69 years ago: “Deacon” Hively bags three for the 4th FG

On May 19, 1944, the 4th Fighter Group escorted bombers over the German capital and back to the Baltic. “About four minutes after we had left the bombers, the leader of Red Section reported one aircraft circling on the cloud at 10 o’clock,” reported Capt. Howard Hively. “I told him to go down and I would follow. As he started down, I noticed there were three of them in a wide vic, with one way in front. The two wingmen half-rolled immediately, with Mustangs right behind them, but the leader continued in a straight line. I picked him, flew up almost beside him, identified him as a 109 with green markings on the side, let down my flaps, dropped to line astern and clobbered him from about 150 yards. He went down streaming black smoke. The pilot did not get out.”

Hively ordered his squadron to form up. Soon, Hively saw six Bf 109s at about 21,000 feet, “a mile or so to our 10 o’clock, flying north. We swung starboard on their tails. I started to gain, but slowly. I saw Lt. (David) Howe clobber the straggler in the starboard three, then the rest broke to the left and down. I was covered with so much oil from the first 109 that I could not see very well and lost the port three (109s) for a time, but dove to where I thought they were going. At about 9000 feet, I found what I thought were only two flying very good formation. I half-rolled, attacking the right one. I immediately got hits on the tail and starboard wingtip of one who evidently flicked to the left and smashed into another on the bottom of the turn whom I hadn’t seen before. The one who was shot bailed out immediately and then his fuselage broke in half about three feet back of the cockpit. I followed the one who had hit him, still shooting deflection. He flicked again and what appeared to be part of his starboard wing flew off, and he bailed out.”

Howard Hively in the cockpit of his P-51D

Howard Hively in the cockpit of his P-51D

Maj. Michael McPharlin and Lts. James Scott and Joseph Lang also claimed kills. Lt. Donald Patchen was hit by flak over Berlin and nursed his Mustang as far as Hanover, where he bailed out. His wingman saw him on the ground, where he had to make a choice between a field of wheat set afire by his plane, a mob of farm-implement-wielding civilians and some Wehrmacht soldiers. He opted for the soldiers and was soon in a POW camp.



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