As the 70th Anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy is commemorated, one should talk note that the 14th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron did its part to ensure the success of this major Allied operation which was key to the effort to defeat Nazi Germany.
Although details for the squadron’s operations on D-Day are unknown to this web log writer, the 14PRS did receive a Distinguished Unit Citation, the equivalent of today’s Presidential Unit Citation, for operations between 31 May – 30 June 1944, when it accomplished critical photo intelligence collection against bridges, marshalling yards, canals, highways, rivers, and other vital targets which contributed much to the success of the Normandy campaign.
Within the period of the citation, the squadron lost two pilots who gave their all on combat aerial reconnaissance missions over occupied Europe.
Capt. Robert R. Nelson was flying F-5A Photo Lightning, serial number 42-12981, from the squadron’s homefield at Mount Farm to cover recon targets perhaps as far as Germany when he went missing on June 8, 1944.
Capt. Nelson is buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Magraten, Netherlands, at Plot O, Row 3, Grave 2. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
One week later, on June 15, 1944, 1st Lt. Robert W. Dideriksen flew Spitfire PR Mk XI, serial number PL790, to cover recon targets at Evere/Fauville and Coulommiers.
Scuttlebutt in the squadron had it that he was intercepted by Me-109’s near Paris and killed in action. He had married a British nurse about a week before he was lost. Lt. Dideriksen is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, at Plot D, Row 17, Grave 11. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters.
So on this 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, let us remember all the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and Coast Guardsmen too, who gained that vital foothold on the occupied continent. Aided by the photographic reconnaissance of the 14th PRS and men like Capt. Nelson and Lt. Diderkisen, their efforts were successful, and set into motion the Allied campaign across northwest Europe which contributed mightily to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The accomplishments of the 14th PRS on D-Day and in the Normandy campaign are something all who served in the squadron since then can be proud of. To the Airmen of the 14PRS, a hand salute!
14th Fighter Squadron Lineage and Honors Fact Sheet, at: http://www.afhra.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=9807
RAF Mount Farm,” Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Mount_Farm
Missing Air Crew Reports Database query for 14PRS, at Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research website, at: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/
American Battle Monuments Commission website, at: http://www.abmc.gov/
“Spitfire PL.790” discussion thread, Army Air Forces.com Forum at: http://forum.armyairforces.com/Spitfire-PL790-m163740.aspx
F-5A Photo Lightning scale model image, at: http://www.hyperscale.com/features/2000/f5aws_1.htm
Spitfire PR Mk XI artwork, at: http://www.clavework-graphics.co.uk/aircraft/supermarine_spitfire/spitfire_mk11_004.html