Étain-Rouvres Air Base - Origins


Rouvres airdrome was built by the French Air Force in 1937. They flew Bloch-131 tactical reconnaissance aircraft. When World War II began, the Royal Air Force moved in flying Hawker Hurricanes of 73 Squadron.

After the fall of France, the Luftwaffe used the base, flying Focke-Wulf Fw 190D's.

When the German Army was driven out by the U S Third Army in early September 1944, the airfield was put back into operational service by the United States Army Air Forces IX Engineer Command 926th Engineering Aviation Regiment. On 9 September the combat engineers arrived to lay down a temporary airfield to support the ground forces in their advance against enemy forces.

The 926th EAR laid down a 5000' grass runway aligned roughly east-west (08/26), along with a small support area. The 7th Field Hospital was stationed here on 13 Sep 1944, where C-47 transports of the IX Air Support Command evacuated wounded to General Hospitals in the rear.

In late October 1944, the 825th Engineering Aviation Regiment returned to the airfield and improved the facility, laying down an all-weather Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) runway for Ninth Air Force combat fighter use along with upgrading the support site with tents for billeting and also for support facilities; an access road was built to the existing road infrastructure; a dump for supplies, ammunition, and gasoline drums, along with a drinkable water and minimal electrical grid for communications and station lighting.

The United States Army Air Forces Ninth Air Force 362d Fighter Group used the captured airfield from 5 November 1944 until early April 1945. Its USAAF designation was A-82, Verdun/Etain Advanced Landing Ground (ALG). Three squadrons of P-47 "Thunderbolts" bombed and strafed such targets as flak positions, armored vehicles, and troop concentrations during the Battle of the Bulge. There was some controversy at the time as stationing a hospital and a combat unit on the same airstrip was a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but the 7th Field Hospital was not relocated until 15 Jan 1945 after Metz was taken.

The 362d received a Distinguished Unit Citation for action over the Moselle-Rhine River triangle. Despite the intense anti-aircraft fire encountered while flying armed reconnaissance in close cooperation with infantry forces in that area on 16 March 1945, the 362d hit enemy forces, equipment, and facilities, its targets including motor transports, armored vehicles, railroads, railway cars, and gun emplacements.

In addition P-61 "Black Widows" from the 425th and 416th Night Fighter Squadrons operated from Verdun/Etain until moving into occupied Germany in 1945. By mid-April the airfield had become redundant combat needs and the facility was returned to being a S&E (Supply and Evacuation) airfield, and was used until being closed on 22 May 1945. The wartime airfield was then turned over to French authorities.

In the immediate postwar years, Etain Air Base was unused.

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