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Monday, June 06, 2022

My father on D-day

Today is the 78th anniversary of D-Day—the day British, Canadian, and American troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in World War II.1

For us baby boomers it always meant a day of special significance for our parents. In my case, it was my father who took part in the invasions. That's him on the right as he looked in 1944. He was an RAF pilot flying rocket-firing typhoons in close support of the ground troops. His missions were limited to quick strikes and reconnaissance during the first few days of the invasion because Normandy was at the limit of their range from southern England. During the second week of the invasion (June 14th) his squadron landed in Crepon, Normandy and things became very hectic from then on with several close support missions every day [see Hawker Hurricanes and Typhoons in World War II].

I have my father's log book and here are the pages from June 1944 (below). The red letters on June 6 say "DER TAG." It was his way of announcing D-Day. On the right it says "Followed SQN across channel. Saw hundreds of ships ... jumped by 190s. LONG AWAITED 2nd FRONT IS HERE." Later that day they shot up German vehicles south-east of Caen where there was heavy fighting by British and Canadian troops. The next few weeks saw several sorties over the allied lines. These were mostly attack missions using rockets to shoot up German tanks, vehicles, and trains.

The photograph on the right shows a crew loading rockets onto a typhoon based just a few kilometers from the landing beaches in Normandy. You can see from the newspaper clipping in my father's log book that his squadron was especially interested in destroying German headquarter units and they almost got Rommel. It was another RAF squadron that wounded Rommel on July 17th.

The colorized photo on the left is my father in his Typhoon.

The log book entry (above) for June 10th says, "Wizard show. Recco area at 2000' south west of Caen F/S Moore and self destroyed 2 flak trucks, 2 arm'd trucks, and 1 arm'd command vehicle, Every vehicle left burning but one. Must have been a divisional headquarters? No casualties."

Here's another description of that rocket-firing typhoon raid [Air Power Over the Normandy Beaches and Beyond].
Intelligence information from ULTRA set up a particularly effective air strike on June 10. German message traffic had given away the location of the headquarters of Panzergruppe West on June 9, and the next evening a mixed force of forty rocket-armed Typhoons and sixty-one Mitchells from 2 TAF struck at the headquarters, located in the Chateau of La Caine, killing the unit's chief of staff and many of its personnel and destroying fully 75 percent of its communications equipment as well as numerous vehicles. At a most critical point in the Normandy battle, then, the Panzer group, which served as a vital nexus between operating armored forces, was knocked out of the command, control, and communications loop; indeed, it had to return to Paris to be reconstituted before resuming its duties a month later.

My father was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his efforts during the war.

(This article was first posted on June 6, 2014.)

1. The British landed at Sword Beach and Gold Beach, the Canadians at Juno Beach, and American troops landed at Omaha and Utah Beaches.


Anonymous said...

A fitting tribute to your father. A tragic loss on Sept. 15, 1946.

Anonymous said...

It's a proper thing to honor our fathers, moreso as we see the resurgence of fascism.

Anonymous said...

My father was a navigator in the 8th Airforce, 490th Bomb Group (H), flying B-17s. On D-Day, though, he was still in training in the U.S. and didn't arrive in theater until November. He flew something over 25 missions, mostly over Germany.

Anonymous said...

Robert Byers I was always so proud Canada got its own beach. Yes squeezed between two british ones suggesting we needed help. yet still cool. While i question canada getting into the war still its our glory to have desired to fight for right and win. its more important then other things these days they want to identify the country with. In fact the the issues behind the war still are here in many ways.

Anonymous said...

I was named after two friends of my father who were killed on D-day. My father convinced them to enlist only to find out that he wasn’t accepted because of a heart murmur.

Anonymous said...

Hi I was wondering if you are related to Bobbie Byers who I think was in the Canadian third division petrol company in 1944? If so I'd like to get some information from you as I think he served with my father in law.