The 406th Occupier
Air-Sea Rescue Saved Shurlds
N o operational report is complete without an account of some personal experiences that stand out from the daily run of events and add immeasurable color to an organization's traditions. Unfortunately, this Group's opportunities to produce such tales during the period were at a minimum because no enemy air opposition was encountered. We entered the picture after the Luftwaffe had been swept from the sky over Western Europe, much to our regret, and it remained for an Air - Sea rescue incident to save our face on this score. On May 21 Captain Henry W. Shurlds, Operations Officer of the 513th Squadron was hit by flak while attacking a train deep in Belgium. With much care, and the constant R/T encouragement of the members of his flight he nursed his ship back to the coast. It was nip and tuck all the way but he managed to glide some five miles beyond Bologne before hitting the silk. His flight gave Air-Sea Rescue a fix and thirty minutes after hitting the water he was picked up. Within an hour he was safely ashore in England and arrived back at the base only a short time after the lst plane was down from the mission, which must be a record of some sort. Capt. Shurlds' account to the Command Officer in his Mississippi drawl of " Ah thought Ah'd drown Suh!"was a fine testimonial for the Air-Sea Rescue service.
Directors Were Busy, Too
first stand on the continent, the ground eschelon boys were
shoved into pup tents for living quarters for two weeks.
Not all of the operational phase during the period was devoted entirely to flying of the missions. As much development and effort was devoted to planning and re-mission procedure as to the actual flights and probably more in point of time. Much of the success in going operational and in handling successfully such a variety of missions in the first stages of being operational is attributable to the pain and careful planning undertaken by the Command, Operations, and Intelligence sections. The burden of this work of necessity fell on the Group Headquarters. Briefly, the following procedure was used. The S-2 maintained an Intelligence Duty Officer who received the Teletype Operations Order. Immediately on its receipt he notified Operations and posted on a planning map the ordered information. The Operations Officer computed as quickly as possible the assigned courses, distances, and times while the Intelligence Officer assembled target and other necessary information. On completion of these tasks the Commanding Officer with his S-3 and S-2 studied the assignment, made his decisions and prepared for briefing. An hour and a half before take off all pilots were assembled in a Group briefing tent and thoroughly instructed on intelligence, weather, and tactics.
With the going of operational, there was a natural adjustment of duties and schedules among the men, particularly maintenance. Despite the ever-present limitation of parts, an excellent maintenance record was maintained. The planes had hardly returned from their first mission before names and insignia of pilot and crew chief began to appear on the cowlings. The mess virtually went on a twenty-four hour basis, weather furnished information at any time of the day or night, and the attached units of flying control, bomb disposal, and service group geared themselves to keeping the planes in the air. In the true sense of entire organization went operational together.
Training Phase: If any single factor deserves special attention, it is the degree of which the organization was able to maintain a full operational schedule and complete its training program. During the first half of the period there were still some pilot ground school courses of importance to complete, principally recognition, escape and evasion, geography, flak, and air-sea rescue. Considerable time too was devoted to practicing of dive bomb formations during the release periods for training and maintenance. Mid way of the month the first pilot replacements arrived and twenty hours of transition time was given all but four. A bit of night flying and some before dawn take off's rounded out the flying training for the period.
Brinzett — Training Move
The main training effort was directed toward preparing the organization for rapid movement. This work fell principally on the various sections in the headquarters that was already carrying the operational load. The personnel of the organization were divided between air and ground echelon and each section prepared to operate in two sections on movement. It was conceived that any moves effecting a mobile organization such as this would be made by the air echelon moving out first, proceeding to the destination and establishing an advanced base. In the interim, the ground echelon would operate the flight echelon until such time as the air echelon established. This procedure was outlined roughly by the headquarters section and on May 23rd a practice training move was made to Briznett Advanced Landing Ground some fifteen miles away.
The air echelon consisting mainly of the operations and intelligence sections plus the necessary communications equipment, all operating out of trailers, moved out promptly at 0600. A mission was received, briefed, and flown from the regular base by the ground echelon. On the return the planes landed at Briznett ALG shortly after noon where they were received by the Air echelon. By 1500, the Ground echelon had moved to Brinzett and the organization was ready to operate at normal strength. The following day the procedure was reversed and another regularly scheduled operational mission handled without mishap. The practice move demonstrated the necessity for traveling as light as possible. The air echelon administrative procedure was not entirely adequate and at the time the organization did not have sufficient organic transportation to move itself, but these problems have since been met and the organization is reasonably able to accomplish a "leap-frog" move on short notice without serious interruption to its 0perations.