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US Navy VCS-7 pilot Lieutenant Robert F. Doyle, USNR, shakes hands with his wingman, Ensign John F. Mudge, USNR.They had just returned from a successful mission over German lines.U S Navy Photo.
US Navy VCS-7 ground crew working on an RAF Spitfire at Lee-on-Solent.U S Navy Photo.

When the US Navy was planning for the Normandy invasion, it became obvious that the Curtiss SOC and Vought OS2U planes normally used to spot for naval bombardment would be sitting ducks for the high performance German fighters. The decision was made to give the spotters a high performance fighter and thus even the odds a little

Seventeen VCS and VO(Battleship Observation) Pilots from the USS Quincy,USS Tuscaloosa(CA37,Augusta(CA31),Nevada(BB36),Arkansas(BB33) and Texas(BB35) therefore converted to Spitfire Mk.Vs borrowed from the RAF, (and given the US Navy paper designation of FS-1) and training was done with 67th TRG USAAF at Middle Wallop which was operating Spitfires for recconaissance.

The unit was initially commanded by Lt.Robert W Calland(Senior pilot on the USS Nevada) .He was succeeded by Lt.Cdr William Denton Jr on the 28th May 1944.

As the RAF and Fleet Air Arm were using two Spitfire squadrons(Nos.26 & 63) and four Seafire squadrons(Nos.808,885,886 & 897) for that task, and British and American spotting aircraft would be under the same command ( 3rd Naval Fighter Wing of the FAA commanded by Lt Cdr "Buster" Hallett RN) it made good sense to standardize on one aircraft type as much as possible for all units involved. Aircraft at Lee-on-Solent were "pooled" so pilots would have flown both Spitfires and Seafires.There was also an additional Squadron of RCAF Mustangs(414SQ) involved but the USN pilots did not use these aircraft.The Mustangs returned to their Odiham base by noon on D-Day and moved on to other duties.(Thanks to Ron Jones and the Gosport Aviation Society for additional information).

From D-Day, June 6, 1944 until June 26, when the American naval bombardment was terminated, US Naval Spitfires based at Lee-on-Solent flew 209 missions in support of the Allied invasion. VCS-7 operated primarily with the Western Naval Task Force, which was mainly drawn from the US Navy

Nine aircraft were lost to all causes although there was apparently only one pilot,Lt R M Barclay, lost due to enemy action.There is some disagreement by various sources about the actual casualties. US aircraft damage losses were higher percentage wise than RAF/RN-presumably due to the USN pilots relative lack of type experience.

The Squadron flew 191 operational sorties between 6 and 25th June.The last naval bombardment (of Cherbourg) took place on the 26th June following which,the squadron was disbanded and personnel returned to their ships.

A Curtiss SOC Seagull of US Navy VCS-7 at Lee-on-Solent circa June 1944.The Squadron's aircraft were temporarily out of use whilst the aircrew used Spitfires in support of the D-Day landings.Another SOC and a Vought OS2U Kingfisher are parked in the background. US Navy photo.
VCS-7 pilots are briefed before flying a gunfire spotting mission over the Normandy beach heads, circa June-July 1944. Those present are (from left to right): Wing Commander Robert J. Hardiman, RAF, Commanding Allied Spotter Pilots; Ensign Robert J. Adams, USNR; Major Noel East, British Army Intelligence; Lieutenant Harris Hammersmith, Jr., USNR; and Captain John Ruscoe, Royal Artillery, Gunnery Liaison Officer.US Navy Photo.
Left:Hoisting in a SOC on the USS Tuscaloosa(Sept 1941)..Right OS2U Floatplanes on USS Quincy(August 1944). US Navy Photos.

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