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USAAF Airfields in the ETO
by Larry M. Belmont

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Shortly after the D-Day landings and the furious expansion of the American lodgement behind Utah and Omaha beaches, the U. S. Army Air Force's (USAAF) 9th Air Force tactical fighter groups began to be deployed in Normandy, primarily to protect and support the ground forces, but also to realize the obvious advantages of operating from airstrips on the Continent (as opposed to operating from England). Fighters based in France were able to not only strike deeper into Germany, but could spend more time over targets, especially those in the immediate area. Fighter sweeps were more effective and more enemy materiel was destroyed. Interdiction missions became increasingly efficient since more planes could be directed to objectives and could spend more attack time "on station" owing to the proximity of the frontline airstrips.

The 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion, being the only unit of its type in Normandy in June (in fact, it would be the only searchlight unit in the ETO until mid-July), was charged with AAA defense, along with other AAA units, of many of the invasion area airfields during June and July. In addition, throughout 1944-45, the 225th participated in the defense of dozens of the Allied airfields as they became operational in the drive across France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and finally into Germany.

Initially, the fighters were deployed directly behind the beaches and at other nearby (but small) Luftwaffe airstrips that had fallen into Allied hands (though most former German strips required some effort to restore to operational status). The first airstrips were constructed by USAAF aviation engineers rather close to the beaches, while, later, more established airdromes became available, captured during the subsequent ground operations to clear the Cotentin peninsula to the Northwest and the hedgerow country to the South and East.

Prior to Overlord, detailed plans were drawn up to carry out the tasks required to construct or otherwise acquire the over 90 airfields deemed necessary to sustain the first three months of the campaign. The first 27 were scheduled to be constructed throughout the Normandy countryside by the end of June (12 in the U. S. sector, 15 in the British/Canadian; the latter sector featured a more open landscape that lend itself to better building sites, whereas the American engineers were faced with fewer prime locations, i.e., those with few trees, less confined by hedgerows, etc.). On June 30, however, only 17 had been built across the entire lodgement area (seven American and ten British/Canadian), of which the one at St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, built on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach by the 834th Aviation Engineer Battalion, was the first.

This U. S. Navy photo, dated June 14, shows a P-38 Lightning parked on the edge of the strip at St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, with the beach just beyond. Several barrage balloons float lazily above the shipping clogging the bay. This strip, originally designated an Emergency Landing Strip (ELS), was simply an untracked surface measuring 3,400 feet long by 120 feet wide. By 1800 hours on D+2 (June 8), it was operational, but able to accommodate only small observation craft. A little over 24 hours later (1845 hours, June 9), it was ready to handle larger planes, including transports like the C-47. Originally designated ALG A-1 on June 14 according to a report by the U. S. IXth Engineer Command, the strip was later redesignated as A-21. (General "Hap" Arnold, USAAF Commander, visited Normandy on June 12 and returned to England from this strip.)

The construction plan was as follows:

  1. Via the inter-Allied and inter-Service infrastructure known as BUCO (Build-Up Control Organization) and MOVCO (Movement Control Organization), the transfer of air forces to the Continent, together with the stores for immediate use, would be orchestrated. Provision for building up reserves was also made.

  2. Special arrangements were made to ensure that squadrons could operate from either England or France regardless of the fact that their standing maintenance organizations were in transit to the Continent.

  3. A mutual refueling arrangement was agreed upon, whereby U. S. aircraft could refuel at British airfields, and vice versa.

  4. Make provisions for rapid replacement of personnel, aircraft, and associated equipment.

  5. Define methods of salvaging aircraft wreckage and other damaged equipment and returning same to the United Kingdom.

  6. Maintain a high state of mobility for tactical air forces, so they could keep up with the pace of the advance of ground forces.

After any tree-felling or ditch-filling, the site was graded and surfaced with a patent form of tracking. In the photo above, an aviation engineer batallion is laying Square Mesh Track (SMT) (the other option was PSP, or Pierced Steel Plank, which is depicted in the photo of the C-47 further below). No location is given for this Signal Corps photo, which is dated June 17. It could be any of six fields being worked on at that time, namely ALGs A-3 through A-8.

In combined operations, of which the Normandy campaign was a paradigm, it was obvious that fighters, fighter-bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft of the tactical air forces should be able to fly from bases in the operational theatre as early as possible. For Overlord, then, airfield accommodation was of paramount importance. The extent to which airfield requirements were met for Overlord depended primarily on the ability of Allied field engineers to locate and develop and/or rehabilitate suitable sites. These sites had been previously chosen by experts after a detailed study of recon photos and maps, much of which had been started as early as December 1942. It also depended on establishing a sufficiently high priority within the available shipping volume for the movement of equipment and other material designated for airfields.

In the initial stages, the terrain in the British/Canadian sector (which will not be covered in this document) was generally more favorable than that in the American sector. However, it is largely agreed that the aviation engineering units that constructed and developed the ALGs achieved good results across the lodgement area.

There were different types of airfields required:

  1. Emergency Landing Strip (ELS): A strip having sufficient length of level surface to enable pilots in distress to make a landing. With a minimum length requirement of 1,800 feet, ELSs were not fit for routine operations, but were valuable in almost every emergency scenario imaginable.

  2. Refueling and Re-arming Strip (RRS): A strip possessing sufficient length of level, compact surface for takeoff and landing, adequate marshalling areas for rapid turnaround of aircraft, and adequate tracking to ensure operation under all normal Summer and Autumn conditions. Minimum length, 3,600 feet, with marshalling areas measuring 50 by 100 yards at each end.

  3. Advanced Landing Ground (ALG): A landing ground possessing the same facilities as an RRS, but with dispersal facilities and capable of use to capacity in the "Roulement" system (this system was a means of using landing-ground facilities to maximum capacity by flying in squadrons to replace others as they complete their scale of effort appropriate to the period). Minimum length for fighters, 3,600 feet, with dispersal facilities for 54 aircraft. Minimum length for fighter-bombers, 5,000 feet, with the same dispersal capacity.

  4. Airfield: A field with the same facilities as an ALG, although with improved dispersal facilities. The "Roulement" system was not practiced on airfields.

  5. All-Weather Airfield: The same requirements as an airfield, but also featuring hard-surfaced runways and fit for operation throughout all seasons and in all weather conditions for the appropriate types of aircraft. Within the limits of operational requirements, it was planned that all enemy airfields with hard-surfaced runways would be rehabilitated, as and when they were captured (provided rehabilitation could be effected without excessive labor and material).

This U. S. Signal Corps picture shows Corporal Paul Stock (left) on air traffic control duties at Advance Landing Ground A-1, St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, on June 11, 1944. The P-38 Lightning (Serial No. 268071) is the same one depicted above in the U. S. Navy photo dated June 14. ALG A-1 was later redesignated A-21, and A-1 was the designation given to the Refueling and Re-arming Strip (RRS) constructed at St.-Pierre-du-Mont.

The minimum program for airfields to accommodate the forces anticipated for all operations was as follows (British numbers included for completeness):

  • Three (3) ELSs (two American, one British) by the end of D-Day
  • Four (4) RRSs (two American, one British) by evening on D+3 and not later than D+4
  • 10 ALGs (five American, five British) by D+8 (included the four RRSs)
  • 18 Airfields (eight American, 10 British) by D+14
  • 27 Airfields (12 American, 15 British) by D+24
  • 43 Airfields (18 American, 25 British) by D+40
  • 93 Airfields (48 American, 45 British) by D+90

The priorities established for the construction program were as follows: Priority I, ELSs; Priority II, RRSs; Priority III, ALGs (which would become airfields later).

The USAAF committed 16 aviation engineering batallions and two airborne aviation engineering batallions to this effort (the British directed five airfield construction groups and one field force basis construction wing). The men of the U. S. aviation engineering batallions of the IXth Engineer Command were immediately successful – ELS-1 at Pouppeville and A-21 at St.-Laurent-sur-Mer were set up by D+1. These men worked during the height of the battle, often having to set their tools aside to deal with sniper fire.

After the lodgement area was stabilized and the ground forces began moving beyond the initial invasion area, the system adopted for constructing airfields near the front line was finally realized. First, dirt strips 15 to 20 miles to the rear of the ground forces were prepared. These strips were then visited by transport aircraft, which dumped supplies and tools there. As a general rule, fighter strips were 50 to 70 miles behind the front, and bomber strips were 100 to 120 miles behind. As the ground forces moved forward, the previously prepared dirt strips were upgraded to airfields and became bases for fighters and (later) bombers.

In the American sector, at the end of June (D+24), the following had been accomplished:

  • Seven airfields completed: A-1 (St.-Pierre-du-Mont), A-2 (Criqueville), A-3 (Cardonville), A-4 (Deaux Jumeaux), A-6 (Beuzeville), A-7 (Azeville), and A-10 (Carentan)
  • Four under construction and 75% completed: A-5 (Chippelle), A-8 (Picauville), A-9 (Le Molay), and A-14 (Cretteville)

By D+90, 89 airfields (55 American, 34 British) had been completed, against a planned total of 93, a truly remarkable achievement considering that construction was carried out during a protracted battle.

This C-47 is parked on Pierced Steel Plank (PSP) "hardstanding" at what the original Signal Corps caption indicates is "an advanced fighter base near the front line" in Normandy. This unspecified airstrip's purpose was "to accommodate the personal planes of four-star generals," and, upon close inspection, the aircraft bears the insignia of both the 21st Army Group and the British 2nd Army on its nose. The picture is dated July 19, during the period that Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's HQ was situated at Blay, close to ALG A-9 at Le Molay (just north of Le Molay–Littry), which had been completed on July 8, although some construction equipment is still visible in the background below the left engine.

After the allied breakout from Normandy in late July 1944 and the lightning-quick dash across France, Belgium, and Luxembourg in August (and later into Germany), British and American fighter groups advanced right behind the ground forces, moving as quickly as new fighter strips could be constructed or captured Luftwaffe facilities rehabilitated. Such airstrips were numbered sequentially (the A designation denoted American; R, uncertain, but perhaps "Reich" since all of these were in Germany; T, unknown; and Y, unknown – the Webmaster welcomes any clarification on this point). The 225th followed many of these fighter groups throughout 1944-45 and set up AAA defenses at each, usually in single-battery strength. This practice accounted for the wide dispersal of the 225th's batteries during the ETO campaigns. (See the Command Posts document for an idea of how the 225th's three batteries were split up time and time again to cover many geographically discontiguous fighter strips.) IX Tactical Air Command (TAC) began operations on June 16, 1944 at ALG A-2 near Criqueville, Normandy. While elements of the 225th landed at Omaha Beach on June 17, their role in airfield AAA defense did not begin in earnest until June 29 (at ALG A-2), despite some ad hoc assignments at other airstrips in the lodgement area.

Click on any of the airfield designations, i.e., A-1, for more information on a specific airstrip, including units assigned (with dates of arrival), types of aircraft, locator maps, photos, and other pertinent information. A searchlight icon indicates that the 225th was assigned to the AAA defense of the particular strip. Click on the following jump links to advance to a section of this page (designations appear in alphabetical order, A, R, T, then Y). The Webmaster is aware of some discrepancies between the 225th's record and the information contained in Eric Hammel's Air War Europa, an excellent combat chronology of America's air war against Germany in Europe and North Africa. These discrepancies generally involve airstrip designations and/or city/town/village names related to them. Efforts are being made to document and reconcile these discrepancies (an update will appear on this page when available).

Most documents are under construction; an UPDATED icon indicates documents containing substantial information.

A-1 – A-10 | A-11 – A-21 | A-26 – A-42 | A-43 – A-63 | A-64 – A-73 | A-74 – A-92
A-94, A-97, A-98, and R-2 – R-37 | R-42 – R-93, T-2, and Y-6 – Y-54 | Y-55 – Y-96 | Y-98 and Y-99 |

Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
(later RRS A-1)
St.-Pierre-du-Mont, France 225th
A-2 Criqueville, France 225th
A-3 Cardonville, France 225th
A-4 Deaux Jumeaux, France 225th
A-5 Chippelle, France No
A-6 Beauzeville, France
(St.-Mere-Eglise, France)
Azeville, France No
A-8 Picauville, France No
A-9 Le Molay-Littry, France 225th
A-10 Carentan, France 225th

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-11 St. Lambert, France No
A-12 Lignerolles, France No
A-13 Tour-en-Bessin, France No
A-14 Cretteville, France No
Cherbourg-Maupertus Airdrome, France 225th
A-16 Brucheville, France No
A-17 Meutis, France No
A-19 La Vielle, France No
A-20 Lessay, France No
(formerly A-1)
St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, France 225th

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-26 Gorges, France No
A-27 Rennes, France 225th
A-28 Pontorson, France No
A-29 St.-James, France No
A-31 Gael, France No
A-33 Vannes, France No
A-35 Le Mans, France No
A-39 Chateaudun, France 225th
A-40 Chartres, France 225th
A-41 Dreux/Vermouillet Airdrome, France 225th
A-42 Villacoublay, France No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-43 St.-Marceau, France No
A-47 Paris/Orly Airport, France No
A-48 Bretigny-sur-Orne, France 225th
A-50 Bricy, France No
A-55 Melun, France No
A-58 Coulommiers, France 225th
A-59 Cormeilles-en-Vexin Airdrome, France No
A-60 Beaumont-sur-Oise, France No
A-61 Beauvais/Tille Airdrome, France No
A-62 Reims, France 225th
A-63 Vertus, France 225th

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-64 St.-Dizier/Robinson Airdrome, France
(Hallignicourt, France)
A-65 Perthes, France No
A-66 Orconte, France No
A-67 Vitry-le-Francois, France No
Juvincourt, France No
A-69 Laon/Athies Airdrome, France No
A-70 Laon/Couvron Airdrome, France No
A-71 Clastres, France No
A-72 Peronne, France No
A-73 Roye/Amy Airdrome, France No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-74 Cambrai/Niergnies Airdrome, France No
A-77 Mesnil, France 225th
A-78 Florennes/Juzaine Airdrome, Belgium 225th
A-79 Prosnes, France
(Reims, France)
A-80 Mourmelon-le-Grand, France 225th
A-82 Rouvres, France
(Etain, France)
A-83 Denain/Prouvy Airdrome, France No
Chievres Airdrome, Belgium No
A-87 Charleroi, Belgium 225th
A-89 Le Culot, Belgium No
A-92 St.-Trond Airdrome, Belgium No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
A-94 Conflans, France
(Jouaville, France)
(Moineville, France)
A-97 Luxembourg City, Luxembourg No
A-98 Rosieres-en-Haye, France 225th
R-2 Langensalza, Germany No
R-6 Kitzingen, Germany
(Mainbernheim, Germany)
R-10 Illesheim, Germany No
R-11 Eschwege Airdrome, Germany No
R-12 Kassel/Rothwesten Airdrome, Germany No
R-30 Furth, Germany 225th
R-37 Brunswick, Germany No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
R-42 Raitersach, Germany
(Buchschwabach, Germany)
(Clarsbach, Germany)
R-54 Penzing, Germany 225th
R-68 Salching, Germany 225th
R-70 Kaufbeuren, Germany 225th
R-73 Waldorf, Germany 225th
Gablingen (Gersthofen), Germany 225th
R-81 Erding, Germany 225th
R-82 Ansbach, Germany
(Reim, Germany)
Unter Biberg, Germany 225th
R-93 Holtzkirchen, Germany 225th
T-2 Colleville, France 225th
Y-6 Lyon/Bron Airdrome, France No
Y-7 Dole/Tavaux Airdrome, France No
Y-10 Le Culot East Airdrome, Belgium No
Y-29 Asche, Belgium No
Metz/Frescati Airdrome, France 225th
Y-46 Aachen, Germany No
Y-51 Vogelsang, Germany No
Y-54 Kelz, Germany No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
Y-55 Venlo, Holland No
Y-57 Trier, Germany No
Y-59 Strassfeld, Germany No
Y-62 Niedermendig, Germany No
Y-64 Mainz/Ober Olm Airdrome, Germany
(Finthen, Germany)
Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Airdrome, Germany No
Frankfurt/Eschborn Airdrome,
Germany (perhaps Sulzbach)
Wiesbaden Airdrome, Germany (listed
as Sulzbach in Unit History)
Y-83 Limburg, Germany No
Y-86 Fritzlar, Germany No
Y-94 Munster/Handorf Airdrome, Germany No
Y-96 Kassel/Waldau, Germany No
Y-97 Paderborn No

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Airstrip Designation Location Defended by 225th?
Y-98 Lippstadt Airdrome, Germany No
Y-99 Gütersloh Airdrome, Germany No


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