TWO FAMOUS D-DAY PHOTOS OF THE 440th TROOP CARRIER GROUP: The Stories Behind Them

 

By Randolph Hils

 

Note from webmaster:. Randy Hills was very active in the Troop Carrier community. His activities ended abruptly when he passed away.

This is one of the articles he wrote and it was published on his website. Because of the importance of the article, and in remembrance of Randy, I placed this article on this website.

I have changed the original text there where I thought it would be good. HdB

 

Since the end of World War II, photos of the 440th Troop Carrier Group have been unidentified or miss-identified in books and articles primarily, I believe, they are difficult for authors to authenticate by exact place, time, or unit. Rarely did the Signal Corps photographers get individual credit for photos that were later released from government archives. Origins of these photos are often difficult to trace. Collecting hundreds and hundreds of photos and documents of the 440th Troop Carrier Group over the past few years has given us the ability and the facts to accurately authenticate some of these photos.

 

Some photos taken of the 440th Troop Carrier Group have found wide publication since the end of WWII because some are moving or haunting, others were chosen because they succinctly define the airborne and troop carrier experience.

The following photos represent some of the above and more. They are part of the heritage and record of a unique fighting force, the 440th Troop Carrier Group.

 

Famous Photo One, Exeter Airfield: England, June 5, 1944: "STOY HORA"

 

This photo is a photo of Col. Robert L. Wolverton, CO, 3rd Bn, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne and his Headquarters stick. They are gathered ready to load on C-47, tail # 292717 in preparation for OPERATION NEPTUNE, the first phase of the Normandy invasion, launched in the last hours of June 5, 1944. The aircraft is the command ship of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, pilot, Col. Frank X. Krebs, CO of the 440th. It is Krebs' job to lead a 45 ship formation of C-47's that will drop units of the 101st Airborne on Drop Zone D in Normandy, France. The aircraft, # 292717 is Kreb's personal plane in which he led the group into battle on all operations he flew except MARKET-GARDEN, the invasion of Holland.

 

Like most combat aircraft, #292717 was decorated with nose art. For along time the name and nose art on this aircraft baffled me for its design and strange name, the "STOY HORA." The artwork is a plump man in top hat and tails, a ringmaster, pointing to the name of the plane. It's full import was not recognized until the strange name was finally translated. I did some language searches to see if I could identify at least the language. Those searches lead mainly to Spanish usage but each word had an additional letter or prefix at the front. Related, I could only find "estoy ahora" in the many searches. I took a photo of the nose art to a Panamanian friend who translated "STOY HORA" as a slang form of "estoy ahora", meaning, "I am here for you right now." The art was a code, the ringmaster-the commander is here. Bill Quick, Col. Krebs' radio operator, believes the nose art was done by 98th Squadron member Gil Mantalvo, Mantalvo was Latino, his talented artwork shows up in a number of photos and drawing in the group archives.

 

Famous Photo Two: Exeter Airfield, England June 5, 1944: The Paratrooper

 

One often used and miss-identified in airborne literature is this photo of a paratrooper boarding a C-47 on his way D-Day, Normandy. It was not identified when the New York Times utilized it for it's 50th anniversary of D-Day, Normandy.. It is a photo of a member of Col. Wolverton's headquarters stick boarding C-47 # 292717. First compare it with the previous photo of Col. Frank X. Krebs boarding his command ship on D-Day and note the identical crosshatched, chalk number "1" to the right of the paratrooper. Examined close in there is no question that this drawn number "1" is the same in both photos.

 

Photo of Col. Frank X. Krebs boarding his aircraft on June 5, 1944. Note the cross-hatched number "1" chalk number to his right. This photo is believed to be part of a series of photos taken by 50th Troop Carrier Wing photographer SGT. Tom Mallison. Mallison was assigned to the parent organization of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, the 50th Troop Carrier Wing. Tom Mallison was assigned as the official photographer at 440th base at Exeter, England for the historic D-Day mission.

 

One of the most interesting parts of researching the photos is realizing, as the saying goes, "every picture tells a story." Discovering those stories remains a mystery for many of the photographs in the 440th archives. The identities of men, machines, places and events have been obscured by time. But, every now and then a new lead or detail surfaces, a veteran remembers a face or a place and another mystery is solved, our knowledge of this decorated unit is expanded, the story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group lives on.

 

Airbornetroopers of the 506th PIR prepare for their flight to Normandy. The C-47 to carry them was flown by the CO of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. C-47 # 42-92717 with tail letter S.

Left to right: Howard Canon (co-pilot),  Lt.-Col. Wolverton (CO 3rd Bn. 506th PIR) and Col. Frank Krebs (pilot and CO 440th TCG).

Wolverton was killed after landing in Normandy.

Krebs and Canon were shot down over Holland on September 17 and returned to friendly lines after being behind enemy lines for some time.

Airborne Troop Carrier - Normandy