Helping the French Underground
Frank A Serio was a World War II veteran, and began his military career as a second lieutenant in the U S. Army Air Corp. in Santa Ana, California. Frank served in the European Theatre with the 413th Bombardment Squadron of the 96th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. During his tour, Frank flew 29, B- 17 combat missions; for 24 of those missions, Frank served as the lead navigator for his Combat Wing. On D Day Frank led three combat sorties over Germany. Frank was awarded various metals and citations for meritorious achievements, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and Oak Leaf Clusters. Upon completion of his tour of duty, Frank was transferred to Selman Field to serve as a navigation instructor, where he met his wife of 65 years, the former Freida Grace Black. Frank retired from the US Air Force as a major.
“I was assigned to Selman Field upon my return from flying combat missions out of England, as an Assistant Flight Commander instructing in the Navigation Training School (96th NTS) from February 1945 through October 1945. My tour of combat consisted of 29 missions. I was assigned as Lead Navigator and flew 25 of these missions as such from March 1944 through October 1944.
Although the D-Day, June 6, 1944 mission was one I will never forget having flown, there is one of two similar missions flown that I can also never forget. Soon after D-Day’s mission, we briefed to fly a support mission to the French Maquis in Southern France. From an altitude of 17,000 feet, our group descended to 500 ft. Our bombays were loaded with a full load of canisters that contained an assortment of armament such as rifles, grenades, ammunition, explosives, etc. Our target was
to find an open field identified by three huge fi res which were “set” by the people on the ground. These fires were arranged in a triangle. The field was an area of approximately 1/4 mile wide and long. Having identified our target, at 500 ft., we flew
over the field then made a 360 degree turn with bombay doors open. Entering the target area, the canisters were released, ’bombs away!”
As the canister parachutes carried them to the ground, the French Maquis people came out of the woods like a bunch of ants…they waved to us as we did to them from the nose bubble of our B-17. We made another 360 degree turn and came
back over the field the field was completely clear. There wasn’t a parachute, canister or person to be seen. They carried everything and disappeared into the wooded area. During this time, we had P-51 fighters flying around us for protection against enemy fighters
That mission, to me, just made me realize how important we were to them and I felt that we really were brought close to the “cause” of why we were over there to eradicate Hitlerism. Yes, it gave me and the other crews a good feeling of really accomplishing something important that day.
Thank you for the opportunity of telling you this and I hope that it will cause some folks to realize the importance of how the French Maquis played an important part in their country’s liberation and also the fall of Hitlerism.”
Frank A. Serio, 96th NTS