67 years ago: the 362nd FG scores against planes and trains

On February 21, the 378th Fighter Squadron bombed what turned out to be a dummy airfield near Giessen, but a second mission netted a single Fw 190 shot down east of Darmstadt by Lt. William Burling. The Fw 190 was spotted climbing over Burling’s flight, and when it did a wing-over and dove, Burling jettisoned his bombs and drop tank and began maneuvering to intercept. “He started a sharp right climbing turn and I shot a short burst at about 400 yards, 35 to 40 degree deflection, but I believe no damage (was done). I continued to dogfight through various maneuvers until I had closed to about 150 to 200 yards. In a slight climbing turn my next burst of fire got strikes in the tail section and some pieces flew off. Another burst got strikes along the fuselage, canopy and into the engine. The Fw 190 slowly rolled over and went into a dive, smoking. The pilot was not observed to bail out and I saw the plane hit the ground and explode.”

The mission had its cost, however; Lt. J. Harter Klingel was last seen spinning out of the overcast east of Frankfurt in P-47D-30 44-20609. “Lt. Klingel, flying Green Two, was apparently hit by flak,” said Lt. Darwyn Shaver. “The plane began to roll and started down in a shallow dive. Lt. Klingel bailed out almost immediately and the plane crashed and burned near the town of Eppertshon, Germany.” Klingel became a POW.

Things could have been much worse for the group that day. Lt. Nicholas Marchetti, flying P-47D 42-28890, and Lt. Robert Searl, flying P-47D 42-27304, made glancing contact while in flight, but both aircraft continued flying and completed the 379th’s mission safely. The squadron put 500-pounders on rail lines northwest of Manheim.

The 377th attacked the rail yards at Darmstadt in the morning and the airfield at Wurzburg in the afternoon, causing a Bf 109 to crash right after take-off and damaging two Ju 52s. The 379th attacked rail yards at Marienbad, damaging about 15 rail cars which were believed to be carrying tanks, then strafed traffic, knocking out two trucks, and picked off a parked Me 210 at Eger Airfield.

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