The 406th Occupier
Brinzett — Training Move (continued)
I t can be accurately reported that the first operational month of the 406th was entirely successful. In addition to solving satisfactorily the varied problems of an operational status plus continuing with training the morale of the men individually and the organization as a whole was kept at a high level. Personnel problems were at a minimum, supplies were adequate if not plentiful, and the entire headquarters section experienced the good feeling that they were achieving a certain measure of success in leading and helping the squadrons. More spectacular jobs will undoubtedly be done by this organization than that of May 1944 but it is improbable that they will be accomplished with more sincerity or satisfaction.
Campaign Days in Six Periods
commanders to come overseas with the
Group, Lt. Col. John L. Locke of the
512th squadron was the lone survivor.
A recording of the 406th Fighter Group's experience from 1 June 1944 to the present must follow necessarily the rather clear phases in which this experience occurred. Though these phases shaded one into the other in the happening, now that sufficient time has passed to gain a proper perspective, they can be described as (1) The invasion and subsequent interdiction missions in the Normandy area lasting until the end of July; (2) Participation in the St. Lo breakout, Brest peninsula occupation and Third Army's initial lap in the race across France which was well underway by 1 September; (3) Protection of the Loire River flank and support of the drive to the Moselle; (4) The initial isolation of the Saar in November; (5) Blunting of the German winter offensive with five famous days at Bastogne in December and a January devoted to attacking a retreating enemy; (6) The shift to the north to cooperate in preparing the Ruhr for encirclement which culminated in late March, 1945, in a crossing of the Rhine and the drive to the North German plain.
June Was a busy Month
June 1944 was a dramatic and busy time for all with the 406th Fighter Group no exception. The first days of the month combined the final missions of the pre-invasion air campaign with a time of extreme expectancy and planning. The briefing tent was closed to the "Bigoted," aircraft were painted with distinctive markings, the weather officer was haunted, and the unenlightened made wager after wager as to the exact day, hour and minute. On June 3, 1944 the Group flew a particularly effective armed reconnaissance mission at low level (something new then) northeast of Paris from which Major William H. Merriam, the Group operations officer, did not return, but preparations went on apace.
On the night of June 5, to a packed and tense briefing tent Major Jephta L. Larkin, the Group Intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Leslie R. Bratton, the Deputy Commander, and Col. Anthony V. Grossetta, the Commanding Officer revealed the plan for the invasion as it applied to the Group. That briefing has never been equaled for pent up feeling. It was a short night and before dawn, still highly keyed up, 16 aircraft led by the Group Commander took off to cover Utah Beach. Four missions a day by each Squadron for the next four or five days were flown in execution of operation Neptune. The days settled down into a series of continuous operations for all the Group headquarters and Squadron sections that the few hours of darkness offered little respite from.
After the first week the Group went into the work of cutting rails, attacking marshalling yards, hunting down M/T, and attacking all movement behind the beachhead and Normandy area. The first experiments were made with breaking the Group up into Squadron elements to cover the assigned recco areas. An occasional static target was attacked but close cooperation missions were largely unknown and awaited the committing of ground units in force.