The 406th Occupier

Page 12

Mourmelon — Winter Quarters

W ith the arrival of the Group at its first base east of the Seine, Strip  A-80 at Mourmelon le Grand near the Marne between Chalon and Reims, its life and operations took on an entirely new aspect. In the first place there was an element of permanence, the rush of armor and planes had come to a halt, and the long beautiful days of the summer and early fall, which had permitted almost constant flying, began to play out. It could not be foreseen at the beginning of October that we would settle down at A-80 for our longest stay in a single place since leaving the U.S. but the idea was present that we were no longer a gypsy outfit bent on ending the war by Christmas and all our activity was colored by it.

Crippled Plane Here, Lt. Francis E. Lewis is standing beside a plane
he belly landed at Mourmelon after having his left horizontal
stablizer and a fourth of his left wing shot away while
straffing German vehicles.

Mourmelon was an old military establishment dating from before the Franco-Prussian War and used in turn by all the armies which had swept back and forth over that part of Western France. The camp had been the site for an artillery OCS in the German Army and its adjoining grass landing ground on which the present Hessian matting strip was laid, had served the GAF. No one had occupied the major part of the camp between liberation and our arrival so the buildings were in a disreputable state of repair but they were buildings and their possibilities were immediately apparent to our eyes, which had been conditioned by long experience with cramped, dark damp tents. In the portion of the camp nearest the air strip, the Group established itself in considerable comfort and with the best administrative setup so far accomplished.

The end of September and most of the month of October from a tactical standpoint was devoted to isolation and interdiction of the area between the Saar and the Moselle. The marshaling yards at Saarburg, Zabern, Merzig, to name only a few the full weight of the Group's attack on many days. A program of constantly policing the rails for movement and limiting that movement by strategic cutting of the principal rail lines was undertaken by the command and successfully executed. Cooperation was furnished to limited objective attacks by units of Third U.S. Army, the outstanding mission of which was a fragmentation bomb attack on a heavily defended patch of woods north of Chateau  Salins after which ground forces moved in and captured over 200 shocked and bewildered Germans.  Toward the end of October operations were severely hampered by continuous bad weather, but in spite of it the Group managed to fly more than its share of the all necessary missions.

With the coming of November the final phase of isolation in the area under attack came to a climax with a series of attacks against small rail bridges, particularly at Vendenheim above Strasbourg, and when 20th Corps started its all out attack to take the impregnable Fort of Metz on November 8, 1944 it was supported by the 406th. Hour after hour, day after day, close cooperation was furnished to units of this and the 12th Corps as the drive continued to the Saar River. Much effective use was made during this period of the napalm bomb, a comparatively new weapon, and the high velocity rocket on the innumerable small heavily defended villages that lay in the path of the armor and the infantry.