69 years ago: The Fourth FG’s Battle on the way to Brunswick

On 8 April, Major George Carpenter led an escort to Brunswick, and in a battle that ranged over 30 miles and from 23,000 feet to deck level, the Fourth Fighter Group destroyed 33 planes and damaged nine more.

“Just about the time we reached the Celle area, Lt. (Clemens) Fiedler reported many aircraft at 10 o’clock,” Carpenter recounted. “These aircraft were flying close formation and looked much like a box of bombers. We turned toward them and met them more or less head-on. There were at least 75 to 100 Fw 190s and Bf 109s. We attacked at once, but were unable to prevent some of the enemy aircraft from attacking the bombers and knocking four or five of them down.”

Carpenter picked out an Fw 190 and chased it down to about 8000 feet before he could open fire. “The enemy aircraft then went into a spin, and I kept stalking him, thinking it was an evasive maneuver. However, the Fw 190 did not recover and I saw it crash in a field with a great orange ball of flame.” Carpenter pulled up and got behind another Fw 190, sticking to him despite his evasive manuvers. “I got a couple of good bursts into him, with several strikes in the cockpit area. He jettisoned his hood, but I did not see him bail out. I saw him crash three or four seconds later.”

Maj. George Carpenter

Maj. George Carpenter

Pierce McKennon and his flight waded into what he estimated to be 85 enemy aircraft. “I cannot give a very coherent description because it’s the first fight like it I have ever been in. Fw 190s were all over the place, and every time I turned around I started shooting. Looking over at one side of the fight, there was a 190 and a P-51 going round and round, neither getting deflection on the other. I dived toward the 190 and clobbered him pretty good. He straightened out, and I got in some more strikes in the wing root and fuselage around the cockpit. He went into a sharp dive, and I saw him hit and litter a field with pieces of the aircraft.”

“We found two Mustangs from another group that were having some trouble with three or four Fw 190s,” said Lt. Paul Riley. “Having to use flap to turn inside these Fw 190s, I finally made a deflection shot as one of the Fw 190s tried to out-turn me. Graying out for a moment, I came to in time to pull a 30-degree deflection shot. I observed strikes on the engine and around the cockpit. The enemy aircraft then dropped directly nose down straight under me and disappeared from my vision below 5000 feet. Lt. (Bob) Church saw the aircraft go down. The enemy aircraft was streaming white smoke as he went down.” The fighter hit the ground and burned.

Lt. Albert Schlegel also saw the white-nosed Mustangs tangling with the Fw 190s. “I got a few deflection shots on one, then he broke for the deck,” said Schlegel. “Before I could close on him Lt. (Shelton) Monroe got behind him, so I continued on down, giving him cover. After a long chase, Monroe got strikes all over and the 190 crashed in some trees, burning.”

Schlegel’s flight soon came across an aerodrome and he shot up a taxiing Fw 190. “Just as I was about to make another attack on the aerodrome, Lt. Monroe said that he was chasing an Fw 190 but as he was out of ammunition he’d keep him busy until I came up. After a short chase I got quite a few strikes on the fuselage of the 190 and set the droppable belly tank on fire. Then large pieces started coming off and he crashed into the deck and burst into flames.” By now, Schlegel was ready to go home, but he spotted another Bf 109 and gave chase. “After quite a long chase we were just getting into range of him when an Fw 190 came in from above. “Monroe and Schlegel turned into this new adversary, and the Bf 109 suddenly turned and crash-landed in a plowed field. Schlegel stuck to the Fw 190’s tail while Monroe made mock attacks, trying to straighten him out. Schlegel never hit the fighter, and “after the fourth or fifth circuit, I was on the verge of flicking into the trees, so I broke off at this time,” he said. Monroe saw the 190 hit the trees and crash through them, leaving a path of small fires.

Also scoring big during the mission were Don Gentile, “Red Dog” Norley and Willard Millikan, who each bagged three. Lt. Fiedler, downed two and 13 pilots scored single kills. In exchange, however, Lts. Howard Moulton and Robert Hughes were shot down and became POWs, and Lt. Robert P. Claus and Capt. Frank Boyles were killed in action. For Boyles, a member of group headquarters, this was his first show since he had requested to be restored to flying status.

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