The 406th Occupier

Page 15

Metz — Then On To Y-29

O n 31 January 1945 the Group began an ill-fated and long postponed move to Metz. The air echelon proceeded to Y-34 in its usual fashion, where it found a weird assortment of half-destroyed hangars, renovated wooden barracks, and downtown buildings in a Kassern area, in which to establish the working and living quarters of the organization. Despite a shortage of transportation and abominable road conditions caused by the snow and ice, most of the organizational equipment and personnel, together with the planes, were successfully moved to Metz by the 2nd and 3rd of February.

After running one mission from the new field on the 4th in the afternoon came the low blow that was to rock the outfit on its heels and from which it was not to recover for two or three weeks. Just after lunch Lt. Col. Leslie R. Bratton, the acting Group Commander, called his staff together and in hushed tones informed them that we had been transferred to the 29th Tactical Air Command far to the north and would proceed to Y-29 in Asch, Belgium so as to be operational from that field on the 7th of February. All agreed that it could not be done but that we would have to try. An advanced party of sorts left immediately for the new site and through the help of an Air Force fleet of trucks and C-47 transports, the move was begun the next day.

Y-29 in the beginning was a new low for this organization. There was absolutely nothing there but barren mud and a second growth of stunted pine. The convoy arrived in the night in the rain without food, water, or instructions. There was no opportunity to organize or provide for arrival of personnel, equipment, or planes. It was the night of the 6th before communications were in and enough tents up to provide shelter. It was two days later before communications were in and there was an adequate supply of bombs, ammunition and gasoline available. We were saved on making the initial operational date by the weather which on the other hand was a tremendous handicap in establishing a Group under field conditions. By back-breaking work and much improvising, the Group was ready to accept its planes on the 8th and a day later began operations under its new command.