66 years ago: The 357th Fighter Group’s Parisian Spree

On July 25, 1944, the 357th Fighter Group was assigned a fighter sweep, and near the western edge of Paris they spotted some P-38s attacking a marshalling yard. “We all looked down, and at that moment a gaggle of Fw 190s and Bf 109s appeared dead ahead of us,” said Lt. Raymond Conlin. “I do not think they could have seen us, because they rolled over and started and attack on the P-38s below. I was flying No. 2 on Capt. ‘Kit’ Carson’s wing; he rolled over and I followed him down as he tacked on to the rear of an Fw 190.”

Meanwhile, the No. 3 man in the flight, Capt. John Pugh, broke off and latched onto the tail of a Bf 109. “He broke to the right and we made a complete turn,” said Pugh. “I shot a long burst from 300 yards with about 40 degrees deflection, seeing no strikes. We continued to Lufberry down to 5000 feet and I fired several short bursts in a tight turn with no observed strikes. I continually out-turned him. At about 300 feet above Paris, I closed from 200 feet to about 50 feet, firing all the time. My speed was about 250 mph. I saw strikes on the canopy, then the pilot bailed out in a gray or brown parachute. This enemy aircraft was shot from very close range; it was impossible to miss.”

Meanwhile, Carson and Colin continued after the Fw 190. “At the time, it seemed that we were almost vertical chasing the 190,” said Colin. “The pilot was doing big barrel rolls downward trying to get us off his tail, but we were right with him. As Capt. Carson closed into range he started to get strikes on the other ship. This and the ground coming up rather rapidly caused the German plot to flare out and level off. We were now at approximately 300 feet and ‘Kit’ was getting hits all over the Fw 190 when the German’s engine failed. We were heading east just above the Grand Armee-Champs Elysses Boulevard. It looked like the Fw was going to crash into the Arc de Triuph, and the pilot must have been dead since he did not try to bail out.

“Capt. Carson broke away and I was fascinated watching the prop windmilling as the Fw 190 headed toward its fatal end. All of a sudden I realized that Capt. Carson was gone and there I was at 300 feet and every soldier with a weapon was firing at me. The Germans also had anti-aircraft guns on the roofs of the buildings and in the parks and they were all concentrating on me. I sqaw the River Seine off to my right so I swung over and down into it as low as I could without becoming a boat, hugging the north bank, which is about 50 feet high. The guns could not lower down enough to get at me there, so I flew about two miles along the river until it looked safe for me to break out and head for home.”

20 enemy fighters made the mistake of flying directly in front of the 363rd, flying from left to right. “I broke to the right and pulled up to the rear box of enemy aircraft,” said Capt. Robert Foy. “I tried to pick out the tail-end Charlie, but I couldn’t distinguish which was which. I picked out what I thought was a 109 and started firing out of range, closing rapidly. He suddenly pulled into a sharp right turn and I put down 20 degrees of flaps and followed, giving several bursts with about a two radii lead. Smoke started pouring out of the right side of the enemy aircraft and he continued turning to the left. I pulled up to avoid colliding with a silver P-51 and then continued on the enemy aircraft’s tail. He was still turning at about 100 feet from the ground. He hit the ground in the middle of a small racetrack and I flew directly over top of him at about 100 feet. I started to circle to the left to come back and strafe the ship, but found an airfield directly in my path. The flak was very intense and fairly accurate. I turned right and hugged the deck to avoid the flak.” Lt. Donald Pasaka watched the Fw 190 go in; “by the way he hit the ground, I doubt very much if the pilot is telling about his experiences.”

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