The 406th Occupier

Page 8

Normandy — And Busy Days (continued)

Normandy Mail Call A typical scene at Cretteville, in Normandy. Here the
fellows gathered late in the afternoon for their mail.

L ife in the Group headquarters section focused on the problems of living in the field. For seemingly endless days we existed on ten in one rations but eventually we began to eat with one of the squadrons. A tent city was established in an orchard least plagued with the dust, an ingenious shower rigged by the colonel, fox holes dug, etc. One other thing for which the life at A-13 was noted the trips to the front. "Reconnaissance Parties" of the 406th Fighter Group explored every nick and cranny of the Normandy line from Cane to the sea and in many instances led the advancing columns into Granville, Carentan, Avranches, and even St. James. The result was a noticeable increase in organization as transportation and equipment as well as many tall tails about narrow escapes with the enemy.

After two weeks in the eastern part of the beachhead when the surge south broke into the Brest peninsula and Third Army was committed the Group was reassigned for operational control to its original higher headquarters, the 303rd Fighter Wing and 19th TAC which necessitated a move away from one part of the battle area in order to be nearer another. This involved various and changing plans for moving the Group west to the other end of Normandy.  The air echelon once more packed its belongings and took off for A-20 at Lessay to establish itself arriving there to find the place a complete wreck from enemy demolition. After setting up in a minimum of time, inaugurating a new policy of a consolidated Group officers mess and becoming reasonably comfortable, the gauge was narrowed and movement orders for the flight and ground echelons to Lessay cancelled.

For two days indecision continued until finally late one night the two separated echelons were ordered to move simultaneously to A-14 near Carentan the following day and plan to run a mission from the new field on the day following that. That next day was without doubt the busiest and most backbreaking for the ground personnel of the Group ever experienced. With the help of some twenty Quartermaster trucks the move was made by shuttling serials from A-13 to A-14 and from A-20 to A-14 at the same time as well as shifting surplus trucks between all three places as soon as they could unload. No attempt was made to set up, unpack or get ready for the next day. By working late into the night enough there was a sufficient organization the next day to fly a mission but it was four or five days before all the sections were functioning and everyone knew where he was to sleep and eat.