66 years ago: the 378th’s Bill Plummer downs a Dora

On March 27, 1945, each squadron in the 362nd Fighter Group launched 16-plane missions northeast of Frankfurt, a distance that required them to carry belly tanks. The missions destroyed much rail and road transport, and the 379th Fighter Squadron dropped its belly tanks on a concentration of vehicles, which trailing aircraft then set on fire with strafing. During its mission, the 377th lost two aircraft; a mid-air collision on take-off between Lt. Thomas Pantoliano in P-47D 42-28626 and Lt. Cecil Gurganus in P-47D 42-26345, resulted in moderate damage to Pantoliano’s plane but sent Gurganus’ plane out of control. The pilot was killed when the Thunderbolt crashed not far from base. Lt. William McKain’s P-47 was hit by flak and bellied in at A-82. Lt. Justin Pape of the 379th walked away from a take-off crash in P-47D 44-32274, which was substantially damaged.

The 378th went to the Lohr area and bombed five locomotives and damaged 10 flat cars loaded with trucks, then strafed traffic, knocking out 10 trucks. The 378th loaded up and returned to the area, where it destroyed five box cars and a locomotive near Flenaugen. Near Gurnburg, the flight spotted over 100 trucks, and strafing destroyed 52 of them, plus two horse-drawn vehicles. During the carnage, an Fw 190D-9 was shot down by Lt. Bill Plummer, who spotted the Dora pass under his right wing. Plummer peeled off and followed, his approach masked by a rain shower. “Upon leaving the shower I observed the enemy aircraft ahead about 500 yards,” he reported. Plummer closed in to 300 yards, then “fired a short burst, observing strikes on the side of the fuselage just to the left and rear of the cockpit Beginning to overshoot, I skidded to the left and saw the aircraft start a shallow turn to the right and crash into a field. No flames or smoke were seen, but the plane disintegrated upon hitting the ground.”

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