The History of the 514th in Brief

Page 6

O ur zealousness to fly to the assistance of the 101st Airborne Infantry division in Bastogne can be attributed largely to friendships formed between our respective units when we were neighbors for a period on the same reservation at Mourmelon.

At any rate, in this manner the breakthrough eventually lost its crushing effect and the vital road junction in the town of Bastogne was triumphantly retained by the 101st. After the salient was smashed, value of close unit between ground and Air Forces was again reiterated.

"I never knew until now that fighter-bombers could do so much. If it had not been for your splendid air support, we should never have been able to hold out. We held the vital road junction at Bastogne with your help," said Brigadier General Anthony C. McAulifee, Commanding the 101st Airborne Infantry Division. Later Brig. General McAulifee paid a personal visit to our acting Group Commander, Lt. Col. L.R. Bratton, to express appreciation for valuable assistance rendered.

At a future date, the 406th Fighter Group received a cluster to the first Unit Presidential Citation on General Order dated 1 June 1945. This second commendation will be remembered by one and all for the hard work contributed toward it.

This particularly hectic activity and sudden appearance of the Luftwaffe exacted a heavy toll on our rapidly depleting ranks. Those lost in action were Lt. G.E. McKeand, Lt. A.E. Thomas, Lt. C.D. Yochum, Lt. D.O. Dorman, Lt. B.A. Sheldon, Lt. G.W. Mace, Lt. J.I. Smith and Lt. V.R. Pittala.

In the absence of Major C.B. Kelly, who had returned to the U.S. on rest leave, responsibility of Squadron  Commander was capably shouldered by Major G.I. Ruddell. In turn Captain Bedford R. Underwood stepped into Major Rudell's former position as Operations Officer.

After the "Bulge" scare had been virtually eliminated, the following period was comparatively dull. We continued to fly support missions whenever weather permitted, using every trick in the trade to deal out justified punishment. Incendiaries were used liberally to create blazing infernos in the towns of Donnage, Drinklange, Benonchamp and Noville. The latter two were completely destroyed by fire, drawing praise from the ground controller on the excellence of work. Later on a factory producing war materials for the Wehrmacht was devastated in the town of Allenback, Germany.

Flight Officer R.L. Campbell failed to return from one of these missions.

The following commendation from Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Infantry Division, was received by Major G.I. Ruddell: "The officers and men of the 101st Airborne Division wish to express to your command their appreciation of the gallant support rendered by the 514th Fighter Squadron in the recent defense of Bastogne, Belgium. The success of this defense is attributable to the shoulder to shoulder cooperation of all units involved. This division is proud to have shared the battlefield with your command."

When the air strip at Mourmelon went under repairs, our entire assemblage of ships was moved to Strip A-79, where the remaining missions in the frigid month of December were born. Besides being handicapped by sub-zero temperatures, travel between our quarters and the airfield was quite uncomfortable. This didn't last too long, however, because the 406th Fighter Group was ordered to move again.

Typical Scene on Metz Airfield Typical scene on Metz airfield. Much of the
damage on this field was inflicted by the 514th.

This time we were being shunted to the very airfield near Metz that our own boys so thoroughly destroyed. The Air echelon left comfortable quarters in Mourmelon on the gray, bleak morning of 31 January 1945, arriving in Metz that afternoon. Our ground echelon came in several days later prepared for long stay. This dream was shattered, however, before even one mission could be flown from this field in the presence of both echelons. A sudden order from command had us on the road, wending our way slowly through the historic Ardennes Forest where icy roads, lined on both sides by remnants of a terrific battle, were reminiscent of our experiences in Normandy. We also had opportunity to pass through the parched ruins of Noville, Belgium, that was practically eradicated from its perch on the hillside by our own Thunderbolts.

Reaching our ultimate destination at Asch, Belgium on 7 February 1945, one and all were befuddled by the swiftness of our movement. At the same time, our transfer to the 29th Tactical Air Command was fair grounds for conjectures. Perhaps we had been singled out to assist in the Rhine river crossing? If so, this fact gave everyone a feeling of importance because hadn't we been chosen to escort General Patton's phantom tanks across the vast expanse of France?

Huddled Around the Stove Men of the 514th huddle arount the stove
while stew simmers fragrantly. Asch, Belgium.

At any rate, lack of facilities on the new base necessitated erection of tents and again we were leading a nomadic life. With least bit of procrastination, nevertheless, the 514th swung into action in support of the XIII and XVIII Corps of the 9th Army. Since spring was just around the corner, more favorable weather allowed us to participate in 26 missions—all intended as softening process for the Rhine crossing. While busily engaged in blasting openings for the ground forces, enemy aircraft was encountered and four of them were victims. Captain J.C. Bloom and Lt. J.C. Barber split honors of the day with two "bogeys" each.

Loss of personnel due to enemy action were comparatively small during this period. Captain H.L. Lewis was wounded by anti-aircraft fire while engaged in an armed reconnaissance mission, and Lts. W. Spielman, G.E. Holland and W.H. Gillian turned up missing. The unfortunate trio were carrying out escort-armed reconnaissance duties over German territory.