68 years ago: the 362nd FG loses Lt. Conatser

After several days of rain, each squadron in the 362nd Fighter Group flew two armed recces around Saarbrucken, Kaiserlautern, Marzig and Koblenz on September 27, 1944, destroying a total of 22 locomotives and three damaged, plus lots of torn-up track and a number of motor vehicles destroyed. Flak was exceptionally intense. “We had just reformed after strafing a convoy or armored cars and were headed out when suddenly Lt. (Jack) Conatser did a wing-over and started down on some vehicles,” said Lt. Robert Clees of the 377th Fighter Squadron. “I saw him strafe and pull up. I then strafed, and when I pulled up I saw Lt. Conatser’s plane burning in the belly. He was at about 500 feet at the time. I called and told him his plane was on fire and to get out of it, but received no answer. I saw the plane slide off on a wing and head down. It looked as though at the last minute he tried to pull out of it but he stalled and snap-rolled into the ground.” Conatser’s plane, P-47D-28 42-28658 “Eunice-Louise II,” crashed in the Ruckert District of the town of Wendel and exploded, killing the Oklahoman.

The 379th Fighter Squadron sent 12 planes to the Saarbrucken area, where they bombed tracks and destroyed two locomotives by strafing and a third by dive-bombing. A later mission sent 16 Thunderbolts of the 378th Fighter Squadron back to the same area, where they strafed and destroyed seven locomotives and four cars.

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