Juvincourt Airfield: Wikis

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Juvincourt Airfield
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 49°26′15″N 003°52′59″E / 49.4375°N 3.88306°E / 49.4375; 3.88306
Built 1938
Built by Established by French Air Force (1938)
Greatly expanded by German Air Force (Primary construction)
Repaired by IX Engineer Command (USAAF), 1944
In use 1938-1945
Current
condition
Abandoned
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Occupants German Air Force (1941-1944), Ninth Air Force, 1944-1945
Battles/wars World War II
Juvincourt Airfield is located in France
Juvincourt Airfield
Location of Juvincourt Airfield, France

Juvincourt Airfield is an abandoned military airfield, which is located near the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary in the Aisne department of northern France.

Built originally as a grass airfield by the French Air Force before World War II, Juvincourt was expanded to become one of the main German Luftwaffe air bases in France during the German occupation (1940-1944), hosting a wide variety of both fighter and bomber aircraft, including German jet fighters and bombers. Seized by the Allies in September 1944, it became a major United States Army Air Force base for fighter, bomber and transport units for the remainder of the European War (1944-1945).

Today, the airfield is a quiet place, hosting paintball fights and a Robert Bosch GmbH automobile testing center and track. Extensive wartime relics can be found in the area as well as the former airfield.

Contents

History

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World War I

Juvincourt Airfield has its origins about 1917 as a grass airdrome built by the French Air Force as a combat airfield on the World War I Western Front. Beginning in November 1918, "Julvecourt Airdrome" was made available to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) air units in France. The 1st Aero Squadron; Photographic Section No. 1, and the 12th Aero Squadron all moved in during early November, and remained there until the end of the war on 11 November. Afterward, the American units withdrew by the end of the month. [1]

After the war ended, the airfield was closed and the land returned to farmers. The exact location of Julvecourt Airdrome has not been determined, other than being in the general vicinity of Juvincourt-et-Damary.

Between the wars

A new French Air Force facility was built at Juvincourt during 1938 and 1939 consisting of a grass airfield with three small grass subfields associated with it:[2]

It appears that the French Air Force considered Juvincourt an auxiliary airfield and did not station any units or aircraft at the facility. After World War II broke out in September 1939, the Royal Air Force sent 16 Fairey Battles of 76 Wing, 142 Squadron to Proviseux (Berry-au-Bac), between 2-12 September 1939. The RAF aircraft, however, did not see any combat during the Phony War, and were moved on 12 September to Plivot.[3][4]

Luftwaffe use

It was captured by the Germans in June 1940 during the Battle of France, and was developed by the Luftwaffe into the largest German military airfield in France during the occupation, having more than 300 aircraft assigned.[5]

Under Luftwaffe control, the airfield was vastly expanded with an aggressive construction program. Three concrete runways aligned 17/35 5300' (1610 m); 09/27, 5280' (1600 m) and 05/23 6500' (1980 m) were laid down to provide all-weather use of the field. An enclosing perimeter taxiway loop connecting the ends of runways was built, connecting the airfield to the support station.[2]. A large concrete control tower was erected, 49°25′32.87″N 003°52′11.32″E / 49.4257972°N 3.8698111°E / 49.4257972; 3.8698111 and an expansive support base to the southwest 49°25′25″N 003°51′36″E / 49.42361°N 3.86°E / 49.42361; 3.86 was built in a wooded area with permanent, concrete structures. Barracks, workshop buildings, air raid bunkers, earth-covered concrete hangars and a series of taxiways connected the support and maintenance facilities with the airfield. A railroad spur was built, with a right-of-way from the northern main line to haul supplies and equipment, as well as disassembled aircraft and munitions to the base. In addition to the airfield and support base, barracks facilities were constructed in the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary, on the northeast side of the airfield, being dispersed away from the airfield and technical support area.[2]

Known German combat units assigned (All from Luftlotte 3, Fliegerkorps I) were:[2][6][7] [5]

In August 1944, an Arado Ar 234B Jet bomber arrived at the airfield with Kampfgeschwader 76 to perform reconnaissance missions over Allied shipping at the landing beaches in Normandy, France. The mission on 2 August was the first photo-reconnaissance mission undertaken by a jet. The Ar 234 returned to Germany after a few days.[5]

Juvincourt was a frequent target of Allied aircraft during the Strategic Bombing Campaign over Occupied Europe in 1943-1944. Eighth Air Force records show specific heavy B-17 Flying Fortress bomber attacks on the airfield in October 1943 and January 1944.[8]. It was also attacked routinely by Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder medium bombers. The medium bombers would attack in coordinated raids, usually in the mid to late afternoon, with Eighth Air Force heavy bombers returning from attacking their targets in Germany. The attack was timed to have the maximum effect possible to keep the Luftwaffe interceptors pinned down on the ground and be unable to attack the heavy bombers. Also, the P-47 Thunderbolts of Ninth Air Force would be dispatched to perform fighter sweeps over Juvincourt after the Marauder raids, then meet up with the heavy bombers and provide fighter escort back to England. As the P-51 Mustang groups of Eighth Air Force began accompanying the heavy bombers all the way to their German targets by mid-1944, it was routine for them to also attack Juvincourt on their return back to England with a fighter sweep and attack any target of opportunity to be found at the airfield.[9][10]

Allied use

The airfield was sized from the Germans by Allied ground forces on 5 September 1944. Before abandoning the base, the Germans conducted demolitions of whatever buildings had not been destroyed by Allied air attacks. Once in American hands, combat engineers of the IX Engineering Command 820th Engineer Aviation Regiment repaired the damaged airfield and declared it operationally ready for combat units on 7 September, only a few days after its capture from German forces, being designated as Juvincourt Airfield (A-68)

Although operationally usable, Juvincourt was a wrecked base from the numerous Allied air attacks since late 1942 and what was blown up by the Germans as they withdrew. The Americans made due with what could be repaired, and moved in what equipment was necessary to conduct combat operations. The barracks facilities built by the Germans in the village were much appreciated by aircrews and ground personnel, who were used to living in tents since their departure from bases in England in June. What was not constructed of reinforced concrete was shattered, although even some of those were destroyed by the 500 pound GP bombs of the Marauders and Flying Fortresses. Many buildings of masonry construction had been made useless, their contents consisting of nothing but wreckage. [11][12]

Under American control, Ninth Air Force used the base for several units from 7 September 1944 until closing the base in July 1945. Known units assigned were:[13]

Each group had three or four combat squadrons of aircraft assigned to the airfield, making Juvincourt one of the largest and most active USAAF fields on the continent. Attacks on German ground forces, bridges, airfields still in Luftwaffe hands, railroads and any target of opportunity of the German forces were targets of the Thunderbolts as the ground forces moved east into Luxembourg and past the Siegfried Line into Germany. [14] In addition, the Royal Air Force also utilized Juvincourt, units and aircraft are yet to be determined.

With the war ended, Juvincourt became largely a transport airfield, being used by the RAF also for repatriation of English, Australian and New Zealand prisoners of war. These transfers were made by Lancasters of No 463 and 467 Squadrons, RAAF.

The airfield was returned to French control on 2 July 1945.

Postwar

In French control after the war, the base sat abandoned for several years. There was much unexploded ordinance at the site which needed to be removed, as well as the wreckage of German and American aircraft. Many of the buildings at the base were destroyed by the Allied air attacks, and although some had been repaired by the American combat engineers, most were in ruins. Although it was a prewar French Air Force facility, the Air Force wanted nothing to do with a Nazi airfield on French soil. As a result, the Air Ministry leased the land, concrete runways, structures and all, out to farmers for agricultural use, sending in unexploded ordnance teams to remove the dangerous munitions.

In 1950 when as a result of the Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, the air base at Juvincourt was offered to the United States Air Force by the French Air Ministry as part of their NATO commitment to establish a modern Air Force Base at the site. Some construction was performed, pouring a 8000' jet runway (05/23) to the south of the World War II airfield, along with aircraft dispersal areas at each end of the runway. However the construction was never completed due to the high cost of breaking the agricultural leases, and also the high costs of removing the concrete German runways and other facilities. It was cheaper to build an air base elsewhere and the land was simply sold off to private interests.[2][15].

Current

Today Juvincourt Airfield is a quiet place, consisting of mostly agricultural fields. The N44 highway bisects the airfield, crossing over the southwest part running NW/SE.

Of the three concrete runways laid down by the Luftwaffe, only the northwest/southeast (17/35) remains at full length and width. although some sections have been removed over the years. Many patched bomb craters are evident on the concrete. A significant amount of the east/west (09/27) runway still exists, also extensively patched, however, the 05/23 runway is almost nonexistent, being almost totally removed for hardcore aggregate. A very small section, however, can be found in the middle of a field 49°26′03.80″N 003°52′03.26″E / 49.434389°N 3.8675722°E / 49.434389; 3.8675722 connecting two single-track agricultural roads which are the remaining narrow concrete strips of the former runway, the full width of which can be seen in disturbed earth along the road. The enclosing perimeter track taxiway exists also as single-lane concrete farm roads. Connecting taxiways of the airfield exist as well in the same condition.

An interesting feature 49°26′07.27″N 003°52′27.84″E / 49.4353528°N 3.8744°E / 49.4353528; 3.8744 can be found in the middle of the airfield. It is a concrete circle in a ring, that indicates the cardinal points of the compass. It was connected by a taxiway and was used to adjust aircraft navigation equipment. The concrete control tower (coordinates listed above) today is a restaurant, with what appears to be a connecting wartime building as part of the structure located today on the west side of the N44. About 1 km northwest, also along the N44 is a British World War I cemetery 49°25′50.23″N 003°51′48.53″E / 49.4306194°N 3.8634806°E / 49.4306194; 3.8634806 which has the graves of many Tommies killed along the Western Front trenches that were close by the area. Nearby the cemetery are concrete bomb shelters dug by the Germans and reinforced, to protect personnel during the frequent Allied air raids.[2]

The wooded areas to the southwest of the airfield 49°25′42″N 003°51′53″E / 49.42833°N 3.86472°E / 49.42833; 3.86472, adjacent to the N44 is where the German ground support station was built. Many buildings still remain in the woods, in various states of disrepair, almost all constructed of concrete. This area is now on private land and access is prohibited. The woods contain underground bomb shelters; concrete aircraft hangars, ruins of barracks; workshops and other buildings. Photos of these structures can be found here:[2] In aerial photography, the remains of aircraft taxiways and dispersal parking revetments can be seen which connected the technical site to the airfield. The railroad spur right-of-way 49°26′10.27″N 003°51′09.24″E / 49.4361861°N 3.8525667°E / 49.4361861; 3.8525667 is still visible in aerial photography, however the tracks have long since been removed.

In the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary, northeast of the airfield, several buildings that appear to be the remains of former military barracks and bomb shelter exist. 49°26′33.33″N 003°53′25.25″E / 49.4425917°N 3.8903472°E / 49.4425917; 3.8903472, 49°26′35.67″N 003°53′28.13″E / 49.4432417°N 3.8911472°E / 49.4432417; 3.8911472, 49°26′46.24″N 003°53′12.56″E / 49.4461778°N 3.8868222°E / 49.4461778; 3.8868222. Some are abandoned, some are in use today by the residents of the commune.[2]

To the southeast of the wartime airfield is the 1950s jet aircraft runway and dispersal pads built when Juvincourt was proposed as a NATO air base. Today it is owned by Robert Bosch GmbH, being used as an automobile testing center and track. [2]

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i History of Juvincourt Airfield
  3. ^ Royal Air Force Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940
  4. ^ No. 142 Squadron (RAF): Second World War
  5. ^ a b c Der Flugplatz Juvincourt, 1939-1945
  6. ^ Units and aircraft of the Luftwaffe in the West
  7. ^ Identification codes of units of the Luftwaffe 1939 - 1945
  8. ^ USAFHRA History Search - Juvincourt
  9. ^ Derived from information in USAAF Film "Target For Today" (available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkGL7vuC2A4)
  10. ^ USAFHRA Document 00233753
  11. ^ IX Engineering Command Advanced Landing Grounds
  12. ^ Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
  13. ^ Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  14. ^ Maurer, Maurer. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1982
  15. ^ McAuliffe, Jerome J: U.S. Air Force in France 1950-1967 (2005), Chapter 2, Base Selection and Movement to France, 1950-1954

External links

Contains many photos of the ruins of the airfield, many in restricted areas not available to the public.
Contains many photos of the airfield and base while being used by the Luftwaffe, and has detailed descriptions of the units and aircraft assigned.

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