68 Years Ago: “I’m down here! By the railroad tracks! With a 190!”

On Jan. 14, 1944, during a sweep of northern France, the Fourth Fighter Group bounced 15 Fw 190s, two falling to Don Gentile, one each to F/O Robert Richards and Lt. Vermont Garrison and one shared between Garrison and “Red Dog” Norley.

Gentile, who was flying with Richards as his wingman, saw the German formation fan out into two groups. “I picked two stragglers flying north and attacked at 8 o’clock to the enemy aircraft, which were in a 50-degree dive,” said Gentile. “I closed in and fired a long burst at the number two 190 and observed strikes around the left side of the cockpit, after which I saw smoke coming out.” Gentile’s prey went into a spiraling dive and crashed.

Gentile immediately shifted his attention to the number one Fw 190 and closed in to about 250 yards and fired, chasing the Fw 190 in a shallow dive. “As I was trying to follow him down in his slipstream to get another shot, he hit the woods. I pulled out, just missing the woods myself.”]

“Just as I pulled up I was jumped by two 190s, and then the fun really started. The number one 190 was so close to me that I heard his guns. I broke and the first 190 went over me. I stayed in a port turn because the number two was still coming in. In the meantime, the number one had pulled up sharply to position himself for another attack, but I quickly swung to starboard and fired a short burst at number two, whom I never saw again. All this action took place at tree-top height. I swung port to get away from the number one man, who was firing but giving too much deflection. I used the last of my ammo on the last burst at the number two 190. I was trying to out-turn him, but he stayed inside me.” At about this point, Gentile radioed: “Help! Help! I’m being clobbered!” When Willard Millikan calmly asked him for his call sign and position, all he could stammer was “I’m down here! By the railroad tracks! With a 190!”

“I suddenly flicked and just about wiped myself out on the trees,” Gentile said. “Recovering, I reversed my turn to starboard, and there he was, still inside me and still shooting like hell. I kept on turning and skidding. He slid under and overshot, and I reversed again. We met head on, and he was still firing.”

“For the next 10 minutes we kept reversing turns from head-on attacks, trying to get on each other’s tails,” Gentile said. “The last time he came in he didn’t shoot, so he must have been out of ammunition. He then left and I felt like getting out and doing the rhumba. I climbed up slowly and came home.”

Later, near Soissons, the group tangled with a dozen more Fw 190s, with 334 Squadron claiming six of these. Duane Beeson was one of the first to attack. “We saw 10 or 12 Fw 190s about 8000 feet below us diving inland,” he said. “I picked one of the last four and opened fire at about 250 yards. I saw several strikes and large flashes in the wing roots and observed a large hole in his cockpit hood. The aircraft fell off into a dive, turned over on the way down, and exploded as it hit the ground.”

Lt. Alexander Rafalovich was Beeson’s wingman during the attack. He fired two bursts at an Fw 190 at the rear of the formation. “I observed severe strikes on both wings and I saw fire coming from his engine. I pulled away to avoid an explosion. Lt. (Edmund) Whalen came in from behind, slightly astern.” The two shared credit for the Fw 190.

Other Fw 190s were credited to Lt. Herbert Blanchfield, Lt. Hippolitus “Tom” Biel and Lt. Gerald Montgomery.

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