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Tizeye
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59 minutes ago, Longjohn said:

I looked for my dad in there. I didn’t see him. They all dressed alike and had the same barber. Great picture. 

Well if he has in the 503rd Fighter Squadron, 339th Fighter Group stationed in RAF Fowlmere, England (8 miles SSW of Cambridge), he may be in there. The irony is that I didn't know his history when stationed 30 miles from Cambridge and went there all the time. Was shocked when learned his actual unit as my mother gave me the folder of his military records, while the base is closed, Google satellite view still shows a couple quansit huts and a dirt/grass airstrip now supporting farming and private airplanes/flight instruction in the area. If I has know that, I would have rented an Aeroclub Piper at RAF Lakenheath and flown in. Grass runway would have been different though as it requires a different procedure for takeoff and landing than asphalt.

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36 minutes ago, Tizeye said:

RAF Lakenheath

I was stationed over at RAF Upper Heyford from 1988 - 1992.

I had an uncle who flew out of England during WWII but never thought to ask where he was stationed or look it up. Maybe he's in that photo! I'll email his son to see if he knows what unit his father was in.

Uncle Jim was stationed at Scott AFB IL as was I so we had that in common. He was there for radio operator training.

While that doesn't look like a basic training photo, the US Air Force has a place to upload BMT photos. https://www.bmtflightphotos.af.mil/

 

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11 minutes ago, JerrySTL said:

 

I had an uncle who flew out of England during WWII but never thought to ask where he was stationed or look it up. Maybe he's in that photo! I'll email his son to see if he knows what unit his father was in.

 

I had just left Lakenheath in 1987 (for Luke AFB, AZ) when you arrived at Upper Heyford in 1988.

The best way to learn the unit is if you (or some family member) has the Honorable Discharge certificate or DD214 orders. While my father enter Basic Training at Camp Blanding, FL and reported for actual discharge as they downsized the military, the orders and certificate reflect the actual Squadron that he was assigned to after Basic and remained throughout the war, so technically his last duty station.

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2 hours ago, donkpow said:

I think I see him.

RAF_Fowlmere_-_31_May_1944_-_Airfield.jp

As it is today

RAF Fowlmere.jpg

And about 6 miles east is RAF Duxford under British command and just off the M11 which I traveled many times between London and Cambridge. It houses the Imperial War Museum and the American Air Museum.

RAF Duxford.jpg

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Below is Company F, 1st Ranger Battalion in the beginning of 1943, when the battalion was the ONLY commando outfit in the American army.

They were part of the original Darby's Rangers, and Colonel Darby is the guy in the middle of the three foreground men.

Somewhere in it is my father, Lou Cashen, possibly the tall guy in the back, 4th from right whose hair looks askew.

898467469_!!!CompanyF1stRangersN.Africa-Lou4thfrombackrt.gif.505a0e729530c786f38e65ced991e81b.gif

These men would be one of three Companies chosen for the first modern American commando raid: Sened Pass, Tunisia, which was intended to march 20 miles behind enemy lines, annihilate a force much larger than they were and disrupt the German-Italian lines as well as spread fear. If they failed, it was very likely that the "Ranger Experiment" would have been terminated and there would have been no Rangers to break through the lines at Omaha Beach on D-Day and no Green Berets today (though they wore black ones or camouflage-covered helmets back then).

Warning: In the excerpts from my dad's squad leader below (I met him in our home in 1964 when the Rangers had a reunion held in Baltimore), there are extremely gory details similar to the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan.

Here are maps of how the raid was staged:

2098352119_!!!SenedPassmap.jpg.a286cb4e8eca2f88dfad30e22068a46c.jpg1828911148_!!!SenedPasssatellitemap.jpg.1cc8dd8b0fe31c6e5ecf68398f3cce8c.jpg

The Rangers, Companies E, A, and F, marched and hid in the mountains and then marched toward the pass on a moonless night. 

The chain of command from Darby to my dad ran as follows:

Rangers (Col. Darby, assisted by Maj. Dammer) – Company F (Capt. Murray) – Platoon A (Lt. Nye) – 1st Squad (Sgt. Altieri, commanding): Pvt. Lou Cashen, George Fuller, Pete Preston, Ray Rodriguez, Vernon Lodge, Deacon Dunn, Elmer Garrison, and five others.

My father's squad leader, then-Sgt. James Altieri, in his book, The Spearheaders, described the action - here are some excerpts:

It was late afternoon when [Fox Company Commander] Captain Roy Murray called us together for a briefing.  “Our first mission is right down our alley. We’re hitting three heavily fortified strong points guarding the approaches to Sened Pass. The troops are crack Bersaglieri –supposedly the best in the Italian army.  Behind them the German armored forces are building up for a power punch.”

“The main purpose of this raid is to knock the enemy off balance; to bewilder and confuse and make him think there are more troops in this area than we actually have.  Another purpose is the psychological effect it will have on the enemy’s entire Tunisian army.  We’re gonna throw the entire Commando book at them – bayonets, knives, grenades – the works.”

Murray was not smiling as he usually did when briefing us. “For this raid only three companies will be used, A, E, and F.  We’ll be carted by trucks 24 miles to a French outpost on the edge of our lines.  Between the French outpost and Sened are 20 miles of desert and mountains and the area is crawling with enemy patrols.  We’ll move out from the outpost tonight, then hide in the mountains during the day.  Tomorrow night we attack.”

“There’s one thing I want to hammer home,” Murray concluded grimly.  “We’ve got to leave our mark on these people.  They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers.  Every man uses his bayonet as much as he can – those are our orders.  And remember this: we’re only bringing back ten prisoners – no more and no less.”

"...after a cold, dusty ride, the trucks came to a halt.  This was the French outpost where Darby was waiting.  “Platoon column of twos,” Nye commanded tersely.

Nye turned to me: “We’re marching fourteen miles through enemy mountains tonight.  Nobody drops out.  One straggler caught by the enemy will tip our hand.”

I moved down the squad column repeating what Nye had told me.  Each man [including Lou] nodded his head."

Altieri, at The Saddle: "I pulled out my field glasses, covering the lenses with cupped hands to prevent the sun from flashing.  In the distance – six miles east – three gently sloping hills dominated the plain where two roads converged to a juncture.  These were the positions we would take.  Beyond the three hills I could see a wide split in the background mountains.  This was Sened Pass.  To the left of the hills some moving objects were stirring up clouds of dust.  “The plain is lousy with armored patrols,” Nye said.  “Darby spotted four of ‘em in three hours.  They’re Jerry armored cars, part of Rommel’s Afrika Korps.”

As we studied the enemy positions, Murray unfolded the attack plans.  I marveled at its simplicity and daring.  As darkness approached, we would move down into the foothills.  There we would wait until the moon went down, then we would march on a compass bearing directly on line with the center hill.  

At six hundred yards from the position our three companies would deploy on a batallion front. A company would swing far to the left, E company would be in the center, and we [F company] would be on the right.  Controlled by Darby using the flashlight and radio technique, the three companies would advance silently until we were on top of the Italians.  Only then would we open fire.  After annihilating the garrison, destroying the cannon and then the supplies, we would withdraw back to the French outpost taking only ten prisoners and our wounded.

The saddle was shrouded with dark shadows when we lined up for the march into the foothills.  Once more, we scooped up handfuls of dirt, spit in it and rubbed it into our faces and hands.  Colonel Darby, Major Dammer, and the communications sergeant moved past us.  Seeing the strident, confident command group zip by us was the best morale booster we could have at this time.  Darby and Dammer had painstakingly engineered this raid – and now they were personally leading it.  Somewhere behind a voice [Lou Cashen, who was one of twelve behind Altieri?] cracked, “El Darbo hits the trail tonight.”

The line moved…We hid behind a low hill and waited for the moon to go down…The moon went down…and we were on our feet.  We had marched about a half hour when suddenly the line halted.  We hit the ground, rifles at the ready.  Nye whispered back to me, “Enemy patrol.”  We strained our eyes in trying to probe the black wall around us.  A muffled scream pierced the night, followed by complete silence.  The Rangers ahead of me got to their feet and started moving as Nye again whispered back, “A Company’s scouts got ‘em.”  Ranger knives had had their first taste of enemy blood.

It was 0200 hours, just one hour since we jumped off. Nye turned to me, “Pass it back: company in line formation!”  It was now up to Fox Company to wheel around toward the right.  The maneuver was completed deftly, without any confusion.  I could see [Fox Company Commander Capt.] Murray’s pinpoint red light flashing our position back to Darby.  The three companies were now marching side by side through total darkness on a half mile front.  There was nothing but the enemy six hundred yards ahead.

We kept our direction between squads by observing Nye’s green flashlight pinpoints.  The platoon kept it’s direction by observing Murray’s red pinpoints.  Murray kept the company’s direction by following Darby’s commands over the radio.

As we marched closer and closer, it seemed incredible to me that the enemy was completely still.  Were they asleep?  Then it happened!  The stillness of the night was shattered by a long raking burst of machine-gun fire to our left toward A Company. Like a chain reaction a dozen more machine guns joined in a deadly chorus, spewing out green and red tracers into the plain. Ahead of us less than 50 yards away, we could hear excited Italians, but still no fire opened up on us.

“Que va la?…Que va la?” [Who goes there?] several voices yelled out to us.  They were confused but not for long.  Almost at once the entire hillside erupted with a terrific roar as thousands of hot, searing tracers banshied over our heads and ricocheted into the rocks.  I hit the ground.  The rest of the squad [including Lou], I could see through the eerie glare of the tracers, were already down.

The enemy was now raking our lines with direct fire from his 47 mm cannon...I shouted back at the top of my lungs, “Let’s go! On your bellies!” I could hear the rest of the squad behind me, grunting, gasping.  I could hear the babble of Italian voices ahead.  And I could hear the occasional cry of pain as some of our men were hit.

It seemed like a million years before I felt the damp ground rise on the enemy’s forward slope.  Chattering guns were now stitching harmlessly over our heads.  “Get into skirmish lines,” I shouted.  Swiftly the men in my squad slithered up to the protective ground rise and formed into their assault positions.

A long moment passed before I heard Nye’s voice: “You all set, Al?”

“All Set,” I shouted back.

Another long moment…then, “Give ‘em hell!”  Nye’s voice rang out.

“Grenade first,” I yelled, as I pulled the pin on my grenade and hurled it up toward the stabbing flames of a machine gun...the earth shook convulsively as a dozen other grenades [including Lou Cashen’s] hit home.  Swiftly we were on our feet, screaming at the top of our lungs, charging up the slopes, firing our rifles and Tommy guns.

Fear had no meaning. I was now a black-faced conscienceless killer, and my only thought was to destroy the tormentors who had given me my first vivid impressions of hell.  When I came on the first machine gun position the gunner was firing aimlessly over our heads, unaware that we had crawled right under his position.  Ray Rodriguez just stood up and sprayed the gunner with a sharp Tommy gun burst as I fired three shots into the gunner’s assistant.  They never knew what hit them.

I could hear the shouts of other Rangers to my right and left and the bloodcurdling screams of Italians as Ranger bayonets found their marks.  There was no time to check my squad to see who was where. The battle was on. Each Ranger knew what his role was.  It was attack and kill everything in front of you.

Now the enemy was screaming. Shrill cries of “Non Fiermati! Non Fiermati!” [Don’t fire!] bleated all around us.  I could tell by the flashes of our own gunfire and the roaring, cursing shouts of Rangers that our entire company was sweeping up the slopes in an unbroken, unremitting line.

I moved up and then I felt myself falling.

Before I knew it I found myself in a deep slit trench, wedged in face to face with an Italian soldier. He was as surprised as I was.  He just stood there for a long moment transfixed. The trench was too narrow to use my rifle. In that flashing long second of indecision I nearly panicked. Then I remembered my Commando knife. Almost mechanically I released my grip on my rifle, reached down, gripped the handle of my knife, then with a lightning thrust brought it up with all my strength into his stomach. “Mamma Mia,” he cried. “Mamma Mia.”  I felt the hot blood spurt all over my right arm as I pulled the knife out, then rammed it home again and again.  As the body slid to the ground, I reeled and vomited.

A piecing howl erupted followed by [Altieri’s squad member] George Fuller’s voice: “They got [Altieri’s squad member] Pete Preston [wounded but he survived]…Let’s give it to the bastards.”

Without breaking pace we swarmed over the remaining centers of resistance, grenading, bayoneting, shooting, screaming, cursing, and grunting.  The remaining Italians never had a chance. We worked them over furiously, giving them no quarter.  We had taken all they could throw at us.  Now it was our turn to dish it out. It was sickening, it was brutal, it was inhuman, but that was our job –and we were stuck with it.  Now the sound of [F Company Sgt.] Torbett’s lusty voice could be heard: “Don’t kill ‘em all. We need some prisoners.”

After the raid:

Darby looked at his watch.  “Two and a half hours until dawn…We’ve got to get these wounded men back to that outpost or we’ll be cold bait out here.  We’ll split into two columns.  The first column will speed back before dawn.  The second column will carry and protect the wounded. I want volunteers for the second column [Altieri’s squad, including Lou Cashen, volunteered]. Dammer, you take the first column. I’ll take the second.”

The nightmare of the raid was nothing compared to the agonizing, harrowing forced march across the spines of the rugged mountain range.  Each one of us took turns carrying stretchers, supporting walking wounded, and pulling rear-guard duty.  Our throats were parched, for what little water we had was given to our wounded. Our hands were blistered raw from holding rifle stretchers and our backs ached from the sheer weight of our burdens.

Now I understood Darby’s unrelenting insistence on physical conditioning and night training.  Darby was magnificent.  He took turns carrying stretchers. He did his best to cheer the wounded.  The wounded were magnificent too.  Without a whimper they clenched their teeth as we jostled them up and down the mountains.  Darby, his blackened face glistening with sweat, his uniform ripped and tattered, stood at the foot of the mountains waiting for the last of the stragglers to come down: “Stretch those legs, Rangers…eat up that ground!”

The results of the raid were far beyond expectations.  Counted dead were over 100 Italians, with innumerable wounded on the slopes. Eighteen Rangers were wounded and only one killed – Elmer Garrison.  It was two hours after dusk when the roar of our trucks sounded.  Our purgatory of suspenseful waiting was at an end.

But as much as I hated killing by the knife, I knew that I must and would continue the war with the Rangers.  I had seen and experienced enough on that raid to know I was in one of the best-trained, best-led, and best-spirited outfits in the army.

We were now bloodied in the goriest type of fighting in the world. From now on there would be no illusions about what the future held for the Rangers and what would be expected of each man who wished to remain with them.

Deacon Dunn ran up excitedly. “Hey, you should have heard what Axis Sally just said about us over the radio. She called the Rangers “Black Death”.  She said we’re all a bunch of gangsters and convicts. Darby was listening, too.  He just laughed and said, ‘Well, I guess we made a bit of an impression on them.’

She said no Ranger will ever be taken prisoner – they’ll be killed like they killed the Italians.”

Later:

Darby, his face showing deep emotion, spoke for the first time. “I’m damn proud to command this battalion. I told you back in Arzew that the outfit that could slip up on the enemy and stun him with shock and surprise –that is the outfit that will win battles and that was the outfit I wanted.  Well, I can tell you fellows right now, after Sened that is the outfit I now have. You men have proved to me that commanding the Rangers is like driving a team of spirited horses.  No effort is needed to get them to go forward…the problem is to hold them in check.”

With his last sentence left hanging in the air, Darby abruptly did a sharp left and strode out of the clearing, leaving behind cheering Rangers who from that day on would never doubt, never falter, never complain and always follow wherever and whenever Darby led."

Before their war ended in 1944 after Anzio, James Altieri was promoted to a company-commanding Lieutenant and Lou Cashen to Sergeant, commanding a platoon and they were both transferred to the newly formed 4th Ranger Battalion as Darby's Rangers was expanded.  If the Sened Pass attack had failed, the Ranger experiment would likely have been terminated.  After the war, Altieri wrote a couple books and also the screenplay for the James Garner movie, "Darby's Rangers."


 

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