D-Day and the 406th Fighter Group

Presented at the 2004 Reunion

When 951 men constituting the 406th fighter group arrived in Liverpool aboard the "Stirling Castle" on April 3, 1944, preparations were well underway for the invasion of France. The only unknowns were where and when?

Britain groaned with munitions, supplies and nearly 3 million fighting men under the command of general Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Near daybreak on June 6, 1944, the enormous operation went into motion. 4600 vessels crossed the English Channel during the night and proceeded to the secret destination of Normandy.

Stiff resistance was encountered from the Germans on beaches code named Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword. This was especially true on Omaha beach - where GI's initially clung to hard fought ground with mere finger tips. By day's end, 150,000 troops were ashore. Remarkable.

One of the first decisive actions on that day — and the days that followed — was the complete mastery of the air over the battlefront. The American and British air forces had already done plenty to beat back the Luftwaffe and were there that day to command the skies over the French coast.

So as field marshal Erwin Rommel communicated by telephone from his home to Army Group B headquarters; as generals Eisenhower and Brady received battle reports in England and aboard ship respectively; and as president Roosevelt and the American people awaited anxiously for news, the 406th fighter group was already hard at it since early morning exactly 60 years ago today — D-Day.

One of you told me the events took place in a "blue haze". Summoned at 10:30pm, the group gathered in the big tent used for briefing and was told by snag that "Operation Overlord" was about to get underway. A bolt of excitement shot through audience.

Not that anyone hadn't noticed the increased activity in and around Ashford and that the p47's had been painted with black and white stripes by brush- keeping the ground crews up the entire night. Still, even the expected, when it happens, is a surprise. For most, sleep was now out of the question.


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