Crew of plane 43-15671, chalk# 10, radio callsign W:
Pilot Maj. Benjamin F. Kendig
Co-Pilot 1st.Lt. Karol F. Rybos Navigator 1st.Lt. Donald W. Ertel Crew Chief T/Sgt.
Donald M. Ashling Radio Op. S/Sgt. James R. Taylor
We crossed the channel with no problems; flying at about 2000 feet above the water.
As we approached the coast of Normandy, we found a cloud formation had formed just
below our altitude. My first thought was that the Germans had spread poison gas in
the area. The cloud formation appeared to lay in rows and looked to me as though
it might have been spread by airplanes. I quickly realized that my imagination was
working overtime! The clouds were a natural formation and could have resulted from
the planes that were ahead of us flying through nearly saturated air, causing it
to condense into clouds.
As we neared the drop zone, I was faced with an important decision! Was it better
to drop down and fly through the clouds and risk having the formation break up with
the possibility of mid air collisions or to stay above and drop the paratroopers
at an altitude that would cause them to become widely separated? We soon picked up
the radar signal from the pathfinders! At about five miles distance from the drop
zone, the cloud layer ended and I could clearly see the lights set up by the pathfinders.
I immediately closed the throttles and started to descend. I quickly realized that
I had better use some power, for my formation was overtaking my plane. By the time
we reached the drop zone we were a little above the 500 ft. altitude and a little
faster than the desired speed for dropping the troops. However, it was, in my judgment,
best to drop at this time rather than to circle and take the chance of colliding
with the following formation.
After dropping the troops we flew as low as possible and soon crossed the coast.
I don't know if I dreamed this or not, but as we crossed the coast I thought that
I could see trenches and soldiers. I don't remember seeing much ground fire. Compared
to the second night over Sicily this was a "milk run". The remainder of the trip
back to our base was uneventful. We all felt quite relieved to learn that there were
few casualties. I believe that our group lost no airplanes that night.
Several explanations are in order. The pathfinders were a group of troop carrier
crews and paratroopers highly trained in navigation with the latest radar equipment.
Prior to our drops they located the drop zones and set up lights and radar for our
guidance to the drop zones. Our lead planes were equipped with Rebecca-Eureka radar
that had a scope in the instrument panel giving direction and distance to the pathfinder's
signal. Another explanation concerns our night formation flying. Each plane had three
purple hooded lights on each wing and three on top of the fuselage. They were only
visible from the rear quarter and were adequate so long as the formation was fairly
tight. The exhaust pipes had flame arresters to avoid being seen from the ground
and presenting a target.
316th TCG Squadron Commander remembers D-day
Major Benjamin F. Kendig CO 44th Troop Carrier Squadron, 316th Troop Carrier Group
It was common knowledge that our Group was transferred from Sicily to England to
participate in the invasion of the European continent. Even the German radio
announced our arrival and welcomed us to the UK. Of course, they also promised
that we would all be shipped home in wooden boxes.
My name is Ben Kendig and I was the commander of the 44th Troop Carrier Squadron
of the 316th Troop Carrier Group. At the time of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day) we
had been overseas for about a year and a half. Our group participated in the Sicilian
landings with two night paratroop drops. The second drop was met by heavy fire (mostly
so called friendly). Our group lost 12 airplanes out of 36. Even though it didn't
show on the surface, we were all somewhat apprehensive about the invasion plans that
we all knew were in our future.
After arriving in England, we soon adapted to our new country and in some ways because
of the many similarities we almost felt as though we had gone home. Our days and
nights were filled with flying supply missions in England and Scotland and many night
formation training flights. One of the night formation flights ended in tragedy with
two of our planes colliding in mid-air. The lead plane, that had the Group Commander
as an observer, was hit by a plane of the following element at a turn around a beacon.
All personnel on both planes were killed. The group commander, Col. Burton Fleet,
had been my squadron commander prior to his transfer to group headquarters. This
accident naturally effected us all. There was deep sorrow for the loss of our friends
and also the heightened awareness that the night formation flying, required for the
invasion, could be even more dangerous.
One day we received visitors. They were members of the 82nd Airborne who set up camp
on our field at Cottesmore. There was no doubt now that we would be participating
in the invasion! We would be taking them on a one way trip to some undisclosed location
someplace on the continent. We certainly did not envy their position. Their camp
was isolated and we didn't get to talk with them until just before they boarded our
planes. The less any one individual knew about the whole operation, the better the
chance to keep the secret from the enemy.
Because I was a squadron commander, I was briefed on the operation sometime before
the rest of the squadron. I don't remember the exact sequence of the activities prior
to the invasion. We did go to a nearby airfield to listen to a talk and receive a
send off by General Eisenhower. Then came the postponement of the mission for a day
due to the weather. I breathed a sigh of relief but realized it only meant another
day of anxiety!
Prior to the invasion and in addition to the many practice night formations,
we had gas drills and night vision training. For the gas drill, we had to don our
masks and walk through smoke filled tents. The night vision training consisted of
wearing dark-tinted red goggles (in a darkened gym) and playing catch with a large
white ball. We also trained to identify aircraft and read text that was faintly projected
on the wall of a darkened room. On the mission, we wore impregnated coveralls, carried
gasmasks and wore tin helmets. We certainly did not look like aircrew members.
explain the feeling but on every mission I was relieved when we started the engines
and were ready to go. Then the anxiety left me and it was all down to business. We
formed up on the perimeter strip with our loads of paratroopers and para-bundles.
The 44th Sq. was in the lead with the Deputy Group Commander Col. Washburn in our
lead plane. I was number ten, leading the second element of nine planes of the 44th
Sq. The group had four squadrons. Each of the squadrons put up 18 aircraft. In spite
of the large number of aircraft, the take off and form up were uneventful. We then
proceeded, on course, to our point of departure from the coast of England.