Thunderbolts on VE-day

Thunderbolts on VE-day

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  • Sep, 06 , 23

“When interviewed many years later, those involved didn’t remember much about that time except for one incident. They all remembered that incident vividly and very consistently. The story was inevitably told with great relish in each interview by those who were there.

The incident had its origins when Lt. Gen. William Simpson, commander of 9th US Army, decided to stage a review for the commander of the Russian army across the Elbe River at Magdeburg. Col. Dyke Meyer, XXIX TAC operations officer, called Col. Grossetta three days before the show and asked that the 406th practice spelling out the letters USSR and CCCP with aircraft flying in formation so they could fly that as part of the review.

Col. Grossetta agreed eagerly, and the group put up thirty-six aircraft to practice for the next two days. They formed into four flights of nine aircraft each, one flight for each letter. By the end of the second day, they could fly a pass with the four flights lineabreast spelling ‘USSR,’ make a 180-degree turn within sight of the audience on the ground, and fly another pass in the opposite direction, spelling ‘CCCP.’ This was precision flying at its best, and the airmen were very proud of their achievement.

Then, on the day before the review, someone from XXIX TAC HQ called to ask the 406th to fly their formations over the headquarters at Braunschweig that afternoon. If it was good enough, they would be allowed to fly it for the Russians. Needless to say, Col. Grossetta was very miffed and let the others in the group know it! For the rest of the day, the aerial review pilots practiced another word.

When the appointed hour arrived, the 406th flew over TAC HQ first, with the four flights line-abreast and each in a V formation. As they turned around after the pass, they shifted to ‘USSR’ for the next pass. They turned around again after that pass while shifting to ‘CCCP’ and made their third pass. Then, as they turned around for their final pass, they formed another four-letter word that began with ‘S’ and ended with ‘T’! They flew that final pass gleefully and with great precision. They wanted to make sure XXIX TAC got the message!

XXIX TAC allowed the 406th to fly in the review but held their breath the entire time, fearing they might be so indiscreet as to insult the Russians. P-47 designer Alexander P. de Seversky, who witnessed the practice flight over XXIX TAC HQ, told Col. Grossetta in 1948 that it was the funniest thing he had ever seen!”


The above is excerpted from The 406th Fighter Group: P-47s over Europe in World War II by Steven A. Brandt. This is one of just a few “Units” entries in the Legends of Warfare series. Brandt’s history of this P-47 unit felt like a great fit for Legends of Warfare due to the inclusion of numerous color profiles and the popularity of LoW within the scale-modeling community.
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