UNIT HISTORY



The Night Fighters
The second platoon of Battery "A" also joined the Cherbourg defenses on 4 August, but was relieved by the first platoon of Battery "B" on 9 August when it was attached directly to the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron and took up positions around Airstrip A15 at Maupertus. The first platoon of Battery "B" relieved the 1st Platoon of Battery "A" on Airstrip A6 on 5 August, and on 9 August moved again to relieve the 2nd Platoon of Battery "A" of its part in the defenses of the Port of Cherbourg. The 2nd Platoon of Battery "B" left A3 on 28 July to take up positions around A16 at St. Maire DuMont, coming under the jurisdiction of the 114th AAA Group tactically and under the 26th AAA Group for administration. The 1st Platoon of Battery "C," transferred to the 51st AAA Brigade and the 21st AAA Group on 1 August, changed objectives and took up positions at Airstrip T2 near Colleville on 10 August. It was later transferred to the 24th Group on 29 August. The 2nd Platoon of Battery "C" underwent the same changes in command as its sister platoon and likewise was given a new objective, Airstrip A9 at Le Molay, on 10 August.

During the battalion's stay in Normandy, it was assigned to many new and unfamiliar roles, but acquitted itself well in each. During its first operational days on the beachhead, it was heavily handicapped from a tactical point of view by rigid restrictions placed upon the use of its lights and radars by higher headquarters. On several nights the lights were forced to track without the aid of detectors, and throughout the first weeks of the battalion's operations all lights were required to use spread beam on all targets. When these restrictions were lifted, enemy air acitivity had dropped to a minimum and comparatively little action was available. Despite these difficulties, the battalion, during this period, engaged 76 enemy aircraft with its lights and seven with its machine guns. Only one direct attack was made upon any of the installations to which it was assigned, that one attack being a daylight raid on Airstrip A10 by 2 FW190s and an ME109 which occurred on 18 July. The 2nd Platoon of Battery "A," located around this strip, had been subjected to artillery fire as late as 6 July, while Section 3 of the 1st Platoon of Battery "A" was attacked on the night of 12 July by a FW190 which bombed and strafed the section until driven off by accurate machine gun fire.

P-61
The Northrup P-61 Black Widow, the primary fighter employed
by the 422nd and 425th Night Fighter Squadrons in the ETO.

Probably the most important development during this period, however, was the introduction of the homing technique which was to play so large a part in the operational activity of the battalion during the remainder of the campaign against Germany. Until the assignment of the 2nd Platoon of Battery "A" to the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron on 9 August, occasional homings had been given on the beachhead airstrips by means of vertical beacon lights, but the instances in which such assistance was called for were rare. Upon assignment to the night fighters, however, the use of "the canopy" was begun, with three or four lights forming an intersection directly over the airstrip, enabling a friendly aircraft to pinpoint its location at great distances and despite unfavorable weather. The value of the service was immediately apparent to the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron and within a few days after the lights began to function in this role, the squadron commander expressed the opinion that the squadron would be unable to operate if the lights were removed. This squadron's unbounded enthusiasm soon spread to other night fighter squadrons and, eventually, to other branches of the Air Corps, until the service came to be in constant demand on practically every field to which this battalion was assigned. During the course of its travels across France and Germany, it gave almost 2,000 homings by the aid of which it is estimated that over 4,000 friendly aircraft were enabled to land safely.


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