69 years ago: the 4th FG’s Vernon Boehle loses an engine – literally

On Sept. 9, 1943, with the Fourth Fighter Group in escort, more than 30 enemy fighters went after B-17s near Elbeu. 334 and 336 Squadrons broke up their attack, reformed, and broke up another group of 16 German fighters. Unfortunately, at least three B-17s went down, and two planes from the Fourth were lost. Frank Fink suffered an engine failure and bailed out over Paris, where he became a POW. Lt. Vernon Boehle also didn’t come back with the rest of the unit. “I dove after an Fw 190 that was attacking a Fort,” he said. “I followed, but pulled up unable to get into firing range. Climbing back up, another Fw 190 dove to attack me.” This was the aircraft of Oberleutnant Artur Beese of I/JG.26, who would score 22 kills before his death. “I took evasive action, ending up in a spin and dive, coming out at 10,000 feet. The Fw followed, firing at every opportunity as I maneuvered. I was able to get in a short burst at him, but saw no strikes. I then dove for the deck. He followed, still firing, until, apparently out of ammo, he broke off and climbed.”

Vernon Boehle

Boehle headed for home, nursing the P-47, when suddenly there was a terrific vibration; the engine broke loose and fell away. “With some difficulty, I bailed out at about 15,000 feet,” said Boehle. “I landed in the water about 30 miles off Dieppe.” He released his dinghy, inflated it and climbed in, getting “as comfortable as possible,” he said. After midnight on his second night adrift, Boehle heard MTB boats and flashed the torch on his Mae West. “They finally saw me and picked me up after 43 hours in the water.”

Boehle was not a big fan of the P-47 – in fact, when he heard that the 354th Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force was the first to receive P-51s, he requested a transfer to a Ninth Air Force unit. He got his wish and went to the 362nd Fighter Group – after the decision was made to make the Ninth a primarily P-47-equipped unit! Meanwhile, the Fourth switched to Mustangs in March 1944. Just the same, Boehle had a distinguished career with the 362nd Fighter Group.

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