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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