70 years ago: 19 destroyed by the 357th Fighter Group

About 20 miles southwest of the target, Liepzig, Red Flight of the 364th Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group engaged a batch of Bf 109s, with the lead element attacking the German fighters while the second element provided top cover against an ambush. The ambush came, and Capt. Rick Smith was shot down and killed in the ensuing dogfight.

“Bud” Anderson was leading the 363rd, riding herd on the second box of bombers between Brunswick and Magdeburg. After combat began ahead of the squadron, “we dropped our tanks and started forward when eight Fw 190s went under me,” said Anderson. “They crossed in front of the low squadron of bombers and turned left flying our formation, mocking escort. It looked like a trap as eight more came down and bounced our second section. They turned into them and seemed to be doing OK, so our section went down on the ones below. I picked the leader, gave him a short burst from about 350 yards dead astern, got quite a few hits. He did a roll to the right and straightened out, skidding violently. The canopy flew off and he snapped over on his back, bailing out.

“I then saw another one heading for the clouds. He ducked in, but it was thin and I could see him once in a while, so I followed. He came out in a clear spot and I attacked from the rear, closing to 150 yards and getting quite a few hits. The canopy flew off, the pilot started to climb out, but settled back into the cockpit. I flew alongside and saw fire break out in the cockpit. He slowly rolled over and went straight in from about 8000 feet, making a huge explosion.

“My wingman came alongside and we started to climb back when another Fw 190 came out of the thin overcast 90 degrees to our course and behind us and above. We circled around on his tail, climbing after him. I cut him off, closed in and started firing. I didn’t get hits at first, so I slid around dead astern and got a few good hits. He then took his first evasive action, pulling up through the clouds. I followed, firing. He went down through it again, I got some hits in the cockpit area. The Fw 190 then did a violent snap roll to the right followed by a tight spin. Streamers were coming off his wingtips and tail surfaces and he spun right in, exploding. No chute came out.”

Clarence "Bud" Anderson

Clarence “Bud” Anderson

Blue Flight, with Don Bochkay leading, was flying just above Green Flight, and just after the four Mustangs dropped their tanks and started to turn, Bochkay looked into the sun and spotted “four Fw 190s coming down on us followed by four Bf 109s,” he said. “They went past us and broke into Green Flight, dead astern.”

“They fired and passed over the top of my flight, making a turn to cut us off,” said Capt. Robert Foy, who was Green Leader. “I called for (Blue Flight) to break right and I put 20 degrees of flaps down and cut my throttle, maneuvering to the rear of the enemy aircraft. I pulled up on the tail of the rear Fw 190. I fired at him (and) observed strikes all over the fuselage and wing, at which time he straightened out and bailed out in level flight.”

At the same time, Bochkay lined up the lead Fw 190 and fired; the German pilot split-S’ed and fled. Foy saw a P-51 being chased by a Bf 109 “just off at about 3 o’clock to me and low,” he said. “I pulled up and dived, pulling up below his tail. I followed him for about 15 seconds in close trail with him. I pulled up and fired two short bursts, observing strikes on his right wing and beneath the fuselage. The Bf 109 immediately broke to the left, did one rather fast roll, and (the pilot) bailed out.”

L4 Bochkay_posed

Don Bochkay

Foy called to his wingman and received no answer, then radioed his element leader, who replied that he’d lost Foy when he went after the Bf 109. “I pulled into a sharp left turn and saw a ship on my tail. I pulled into a tighter turn and started to spin into the overcast, recovering after about two turns. I pulled my flaps down, cut my throttle and continued turning to the left. I had completed about three-fourths of a 360-degree turn when a Bf 109 cut across in front of me at a fast rate of speed. I gave it full throttle, pulling up on his tail. I fired one burst, observing strikes on the right wing. The enemy aircraft did a split-S and I followed him. He pulled out of range in a vertical dive; I glanced at my air speed, which indicated well over 550 mph. The Bf 109 was still pulling away from me. I pulled out at 3000 feet and the Bf 109 was still in a vertical (dive). I climbed up to 6000 feet and circled the immediate area. I did not see the enemy aircraft hit the ground, but there was a spot on the ground that looked as if either a bomb or an airplane had gone in.”


Robert Foy

Bochkay had spotted another Bf 109 trying to dive to safety, and this time he stuck to his quarry. When he fired, “(the Bf 109’s) ammunition started to explode, tearing bits and pieces from both wings. The pilot then bailed out doing close to 600 mph; he delayed his opening. At 4000 feet the ship caught fire and crashed.”

Lt. William Overstreet found himself behind an Fw 190 and opened fire; “when I started getting hits he flipped over and bailed out,” he later wrote.

In all, the group scored 19 victories. In addition to the kills by Anderson, Bochkay, Overstreet and Foy, additional single scores went to Capts. John Pugh, Fred Smith, John Howell, and Mark Stepleton and Lts. Raymond Staude, and Gerald Tyler. Lts. Merle Allen and William Fennell shared a kill, and Capts. James Browning and Charles Summer each scored two

This day in 1944: the 362nd bombs and gets bounced

On the morning of June 24, the 362nd Fighter Group bombed railroad tracks along the Epernon line. Green Flight of the 377th Fighter Squadron was flying top cover, and Green Leader, Lt. Frank Peppers, spotted 10 aircraft climbing over Evreux, above the 362nd’s formation. Peppers moved his flight to counter the still-out-of-range aircraft, but soon had to turn back to keep the bomb-laden planes in sight and lost contact with the 10 unidentified planes. “Green Flight made several orbits over the target (Mantes-Gassicourt),” said Peppers. Lt. (Robert) Clees, who was flying Green Four, had apparently fallen in trail. I glanced down to check the position of the dive bombers. I looked up again (and) I took a quick look in the rear view mirror and saw Fw 190s coming in on our tail. I looked back and called a break to the right. It was too late then; Lt. Clees had already been hit. I saw strikes over both wings. The rest of Green Flight broke into the enemy aircraft and they hit the deck. I watched Lt. Clees’ aircraft spin into the edge of the overcast near Bueil, and (and) about 30 seconds later I saw a white chute drift out from under the overcast. We did not go to the deck to check if Lt. Clees landed safely because there were still more enemy aircraft in the area. About 10 minutes later, we were bounced by 16-plus Bf 109s, but got away safely.”

Clees’ Thunderbolt, P-47D-25 42-26657, crashed and exploded, but the pilot came down safely near Coigneres, and was helped by a local woman, Agnes Knocker, and her daughter, who hid the pilot and helped him on his way to the French Underground’s evasion system. He would later return to England and safety. The 378th bombed a bridge embankment at Epernon, but all seven planes missed the target. In the afternoon, the 378th, led by Capt. Richard Cline, returned and scored three hits. The 379th bombed Cherisy, destroying six rail cars. Later, a 15-plane mission from the 379th led by Capt. Carroll Peterson attacked a bridge, but missed it with eight bombs. The day’s third mission for the 379th, led by Capt. George Rarey, attacked a bridge at Cherisy, striking it with four bombs.


This day in 1944: the 332nd Fighter Group’s low-level losses

On June 23, 1944, the three squadrons of the 332nd Fighter Group – the 100th, 301st and 302nd – were ordered to strafe the landing field at Airasca-Pinerolo in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The flight would require the 41 P-47s to fly over the Tyrrhenian Sea at low altitude to avoid radar. Sadly, those conditions would make this a costly one for the group.

From the start, the mission was beset with problems. Gwynne Pearson’s P-47D 42-75772 crashed on takeoff, but Pearson survived. Four other Thunderbolts were forced to abort, whittling the force down to 36 planes.

The weather over the sea was hazy, with a very bright glare from the sun and a cloud base of 1000 feet. The result was that it was very hard for the pilots to discern the horizon. Near Cape Corse, 2nd Lt. Sam Jefferson’s plane dropped too low, touched the water and exploded on impact. At almost the same time, Earl Sherrard’s P-47 pancaked into the water; he scrambled out of his fighter and was later rescued. 2nd Lt. Charles B. Johnson saw Sherrard’s crash and circled to see if the pilot had survived, but he caught a wingtip and his Thunderbolt splashed into the water. Johnson, like Jefferson, was unable to escape.

A few minutes later, the lead element experienced the effects of the strange weather. Mission leader Robert Tresville, flying with Dempsey Morgan and Spurgeon Ellington as the second section in his flight, was seen frantically gesturing at his wingman, Willard Woods – Woods was so close to the water that his drop tanks were starting to kick up rooster tails.

Robert Tresville as an aviation cadet

Robert Tresville as an aviation cadet

Just after sighting the coast, according to Woods, Tresville’s own P-47 struck the water, which stripped off the drop tanks, ripped off the ailerons and bent the propeller back over the cowling. The Thunderbolt staggered back into the air momentarily, then slammed back into the sea., leaving only the tail visible. Woods later reported that Tresville had been looking at a map when he crashed.

The group never found the target – radio silence prevented the deputy formation leader from learning of Tresville’s crash and he never assumed navigational responsibility for the attack.

The loss of Tresville, who, like Col. Benjamin O. Davis, was another rare black West Pointer, was keenly felt by the group. “Tresville was a fantastic guy,” said Samuel Curtis. “He was smart, he was bright, he was strong, he was well-coordinated. HE would have gone far.” Andrew “Jug” Turner assumed command of the 100th FS upon Tresville’s death.This

B-26 progress: cockpit painted and detailed – see it while you can!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve gotten the forward fuselage of the B-26 a bit farther on – it has paint, and a few additional details.

Cockpit paint NS rear right

In this photo, you can see a few things. First off, the navigator’s position gas its compass, drift meter, intercom and junction box, and the flight instruments have been added to the panel over his desk. The pedestals are there for the seats as well. All these items are styrene sheet or rod, with a rehear photo-ecthed part here and there. The supports to the radioman’s equipment rack have been added, too. The outboard one is flexible – it bends slightly when the left fuselage half is added!

Cockpit left paint overhead ns

Here’s a shot that shows the flight deck – the instrument pedestal is from CMK. I ditched their photo etched levers and used short lengths of fine solder, then added tiny amounts of white glue to the ends to get the bulb handles. Those were then painted according to my references. The sidewall detail’s a mix of Eduard, styrene, fine solder and a few other items from the spares box.

One thing I’ve learned is how to make clustered wire runs – those groups of similarly-bent wires we often see in wheel wells, bomb bays and interiors. Here’s what I figured out: take a piece of fine solder that’s several times longer than the length of the run. Fold it several times so you have a cluster of smaller runs – ideally, a bit longer than what you need on the model. Flip it over and spread some thin CA glue on the back, and let it dry. Then, flip it over, finish the precise bending, and trim the ends. You can see my first attempt at perfecting this on the right side of the cockpit, just above the instrument pedestal in the above photo.

cockpit paint left side head on ns

Here’s a head-on shot that shows some of the bombardier’s compartment detail and the home-made oxygen bottle, the yellow bean-like thing on the right side of the cockpit. Also against the rear bulkhead is the emergency compressed air tank (the black tank), which began life as a detail for a Spitfire, and the first-aid kit, swiped from a Preiser set of Wehrmacht soldiers. Since a friend has joked that the ultimate in stupid, tiny, unseeable details is the red cross on the first aid kit, I had to add it with a .005 red Rapidograph pen.

Cockpit paint left

And, of course, there’s the left side of the plane. Eduard stuff, primarily, with a few solder bits and some styrene. The radioman’s gear is simply styrene with some Reheat instrument bezels.

The seats are painted and await their buckle hardware. I’m taking my time, since they’ll be the most visible things in the cockpit. I may shave the Monogram control wheels from the snap-together parts and add them to my CMK control columns – a nice melding of new and old!

One more thing – I received comments from Rick Scheuerer, who’s contemplating a similar project. The tail-gun position will require the most serious modification and I was anticipating stealing a sliding bubble canopy from a 1950s jet as the stinger-style position in the back. However, Rick says, “Squadron makes a vacuform canopy just for this model as a B-26-1 and a B-26A. All you have to do is open up the tail point.” Well, that’s good news!

Rick also asked: “Do you know if (James) Muri followed the 22nd BG’s practice of removing the tail canopy to give the tail gun more range of movement. There is precedence of this with the photo of a 33rd BS plane in the U.S. before it shipped out to Australia. This photo is located in Dana Bell’s Air Force Colors, volume 1.” This is a great question – I’ll put it to the Battle of Midway Roundtable and see what answer I get.

Here’s where the blog is valuable – hopefully, I can give Rick some advance warning and ideas, and he can share his knowledge to save me time and, perhaps make the model even more accurate. If you think writing a blog is time-consuming, compare it to the agony of trial-and-error of the tail gun position of a 1:72 B-26-1!

This day in 1944: the 362nd smashes the Wehrmacht at Point L’Abbe

On June 12, German troops made a stand at the village of Point L’Abbe. The entire 362nd Fighter Group bombed the village, smashing Wehrmacht resistance. This mission was significant, because it was the first time the group worked in close association with ground troops. Aiding the situation was the complete absence of German flak. While the 377th and 379th struck troop positions, the 378th under Capt. James Harrold sent 15 planes to the town’s marshalling yards, causing significant damage. In the evening, the 377th and 379th bombed radar stations on the headlands near St. Malo using 500-pound bombs; the 379th mission was led by Capt. Bill Flavin, and the target at Cap Frehelder was flattened. The 377th’s target was also put out of action. The 378th attacked some woods near Vire where German vehicles and an ammunition dump were thought to be hiding, but achieved no visible results. Lt. William S. Matusz in P-47D-11 42-76605 was forced out of formation by a misfiring engine; Lt. James A Clark escorted him home. “His engine then failed completely,” said Clark, “and he took up a heading of north trying to reach our beachhead. We hit a layer of clouds and I lost him.” Matusz was rescued by the underground and returned to England two months later. Lt. Harry Kraft also suffered an engine failure, and crash-landed at Penshurst. P-47D 42-76102 was a write-off. Also destroyed this day was P-47D 42-75073, which suffered a take-off accident with Lt. Alva Bessey at the controls.