D-Day and the 406th Fighter Group
From this new vantage point, the view went from poor to incredible. The increasing light silhouetted the invasion fleet. Large ships, small ships, stationary ships, ships underway — the English Channel was "paved with ships"!
Activity on the beach was harder to detail but there was a hell of a lot going on down there! And still no Nazi airplanes. Allied air power meant the landing troops went about their job without threat of havoc from overhead.
That didn't seem to make a difference however to the navy gunners. The 406th started to take friendly flak. With little to be done below the clouds, the formation went back on top and finished up the assignment. In all, the first patrol over Normandy lasted 2 hours, returning at 6:30 AM.
All aircraft made it back to ALG 417, Army nomenclature for the airfield where the fighter group was stationed near Ashford. They had left in the predawn hours with enthusiasm and concern. The return was marked with relief and a feeling of accomplishment — plus the welcomed advantage of landing the jugs in daylight.
Crews quickly got to work on the aircraft and refitted them right away, as there were still 3 more missions to fly. If it hadn't been already, it was going to be a long day for the men on the ground. Pilots were debriefed on what they did and saw as weather slowly improved.
By all accounts the entire 9th air force flew from pre-dawn to dusk on D-Day. The 406th ground crews were as amazed by a sky full of planes just as the pilots were amazed by a sea full of ships!
Each pilot flew 2 or more of the 4 missions. Take offs proceeded at 9:30 AM, 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM. Snag Grossetta was able to join these missions. Everyone got back safely and there were no incidents on the ground.
As it turned out on this day, there was thankfully, no combat. In retrospect, the events of D-Day provided the 406th a bird's eye view of history in the making. For those of you who were there — whether on the ground or in the air — it had to be a momentous occasion.
Of course there were a few mishaps, like forgetting to remove the pitot tube leather cover, leaving the pilot with no speed indicator — a pilot who flew by the way especially close formation all the way there and back!
And so tonight, it is congratulations to all the members of the 406th fighter group on this, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Glad you were there then serving this country; especially glad you could be here tonight.