68 years ago: the 378th FS scores two

The 362nd Fighter Group flew 17 eight-plane missions on March 18, 1945. The 377th used rockets and strafing to destroy 10 tanks southeast of Bad Kreuznach, and later knocked out a few more through strafing, but Lt. Asa Shuler was killed when his P-47D-28-RA, “Battlin’ Beanie II,” 42-28848, was shot down by flak. The 378th’s day started with a mission that damaged five tanks, followed by a mission to marshalling yards near Ofalzey and Darmstadt where they destroyed six locomotives. Major Richard Cline led the next mission, which caught eight buses, six half-tracks and four trucks before working over the town of Essenheim. The final mission for the 377th knocked out 24 trucks, plus two dug-in armored vehicles and a tank.

During the day’s last mission for the 378th, Lt. William Burling spotted a lone Fw 190 below him and dove, firing from 500 and 200 yards away. “The enemy aircraft dropped the right gear and he turned sharply right,” Burling said. “At this time we were about 100 feet above the ground. Turning inside the enemy aircraft, I fired another burst at a very close range. The enemy aircraft stalled and snapped upside down and immediately crashed into the ground.”

Almost simultaneously, Lt. John Pritchard, flying in another flight, spotted a Bf 109 that tried to climb into the clouds, and Pritchard started closing the distance and got within 500 yards. The panicked Luftwaffe pilot bailed out before Pritchard could fire, his fighter falling off to the right and diving into the ground. Pritchard used his gun camera to photograph the pilot in his chute to confirm the victory.

 

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