This is Allen Knisley of Air/391 and a L-4 Cub like he flewTHE SPEARHEAD'S STUKAS
That's what the doughboys and tankers of the 3rd Armored Division called them. Actually it was a term of endearment, because the men of the "Spearhead" knew and appreciated the
worth of artillery liaison aircraft over the blazing front line.
in 1944-5 The photo and interview was done in September,
2000 in Indianapolis, IN See Interview below Stukas
Spearhead In The West
It wasn't a spectacular job. The pilot sat up front and attended to the business of flying. Behind him, he observer, an experienced artilleryman, studied the ground and compared it with
his 1/25,000 map. There was constant radio communication with Division Artillery, somewhere
below and to the rear. Liaison pilots arid observers were workmen. There was little glory
attached to the service—certainly none of the glitter and dash of pursuit or the Jove-like power
of heavy bombardment. They didn't go home after completing a certain number of missions
Instead, they flew right put of one campaign and into another. Except for the complete ador-
ation of ground forces, who had seen Cub observers direct withering counter-battery on enemy
big guns, the reward was small.
Surveillance of scheduled shoots and the registration of counter-battery was 'the aerial observer's bread and butter, but quite often he was called upon to direct close support fire. In the
bocage country of Normandy, where high ground was at a premium of blood, the Cubs' were
a God-send. Their appearance over the battle zone was a matter of vast satisfaction to allied
ground troops and a constant source of irritation to the enemy. German soldiers knew that the
post of poor camouflage discipline was always detection by the Cubs and a subsequent rain of
American high explosives. There was nothing that Jerry could do about it: when he counter-
attacked the American line, the flying observers brought down a barrage of hot steel. When he
attempted to knock Fortresses and Liberators out of formation, ever-present Cubs put the finger
on one flak position after another; and "the finger'' meant an immediate counter-battery. Some-
times the enemy was goaded to a boiling rage and then he sent over a flight of precious
fighters to neutralize the irritation. A Luftwaffe pilot who bailed out of a smashed Me-109 over
Hastenrath, Germany, admitted that his mission had been to strafe the landing strips of liaison
aircraft. That day, seventeen enemy fighters were shot down by anti-aircraft while attempting
to carry out like sorties.
There was plenty of danger in artillery flying. Flak and small arms was part of it: enemy planes were big poison. When a Focke-Wulf 190 popped out of the clouds or zoomed from the
deck in a vicious attack, your Cub pilot might only rely on a minimum of evasive action to
keep his dog-tags together. In comparison with a fighter, light plane speed was a joke. There
was no armor plate to deflect machine-gun slugs and cannon fire, no high speed to elude attack.
Yet, in spite of all the occupational hazards, few of the numerous front-line liaison teams were
knocked out of the sky. Cub pilots were probably more respectful of their own artillery arching
through the air on the way to enemy positions than they were of flak or Nazi fighters. Captain
Francis P. Farrel, Division Air Officer, and a famous "Spearhead" pilot, was killed in action when
his L-4 was destroyed by an American shell over Stolberg, Germany. Lt. Thomas Turner, a red-
headed veteran of Africa and Siciliy, as well as the western European campaign, barely escaped
a like fate when a 105 mm projectile passed completely through the stabilizer and rudder of
his aircraft without detonating! These were the unfortunate accidents of war which were almost
impossible to prevent under combat conditions.
There was no blemish of temperament about the little L-4 Cubs. They paced the attacking spearheads day after day. Whenever the armor coiled, the small planes landed to refuel with
regular gasoline before resuming aerial reconnaissance. The work was done from altitudes of
2,000 to 3,000 feet over the lines, but a low ceiling often forced the tiny machines much lower.
Regardless of the weather, if there was any visibility at all, the Cubs went up.
Each artillery, battalion of the "Spearhead" Division, along with the headquarters com manded by Colonel Frederic J. Brown, operated a pair of these small, but indispensable airplanes.
They kept a constant vigil on the front line, and there was very little "incoming mail" when the "Stukas" were flying.
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