Photo from Normandy Invasion in June 1944 shows Lieutenant Robert F. Doyle, USNR, shaking hands with his wingman, Ensign John F.
Mudge, USNR, after their return from a gunfire-spotting and strafing mission over the German lines, in which they broke up an enemy
armored column moving toward the Normandy front. Both officers are pilots of U.S. Navy Cruiser Scouting Squadron Seven (VCS-7), which
switched from their usual SOC floatplanes to British Spitfire fighters during the Normandy operation (Photo: US National Archives).
was frequently strafed by attacking Fw 190s the personnel could
enjoy unusual comfort, when for the first time since February, they
could sleep in houses instead of tents. Also, for the first time since
31st FG left England, the American girls showed up, being from
women’s auxiliary corps, Red Cross nurses and there were chances
to meet the local girls as well. The resting camp on Capri was also
available. In November the group was flying sorties to Rome and
Monte Cassino. Spitfires Mk.V usually flew at the lower altitudes
with Spitfires Mk.IX and Mk.VIII covering them at higher altitudes.
The 307th and 308th squadrons flew Spitfires Mk.IX, 309th squadron
Mk.VIII. Spitfires Mk.VIII were camouflaged in Desert Scheme while
Spitfires Mk.IX in Day Fighter Scheme. On November 11 Pomigliano
airport was bombed. On January 18, 1944, the group relocated to
Castel Volturno airfield which featured runway with PSP (Perforated Steel Plates) surface.
Operation Shingle, Anzio landing
Landing at Anzio commenced on January 22, 1944, with the mission to bypass the German positions in Gustav Line, barely 150
km south of Rome. The 31st FG task was air cover of the beaches
and invading units. As early as January 28, the 307th FS ground
personnel was transported by boats to Nettuno, the port and city
section of Anzio, with the intention to build a runway there. The
307th FS flew over there on February 1 and maintained a small
contingent there, however the airport was constantly under fire
and on February 25 the 307th FS retreated from Nettuno to return
to Castel Volturno in the middle of March. At the same time, the
new P-51B started to arrive from Algeria to Castel Volturno and the
31st FG squadrons started the transition to them. On March 14, the
mock combat between the new Mustang and Spitfire Mk.IX took
place. Despite the conclusion that Spitfire is better in dogfight the
further transition process remained unaffected. On March 24 the
Vesuvius erupted. On March 29, 36 Spitfires flew the last sortie of
this type with 31st FG to Rome. As of April 1, 31st FG was transferred under 15th AF command and with its new P-51B Mustangs relocated to San Severo airbase at the Italian east coast from where
it continued flying escorts for 15th AF strategic bombers raiding the
targets in Europe. During the month of April, the group flew twice
to Ploesti in Romania, Sofia in Bulgaria, Wiener Neustadt in Austria,
INFO Eduard - August 2021
Piombino, Milano and Monfalcone in Italy and also Toulon in France.
During these missions the pilots of the group shot down 51 enemy
aircraft. Flying Spitfires of all versions the 31st FG shot down in
total 185 enemy aircraft.
486th Fighter Training Group
One of the less known American units flying Spitfires was 486th
Fighter Training Group based at RAF Coxhill since December 1943.
In February 1944 the unit relocated to RAF base Halesworth where
it remained until the end of hostilities. Its inventory was composed
of the older Spitfires Mk.V of various versions discharged from RAF
units. First of all however it operated the mix of the American
types, Lightnings, Mustangs and Thunderbolts. It also flew the target-towing aircraft.
US NAVY Spitfires – VCS-7
VCS-7 a US Navy unit was established in April 1944 in Glasgow equipped with a mix of reconnaissance aircraft Curtiss SOC Seagull and
OS2U Kingfisher trasferred from the US Navy battleships. The unit’s
mission was to direct the artillery fire from the battleships during
the operation Overlord. The old aircraft were stored in Ipswitch
and pilots from six battleships were grouped at RAF base Middle
Wallop. The training on Spitfires was conducted by experienced
Spitfire pilots form 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and
67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group. The unit was commanded by
Lt. Commander William Denton Jr. from the battleship USS Quincy.
Due to the shortage of the ground crews the aircraft maintenance
was performed by civilian contractors. After the training the unit
was relocated to the Royal Naval Air Station base in Lee-on-Solent.
In pairs the pilots completed 34 missions of directing the battleships‘ artillery fire. One pilot was shot down but after several days
successfully made it back home. Ater June 10 the VCS-7 activity, together with battleship artillery fire at Normandy beaches dropped
and ultimately, on June 23 the unit was disbanded.