This month, I was delighted to meet Olivier LeFloch, when he visited the FONFA Museum with his family (below) on 25th August, exactly 73 years to the day after the USAF 367th Fighter Group’s massive dogfight with the Luftwaffe – Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees This month, we publish the eighth of Olivier’s Newsletters, which chronicle the progress of the American 367th Fighter Group, through training and combat in WWII. If you have read the previous Newsletters, you will have learned about their experiences leading up to D-Day in June 1944, flying from Stoney Cross in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. This Newsletter was originally sent out to the Group’s members in June 2013.
This Newsletter harks back to the Group’s training in California and records details of two pilots, who were later killed in France. Their training base, Santa Rosa Army Air Field in California, was camouflaged to look like a vineyard, with barrack blocks built under trees and runways that were very difficult to see from the air, except just before touchdown. There the Group carried out basic training on the P-39 Airacobra (photo below), including formation flying, followed by gunnery and bombing training at Tonopah, Nevada. The high altitude of the bombing range (5200 feet) caused engine problems and the group suffered 42 accidents in four months, most of them during take off and landing, with three pilots killed.This Newsletter also includes the stories of two pilots, with a poem written by one, on the day before he was killed. In addition, there is a list of all missions flown by the Group in September 1944 and, finally, a reference to “The Drunken Duchess”, which relates to the ‘Duchess of Bedford’. She was the transport ship which wallowed slowly across the Atlantic in late March and early April 1944, bringing the main body of the Group to England.
Follow the link on the Black Strapline above, clicking on ‘the Olivier LeFloch Newsletters’ title, and this will take you to the list of newsletters, or on the direct link below. Newsletter 367th Fighter Group_issue 8