67 years ago: a Valentines Day Massacre by the 362nd Fighter Group

On what could be accurately described as a St. Valentines Day massacre, 11 squadron missions were run in one day on February 14 by the 362nd Fighter Group. The 379th fared especially well, discovering more than 100 vehicles in the town of Bodem and bombing and strafing them, destroying 40. Each aircraft carried two 500-pound bombs, which they used to shattering effect. However, Lt. Francis Postai’s Thunderbolt was hit by small arms fire while strafing a troop concentration just in front of American infantry and tanks. “I circled at about 3000 feet and waited for the squadron commander to tell me to go down and strafe,” Postai wrote in a letter home. “When he gave me the word my wingman and I peeled off to go down. I let go at a bunch of Jerries in some woods. I had to pull out of my dive and as soon as I pulled up some Jerry machine gunner wrote ‘to my Valentine’ on the side of my airplane. Three of (the slugs) got me; two went through my upper arm and the other went through the fleshy part of my back but didn’t do any damage; it stopped in the muscle. I opened the throttle and headed for our lines and crash landed in a pasture just inside our lines. There was an infantry aid man right there and he fixed me up.” Postai was eventually sent home for treatment of his wounds.

The 378th flew two missions, one to Bueren and the other to Kirf. On the latter mission, the squadron also strafed Weiten and Freudenberg. Red Flight of the 377th conducted an armed reconnaissance around Wittlick, working over a convoy of trucks. “We had expended our ammunition and the remainder of the squadron had returned to base while Lt. (Willard) Naglestadt and I remained in the area to lead ‘Klondike’ (the 379th) to the target,” said Lt. Ernest Johnson. “This accomplished, we headed out on a course which took us south of Trier. Just as we were crossing the highway leading north out of Trier we encountered a few bursts of what appeared to be 40mm flak.” The fire came from the 4th Companie of the 11th Fallschrimjager Flak Regiment; its 12 guns scored hits on the wing and fuselage of P-47D-28 44-19931 “and a fire started in his left wing just inside the bomb shackle,” Johnson said. “I immediately told him he was on fire and to bail out, whereupon he jettisoned the canopy. He continued in straight and level flight for a period of 45 seconds to one minute, during which time I repeated instructions to bail out. Then his aircraft did a gentle wing-over and went into the ground at an angle of about 60 degrees and exploded.” Naglestadt’s aircraft smashed into the ground on the road running between Scharfbillig and Wostachen; Naglestadt attempted to jump, but his parachute did not open in time, killing the veteran pilot.



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