65 years ago: Gene Martin scores a double

On April 5, 1945, the 362nd Fighter Group flew nine eight-plane missions, but ground controllers had no targets, allowing the group’s planes to range north and east of Kassel. The Germans were making a great effort to evacuate by rail, and the result was a huge number of locomotives and rolling stock. One mission claimed eight locomotives destroyed and three damaged. The 377th and 378th Fighter Squadrons separately attacked the airfield at Kolleda, destroying eight aircraft on the ground plus nine damaged. Kent Geyer led the 377th’s eight-plane attack, which destroyed six and damaged two on the ground and knocked down a single plane in the air, which fell victim to Lt. Robert Sowers.

“We were bounced by 25 to 30 Fw 190s and Bf 109s in the vicinity of Birkungen” reported Lt. Joseph Mullen. “In the ensuing dogfight, I observed Yellow Three (Lt. Charles Everett) in a diving turn to the left with two 190s on his tail and two more closing in on him from the left. I pulled up into the 190s firing on him and shot at the lead 190, observing strikes. Yellow Three was still diving with two 190s on his tail.” Everett and P-47D-30-RA 44-33152 (B8*J) went down nearby, but Everett was able to evade and made it back to allied lines.

Lt. Duane Knos’ was leading Green Flight of the 379th in his Thunderbolt “Kathie,” P-47D-30-RE 44-32954, and the flight set its sights on a group of trucks on the road south of Gottingen. Knos “encountered intense, light, accurate flak and was hit on the second pass,” said Lt. Clifford Dugan, Knos’ wingman. “He was smoking pretty badly, and headed for our lines. When over the town of Hedemunden, Germany, his engine quit. He bellied in southeast of the town.” Knos was seen running from the wrecked plane, and also evaded capture to return to the group safely.

A later mission by the 379th netted aerial victories by Lt. Orville Hagen, who scored two, Lt. Gene Martin and Lt. Alvin Lieberman. Several Fw 190s appeared out of some ground haze 30 miles east of Kassel, and the two groups of startled pilots began to tangle. “I actually got two on that flight,” but the second one was not confirmed, Martin said. “By that time, the Germans’ training really wasn’t what it had been – although you could get the occasional good pilot mixed in,” said Martin. In this case, there was no “hot rock” among the Germans; Martin lined his first target up and dispatched him with a few rounds, sending the Luftwaffe fighter slanting down trailing smoke. As the fight swirled around him, he climbed for altitude and found a second plane ahead of him and fired, overshooting as the German fighter staggered into a stall. “They didn’t confirm it with the gun camera film – I think everyone was too busy waiting for the war to end,” lamented Martin.