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USS Corsica 1944 Spitfires

Here is some nostalgic footage of 154 Sqd Spitfires (including MJ730) operating out of a new forward airbase at Calvi, Corsica in 1944. There are also extensive shots of B-17 Fortress and P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs, illustrating the wide roles played by forward airfields in Italy.

Calvi Fiume-Secco airfield (French: aérodrome de Calvi Fiume-Secco) was an airfield on the northwest coast of Corsica.
It formed part of the USS Corsica group of airfields. 42°33'25"N 008°48'00"E

Runway: 760m X 30m PLS
Runway: 980m X 45m PSP
Runway: 1000m X 45m (reserved for crashes)

USS Corsica was not an airfield, but the nickname for a number of airfields on the French island of Corsica during World War II, serving the Allies as an unsinkable aircraft carrier off the French south coast supporting Allied landings and tactical operations in the south of France.

uss corsica

Airfields forming USS Corsica

To build a military airfield at Calvi, the French army acquired 47 hectares of land during the summer of 1935. By decree, the land was declared of public use on 6 May 1935. The surfacing work was completed in March 1936, but the procedure of purchasing plots was completed only in June 1940. Equipped with temporary hangars and barracks built between August 1939 and February 1940, the airfield was ready to be used by the French Air Force from September 1939.

After the invasion of Vichy France, the Italian army took possession of the airfield until 1942. They did not enjoy the use of the airfield for very long, however. After the liberation of Corsica in October 1943, the USAAF settled on the airfield, although no units were based on this airfield. The airfield was used only when a large capacity was required (such as the invasion of Southern France, a.k.a. Operation Dragoon) or for emergency landings of battle-damaged aircraft. This remained until the departure of USAF in 1945.

calvi map

calvi airfield plan

The footage is accompanied by popular music of the day, including Vera Lynn's immortal 'White Cliffs of Dover'.

Also shown is Spitfire Mk IX MH884 coded DS, flown by RAF 324 Wing CO W/Cdr W D Smith, landing at Corsica. 324 Wing (43, 72, 93, 111 Sqns) was based at Calvi, and after Operation Dragoon it was based at Ramatuelle, France (72 Sqd moved on 18 Aug, others on 20 Aug) and Lyon-Bron, France (25 Aug). They came to Italy (at Peretola) on 2 October 1944. 324 Wing was at Rivolto when war ended. Wilfred Duncan Smith was in command until March 1945. He was an ace credited with 17 victories, 2 probables, 6 shared and 8 damaged.

First RAF fighter pilots to land in southern France, 1944. On the right is W/C Duncan-Smith, commanding 244 Wing,
third from right if Flt Lt Prince Emanuel Gazaltine, whose battle with the high altitude
Ju 86 bomber in his modified Spitfire appears in The Decisive Duel by David Isby

154 Sqd, 322 Wing RAF (with 232, 242, 243 Sqns) Based on Corsica, first at Poretta and then Calanzana. Moved to France (Frejus 23 Aug and Montelimar 5 Sep 1944). To Italy (Naples 11 Oct) and disbanded 1 Nov 1944.

Wilfred Duncan Smith in Allied Losses & Incidents Database
Wilfred Duncan Smith Obituary
Serving Uncle Sam: Military Life of Gerald Schwarz: Corsica

Sources: Private archives, Wikipedia,

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SY 2021-11-25

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Last Modified: 19 November 2021, 18:02

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