The Air Spotting Pool was based out of Lee on Solent for D-Day comprising Squadrons of No 3 Naval Fighter Wing, the RAF and the USN. These were
808 Seafire L.III and Spitfire LF.Vb
885 Seafire L.IIc and F/L.III
886 Seafire L.III
897 Spitfire L.Vb
26 & 63 with Spitfire V
USN squadron VOS-7 with Spitfire V
For D-Day itself they were joined by 3 RAF tactical recce squadrons
II(AC), 268 and the Canadian 414 flying the Mustang I/IA/II
By mid-afternoon the last 3 units reverted back to their normal TacR duties.
As for airfields one little known programme ahead of D-Day was the construction of 24 Advanced Landing Grounds by the RAF Airfield Construction Service in southern England from which 2nd TAF squadrons operated. Permanent facilities were kept to a minimum with runways of Sommerfield Track, Square Meshed Track or PSP. That provided good practice for what was to come.
On arrival on the continent Airfield construction began immediately, but not all strips were the same, often starting as one thing and then being developed further as time went on. So in order:-
Emergency Landing Strip - for pilots in distress rather than flying back across the Channel. Sometimes referred to as a "crash strip". Very basic strip at least 600 yards long. ELS-1 opened in the American sector on 7 June with B-1 in the British sector the same day.
Also on 7 June US Engineers unable to reach the site they were intended to develop, levelled a strip for casualty evacuation by C-47.
Refuelling & Rearming Strip - longer at 1,200 yards with marshalling areas at each end. Aircraft were not intended to stay overnight but return to their home bases in England. Helped increase the sortie rate over the beachhead. The first of these was B-3 which opened on 15 June followed by B-2 and A-3 in the US sector the next day and A-1 (originally intended as an ELS but capture was delayed) and A-2 on the 17th.
Advanced Landing Ground - as above but with dispersal facilities to allow units to base there on a rotating basis. ALG A-6 opened on the 17th June and B-4 and A-4 on the 18th.
Airfield - as above but units based permanently.
All-weather Airfield - as above but with hard surfaced runways for operations in all seasons and weathers.
By the end of June, 10 airfields (ELS, R&RS or ALG) had opened in the US sector and 11 in the British sector. But airfield construction slowed in July as the rate at which the beachhead expanded slowed, particularly on the eastern side. So in July 10 more opened in the US sector but only 3 in the British sector. In Aug, 20 opened in the US sector and 9 in the British sector. In the first 4 days of Sept 6 British, 3 US and one joint were added to the total.
On the type's 85th birthday, we celebrate the little-known and short-lived U.S. Navy Spitfire unit that fought a different kind of war over Normandy.