Chilly Turkey Day, 80 Years Ago
Official caption: “Thanksgiving Day Exercises For Men Of 2nd Service Group in Air Force Engineering Shop At An Airfield Somewhere In Iceland. 26 November 1942.”
Note the mix of leather flight jackets, utilities, overalls, and field dress, with Brodie helmets and gas masks on the wall at the ready. Also, note the proximity of the wood stove– essential on the wind-swept outpost in winter.
When the U.S. arrived in Iceland in the summer of 1941— months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and while still ostensibly neutral– to take over the occupation of the Danish colony from the British, the USAAF soon flew in elements of the 33d Pursuit Squadron (P-40s), 9th Bomber Squadron (H)(A-20s), and 1st Observation Squadron to relieve the RAF’s own force (one squadron of 15 Wellington bombers, a flight of Hurricane fighters, a Norwegian squadron of 6 Northrop reconnaissance float planes, and 30 utility planes) for use elsewhere. It was the 2nd SG that supported these operations, part of a force that would grow to almost 30,000 Allied troops by 1943.
Notably, the USAAF achieved its first Army Air Forces aerial victory in the European theater on 14 August 1942 when Iceland-based fighters shot down a Luftwaffe FW- 200 C-4 Condor.
Meanwhile, the Navy’s VP-73 (PBY Catalinas) and VP-74 (PBM Mariners) would set up operations at Keflavik in August 1941 (and stay there for a while!)