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‘For the want of a nail…’

An image taken by the 78th Fighter Group's John Taylor, captioned 'Looking toward motor pool'

This photograph was taken from the airfield lookout post, which in 1944 was on the south east corner of the 82nd Fighter Squadron’s hangar. It shows the ‘motor pool’ and, in the foreground, other workshops and support facilities.

The proverb that begins ‘For the want of a nail…’ is often quoted to illustrate the importance of every cog, no matter how small, to the eventual success of an operation. Our latest extract from the 78th Fighter Group’s records illustrates how everyone had a part to play in the Group’s success, and in the overall success of the wider undertaking that was D-Day.  If the actual words of the proverb, a version of which is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, weren’t at the forefront of Staff Sergeant William F. Roberts’s mind when he wrote his June 1944 report, I think he would nevertheless have appreciated its sentiment:

‘As I start this month’s Squadron History I can’t help but be impressed by the significance of the importance that June 6, 1944 will play in the History of the world. I realize of course that this contribution is concerned only with the happenings of our squadron, but I am going to take the privilege of digressing for a moment to offer a few words of praise to everyone concerned in the stupendous undertaking that took place on that memorable day.

After months of planning, down to the minutest detail, the venture was a great success and obviously will continue as such. Being connected with supply I am naturally impressed with the magnitude of the job of acquiring and accumulating the staggering amount of supplies that was the prime requisite so necessary for the landing and subsequent holding of the beachhead. In last month’s history I erroneously stated that the Group was discontinuing the use of 150 octane petrol. It seems that I was sadly misinformed, not only has the 82nd Squadron continued to use this petrol but the entire group is using it. The most difficult part of the task was the siphoning of 12,000 gallons, due to the old type tank not having installation suitable for drainage. Our petrol boys have been pretty much on the ball inasmuch as they had the additional duty of refuelling some fifty transient planes from the beachhead. It was necessary to replenish their supply to the extent of 32,000 gallons that night, a job that kept the men busy all night.

The continued influx of parts to this station has helped considerably to alleviate the constant demand of the post technical supply departments. This is due primarily to the daily contacts being made by Major Dehm and M/Sgt Hubbard with our supply depot. A look at the daily status report will show the results of this effort. Our average for planes grounded for parts for the first 20 days of this month was less than two per day. We in supply think that figure rather good considering the amount of planes we handle, and the conditions that have been prevalent for some time.

Recently new ships that have been assigned to the group have been arriving with new type Hamilton Hydromatic propeller. As to the merits of the propeller I am not in a position to say, however there has been considerable difficulty obtaining the parts necessary for their repair. To combat this situation the group has changed several of the props over to Curtiss Electric propeller. There are some half dozen parts necessary for this change and so far we have met the demand. To meet the emergency M/Sgt Hubbard has set aside a complete kit of these parts in the event of another change over.

If we could foresee the trouble and deficiencies that arise and the cycle they take ours would be a happy lot. As an example, the latter part of last month saw a requisition for a Flight Indicator type C-7. Little did we realize the numerous requests about to descend on us for this item in the coming days. After a week of trying different depots and bases, without much success, Major Dehm and M/Sgt Hubbard were about to tear their hair out. Fortunately the situation was successfully coped with and the wheel has turned. Our supply depot being cognizent of our repleted stock for this item, has since remedied this situation and we now have a supply sufficient to meet a normal demand. We are awaiting with much trepidation the next sequence of events and the item it will concern.

Congratulations are in order to M/Sgt Hubbard and Pfc Hopgood on their birthdays this month. Major Dehm and all the boys wish them the best of everything. Pfc William “Bullethead” Drechsler has left our industrious group and transferred over to the sheet metal shop. The first thing the sheet metal boys did was to change Bullet’s, ‘Nom De Plume’, it is now appropriately “Rivet Head”. His T.O.file is being handled by Cpl Howell and Pfc Lobdell.

M/Sgt Hubbard’s untiring effort to keep our A.C.C. status report below a theoretical minimum was proven once again when he first contacted another P-47 base at Martlesham Heath in regards to acquiring two main landing wheels for Colonel Grey’s plane. It was only a matter of moments for Hubbard to fly to Martlesham and return with the wheels.’

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