510th Dedication by Ralph C. Jenkins
Written by Ralph C. Jenkins on Saturday, 20 November 2004 22:11
Ralph C. Jenkins Colonel U.S.A.F., Retired Commander, 510th Fighter Squadron (1945)
I hope I won't be out of line speaking for all the 510th Fighter Bomber Squadron commanders, from the beginning at Walterboro, South Carolina through war's end in Europe. Bruce Parcell was commanding officer from the unit's organization, 5 November 1943, until his death in combat on or about 27 July, 1944 when I took command. Parcell organized the unit, supervised its training, moved it to Christchurch and led its first combat missions. Then there were those who took over while I was on stateside leave in November and December, 1944 when the 510th distinguished itself on missions at Metz (and its Ft. Driant), Chateau-Salins, Saar Valley east of Nancy, and Bastogne in the Ardennes. Upon returning to Europe I was privileged to command until war's end.
I was a twenty-four-year-old pilot, and I thought the German navy scarcely existed and would offer no resistance to the invasion. I was the squadron operations officer of the 510th based at Christchurch, which was west of Southhampton.
We had been confined to the base. For the past several weeks, tremendous quantities of military gear had been heading to the southern ports of England. There was little doubt that the invasion was at hand.
In the early morning hours of June 6, we were summoned by our intelligence officers to the ready rooms and were briefed on our missions for the day. We were disappointed to learn that we had not been assigned to do close air support or fighter bombing on the ground in advance of the invasion forces. Instead, we were to go out over the English Channel, out toward the tip of the Brest Peninsula, and look for units of the German navy that could menace the invasion troops. We were very disappointed. It was very boring. We saw no submarines or traces of submarines.
We did finally see a large ship heading for the Cotentin Peninsula. I descended from twenty thousand feet to ten thousand to have a better look, and suddenly the sky was filled with antiaircraft fire coming from this ship. I reported this to headquarters. I suspect it was a German ship heading for the invasion area. This was most likely the only capability left in the German navy to resist the invasion.
"Willie the Wolf"
is believed to have painted most of the nose arts displayed in the 510th Fighter Squadron and he was described by many in the outfit as "the only indispensible man in the squadron." It was he who designed the unit emblem "Willie the Wolf" after a request from CO Ralph Jenkins. His work undoubtedly raised the morale of the fliers and ground crew and helped them to cope with the difficult conditions they had to endure, especially in the drive across France into Germany in the last year of the war in Europe