|Arrival in the European Theater of Operations
Personnel of the 391st Bombardment Group (M) AAF spent the month of January, 1944, in preparation for and in movement to the European Theater of Operations. When the New Year began, the organization was already broken into sections and "geographically divided". The Flight Echelon, composed of 250 Officers and 57 AC, (see Annex 1), was at Hunter Field, Ga., where modifications were being made on the planes for the flight to the war zone.
At the strike of midnight, New Year's Eve, the Ground Echelon, composed of 67 Officers and 1078 Enlisted Men, was entraining under classified orders (see Annex 1 a) for the New York Port of Embarkation. An advance party consisting of the Ground Executive, Lt. Col. David S. Blackwell; group S-2, Major F. W. Shipley; Group S-3, Major Ernest N. Ljunggren; Group Surgeon, Major Irving S. Essrig; and Group Communications Officer, Captain Lyle N. Edmonds, had already departed for the European Theater of Operations.
Using the Flight Log (see Annex 2) of Col. Gerald E. Williams, Group Commander, the movement of the Flight Echelon can be traced. The planes and crews left Hunter Field, Georgia, for a four and a half hour flight to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida, on January 3, 1944. they remained there until January 6,, when they departed for Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, a flight of five and one half hours. The following day, the unit left Borinquen fo rAtkinson Field, British Guiana, on a trip that consumed nearly six hours. A day later saw the planes off again, this time to Belem, Brazil. Another five and a half hour trip, and Natal, Brazil, was reached on January 9. After a two-day stopover here, the planes took off again for the longest hop of the journey, air eight hour and twenty minute flight across the South Atlantic to Ascension Island. On Jan. 11, the flight was resumed from there to Roberts Field, Liberia. At Roberts, the journey was delayed for nine days while the planes and engines were checked and good weather awaited. On 21 Jan., the flight was resumed to Dakar, and on the following day, the next leg took the Echelon to Marrakech, in French Morocco. Here, there was another delay due to weather, and on 29 January the planes left Africa for St. Mawgan, England, where they arrived after a six hour and forty minute flight. The final leg was made on January 30 from St. Mawgan to AAF Station 166. Naturally, all crews and planes did not complete the trip together, and the last to reach the Group's new station arrived on February 24, 1944.
Meanwhile, the Ground Echelon had departed from Godman Field, Ft. Knox, 'Kentucky, for Camp Shanks, New York, under the designation of Shipment "1458-A, B, C, D, and E." Here, the Group underwent an intensive physical and psychological training program to prepare it for the trip abroad. On the evening of January 16, these men boarded His Majesty's Transport Ile de France which sailed the following day from New York harbor. The transport docked at Gourock, Scotland, on January 25, 1944. The round Echelon entrained on the following two days for AAF Station 166, and had set "housekeeping" by the time the first planes and crews of the Air Echelon arrived.