German propaganda leaflet dropped by the Luftwaffe on the airfield at which John H. Thompson was stationed in Normandy. July 1944.John Hallett Thompson
John H. Thompson standing in front of a rocket-firing Typhoon, preparing for operations over Germany. April 1945.John Hallett Thompson
Class graduation from No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School in Fort William, Ontario. August 1942. John Thompson is middle row, third from left.John Hallett Thompson
John H. Thompson (right) and unidentified airman with Dutch children. Holland, October 1944.John Hallett Thompson
John H. Thompson after Wings Parade at No. 14 Service Flying Training School in Aylmer, Ontario. November 1942.John Hallett Thompson
"And he said, "It’ll be a great day for us." So we just flew constantly that day, attacking the German armour and German army and whatever."
We didn’t know exactly what day it was but the place was just filled with tanks and army guys and everything to do with war was there. And all the harbours, the small harbours were full of small boats, so you knew something was ready. About 10:00 or 11:00 that night, we were taken down to the intelligence room and briefed as to what our squadron part would be in the D-Day assault [6 June 1944]. And our job during the course of the invasion, the Normandy invasion on D-Day would be to strafe the shorelines and the German emplacements. And where the troops were having a hard time to get through, we’d soften up things and make their casualties a little less hopefully. And make it easier to advance.
Being the new boy on the squadron, my job was to fly spare that day. Now when the squadron was out, there was always a spare aircraft that flies with them in case somebody has engine trouble or somebody gets cold feet and wants to go back. The next morning, we took off and I’m not too sure whether I wanted somebody to have engine trouble and turn back or I, you know. But anyway, nobody did so I went halfway across the English Channel and then I turned around and had to come back.
Well, anything couldn’t stop it, it was just unbelievable. I mean, there was just hundreds of boats and warships and battleships and it was everything. And they were all heading across the English Channel. It was 90 miles, you know, from where most of them started out to the coast of Normandy. But the guys on those landing barges and the bigger barges, that must have been a hell of a 90 miles, I’ll tell you. Because an English Channel is rough water and those boats were rocking and rolling all the time.
Our wing commander went out one morning [mid-August, 1944], early morning, and on a weather record to see whether the weather was suitable for rocket-flying Typhoons. He practically taxied right into the intelligence tent, he was so excited. And he said, "God", he said, "there’s thousands of tanks lined up over there," and that wasn’t very far away from where our camp was. And all kinds of light armoured vehicles and men all heading out eastward.* And he said, "It’ll be a great day for us." So we just flew constantly that day, attacking the German armour and German army and whatever. And of course at night and everything, kind of sat down and shut down at night. We didn’t fly at night.
And but during the day, there was a lot of targets. And they took an awful beating in that Falaise Gap, the Germans did. It was said in our wing that we’ve found the beginning of the Falaise Gap and we might have been the first aircraft to participate in it. That remains to be seen, only history will verify that. And so far, I haven’t been able to read anything that says that we were the first ones there.
*German 7th Army forces fleeing the Allied attempt to surround and destroy them