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61st Troop Carrier Group (USAAF)

61st Troop Carrier Group (USAAF)



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61st Troop Carrier Group (USAAF)

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 61st Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) began operations in the Mediterranean, where it took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, before moving to England to take part in the D-Day invasion, Operation Market-Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.

The group was activated in the United States on 1 December 1940. After American entered the war the group was allocated to the Twelfth Air Force and moved to North Africa in May 1943.

Its combat debut came during the invasion of Sicily, when the group was used to drop paratroops near Gela (9 July 1943). On 11 July the group dropped reinforcements on Sicily and came under heavy fire from both ground and naval forces (presumably Allied naval forces). It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for completed the mission despite this heavy fire.

The group moved to Sicily to take part in the invasion of the mainland of Italy. It supported the landings at Salerno in September 1943. On 13 September the group took part in Operation Giant I (revised), dropping paratroop reinforcements from the 504th Regiment of the US 82nd Airborne Division into the beachhead. On the night of 14-15 September the group flew troops from the 505th Regiment into the same area, as part of Operation Giant IV.

In February 1944 the group moved to Britain and joined the Ninth Air Force, ready to take part in the D-Day landings. It received a second DUC for its role in dropping paratroops near Cherbourg on 6-7 June 1944.

After that the group spent most of its time operating as a standard transport unit, flying supplies to the front and returning with wounded personnel.

The group took part in Operation Market Garden (September 1944). On 17 September it carried British Paratroops to Arnhem, then was used to tow glider-borne reinforcements.

In March 1945 the group moved to France and on 24 March it dropped British paratroops near Wesel during the successful crossing of the Rhine.

At the end of the war in Europe the group was allocated to Air Transport Command and moved to Trinidad. It was only there for two months and was inactivated on Trinidad on 31 July 1945.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

Douglas C-47 Skytrain 1940-1945

Timeline

20 Nov 1940Constituted as 61st Transport Group
1 Dec 1940Activated
Jul 1942Redesignated as 61st Troop Carrier Group
May 1943To North Africa
9 July 1943Combat Debut
Feb 1944To England and Ninth Air Force
May 1945To Trinidad and Air Transport Command
31 July 1945Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Unknowm: 1 Dec 1940-1 Feb1941
Capt John Waugh: 1 Feb 1941
1stLt Thompson F Dow: c.1 Jul 1941
MajLorin B Hillsinger: 11 Jul 1941
Lt Charles A Inskip: unkn;
LtAllen L Dickey: unkn
Capt John C Bennett:26 May 1942
Lt Col Ralph J Moore:unkn
Maj Donald French: 6 Mar 1943
Col Willis W Mitchell: 11 Mar 1943
Col Edgar W Hampton: 12 Apr 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Olmsted Field, Pa: 1 Dec1940
Augusta, Ga: c. 9 Jul 1941
PopeField, NC: 26 May 1942
Lubbock, Tex: 23Sep 1942
Pope Field, NC: 26 Feb-4 May1943
Lourmel, French Morocco: 15 May1943
Kairouan, Tunisia: 21 Jun 1943
Licata, Sicily: 1 Sep 1943
Sciacca, Sicily:6 Oct 1943-12 Feb 1944
Barkston, England:18 Feb 1944-13 Mar 1945
Abbeville,France: 13 Mar-19 May 1945
WallerField, Trinidad: 29 May-31 Jul 1945

Component Units

13th: 1940-1942
14th:1940-1945; 1946
15th: 1940-1945; 1946
53d: 1942-1945; 1946
59th: 1942-1945

Assigned To

1942: 52nd Troop Carrier Wing; US Based
1942: 51st Troop Carrier Wing
1942-43: 53rd Troop Carrier Wing; US Based
April 1943-February 1944: 52nd Troop Carrier Wing; Twelfth Air Force
1944-45: 52nd Troop Carrier Wing; IX Troop Carrier Command; Ninth Air Force


61st Air Base Group

The 61st Air Base Group is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the 61st Air Base Wing of Air Force Space Command. The unit is stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.

The 61st Air Base Group operates Los Angeles AFB and supports the Space and Missile Systems Center.

The unit's World War II predecessor unit, the 61st Troop Carrier Group was a C-47 Skytrain transport unit assigned to both Twelfth and Ninth Air Forces in North Africa, Italy and Western Europe. The 61 TCG was highly decorated for its combat parachute infantry drops during the Invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) Invasion of Italy (Operation Avalanche) Invasion of France (Operation Overlord) the airborne invasion of the Netherlands (Operation Market-Garden) and the airborne crossing of the Rhine River, (Operation Varsity).


61st Troop Carrier Group

British Paratroopers prepare to board a C-47 Skytrain nicknamed "Virginia Ann" of the 59th Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Troop Carrier Group at Chipping Ongar. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Chipping Ongar - 61 TCG.'

The insginia of the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Troop Carrier Group.

The insignia of the 14th Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Troop Carrier Group.

C-47 Skytrains of the 59th Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Troop Carrier Group at Chipping Ongar. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Chipping Ongar - 61 TCG.'

The graves of: William Mallory - 466th BG 787th BS Pete M. Lonchar - 61st TCG 59th TCS Cambridge American Cemetery

59th Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Troop Carrier Group. My Grandfather, Warren E. Boone is located in the first row, 6th from the left. My father, William A. Semler, is in the third row, left side. He was in the 59th.

Warren E. Boone, USAAF, 59th Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st troop Carrier Group. Supply NCO.

The men of the 61st TCG pose in front of the X5, the aircraft that was commanded by LtCol. Marcus O. Owens Jr. My father, Cpl. William A. Semler (5th from left, back row), was a mechanic with the group.

B-17G-55-VE #44-8279 Originally assigned to the 8th AF Re-Assigned to the 61st Troop Carrier Group Waist windows appear to have curtains?

Constituted as 61st Transport Group on 20 Nov 1940. Activated on 1 Dec 1940. Redesignated 61st Troop Carrier Group in Jul 1942. Used C-47’s to prepare for operations with Twelfth AF.

Moved to North Africa in May 1943 and, after a period of special training, began operations on the night of 9 Jul by dropping paratroops near Gela during the invasion of Sicily. Received a DUC for completing a reinforcement mission two nights later when the group sustained heavy attack by ground and naval forces. Moved to Sicily, Aug-Sep 1943, for participation in the invasion of Italy dropped paratroops north of Agropoli on 13 Sep 1943 and flew a reinforcement mission to the same area on 14 Sep. Also transported cargo and evacuated patients while in the Mediterranean theatre.

Joined Ninth AF in England in Feb 1944 to prepare for the Normandy invasion. Received a DUC for dropping paratroops and supplies near Cherbourg on 6 and 7 Jun 1944. Dropped British paratroops at Arnhem on 17 Sep 1944 during the air attack on Holland released gliders carrying reinforcements to that area on succeeding days. Moved to France in Mar 1945 for the airborne assault across the Rhine, dropping British paratroops near Wesel on 24 Mar. Also provided transport services in the European theater, hauling gasoline, ammunition, food, medicine, and other supplies, and evacuating wounded personnel.

Moved to Trinidad in May 1945. Assigned to Air Transport Command. Used C-47’s to transport troops returning to the US. Inactivated in Trinidad on 31 Jul 1945.


A Very Short History of the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron

Colonel Tedrow, Most Distinguished Guests. Members of the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron, 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron, 436th Military Airlift Wing, and Friends.

I would like to take this moment to thank the personnel of The Dover Air Force Base for making this day a reality. Please, all of you, join me in applause for Mike Leister, Jim Leech, Ed Thomas, Al Shank, and everyone else who had a hand in restoring our C-47, The Turf and Sport Special to the fine condition you see before you.

I was asked to use the KISS formula in my remarks today, which means: Keep it short and Simple, but I do want to give all of you a very short history of The 61st Troop Carrier Squadron.

We were activated on 26 October, 1942 at Bowman Field, Kentucky, with an original cadre of two officers and eighteen men. I can say this for sure because I was there I was one of them! We moved then to Sedalia Army Air Base, Warrensburg, Missouri for our basic air training–and then to Lawson Field at Ft. Benning, Georgia for our final combat training before being sent overseas.

First stop was Tunisia, North Africa, where the squadron participated in its first combat mission. We dropped paratroopers near Gela, Sicily. Twelve aircraft participated, and eleven returned.

Our next base was Castelvetrano, Sicily, where we were ordered to fly supplies to our rapidly advancing armies. Then we moved to Saltby Air Base near Grantham, England, where we spent many hours training for the airborne invasion of Europe.

On D-Day, (the sixth of June, 1944), eighteen planes of the 61st dropped paratroopers from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment right on top of the unsuspecting Germans on the Normandy peninsula. All aircraft returned to base, except one, which made an emergency landing in southern England. The rest is history!!

Now, I would like to take a moment now to read a “Battle Honors” citation from Headquarters, Ninth Air Force, dated 23 August, 1944–addressed to Colonel Clayton Stiles, Commander of the 314th Troop Carrier Group, and directed to all members.

And I would like to remind everyone that this included the men of the mess halls, The Quartermaster and Tech. Supply, The Motor Pools, Office Personnel, Line Personnel, Crew Chiefs, Pilots & Navigators, Radio Operators, Glider personnel, and EVERYONE who was a part of the the 314th.

314th TROOP CARRIER GROUP

“For outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy on 5, 6, and 7 June, 1944. On these dates, members of Group Headquarters, and of the 32nd, 50th, 61st, and 62nd Troop Carrier Squadrons of the 314th Troop Carrier Group accomplished 106 sorties thereby distinguishing their organization through extraordinary heroism, determination, and espirit de corps in a flawlessly coordinated group effort in which Troop Carrier planes spearheaded the Allied invasion of the European continent.

All aircraft participating were unarmed and unarmored, flew at minimum altitudes and airspeeds, over water, and into the face of vigorous enemy oposition to unload their paratroops with utmost accuracy, making a notable contribution to the success of the intitial phases of the European invasion.

Through the untiring devotion to duty and the superior professional skill of all its officers and enlisted men, the 314th Troop Carrier Group has upheld and added to the luster of the highest traditions of the military service of the United States.”

By command of Major General Vandenberg.

We flew unknown amounts of freight every day after the D-Day operation, until we were needed for further combat operations. We flew in and out of postage-stamp airstrips–with gasoline for tanks, socks for infantrymen, shells for artillerymen. If the ground forces needed it, the 61st flew it–often from first light of day, until long after dark.

And then, forty four years ago today, this very aircraft, loaded with British paratroopers, (The Red Devils) participated in the crossing of the Rhine at Arnhem in The Netherlands. The story of this mission has been documented in the book and film A Bridge Too Far.

Nine days later, Turf and Sport, piloted by Gorden Hein, and with Bing Wood, (who is sitting right there with you) as crew chief, made the first combat resupply landing and takeoff of any American aircraft in the European campaign. It was the lead aircraft of the 61st in this mission. The airfield was under fire, and I can guarantee that this was one of the fastest cargo unloadings in history. The strip was later recaptured for just a short period by the Germans, and no one can even guess what happened to the cargo.

Our final combat mission was the Rhine crossing at Wesel–after which we flew more daily resupply missions into the heart of Germany. By this time, our pilots were used to overloaded airplanes and short muddy fields.

After hostilities, the 61st was assigned to The European Air Transport Service in Germany, and this particular aircraft, The Turf & Sport Special, was used to pioneer civil air routes across the continent of Europe. It served in this capacity for several months before being assigned to several other posts overseas, and then eventually returned to The United States for domestic service with The United States Air force.

We took her, brand new from the factory, and flew her into the start of a very productive service career. And we would like to think that we, and this old C-47, played a significant role in the history of Military Airlift as we see it here today.

And now, please cast your eyes on this hallowed plane. You will feel within its fuselage, and in the cockpit, the spirit of The 61st Troop Carrier Squadron, and the airborne troops who flew with us. Our voices, all of us, echo a prayer of thanks for the love and freedom that is such a great part of our American Heritage.

Again, I want to thank all of you for your fine work and attention to detail in the beautiful restoration of this proud old airplane.

Tony Cicippio
Technical Supply Sgt.
61st Troop Carrier Squadron
World War II


USAAF use

Saltby was known as USAAF Station AAF-538 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "SY".

314th Troop Carrier Group

Although a US ground party arrived in December 1943, it was not until the following February that a C-47 group moved in. This was the 314th Troop Carrier Group with Douglas C-47 and C-53 Skytrain transports which flew in from Sicily. Having earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for its operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations since May 1943 with Twelfth Air Force. Operational squadrons and fuselage codes of the 314th were:

At the end of February 1945, a move was made to the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Poix, France (ALG B-44), the squadrons leaving Saltby in early March.

349th Troop Carrier Group

The USAAF returned to Saltby in May 1945 when a detachment of 349th Troop Carrier Group from RAF Barkston Heath with Curtiss C-46 Commandoes to carry British paratroops to Norway. These aircraft remained until the end of the month.


Barkston Heath

Aerial photograph of Barkston Heath airfield looking north, the control tower and technical site are above the barrack sites at the bottom, 3 April 1946. Photograph taken by No. 90 Squadron, sortie number RAF/3G/TUD/UK/117. English Heritage (RAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Barkston Heath airfield looking north, there are six T2 hangars on the right, 3 April 1946. Photograph taken by No. 90 Squadron, sortie number RAF/3G/TUD/UK/117. English Heritage (RAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Barkston Heath airfield looking west, the technical site and barrack sites are on the left, the bomb dump is on the right, 18 April 1944. Photograph taken by 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, sortie number US/7PH/GP/LOC282. English Heritage (USAAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Barkston Heath airfield looking west, the technical site and barrack sites are on the left, the bomb dump is on the right, there are six T2 hangars at the bottom of the airfield, 18 April 1944. Photograph taken by 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, sortie number US/7PH/GP/LOC282. English Heritage (USAAF Photography).


History

The group was established before the Attack on Pearl Harbor, in December 1940, with Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft. It initially trained under I Troop Carrier Command in the southeast United States. Trained in paratroop missions and glider towing. Was deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and flew combat missions in the North African and Tunisian Campaigns under Twelfth Air Force.

It flew airborne assault and resupply airdrop missions during the invasions of Sicily and Italy in 1943 and transported cargo and personnel throughout the North African and Mediterranean theaters.

Reassigned to Ninth Air Force and was moved to England in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Flew airborne assault missions during the Normandy invasion and later supported Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. In 1945 it participated in the airborne assault across the Rhine. Also provided transport services in the European theater, hauling gasoline, ammunition, food, medicine, and other supplies, and evacuating wounded personnel.

Moved to Trinidad in May 1945. Assigned to Air Transport Command. Used C-47's to transport troops returning to the US. Inactivated in Trinidad on 31 July 1945

Cold War

It was reactivated in Germany on 30 September 1946. Assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe. Redesignated 61st Troop Carrier Group (Medium) in July 1948, and 61st Troop Carrier Group (Heavy) in August 1948. In Germany, the group participated in the Berlin Airlift, from June 1948 to May 1949, the group's C-54 aircraft ferried coal, flour, and other cargo into Berlin.

In 1950, the group moved to the United States shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War for duty with Military Air Transport Service. Attached to Far East Air Forces, it flew airlift missions on the Northern Pacific Route from the United States to Japan in support of UN forces in Korea before moving to Japan and conducting airlift missions from Japan to Korea from 1950�.

Returned to the US in November 1952 to join Tactical Air Command, to which the group had been assigned in October 1951. Converted from C-54 to C-124 aircraft and carried out worldwide strategic airlift operations from 1952�. Inactivated on 8 October 1959.

The 61st Military Airlift Group was reactivated at Howard Air Force Base, Panama on 1 December 1984. At Howard, the group was the parent unit for the 310th Military Airlift Squadron (310th MAS) with a diverse array of aircraft (C-21A, CT-43A, C-130E/H, C-27A). The C-21 and CT-43 provided VIP airlift support for the Commander-In-Chief, U.S. Southern Command (CINCSOUTH). The C-130s and C-27s flew tactical airlift operations in Central and South America from 1984�. The unit was inactivated and its assets absorbed by the 24th Wing when the 310th's mission was transferred to Air Combat Command on 1 June 1992.

Base support

The 61st Air Base Group has operated Los Angeles Air Force Base and supported the Space and Missile Systems Center since 1994.


Contents

Saltby was known as USAAF Station AAF-538 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "SY".

314th Troop Carrier Group [ edit | edit source ]

Although a US ground party arrived in December 1943, it was not until the following February that a C-47 group moved in. This was the 314th Troop Carrier Group with Douglas C-47 and C-53 Skytrain transports which flew in from Sicily. Having earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for its operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations since May 1943 with Twelfth Air Force. Operational squadrons and fuselage codes of the 314th were:

At the end of February 1945, a move was made to the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Poix, France (ALG B-44), the squadrons leaving Saltby in early March.

349th Troop Carrier Group [ edit | edit source ]

The USAAF returned to Saltby in May 1945 when a detachment of 349th Troop Carrier Group from RAF Barkston Heath with Curtiss C-46 Commandoes to carry British paratroops to Norway. These aircraft remained until the end of the month.


The Three-One-Five Group, and the Troop Carrier D-Day Flights

This report is taken from the book “THE THREE ONE-FIVE GROUP”, written in 1968, and published in 1984, by now-deceased Bill Brinson. It is now being expanded for reissue late 2002.

The last week in May, Group Engineering received numerous gallons of both black and white paint. Confidential instructions were issued to the four squadron engineering sections to be ready on short notice to mark all aircraft. Three white and two black stripes, each stripe two feet wide, were to be painted around the aircraft fuselage just forward of the tail section. The same pattern was to be painted on the top and bottom of each wing. Once the aircraft were painted, they were grounded until further notice. The “GO ” signal for the painting to commence was received on 3 June, and the squadron engineering personnel, chided into competition by Sgts. George White and Sollie Grasmick from the Group Engineering Section, worked continuously until all aircraft were marked.

Airfield Sealed

On 1 June, the airfield at Spanhoe was “sealed:” No one was allowed off the base, all passes were cancelled, and all personal telephone calls were prohibited. Non-official mail was placed in bags and stored. Paratroopers from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, stationed near Leicester , began arriving at Spanhoe two days later. They set up cots in one of the hangars and strung barbed wire around the area of the airfield allotted to them. Around the same time, 315th crewmembers scheduled for the upcoming mission were issued “escape kits “containing special instructions, cloth maps, and a limited amount of French francs. These kits were welcomed. Not welcomed were a set of special coveralls, impregnated with an oily and strong smelling substance, which were supposed to be worn on the mission. The impregnated suit was said to offer protection against certain types of gasses that the enemy might use.

The weather forecast for 5 June postponed the planned operations for 24 hours, but on the evening of 4 June, General Eisenhower made the decision that the invasion of France (Operation OVERLORD) would take place on the 6th. The paratroops, advanced guard of the Allied Forces, would take off from English airfields on the evening of 5 June. The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division, of which the 505th PIR was a part, was to secure the western edge of the bridgehead by capturing the town of Ste. Mere Eglise , a key point on the road to Cherbourg.

The Briefings

Early in the afternoon of 5 June, the pilots, co-pilots,and navigators assembled in the Pilots ‘ Lounge. (The crew chiefs and radio operators were briefed separately.) Maj.Gen.Matthew B. Ridgeway, who commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, and who was scheduled to jump with the 505th was present. When all were present, Col.McLelland announced that the long expected mission was scheduled for that evening. Lt.Col.Gibbons then revealed the map on the wall and pointed out the destination —a drop zone northwest of the town of Ste. Mere Eglise on the Cherbourg Peninsula in Normandy . Over 800 American troop carrier aircraft would participate in the mission, airlifting over 13,000 U.S. paratroopers and glidermen. Additional planes from the British 38 Group and 46 Group would take in the British airborne troops. All necessary information concerning the mission of the troop carriers was fully covered and few questions were asked at the briefing ‘s conclusion. Pilots went from the briefing to meet and have discussions with the jumpmasters on their respective planes.

The total load for the 315th’s 48 aircraft was 844 paratroops and 41,236 pounds of equipment. All that was left to do until the balloon went up later in the day was to wait.

Channel Crossing

A final crew briefing was held at 2030 no major changes were made to the instructions issued earlier. The one serial* of the 315th was to be made up of 48 aircraft —each aircraft carrying 19 to 20 paratroopers, and five to six parapacks of equipment fastened with shackles under the wings.

There was a lead flight of three planes followed by five Vee of Vees , consisting of nine aircraft each. The leader of each nine-plane element was to fly 1000 feet to the rear of the preceding flight. The wing element leaders were positioned 200 feet behind, and 200 feet to the right and left respectively of the rear planes in the leading element. For night flying, this was not a loose formation.

The weather was not too good, but it was not too bad. The skies were expected to be free of clouds over England at the altitude the formation would fly, and only scattered clouds were forecasted for the coast of France.

By 2130 most of the aircrews, paratroopers, and some maintenance men had assembled by the individual planes parked on the hardstands surrounding the airfield. Some were making last minute checks of their planes and equipmentsome talked quietlyothers remained silent with their own thoughtsall were wondering about what might lie ahead in Normandy . The German forces had worked on “Fortress Europe “for almost four years. Would it be as formidable as the enemy advertised it to be?

There was one group of men whose fate that June evening was not in Normandy , but on the base at Spanhoe. A few minutes before the aircraft were to be boarded, one of the paratroopers standing alongside Flight Officer Weston Harper ‘s aircraft dropped a grenade. It exploded and sprayed metal fragments in all directions. Two paratroopers were killed instantly and one died later. Fifteen others were wounded, including the aircrew radio operator. The plane received major damage and was pulled from the mission. The handful of paratroopers not wounded, and some who were, tried to get aboard other planes parked nearby at the same time that engines were being started and other planes began to roll to takeoff position. It was reported that one or two succeeded. Such was their training and esprit de corps.

Ninety-Four Engines start up Ninety-four engines began turning over at 2250 and in the order briefed, slowly moved along the taxi strip toward Runway 260. Six aircraft took formation position on the runway, while the others waited to move forward in their turn. Most base personnel not on the planes had an inkling that this mission might be what it happened to be and were assembling on the grass between the control tower and the active runway as if saying “Good luck and Godspeed to all aboard. ” At 2306 with ten to fifteen minutes of daylight still remaining, the lead plane of the 315th, piloted by Col. McLelland, started down the runway.

Each five-second interval thereafter, another plane followed the preceding one. The pilots tucked the planes into formation as the serial made a wide sweep of Spanhoe at 1200 feet before taking up a course for ” Atlanta , “the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing Assembly Point about 20 miles east of the midlands city of Birmingham . There were two serials from the 316th Group just ahead of the 315th’s planes, and seven serials from the 314th, 313th, the 61st, and the 442nd Groups following close behind. These ten serials of 368 aircraft carried the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne to Normandy.

After darkness, the moonlight above became discernible through high scattered clouds, and on the ground below specially placed light beacons marked the route to the coast every thirty miles. The formation flew southeast until it reached the head of the Severn Estuary, near Bristol , where it turned southward for Checkpoint “Elko. “At Elko, the groups of the other two troop carrier wings moved into the stream at their designated time. After passing the coast over Portland Bill, a descent was made to 500 feet to delay discovery by German radar. Twenty minutes from destination the jumpmaster on each plane was alerted and the formation began a gradual climb to 1500 feet. An unexpected cloudbank was hanging over the western part of the Cherbourg Peninsula that required the 315th to climb a few hundred feet more to get above it and to change course slightly.

As the cloudbank moved away from beneath the formation, the beacons placed on the drop zone by the Pathfinders were identified and shortly thereafter the “T ” of green lights was sighted. (The “T, ” 30 x 20 yards, was lit shortly before the first serial arrived.) Ground fire was observed off to the right from what appeared to be the town of Etienneville , and one flak burst struck a plane wounding seven paratroopers. Speed was reduced to 110 mph and four minutes before the drop, the jumpmaster standing at the rear of the fuselage received the red lights to stand up and hook up the parachutes to the static line.

As Drop Zone 𔄘, “about three quarters of a mile northwest of the village of Ste. Mere Eglise , was reached, the green lights signaling “Go “were switched on, sending 816 paratroopers floating earthward from the planes of the 315th. The time was 0203 hours, 6 June 1944 . Immediately after the paratroopers were dropped, the planes descended to 200 feet and maintained this altitude until well beyond the east coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula and to the St. Marcouf Islands. Somewhere in this last few miles over the mainland, a 309th aircraft was struck by machine gun fire coming from a house along the route. Lt. R. T. Slater, flying as co-pilot, was slightly wounded and the plane received some damage. Neither Lt. Orien Clark, the pilotnor Sgts. Prentice Stucker and Rives Graham, the crew chief and radio operator, were injured. Another 309th aircraft, piloted by Lt. Rodney Bemis, received a burst of flak in the fuselage, wounding several paratroopers, three seriously. On the return flight, Lt. Bemis landed at the first English airfield he sighted to obtain medical attention for the wounded.

Climbing to 3000 feet and returning over the Channel, the crewmembers were aware of the tremendous invasion armada spread out below them and moving toward the Normandy beaches. By 0440, 45 aircraft had returned to Spanhoe, and the other two planes had been reported as having landed at other airfields. Twelve of the C-47s had received damage from enemy fire. For the 315th aircrews, at least, what later became known as “The Longest Day ” was over.

NOTE: This is one of several additional accounts that supplement The Troop Carrier D-Day Flights. Other Troop Carriers are encouraged to submit their own D-Day records. If they are appropriate, they will be considered as additions, in running order.


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