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Old 04-25-2010, 10:52 PM
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Duane W. Beeson, P-51 pilot, 4th Fighter Group


The most important thing to a fighter pilot is speed; the faster an aircraft is moving when he spots an enemy aircraft, the sooner he will be able to take the bounce and get to the Hun. If you have any advantage on him, keep it and use it. When attacking, plan to overshoot him if possible, hold fire until within range, then shoot and clobber him down to the last instant before breaking away. It's like sneaking up behind someone and hitting them with a baseball bat.


James H. Doolittle, Commander, 8th Air Force


Adolf Galland said that the day we took our fighters off the bombers and put them against the German fighters, that is, went from defensive to offsensive, Germany lost the air war. I made that decision and it was my most important decision during World War II. As you can imagine, the bomber crews were upset. The fighter pilots were ecstatic.


James Finnegan. P-47 pilot, 50th Fighter Group
Finnegan describes shooting down Adolf Galland's Me 262 in April 1945


I was leading the top flight cover of P-47s that was escorting B-26s to their target. As I gazed down, I saw two objects come zipping through the formation and two bombers blew up immediately. I watched the two objects go through the bomber formation and thought "That can't be a prop job, it's got to be one of those 262 jets". I was at about 13,000 ft and estimated them to be at about 9-10,000. They were climbing and I pulled a split-S towards the one that turned left and almost ended up right on top of him, about 75 yards away. I gave a three second burst and saw strikes on the right hand engine and wing root. I was going so fast I went right through everything and guessed my speed at about 550 mph. I recorded it as a probable. I was flying a D-model Thunderbolt with a bubble canopy, a natural metal finish and a black nose. The Me 262 had a green and brown mottled camouflage with some specks of yellow. That turned out to be my last flight in a P-47. My kills for the war were an Me 109 and a Fw 190, in addition to the Me 262.


Adolf Galland, describing the same incident:


I was shot down by a Republic P-47D flown by a man named James Finnegan, whom I met some years later and we became friends. We were intercepting bombers near Neuberg. I was leading a flight and I attacked from astern. My rockets did not fire but I poured 30 mm cannon shells into one bomber which fell in flames and flew right through the formation, hitting another. I could not tell if that bomber was finished off, so I banked around for another run, all the while my jet was receiving hits from the bomber's defensive fire. Suddenly my instrument panel disintegrated, my canopy was shattered and my right knee was struck. I was losing power and was in great pain. I thought about parachuting out but realized that might be dangerous as some of our pilots had been strafed upon exiting their jets. I flew for the deck and headed for this field at the air base, which was under attack. I cut the power to my good engine and thumped across the field. My nose wheel had been flattened, smoke was pouring from the plane. I climbed out to get away in case it should explode, only to find aircraft dropping bombs and firing rockets at me. Well, our mission netted five victories total and none of the pilots were killed.


Gilbert C. Burns, P-47 pilot, 50th Fighter Group


My fifth combat mission changed my viewpoint on combat flying in many ways. The first four missions I had flown mechanically, the hands and feet flew the plane, the finger squeezed the trigger, doing automatically all the things I had been taught. But this mission got me thinking. I thought about killing. I had killed the rear gunner of an Me 110 by rote, very nonchalantly, like brushing my teeth. However, when I killed three flak gunners, I was acutely aware of what had happened; I had seen their bodies being blown apart and was keenly concerned that I had done something serious. I though about being wounded. I heard a pilot say on radio after he had pulled up from an airfield that he was hit in the knee and that he could not stop the blood from flowing. He wanted to bail out and hoped he could find a German doctor. From that day onward, during every mission I wore four loose tourniquets around my upper arms and thighs. I thought that if I was hit I could just take up on the tourniquets as they were already in place.


Norman W. Jackson, P-38 pilot, 14th Fighter Group


By the time I had 30 hours of combat, I had bailed out, crash landed, come home on one engine and brought one more home so shot up that it was junked. There was talk of presenting me with the German Iron Cross.


Erich Hartmann, Me 109 pilot, Jagdgeschwader 52
Highest scoring ace of WWII with 352 kills; shot down 18 times but never wounded


The key to the approach was simple: Get in as close to the enemy as possible. Your windscreen has to be black with the image, the closer the better. In that position you could not miss and this was the essence of my attack. The farther you are from the enemy, the more chance your bullets have of missing the target, the less the impact. When you are close, and I mean very close, every shot hits home. The enemy absorbs it all. It doesn't matter what your angle is on him or what position you are firing from, it doesn't matter what he does. When you are that close, evasion is useless and too late. It matters not how good a pilot he is. All his skill is negated, you hit him and he goes down. I would say get in close, there is no guesswork.


Arthur L. Thorsen, P-38 pilot, 55th Fighter Group


I was turning tight with the German now and my ship trembled and buffeted slightly. I couldn't pull enough deflection on him, but I had him and he had no place to go. He couldn't dive and if he climbed, he was finished. All he could do was to try to out turn me. We could turn like this forever, I thought and quickly dumped ten percent flaps. My ship reared up and turned on its wingtip. I was out turning the Jerry. I opened fire and saw strikes around the cockpit and left wing root.


The German was not done yet and rolled out quickly to starboard, sucking in his stick and pulling vapour streamers from his wing tips. I rolled with him but he had me by a second and I lost my deflection. We were in a vertical turn now and the centrifugal force was pusing me hard into the seat. I was about 150 yards astern of him when his ship filled my gunsight. I pulled through and opened fire. I could see strikes on his engine and pieces flew off. Then a long stream of glycol poured from his engine and I knew he was finished. He suddenly pulled out of the turn, went into a steep climb, popped his canopy and bailed out. We were very low, almost too low for bailing out. I followed him down and his chute must have popped just as his feet hit the ground.
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