"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 Hellcats  over  PROVENCE  
            VF-74 & VOF-1 IN OPERATION DRAGOON



 

Unlike the Navy's aerial role in the Normandy invasion the previous June, Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, which was to commence at 7:30 AM, August 15th, 1944, was to see the direct participation of U.S. Navy aircraft, as well as U.S. Naval aviators to fly them. Embarked aboard the escort carriers CVE 69, USS Kasaan Bay and CVE 72, USS Tulagi (and joined by aircraft from seven Royal Navy escort carriers), the pilots of two squadrons of F6F-5 Hellcats, VF-74 and VOF-1 (Observation Fighting Squadron One), had been trained to support the invasion. Expanding upon the limited (but important) role carried out by the Spitfire equipped pilots of VCS-7 at Normandy, these men were now tasked with directing naval gunfire, performing tactical reconnaissance, providing a protective combat air patrol (CAP) over the beaches and the ships off shore as well as conducting offensive ground support strikes. In addition to their daylight activities, a seven plane contingent of night-fighters was attached to VF-74 and stationed ashore on Corsica to provide night CAP over our forces. All this was made possible by using the versatile Grumman built aircraft flying from the two small carriers stationed close to the invasion beaches.

In our background photo, medium bombers of the 12th U.S. Air Force crater the beach and the area inland surrounding their target, the German-controlled Frejus airfield, in the early morning hours of August 15, 1944, prior to the Allied assault landings.

      
      VF-74 in May of 1944, while training at NAS Atlantic City, prior to receiving their new F6F-5s and going aboard USS Kasaan Bay. 
VOF-1 aboard USS Tulagi during Operation Dragoon. - 
Seven of nine CVEs, and two DDs, of the task group assigned to support Operation Dragoon. In total, 200 fighters were aboard.
 
Below:  This film, Combat Bulletin No. 17, was originally classified as "Restricted". It is one of a weekly series produced for the War Department by the Army Pictorial Service. They were  intended for viewing by members of the Armed Forces only, to keep them abreast of current events on all the war fronts. Released  a few weeks after the landings, it gives a good account of the invasion and it's progress during the first few days of the campaign.