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After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2018 RonaldV
fr

Juvincourt (A-68)

23-11-2013

10-04-2014

605

49°26'15"N 003°52'59"E


Runway: 17/35 - 1610meters/5300feet - concrete (CLOSED)
Runway: 09/27 - 1600meters/5280feet - concrete (CLOSED)
Runway: 05/23 - 2438meters/8000feet - concrete (CLOSED)


Juvincourt air field (French: Aerodrome Berry au Bac - Juvincourt or Base Aérienne Juvincourt, German: Fliegerhorst Juvincourt, English: Advanced Landing Ground A-68 'Juvincourt') was an air base located near the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary in the Aisne department of northern France.
It was built during 1938 and 1939 and consisted of a grass airfield with three small grass subfields associated with it. In spite of the three auxiliary fields it appears that the French Air Force considered Juvincourt an auxiliary airfield in itself and did not station any units or aircraft at the facility. After World War II broke out in September 1939, the Royal Air Force sent 16 Fairey Battles of 76 Wing, 142 Squadron to Proviseux (a few kilometers east of the airfield) on 2 September 1939. The RAF aircraft, however, did not see any combat during the Phony War and were moved to Plivot on 12 September.


The airfield was captured by the Germans in June 1940 during the Battle of France. It was developed by the Luftwaffe into the largest German military airfield in France during the occupation, having more than 300 aircraft assigned. Under Luftwaffe control, the airfield was vastly expanded during an aggressive construction program. Three concrete runways aligned 17/35 (1610m/5300ft), 09/27, (1600m/5280ft) and 05/23 (1980m/6500ft) were laid down to provide all-weather use of the field. An enclosing perimeter taxiway loop connecting the ends of runways was built, connecting the airfield to the support area. A large concrete control tower was erected and an expansive support base to the southwest was built in a wooded area with permanent, concrete structures. Barracks, workshop buildings, air raid bunkers, earth-covered concrete hangars and a series of taxiways connected the support and maintenance facilities with the airfield. A large compass alignment ring was built on the northwest side of the taxt ring. In line with common Luftwaffe practice a railroad spur was built, with a junction from the northern main line to haul supplies and equipment, as well as disassembled aircraft and munitions to the base.
In addition to the airfield and support base, barracks facilities were constructed in the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary, on the northeast side of the airfield, being dispersed away from the airfield and technical support area.


Known German combat units assigned (all from Luftlotte 3, Fliegerkorps I) were:
KG77 with Stab, I. and II./Gruppe from March till June 1941, flying Junkers Ju88A (Fuselage Code: 9K+)
KG2 with IV./Gruppe from 13 June 1941 till January 1942, flying Dornier Do17Z and Dornier Do217 (Fuselage Code: 1H+)
KG54 with the I./Gruppe from June 6 till July 27 1944, flying Junkers Ju88 (Fuselage Code: B3+)
KG51 with the I./Gruppe from August 27 till August 28, 1944, Messerschmitt Me 262A2A-1 (Fuselage Code: 9K+) (15 aircraft)
Luftbeobachtungsstaffel4 (Observation Squadron), which formed on 1 May 1944, was stationed on the base until June 1944, flying Messerschmitt Bf110 and Junkers Ju88
JG11 with the II./Gruppe from 16 to 17 August 1944, flying Messerschmitt Bf109G (Fuselage Code: 6+)
NJG4 with III./Gruppe from September 1942 until August 1944,flying Messerschmitt Bf110, Dornier Do217, and Junkers Ju88 (Fuselage Code: MK)


juvincourt-1943.jpg
Bf 109 G6/R6 "Kanonenvogel" (gunbird), WNr27083, "Black 12+- ", equipped with the Rüstsatz R6 underwing cannons, piloted by Unteroffizier Hunig of 5./JG 2 'Richthofen'. Juvincourt Airfield, in the Aisne department of northern France. September 1943.


Juvincourt became a frequent target of Allied aircraft during the Strategic Bombing Campaign over Occupied Europe in 1943-1944. Eighth Air Force records show specific heavy B-17 Flying Fortress bomber attacks on the airfield in October 1943 and January 1944. Additionally it was also attacked routinely by Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder medium bombers. In line with attacks elsewhere, the medium bombers would attack in coordinated raids, usually in the mid to late afternoon, while Eighth Air Force heavy bombers were returning from attacking their targets in Germany. The attacks were timed to have the maximum effect possible to keep the Luftwaffe interceptors pinned down on the ground and unable to attack the heavy bombers.
Along with the Marauders, P-47 Thunderbolts of Ninth Air Force would be dispatched to perform fighter sweeps over Juvincourt after the Marauder raids, then meet up with the heavy bombers and provide fighter escort back to England. When the P-51 Mustang groups of Eighth Air Force began accompanying the heavy bombers all the way to their German targets by mid-1944, it was routine for them to also attack Juvincourt on their return back to England with a fighter sweep and attack any target of opportunity to be found at the airfield.
In August 1944, an Arado Ar234B jet bomber arrived at the airfield with Kampfgeschwader KG76 to perform reconnaissance missions over Allied shipping at the landing beaches in Normandy, France. The August 2 mission was the first photo-reconnaissance mission ever undertaken by a jet. The Ar234B returned to Germany after a few days.


A-68_Juvincourt_Airfield_ALG_1944.jpg
Post strike photo of the northern part of Juvincourt, winter 1944. Notice the many bomb craters.


Allied ground forces seized the airfield from the Germans on 5 September 1944. Before abandoning the base, the Germans demolished whatever buildings had not yet been destroyed by Allied air attacks. Once in American hands, combat engineers of the IX Engineering Command 820th Engineer Aviation Regiment repaired the damaged airfield and declared it operationally ready for combat units on 7 September, only a few days after its capture from German forces. It was then designated as Juvincourt Airfield (A-68).
Although operationally usable, Juvincourt was a wrecked base from the numerous Allied air attacks since late 1942 and what was blown up by the Germans as they withdrew. The Americans made due with the portion of the airfield closest to the town of Juvincourt, repairing the 35/17 N/S and the 09/27 E/W runways for operational use. Most of the personnel were billeted in old German and French military barracks that could be used in the town, the barracks facilities in the village being much appreciated by aircrews and ground personnel, who were used to living in tents since their departure from bases in England in June. Everything not constructed of reinforced concrete was shattered, although even some of those were destroyed by the 500 pound GP bombs of the Marauders and Flying Fortresses. Many buildings of masonry construction had been made useless, their contents consisting of nothing but wreckage.
Under American control, Ninth Air Force used the base for several units from 7 September 1944 until closing the base in July 1945.


Known units assigned to Juvincourt (A-68) were:
439th Troop Carrier Group, between 8 and 28 September 1944, flying C-47 Skytrains
404th Fighter Group, from 13 September until 4 October 1944, flying P-47 Thunderbolts
365th Fighter Group, from 15 September until 4 October 1944, flying P-47 Thunderbolt
36th Fighter Group, between 1 and 27 October 1944, flying P-47 Thunderbolts
367th Fighter Group, from 28 October 1944 until 1 February 1945, flying P-38 Lightnings
368th Fighter Group, from 27 December 1944 until 5 January 1945, flying P-47 Thunderbolts
410th Bombardment Group, from February until May 1945, flying A-20 Havoc medium bombers
Each group had three or four combat squadrons of aircraft assigned to the airfield, making Juvincourt one of the largest and most active USAAF fields on the continent. Attacks on German ground forces, bridges, airfields still in Luftwaffe hands, railroads and any target of opportunity of the German forces were targets of the Thunderbolts as the ground forces moved east into Luxembourg and past the Siegfried Line into Germany. Additionally the RAF also used the airfield.
With the war ending, Juvincourt became largely a transport airfield, also being used by the RAF to repatriate liberated English, Australian and New Zealand prisoners of war. These transfers were made by Lancasters of No 463 and 467 Squadrons, RAAF.
The airfield was returned to French control on 2 July 1945.

439thtroopcarriergroup-juvincourt-fall44
C-47 skytrains of the 439th Troop Carrier Group are seen lined up at Juvincourt in the fall of 1944. The ID-number for this photo is displayed in reverse as the original print of this photo was accidentally reversed. (coll. Doug Sheley)

UK2854.JPG
Juvincourt, France. C. 1945-05. French civilians watch Australian and New Zealand prisoners of war (POWs) emplane at Juvincourt airfield near Rheims for the flight to England on Lancaster aircraft of No. 463 Squadron RAAF and No. 467 Squadron, RAAF. After VE Day (1945-05-08) over 500 liberated POWs were repatriated daily, having spent varying periods in German camps (Aus. War Memorial, UK2854)

Like most airfields under French control after the war, the base sat abandoned for several years. There was thought to be much unexploded ordinance at the site which needed to be removed. Many of the buildings at the base were destroyed by the Allied air attacks, and although some had been repaired by the American combat engineers, most were in ruins. Although it was a prewar French Air Force facility, the Air Force wanted nothing to do with what they considered to be a Nazi airfield on French soil.
As a result, the French Air Ministry leased the land, concrete runways, structures and all, out to farmers for agricultural use, sending in unexploded ordnance teams to remove the dangerous munitions.

Juvincourt_IGNF_16-04-1949web.jpg
composite image of Juvincourt, as photographed on 16 April 1949 by IGN. Clearly visible are the aircraft parkings and the three runways. Also visible, especially in the large version of the photo, is the small railroad that enters the air side of the airfield newar the SW tip of the runway. From there it arcs to the crossing of the 09/27 and 17/35, running parallel to the 17/35 runway and exiting the airfield at its most northern runway end (Geoportail).

As a result of the Cold War threat of the Soviet Union, the air base at Juvincourt was offered to NATO and the United States Air Force in 1950 by the French Air Ministry, as part of their NATO commitment to establish a modern Air Force Base at the site. Some construction was performed to upgrade the airfield, such as upgrading the old 05/23 runway to a 1850m jet runway, along with aircraft dispersal areas, 8 on each end of the runway. The runway was not brought up to the NATO standard of 2400m (8000feet) however, nor did it get one or more dispersal 'marguerites'. A full NATO upgrade was never completed, nor were the concrete German runways and other facilities ever removed.

juvincourt_IGNF_09-04-1957web.jpg
Juvincourt in April 1957. Clearly visible are the renewed and lengthened runway 05/23 and 8 dispersals on either end. The taxitrack, althoug following the same route as the WW-II track, appears to have been renewed also (Geoportail).

juvincourt_IGNF_02-03-1963.jpg
This 1963 IGN photo clearly shows the old disused World War II infrastructure and the newer Cold War dispersed air base. The diagonal line on the left is the Route National N44. About midway on this line stands (to this day) the old control tower of the airfield (Geoportail).

Juvincourt_IGNF_06-03-1969.jpg
Superficailly, nothing had changed at the airfield by 1969. Something did change however, if you take a closer look (Geoportail).

Juvincourt_IGNF_06-03-1969_RWY05.jpg
On both ends of the runway, a large "X" for closed had appeared. When exactly the airfield closed is not known, but it seems logical that it was closed when France left NATO in 1967. Also, the placing of the "X" suggests that until it appeared, the French considered it to be an active airfield (Geoportail).

Juvincourt_IGNF_27-05-1973web.jpg
In 1973 the airfield showed only one new feature: a small building on the south side of the RWY 05 threshold. It was built by Robert Bosch GmbH, who acquired the airfield in 1970 for use as an automotive test center (Geoportail).

Juvincourt airfield is a relatively quiet place, consisting of mostly agricultural fields. The N44 highway (which during World War II doubled as an emergency runway, but was neither used nor bombed) bisects the airfield, crossing over the southwest dispersal area, running NW/SE. Many patched bomb craters are evident on the concrete.
Both the original German-built north-south (17/35) and the the east-west (09/27) runway still exist, both stil showing their wartime patches. With the exception of the taxitrack at the 'NATO'-side, the enclosing perimeter track taxiway only exists as single-lane concrete farm roads, as do the connecting roads to the airfield.
The Wikipedia page on Juvincourt describes the original 05/23 runway as well as parts of the 09/27 runway as removed, but I believe this is not correct. Wikipedia also describes the current 05/23 runway as being new and built after the war, which I also believe to be incorrect. The World War II-era runway was used as the base for the NATO runway, with new concrete, extended in length on the NE side and with dispersals on both ends. The above aerial photos prove my assumption to be correct. The aerial photo of an airstrike at the airfield below also proves the runway is still in its original location.

juvincourt-strike-web.jpg
Air strike, showing what I believe to be runway 05/23 at Juvincourt and its dispersals to the south and the large dispersal area southwest of the air field. If I am correct the photo was mislabeled as 'Coulommiers' during the war.


The concrete control tower today is a restaurant, with what appears to be a connecting wartime building as part of the structure located today on the west side of the N44. About 1 km northwest, also along the N44 is a British World War I cemetery which has the graves of many Tommies killed along the Western Front trenches that were close by the area. Near the cemetery are concrete bomb shelters dug and reinforced by the Germans, to protect personnel during the frequent Allied air raids on Juvincourt.
The wooded areas to the southwest of the airfield, adjacent to the N44, is where the German ground support station was built. Many buildings still remain in the woods, in various states of disrepair, almost all constructed of concrete. This area is now on private land and access is prohibited. The woods contain underground bomb shelters, concrete aircraft hangars, ruins of barracks, workshops and other buildings. The railroad junction is still visible in aerial photography, however the tracks have long since been removed.
In the commune of Juvincourt-et-Damary, northeast of the airfield, several buildings that appear to be the remains of former military barracks and bomb shelter still exist. Some are abandoned, some are in use today by the residents of the commune.


juvincourt-2008-web.jpg
Juvincourt in 2008 (Google Earth)





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