There were many celebrations for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion over this past week, but one special event took place over the Normandy beaches themselves. This was performed by the current members of the 107th Fighter Squadron in the present day Michigan Air National Guard, stationed at Selfridge ANGB. Back in WWII, the forebears of the current squadron performed vital tactical reconnaissance flights in the buildup to the invasion. We thought our readers would be interested to read a story about the 107th and their recent overflight of Normandy with a pair of Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, one specially painted in D-Day celebration markings. They lead in a fleet of C-130 Hercules transports with more than 500 paratroopers aboard for a recreation of the drop over Sainte-Mère-Église, the French seaside town which proved of vital importance to the success of the invasion….
Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Heaton – 127th Wing
NORMANDY, France — For the first time in 74 years, the Red Devils have performed reconnaissance over the beaches of Normandy, France, and reported that today, freedom reigns. The view was markedly different in 1944.
The Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron flew over northern France Sunday, as part of the official ceremony to mark the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the massive Allied invasion of the European mainland in World War II. The successful invasion ultimately led to Allied victory over the Axis Powers. In 1944, the 107th, then designated as a Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flew several hundred reconnaissance missions over the beaches of Normandy, France, allowing the Allied High Command to plan an invasion path. In 2018 – flying their first mission in France since World War II – two 107th pilots escorted a group of nine C-130 Hercules and similar aircraft from multiple nations as they dropped about 500 paratroops near Sainte-Mère-Église, France, the same town where paratroopers landed as part of D-Day.
The 107th provided more than 9,000 intelligence photos to the Allied High Command in the weeks before D-Day. The photos showed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of defensive positions along the beach, placed by the army of Nazi Germany in advance of the expected invasion. More than 1,600 U.S. soldiers died during the D-Day invasions. Though highly costly in terms of human sacrifice, the invasion allowed Allied forces to gain a foothold on the European mainland and begin the march to victory in the war. Thirteen 107th pilots were shot down and killed in action during World War II. Three others who were shot down spent part of the war as a Prisoner of War.
“We talk about our heritage – but to actually see it and to talk with the veterans who are here and the people who lived through it, that is a game changer,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, the 127th Wing commander, of which the 107th Fighter Squadron is the oldest component. “To see where we came from, I think it inspires us all to dig a little deeper as we respond to today’s challenges.”
Slocum is part of a small contingent of Michigan Air National Guard Citizen-Airmen representing the 107th Fighter Squadron at the D-Day events. The Michigan personnel were able to coordinate participation in the D-Day commemoration while enroute to exercise Sabre Strike in Latvia in northern Europe. Michigan and Latvia have been aligned in the State Partnership for Peace program for more than 25 years.
During the flying portion of the commemoration, two 107th pilots, call signs Sherlock and Monk, flew several passes along the beaches themselves, just as their counterparts did exactly 74 years ago. This time, there was no enemy fire.
“It has been nothing but an incredible welcome here from everyone we meet. It has also been a very emotional experience, when we think about those who served in our squadron and truly set the standard that we try to live up to today,” the 107th Fighter Squadron commander said. Names of 107th pilots are withheld for operational security reasons.
Today, the 107th squadron, along with the rest of the 1,700-Airman strong 127th Wing, is based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan.