The 357th FG cleans house over Berlin

On December 5, 1944, Berlin was the Eighth Air Force’s target, and the 357th Fighter Group was in on the escort. “Bud” Anderson was leading Green Flight of the 363rd Fighter Squadron, and his flight headed north to break up any attacks forming there. “We intercepted about 20 Fw 190s,” he reported. “We crossed over them and dropped tanks. They broke around and I picked one out and closed the K-14 sight around him, firing a burst and getting good hits all over. He rolled over and I did not follow as there were too many enemy aircraft around.” Anderson’s wingman, Lt. James Sloan, said he saw Anderson score hits on the fuselage between the cockpit and the vertical stabilizer, and when last seen “the aircraft went into a spin, appearing completely out of control and emitting light gray smoke,” Sloan said. “I do not believe the enemy aircraft ever recovered from this spin as the pilot was either killed or the controls shot away.”

The other element, made up of Lt. James Crump and Lt. George Rice, broke after another Fw 190. “I was covering his tail when I saw another Fw 190 following us. Lt. Crump’s Jerry appeared to be pretty well clobbered. He rolled over and started for the deck, apparently out of control just as I called for Lt. Crump to break. I turned into the Fw 190 following us and came around behind him; he started making tight diving and climbing turns as I closed the distance between us. I pulled up to about 1000 yards but was pulling so many G’s I couldn’t see the sight. I fired a short burst anyhow and broke out of the turn a bit, then got on him again. I closed to about 50 yards and fired a good burst, saw many strikes in the fuselage and cockpit area. I started overshooting and as I pulled up beside him he jettisoned the canopy and bailed out.”

Anderson began stalking another Fw 190, but his cockpit frosted over and he had to break off the pursuit until it cleared. When it did, he spotted four more Fw 190s which kept darting in and out of some haze. “I kept track of them and closed on one,” he said. “I fired and they all broke left and I latched on to the No. 4 man, firing a ling burst at close range and getting good hits all over the cockpit. The canopy blew off, among various pieces, and fire belched from the cockpit as it spun straight down into a broken overcast. I then closed on the No. 3 man, fired at good range and more good hits occurred in the cockpit region. This ship spun down, smoking, out of control, and went through a broken overcast at about 1000 feet, going straight down. We went under a haze layer and Bf 109s started coming through singly, and I picked one who had his wheels down. He made a right climbing turn and pulled inside, and I fired about 10 rounds and my guns quit. I broke my attack and my wingman and I climbed back to the bombers and continued the escort.”

Lt. James Browning spotted two Bf 109s ahead of him; “I was coming practically head-on when they saw me and dropped their belly tanks,” Browning said. “I made a turn to the left to get on their tails and they broke into us. I took the second and with the K-14 made quite a deflection shot. I observed hits on the engine and cockpit. He went into a spin and the pilot bailed out.”

As the bombers reached the target and began to bomb, a new gaggle of fighters rose to challenge them from their 9 o’clock position. The 362nd was in position to intercept. “We turned into them and dropped our tanks,” said Capt. “Kit” Carson. “Two ships at the very front of their formation were the first to break. I broke with them and fired on the leader, getting several strikes on his fuselage. He made a dive for the clouds; I chased him but inside of the clouds I couldn’t see him. I broke out into the open and a few seconds later tracers were breaking around my ship. I broke to the right as hard as I could. The Jerry was right behind me, but quite a distance back. I managed to get into a scissoring turn, making several head-on passes. He finally reversed his turn and I tagged onto him, firing another burst at about 200 yards, closing fast and getting strikes on the fuselage. Then in a tight spiral, the Bf 109 went down through the overcast. I went beneath the overcast and saw the burning wreckage. The pilot did not get out.”

Major Joseph Broadhead was leading the group this day; he spotted 10 to 15 enemy planes below a thin layer of cirrus cloud and led the jump. “I attacked an  Fw 190, which went into a very steep dive,” said Broadhead. “I got within 100 yards of him when I started firing. I observed strikes on his left wing and fuselage. As soon as I started hitting hi, the 190 pushed his nose completely under and I was unable to follow him any longer. I pulled up and turned around just in time to see him go through the undercast.” Broadhead lost sight of his victim, but his wingman, Lt. Myron Becraft, saw the Fw 190 go straight into the ground and explode.

Blue Flight of the 362nd dove, and Lt. John Kirla picked out one enemy craft, opening fire at about 700 yards but closing in a hurry, “getting strikes at his wing roots and on his fuselage,” Kirla said. “The plane began streaming smoke and pieces flew off as I closed to 50 yards, getting more strikes. I believe the pilot was killed, for the Bf 109 went straight down in a dive at terrific speed and did not recover, but hit the ground and exploded.

“After I had destroyed the Bf 109, Lt. Sublett and I stooged around the deck, looking for more enemy planes. We spotted a lone Fw 190 on the deck and gave chase, catching him in two or three minutes. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from 700 yards, getting strikes on the fuselage and tail. Suddenly, the pilot rolled his ship over and bailed out. I watched the plane crash and then took pictured of the wreckage and the pilot in his chute.”

Unfortunately, Walter Perry of the 362nd did not return to celebrate the day’s haul. While flying “Toolin’ Fool’s Revenge,” P-51K 44-1689, his plane suffered a wing failure and Perry was killed when the plane crashed to earth.

 

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