The History of the 514th in Brief
A fter all preliminary tasks had been disposed of, we were prepared for our first flight, which was a squadron formation flown in P-47s led by our squadron commander Major Gene L. Arth. His capable flight leaders were Lt. J.C. Bloom, Lt. R.L. Saux, Lt. F.LL. Dowell and Lt. J.E. Wilkes. On 21 April 1944, Major Arth and Lt. Dowell joined the 337th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 362nd Fighter Bomber Group for purpose of orientation in combat flight. Each was required to participate in three such missions before assuming the responsibilities of flight commander in our unit.
It was during this acclimation period that Major Arth became the first war casualty in the squadron. He was killed on 22 April 1944, while on his second mission of that day. While in the act of strafing a train two miles west of Lingen, Germany, Major Arth's aircraft was severely pummelled by anti-aircraft fire causing it to crash. Lt. Dowell, in the meantime, returned safely to the squadron.
The squadron operated without a commanding officer until 3 May 1945, then Captain C.B. Kelly, heretofore operating in the capacity of Operations Officer, was delegated to the role. Captain G.I. Ruddell, veteran of the Asiatic Theatre, was installed as the new Operations Officer. The remaining period during the month of April was devoted to last minute polishing in varied phases of flying and all-important ground school cramming.
readying this ship for another blow.
In the wee morning hours of 9 May 1944, we were alerted for our first mission against the Nazis. At last realization of long awaited expectations would be put into play. Needless to mention, signs of excitement imbued all personnel. Led by Captain C.B. Kelly, our unit participated in a Group Fighter sweep over France from Berck-sur-Mer, Compeigne, Les Andelys, to St. Valery-N-Caux. The first actual mission against the enemy proved quite uneventful to the surprise and chagrin of all participants as neither enemy aircraft nor flak was observed along the entire route. The following three days saw the 514th again sweeping over France over such familiar cities as Le-Treport, Beauvais, Ham, Ceyeux, Grand Villiers Aumale, South Hardelot, Le-Tuesnay, Ghent and Dunkirque. Results in all flights were considered satisfactory though enemy aircraft was still in hiding. On the other hand, traces of anti-aircraft fire showed up to molest our boys.
Three months to the day after farewell to Congaree Air Field, 13 May 1944, was our first assignment to escort work. With Captain C.B. Kelly again assuming the leadership role, our "Raiders" guided 36 B-26 Marauders to their target at Abbeville, France, and back home without a mishap. Bomb hits were observed on revetments over the target area but neither enemy aircraft nor flak was encountered.
Another first in our varied forms of attack was fulfilled on 19 May 1944 when a locomotive workshop at Cambrai, France, was dive-bombed. Seven hits were reported in the yard area and several of them were observed to demolish a bridge west of target. Flak was noted two miles north of Hardelot, France, and a flasc disc was seen by Lt. Jay C. Bloom.
Our sincere efforts to drive into the heart of the hinterlands of Germany became a reality on 21 May 1944 with the precarious task of attacking rolling stock at Tirlmont, Germany. It proved to be a profitable journey to us but a costly one to the enemy as claims were made on five locomotives, two trains and sheds in the marshalling yards. During the remaining days in the month of May and first part of June, we participated in a wide variety of sweeps, bombing missions and escorts. Daily missions were increased to four and five as blow after blow was dealt to Hitler's regime firmly established on French soil. This softening up process continued relentlessly day after day with areas along the English Channel catching the brunt of our assaults.
This needle-point concentration by the Army Air Forces was source for many wild rumors and predictions as to approximate date of the inevitable invasion. But, it was not rightfully known or ascertained until 2030 hours on the 5th of June 1944 when the entire complement of flying personnel in the Group and those immediately connected with this phase were summoned to an all-important meeting. All precautions were made to prevent any unauthorized personnel from entering the briefing tent. At exactly 2035 hours Group Commander Colonel Anthony V. Grossetta arrived on the scene with the exhilarating disclosure of the forthcoming invasion. He informed those in attendance that within a few short hours, the shores of Nazi be-clouded France would be stormed by U.S. and British paratroopers and Glider units and they in turn would be joined by landing troops, Naval and artillery fire. As a result of this dramatic information, excitement ran rampant throughout the ranks. Mingling thought of being in on one of the greatest landing assaults ever attempted in military history dominated. Sleep was out of question as everyone girded himself for the grim and deliberate part he was to play in the epoch-making invasion.
with an ME-109, Lt. M. Jones, Capt. R. L. Saux and
Lt. M. McLane congratulate each otehr.
At 0400 hours on the morning of 6 June 1944 the pilots selected for the first mission were briefed thoroughly and by 0440 hours the first ship was airborne in the murky dawn that only England can boast about. Our foremost duty on this momentous day was to provide air cover over the invasion area. At 0640 hours all planes returned from their two hour flight. Pilots hurried to their respective briefing tents and related incredible tales of the vast and incalculable numbers of aircraft patrolling the same area and innumerable naval craft concentrating their barrages on the French beaches. All day long, this watchful, alert patrolling continued and was again resumed the following day. Beginning at the early hour of 0400 on each of these days, our ships and pilots maintained a close vigil over Allied assaulting troops for approximately 20 of 24 hours. During all these combat flights, the Luftwaffe, scourge of European skies before the Allied air power took its toll, remained conspicuously in hiding despite importance of gigantic operations at hand. Spasmodic appearances were made by small groups of FW-190's and ME-109's but their languid efforts were stymied by more fortunate pilots from other units.
After our ground troops had attained a firm hold on the beaches, our principal duty was centered on various ground installations that might impede progress. Thus the remaining period in the month of June was devoted wholeheartedly to liquidation of defense positions, bridges, communications centers and rolling stock. The Cherbourg Peninsula, in particular, received a thorough going over by the 514th. Completeness and thoroughness of destruction and havoc created in these areas is evidenced by the 133 tons of bombs dropped and 130,000 rounds of Caliber 150 ammunition expended in strafing.