68 years ago: the 362nd pounds the Wehrmacht – but at a cost

The 378th FIghter Squadron had a busy day on March 21, 1945, flying seven four-ship missions, starting with the bombing of a locomotive and four cars near Besheim and the strafing of a locomotive, eight horse-drawn vehicles, 13 trucks and a half-track. Captain Darwyn Shaver’s flight strafed an airfield, destroying two Ju 88s and damaging three more before shooting up an a horse-drawn wagon between Worms and Darmstadt. Capt. Paul Nunnelley led a raid on the marshalling yards at Geisheim, then the flight silenced four light gun positions west of Darmstadt. The fourth mission received a call from controller “Organ” to silence guns firing on U.S. troops entering Mainz. The four planes struck five buildings in Kastel, also destroying two trucks in the process. On the way home, the planes strafed 12 light flak positions, destroying nine of them. Major Richard Cline led the next mission to bomb an airfield near Weisbaden where 10 twin-engine aircraft were seen; these may have been decoys. The mission did yield 15 trucks and 17 horse-drawn wagons in the same area. Next up was Capt. Joe Hunter, whose flight destroyed a locomotive and five cars northwest of Weisbaden, then strafed and destroyed a truck, four command cars and a horse-drawn vehicle. The day’s last mission was the most lucrative. Lt. Ralph Ellis, leading his second mission of the day, spotted a light flak position on the way to the target and strafed and destroyed it. The flight carried their bombs to a tunnel south of Grunstadt and blocked the entrance, destroying a locomotive and some cars in the process. The flight then strafed traffic nearby, accounting for 14 armored vehicles, five half-tracks, four trucks, and two horse-drawn vehicles. The 379th dropped eight 500-pounders on the marshalling yards at Gustavsburg, where they destroyed 10 boxcars. “After making our dive bombing run we went in for one strafing pass to get two locomotives,” said Lt. Frederick Bly. “I was behind and off to the right of Red Two (Lt. Philip Whelan) when I saw a trail of white smoke come out of his ship. He called in and said he was hit and was heading out. He turned to the right in a shallow climb which was the wrong way and I told him to get across the (Rhine). About 15 seconds later he said he was bailing out. He didn’t get out and the ship was heading toward the ground so I told him to hurry up. About a half a minute later the ship hit the ground at a very fast speed and exploded.” Whelan was killed in the ensuing crash of P-47D-30 42-76453.

A later 12-plane 379th mission hit Bimburg, where 300 cars were spotted, and 21 bombs destroyed about 100 of them. The strafing that followed destroyed two locomotives and four trucks. A third missin by the squadron struck the yards at Mainz. The 377th attacked railroad equipment that was being evacuated by the retreating Germans.

 

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