Toul-Croix De Metz Airfield
|Toul-Croix De Metz Airfield
Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) A-90
|Lorraine Region, France
|Controlled by|| Armée de l'Air
United States Army Air Service
United States Army Air Forces
- For the Cold War United States Air Force base, see: Toul-Rosières Air Base
The airfield had its origins in the World War I Western Front as an Armée de L'Air airfield, later being extensively used by the United States Army Air Service. It became a permanent airfield between the wars and during the Phony War with Nazi Germany (1939–1940) was the home of G.C. II/5 (The French Air Force descendant of the World War I Lafayette Escadrille) equipped with American Curtis Hawk 75A fighters. Seized in the Battle of France, it became a Luftwaffe airfield until being captured by the United States Third Army in September 1944. It then became a United States Army Air Forces combat airfield until the end of the war.
After the war, the airfield was redeveloped into a private industrial estate.
World War I
Gengault Aerodrome was established about 1916 by the French Air Force as a combat airfield on the World War I Western Front. It is undetermined which French units were stationed at the airfield during the war.
In April 1918 it was turned over to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). When first deployed to France, the Aero Squadrons of the AEF were dispersed among the various army organizations. This made it difficult, however, to obtain coordination of aerial activities. Some higher organization was required. The United States Army Air Service Aero Squadrons were organized as part of the 2d, 3d and 4th Pursuit Groups. Known American units at Toul were:
American Units at Toul During World War I
It is known that other American air units were assigned to Toul during World War I, however they are unidentified. The Americans at Toul flew reconnaissance sorties, protected observation aircraft, attacked enemy observation balloons, strafed enemy troops, flew counter-air patrols, and bombed towns, bridges, and railroad stations behind the enemy's lines.
Some of the most illustrious names in early American Army aviation were assigned to Toul during World War I, including Eddie Rickenbacker; Quentin Roosevelt; Frank Luke; Carl Spaatz; Billy Mitchell and others.
The Americans at Toul demobilized and left France after the Amistice on 11 November 1918, the last leaving in early 1919.
Between the wars
Various French Air Force air regiments were assigned to the base during the 1920s, during which the wartime grass field became a permanent base, with a large technical support area, hangars, barracks and other facilities being constructed.
When World War II broke out in September 1939, the 35th Aero Regiment was assigned to Toul-Croix De Metz, the 7th squadron of which was the descendant of the World War I Lafayette Escadrille, "Groupe de Chasse II/5, the Escadron Lafayette". The Regiment was equipped with obsolete Curtiss Hawk Model 75s. From surviving accounts of the squadron during the Battle of France the Hawk-equipped Regiment claimed 230 confirmed and 80 probable victories in H75s against only 29 aircraft lost in aerial combat. However the German Blitzkrieg and the breakout of the Wehrmacht at Sedan overwhelmed the French and the British Expeditionary Force, and the unit surrendered to the Germans along with the French Armed Forces at the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940.
German use during World War II
Shortly after its capture, the airfield was turned over to the Luftwaffe. The airfield was initially used primarily as a training base for ground support units. In September 1942, Zerstörerschule 2 (Fighter-Destroyer School 2) (ZS 2) used the base as a training facility for Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter pilots until February 1944.
Toul became an operational airfield in July 1944, when Kampfgeschwader 53 (KG 53) arrived at the airfield with Heinkel He 111 medium bombers. The He 111s were used as carrier aircraft for launching V-1 Flying Bombs, aimed at targets in Britain. KG 53 withdrew from the airfield at the end of August, ahead of the advancing American Third Army which was moving into the area. Toul-Croix De Metz was attacked by USAAF Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers to attempt to stop these V-1 attacks.
American use during World War II
The IX Engineer Command moved the 826th Engineer Aviation Battalion to Toul airfield on 14 September 1944. The airfield was relatively intact, and began clearing the airport of mines; destroyed Luftwaffe aircraft, and repairing operational facilities for use by American aircraft. Subsequently, it became a USAAF Ninth Air Force combat airfield, designated as Advanced Landing Ground "A-90" Toul-Croix De Metz the next day.
Under American control, Toul-Croix De Metz was initially used as a resupply and casualty evacuation (S&E) airfield, with C-47 Skytrain transports using the airfield frequently, carrying in supplies and moving wounded personnel to hospitals in the rear. In October, the 862d EAB moved in and laid down a 5000' Pierced Steel Planking all-weather runway. The engineers also repaired the barracks and other facilities at the base, allowing it to be used though the winter months.
In November, the 358th Fighter Group moved in with P-47 Thunderbolts and flew operational missions from the base until the beginning of April 1945. The airfield was closed, and returned to French control after the war on 30 October 1945.
In French control after the war, the airfield was closed and for years was left unused. The growing urban area of Toul and the need for other, more pressing reconstruction after the war led the Air Ministry to sell off the property to private interests, and not rebuild it as a military airfield. A major reason was that the airfield was physically small, and the cost to purchase additional land to build a jet runway, and other facilities was very high. In addition, the prospect of jet fighter aircraft taking off and landing over the urbanized area around the airfield was highly undesirable. In 1950 when NATO was looking to locate an American Air Force fighter airfield in the area, given the historical American association with Toul, the World War II airfield at Rosieres En Haye was made available.
The site eventually was cleared of buildings and wreckage, some of the concrete from the runways and taxiways were used as streets, and industrial buildings were constructed on the site. Today in aerial photography, clear outlines of former buildings can be seen in grassy areas, as well as the runways and taxiways of the former airfield, now reused as streets.
- American Aviators of World War I
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
- Lafayette Escadrille - Post WWI
- The Luftwaffe, 1933-45
- USAFHRA Document 00221383
- IX Engineering Command ETO Airfields General Construction Information
- Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
- Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- McAuliffe, Jerome J: U.S. Air Force in France 1950-1967 (2005), Chapter 16, Toul-Rosieres Air Base.