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Old 05-02-2010, 05:41 PM
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some 262 stories....and part of the story is from 3 different perspectives.

first is an interview with Edward Haydon who was there when LW ace Nowotny ( 258 victories ) went down.

AH: Describe the events of November 8, 1944.

Haydon: Well, we had just finished a bad skirmish with a lot of German fighters, up in the middle part of Germany, and it was time to go home. I was at around 30,000 feet with the rest of the flight, watching for enemy fighters, which came up regularly. Since they were concentrating on the bombers, we were not expecting any trouble, and I was just daydreaming, thinking about what a bad day it had been. I was just glancing over the side when I saw this 262 jet below me at about 10,000 feet. Since there were not a lot of German planes around, I broke the loose formation after calling him out. I dropped the nose and slipped a bit, and I watched the jet as I descended, never taking my eyes off of him. My aircraft was faster than that of my leader, Captain Merle Allen, so I closed faster. I made almost no adjustments to get squarely on his tail, and he took no evasive action whatsoever, but stayed on that vector. I noticed that the 262 was not going as fast as it should have been, that there was a problem. I should not have been able to close on him so quickly. Well, the jet dropped to the deck on that same heading and leveled off, making no corrections, with me closing in with an altitude advantage. I was almost ready to fire, waiting to close in and shoot this sitting duck. Suddenly, off my right wing at great altitude I saw two Mustangs from the 20th Fighter Group that had arrived late but were diving, converting their altitude into speed. They were way out of range when the lead P-51 fired – I saw the tracers fall short as much as 60 percent to the target – and there was no way he could have hit it. That pilot was Captain Ernest Fiebelkorn, as I later discovered.

AH: What happened then?

Haydon: Well, the Germans were alerted, and I knew what was coming. So I called to the flight to break hard right and away to avoid the flak while I went hard left to the deck, which was safe to some degree because the larger guns could not depress elevation to hit you. They could only shoot below the horizon with small arms, but I slipped in anyways. Suddenly I flew into everything they had.

AH: Where was Nowotny?

Haydon: The jet pilot was good. He knew what he was doing. In case he had anyone on his tail, he would lure them into the flak zone, so he could drop to the flak-free zone and land. No one would have voluntarily flown through that to get down to the jet. But see, I was already below this height at his level and made the turn. I still had plenty of speed, and I thought for sure I would never see the jet again. I turned no more than 20 to 50 degrees, because I was receiving no fire, and rolled level. I was just trying to scoot across the field and either find a place to hide or rejoin the group. Well, directly in front of me appeared this 262 again, slowing down as if on a downwind leg, 180 degrees from his previous position, and he did not see me. I chopped the throttle, cutting power, sliding back to the right a bit. Remember that when you cut power on a propeller-driven plane, you lose speed quickly. I ended up in the perfect position, and let her drift right onto him, just like shooting a student out of the traffic pattern.

AH: What was your distance from Nowotny at that time?

Haydon: Below 200 yards and closing quickly, since he was slowing down. I was going faster, but I did not observe my airspeed, probably 300 knots or less and falling.

AH: What was your altitude?

Haydon: About 100 feet or so – I was right on him.

AH: Did you think he might have set her down in time?

Haydon: Well, he may have lost the other engine I don’t know, but it was at this time he saw me. I was so close I could see right into the cockpit; I could see his face clearly.

AH: Describe what you saw.

Haydon: Well, the moment he saw me had a startled look on his face. It was totally animated, as if he thought, “I have really screwed up.” He thrashed around in the cockpit, as the jet appeared to stall. Then he suddenly snapped right in, falling no more than a half rotation to the left, and I was so enchanted with what was happening I never fired a shot, which would have given me the kill by myself. I thought about that a lot later, knowing that if I had fire, the gun camera would have recorded it, but Merle was watching from higher altitude. The jet snap-rolled right in, with me following close behind, and I pulled up as he crashed into the ground. I thought that I had sufficiently stated [in my report] that I had run him into the ground without firing a shot, but I ended up sharing the kill with Fiebelkorn, who had earlier pulled up and away. He saw the jet crash and got credit for a half kill.

AH: So he claimed the kill?

Haydon: I don’t think he claimed it, but others saw the action and reported it. He was not even in the neighborhood. I am perfectly convinced that had I not arrived on the scene, Nowotny would have landed the jet. Even if he lost hydraulics, he could have landed on the nacelles, and the plane would have probably flown again the next day. Once in the late 1940s somebody handed me a Stars and Stripes or Air Force Times where someone had written that I had shot down the sixth 262 in the war, which I don’t think is correct. That was the first time it ever came up.

AH: How did you happen to become a prisoner of war?

Haydon: It was January 1945. On January 14 I shot up a couple of planes on the ground. On January 20 we ran into some 262s near Munich, and we got busted up pretty good trying to catch them. My flight included, I think, Dale Karger, who was in a Luftbery [circling formation] with a 262. The jet had higher speed, but the Mustang had a tighter turning radius. Each plane was trying to gain on the other without success. Well, I winged over and entered the chase, but from the opposite direction head on. I passed within inches of the 262, canopy to canopy, and this happened twice. I thought that it was crazy, but that I might hit him, bringing him down by guns or ramming him, and I might be able to bail out afterward. It was a stupid thought, and I woke up smartly after the second pass, but there was nothing I could do. I saw another 262 probably heading for home and decided he was going to get away. I firewalled the throttle and dropped altitude, and there was no flak at all. I closed with him, using altitude for speed, and opened fire. I was getting good strikes as he went in for a landing, with me screaming down on him at about 500 knots. He was touching down, and I had to pull up or crash.

AH: Did you ever get the probable or kill?

Haydon: No, I never got the chance, and the best I could have claimed was a damaged or probably anyway. As I pulled up from the airfield, something shook my aircraft – like something had punched it. Instantly I had fire in the cockpit, and smoke was pouring in, so I pulled straight up, using the high airspeed to gain altitude, and rolled the bird over and went out over the right side. Now I had another problem. My shoulder straps had become entangled around my waist somehow, pinning me to the plane, which was still trimmed for 450 to 500 mph. It nosed over and headed right for the ground, and here I was stuck to the side, but I was still not feeling panic.

AH: What was going through your mind?

Haydon: I was discussing this mentally, and I figured that due to the slipstream and pressure there was no way I was going to get loose, unless I broke loose from the stress. In fact, I decided at that time to go ahead and accept death. It was the most serene, inviting and calm decision or feeling I have ever had in my life. I felt that the war was over, and there was absolutely peace and there would be no more problems. All this time the plane was winding up, gathering speed and headed for the ground. Suddenly, I was able to sit up sufficiently against the force of the wind, and I broke free. I smacked the tail of the airplane with my back, a glancing blow as I few by, which put me in a spin. Without thinking, I pulled the ripcord on the parachute. I was then thinking that I would have a nice gentle trip down when I looked around and saw snow, sky, snow, sky and so on. I realized I had not pulled the cord out far enough, and that I was tumbling. The parachute was still in the container. I found the wire, and I can tell you that I pulled that sucker out by the root. I had no slowed down from the great speed imparted to me by the aircraft. The opening was violent, which stopped my tumble. However, I was thrown into a swing, which placed my body parallel to the ground, and I saw a telephone phone with two wires under me, then smacked face first right into the snow. I was stunned and not sure if I could move, but in minutes some Germans were there, and they were very excited.

AH: You had given them quite an airshow.

Haydon: Yes, I think they were amazed I was alive. They helped me up and wanted to know where my pistol was. The shoulder holster was empty, as was the sheath for my boot knife. I'’ sure they were ripped away during the adventure. Anyway, I was taken into the commander’s office by two German officers. They treated me as a gentleman warrior who was not a combatant but their prison. They did not interrogate me; they were just concerned how I felt. They gave me medical treatment, since I had burns on my face, eyes, hands and so forth. After this was all over they handed me over to a very young escort, an SS trooper. It was his job to get me to the main interrogation camp, which I think was Oberwesel. We went to the Bahnhof to begin this trip of several days. We finally pulled into Stuttgart, which had just only hours before been heavily bomber. The civilians were angry, as well as the troops from the front who were there. They had me backed up against the wall, and being a good old Southern boy, I saw a lynching coming. There was no way out, either. I figured that if this was it, I would stand my ground. Well, that 14- or 15- year old SS soldier lifted his Schmeisser, slammed a magazine into it and fired over the heads of the crowd. This dispersed the crowd, which consisted of not only soldiers but also old men, women and children. Here I was, an American airman, the reason for their misery. Well that SS trooper saved my life. He ad orders to follow, and despite his personal feelings he carried out those orders – that was discipline. He finally delivered me to Stalag Luft 13B, near Nuremberg. The city was wiped off the map by our bombings by the Eighth Air Force from England and Fifteenth Air Force from Italy, with the British bombing by night. It was hit pretty regularly.

AH: You had a pretty eventful journey as a POW.

Haydon: Yes, and it was not over yet. I was later placed in a camp farther to the east, which we then had to evacuate because the Russians were coming. We crossed the Danube at a bridge that Waffen SS troops were rigging for detonation with what looked to be 500-pound bombs and mines. We had to walk across, but before that we milled around while they decided our fate. The Volkssturm leader in charge of us convinced the SS men to let us cross. This was a nervous time for me. Now let me tell you, these SS soldiers were tough, hardened veterans. They were different from the rest. They had a mission to destroy that bridge and it must have been important, as there were many senior officers present. Then the situation got serious. Our guards began throwing their weapons over into the river, with us and them standing on top of tons of explosives, while the SS troops were watching. I knew we were done for. The SS would have been justified in dropping the plunger on us, and I don’t know why they didn’t. Well, after a couple of more days we were abandoned by our guards and left to ourselves. Later we saw General George S. Patton riding by on his tank at the head of a column, and he liberated us. That was on April 20, 1945.

AH: I understand there were some problems associated with your coming back from the dead, so to speak. Tell us about that.

Haydon: Well, when I was shot down, the other members of the flight saw my plane crash but did not see a parachute. The Germans returned my dog tags via the Red Cross, and I was labeled “missing in action” until the tags were received. Then the War Department classified me as “killed in action.” The word was that I had died of my wounds. I was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart, and they informed my wife that I was dead. They stopped all allotments and pay, and were going to pay her my serviceman’s life insurance. However, she knew that I was alive, since she received a letter from me – actually just a card from the POW camp. We still have that card today. She took it to the base and told them she was sure I was alive, because in it I talked about other people in the camp who were known to be POWs as well. They decided that I was still alive, although the governor was not informed, and he issued a death certificate in my honor.

AH: Why did you decide to stay in the military?

Haydon: Well, I had the chance to acquire a large ranch from a friend of mine in Montana, but I decided to stay in and get a regular commission. I went to military schools for tactics and strategy, then to the War College, and afterward I was given command of a Convair F-102 squadron at Goose Bay, Labrador. I retired about 30 years of service.

AH: Who were some of the notable personalities you knew?

Haydon: Well, Robin Olds and I are good friends, and I was also friends with the late Lt. Gen. John C. Meyer, who was my boss for a while – two guys with totally opposite personalities.

AH: Did you ever pursue any data on the pilots of the planes you fought against during the war?

Haydon: No I never did, like the 262 I was shooting up when I was shot down on January 20, 1945.

AH: That was Major Theodor Weissenberger, commander of Jagdgeschwader 7.

Haydon: I would like to know the names of the flak battery commander that nailed me and the officer who interrogated me.

Last edited by bobbysocks; 05-02-2010 at 05:49 PM.
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