Daily Mail: Monday, September 18, 1944 – ‘Armada’


Daily Mail, Monday, September 18, 1944
Armada Flew in Fighter ‘Tunnel’
Flying out of the haze like bees swarming from a hive came hundreds upon hundreds of Allied planes. To the sides, above, and below them were fighters, forming an armoured tunnel in the air above Holland.

Through this tunnel the men of the First Allied Airborne Army flew to their destination yesterday, the low-flying transports in rigid formation within the swarm of fighters.

That was how one correspondent, William Downs, of C.B.S., saw the start of the great airborne invasion of the Netherlands – “One of the most tremendous sights I have ever seen in four years of covering this war.”

It was ideal weather for the job. Low clouds gave cover for the unarmed C-47 troop-carrier planes.

Over the paratroop drop-zones and glider-landing sites the clouds lifted, giving the pilots perfect visibilty.

Before the air armada arrived fighters and fighter-bombers had blasted the picked areas, going down in “suicide” dives on the German gun positions. Eighth Air Force fighters radioed a “running commentary” to their headquarters, telling of fierce battles in the air.

Though some units ran into fierce opposition one observer after another told how thoroughly the planes that smashed a way in had done their work.

“The odd gun I saw fire never got in more than a single round before these fighters had shot it quiet,” said a tow pilot, “I never saw anything so fast. I would not be a Hun ack-ack gunner for all the money in the world.”

Back from a reconnaissance flight low over the British and American sectors, a Spitfire pilot said: “The gliders were laid out on the landing zones as if they had been placed there by hand. They were all bang in the right spot, and unloading was going on.

“In one place I got right down and saw the local people, out in their Sunday best, lending a hand with the unloading. In another the troops were already leaning over an orchard wall talking to a crowd of girls.”

With the hundred of home-based fighters that flew across the North Sea were Dutch pilots flying Spitfires, Tempests and Mustangs of R.A.F., 2nd T.A.F. and A.D.G.B.
Their Day
The acting squadron commander of an all-Dutch squadron said it was the day his squadron had been awaiting for four years.

“And it came as a tremendous surprise,” he added. “Imagine my reaction when I saw on the instructions ‘Invasion of Holland’.”

Leo Disher, B.U.P. correspondent got this “grand-stand” picture of the landings from a fighter pilot:

“The transports came by in perfect formation, strung out from the coast to the target – some going and some coming. There was little opposition from German A.A. positions which we had previously silenced.

“The paratroops dropped from their planes as if shot from guns, and at times I could see as many as 400 in the air. Their many-coloured parachutes made a picturesque scene.

“Following up the paratroops I could see waves of big bombers towing gliders which landed in a field much like cars parked in a garage one alongside the other in neat, straight rows.

“Everything was quiet on the ground. There was nobody on the….[end excerpt]