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BILL COLLINS' WWII MEMORIES, Page 4

  
Blyskal wrote the following, "The evening of June 5th was memorable. Hundreds of aircraft filled the skies late that night, and we knew that this must have been the beginning of the invasion we had been waiting for. It wasn't until the following morning, however, that we heard the news of the landings. From then on we were "sweating out" our trip across the channel".
   
On the night of June 3rd, while serving as Sergeant of the Guard, I received a secret message. It had to be hand delivered to Colonel Nichols, our Group Commander, ordering our planes to be painted with black stripes in preparation to D Day. When I received this message, I was told to wake up the Colonel, which was about 2:00 in the morning. He asked if I had read the message, which had been decoded by our operational people, and I assured the Colonel I had not seen the contents. From that time on all our planes were making sorties day and night. A few weeks after the invasion the Germans unleashed their V bombs, luckily none hit our base but London suffered day and nights from these bombs. The 370th flew the first "Napalm" (jellied gasoline) bomb run on July 17th and the Group moved across the English Channel arriving on Omaha Beach (St. Laurent-sur-Mor to Cardonville, Calvados, France) Site A-3.
   

WWII EUROPE

   
Headquarters of the 370th Fighter Group consisted of Officers who were over the 3 squadrons, 401 st, 402nd and 485th and the administrative personnel to send directives and receive reports from the Squadrons. Colonel Howard .1 Nichols was 370th Group Commander, his deputy was Lt Colonel Seth J McKee, and Lt Col Walter F Joyce from Lakewood Ohio was our executive Officer. Major James T Campbell of Dillon South Carolina, adjutant, was directly over our S-1 Department. First Sgt Yeager was the highest Enlisted man in the group and also was directly over Group Headquarters. Officers assigned to Group Headquarters grew from 24 to 35 by the end of the War and enlisted men went from 50 to 81. The memories and stories are only about a small number but these made the greatest impression on this country boy.
      
Col Nichols, an experienced pilot who had worked his way up as leader, flew most of the missions our Group was assigned to carry out. An officer everyone respected.
   
Col Seth J McKee of Orlando, Florida took command after Col Nichols advanced to IX Tactical Air Command. A young flyer who was married to Miss Florida of 1942 and later during the Korean Conflict was in command of the Western Air Force, and retired from the service as a four star general.
  
Lt. Col Joyce was an older man, not so friendly as others, but always approved any time I requested a pass and did not realize I was from Ohio.
   
Capt, James Campbell, was a southern officer with a white mustache and looked like a typical southerner. As adjutant he had to approve all reports and pay rolls that were submitted to him. The more time I spent under him the more I liked the Captain.
   
First Sergeant Yeager was a career man who was ready to retire when WW1 1 began, and had served with most of the top non-coms before the 370'h was formed. He did not like for anyone to question his decisions.
   
Staff Sgt Bill Davis was directly under Yeager. He assigned and checked all work I performed. He could not have been a better boss, would explain any time he found a mistake, and I always had the feeling he would stand up in your behalf From Penn., he attended the gathering we had at our house in 1956.
   
Staff Sgt Phil Byrne, from Connecticut, had lived in NY City and knew many people in the theatrical world. He was in charge of the Officers records and also their payrolls. Working in S-1 he also would help out with work assigned by Capt Starke. Always helpful to everyone and would share in the cookies and candy he would receive from his New York girlfriend.
   
Staff Sgt Joe Blyskal from Ware Massachusetts, and now living in San Francisco Calif, was the most efficient worker of all. He could take short hand and was always in demand for the special work he could perform. Never missed Mass, kept in touch with Margaret, who he married after the War, shared all the cookies and good stuff she would send and the best tent mate any soldier could ask for. Joe, Marge and their two boys were in Greenfield to visit us in 1956 and in the 60's. When we were going to New York City, Joe and I had lunch and you will remember Maxine, Carol and I visiting with the Blyskals in California. Since that time we have been sending e-mails to keep in touch.
   
Sgt John Knapp, New Haven, Connecticut, had worked in the "Book Department" at Yale. One of the older people in our S-1, he knew what he was doing and could put his finger on any administrative order the Air Force had printed. Loved his work and was a kind and thoughtful person. He and Sgt Byrne were great buddies and also liked to have a few beers whenever possible. Maxine and I stopped to see him when we took a trip to Boston in 1947 and he was back to work at Yale.
   
These were the men who lived and worked with me most of my time overseas during WWII..
   

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