Story by A1C Kristof Rixmann on 06/08/2019COIGNY, France -- U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, spoke during a ceremony honoring the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the 358th Fighter Group in Coigny, France, June 8, 2019.
During D-Day and the days that followed, the 358th Fighter Group, nicknamed "Orange Tails" after their distinctive orange markings on their P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, dive-bombed marshalling yards and airfields, attacked enemy communications, destroyed bridges, rail lines, trains, vehicles and troop concentrations.
"We are here today, on this 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day, to remember the courage and heroism of the 358th Fighter Group," said August.
The 358th FG, without any place to sleep in between missions, found a place to stay when the hospitable people of Coigny opened their doors to these U.S. Airmen.
"This castle (Chateau de Franquetot) was occupied by Nazi forces, due to its strategic location and size," said August. "As the Allied powers advanced during the Normandy invasion, and gained a foothold here in France, this chateau found some new tenants. 850 men of the 358th Fighter Group lived in tents around these buildings, in the stables, and inside the chateau."
Before the end of the year, the Orange Tails earned four Distinguished Unit Citations and totaled 123 aerial victories over the enemy as they continued to fly escort and close air support missions during the Allied push across France and into Germany.
As the ceremony progressed, C-130Js belonging to the 37th Airlift Squadron on Ramstein, flew over the commemoration.
"We don't just look longingly at the past," said August. "The aircraft you just saw a few minutes ago are among several American C-130Js based out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany. We proudly commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, where Allied forces executed what would become the largest seaborne invasion in history."
This isn't the first time Airmen from Ramstein have flown in France, either.
"Just three months ago, in March, Ramstein Airmen flew C-130J aircraft to Orleans, France to conduct flying training with the French Air Force," said August. "This training marked the first joint C-130J training for both nations. French Forces worked side by side with Americans and conducted vital training over the skies of France, building friendships and improving our readiness along the way. This training prepares us to confront today's challenges, as our fathers and grandfathers before us did: as partners and allies."
Towards the ceremony's closing, August shared a final thought for both U.S. service members and the people of France:
"Altogether, our ready, postured forces have preserved, deterred and defended an increasingly complex region. The dedicated resolve of allies with a common purpose and shared vision builds proven partnerships that endure."