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Old 04-25-2010, 10:53 PM
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Franz Stigler, Fw 190 pilot, Jagdgeschwader 27


At first the unescorted bombers were relatively easy to destroy and suffered prohibitive losses. When the P-47s and P-38s began escorting them part way, early in 1944, we had to alter our method of attack, but as soon as they left due to lack of fuel, we pounded the bombers unmercifully. Our interception time was more limited than it had been in late 1943, but our technique had improved so that we were able to accomplish more in less time. Our ground control methods were also better and we could call in interceptors from a far larger area.


William J. Skinner, Spitfire pilot, 31st Fighter Group


Our Spitfires and the P-51Bs that replaced them had the same Rolls Royce Merlin engine, but the P-51 had the laminar flow wing which gave it 10 mph more speed straight and level and much greater fire power with .50 caliber machine-guns. When strafing a target with the Mustang it seemed like I'd never run out of ammunition while the Spitfire had 120 rounds each for the two cannon and 350 for each of the .303s, which was a good gun but didn't have much power. The Spit had excellent maneuverability and rate of climb and no restrictions on maneuvers performed. The British never gave us any flight manuals, just word of mouth. We'd ask them what we could and couldn't do and they'd say "Hell, you've got a fighter plane, you can do anything you want, straight down, full throttle, put your feet on the upper rudder pedals and pull back as hard as you can. Nothing's going to happen."


Barrie Davis, P-51 pilot, 325th Fighter Group


New pilots coming to our fighter group were invariably cocky to the point they were dangerous to themselves. They thought the Luftwaffe was finished and that the P-51 could quickly and easily kill anything else that flew. To modify the attitude of the newcomers, we used a war weary P-40 which our squadron somehow acquired. I was in charge of putting new pilots through a quick, intensive training program, and the final flight included a mock dogfight with the new pilot of a P-51 pitted against one of us flying a P-40. I can tell you that until a pilot knows the strengths and weaknesses of both airplanes, the P-40 can make the P-51 look outclassed. Using all of the P-40s strengths, an innovative pilot could outfly a P-51 at low altitudes until the P-51 jockey finally realized that there was something more to fighting in the air than simply having the best airplane. At that point the new pilot would become ready to listen to everything we had to say.


Walter Hagenah, Fw 190 pilot, Jagdgeschwader 3


To be sure of bringing down a bomber, it was essential that we held our fire until we were right up close against the bombers. We were to advance like Frederick the Great's infantrymen, holding our fire until we could see 'the white of the enemy's eyes'.


John B. Murphy, P-51 pilot, 359th Fighter Group


My first reaction when I saw the jet plane was that I was standing still. It seemed hopeless to try to attempt to overtake them, but my actions were prompted by a curiousity to get as close to them as possible. I believe that will be the reaction of every pilot that comes in contact with them.


Thomas H. Jones, P-38 pilot, 82nd Fighter Group

I well remember my first mission. After take-off and climb over the sea, some jock above and ahead of me cleared his four .50s with a burst of fire as we always did, and the empty casings rattled off my windscreen, scaring the Hell out of me. I thought the Jerries had zeroed in and I was going to be shot down.


Erwin Miller, P-47 pilot, 4th Fighter Group


When we strapped into a Spitfire we felt snug and part of the aircraft. The Thunderbolt cockpit, on the other hand, was so large that we felt if we slipped off the god damned seat we could break a leg. We were horrified at the thought of going to war in such a machine. We had enough trouble with the Focke Wulfs in our nimble Spitfire Mk Vs. This lumbering monster seemed infinitely worse.


Gradually however, we learned how to fight in the Thunderbolt. At high altitude she was a hot ship and very fast in a dive. If anyone thought to escape a Thunderbolt by diving we had him cold. Even more important, at last we had a fighter with the range to penetrate deep into enemy territory where the action was.


Reluctantly, we had to give up our little Spitires and convert to the new juggernauts. My heart remained with the Spitfire. The mere sight or sound of a Spitfire still brings deep feelings. She was such a gentle little airplane, without a trace of viciousness. She was a dream to handle in the air.


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


The thrill of the chase is hypnotic. Your body tingles. You feel you have wings of your own. You make funny noises to yourself. You strain against your shoulder straps as if that will give you more momentum. You begin to tremble with the knowledge that the German ship ahead of you is yours. You can take him. You don't think of shooting a human being, you just shoot at a machine. Air combat is strictly impersonal.


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


If taken by surprise, I would do one thing or another automatically, depending on conditions. If I had time and saw my attacker coming in, I would wait and see how close he would come before opening fire. If he began firing at long range, I could always turn in to him. If he held his fire, I got ready for a real battle. Even against good competition, you could always break away by using negative Gs. In a tight turning maneuver, the attacker must turn more tightly in order to pull lead on his quarry. For a split second you pass under his nose and his line of sight, as he tries to line his guns up ahead of you. It is precisely at that moment when he gets his gunnery angle on you that you push the nose forward, kick bottom rudder and are gone. Your attacker cannot see you. He is intent on pulling lead and is turning in the opposite direction, in an even tighter circle, even as you are diving and turning the other way. As I said before the use of the negative G is a last ditch measure. Frankly, I tried everything possible never to be placed in such a position because if your attacker had a good wingman, he could quickly pick up that maneuver. This is why I avoided dogfights. They were long and drawn out affairs, requiring all your attention, allowing another opponent to jump you. They were the longest and most difficult method of getting a kill, the expensive and most dangerous.
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