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Lone Sentry: Unit History: 102d thru Germany

Our Ozark Air Force -- Hovering over foxholes from dawn to dark, 102d Division's artillery liaison planes won for themselves a warm spot deep in every Ozark's heart. Not that front-line soldiers were ever unaware of those big guns backing them up. On the contrary, the earth shaking roars, the distant rumbles, the whine and overhead swish of shells became a part of daily life, just as much as the rising and setting sun. More visible evidence, however, that those Krauts across the river were receiving their due attention was seen in little planes whisking and buzzing overhead. Liaison planes became a symbol of watchfulness, and a symbol of respite too, since Jerry artillery always slacked off when they were around. Jerry was always very hesitant about giving away his carefully prepared positions to our eagle-eyed observers. But aside from routine spotting duties, many other less conspicuous but more hazardous feats were performed by our liaison pilots.
When Brachelen was to be bombed, AAF needed a guide to this relatively small target. A liaison plane went up under extremely adverse conditions, flying for hours at 5000 feet, to meet and guide the bombers in.
Before the Roer crossing Grasshoppers carried aloft over 120 patrol leaders, giving them a chance to size up Nazi-held terrain before they led their men over the treacherous river. Seeing their battlefield from above helped a lot when later studying maps and photographs by candlelight.
Day after the crossing a long line of anti-tank guns and vehicles were in danger of being strafed by P-47s who thought they'd caught a fleeing Nazi column on the road. 1st Lt Richard Scott of Centralia, Illinois, flying nearby unhesitatingly swooped down between diving warplanes and vehicles, waggling his wings frantically in a "one-man umbrella" gesture. Although his chances of survival were slim he succeeded in identifying the column, thereby saving many lives and winning the gratitude of both doughfeet and P-47 pilots who veered away in the nick of time.
Many grueling hours were spent bucking winds, landing and rising from strange shell-pocked, makeshift fields in courier flights. Even more dangerous were photographic missions when Capt Crist of the Division Photo Interpretation Team rode along with his black-boxed K-20 camera. Aiming the snout of that camera at Jerry-land was just like waving a red flag at a bull.
Slow flying speeds, while ideal for observing, stack the odds against pilot, plane, and observer. A fair target for small arms, they haven't a chance in flak. And against FW 190s, or ME 109s, and later on the Rhine, those darting jet-propelled ME 262s, there was absolutely no defense except to head for the ground. 2,674 missions were flown in Germany, 1,971 being sorties over enemy territory. Thirteen planes were lost. The true significance of these figures emerges when it is remembered that our Ozark Air Force consists of only ten tiny planes.
On April 14 the 2d Bn, 405th Infantry, approached the village of Wiepke through a typical gloomy German forest. Progress was slow against, rather intense but sporadic small arms fire, since flat terrain and concealment in the village favored the defenders. With the aid of artillery fire, tanks, and TDs, Wiepke was soon mopped up and the battalion headed south. Along the northern edge of Estedt intense small arms and 20mm flak opened up on our leading companies. Here a battle group of justifyspacer
para troopers were guarding the approach to Gardelegen, an ancient, moated town now the site of a great airfield and a German air force replacement center. Two platoons of tanks accompanied by determined Ozark doughs roared over this strongpoint and soon engulfed Estedt itself. But no sooner had our force emerged from the town than they again found themselves under heavy automatic fire from the woods to the south and west. Gardelegen, it appeared, was a prize jealously guarded. justifyspacer

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