It had been a long
week at Station 523, APO 633, somewhere in the south of England. The
Co-pilot had not asked to be sent to the Air Force Rest Home. His
preference would have been to spend the seven days in Nottingham and
Leicester - more booze and girls. Who needs five meals a day, a
mansion like Coombe House, a party at Lady Margaret Drummand Hay's,
not to mention, indoor plumbing and outdoor horseback riding.
After the heat and sands of North Africa, the wet and cold of
Sicily, the Co-pilot really needed to spend more time in the"
fleshpots, bars and dancehalls to sharpen his skills.
It was June 1, 1944
and after a week of checking the news for the coming invasion of
Europe, he was waiting for the plane to Saltby along with two pilots
from the 32nd and one from the 50th. They talked about the up-coming
invasion. They had not been moved from the Mediterranean to England
for nothing; even the newest pilots had eleven hundred hours of
flying time, 700 of it overseas, two invasions for experience and
the never ending night formations since March. They were ready and
able. Willing was something else, but that's their duty and no one
would try to get out of it -- however, they would have missed it
with mixed emotions had D-Day occurred while at Coombe House.
The same weather that
could prevent the occasion of D-Day was keeping the C-47 on the
ground at Saltby. The long train ride back to Saltby was boring but
the Co-pilot was going home to his friends and the only family he
had known in the three years with the Army Air Force. He thought
about making a run to town and lifting the spirits of the local
girls but would wait until tomorrow. No flying scheduled, the guys
on the flight line were busy putting on the para-racks and painting
black and white stripes on the wings and fuselages.
June 2nd was not a day
to go down in history unless you count the promotion of the Co-pilot
to 1st Lt. and that he was invited to attend the promotion party for
Major Wilson at the Senior Officers Mess. No one noticed that the
Co-pilot was wearing borrowed silver bars but he enjoyed the meal
and they do have a better supply of scotch at Group. Great evening
but he really had planned on going to town - Oh well, the girls can
wait another day.
Damm! June 3rd arrived
and so did the MP's; they're all over the place. Everyone is
restricted and will attend the briefing. They must be getting
serious, checking the roster and ID's when going into the briefing,
lines on the map going south and then east to that little peninsula.
Time, course, altitude, the 62nd will lead the Group; Col. Stiles
will fly lead ship to DZ "N" and the 314th will be followed by the
313th Group from Folkingham. It's called the Cotentin Peninsula, a
part of Normandy and it's all laid out on a sand table. He never saw
one of these before, but he's heard about them; here's the route
past the Channel Island, Guernsey and Jersey. Germans there.
Remember that Grandad had cows by that name. Must be where his cows
came from. Ah Hal- the IP is on the shore line and there's our DZ.
Nearest town is Ste Mere-Eglise. Never heard of it. -
The crews returned to
squadron operations and in checking the aircraft assignments, the
Co-pilot was just a little miffed to see that Ray Roush, Operations
Officer, had him in the right seat of 074 with Glenn Grimes as
Pilot, Vic Palumbo, Navigator, Billy Hensley, Crew Chief, and
Emanuel Wodinsky, Radio Operator. The Co-pilot was wondering why Ray
assigned him to fly right seat considering he was a brand new First
Lieutenant. Two Second Lieutenants were assigned as pilots. Three
others had not made First Pilot until after he had, way back in
Kairouan. Must have done something that teed off his good friend Ray
Roush -- it was true that he arrived at operations a little late
some days. He did take advantage of their friendship - not a few
times but on a regular basis He tested the friendship to the