68 years ago: the 357th FG reduces the Bf 109 population

On 29 July, the 363rd’s Red Flight found a large airfield near Mersberg and dropped down to attack it. “As we did, a Bf 109 dove on us slightly to our right,” reported Lt. William Overstreet. “I turned into him as soon as I was across the field and he was fairly close. He turned right also, leaving me right behind him. I fired (with) about 30 degrees deflection and got hits. I closed in, still firing, and hit his coolant. He dropped down right on the ground and as my wing was in the grass I had to pull up. Pieces of the 109 made holes in my canopy.” Don Bochkay also dropped an enemy plane over the field.

About 20 miles west of Merseburg, the 362nd found a group of Bf 109s trying to organize themselves for an attack. Lt. Gilbert O’Brien jumped a Bf 109 and shot it down. Lt Paul E. Holmberg “came in from the left and began firing at the same ship,” O’Brien reported. “Suddenly, his P-51 exploded and disintegrated. There was not the usual flame and smoke when fuel tanks explode, so I presume that his ammunition box was responsible. There is not the slightest chance that he got out alive.” The 362nd’s Capt. “Kit” Carson, Lt. Harvey Mace and Lt. Thomas Martinek also scored kills, but Lt. Daniel Finley was lost as the result of a mechanical failure. Finley survived only to die as a POW. Lt. Rollin Carter also became a POW.

The next day, the group flew a profitable sweep around Paris, and Maj. Thomas Gates, Lt. Alden Smith and Maj. Ed Hiro each destroyed a German fighter. This time, all planes returned to Lieston safely.

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