first mission.
On May 1st the field was given an inspection visit by Major General Breton, the Commanding General of the Ninth Air Force; later there was an all group air review of 30 airplanes in his honor.
The Intelligence Section undertook one job which it is thought will be of value to fighter pilots. It was the preparation of small maps showing the outlines of the French coast and visible landmarks for orientation by pilots in the air. The maps were drawn on 4x6" pieces of cardboard and covered with plasti-seal. The cards fit handily into flying suit pockets and reference data can be marked on the plasti-seal with grease pencil and erased at will.
On May 5 information was given to the Group that it had been alerted for overseas movement and all sections must be ready to move at any given time, after a 5-day final notice. This was a rather startling announcement and caused all to wonder whether the invasion was actually ready at last. At any rate, all sections of the squadron took stock of their packing facilities and made preliminary as to how material would be boxed, crated and marked. From then on nothing was considered a permanent fixture, and all was made ready for shipment at short notice.
The first pilots' briefing was held May 7th in the Group Briefing Tent. This was not a briefing for an actual mission but a practice briefing of a mission due for another Group. The session gave the pilots an idea of what to expect in future briefings, what to remember when they themselves went out.
Our squadron Communication Section contributed something worthwhile to better coverage of missions-to-be for use in connection with interrogation reports. They set up a monitoring loud speaker turned to the pilots' radios. This speaker is located at Group Intelligence and is avidly listened to whenever our planes are on missions.
Our first operational mission occurred on May 9th when the squadron went on a fighter sweep over France. This initial mission was in the nature of an orientation and neither flak nor enemy aircraft were encountered. The pilots were a little uneasy before the mission, not knowing what to expect, but after it was completed they realized it might not be so bad after all.
Three other uneventful fighter sweeps were flown over France: May 10th, 11th and 12th, before an unhappy incident occurred on the 13th of May. Flight Leader 1st Lt. CHARLES B. HALL failed to return from an escort mission of A-20s to Beauvais, France.
The plane piloted by 2nd Lt. WAYNE T. SWANBERY was also set afire by an encounter with an ME-109 during the same mission, but by "slipping" his plane, he finally succeeded in extinguishing the blaze and returned to base.