The Squadron disembarked at
Greenock, Scotland at 1500 hours 3 April 1944, going directly to the Railroad
Station by ferry from H.M.S. Duchess of Bedford. The voyage across the
Atlantic was pleasant, yet uneventful. All personnel present and accounted
for, in good health, morale high. There had been little sea sickness aboard
and no serious illness.
A troop train awaited us, our
first experience with British lines. The small coaches and light construction
amazed everyone. No sooner was the train boarded, than we were serenaded by a
good Scottish Kilts band. A gesture of welcome appreciated by all. While the
band played, a Red Cross unit passed thru the train with hot American coffee,
doughnuts, cigarettes and chewing gum. After thirteen days aboard ship with
English made coffee and tea, real honest to God American coffee was a real
The troop train made up of 1st
and 3rd class coaches, (Train Commander) Michael J. Ingelido left promptly on
scheduled time, 1800 hours, for the trip across Scotland, thru London, an
overnight journey, arriving at Asnford, Kent the following morning at 1115
We were met by the advance
party of our group who had preceded us a month before, Major Bennink, Major
Blate, Captain Feld. It was a pleasure to greet Major Bennink, as Colonel, and
to advise him that his promotion to Lt. Colonel had come thru since his
departure from the states.
A truck transport was waiting
to take us to our new station 419 located near Woodchurch, Kent.
It was a surprise to learn that
we were assigned to the 9th Air Force. Our preconceived ideas of being in the
8th Air Force and consequent permanent billets and conveniences, were soon
dispelled. Where were the accommodations where we were "To live like
Kings" as we had been told thru letters received back in the States?
It was raining, dismal and
gloomy when we arrived, and our first glimpse of our new home was none too
preposessing. A few scattered tents, piles of belly tanks, a small cook tent,
and acres of mud. After much confusion and milling around, even the cold
unappetizing meal (after 28 hours of K rations) served was quite welcome. The
presence of an American Red Cross Club Mobile, in charge of two attractive
American girls handing out hot coffee and doughnuts, rather saved the day.
Upon arrival in the area
assigned the 412th, Squadron Officers were assigned their quarters, an average
or five to each pyramidal tent. In each case assigned by "flights"
or "sections", so living together, and working together made for a
well knit "team". The enlisted men were assigned an average of seven
to a tent, also by sections and departments. The area assigned the squadron is
well located on flat land, in the midst of an apple orchard. As it had been
raining for a week before our arrival, galoshes were immediately issued to
cope with the sticky mud and clay.
All was confusion during the
first few days of "shake down" and organization. The cold, damp
climate, bare tents without floors, surrounded by mud, called on the ingenuity
of all to make rapid and necessary improvements.
Wood, while at a premium, was
secured from every available source. Soon tent floors, tables, chairs, wash
stands, were quickly built, and quarters then became more livable. Nothing
much could be done to improve the English type stoves provided us, so in many
cases outdoor fire places were built of brick foraged from nearby walls, that
had probably been standing for many years, undisturbed until the
"yanks" arrived. Within five days after our arrival the sun began to
shine, the mud dried up, consequently spirits soared. Then for the first time
it was realized that we are situated on what had been a beautiful old estate.
Still intact were the main house, tenants homes, barns, walled in gardens,
brick lined drainage ponds, even an old but very well built "spring
house". The "spring house" was soon commandeered for use as an
air raid shelter. The main house and surrounding buildings are being used by
an R.A.F. outfit for head quarters and offices, while a British A.T.S. unit is
stationed there. Liason between the A.T.S. girls and our enlisted men was
Bicycles became very popular,
many were purchased by both officers and men. Not only to provide
transportation over the widely dispersed field, but as the most rapid and
convenient transportation to the local pubs. Incidentally everyone soon
"wised up" and learned whenever possible to have some native
purchase their bikes for them. The usual local practice being two sets of
prices, one for the English and one for the Yanks. Guess who paid double the
usual price. Prices paid for bikes . . . (remaining
"Sweating out" mail
soon became uppermost in everyones thoughts. The holding of out going mail for
two weeks for security reasons caused much concern, due to failure of those
back home to hear promptly of our safe arrival. All had been told that our
next of kin would be promptly advised by the War Department of the safe
arrival of our convoy. To date (April 29th) no one has learned of any such
notification. This has caused much griping and bitching.
The first incoming mail arrived
on April 11th but this was mail bearing our original A.P.O. number 9680, mail
that had been written before we left the states, that which had accumulated at
Richmond, Virginia and Camp Shanks.
The first letter received
bearing new A.P.O. number 141 arrived for Capt. R. H. Nash on April 16th, with
postmark April 11th. The probable reason for this was that Capt. Nash was on
T.D. on April 5th and mailed a letter from an A.P.O. in London on that date.
The first mail in any quantity to arrive using the new A.P.O. 141 arrived on
April 23rd, nineteen days after our arrival here, thirty days from the date we
On April 17th (S.0. No. 75)
Major Michael J. Ingelido, 1st Lt. Walter E. Knudson, 1st Lt. William A.
Keller were assigned on T.D. with the 358th Fighter Group at Station #411 to
participate in three operational missions.
Excitement ran rife in the
squadron upon the return of these pilots to learn that Major Ingelido, while
on his first mission in this theater, claimed a JU-88 destroyed. (Copy of
Combat Claim [was]
Attached). It seemed quite fitting that the Squadron C.O. should be first to
contact E/A for it seemed a good omen, and what is to be expected from this
"hot outfit" when it becomes operational for combat.
After the first two weeks of
shake down and orientation, with daily ground school classes and exercises,
our assigned planes started to arrive. The pilots shaking mud from their feet,
flexing of muscles, and stretching of wings are happy to be airborne again,
and welcome the opportunity to see this country from the air.
The regularity of mail, planes
to fly, and the expectation of soon becoming operational brought morale to a
new high peak.