Initially designated as a light bomber base, then as a training base for mobile squadrons, plans for the ALG were approved in December 1942 and building work took place over the winter.
No. 127 Airfield, comprising of Nos 403 and 421 Squadrons Royal Canadian Air Force, moved in on the 6-7th of August 1943. Equipped with Spitfire Mk IXs they flew Ramrods (fighter escort) for No. 2 Group. During their brief stay, they moved to Headcorn ALG 12 days later, the CO of No. 403 Squadron, Squadron Leader W A G Conrad DFC. was shot down over France. He evaded capture and was back in the UK by October.
The airfield was upgraded over the winter of 1943/44 for use by the US Amy Air Force.
The 100th Fighter Wing, XIXth Tactical Air Command USAAF arrived at Lashenden on the 13th April 1944, the wing controlling the 354th Fighter Group (based at Lashenden), the 358th FG (High Halden), the 362nd FG (Headcorn) and the 363rd FG (Staplehurst). The four airfields were fairly close to each other, so things probably got a bit busy at times!
The 354th Fighter Group, comprising of Nos 353, 355 and 356 Fighter Squadrons, moved from Boxted, Essex, to Lashenden on the 17th April. The group was the first to take the Merlin powered NA P-51B Mustang into action and became the top US fighter group in the European Theater of Operations.
The group orginally flew long-range escort for the bombers of the 8th Air Force, but as D-Day approached the group switched to attacking ground targets in northern France. For their work the group received a Distinguished Unit Citation.
More details of the group can be found @ http://www.354thpmfg.com
On D-Day the group was held in reserve until the evening, when they took part in Operation Keokuk, escorting gliders and transports carrying paratroops to the Chebourg Peninsula. In the days that followed the group flew extensive close-support missions over the beach-heads, while also shooting down several V-1 missiles.
The 354th FG moved to Normandie on the 23rd June, going to ALG A-2 at Criqueville-en-Bessin.
Link to footage of four Mustangs from 353 and 356 Fighter Squadrons taking off, buzzing the airfield and landing. Criqueville-en-Bessin, 26 June 1944. Lashenden would have been similar, but with less dust and more even runways! http://youtube.com/watch?v=h9iJ4PkCRzI
. Best seen with the sound turned up!
There are quite a few videos on youtube concerning the 354th FG. Including this one in which Major W Hawley tells of how he met his wife in Kent. http://youtube.com/watch?v=RGqCBaa1_o8
Top two photos US National Archives.
1. A 353rd FS Mustang is camouflaged for the night. Seen through a tent opening, Lashenden May 1944.
2. Mustangs taking off. The leading Mustang is 'Atlanta Peach' being flown by 2nd Lt William B King. 355 FS. Lashenden 15 May 1944.
The next three photos are from the Imperial War Museums.
© IWM http://www.americanairmuseum.com/archive?search=Lashenden§ion=
Licensed under CC-BY-NC 3.0
3. Aerial photograph of Lashenden airfield looking south east. Photograph taken by 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, sortie number US/34GR/LOC19. North is at bottom left, Headcorn bottom right. Two runways: the main one 4,800ft (1,463m) the north/south runway 4,200ft (1,280m).
4. Mustang of Captain Bob W Stephens, CO of the 355th FS. Lashenden May 1944. Engine being run up by crew chief M/Sgt Ralph Mathieson.
5. P-52B Mustang FT*E 43-12375 "Bonnie B", 353rd FS, 354th FG, 9th AF. Pilot Capt Don M Beerbower
. While on a fighter sweep in the Reims, France area he took the squadron down to strafe a German airfield. On their second pass his plane took hits in the wing and fuselage, then went into a straight vertical climb, stalled and dove straight down into the ground. Beerbower jetisoned the canopy during these manuevers and managed to get out of the aircraft, only to hit the tail. He never opened his chute. The plane crashed 500 meters south of St. Thierry, France. 9th Aug 44.