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and how many headquarters were involved cannot be determined.


The IX Troop Carrier Command, whose planes would fly the mission, got the word from CATOR sometime during the early morning of the 18th with orders to prepare forty planeloads of ammunition and medical supplies. The 435th Troop Carrier Group, at Welford, drew this assignment and loaded up with parapacks and door bundles. Orders were precise. The group was to fly to the airfield at Florennes, Belgium, and there be briefed on the mission and meet its fighter cover. The Welford base was closing in when-at an unspecified time-the first serial took off. Nonetheless twenty-three C-47's arrived in the air over Florennes. This field, it is reported, was "too busy to take care of the 435th formation," which was ordered to another field near Liege. The commander and his wingman landed at Florennes, however, only to find that there was no information for a briefing, nobody had the map coordinates for the scheduled drop, and no fighter escort had been arranged. During this time the 435th had been diverted again, finally landing at Dreux in France. Here the planes would stay until 23 December, their original mission on-again, off-again daily. Somewhere along the line additional requests from the 106th Division had swelled the mission to 138 planeloads and ultimately it was decided to make this larger drop with planes from the United Kingdom. The entire mission was canceled on 22 December in order to support the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. [15]


Two melancholy facts emerge from this story: fixed responsibility and coordination were lacking; supplies prepared for airdropping had to come from the United Kingdom, despite the fact that Allied ground troops were at the German border. Attempts to prevent a similar fiasco were initiated in a matter of days, but too late to help the dispirited Americans marching into German captivity. On 21 December the 12th Army Group issued an order "confirming" the procedure for airdrops to ground troops. This of course could be only a palliative so long as air and ground coordination remained in abeyance. A day later the commanding officer of the Communications Zone, Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, requested SHAEF to set up stocks of ready-packed supplies, capable of air delivery, at airfields strategically located on the Continent. This proposal was accepted.


Perhaps the coordination of separate services and the proper application of new military techniques must always be learned the hard way. If so, the cost is very dear and the prospect in future wars depressing.


[15] Headquarters, IX Troop Carrier Command, Operation Repulse, Resupply by Air, Belgium, December 1944 (January 1945); 435th Troop Carrier Group Unit History, MS dated 1 January 1945.