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Old 04-27-2010, 06:01 PM
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"Sometimes for reasons I don't know - probably an unseated gas cap - the P-38 would start syphoning out its gasoline. From the ground it looked like a long plume of mist coming from the wing.

One day as the planes were droning round the field getting into formation for a mission, a group of ground crew members were in the radio shack listening to the conversations of the pilots. Suddenly, they heard this: "Pete, you'll have to abort! You are syphoning fuel!" No answer. Then, a little more urgently, "Pete! Abort! Abort! You are syphoning fuel!" Finally a sheepish voice came on, "Aw Hell. No I'm not. I forgot to go to the bathroom and I'm just taking a leak."

Robert T. Sand, propellor shop, 55th Fighter Group from: "Fighter Command: American Fighters in Original WWII Color", Jeffrey L. Ethell and Robert T. Sand

Because of the losses in P38 units someone at Lockheed thought the pilots didn't know how to fly it so they sent Tony LeVier. As far as I was concerned, he did nothing that I couldn't do or nothing that I hadn't seen around the airfield by our own men. Had it been my choice of what he did, I would have had him fly some two hours at 28,000 feet, then tangle with me at 15,000 feet instantly. Then we would see how well he could fly when he was frozen.

As an example, Bushing, who did not like combat, was up leading the 338th Squadron and had to urinate. Well, by the time you got out of your shoulder harness, the parachute straps and through four more layers of clothes (tank suit, pinks, long johns and shorts) you found your peter was about one half inch long at that altitude. Well anyway, Bushing let go in the relief tube and at that very moment someone hollered, "Bogies on the right!" Bushing turned to the right and madly looked for the bogies and, though it was a false alarm, by the time his heart stopped pumping and he looked back at the dashboard, he could see only frosted instruments.

To be sure things were working properly, he had to take off his gloves and with his fingernails scrape off the frost on the important instruments. When he got back to the field the P38, once it got on the ground, turned into a hot box even in England. So by the time he taxied up to the hard stand and shut down the engines the urine had melted and heated up to probably 110 degrees. By tradition, the crew chief climbed on the aircraft as soon as you killed the engines and opened the canopy. In this case, just as he opened it, he slammed it down when he got a whiff of what was there. Bushing had not noticed it as he had been wearing his oxygen mask."

Chet A. Patterson, P38 pilot, 55th Fighter Group.

(from: "Fighter Command: American Fighters in Original WWII Color" by Jeff Ethell and Robert Sand

[Flight Lieutenant R. B. Hesselyn, MBE, DFC, DFM and bar; born Dunedin, 13 Mar 1920; apprentice machinist; joined RNZAF Nov 1940; prisoner of war, 3 Oct 1943]

[249 Squadron]"Here is an episode related by Hesselyn which may recapture for the reader some of the atmosphere of the air battles in which these men took part. It was an afternoon in mid-April [1942] and heavy raids were falling on the airfields. Pilots on their way to dispersal at Takali had to leap into a crater as bombs screamed down to crash nearby. The raiders passed over and the pilots reached their machines. A few moments later they were ordered off to meet another attack.

"We scrambled at three o'clock, climbing south of the island getting to 26,000 feet with the sun behind us. Wood [Woodhall, the Senior Controller] called up and said: ‘Hello Mac [Norman MacQueen]. There's a big plot building up but its taking time to come south. Keep your present angels and save your gravy. I will tell you when to come in.’ We stooged around until he gave us the word. Then we sailed in ….

Suddenly, glancing behind, I saw four 109s coming down on me. Three of them overshot. The fourth made his turn too wide and I got inside him. I was slightly below when I attacked from 200 yards, firing perhaps 20 feet ahead of him in the hope that his aircraft and my bullets would arrive at that spot simultaneously. They did. I kept on firing as I was determined to make certain of him. He caught fire. Black smoke poured out, he rolled on his back and went into a vertical dive and straight into the drink.

As he crashed it struck me suddenly that there might be something on my tail. In my excitement I had forgotten to look but luckily none of the other 109s had dived down on me. Wood now reported that the 88s were diving on Takali, and I pulled up to 10,000 feet. The next instant the 88s were diving past my nose and the other boys were coming down from above to attack them. I picked out one and went for him and as I pressed my gun button his rear gunner opened fire. I had fired for about a second when my port cannon packed up. Luckily I was travelling fast. This prevented my aircraft from slewing from the recoil of my starboard cannon as I was able to correct with rudder. I concentrated on the 88's starboard motor and wing root and could see my shells hitting. Bits were flying off him and flames began spreading as he continued in his dive; he was well ablaze when he crashed.

Returning to land I had my first experience of being beaten up in the circuit. A great pall of smoke and dust from the bombing was hanging over Takali. I made a couple of dummy runs over the airfield and could see that the landing path was well cratered. Just then I sighted six 109s above at 5,000 feet, waiting to pounce. The other boys were kicking about the circuit waiting to try and get in. I beetled up Imtafa valley, skipped round some windmills at the top and swung down a valley on the other side. Again and again the 109s dived down from above and attacked me. Again and again I thanked my stars that the ‘Spit’ was such a manoeuvreable aircraft. Each time I was attacked I turned violently and their shells and bullets whipped past behind me. It was a nerve-racking business. With all the violent turning and twisting I began to feel very sick. My neck ached from constantly twisting from side to side, looking back and from holding it up while doing tight turns against the extra gravity force. Eventually Mac said that we were to go in and he would cover us.

I started a normal circuit about 300 feet above the airfield, put my wheels and flaps down, did weaving approach and, as my wheels touched ground felt a sigh of relief. I taxied to my pen, forgetting to put up my flaps. All I could do when I got there was to lie back in the cockpit and gasp for breath. The ground crew had to help me out of my aircraft and, dazed and dizzy, I groped my way along the wing out of my pen.

I met Laddie [Lucas] as I was wandering over to dispersal. Both our tunics were soaked with perspiration. We looked up to see how Mac was getting on. He was making his approach about 50 feet up when suddenly two 109s darted out of the sun. Their shooting, however, was poor and whipping up his wheels Mac turned sharply into them. The 109s overshot him, carried on and beat up the aerodrome. Mac made a quick dart, put down his wheels and managed to get in. He landed with two gallons of petrol—at the pace we were using it, sufficient fuel for only another two minutes in the air. I had had five gallons; the others about the same."
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