416th Bombardment Group (L)
671st Bombardment Squadron (L)
25 January 1943 to 30 June 1945
Transcription from USAF Archives
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The people of the Midwest were brought much closer to the war in the spring of 1943 when one of Uncle Sam's most potent offensive weapons was created at Will Rogers Field near Oklahoma City. As a result of the usual administrative maze, (AG 320.2, "1-24-43", OB-I-AF-M) the 671st Bombardment Squadron (L), was constituted January 25, 1943 and emerged as an active unit of the 416th Bombardment Group (L) on February 5, 1943. (C.O. 3, Headquarters, Army Air Base, Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma). Immediately upon activation the entire group was attached to the 46th Bombardment Group (L) and assigned to the Third Air Support Command.
During the first ten days of its career the Squadron was entirely a "paper" organization. The first personnel consisting of nine officers and sixty enlisted men under the command of Captain David L. Willetts was assigned for duty on February 15, 1943. With these men as a nucleus around which to build his squadron, Captain Willetts set up his organization. As is the case with any progressive unit the first important job is to train the men to carry on their assigned duties in the most efficient manner. This was done by putting into effect a very comprehensive ground school training course, ranging from imitating the wild antics of the Group "supine Charles", Lt. John Flummerfelt, to mastering the finer points of flying the link trainer.
From the beginning the morale of the Squadron was high. Undoubtedly this was the result of the super delicious meals, a good athletic program, the Texas liquor convoys, and the unusually warm reception extened by the fair sex of that mid-west metropolis.
By April 1st the Squadron personnel had increased to 14 officers and 141 enlisted men. Before the end of April the organization had reached its full T/O strength having 33 officers and 241 enlisted men. As was expected such a rapid increase made the Squadron problems more complex. Before long however each man found his place and the organization began to function as a team. Key men of Captain Willetts staff included Lt. Barnard F. Metz, Adjutant; Lt. Clifford G. McCullah, Supply and Executive Officer; and Lt. Waymon D. Clark, Operations Officer. On the social front the unit was led by Lt. "Tex" Crutzinger Jitterbug champion, whose unusual contortions and smooth form was the envy of every "jit" in the outfit.
May 10th, was certainly a red letter day for the Squadron. On that day the first plane, an A20-G-5, was received. Four days later, Captain Willetts became the first man of the unit to "take wings", and soon every combat crew member was taking his turn in the air.
During May also the official aircraft markings were approved by AAF Headquarters in Washington. The insignia designed is a large red aerial bomb on a blue disc with a yellow border. The bomb is entwined by a winged yellow snake checkered with red and yellow diamonds and having a red mouth and forked tongue with white fangs. The winged snake symbolizes the deadly striking ability of the Squadron while the yellow border and the yellow snake markings represent the Squadron Color.
During the remainder of its stay at Will Rogers Field the training program continued. On June 3, however, the 416th Bombardment Group (L) of which the 671st Bombardment Squadron is a component moved from Will Rogers Field to Lake Charles Army Air Field, Louisiana. Invaluable experience was gained from this move. Most of the personnel were transported by train convoy, arriving at their destination on June 5th. Captain Willetts led a formation of planes to the new base via Barksdale Field.
Although everyone was eager to operate from a base of their own, many were reluctant to move from such a luxurious base as Will Rogers Field. However the men were received with open arms at Lake Charles and before long that Southern Hospitality made everyone feel much at home.
Training under the Air Support Command was resumed at Lake Charles. More planes were received and soon the A-20 was spotted as that fast twin-engined plane zooming along "on the deck" or skip bombing in the gulf. The broad grin on the face of the pilots as they stepped out of the plane was soon interpreted as evidence of the fact that they had achieved their main objective, i.e., to fly under the Port Arthur Bridge, projecting out into the Gulf.
More color and experience was added to the Squadron when Captain "Snuffy" Oestreicher reported for duty on July 8th. Captain Oestreicher had made history in the South West Pacific where as a fighter pilor he won the coveted Distinquished Service Cross. Other men both experienced and inexperienced were assigned to the unit until the morning report showed a total of 397 enlisted men and 32 officers on August 1st.
The purpose of the entire group training program as well as the tactics of the plane were changed on August 6th when the Group was transferred from the Air Support Command to the III Bomber Command, (Par1, S.O. 296, Hq, III AF). Wild rumors originating from various stools ran rampant through the Squadron but training went on as usual.
September 4th was a dark day for the 671st Bombardment Squadron (L). That morning while on a routine training flight, ships flown by 2nd Lt. Walter J. Burke and 2nd Lt. Robert W. Morton collided while passing through a slight overcast. Both men were killed. After recovering from the initial shock of the accident the combat crews carried on as usual. - - certainly a tribute to their courage and fighting spirit.
Progress was hampered greatly during this period by the constant change of personnel, resulting chiefly from the activation and de-activation of the 418th Bombardment Group at Lake Charles Army Air Base. From an original strength of 241 enlisted men and 35 officers in May, the strength had increased to 475 enlisted men and 37 officers on October 1st.
The general state of confusion that slowed down activities for sometime was cleaned up on September 24th when the 416th Bombardment Group (L) was changed from the status of an overseas training unit to that of a combat unit. Immediately the Squadron set about the task of selecting their most capable personnel and streamlining the unit for the intensive training program ahead. Soon Lake Charles Army Air Base was swarming with inspectors from all departments of the 56th Wing, III Bomber Command, III Air Force and USAAF Headquarters.
During this period larger formations appeared in the sky and combat crews were put on a regular night flying schedule. The ground school expanded and it appeared that finally the unit was on its way to a combat theatre.
Misfortune struck again at the Squadron. While leading a flight of planes on an attack against another Squadron Bivouac area the ship flown by 2nd Lt. Fred E. Holzschieter collided with the ship flown by 2nd Lt. Kempernolte of the 669th Bombardment Squadron (L), 2nd Lt. Fred H. McVoy and S/Sgt. Clyde E. Graham were also lost in this accident.
At this season of the year weather in Louisiana is not too pleasant. Rapid moving cloud fronts descend on the Lake Charles area frequently and often make flying impossible. Under such conditions the training of combat crews was hampered greatly. To alleviate this situation the Group moved to Laurel Air Base near Laurel, Mississippi. Before this move the Squadron strength was reduced to 38 officers and 257 enlisted men.
First impressions of the new base at Laurel were not too favorable. Pilots had difficulty finding the field. Facilities were limited. Mississippi was dry. Entertainment was almost nil. But the men of the Squadron adapted themselves to these conditions with amazing rapidity. Combat crews soon became familiar with the countryside. To counteract the shortage of facilities, Operations, Intelligence, Engineering and Communications were "tented" at the dispersal area. Certain men were assigned ("unofficially") the job of taking orders for the necessary spirits and soon by various methods the liquor problem was solved.
Wives and girl friends coming for a goodbye visit improved the entertainment situation greatly and those who were left alone did a remarkable job of entertaining themselves.
When we arrived at Laurel, Major Clarence A. Martin, assumed command of the Squadron, coming to the Group with Colonel Harold L. Mace who had replaced Lt. Colonel Richard D. Dick as Group Commander.
By this time the unit had reached the advanced stage of training. From November 2 to 15 the Group established a Base at Pollock, Louisiana which was assigned the task of giving support to the blue army in the Louisiana maneuvers. Combat crews and ground personnel were shuttled to and from this new base until all the crews of the Squadron had a chance to operate under simulated battle conditions. Captain Randall, 671st Bombardment Squadron Executive Officer acted as Base Executive Officer on this maneuver. From November 6 to 22 a formation of planes under the command of Captain Robert G. Oestreicher took part on a nation wide demonstration tour. The following pilots also from the 671st Squadron took part in this demonstration ;
Lt. Horace Pair, Lt. William Minnicks, Lt. Joseph Schouten, Lt. Everett Platter, Lt. Richard Wheeler. Lt. Albert Jedinak was the only navigator to make the trip. The gunners included ; S/Sgt. Hollis Foster, Sgt. Joseph Czeth, S/Sgt. Herbert Marion, S/Sgt. Henry Lempha, T/Sgt. Jean Tanner, S/Sgt. Keith Johnson. Other personnel of the touring crew were ; Crew Chief, S/Sgt. Evan Rosser, Crew Chief, S/Sgt. Willis Cook, Tow Target Operator, Sgt. Edmund McAvoy.
All these men agreed that the tour was well worth while. On the social side many a yarn was spun, concerning their activities during their off time.
While all this was going on the remainder of the Squadron was operating under actual field conditions. From November 9 to 16th all Squadron personnel moved to the bivouac area, pitched their tents, dug slit trenches and proceeded to carry on as a field unit. During this week southern climate in general and Mississippi weather in particular took all the verbal abuse the men could dish out. Everything available including newspapers, rags, blankets and canvas bags were used to keep out the cold at night ; and the warm days, when everyone liked to bask in the sun, were ruined by the continuous probing of inspectors including General Parker, Commanding General, III Bomber Command. In spite of such rugged living conditions the Squadron benefited greatly from the bivouac experience. Thereafter nobody was heard to gripe about the inconveniences of the Laurel Army Air Base living quarters. While on bivouac Captain Willetts again assumed command of the Squadron, Major Martin being transferred to the 46th Bombardment Group (L).
Once again rumors spread thick and fast. Speculation as to when and where we were going was at a high pitch. That we were going someplace soon was made certain when Captain Willetts ordered all ground personnel to take their leaves and furloughs as soon as possible, and so that flying crews could get away when their training was complete. From that time on the trains out of Laurel were loaded with soldiers going home or, if that was to far, to some Southers vacation spot. Before long tales of incidents at the Roosvelt Hotel, the French District or anywhere along Canal Street became the most common source of diversion.
Captain Oestreicher was transferred to the 46th Bombardment Group (L) on November 29th. His position as Squadron Operations Officer was filled by Captain Lloyd F. Dunn on December 12th.
As time went by everyone put their shoulders to the wheel to get the unit ready for POM inspection. The Squadron was cut down to T/O strength, administrative difficulties were ironed out, clothing and baggage were marked, and many other details were completed in the last minute rush. When the inspectors finally arrived shortly before Christmas every soldier had his equipment displayed neatly and was dressed in his best uniform. Much to the surprise of all, the inspectors took a casual glance around the area and passed the Squadron with flying colors. Such an excellent record brought a special commendation from the Group Commander.
Even the most pessimistic were now convinced we may get overseas. Since most of the inspections were over, many of the men proceeded to enjoy their last few days in the states. The Officers' Club had a rushing business for those few days, and the USO in Laurel was overcrowded every night. The climax was reached on New Years Eve when the entire Squadron gathered at the Mess Hall after seeing "This is It", to guzzle a few beers and sing a few songs. By midnight everybody was happy. The New Year was ushered in with a Conga line supervised by Captain Willetts. The party dispersed shortly after midnight, but the New Years Cheer was still evident as the men groped their way toward the barracks.
January 1st, was the last day spent at Laurel Army Air Base. That afternoon after a final checkup Captain Willetts capably assisted by Lt. John F. Cashell marched the Squadron to the Base Depot where it embarked to travel to the staging area. The train ride was more enjoyable than had been anticipated. Poker for mild stakes, pitch and bridge were the most common types of entertainment. In addition all men were well supplied with reading material.
Immediately after arriving at Camp Shanks the Squadron went through another siege of clothes checking, marking, and changing. Activity at this base was limited to fatigue details, hikes, physical training, medical shots and of course the last minute checkups. Since we had been located near New York, many of the men had an opportunity to see the Big City for the first time. Passes were arranged so that all personnel could get off the base on alternate nights, and before long everyone interested had hit the high spots.
The big day finally arrived. January 17th after a short train and ferry ride the unit boarded the U.S.S. Colombie. When the unit left the United States for combat duty the following Officers and Enlisted Men made up its staff :
Commanding Officer David L. Willetts, Captain Executive Officer Clifford G. McCullah, 1st Lt. Adjutant Joseph A. Haubrich, 2nd Lt. Supply officer Joseph A. May, Jr. 1st Lt. Engineering Officer Alvin H. Thiele, 2nd Lt. Operations Officer Lloyd F. Dunn, Captain Intelligence Officer Edward P. Arnold, 1st Lt. Communications Officer John F. Cashell, 1st Lt. Armament Officer John E. Cossner, 1st Lt. Mess Officer Stanley I. L. Dow, 2nd Lt. Ordnance Officer Phillip J. Miller, 1st Lt. Medical Officer Leland P. Randles, Captain Flight Leaders Everett T. Platter, 2nd Lt. Francis W. Demond, 2nd Lt. Robert E. Stockwell, 1st Lt. LaVerne A. Marzolf, 2nd Lt. Sq. Bombardier Peter G. Royalty, 2nd Lt. ENLISTED MEN - SECTION HEADS Administration Thomas H. Hodge, 1st Sgt. Supply Paul E. Murphy, S/Sgt. Line Chief Clarence M. Mayer, M/Sgt. Operations, Chief Clerk John W. McAfee, S/Sgt. Intelligence, " " Richard J. Olmer, S/Sgt. Communications Chief William J. Rittenhouse, M/Sgt. Armament Chief James F. Burke, M/Sgt. Transportation NCO James W. Waugh, S/Sgt. Mess Sergeant Merl E. McClung, T/Sgt. Ordnance Chief Edward G. Pochaticko, T/Sgt. Medical Section Chief Francis V. Lawrence, Sgt. KEY GUNNERS Jean R. S. Tanner, T/Sgt. Felix H. Lamonde, T/Sgt. Hollis A. Foster, S/Sgt. Howard C. Warden, S/Sgt. Herbert A. Marion, S/Sgt. Keith L. Johnson, S/Sgt. Joseph L. Czech, S/Sgt. William C. Russell, S/Sgt.
The full fighting strength of the unit at this time was 36 Officers and 261 Enlisted Men.
Needless to say most of the men were somewhat bewildered as they trudged up the gang plank of the U.S.S. Colombie that night. The doughnuts and coffee served at the pier by the Red Cross were most welcome. However after lugging packs and bags for what seemed miles any "sac" even it were down deep in the bow of the ship was appreciated.
By 2300 o'clock that evening, embarkation was complete. Every man was assigned his bunk and lifesaver and apparently was ready for a very enjoyable boat ride. Very little unpacking was done and no doubt everyone was rehearsing in his mind the fastest methods of abandoning ship in case of emergency.
At noon on January 18th the U.S.S. Colombie hoisted its anchor and set out to sea where soon it was joined by other ships of the convoy. The first part of the journey through New York Harbour past the Statue of Liberty was very pleasant. It was not long though, before a few of the landlubbers began to feel the effects of the continuous rolling and listing of the ship. That every present creaking noise didn't help matters much either. As a result sick call soon became the largest formation on board ship. As the journey continued, most of the men acquired their sea legs and were able to navigate around the ship like veterans.
Conditions on board ship were somewhat crowded for the enlisted men. Chow facilities were limited, sleeping quarters were stuffy and unsanitary.
The Ship's Chaplain provided reading material and recording machines as well as evening movies for entertainment. The biggest feature of the entire trip, however, was the Special Services presentation of "This is It" and "Crock of Ship".
The necessary abandon ship drills and fire drills as well as compartment commanders meetings were held almost daily.
For the officers the journey was much more pleasant. The food was delicious and served in a most elegant fashion by French waiters. Living quarters were not too crowded and the Orricers' Lounge was always active with poker games, checkers, pitch and the PX Que.
When the Scottish Highlands were finally sighted on January 28th the nervous tension of the trip was greatly relieved. A majority of the men were glad the trip was behind them. However they were unanimous in their praise of the remodeled French Vessel and the seamanship of the all-French Crew.
Three days later we debarked at Glasgow. Evan at such an early hour as 0300 the Red Cross Girls were at the pier to serve us coffee and doughnuts.
As we traveled through the countryside by train the next day everyone marveled at the neatness of the Scottish and English countryside, the farms and the villages with the stone fences and hedges around them. The ancient castles were very impressive. Tradition seemed to be imprinted on every field and home. Late that evening the unit arrived at their new base near Wethersfield, in Essex.
The first morning in England all were up and stirring bright and early. Perhaps it was because of hardness of the british "biscuits" or the roar of the planes overhead; or perhaps the men were just eager to get on with the war.
The base was made ready for our occupancy by the Fourth Service Group which had arrived a month earlier. Construction workers were still on the field, however, and it was apparent that the Base would not be completed for some time.
When the first planes finally arrived a strenuous flying program was set up to get the crews back into shape for combat after a long period of inactivity. Flying over England proved to be much different than flying in the States. The similarity of the countryside made check points and landmarks difficult to find. As a result the British "Darkie" system was used often to bring our crews back to Base those first few days. It was not long before the pilots got their bearings again and soon they were buzzing the neighboring fields like veterans.
The Squadron was tagged with another disaster on February 14th. While on a training flight near the Airfield the plane piloted by 2nd Lt. William D. Minnicks, crashed to the earth. No satisfactory explanation has been given for the accident. The remains of the pilot were buried at the American Military Cemetery near Cambridge.
Approximately one month after arriving at Wethersfield the 416th Bombardment Group (L) flew on its first operational mission over enemy territory. It was not until four days later on March 7, 1944, though, the first bombs were dropped by the Group. The target on this mission was the Conches Airfield, about 50 miles west of Paris. This was the first mission in which combat crews of the 671st Bombardment Squadron took part. Certainly a large share of the credit for a successful mission should go to that Squadron, as the first two flights were made up almost entirely of their personnel. The formation was led by Major C. S. Towles, Ass'st Group Operations Officer with Lt. W. L. Smith as his B/N. His gunners were S/Sgt. K. L. Johnson, and S/Sgt J. L. Czech of the 671st Bombardment Squadron. Other Squadron Members and their formation positions were as follows :
2. Lt. R.S.Perkins, 4. Capt. L.F.Dunn, S/Sgt. J.N.Sherry, Lt. P.C.Royalty, B/N, Sgt. R.H.Linnerman S/Sgt. H.H.Wellin, S/Sgt. L.O.Kutzer 3. Lt. M.Zubon, 5. Lt. R.V.Wheeler, S/Sgt. W.C.Russell, S/Sgt. J.S.Brower, T/Sgt. J.R.Tanner, Sgt. E. Corrin, 6. Lt. J.T.Schouten, S/Sgt. R.R.Williamson, Sgt. J.E.Feistl.
The second flight of the formation of three flights was led by Major Willetts, promoted from Captain to Major, on February 9th 1944. The second Flight was as follows ;
1. Major D.L.Willetts, 4. Lt. R.F.Stockwell, Lt. A. Jedinak, B/N, S/Sgt. C.R.Henshaw, S/Sgt. N.H.Lempkn, S/Sgt. J. Steward T/Sgt. F.N.Larronde 2. Lt. A.R.Durante, 5. Capt. L.V.Huston, S/Sgt. H.T. Best, Sgt. A.J.Zaikus, S/Sgt. I.R.DeGuisti S/Sgt. P.L.Clearman 3. Lt. W.E.Cramsie, 6. Lt H.D.Andrews, S/Sgt. B.G.Fandre, S/Sgt. C.M.Cook, Sgt. F.R.Chvatal Sgt. X.R.Werley
By this time all combat crew members were taking turn flying on mission as a part of the Group Formation. Nine Combat Missions were completed during the month of March.
On March 19th while returning from a mission with one engine shot away Lt. Horace F. Pair crash-landed successfully on the English Coast. Lt. Pair was seriously wounded and was sent to a hospital for treatment. Both gunners, S/Sgt. Victor P. Adams, and S/Sgt. Herbert A. Marion, received only minor injuries.
Targets especially earmarked for our Group to Attack were Noball Targets (Special Constructions), Airfields, Marshalling Yards and Coastan Defenses. Priority on these targets varied from week to week. All targets were located in Northern France and Belgium, with the Noball Targets being in the well-defended Pas-de-Calais Area. Soon the crews were speaking with great respect of such places as St. Omer Crece Forest, Abbeyville and St. Pol. From these positions enemy flak fire was remarkably accurate and already had taken a toll of our crews. on April 10th, Lt. William E. Cramsie and his Gunners, S/Sgt. Jack Steward and S/Sgt. Charles R. Henshaw were missing in action due to HFF. The plane flown by Lt. Joseph T. Schouten received a direct hit by an 88mm. shell over the Pas-de-Calais Area on April 23. His Gunners, Sgt. Joseph E. Feistl and S/Sgt. Robert R. Williamson were also missing.
In spite of these setbacks the Squadron has carried on in an admirable fashion. As a result of their efforts and the other Squadrons' efforts the 416th Bombardment Group has received commendation from General Sam E. Anderson of IX Bomber Command on two occasions. By the end of April the Pilot-Bombardier Navigator teams of Willetts-Royalty and Dunn-Arrington had led several Group Formations with marked success.
Although the Squadron was in the thick of the fight, diversion and entertainments were still necessary. The Red Cross Aero Club was the social headquarters for the enlisted men and the Officers' Club was the hangout for officers. Liberty runs to Braintree about 15 miles away were made every night. One and two-day passes were arranged for ground and combat crews respectively. Many men took advantage of their passes to see the historical sites of England while others chose to try their luck evading the Picadilly Commandos.
As the men became familiar with British Customs and used to British Weather their impression of England improved greatly.
Going into the month of May the invasion is the biggest topic of conversation, mail the best morale booster, chow the worst gripe and the liquor shortage the greatest problem.
By May 1st the 671st Squadron, already a veteran combat unit, was fully prepared to carry out its part in the air Battle of Europe. During this month the greatest aerial offensive in history was launched against the Continent. As a part of this offensive the Squadron took part in 29 missions before June 1st, attacking Airdromes, Marshalling Yards, and No-ball Installations. It was apparent by the end of May that D-Day was not too far in the future. For almost 10 consecutive days the squadron flew two missions a day against targets concentrated in the Normandy and Pas De Calais sectors. Soon the results of this terrific bombardment began to show their effects on the transportation facilities of the enemy and shortly after the Invasion started, the Field Commander paid special tribute to all those who took part in the air offensive.
Our success was not achieved without casualties however. On May 12th while on a mission over the Amiens area, the ship flown by Lt. R. E. Stockwell received a direct hit by enemy flak and burst into flames. Lt. Stockwell, Lt. Albert Jedinak, S/Sgt. H. A. Foster, and S/Sgt. E. W. Rust were missing in action. An excellent photograph of the ship, which was taken by the Ninth Air Force Combat Photographer, was published in many of the leading U. S. papers and magazines.
The strength of the squadron on May 31st was 274 enlisted men and 40 officers. But several changes, especially in officer personnel occured. Lt. George Cowgill who had been with the squadron for many months was transferred to the Forth Gunnery and Tow Target Flight (SP), AAF Station 237. Lt. Edward P. Arnold, Squadron Intelligence Officer was transferred to the Ninth Air Force Headquarters. Pilots transferred into the squadron during the month include: Lt. F. W. Henderson, Lt. R. A. Wipperman and Lt. R. W. York on May 4th; Lt. J. H. Miller and Lt. R. C. Morehouse on May 5th; Lt. A. E. Herman, Lt. T. J. Murray and Lt. C. L. Estes on May 15th.
Shortly after June 1st the white markings of Allied aircraft was painted on all the ships. There was some speculation as to the purpose of the markings but since our aircraft had been marked and remarked so many times previously no one thought seriously that this was the final preparation for the invasion. On June 6th however, the combat crews assembled for an early morning mission were given the entire plan by Colonel H. L. Mace. Our part in the first phase of the attack was to destroy lines of transportation immediately behind the beach-head. On the morning of the first day we attacked road junctions and marshalling yards at Argentan and Ecouche, attacking for the first time from an altitude of 3000 feet. Later in the day crews of the squadron attacked the heavily defended Marshalling Yards at Sergveux. Both missions were successful, although the aircraft flown by Lt. R. A. Wipperman was lost due to enemy flak. S/Sgt. H. S. Ahrens and S/Sgt. L. C. Mazza were also missing.
Activities of the squadron were more limited because of weather during June than previously. In spite of this handicap the squadron took part in 24 missions.
Lt. H. F. Pair hospitalized for several weeks as a result of a forced landing on second mission returned to the Squadron on June 14th. For his display of unusual skill in landing a damaged plane he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Lt. General Brereton, Commanding General, Ninth Air Force. Other pilots assigned were Lt. D. L. Withington III on June 18th; Lt. W. H. Ames on June 19th; and Lt. J. L. Lackovich on June 27th. Lt. T. W. Sampson was assigned as Asst. Squadron Intelligence Officer on June 25th.
The necessary diversion was provided by local U.S.O. shows, nightly moving pictures, liberty-runs to Braintree and individual excursions into the countryside. Weekly dances at the Aero Club were the biggest entertainment feature for the enlisted men. For the officers the big social event of the month was the Club Dance held on June 2nd. At this affair members of the 671st squadron, led by Lt. Joseph A. Haubrich and Lt. John F. Cashell again amazed and amused the Group with their unusual ability to entertain the guests. Their efforts were so effective that it was impossible to completely disperse the party at the scheduled time. Such valuable contacts were made by other members of the squadron, also, that it has been necessary to run special convoys to Cambridge for them to satisfy their social desires.
By the end of June we were preparing for another phase of the war. The Squadron was given orders to be prepared to move to Normandy by July 7th. The campaign did not develop as rapidly as had been anticipated though, and the move was postponed.
Bad weather continued on into July with the result that by July 20th the Squadron had taken part in only 13 missions. One of these was the One-Hundredth Mission however, and proved to be one of the most effective efforts of the 416th Group. The target for this mission was Giberville Area G just northeast of Caen. This was in close support of the British-Canadian drive in that sector. Within two hours after the attack the ground forces broke through the area and drove on deep into enemy territory.
The Squadron Party, a semi-annual affair, was held in the post beer hall on July 10th. A good supply of liquor, beer and food was set in, and shortly after the girls arrived, the squadron was in the midst of one of the most hilarious events of its history. By midnight the event closed without mishap and everyone meandered home apparently ready to carry on with the war.
During July and August a feeling of uncertainty prevailed in the entire Group. All rumors regardless of how official they seemed proved to be just bad guesses at perhaps wishful thinking. The "sack" strategists who originated the ideas that we were going to France, The United States, China, Burma, India, etc. finally gave up in despair and by the end of August the Group was still at Weathersfield.
Periods of bad weather limited operations for a short time during July but later in the month good weather coupled with the successful ground campaign in France kept the combat crews on the alert. On many days two missions were run and when the weather was too cloudy often times the pathfinder ships from Creat Saling were called upon to lead the formation. Most common targets during this period were bridges over the Siene River. Troop concentrations in the Falaise Gap and fuel dumps located several miles behind the front lines.
Through this period the combat crews continued their excellent performance. For the attack on the Compiegne Marshalling Yards, August 5th, the Group received a special commendation from General Anderson and Colonel Backus. Major Willetts and Lt. Royalty led that formation. The next day the Group attacked the Oissel Bridge below Rouen with excellent results. This attack also brought special commendation from higher headquarters.
The strain of combat began to effect some of the crews who by now had flown between forty and fifty missions. As a result many of the crews were given seven days leave. The whereabouts and the conduct of the crews on these leaves would make an interesting story but as yet nothing has happened to effect the history of the organization. Morale of the squadron during this period was very high.
Twenty one missions were flown during July and during the first twenty days of August the group established a new record by flying eighteen missions. Many of these were close support missions requiring accurate precision bombing. In spite of the heavy strain on the crews they performed their tasks in an admirable fashion. Through their efforts the Group had soon built up an enviable record which compared very favorably with any Group of the Command. The workhorses among the Flight Leaders of the 671st Bomb Squadron were Capt Lavern A. Marzolf, Lt. Hilary P. Cole, and Lt. Richard V. Wheeler. All three pilots had flown over fifty missions by the middle of July. Lt. John T. Beck, bombardier for Capt Marzolf had several excellent bombing missions to his credit, while Lt. Henry T. Arrington and Lt. Robert J. Basnett two older squadron members continued their good work.
As the activities of the squadron increased more men were needed to relieve both the combat crews and ground personnel. As a result the strength of the squadron had increased to forty eight officers and two hundred ninety five enlisted men by August 20th.
As autumn approached, the 416th Bombardment Group (L), now a veteran combat unit, had undergone many changes of personnel, some which directly effected the 671st Bomb Squadron (L). Colonel Harold L. Mace, the Group Commanding Officer was given command of the 98th Bomb Combat Wing (M). Previous to his transfer Lt. Colonel Thomas R. Ford assumed command of the 409th Bombardment Group (L). Lt. Colonel Theodore R. Aylesworth became the new commanding officer of the 416th Bombardment Group (L) and Lt. Colonel Walter W. Farmer was moved up from Group Operations Officer to Deputy Commanding Officer. On August 6, 1944 Lt Colonel Walter W. Farmer was listed as Missing In Action after the attack on Oissel Bridge near Rouen. His position was filled by Major William J. Meng, Commanding Officer of the 670th Bomb Squadron. Major Lloyd F. Dunn, Operations Officer of the 671st Bomb Squadron (L) replaced Major William J. Meng after serving only a few days as assistant Group Operations Officer. Captain Zean R. Moore from the 670th Bomb Squadron (L) took charge of operations in the 671st Bomb Squadron (L). After all transfers and replacements were completed the combat crews of the squadron read as follows:
Operations Officer Commanding Officer Asst. Operations Off. Capt. Zean R. Moore Major D. L. Willetts Capt. S. M. Hixon Lt. P. G. Royalty T Sgt. F.H. Larronde S Sgt. H.A. Lempka "A" Flight "B" Flight "C" Flight Lt. F.W. DeMand Capt. H.P. Cole Capt. L.A. Marzolf Lt. A.C. Burns Lt. R.J. Basnett Lt. J.T. Beck S Sgt R.J. Troyer S Sgt F.R. Chvatal S Sgt H.E. Wellin S Sgt C.W. Middleton S Sgt B.G. Fandre S Sgt L.C. Kutzer Lt. W.A. Marchant Lt. J.C. Gary Lt. M. Zubon S Sgt C.J. Harp Sgt A.E. Schoen T Sgt J.R.L. Tanner S Sgt K.P. Brown Sgt R.W. Cheuvront S Sgt W.C. Russell Lt. A.R. Durante Lt. F.W. Henderson Lt. R. D. Perkins S Sgt H.T. Best T Sgt R.M. Griswold S Sgt V.N. Sherry S Sgt I.R. DeGiusti S Sgt P.E. Coulombe S Sgt R.H. Linneman Lt. R.W. York Lt. D.S. Withington Lt. C.L. Estes S Sgt H.J. Wilds Sgt C.F. Huss S Sgt C.R. Orvold S Sgt L.A. Ashton Sgt L.D. McElhattan S Sgt A.E. DiMartino "D" Flight "E" Flight "F" Flight Lt. J.D. Adams Lt. R.W. Wheeler Lt. R.E. Greenley Lt. R.J. Hanlon Lt. H.T. Arrington Lt. R.H. Mitchell S Sgt P.L. Clearman S Sgt K.L. Johnson S Sgt H. C. Worden S Sgt A.J. Zeikus S Sgt J.L. Czech S Sgt J.J. Rzepka Lt. H.D. Andrews Lt. J.H. Miller Lt T. J. Murray S Sgt G.M. Cook S Sgt R.G. Schrom S Sgt D.H. Debower S Sgt E.R. Werley S Sgt J. Galender S Sgt R.J. Jones Lt. R. H. Smith Lt. R.C. Morehouse Lt. W.H. Ames S Sgt R.J. Mahoney S Sgt L.A. Zygiel Sgt H.S. Fessler S Sgt H. R. Davis S Sgt A.J. Burgess Sgt R.J. Brown Lt. H.F. Pair Lt. A.E. Herman Lt. J.J. Lackovich S Sgt H.A. Marion S Sgt A.D. Garrett Sgt T. Connery S Sgt V.P. Adams S Sgt J.E. Young Sgt R.M. Barry
Lt. Everett T. Platter (The Beard) a former flight leader was transferred to Group Operations acting as Group Training Officer.
With this array of combat talent the squadron was well prepared to attack any target selected for them during the campaign in the west. By this time the Ground Forces had broke through the enemy lines on the beach-head and were in the process of encircling the German Seventh army. The 416th Group was assigned many missions in close support of this effort. Such missions as the successful attacks on Rouen, Doullens, Fuel dumps near Argentan and Alencon are proof that the Group aided materially in encirclening the enemy at the Falaise Gap and later trapping him at the Seine River.
As the Allies drove on into France their supply lines became more extended. Finally to alleviate this situation General Eisenhower ordered the Air Forces to attack Brest until it was captured. It first it appeared that the flight to Brest was beyond our range so arrangements were made for the Group to attack the target and land at St. Mawgin to refuel. Although extended almost to the limit, some of the planes were able to make it back to the base without refueling. However Brest was often protected by a heavy layer of clouds making it necessary for the Group to return several times before dropping their bombs. This was much to the liking of the men in the Squadron for Brest proved to be a "Cake Run" on most occasions. When flights to Brest were getting monotonous boys of the 671st did their part to add a bit of color and excitement to the affair. While over the target one of the engines of Lt. Merchant's plane caught fire. "Feather" immediately ordered his gunners to bail out while he nursed the plane along on one engine till he reached a landing strip at Morlaix. The gunners S Sgt C. J. Harp and S Sgt K. P. Brown returned the next day on a C-47 but for some reason Feather was not to be found, although his airplane was known to have landed safely. Three days later Feather ended the search and killed his MIA report in the personnel basket when he phoned the Operations Officer from Southern England asking for transportation back to the base.
When Brest was captured targets in France were very limited. The Third Army which had raced through France was now meeting stiffer resistance and was soon calling for air support in the Metz-Nancy Sector. This was also at extreme range but several targets were attacked by the Group in that area. One of these missions, the attack of Foret De Haye near Nancy, proved to be the best job of bombing done by the Group. Eleven crews of the 671st Bomb Squadron (L) participated in this flight with Major Willetts leading the first box and Captain Wheeler leading the second box, his first mission as a box leader. When the mission was complete and the photos developed it was found that all six flights had scored excellent hits on the target causing terrific explosions with smoke coming almost as high as the formation. The complete success of the mission as more surprising when Captain Wheeler and Lieutenant Arrington revealed that they had flown the entire route and dropped their bombs without interphone communications. The same day, 12 September, the Group with six crews from the 671st Squadron attacked the first target in Germany assigned to any IX Bomber Command unit when they bombed the Marshalling Yards at St. Wendell.
Since it was quite apparent that the war was rapidly running out of our range many rumors as to when and where we would move again spread throughout the Group. Speculation was soon ended with an announcement over the Tannoy System on the afternoon of September 14th that all Military Personnel were restricted to the base. The next morning after spending all evening checking clothes, passing out rations and ammunition, briefing and packing, the advanced echelon moved off the base to the Port of Embarkation at Southampton. There are many and varied stories about this trip from Wethersfield to our present base near Melan but in spite of the expected hardships everyone needed to have a good time. The rear echelon remained on operations at Wethersfield flying one mission against enemy dikes connecting the Island of Walcheren with the mainland.
For some unknown reason (at least to us) the rear echelon was flown over the channel to the new base in C-47's four days ahead of schedule. The rear motor echelon left later and after enjoying the hospitality of Southern England and the Royal Navy for several days landed at Utah Beach and proceeded on to Melun.
Life amid the ruins of what was once the Melun Air Base was rougher than anything we had encountered in the Combat Zone. Many of the men were even comparing it with those rough and rugged bivouac days we spent at Laurel, Mississippi almost a year ago. Since the Jerries had done such an expert job of demolition and bombing there was not a building left standing on the field. Hence it was necessary to pitch Pup Tents and live on emergency rations. Perhaps this life was the cause of such a cooperative effort on the part of the men when the order was given to pitch the squad tents and set up the squadron area. Within a week the tents were up, the mess kitchen built and the entire squadron area including the engineering line was operating as efficiently as at the old base in England.
Speed was necessary to keep pace with the other units and the demands of headquarters. Shortly after the planes arrived a mission in support of the Third Army was set up. Once again cloudy weather which seems quite common this time of the year in France was the cause of another scrub. The first mission from Melun Airfield or A-55 was an attack on the Foret De Parroy near Metz on 27 September 1944. Six crews from the 671st Bomb Squadron (L) were in this formation. Major Willetts led the Group formation, including thirteen 671st Bomb Squadron (L) crews against the same target the next day.
One of the most disasterous events in its history befell the squadron on 29 September 1944. While attacking a target near Julich, Germany that afternoon an intense heavy flak barrage accounted for three of our aircraft. Lt. DeMand's ship, leading the third flight of the second box received a direct hit in the gas tank and exploded in mid-air. As a result of the same barrage the ships flown by Lt. York and Lt. Morehouse were seen going down in the target area. Other men missing were Lt. A.C. Burns (N-B), S Sgt. R. J. Troyer, S Sgt. C. W. Middleton, S Sgt. H. J. Wilds, S Sgt. L.A. Ashton, S Sgt. A. J. Burgess and S Sgt. L. A. Zygiel.
October missions for the Group seem to be well centered around the Aachen-Cologne area where the First U S Army is forging a break through the Siegfried Line into the industrial Rhur Valley. This has been a well defended area since the allied air offensive started and thus far every mission flown in that sector has encountered moderate to intense flak.
Many of the older crew members are approaching the sixty five mission mark after which they are taken off operations to await a return trip to the States. Already T Sgt J.R.L. Tanner, S Sgt. P. L. Clearman and S Sgt J.L. Czech have finished their tour and several other gunners are sweating out their last mission. Replacements are already on hand or arriving, making the squadron strength 308 enlisted men and 61 officers on 15 October 1944.
During October and November the 416th Bombardment Group (L) made the most important transition in it's combat history. Since the activation of the group every type of A-20 from the "A" modification through the "K" modification has been flown, but never before had it's name been associated with any other type of aircraft. That precedent was broken one afternoon in the middle of October when sixteen A-26 aircraft circled the field and landed. Much to the surprise of most everyone on the base, the personnel of this mobile training unit commanded by Major FERRIS, stated that they were told to report to this base and check out the combat and ground crews in the A-26. Needless to say the usual rumors as to the change of combat tactics swept through the group and squadron but the veteran rumor mongers were shamed by the fact that this major change had taken place without them even suspecting it. To speed up the transition one squadron at a time was changed from combat operations to training status until all four squadrons were checked out. The 671st Squadron was the second squadron to train with the new plane. This transition was made much more difficult and tedious by long spells of cold foggy weather which often closed in on the field while the airplanes were in the air. Some airplanes and crews of other squadrons were lost trying to land in the fog and many pilots were forced to fly back to England. This hazardous weather limited operations of the Group also, no combat missions being flown from October 17 to November 17.
French weather received much verbal abuse from the men in the squadron. The squad tents in which they lived were very fresh and breezy during those cold nights and that "liberated" French said turned a smeary mire in the fall rains. Wood chopping was the most thriving enterprise in the squadron. However being a very progressive and ingen-ious squadron every effort was made to supplant the wood eating sibley stoves with some labor saving device. Rube Goldberg oil burning stoves of every description were soon in use in almost every building and tent. As the nights grew colder the oil burners became hotter until one brisk morning one of the Officers in the Operations Building turned the oil control valve wide open and went to breakfast. The excess oil soon ran out onto the floor and in spite of all emergency methods used the flaming structure was rapidly enveloped in flames. All occupants lost most of their personal possessions and the sporadic popping of ammunition made salvage work dangerous. Oil stoves became very unpopular and wood chopping was again a booming industry.
Toward the middle of November the weather cleared somewhat and the need for air support became urgent. On November 17 the Group flew their first mission using A-26 airplanes with A-20K airplanes leading each flight. The target was a supply warehouse at Haguenau, France. Ten crews of the 671st Squadron participated in the mission with Captain Cole and Captain Wheeler leading two flights. On November 18 Lt Col. Willetts, promoted from Major on 15 October 1944, and Captain Wheeler led the two boxes of the formation attacking a bridge at Breisach, on the French-German border. Both of their flights bombed with excellent results.
Although the A-26 was a highly touted airplane most combat crew members did not like it as well as the Havoc. Its increased speed, fire power and bomb load were definite assets but the difficulty of flying good formation in addition to the expected mechanical "bugs" were a source of worry to most of the pilots. Maintenance crews also experienced difficulty keeping the airplanes on operational status. Most of the problems that were of major importance were overcome when the combat and ground crews became more familiar with the aircraft.
At this stage of the allied campaign the German troops were forced out of France and Belgium and were fighting stubbornly to defend their homeland. Every small town was hastily turned into a fort or a haven in which to hide enemy tanks and motorized vehicles during the day when allied fighter bombers were prowling up and down the line shooting up anything that moved. During the nights when the motorized equipment was operating infantry troops were returned from the lines to these villages to sleep. As a result of this type of warfare, every small town in the path of the allies became an important target. This was the type of target that the Four Hundred Sixteenth Bomb Group was bombing during November and early December. The high quality of bombing was maintained with the Pair-Corum, Brown-Kerns teams establishing themselves as capable box and flight leaders.
Toward the middle of January when Von Runstedts forces broke through allied lines in Belgium the group again was called on to give close support to the ground forces and aid in disrupting communications behind the Nazi lines.
Life in the squadron area became more settled during this period although the usual rumors about possible moves kept most men from finding winter homes near the base.
Thanksgiving day was celebrated in the usual army style. A full course Turkey dinner with all the trimmings was served and only a skeleton force was kept on duty during the day.
During the last week in November word was received that the congressional committee was planning to visit station A-55. As usually everyone was kept busy policing the areas and preparing the program for the visitors. Finally one foggy wet morning the party arrived and after a whirlwind visit of the headquarters and squadron area they left for wing headquarters. Apparently the station passed their inspection with flying colors.
The 671st Squadron also played host to several groups of Bomber Command one afternoon when a parade was held in the squadron area for the purpose of presenting awards to crew members. Major General Anderson presented several men of the command with special awards at this ceremony. From the squadron Peter G. Royalty, Bombardier-Navigator, was presented with the Silver Star, William A. Merchant, pilot, was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross and Ronald D. Perkins, pilot, with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
As the older crew members came nearer the end of their tour of sixty-five (65) missions some were sent on temporary duty to other bases. Others finished their tour end returned to the United States. By December 30th, Lt Ronald D. Perkins, Captain Hilary P. Cole, Lt James D. Adams, Lt Harold D. Andrews, and Lt Robert Smith, all pilots, had returned to the United States.
The following gunners had also finished their tour and were on the way home: S/Sgt Worden, S/Sgt Rzepka, S/Sgt Griswold, S/Sgt Fandre, S/Sgt Cook, S/Sgt Wellin, S/Sgt Lempka, S/Sgt Chvatal, S/Sgt DeGiusti, S/Sgt Adams, S/Sgt Johnson, and S/Sgt Marion.
The Squadron strength on 20 January was 60 Officers and 304 Enlisted Men.
The German Army that was supposed to be tottering on its last legs startled the world in mid December by lashing out at the weakest point of the allied lines in the west and forcing our troops back several miles. At one time the threat was so serious that the 416th Bombardment Group was put on a six hour alert status to evacuate airfield A-55. All units on the base doubled their guard; the base defense program was revamped to meet the threat of paratroopers, spies and sabatours; crews were alerted to fly the airplanes to another field if necessary.
As the allied lines became more stable the need for such a rigid defense policy decreased, but target in close support of the Bulge Drive were ordered for the Group and special mission crews were alerted for several days. It seemed that the time to test the new Invader as a versatile combat plane had arrived. A special mission calling for the group to bomb and strafe was ordered on 26 December 1944. Due to miscalculation in the time for dropping target markers by the escorting P47's the formation of six aircraft did not bomb or strafe. Enemy flak was intense, however, and one aircraft was lost while all six sustained battle damage. No members of the 671st Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.
On 23 January the same type of mission was ordered again for twelve aircraft of the Group. Six crews of the 671st Bomb Squadron led by Captain Tutt and Lieutenant Beck participated in this mission. On this occasion weather conditions were unfavorable making it impossible for the flight to maintain formation at the bombing altitude, and soon flak was coming up from all directions. With the flight broken up every crew was on its own. Captain Tutt's aircraft received several flak hits injuring Lt Beck and knocking out his radio and hydraulic system. Since he was unable to bomb and his aircraft was badly damaged Captain Tutt, following the course charted by his injured navigator, Lt Beck, crash landed safely at airfield A-69.
Captain Nielson, operations officer who replaced Captain Zean R. Moore on 20 December, was injured when flak shattered his plexiglass windshield. He lost consciousness temporarily while at 8000 feet and regained his senses at 1000 feet just in time to level out and complete his mission. As soon as possible he opened his bombay doors and bombed the village of Berk. Since his eyes were filled with shattered plexiglass and the windshield was broken he could not see to strafe. He landed successfully at A-68.
Flight Officer Wilson when he saw that the formation was broken up over enemy territory bombed the town of Prun, then went down and strafed Schlieden and returned safely to an emergency airfield.
Lieutenant Herman and Lieutenant Murray were unable to bomb or strafe and returned safely to an emergency field.
All men of the flight were taken in to Bomber Division immediately for a consultation with General Anderson. The General seemed well satisfied with the accomplishments of the Group and personally commended Captain Nielson and Flight Officer Wilson for their extraordinary achievements.
Amid all the excitement and confusion, Christmas and New Years passed with very little celebration. The usual excellent Christmas Dinner was served but since the Group was experiencing one of its most costly days in combat the spirit of the occasion was missing.
As a reminder that the war was still close at hand one German aircraft strafed the airfield during the Christmas season. About one o'clock on the morning of 27 December the enemy airplane came down on the deck and strafed the area between the 671st and 670th Bomb Squadron. Although there were no casualties many persons were unpleasantly surprised at the speed with which they could negotiate the distance between their warm bed and their cold fox holes. Some men are still puzzled as to now they got into the fox hole while others inspected the tents thoroughly to find that new holes were opened on their way out. Straw lined deep fox holes were dug immediately the following day. Air raids continued and several small towns in the area were strafed but the enemy did not bomb or strafe A-55 again.
By mid January the German break through was well under control and the Russian offensive had replaced the German Bulge on the headlines.
The Squadron strength on 20 January 1945 was 59 officers and 298 enlisted men.
As the situation on the front developed in favor of the allies, the Group again made plans to move closer to the battle area. On 5 February 1945 the advanced party moved to station A-69 to prepare the field for occupation by the rest of the Group. Many shuttle runs were made between the two stations before the remainder of the squadron moved by truck convoy and train on 14th and 15 February.
The new base was much more crowded then A-55 making proper dispersal of aircraft impossible. After a quick survey of the squadron area it was apparent that we had profited by the move. The tent area was located on a well drained area around a centrally located mess hall. Again the superior mess hall which had earned several commendation for Lieutenant Dow and T/Sgt McClung was set up. This was a welcome sight to those of the advanced echelon who had been living on emergency rations and other squadrons' mess for several days.
One of the first missions to take off from the new field proved to be one of the most costly for the squadron. While attacking an ordnance depot at Cenna, Germany, the Group encountered intense accurate flak which damaged at least twenty three aircraft of the formation. Flight Officer Wilson has not returned from this mission. No one has any knowledge as to where or when he may have been hit or how seriously the aircraft may have been damaged.
Indications at this time are that targets of a more strategic nature will be attacked until the western front becomes more active.
By mid February the Squadron was settled down to the task of improving the living and working conditions at the new base. Because of a shortage of good lumber all the tent floors and some of the buildings from A-55 were moved to A-69. The move turned out to be a decided improvement and the morale of the troops was high.
58 Officers and 296 enlisted men were on the squadron roster on 20 February 1945.
The Group had hardly settled down at the new base before rumors of another move and major changes in personnel were passing around. Since Lt Col Willetts, Major Dunn and Major Price, all Squadron Commanders, were rapidly nearing the sixty five (65) mission mark, there seemed to be some basis for the rumor of changes in personnel. The expected shuffle took place on 26 February 1945 when Lt Colonel Willetts replaced Lt Colonel Radetsky as Group Operations Officer, and Major Dunn, Commanding Officer of the 670th Bomb Squadron, replaced Lt Colonel Willetts as Commanding Officer of the 671st Bomb Squadron. Lt Colonel Willetts had been in Command of the 671st Bomb Squadron since its activation on 5 February 1943. Major Dunn came overseas as Squadron Operations Officer of our squadron before assuming command of the 670th Bomb Squadron.
The softening up process for the crossing of the Rhine had started. As a result the 416th Bombardment Group (L) was running two missions daily despite weather conditions. On cloudy days special Pathfinder B-26 aircraft led the Group Formations to the target. As the first year of Combat Operations for the squadron was completed on 3 March 1945 the crews were in the thick of this all out battle against the enemy. That day the group formation consisting of two flights from the 671st Bomb Squadron successfully bombed an Ordnance Depot at Geisen, Germany on its 220th Combat Mission.
In March clear weather favored the Allies and again the expert B/N - Pilot teams of the Group kept the bombing average well up toward the top of the Bomb Division. These successful missions were not completed without cost to the 671st Bomb Squadron, however. On 18 March 1945 the Group attacked the Marshalling Yards at Worms, Germany as a part of the air plan to pave the way for General Patton's Third Army. Apparently all the punch had not yet been knocked out of the enemy in this area, for as the 671st flight turned off the target a burst of flak knocked out the aircraft flown by Lieutenant Jokinen. Although immediate news at to the chances of the crew being safe were discouraging, more optimistic reports were brought back from the front by Lieutenant Cocke who found the airplane in good shape after a crash landing.
On 24 March 1945 the huge Allied landing east of the Rhine took place. Before long all positions were consolidated and following other crossings by all the Allied Armies the enemy was again retreating rapidly ahead of our Armies. So fast was the advance that soon the Group was forced to it's effective range to reach the bombline. By the end of March speculation as to the future of the Squadron was again the main topic of conversation.
65 officers and 284 enlisted men comprised the total strength of the Squadron on 31 March 1945.
The Squadron was plagued with rumors during the month of April. As the Allied Armies advanced in Germany the type of bombing employed by the medium bombers became less important, but almost every day the Group was assigned a mission, sometimes going to the extreme range to attack a small airfield or possible fuel dump. Because of the rapid movement of our troops very few close support missions were flown. Although many missions required over five hours flying time the crew members gained some consolation from the fact that most of the time was spent over friendly territory and the enemy defense beyond the bombline was very ineffective.
During the latter part of April the U.S. First and Ninth Armies joined with the Russians at the Elbe River thus eliminating all targets north of Halle. Before this junction was complete, however, the Group participated in one of the most devastating attacks ever completed by the Ninth Bombbardment division. In response to a request from the First Army every Group in the Division participated in maximum effort missions designed to knock out the city of Magdeberg on the Elbe River. As the 416th Bomb Group left the target huge clouds of smoke billowing up to an altitude of about 8000 feet were convincing evidence of the effectiveness of the attack.
After the union of the Allies in Central Germany the Nazis divided their forces into the Northern and Southern Armies with the apparent intention of fighting until all Germany was captured. All missions flown by the Ninth Bombardment Division were against targets in the Southern Nazis Army Area. Some missions were so close to the Russian troops that special briefing of Russian airplanes, tanks and other equipment was necessary to prevent misidentification of targets or aircraft.
Once again the 416th Bombardment Group added another "first" to their record. This Group was the first Group of medium Bombers to attack targets in Czechoslovakia and Austria, and if plans had materialized, would have been the first Group to attack Hitler's Mountain Retreat near Salzberg in the Bavarian Mountains. This mission was scrubbed just prior to briefing time and assigned to the R.A.F.
The prestige of the 671st Bombardment Squadron (L) was increased when the Operations Officer and the Commanding Officer received their promotions. On April 9th Captain Nielson was promoted to Major and on April 25th Major Dunn was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Following both commissions many of the squadron men participated in hilarious parties of congratulations.
The squadron personnel were pleasantly surprised during the middle of the month when Lieutenant Jokinen, whose aircraft was shot down during the attack on Worms, returned for a short visit. During the course of his visit Lieutenant Jokien was surrounded by interesting listeners and soon the story of his capture and escape has spread throughout the Group.
Early in May it was apparent that the Nazis were thoroughly beaten. Several reports of unconditional surrender caused premature celebrations which left many men in a stupefied condition when VE Day was proclaimed as 8 May 1945. Immediately following VE Day the Squadron enjoyed a two day vacation. After returning to duty the combat personnel started an intensive training program stressing low level tactics.
On 16 May one of the many rumors materialized when the Group moved to a new airbase near Cormielles En Vixen about 15 miles north of Paris.
Total strength of the organization as of 31 May 1945: 54 Officers and 274 Enlisted Men.
All speculation about personnel living in a chateau or a village was dispelled when the squadron tents remained up in the wheat field about two miles from the Group Headquarters where they were pitched originally. This fact was not bemoaned seriously by the veteran " campers " of the squadron who apparently thought that after living all winter under canvas they could stand almost anything. Also the morale of the personnel was quite high because the most predominant reports indicated that we would be on our way home before long. However on the morning of June 4 1945 Colonel Dunn settled all speculation as to our future when he announced that we were going direct to another theatre without going through the Unites States. After the gloom had settled and the men became resigned to the fact all section heads went about the business of selecting the permanent personnel and screening out the fortunate ones with over 85 points who were to be sent home or to other Groups that were to remain on the continent for a few months. This required a tremendous adjustment of personnel since many men in the Squadron had over 85 points. Also since the exact date and time of our next move was unknown an attempt was made to give every man a leave or furlough as soon as possible. Many men chose to go to the famous Riviera in Southern France while others took their leave in England. By the middle of June it was apparent that some of the flying personnel would be flying the aircraft home. At the end of June the combat crews were still "sweating out" who was to go home and who was to stay with the Squadron.
During the month they were all subjected to intensive training, often flying more than four hours a day and attending ground school for two hours.
The first transfer of men took place on June 29 when B26's of the 394th Bombardment Group brought over several men of their Group to be exchanged for the old men of the 416th Bombardment Group. Immediately the task of processing the new men began, and training of the reinforcements was under way.
As of the 30 June 1945 the strength of the Squadron was: Officers 50; Enlisted men assigned 301; Enlisted Men attached 23.
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