This day in 1944: the 4th and 357th FGs in Action Over Brux

On 12 May, the First Air Task Force received an escort to Brux. Lt. William Reese of the 357th Fighter Group was flying on Capt. John Carder’s wing when he spotted two Bf 109s coming in on Carder’s tail. “I called (Carder) to break right,” said Reese. “We came around on the two enemy aircraft’s tails. I followed the enemy aircraft from 8000 feet to the deck, firing short bursts at 400 yards and was unable to close. Finally after a 10-minute chase I observed strikes on the enemy aircraft’s engine and it began to smoke. I then closed to within 100 yards and observed strikes all over the enemy aircraft.”

“At this time, Capt. Carder passed over me from my right to the left and this was the last I saw of him.” Suffering from a balky engine, Carder bellied in and the 7-victory ace became a POW.

During the run in to the target, eight Bf 109s from JG.27 tried to attack the bombers, and three of them were destroyed by Lts. Ralph Hofer, Joseph Pierce and Grover Siems and Capt. Howard Hively. In another attack, Lt. Thomas McDill and Maj. James Goodson each bagged a Bf 109, and four pilots later combined for six more victories. George Stanford was among the last group of victors. “At 10,000 feet, we spotted three Bf 109s below us and went down to attack them from the rear. I picked the one in the middle, and he broke right and down onto the deck. I fired at him continually, starting at about 350 yards. I observed only one group of hits on his starboard wing. For some reason, however, he seemed to think his jig was up, for he pulled up in a steep climb, started to roll over, and jettisoned his canopy.”

Lt. Eliot Shapleigh dove for the same three Bf 109s, his section weaving to lose speed so as not to overshoot. “I opened fire, getting strikes on the wings and fuselage,” he said. “I pulled up as the enemy aircraft went into the deck and exploded.” At that point Shapleigh made a starboard turn and found himself on the tail of Stanford’s Bf 109. Shapleigh opened fire, and the Bf 109 completed his roll and went into the ground on its back.

Lost during the mission was Lt. Roger A. Hilsted, who was shot down by a German fighter. In exchange, the group accounted for 14 enemy aircraft. Lt. Thomas Norris shot down one and shared a second with Lt. Aubrey Hood, while single kills went to Maj. Irwin Dregne, Capts. Maurice Baker, “Bud” Anderson, Paul DeVries and William O’Brien and Lts. Joseph Pierce, Thomas McKinney, Richard Smith and Robert Smith. Shares of victories went to Capts. John Storch, Richard Peterson and Fletcher Adams and Lt. Arval Roberson.

Elsewhere above the bomber stream, the 4th Fighter Group was in action as well. Lt. Ted Lines and his wingman spotted a pair of Bf 109s and the two dropped their tanks to pursue. “They split up and headed for the deck,” said Lines. He saw his wingman destroy one Bf 109, “and just then the other Bf 109 cut right in front of me. I got on his tail and started firing. I followed the enemy aircraft for about 20 miles, and he led me into a flak area. By that time, I was out to get him. I cleared my tail and just as I faced forward I saw this Bf 109 hit the ground and blow up.” Other German fighters fell to Capt. James Happel and Lt. Robert Homuth.

During the run in to the target, eight Bf 109s from JG.27 tried to attack the bombers, and three of them were destroyed by Lts. Ralph Hofer, Joseph Pierce and Grover Siems and Capt. Howard Hively. In another attack, Lt. Thomas McDill and Maj. James Goodson each bagged a Bf 109, and four pilots later combined for six more victories. George Stanford was among the last group of victors. “At 10,000 feet, we spotted three Bf 109s below us and went down to attack them from the rear. I picked the one in the middle, and he broke right and down onto the deck. I fired at him continually, starting at about 350 yards. I observed only one group of hits on his starboard wing. For some reason, however, he seemed to think his jig was up, for he pulled up in a steep climb, started to roll over, and jettisoned his canopy.”

Lt. Eliot Shapleigh dove for the same three Bf 109s, his section weaving to lose speed so as not to overshoot. “I opened fire, getting strikes on the wings and fuselage,” he said. “I pulled up as the enemy aircraft went into the deck and exploded.” At that point Shapleigh made a starboard turn and found himself on the tail of Stanford’s Bf 109. Shapleigh opened fire, and the Bf 109 completed his roll and went into the ground on its back.

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