Two Mark V Spitfires (serial numbers EN904, ‚War Weary‘ and Serial number AR404, ‚War Weary‘) of the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance
Group at Mount Farm. Image by Robert Astrella, 7th PRG (Photo: Roger Freeman Collection, American Air Museum in Britain).
67th Reconnaissance Group
After the USA entry in the war the US Air Force reconnaissance
units were equipped with North American O-47 Owl, the aircraft
designed for an old fashioned battlefield observation and manually
operated camera by a specialized crew member. Considering the
contemporary battlefield conditions the units conceived in such
manner became obsolete. In 1943 Brigadier General Lawrence Kuter re-defined the tactical reconnaissance mission doctrine. The
fast, low flying aircraft with automatic cameras were required.
67th Reconnaissance Group was formed as 67th Observer Group at
Esler Field airport in Luisiana on September 1, 1941. In September
1942 it arrived in Britain and in May 1943 it was renamed as 67th
Reconnaissance Group composed of four Tactical Reconnaissance
15th TSR continued the legacy of the WWI 15th reconnaissance
squadron. It became part of 67th RG on December 30, 1943 when
it was transferred under IX. Fighter Command. Within 67th RG it
operated from RAF base Aldermaston until the end of war. In January 1944 Capt.Clyde East, one of the Americans serving in RCAF,
assumed the squadron command. His personal score stood at 13
kills, all achieved in F-6 Mustang. 15th TSR total score was 65 kills,
all while flying F-6 of various versions. The squadron flew Spitfires
Mk. V left behind in England by 31st FG when it left for North Africa.
107th TSR was another squadron with WWI tradition and later National Guards. Since September 1942 it flew out of RAF base Membury. On June 28, 1944 as a first 67th RG squadron, it flew over to Normandy airfield. Its score was 4 kills all achieved on F-6B Mustang.
109th TSR was also formed on the National Guards reconnaissance
squadron foundation. It has been located in the Great Britain since
September 1942. It was renamed as 109th TSR in May 1943 with a
base at RAF Membury. It flew Spitfires left behind by 31st FG. In
June 1944 it flew over to France already fully equipped with F-6B
Mustang. Its total score stood at 11 kills all achieved flying F-6.
153rd LS (Liaison Squadron) was also integrated into 67th RG in December 1943. It flew several Spitfires inherited from 52nd FG and
31st FG with changing the code letters.
12th TSR also flew Spitfires left behind by 31st FG and 52nd FG. As a
part of 67th RG it operated until June 1944 when in was integrated
into the 10th RG.
During the training after its formation the 67th RG flew „second
hand“ Spitfires. The unit entered the actual combat as the eyes of
the 1st US Army fully re-equipped with dedicated reconnaissance
F-6B Mustangs and later switched to F-6Ds. In the beginning of the
Operation Overlord 67th RG operated out of the bases in England.
In June 1944 the whole outfit was relocated to France. Tactical reconnaissance was a very dynamic category of the air combat. The
missions were flown at low altitudes, the pilots aggressively engaged in the dogfights and strafing the ground transportation, airports and other enemy’s infrastructures was also part of the sorties.
67th RG was commanded by Col.George W. Peck since December 6,
1943 until the end of hostilities.
7th Photo Reconnaissance Group
7th PG was a strategic reconnaissance group of the 8th Air Army of
the USAAF. It was comprised of four squadrons, 13th, 14th, 22nd
and 27th. Since May 1943 it operated Lockheed F-5 Lightning. Strategic reconnaissance, as opposed to the tactical one, was conducted at the high altitudes above 30 000 feet. At these flight levels
however the Lightnings suffered from serious problems, besides insufficient cockpit heating the engine and supercharger failures ocurred. Surprisingly another problem presented itself in the form of
insufficient range limited to 300 miles. On August 14, 1943 7th PG
command was assumed by Col. Homer Sanders, Pacific war veteran.
Immediately after taking command he flew the mock dogfight with
Spitfire Mk. V during which his supercharger exploded and splinters damaged the other parts of the airframe as well. Lightning
superchargers exploded rather frequently and therefore the armor
protection was provided for the pilots. Sanders convinced Major
General Ike Eaker that his group, in order to successfully complete
its missions, needs Spitfires Mk. XI. In November 1943 first Spitfires
PR Mk. XI were delivered to 7th PG.
Spitfire PR MK. XI was unarmed, photo-reconnaissaince special version equipped with a set of automatic cameras and efficient heating
of both the cockpit and camera installation spaces. In addition it
carried the increased fuel supply featuring 218 gal tanks as opposed
to 65 gallons in the standard fighter version Spitfire. The MK. XI
cruising altitude was 44 000 feet and the airspeed at 27 500 feet
was 675 kph. The range was impressive 2 200 km. With a drop tank
Spitfire Mk. XI was able to fly round trip to Berlin. However it lacked the pressurized cockpit which was probably its only weak point.
Initially the new Spitfires were distributed among all squadrons of
the group but later were consolidated at 14th PS which, during the
training, flew Spitfires Mk. V and therefore its personnel had the
experience with Spitfire maintenance. The Lightnings were allocated to the other group squadrons.
INFO Eduard - August 2021