The 406th Occupier
Rockets — First For Yanks
B y the middle of July the Group had its 513th Squadron under the Command of Major Gordon W. Fowler in the midst of installing and training with the five inch high velocity rocket. This installation was the first of its kind used on American fighter aircraft in this Theatre and was to prove itself beyond doubt less than a month later against German armor on the roads south of St. Lo. The Group headquarters trailers and briefing tent served as one of the practice targets and undoubtedly added incentive to the estimating of range, etc. This training was done rapidly and without a letup in operational flying so that by the 17th it could be used in an attack against the Nevers marshalling yard which was loaded with locomotives.
That mission was a decided success and marked the acquiring by the Group of another full-fledged weapon with which to destroy the enemy. Though its use was cloaked in secrecy at the time and for two months thereafter this weapon was responsible for much of the Group's early success and contributed immeasurably to our total claims, particularly in locomotives, tanks and armored vehicles destroyed.
As the buildup of units on the continent continued, it became increasingly evident that we would be crossing the channel any day so the interest, problems, and burden of work shifted to the personnel and supply sections of the Group headquarters as they readied the organization for its first great test in mobility. Vehicles were "waterized," equipment was crated, pup tents were unpacked and used while other tentage was packed, supplies were divided between air and ground echelon and on July 19 the journey began. The air echelon proceeded by train and motor convoy through Southern England to a staging area in the Plymouth. There they spent a week on constant alert for movement; a week that will never be surpassed for sheer inactivity and boredom when the complete day's routine consisted of sleeping until breakfast, sleeping from breakfast until lunch and from lunch until supper, after which one could go to sleep again.
During this time the interdiction of Normandy reached its height and the Group, with only half of its personnel available in the ground echelon and less than half its equipment, flew three and four missions a day. Only the undivided effort and attention of the available personnel made this period of intense activity and unusual destruction possible, and their contribution was justly rewarded by the receiving of the Group's first written commendation, a result of missions on July 23rd. The end of one phase and the beginning of another was taking place but to the participants at the time it was merely a time when the days were too long and the nights too short.