69 years ago: two victories for the 357th FG near Frankfurt

On March 2, 1944, the 357th FIghter Group was escorting the heavies north of Frankfurt when Maj. Tommy Hayes spotted two Bf 109s that “must have attacked the rear of the box,” he said. “We dropped our auxiliary tanks and started down, having several thousand feet on them. Still not in range, they split at about 9000 feet, with myself and my wingman taking the leader, who kept a straight course in a gradual dive. I started to fire at about 350 yards. Very few strikes were observed. At 1000 feet I was firing dead astern and had his engine smoking. Suddenly, he dumped almost straight down and crashed in a wooded area. The pilot crashed with the plane and I believe he was hit from the astern attack through his armor plate.”

Tommy Hayes and the crew of his P-51B

Tommy Hayes and the crew of his P-51B

John Carder and wingman LeRoy Ruder stalked the second fighter, which “went into a valley, with a steep tree-lined hill on the far side,” he reported. “At the bottom of the hill I fired a burst and saw strikes on the right wing. The 109 pulled up sharply above the horizon and I saw his wingtip was crumpled. I believe he hit a tree, unless I had damaged his wing spar. He did a slow climbing half roll and went down again inverted and crashed on top of the hill. I could see part of the wing and a wheel that slid into the main street of the town. I did a roll and believe civilian morale is lower now.”

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