HIDDEN HISTORY: D-DAY
YANKS OVER NORMANDY
Why were US Navy pilots fl ying RAF Spitfi res on Why were US Navy pilots fl ying RAF Spitfi res on
Why were US Navy pilots fl ying RAF Spitfi res on D-Day? RON JONES reveals a little-known story
IN THE EARLY part of 1944, as the Allied invasion of Normandy was fast approaching, the planners of Operation Neptune, which was to cover maritime participation, decided that additional artillery spotters would be required for the large number of bombardment ships scheduled to attack targets on the French coast. A request was made to the US Navy (USN) for assistance, and the result would claim a unique place in the annals of the US Navy’s history.
Realising that the spotting aircraft carried on American ships — Curtiss SOC Seagulls and Vought OS2V Kingfi shers
— would be no match if intercepted by Luftwaffe fi ghters, the American airmen selected would fl y that most British of fi ghters, the Supermarine Spitfi re.
Yanks in Hampshire Some 17 pilots from the American ships USS Nevada, Texas, Arkansas, Quincey, Augusta and Tuscaloosa were ordered to fl y from their ships in their Kingfi shers and Seagulls to the seafront at Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire, where their aircraft were slipped and parked in open storage behind the blister hangers on the north-east side of the Royal Naval Air Station, HMS Daedalus.
These pilots, followed by 40
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enlisted men from the ships, were assigned to form a new Squadron, VCS-7, under the command of Lt H.W. Calland of the US Naval Reserve, from USS Nevada. Training was to be undertaken at RAF Middle Wallop with pilots of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group (TRG) of the Ninth Tactical Air Force, which was equipped with Spitfi re Mk Vs. A total of 25 Spitfi re VBs was made available by the RAF for VCS-7, and fl ight training commenced at the beginning of May, covering defensive tactics, aerobatics, navigation, formation fl ying and spotting procedures. It was decided that the Royal Navy (RN) method of spotting, using the
Groundcrew of VCS-7 pose with one of
the unit’s Spitfi re Mk Vs, all of which were marked with the number “4” and a letter on the nose, at Lee-on-Solent
in June 1944. The Spitfi res retained their standard RAF colours — and their
previous individual kill markings, as
seen on this example.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS VIA AUTHOR
AEROPLANE JUNE 2009