D-Day Celebrations Over Normandy

A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 107th Fighter Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard, fly over the beaches of Normandy, France, as part of the commeroration ceremonies for D-Day 74 -- the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II. The 107th Tactical Reconnaisance Squadron flew multiple missions over Normandy during the lead up to D-Day and during the invasion itself. The flight during the commemoration represents the first assigned mission for the 107th in France since World War II. The unit also served in France during World War I. The 107th is assigned to Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

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….

The pair of 107th FS A-10s in flight over the Normandy countryside, one of them painted in special markings celebrating both the D-Day invasion and 107th FS. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)
The shadows of two A-10 Thunderbolt II are seen on a French farm field during the D-Day 74 commemoration ceremony in Normandy, France, June 3, 2018. The A-10s are flown by the 107th Fighter Squadron, which participated in the D-Day invasion in 1944. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

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 brace of A-10s in the foreground bank sharply over the beaches, with a C-130 to their rear. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)
A small fleet of C-130s, loaded with paratroopers, swoop low over the Normandy coast. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

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.

F-6C Mustang (AX-G, serial number 42-103622) nicknamed “Satan’s Son” of the 107th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 9th Air Force at Middle Wallop. The 107th flew from RAF Middle Wallop in the south of England during the lead up to D-Day. Elements of the 67th moved to the continent 13 days after the invasion. (image via American Air Museum, Duxford)

“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.

A marvelous shot of the commemorative A-10, showing off its special livery to great effect over the English Channel, just off the Normandy coastline. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

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.

Paratroopers drop from a C-130 Hercules aircraft during commemoration cermonies for the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the massive invasion that helped the Allies win Word War II. The U.S. military annually joins allied nations in marking the anniversary of the June 6, 1944, invasion. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

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