Mirage III E C/n
574 and its basic armament panoply at the 4th FW. Generally
pilots on duty for this kind of work are rookies...
His volunteer posture is ideal to end the story of modern 4th Fighter Wing created on 1st May 1944 at Alto airfield south of Bastia, Corsica Island, with GC II/3 'Dauphiné' and II/5 'Lafayette' under command of Commandant Arnaud. With their new P-47Ds these Squadrons were placed under USAAF 57th Fighter Group at Alto and participated to help Allied troops, including French, in their progression on the Italian soil. On 16th June 1944, GC II/5, four years after retreat in North Africa, did its first mission over South France with 57th FG, a sweep over Languedoc coasts, this because the US Command wanted that the La Fayette name continues an almost two century love affair between France and America: General La Fayette went to help America in 1787 for its Independence, American Volunteers in 1916 went in France and anime 'Escadrille La Fayette' to fight the Huns and USAAF had set up again and firstly French 'La Fayette' Squadron' to associate it, in a common spirit of Fight for Victory, to the first operation for France's Reconquest. And, from here, II/3 and II/5 daily operated from Corsica, next from Ambérieu since 7 September 1944 ( a third squadron GC III/3 'Ardennes' was added to 4th FW on 31 October 1944 ), Luxeuil from 2 January 1945 to fight Germans on French soil and in the air before to fight them inside Germany.
When war ended the three Squadrons had performed 10,000 sorties, got 41 kills, used 4,500 metric tons of bombs and lost many pilots whose Commandant Arnaud on 12 September 1944 (not far from my family city of Belfort), with its P-47 of which I preserve a piece of windscreen and two bullets.
Curiously, in all the official records I have seen in the past, the place where he was killed by flack action is completely wrong and my father, as a guess, saw the whole P-47 attack, until a few seconds before it was shot-down by flack guns located at a hidden point for father. Cdt Arnaud's wingman circled about 10 minutes, possibly out of ammunitions ( before they had straffed locomotives and other target of opportunities between Altkirch and the Rhine ); either he had not participated to the attack with his Wing Commander due to this, or remained out of the action to survey sky and begin to counter an always possible attack from Luftwaffe Fw-190s or Bf-109s. When hit, Arnaud had time to bail-out from Thunderbolt which, halas, was already almost at tree top level in the forest located around the flack position. His very partially opened chute prevented Germans to spot the point where he hit ground, very near from crashed aircraft, and this permitted almost immediately to Partisans to find him and substract the body at nose and beard of searching troops. Later, Cdt Arnaud was inhumated at the well known Mont Valérien Monument near Paris honouring a limited number of Liberation Companions of Free French Forces dead in action.
With Peace, 4th FW installed near Koblentz in Germany having restricted activity with fifty to sixty Thunderbolts and lost its 'Ardennes' GC III/3 squadron which disbanded on 1st April 1946.
Early 1947, a part of pilots transformed on Spitfire IXs while on 1st July of the same year, the Armée de l'Air Staff decided to clear squadron numerotation. GC II/3 'Dauphiné' and GC II/5 ' La Fayette' respectively became GC I and II/4 with same associated names. All was right to embark 4th FW for Indochina where they had to replace 2nd FW ending an operation tour entamed since August 1946. This was done on 17 August and the Wing began to operate with Spitfires let by 2nd FW from October, squadrons being sent in separate sectors: I/4 at Na-Trang, II/4 at Tan-Son-Nhut and from here operated by detachments on various Indochina airfields. In October 1948, replaced by 3th Wing which continued with Spitfires used by 4th, this latter totalled more than 8,500 war hours flown over 8,000 missions.
Early 1949, the Wing took again its Thunderbolts operated in the meantime by 2nd FW pilots. From Koblentz, 4th FW move to Friedrichshafen base to rather train while mechanics and successive batch of pilots went to Mont-de-Marsan to transform on Vampire I jets before coming back to Friedrichshafen were Mk 5s arrived on 2 November 1949.
1950 began with Groupe de Chasse (GC) transforming in Escadron de Chasse (EC), their numerotation deleting Roman ciphers and 4h FW gained two squadrons : the EC 3/4 'Flandre' and EC 4/4 'Ardennes' which lasted 9 months, as seen with comment about the Ouragan picture, while Vampire 5s were used more than four years by 4th Wing.
From March 1954 to July 1954 pilots transformed to MD-450 Ouragans with which they operated from their new base of Bremgarten, the 60 aircraft,squadron by squadron, taking the place of Vampires. The interception primary mission of 4th Wing came to an end when in May 1957 first Thunderstreaks in turn replaced Ouragans to assume fighter bombing inside NATO units. As seen, EC 3/4 Flandre was dissolved, the 'Fourth' remaining with the two squadrons 'Dauphiné and 'La Fayette'. The unit, between May 1957 and June 1967 flew over 1000,000 flight hours with F-84F, its main mission being then fighter-bombing. In June 1961 occured a Base exchange with 11th Fighter Wing and its F-100s coming to Bremgarten and so operate from Germany with a nuclear tactical strike assignation in the OTAN order of battle while Thunderstreaks of 4th FW established to present Luxeuil air base in France where the wing received its first uncamouflaged Mirage III Es from October 1966 and acquired a status of nuclear tactical strike wing during 1972.