69 Years Ago: “Goody,” Wherman and Garrison keep Blakeslee from buying the farm

On January 7, 1944, the Fourth Fighter Group covered bombers coming from Ludwigshafen, and the hard-flying Don Blakeslee was nearly undone by his aggressiveness. Near Hesdin, about a dozen Fw 190s attacked straggling B-17s from out of the sun. Blakeslee tried to bounce the enemy planes, but was cut off by some Spitfires and joined James “Goody” Goodson’s Red Section. “I had climbed up 12,000 or 14,000 feet when I saw more Fw 190s attacking straggling Forts,” said Blakeslee. “I went down on these, being covered by Capt. Goodson’s section, and chased one enemy aircraft down to between 2000 and 3000 feet.”

Goodson, with wingman Lt. Robert Wehrman in tow, followed Blakeslee line astern “to the best of my ability,” he said, although he admitted it was “a rough ride.” “Other 190s attempted to attack, but usually broke away down through the clouds when I turned into them.”

Suddenly, Blakeslee was jumped by three Fw 190s. One Fw 190 made a “determined attack, firing at Lt. Col. Blakeslee even after I started firing at him,” said Goodson. “When I started getting strikes on him, he broke hard port, but even though he pulled streamers from his wingtips I was able to pull my sights through him. He suddenly did two and a half flick rolls and then split-S’ed vertically through some light scud cloud. I followed in a steep wing-over and had to pull out hard to miss some trees as the cloud was lower than I had realized. As I did so, I caught sight of an explosion. Since the 190 had gone through vertically, I feel sure he could not have pulled out even if he had not been damaged.”

Goodson was soon able to join with Blakeslee again. “Before I could get close enough to prevent it, a 190 came in on Lt. Col. Blakeslee and commenced firing at quite short range,” said Goodson, The German scored hits – 71 by the count of Blakeslee’s ground crew. Goodson got on his tail and fired, “and was relieved to see strikes all over him, and see him peel away and crash in flames on the ground, which was quite close,” said Goodson. Lt. Vermont Garrison damaged Blakeslee’s third pursuer.

“The enemy aircraft I was attacking suddenly broke off the turn, straightened out and went into haze,” said Blakeslee. “I followed and as he came out I was dead line astern. I fired a three to four second burst, observing strikes on the enemy aircraft’s tail and starboard wing. Pieces came from the cockpit. The enemy aircraft then did a half-flick to the right and went in. My radio had been shot out and my aircraft was spraying oil badly.” Blakeslee nursed his damaged Thunderbolt home as he and his escorts were repeatedly bounced by Bf 109s, but by now only Wherman, on his first show, had ammunition. The two other pilots made mock attacks to throw off the Germans’ aim. Blakeslee landed at Manston, having survived the mission with his seventh kill.



  1. Blakeslee admited that a P-47 could take multiple hits and still survive, but if he had been in a P-51 he could have climbed so fast that they would never have hit him.

  2. Chris,

    I’m looking to get in contact with the Hoelscher family. I saw William’s Jr.’s reply but no posted e-mail address.

    Would you please forward an e-mail dress for him if you have one handy?


    Tim McCann
    Association of the 4th Fighter Group

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