Headquarters was set up at Tavaux City in a hospital building. The 441st and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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]
authored by Victor C. Tannehill, Saga of the 320th