This day, in 1944…

The Fourth Fighter Group is not immediately associated with Operation Market-Garden, but U.S. airpower did play a role is that operation -and helped keep it from being a bigger fiasco than it was. On Sept. 17, 1944, group CO Col. Claiborne Kinnard led the group on a fighter sweep in advance of the paratroop landings at Eindhoven and Arnhem. A section of 335 Squadron was bounced by 15 Fw 190s near the sadly-Z-less town of Bucholt, resulting in a furball in which Ted Lines scored multiple victories. Lines, by the way, would be well known had he not been in the Fourth, with a spectacularly marked series of Mustangs with native American symbols splashed across the nose and a penchant for multiple kills under weird circumstances.

“My wingman hollered at me to break as I was trying to discard my right external wing tank,” reported Lines. “When I broke, I was head-on to five Fw 190s and immediately started firing, causing one Fw 190 to burst into flames. I turned starboard, still trying to drop my tank, as two Fw’s came under me, heading in the same direction as I was. I got on the tail of the one nearest me and started firing, and the pilot bailed out. At this point, a 190 closed on my tail and fired at me, hitting me in the tail and wing. My tank finally came off, and I was able to maneuver onto the tail of the 190 that had been firing at me. After three orbits, he broke for the deck with me right on his tail. I fired from 500 yards down to about 100 yards and saw strikes on his engine, canopy, fuselage, wings and tail. He burst into flames and went into the ground and exploded.”

Lines was not the only victorious pilot this day. Capt. Louis “Red Dog” Norley was leading his squadron when one section was bounced by 15 enemy aircraft. “Caboose Blue 3 called for a break, but it was too late,” Norley said. Lt. Vozzy’s Mustang was hit, burst into flames and crashed, killing the pilot. “The bandits had been flying at the base of a layer of haze and with their light gray color were very difficult to see.”

Norley dropped his tanks and broke to the right, into the enemy planes. “I met an aircraft head-on firing at me,” Norley said. “These were supposedly Bf 109s, and this one, with an inline engine, looked like an enemy aircraft. I fired a short burst at long range. I then noticed two Fw 190s on his tail, the closest one firing, and getting strikes as it became apparent that the plane I fired on was a P-51. I broke up, coming down on the tail of the Fw 190 as he broke off his attack and turned to port. I dropped 20 degrees of flaps and turned with him, the other 190 being attacked by my wingman. I fired. The 190 rolled and started to spilt-S, but leveled out and started to climb. I fired again with no results. He leveled off and did some skidding evasion efforts as I closed, firing and skidding past him. He dove to port, allowing me to drop back on his tail. I fired, getting many strikes on his wings and fuselage. He flicked over on his back. The canopy and some pieces flew off, and he went into a vertical dive, crashing into a farm yard where the plane blew up.” Lt. Davis also claimed Fw 190s, but Lt. Holske was shot down and captured.

More about the group’s combat will be available in my new book, coming out in about two months…!

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