Big Fence

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Castel Del Monte made an excellent landmark that could be seen for considerable distances during VHF site selection reconnaissance.

Big Fence was a secret navigational aid for US Army Air Force sorties from North Africa and Italy during World War II, ultimately located at the Castel del Monte in Apulia. It was operated by the 6649th Navigational Aids Squadron of the 341st Signal Company, XV Fighter Command, 15th Army Air Force.[1]

The 6649th supported missions critically reliant on fixing the position of aircraft. Answering call sign "Big Fence", the central plotting room inside the castle triangulated information from seven direction finding installations, including the Castel headquarters.[2]

From September 1943 until cessation of hostilities, the squadron received an estimated 16,000 calls for assistance from lost, damaged, and air-sea rescue craft. [3] [4] [5] [6][7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23]

Being a VHF system, Big Fence was particularly valuable to fighters, which only had VHF radios. The bombardment groups could often rely on other navigational aids that were at their disposal, but only VHF remained effective in bad weather.

Many hundreds of airmen owe their lives to “Big Fence”. The success of many missions was directly attributable to the efficient operation of your station. Please accept my personal thanks for your superior work with the 15th.

— Nathan F. Twining, Lt. General, 15th AAF Commanding, August 16, 1945

Please convey our hope that if the fortunes of war again bring us together, we may have the privilege of calling "Big Fence" in our hour of need

— Col. Robert H. Warren, 376th Bombardment Group (H) Commanding, June 1945


  1. ^ "6649th Navigational Aids Squadron", 341st Signal Company, XV Fighter Command, The Fifteenth Air Force [1]
  2. ^
    15th AF Navigational Aid Facilities Map
  3. ^ George Loving, Woodbine Red Leader: A P-51 Mustang Ace in the Mediterranean Theater, ISBN 0307417786, 2007, p. 135
  4. ^ Kevin A. Mahoney, ”Fifteenth Air Force against the Axis: Combat Missions over Europe during World War II”, ISBN 081088495X, 2013, p. 265
  5. ^ Kevin A. Mahoney, "Bombing Europe: The Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force", ISBN 1627887377, 2015, p.38
  6. ^ Tom Ivie, Paul Ludwig, “Spitfires & Yellow Tail Mustangs: The U.S. 52nd Fighter Group in WWII”, ISBN 1461751713, 2013, p. 229
  7. ^ James M. Doyle, ”Flying Through Time”, ISBN 1612342191, 2005, p. 206
  8. ^ Thomas Follis, “He Wore a Pair of Silver Wings”, ISBN 1576383288, 2004, p. 187
  9. ^ Albert E. Conder, "Air Force Gunners", ISBN 1563111675, 1994, p.122
  10. ^ Bill Disbrow, "On the Edge", ISBN 1890461334, 2005, p.131
  11. ^ Brandon Sanders, "Heroes to Remember", ISBN 0595142060, 2000, p.166
  12. ^ Sam Schneider, Byron L. Kennedy III, "This is How it was: 485th Bomb Group (Heavy) unit history", ISBN 0941072150, 2000, p.124
  13. ^ Louis Falstien, "Face of a Hero", 1950, p.209
  14. ^ Ron White, "Headlong into Fury", ISBN 146212576X, 2016, p.???
  15. ^ Charles E. Francis, "The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men who Changed a Nation", ISBN 0828320292, 1997, p.166
  16. ^ Martin Caidin, "Fork-tailed Devil: The P-38", ISBN 0743413180, 2001, p.247
  17. ^ William E. Knight, "Letters to the Twenty-Second Century, ISBN 0963677845, 2001, p.108
  18. ^ John W. Walcott, "One Fighter Pilot’S War, ISBN 1491775521, 2015, p.???
  19. ^ Gerard Paloque, "12th & 15th Air Forces", ISBN 2352502101, 2011, p.???
  20. ^ Erik Dyreborg, "The Young Ones: American Airmen of WWII", ISBN 2352502101, 2003, p.7
  21. ^ Sgt. August Loeb, YANK Staff Correspondent
    “YANK, The Army Weekly”, March 23, 1944, p. 20
    , March 23, 1944, p. 20
  22. ^
    Sicily Stars and Stripes April 25, 1944, p.3
  23. ^
    Mediterranean Naples Stars and Stripes, April 19, 1944, p.5