THE AVIATION ENGINEERS IN AFRICA AND EUROPE
At the time of the outbreak of the European war General Arnold was negotiating with the Chief of Engineers for a special engineer unit to work with the air forces. The original conception was that small groups of skilled construction and engineering troops, trained intimately with air units, would be easily available to patch up airfields damaged by bombing, camouflage them, and, if necessary, defend them. They might also be prepared to accompany air task forces for light construction of airfields in forward areas. Soon after the German invasion of Poland the Corps of Engineers accepted the general outline, and on 4 June 1940 the newly reactivated 21st Engineers (General Service) Regiment, which had a proud history in the St.-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives of World War I, was redesignated the 21st Engineers (Aviation) Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. It thus became the parent unit of the aviation engineers who at their peak, in February 1945, would number 117,851 officers and men.1
The new organization, which was commanded by Lt. Col. Donald A. Davison, was transferred promptly to Langley Field, Virginia. There, the 21st gradually filled its cadres, almost altogether from recruits to the Regular Army, revamped its training according to the new mission, and experimented with such innovations as portable runways. It was not yet expected that the aviation engineers would ever engage in heavy construction, and in peacetime there was no function for them at all. In November 1940 the Corps of Engineers received the responsibility for Air Corps construction,* and Davison, who was
* See Vol. VI, 135.
by then Engineer, GHQ Air Force, began to discuss with the Chief of Engineers a more ambitious scope for the employment of the aviation engineers. A study of the methods of building airfields for the RAF in France during the preceding year, which was carried out in England in the winter of 1940–41 by Capt. Rudolph E. Smyser, Jr., led to the conclusion that the British system relied too much on army engineers. Instead of imitating this method, the Air Corps and the Engineers worked out by mid-1941 a plan under which the air forces should be endowed with men and equipment to build their own bases in forward areas, even if heavy construction was required.
The Aviation Engineer Battalion
The new approach represented a departure not only from previous Air Corps conceptions but from the practices of other major powers. In the brief experience available for study, it seemed that invading forces had only to take over and adapt to their own use the air facilities they found in occupied areas. Nations on a protracted defensive usually enjoyed abundant supply of civilian labor and conventional engineers to construct whatever they required. Without foreseeing the problems that were so soon to face them in building air bases on distant coral islands, in jungles, or in deserts, the handful of Engineer officers on duty with the Air Corps devised in 1941 what proved to be an excellent means to meet the challenge. This was the self-contained aviation engineer battalion, a unit that would form the core of aviation engineering efforts during World War II. Originally established with twenty-seven Engineer officers and 761 enlisted men, the battalion was designed to be capable “of independently constructing an advanced airdrome and all appurtenances.’’2 It would have a lavish amount of equipment, numbering 220 items for construction and 146 vehicles—diesel tractors with bulldozers, carry-all scrapers, graders, gasoline shovels, rollers, mixers, air compressors, drills, trucks, trailers, asphalting and concreting equipment, rock crushers, draglines, and pumps—for its mission.3 Only in the United States could engineers plan on such a scale.
During the months before Pearl Harbor the aviation engineers expanded rapidly. There was plenty of equipment, and the men required little training, for the expanding Army included many men who had construction and engineering experience in civil life. Davison was transferred to England and replaced by Col. Stuart C. Godfrey,
who served as ranking air engineer of the AAF from 1941 until December 1943. Already, companies of aviation engineers were shipping to the Philippines, Greenland, Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Hawaiian Islands to participate in airfield construction.* The growing 21st Regiment at Langley Field continued its training and experimentation. During the Carolina maneuvers its troops constructed the first field airdrome in the United States with a runway of pierced-steel plank and camouflaged the airport at Laurens, South Carolina. General Arnold, whose vision and ambition for the Air Corps lay behind the program for the aviation engineers, took occasion in October 1941 to praise the performance of the 21st Regiment and to stress the importance to the air force of the military engineer, who was not a mere assistant, he said, "but one of us."4 But during the prewar months the aviation engineers worked less with the air officers, with whom there was neither precedent nor immediate occasion for intimacy, than with the Corps of Engineers. Of paramount interest then was the testing of pierced-steel plank, the lighter prefabricated bituminous and square-mesh landing mats, various items of equipment, and portable hangars. In most cases it was to take the aviation engineers a long time to establish themselves with the air force in a close working relationship.5
The beginning of the war found the aviation engineers with twelve battalions scattered rather widely. The 804th Engineer Aviation Battalion (EAB) was based on Oahu, where it came under fire in the opening action and immediately went to work repairing Hickam Field. In the following chaotic days all engineers-aviation, army, and civilian-built emergency fighter fields and, for one of the few occasions during the war, completed elaborate camouflage measures. Early in January 1942 the 804th functioned as a unit on Kualoa Field, where the men hurriedly built a turf landing strip and laid steel mat. Then it was expanded and strengthened barely in time for bombers to use it during the Battle of Midway. Detachments of the 804th were on Christmas Island helping construct an airdrome for the South Pacific
* The contribution of aviation engineer units to the development of bases along the North and South Atlantic air routes was necessarily limited. In the latter case, the primary responsibility for an Airport Development Program in foreign territory from the Caribbean to Africa had been assigned to Pan American Airways by an agreement with the U.S. government made as early as November 1940 (see Vol. I, 321). In the North Atlantic, the work was shared by British, Canadian, and US. engineers, both military and civilian. Not only did the conception of the aviation engineer battalion emphasize direct assistance to combat forces but the pressing needs immediately before and after Pearl Harbor dictated commitment of most of the newly created units to combat areas.
ferry route and on Canton Island beginning an Army airfield.* For almost two years the 804th and the other battalions which joined it continued to work under civilian or Army control as requirements dictated, mainly anonymously, helping to make the Hawaiian Islands the springboard for the war in the Pacific. As bomber bases, revetments, avgas storage facilities, underground shops, sheltered runways, and tunnels were built, the engineering task was both varied and formidable. The labor performed during this long period was to provide experienced and highly skilled engineers for the air bases that had to be built for the great offensives of 1944 and 1945.6
In the Philippines the role of the aviation engineers was initially far less productive. After a journey of almost five months, the 803d EAB, which was sent as a modest reinforcement of the engineering resources that were straining to build heavy-bomber bases, had just begun its labors when the Japanese attacked. Like others in those days, the aviation engineers performed miracles, repairing airfields helter-skelter, scraping out emergency runways in a few hours, dodging bombs, and pitching in for all types of work. By the first days of 1942 the battalion was on Bataan. There the men laid out airstrips, erected bridges, built emplacements for guns and searchlights, strung out barbed wire, and fought as combat troops. At last Bataan was overrun, and two companies of the 803d were captured. Company A made it to Corregidor, where for three months its men tried to keep Kindley Field in operation despite the shelling and bombing, the sickness, and failing hopes. A few of them lived to tell the story.7
Since June 1941 the 807th EAB had been in Alaska, where airfields were being developed on a low priority. Just before Pearl Harbor the decision was made to construct an air base on Umnak Island, one of the easternmost of the Aleutians, to defend the naval facilities at Dutch Harbor. The probability of a Japanese attack in this area after the war began moved the task into first priority,† and in January 1942 the 807th shipped off to begin the job. It turned out that no suitable docking areas were available on Umnak, a circumstance that was to become very familiar in the Pacific war, and the troops camped in discomfort for weeks on a neighboring island. Finally, another detachment of the 807th landed on Umnak by barge, chose the site, and began to strip it for the laying of the steel mat. When the transport
* See Vol. I, 180–84, 192–93.
† See Vol. I, 304–7.
with the steel planks arrived in March, the 807th unloaded them, ferried across the rough channel in barges, and carried the planks by hand to the beach on Umnak. Despite fearful winds and snows, the organization acquitted itself well. Even though the mat proved very unsatisfactory for some weeks, the job was finally completed, and the base served for fighters and heavy bombers. This operation was the first of the dramatic construction jobs undertaken by a single aviation engineer battalion.8 Its success justified the battalion as a unit competent for airfield building under the most difficult conditions, and the Umnak achievement became famous among the engineers, both for the difficulties under which it was carried through and the lessons that could be deduced.
These early operations under wartime conditions made it plain that engineering demands were going to be far greater than anyone had expected. The crucial role of aviation, which was recognized by the elevated stature and mission of the Army Air Forces as organized in March 1942, emphasized the importance of rapid air-base construction. No longer could ample civilian labor forces and skills be assumed available; in the Pacific airdromes would have to be built in areas that were uncivilized or uninhabited. All the men and machines and much of the supplies would have to come from the United States. Their movement would be accomplished over extreme distances by shipping facilities that were already critically short and bound to become worse. Nor could the Americans plan on imitating the Axis aggressors, transferring their air units from the homeland to stolen bases in captured areas. Our aircraft, it was expected, would require larger and more elaborate bases than the Axis planes did, and, by the time the enemy was dislodged, his airdromes would probably be in no condition for ready utilization. Above all, speed was imperative, especially in the Pacific, for, before airplanes could operate, bases must be prepared.
The fortunate development of the self-contained engineer aviation battalion proved a sound basis on which to build the construction force necessary for the global task. Even had there been time, there was no need to make any major changes in the battalion organization but for a small increase in the number of men and a gradual substitution of several items of heavy equipment. Between December 1941 and December 1942 the number of such battalions increased from 12 to 51, and three-fifths of them were overseas by the end of the first
year of war.9 The Corps of Engineers supplied the officers as soon as they were trained. Most of the enlisted men, at least during 1942, were volunteers, men who had construction or engineering experience and therefore required little training. Certainly, they got little in the States.10 From the first the aviation engineers had a special pride, that of performing constructive work in a destructive war, but, more than that, they had the esprit de corps of professionals who knew their job. The officers, especially, were jealous of the castle shoulder patches and insignia they wore and protested attempts made later in the war to substitute for them the wings and propellers of the Air Corps.11 During the early part of the war the most limiting factor was transportation, not men and machines.
The air engineer at Headquarters, AAF, monitored the over-all functioning of the aviation engineers from his office under A-4. Brig. Gen. Stuart C. Godfrey held this position until December 1943, when he went to India to supervise the construction of B-29 bases. It had been planned to replace him with Brig. Gen. Donald A. Davison,12 who by that time had distinguished himself in the North African campaign, but Davison died suddenly, and Col. George Mayo served as air engineer until the end of the war. The Washington office was modest in size, and its subordinate position on General Arnold’s staff illustrated the relatively scant amount of business concerning the aviation engineers that Headquarters, AAF, handled. Nor did the air engineers possess any significant command function. The Corps of Engineers provided the officers as soon as they emerged from Fort Belvoir or other sources. Enlisted men went from Jefferson Barracks directly to one of the continental air forces for unit training, and then usually overseas, where the theater commander had complete control over them. It was the Operations Division, War Department General Staff, not the air engineer, which distributed the battalions on the basis of strategic necessity and availability of shipping. Only through personal inspection tours, correspondence, and such publications as the excellent journal, Aviation Engineer Notes,13 could the air engineer exert any influence on the aviation engineers. Continuous liaison with the Corps of Engineers and the AAF Materiel Command permitted a close supervision of equipment, but the original types proved so adequate that no radical changes were recommended or made.
Notwithstanding its position in Washington, the air engineer’s office steadily sought to increase the stature of aviation engineer organizations
in the overseas air forces, an undertaking that had General Arnold’s indorsement. During the first months it appeared that aviation engineers would be fed into the theaters piecemeal and merged with Army, Navy, and civilian engineering forces to work on construction projects too urgent to be affected by jurisdictional problems. The North African campaign afforded the first opportunity to experiment with the employment of aviation engineers as such. Their performance was so gratifying that an engineer command was finally established for the Northwest African Air Forces, a precedent that was followed in the invasion of Europe in 1944 with equally good results. In the Southwest Pacific and later in the Western Pacific theaters, the aviation engineers worked from first to last under the theater engineer, usually undistinguishably from other engineer units, It was almost the same in India and Burma and in the South Pacific and Pacific Ocean area, despite a different organization on paper and some important exceptions. Apart from informal pressure to place aviation engineers under air force commanders, Headquarters, AAF, secured the publication of an immediate-action War Department letter in August 1943 stating that aviation engineer units were organized and trained for employment with the air forces in combat theaters and that the normal employment of such units was in an assigned status with the air forces. Yet the final paragraph removed any mandatory quality of the letter by the words: “Nothing in the foregoing will be interpreted to restrict the authority of the theater or similar commander in making such readjustments of organization and employment of his forces as may be required to meet conditions peculiar to his theater.”14 Despite complaints from top air commanders that War Department policy was being disregarded,15 Headquarters, AAF, could not tell a theater commander how to use the forces at his disposal.16
It was not intended that the standard type battalion, however employed, would remain the sole contribution of the aviation engineers. During the spring of 1942, when plans for an early invasion of Europe were under consideration, General Godfrey developed a project for an airborne engineer battalion.17 Descending by parachute with or ahead of other airborne troops, this unit would patch up captured airdromes with hand tools and then be promptly reinforced by glider-borne engineers carrying such light equipment as miniature tractors, scrapers, rollers, mixers, and a supply of pistols, rifles, submachine guns, flares, and radio equipment. The Chief of Engineers agreed to
assist in the development of this organization. Training began promptly at Westover Field, Massachusetts, and continued for some months there and with the Troop Carrier Command at Stout Field, Indiana. As finally authorized, the airborne battalion would have approximately twenty-eight officers and five hundred enlisted men, a medical section, and a chaplain.18 General Godfrey, who had, great expectations for this unit, said the battalion would have a good deal of punch for its size, would not take up much tonnage, and could get places in a hurry.19 Sixteen airborne battalions had been organized by the end of 1943, but, in spite of three dramatic instances of effective employment in North Africa, Burma, and New Guinea, air force commanders overseas resisted the enthusiasm of the air engineer. The opportunities were too rare, and the equipment was too light. Most of the airborne units spent the war working with the conventional battalions, ultimately exchanging their equipment for heavier pieces. Similarly, the air engineer worked out plans for special aviation engineer units, such as topographic companies to make aeronautical and target charts, camouflage battalions, petroleum distribution companies, and fire-fighting platoons. All these were to work intimately with the combat air forces as aviation engineers.20 But such plans faltered and were only partially implemented when it became apparent that other agencies could perform these functions or that they scarcely needed to be performed at all. Thus the standard battalion, which justified itself so early in the war, remained the key unit of the aviation engineers.21
A Beginning in Britain
For some months prior to Pearl Harbor a group of aviation engineers had been in England studying the probable development of extensive air installations for American bombers and fighters. Already, the main outlines had been settled. The Americans would occupy bases in the general area around Huntingdon and East Anglia, some of them to be vacated by the RAF and others to be constructed. The British were to retain ownership and provide much of the labor and materials under a reverse lend-lease arrangement, Most of the equipment, however, and a large number of engineering and construction troops, would have to come from the United States.* After Pearl Harbor the Americans began the requisite shipments, two aviation
* See Vol. I, 632.
engineer battalions departing in January 1942. In view of the complicated ramifications of the vast construction program envisioned, all responsibility for its fulfilment was concentrated in the Army Services of Supply (SOS) . Thus the Eighth Air Force exercised almost no control over the aviation engineer units, although its own engineer officers participated in some of the supervision of the program as well as the planning. Only in matters of airdrome camouflage and firefighting did aviation engineers fall under the command of air forces in England.22
According to the unit histories of the sixteen aviation engineer battalions which went to England during the first year of the war, the pattern of experience was more or less uniform and far less dramatic than that of those units who went to the Pacific. The Atlantic crossing was generally tense but uneventful. The landing in Scotland or Liverpool, the rail trip to an obscure town in East Anglia, and the first acquaintance with English fog and rain produced similar reactions of curiosity and complaint. Sometimes the battalions would house themselves in tent camps or Nissen huts for many months before they were allowed to build better posts, but at least they enjoyed settled living conditions. A period of experimentation with British trucks and equipment ensued during the interval, never less than several weeks, before their own and very welcome machinery arrived. The aviation engineers worked cordially, on the whole, with British civilians who, on construction projects, sometimes outnumbered them two and a half to one. Mud they contended with and cursed. Airdrome construction was simplified by following the prevailing British designs for three concrete runways, perimeter taxiways, hardstands, and dispersed housing. Usually, the aviation engineers completed their job and moved a few miles to start another one without seeing a single airplane land or take off, During slack periods they attended specialist schools to improve (or in many cases, to acquire) a knowledge of operating equipment and other skills that upgraded the capabilities of the engineers as a whole. The usual hour per day of drill, along with the climate and the seeming endlessness of the construction projects, insured that morale did not soar.23
The problems had to do mainly with the fact that equipment was so long delayed, often at docks in the United Kingdom. This condition made some aviation engineer officers bitter over criticisms to the effect that their troops were insufficiently trained, for they would
much have preferred to give them unit training in the States with their equipment instead of having them sent prematurely overseas and separated from their equipment for long weeks, The materials furnished by the British were also a source of complaint, as well as the lack of skill and efficiency sometimes attributed to the civilian force. And if it was simple enough to construct the airdromes, the problem of drainage in England was formidable. The runways began to show premature signs of wear during the great aerial offensives of 1944 and required much effort for repair.24 The frequent changes in plan disturbed the planners on the higher levels, but for aviation engineers there were always more construction jobs than they could handle. If they did not build one thing, they worked on another. On the whole, even if one battalion historian described the English period as the darkest hour for his unit,25 life was comfortable compared to other theaters. Men became acquainted with their machines and their tasks, and even if some found they were not suited to the rough life of an engineer and if the dreary months in kerosene-lit, cold tents and huts seemed interminable, they were acquiring priceless experience. When the invasion of Normandy came, they were highly skilled and superbly equipped.
For the North African landings in November 1942 four of the aviation engineer battalions stationed in England judged to be the best were picked: the 809th, 814th, 815th, and 817th.26 Their mission was to accompany the assault forces and to provide airfields around Oran, as two British construction companies were to do east of Algiers. In western Morocco the 21st Engineer Aviation Regiment, the original aviation engineer unit, would land directly from the United States, as would the 871st Airborne, which had been hurriedly put together at Westover Field just in time to make the sailing. Brig. Gen. Donald A. Davison was engineer for the Allied forces, and Col. John C. Colonna served as engineer both for the newly created Twelfth Air Force and the XII Air Service Command.27 Although command difficulties were to arise, the principle of air force supervision of its own construction was established at the outset.
The landings at Casablanca and Port Lyautey saw the 21st Regiment unloading on D Day. Some of its men engaged in sporadic combat. Within three days the regiment moved into two airfields seized from the French, where there was little to do but fill in soft spots and
bomb craters. This was fortunate, for the unloading of the regiment’s equipment had been marked by much confusion—an experience which carried an obvious lesson as to the need for more systematic loading in the later invasions. At Oran conditions were even more exasperating. The 814th EAB, after being cramped for two weeks aboard ship, walked twelve miles to its project, only to fill in holes, dig up duds, and remain idle because its heavy equipment had been appropriated by someone else. The 815th had lost most of its key equipment at sea, when the ship carrying it had been sunk. The 809th equipment was on a ship that had developed engine trouble two days out of England and had turned back! The 817th had no such hard luck and got to work on La Senia Airport fairly promptly, but difficulties in unloading and successfully claiming its property made the operation a memorable example of confusion the officers were determined to avoid in the future. The brightest spot in the picture was that sufficient pierced-steel landing mat had been provided to help defeat the African weather.28
In Morocco the aviation engineers were able to improve and utilize existing airstrips readily enough and to begin construction on a large all-weather base near Casablanca. But at Oran and Algiers, which were nearer the front and accordingly more crucial, heavy rains had created an almost desperate situation. Near each of those cities was an air base with hard-surfaced runways, but they could scarcely be used because aircraft had to park on the strips in preference to sinking and sticking in the adjacent mud. Aside from offering a concentrated target to the enemy, this situation virtually held up the Allied air war. On 2 December 1942 General Davison flew to the village of Talergma, located on a high, flat plateau between the Saharan and the Maritime Atlas Mountains near the Tunisian boundary, where the French had informed him dry weather usually prevailed. Davison walked about until he had satisfied himself the soil combination was good. Later in the day a party of aviation engineers moved in from the coast and with the assistance of Arabs began at once to clear the first of several airstrips. Other troops of the 809th EAB soon came in by air and truck, and by 13 December a B-26 landed smoothly on the packed runway. The completion of other strips relieved congestion at Oran and Algiers by allowing the removal of the medium bombers and most of the fighters to the Talergma area.29
By that time General Doolittle was demanding a dry base closer to
the front for his heavy bombers. Again relying on French advice, General Davison on 12 December explored a large sandy expanse near Biskra, which was still deeper in the Sahara, and again found a promising location. Because the conventional battalions of aviation engineers were already being utilized in many localities, Davison summoned the airborne engineers of whom so much was expected in Washington. In one of the most publicized operations of the aviation engineers during the war, two companies of the 871st Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion loaded their midget equipment into fifty-six C-47’s and flew in from Morocco, almost a thousand miles away. They landed at Youks-les-Bains, rode their equipment or walked to the site at Biskra, which they reached on the evening of 13 December, and began work immediately. After twenty-four hours’ labor, an earth runway was ready to receive the first B-17’s from Oran.30 The aircraft were now out of the mud. Until March 1943, when spring winds blew sand in such quantities as to make operations impossible, Biskra remained a major base for the heavies.
Not heartening achievement, but disappointment, attended another operation of the airborne engineers. On 7 December the 888th Airborne Engineer Aviation Company was flown from Morocco to Tebessa, just west of the boundary between Algeria and Tunisia. Just as the group got to work it rained, and it was soon lamentably apparent that the miniature equipment was not equal to the job. In spite of machines borrowed from nearby British construction groups, fifteen days were required to scrape out an earthen runway.31 Soon the airborne company was sent back to the rear area, and the 814th EAB was brought in to complete the task. After a very rough ride in a ramshackle Algerian train and in trucks, members of the 814th EAB plunged into foxholes before plunging into the job32 They completed a cluster of dry-weather fields and even an all-weather field at Thelepte, just as the Germans broke through the Kasserine Pass. These fields had to be abandoned temporarily, but oddly enough most of the supplies and equipment were recovered when the Germans were driven out. The failure of the 888th Company overshadowed the success of the 871st Battalion, with the result that air commanders in North Africa adopted what Washington regarded as “a narrow view” of the potentialities of airborne aviation engineers.33 The story would be the same in other theaters.
After Kasserine, events went better for the engineers, who had
been under criticism for falling behind the pace demanded by combat commanders.34 The rains lessened, and then stopped. More engineers arrived, and the experiences of the past weeks hardened the troops both to the hostile African climate and to repeated German air attacks. The next job was to prepare fighter bases in the Sbeitla area of central Tunisia for support of the ground forces in their effort to expel the Germans from Africa. After receiving the request, the aviation engineers provided five fields within seventy-two hours. The 814th Battalion, which carried out most of the work, demonstrated a marked improvement in mobility-in fact, it achieved almost the ideal by racing from one job to another. Within a few days the Sbeitla fields were too far in the rear, but the 814th was able to create new fighter fields in the Le Sers area within a matter of hours. Its efforts contributed significantly to the final and victorious offensive in Tunisia.35
Meanwhile, other units of aviation engineers were constructing airfields from which Allied planes could protect convoys sailing along the coastline from southern Morocco on the Atlantic coast almost to Tripoli. Since supply problems were already aggravating all other difficulties in the North African operations, it was all the more frustrating that shortages of equipment and mud delayed this program of airfield construction. The base at Bône, which for a long time served as the easternmost port available to the Allies, proved the most difficult but perhaps the most rewarding to build. The area was under Axis air attack, and the engineering problem was formidable. Mountains ran into the sea, leaving as the only possible site for an airfield a delta in the Seybouse River mouth. This area was pure mud, a commodity already highly unpopular. The solution was to bring in vast amounts of sand, which lay on the wrong side of the river. For this task the 21st Regiment received all the heavy equipment in the area and set to work. The men built a sand causeway across the river, a roadway on the delta,"and began to bring in sand from the dunes. It was not so much the stubborn German air campaign against the troops as the threat of rain that made the outcome of this bold decision so problematical. Any substantial rainfall would wash away the road and cause the river to rise and destroy the causeway. General Davison decided to gamble on the weather, for he had only fourteen days to complete the air base or see the port at Bône closed down. Somehow it did not rain for a few days, and the unconventional passage
was finished and the sand spread over the mud delta. On the last day of the time limit, the base was finished and the steel plank laid. Then a cloudburst conveniently packed the sand after the final plank went down. Soon the aviation engineers received the most gratifying of rewards when a B-26 in trouble landed safely on the runway at Bône-a runway the pilot did not know existed until he providentially sighted it.36
Out of the North African operations came not only priceless experience but a pattern for command that proved highly successful in both the MTO and the ETO. AAF leaders had won a crucial point when the aviation engineers were assigned to the air force rather than to Service of Supply, as had been the case in England. At one time General Davison indicated his willingness to turn over all construction work to SOS in the hope that more might be accomplished, but General Godfrey, the air engineer in Washington, was insistent that the air forces retain control. Shortly after Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz assumed command of the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) in February 1943, he made Davison chief aviation engineer and Colonel Colonna his assistant. Thereafter, NAAF spelled out all requirements, and XII Air Service Command did the work as directed. Difficulties of command remained on lower levels, but they were usually decided in favor of the operational leaders. Complications arose in the last stages of the Tunisian campaign when the engineer of the U.S. First Army disagreed with the priorities fixed by NAAF for airfield construction in his area. But once more the air forces won their point, and a directive from Allied Forces Headquarters on 23 April 1943 established the overriding authority of the NAAF aviation engineer regarding the construction of airdromes.37
By this time the aviation engineer units were spread all the way across the theater, usually working as small detachments rather than as battalions to complete tactical bases in Tunisia and to enlarge airdromes in the Tellergma area for the heavies. Ammunition and fuel dumps, as well as drinking-water supply, became responsibilities of the aviation engineers. The more elaborate bases called for cross-runways and more lavish facilities. But not until the North African campaign was over could such luxuries as shower houses, storage buildings, kitchens, post exchanges, and recreational buildings claim the labor of the aviation engineers.38
The achievements of the aviation engineers in North Africa were
matters for discreet boasting, notwithstanding some of the early fumbles and setbacks. By the end of the campaign there were ten battalions in the theater. They had built or improved 129 airdromes. British and American engineers had constructed a new airfield on the average of every two days, using less than one-half the number of engineers supposedly required by the War Department troop basis.39 The wholehearted appreciation expressed by various air leaders was very gratifying to General Godfrey, who saw that the comments circulated. It was General Spaatz, perhaps, whose praise carried the most weight. In a letter to General Arnold he spoke of the aviation engineers as being “as nearly indispensable to the AAF as is possible to ascribe to any single branch thereof.” Everywhere he had gone, he continued, “it has been the same story, efficiency, willingness, intelligent application, all resulting in praiseworthy completion of tasks in such short intervals of time as to be considered fantastic when judged by peacetime standards."40 But even this encomium could not include an appraisal of thousands of mines and booby traps removed, of a few enemy planes shot down, of hours spent in foxholes, of round-the-clock toil in mud or sandstorms, or of casualties suffered.
With the invasion of Sicily impending, the aviation engineers worked on bases in Tunisia for combat planes and troop carriers, a simple enough task now that the rains had ceased and the soil was good. More complicated were the new requirements for fighter fields on tiny islands in the Mediterranean. The British were expanding their bases on Malta, and another airfield could be squeezed on minute Gozo, which lay just to the north. One company of the 2d Battalion, 21st Regiment, began work there on 8 June 1943. They had to destroy stone walls, smooth out ancient terraces, and bring in 70,000 bags of sand from Malta. By working day and night, the aviation engineers and three hundred civilians had two fighter runways of compacted earth ready on 20 June, a week ahead of schedule, a feat that won the praise of Air Marshal Tedder, although, as it turned out, the usefulness of the field was limited by its tendency to become too dusty or muddy.41
A detachment of the 888th Airborne Engineers accompanied the men who occupied Pantelleria after the memorable bombing on 11 June 1943. The elaborate underground facilities constructed by the Italians were almost intact, but the runway was strewn with the wreckage of airplanes and had about two hundred bomb blasts. Since
the enemy was still attacking the occupying forces, it was imperative to have a fighter runway as soon as possible. Aided by sappers from the Army engineers and by Italian prisoners, the group had this runway ready in six hours. It was a rough one-a small area of the Italian field containing the least damage and bounded by flags, debris, and drums-but it served. On the next day the engineers filled the craters more thoroughly and dozed them. Again marking the repaired area, this time with sheets, they had it operational for P-40’s in short order. The 888th spent about three months on the island and in some measure compensated for their earlier failure, or that of their equipment, at Tebessa. The men put the water and power plant into operation and, with the help of a captured shovel, repaired the roads. Then they restored the bakery and central refrigerator, cleared the town, and built showers and kitchens for themselves. For aviation engineers here as in so many other places leisurely reconstruction of war-torn areas followed feverish activities in combat. It was almost the same on Lampedusa, another Italian island which surrendered after bombardment, where fifty men of the 817th Battalion moved in and restored the logistics of civilized life.42
Aviation engineer officers were afterward inclined to complain that they had been left out of the planning for the Sicilian operation,43 but the Allies knew very little of soil conditions on the island, and the only recourse was to place the engineers ashore as soon as possible in the belief that they could discover a way to base the aircraft. The general pattern was for the British to construct forward fields behind their own ground forces and for the Americans to support the U.S. Seventh Army in the western sector. For the invasion phase itself, Army engineers were to control the distribution of all supplies and equipment needed for construction. Advanced details of three aviation engineer battalions (the 809th, 814th, and 815th) were to land on D Day and repair captured airfields or carve out new ones as necessary. Until the sailing, all the men could do was work on their equipment, which most of them liked to do, and undergo training in the art of staying alive in combat, which most of them bitterly resented, even though the North African experience had indicated they were far from expert in such matters.44
On D Day, 10 July 1943, a small detachment of the 814th Engineers,
attached temporarily to the 19th Engineer Combat Regiment, dragged their equipment from the landing craft to the beaches and proceeded inland to a large captured airdrome at Comiso. It took only a little time to repair the craters in its runway, partly because the Germans had left an asphalt plant behind. Next the men of the 814th EAB groped their way to Biscari, putting its field back into operation within four days, the worst aspect of the task being the burial of the enemy dead found there. The twelve aviation engineers of the 809th EAB, who landed with the 1st Division at Gela, were less successful. Some equipment was lost, and a paneled emergency airstrip prepared on D Day was overrun by the Germans on the next day. Moving on 12 July to the former main enemy base at Ponte Olivo, which was said to be cleared, the engineers found it intricately mined and under artillery fire. The painstaking work of removing the mines and filling the small craters took all night; by 13 July, however, the field was operational and out of the enemy’s artillery range. A field near the landing beach, later known as Gela East, had been crisscrossed by barbed wire. Three hours after the handful of engineers with the aid of prisoners of war started to clear it, a damaged Fortress was able to land. Soon the airdrome was ready for emergency use on larger scale, although the troops lacked fuel, oil, equipment, and, much of the time, rations and water. The arrival of the 809th EAB and its machinery made it possible to finish the rehabilitation of Ponte Olivo and Gela East and to begin a dry-weather field at Gela West within a few days. During this phase of the invasion, the aviation engineers had been subjected to German shells, strafings, and the devilish thermal bombs scattered at night, all of which caused casualties but scarcely held up the work of reconstruction.45
On the westernmost American beach, at Licata, a company of the 815th EAB landed despite dive bombers and strafing German planes and sent a survey party to examine an airfield the Allies hoped to rehabilitate. The engineer in charge decided it would be simpler to construct a new runway, and this the troops did within two days, although most of their heavy equipment was still on the beaches. Allied aircraft descended on the runway in numbers and took off on tactical support missions. Since service troops had not arrived, the aviation engineers had to refuel and rearm the fighters for almost a week. Within a few days the German attacks abruptly ceased, not only at Licata, but in the whole invasion area, and the engineers, now
with their three battalions at almost full strength, had bases ready for 34 fighter squadrons on 20 July.46 For the most part the battalions were well equipped and had managed to retain contact with their equipment. Hectic as the first few days on Sicily were, the aviation engineers had performed very creditably.
Around the first of August 1943 the 814th EAB moved to the western end of Sicily, which had just been seized. Its Company C quickly rehabilitated the former Axis base at Castelvetrano to permit air transports to come in and evacuate the wounded. Two other bases were repaired, those at Sciacca and Borizzo. The 809th EAB completed its work at Ponte Olivo and Gela East airstrips, its labors interrupted only once by the requirement to build dummy airfields to attract German bombers. Some of the 815th engineers accompanied the Third Division as it crossed Sicily from south to north, a journey which taxed the skill and patience of the men in moving their heavy machinery along the treacherous mountain roads of the island. Once on the northern side, the 815th cleared in a few hours a captured airdrome near Palermo and scratched out bases for fighters and transports east of the city. The withdrawal of the Germans indicated that the battle for Sicily was won. The aviation engineers had done what they were supposed to do. Even the weather had been good, a circumstance so rare when things went badly, so unremarked when they went well. For the next few weeks the aviation engineers worked on barracks, water points, electric power systems, and other necessities that were only frills during combat phases of an operation. Soon the 809th and 814th were preparing thirteen fields, mostly dry-weather, to support projected troop-carrier operations. These fields were scattered over Sicily, and the engineering problems varied with the locality, but none proved formidable. All the bases were ready a day or two before the completion date, 31 August.47
The next operation—the invasion of Italy—was already under way. For the crucial landing at Salerno the short range of the Spitfires posed a problem. The British fighters would be indispensable for protection of the invasion beaches, and the only area in Sicily close enough to Salerno was a small strip of coastal plain on the Milazzo peninsula. The mountains crowded the plain so closely that airfields would have to be laid out end to end with two miles in between, and other safety factors would have to be disregarded. That was the way it had to be if the Salerno landings were to be supported by Spitfires,
and the 815th EAB duly constructed five runways according to this plan. Much of the work was performed by Italians, whose pay probably failed to compensate for the destruction of their vineyards. Equipment left behind by the Germans was useful. The chief hazard was dust, which became such a deterrent and nuisance the aviation engineers piped water in from the sea for sprinkling and later borrowed some oil from the Royal Navy. The job was finished on time, and the fields served the Spitfires for the Salerno operation. Even the dangers posed by the proximity of the mountains did not result in the loss of a single aircraft. The only sour note in the operation was the hurried dispatch of a detachment of the 815th EAB to Catania, on the eastern side of Sicily, in reply to an urgent call for airfield and road construction. As it turned out, the airdrome was not feasible, and the engineers, pulled away from the Milazzo job, worked on a road until they were withdrawn for more important tasks in Italy. Air engineers grumbled that road construction should have been the job of the Army engineers.48
The problem of command came up during the climax of the Sicilian operation. The aviation engineers had amply proved their unique importance to the air forces. But now, the airfields in North Africa and Sicily required maintenance for sustained operations, and the Italian campaign loomed, along with the project to base heavy bombers on the Italian peninsula for the strategic bombardment of Germany. Theater commanders were receptive to pressure from General Godfrey at Headquarters, AAF, and from General Davison at NAAF and other aviation engineers in the theater, to offer more recognition to the organization. Furthermore, plans for the great continental invasion in 1944 from England were reaching a decisive stage that called for an intimate relationship between aviation engineers and the tactical air forces. Although the prevailing scheme of control had functioned well in North Africa and Sicily, too many conflicts arose between the operational air commanders and the air service commanders on the lower administrative levels. Keeping well in mind the needs of the forthcoming operation OVERLORD and, indeed, conferring with Maj. Gen. Lewis H, Brereton, who was designated to command the tactical air forces in that undertaking, the NAAF commanders agreed in August 1943 to permit General Davison to assume direct control of the aviation engineers, who were accordingly withdrawn from the Air Service Command. After some
shuffling of responsibilities and titles, the next and last step came on 22 October 1943, when General Eisenhower authorized the establishment of a provisional engineer command for the Twelfth Air Force, which soon became the provisional AAF Engineer Command (MTO) and provided the pattern for the renowned IX Engineer Command.49
Italy and Southern France
The critical landings at Salerno in September 1943 provided another opportunity for the aviation engineers to perform their unique services in support of an amphibious invasion. It had been planned that an advance party of the 817th EAB would land on D Day with the American forces which were to seize Paestum. Since fighter support of the ground forces was greatly restricted by the distance to the bases back in Sicily, the engineers were to make ready a landing strip in urgent haste. On D Day, 9 September, the party unloaded and headed for the proposed site just before dark. But enemy opposition made the area unsafe, and another site had to be chosen after nightfall by engineers walking about with flashlights and under enemy fire. The site they picked was certain to be dusty, and it was evident that large trees would have to be cleared away, a ditch filled, crops of cotton, wheat, and tomatoes destroyed. As the advance group made its survey, two companies of engineers de-waterproofed their equipment, an irksome task, and moved up. At dawn they started to work, and before evening they had produced a runway 4,000 feet long—graded, rolled, and adorned with enough taxiways and dispersal areas to accommodate several squadrons. They controlled the dust by borrowing water trailers from another unit and sprinkling extensively. Allied fighters were using the field the day after it was ready. Here, as in Sicily, the aviation engineers had to service the airplanes for some days, even bringing gasoline and ammunition from the beach.50
The need for more runways was still urgent, for the Germans were resisting tenaciously. On 13 September the 817th EAB began construction on an airstrip beside the Sele River, where a marsh had been drained by the Italians to provide a wheat field. The aviation engineers had scarcely begun work when a German counterattack came so close to the site that equipment had to be pulled away for a day. Again, water trailers were borrowed to keep the dust down, and,
after the field became usable on 18 September, the engineers brought up supplies and serviced the planes. By that time work had begun on another site, which the surveyors had selected despite obvious disadvantages. The field, Capaccio, lay too close to the hills and was so dry that great cracks crisscrossed the area, but it had to be put in shape for emergency purposes. This was “cow-pasture” construction, as the engineers called it. But marked out, rolled, graded, and sprinkled, Capaccio was ready for fighters within a day. There was no time to consider wind currents and safe approaches. Fighter planes desperately needed fields on the beachhead to support the beleaguered ground forces, and aviation engineers scratched the airstrips out as fast as they could.51
Since it might rain at any time during that season, the high command was nervous about getting an all-weather field ready in the Salerno area. The British construction group tried at Montecorvino an unorthodox measure on an old Italian sod field, which they scraped over once and then covered with mat. The experiment served well enough for emergency needs. The 817th Engineers, working now at battalion strength, undertook a more ambitious project at Gaudo. Since Italian labor was abundantly available and a quarry only three miles away, they scraped down to a subgrade of gravel and stone dust and then laid a rock course and finally steel mat. Early in November Gaudo was ready as an all-weather field.52
The next mission was the construction of all-weather bases in the Naples area. The able and experienced British 15th Airdrome Construction Group went to work on two permanent facilities there. Company C of the 815th EAB joined the British organization in October 1943, fresh from a two-week experiment at Cercola, near the base of Mt. Vesuvius. Clearing away ancient buildings and filling wells had been routine enough, but using fresh volcanic ash from brooding Vesuvius as a substitute material for paving runways was indeed novel. Farther away, the British and other companies of the 815th worked on all-weather bases at Marcianise and Santa Maria. Marcianise proved to be a slow job because rain fell on fifty of the seventy-three days required for building it. At Santa Maria, higher headquarters changed plans at least five times, with the result that the aviation engineers were put to work and called off repeatedly. In the end, it remained a dry-weather field.53
For the Anzio landings the 815th Engineers again built a base,
Castelvolturno, for the short-ranged Spitfires. This airdrome was located on a coastal strip near the mouth of the Volturno River, about 80 miles south of the invasion area. If mud in southern Italy had immobilized much of the heavy equipment, at least here the beach sand permitted its operation. Malaria seemed the worst threat as the 815th Engineers began work on 1 December 1943. It turned out, however, that the malignant Italian weather of that memorable winter caught up with them. Rains caused ground water to rise to a point that flooded much of the runway, but the steel mat was laid in time for the field to be used as planned for the Anzio operation. The aviation engineers by planting rye grass even hoped to conquer a future dust problem. Another site in the vicinity, Lago, was also a responsibility of the heavily taxed 815th EAB. Compared with Castelvolturno, it proved fairly simple to build.54
A complex of bases for heavy bombers and long-range fighters in the Heel of Italy and in the Foggia area was expected to have a decisive bearing on the success of the strategic air offensive, and the provision of these airdromes became first priority in the engineer command. Nearly all the steel mat in the theater was concentrated on this program, although the British finally won a few concessions for the Desert Air Force, which was to need bases up the eastern coast of Italy. As soon as the Desert Air Force moved out of the Heel, the 21st Engineer Aviation Regiment and the 809th and 385th Battalions came in to enlarge and strengthen the existing fields of Lecce, San Pancrazio, Mandura, Brindisi, Gioia, and Grottaglie, all of them for Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers but Grottaglie, which was to be a fighter base. The deadline for this reconstruction was 31 October 1943, but the slow arrival of the aviation engineers pushed it back to 10 November, and it was actually in December before the heavies could be based in the Heel.55
The aviation engineers ran into trouble from the first, originally because of the difficulties in moving equipment on schedule, then because of unexpectedly evil weather, but ultimately because the job had been underestimated, not by the engineers themselves so much as by higher commanders who were eager to get the strategic air force over Germany by the southern route. At Lecce the silty soil was saturated by rain and the natural drainage so poor that the runway was not operational until February 1944. Manduria received bombers in December, but only because pierced-steel plank had been
laid on its existing surface, and such effort was required to maintain it that there was nothing left for further construction. The steel plank runway at Gioia disintegrated quickly under use. The aviation engineers scooped muck out and piled it as high as fifteen feet on each side of the runway. They used rock to raise the runway above the water. It was almost the same story at Brindisi and San Pancrazio. The winter of 1943–44 in the Heel was a nightmare of buckling runways, frenzied repairs, mud, water—and neglect of other construction. In one sense, at least, it was fortunate that the slower tempo of heavy bomber operations at that time kept the air-base situation from being more critical than it was.
The Foggia job had also appeared deceptively simple. There, a fairly level plain with a flat spread of sand and clay and abundant rock quarries seemed to offer an opportunity for rapid airfield development. The new construction involved eight airdromes. The first, Foggia Main, went off well enough. Units of the 21st Regiment and the 814th and 845th Battalions had one runway, with steel plank on a compacted fill of caliche, ready by 1 December and another by the last of January. Drainage proved good in spite of the volume of rainfall. To the east of Foggia Main, at Foggia #2, the aviation engineers laid steel plank directly on an old sod field, a measure that sometimes worked, but in this case it proved necessary to raise the mat thirteen times during the next few months and to smooth out the runway. The airdromes, known as Giulia, San Giovanni, and Toretto had high water tables and poor natural drainage. The engineers finally had to cut a deep runway and leave it open until the weather straightened out before laying gravel, compacting, and placing the steel mat. At the other fields, Foggia #1, Foggia #2, and Foggia #7, the situation was similar—a long effort to secure minimum drainage, the rather timorous laying of steel mat, and the repeated repairs and refills. Every frustration dogged the aviation engineers in their efforts toward continuous maintenance. Yet the Foggia runways were at least usable by January 1944, even if other construction lagged three months behind schedule. Naturally, living conditions for the overworked engineer troops were dismal, for they could build little for their own comfort until the all-weather bases were completed.56
In western Italy a lull developed for the first months of 1944. Thirty men of the 815th EAB went with British construction units to the Anzio beachhead, but the rest of the battalion departed for the
rear, hoping for a rest after such a long stint of airfield development. Instead, they built camp facilities for MAAF personnel and, later, quarters for general officers in the royal gardens at Caserta. When Vesuvius erupted and fallen ash had immobilized eighty-two B-25's, the aviation engineers cleared a road so that the stricken Mitchells could be taxied away. Many other jobs came their way—hauling gravel, improving all sorts of facilities, expanding and developing existing airdromes.57 Perhaps they were luckier than they realized. In other theaters aviation engineers were often employed on construction jobs that had no relation to air force needs and frequently worked longer hours under worse conditions.
The Allied offensive of May–August 1944 into northern Italy brought back the 815th, 817th, and 835th Battalions to more urgent activities. The 815th built a dry-weather field in the former Anzio beachhead, this time finding enough oil to hold the dust down, and rehabilitated a captured air base after removing several hundred Teller mines the Germans had left behind for their benefit. Following the ground forces they moved into Rome and readied three airfields, where most of the labor was a matter of removing booby traps and mines. They had only six hours to get Roma Littoria in readiness to receive transports coming in to evacuate the wounded, but that was time enough. Then the 815th continued northward, repairing cratered runways and doing whatever had to be done to make captured airdromes suitable for Allied planes. Since German air opposition was so light, Allied fighters could be used more and more for bombing and strafing. This called for lengthening airdromes from time to time, but this was not formidable work for experienced aviation engineers. Their chief concern these days was German artillery, which often remained in the vicinity of the airfields that needed repair. As noted, the 835th Battalion was concerned in these operations, having finished its hard, wet winter in the Heel, as was the 817th, which interrupted its work in Corsica for the renewed Italian offensive.58
The problem of constructing air bases on Corsica proved extremely vexatious, if ultimately rewarding. The tactical air forces required bases there for operations against Italy and, eventually, southern France. Only four captured airfields were available for development, and all of them were inadequate for American aircraft. And other airdromes would need to be built, despite the mountainous character of the island. Fortunately, many Frenchmen and Italian prisoners
could be utilized as a labor force, and two companies of French aviation engineers were on hand. Dry-weather fields for transports and fighters were constructed and even some for medium bombers. These last, of course, received hard-surfacing and steel mat, as materials and effort became available.59 Less labor was required for the Axis airfields on Sardinia, where most of them needed little but mine removal. But the construction of a medium-bomber base at Decimomannu included the novelty of widening the runway to more than a thousand feet to permit six B-26's to take off simultaneously.60
The first aviation engineer unit to reach Corsica had an unusual history. This 812th Engineer Aviation Battalion, a Negro organization, had shipped out from Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1942 to build bases in south-central Africa on the substitute ferry route.* They put in at Freetown, Sierra Leone, had leave in the Union of South Africa, and finally arrived at Mombasa, Kenya, where they took a train into the interior. Apparently the men were much amused by the sight of giraffes loping and monkeys cavorting beside the rickety railroad. Once they had erected a tent camp in the tall grass of Kenya, where they had planned to work with the Royal Engineers on an airfield, they actually completed all they were destined to do in that area. Suddenly they were on their way back to the coast and found themselves on ships bound for Egypt. After some days of sight-seeing there, they piled into trucks and bumped for 900 miles or so across the desert to Benghazi, where for a time they were the only American engineers. There they stabilized a base for Ninth Air Force B-24's that bombed Ploesti and built a pipeline from the sea to keep the airfield sprinkled, After hauling sand and picking up rocks for an interval, the unit sailed for Sicily toward the last of 1943, and then to Corsica in January 1944. For six months they worked around the clock on airfield development, after which followed ten months of comparative leisure on the picturesque island.61 If the itinerary of the 812th Engineers was unusually colorful, the spurts of hard labor, the long waits, the sudden changes, and the enjoyment of opportunities available were typical of the wartime life of aviation engineers.
Very elaborate planning for aviation engineer operations preceded the invasion of southern France. Since a slow and difficult campaign was expected, with the autumn rains beginning at an awkward stage, the AAF Engineer Command (MTO) developed unusually detailed
* See above, pp. 54-55.
intelligence dossiers on existing airdromes and on soil and terrain conditions. Six aviation engineer battalions were to land as soon as possible and begin all-weather base construction. The 809th EAB carried out its assignment with dispatch, landing in the beachhead area, clearing the mines and grapevines from a virgin site previously selected, and having it in order to receive Spitfires by D plus 4. The other battalions had a similar experience, encountering little opposition, unloading equipment promptly, and going to work on sites where mines and obstructions offered the only challenge. Not so the 887th Engineer Airborne Company, which had a very bad time of it. All the gliders which bore this unit made crash landings, some of them very rough, and almost a third of the entire company sustained injuries. But this unfortunate operation was the exception; elsewhere the aviation engineers found DRAGOON almost so easy as to constitute a mere exercise. Before long the ground forces were advancing so rapidly the aviation engineers had difficulty keeping up with the line of advance. There was scarcely any need to scratch out airstrips. Soon, TWO of the six battalions were sent back to Italy, and, by early 1945, all of them had been returned.62
It was not altogether a holiday in southern France, however. The Germans had been unusually thorough and ingenious, even for Germans, in mining two of the airfields near the landing. The aviation engineers were by now well experienced in these matters, but they took unusual care to watch out for new tricks on every captured installation. It was dust rather than mud which interfered most with the work of enlarging the runways. This time the aviation engineers were better prepared with water trailers and oil than they had been in Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Filling in craters made by Allied bombs was time-consuming, although French civilians were hired to do much of the labor. In employing the French, difficulties appeared. Some of the first French contractors engaged for this purpose turned out to be in bad standing with the French underground, and political problems had to be met or ignored in order to get the work done. Finally, all hiring was routed through the French labor organization. As always, supplies were short. Sometimes it was a matter of gasoline and diesel oil, sometimes of rations and clothes, but in no case was the lack more than a matter of irritation, not of breakdown. In all, the aviation engineers constructed four new airfields and converted twenty-one existing bases to Allied use. It was an impressive record
even for a pushover campaign. The whole affair had gone off better than expected.63
In Italy the cluster of air bases in the Foggia, Naples, and Rome areas had long since been improved to support a heavier pace of air operations. With the invasion of France going well, the aviation engineers in Italy received as reinforcements the units that had gone with DRAGOON. There was still enough work to keep them busy, for the approach of autumn weather called for the laying of pierced-steel plank on the former dry-weather fields. As the Allied front moved north, Pisa, Florence, and Pontedera were captured, and their airfields were cleared of debris, patched up, and enlarged. By the end of the war, only fifteen airfields in western Italy were required for tactical operations, only a third of the number the aviation engineers had built or repaired.64 The twenty-five bases for the Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers, however, and all the collateral construction required as the strategic air offensive continued, absorbed the constant effort of the aviation engineers until the end of the war.
The Invasion of Western Europe
During the early planning phase of operation OVERLORD the air and engineer officers in England determined to continue and to improve the system, which had worked so well in North Africa and Italy. A fast-moving tactical air force, they reasoned, would need to be self-supporting in the matter of airfield development and to enjoy extreme flexibility in directing engineering troops to repair or construct airdromes on short notice. The intensification of invasion planning in October 1943 bore a direct relationship to the establishment of the engineer command that month in North Africa. Indeed, General Brereton, who was about to move to England with the Ninth Air Force, had participated in the discussions leading to the creation of the engineer command. Once in England, Brereton's staff conferred extensively with Colonel Smyser, who had for more than two years served as engineer with the Eighth Air Force, and other officers who had been working on OVERLORD plans. The plan they devised called for the establishment of an engineer command in the United Kingdom to handle the transfer of aviation engineers from the Eighth to the Ninth Air Force, the training for the invasion, and then the development of airfields on the Continent as the Ninth required them.65
The War Department, however, proved reluctant to authorize such a command, perhaps because a precedent might be set for Ordnance, Signal, Chemical Warfare, and other services to elevate their stature. A decision was postponed for some months, during which the Ninth Air Force proceeded to absorb most of the aviation engineer units in England. At length the War Department refused to establish the engineer command. No prohibition, however, stood against the authority of the theater commander to create a provisional command, as had been done in the MTO, and on 30 March 1944 the Ninth Air Force received permission to activate the headquarters of the IX Engineer Command. On 1 July 1944 the command itself, as a provisional organization, came into official existence, though by that time it was very much in business in France. The 17,000 officers and men in sixteen aviation engineer battalions were grouped under four regimental headquarters plus three airborne battalions and a camouflage battalion. Brig. Gen. James B. Newman, Jr., became the first commanding general of the IX Engineer Command.66
For OVERLORD the IX Engineer Command had the pick of the aviation engineers stationed in England. Nearly all its troops had been in the theater for many months and were highly experienced in the construction of airdromes. But the task ahead called for different skills, such as removal of mines and booby traps, the rapid scraping-out of landing fields on virgin sites for fighters and transports, the laying of portable landing mats, and repair of captured airdromes. Since the officers were specialists and the men were already seasoned and able, not more than two months of new training was deemed necessary. At Great Barrington and other centers the aviation engineers came and went in unsteady flows during the first part of 1944 to practice the techniques they would soon use in operating as mobile units under enemy fire. The men needed above all further training in dodging bombs, bullets, and shells and in firing. Otherwise, it was simple enough to teach them the mysteries of de-waterproofing equipment and to assure that operators of heavy equipment would be available to the extent of three trained men for each major piece. Some of the troops got a little practice in preparing advanced landing grounds and laying portable mats, but not as much as had been specified. This deficiency did not show up later in France, however. In fact, the rather haphazard quality of pre-invasion training had no untoward results. The aviation engineers were already
good! At higher levels, of course, planning for D Day had to do with acquiring intelligence on terrain and soil conditions in the invasion area, the apportionment of tonnage to get the equipment across, and decisions regarding the types of landing mat to be used on various proposed runways. Subsequent evaluations revealed no important defects in the preparations of the aviation engineers for OVERLORD.67
The first aviation engineers ashore on D Day were detachments of the 819th EAB. They landed on UTAH beach a little after H plus 4, a bit seasick after two days on their LST’s. The men waded about two hundred yards to the beach, only to see their machinery bog down in mud on their dispersal area. Seven hours later they had extricated the equipment and moved to the proposed site of an emergency landing strip. This first mission they completed in three hours, whereupon they dug foxholes to protect themselves from steady sniper fire. It was harder at OMAHA beach. Point-blank fire kept the detachment of the 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion from landing at all on D Day. After another night aboard ship, the men finally unloaded at another point in the face of moderate fire. But moving the equipment to the beach proved very difficult because of the numerous obstacles placed by the Germans, and even after reaching land the unit had to wait disconsolately and exposed all day until the ground forces captured their proposed site. The men of the 820th EAB were also unable to land on D Day at the selected point, their Rhino ferry having once been turned back by a Navy patrol and later in the day struck by an enemy shell. On the next day, after having been towed to the beach, they spent many uneasy hours in the invasion area awaiting the capture of the proposed airfield site. When the delay continued, the 820th went ahead and developed a landing strip at St. Laurent-sur-Mer on D plus 3, and transports immediately began to fly in supplies and evacuate the wounded. This unplanned field on OMAHA beach turned out to be the first operational American airdrome in France, and an average of one hundred C-47’s landed there daily for the first six weeks. Soon the scheduled advanced landing ground at St. Pierre du Mont was finished and occupied by a squadron of P-47’s, the first Allied aircraft to be based in France since 1940.68
During the first week after D Day aviation engineers continued to arrive as planned, increment after increment in successive shipments. Once ashore, the officers would identify their equipment and
claim it in person, sometimes with considerable insistence. Then the detachments would seek the earlier arrivals of their units and join them, often after a good deal of confusion. Usually they quickly completed the emergency landing strips, the rearming and refueling strips, and the advanced landing grounds called for in the well-memorized plans. The jobs were finished expeditiously unless German fire kept the troops under cover for too long intervals. There were casualties among the aviation engineers, but far fewer than expected. There were vexations and difficulties. Yet things really went very well. Of all the sites selected before the landing, only one proved unsuitable.69 Men and machines were all the invasion commanders had expected them to be. As General Newman wrote, the first units ashore were admittedly not the worst of the aviation engineers, although even the worst were “damned good."70 The men themselves were keyed up by the challenge and well rewarded when they watched transports and fighters land on their runways almost the moment they were finished. It had not been that way in the impersonal construction of the mammoth airdromes in England. The spirits of the men were also quickened when they captured a few Germans and shot several snipers. Their work was judged “superb”71 and “miraculous.”72
The expansion of the invasion beachhead to the rim of Normandy and to Cherbourg occasioned a few revisions in the program for airfield construction. Fighter-bombers rather than fighters were needed because of the absence of the enemy’s air force and the stubbornness of his ground forces. Thus several of the 3,600-foot runways had to be increased to 5,000 feet, with all the attendant problems of grading, filling, compacting, and laying of square-mesh track or prefabricated hessian surfacing. Then the Ninth Air Force decided to base medium bombers on the Continent, a radical revision of plans which the engineers met by putting the three airborne battalions to work. By early August the aviation engineers were widely scattered over the liberated area, building or improving airfields which the Allies put to immediate use. At that time, seventeen of the fighter-bomber fields were hard-surfaced and two medium-bomber fields had pierced-steel plank runways.73
In spite of the remarkable achievements of the aviation engineers, their program was falling behind schedule. The primary reason was the retarded timetable of the ground-force advance, which left too little space open to airfield development. Also the need for transport
fields had been underestimated, and extra labor had to be directed to remedy that condition. There were other difficulties. The great storm of D plus 13 had delayed the unloading of mat for several days. And it proved more time-consuming to doze through the orchards and hedgerows of Normandy than the planners had anticipated. Sustained labor during the long daylight hours of the European summer overcame most of these’ problems, and the long spell of good weather in June and July was a priceless boon. By the last of July many units of the aviation engineers had nothing to do. Some of them even dug tanks so French farmers could water their cattle.74
The breakout of the ground forces quickly solved the problem of idleness by providing ample sites for new airfield development. At this point the aviation engineers were grouped into two brigades to construct airfields under the immediate direction of the IX Tactical Air Command in the U.S. Third Army area and the XIX Tactical Air Command in the U.S. First Army zone. The 1st EA Brigade was commanded by Col. Karl B. Schilling, and the 2d was under Col. Rudolph E. Smyser. The general pattern was for a brigade to build or rehabilitate “clutches” of several airfields as close to the front as possible to serve each tactical air command or medium-bombardment wing. Engineer reconnaissance parties would accompany the advancing forces and locate suitable airfield sites. Later in the Battle of France they flew over airdromes or sites, making preliminary selections. Once the location of the prospective clutch had been determined, the battalions moved up as quickly as they could obtain transportation and pass through the inevitable ovations in French villages. The switching of battalions from one brigade to another was easily managed, and the flexible system was almost ideal for the fast-moving war.75
Fanning out over Brittany, the aviation engineer units repaired or scraped out a few fields, but the rapid ground advance eastward soon left these fields in the rear area, and the two brigades moved on to the Le Mans area, which ground reconnaissance teams had already combed for choice sites. At this stage it was often easier to build new airdromes, for the bombers of the Allies and the retreating Germans had destroyed most of the existing air bases. By the middle of August most of the aviation engineers had arrived in Le Mans with their equipment. Moving the men and machines was not the problem. As General Newman said, “Even though we are a menace on the
road because of the length of our columns and weight of our material, we grab large areas, and drain water transport, I have yet to hear a single complaint.”76 Supply was a problem here, as it was in all other phases of the aviation engineer war. At Le Mans the solution was to borrow a large fleet of trucks from IX Air Force Service Command and open a route to Cherbourg. For several weeks drivers operated day and night, sleeping in their trucks and eating cold rations, until the mountains of supplies needed for air bases had been brought forward. But just when this problem came under control, the luck of the engineers with the weather ran out. Heavy rains delayed construction and forced the men to repair soggy runways and buckling landing mats repeatedly.77
Fortunately, no real delay in air operations resulted from the misadventures at Le Mans. Soon clutches in the Paris and Chartres area were available for rehabilitation. Three key officers of IX Engineer Command were killed as they reconnoitered the famous Le Bourget Field north of Paris. At Chartres aviation engineers had the thrill of capturing the German base commander as he sought to escape by bicycle. Now that the Allies were deep in France, the captured airdromes were less damaged. Most of them had been cratered, to be sure, but it was simple to fill up the holes. And while the Germans had mined nearly all the airfields, they had retreated so abruptly they failed to detonate their mines, and the aviation engineers were good at removing them. In the Paris area the damage was worse than in most other places, and energetic measures were needed to place the fields in condition to receive food-bearing transports, many of which landed on grassy strips marked out by the aviation engineers. At the Orly field alone 400 transport planes came in on 29 August. The rehabilitation of the six airdromes in the Paris area for military operations required more substantial efforts. The opening of the railway to Cherbourg greatly facilitated this work, and the first train to enter liberated Paris carried airfield surfacing materials.78
The speed with which the Allied armies advanced north and east of Paris in September 1944 stretched the resources of IX Engineer Command and its two brigades. The Le Mans fields were being completed, and those at Paris were still absorbing much effort. Yet landing grounds in the wake of the Allied advance were also needed. Luckily, most of the captured airfields could be made operational within a short time, and, if not, the aviation engineers were able to
scrape out sod fields for transports, at this point of the war the most critical type of aircraft. The skill of even small groups of aviation engineers gratified the commanders and aroused the admiration of the Germans. By now it was taken for granted that the engineers would deliver whatever was demanded. The tactical air commands merely specified the kind of base they needed and the general location, leaving all other matters to the constructing unit, which was usually the battalion. The battalions were rotated a good deal from forward to rear areas after hard stints of work, though units in the rear area worked too. Some of them came to be recognized as specialists in concrete or asphalt construction, or in laying pierced-steel plank or square-mesh track, and were employed accordingly. After working on an airdrome for a day or so, a battalion might move two hundred miles to another job. Once the 834th EAB traveled five hundred and fifty miles between assignments. Accustomed to shifting for themselves, aviation engineer officers often had to finagle to obtain supplies. One trick was to remove AAF markings from their jeeps and uniforms so as not to prejudice hardhearted Army supply men who regarded the air forces as too lavishly endowed with the good things of life. This isolation and independence some of the battalion commanders relished. Others felt orphaned and unappreciated. In any event, the aviation engineers did their jobs so well that air force headquarters left them alone.79
By autumn, when the armies were at the Siegfried Line, IX Engineer Command had provided a surplus of airfields. During the next months, which everyone earnestly proclaimed were the coldest and wettest known in Europe for generations, some of the airfields in the rear areas had to be improved. On many runways a product invented by the Canadians, the so-called prefabricated hessian mat, which was cloth coated with bitumen, had been laid because it was light and easy to handle. With bad weather looming or at hand, it was necessary to make many repairs or if possible to replace mat with pierced-steel plank. Hangars were constructed to protect the airplanes, and many airdromes were enlarged and improved. New construction was needed in the Toul-Nancy-Verdun area, where the 2d Brigade was concentrated. There the aviation engineers started work while shells were still falling. Then the cold rains began, and there was repeated trouble with pilots who taxied their planes over the graded runways in defiance of orders. The availability of civilian labor, gravel pits,
rock quarries, and rubble from damaged villages made somewhat easier what was, in general, an uphill task. As a consolation, the aviation engineers were usually out of pup tents and in real barracks by then, and the proximity of Paris as a recreational area brightened the dark autumn months.80
The men of the 1st Brigade spent the autumn mostly in Belgium, repairing airfields and preparing all-weather bases for fighter-bombers. They too were often bogged down in slush and mud. The construction work was difficult, for the high water table was sometimes so close to the surface that earth-moving was likely to have unpredictable results. Civilian labor was available and welcome, although most of the workers were very old or very young, and the troops carried the real burden. Flying bombs and occasional strafings added to the hazards and discomforts of the troops. Then came the Ardennes counteroffensive, which threatened not only the air bases but some of the units themselves, who had to be pulled back hurriedly. Only one American airdrome, Hagenau, was actually overrun by the Germans, and the aviation engineers had the unique experience of burying bombs on the runways and setting them off. The New Year’s Day attack by the German Air Force did some damage and, still worse, gave such a scare that the Ninth Air Force demanded a very extensive program of erecting revetments around the hardstands. This undertaking did not proceed very far, however, because of the February thaws and attendant problems of keeping the airfields operational. And then came the advance into Germany.81
The engineer command structure had worked so well that General Newman went to Washington in October 1944 to secure authorization of a table of organization and equipment for an over-all engineer command, which he felt would reduce manpower and perfect the centralized control of the aviation engineers. While he had enthusiastic support for this proposal in AAF Headquarters, the War Department again declined to approve it. At length, in February 1945, the theater effected the changes it desired on the usual provisional basis, shifting IX Engineer Command from the Ninth Air Force to USSTAF. Even if it were no longer an exclusively Ninth Air Force organization, the name “IX Engineer Command” was so widely and favorably known that it was retained. In April 1945 the final reorganization resulted in Engineer Command, USSTAF (Provisional), under which IX Engineer Command continued to control its two brigades
plus a third organized for maintenance in rear areas. By then there were about 23,000 aviation engineers in the theater. Colonel Mayo, the air engineer at AAF Headquarters, described the organization as being “as nearly ideal as is practicable for a theater of this nature.”82
After the failure of the Ardennes counteroffensive the aviation engineers began work on their first project in Germany, an advanced landing ground at Düren utilizing both lanes of an Autobahn. But this field was within range of enemy artillery and had to be abandoned. Instead, an old German runway at Aachen was renovated by sandwiching rocks, cinders, and two types of mats as a base for the pierced-steel plank, which turned out to involve far more effort than expected. Similarly, at Maastricht, in the Netherlands, the 846th Battalion began a runway on frozen ground which thawed too soon and left a mess which could be remedied only by extensive fillings of gravel. This in turn called for a road heavy enough to support the trucks carrying the gravel from the pits, and the difficulties continued to pile up until the 846th had undergone an experience worthy of the aviation engineers in New Guinea. The bases in France and Belgium were by now enlarged and improved, and most of the battalions were concentrated near the German frontier when the final invasion got under way.83 If the first experiences at the border had been ominous, no less so were the rumors and publicity forecasting a massive redeployment of the aviation engineers to finish the war in the Pacific. This news fell on the very unreceptive ears of troops who had already been overseas for two and three years.84
The over-all plan for airfield construction in Germany called for the provision of strips for fighters and transports, the rehabilitation of captured airdromes, and the building of at least ten heavy-bomber bases and other installations for the occupation air force. West of the Rhine things went as expected. Engineer observers examined German airfields still occupied by the enemy from the nose of reconnaissance planes and decided if they would do. The repairs were sometimes extensive but never beyond the capacities of the aviation engineers, who had now a vast experience. Mines and obstructions left by the Germans were the only serious vexations. The skill of the engineers in preparing fields for the airborne operation VARSITY won a commendation from General Brereton.85
When the Allies crossed the Rhine, the problem of air supply for rapidly advancing units became so critical that the aviation engineers
had to undertake an extensive program of building strips for transports. This was easy work, however, especially since the weather was good. Sod fields were used when possible. German civilians and prisoners could be drawn on for labor. The aviation engineers, along with other Allied units, almost romped through the rest of the stricken Reich. If the Germans plowed up the airfields, the aviation engineers had tractors and graders to smooth them out promptly. When there were craters, it was only a matter of hours until gravel had been located and dumped in them and surfacing placed on the holes. Sometimes the aviation engineers got ahead of their own supplies, or the Army would not let them take their equipment across bridges, or snipers lingered at the airfields; but none of these interfered with their successes. Most of the airfields were ready for days before the air forces were able to occupy them. Reaching Pilsen in Czechoslovakia and Salzburg in Austria, the aviation engineers halted, their mission completed.86
There was every reason for the aviation engineers to share the pride of the Allied forces for the victory in Europe. Nothing had gone seriously wrong, and the absence of criticism made all the more convincing the commendations that came their way. They suffered fewer casualties than had been expected, 119 altogether, including 30 killed and 12 missing in action. As in other theaters, many of the men suffered back injuries from the continual jarring of graders. Their morale had been very high for most of the campaign since D Day. Doing an essential job, largely left alone, and proud, if not careful, of their splendid equipment, the aviation engineers had the unusual wartime satisfaction of performing constructive work that was seldom routine enough to become boring. And while they were not ordinarily in immediate danger, they derived vicarious stimulation from their proximity to combat to whose outcome they contributed so much. Their main achievement, the building or repair of at least 241 airdromes from Normandy to Austria in less than a year, could scarcely be assessed beyond the acknowledgment that it was essential to victory.87
Many of the officers among the aviation engineers, and probably many of the enlisted men, felt that they were taken for granted by the air forces. They believed that they had been left out of planning and slighted in matters of supply, which was always bad and sometimes “execrable,”88 as one of them declared. They objected strongly to
proposals that the Corps of Engineers castles be removed from their uniforms and replaced with the wings and propellers of the Air Corps.89 There was the matter of professional pride which was more precious to them than organizational loyalty. If the European experience had done little to persuade the aviation engineers to submerge their identity in the AAF, the reverse was not true. The air commanders greatly valued the work of their engineers and, both in the theater and in Washington, hoped to incorporate them as an integral part of a future independent air force.
Contents * Previous Chapter (8) * Next Chapter (10)
1 Col. R. E. Smyser, Jr., Draft of Hist. of Aviation Engineers for Historian, IX Engineer Command, 3 Apr. 1944; Hist.Summary of the Aviation Engineers (hereinafter cited as Arnold Hist. Summary) in General Arnold's file; "The Aviation Engineers are Five Years Old," Aviation Engineer Notes (hereinafter cited as Avn. Engr. Notes), June 1945; Brig. Gen. Stuart C. Godfrey, "Engineers with the Army Air Forces," a lecture delivered at the Engineer School, Mar. 1943 (hereinafter cited as Godfrey Lecture).
2 Godfrey Lecture.
3 WD TM 5-255, Aviation Engineers (Tentative), 31 Dec. 1943.
4 Quoted in Godfrey Lecture.
5 Rpt. Bd. of Officers on Aviation Engineers, 20 July 1946, Tab B.
6 Arnold Hist. Summary; 1st Lt. W. K. Wannamacher, Hist. of the Air War in the Pacific Ocean Areas, App. II: The Construction and Development of Air Fields in the Central Pacific through June 1941,. pp. 46–73.
7 Capt. R. D. Montgomery and others, Account of the Battle of Agoloma, Bataan, P.I., Regarding Co. A., 803d EAB, Hist. from June 1, 1941; Office of the Chief Engineer, GHQ, Army Forces, Pacific, Engineers of the Southwest Pacific, 1941–45 (hereinafter cited as ESWP) (8 vols.; Washington, 1947–53), Vol. VI, App. I, pp. 487–91.
8 Maj. Gen. William E. Lynd, "Strategical Function of the Aviation Engineers," Avn. Engr. Notes, July 1944, pp. 2–6; Arnold Hist. Summary; Hist. 11th AF.
9 Arnold Hist. Summary; Status of Engineer Aviation Units, in Air Engineer's Folder, Dept. of Def. files, Record Group 506.
10 This point is brought out repeatedly almost unanimously, in the various units histories and reports of inspections.
11 Col. George Kumpe, Article Circulated to Battalion Commanders by IX Engineer Command, 22 Feb. 1945, and comments thereon, in folder of the Air Engineer, Dept. of Def. files, Record Group 506 (hereinafter cited as Kumpe Folder).
12 Ltr., Col. George Mayo to Brig. Gen. James. B. Newman, 24 Mar. 1944.
13 This publication, despite its usefulness and comprehensiveness, was almost condemned to extinction by Management Control early in 1944. It was allowed to continue minus its morale features. Ltr., Mayo to Newman, 24 Mar. 1944.
14 Normal Assignment of Arms and Services with the Army Air Forces, 26 Aug. 1943 (AG 332, 8 Aug. 1943).
15 Such as the letter from Lt. Gen. M. F. Harmon to Lt. Gen. B. M. Giles, 13 Oct. 1944.
16 Memo for CG AAF from Brig. Gen. S. . Godfrey, Sub.: Control of Aviation Engineer Troops in Theaters of Operation, 13 Oct. 1943.
17 Report of Conference on Airborne Aviation Engineers, 8 June 1942.
18 WD TM 5-255, 15 Apr. 1944; "Notes on Airborne Aviation Engineers," Avn. Engr. Notes Feb.–Mar. 1943, pp. 1–3.
19 Ltr. Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey to Lt. Gen. G. C. Kenney, 28 May 1943.
20 Hq., AAF Study, Aviation Engineer Units, Continental U.S. and Overseas, as of 15 Sept. 1943 shows the variety of these units as well as their small numbers. Occasional letters from the Air Engineer's Office in 1943 and 1944 indicate efforts to inspire interest in them on the part of overseas air forces headquarters.
21 Rpt. Bd. of Officers on Aviation Engineers, 20 July 1946.
22 Hist. 8th AF, Jan. 1944–July 1945, Special Staff Sections, traces course of the construction program from the earliest days. Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey, Rpt. on Airdromes and Aviation Engineers (hereinafter cited as Godfrey Rpt.), 19 Jan. 1943; 4. Oct. 1943. These development reports were based on Gen. Godfrey's extensive inspection tours.
23 See, among others, unit histories of the 814th, 832d, 834th and 950th EAB's.
24 Hist. 8th AF, Jan. 1944–July 1945, Special Staff Sections; AAF in WW II, II, 646; ltr., CG, AAF to CG< SOS, sub.: Delays in Shipment of Equipment for Aviation Engineer Units, 12 Sept. 1942; Hist. USAAF Hq., 8th AF, 19 Aug. 1942–1 May 1943, VII AFSC; ltr., Lt. Col. M. J. Goodman to Brig. Gen. James B. Newman, 6 Dec., 1943; ltr., Lt. Col. R. E. Smyser, Jr., to Brig Gen. S. C. Godfrey, 10 Aug. 1942
25 Thus We Served, Hist., 834th EAB.
26 Godfrey Rpt., 19 Jan. 1943.
27 Hist. of the Aviation Engineers in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (hereinafter cited as Avn. Engr. in MTO), pp. 4–5; Policies Affecting Aviation Engineers in the Mediterranean Campaigns (3d ed.) (hereinafter cited as Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit.), p. 3; Godfrey Rpt., 19 Jan. 1943.
28 AAF in WW II, II, 118; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 7–12; Hist. 814th EAB, 15 Jan. 1942–17. Aug. 1943.
29 Brig. Gen. Donald A. Davison, interview, "Aviation Engineers in the Battle of Tunisia," AFFSAT war room, 8 June 1943 (hereinafter cited as Davison Interview); Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 12–13.
30 Davison Interview; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 14–15; Hist. 887th Abn. Engr. Avn. Co., Aug. 1944; Godfrey Rpt., 19 Jan. 1943.
31 Avn. Engr. in MTO, p. 15.
32 Hist. 814th EAB, 15 Jan. 1942–17 Aug. 1943.
33 Ltr., Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey to Brig. Gen. Donald A. Davison, 28 Sept. 1943.
34 Avn. Engr. in MTO, p. 17.
35 Davison Interview; Hist 814th EAB, 15 Jan. 1942–17 Aug. 1943.
36 Ltr., Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey to Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, 5 June 1943; Davison Interview.
37 Ltr., Brig. Gen. S. C. Godfrey to Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, 27 Jan. 1943; Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit., p. 6; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp;. 27–37 and 50–53; AAF in WW II, II, 119.
38 Ltr., CO, 838th EAB to CG, XII AFSC, 23 Sept. 19434; Avn. Engr. in MTO, p. 59.
39 Col. John C. Colonna, Introductory Note in Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit.
40 Ltr., Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz to Gen. H. H. Arnold, 6 May 1943.
41 Godfrey Rpt., 4 Oct. 1943; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 105–6.
42 Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 106–6.
43 Summary of Rpt., 815th EAB on Sicilian Operation, Avn. Engr. Notes, Apr. 1944, pp. 2–6.
44 Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 113–19.
45 Ibid.pp. 121–27, 182–83; special account in 809th EAB Hist. for 1943.
46 Avn Engr. in MTO, pp. 128–31.
47 Ibid., pp. 135–41, 163–65, 183.
48 Ibid., pp. 158–61.
49 Ibid., pp. 75–81; AAF in WW II, II, 560; Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit., p. 7; ltr., Col. R. E. Smyser Jr., to CG, 8th AF, 10 Sept., 1943; ltr., Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer to Maj. Gen. Eugene Reybold, Chief of Engineers, 26 June 1943; Memo for Historian, IX Engineer Command from Col. R. E. Smyser, Jr., 3 Apr. 1945.
50 Avn. Engr in MTO, pp. 191–92.
51 Ibid., pp. 193–94.
52 Ibid., pp. 194–95, 199–200.
53 Ibid., pp. 205–6, 208; Airfields in the MTO.
54 AAF in WW II, III, 345; Airfields in the MTO; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 209–12.
55 Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 336–44; see also AAF in WW II, II, 568.
56 Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit., p. 13; Avn. Engr. in MTO, p. 335–37, 344.
57 Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 215–16.
58 Ibid., pp. 224–40; AAF in WW II, II, 393.
59 Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 255–61; Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit., p. 4.
60 Policies Affecting Avn. Engr. in Medit, p. 4; Avn. Engr in MTO, pp. 250–55.
61 Hist. 812th EAB.
62 AAF in WW II, III, 432; Avn. Engr. in MTO, pp. 283–84, 290–91; Airfields in the MTO; Hist. IX Engineer Command (Wiesbaden, 1934) (hereinafter cited as Hist. IX EC), p. 194; "Reconstruction of Airfields in Southern France," Avn. Engr. Notes, Feb. 1945, p. 5; Hist. 887th Abn. Engr. Avn. Co., Aug. 1944.
63 "Reconstruction of Airfields in Southern France," Avn. Engr. Notes, Feb. 1945; Engr in MTO, pp. 315–20; Airfields in the MTO.
64 Avn. Engr in MTO, pp. 243–47.
65 Memo for Historian, IX Engineer Command, from Col. R. E. Smyser, Jr., 3 Apr. 1945; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands in the ETO, Vol. VII, chap. iii; Hist IX EC, pp. 12–14.
66 Brig. Gen. Stuart C. Godfrey to Col. Karl B. Schilling, 30 Nov. 1943; Hist. IX EC, p. 16; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands, p. 11; AAF in WW II, III, 562–63.
67 Hist. IX EC, pp. 16, 33–-39, 40–47; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands, p. 17; Hq., IX EC, Folder of Section Histories (hereinafter cited as IX EC Folder), A-2 and A-4; Hist. 832d EAB; Hist. 834th EAB.
68 Hist. IX EC, pp. 62-64; ltr., Brig. Gen. James B. Newman, Jr., to Col. George Mayo, 22 June 1944.
69 Interview with Brig. Gen. Newman by Maj. B. Wobbeking, 1 Nov. 1944; IX EC Folder; Hist. IX EC, pp 66; Rpt. of WD Observers Bd., 12 Aug. 1944.
70 Ltr., Newman to Mayo, 22 June 1944
71 Ltr., Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton to Lt. Gen. B. M. Giles, 5 July 1944.
72 Col. X. H. Price, Rpt. on Avn. Engr., WD Observers Bd., 15 Aug. 1944.
73 Hist. IX EC, p. 67.
74 Ltr., Newman to Mayo, 2 2 June 1944; Hist. IX EC, p. 70; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands, VII, 20; IX EC Folder; Gordon H. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, 1951), p. 448.
75 Hist. IX EC, pp. 82, 146; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands, VII, 22; IX EC Folder; “Airfields in France,” Avn. Engr. Notes, Dec. 1944, p. 4.
76 Newman to Mayo, 2 2 June 1944. This comment prior to the breakout was generally valid for the rest of the campaign.
77 AAF in WW II, III, 567–68; Hist. IX EC, p. 87; “Airfields in Europe,” Avn. Engr. Notes, Dec. 1944, p. 4; IX EC Folder.
78 Hist, IX EC, pp. 88–91.
79 Col. W. J. Ray, paper presented at meeting, Hq., IX EC, Mar. 1945; Hist., IX EC, pp. 89–90, 100, 148; Hist. 8345h EAB
80 Col. W. J. Ray Paper, Mar. 1945; Hist. IX EC, pp. 101–4; Hist. 832d EAB; Hist. 834th EAB; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands. VII. 12.
81 Hist: IX EC, pp. 104, 160; Kumpe Folder.
82 Memo for General Arnold from Colonel Mayo, 5 Apr. 1945; Memo for Col. Mayo from Maj. Gen. Donald Wilson, 23 Apr. 1945; ltr., Mayo to Godfrey, 2 Nov. 1944; Hist. IX EC, pp. 102, 146; AAF in WW II, III, 570–71.
83 Hist. IX EC, p. 105.
84 Col. George Mayo, Rpt. Air Engineer, On Temporary Duty in ETO and MTO, 10 Jan-3 Mar. 1945, Tab F (hereinafter cited as Mayo Rpt.).
85 Hist. IX EC, pp. 115, 161; ltr., Lt. Gen. L. H. Brereton to 877th EAB, 7 May 1945.
86 Hist. IX EC, pp. 118–30.
87 Mayo Rpt.; Hist. 1X EC, p. 169; 9th AF and Its Principal Commands, VII, 146 (Foreword).
88 IX EC Folder.
89 Kumpe Folder; Mayo Rpt.