68 years ago: the 362nd FG ranges east of the Rhine

On March 22, the 362nd Fighter Group managed 16 missions, with four planes in each carrying bombs. The morning mission destroyed 13 locomotives, with the 377th Fighter Squadron claiming eight of them. Flak was heavy, and Lt. Merle Richey brought P-47D 42-20413 home only to belly-land it at Rouvres. The 379th dive-bombed and strafed rail traffic south of Weisbaden, then later sent an armed recce to the area east of Frankfurt.The 378th’s first mission took out two locomotives and damaged several train cars near Hauan, then Capt. Joe Hunter’s flight caused mayhem on the rail lines around Wolfskehn. Bombing derailed 15 cars, and strafing knocked out 18 horse-drawn vehicles and 10 trucks nearby. The third mission cratered roads and destroyed two trucks with bombs, then strafed 18 trucks, two horse-drawn transports, two trailers, two half-tracks and three box cars. The trucks were hiding in a quarry. During the mission, Lt. Joseph Pritchard was hit and bailed out into some woods near Trier. Despite some minor injuries, he returned to the squadron that afternoon.

Merle Richey (left) checks his ordnance before a mission.

Merle Richey (left) checks his ordnance before a mission.

Mission four for the 378th sealed the south end of a tunnel near Darnstadt with two bombs, then the remaining two wrecked 25 box cars and cut the rail lines. Strafing yielded 19 trucks, three horse-drawn vehicles and two horses and a pair of trolley cars. The marshalling yard south of Darmstadt was the target of the next mission, led by Capt. Paul Nunnelley; results of the bombing were not observed, but the four planes strafed an airfield east of the Rhine and peppered an He 177 before destroying an anti-aircraft position. The day’s final mission for the 378th cut rail lines with bombs, then strafed road traffic, claiming 12 trucks, three horse-drawn vehicles, a staff car, an oil truck and six buildings in Helenheim.



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