69 years ago: the 357th’s skirmish over Strasbourg

During an escort to Ludwigshaven on 27 May, 1944, the 364th Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group jumped a large formation of Bf 109s about 20 miles southwest of Strasbourg. “I was leading Blue Flight with Lt. (Thomas) Harris flying my No. 3 when we went down on a Bf 109 that was diving away,” said Major John Storch. “Lt. Harris’ element was in position when we went down followed by our Green Flight.”

A quartet of 357th FG Mustangs, led by Maj. John Storch (in C5*R)

A quartet of 357th FG Mustangs, led by Maj. John Storch (in C5*R)

 

Lt. Leroy A. Ruder was the number three man in Green Flight. “As my flight leader was getting into position to fire on one of the enemy aircraft, I observed a Bf 109 trying to get into position to attack him,” Ruder reported. “I immediately broke into the enemy aircraft and at the same time expected my wingman (Lt. Cyril Conklin) to break with me. I do not know where he went. I had my hands full with the 109 I was fighting and since my radio was out could not ask my wingman for his position.” Conklin scored two kills in the fight but fell victim to a Bf 109 and wound up as a POW.

“When the dogfight was finished I had my No. 2 and Green Flights 1 and 2 and a 352nd group plane with me,” said Storch. “I started spiraling for altitude and the bombers, which were out of sight. I called Lt. Harris and finally got him, and he said he was OK and hunting for me. I told him my position as nearly as possible, my altitude and course, and a stayed in the area for approximately 15 minutes.” Storch never found his second element leader; Harris probably collided with Dean Post; the five-kill ace became a POW, while Post was killed when his Mustang crashed.

Despite the losses, the toll the squadron exacted on the enemy was impressive – 12.5 kills. Aces predominated on the scoreboard for the day; Storch scored two and a half victories, Harris and Lt. Morris Stanley two each, and LeRoy Ruder and Robert Shaw one each.

The 362nd was climbing behind the lead box of bombers. “Between five and six enemy aircraft came down through the bombers and turned left to the same heading that we had,” said Lt. Fletcher Adams. “We started to chase them. One went to the left, with Capt. (John) England following and I saw pieces fall off that aircraft as Capt. England shot at him. The second one went to the right with Capt. (Calvert) Williams shooting at him. There were pieces coming off him. The two directly in front of us started a gentle turn to the left. The one in the inside tightened his turn and I told Lt. (Gilbert) O’Brien to get him.”

Fletcher Adams' "Southern Belle" before a mission in spring 1944.

Fletcher Adams’ “Southern Belle” before a mission in spring 1944.

This plane made two 360-degree turns to the left, said O’Brien. “I shot a 90-degree deflection shot. Not seeing any hits, he rolled out square in front of me. I had a little excess speed and came right in behind him. I began to overshoot and saw his canopy come off. I slid right up beside him with my flaps down. He bailed out as I was alongside of him at about 12,000 feet. His chest was covered in blood and he hit the rudder. I did not see his chute open.”

Meanwhile, the second Fw 190 continued in a gentle turn with Adams in pursuit. Adams fired, scoring hits. “At about 10,000 feet, he seemed to be trying an outside loop, so I rolled out, and when I lifted my wing I saw an explosion on the ground and a parachute in the neighborhood of the crash.” In addition to these victories, three more pilots scored singles, including Lt. John Pugh.

The 363rd was in on the fun, too. Capt. William O’Brien was leading and he ordered White Flight to attack, with Blue and Green Flights giving cover. Capt. “Bud” Anderson was leading White Flight, and as they raced for the front of the front of the formation, “my No. 3 called in four bandits coming in on us at 4 o’clock,” he said. “We broke into them and they pulled up and circled, trying to get at us. With full throttle and RPM, I was able to close around and climb on them. They all straightened out and tried to run while their No. 4 climbed up – my No. 3, Lt. Edward Simpson, climbed up after him while I chased the other three.”

William O'Brien

William O’Brien

Simpson caught his quarry at 30,000 feet and, after hitting him with two bursts, saw the pilot bail out. Meanwhile, Anderson pursued the other three fighters. “I closed slowly on No. 3 and waited until I was in close and dead astern, then fired a good burst, getting hits all over; smoke streamed and his canopy may have come off. He rolled over and went down out of control.” Next, Anderson “singled out No. 2; he dove and pulled up in a left climbing turn. I pulled inside and overshot – he straightened out and I pulled up, watching him as he tried to get on my No. 2’s tail. He stalled and I went after him; he repeated with another left climbing turn. I overshot again and the same thing followed, and the third time I made up my mind I wouldn’t lose him, so as he pulled up I fired. The first tracers went over his right wing. I skidded my nose over and strikes appeared all over. I slid alongside and saw fire break out. It rolled over slowly and went straight in from 28,000 feet.”

O’Brien spotted Bf 109 chasing a P-51; he fired a 90-degree deflection shot to get the German to break off his attack, and then maneuvered in behind him. After several rounds struck near the cockpit and smoke began to issue from the plane, the pilot bailed out.

Capt. Jim Browning was leading Green Flight. “I saw two Bf 109s going the opposite direction. I turned and gave one a shot with deflection. I don’t think I hit him. He then pulled almost straight up. I climbed with him and waited until I was about 250 yards (away) and I leveled out. I then gave him a long burst. I got hits and coolant came out. He then turned and I overshot him. I made a circle and came back at him. He was in a slight dive with coolant still coming out. I gave him another long burst from about 20 degrees deflection. I could see him bowed over in the cockpit as if trying to fasten his chute. The last burst I gave him was directly into the cockpit and right side of his plane. He bailed out and I pulled up over him.” According to Browning’s wingman, the German’s chute opened but the pilot fell out of the harness and plummeted to earth.

69 years ago: 25 victories for the 357th Fighter Group

The Luftwaffe was back up to challenge the 357th Fighter Group on April 11. Just after rendezvousing with bombers headed for Sorau, the 364th Fighter Squadron’s Green Flight ran across a single Bf 109, which dove for cover “After approximately five minutes of chasing, firing numerous bursts and observing numerous strikes, I shot the engine out of the Bf 109,” said Lt. John Carder. “The enemy pilot tried to crash land at in excess of 200 mph. The enemy aircraft hit the ground, bounced over high wires and a road, and crashed into the ground and exploded.”

Lt. Fletcher Adams had been with the bombers for about 20 minutes when he spotted a trio of Bf 109s below him. His flight leader, Lt. John England, took the tail-end plane; Adams took the second one and both chased their quarry to the deck. “The enemy plane took evasive action, turning and skidding,” said Adams. “I fired several bursts when he was going in an out of the clouds. A light stream of black smoke came out of the plane and he went into a cloud. I went over the cloud and next saw the pilot in a parachute. I saw a plane behind me, which I assumed to be my wingman. When I turned, however, he began to shoot at me from about 500 yards. I went down in evasive action to about 20 feet and pulled up sharply to the right. The enemy plane tried to follow this maneuver. After I had nearly completed a 360-degree turn, I saw the enemy plane spin into the ground explode and burn. I saw no parachute this time.”

White Flight of the 363rd spotted an He 111 “sneaking along right on the ground,” said “Bud” Anderson. “The first pass wasn’t so good,” he said. “I pulled up and the rest of the flight came in.” After Lt. Henry Kayser put a burst into the cockpit and Lt. William Overstreet shot up the plane from dead astern, Anderson stitched the He 111 from tail to cockpit, then Lt. Edward Simpson came in and set the left engine ablaze. “He tried to crash land, and did,” said Simpson. “The ship burst into flames after hitting a pole and sliding along the ground. The crew jumped out.” Simpson, Kayser and Anderson each added individual victories during the mission

In all, the group destroyed 25 planes. The victors included Lts. Gilbert O’Brien, John Pugh, Arval Roberson, Charles Peters, Richard Peterson, William Reese, LeRoy Ruder, and Robert Shaw, who each downed one. Half-credits went to John England and Don Bochkay

68 years ago: The 357th Fighter Group knocks down 25

The Luftwaffe was back up to challenge the 357th Fighter Group on April 11, 1944. Just after rendezvousing with bombers headed for Sorau, the 364th Fighter Squadron’s Green Flight ran across a single Bf 109, which dove for cover “After approximately five minutes of chasing, firing numerous bursts and observing numerous strikes, I shot the engine out of the Bf 109,” said Lt. John Carder.  “The enemy pilot tried to crash land at in excess of 200 mph. The enemy aircraft hit the ground, bounced over high wires and a road, and crashed into the ground and exploded.”

While the flight was reforming, they spotted two Fw 190s ahead of them. Lt. Mark Stepleton entered into a turning fight with one of them, making six turns and firing bursts the entire time, “observing hits on the engine, cockpit and wings,” he said. “My guns jammed after every burst but due to an experimental hydraulic gun charger, I was able to clear the jam and fire again. I overran the enemy aircraft, at which time Lt. Charles Sumner closed and observed hits on the enemy aircraft, which crashed and exploded.”

Lt. Robert C. Smith was flying wing to Capt. G.D. Currie in when they too spotted two Bf 109s and dived on them. The chased continued from 23,000 to 4,000 feet, when Smith was forced to break into an approaching Bf 109. About 10 minutes later, Lt. Robert Shaw, also in this flight, heard Currie call for his flight to reform, but Currie himself failed to return to base. He was downed by flak and became a POW.

Lt. Fletcher E. Adams had been with the bombers for about 20 minutes when he spotted a trio of Bf 109s below him. His flight leader, Lt. John England, took the tail-end plane; Adams took the second one and both chased their quarry to the deck. “The enemy plane took evasive action, turning and skidding,” said Adams. “I fired several bursts when he was going in an out of the clouds. A light stream of black smoke came out of the plane and he went into a cloud. I went over the cloud and next saw the pilot in a parachute. I saw a plane behind me, which I assumed to be my wingman. When I turned, however, he began to shoot at me from about 500 yards. I went down in evasive action to about 20 feet and pulled up sharply to the right. The enemy plane tried to follow this maneuver. After I had nearly completed a 360-degree turn, I saw the enemy plane spin into the ground explode and burn. I saw no parachute this time.”

White Flight of the 363rd Fighter Squadron spotted an He 111 “sneaking along right on the ground,” said “Bud” Anderson. “The first pass wasn’t so good,” he said. “I pulled up and the rest of the flight came in.” After Lt. Henry Kayser put a burst into the cockpit and Lt. William Overstreet shot up the plane from dead astern, Anderson stitched the He 111 from tail to cockpit, then Lt. Edward Simpson came in and set the left engine ablaze. “He tried to crash land, and did,” said Simpson. “The ship burst into flames after hitting a pole and sliding along the ground. The crew jumped out.” Simpson, Kayser and Anderson each added individual victories during the mission

Also failing to return from the mission was Lt. William Gray, who became a POW after his engine failed, and Capt. Arthur Lingo, who was probably shot down by fighters and killed. But, in all, the group destroyed 25 planes. Capt. Paul DeVries and Montgomery Throop, Lts. Gilbert O’Brien, John Pugh, Arval Roberson, Harold Kenney, Charles Peters, Hollis Nowlin, Richard Peterson, William Reese, LeRoy Ruder, Robert Shaw and Robert Smith each downed one, Harry Ankeny and John England shared one, and half-credits went to Don Bochkay and Maurice Postle.

On this day 66 years ago: a rough day for the Luftwaffe over Ludwigshaven, courtesy of the 357th Fighter Group

During an escort to Ludwigshaven on 27 May, the 364th Fighter Squadron jumped a large formation of Bf 109s about 20 miles southwest of Strasbourg. “I was leading Blue Flight with Lt. (Thomas) Harris flying my No. 3 when we went down on a Bf 109 that was diving away,” said Major John Storch. “Lt. Harris’ element was in position when we went down followed by our Green Flight.”

Lt. Leroy A. Ruder was the number three man in Green Flight. “As my flight leader was getting into position to fire on one of the enemy aircraft, I observed a Bf 109 trying to get into position to attack him,” Ruder reported. “I immediately broke into the enemy aircraft and at the same time expected my wingman (Lt. Cyril Conklin) to break with me. I do not know where he went. I had my hands full with the 109 I was fighting and since my radio was out could not ask my wingman for his position.” Conklin scored two kills in the fight but fell victim to a Bf 109 and wound up as a POW.

“When the dogfight was finished I had my No. 2 and Green Flights 1 and 2 and a 352nd group plane with me,” said Storch. “I started spiraling for altitude and the bombers, which were out of sight. I called Lt. Harris and finally got him, and he said he was OK and hunting for me. I told him my position as nearly as possible, my altitude and course, and a stayed in the area for approximately 15 minutes.” Harris may have collided with Dean Post; he became a POW, while Post was killed when his Mustang crashed.

Despite the losses, the toll the squadron exacted on the enemy was impressive. In addition to Conklin’s kills, Storch scored two and a half victories, Harris and Lt. Morris Stanley two each, and Ruder, Lts. Paul Fairweather, Robert Shaw and Mark Stepleton one each.

The 362nd was climbing behind the lead box of bombers. “Between five and six enemy aircraft came down through the bombers and turned left to the same heading that we had,” said Lt. Fletcher Adams. “We started to chase them. One went to the left, with Capt. (John) England following and I saw pieces fall off that aircraft as Capt. England shot at him. The second one went to the right with Capt. (Calvert) Williams shooting at him. There were pieces coming off him. The two directly in front of us started a gentle turn to the left. The one in the inside tightened his turn and I told Lt. (Gilbert) O’Brien to get him.”

This plane made two 360-degree turns to the left, said O’Brien. “I shot a 90-degree deflection shot. Not seeing any hits, he rolled out square in front of me. I had a little excess speed and came right in behind him. I began to overshoot and saw his canopy come off. I slid right up beside him with my flaps down. He bailed out as I was alongside of him at about 12,000 feet. His chest was covered in blood and he hit the rudder. I did not see his chute open.”

Meanwhile, the second Fw 190 continued in a gentle turn with Adams in pursuit. Adams fired, scoring hits. “At about 10,000 feet, he seemed to be trying an outside loop, so I rolled out, and when I lifted my wing I saw an explosion on the ground and a parachute in the neighborhood of the crash.” In addition to these victories, Lts. Herschel Hill, John Pugh and Alden Smith also brought down enemy planes.

The 363rd was in on the fun, too. Capt. William O’Brien was leading and he ordered White Flight to attack, with Blue and Green Flights giving cover. Capt. “Bud” Anderson was leading White Flight, and as they raced for the front of the front of the formation, “my No. 3 called in four bandits coming in on us at 4 o’clock,” he said. “We broke into them and they pulled up and circled, trying to get at us. With full throttle and RPM, I was able to close around and climb on them. They all straightened out and tried to run while their No. 4 climbed up – my No. 3, Lt. Edward Simpson, climbed up after him while I chased the other three.”

Simpson caught his quarry at 30,000 feet and, after hitting him with two bursts, saw the pilot bail out. Meanwhile, Anderson pursued the other three fighters. “I closed slowly on No. 3 and waited until I was in close and dead astern, then fired a good burst, getting hits all over; smoke streamed and his canopy may have come off. He rolled over and went down out of control.” Next, Anderson “singled out No. 2; he dove and pulled up in a left climbing turn. I pulled inside and overshot – he straightened out and I pulled up, watching him as he tried to get on my No. 2’s tail. He stalled and I went after him; he repeated with another left climbing turn. I overshot again and the same thing followed, and the third time I made up my mind I wouldn’t lose him, so as he pulled up I fired. The first tracers went over his right wing. I skidded my nose over and strikes appeared all over. I slid alongside and saw fire break out. It rolled over slowly and went straight in from 28,000 feet.”

O’Brien spotted Bf 109 chasing a P-51; he fired a 90-degree deflection shot to get the German to break off his attack, and then maneuvered in behind him. After several rounds struck near the cockpit and smoke began to issue from the plane, the pilot bailed out.

Capt. James Browning was leading Green Flight. “I saw two Bf 109s going the opposite direction. I turned and gave one a shot with deflection. I don’t think I hit him. He then pulled almost straight up. I climbed with him and waited until I was about 250 yards (away) and I leveled out. I then gave him a long burst. I got hits and coolant came out. He then turned and I overshot him. I made a circle and came back at him. He was in a slight dive with coolant still coming out. I gave him another long burst from about 20 degrees deflection. I could see him bowed over in the cockpit as if trying to fasten his chute. The last burst I gave him was directly into the cockpit and right side of his plane. He bailed out and I pulled up over him.” According to Browning’s wingman, the German’s chute opened but the pilot fell out of the harness and plummeted to earth.