68 years ago: the 362nd FG scores four while tank-busting

A dozen missions were flown by the 362nd Fighter Group on April 8, 1945, with tanks staging around Mulhausen a prime target. Eight were destroyed and 13 damaged, and the group also shot up a number of trucks, horse-drawn vehicles and half-tracks, as well as several heavy guns. The 379th bombed the dam at Salburg in the face of intense light flak. The afternoon and evening missions met with aerial opposition, at times as many as 25 or 30 Bf 109s and Fw 190s as well as a few Me 262s, which made a pass at the 378th’s last mission of the day. The group suffered no losses, but the 378th’s third mission claimed three Fw 190s and 1 Bf 109 destroyed,1 Fw 190 as a probable, and seven Fw 190s and three Bf 109s damaged.

This fight started when several Bf 109s appeared over the 378th. “We were flying at 6000 feet when bandits appeared over us,” reported Lt. John Haverfield. Lt. Charles Stewart described the first attackers as “not very aggressive.” The Bf 109s “fled east after 10 minutes of contact, and, following a chase, “We then attacked 15-plus Fw 190s at 3000 feet northwest of Gotha,” said Stewart. “I got on a 190’s tail and, following him to 12,000 feet, I started firing at over 250 yards and saw strikes along the fuselage. He then rolled over and dove straight for the ground. He pulled out of the dive, but crashed in the woods northeast of Gotha.”

“I fired at one and observed strikes behind the canopy,” Haverfield said. “I had to break off the attack when an Fw 190 made a pass on me. Later on, I was following Yellow Leader at about 8000 feet when he started a pass on a 190. I saw a 190 at three o’clock about 2000 feet higher than us start to come down on us. I warned Yellow Leader (Lt. Paul Carlisle) and he went into a steep turn to the left. The 190 followed him and I closed in on the enemy aircraft. I started to fire and kept at about 100 yards and observed strikes on his tail.” Carlisle said he saw the canopy come off the Fw 190 and saw smoke pouring from the cockpit. Haverfield “pulled through and kept firing up to about 40 yards. I next saw him snap right and start a split-S. I saw the enemy aircraft heading for the ground at about 50 degrees. I did not observe the crash as I had to leave because Yellow Leader was in trouble.”

While Carlisle’s Yellow Flight engaged the Fw 190s, Red Flight climbed for altitude. Red Flight’s Lt. George Slentz and his wingman bounced an Fw 190, which split-S’ed to the deck. “I followed the bandit in a vertical dive,” Slentz said. He closed to within 50 yards before firing. “I got strikes on him and pieces began to fly off his tail and he began to smoke badly,” he said. “The pilot then bailed out and the aircraft crashed on an airfield.” Lt. Warren Dronen witnessed the German pilot’s bail-out, but reported that his chute failed to open.

The 377th also tangled with these fighters; Lt. Wayne Koontz cut one of them down for his first victory.

The 378th’s second mission of the day destroyed a Ju 88 on the ground. The 379th bombed a reported gun position in some woods but no results were observed; on the way home, strafing destroyed a truck, a half-track and a tank. While the P-47s were airborne, an advanced echelon left for Y-73 Frankfurt Rhein-Main, the prelude to yet another move.

 

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