An Eagle Squadron escape for a future ace

On 24 September, 1942, 335 Squadron of the RAF – a squadron of American volunteers – received a contingent of pilots from the RAF, including Maj. William Daley, who assumed command of the squadron. Two days later, in a mission supporting B-17s, 11 of 12 Spitfire IXs from another “Eagle Squadron,” 336 Squadron, were lost to a combination of German fighters, fuel starvation, bad weather and poor navigation Four pilots were killed – Pilot Officer William Baker, Lt. Gene Neville, Lt. Leonard Ryerson and Lt. Dennis Smith – six were taken prisoner and one, Robert Smith, evaded back to England. One of the POWs, Flight Lieutenant Edward Brettell, was later executed by the Germans for his role as the map maker in the “Great Escape” of 76 POWs from Stalag Luft III. One Fw 190 fell to Capt. Marion Jackson. Only Lt. Richard Beaty made it back to England, and he was badly injured when he crash-landed his Spitfire in on the Cornish coast. There was also one abort that day: Lt. Don Gentile had engine trouble and returned to base.

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67 years ago: The Tuskegee Airmen raise hell in Yugoslavia

On September 8, 1944, Capt. William Mattison led 42 Mustangs of the 332nd Fighter Group to attack the Luftwaffe airfield at Ilandza in Yugoslavia. About 20 planes were spotted on the ground, and 23 of the Mustangs dropped down to the deck to strafe them, covered by 14 others. The attack destroyed 18 aircraft, including five Ju 52/3ms four Ju 88s, three Do 217s, three Fw 200s and a single Fw 190, Bf 109 and He 111. The Mustang flown by Lt. James A. Calhoun was hit by flak, and while his fellow pilots thought he had deliberately crash-landed his fighter in the target area, Calhoun was killed. The group then continued to the airfield at Alibunar, where 15 P-51s attacked parked aircraft while 26 fighters flew top cover in expectation that the now-alerted Luftwaffe would respond. Instead, the group eliminated 15 Fw 190s, two Bf 109s, and an SM.84 transport in the face of moderate flak. For good measure, the group also destroyed a locomotive on the way home.