Preparation and movement to the European Theater of Operation of the 367th fighter group
The month of February 1944 saw the last phases of preparation and the completion of training for combat duty. Several high ranking officers inspected each squadron. The equipment, documentations, procedures, clothing, etc. were checked. The final POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement) inspections were performed. The month of February saw also the cessation of flying.
On March 8, 1944, the group headquarters and the 393rd FS began entrainment in Oakland, the 392nd FS in Sacramento and the 394th FS in Hayward. After 6 days of travelling at a very low speed, the trains arrived at Camp Shanks, New York, on the 13th. The following week was spent of additional training, lectures, insurance adjustments and inspection. From the night of the 16th, 50% of the men and officers were granted a 12 hours pass. The next night, the other 50% were granted the 12 hours pass. These passes were granted on alternating nights until the 21 when the squadrons were alerted. At 7 o’clock on the evening of March 21 the headquarters and the 3 squadrons boarded a train to reach a pier in New Jersey where they were ferried to the pier of embarkation in New-York city. There, the men embarked the Duchess of Bedford where they received lectures about life jackets, emergency procedures, etc.
Men of the 367th FG an inspection linked to the Preparation for Overseas Movement in California (collection 367th FG association)
Pilots of the 392nd FS attending class in recognition in Sacramento (collection 367th FG association)
Lieutenant Kenneth Markley, 392nd FS, ready for ground training (Caroline Cobb via Clyde Deavers / collection 367th FG association)
On March 23 the ship left the pier of New-York city at 5:30 AM and went his way on the Hudson River. The ship passed Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island. Lots of men certainly had special thoughts at this moment. They certainly remembered all the hard steps they went through during their training. Even the most eager pilot had his own feeling for his family and was certainly thinking to what would be ahead. Once at sea, the ship joined a small convoy of around twenty ships, most of them being troop ships.
After 11 days at sea the Duchess of Bedford reached Greenock, Scotland. The next and last step of the trip was made by train again. The men with their B-4 bags entrained in Greenock station. The train slowly went through the country. As they left the station at night, the men discovered only the next morning the English green countryside, the houses made of old stones, the farms and pastures. After 14 hours of travel the train finally arrived at Linhurst station. On April 15, 1944, the 367th FG finally arrived at Stoney Cross, England. The pilots discovered that they would fly the Lockheed P-38 Lightning as 85 of them were already awaiting their ground crews and pilots in their hardstands. Many of the pilots had made the wish to fly the North American P-51 Mustang but the Mustang were assigned mainly to the outfits of the 8thAir Force for the long range escort job. The Lightning with his 4 machine guns and his cannon concentrated on the nose was a good plane for ground support. With its huge fire power it could afflict a lot of punishment to the enemy and it could bring his pilot back to the base on single engine. The 367th FG was assigned to the 9th Air Force. 25 P-38s were assigned to each squadron. Some were brand new but some were transferred from 8th Air Force groups. On April 15, the same day as its arrival in Stoney Cross, the group was transferred from the 100thFighter Wing to the 70th Fighter Wing of the IX Tactical Air Command whose Commanding Officer was General Elwood “Pete‟ Quesada.
Once in Stoney Cross the pilots received additional ground training on topics like weather, geography, procedures and also aircraft recognition. The mechanics and other aircraft specialists also began to learn how to maintain the Lightning. They also have to perform on field modifications specified by Lockheed before the ship be considered on commission. The pilots had to check out in the P-38 and next to add some flight hours to their logbook. At the end of April 1944, the group received mock Field Orders for practice briefings. After some practice missions the group got operational on May 9th.