The History of the 514th in Brief
A t any rate, it was not long before the fluid front moved away from effective reach of our vital air arm so another move became necessary. Before consummation of this plan, however, another member of our fold was missing in action. He was Lt. B.L. Cramer, who went down on 7 August 1944 approximately 6 miles southwest of St. Mennehould, France. Lt. Cramer's Thunderbolt was believed to be hit by anti-aircraft fire.
in an apple orchard. Crettville, France.
With intentions of occupying the airfield at Lessay, our advance echelon again "hit the road" on 14 August 1944. But, the stay there was short-lived due to large amount of work needed to make the Strip operational. Next step was to proceed to Strip A-14 near Crettville, France.
Even this switch of air strips seemed like an idle gesture, taking into consideration that rapidity of our advancing infantry divisions and armored columns was taking the fighting front far from our bases. Anyway the move was affected on 17 August 1944. Sparked by the unerring leadership of our commander, Major C.B. Kelly, we carried the fight to the enemy with incomparable tenacity. It was an unduly difficult problem flying from this station because of great distances that had to be covered to and from targets.
This created additional maintenance work for group crews which were already an overworked lot. However, with finest cooperation and spirit of enthusiasm, a high degree of maintenance work provided more than usual quota of Thunderbolts required to complete the necessary missions.
Although Dame Fortune had treated us more fairly in recent weeks, another of our capable pilots fell by the wayside. He was Lt. R.L. Wood, more popularly known as "Woody the Wolf" to his compatriots. Lt. Wood went gloriously on 23 August 1944 near Mantes-Gassicourt, France, while fulfilling his part in an armored column support mission. The brighter side of the picture, on the other hand, presented us with Lt. E.E. Springer, who had been missing since 5 July 1944. Lt. Springer was aided and abetted in his return by French civilians.
Incidentally, our unit participated in its first propaganda leaflet mission from this strip. The leaflets were dropped over the German troops trapped on Brest Peninsula.
When Lt. General Patton's phenomenal armies bypassed beleaguered German troops on Brest Peninsula and plunged eastward across France, we were forced to follow suit by making a comparatively long trek to our new destination—Loupeland, France, or Air Strip A-36 according to its military designation. The same problem of distance existed here but we remained for approximately four weeks. Daily missions were flown in direct support of our brothers in service—Third Army—punching and staving off every thrust directed at them by Hitler's fanatical contingent.
Along in this period we lost one of our veteran flight commanders in the person of Captain E.C. Heckman. He as brought down by flak while engaged in a close ground support mission. Ironically, this quirk of fate deprived Captain Heckman of a rest leave in the U.S., which he was expecting in a couple of days. A day later Lt. R.T. Shelton met the same fate while on an armored column support mission. The third and last loss in valuable flying personnel while at Loupeland occurred to Lt. R.W. McHugh, who was wounded in action while dive-bombing.
First of two principal accomplishments by our splendid airmen occurred on 1 September 1944 on which date the 514th, led by Major G.I. Ruddell, raked up and down Metz Airdrome with damaging machinegun fire to account for the appalling number of 12 planes destroyed and 20 or more damaged. Lt. Hilton L. Lewis was discoverer of this pilot's dream through a break in a heavy cloud layer and immediately reported his revelation to Major Ruddell. Despite low fuel and ammunition supply since they were returning from another mission, Major Rudell unhesitatingly led his "Raiders" down for the killing. This, by far, was the best hunting day to date.
Foremost and perhaps most appreciable commendation for outstanding performance of duty in armed conflict was the Unit Presidential Citation justly awarded to our 406th Fighter Group for action south of the Loire river on 7 September 1944. Thirty-six P-47s of the Group, 12 of them 514th's, raced south of the Loire river in the vicinity of Chateauroux, France, to find and destroy a column of enemy vehicles and military transport, which was attempting to escape from southeastern France through the Belfort Gap. As a result of decisive destruction and ferocity of attack, General Elster, his staff and 20,000 troops were forced to capitulate. During the surrender, General Elster requested presence of Brigadier General O.P. Weyland, Chief of XIX Tactical Air Command, to insure cessation of further air attacks.
quarters for the winter.
Assuming the role of "Gypsy Caravan" again in vain attempt to catch up with the flying "Third," we took a circuitous course around the gay city of Paris to reach our new airfield at Mourmelon on 24 September 1944. It was a base formerly used by the Luftwaffe with slight topographical changes created by Allied heavy bombardment planes. Nevertheless, the field was quickly whipped into shape in time for our arrival. Weather, for most of October, seriously hampered operations, permitting only 19 flyable days. Nonetheless, many missions were piled up dive-bombing rail yards, tunnels, bridges and rail line in the difficult terrain around Metz.
Late afternoon on the 9th of October our Thunderbolts were hurriedly called to bomb a wooded area in the sector around Metz with fragmentation bomb clusters. The mission was accomplished with usual efficiency but results could not be recorded because close observation was impossible. However, future commendation received from Brig. General Weyland revealed that heavy concentration of German troops in this wooded area had been virtually annihilated by murderous effect of the fragmentation bombs. When the III Corps advanced into this position, they found the "Jerries" highly demoralized and walking around senselessly among innumerable casualties, who were lying around grotesquely. Twenty-five hundred more prisoners were taken into custody without a single mishap to our infantry.