The 309th Troop Carrier Squadron
Following is a reprint of the Outline Histories and War Diaries sent up to Group HQ each month. The orginal documents are preserved at the Air Force History Office at Maxwell AFB. AL, and have been retype into web format by Dick Ford, veteran member of the 310th TCS.
Resume of Months Activity - 309th
Troop Carrier Squadron 1 May 1944 to
For a newly activated squadron, the 309th has done a splendid job in one months time. Prior to May 1, the 309th was a theory. An idea, if you wish. Then came the orders. The framework was established, and with surprising swiftness and ease the organization grew. Offices were established, with competent personnel to do the work required. All through the month, new men have been arriving to fill the vacancies brought about by the squadron’s activation. This includes both the ground and air officers and men. An entire building in the technical site has been given to the 309th, and all available space is being used to the fullest extend. Squadron meetings, held at various times throughout the month, helped to get everyone straightened out. The flying activity of the squadron has proved to be highly successful. With the more experienced pilots in the lead positions, the squadron has taken to the air with other units on the field, and has done its job exceptionally well. During the month, the 309th has partaken in three paratroop missions.
However, as is the case with any new organization, there are still many items to be attended to. The various departments have done an admirable job in seeing that all those smaller odds and ends, which really mean so much to anyu organization, have been adjusted. Billeting, for example has been worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. Armament, as another example, has taken all the officers’ guns, and is, right now, keeping them in top shape.
(Left) Battle-damaged Luftwaffe JU52 in Blida. Taken by Jack Wilson while he was in the 34th TCS North Africa echelon in Blida, before joining the 309th when it was created in May, 1944.
The squadron operations section has established combat crews for the planes. The men are indeed pleased about this. The administration, under which all these other things function, has done what I would call “a smooth job”. And the men appreciate the efficiency. Naturally, as I mentioned earlier, there are still things to be ironed out. But they are not the paramount things, for they have already been taken care of. To put it prophetically, if, in the future months, things go as well for the 309th as they have during this past month, the squadron will ultimately become one of the best.
Daily War Diary 1 May to 31 May 1944 309th Troop Carrier Squadron
(In accordance with existing regulations, the following is a daily account of the 309th Troop Carrier Squadron’s activities for the month of May, 1944.
May 1. The newly formed squadron has already taken to the air, with a pressing flight schedule, everyone was kept extremely busy. It was a case of constantly rushing about – first to the mess hall for a hurried snack, then down to the line and operations, then out to the planes and into the air, hour after hour. Most everyone is tired; a bit tense, but that is to be expected. On the same token, each man realizes that we are preparing for our part in the coming “second front” operations. In lieu of this, sincere “griping” is at a surprising minimum. In so far as flying ability is concerned, the new squadron is, I would say, “tops”.
(Right) 309th members Sites and Reinstein at Spanhoe.
May 2. Flew formation again today in a viciously gusty wind. Looked a bit funny though. Three planes would be barreling across the blue in a “V”, one would suddenly droop fifty feet. The others would bound upwards one hundred feet or so. An airplane see-saw, with bewildered pilots kicking rudders and punching throttles. When thirty planes begin see-sawing, it’s time to “throw in the towel”, so as to speak. Evidently he did, for we landed an hour sooner than was expected, much to everyone’s relief. There was no flying at night, and in consequence, the local pub owners netted a much larger profit, while the women of Kettering provided additional joy” for many of the men. One could use the old expression here, “and a good time was had by all!” In the final analysis, through these two mediums, the airmen were no longer angered because of the severe wind storms sweeping the English countryside. On the contrary, a bit grateful. Nothing like having a bit of recreation you know, in spite of the demands of wartime training.
May 3. Because there had been no flying the previous night, most everyone turned out for ground school this morning. That is, most everyone except the usual “sack-hounds”, who were later caught, incidentally. Perhaps the real tragedy lies in the fact that there actually was no ground school. Towards noon, however, the members of the newly formed squadron settled in the theater and had a serious meeting. Major STARK, Squadron C.O., spoke, told the 309th what to expect, and also, what was expected of them. An air of cooperation prevailed – one could sense it. The various organizational departments were established, such as communications, supply, armament, etc. Yea, even a “unit historian” was appointed. Captain KIMBALL, Squadron executive officer, has a few words to add. What I particularly liked about the meeting was the matter of face, definite, business like way, in which things were discussed. This partially proved my original opinion that when the 309th did actually get underway, it would ultimately be one of the best. Time along, of course, will bear me out on this. But I feel sure that my optimism isn’t unwarranted.
May 4. The skies are typically English today. Glum, ominously misty, with very little chance of clearing. At least the wind has abated to a great extend. Ground school highlighted the day’s activities. We had two exceptionally good R.A.F. training films on aerial map reading and navigation. Admirably thorough, these Englishmen. It is revealed, even in their films. At nine o’clock, the usual morning round of coffee was served, after which a lecture was given, supplementing, as it were, the two films. A fighter “buzzed” the place this morning – gave us all quite a thrill. Nasty weather for a fighter to be flying, which was obviously why he was down to tree top level. Our flying has been called off for the day.
(Left) 309th member Paulus enjoying a little time off.
May 5. The new orderly room was alive with activity this morning. The innumerable details incidental to running a Squadron are being amply attended to by our efficient orderly room staff. As one enters, he is impressed by the scurrying about, the mountains of papers – everywhere. And always, someone is pounding a typewriter. Most everyone is, to coin a phrase, “on the proverbial ball”. From all appearances, we shan’t have any administrative difficulties in the future. There was formation flying again today--both afternoon and night. The planes looked good. In line with the flying end of the organization, standard combat crews have been set up, to most everyone’s satisfaction. This will undoubtedly further the efficiency of the 309th.
May 6. Morale among the enlisted men of the Squadron received a “shot in the arm” today with the announcement, by the C.O. of several non-com promotions. It was good to see the many smiles of gratitude. Tonight, a large scale paratrooper drop is planned, and the 309th will participate in this maneuver. It will be the “309th the first” actual group operation since its activation. Briefings are being held this afternoon. It appears that this “drop” is being well planned, but we’ll know more of its success or failure tomorrow. While “scouting around” today, I noticed that most of the squadron departmental offices had been set up and are now in full operation. Blustery winds, low hanging clouds, and occasional mists constitute today’s weather, but it isn’t sufficiently adverse to cancel flying. Most of the boys are quite eager about this “mission” and hope that it isn’t called off. “Per Diem” was paid today, for our trip up from Sicily. The average sum was eight pounds per man, or, as we Americans would say, thirty two bucks. This payment was welcomed wholeheartedly by the squadron members, for someone’s poker profit is really going to flare up again.
May 7. From all reports given us this morning by the paratroopers, last night’s mission was a highly successful one. The formation, the speed, the timing, and the precise location of the DZ were all commended. It is gratifying for the 309th, as it was actually the first unit function is a ‘group operation’. But it will not be the last. Flew night formation, with everybody getting about two landings each. Back in the barracks later, most everyone agreed that it was a very impressive night, especially the flying conditions prevailing. It was fascinatingly beautiful to see. A clear starlit sky’s brilliant moon, the pale beams of which illuminated the still English countryside making the whole thing as light as twilight. It was so absolutely aloof from all the ugliness that is war. But the road of our airplanes training for future “operations was contrary to this idea. Darkness didn’t really settle tonight until nearly midnight, after which flying was completed for the night. Tired, everyone, after the informal critique, “hit the sack”.
May 8. The 309th took part in a mass ‘jump’ or ‘drop’ again tonight. The mission, however, was not a complete success. The who or what or why of the reason for the failure of this operation has not been clearly established. Better luck next time – that goes for everybody. The bicycle problem was somewhat alleviated today when all were turned in and redistributed to all those entitled to them. This, of course, assured all section heads of having one. Although one or two individuals “sounded off” about it, most everyone agreed that it was the fair way to do it. There was no flying today.
May 9. Briefings held this afternoon on the operations which took place on the night of the eighth revealed that, in spite of several mistakes, the mission, theoretically at least, would have been a successful one. An informal discussion was held, with anybody and everybody voicing his opinion. The wrongs committed were not as great as was originally believed. Many dubious points were hashed over by the pilots, and this should be conducive to successful operations in the future. There is no doubt that things will go better in the future, for we’ve got a good bunch of pilots and crew members available, and any mistakes once uncovered, should not occur again so readily. There was no flying for the squadron today.
May 10. Formation flying
highlighted today’s activities. Other than that, there wasn’t any activity to
speak of. As an afterthought, three little dogs seemed to be facing one
another with controversial issues this afternoon in the operations room. So
they had an understanding. Made a whale of a lot of noise and gave everybody
a good laugh. But two minutes later, they were on the best of terms with one
another again. Professional jealousy, I suppose. We were told that there
would be another paratrooper mission tonight or tomorrow night. We were to be
in a state of readiness, as they did not know exactly which night it would
be. Weather here was the deciding factor.
May 11. As we had been promised, we participated in another ‘paratrooper’ mission this evening. During the afternoon, we attended a lengthy briefing. The consensus of opinion was that it was too long a briefing--a bit boring, too. However, it was all very realistic. The air of secrecy prevailing had everyone guessing. Some suggested that it was the real thing. For awhile, no one had any reason to disbelieve this, for it was a very realistic briefing. It was only when the maps were uncovered that we saw it wasn’t after all. As a ‘mission’, it was a pretty fair success. Mistakes, by and large, were of a minor nature. These were hashed over at a future critique. This operation was a decided improvement over the last one. As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. And all of us want to be perfect.
May 12-14. Nothing of outstanding importance. Merely routine duties of flying and ground school kept everyone busy. The weather has been extremely variable, but that’s typically English weather, no getting around it.
May 15. This date’ highlighting event was the party and dance held in honor of Colonel McLELLAND’s birthday. Held in the Officers Club, which had been especially decorated for the occasion, it turned out to be a huge success. The Colonel, looking resplendent in his green uniform and younger than his years, seemed rather pleased about the party. He is a well-liked officer, and for a leader, that’s half the battle, The usual supply of drinks was available, and also a little extra. Towards the end of the evening there were no empty bottled. Everyone left feeling he had had an enjoyable time of it. As indeed they had.
May 16. At the squadron meeting today a great many dubious issues were discussed and, to a great extend, clarified. The question of billeting was the most important of these issues. We were told of a large scale “simulated movement” which will be conducted on this port tomorrow. This means that all personal equipment, all departmental equipment will be packed and readied for shipment. By conducting experiments of this type, a comprehensive picture is accomplished, enabling those in charge to form a definite plan on just what could be done should it ever become necessary to actually more. To be sure, it is an experiment, but it may or may not have its practical side. We shall see tomorrow. Because of adverse weather, there was no flying today.
May 17. During the early morning hours, beneath grey low hanging clouds, the “simulated move” got underway. All personal equipment was packed, placed in given areas, and a portion of it actually taken out to the waiting aircraft. Departmental equipment also was handled in a similar manner. For the most part, the operation was, as its name implies strictly ‘simulated’. But it was also quite successful, despite the rain showers which drenched the place periodically. Most of the men weren’t in favor of the idea to begin with and, as I journeyed about, it was not strange for me to hear much griping. There was no flying today.
May 18. Because of adverse weather still prevailing, flying for today has been cancelled. Another squadron meeting was held today. Nothing of paramount importance was offered, but again many odds and ends, of which there are always so many in any new organization, were further clarified. Several questions were asked, to which adequate and informative answers were given. Yesterday’s operation (simulated move) was a success, it was revealed. The men seemed to accept this as a reward for their efforts. One may be sure it was a success, for in the 309th, mistakes are never coated over or set aside. They are brought to everyone’s attention and straightened out. And that, of course, is as it should be.
May 19-24. Unusually foul weather has indirectly stalemated flying activity. Ground school though has kept the men busy. The lectures and pictures were always of an interesting and beneficial nature. We flew formation only once during this five day period. It has been my observation that the 309th formation is good. Judging it as any flier would, I would say that all the men “stay right in there” and that’s the real way to fly formation. Not only in the air is their spirit of cooperation and eagerness evidenced, but on the ground as well. The “outfit”, to use an old army expression, is running smoothly. That makes us all feel good.
May 25-28. These days were all so similar, that they may be treated as one. Flying was the main activity, with a paradrop on the night of the twenty-eight. This mission was a highly successful mission despite the comparatively high winds prevailing. Two planes out of the group formation were forced to burn back. One was from the 309th. Both cases were the result of mechanical failure. Ground school has been brought to everyone’s attention again. It is really getting interesting. Although classes aren’t so numerous as they were previously, they are equally as beneficial.
May 29-31. The first month of duty for the 309th has passed--and quite successfully too. These last two days were ushered out by warm spring days, with their consequent excellent flying conditions. The arrival of paratroopers has been noticed. Perhaps it is indicative of more practice missions. Or perhaps the “real show” is about to begin. In either case, the 309th will be in there pitching, till the end.
Resume of 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron 1 June 1944 to
Historians the world over will long acclaim June as one of the most tremendously significant months of all time. For on June the 5th, huge Allied armies swarmed ashore on the European continent, heralding the opening of the most gigantic military operation in history, with the probable exception of the Russo-German front. It has been hailed as a huge success. Bust just what goes to make up such a colossal effort? Briefly speaking, it the organizing and running of the many, many subordinate groups. Whether it be in the air, on the ground, or at sea, each little group, each little section, has its own particular function to perform. In lieu of this, one may easily trace the whole pattern down to his own unit. It seems especially meritorious to me that 37 days after its activation, our own 309th was “in” on this attack. It is a fact which rightly involves a good bit of pride. This one crowning achievement dwarfs all other squadron activities of the month, of which, I might add, there were few.
Citations commending the results of the endeavor were sent to various Troop Carrier Groups, The 309th, being in the 315th Group, was included in the citation. A copy of this citation is included in this history. (see enclosures) As for casualties, none of our personnel received any serious injuries, outside of T/Sgt. Anthony F. BIANCO 31056953, who was severely hit by flak fragments. He is, much to everyone’s relief, doing splendidly at the present time. Some of the planes were shot up considerably, but, to borrow a Greek expression, “the Gods were with us”. Now that it has begun, each man is looking ahead to the not too distant future when hostilities will cease. When the Huns will have been smashed. When we can return to the good old “U.S.A.” This thought is no longer a mere expression. It is to be found in each man’s mind. Conversational trends obviate this quite clearly.
Towards the end of the month, flying activity, which had slackened off immediately following the “invasion”, began again. That’s the spirit of the 309th all right – you can’t hold them down.
War Diary 309th Troop
Carrier Squadron 1 June to
June 1-4. All this week extensive preparations have been going on--preparations of an unprecedented nature. Preparations for what we dare to suspect is the “second front”. All the activity points to this as being the case. For one thing, the unusual precautions which have been taken. The entire post has been sealed now for a number of days. No one, irrespective of identity, is getting in or out without special permission. Another thing, our transports have been painted in a most unusual way. It looks more like a form of identity than camouflage. Three parallel white stripes on the wind, then three additional stripes around the fuselage, back by the tail section. For the last two days, MP’s have been guarding the entrance to the pilots lounge. There is obviously something there. It has been my observation that the personnel will greet this invasion with that good old American spirit of determination, and a will to win. That’s what makes the American nation the grand nation that it is. The military personnel present an excellent cross section, and it is not at al difficult to foresee just what will happen if this very apparent effort turns out to be the real thing.
June 5-7. With a suddenness comparable only to a streak of lightning in the darkening sky, the Allies launched the long awaited “second front” in Europe. Our guess hadn’t been an incorrect one, after all. During the late afternoon on June, the fifth, all “combat crews’ were admitted, by identification, to the lounge. That’s when we saw why the place had been so carefully guarded. As we entered, we saw a large map of Northern France in the front of the room. Three tell-tale lines darted out from this island towards the continent, pinpointing “our objectives”. It was indeed a thrill, and despite the fact that it was all expected, a murmur of excitement flashed through the gathering--a murmur which gradually developed into a steady jumbling roar. Everyone quieted down when the Colonel entered, however. The briefing was thorough. S-2 did a marvelous piece of work in outlining specifically the defended areas. In the back of this history, I have included a detailed analysis of the mission, which eliminated the need of doing it here.
June 8-12. Nothing of importance has happened. Routine duties carried out mostly by the ‘ever working ground echelon’ seemed to highlight all the squadron activities. On the twelfth, the squadron was shown a newer and more interesting film on the “Battle of Britain”. It sounded at first like the same old song and dance routine to which we Americans are growing steadily allergic. But it wasn’t that at all. Different than the conventional type, there was less fiction and emotionalism and more face, and a bit of humor as well. It was a very clever way of presenting it. Something old, with a new touch, I mean. After the film everyone retreated to the sack to try and regain the energy in walking up to the movie room. It was funny—a bit practical too.
June 12-14. A few pilots are getting rambunctious again and have started flying. The greater percentage, however, are still capitalizing on the glorious chance of getting hours and hours of sack time logged. Best part of it is, it’s official. With the restriction still on, life is becoming quite boring to the men. One can readily see why.
June 14-22. Routine duties, which have been picking up again since D-Day, have been keeping the boys busy. We pilots feel quite sympathetic towards the orderly room staff. On many occasions, I have gone up there after the evening mess, only to find them still at work. That’s the only way to get anything done and apparently they mean business. The squadron benefits as a result of it. The flying personnel had a dingy drill down in front of operations on the twentieth. An improvised water container, about 20 feet in diameter and about six feet deep, has been set up under a fuselage to simulate as near as possible, the actual abandoning of an aircraft forced down at sea. For purposes of demonstration, five pilots inflated a “dingy” and climbed into it. They paddled about, fired flares, cranked the radio set, through out fishing tackle and spread marker power on the surface of the water. All in all, it was extremely profitable, as well as funny, to watch.
June 23. Our Commanding Officer has been promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. An officer, with a good amount of experience, we know that he really deserved this promotion, and, for that reason, were happy to see that he got it. He has that admirable quality of combining casualness with firmness—the ideal combination for leading men, especially a bunch of pilots. So it’s good luck to Lt. Colonel Smylie M. STARK..
June 24-30. We had another mission on the 25th—a re-supply mission. We were to go to the beachhead with each plane carrying about 5000 pounds of ammunition--shells, special bullets, etc. When the planes arrived in France, some went to one field and some to another. The fields, however, were nothing more than hastily prepared landing areas. rather difficult to identify from the air. Perhaps that’s why some went to the wrong place. Since that time there has been very little activity outside of routine duties and ground school. There were one or two paratroop missions planned for this period, but due to consistently adverse weather conditions, they were cancelled. Summing up the month, I would say that it has been a rather busy one in some spots, a rather dull one in others. The invasion has come. We were in on it, and it’s quite safe to assume that we’ll be in on it as it grows. For a comparatively new squadron, the 309th is doing a good job.
Operation Neptune—an analysis of our part in the ‘invasion’ of Europe.
It was a blustery June day, surprisingly chilly for June, but typically English. For days we suspected that all the preparations taking place on this base were definitely leading up to what we dared to believe was the “invasion”. Then, with smooth, swift, determined coordination, the Allies on the eve of June the fifth, wheeled out of the British isles and pounded the Continent in a murderous attack—an attack in which no quarter was asked, or given—an attack which could only be victorious for us—an attack carried out under the silent stillness of a moonlit night.
Our part in this attack was known as “Boston”, and its objective as revealed by the map, was to cut across the Cherbourg peninsula, dropping paratroops in especially designated drop zones in the immediate vicinity of St. Mere Eglise. To summarize briefly, the operation was a highly successful one, with all operations going “according to plan”. This fact was later substantiated by the High Command. The paratroopers [ed. note – 505th PIR, 82nd Abn. Div.] were put exactly where they wanted to be put and, as a result, many units had accomplished their mission in as little as three hours after being dropped. In spite of some concentrations of flak, which was relatively light, all planes returned safely. However, the thing wasn’t altogether without loss of life. Prior to departure a hand grenade blew up, killing three paratroopers and injuring several others. And then on the mission itself , T/Sgt. Anthony F. BIANCO, 31056953, was severely hit by flak. But he recovered. Many planes were hit by flak, mostly of the 20mm type, or by small arms fire, but returned safely back to this station 493. Excellent briefing contributed immensely to the overwhelming success of the mission. Especially was this true in the precise location of the flak batteries.
(Left and right) A paradrop (probably training) typical of what the drop at Normandy would have looked like.
The operation, in its entirety, took about five hours—take-off being at 2330 hours, June fifth. The following day, meager news reports began seeping back to this island telling of the night’s operation. It was gratifying to know the Germans were so completely upset over this affair and. even more so, when we realized that it was the men we dropped who were going about killing Germans. What greater satisfaction could a man ask for? We feel now that we have contributed in a real vital way towards the ultimate defeat of the German war machine. And, we trust, this operation will be but a forerunner of that which is yet to come.
Resume of Month Activities - 309th
Troop Carrier Squadron 1 July 1944 –
For the 309th July has been an extremely diversified month. Diversified in the sense that within the incredibly short period of thirty days, the Squadron has been beset by tragedy on one hand, and on the other hand, pleased by the swelling of our numbers, the greatly stepped up activity, the warm joy that comes from organizational pride, the “fun” of throwing our own party in Leicester, and the gratification for receiving the Air Medals which, to us, signifies a tremendous job well done.\
Towards the beginning of the month there was a considerable amount of formation flying due to the fact that the Group was training Polish paratroopers, many of who had never “bailed” out from C-47’s. It was during these extensive maneuvers that eight of our fliers were killed. It was a naturally regrettable incident and, we trust, repetitions will not occur too often. However, I noticed that everyone accepted it with an air of inevitability. And that, of course, is correct. In an Air Corps unit, where such a number of men and planes are involved, these incidents, however, disliked they may be, must be expected to occur periodically.
Life leapt the narrow gap between joy and sorrow through the medium of our Squadron Party, held in Leicester on Tuesday, the 18th. Here again it is most fitting to give a note of well deserved praise to the officer chiefly responsible for the affair being the success it was. Yes—Lt. BIGGS did a grand job and his efforts were highly appreciated.
For the remainder of the month social life was cast aside in the light of the greatly increased activity which the 315th Group had suddenly acquired. And this activity was accepted with a spirit of cooperation, eagerness, willingness and determinatio9n of the part of the 309th Squadron. There has scarcely been a day that our ships have not been our on re-supply or air evacuation missions. Many are attempting to associate the stepped-up activity with the heartening tone of news coming from—of all places—the Reich itself. The “master race” is beginning to fold, slowly, unwillingly, but—very certainly. Our men are in this war 100%. Conversation alone leaves no other impression but that. That’s the great undefeatable characteristic of our American nation. We do not lessen the intensity of our attacks in the face of fierce opposition. We do not waver or tire or allow ourselves to be distracted by trivialities. We forge ahead--always ahead. This is being wonderfully proven now, out in the vastness of the Pacific; in the grimy, cold mountain passes of Italy; and on the blood-soaked shores of France. It’s everyone doing his bit, however seemingly insignificant it may be, that molds American manhood into the mighty military force that it is.
That’s why the job is being
done. That’s why, breaking it down right to our own individual unit, the
operations go on so uninterruptedly from day to day. The 309th is
doing its utmost to further the cause which, as we all know, is the winning
of the war, the crushing of our enemies, and the right of Americans and their
Allies everywhere, to live in a world suited to our way of life. The men in
the Squadron anticipate a still greater increase in activity during the
coming months. They’ll probably have it.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop
Carrier Squadron 1 July to
July 1-7. This has been primarily a week of routine duties which involved, as always, ground and flying duties. On this no elaboration is necessary. There was a squadron meeting held, however, on 5 July which deserved special mention. Col. Smylie M. STARK, our commanding officer, in his casual yet convincing manner of speaking, cited many things about which he had been repeatedly disappointed. Things such as the failure of the officers to check the bulletin board twice daily; failure to meet simple obligations; failure to attend ground school when scheduled to do so; etc., etc. The talk was given in all sincerity and, I think, accepted in the same spirit. The logical result was a sudden trend towards the efficiency we should have as a Squadron That was good to see.
July 8. The cold, impartial hand of death, unwanted and miserably gruesome, deprived the 309th of 8 airmen tonight. One man, by sheer inexplicable luck, parachuted to safety. He is Cpl. Thomas W. CHAMBERS, 13045700 who, while standing by the rear door, was half thrown, half snatched out of the plummeting airplane. The others killed in the crash were as follows: 1st Lt. James G. LEONAARD, 0-743030, Pilot; F/O Charles S. JOHNSON , T-61634, Co-Pilot; 2nd. Lt. Richard M. VENDETTA, O-707148, Navigator; T/Sgt. Bert A. SALING, 39180846, Crew Chief; 2nd Lt. Leo L. BYRNE, O672233, Pilot; 2nds Lt. Paris D. BRAY, O-705303, Co-Pilot; T/Sgt. Richard G. HOYT, 15333293, Crew Chief; S/Sgt. Jack DOZIER, 14083186, Radio Operator. (26 Polish Paratroopers also were casualties.). It happened this way: Shortly after sundown the 309th, in a group formation, took off, circled the field, gained altitude, and assumed a formation of V’s, in trail, as per plan. Ten minutes elapsed and all went well. We were at 1500 feet and Lt. Bruce L. NEWCOMB and I happened to be flying just in back of the ill-fated pair of airplanes. The formation banked slightly to the left—very slightly. But the left wing man of the particular flight in question, for reasons which will never be clearly known to any of us, pulled in close—much too close. His prop chewed into the wing tip of the flight leader’s plane then they seemed to melt together and streak for the earth. I saw one chute billow, saw grass and the planes crash savagely into the ironically quiet and peaceful field of rich green grass and blood red poppies. It was obvious that they had all been killed instantly. We circled around twice, and then returned to Spanhoe.The victims had been extremely well-liked group of men and the Squadron indeed suffered a terrific loss. However, in this flying game, one must accept such incidents as inevitable. And however hard it may be to do so, one must view it with indifference. Nothing more.
July 9-13. During these days the deceased members of the Squadron were buried and memorial services were held. In the absence of Squadron formation flights, individual flying has been the predominating thing the past few days. We’ll probably have another paradrop shortly, but in the meantime the pilots are maintaining their efficiency. Rodney J. BEMIS has been promoted from 1st Lt. to Captain. 2nd Lt. PHELAN, TUDOR, BRAUN, OGLESBEE have been made 1st Lts. Congratulations were in order and the drinks were on the newly promoted officers.
July 14-17. Final plans have been completed for the 309th Squadron party which is to be held in Waterloo Hall in Leicester on Tuesday, the 18th. This is a very looked forward to event and 1st. Lt. BIGGS, who is acting as the “expediter” is doing a marvelous job. His genuine eagerness to make the affair a success is greatly appreciated by all the Squadron personnel.
July 18, 1944. At a Squadron meeting this morning we heard the latest reports on the war fronts given by Lts. De BONNIS and WILLIAMSON and all members of their staff. The European, Middle and Far Eastern theaters were discussed in detail. At the conclusion of the talks, Air Medals were given out (see enclosures) to all who participated in the attack on Europe on the night of June 5th-6th. Applause greeted the awardings. A word of friendly caution regarding the feared conduct of the officers at the Squadron party was given by Major KIMBALL, our Executive Officer. His comments were timely and pertinent and, as we discovered later that night, almost prophetic. The party, the first official social function of the 309th Squadron, was, in a word, a huge success. I made it a point to browse around among the glowing crowd (glowing from the abundant supplies of Scotch, gin and beer and an attitude of intense satisfaction prevailed. The orchestra, the 316th’s own, was quite good. Among the many things you’d see that attracted your attention as you entered were the exquisite decorations adorning the walls and suspended from the ceiling. Flags representing the United Nations were everywhere. “Mae Wests” were draped here and thereon the backs of chairs as the flickering candles cast off just enough light for the cozy “tables for two”. An improvised bar, littered with glasses, bottles, bowls and the like, were situated very conveniently by the door. Every so often someone would stiffen, stare, clutch his glass, stagger out of the doorway, drop his wheels and flaps and go “on in”. Some of the girls looked quite pretty and some quite ridiculous. English versatility, no doubt. A floor show was given, and it seemed to “go over” OK. The affair terminated at about one o’clock, and everyone left feeling quite gay about the whole thing. Lt. BIGGS had done a grand job and already the men, I’m given to understand, are looking forward to another Squadron party.
July 19. Yes—a day of recovery and “sack time”. When the Creator created this world he must have had foresight enough to anticipate the eventual assignment of the Troop Carrier Squadrons to the E.T.O. That may be a possible explanation for the greatly theoretical one day’s rest out of every seven. Be that as it may, we took ours on Wednesday. Or at least a half day, for during the early part of the afternoon the Group suddenly assembled all the Squadrons and sent them on re-supply and evacuation missions. The men liked it. It gave them the feeling that they were still doing something to aid in winning the war. As indeed they were.
July 20-23. There has been a three day continuation of the original mission, due to extremely unfavorable weather. But by nightfall on the 23rd, many of the planes had completed the missions to which they had been assigned and had returned to base. There was one taxi accident in the Group. It did not concern the 309th however.
July 24-26. Everyone has been placed on the “alert” which means, in all probability, more missions. We hope so anyway. Not only because it’s a great aid in the war effort. There is another reason—a more basic and personal one. It will mean more “hours”, and more hours will mean that we’re that much closer to home. Home—that place we’d all rather be than here. In regards to that I have noticed an extraordinary feeling of joy among the men as they listen to the radio reports of strife and turmoil within the Reich. However it may all be a thoroughly arranged scheme of Dr. GOEBBELS. He is famous for this type of thing. But this possibility is a somewhat meager one and the former belief seems to be the most widely accepted among the squadron personnel. Time of course will tell.
July 27-31. As has been the indication all through the month, activity is stepping up noticeably. Especially has this been true of the latter part of the month. Trips are coming in all the time. “Alert” crews are almost always certain of a flight to France when they are on duty. Such has been the case with the rest of the fliers. The few glider pilots we have amongst us are now exhibiting a genuine desire to participate. Acknowledging this, the Squadron Operations Officers has been allowing many of the GP’s to fly as co-pilots on the transports. It is working to everyone’s satisfaction. It goes to make up a greater “spirit de corps” among the men and that’s good. The ability to work well, to show eagerness, to be aggressive when the necessity arises has in itself an underlying principle which goes far beyond the mere cares of the day. It shows real spirit. It’s another excellent example of Americanism. And that is unquestionably the highest merit of all. We look forward to the next month.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron 1 August to
August 1-9. For the past few weeks, there has been a steady increase in flying. Especially has this been true in regards to the first week of activity for the squadron. Formation flights, by day and by night have highlighted the schedules, and this has been further followed by numerous individual flights, many of which were x-country hops. Many of the men in the squadron are openly speculating on the “when and where” of the next actual combat mission, and just what type it will be – airborne landing, glider tow, or paradrop. Although most of them prefer paradropping, they could handle any one of these operations with skill, and a high degree of efficiency could be expected. There was a notice on the bulletin board late this afternoon, concerning a parade, tomorrow. Class A’s are required. For many of the men, it will be the first parade they have participated in, in many months. Someone suggested that we should sing, en masse, as we march, that old hit tune, “Ragged but right”. Bit of the truth in it, at that.
August 10. At ten this morning, the group personnel were all assembled in hangar number two for the purpose of getting the latest “poop” on what the parade was going to be about. We were told, after we had drilled for an hour, that some extremely important V.I.P.’s would be reviewing us. We wondered who. ROOSEVELT? No CHURCHILL? – he was in Italy. General EISENHOWER or General MONTGOMERY? Could be. Burt on one knew exactly. Shortly after the noon meal, just about everybody on the post climbed into waiting trucks and left for an airfield, near Leicester. There, we learned that it was to be General EISENHOWER.
(Right) 309th members Andracek, Deeker and Wrenger.
The colorfully impressive parade, carried out under a blazing mid-afternoon sun, spotlighted the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. From our vantage point just to the right of the reviewing stands, we watched in admiration, as column after column of toughened, tanned soldiers, their sweaty faces peering from beneath tightly adjusted helmets, their polished rifles topped by gleaming bayonets, marched by. A short address was delivered by General EISENHOWER, in which he praised the past record of the airborne forces in conjunction with the Troop Carrier Command. Most startling however, was the revelation of a new Allied Airborne Army, which now comprised all Allied Airborne Forces.
General BRERETON, formerly 9th Air Force Chief, has assumed the leadership of the newly created organization. The final statement made by the speaker was inducement for considerable speculation. “We will owe you a great deal more thanks in the future.” Sounds definite enough, but I do think that the fliers will be ready for whatever comes. One of the Squadron officers, Lt. TUDOR was married to a charming medical corps nurse late this afternoon. The wedding was a gay affair, and those lucky enough to attend, had a marvelous time. Many happy returns of the day to the newlyweds. She is the former Lt. HARVEY.
August 11. In keeping with the General’s promise, activity has already gotten underway. A new, and rather daring maneuver is planned for this afternoon. We, acting as a small part in a gigantic program, are going to land infantrymen at an airfield which is presumably under siege. The object is to initially capture and hold the field or to reinforce
those already there. Many have suggested that this was but a rehearsal for landing on the Le Bourge airdrome in Paris, but this remains to be seen. It is, however, indicative of things to come.
August 12. Yesterday’s mission was equally as interesting, as it was successful. A new method of squadron “peel offs” by flights of three, eighteen ships are peeling off, with a few seconds interval between each ship, So far, it has worked out okay. The Group had a party tonight--the usual stuff--same girls, same band, same drunks, same place. It did offer a bit of variation though, from the otherwise routine duties of the day.
August 13. Today, the entire post has been sealed. The announcement came rather suddenly, but not altogether unexpectedly. And only a short time after the announcement had been given, all the glider pilots were told to pack up and remain in a state of readiness to leave. They left this evening. We feel definitely sure now that another combat mission is imminent.
August 14-16. These last two days have been involved in some type of secrecy, but the issues are quite clear, to the combat crew members, at least. There is a mission…We have been “briefed” concerning the nature of the “DZ” and it won’t be easy, this time. We are to swing around the “flak” lines, just south of Paris and drop paratroopers. It is generally believed that this maneuver will stem the retreat of the German armies and also give considerable punch to General Patton’s valiant, but slightly tired, troops. The mission is still tentative, pending the outcome of undercover events in France. Everyone is just waiting for the avalanche of events which they feel, in the very atmosphere. And I might add, we are ready.
August 17-20. Much to everyone’s satisfaction, and that’s just what it was, the proposed mission was scrubbed on the morning of the eighteenth. I say satisfaction, because it means only one thing. Our sweeping drives through France have been so crushingly effective, that they have, for the moment at least, eliminated the necessity for airborne operations. The weather this past two days has been miserable. Annoyingly cold and wet, with low grey clouds blotting out the sun, with fog banks rolling across the fields, with the consequent mud and much everywhere.
August 21-22. The weather has partially cleared and some flying is being done. It is on a limited scale however. Most everyone seems to be waiting--waiting for a possible recurrence of the scrubbed mission, or something equal to it. Although it is rather difficult to “just wait”, it is all we can do at the moment.
August 23-25. lst. Lt. STEPHJENSON, one of our flight leaders, has been promoted to the rank of Captain. Most of the squadron officers were quite overjoyed at the announcement made by Lt. Col. Stark at our Squadron meeting today, to the effect that the Leicester convoy “run” will commence again on the 26th. As we all know, Leicester is the favorite city, for many delightful reasons. The glider pilots, who took such a sudden leave of us recently, have returned. Now, the chow lines will once again be three miles long, the bar overcrowded, the bi-monthly dances more difficult. Despite all these things, it was good to see some of them back again. It has been officially announced that the 9th Troop Carrier Command was awarded a Presidential citation for its overwhelmingly successful action on D-Day. Despite tendencies by some to minimize this, it is unquestionably a great honor.
August 26-31. These last four days were ost fitting to “ring out the old’ ring in the new”, so far as the month was concerned. If one looks on a map of France, he will see a rather large city in central France named Orleans. Through fair weathered skies, we flew supplies, mostly food, and evacuated wounded. France offered a picturesque panorama, and for the most part, the interior seemed pleasantly void of having been scarred by warfare. After we landed at the airfield, the fliers mingled with the French population--
seemed to hit it off splendidly. Particularly was this true of the younger and intoxicatingly charming French girls--their smooth dark hair, sparkling eyes, radiant smiles--living examples of the eternal laughter and gaiety that always was and always will be France.
Resume of Months Activity -309th Troop Carrier Squadron 1 September to 30 September
With the passing of September, the fall season, with its blustery winds, cold snappy mornings, and clear invigorating days and nights, was upon us. And for the first week of this historic month, Holland, traditional land of beauty, was still very much in German hands. But then, the First Airborne Army, of which we are part of, went into action. The results were not as good as it was expected they would be, but the attack can be considered successful, chiefly because it confused and distracted the German forces to such an extend that the British Second Army had ample time to dig into worthwhile defensive positions, or to exploit newly acquired gains. They got what they so desperately needed—time. Also, the Allied Armies now stand poised on a four hundred mile front, stretching from Holland down to the middle of France. And this is due right now in no small measure, to the Airborne attack.
But the effort was not without sacrifice. The 309th lost two airplanes in action. Only one full crew has returned. We have, therefore, five men listed as “missing in action”. In addition, our commanding officer, Lt. Col. Smylie M. STARK, was wounded by a piece of “flak” which crashed through the plane and dug itself into his “flak suit”. Had it not been for this flak suit, the injury might have been a severe one (see photo). Capt. STEVENSON, pilot; 2nd Lt. HARIES co-pilot; 2nd Lt. ARNOLD, navigator; Sgt. BEROTTI, crew chief; Sgt. MAXWELL, radio operator; were flying south from the DZ after having dropped their troopers. They were hit and one engine was put out and the plane caught fire. Capt. STEVENSON did a marvelous job of crash landing two miles north of Moll in Belgium. He had little time to look for a field and so just more or less laid his plane down on the tree-tops. His crew was all uninjured, and having gotten out of the Aircraft, was picked up by a British tank patrol. Capt. STEVENSON had the tank commander fire some incendiary shells into the wrecked plane. The tank took the men to Moll and thence to Brussels. Lt. BIGGS was not so fortunate. He, after dropping his troopers on the DZ, was hit badly while in his turn away from the DZ. The plane caught on fire and went into the ground, bounced quite hard, hit again and exploded. It is thought that all crew members were killed. Lt. BIGGS and Lt. PEARCE were well liked among the Squadron’s enlisted men as well as officers. Lt. PEARCE came to our outfit from the 43rd Troop Carrier Squadron of this Group. He joined the Group some 18 months ago. Lt. BIGGS was more of a newcomer so were both the radio operator and the crew chief, Sgts. HERBAT and ABENSCHOEN. Both enlisted men were very popular and capable men. The navigator, Lt. YENNER, was the newest comer of them all and, although he was a quiet, unassuming lad, had already won the confidence of the pilots and the friendship of all who knew him.
This particular mission was our most costly. Several of our ships were hit by flak and small arms. Captain ONILA was the only pilot who brought back his plane on the day of the mission. His ship had several .30 and .50 caliber bullet holes and was hit in the left elevator, the rudder and tail wheel by 20mm flak. Capt. ONILA brought his ship in at night after the weather had closed in to no ceiling and no visibility and made a perfect landing.
The squadron now has its own mess hall, with Lt. Edwin G. GELL as acting mess officer. He is doing a fine job and his efficiency is appreciated by everyone. The theater time has been changed for the enlisted men from 2030 to 1800. This favors them immensely, as many of them have to get up very early in the morning. So long as they are satisfied, I’m sure that the situation will remain agreeable to the officers.
Several squadron members have been promoted this month. This includes both enlisted and commissioned personnel. As per usual, the “drinks” were on the lucky ones, and “chits” flew across the bar for hours on end. Although it isn’t strictly squadron news, there was a splendid show given the latter part of the month, called “Rhythm in O.D.’s”
starring a complete G.I. cast with Lt. I. STERNOFF of the 309th as the featured vocalist. The participants also included Lt. Harry Justin, formerly with HAL KEMP’s band, now our squadron transportation officer. While we’re on the social roundup, a dance was held for the officers on the 30th. The newly created 315th Troop Carrier Orchestra played and, I might add, surprised everyone. They were really good and, as music is largely responsible for the success of any occasion, everyone had a marvelous time.
In, for the most part however, this month has been an extremely active one and interesting, too. The 315th has gone operational in a big way. There will be many more missions and we’ll be ready for them.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron 1 September to
Sept. 1-3. Everyone and everything was ready. All the departmental heads had cooperated splendidly in the ironing out all of those smaller essentials, so synonymous
with the successful completion of any undertaking. But then, the military situation altered itself with surprising rapidity, and the proposed paradrop mission was scrubbed. It is generally believed that the mission, if it had come off, would have been doubly beneficial for the Allied cause. One reason being that the already partially disorganized German armies, stampeding homewards, would have been hindered greatly from doing so, or possibly prevented from doing so. The second being that the psychological reaction of the German people, resulting from the knowledge that such an attack was carried out, would have been terrific—even overwhelming. Be that as it may, the high command saw fit to “scrub” the mission and enlisted men as well as officers of the 309thcontinue to place inestimable trust in the judgment of same. If one looks on the bulletin board outside the squadron orderly room, he’ll see a small box labeled “suggestion box”. Our enlisted men, many of whom have some very commendable ideas, are at last getting a chance to express themselves freely. There are no strings attached. One may say anything he chooses. As was to be expected, some of the suggestions, dealing with the “six pence” club, passes at night (6 hrs.) and so on. This little box may prove to be a moving factor in the lives of the men. After all, this is a democratic army and, although the rules of military courtesy are instinctively adhered to, the aspect of individualism hasn’t been completely cast aside. That’s something the Hun G.I. can’t say.
Sept. 4-6. Several more promotions have been announced. First Lt. ONILA, assistant Squadron Operations Officer, has been elevated to the rank of Captain. 2nd Lt. TYNAN, HOFFMAN and NEWMAN were made 1st Lts. Needless to say, all of those involved were very happy about it, and rightly so. There has been a considerable amount of flying since the first of the month. Not so much formation—mostly individual hops.
Sept. 7. The glider pilots, traditional rovers of the E.T.C. have returned to Spanhoe once again. They come and go, pending the probability of a mission. Their “griping,” in this respect, is somewhat understandable.
Sept. 8-10. These two days have passed somewhat uneventfully. The men of the Squadron are, however, following the continental war with a growing interest. There seems to be two schools of thought on the subject of “when the war will end”. A crew of enlisted men was sitting in the communications department the other day discussing this. Some seemed optimistic, some, pessimistic. Time will reveal the real answer, but it is nevertheless quite interesting listening to the differences of opinion, and also, the facts supporting each.
Sept. 11. Commencing with breakfast this date, the 309th began operating its own mess hall. It is expected that this will greatly improve the morale, the feeling of mutuality between officers and men, the general spirit of unit cooperation, so essential for the squadron. One can’t say, so soon, just how much of this will be accomplished, but one thing is certain. And that is that the change was most agreeably and gratefully welcomed by all personnel, both enlisted and commissioned. Our newly acquired mess officer, Lt. Edwin GELL, provided a fine series of meals during the day, and the future insofar as eating is concerned, looks a good deal brighter. Seventeen of our planes were sent on a freight mission today en-route to the Continent. That’s the type of activity we’ll all like to see more of. We undoubtedly will.
Sept. 12-14. More re-supply missions were sent out during these days, with twelve, fifteen, or twenty-three ships involved in each operation. The planes went everywhere-- France, Belgium, even to scattered points in the U.K. Although the trips passed quite uneventfully, there was a bit of punishment meted out to the power pilots of the 309th. It seems that while returning from Brussels on a certain afternoon, each flier decided on his own individual course. To be sure, the destination and also the “general” directions were all the same, but oh, how the exact courses did vary. I believe the sightseeing tour lasted throughout the afternoon. Then again, a few had taken unofficial shortcuts and had come breezing in, long ahead of time--an altogether undesirable situation. For this display of unintended, but nevertheless unden8able lack of air discipline, the pilots of same planes were restricted to the post for three days. A recurrence, in the case is not expected. However, when all is said and done, the French countryside did look remarkable beautiful. It was twilight when we took off and headed out across the brown and green countryside which rolled away for miles and miles all around us. We could see rugged chalk white cliffs of the shoreline giving way to the quiet blue channel waters, and all of it being enthralled in the glaring fantasy of colors cast off by the rays of the glimmering, vanishing sunset. Darkness had settled when we set down at Spanhoe.
Sept. 15-17. The post has been suddenly restricted again and the arrival of hundreds of American paratroopers has taken on an added significance. Also, many of our Glider Pilots have left us. Due to the “Blitz” tactics of the Allied forces are employing, it isn’t generally believed that this will be “just another maneuver”. And then, it came, just as everyone knew it would. It was Sunday—a calm, golden, but blistery day--.just the type of day you’d be seated in your school stadium at home watching your favorite team do its stuff while you yelled yourself hoarse. Only this wasn’t a game of sport. It was one of chance—of life and death—of probability and cold percentage. But I could see those old and wonderful American characteristics of assumed indifference in the face of danger, steadiness of mind and spirit, humor, despite emotional demands quite the contrary, asserting themselves everywhere--among the troopers, the airmen, the ground men. You can’t go wrong with a team like that. You can’t beat an American. Shortly after mid-day, with planes loaded almost to excess, we winged our across England, and away towards our destination. (See enclosures.) And that destination was Holland, still one of the bastions guarding the foul soil of Germany and that paranoiac HITLER An hour droned past. The choppy waters of the channel glistened beneath us. And all around planes, planes and more planes--fighters, bombers and glider trains, all winging defiantly towards the enemy coastline. Then we could see it just ahead—a series of beach strips and rocky, barren straits which seemed to rise out of the water and disappear inland. Dive bombers and fighters were in the process of neutralizing flak positions. On and on! --Over flooded areas, with roof tops and tips of windmills jutting out of the water. Our dive bombers whining up on one wing, rolling lazily over, plummeting down, always attacking, attacking, attacking! A thrilling sight, seeing this overwhelming air power and realizing that the Germans couldn’t stop it—couldn’t hope to stop it. Bursts of flame, puffs of smoke and flak, ugly and black split the serene blueness of the sky around us. In a second’s time, out “little brothers” in the fighters swarmed down like a pack of bees, strafing, bombing, killing the Hun. One transport faltered, rolled over on one wind, thick black smoke trailing after a sheet of flame beneath the right engine. One, two, three chutes, then a death dive. Straight down, ending in a horrible spray of water, smoke and flame, nothing then except ripples on the surface. Near Nijmegen, we began our letdown. We could see another group dropping troopers on an airfield over on our right. Then the gliders pulled away northeast of us heading for their DZ. Down to 700 feet, the first troopers bailed out. Red, yellow and white chutes steamed earthward, gleaming in the sunlight. Puffs of flak appeared again, but we dived down and away, skimmed along for awhile, then pulled up resuming our formation. No planes were lost.
(Right) 309th member Jack Wilson’s C-47 after landing at Graves, Holland, in resupply effort for Operation Market Garden. Graves was only a few miles from the Arnhem bridge, the ‘bridge too far.’
Sept. 18-20. More “drops”. The group is really in it now, giving its best for victory. So far, three planes from the 315th are missing.
Sept. 21. Today’s activities saw the ending of our lucky streak. Quite a few of our planes were shot up; our C.O. Lt. Col. Smylie W. STARK, was wounded in the chest, Capt. STEPHENSON crash landed in Belgium and escaped serious injury, but 1st Lts. BIGGS and PIERCE, 2nd Lt. YENNER and Sgts. ABENSHOEN and HERBST were shot down in flames. They have been listed as “missing”. Fellow pilots say that they didn’t see how anyone could have escaped as the plane was a raging inferno when it struck the ground.
Sept. 23. The squadron dispatched four ships today as a part of a Group formation. They all returned safely after dropping their paratroops.
Sept. 24-25. We have had a most welcomed respite of two days here but we feel that more missions are highly imminent. Although most of the men are “sweating it out” now, they’d rather keep going till it’s finished. According to news broadcasts, out Airborne forces are doing okay, but the fighting is a bit more fierce than was expected. The Germans, realizing only too well that these are their final days, are fighting fanatically for every inch.
Sept. 26. For the first time in combat, we pulled an airborne landing today. With the sky around us alive with escorting fighters, we stole up the narrow corridor leading from our front lines to a point just past Nijmegen, landed, unloaded our Airborne infantrymen, took off and scooted back down the corridor. Not a shot was fired at us. In the distant haze, one could see sporadic burst of shell fir, then palls of smoke. All of our planes returned from this operation.
Sept. 28-30. The remainder of the month has been given over to flying freight missions, most of them to Brussels, and returning with air evacuees. This has been a richly active month, and the realization of the “war has hit us harder than ever before. But we intend to go on. And to those of us who may eventually reap the same fate that overtook five of our squadron members, I must say that the sacrifice, however seemingly useless, is a necessary one--one which has been made in perhaps what could be called “one of the greatest attacks of its king of all time”. As FDR once said, “We can; we will; we must”. Let’s now forget that. And, if every last man in the squadron bears that fact in his heart, as well as mind, we’ll have the efficiency resulting from complete unity. And the efficiency will seek its own imminent reward.
Resume of Months Activity 309th
Troop Carrier Squadron 1 October to
Aside from one or two unusual incidents, which I covered in the War Diary, this month has been a comparatively uneventful one—and a rather enjoyable one, too. Most of the airmen like the idea of getting hours and hours of time, and we’re hoping to that will continue. Our ground staff, the actual core of any organization, is still running quite efficiently. Visiting the various sections during the latter part of the month convinced me anew, of this. This terminates our sixth month of duty as a combat unit and, to put it briefly, the record “looks good”.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron 1 October to
October 1-4 This month, if the first four days are any indication, we’ll follow pretty closely the pattern of last month’s activities, insofar as “re-supply” mission aare concerned. The likelihood of having any “combat” missions is rather slim, as all the tents, cots, rolling kitchens and trucks used to house and care for the airborne men staying here have been removed. The two schools of thought regarding this are somewhat humorous. One, of course, is the “we’re glad it’s all over for the time being” type of thinking; the other is the dubiously heroic “why don’t we have more” type. And when you mingle with the officers and enlisted men, you soon find that these two invariably come to light. Regardless of this, there is an unanimous approval of these freight runs to Brussels, Belgium. Some have expressed a desire to confine this transport flying to just freight, and no combat—something to that, when you think about it. Then again, there’s nothing like a bit of variety. The squadron, heretofore, has been extremely fortunate in not having any serious taxi accidents. But our luck ran out on the fourth of October when, through no real fault of his own, Lt. SELLERS, pilot of one of our transports, attempted a landing on the short slippery dirt runway of the Brussels airdrome. He skidded along, out of control, ran off the runway and crashed into a heavy truck and crane, overturning. The plane was badly smashed, and Lt. TUMAS, co-pilot, received a gash in his right leg, which revealed the bone and knee cap. He is back with us now, having been treated in a British hospital in Brussels. When asked about it, he commented favorably on the treatment the British had given him. Other than that, the days have been what might be called “routine”—so many planes a day being dispatched to fly ammunition or other supplies to the continent.
October 5. Lt. Col. GIBBONS, in briefing this morning, laid down the law on the idea of RON’ing in Brussels when it’s not necessary. He cited the fact that the recently stepped up German air activity sometimes including strafing these few serviceable fields around Brussels at night. One can readily see his point. Also, a change in the ruling affecting night flying from the continent to this island has been introduced. Differing from the old one in that it permits pilots to fly back after dark rather than remain on the continent, it nevertheless leaves the final decision to the discretion of the pilot involved. If he chooses to fly back, in conformity with the prescribed corridors, he is free to do so. Night flying then is hereby approved by the powers that be. Lt. Col. PETERSON at the same “briefing” reiterated what he had said previously; “Stay in the corridors”. The anti-aircraft defenders of this fog bound island, it seems, are growing increasingly tired of having stray transports cruise about at random. And they make it quite clear that one of these days they’ll make an example out of someone. After this talk, the various squadrons dispersed to their respective areas, taxied out and took off. Our squadron, let by our C.O. Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, dispatched nearly every ship it had.
October 6. To have our own cleaning and laundering facilities; to find some possible means of making available seven day leaves to at least those who are married to British girls; to have more frequent social functions if it’s at all practical; to be allowed to retain their hooded flying coats rather than turn them in” were some of the suggestions made by the enlisted men of the 309th this past week. Analyzing these things in turn, one is impressed by the variation in desires. The majority, however, do favor—most emphatically—seven day leaves. By the same token, I derived that others don’t particularly care about that, but would invite the possibility of having “more social functions”. Just what the men do desire in this respect was not made too clear to me, but it’s reasonable to assume that they would, if given the opportunity, state specifically what they had in mind. Finding out these things from a series of casual conversations, I thought it advisable not to pry. But the idea is there and, of course, that’s the important thing.
October 7-9. Nothing of any importance or great significance took place during these two days. But flying activity is at its peak, with daily flights going to Kemple Airdrome to load up, then to the continent. The squadron dispatches airplanes during these two days.
October 10. On this day a mass parade was held at a place called Barkston Heath Airdrome. It’s just south of Leicester. Various awards were presented to Troop Carrier personnel and, in many cases, they were overdue, having been earned by the individuals concerned way back in North Africa. Contrary to the last parade in which we were introduced to Gen. EISENHOWER, this one wasn’t particularly impressive. This case no reflection on the eminent personage of Gen. BRERETON, also present, but it was the cold penetrating wind sweeping across the flats, plus the imminent threat of rain that did more to discourage any rise of spirit. The convoy returned quite unceremoniously to Spanhoe shortly after six in the evening with several dozen cold and hungry en huddled underneath the flapping canvas truck tops.
October 11. Immediate after lunch today the officer personnel of the 309th gathered in the club movie room for our semi-monthly meeting. Major George KIMBALL our Squadron Executive Officer officiated and his statements were frequently substantiated by Capt. GIGLIOTTI, Squadron Adjutant, also 1st Lt. WARNER, Sqdn. Supply Officer. Several things were discussed. The dampener was officially cast on the prospect of having another squadron party in Leicester. It seems that the 315th Group doesn’t approve, for reasons we don’t fully realize, but be that as it may, the fact is that they have nullified all our attempts. So that’s that. We all remember how successful our first squadron social function was thanks to 1st Lt. BIGGS, who has since been shot down in flames over enemy territory. The question of seven day leaves was brought up and it was generally agreed that it would in the future be far more advisable to have more frequent 24 and 48 hour passes rather than seven day leaves. A few attempted to take exception to this, but the age old rule of “majority holds” won out. Also discussed were problems dealing with 1st Lt. WARNER’s Supply Dept., mainly equipment which had not been turned in at the proper time. And to include a more doubtful tone, the fact that someone had handed in a few grenades without the cotter pins being in place was brought to light by our armament officer, 1st Lt. RHODE. This brought down the house, with accusations and denials being hurled back and forth. Major KIMBALL finally interceded with some very timely advice. He said, “Be more careful with those damn grenades, irrespective of who handles them, when, or why”. In finality, the major suggested that the personnel be a bit more precise about signing in and out when leaving the post. The meeting was dismissed shortly afterwards.
October 12-19. I have chosen to merge these days because they were all so routine. Daily flights to the continent figured highly. The only misfortune was experienced by 1st Lt. SLATER, who had a flat tire just prior to leaving Brussels airdrome. He RON/d as a result, but was back with us the following day. Capt. Rodney BEMIS suffered a similar fate at Kemble airdrome when his left tire blew out. He returned the same day however because speedily working ground crewmen changed the tire in what you might call record time. During these four days several squadron members received Bronze Stars in reward for the consistently beneficial service to the unit (see enclosures). 1st Lt. De BONIS, our Squadron Intelligence Officer, was promoted to the rank of Captain on the 15th. We were all happy to see this as we know he was really deserving.
October 20. Unlike the majority of other days of routine flying the 309th, under the watchful eye of Gen. WILLIAMS and a score of pressman today achieved a good bit of distinction by flying the first salvaged gliders out of Holland. It may be recalled that the Germans, with their characteristic flare for exaggeration, claimed the total destruction of 1700 gliders. The U.S. Army has thus far salvaged 700 of this number. So close to the front lines were our men that the screaming and crashing of German shells was ominously audible. And not very far away, smoke from a tiny German held village curled lazily into the graying cloud laden sky, signifying, as it were, that the fighting was still bloody, still fierce, and as yet, not completely decisive for either side. Once off the runway out planes flew uncomfortably close to some small arms fire and light flak, some of which it is believed was directed towards them. With our almost uncanny luck however, the planes got away safely enough and flew their gliders back to field number !-83 in Northern France. Could this be a cause for serious speculation? You guess.
October 21-26. Adverse weather has for the most part hindered operations. However, we did manage to dispatch a few flights during these days. A few crews who flew to Antwerp arrived at a most inopportune moment. The Germans were shelling the place and also sending carloads of flying bombs over. And flying through a misty sky full of flying bombs isn’t very nice. But with characteristic American disinterest in the face of a very possible and a very probable danger, our men got a “bang” out of it, as they expressed it. It’s good to see that spirit though, and its highly significant too as it is in no small measure due to this very attitude that the American ground armies and thundering ahead on the Aachen front, plundering, killing, burning Germans, their homes, villages and “other pockets of Nazi resistance”. What should we say – brutal, but excusable? Yes – that’s it.
October 27. Two well-liked men of the 309th, Capt. HAMILTON and 1st Lt. PHELAN, left us today. They are going back to America, that utopian land, despite some of its evils, which is so utterly far ahead of the rest of this chaotic world in which we live. Most of the men in the squadron implied that they view the States as such, and would gladly go back. But to get on with our story here, both of these officers have served long and well with the squadron, and it was in a way regrettable that they departed. But to emphasize, knowing the “why” they left more than makes up for it. Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, our squadron commander, held a private dinner party this evening. The higher ranking officers from all the other squadrons on our base were present, and I’m sure from the reports made available to me, that it was a highly successful and a greatly appreciated affair.
October 28-29. It is generally conceded that whenever a new group of men join any organization, such as a few did this week (see enclosure), a hot reception is arranged. This was particularly true down in WAAF site 2, barracks number 3 on the morning of the 29th. The newly arrived men, along with their veteran mater were sitting around marveling at the ingenious methods being employed by a certain somebody refueling the fire. The laws of physics, not being denied, took over when gasoline from one container splashed lightly on the already red hot stove. Flames shot out in all directions as the men fled in style, tumbling, shouting, falling out of windows and doorways. Long, searing tongues of flame licked at everything in the barracks, burning no less than eight officers’ wardrobes, several bed rolls, and finally blackening the whole place till it looked like a deserted coal mine. It didn’t last long, but the damage was terrific. Many officers had no clothes left save those they were wearing and in two cases, these were only pajamas. Efforts are being made to reimburse the unlucky crowd. We’re hoping that this can be done.
October 30. Nothing like finishing a month’s activity with a bang, I always say. And so, to conform with this, our squadron today, after having flown to Lille with hundreds of powder charges, flew directly over the German held port of Dunkerque on the return leg. 20mm and other types of light flak was directed at us. What was really funny about it though, aside from the fact that we were shot at, was the unexpected and surprising realization of exactly where we were. We hadn’t been altogether sure up until that time. Fortunately no one in our formation was hit. Those Germans couldn’t hit a bull in the you know what with a fiddle. Unfortunate as it was, it did emphasize the difficulties of navigation over a cloud filled sky, That about winds us up for this month and we sincerely hope that all this flying activity will be kept at its present peak. For it means flying time and flying time to the tune of 1000 hours overseas, means a trop back to our good old United States.
Resume of Months Activity 309th Troop Carrier Squadron 1 November to 30 Nov.1944.
With the passing of November, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the winter season with its cold penetrable winds, its clashing, swirling rains, its blinding snowfalls and its sticky, obnoxious sleet and ice storms is rapidly gaining ground. Already we have seen evidences of it. During the early morning hours, just as the light of day splits the Eastern darkness, we often see the whiteness of the night’s front blanketing everything. We see ice glittering in the ephemeral rays of the red morning sunlight. Ephemeral, because those same rays will soon be snuffed out by lead colored clouds which rise almost mysteriously and hover throughout the day. Despite the coldness, the high winds and rain, the 309th has remained quite active this month. We participated in a Group paradrop, flew freight to the continent through all but impossible weather conditions, and
gained more personnel in the form of twenty-three more pilots. With the enlargement of any well run organization, advancement for the more aggressive members becomes imminent, Such was the case on the 6th of November and then again on the 24th of November when several promotions were announced. And the men concerned appreciated it no end.
At the Group’s second anniversary party which, I must add, was a tremendous success so far as the Officers and enlisted men were concerned, the 309th was well represented. We have a grand bunch of men in the outfit—always ready for either work or play., In this particular case it was play.
This month terminates our 7th operational month since activation. Perhaps it is advisable to more or less reflect on our past for a moment, paying a silent tribute to those who are no longer with us having, since our activation, paid the supreme sacrifice for God and country, which is life itself. They are gone, to be sure, but we will not forget them. We know why they died. We know why we’ll o on and on until we ultimately win this thing. I’ve often heard the remark, “We’d just as soon have more paradrops on the enemy if that will hasten the end of the war.” And that’s very true. That’s the way our 309th men feel. This is not false bravado or pretentiousness. It is rather a simple beautiful truth.
This month’s freight carrying activities have fallen off somewhat due mainly to the bad weather, causing very limited flying conditions. However, we carried some 680,688 pounds of freight to the continent. This is far below our usual monthly standard and is attributed to the bad weather and also to the practice paradrop which halted our freight carrying for several days. Compared with the other Squadrons of the Group, however, we did very well and came in second only to the 43rd. During the past months, between the four squadrons, the leader has been usually either the 309th or the 43rd. Considering the fact that the 309th was formed of a nucleus drawn mainly from the 43rd, we take pride in sharing the group lead with the 43rd and more pride in beating them as we often do.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop
Carrier Squadron 1 November to
Nov. 1-2. Due to an error on the part of the unit historian, the fact that Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, our squadron commander, received the Order of the Purpose Heart for wounds inflicted on him during the Holland airborne campaign, plus the Distinguished Flying Cross for exceptionally bravery and outstanding achievement in performance of duty, was not mentioned in our last months account. An attempt to rectify this glaring omission is hereby made. Those of us who are familiar with the circumstances realize only too well that this pair of awards was completely earned – the hard ways. Photos of the torn flak suit (see Sept. History) bear a grim testimonial in support of this face. Purple Heart; Sect. 3, Gen. Order No. 92, Headquarters, Ninth Troop Carrier Command, dated 7 October 1944. D.F.C.; Gen. Order No. 103, Headquarters, Ninth Troop Carrier Command, dated 28 October 1944. Adverse weather has prevented much flying although an attempt to reach the continent was made on the 1st. It was especially interesting for many of to learn that in spite of the original decision banning seven day leaves, a number of men left today for the Air Corps Rest Camp at Southport. The officers and enlisted men lucky enough to go were 1st Lt. RHODE and BREMERKAMP, 2nd Lt. KNOPP, T/Sgt. MALONE and S/Sgt. RABERDAY. In addition to those five leaves of absence, 1st Lt. M.F. DEAN left for a five day stay in Belfast, North Ireland.
(Left) 309th member Andracek at Spanhoe
(Right) 309th member McDonough out for a joy ride.
3 Nov. Shortly after lunch today all the flying personnel of the 309th were gathered into the pilots briefing room adjoining our operations office for a lengthy meeting. The purposes were twofold, as I shall explain. One was to acquaint the fliers with the newly formed plan of having ground school when not flying. Timely lectures, it was emphasized, would be given. The secondary purpose was to let the men know just where they were falling short insofar as their obligations to the squadron were concerned. On the whole, however, the men were told that their work is fairly commendable and to “keep the good work up”. Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, Squadron Operations Officer, went on to outline what he considered would be a good refresher course for all air crews. Lectures in radio and other navigational aids, plus meteorological and mechanics are going to highlight the subject matter. One can easily see why these subjects would be beneficial with an almost perpetual mist hugging the island. 1st Lt. TYNAN, Squadron Athletic Officer, announced a detailed plan for an extensive athletic program--not that we are lazy, but this was greeted by good natured groans and grunts of dissention. Major George KIMBALL, Squadron Executive Officer, was the next to speak Many of the officers, he stated, have been attempting to barge into the mess hall after hours and, because they have been denied the right to enter, have tried to force the issue to resorting to the old “rank pulling” routine. This will cease at once and in the future disciplinary action will await all offenders. The business end of the meeting now over, 1st Lt. MANCENELLI, one of our best navigators, too the floor, giving us our first lecture. He spoke very interestingly about radio aids in the U.K. and what he said was greatly informative. Two hours later we were dismissed and the men rushed into operations to “check the mail”.
Nov. 4-5. Although it isn’t strictly squadron news, it’s quite fitting to mention the fact that the topping social event of the season took place during these two days. I’m referring to the 315th Troop Carrier Group’s second overseas anniversary party. The affair was a tremendous success. It all began on the cold windy morning of the fourth and, aside from the chill in the air, the weather looked quite promising. A basketball tournament was held at ten in the morning in hangar No. 2 A fast moving game it was too, with the 43rd Squadron finally emerging as the post champions. And then at noon everyone in every squadron, rush off a meal went back to their quarters to relax or get ready for the cocktail party scheduled for 3:30 or thereabouts. You couldn’t help but wonder about the fireplace and chimney being built right in the middle of the central room of the Officers Club. At noon Saturday, the D-day of the party the thing wasn’t finished. Three eager beavers, complete with spades, buckets and other paraphernalia peculiar to their profession, were scampering up and down a long ladder, fitting bricks, rapping a hole in the roof, dropping stuff all over the place. As you watched, it somehow reminded you of that old biblical tale called the “tower of Babylon”. I’m sure you remember how a great many got together and thought that their unified cause called for constructing an altar or staircase that would lead to heaven. Everything was apparently S.O.P.till they had the thing built to an enormous height. When, strangely enough, a rift developed between the instigators of the proposed “stairway to the stars” construction, and while they lost time bickering and arguing about it, the tower fell down. Well, we expected a recurrence of the same but the old boys came through alright, for when we arrived at the club at 3:00 it was completely finished, dominating the entire room with its tall stately composure of red bricks and white cement. It looked good. The girls arrived shortly after three; the bar opened at three-thirty; and everything was underway. Dinner in the club, then a dance and floor show in the attractively decorated movie room of the officers club finished off the remainder of the evening. And when it was over, many of the girls who were escorted to the station hospital where special quarters had been provided for them, enjoyed a well earned rest. The next day, Sunday, the enlisted men took over, and from their smiles, one could see that a great time was being had by all. It’s indeed a good idea, having these parties. It benefits everyone’s morale no end. The enlisted men were highly pleased that their dance was held in the movie room of the officers club and not the cold spacious hangar down on the line. Lt. STERNOFF, the 309th Special Service Officer, arranged this for the men and they certainly appreciated it. The second night passed. And with it went all the gay tinkling of cocktail glasses, the soft rhythmical strains of romantic music, the feminine laughter, the frivolity. As dawn approached once again, the usual early morning activities were underway and by noon we were back on “operational” status. Everybody said, “we had a swell time!” And they did.
Nov. 6. When the 325th Group, acting as a part of that huge Troop Carrier Command invasion force, invaded Holland on that blissfully calm Sunday afternoon, we flew a Polish brigade far inland, dropping them unmistakably on the “DZ”. The “DZ” for them was just south of Arnhem. When we dropped them it seemed as though they were jumping right into a terrific crossfire. For weeks afterwards, we wondered about them. We finally heard from them again in the form of an invitation from their commander, to attend a party commemorating the day we flew in. It was highly gratifying to learn that, as they put it, “you did your job exceptionally well”. Their casualties had not been too heavy as a result of our precise dropping. Let’s hope our future missions will be as successful. They gave us a good party and a complete feeling of mutuality prevailed. Many of them we never expected to see again after the drop.
Nov. 7-9. The rotational plan for Troop Carrier personnel which, until recently, has bveen discouragingly vague, has really begun to materialize. Already two of our number have left us, and on the seventh Capt. ANDREWS left for home. He had long been a member of the 309th and, during his tour of duty with us, had acted as flight leader and assistant operations officer—a veteran pilot and very popular with the rest of us. We wish him all the luck in the world. Have fun ANDY, and we’re saying farewell to a swell guy. The freight missions to the continent have bee completed during these two days. On the ninth the weather on the continent grew suddenly bad, catching all of us in the air. The wind and rain swirled unrelentingly around us, causing the formation to split up. There weren’t too many alternatives and that we figured was taking the lesser of existing evils. All of the freight however was delivered to the various places and all our planes returned safely from this “routine” mission. The officers and men who left for the Army Rest Camp, on the 1st of this month, returned today. They looked good and, in two cases, a notable change in appearance had taken place.
Nov. 10. Bad weather greatly hindered operations on this day. From our experiences in the U.K. last winter, we know that the weather will keep getting progressively worse. There will be an abundance of long, dark, bleak days---nothing but slashing, penetrating winds, swirling rains, sleet and snow to look forward to. We’ll have to make the best of it, that’s all. Operations, through engineering, is putting in a request for additional de-icing equipment for our planes. We’re hoping they get what they want. Three more enlisted men left for 7 day leaves today. They were: T./Sgt. DeWOLF, S/Sgt. KROLLIK and Sgt. JAKUBISK.
Nov. 11-14. Continued bad weather kept us out of the air during these days. On the 13th 1st Lt. BRADFORD, Squadron Radar Officer, delivered a lecture on the principles of the Rebecca system. Three more enlisted men left today for 7 day leaves. They were: T/Sgt. GRAVES S/Sgt. BOLES, and Cpl. SHORT. Other than that there is nothing to report.
Nov. 15. Captain STEPHENSON, flight leader who crash landed in Holland during our airborne invasion, has left rather suddenly for home. A well-liked man, Captain STEPHENSON, or STEVE, was further admired by the men for the manner in which he handled himself during his escapade--all the luck that the future might bring to you “STEVE”. We’ve lost another good man.
Nov. 16. The 309th enlisted men held another dance tonight in the movie room of the officers Club. This building is unquestionably the more suited for dancing than the gymnasium, the building formerly used for such occasions. The men can enjoy themselves much more here, as it is warmer, more attractive and more spacious. Lt. STERNOFF outdid himself in decorating the room with soft lights, crepe paper, ornaments of all kinds and enough beer to make everyone happy and gay. It was the nicest dance our men have had so far.
Nov. 17. Twenty new pilots arrived today to fill in the existing vacancies in the squadron. Assigned to billets in WAAF sites ! and 2, the men lost no time in getting acquainted with the older and more experienced pilots of our organization. They displayed unusual keenness and eagerness in asking scores of pertinent questions. We’re glad to have them with us and I feel confident that many lasting friendships will result. The new boys have had very little, if any, dual time so the old boys will have to give them some transition.
Nov. 18-21. For the first time since our attack on Holland and our subsequent re-supply drops, we flew and dropped a unit of British paratroops on the 21st of this month. Originally, the drop was scheduled for the 18th, but unfavorable weather kept forcing a postponement. The entire mission, which had its base of operations at Shepherds Grove,
was tentative for three days. If the weather had not broken sufficiently enough to allow the drop on the third day, it would have been scrubbed”. Fortunately, the second day showed promise through the medium of a colorful twilight. Later the same night, the glittering stars shone down through a cold, cloudless night, telling us that the next day would probably be fair enough to go through with our plan, as indeed it was. We took off
In a semi-cloudy sky, flew to our “DZ””, just south of Northampton, dropped them and returned to Spanhoe. It was generally believed that the drop was successful. At the present time we’re awaiting work from the Airborne Commander. The awarding of Air Medals and Oak Leaf Clusters to the airmen who participated in our Holland attack was announced today. As per authority of General Order 110, Headquarters, Ninth Troop Carrier Command, dated 10 November 1944. Those who already have earned the Air Medal for previous campaigns are awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster. Those who have flown against the enemy for the first time are awarded the Air Medal. This move is especially appreciated by those who participated in this particular invasion. Although losses were at a minimum, it was by no means easy.
Nov. 22. For the second time this month the flying personnel were gathered in the pilots briefing room for a meeting and lecture. Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, Squadron
Operations Officer, during the course of his talk, emphasized especially the importance of returning to the base after the normal time on pass has elapsed, whether it be a 6, 24 or 48 hour pass. Too many men, it seems, have been encroaching on the liberalness with which previous offenses have been treated. This liberal attitude will no longer be in effect. A lecture and a detailed illustration of the famous “dingy drill” then followed. The sergeant who gave the lecture was admirably thorough in what he had to say, and I’m sure that everyone left feeling quite satisfied.
Nov. 23. “Thanksgiving Day, that richly historical day when men’s minds and hearts are turned towards all that is good and worthwhile in this war-torn world. When fresh fall breezes stir the fallen leaves anew; when snow flurries hasten the approach of a white winter; when families all over “America” indulge in the traditional turkey dinner, simulating the famous Pilgrims feast on that “first Thanksgiving Day”. Such was the custom we observed on this day, when at the hour of 12, we filed into the mess hall to enjoy one of the best meals we have ever had the pleasure of eating. 1st Lt. GELL, our mess officer, S/Sgt. BYER, our mess sergeant, and their staff of men deserve our heartiest “thanks” for this splendid preparation – complete in every detail: turkey, dressing, vegetables, candy, fruit, tomato juice, celery, salad, soup, pumpkin pie and deliciously flavored hot coffee. Very few men showed up for the evening meal—no small wonder. These men worked for 48 hours without letup in order to have all in readiness. For this, their contribution to our morale as well as our gourmet senses, we send a deep felt vote of thanks. Unfavorable winds restricted flying for today.
Nov. 24. This indeed is a happy day for nine fliers in the 309th. And the reason? Nine greatly appreciated promotions. The fortunates were: 1st Lt. DEAN, navigator, promoted to Captain. Then eight second lieutenants spanned the gap to become 1st lieutenants. They were: 2nd Lts. HARDIN, HESS, KELLSTROM, KNAPP, LAZARUS, LINDAMOOD, MARTIN and STERNOFF.Shortly after the evening meal, all of the newly promoted men, plus a host of friends, gathered in the bar for the traditional celebration. And it was marvelous, the celebration. To quote a parody of W. CHURCHILL’s “Never in the history of mankind, has so much been drunk, in a given space of time, by few”. Shouts of “Yea 309th”!! filled the air from time to time, and songs flowed freely. We broke it up, somewhat reluctantly at 2300 and perhaps the only reason then was, the bar was closed.
During the day there was little activity, as bed weather cancelled our flight plans. One man left today for a 7 day furlough. He was S/Sgt. McABEE.
Nov. 25. We flew today. But what a day! A thick, impenetrable sheet of grey fog slowly enveloped the area, catching as many as nine planes in the air. To top it off, the B-17’s from Deenthorpe were just returning from their daily raid on the Reich, and we were in each others traffic pattern. Listening on VHFD channel, I could hear QDM’s being given every minute. Switching back over VHF3, we learned that the ceiling at Spanhoe had dropped until it was absolutely zero. One flier called in and, in a very calm manner, informed the tower that he was circling Spanhoe’s perimeter lights “on the deck” and wondered if he could come on in. The tower directed him to an alternate field. Just then he cut in, saying “here we come”. Apparently, he had found the runway okay. Such is life in the Air Force though. The suspense--the dramatic nature of our work makes it all that more enjoyable. That’s why many of the men have secretly desired for a long time to become professional Air Force men after the war. In line with that, Major George KIMBALL, our Executive Officer, has been interviewing each officer in an effort to ascertain the desirability and suitability of each individual officer for possible appointment as a commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army. This, to put it bluntly, is the “chance of a lifetime”. And I know, from what I’ve heard of the squadron, that many men are desirous of capitalizing on it.
Nov. 26. The same wall of fog has persisted, and as a result, there was no flying during this day. Two more pilots were assigned to the 309th today.
Nov. 27-30. Routine duties have more or less taken care of this last three days. The weather has been remarkably good and flying is the byword. Regular flights to the continent with supplies go on steadily, while back at the base, transition flying for our new pilots keeps the rest of our crews busy. It has been a very busy month. Add to this the work that we received, that we are to move to a new base. Rumors fly thick and fast as to when we are going. They range from “back to the United States” to the “C.B.I.”, but the most logical and persistent rumor however is that we will go to Colchester, which is very close to London, even if it is in :Buzz Bomb Alley”. On the 27th Lt. KELLSTROM and CUNNING, Sgts. BLALOCK and KLANTZMAN went to the Rest Camp. On the 30th we at last saw some tangible evidence of the old rumor that our boys were going to get checked out on B-24’s. Some B-24 crews came to the station and started giving a selected group of our pilots instructions. We are going to get some B-24’s today or tomorrow. All the fellows are quite agog over the prospects of B-24’s.
Resume of Months Activity 309th Troop Carrier Squadron 1
December—winter. Month of bitter winds; sparkling clear nites; ice coated landscapes; heavy frosts or the traditional fog, which moves in periodically. The month in American History which was, in 1940, the most gruesome ever known. The month which, in 1944, finds us surging on to victory, despite fierce, but futile, enemy counterattacks.
Speaking of counter attacks, everyone in the squadron thought that more “combat” missions were in the offing this month, due to the new German thrust and breakthrough in Belgium. There wasn’t any doubt about that, in the American counter measures paratroops would figure highly. As indeed they still may if a full scale attack is made on the German salient. Thus far, however, each side seems to be feeling out the other. These things are of vital importance to us, as Troop Carrier personnel, for one of our many jobs is flying “behind” the lines, when needed. This, the deep concern, the anxiety, the tense wishful feeling , for we’re under no illusions as to the hazards involved. “Unarmored” is not just an idle word insofar as we’re concerned. Yet, I know what every man in the squadron would go into combat again if it would swing the battle for the Allied Armies.
Activity in general has been considerably stepped up this month. Flying goes on whenever the weather permits, and on some occasions, even when the weather doesn’t. We’ve had an amazing amount of success with our bond sales this month. The sales almost doubled last months.
Three promotions of officers were celebrated in the “traditional manner” towards the end of the month. 1st Lt. RHODE, BRAUN and BREMERKAMP were elevated to the rank of Captain, each having as served as Flight Leader for a period of time.
Upwards of a hundred British children were entertained at the Red Cross Club on this base the day before Christmas. The enlisted men of the 309th figured highly in this, and from what they tell me, a good time was definitely had by all.
Christmas this year was spent in various ways by our personnel. A group of our pilots spent Christmas Eve in France, and had the displeasure of being “strafed” during the early morning hours. Add to this the intense cold and you have it. Most popular greeting on Christmas morn was, “Merry God Damn Christmas”. But seriously, each man knew deeply, just “why” he was there and whatever was said to the contrary was mostly said in a meaningless way.
The month rounded itself out quite excellently with “New Years celebration” held in the Officers Club on Saturday, the 30th. Our orchestra, which incidentally broadcasted to American on the 21st was its best. Lt. Larry JUSTIN, our squadron mess officer and leader of the 315th Group Orchestra, is doing a marvelous job and doing both tasks with a good deal of success. The Squadron is highly fortunate in claiming him and he certainly deserves a vote of thanks from all of us.
Two flying officers and two enlisted men left the squadron this month to make that longed for journey back across the Atlantic to the “United States”. And they were: Captains BREMERKAMP and ONILA and T/Sgts. TUCKER and BIANCO.
With the passing of December we enter a new year “hoping”, yet substantiating that “hoping”, by “doing”. That’s what counts. As the situation stands now, I cannot help but prophesize a prosperous New Year for the 309th, its men, its very existence. And, if, as I said, we are inactivated, it will be because of a crushing victory over the enemy. And that is our aim! “Troop Carrier” has now come into its own, and is in the vanguard of each offensive. Its weight is being felt as it stands shoulder to shoulder with all other Army units.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier Squadron 1
Dec. 1-6. The newly arrived B024’s have been active throughout the week. With the limited number of “Libs” available, (one per squadron), Group has informed the various squadrons that one or two crews, preferably experienced pilots, are to be assigned to the said planes and are to fly nothing else. This will result in the assigned crews obtaining a high degree of efficiency through constant practice and, it is assumed, in record time. Those in the 309th, lucky enough to be assigned to our “Lib” are 2nd Lt. JOHNSON and 1st Lt. WILSON, two of our very best pilots. Both have been “checked out” in the airplane and will give instructions to other first pilots of the squadron in the near future. Other fliers who have been up in our “Lib” have commented alternately favorable and unfavorably on it. Everyone willingly admits though that it’s a lot of airplane and requires a good deal of conscientious flying to handle. Insofar as freight hauls by C-47’s is concerned, we have been flying every day weather permitted, sending no less than 12 to 18 planes each mission. There was one particularly miserable day though—the fifth. A dense fog clung to the frozen ground, killing all chances of flying. But the time made available because of weather conditions was by no means wasted. At ten o’clock in the morning, all the flying personnel were assembled in the movie room of the Officers Club and war films of current interest were shown them. In three fascinating reels, we followed bombers deep into Germany or went “strafing” locomotives, houses, enemy ground concentrations, etc. One scene was particularly good. German gunners were on a rather prominent, flat rooftop manning some light “ack-ack” batteries. Through the gun sight of “our” fighter, we saw “our” tracers slice into them. Chips from the building flew into space and, squirming, the Germans tumbled down. Then “our” fighter zoomed away. Made us a bit envious and, for a moment, we almost forgot we were sitting in a theater just seeing what the plane camera had recorded. Other scenes too were quite impressive. Seeing German jet propelled aircraft being blasted to smitherines by our hard hitting fighter pilots, or watching bombs tumble away towards a congested area below, and seeing the puffs and flashes of the terrific explosions. It gave us, as transport pilots and consequently more of less onlookers, a still greater appreciation for those men who daily flirt with death—alone and at incredible altitudes. At the conclusion of the films, Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH announced that on the following day there would be a meeting of all the flying personnel of the 315th Group. It has us wondering, for there are many possibilities. We shall see tomorrow.
Dec. 7. This day, the one which we all recognize as the most tragic of all days in our American history, symbolizes to Americans every where the one basic reason “why” we fight. Countless numbers of flowery orations and what not have been given, some of these listing dozens of humorously idealistic and greatly imaginative causes as to “why” we fight, but most men I’ve talked with willingly admit that all they are truly interested in is the utter defeat of the Huns and the Japs. For many of them still remember the underhanded, cowardly initial attack of December 7, 1941 and the dark days which immediately followed. That’s why we are in the Army today. All but defeated before we could begin, we observed wrathfully our armies being slashed to pieces on the Bataan peninsula; we listened, in silent, fearful regret to the humiliating, angering reports of our fleet being hounded by immensely superior Jap forces. We cringed at the prospect of having waves of enemy planes stalking the skies overhead, all but unopposed. But that was three years ago! Since that time we have, through the medium of our characteristic capacity for ultimate recovery from any emergency, and our simultaneous exploitation for our terrific national resources, taken the offensive--taken it in a big way, till, at this very moment, our armies are fighting again in the Philippines and at the very borders of Germany. By day and night our bombers are thundering over Japan and Germany, and our fleet, which has assumed astronomical proportions, stalks all the seas of the world, seeking out the enemy. All this was not easy. But it was “American, every bit of it, and I believe it highly fitting to emphasize it in this history. Our own organization, and others like it, was born by the necessities of war, and we’ll go on doing all within our power to hasten the “victory”. It was with in mind that we flew parachuted infantry units into France, and later into Holland. That Group meeting to which Major TITSWORTH referred was held at six o’clock this evening in the pilots briefing room and dealt chiefly with the newly formulated safety rules. Such items as the ratio of visibility to altitude, the necessity for cutting “hot rock” formation tactics, and the necessity for exercising greater care in landing the C-47’s were emphasized. If taken to heart, the lecture will achieve a great deal. There is, as yet, no definite word on the condition of 1st Lt. Bruce L. NEWCOMB, who was taken suddenly and seriously ill on the 3rd of this month. I asked the Squadron Flight Surgeon, Capt. GROVES, about it and he will let all of us know what the diagnosis reveals later.
Dec. 8. Because of extremely foggy weather, flying has again come to a standstill. Timely navigational lectures were given both in the morning and afternoon by Capt. Maurice F. DEAN, our Squadron Navigator. Our C.O., Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, accompanied by a portion of his staff visited our proposed squadron at what may be our future home in the “E.T.O.”, a place called “Chipping Unger”, located a short way from London. From all appearances, they were highly satisfied with the tentative arrangements. In any event, it’s a safe bet that the 309th won’t stand short on any deal, as our staff members have frequently shown that they are earnestly working, not for self, but for the good of the Squadron.
Dec. 9. The 82nd Airborne Division, now stationed in France, needed flying time. And so, the talk was quite clear to a group of fliers who took off from Spanhoe today with an eight ship formation and headed out across the channel to field A-70, near –an. There will be glider tows from morning till night for a period of days. The number is, as yet, indefinite, as all things are dependent upon the number of airborne Troops there. We will get a complete report when the men return to this base again.
Dec. 10. It was announced today that the proposed Group move to “Chipping Unger” was indefinitely postponed. This came as somewhat of a surprise, as this time, preparations were through and, it seemed of a lasting nature. The mess and supply departments of the 309th were both given new department heats today. 1st Lt. GELL, formerly Squadron Mess Officer, was given the job of supply and 1st Lt. AUSTIN was assigned to the mess. Both men appear to be quite capable workers and it is believed that the change will be for the benefit of the squadron.
Dec. 11. Just after breakfast this morning all the personnel of the 309th filed into the movie room, which, by the way had its usual ice box chill. Shivering and sniffing, everyone listened with a surprising amount of interest as the Army’s new plan for mass education was outlined by Flight Officer Thomas F. DALY, 309th Glider Pilot. The plan is a good one and not to be take lightly. Forms were filled out dealing with questions pertaining to each individual’s background, future plans, etc, and lastly, the men were asked to list the colleges or universities of their choice should they be fortunate enough to attend one such institution at government expense when hostilities with the Germans cease. It was further pointed out, however, that this was all very conditional and would not interfere in any with out being shipped to another theater of operations. It seemed to be of interest though that the “University of Paris” headed the lists of the men’s choice. This obviously would leave “nothing to be desired”—educationally of course. Paris, the gaily brilliant, exotically ancient life’s blood, of all Europe. rich in tradition, yet alive to the tempo of the moment, and beating with an undying love for pleasure. Ah yes, no small wonder that an American should choose in all of Europe—“Paris” There was a considerable bit of local flying this afternoon, mostly the new men getting transition. They’re doing okay, so “operations” says.
Dec. 12. This morning the squadron sent about twelve ships to Kemble airfield. All the planes landed okay, except for the last one--the one your “historian” was in--flying as usual, as co-pilot. I heard and felt our gear rip through a stone fence just short of the runway, saw the ground swimming by unnaturally. Then, I cut the switches. The plane, which finally skidded to a stop minus its wheels and propellers, was declared a washout by an investigating board. No one aboard was injured and all crew members rode back to Spanhoe in a plane piloted by Capt. John ONILA.
Dec. 15. The weather has been getting steadily worse, with the visibility less than a mile many times during the day. What little flying there was, was confined to just the field limits, or traffic pattern.
Dec. 16. Captain Maurice F. DEAN, squadron navigator, has left for the “United States”, having served with us long and well. A favorite of all of the boys, his quiet, suave, friendly personality will long be remembered. An intensive training program for the 315th Group is in the offing, it was announced today. Phases will include both day and night formation flights, simulated paradrops and glider tows, then hours of instrument flying for all pilots. It reminds a few of us of the type of lying we did, prior to D-Day, the original D-day at Cherbourg. Could it be leading up to a repetition? We’ll soon know.
Dec. 17-18. Hundreds of persons in the Allied camp were shocked into a new consciousness of the war by a lightning, slashing German counter-attack in the West today. So intense is this Hun drive that frontline observers have alarmingly recognized unmistakable German traits and capacity for attack which the world first realized in 1939. The same spirit, initiative and, if anything, a more severe hatred, completely dominates this new threat. Our Command says, however, that the situation is “not yet out of hand”, which is a discouragingly straight-forward admission that the threat is not imaginary, but all too real. Von RUNDSTEDT is pretty sharp, but most of us feel that Eisenhower is just a little more so. Time, of course, will tell. It will lengthen the war though. And that’s bad.
It seems particularly significant at this time, in view of the fact that many of our pilots are in Northern France, flying the 82nd Airborne Divisions around.. And it has us wondering if this new German attack should get “out of hand”, as previously mentioned, it is almost a certainty that these Airborne men will be used. Crack divisions, the 82nd and 101st, have seen some of the fiercest fighting of the entire war. Their hatred for the Hun forces is the savage, vengeful type, and if they are thrown into the fray, they’ll undoubtedly give a good account of themselves. We know of their past exploits chiefly from our experiences with them in North Africa, Italy, France and more recently, Holland.
Dec. 19. A “buzz bomb” was seen this morning at 5 a.m. by the M.P. at the main gate. It streaked through the dawn sky, heading in the general direction of Corby, where it finally fell. The shattering explosion was heard by many of the personnel at this base. Whether this attack was deliberate or accident, that is to say, just a stray, remains to be seen, inasmuch as the Germans have been utilizing these V-1’s on an increased scale as of late.
These eight crews who departed for France on the ninth returned today. Their stay had proven quite interesting, with the pilots averaging as high at fifty hours for the week. They flew from dawn till dusk, towing gliders. The Airborne people were highly pleased with the smoothness of the operations and a letter to that effect has been received by this headquarters. During the sequence of days, the following number of Airborne Infantry men were flown by our pilots: 13 Dec. 931 Airborne Infantry Men; 14 Dec. 941; 15 Dec. 1485; 16 Dec. 1329; 17 Dec. 1098, for a total of 5785.
Dec. 20. The German drive is rolling on unabated in the West, as SHAEF announced today that a blackout will be imposed on all sources of news for the next few days. The situation is unquestionably bad, and we’re waiting for the order to “go ahead”. It begins to look as though the First Allied Airborne Army will see action again. The boys in the outfit aren’t just being dramatic when they say they’re deeply concerned with the sudden reverse of initiative at the “front”. An impossibly thick fog has been hovering over all England for the past five days, killing all air activity. The Germans, wrapped in their characteristic cloak of shrewdness and cunning, had no doubt foreseen this and relied upon it heavily for their current offensive. Strangely ironic however is the fact that the Germans bombed a place near this base on the night of the 21st. It was shortly after 5 a.m. when the “red alert” came blaring out of the Tanney loudspeakers. Listening, we could hear the ominous rumbling of “buzz bombs”, and the subsequent loud, singular explosions. It’s a mysterious sound—that drone of buzz bombs—and a rather indescribable one. Twenty minutes later, the all clear sounded. During the morning hours, the weather was still bad and, as a result, flying was cancelled till further notice for the day. Our 315th Troop Carrier Group orchestra, starring Lt. Larry JUSTIN, formerly a trumpeter in HAL KEMP’s band, went on the air this afternoon at 3:30 broadcasting on the “American Eagle Show.” The program was transmitted to the States over the Red and Blue network of N.B.C. The program was varied and interesting and the music—splendid. Lt. JUSTIN, a most versatile and gifted musician, is now our squadron mess officer. He works with the band, which is almost a full-time job in itself, in addition to his regular work and is indeed worthy of our highest praise and appreciation.
Dec. 23. The weather is still the same today. A squadron meeting was held this afternoon and timely information was given by our C.O. Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK. Also, Majors George KIMBALL and Edwin F. TITSWORTH spoke at length and then, in turn, were followed by Capt. GIGLIOTTI, Squadron Adjutant. Among the things stressed was the laxity of discipline, which is getting worse around the post. It should, however, be greatly improved after today as the officers were quite impressed by the meeting. The enlisted men also had a session with the staff, and they too, I’m given to understand, were impressed. After all, it is the Army and respect has to be maintained, voluntarily, or otherwise.
Dec. 24. At Spanhoe we had no party scheduled for the officers. But the enlisted men had a stag party at the Pub. The afternoon was spent decorating the tree and making the Pub look Christmas-like. A good job was done and about 8:oo p.m. the party was in full swing. Lt. Col. STARK, Major KIMBALL and Capt. GIGLIOTTI came to held the boys celebrate. The Colonel cut the cake for the boys about 9:30 p.m. It was a good party, all told. The officers scattered around. Some went to the Club and some stayed in their barracks. Some of the officers really trimmed up their barracks. One had a small Christmas tree and a buffet arrangement with delicious snacks. But since the weather showed its first sign of clearing early this morning, shortly before noon twelve of our planes roared into the semi-cloudy sky heading for Kemble airdrome to pick up their loads. The planes carried units of Parachute Artillery teams. This is indeed significant as the men will probably be rushed to the more critically fluid front line positions without delay. Christmas, this year, for these crews was spent RON’ing at A-68, just south of Reims. “Christmas Eve” in France was a bitterly cold, sparklingly clear, memorable night. We had arrived at A-68 shortly after dusk. The western sky was still flaming, even as the bald moon poured down its brilliance. For a while, there was the incessant roaring of airplane motors, trucks and jeeps, but finally, all was quiet. An early frost had reduced the rolling Landscape to a sea of immaculated whiteness, and this, caught iin the pale moon glow, cast off an eerie, fascinating illumination. A Tanney began playing Christmas carols softly at first, then louder, till finally the melodies raced through the deathly stillness and away again into the night. Twenty minutes passed. Two trucks rumbled up to our line of planes; the driver jumped out, informed us that coffee and sandwiches were awaiting us in the enlisted men’s club. Welcoming this bit of news, we hurriedly climbed in, rumbled away from the planes. The only thing was, there was no sandwiches, and furthermore, no cups available with which to drink the barrel of coffee. Then, after we had all filed into the comfortably heated enlisted men’s club, we learned that the base personnel were having a party there that evening. So, doing the only courteous thing, the officers left, but our enlisted men were allowed to stay. They enjoyed the party very much, although they would have preferred to be back at our base, as did we all. Some of the officers went to the officers club where it was deserted and heatless. Others went to the planes where it was even colder and where they were eventually joined by the enlisted men. And so it was during those miserably freezing, sleepless hours that the combat crews, officers and enlisted men, passed Christmas eve. It was about 5 a.m. The quietness was almost maddening. But then, a peculiarly unsynchronized drone, barely audible at first, came to us from somewhere “out there” in the night. Those of us who had heard the sound before knew it to be a Ju-88. An intruder! Before any of us could move out of our planes to a position of safety, the German plane zoomed down, cut loose with everything it had--cannon, 20mm, and 50 cal. Machine guns. For some unfathomable reason which God alone knows the German flier failed to spot our fifty transports lined up nose to tail at the edge of the field. Instead, and apparently in great haste, he fired at a convoy of trucks stalking along the blackened roadway on the outskirts of the airdrome. Had he seen us, it would have been too bad. But he didn’t. That’s the important thing.\
Dec. 25. In the afternoon at Spanhoe the Group held a Kiddy Party, to which several of the local kiddies were invited. Donations from all personnel on the field provided cookies and candies. In the evening the officers club gave out real hot toddies made with Bourbon. However, due to limited supplies, only those who got there early had the toddies. Christmas night also saw several song fests at the bar and in several barracks. Christmas carols, in addition to other songs, were sung. The weather was very frosty and clear, making it very “Christmas” like.
Dec. 26-31. Captains ONILA and BREMERKAMP have left for the United States. Recently promoted, both Captains have seen many long, hard months of service as Troop Carrier Pilots. They have been in our squadron since its activation last May. Two other promotions have been accomplished during the latter days of this month. 1st Lts. BRAUN and RHODE, flight leaders, were made Captains. Cold, clear wintry weather, different from the usual foggy, rainy type, has enabled us to fly every day during this period. Transition for the new pilots has been going on all the while. Their flying instructors say that they show a great deal of promise, but also with a sprinkling of the usual “Cadet Day” mistakes. “New Years Eve” was celebrated by a Group party on Saturday night in that grand old American style. Pretty, young English girls, copious quantities of French Champagne, a snappy orchestra, and a hearty spirit formed the nucleus of activity. And as this, the old year, gives way to the new, we have every reasons to be gay. For victory is approaching, despite some temporary military setbacks?
Resume of Months Activities 309th
Troop Carrier Squadron 1 January to
Most notable occurrence of this month was the change in command of the 309th Squadron. Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK was transferred to Group, per SO 6, Hdqts, 315 T.C. Group, where he will assume new duties.
Replacing him is Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, formerly squadron operations officer. As was stated in the diary, it is with reluctance that we Lt. Col. Stark relieved of command, but we view this change in our organizational set up with a steadfast assurance of a very competent successor. And that is very true. Both are extremely popular with all the men and both have frequently illustrated their qualities of leadership on the ground and in the air.
Activity was stepped up considerably this month in keeping with the training program. It’s okay with us though, for it means more time; more experience; more efficiency; and that, of course, is what we desire mostly in our Army careers.
The arrival of several new pilots has further increased our numbers and it is working out to everyone’s satisfaction.
For a mid-winter month not only the Squadron, but the Group as well, has done a marvelous job. The weather in England is never too good anyway and, as we know from last year’s record, we’re way ahead this year.
It is to be noted that our organization beat the others in the Group in sale of War Bonds, with an all time high total of $6,319.30. Also, some $25,000 was sent home by direct allotment; all this in addition to F.T.A.’s, soldiers’ deposits, etc. The men seem to be realizing the importance of saving money. This is an indication of a high, stable morale.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron - 1 January to
Jan. 1. This, the first day of 1945, saw the Group training program mentioned last month, under way. Ground school commenced at 8:30 a.m., at which time the general purpose and anticipated extent of the program was further outlined. For the past two days, all the pilots and co-pilots have been getting a considerable amount of “hood” training, transition and formation flying, the idea being to acquaint the flight leaders with the wing men, and vice versa. An unquestionably good idea, for, if we had a series of combat missions in the near future, teamwork and confidence in one another will figure highly, as it has done so often in the past. “Flight leaders” will be more than leaders in the air. In a sense, they will have a good bit of jurisdiction while on the ground, seeing that the combat crew members in their respective flights are “where” they’re supposed to be, “when” they’re supposed to be. This means in the classroom, or the athletic field, or whatever the case demands expected that this will aid greatly in maintaining the expected increase in squadron flying efficiency resulting from this rather pressing program. A Group formation highlighted the afternoon’s activities. Considering all things, weather and length of time since such a flight was made, the results were quite satisfying. It is, I think, a good indication for a good start invariably means a good ending. The flyers are “eager” for “time”. That too, means a great deal. 1st. Lt. Lawrence T. JUSTIN has been relived of his duties as 309th mess officer, having been assigned to Group as assistant special services officer. It will readily be recalled that it has been due in no small measure to Lt. JUSTIN’s painstaking efforts that the 315th Group’s orchestra is what it is today. A marvelously gifted and versatile, practiced musician, he will undoubtedly do a magnificent job. His record in the 309th was an admirable one, but the Squadron’s loss is the Group’s gain. Best of luck, LARRY, from the boys in your old squadron. F/O ZIEG has replaced him as mess officer.
Jan.2. In conjunction with the flying training program, increased emphasis is being placed on the question of “military courtesy”. This emphasis came in the form of a squadron meeting early this morning--a squadron meeting visibly on the serious side, having very little joking and no unnecessary commenting whatsoever. Just straight forward speaking on the part of the squadron staff officers, namely Lt. Col. Smlie C. STARK, C.O., Major George C. KIMBALL, executive officer, Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, squadron operations officer, and finally Captain GIGLIOTTI, squadron adjutant. They all mentioned the fact that officers, as well as enlisted men, are failing to salute or show other courtesies which, when added up, mean poor discipline and in consequence, poor co-operation. It was hoped that this situation would be remedied immediately. It was not only “hoped”—but it would be, without any question.Talking later with various men on the subject, I surmised that a highly disciplined unit is desired by all, provided everyone cooperates. And I dare say at the moment, that everybody will cooperate willingly. Shortly after lunch, the squadron flew a nine ship formation and in addition, had two or three other –lanes flying on various individual missions, namely “transition” or “instruments”. Our B-24 has been declared not airworthy-alack of badly needed parts has necessitated its being grounded. It does look a bit war weary anyway and its eventual fate is undecided. 1st. Lt. Bruce L. NEWCOMB, who was taken suddenly and seriously ill the first part of last month, has not improved. The diagnosis is somewhat vague, but it is thought that he was plagued by a rare form of amoebic dysentery, probably contracted while serving in North Africa or Sicily. So uncertain was his condition, the Army officials thought it advisable to transfer him from the ETO to a hospital in the United States. He left today. Long a favorite in the 309th, he will indeed be missed by all o us and we sincerely hope for his speedy recovery. Several of our enlisted men have been given promotions, effective this date. The sequence ran in this manner: 3 S/Sgts. to T/Sgt.; 3 Sgts. to S/Sgts; 8 Cpls to Sgt.; 7 Pfc’s to Cpl; 3 Pvts. to Pfc.
Jan. 3. The weather was extremely good both this morning and afternoon. We flew continually till shortly before dusk, when thick haze gathered and rolled across the field and stayed there. The night flying, originally scheduled, was cancelled.
Jan. 4. at 9 a.m. the 309th air crews had another session of ground school. These classes are following a pattern of continuity which is greatly appreciated by everyone. After all, the stuff is pertinent, and one can never know too much about it. Subjects dealing chiefly with navigational aids, safety measures in adverse weather, etc. are being discussed. Then too, some attention is being devoted to past aircraft accidents. After lunch, the entire Group pulled a simulated paradrop. In a strong, gusty wind, our planes flew northwards, spanned a portion of the Irish sea, finally reaching the small, rather conspicuously located little isle of Man. An airfield at the southernmost tip of the island served as the “DZ”. In perfect formation, the Group flew over, pulled a slow-up, then swung away again towards the sea and England. For many of us, the drop served as a reminder of past events and offered a possible lead on future operations. It seemed still more significant too, because of the discouraging trend of the war on the Western front has taken. It’s conceivable that when the right moment comes, the :”First Allied Airborne Army”, of which we are the flying component, may once again be utilized to regain the lost “initiative”. For the first time in three years, a heavy snowfall has covered the greater part of southern England. Fresh and white, it clings to the trees, housetops and hill sides unyieldingly, as there is no sunlight to melt it away. This snowfall, coupled with high wintry winds, has necessitated canceling flying for the night. The forecast for the week ahead is indeed poor—storms, intense winds and low temperatures.
Jan. 5-9. The same high winds and the same incessant, swirling snowfall has interrupted our training program now for four days, just as had been suspected. Ground school continues, however, as well as athletics. A few individuals have been getting some “track” in, despite the slippery road conditions. While we’re on the subject of “P.T.”, it might be worthwhile to mention another bedlam which materialized out of this snow. And I refer to a few of the hectic “snow fights” which developed into a form of barracks warfare in WAAF site 1, where members of barracks 4 and 5 donned steel helmets and went at it in true style. Snowballs flew through the air fast and furiously--some crashing against buildings, some bouncing off the helmeted heads, some disappearing forevermore over the tree tops. Shouts and laughter, gasps and shrieks added to the acoustical success of the thing. Hostilities ended when the invading gang from barracks 5 stormed the steps of #4, forced entry and plastered the interior. “Unconditional surrender” was gained about a4:30 p.m. when everyone said “the hell with it”, cast aside wet clothes and steel helmets and put on pinks and greens, went up to chow, thence to the lively city of Leicester for a gay evening at the “Palais de Dance” hall. Such is the versatility of Air Corps life. One might as well have it while the getting is good, for once the weather does clear sufficiently, we’ll be back in full operational swing again. On the seventh, 1st. Lts. SLATER and MANCINELLI wee promoted to the rank of Captain. Captain MANCINELLI is serving as “squadron navigator”, while Captain SLATER is a “flight leader”. Both are very good men and very deserving of these elevations in rank. F/O RAUSCH, 309th glider pilot, is now our mess officer, replacing F/O ZIEG, who in turn replaced 1st. Lt. JUSTIN, when the latter was transferred to “Group”. On the eighth, Captain Clyne F. KELLER, 309th Glider operations officer, was transferred to the 313rd Troop Carrier Group.
Jan. 10. Effective this date, the 309th had a change in Command. Lt. Col. Smyle C. STARK, who has served with us since our activation, has been temporarily relieved of said command for the purpose of SO, per SO 6, Hdqtrs, 315th Troop Carrier Group
Replacing him is Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, formerly squadron operations officer. Both men have a great deal in common, having seen extensive service in Troop Carrier aviation since its activation as a separate Air Corps unit. Both have been decorated time and again for their participation in aerial flights against the enemy, with these awards including the “purple heart”, which, as we all know, is never easily earned. Both have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, their capabilities as leaders on the ground as well as in the air. And so it is with reluctance that we see Lt. Col. STARK relieved of command, but also, with a steadfast assurance of a very competent successor, that we note this change in our organization set up. In final tribute, best of luck to both these veteran pilot officers, in who we have grown to place an implicit trust and confidence.
Quite a few of our men left today for the Air Corps rest camp at Southport, England. And these included: 1st Lt. LINDAMOOD, 1st. Lt. MARTIN, 2nd. Lt. TUMAS, T/Sgt. GRAVES, S/Sgt. KROLIK.
Jan. 11-13. There has been a limited amount of flying during these two days. Adverse weather was responsible, but it is expected that it will pick up shortly. We hope so, anyway. We’re not being pretentious when we say “we like to fly”. On the thirteenth, a meeting for pilots and navigators of the 309th was held in barracks 1, WAAF site, with Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, our newly appointed C.O., presiding. Many items pertinent to the moment were discussed. Plans for the officer’s “stag” party on the 23rd were completed; new rules, or should I say, suggestions for both personal neatness and barracks neatness, were offered. 1st. Lt. WILSON, one of our “Lib” pilots and now acting assistant operations officer, held attention most emphatically when he read official reports on accidents which had occurred in the other Troop Carrier Groups. These were then discussed in detail. It is very worth while to delve into these things, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. In our case, it’s worth life itself.
Jan. 14-16. We’ve had a two day break in the weather, enabling us to have more formation flying. Particularly on the 16th, when the entire Group flew in a rather unusual way. One serial, consisting of 36 airplanes, flew the course, encountered some icing conditions, then increasing cloudiness. Accomplishing a 180* turn, they retraced the first leg of the proposed course. The serial leaders contacted one another by radio to fix altitudes. This was done. Approximately five minutes later the two serials sailed placidly by one another. It looked very good, looking down from our vantage point, and the other 36 planes, all in perfect formation, were silhouetted remarkably against the immaculately white landscape. In turn, they too retraced their course, and less than a half hour later, all the planes were back on the ground.
Jan. 17. Our old enemy “fog” crept in again early this morning--thick, tumbling grey walls of mist wherever you look. But there won’t be any “sack time” regardless of weather for ground school is being pursued day in and out, irrespective of weather. We wonder sometimes about our friends in the “heavies”. This morning, for instance, despite the fog, we could hear the rumbling of distant formations winging their way to Germany. It’s a moving, pulsating sound, that hum of bombers, keeping us ever mindful of the ferocity with which the enemy is being pounded from the air. Something new in the line of recreation was given a tryout by our enlisted men tonight—“Bingo” games, with the games costing a shilling per card and prizes varying between one and two pounds. It proved to be an interesting evening and affairs were terminated at 10:30 when everyone partook of the tasty snacks which had been provided by the Red Cross girls on duty. The men expressed their desire for another such evening, and it’s highly probable that they will have, in the near future.
Jan. 18-20. A variation in the weather seems to be holding sway these wintry days. Replacing the silent grey fog layers, high winds are now sweeping across England-- winds that are reaching gale velocity at some points. Our Glider pilots were “sweating out” their rows of gliders on this field. They are tied securely to be sure, but there is nothing quite so absolutely destructive as a slashing wind. And, if the canvas on a glider is injured, it is “knocked out”. Thus far, our glider engineering officer, 2nd Lt. John P. McELREATH, 0-1996134, 309th glider pilot, has returned to the “States”. He was one of the original “G.P.’s” who came to this group some 13 months ago. He took part in the Normandy and Holland invasions. He returned to the “States” for a heart ailment. His loss to the squadron for ill health was sad to him many friends. On the eighteenth, our enlisted men held a dance in the attractively decorated movie room of the officer’s club. In spite of the chilly night, the interior was comfortably warm. Lt. STERNOFF sang three numbers beautifully,. The dance was topped off with ice cold beer for those who desire it and also piles of sandwiches.
Jan. 21. A brand new silver “Lib” has been delivered to our squadron. Lts. JOHNSON and SELLERS are going “hog wild” over it, and no small wonder, for it is a beautiful looking airplane. A gasoline carrying plane, this new job is known as the “C-109”. Sgt. BOSCHE of the S-2 section has left the Squadron and is on his way home. He has considerable property in Nicaragua which was being stolen and compromised, so a leave was arranged for him in order that he could get back to protect these interests. The leave developed into a direct transfer to the Z.I. We are indeed sorry to see him go because he was a very goods S-2 man and we’re all hoping that he will be able to same some of this lifelong earnings.
Jan. 22. Our number was swelled again by the arrival of some new pilots--twenty three in all. They will be allocated to the various squadrons of the Group. Insofar as we know, we’ll get about three, for we are just about up to full strength, as it is. Always happy to see new men though, for it greatly increases the possibility and probability of some of the “old boys” going home.
Jan. 23. The weather wasn’t very good today, but there was some flying. Top event of the day though came after sundown when the officers had their “stag party”. It was initiated by an excellent feed—roast beef (tender as a cream puff), delicious mashed potatoes, vegetables, salads, fruits, and last but certainly not least a couple of cigars for each man. Card games of all sorts occupied the next two hours. Humorously ironic was the fact that the roulette players were “breaking the house”, consistently. Stakes never exceeded ten shillings, but it was the sport of the thing; and not the money that attracted the players.
Towards eleven, a table of snacks was offered, the favorite item being hot dogs, rolls, complete with mustard, relish, etc. Other items included meats, salads, cheese, etc.--a real “smorgasbord”, to borrow a foreign term. The party ended at about eleven. Everyone is deeply indebted to Lt. I. J. STERNOFF who was largely responsible for the success of this squadron social function. Captain Julius H. PETERSON is the new acting “Operations” officer, with Lts. WILSON and JOHNSON acting as his assistants. Captain PETERSON replaced Major TITSWORTH, who is now our C.O. A staff meeting was held today, with our newly acquired C.O., Major TITSWORTH, presiding. His talk was of the introductory type, during which he informed the staff members, as well as the “flight leaders” of the squadron were present just what his aims and expectations were. He spoke in his characteristically quiet, cheerful, yet meaningful manner, and his words were taken seriously. Among the objectives which he stressed, the following were of paramount importance. He desires, most of all, to have complete squadron efficiency. All departments; all flights; everything, whether pertaining to ground or air operations, are to be critically examined for any possible sources of inefficiency, and these sources, in turn, are to be eliminated. He wants, in addition, all the squadron personnel to take pains in being neat, in being military, in being, as we used to say in the Cadets—“On the ball”. He desires to have the barracks, the grounds, the various offices in perfect order. Military courtesy was re-emphasized again and again. Then too, problems and desires of the enlisted men were discussed and it was agreed that they will be allowed to take two 48 hour passes a month instead of the two 24’s and one 48, they formerly took. It was decided that when practicable they will have an increased number of social functions. They will appreciate this, I am sure. And in conclusion, he gave the staff members an opportunity to air any possible grievances. Although they weren’t actually ”grievances”, various section heads expressed their desire to have a closer degree of cooperation between the orderly room and their own sections. The converse of this was also true, and, by and large, each understood the other’s difficulties and the meeting, which lasted for the better part of two hours, terminated with a spirit of good will prevailing.
Jan. 24. Most of the squadron members are quite elated over the current success of the monstrous Russian winter offensive. Ironic is the fact that last month we were sweating out VON RUNDSTADT’s drive into Belgium. This new trend dwarfs anything the Germans have ever put forward since the United Nations took the initiative last year. We’re wondering too “when” the First Allied Airborne Army will go into action again. Nothing of importance occurred today in the squadron.
Jan. 25-26. A layer of fog held sway. There was no activity to speak of except that ground school was resumed after a three day break.
Jan. 27-28. The weather is clearing, ever so slightly, and we’ll probably take to the air tomorrow if all is okay. Two of our navigators, 2nd. Lts. ARNOLD AND WAGONBLOTT were promoted to 1st Lts. effective this date.
Jan. 29. A Group glider formation was flown today and with a good amount of success. Seventy two planes and gliders roared into the blue haze which draped the mid-afternoon sky, flew on a two hour cross-country, then swung back over Spanhoe in column of twos. This resulted in good spacing, etc., for the gliders, but not so much for the transports, which rode in prop wash a goodly portion of the way. Then too, a rat race developed when all the planes flew on to Wittering to drop their tow ropes. The situation afterwards was likened to blades of grass caught in a stiff wind. This was pretty nearly the case. However, despite out poor visibility, the large number of planes, and the newness of the maneuver, things went quite well for us. In jest, someone hung up a sign in the lounge which read “Spanhoe’s flying circus has done it again”. But everyone, glider pilots and power pilots alike, agreed that the mission had been successfully completed.
(Left) CG-4A Waco glider belonging to the 315th TCG (34th TCS).
Standing if front are 34th TCS Glider pilot and also Glider Engineering officer Charlie Rex (on the right) and the Glider Engineering section.
Jan. 30. Right after the evening meal, a group of 309th enlisted men were sauntering leisurely back towards the squadron area when “snowballs” by the dozen began sipping by. Turning, they saw another bunch from the 43rd Squadron. Well, in two seconds flat, the war was on. Some sixty men were involved. Shouts registered “hits” on the victims, while the throwers yelled in glee. A veritable white barrage ensued, with the 309th men driving the other back over their hill, right into their squadron area despite the fact that they were outnumbered three to one. No one was hit seriously though, and it was all “just a lot of fun”. The war ended there, and the men of both squadrons scattered to their individual “sacks”. During the evening hours, the enlisted men had a most novel and entertaining time when an old fashioned barn dance, a base function, was held in the Red Cross Aero Club, with the 315th orchestra providing the music. Uniquely decorated with mountainous tufts of hay and only dimly lighted, the club’s atmosphere lent itself completely to the “pioneering” spirit of the moment, while the pretty, gay, and somewhat exciting young English girls had the time of their lives. The affair finished shortly before midnight, after snacks had been served. Always impressive is the playing of the “National Anthems”, the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Save the King” at the end of the evening. It symbolizes so much the undeniable fact that young British and American people do have a mutual cause, the magnanimity of which, all too few fully realize. It is a glimpse into the political and economic future of our two countries; a possible ray of light in the otherwise bleak sky.
Jan. 31.Poor weather prevailed all day, hampering our air activity. And so it is whilst we sit under grey skies, waiting to fly, that this month gives way to the next.
Resume of Month Activity 309th
Troop Carrier Squadron 1 February to
Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, who had been temporarily relieved of his duty as Squadron Commander, to facilitate his assuming new duties with the 315th Group, has now returned to us as C.O. effective the 23rd of February.
Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, who has done a marvelous job as temporary C.O., will now assume other duties.
For the most part, the weather was strictly against us this month, but we did get iin a considerable amount of flying time.
The G.P.’s are training again just like they did before the last two D-days. This raises speculation and rumors about a drop over the Rhine.
During this month the 309th has shown brightly by taking the lead on the base in number of link training hours, pounds of freight hauled and in the number of hours flown.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier Squadron
-- 1 February to
Feb. 1 High winds prevailed, but the squadron flew a nine ship formation this afternoon. Bouncing up and down as though carried on waves of a gigantic, invisible sea, they barreled around the prescribed course in a little more than hour. The ”slow-up” which we were to have was decided against because of these conditions. Flying normally was quite a battle anyway and a slow-up would have resulted in everybody doing “stick-back” stalls or something very similar to it. The night flying schedule was also cancelled. F/O SENDEN, one of our most reliable “G.P.’s”, has returned to the States. Long a member of the squadron, and, having worked in “operations” with a remarkable degree of efficiency, his absence will be especially noticeable. Always popular with the boys, “DUTCH”, as he was called, had to return because of a recurrence of a knee injury sustained by him sometime ago while in training. Trusting that his knee injury will be amply attended to back home, we say “bon voyage” to one of the best. During the evening hours a selected group of officers made a show-down sweep on the enlisted men’s barracks. Checking of all extra equipment was thorough, and many items were picked up. There was at first a considerable amount of undercurrent griping, but, when the situation was explained to them, the men acce0pted it with a good bit of cooperation. The inspecting officers were mainly bent on retrieving items to which the men were obviously not entitled—items, such as critically needed flying clothes which were being used by ground men, or flying personnel having tools, etc., which were badly needed, in turn, by ground personnel. When it was all over, almost everyone agreed that it had been done fairly, and there were no hard feelings.
Feb. 2. At 0815 this morning the officers were given a show-down inspection similar to the one given the enlisted men last night. It was quite thorough, with sundry items turning up here and there. Extra blankets constituted the greatest haul. The weather has become somewhat warmer, but we’re still plagued by high winds. For that reason we didn’t attempt any flying today. The staff had a private dinner party tonight, sort of a “get acquainted” affair. Topped off with a delicious meal it proved quite a success and all those present had a terrifically good time with a community song fest led by our Lt. STERNOFF.
Feb. 5. The weather still is against us, making flying impossible, but a rather interesting film was shown this morning at ten o’clock. The attendance, not being compulsory, was somewhat on the meager side. Nothing of importance happened in the squadron’s activities today, but the Base had an officer’s dance which only girls with individual invitations were allowed to attend. It was our first in over a month.
Feb. 4-5. Although high winds are still bothering us, a considerable amount of flying was accomplished during these two days--mostly single ships shooting landings or practicing instruments. Prevailing conditions are excellent for shooting “cross wind” landings. A Group glider formation was scheduled on the fifth, but Group operations cancelled it due to high winds. Some injured infantry men have been assigned to us to take the place of our boys who have gone to the infantry.
Feb. 6-7. The present days are consistently dark and windy—the sky laden with purple clouds. The Group glider formation has again been postponed. A few of our crews left for the Air Corps rest camp at Southport today. Six 2nd Lts. were made 1st. Lts. effective this date. And they included: (see orders) Lts. BARKER, GOLDMAN, LIDDLE, MOLDEN, SIEBERT and TUMAS.
Feb. 9. Cold, crisp, clear weather at last enabled the mass glider tow to take place. Circumnavigating a two hour course, the long columns of transports and gliders swept across Spanhoe at 700 feet in perfect order. Gliders peeled up and away, as the tow planes, their speed increased by the release, flew straight ahead. Although a couple of gliders were damaged while landing, the maneuver came off quite well. One or two G.P.’s had some adverse comment on the towing, but one can imagine that whatever the difficulties were in these special cases, the blame can be more equally shared by all concerned. On the following two pages are pictures of the different stages of the tow: GM 57-2 shows the tow ships and gliders closely marshaled and ready for the formation take-off; GM 57-4 shows a glider being towed off and just reaching flying speed; GM 57-5 shows part of the formation in the air; and GM-6 shows, in the foreground, the gliders peeling off to land quickly right after releasing from tow; and, in the background, the train of ships coming into the release point.
Feb. 10. There was nothing of importance that occurred in the squadron today. It might be said, though, that our newly arrived replacements from the infantry are overjoyed by their new status as Air Corps personnel.
Feb. 11. A special meeting of all pilots and co-pilots took place today immediately after lunch. And the topic of discussion? One which received a good bit of attention lately – “Hot Rock” flying. Such stunts as diving the transports over 250 mph, or dog fighting, etc., were especially mentioned. Captain PETERSON, acting operations officer, made it quite plain that these practices would no longer be condoned. Many “first pilots” were called out by name as being prize examples of the above stated type of flier. Of course, everybody that flies likes to get up there and have a little now and then, but the inadvisability of it was heartily stressed, and most all of the pilots realized it. The weather was bad again today, making flying impossible.
Feb. 12-13. All flying activity has been brought to a standstill due to weather. The squadron flying personnel were shown two interesting reels on the morning of the thirteenth. One, devoted to the Army Engineer Corps, revealed many of the latest types of assault equipment, methods, etc., while the second reel was devoted to Troop Carrier aviation, its function, its relative importance and a bit of its short but highly successful history.
Feb. 14-18. We seem to be hitting the jack-pot these days for our quota of bad weather. It has been miserable for more than a week now. We can’t alter nature’s ways though, so all we can do is wait and then wait some more. Both the planes and crews have been in a state of readiness for days. On the seventeenth S-2 gave a security lecture to all personnel. Security is again being stressed.
Feb. 19-22. Several new air crews arrived at Spanhoe during these three days, with two going to the 309th. We finally got a break in the weather and about a dozen planes departed for Greenham Commons airfield to pick up gliders and to tow them to A-50 in the heart of France. This, of course, gives rise to a bit of speculation. It is becoming increasingly clear that as the Allied armies in the West surge onwards towards the historic Rhine River, an Airborne landing on the eastern banks of the river may be necessary to negotiate a successful crossing. Gliders would undoubtedly figure highly in any such attack. Three more of our flying officers were promoted from 2nd. To 1st. Lt. And they were: Lts. McNAB, SELLERS and JOHNSON.
Feb. 23. Lt. Col. Smylie C. STARK, who has been temporarily relieved as C.O. of the 309th in order to take over the duties of Executive Officer for the Group, is now back with us as our C.O. once again. He was with Group while Col. LYON was on leave in the States. Major Edwin F. TITSWORTH, who has done a really excellent job as acting C.O. of the 309th during Col. STARK’s absence, is not relieved of this duty and goes back to Squadron operations.
(Right) Tent City at
Oh, for the comforts of
Feb. 24-28. That variable weather has attempted to redeem itself by favoring us with beautifully clear days at the end of this month. It is a greatly appreciated change, and our planes have been flying throughout all these days, going on freight hauls, glider tows and short formation hops. There was a bit of a scare thrown into one of our crews though on the morning of the twenty-seventh. Captain BRAUN, one of our best fliers, was scooting along beneath a layer of clouds when suddenly the plane attempted a slow roll to the right for no apparent reason. Shoving full opposite rudder and aileron didn’t seem to have any effect whatever. Then the low lying hillsides began to grow nearer with frightening, incredible speed. Fortunately, Captain BRAUN and his co-pilot Lt. John J. KELLY, one of our newer pilots, righted the plane in time to see their right wingtip whiz by a hill top a hundred feet below. But they chalked it up as “experience” and flew again the same day.
There is a certain intangible tenseness in the air of late. It keeps pressing itself more and more. Possibly it’s the anticipation of another combat mission, or maybe it’s the rumor that we may go to France. On the twenty seventh, we got the go ahead signal and departments started to pack feverishly only to get the red light in the evening. We were back to normal again on the twenty eighth. The Glider pilots have entered a rather rigorous training program, mostly of P.T.
Months Activity 309th Troop Carrier
Squadron -- 1 March to
This month has been an historic month for the Allies, now we can really say that the Germans are broken and that the end is in sight.
For the 309th, this month has meant a great deal of flying – transition flying, re-supply missions and one combat operation involving a paradrop over the Rhine of British Sixth Airborne Division men. This operational mission was the roughest we have had, but was the most successful for us since we lost no men and had none injured.
It was a sad month for us in that our Group C.O. Col. LYON, who led the mission, has not been heard of since last being seen over the D.Z. We hope the next few days will bring news of him. He evidently was shot down, but it is possible that he is a prisoner of war or is still alive somewhere where he was not able to contact his home base.
Another historic event for the Squadron was our first re-supply mission to Germany. This was on the 29th of March and was to Y-64, Mainz. The mission consisted of a twelve ship formation led by Capt. BEMIS and carried gasoline. This was the first of many. We hope each succeeding mission will be farther and farther into Germany following our troops as they push farther and farther toward complete victory.
Lt. Col. STARK has again gone up to Group as Executive officer, leaving Maj. TITSWORTH as our C.O. and Capt. CLARK as Operations officer. Capt. PETERSON, formerly Operations officer, went to Group as Air Inspector. Capt. PETERSON has long been with the 315th Group, having come overseas with us. We hate to see him leave us but we wish him lots of luck in his new assignment.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier Squadron --
1 March 1945 to
March 1. On this day the Squadron has lost the services of 1st. Lt. KELLSTROM, who has relinquished his position as Assistant Squadron Historian in order to devote more time towards flying. He is succeeded in that position by F/O S. J. CAMERLO. For the past ten months Lt. KELLSTROM has performed his duties in a competent, efficient manner and the Squadron commends you “KELLY” for your splendid performance.
The month of winds is at hand and, due to the feverish activity in which the Squadron is engaging, one is inclined to wonder if the winds will carry the Airborne Echelon east of the Rhine River. The Glider pilots have emerged from hibernation and were led by 1st Lt. ABBOTT on another road march that comprised the better part of six miles in and about the English countryside. The training program instituted by Command calls for periodic “road marches” of increased duration, culminating in a ten mile “forced march” with full field equipment. In a 71 ship formation led by Col. LYON, the Squadron participated in day and night simulated paradrops.
March 2. Another large formation composed of 72 planes performed a simulated para-drop with apparently good results. The frequency of these maneuvers would seem to denote an impending mission in the not too distant future.
Some of our Enlisted Men were invited to a dance at a nearby A.T.S. camp. Out boys enjoyed cemented allied relationships.
March 3. After a few days lapse, the freight hauls to the continent are again in operation with 1st Lt. WILLIAMS leading seven ships to A-41 in France. Captain PETERSON led a flight of ten ships and gliders to B-24, which, in conjunction with the re-supply mission, kept the air echelon busily engaged in flying activity.
March 4-5. Re-supply missions are competing with glider ferrying for top priority in the Squadron. Nine planes carrying freight were dispatched to two fields in France, A-41 and B-24. Additional gliders were ferried to B-24. For the first time in many months the Glider pilots are procuring more than the required hours of flying time per month. This latter factor has proven a boon to moral and the “G.P.’s” are really getting “eager”. Lt. ABBOTT, commonly known as “the Judge”, took his boys, “the G.P.’s” on another “bunion Derby” which, at an accelerated tempo, covered six miles in one hour and fifteen minutes. Fewer and fewer blisters per mile are being recorded on these hikes and the men seem to be acquiring a physical toughness.
March 6. A five ship formation went to Greenham Commons on a re-supply mission only to sbot due to inclement weather which forced them to return to base. Lt. STERNOFF flew one ship to A-54 and Captain CLARK led a flight of six ships to Greenham Commons, where gliders were procured and taken to A-39 in France. Captain MANCINELLI’s student navigators have begun to really prove their worth and justify their training program. Not a single instance has been yet recorded in which these navigators have deviated from the straight and narrow. The above statement is to be taken lightly insofar as the information was acquired from the students themselves.
March 7. Captain SLATER led a formation of five ships loaded with freight to A-54 and 1st Lt. LIDDLE flew solo to the same base. 1st. Lt. WILLIAMS led four ships plus gliders to A-50.
March 8. More and more gliders are being ferried to the continent and the rumors are running rampant to the effect that a mission over the Rhine River is very imminent. Fourteen ships were ferrying gliders today with Captain SLATER leading four to A-54 and Captain CLARK in charge of a ten ship formation to A-41. Major KIMBALL, Squadron Executive officer and Captain ALEXANDER left today for Glasgow, Scotland for the purpose of obtaining whiskey for the Officer’s club. A couple of old hands tike these shouldn’t have too much difficulty ferreting out all the available Scotch in Scotland, so naturally we wish them luck on this “mission of mercy”. The 43rd had an EM’s party to which the ex-43rd men of our squadron were invited. Local GI acts were given, refreshments and dancing.
March 9-12. I’ve incorporated these days inasmuch as freight hauls and glider ferrying have become routine procedure. In the course of four days, twenty ships were dispatched to various fields in France. These ships carried freight which included a goodly portion of airborne equipment, which can only serve to substantiate the ever widening rumor that an airborne mission of vast proportions is due to come soon. The first signs of spring are in evidence and several of the troops have combined physical exercise and relaxation by playing golf and volley ball. The weather has been generally fair and warmer the past three weeks and the absence of “Parka jackets” has been very obvious.
March 15. Captain CLARK is not acting operations officer pending the return of Major TITSWORTH, who is still convalescing from an attack of yellow jaundice. According to unofficial reports, Major TITSWORTH will be confined for an additional two or three weeks. The base has been on a very warlike hue since the Glider pilots have donned field equipment and have started “packing” carbines and sub-machine guns on their frequent road marches. The predominant key note seems to be summed up in these words: “Let’s get in shape, boy; time is of the essence.” Seven more freight hauls went to the continent today with 1st. Lt. OGLESBEE leading a flight of five ships, and 1st Lts. LINDAMOOD and STEVENS flying single missions. The Red Cross on the Base gave a dance tonight for St. Patrick’s Day. Decorations were on the “Paddy” side and everyone enjoyed the evening.
March 14. We had the biggest glider ferrying mission of the current series today with Captain SLATER leading a flight of 18 planes and 1`8 gliders to A-48. Those various fields in France are bulging with gliders and we begin to wonder if a single glider is left on this side of the channel.
March 15. The “Ides of March” has come at least and still no airborne action. Another freight mission to A-79 with Captain RHODE leading five ships. Hardly a day goes not without some flying activity and operations is really “putting out” to keep things in order.
One of the most amazing factors so far I this continued good weather. There have been very, very few cancellations of missions this month due to weather conditions and all departments are working hard to get the needed material to the Continent.
March 16. The unbroken continuity of freight missions to the Continent is still in effect with the primary flying functio9n of the day consisting of a five ship formation led by Captain SLATER dispatched to Greenham Commons for freight. Following the loading of the planes, the mission to the Continent aborted due to the combination of impending inclement weather and approaching dusk. The formation returned to Station 493 to await more favorable flying conditions. Transition flying has been in progress today with several of the recently arrived co-pilots taking a few turns at the left side of the cockpit. Several of the so-called “old timers” are checking in the newly acquired C-46’s. The EM’s are going through the usual procedure of sharing, pressing, etc., in preparation for the gala festivities of the morrow, namely the Squadron St. Patrick’s Day Dance, during which, it is reported, the Marquis of Queensbury Rules will be relegated to the ash-can and “no holds barred” will be the watchword.
March 17. “Faith and Begorra”, and it’s a bit of the wearin’ o’ the green today. Yep, St. Pat’s Day has rolled around again and on this traditional day of “green beer”, flying activity wasn’t curbed one bit. Captain SLATER and his five ship formation completed the freight mission started yesterday and discharged their cargo at A-48 in France. Lt. WILLIAMS, in command of six planes, flew north today to procure six more of the rapidly diminishing supply of gliders remaining in the U.K. In conjunction with the long distance tow and approaching nightfall, the formation returned with gliders to home base and will continue the ferrying tomorrow. There has been additional transition flying today and it’s rumored that the boys are acquiring the “old technique”. Transcending in importance all other activity, the EM’s dance tonight was the paramount highlight of the winter’s social events. With nearly 400 persons in attendance including Col. LYON, Lt. Col. STARK, Major KIMBALL and lesser dignitaries, Larry JUSTIN and the Dakotan’s beat out the “boogie woogie” in what proved to be one of the most hilarious parties the GI’s have had. Special Service did a splendid job in providing ample beer, soft drinks and a floor show. When it comes to putting on a good party, the 309th stands second to none. It takes cooperation from the top down to make these affairs successful and there have been no complaints forthcoming as yet.
March 18. Again the 309th has left the pack behind and it is with envy that the other squadrons are “eyeing” our new insignia that arrived today. It’s a real “pip” and embraces the following features; a fighting mad, spread-eagled fox, flying through space, with the right arm extended upwards and the hand clasping a C-47 to which is attached a glider ready to be hurled with terrific force at any opposition. In the left hand which extends downward is the third main feature of Troop Carrier—the mighty paratrooper. It’s a dynamic, fighting insignia and the next few days will see Lt. Col. STARK and his men living up to the spirit and the letter of the fighting qualities of “The Flying Fox. (see appendix 1) Lt. WILLIAMS and his formation of six ships ferried gliders to A-48 and Lt. HESS hauled freight to B-53 while Capt. BRAUN went to Greenham Commons for a load of maps which were then flown to Y-9 on the Continent. All these factors, considered in their true perspective, point to one thing only—imminent action east of the Rhine.
March 19. Very little activity today due to the first heavy precipitation in nearly a month of continued fair weather. F/O BISHOP provided most of the fireworks by pinning on the gold bars and celebrating in the customary manner. An EM meeting was held this morning with Maj. KIMBALL presiding and lecturing on certain discrepancies that have been apparent. The subject of passes and circulating rumors was also elaborated on by the Major and rumor has it that the EM’s have been very enlightened indeed.
March 20. Continued transition flying covered the flying activities for the day inasmuch as the chronicler of these events can’t permit one sentence to suffice for an entire day. I will comment on a “local boy” who is making good, as it were, in a Group function. The long queue of GI’s that are ever present before Captain DeBONIS, our S-2 officer, isn’t merely looking for intelligence information. It seems Capt. DeBONIS is rapidly gaining renown as a defense attorney, par excellence, and it is in this capacity that “COSMO” is serving his squadron and group in an excellent manner. The Glider pilots are still active and continued road marches are still in progress. Equipment was issued to them today and the tension of an impending mission is becoming apparent.
March 21. This is it!! The field has gone on Security plan A and power pilots and crews are moving about at a rapid pace. Pistols and packs are everywhere in evidence and it is obvious that the “big show” isn’t in the distant future. Lt. Col. STARK led a formation of 21 ships and crews on detached service to Boreham, station 161. The Squadron wishes you God speed and good luck!! Four planes went on a freight mission to A-93 and returned to join the rest of the Squadron at Boreham, where they are all sealed off, having been briefed for the big event.
March 22-23. Our few remaining ships are being used for transition flying and that sizes up the Air echelon’s activity for the two days. The habit of “scooping” the other squadrons has taken a step in still another direction and F/O Dave MERCUT is making rapid strides towards setting up the Squadron photographic section. As soon as this is in operation, the Chronicler will be able to supply a more vivid, living history of the 309th.
March 24. D-day!! D-day!! Armageddon!! By whatever name it is called, the great airborne offensive, “last great heave” against the Nazi forces of evil, of blood and iron, is underway and once again the 309th Squadron has been privileged to participate in this, the mightiest airborne operation of the war. At approximately 1015 hours, the first planes started returning from the mission and landed at the home base to the accompaniment of cheers from the dozens of spectators who lined the runway. Scarcely a ship failed to bear some momento of the enemy action and many were badly crippled. Only two ships of our Squadron bore none of these tell-tale marks of combat and those were the planes piloted by Lt. Col. STARK AND Lt. LINDAMOOD. The ships piloted by Capt. BRAUN and Lt’s. DICK, WAY, ALLEN and HESS failed to return and anxiety over the well-being of these men was very great. To these men who participated in this engagement, the Squadron has nothing but the greatest praise and commendation. Once again the 309th has emerged from combat with a clearly established record of fortitude and precision. The Glider pilots have been and alerted and the moving schedule is slated for tomorrow. War bags are packed and guns and ammunition have been checked out from the Armament department while the fever of excitement runs high. Major TITSWORTH, who is still undergoing treatment for Yellow Jaundice, dropped in the barracks to wish the GP’s “good luck”. The Major expects to be hospitalized for an additional two weeks.
March 25. Good news keeps coming in—the mission proved very successful and every member of the 309th has been accounted for except the personnel of ships piloted by Lt.’s. ALLEN and HESS. The ships piloted by BRAUN, WAY and DICK made forced landings on the Continent and were too badly crippled to be flown back to the U.K. The Glider pilot alert has been temporarily shelved and semi-alert is now in effect. It seems that the 309th GP’s are past masters at the art of “dry runs”. The only flying today has been of the transitional variety and most the C-47’s are undergoing repairs.
March 26. Luck unbounded!! HESS and ALLEN have been accounted for and that makes the score of personnel casualties suffered total the magnificent sum of nil. Fortune has smiled on us again! The 309th didn’t lose a man, and this is the best record of any Squadron in the Group. We are mighty proud of Lt. Col. STARK and our boys. This mission was the roughest yet, since the flak was the most intense and the most accurate of any we have pulled so far. The other squadrons all lost planes and men--the 43rd getting the worst of it. Col. LYON, our Group C.O., was leading the 43rd and is still reported missing. He had Capt. PERSSONS as co-pilot and Capt. COGGINS as Navigator. Both men were old timers, having come over with the Group. We all hope and pray that they are safe and will turn up soon. The men who were involved in the mission are beginning to loosen up and plenty of weird tales of the action are making the rounds. Boy, it must have been rough going! More transition flying and that is all for the Air echelon today.
The Glider pilots, Power pilots and EM’s have each organized softball teams and a rugged schedule is underway. The tally at this writing is one victory for the EM’s over the GP’s and a victory apiece for the Power pilots and Glider pilots over each other.
March 27. Flying activity for the day centered about three phases—five ships on a re-supply mission to A-41 France with Lt. WILSON in command; transition flying, which has become a routine procedure; and one ship flown by Lt. WILLIAMS to Croydon for the benefit of personnel going on pass to London. A solidly founded rumor is causing a great amount of consternation among the recently arrived dual-rated pilots. Evidently they are to be re-classified with glider pilotage becoming their primary function.
March 28. A lackluster day insofar as flying was concerned and a few transition “hops” were the sum total of the airborne activity. The Glider pilot softball team, with their ace hurler Frankie FRANCISCUS, “laying them down the middle”, is rapidly becoming a well-polished organization and their two recent victories over the 310th and 43rd squadrons bear this out. The EM also served warning that their softball team presents potentialities for a very successful season. With “balmy weather” apparently here, outdoor recreational activities have become very pronounced and the Squadron area encompasses two volleyball courts and one miniature softball diamond. That grand outdoor feeling in conjunction with sweeping Allied successes has served to boost morale to a new high.
March 29. As the sweeping Allied advances drive deeper and deeper into the heart of Germany, the lines of communication have become greatly extended and today we find that the re-supply missions, which last June were venturing between the hedgerows of Normandy, are now traveling the long journey to points east of the Rhine, carrying vital fuel for the armored spearhead. This first re-supply mission consisting of twelve ships was led by Capt. BEMIS to Y-64 in Germany, which heretofore had been a homing place for the Nazi birdman. These hard working pilots are eagerly awaiting the day when they shall be briefed for a landing at Templehof airdrome on the outskirts of Berlin.
March 30. Due to accurate enemy fire which caused the grounding of five ships on the Continent during the last Airborne mission, Capt. BRAUN today flew personnel to B-90, B-78 and B-77 where they were to repair the damage done to the planes. We should have all our planes back at Spanhoe within four or five days.
March 31. Still deeper into Germany go the re-supply missions and a fourteen ship formation, again led by Capt. BEMIS, carried gasoline to &-74. Lt. Col. STARK, in command of two ships, went to Greenham Commons for gasoline to be hauled to Y-84.
“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; nor all your piety or wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a work of it.” And so, as we stand in the threshold of a new month, we gaze back without regret on the activities of the past 31 days and offer a salute to every man of the 309th who, directly or indirectly, participated in the outstanding success of the Airborne mission. In subsequent years when plenty of tall tales are told over plenty of long, cool drinks, these men will be able to look back with pride on the achievements of March 1945. There was only one damper to our spirits and that is the fact that our Col. LYONS is still missing. Each day that goes by leaves us with less hope. Lt. Col. GIBBONS has taken over command of the Group and Lt. Col. STARK has movd up to Group Executive Officer, making Major TITSWORTH, who is still convalescing, our C.O.
Field Order #t5, “VARSITY”, was the official Top Secret designation for our one combat operation of this month, the one that took us over the Rhine in front of Field Marshal MONTGOMERY.s men.
On the 21st of March, the field was restricted in the late morning and around 1400 hours, the planes and crews of the four squadrons started taking off for Boreham. The crews had not been briefed and Major MESSNEGER and Captain GERRON of Group S-2 went along with the men. Our Squadron’s crews are listed in the appendix. (see appendix 2) They went to Boreham where they were sealed in and briefed completely for the trip. Part of the Group band went along to provide entertainment for the crews. The route for the mission took them to farthest north D.Z. of all. (see appendix 2) They were to drop at 1015 hours on the 24th of March. MONTGOMERY’s men were to have been over the Rhine for some eight hours.
On the 24th they took off from Boreham and at 1015 hours, they dropped their troopers who were of the British Sixth Airborne Division.
The mission was quiet until the crews hit the D.Z. and there all hell was razing. The flak was heaviest, most intense and most accurate that any of our missions have run into. The sky was filled with burning C-46’s and crashed aircraft. Hardly any of our ships came out without a scratch. Most ships had several bulled holes and flak holes.
At the end of March 21st, the tally showed that we had five crews out. They were: Capt. BRAUN, Lt. DICK, Lt. ALLEN, Lt. WAY and Lt. NESS.
We knew that Capt. BRAUN and Lt. DICK had been forced to land at Eindhoven and that they with their crews were safe and uninjured. These two ships were complete washouts.
One crew reported that Lt. WAY was seen to have one engine shot out and crash landed on a mine field south of Weeze. As we eventually learned, this wqs true, and fortunately he and his crew came out of it uninjured. This A/C was a total washout.
Lt. HESS was missing completely. We had no word from him or about him until the 24th when a TWX finally came in stating that he had been forced to land at B-56, Brussels, but he and his crew were safe and uninjured. The A/C was eventually repaired and flown back to the base.
The tally showed that we lost 3 aircraft, but no lives or injuries sustained. Lt. WILSON had a very close shave, however. Just over the D/Z. a bullet ripped through the cockpit and his flak suit. It was to this flak suit that he owes his life, for it stopped the bullet. Pictures of the suit and the bullet can be seen in appendix 2.
Thus was completed a mission that was our roughest but most successful, for no loss of life or injuries were incurred.
Lt. Col. STARK, then out C.O., deserves high praise for the success of this mission qnd for bringing his crews back safe and sound. No praise can be too high for the valiant work of our C.O. and our crews, whose courage and skill went so far to make this “over the Rhine” drive a complete success.
The diagram of the route, together with some pictures of the damage done to the A/C may be seen in appendix 2.
Months Activity 309th Troop Carrier Squadron --
1 April 1945 to
The big event of the month was the transfer of the Group from our former base at Spanhoe, England to B-48, France. The move was greatly expedited by the willing cooperation of all personnel and, in about seven days time, the bulk of the movement had been performed.
Flying activity for the month centered around the freight trips deep into the heart of Germany. Our ships transported hundreds of former prisoners of the Germans to staging areas in France. Our air crews chalked up a terrific amount of flying time. Ground personnel were equally busy keeping our aircraft available.
(Left) A captured Luftwaffe FW190. 309th Flight Officers Harper in the cockpit and Halverson on wing.
The end of the month finds the 309th well settled in its new home and the men are rapidly acquiring French friends and the language difficulty is fast becoming only a minor barrier.
It is with a great deal of tense expectancy that the Squadron looks forward to the new month, for V-E day has a particular significance to every member.
Daily War Diary 309th Troop Carrier Squadron --
1 April 1945 to
April 1. The month of April commences on Easter Sunday and on this day the church attendance was particularly heavy with many of the 309th Officers and Men taking part in the Sunrise services and the other services throughout the day. No one paraded around with any particularly new apparel and, although Easter might have been regarded as a holiday in some quarters, the flying echelon found the day to be another one composed of heavy flying activities. Capt. BRAUN led a flight of fourteen ships to Greenham Commons where they were loaded with equipment to be freighted to the Western front. The flight returned to Station 495 when prevailing weather reports deemed it inexpedient to continue the flight to Germany.
April 2. The EM have been observed engaging in various sport with softball evidently the primary interest. Sgt. LEISHMAN of armament has informed the chronicler that the EM of the various departments intend to organize teams and play a regular league schedule. This certainly is a step in the right direction toward fulfillment of the recreational program instituted by the Commanding Officer. Flying activity was curtailed due to bad weather and the Power pilots and crews enjoyed a day of respite from the tedious flights across the Rhine. The weather has been exceptionally good and the showers today were the exception rather than the rule.
April 3. The fourteen ship formation to Y-84 scheduled for April last and which was aborted because of weather was performed today with Lt. Col. STARK in command.
Just for the record let us keep in mind that these trips over the Rhine are not just ordinary milk runs, but rather missions where the slightest deviation from the course will entice a great deal of small arms fire from enemy troops in isolated pockets. The navigators are allowing no margin of error in their computations and caution is of paramount importance and conducive to continued good health.
April 4. Flying activity was widely dispersed today with four different flights transporting freight to four different fields in France. Twelve ships comprised the total that procured loads at Greenham Commons and they continued to their respective destinations. Several of the men were engaged in transitional flying and others took the cub around the area for a few short “hops”. The Squadron photographic section is progressing nicely and F/O Dave MERCUR reports that a dark room has been set up and that production of pictures is underway. Col. STARK and Maj. KIMBALL, in a visit to the dark room, were apparently well pleased with the results. Bicycles are becoming very commonplace throughout the area and with double summer time now in effect, combined with the lengthening daylight hours, it is to be assumed that many of the Officers and EM will be found pedaling through the England countryside. A Red Cross dance was heavily attended by the EM and it has been observed lately that more and more of the Squadron EM are participating in these community recreational affairs.
April 5. The first rumors of an imminent move was making the rounds today and the most substantial of these rumors has the advance party going tomorrow to B-48, an airfield in France, where sites and other incidentals will be taken into consideration. No one is taking these rumors too seriously as a result of the countless previous intended moves failing to materialize. Lt. WILSON led a four ship formation to Green Commons for a quick loading and return to Spanhoe.
April 6-13. Since its inception in May of 1944, the 309th Squadron has been based at Station 493, Spanhoe, England and been a vital, integral part of the 315th Troop Carrier Group. Now that the moving order is no longer a fantasy but a fact, it is with a mixed emotion of sadness and anticipation that both officers and men regard the transfer of the Group to France. To many of the “old timers” who were charter members of the 309th shortly before historic D-day, the move will be tantamount to the loss of a home. Yes, to many of the men, the roots had grown deep in Spanhoe and the surrounding communities, the local pubs, the lovely English girls, several of whom married into the Squadron, the parties at the Red Cross, the Six Pence Club and the Officer’s Club. During the three major missions in which the Squadron participated, man men flew out to combat with friends , some of whom never to return, and to them it is with a feeling of sadness that this tie with the past is to be broken. And so every man in the Squadron bids a fond farewell to his English friends and thanks them for so many kind memories. I have incorporated the days from the 6th to the 13th of April, inasmuch as all activity was centralized in the movement and furthermore it will assist the chronicler to make more concise and correct his recording of the tremendous proportions embodied in the transfer of hundreds of men and thousands of pounds of equipment from an Island to a Continent. Nor will these events be necessarily listed in chronological order, but rather as a whole.
The movement was by land, see and air with Maj. KIMBALL, Lt. STANFORD, F/O GOWARD, Sgt. NIGBOR and ten other men comprising the advance party. (SEE Field Order #1, Movement (in appendix) To Maj. KIMBALL and the others of the advance party must go a great deal of credit for the competent manner in which they selected a site, set up tents and, in general, for the laborious hours spent in making the task easier for those to follow. (See Special Order #66) The field designated for the 315th Troop Carrier Group is listed as B-48 and is situated roughly three miles south southeast of Amiens. The site selected for the 309th is located on the main southerly approach to Amiens and is about two miles from the center of the field. The Squadron site comprises about eight acres on which have been placed 45 tents for the EM, 30 tents for the Officers, plus Mess, Operations, Intelligence, Supply, the Dispensary, the Orderly Room, Armament and various other tents to house the Squadron personnel and facilities. The planes were kept at a rapid tempo in ferrying personnel and facilities to the new base, aking as many as three round trips in the course of one day. The loading and ferrying was efficiently executed and credit for this must go to our C.O., Maj. TITSWORTH, Operations Officer, Capt. CLARK and Supply Officer Lt. GELL. The procedure in loading the planes was roughly as follows: in the evening the trucks would carry the equipment to the dispersal areas to be loaded on the planes which would then be prepared for departure in the morning. While the planes were en-route to B-48 and back, additional loads of equipment would be ready for the transfer from the trucks to planes and an immediate take-off would result. This procedure expedited matters somewhat and showed particular efficiency on the part of officers and men involved. The truck convoy consisting of 14 Squadron vehicles, under charge of Lt. BROWN and Sgt. GODBY, departed from Spanhoe April 11th and arrived at B-48 the morning of the 14th. Nineteen men plus the vehicles and equipment totaling 28,000 lbs. were transported across the channel by naval personnel in Landing Ship Tanks. The sea journey was of approximately ten hours duration and was greatly enjoyed by all the 309th “land lubbers”. They reported that the Navy gave them excellent treatment and that kitchen supplies were always available. The minute statistical facts pertaining to the movement will be embodied in the section of the history reserved for such matter but, in passing, I’ll comment on the overall tonnage hauled and trips flown. (see part 8) In the process of the 98 trips flown by the 309th, 14 gliders were towed and 245 tons of equipment carried. This tonnage represented all movable Squadron facilities, plus personnel luggage, etc.
The rear echelon was composed of 21 men plus four officers and this Group performed the rather laborious task of “cleaning up the works”. Capt. GIGLIOTTI was in command of the extensive movement of supplies, with Capt. CLARK in charge of operations and Lt. GELL handling personnel. First Sergeant NIXON stuck by his job to the last, dishing out his fatherly “hackus” to the EM. In the process of making the quarters livable, American ingenuity truly came to light and, although a “rigid West Pointer” might possibly frown upon some of the erections that pass for tents, we can say that no one is standing short. Maj. TITSWORTH seems particularly proud of his men and the manner in which they displayed their resourcefulness. Capts. SLATER and MANCINELLI, in conjunction with Lts. ALLEN, MARTIN and WILSON erected quite a structure, composed of lumber, tile and then, apparently as an afterthought, they draped their tent over the building. Bike racks are everywhere in evidence and the unit is not only an airborne one, but from the number of bikes it could be quite mobile on the ground. The mess facilities are in fine shape and the food has been very palatable. Even though mess kits are being used, no one has complained in view of the excellent “chow” eminating from S/Sgt. BEYER’s kitchen. In the course of the move, Capt. DeBONIS and Lt. WARNER, plus 23 EM were transferred to the 316th Troop Carrier Group in preparation for the movement back to the States. In return, twelve officers and several enlisted men from the 316th Group were transferred to the Squadron. Lts. SWACKER and ENDERLIN were transferred to the 302nd Transport Wind. (see Special Order #67) In the summation we can only say that everyone from Majors TITSWORTH and KIMBALL on down are to be commended for the splendid spirit of cooperation that prevailed during the movement itself and the subsequent “rigging up”. The tenacity of the 309th in holdings its position as top Squadron of the Group has been firmly established once again.
April 14. This morning Maj. TITSWORTH called a meeting of all officers and outlined the regulations that are to be observed during our stay in France, and furthermore, he admonished those who chose to remain “outside the pale of the law” that they would be dealt with in a harsh manner. Well, the GI’s broke loose tonight and pitched a real ole “beer bust” in the Squadron area. It seems that the Six Pence club had seven kegs of beer left over so the last of the “mild and bitters” was passed out to both officers and men. Singing and gaiety were so much in evidence that the only distinguishing from a beer bust in France to a steak fry in Colorado, was the lack of a bonfire. With Capt. DeBONIS going home, Lt. WILLIAMSON has taken over as S-2 officer and has proclaimed that he will pursue a policy of acquiring and dispensing intelligence information to the slightest detail. (See Order #10) Flying activity has gone back to the old routine and a twelve ship formation led by Capt. BRAUN freighted gasoline to Y-34 to help keep the Allied Spearheads moving toward Berlin.
April 15. We’re becoming somewhat settled now with electric lights being installed and shower facilities being made available. A great deal of work is still to be done, yet each day sees the task more nearly completed. Our French is plenty shaky, and the men are experiencing a little difficulty “parley vou’ing” with the French “femmes”. So eager is everyone to learn French that likely as not one is apt to receive some hybrid jargon in answer to a routine question. To speak it is to learn it, so let ‘er roll. Seven ships led by Capt. SLATER were dispatched to A-93 for loads which were then flown to Y-95 for disposal. Lt. HARDEN flew some EM to B-47 and then continued to B-44 to obtain ordinance. Lt. SIEBERT made the other mission of the day in flying supplies to A-54.
April 15. “Doc” GROVE is being kept plenty busy these days mixing concoctions for the purification of our water supply. As the water supply is somewhat apart from our area, the dispensing of water is a laborious task and is being transported by tank trailer. A fire marshal (see Order #10) has been installed in office, so consequently the area is not dotted with fifty gallon drums painted a brilliant red and bearing the inscription “For Fire Only”. They add a little color at that. Flying activity was somewhat curtailed today with only two ships going out. Capt. ROHDE ferried personnel to A-23 and Lt. SIEBERT hauled freight to Y-74.
April 17. The weather has been superb and both officers and men are daily taking advantage of these sunny days to acquire a bit of suntan. Lt. ARNOLD has formed a new navigation class for glider pilots, so, within the next few days, we’ll have a new group of quasi-navigators trying to keep “G” and “Rebecca” in their proper places. The souvenir hunters are having a field day in Germany and Maj. TITSWORTH has proven to be the “daddy of them all:. However, his hunting has been of altruistic type and will benefit the Squadron a great deal. He returned from Germany today with everything from a washing machine to wood working tools. Others have brought back everything from motorcycles to navigation kits. Passes of the 24 and 48 hour variety are still at a premium and no clear-cut policy has been defined as yet. “Gay Paree” seems to have priority for those who choose the “primrose path of dalliance”. Our Squadron planes did a pretty fair job of touring Germany today. Thirteen ships went to Y-33 for supplies and then proceeded to split into flights and continue on to R-4, R-7, R-19 and & Y-94. Each day finds our ships going deeper and deeper into the heart of Germany and the day isn’t far off when we shall all be trying to get on the “Templehof” run. Four flights comprising thirteen ships and led by the following officers, Maj. TITSWORTH, Capts. CLARN and BROUN and Lt. WILLIAMS, carried ten-in-one rations to Germany and returned to France with prisoners of war.
April 18. The EM’s pub is in operation and is presently housed in a tent. Belgian beer is being dispensed and the men are of the opinion this beer surpasses in quality the mild and bitters of England. Lt. Col. GIBBONS let a flight of 14 ships to Germany on a re-supply mission. These trips into the heart of Germany have now become routine procedure and scarcely a day passes without several ships making the run. The weather has been no hindrance to these operations and the vital supplies are of inestimable value to the advanced Allied spearheads. A three ship slight led by Lt. SEIBERT made a cross country trip to our old base at Spanhoe where supplies were acquired for our present station.
April 19. Nine ships led by Capts. BEMIS and SLATER and Lt. DICK went to England for supplies which were then freighted to A-79 and A-47. The squadron area and utilities are rapidly becoming stabilized. Electric lights and shower facilities have been installed much to the comfort of all personnel. Floors have been installed in nearly all the staff tents and with other daily improvements life is rapidly settling into the old routine.
April 20-22. I have incorporated these days under one heading inasmuch as all flying activity has centered around the freight trips into Germany. In the course of three days, thirty-two ships made the run into the heart of the Rhine with supplies for Gen.’s DEMPSEY, PATTON, SIMPSON and HODGES. A Squadron Officer’s club is being set up in the area with officers volunteering as carpenters, handymen, etc. This club will serve as a writing room, bar and general meeting place for those men who seldom venture from the base.
April 23. Nineteen ships led by Capt. WILSON carried supplies to B-75 and B-118. They returned to LeBourget with French ex-Prisoners of War. Major TITSWORTH was in command of two ships that ferried gliders from A-48 to R-30. Lt. DICK freighted supplies to B-89 and B-68.
April 24. Capt. CLARK led a 15 ship flight carrying supplies from A-95 to R-7 and returned with Ex POW’s. Capt. BEMIS, in command of four ships flew to Greenham Commons where gliders were procured and then ferried to B-48.
April 25. The freight hauls to Germany go ever deeper into the hinterlands and today twenty-one ships led by Capt. BRAUN penetrated to the very shrine of Nazidom, the city of Nuremberg.
April 26. Twelve ships with Capt. BRAUN in command made the supply run from A-93 to R-7 and R-16 and returned with POW’s.
April 27-29. Inclement weather prevailed these three days and flying activity was somewhat curtailed. One four ship formation led by Capt. BRAUN went to Greenham Commons for medical supplies which were carried to A-93.
April 30. Maj. TITSWORTH led a twenty-one ship formation to Spanhoe where a practice paradrop will be made within the next few days.
This month has been a busy one for all the Sections of the Squadron. The move, getting set up and then the actual operating under field conditions, did entail a terrific amount of cooperative work, and every Department did just that. In record time we are working with the same efficiency we have always shown.
ORDERLY ROOM. All our personnel were kept busy in preparation for the transfer of the men going to the 316th T.C. Group, and to receive those coming to us from the 316th Group. Part of the section was sent over to France in the advance echelon and the First Sergeant stayed until all men had cleared Spanhoe. We had five men join us from the Infantry. S/Sgt. BROWN left for infantry OCS on the 15th of April. T/Sgt. GORHAM left for a 45 day furlough in the States. Three day passes opened up to Paris.
MESS SECTION. Everyone was kept busy during the move. The Mess Hall was cleaned and turned over to the Station Complement Squadron in excellent condition. We received three new cooks from the Infantry which made a total of fifteen cooks and one mess sergeant. We now have everything set up here in good condition. Rations have been cut 10%, but the reports are that our meals are satisfactory. One cook is working with the Red Cross The eight French helpers are proving satisfactory.
TECH. SUPPLY. The following items were procured during the month for Engineering: 5 A/C transferred from the 316th; 4 engines; 11 new tires; cowling. The following items were procured for personnel: 20 sleeping bags (Type A-3); 60 jackets, winter flying (Type B-3 and B-6); 210 pairs of gloves. After a previous move to the Continent and the re-shifting of location twice, the department finally located itself permanently in its present Tec Site on 20 April. On 25 April, a technical inspection was made.
COMMUNICATIONS. Not long after our arrival at our first French base, replacement for the Radio Operators we lost by transfer to the 316th came in plus some much needed mechanics. All the new mechanics and operators have shown eagerness for work and indications are that they are all a benefit to the Section. After being on DS with the Pathfinder Group for many months, S/Sgt. KEIB joined the outfit and the following month will see him on permanent flying status. Capt. SCOTT received an able assistant communications officer in the return to the Squadron of 1st. Lt. SHERRY, who, after working in Squadron Operations for some time, was sent on DS to the Pathfinder Group. The end of the month found the Communications section completely set up and well pleased with itself for the work it had been able to do for the Squadron.
ENGINEERING SECTION. The month of April has been the busiest for this section since the Squadron was organized. The big thing was the move from Station 493 to here at B-48. The move came without warning but the section was first in the Group to get moved, for everyone pitched in and helped. All custodial property had to be turned in and all accessory equipment had to be prepared for air shipment. The aircraft shuttled back and forth all day for five days and all mechanical work had to be done as well as the moving. When we got over here, the job of setting up again confronted us. All aircraft were leaking oil and had inspections due on them. We started pulling 100-hr. inspections three at a time and within a week, we had the ships back in condition. During the month the Squadron gained four ships and lost two. Practically all aircraft are due engine changes and we are putting them on as fast as supply can get them for us. Tires are also a problem here. We changed 13 tires during the month of April mostly because of cuts caused by rough taxi strips and scrap metal picked up on the field. Two engines were changed on one aircraft. Twenty-one planes were sent back to Station 493 for a practice drop and all jump equipment had to be installed with the exception of pararacks. The Tech site was cleaned up in preparation for a Command inspection which has not been completed as yet. Thirteen men from the department were sent back to the States via the 316th Group and we gained eleven men. Ten of the men were sent here from the 316th TC Group and one came from the Infantry. Four men from this department wer put on permanent guard duty until time as the service team takes over the airplane guard. One assistant engineering officer, Lt. SIEBERT, was transferred to Group and back again two days later. Lt. HOGAN, a Glider pilot and former Group Tech inspector, was assigned as assistant engineering officer. As before mentioned, the month of April was our busiest and May is expected to set a new record in maintenance for the Squadron.
AMINISTRATIVE SUPPLY. During the first part of the month salvage clothing was taken in. All weekly and monthly reports, as well as the regular salvage and initial issue requisitions for clothes were initiated. Movement to the new base, B-48 was made and the supply department was set up in tents at the Squadron Area. The laundry, dry cleaning and shoe repair services were rendered.
PERSONNEL SECTION. Received money to be sent home through PTA, War Bonds and Soldier’s deposits and turned in same to Finance officer. Prepared and submitted the Supplementary payroll for signature. Prepared records of personnel to be transferred to the Zone of Interior. Packed all equipment and loaded on planes to be sent to B-48. Prepared new quarters and set up new office in tent in Squadron Area on arrival at our new base. All officers in the Squadron were given ratings for post-war Air Forces. Prepared officer’s pay vouchers and enlisted men’s payrolls and submitted them to Finance officer for payment. The following Officers were promoted to rank indicated effective on 16 April 1945: WILSON to Captain from Lt.; BIEGERT, CUNNING, DICK, GARBER, HARRIS E.J., HARRIS R.L., HIGGINS, KLINE, RAUSCH, WILDE, SCOTT B.F., and VENTRESS, to 1st Lt. from 2nd Lt. Checked all Service Records and allied papers of all enlisted men and checked officer’s pay data cards.
MOTOR POOL. We now have 10 Jeeps, 6 Weapon Carriers, 3 2-1/2 Ton Trucks,1 Ambulance, 1 Command Car, 5 Clitracs and 3 F.C. Refueling Units and 1 F.-2 Refueling Unit, 4 A-3 Refueling Units, One Decontaminator and 13 Trailers, all of which are in good condition. All Jeeps have been repainted. All our personnel were busy on the move. All transportation except Jeeps, came over to the Continent in a convoy, let by Major PARKER. Ferried across the Channel by the Navy, they were four days en-route. We are now located in a building large enough to take care of all our vehicles, near the Squadron area. All our equipment is set up and we are servicing vehicles. We find this new system of working as a Squadron Motor Pool more efficient.
RADAR SECTION. After first being in the building now occupied by Group Radar, we were the first section to move into the Squadron Tech Site and aided in wiring the communications for the Site. A German 220 Volt 3 phase motor generator was obtained through Capt. SCOTT for use with G and Loran mock-ups. Radar mechanics on flying status were increased from 2 to 4 and 8 new men, all 853’s were added to the sectin.
MEDICAL SECTION. Three men were admitted to the Hospital and seven to Sick Quarters. The total days lost were eight-five. Two hundred seventy patients were treated on duty status. The unit has one case of Gonorrhea Acute (new) for the month of April.. The Squadron Dispensary was moved from Station 493 to this base and set up in a tent in the Squadron Area. Monthly physical examinations were given to the enlisted men and approximately 95% of the EM were found free from infection. Kahns were given to the French civilians working in the Mess hall. All weekly and monthly reports were submitted on dates as specified. Typhus booster shots were given to all Officers and Enlisted men of this unit. A daily inspection of the Squadron Mess is conducted by our Squadron Surgeon. Sanitary conditions were found to be in excellent shape in both our Mess and Tent areas. During this period no unusual disease or infections have incurred. Regular Dispensary routine has been attained, and all men, both Officers and Enlisted men, appearing on Sick Call have been treated only for minor ailments. General health and conditions of all men of this Squadron from the view point of the Surgeon is very favorable.
ARMAMENT SECTION. In preparation for the move to France, all firearms were issued to their respective owners, and the individual brought them along with their personal equipment to our new base. Ammunition and medium arms were packed along with the section racks and cleaning and storing equipment and flown to this field. Once here, an
Armament tent was set up in the Squadron area, with new type racks for storing and locking, and cleaning, and all firearms were called in for storing and cleaning and inspection. Side arms and ammunition were issued to the crews previous to take-off on missions into Germany and collected and inspected on crew’s return.
OPERATIONS SECTION. Many of our ships have landed on airstrips that had been taken only a short time previously. Upon landing, if loading crews are available, the ships are immediately unloaded and prepared for take-off again. If loading crews are not available, the crew of the aircraft take off all extra clothing and proceed to accomplish this added duty. During the first part of the month the Group was notified that is was to move to France. Miscellaneous baggage and equipment was transported by plane. During thids movement, 9 trips were made by C-46D type aircraft, 14 by CG4A’s, and 89 by C-47A’s. Total tonnage hauled amounted to 245 tons and number of passengers ferried was 400. During the month of April, 1,514 hours were flown, 860,000 lbs. of freight and 2,459 American, British and French ex-POW’s and passengers were transported.
INTELLIGENCE SECTION. This section though small comparatively, played its part in the move to this base on the Continent from England. Sgt. PRIMACK was among the earliest to leave with the Advance echelon with the hulk of this department’s equipment. S/Sgt. McABEE was of the latter part of the rear echelon, remaining in en gland at Spanhoe until the few remaining aircraft on a transport mission returned and covered the de-briefing end. Our former Sectin head, Capt. DeBONIS was one of the men transferred to the 316th Group, and his able assistant 1st Lt. WILLIAMSON took over the duties and responsibilities of Squadron Intelligence Officer. 1st. Lt. MAY, of the 316th, was assigned to our section as Assistant Intelligence officer and is proving eager and capable, having been an S-2 officer at the 316th. Resulting from the new policy, each Squadron, acting as an individual unit apart from Group, a great deal of classified information relevant to the variety of freight missions scheduled into the heart of Germany had to be gathered and made available. A tent was set up in the Squadron area, office set up, necessary information gathered concerning new airfields and their locations and conditions for use in de-briefing crews before take-off. An airfield locator map and weekly reports, along with the regular monthly reports and the Unit History, entailed a great deal of paper work, which has been accomplished A record has been set for outgoing unit mail, for their has been a greater amount of outgoing mail for the month of April than any preceding month since the Squadron was activated.