By 1st Lt. Donald F. Snow
Before we had been settled a month at our new location, the Marne River threatened to engulf our living area so we were obliged to wallow through the mud to slightly higher ground.
On November 9th the Marne River decided to flood us out properly. Everyone pitched in to salvage equipment for a third location on the so-called airfield. Our airstrip was out of commission the whole site was a sticky sea of mud. Some operations, supporting the Third Army's drive into the Siegfried line defenses were flown from A-64, St. Dizier, an airfield already crowded with every type of combat plane imaginable. Trucks transported men back and forth the eight miles from the flight line.
Nasty rumors made their way into camp around the latter part of November. The rumor became a reality. Our Squadron and the whole Group was to fly P-47 Thunderbolts. Spirits of both crew-men and pilots dropped to a low. It was quite a come-down at first to an outfit whose whole core, had been formed around the P-51 Mustang. We took this change-over in stride, however, and by the time we moved into our new tent-city at A-98, Rosieres, near Nancy, France our pilots were well on the way to becoming expert throttle-jockey's on the new "thunderbuckets." Armament had a tough job to accomplish in changing over to P-47s but they soon had a smoothly running bomb-up and re-arming section. Our pilots were right in the thick of the fight to throw the hatred Krauts back into Germany during Rundsted's Ardennes offensive. Flying in poor visibility, we pounded the attacking columns with all the bombs and 50-caliber shells we could muster into the air.
1st Lt. Raymond Bain in the cockpit of his P-47D-26 Thunderbolt "Scatter Bain", with ground crew seated on the wing to help taxi the aircraft. This aircraft was lost due to flak damage with pilot, Lt. George New during a naplam dropping mission on 10 February, 1945. (Bain)
It was extremely cold and windy at A-98, snow had fallen and the airfield was in the throes of winter when Christmas time came along. Jerry happened by on many a night in December, strafing and bombing sporadically, indirectly causing our fox-holes to become deeper each night.
Dances for officers and men were plenty and popular. Many romances resulted from our association with the friendly French native folk.
Every other man had either a motorcycle, a motorbike, an automobile or a bicycle. At times the roads looked like speedways.
On To Germany
The pilots were living out at Saizerais, stacked two-deep in rooms of an old house in the nearby village. On the 17th of February, P-51s came back with a bang, making pilots and crewmen happy, even those who didn't work directly with the plane felt the "old thrill" as the Mustangs screamed in for a peel-up. Our C/O, Major "Deacon," Talbot, was happy to see the morale of his personnel pick up 200%.
On March 23, Major Talbot's formation covering the Rhine crossing at Germsheim, attacked and destroyed 7 of 15 Jerries who came into the area to attack the Third Army as it pushed over the river.
A 335th P-51D Mustang taking off from Y-64 Ober-Olm, Germany, April 1945. (National Archives)
Soon after the first of April, we packed up again and headed for Airstrip Y-64, at Mainz. Our Mustangs were flying deep into Germany 'clobbering' Kraut convoys, rail-movements, and airfields. 355th Mustangs attacked an airfield near Czechoslovakia on the 15th of April, claiming 29 aircraft destroyed and 30 damaged, on-the-ground claims. Y-64 was rather a novelty, being our first location on an ex-Jerry base in the Fatherland. Every other man had either a motorcycle, a motorbike, an automobile or a bicycle. At times the roads looked like speedways. Men were bunked in barracks and the officers of the Group all lived together in one huge house.
Our last move before the end of the war took us to the luxurious living quarters at Ansbach, R-45 Airstrip where the hangar space was large enough to park most of our aircraft indoors. By the first days of May we knew that the so-called super-race had "had it." Our missions took us into Austria where the last remnants of transportation that Jerry could muster were being smashed. Some of our pilots journeyed down to Friedberg, near Munich, where they found some of our ex-pilots in a German prisoner of war camp. The liberated men told us tales of the "goon-camps" and the forced marches in which they had participated.
On the night of May 7th, "Uncle" George Bickell, the man who had organized the 355th Squadron and trained it for the combat we were to experience in Europe, as our Group CO now announced Victory in Europe. Our officers and men celebrated the night gloriously and ingloriously but the war was terminated.
We moved to Herzogenaurach, Airstrip R-29, on May 18th, where we were permanently assigned. Under our new C/O, Major Lowell K. Brueland, a training program was initiated for all personnel at R-29 many of our personnel attended the school at Group. But one thought overshadowed all others in the mind of the average soldier. That thought was to get home to the families and friends we had left behind. The Jerry aircraft that had been scrounged were lots of fun to work on and to fly. An athletic program, shows and parties were diversions. But the winter ahead did not appeal to the average member of "Pugnacious Pup" Squadron.
With the ending of the war in the Pacific most of those dreams of being home for Christmas were to be realized. By the 22nd September almost all of the original members of our Squadron were on their way home a mere cadre, composed of "low-pointers" remained under the direction of a few faithful men who had elected to complete some unfinished business.
Certainly none of us want to see another war, to say nothing of being an active participant. But if any of us are so unfortunate as to be chosen to have home again to take care of another messy business such as this war has been. We all hope to be lucky enough to be assigned to another outfit like the 355th Squadron, where we have met many good friends and experienced the best in fellowship, teamwork, and spirit.