66 years ago: Victory and Losses for the 357th Fighter Group

Northeast of Leipzig, the 362nd Fighter Squadron was escorting bombers when their leader, Lt. Col. Joseph Broadhead, spotted a dogfight about 8000 feet below them. “We peeled off and headed for the fight,” said Lt. John Duncan. “I circled over four Bf 109s, killing my air speed and playing for position. The Bf 109s came in from five o’clock and my wingman called them out, breaking into them. I did not hear his call, however, and completed my pass on the four below. I picked out the one on the left and we started a Lufberry to the left. I turned two or three times and got several bursts in on him, seeing many strikes. I had to quit firing when another flight passed between the enemy aircraft and myself. I resumed my attack, closing in to fire, and he went down spinning. The pilot did not bail out as his ship crashed to the earth below.

“I gave chase to four other Bf 109s, finally getting within firing range of a 109 under the clouds. I opened fire from long range, observing a few strikes. He slipped into some clouds. Then I lost him.”

Capt John Sublett was leasing Yellow Flight when a single Me 262 made an attack on the B-24 formation from immediately behind the bombers. “I immediately gave chase, my flight following me,” he said. “We chased him for five minutes when he made a 180-degree turn and started a large circle. I dropped my tanks and cut the circle. From long range I finally managed to fire two bursts, observing pieces coming off the opposite side of the 262. The damage could not have been very severe though for he poured in the coal and took off in an astounding hurry going south between Magdeburg and Berlin. It would have been futile to follow.”

Unfortunately, flak claimed the 363rd Fighter Squadron’s Lt. Matthew Crawford, who went down in P-51D 44-15161. The 363rd’s Lt. Patrick Mallione, flying P-51D “Melody’s Answer,” 44-14888, also failed to return, but no reason was found for his loss. The 364th Fighter Squadron’s Alva C. Murphy was also killed in action; his plane, P-51D 44-63765, was hit by flak.

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