Thursday, April 26, 2012

P-51s Began to Arrive

Excerpts from the 359th Fighter Group's Reports from the Office of the Group Historian:

27 April 44 - "P-51s began to arrive and on the 28th they arrived in swarms so that there were 41 on the station that night. They were flown in by ferry pilots, the Group losing its wingshackled P-47D22s to the Ninth Air Force."

30 April 44 - "The P-51 complement of 76 now was complete, and there were more than 140 aircraft on the station as April ended..."

4 May 44 - "P-51s were flown over Europe by the Group for the first time on 4 May, when the 369th Squadron put up 13 in a hybrid formation of 28 which flew into Holland on FO 326."

One of the first P-51Bs to arrive at East Wretham. Photo courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella. Text and photo archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

East Wretham Class A Standard Airfield

An area of Breckland heath six miles NE of Thetford, SW of East Wretham village, came into use as a satellite for Honington in 1940. As with most hurriedly acquired sites for RAF satellite aerodromes, East Wretham started out with requisitioned properties and a few hastily-erected huts and even tents. Eventually, two grass runways were developed, NE-SW measuring 1,880 yards and NNE-SSE at 1,400 yards. Over the next two years, 24 Macadam hardstandings with long access tracks were put down, and a technical site erected on the west side, with two Bellman and six Blister hangars at various points round the perimeter. The dispersed camp sites were NW and NE of the airfield and consisted of eight domestic, a communal and sick quarters. Wretham Hall was requisitioned and used as an officers mess.

Officially transferred to the US Eighth Air Force in September 1943, the 359th Fighter Group and its three squadrons arrived in October and went into action in December flying P-47 Thunderbolts. The group converted to Mustangs the following spring and remained in occupation until late autumn of 1945. East Wretham was officially returned to the RAF on November 1, 1945.

368th Fighter Squadron dispersal area, East Wretham Airfield. Courtesy of Alfred M. Swiren: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Air Power History: Review of Fogg in the Cockpit by Lt. Col. Steve Ellis, USAFR (Ret.), Docent of the Museum of Flight in Seattle

“In October 1943, budding artist and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, Howard Fogg, went to war. Assigned to the 368th Fighter Squadron of the 359th Fighter Group, Fogg deployed to England in support of Eighth Air Force’s bombing campaign against German-occupied Europe…

“…The group underwent its strongest test immediately before and after the Allied invasion of France in June 1944. During this period, the 359th primarily focused on low-level attacks against lines of communication and airfields. The Mustang’s vulnerability to ground fire was increasingly obvious. Higher headquarters concluded that P-51 equipped units in the future would focus on higher-altitude counterair operations…

“…Fogg’s uncensored insights into the day-to-day routine of a typical fighter pilot offer an informative perspective. To provide some historical context for the layperson, the Foggs briefly interject significant events elsewhere in the world. The historical summaries and morale reports provide a point of view on a grander scale.

“…While Fogg’s accounts will be of interest to students of World War II fighter operations, railroad enthusiasts should be especially pleased. After the war, Fogg emerged as one of the nation’s premier railroad artists...”

~ Lt. Col. Steve Ellis, USAFR (Ret.), Docent, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington. Air Power History, the Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation, Spring 2012.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why did we write Fogg in the Cockpit?

Fogg in the Cockpit began and ended as a labor of love, but the focus of that love changed as the work unfolded. Howard Fogg's legacy was already firmly established thanks to his success as a railroad artist, but what son or daughter-in-law could resist the opportunity to build on that legacy when presented with a document as fascinating as a wartime diary? The format is compelling: no facts lost or colored by time, the trivial and the significant presented with equal clarity, and events offered up not through the veil of nostalgia but simply as fact. This then, was the basis and the inspiration for Fogg in the Cockpit.

And then the unexpected. The secondary players, men whose names would never appear on an internet search engine, took on a life of their own. Men who helped win the war and then came home to lead quiet lives. Men who, far too often, did not come home. The book was not just about Captain Fogg anymore, it was about the 359th Fighter Group; its pilots, officers, and support personnel. The supporting cast became stars, and the love of Howard Fogg, with whom we shared a lifetime, became a love of the men of the 359th, men we would never have had the privilege and honor of knowing if not for Fogg in the Cockpit.

Green Hornet” P-51 with "A" Flight, 368th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Clockwise from lower left: Lieutenant Wilbur H. Lewis (standing), Captain Howard L. Fogg, Lieutenant John B. Hunter, Lieutenant Paul E. Olson, and Lieutenant Joseph M. Ashenmacher.