Christmas Eve, 1944

Sixty-eight years ago on Christmas Eve, 2012, members of the 27th ATG were called upon to perform an emergency operation that was critical to the success of the American Army at The Battle of the Bulge.  Many of the men of the 27th had made long flights that day and had gotten cleaned up and ready for a Christmas Eve celebration.  Darkness had already fallen and the parties had begun.  About that time, orders came down from higher command and the men were given strong black coffee.  The group was ordered to fly down to Istres in southern France to pick up badly needed tankers and fly them up to emergency air fields near the front where Patton’s Third Army was fighting.

Douglas C-47 in Flight.Douglas Aircraft Co., 1943.  Library of Congress Collection

Douglas C-47 in Flight.
Douglas Aircraft Co., 1943. Library of Congress Collection

The Wing was alerted at 1630 hours.  The first plane took off at 2030 hours Christmas Eve and by 2200 approximately 100 C-47s were off.  The men spent Christmas Eve in the air.  By 0800 Christmas morning the planes were serviced and trucks began to arrive with the tankers.  The first planes were back in the air twenty minutes later.  All of the men – air crews, ground crews, cooks, etc., pitched in to get the job done.  General Carl Spaatz, Commanding General of USSTAF, gave the 302nd Wing a Commendation for their great performance in this critical operation.  The operation was completed in 24 hours without losing a man or aircraft.

By Jon Maguire

Editor’s Note:  Jon Maguire is a collector, historian, and author specializing in WWII aviation history.

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