67 years ago: “Kit” Carson goes to town, and Frank Gailer makes ace but goes down

On November 27, the 357th Fighter Group, and especially Leonard “Kit” Carson, had a huge day at the expense of the Luftwaffe. Near Magdeburg, two large formations of German fighters were reported; records show this was JG.300 and JG.301. “One of the formations made a turn and came toward us at 8 o’clock,” Carson said. “We dropped our tanks and turned to meet them. We tacked onto the rear of the formation, which consisted of 50-plus Fw 190s. I closed to about 300 yards on the nearest one and fired a medium burst with no lead, getting numerous strikes. He started to burn and went into a turning dive to the left. I believe the pilot was killed. He never recovered, but crashed into the ground and exploded.”

Leading the second element in Carson’s flight was Lt. William Gilbert, who came around on a group of Fw 190s, selected one, and began firing. “I observed numerous strikes all over the enemy aircraft and pieces flew off,” Gilbert said. “He burst into smoke and flame. The ship went into a spin and went straight into the ground. The pilot did not bail out.”

Carson returned to the main formation, again closing on the last plane. “I opened fire at about 300 yards, firing two short bursts, getting strikes all over the fuselage. He started to smoke and burn. He dropped out of the formation and turned to the right until he was in sort of half split-S position, never recovering from this attitude. I saw him crash and burn. The pilot did not get out.

“Closing again on the main formation, I pulled into the nearest man. At about 400 yards I fired a short burst, noting a few hits. He broke violently to the left and I broke with him. I picked up a lead on him and fired two more bursts, getting strikes on the cockpit and engine. He started to smoke and burn badly. The pilot jettisoned his canopy and bailed out. The Fw 190 crashed about 50 yards from a house in a small town.

“I could still see the main formation about a mile ahead of me. Starting to catch them, I saw a straggler on the deck. I dropped down to engage him, but he saw me coming. He turned left away from me and I gave chase for about three minutes before I caught him. I opened fire at about 400 yards, getting strikes on the right side of his fuselage. He turned sharply to the right and I picked up a few degrees of lead, firing two more bursts, getting more strikes on the fuselage. The pilot jettisoned his canopy and bailed out.

“I pulled up and set course for home base when another Fw 190 came in at my wingman and me from seven o’clock high. We broke into him and started a zooming climb. I chased him, gaining slowly. Suddenly, he dropped his nose and headed for the deck. I gave chase and caught him in four or five minutes. I opened fire at 400-450 yards, but missed. I closed further and fired another burst, getting several strikes on the fuselage. The plane started to smoke. I fired again as he made a slight turn to the right, observing more hits on the fuselage. Then the pilot jettisoned his canopy and I broke off my attack to the right. I waited for him to bail out but he didn’t, so I turned back to engage him again. I was still about 700 yards away when the pilot pulled the nose up sharply and left his ship. His chute opened a couple of seconds later.”

Maj. Andy Evans saw an Fw 190 turning in an attempt to flee. “I turned as tight as I could, rolled to the left and down, firing as I came out of the turn. Before I could fix my sights on him and get off a good burst, he rolled into the ground from 1500 feet, exploding as he hit.”

John Sublett was flying on the wing of Capt. John England when they spotted 40 to 50 Fw 190s at about 10 o’clock to them at just below their altitude. “I pulled up behind the rearmost enemy aircraft to within 600 yards, opened fire and saw strikes around his cockpit and smoke and fire coming out around his engine nacelle,” said England. “This enemy aircraft flipped over and the pilot bailed out.”

England was still closing on the gaggle and picked out a second Fw 190, closed to 300 yards and fired again. “He broke, but I got good hits on his wings and cockpit while he was breaking and during one or two turns immediately after this break, his canopy and pieces of his wings came off. The pilot bailed out, but I believe he was seriously injured.”

Sublett saw England cull the first two Fw 190s from the formation and “was busy covering his tail expecting the Jerries to break into us, but thet just kept going and stayed in formation,” he said. England continued his murderous work as the gaggle dove for safety, picking off another Fw 190. “He flipped over and went straight into the ground. The pilot was definitely killed. Then I pulled up behind another Fw 190 and went through the same procedure, starting to fire from 800 yards and closing to 150 yards, observing strikes on his cockpit. The plane dove straight forward, went into the ground and exploded.”

“Capt. England finally called me and said that he only had three guns left and instructed me to shoot them,” said Sublett. “I pulled up on the tail of one Fw 190 and fired a short burst from about 800 yards and missed. Another Fw 190 cut across between us and I tacked on to him because he was closer. I fired from about a 10-degree angle from about 400 yards, observing strikes all over the ship. Pieces started coming off and the pilot jettisoned his canopy, pulled up and went over the side.

“I pulled over to dead astern (on) another Fw 190 and fired from about 600 yards, closing to about 500 yards, observing strikes at the wing roots and fuselage. Many pieces started flying off and the canopy went under my right wing. The pilot pulled up and sailed over the side.

“I broke to the right, just in case anyone was on my tail, and fell in behind another Fw 190. I pulled up to approximately 500 yards and fired a long burst which went under him. I raised my sights and fired another long burst. The enemy plane just disintegrated. I had to pull up to avoid the flying debris.”

“This was one of the best shows I have ever seen,” England gushed. Carson downed five, England four, Sublett three, Capt. Alva Murphy and Lt. Chuck Weaver two, and Lts. Clifford Anderson, Herman Delager and William Gilbert one apiece.

Lt. Robert Schimanski was leading the 364th; flak diverted the group slightly, resulting in their somewhat late arrival to the fight. Even so, Schimanski soon “dove into five enemy aircraft circling around 15,000 feet, losing my own flight,” he said. “I pulled in sharply on a Bf 109, spanned him, and gave him a short burst, hitting at the wing root. On the second burst I cut the left wing off and the enemy aircraft snapped over on its back as I overshot.”

Capt. Charles Yeager heard another group call the bandits and the 363rd turned left and spotted two “gangs of enemy aircraft,” Yeager said, “one (with) 50 plus and the other (of) approximately 150 plus. I passed in front of the little gang and climbed over the back end of the large bunch to 32,000 feet. I jumped the last enemy aircraft, which was an Fw 190. He went into a rolling dive to the right. I shot a deflection shot from his right and got hits from around 200 yards. He snapped and the tail flew off and I saw no chute. I pulled back up into the bottom of the gang and another Fw 190 jumped me. I broke into him and got a deflection shot from 90 degrees at around 100 yards. I got many strikes on the fuselage and the enemy aircraft started smoking and went into a dive. I followed it down to about 15,000 feet and the enemy aircraft flew apart. I climbed back up to the tail end of the gang and jumped another gaggle. The enemy aircraft started a circling turn with me and I turned inside and closed up to within 100 yards at around 40 degrees of deflection. I fired a short burst concentrated on the cockpit; a sheet of flame came out of the cockpit and the enemy aircraft nosed down in a dive on fire. There was no chute.”

In the same melee, Lt. Frank Gailer of the 363rd was lost. He had downed two Fw 190s, making him an ace, when two planes made a head-on pass at him. He thought they were Mustangs, but in any event they opened fire, knocking off his canopy, cutting his oil lines and wounding him in the shoulder. “I heard Lt. Gailer say that he was shot up and oil was coming over his windshield,” reported Yeager. Gailer was last seen about 15 miles southwest of Magdeburg; he was captured and spect the rest of the war as a POW. “Bud” Anderson also scored two, while Lts. Ray Wolf and James Sloan each shot down one. In all, 31 German fighters fell to the group this day.

67 Years Ago: the 362nd FG moves airfields

As the weather continued to worsen, the advanced echelon of the 362nd Fighter Group moved to A-82 Airfield east of Etain, France on November 5. The group tore down its buildings – including a mess hall that was finished only two weeks earlier – and transported them to the new site. Etain was a far cry from Reims, said Gene Martin of the 379th, who reported to the base upon assignment to the group. “There was mud up to your eyebrows, and we all lived in pyramidal tents,” he said. “Each one had its own little stove, and we always had a pot of coffee brewing on it” to stave off the cold and miserable weather.

As bad as the pilots had it, the ground crews had it worse. “They were out in the cold and the rain and the snow,” Martin said. “There were no buildings for them to work in; they were out in the elements all the time.”Ralph Sallee,

Keeping clean was another area that provided a daily challenge. Showers were luxuries available only during leaves to London; on the continent, the men had to improvise. “Most of us being around 19 to 20, shaving was not a big problem because our beards did not grow that fast,” said Ralph Sallee. “We were still too young. But when that shaving time did come, it was out of a steal helmet half full of water that had been heated in an old juice can over on a stick fire. This led to the famous ‘spit-bath.’ We did the job with a little hot water and a wash cloth. Actually, that was not too bad. That life lasted for nearly a year… That the water did not touch the old body makes me relish every shower I take nowadays.”

Tom Beeson flew his last mission as CO of the 377th this day before a 30-day leave; Capt. “Ace” Herway became CO in his absence. The 378th mounted a 15-plane escort of A-20s to a target near Bastogne. The squadron also finished off two locomotives and 15 rail cars for good measure. The 379thescorted A-20s to attack Homburg, and between Eichelscheider Hof and Bechhofen, two flights were protecting the left side of the A-20 formation while Red Flight was assigned to protect the leading flight of bombers and Yellow Flight was stacked about 100 feet below Red Flight protecting the rear flight. “Red Flight seemed to be getting too far forward, so the leader called a 360-degree turn to the left in order to fall back on the tail of the bombers and take up the position previously held by Yellow Flight,” reported Capt. Raymond Mitchell. “Red Two, Lt. Warner H. Marsh (flying P-47D-28 42-28463, “Jewel”), being on the starboard side of the leader, seemed to take a very abrupt turn, crossing over Red Leader and then pushed the nose of his ship abruptly down about 150 feet, right into the cockpit of Yellow Four, Lt. Donald H. Wilson (in P-47D-28 44-19953), from the starboard side. Both ships exploded and no parachutes were seen to open. Since the accident happened at about 1420 and we were headed south, and the flights were flying line abreast with Yellow Three and Four on the port side, Lt. Wilson had the sun in his eyes and I am sure he never saw the aircraft piloted by Lt. Marsh.” Wilson’s plane plunged to earth about 300 yards from the railroad station in Eichelscheid and was completely destroyed.



This day, 67 Years Ago: the 357th Dodges Flak and Finds the Luftwaffe

The 357th Fighter Group flew a bomber escort mission in the vicinity of Naumberg on November 2, 1944. When the bombers started their runs, the 362nd turned to avoid the flak directed at them, planning to pick them up again as they reached the south side of the target area. “As we were doing this, a single Bf 109 came 180 degrees to us in a dive for the clouds,” said Capt. Leonard Carson. “Leading the last flight in our squadron at 15,000 feet, I immediately attacked to prevent his escape into the overcast. I began firing from 100 yards dead astern, closing fast. I chopped my throttle and dropped flaps. Nevertheless, I could not avoid overrunning him, so I fired continuously until closing to 30 yards, still dead astern. I got strikes on his cockpit and wing roots. The plane rolled several times, going straight down out of control. I pulled off and watched him crash.”

After witnessing Carson’s victory, Capt. John England saw Major Lawrence Giarrizzo in P-51D-5-NA 44-13735 G4-H (nicknamed “Toolin’ Fool”) chasing a Bf 109 at about 6000 feet. “I was flying about 1000 yards directly behind Maj. Giarrizzo when the Bf 109 with which he was engaged flipped to the left,” said England. “Maj. Giarrizzo did the same. At this point, his left wing broke completely off about two feet from the fuselage. I watched the rest of the plane plunge straight down from 6000 feet at approximately 450 mph, hit the ground and explode. Maj. Giarrizzo did not get out. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind about his death.”

The 363rd’s Lt. Harold Hand and Capt. Thomas Hughes became separated from the rest of the squadron, and spotted a single aircraft flying at their level. “We turned toward him and he headed down,” said Hughes. The two closed fast on the plane, and Hand “overran it just as I identified it as an Fw 190,” said Hand. Hughes pulled up behind the enemy aircraft and put the K-14 sight on him. “He flew straight and level and at about 250 yards I gave him a full burst. Strikes covered the whole cockpit area and inner wing. He wavered, then headed down and started to burn around the cockpit and fuselage as I overran. He headed down and went into the cloud. As we pulled up we saw four Bf 109s heading down.”

“I broke into the four as they headed for the clouds and just before I reached the clouds I fired a short burst at tail-end Charlie from about 500 yards, using a K-14 gunsight, and saw many strikes on the wing root and engine,” said Hand. “The pilot jettisoned his canopy and bailed out.” Hughes also opened fire, hitting the No. 2 man in the formation seeing strikes on the wings. He headed for the clouds, but as Hand and Hughes pulled out of their dive, The Bf 109s also pulled up. “I fired on No. 1 of the enemy aircraft because I pulled up right behind him and fired another burst and saw hits on his fuselage but he went in the clouds also.” Hand fired a short burst at another Bf 109, getting a few strikes in the left wing root, before he ducked into the clouds and got away.” Hughes said this aircraft was “trailing smoke from the left wing as he went into the clouds.”