320th ANTI-AIRCRAFT BALLOON BATTALION (VLA)
American Heroes of Normandy Beach - World War II
All documents and photos submitted
by Bill A. Davison
Balloon Umbrella Raised on D-Day Has Sheltered the Beachheads Since
By Allan Morrison
(Stars and Stripes Staff Writer)
A U. S. Beachhead, July 5, 1944 -- During and since D-Day barrage balloons flown by a Negro barrage balloon battalion have provided a screen of rubber several miles long on the two main beachheads, assisting in the protection of troop landings and the unloading of supplies.
There are two significant aspects of this outfit's work. First, the VLA (very low altitude) balloon confounded skeptics on their part in keeping enemy raiders above effective strafing altitude.
Second, the unit has the distinction of being the only Negro combat group included in the first assault forces to hit the coasts.
The balloons were flown across the channel from hundreds of landing craft, three men to a balloon, and taken ashore under savage fire from enemy batteries. Some of the men died alongside the infantrymen they came in to protect, and their balloons drifted off. But the majority struggled to shore with their balloons and light winches and set up for operation in foxholes on the beach.
The balloons still fly as protective umbrellas, some from the sites taken under 88 fire, others snugly established in former German hill fortifications. Many of the crews live in German pillboxes built into the cliffs and man their balloons around the clock.
The balloons are armed with a lethal device attached to the cable. Should an enemy pilot try to fly through the barrage and strike a cable, the device releases a "flying mine" which explodes against the plane.
The unit's first kill came recently when a JU88 ran afoul of the cable supporting the balloon commanded by Cpl. George Alston, of Norfolk, Virginia.
Pride of the battalion is a group of medics who covered themselves with glory on D-Day by landing in the face of heavy fire to set up a first aid station on that beach.
The men praised by the unit's CO, Lt. Col. Leon Reed, of Middlesboro, Kentucky, are: Capt. Robert E Devitt, Chicago, Illinois; S/Sgt. Alfred Bell, Memphis, Tennessee; Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cpl. Eugene Worthy, Memphis, Tennessee, and Pfc Warren W. Capers, Kenbridge, Virginia. All have been recommended for decorations.
They Landed on D-Day
Three Davison Brothers Serve Overseas
Sergeant George Davison in Balloon Battalion in France
Balloon Units Help Protect Land Troops
Soldier Writes About Invasion
Sergeant George Davison Writes of Invasion
An American Hero of Normandy Beach
D-Day Plus 54 Years
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