The 406th Occupier
Varied Missions From A-14T he setting at A-14 was a picture book one. Combat Ops established itself under a high canopy of trees behind a chateau close by the field with the three Squadron operations nearby immediately across a dry moat which enclosed the entire surroundings. All officers in the Group were billeted in the chateau or in the courtyard in front and the mess set up in adjoining servant's quarters. There was good weather, relief from the dust, and adequate space in the chateau for a rather elaborate Officer's club and bar which made the days at A-14 as pleasant as any thus far experienced.
Missions in these days were characteristic of airpower in its most flexible and versatile form. As the breakout phase continued into the exploitation stage, the Group would fly a fighter sweep into Brest, dive bomb the encircled garrison at St. Malo, support Third Army armor driving for Le Mans, and armed recce to the Seine on successive missions. Those were the days of the Falaise pocket and disorderly retreat when fat targets were plentiful and claims good. Too the German Air Force made one of its sporadic attempts to put up a fight at this point.
From the few fields remaining to them in the Dreux and Paris area they attempted to protect the retreat across the Seine and interfere with our bridgehead being established at Mantes-Gassicourt. The result was frequent sightings and some encounters, the most important of which was on 19 August when all three Squadrons were involved in a real dogfight after the 513th and 512th Squadrons were jumped when making ground attacks and extremely vulnerable.
We claimed six destroyed and three damaged that day for the loss of Major Henry Shurlds, operations officer of the 513th and Capt. Jesse Underwood of the 512th did not return from the mission, but later found their way back to the organization after evading the enemy and being hospitalized. Lt. J.C. Brown of the 512th and Lt. Robert O'Neill of the 513th were also shot down but later returned to the organization.
As the rapidly moving front continued on beyond the Seine toward the Meuse, the mission in that direction became long and wearing and it was evident that the 406th's participation in the war was entering a new phase. The Group headquarters began to revolve around rumors and plans for moving which occasioned some real and definite planning to incorporate some of the things we had learned in previous moves.
Responsibilities for leading and dispatching trucks by the sections of the headquarters and squadrons, their consolidation into serials for movement, routines for the advanced and rear echelons and many other details were worked out in advance in the hope that sufficient notice of a move and future location would be given to allow its execution as planned. By September 1 the next spot, A-36 near le Mans, had been selected and the Group was on the move again.