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Group Headquarters was set up at Tavaux City in a hospital building. The 441st and 4 44th were quartered close by; officers in homes in town and EM in tents. The 442nd was billeted in a former mental institution at St. Ylie and the 443rd was in a school at Damparis. Dole/Tavaux was a good field with a long, wide hard-surfaced runway, although the spring thaw had turned the taxiways to mud.

      Early in April bad weather at Dole over targets forced cancellation of all missions. Planes would be readied...crews alerted and briefed...then they'd wait, sometimes for hours, before raids finally had to be called off. It wasn't until the 5th that the "yellow number" B-26s were able to take off to strike ammunition storage dumps.

      Most outstanding mission by the Group in April was their attack on the 10th against German defenses at Schweinfurt. To pave the way for the capture of the town by the U.S. 42nd Division, three waves of Marauders swept in to pinpoint bomb a fortified area holding up the infantrymen.

      As Allied Armies swept across Southern Germany capturing more and more objectives, the Group had to turn west to find a target. On April 15th, a formation of 320th B-26s hit beach defenses at the mouth of the Gironde River on the coast of France. French Forces were driving into this German pocket of resistance to clear it and open the port of Bordeaux. During the next few weeks the Marauders continued to support this operation with long-distance raids westward against these enemy defenses in the Royan area.

      Dettelsau ammo dump near Nurenberg was hit by the Group April 17th. As the B-26s were leaving the smoking target, six Me-262 jet fighters jumped them, damaging several. This was the first time the Boomerangs had been intercepted by the new German jets.

      "Shif'less" #33, 442nd "Ugly Duckling" Squadron B-26 with more than 1,000 hours of combat flight, logged its 150th trip on April 21st. The plane, which entered the war in June, 1943, had S/Sgt. Frederick W. Working, Ligonier, Ind., as its Crew Chief.

      April 22nd marked the Group's second anniversary in continuous combat.. .and flying Marauders all that time. It was just another day. C'est la Guerre.

      Crew Chief T/Sgt. Edward S. Larson (442nd), Culbertson, Mt., was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for "meritorious service." It was unusual for a ground man to receive that award, although a few had. T/Sgt. Larson crewed yellow 37 "Shu-Shu Baby"--named by Lt. Oliver Shuh--a Marauder that completed 140 combat missions without a mechanical failure.

      April 23rd, First TACAF Headquarters moved from Vittel to Heidelberg and became the first U.S. Air Force to establish itself in Germany. In mass award ceremonies on the 29th, conduced by Wing Commander Brig. Gen. John P. Doyle, well-earned Air Medals were presented to a number of combat crewmen. And to Lt. Col. Hayward, Group Operations Officer, a cluster to the DFC came in recognition of his outstanding performance.

      Planes of the 320th took off and flew eight missions dawn-to-dusk April 30th against Ile d'Oleron near Royan. This broke all Group one-day sortie, mission and tons of bombs dropped records.

      The 320th racked up an outstanding record of bombardment accuracy during April. The Group had an average circular error of less than 250 feet...that's about like dropping a pebble in a pickle barrel from a rooftop! Besides circular error, there was another measure of bombing efficiency, that was the total amount of bombs dropped in the target area. For the month the Group recorded ninety-eight per cent of its bombs "on target."

      By the end of April, victory seemed assured that Victory in Europe V-E Day celebration plans were being made. At the base progress of the war was watched eagerly as the Allies tightened their ring around the Reich and more of Germany was occupied.

      It had rained a lot during April and the mud made life difficult. Men literally sank to their knees in the thick, gooey stuff. They told jokes about "Sunny France!" But the wonderful warm spring weather had brought out the blossoms on the apple trees in the area and raised green grass.

      The men participated in athletics, including horseshoe pitching, tennis on the courts of Tavaux City, volleyball, softball and just plan catch. And they did some fishing. Paddling around in the canal in cutout P-47 drop tanks was popular. The 320th copped both title in the Wing Basketball League.

      The Super-Sharks walked off with the Officer's pennant and the Ducks won the Enlisted Men's championship. It wasn't possible to hold a play-off game, although both teams were confident they could have beaten the other.

      There were regular dances and parties at the various Officer and EM Clubs. The Group Officers Club had its official opening in Dole during the month. Located in the Hotel Geneva, it offered good-sized drink and snack bars, dance floor and several relaxation rooms.

      Group EM on day pass had the Hotel de la Cloche across the street from the park for their "Club 320", and the set-up was ritzy. They had a snack bar that served real ice cream. The regular civilian bar was used and an orchestra was lined up to play nightly in the ball room. Civilian guests were admitted with their GI hosts. Reading, writing and ping pong rooms were available. The upper floors were boarded off, except for a Pro station on the second floor.

      Every evening there were movies in the little Group theater located in the 443rd's area. The small cinema ("Dan's Paree' ')had been "liberated" from the French and seeing the shows there gave the men something to do during the long hours of Double Daylight Savings Time.

      Biggest gripe was that there was no place to go. Dijon was kind of far to travel (practically off limits) and Dole was hardly a metropolitan city with exciting things to offer the off-duty GI! Still, Dole had its charms.. .narrow cobble-stoned streets, broad slabbed stairways rising from one street level to the next, canals lined with mills and old tanneries, and ruined arches of an old Roman bridge standing by the Daubs River. The city, located on the Rhone-Rhine canal north of Lyon, was the birthplace of Louis Pasteur and had many momentos of him.

      A new Post Exchange opened between the 444th and 443rd areas at the Cercele Suldui Cafe to handle the Group and attached units. The Exchange, under PX Officer Capt. Baierloin, used the regular ETO card system which insured each man a complete set of articles over an eight-week period.

      Many GIs left for Rest Camp leaves to Paris, Cannes, England, or to Annecy. Men returning from there called it "tres bien".. .good chow, few soldiers, lots of girls, and fine accomodations. The EM rested at the Grand Hotel Beau Rivage, swam and enjoyed the beauty.

      Throughout April men were still being sent to various ETO Service Schools.

      On the first of May, 320th B-26s again bombed Ile d'Oleron. As it turned out, this was the Group's 584th and last mission of World War Two. Bad weather prevented any more missions before the German surrender May 7th. At last it was over!

      A Victory in Europe V-E Day parade was held in Dijon. Many men from the 320th marched as their B-26s flew overhead in formation. Crowds of townspeople lined the parade route ten to fifteen deep shouting "Vive la Amerique!" French, British and American flags were everywhere. The people of Tavaux City went wild with joy.

      Although the festivities were to celebrate the Allied Victory in Europe, thoughts of their comrades who had made the supreme sacrifice sobered the men of the 320th, as did the thought that there was still a war that had to be finished in the Pacific.

      Most of the 320th men had more than the required eightyfive points. The six campaign stars helped. And combat crews developed a keen appreciation of their Air Medal clusters! The men had served an average of three years in the Army; twenty-eight months overseas. Everyone was sweating the "military necessity" clause. It was possible for almost every Air Force man to be classified as a specialist of one kind or other (including nearly all aircrew). There seemed no doubt that some would have to go to the PTO.

      Operation ECLIPSE detailed 1st TAF (Prov.) air disarmament units and teams who were to disband the German Air Force in Southeastern Germany. The 320th was to be among them. Squadrons were broken into Platoons for various types of formations such as parades, roll calls and physical training. Flying personnel engaged in extensive flight schools and transition hops. C'est las Paix!

      The Group's newly formed Information and Education Section swung into action with courses in a wide variety of subjects taught by knowledgable officers and men. Tours were arranged, including flyovers.

      First TACAF disbanded May 21st. This ended the short life span of a Franco-American air arm created provisionally in the field to carry out a mission that was never expressed in writing!

      Maj. Cahan led a fifty-hour ship formation of 320th Marauders May 22nd as part of a Ninth Air Force mass demonstration flight. It was fun for the airmen to be a part of a mighty show of aerial strength...and it was the last time many of them would fly in a B-26.

      Throughout May plenty of recreation was available to the 320th men. There was swimming and horseback riding. USO camp shows or movies played every night. Softball and volleyball leagues were organized and keen rivalries developed. Special Services worked overtime to keep Group personnel busy.

      As usual, Officer and Enlisted Men Clubs were popular hangouts, even more so now that there wasn't a whole lot of duty to pull. With time on their hands, the airmen could also relax at the local cafes, or in the hotels at Nice if they could get leave.

      Col. Woolridge got his orders back to the States and was replaced by Lt. Col. Blame B. Campbell.

      By the end of May the first "high pointers' '--including nearly all the aircrew--were on their way home...by plane and train.

      First of June nearly all the 320th's B-26s were ordered flown off to depots, where they would eventually be blown up and melted down for scrap. The men bid farewell to their famous Marauders. On the 2nd, personnel fell out for a big even at the airfield. The Group received its second Distinguished Unit Citation: this one for its precision attacks March 15th on the Siegfried Line.

      Mid-June it was announced that the Group would move to Germany as part of the Ninth Air Force's First Disarmament Wing. The men left for Bavaria by truck and Jeep.[Go to the next base: Germany]

-Text authored by Victor C. Tannehill, Saga of the 320th


[Mac Dill/Drane, Florida][Tafaraoui, Algeria][Montesquieu, Algeria][Massicault, Tunisia][El Bathan/Djedeida, Tunisia][Decimomannu, Sardinia][Alto, Corsica][Dijon, France][Dole, France][Germany]

 

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