USAAF Airfield at Ophoven, Belgium
On 30 March 1945 a USAAF reconnaissance aircraft overflew and imaged Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) Y-32 near Ophoven (Zwartberg), Belgium, offering an excellent look at an active American tactical airfield in the late stages of the war. In addition to an entire P-47 fighter group, the coverage showed the extensive infrastructure created by U.S. Army engineers: pierced-steel-planking (PSP) runways, taxiways and parking areas, roads and support areas, including an aircraft repair facility.
Construction of Y-32 began in late November 1944. The USAAF 370th Fighter Group, equipped with the P-38 Lightning, arrived on 27 January 1945 and soon began transitioning to the P-51 Mustang. The P-47-equipped 405th Fighter Group arrived on 2 February 1945. The airfield closed in May 1945.
At least 59 operational P-47s of the 405th Fighter Group (Graphics 1-3) could be seen in parking areas along the northeast side of the runway. Parking areas for the 370th on the other side of the runway were not imaged, but two P-51s and four P-38s (one not shown) on the taxiway at the southeast end of airfield (Graphic 4) probably belonged to the Group. The presence of the P-38s suggested that the Groups' conversion to P-51s was not complete; alternatively, the P-38s and P-51s were reconnaissance F-4/5s and F-6s, although the operation of a reconnaissance unit from Ophoven was not recorded..
The repair facility, with a Quonset -type rigid-framed structure, shelter, held six P-47s (plus one derelict), six P-38s, two P-51s and an L-3 observation aircraft (Graphic 5). On one side of the shelter, P-47s were being repaired while on the other side recently replaced P-38s were being stored (Graphic 6).
Other aircraft at the field included a B-17 (8th Air Force, 4th Bomb Wing/95th Bomb Group), a C-46 transport, two light observation aircraft and a Cessna AT-17 trainer (Graphic 7)
Facilities that could be identified included the probable operations area, communications area, bivouac, ordnance storage and anti-aircraft sites (Graphics 8-10). A volleyball game in progress at a support facility was a reminder of everyday activities at the airfield.
This sortie was flown by the 33rd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group (TRG) at the time based at Venlo, Netherlands (Y-55). Surviving images indicate the Luftwaffe airfield at Gütersloh (ALG Y-99) was a sortie objective. Interestingly, in April 1945 both the 33rd TRG an 370th Fighter Group relocated to Gütersloh