The 406th Occupier

Page 18

Crossing the Rhine (continued)

T he site this time was the former major German airfield at Handorf, northeast of Munster, now known as Y-94. In the middle of April we reluctantly left Y-29 and came into Germany amid much preparation for security and non-fraternization. We cleared the small village of Handorf near the airstrip and established ourselves in the relative comfort of buildings and homes available there. From Handorf the group's missions were more in the nature of a riot than anything else but for a few days at least the temp was fast. At the time the 2nd Armored Division and the 5th Armored  Division were closing to the Elbe River north and south of Magdeburg, the enemy was being overrun and was exceptionally vulnerable, particularly his aircraft on the ground.

In a very few days we pushed our number of total claims for aircraft destroyed on the ground up at a rather phenomenal rate. Before we knew it, the area in which we could operate had dwindled to nothing. On the 19th of April a Russian Air Boundary appeared between Berlin and the Elbe beyond which we could not operate, limiting our activity virtually to the east bank of the Elbe. On the 20th we flew a full day's schedule of ground cooperation missions but they were not too profitable and the following day we were put on ground alert for call by the Ground Forces.  A junction of American and Russian forces was imminent and with its accomplishments a couple of days later, we knew that our job was done.

Thus ended the sixth and lst phase in the Group's operational history. Of course the ending was not as clean-cut as all that for we remained on ground alert and the last few days of the month of April flew patrol over the Elbe, but to all intents and purposes it was over and we knew it. As we tried to get used to the forced inactivity and "sweated out" an unconditional surrender and Victory day, it was too soon to analyze and estimate the sum total of our contribution. At best the end came as a sort of anticlimax and practically all the group personnel were content to relax, marvel at the fact we were through, and let the course of events as it affected out future take care of themselves.