Gayle L. Smith
Group Operations Officer
This was our aircraft on the ramp at Godman. I show this for two reasons: First, please note the amount of ramp space used to park just 20 aircraft. When I continue with the route map from Selfridge, visualize the amount of ramp space required at each airfield en route to England to park over three times that number, i.e., 65 aircraft. The second reason I am showing this slide is to correct a misconception that the aircraft were left at Godman and that the Air Echelon traveled to Selfridge by train. All aircraft flew to Selfridge on May 25, 1943. We did not, during training, possess aircraft for individual crew assignment, hence two-thirds of the crews, including myself, had to travel by train.
I was given the task (privilege) to assign an aircraft to each crew, i.e., 65, including Col. Storrie's. The pilot of each crew completed this type of invoice. They signed for an aircraft costing approximately $100,000 without any collateral. This invoice was for Capt. Glen Grau's aircraft-one that he had to crash land on returning from a mission. (I doubt he ever received a turn-in slip.) Walter Ives was the original 556th Commander, however, after a few months in England, he was transferred to an in-theatre higher headquarters and then Capt. Grau became the 556th Squadron Commander until close to VE Day (May 7, 1945). He, also, was one of our frequent Group and` Box leaders. He led the Second Box on D-Day.
While at Selfridge, each crew test hopped their aircraft-making sure that guns, bomb racks and the aircraft was fully operational. Three events that remain in my memory were two complaints from small fishing vessels on Lake Huron that didn't appreciate being attacked by those pesky, low-flying aircraft; the third event was an accidental firing on the fixed nose guns. The aircraft was parked on the ramp facing the hangar. During inspection and preflighting, according to all people around the aircraft, the aircraft guns just accidentally fired a burst that ricocheted off the pavement, went through the empty hangar doors and out the back side. No injuries were sustained and everyone declared their innocence. There was no time left to find out what really caused it.
This is our route from Selfridge to Maine. The first stop was Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia to pick up our personal equipment, clothing, eating utensils, bedrolls, pup tents, etc. Weather en route caused many to land at alternate airfields. All aircraft were at Hunter the following day. Everything was completed by June 14, 1943. Col. Storrie and Capt. Strauss, the Group Navigator, briefed all crews about the northern route.