This day, 67 years ago: The 332nd nails 11 over Bavaria

On 18 July, 1944, Lee Rayford led 66 Mustangs of the 332nd Fighter Group to their briefed rendezvous point over southern Germany, but the bombers of the 5th Bomb Wing, scheduled to strike the Luftwaffe base at Memmingen in Bavaria, were nowhere to be found. Rayford decided to orbit in the Undine-Treviso area, which was already known to be a hotbed of Luftwaffe activity. As the bombers approached, the Mustang pilots spotted a swarm of 30 to 35 Bf 109s to the right of the formation. The fighters attacked in groups from three o’clock high and five o’clock low, then split-S’ed away. 21 of the Mustangs rushed to break up the attack, destroying 11 of the German fighters.

Once this threat had been dealt with, he formation continued over Austria, but over the target, 30 to 40 enemy planes – mainly Bf 109s, Fw 190s and Me 410s – were sighted.”We must have spread them from here to Christmas in every direction,” said Stanley Harris, who was forced to dive for safety to elude four Fw 190s glued to his tail.”We must have spread them from here to Christmas in every direction,” said Stanley Harris, who was forced to dive for safety to elude four Fw 190s glued to his tail.¬†Eventually, four Fw 190s swooped in to attack and two were shot down.

The tally for the day was impressive, with Clarence “Lucky” Lester bagging three, Jack Holsclaw two and Lee Archer, Charles Bailey, Walter Palmer, Roger Romine, Ed Toppins and Hugh Warner one apiece.

Palmer’s victim was a Bf 109, which he hit with several short bursts after it had made a pass on the bombers. “On the second or third burst I noticed the engine smoking heavily, so I broke it off because there were others to shoot down,” he later wrote. Palmer closed in on a second Bf 109, but his guns jammed. He considered chopping off the enemy fighter’s tail with his propeller, but the Bf 109 headed into a cloud bank shrouding the tops of the Alps, convincing Palmer to break off the pursuit.

Toppins destroyed his opponent by diving at him at a speed so high that when he pulled out, he warped the fuselage of his fighter – the Mustang had to be scrapped after the mission. Two more P-51s were lost during the fray, with Lt. Gene Browne surviving to be taken prisoner and Lt. Wellington G. Irving being killed in action. Oscar Hutton was also lost when his Mustang was hit by a drop tank jettisoned by another P-51.



  1. A slight correction (yet an important one.The date was July 18th,1944 for the Memmingen Airdrome Bombing Mission and escort.The war was already over on July 18th,1945.Probably just a typographical error.

  2. Please note that the Memmingen Fliegerhorst (Fighter Base) is in Bavaria, Southern Germany not Austria. Nearzies don’t count!


    • Noted and changed! Thanks!

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