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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Famous title comes to consoles.

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  #31  
Old 04-30-2010, 05:31 PM
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B17 stuff

Account of Maneuvers: B-17 (42-39957) Halberstadt, Germany on 11 JANUARY
1944.

1st Lt. JOHN W. RAEDEKE US Army Air Corp sends.....

Took off at 0745 o'clock with a load of 2300 gallons of gasoline, 6000
pounds of bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and
equipment. Everything on plane was in perfect working order. Joined the
group formation at 1010 and flew into target without incident but was forced
to use 2400 R.P.M. and 40" HG at times. Dropped our bombs at 11:52 o'clock,
everything still in good shape.

At 1200 o'clock we were hit by fighters which stayed with us for one hour
and fifty minutes. They attacked us from 5-7 o'clock position at first and
gradually as more enemy fighters joined they attacked us from 3-9 o'clock
positions. We were flying "Tail End Charlie", #7 position. The fighters
created much excitement among the squadron, resulting in more power being
applied to the engines. We were forced to use 2500 R.P.M. and 40"-46" almost
continuously.

About 1245 o'clock more enemy fighters joined the attack and finally we
were
being attacked from all positions on the clock, high and low. The plane was
vibrating and pitching unbelievably as a result of all guns firing, fighting
prop-wash, and evading collision with our own as well as enemy planes. Enemy
fighters would come through our formation from 1200 o'clock position, level
in groups of 20-40 at one time all shooting. The sky in front. of us was a
solid mass of exploding 20 M.M. shells, flak, rockets, burning aircraft, and
more enemy fighters. B-17's were going down in flames every 15 minutes and
enemy fighters seemed to explode or go down in smoke like flies dropping out
of the sky.

The "Luftwaffe" attacked us in ME 109's, ME 210's, FW 190's, JU 88's, and
some we couldn't identify. The enemy fighters made suicidal attacks at us
continuously, coming into about fifty feet before turning away. It seemed
that the greater part of the attack was aimed at our ship, perhaps for the
following reason. Our ship was the only one in the group that was not firing
tracer bullets and they apparently thought we had no guns or were out of
ammunition.

The heaviest assault and the one that damaged us happened as follows. At
approximately 1330 o'clock we were attacked by another group of enemy
fighters numbering about forty which came at us again from 1200 o'clock
position, level in formation pattern. Again, we saw that solid wall of
exploding shells and fighters. This time we were flying #3 position in the
second element of the lead squadron. As they came in the top turret gunner
of our ship nailed a FW 190 which burst into flames, nosed up and to its
left, thus colliding with the B-17 flying #2 position of the second element
on our right. Immediately upon colliding this B-17 burst into flames,
started into a loop but fell off on its left wing and across our tail. We
were really hit and we had "Had It". At the time we were thus stricken we
were using a full power setting of 2500 R.P.M. and 40"-46" Hg. Our I.A.S.
was approximately 165 M.P.H. and our altitude was 19,000 feet.

Immediately upon being hit by the falling B-17 we were nosed up and went
into a loop. Confusion, no less, and embarrassment. Pilot called crew at
once and ordered them to prepare to bail out. Response was instantaneous and
miraculously proficient. Not one crew member grew frantic or lost his head,
so to speak. All stood ready at their stations to abandon the ship. The
action of the Pilot regarding the handling of the ship was as follows. As
quickly as we were hit we engaged the A.F.C.E. which was set up for level
flying. Full power was applied with throttle and both Pilot and Co-Pilot
began the struggle with the manual controls.

It was noted at once that the rudder control was out because the rudder
pedals could not be moved. In only a fraction of a second the ship had
completed a beautiful loop and was now merrily spinning toward the ground,
with five enemy fighters following on the tail. Although the spin seemed
flat and rather slow it was vicious and we were losing altitude fast. As
soon as we had completed the loop and had fallen into a spin the Pilot,
having full confidence in a prayer, recalled the crew members and ordered
them to stand by for a little while longer.

"Guts" discipline, and confidence in their Pilot was certainly displayed by
the crew by the fact that they stayed with the ship. To return to the spin
and its final recovery. When the ship fell into a spin the Pilot after
determining its direction applied full inside throttle, retarded the other
two, used only aileron A.F.C.E. control, and applied it in full opposite
position, rolled elevator trim-tab fully forward, and in addition both
pilots applied full forward position on control column, plus full opposite
aileron. After making at least two or three complete 360-degree turns, the
ship finally swept into a clean dive at an angle of approximately 45 degrees
from level.

The I.A.S. at this time was approximately 280 M.P.H. The altitude was
approximately 12,000 feet. Power setting was reduced to about 2/3. At this
point it was noted that one enemy fighter was still following on our tail,
therefore seeing a solid undercast below we nosed the ship down and applied
additional power. We were heading for cloud cover at an angle of
approximately 75 degrees to 80 degrees from the level at a speed of about
400 M.P.H. indicated. All this while the aileron was clutched into A.F.C.E.
and was holding wings level. The elevators were controlled entirely by the
trim tab.

At 6000 feet we began easing back the elevator trim tab and slowly started
to level out. Finally leveled off in the clouds at 4000 feet, trimmed the
ship, and engaged elevator clutch of A.F.C.E. Disengaged this every few
seconds to re-trim ship, kept it perfectly level and flying smoothly. The
I.A.S. after leveling off in the clouds was still around 340 M.P.H. but was
dropping off quite rapidly until it reached 200 M.P.H. Maintained an I.A.S.
of 190-200 M.P.H. from then on with a power setting of 2100 R.P.M. and 31"
Hg.

Checked all engine instruments immediately after leveling off and found
everything functioning normally, except the Pilot's directional gyro which
apparently had tumbled. Flew in the cloud cover for about ten (10) minutes
then came out above to check for more enemy fighters. Saw one fighter after
several minutes at five (5) O'clock position high so we ducked back into the
clouds for about ten minutes longer. Came out again and found everything
clear.

Rode the top of the clouds all the way back across the North Sea. The point
where we first entered the cloud cover was about thirty (30) minutes flying
time (at our speed) from the enemy sea coast. An interesting point which
occurred was that we came out of our spin and dive on a heading of 270
degrees which fortunately was our heading home. Immediately after we had
leveled off in the clouds each crew member reported into the Co-Pilot that
he was back at his station and manning his guns. No particular excitement or
scare was apparent for the crew members started a merry chatter over the
interphone.

During the violent maneuvers of the loop the left waist gunner, S/Sgt.
Warren Carson, was thrown about in the waist of the ship resulting in a
fractured leg. However, he did remain at his guns until the chances of more
enemy attacks was nil. After we were well out over the North Sea the injured
waist gunner was moved to the radio room where he was treated and made
comfortable by the Bombardier who went back to assist.

At this time also the Co-Pilot went to the rear of the ship to examine the
Control cables and make a general survey of the damage to the tail section.
He reported that about 1/3 of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator
were off and that almost the entire vertical stabilizer and rudder had been
sheared off but that all control cables were O.K. However, the ship was
functioning quite normally except for the fact that we had to make turns
with aileron only. It also seemed to fly quite smoothly in spite of the
missing vertical stabilizer and rudder. It was therefore decided by the
pilot that a normal landing could be attempted.

Reaching the English coast we headed for our home field but the weather had
closed in and the ceiling was getting lower as we neared our field.
'Finally, we were forced to fly at tree-top heights in order to stay out of
the clouds, thus getting lost. All radio equipment was out and we were not
sure where the field was. Finally it began to rain, besides our other
trouble, so we decided to land at the first field we found. Pilot ordered
all crew members to radio room to prepare for crash landing. However, the
Navigator volunteered to remain in the nose of the ship to direct the Pilot
and Co-Pilot in their approach to the field and a final landing.

The landing was accomplished in the normal manner, taking advantage of a
slightly longer approach. Picked the longest runway which suited the wind
direction but still had to contend with a cross wind. With the aid of the
Navigator's directions we made a low approach to the runway, correcting for
draft by holding the windward wing low and holding it straight by jockeying
the throttles. "No, your wrong", we greased it on.

Made a perfect landing. After setting it on the ground it was noted that
the
right tire was flat However, this did not trouble us because the ship was
stalled out at low speed and slowed down immediately by use of brakes. It
was noted that the ship was almost dry of fuel. Positively no stress was
placed on the ship in landing. It was a landing as any normal landing would
be.

We now know from experience that a B-17 will loop, spin, pull out of a dive
when indicating 400 M.P.H., fly without a rudder and very little horizontal
stabilizer, and will land normally without a rudder and a flat tire added.
The "guts", courage, and confidence displayed by the crew of this mission is
highly commendable. The navigator displayed extreme courage when he
volunteered to remain in the nose to direct the Pilot in landing in almost
zero weather. The Co-Pilot deserves special commendation for his capable
assistance in maneuvering this ship, guarding the engine, his careful survey
of the damage, his assistance in determining the possibility of a safe
landing and finally his reassuring words to the crew over the interphone
during the homeward journey.

The gunners shot down nine (9) enemy aircraft and claimed to have damaged
at
least ten (10) more.

PILOT 1st Lt. JOHN W. RAEDEKE CO-PILOT 2nd Lt. JOHN E. URBAN
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Old 04-30-2010, 05:38 PM
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THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE LANDING OF A B-17
by George Ureke, Lt. Colonel USAF (Ret.)

Flying a bombing mission out of Foggia, Italy, off of Tortorella US Army Air Field in Italy, during W.W.ll, our B-17 caught one Hell of a lot of flack. All four engines were still running, but ALL flight instruments failed. We had no airspeed indicator. Since we were returning from the bombing mission in formation we didn't really need flight instruments except for the approach and landing. When we arrived over the base at Tortorella, we peeled off, flying the landing pattern in trail formation. How to plan my approach with no air speed indicator? An idea came to me. We II drop behind the ship in front of us, so that on the final approach, we can establish a rate of closure to ensure that our approach would be above stall speed.

Well, in the morning, when we took off, the steel mat runway was covered with three inches of slimy mud.. It had been raining for weeks. Airplanes, taking off and landing just pushed the steel mat deeper into the mud. Every time an airplane took off or landed, more and more slimy mud had pushed up on top of the steel mat. So as we approached the mud-covered runway, there were three or four inches of slippery slime on top of the mat. But we were not worried (about coming in "hot"), until I called for flaps. Kenneth D. Goodwin, our copilot, replied, "We don't have any. They're not coming down". - And it was too late to crank them down by hand.

We weren't about to go around again without an airspeed indicator. Due to the "hot" approach speed we didn't touch down until we were half-way down the field. The airplane in front of us made a normal landing and turned off at a taxi-strip about five- hundred feet short of the end of the runway. That pilot managed to land short enough to turn to the left onto that first taxi strip. As he turned, he looked out his left window and saw that we were halfway down the field before we touched down. He turned to his co-pilot and says, "Look out that right window. George is going to crash into the gully at the end of the runway." (Several British bombers had hit that gully in the past, and they blew up).

We finally got the plane on the mud and I hit the brakes. no brakes! (in a B-17, the pilot and co-pilot can look out their window and see the wheel on their side). Every time I touched the brakes, the wheels would stop, lock, and we'd hydroplane over the mud. I had one choice, something we'd normally try to avoid. "Ground-loop" I pulled No. 3 and 4 engines all the way back. I pushed No. 1 and 2 throttles forward to take- off power, I called for "boosters" and started tapping the right brake (trying to ground loop to the right, and let centrifugal force tip the left wing into the ground). We'd damage the airplane but avoid crashing into the gully.

Normally, the plane would turn and leave the runway. But it was so slimy, the wheels had no friction to make it turn. The plane just kept sliding forward. No. 1 and 2 engines at full take-off power caused the airplane to spin around while sliding straight down the runway. As it approached 180 degrees, I pushed number 3 and 4 throttles full forward. Now we had "take off" power on all four engines. There we were, going backwards, toward the end of the runway with all four engines at full take-off power.

Well, we stopped right on the very end of the runway and immediately started to taxi back to the taxiway we just passed while we were sliding backwards.

You can imagine how scared our navigator, James W. Collier, and the bombardier, Lowell E. Clifton, were. Sitting in the nose of the airplane, as it approached the end of the runway and began to spin. This maneuver is one that I'm sure had never been done previously nor will it ever be done again. It isn't something anyone would want to practice. I can only say that on that landing, Ken Goodwin and I were both co-pilots. God was flying the airplane on that landing, which is why I call it the most unforgettable landing in a B-17.

And, you know, we never heard from anybody. Nobody ever came to ask what had caused us to land backward. All the medals we got were for far lesser accomplishments. That's why I say, it was God who made that most unbelievable landing in a B-17.
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Old 04-30-2010, 05:45 PM
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lancaster stuff

first this....newscaster edward r murrow goes on a bombing raid in a 'caster...and gives an account. 20 mins long actual broadcast.

http://www.otr.com/orch_hell.shtml

Here's a strange story about what happened to a Lancaster...

When something went wrong on take-off it could mean disaster for an aircraft laden with high-explosive and incendiary bombs.
In April 1944, P/O Jimmy Griffiths and his crew arrived at Elsham Wolds to join 576 Squadron as 'new boys'. To their dismay, they were allocated the oldest Lancaster on the station.

One week and three operations later, their Flight Commander, whose posting to PFF had just come through, yielded to their protests and let them have his new Lanc BIII, LM527 UL-U2. It was a decision which very nearly cost the crew their lives.

Following the abortive take-off described below, the young Scots skipper and his crew reverted to their original BIII, ED888 UL-M2, in which they went on to complete their tour. Indeed this veteran Lanc was later to become Bomber Command's top-scoring 'heavy', with 140 operational sorties to its credit.




Briefing was over, final checks had been made on the aircraft and the crews were relaxing in the few minutes left before take-off time, on a lovely spring evening, April 30, 1944 - target Maintenon.

I was thrilled at the prospect of flying one of the latest Lancasters, so much superior to old M2, the veteran aircraft I had flown on my first three operations. The runway in use was the shortest one on the 'drome and necessitated revving up aginst the brakes, almost to full power, before take-off, similar to the method employed on aircraft carriers.

Time to go - always a tense moment - and we are soon lined up on the runway making the last quick cockpit check. "Rich mixture", "Propellers in fine pitch", "Flaps up", "Fuel gauges OK". Ready to go! Throttles are opened slowly against the brakes until the aircraft throbs with power, straining and vibrating until the brakes can barely hold her. brakes are released and we leap forward. Keep straight by use of throttles and rudder and ease the control column forward to bring the tail up. "Full power!" the engineer takes over the throttles and opens them fully, locking them in that position. The tail is now off the ground, giving full control on the rudders for keeping straight, and the airspeed indicator is creeping slowly up towards the take-off speed.

Something's wrong! We are nearing the end of the runway and haven't yet reached take-off speed. We should be airborne by now! A glance at the instruments shows that, whilst all four engines are running smoothly, they are not giving maximum power. Too late to stop - the fence at the end of the runway is right under our nose - speed is dangerously low.

I yank back on the stick and the aircraft labours painfully off the ground. We are on the point of stalling and I have to level out, praying that I'll miss the small hill beyond the fence. I have just time to shout "Wheels up!" when - Crash!!!

The aircraft shudders violently; the nose kicks up at a dangerous angle and I instinctively push the stick forward to avoid stalling. I ease the stick back quickly, flying a matter of inches above the ground which, providentially, is sloping downards. I nurse the aircraft along, still hugging the grass. The speed slowly increases beyond the danger mark and very gradually the altimeter needle creeps away from ZERO in answer to a slight backwards pressure on the stick.

I start to breathe again, brushing the perspiration from my brow and feel a cold chill up my spine as I think of the load of high explosive bombs beneath my feet hanging on their inadequate-looking hooks. "A fine start to an operation," I was thinking; but more was to follow.

We were climbing very slowly and I realised from the sluggishness of the controls that all was not well. Charlie Bint, the bomb aimer, climbed down into his compartment in the nose and was able to inform me that the starboard wheel had not fully retracted! It must have taken the full force of impact into the hill. No amount of pumping would budge it either up or down, and I knew we would not be able to continue the mission as it was taking too much power and consequently too much fuel to overcome the drag of the damaged wheel.

I flew east, still climbing very slowly, meaning to jettison the bombload in the North Sea and return to make an emergency landing.

One hour after take-off we had reached 9000 feet and were circling a few miles east of Grimsby, the North Sea looking cold and deserted underneath. I depressed the lever which should have opened the bomb doors but no red warining light appeared! This was serious. I dived steeply and pulled out quickly in the hope of shaking the doors open, but to no avail. The flight engineer reported that the tank for the hydraulic fluid was completely dry. It was obvious that in our attempts to retract the damaged wheel we had pumped all the fluid into the atmospshere through a broken pipeline.

There was no alternative but to return to base for instructions. It was safe to break radio silence now that the rest of the squadron had been on their way for almost two hours. The WAAF radio telephonist lost no time at all in passing my message to the Flying Control Officer and very soon I was talking to the Station Engineering Officer and finally to the 'old man' himself.

We were ordered to make further experiments, but when we had tried everything it was finally apparent that we were saddled with a bomber fully laden with bombs which couldn't be released and a damaged undercarriage which would make landing a hazardous affair not to be contemplated when our bombload was enough to blow an aerodrome to pieces!

"Stand by," I was ordered and we circled round, wondering how long it would take them to reach a decision. Tommy Atherton, the navigator, brought me a cup of coffee out of his Thermos flask and we had a quiet crew conference. "What do you think they'll decide, Skip?" - this from Taffy, one of the gunners.

I spoke the thought that had been in my mind since the bomb doors had refused to budge. "How would you like to join the Caterpilliar Club?" (This is a Club consisting of airmen who have baled out to save their lives.) There was a bit of joking, but it sounded rather forced and I called up the 'drome to ask them to speed up their decision.

"Reduce height to 5000 feet and stand by!" I knew then that I had correctly assumed what the order would be - we were coming down to a level where a parachute wouldn't drift too far from the 'drome!

I reported again at 5000 feet and the next instruction produced a stir of activity. "Fly upwind and order crew to bale out one at a time. Remain at controls and stand by." The crew needed no second bidding. Through they filed - two gunners, wireless operator, navigator, and engineer, filling the confined space of the cockpit, their parachutes fixed firmly across their chests. Charlie was already in his compartment in the nose, opening the escape hatch in the floor. As they stepped quietly out of my sight to take their turn at jumping, each one shook my hand vigorously as he passed.

In a very short time I was left alone, and very much alone I felt. The roar of the engines seemed to grow louder, the controls seemed heavier and the aircraft seemed suddenly to be larger, more powerful, more sinister. "All out," I advised control.

"Circle and stand by," I was ordered. Then folled the loneliest few minutes of my life and I was glad to hear 'the voice' again. "Fly across the 'drome on an exact course of 080 degrees. Engage automatic pilot ('George'). When exact height and course being maintained - bale out!"

I welcomed the opportunity of having something to occupy my attention and spent quite a long time adjusting the controls until the aircraft was flying 'hands off' at exactly 5000 feet on an exact course of 080 degrees. I engaged the automatic pilot, made a few final adjustments and then, as the 'drome appeared ahead, I hurried down into the bomb aimers compartment where the escape hatch lay open, almost invitingly.

I was glad that I had taken the precaution of having my parachute hooked on before the crew had gone and, with a final quick check, I crouched beside the hatch, my hand already clutching the steel handle of the rip-cord. I sat on the edge of the hole and let my legs dangle. The rush of air immediately forced them against the underside of the aircraft and I allowed myself to roll out into space, head first.

I did four complete somersaults, seeing the four exhaust pipes of the aircraft glowing each time I turned over. I was counting one, two, three, four at each somersault and suddenly thought I must be near the ground. I pulled the ripcord handle and it came away so easily that I remember gazing at my hand, which was still holding the handle, and thinking, "It hasn't worked!" Before I could feel any panic there was a rush of silk past my face, followed by a not too violent jerk and I found myself dangling comfortably under the silken canopy.

I felt a surge of absoulte exhilaration and was grinning like a fool. I wish I could describe the feeling of power, of remoteness, of unreality, of sheer exuberance I felt. No wonder our paratroops are such grand fighters!

There was no rush of air to indicate downward speed and it came quite a shock, on looking down, to see a field rushing up to meet me out of the darkness and a few scattered houses taking shape around it. I had hardly time to brace myself when I hit the ground, heels first, travelling backward. I sat down with a bump, rolled over in a backwards somersault and pressed the release catch to prevent being hauled along the ground. There was no need: the parachute flopped lazily over me and I lay still for a few moments, not beliving this was reality.

I bundled the parachute under my arm and trudged across the field in unwieldy flying boots towards a large house about fifty yards distant. Fortunately there was a telephone in the house and the old couple, whom I eventually wakened, plied me with questions and cups of tea until the car arrived from the 'drome.

All the crew had reported safe landings and some had already been picked up by the time I returned. There were many theories put forward regarding the part failure of the engines and it was finally decided that they must have been running on 'hot' air, a device used under icing conditions, which reduced the amount of power to each engine.

All this time the aircraft was flying steadily onwards towards enemy territory and we learned later that the Observer Corps had plotted its journey more than half-way across the North Sea, maintaining the height and course I had set.

The Duty Naviagtor who had given me the course computed that the fuel supply would last until the aircraft was somewhere in the Hamburg area. We can only guess the outcome.

Before abandoning the aircraft I had switched on every available light, and I often wonder what the Luftwaffe and the German AA gunners must have thought when they saw a large bomber approaching from the direction of England, lit up like a Christmas tree, flying steadily on a fixed course and blithely ignoring flak, searchlights and fighter attacks.

I like to think that 'George', guided by his saintly namesake, would point the aircraft in its final dive towards some important military objective, the destruction of which may have contributed in some way to the dramatic collapse of the Reich war machine which was soon to follow.
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Old 05-02-2010, 06:41 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.
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Old 05-02-2010, 06:56 PM
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Jan 20's mission....
On January 20th 1945, I was Red Flight leader and my wingman was Ernest Tiede. Lt Ed Haydon was my Element lead and his wingman was Lt Roland Wright,Lt Dale Karger was leading White Flight. I have forgotten what the original mission was, but about the time that we were to return home, we engaged 2 Me-262's near Brunswick(Germany). It appeared that one 262 pilot was checking the other one out in the jet.
They did not run away, but seemed to want to engage in a fight. We were at about 20,000 feet and the 262's split......one went down to about 18,000 feet and the other stayed at 22,000 feet. Both flew in a large lazy circle, one opposite the other with me and the flight in the middle.It looked to me that the upper jet was waiting for me to attack the lower one, I called Lt Karger to turn back as if he were going home and climb back to attack the high jet while we circled. Lt Karger and his flight did just that and the upper 262 never saw them return, they shot him down with out any trouble and then Lt Kargers flight headed for home.When the upper 262 was eliminated, the remaining jet headed down for home in a hurry. I rolled over, split S'ed and went to full power.In no time, I hit compressibility with loss of all control at speeds in excess of 650 mph. After finally getting control I pulled out in a wide sweeping arc and pulled up behind the jet for a perfect shot at 6 o'clock. Unfortunatly, I was out of trim and my tracers went right over the top of his canopy. He hit the throttle and left me in a cloud of kerosene exhaust as if I were standing still. My flight had caught up with me so we headed for Lechfeld airbase, this we thought would be were he was heading and maybe we would catch him on landing. We flew over Lechfeld at about 6,000 Ft, there were about 100 262's nose to tail parked on the inactive side of the field, this meant they were out of fuel, no pilots or both. We were not sure which way the jet would approach the runway, so Lt Tiede and myself cruised toward the South end.Lt Haydon and Lt Wright spotted him coming in from the North, so Lt Haydon went for the jet, but he was to high and made an easy target for the flak gunners. He was hit and on the R/T said he was on fire, he pulled up to 400 Ft and bailed out and landed on the airfield, he became a P.O.W. Lt Roland Wright, following Haydon, was at very low level and the flak missed him but he did not miss the 262, he shot it down on its approach to the field.

Bob Wink's 262

The very next day saw Winks achieve acedom in rare fashion. “We were on a sweep over southern Germany, in the Munich area,” he recalled. “The 364th Squadron was over to take pictures of a 262 airfield. Pete Peterson had a camera in his P-51 and we were flying escort. The Eighth Air Force had orders not to strafe those airfields—it had incurred too many losses. I was flying along when I saw a plane doing slow rolls on the deck, over patches of snow—it was an Me-262. I was following what he was doing and called him in to Peterson, who responded with an order to ‘Go down and get him.’ At that point the bogey was going back toward the airfield. I dropped my two tanks, cut my engine and went into a straight dive with 5 degrees of flaps. I was at about a 60-degree angle when I came at the jet and fired 240 rounds of .50-caliber into his cockpit and wing root. The German flipped over, caught on fire and banged in. Pete confirmed it.”

The identity of Winks’ quarry has only recently come to light. Although Schöngau was put under alert because of the Mustangs’ presence in its vicinity, Fähnrich (cadet trainee) Rudolf Rhode, either took off or was already airborne when Winks caught him. “We observed Me-262s taxiing toward protective abutments all over that airfield,” Winks recalled. “Whoever was piloting the Me-262 that I shot down must have had a military rank high enough to have been able to countermand the ‘alert.’ Or so I have always thought.” Killed at age 19, Rhode was buried in Schwabstadl, near Lechfeld. In regard to the trainee status of his last victim, Winks remarked: “I denied the Luftwaffe an Me-262 aircraft, and a pilot from attacking our bombers. That is what I was hired and trained to do. Speaking, perhaps, for both sides of the conflict...what a terrible waste of men, and the world’s wealth.”

No sooner had Winks shot down the jet then the anti-aircraft guns defending Schöngau airbase cut loose, literally with a vengeance. “Boy,” Winks said, “did they have flak coming at me! I went straight into the heavens and suddenly I realized that my engine had lost power, it was only wind milling. When I dropped my auxiliary fuel tanks, I had failed to turn the fuel selector switch on to the internal fuel tanks. I corrected the switch, and the speed gained in my dive on the Me-262 plus the speed of the wing milling prop sucked out any airlock in my fuel lines, and the engine roared back into full power and got me out of there, f-a-s-t!”
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:25 PM
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a few random words from LW pilot Hans Busch...

Hans stated that he was definitely not a fighter pilot, but rather a bomber pilot in the Me-262. Hitler's ridiculous utilization of many of these advanced aircraft as "bombers" proved futile, as this aircraft had no bomb sight at all and carried only a tiny ordnance load. Bombing with a 262 was totally a blind, hit or miss proposition, no technology involved.

Hans related an amusing story regarding routine fueling operations in the Me-262. An obvious late-war shortage of men to perform ground operation duties resulted in a number of German women assisting in these activities. One activity was the refueling of the advanced Me-262 jets. One day, Hans was having his Me-262 refueled (as he sat in the cockpit) by a particularly attractive, blonde, buxom, young Luftwaffe airwoman. The airwoman, per prescribed procedure, began the fueling of the aircraft with the forward fuselage tank and, at the same time, Hans and young airwoman making eyes at each other. When the forward fuselage tank was full, aforementioned blonde, buxom airwoman proceded to transfer the fueling hose nozzle to the rear fuselage tank, and due to not shutting off the fuel flow, soaked the following items in noxious German WWII jet fuel in this order: front fuselage, windscreen, Hans, rear cockpit, canopy and rear fuselage, all in one, smooth, fluid motion. Not one change in the airwoman's cheerful expression was noted by Hans during this wayward procedure.

Apparently, according to Hans, this German jet fuel was terribly noxious. You simply threw away any clothes that came in contact with it. Interestingly, Hans stated that there was NEVER a shortage of jet fuel, just a shortage of aircraft and pilots. Whatever hydrocarbon fuel cracking process being used by the Germans in late war (whether synthetic, coal-derived fuels or conventional), the process or processes yielded an abundant quantity of jet-suitable fuel.

Hans once experienced a right engine failure upon take-off. He was still on the runway, but had already past the "point of no return." He was veering to the right towards a building and had to make the decision whether to go through the building or over it. Hans chose to go over it, although he didn't have enough speed to maintain flight. He yanked the jet over the building, just clearing it, but the aircraft stalled, dropping the left wing. The jet impacted the ground really hard in a horrendous crash and cartwheeled through many revolutions. Parts of the aircraft were strewn over hundreds of yards. Basically, just the little cockpit section remained in one piece. Damage to Hans? Just a knocked-up kneecap; he was back on flight status in just a few weeks. The "meat wagon" arrived at the crash site, fully expecting to pick up the pieces of Hans. No such luck, Hans even insisted on sitting in the front seat of the meat wagon for the ride back. He attributes his survival to the fact that the Me-262 had a very strong cockpit section that was designed to be suitable for pressurization at a future date.

As with most all WWII tricycle landing gear aircraft, the nose wheel on the Me-262 was not at all steerable, but rather was just castoring. This proved problematical in some instances (U.S. P-38s, P-39s and P-63s shared in this problem). If the nose wheel on the Me-262 got cocked too much during ground maneuvering, the nose wheel had to be straightend out first or damage could occur from further taxiing.

This apparently occurred frequently in the Me-262. Hans related that he occasionally encountered this problem and had to climb out of the cockpit, engines running, and manually pull and pry the nose wheel back into alignment himself before proceeding!

and finally Hans Mutke story of white 3

"In the afternoon of April 24th I walked to the Me 262 that stood about 3km away from the airfield. In a barrack I met a few displaced persons hanging around, hands in their pockets and looking at me curiously. I called the 3 soldiers, but all the efforts to start the Me262 were in vain. So we decided to try it again next morning. In the morning of April 25th we succeeded in starting the Me. It was a high risk, because I didn't know, where the plane had come from and how long it had been standing there. We found out, that the fuel tanks were almost empty. We towed the Me262 to the gas station. In order to reduce the time of filling the fuel tanks, the pumps attendant put 2 fuel hoses into the plane, one in each of the 2 fuel tanks. I was sitting on the plane observing the sky. Suddenly 25-30 American Marauders approached the airfield."

"I shouted to the pump attendant and he pulled out the 2 hoses. I started the engines and tried to take off. For a fraction of seconds I could avoid running into a few bomb funnels before my Me262 took off finally. I accelerated to 500-600-700-800 km/h. When the enemy bombers saw, that I was in the air, they turned away into the clouds heading southwest for the Bodensee-Lake. In the meantime I found that the 262 was loaded with ammunition and I tried to follow the Marauders. So I flew over the clouds, but I couldn't find them. Finally I had time to study the Me 262. I found out I had not enough fuel to reach Bad Aibling. What should I do? I was over French occupied territory north of the Bodensee. I didn't want to become a prisoner of the French. Parachuting was a high risk at all. To ground the Me 262 was almost impossible because of the low hanging engines that would surely hit the ground and make the plane overturn. So I decided to go down on the Bodensee-Lake. "

" When I reached the Bodensee I thought I could try to land somewhere in Switzerland. But I didn't know Switzerland or towns there, nor had I a map. Switzerland was for me "terraincognita". When I reached the south coast of the Bodensee - the border to Switzerland- the fuel needle showed "0". In a distance of about 70km I saw a big town. That was Zürich, but at that time I didn't know it. I thought there should be an airfield at an big town. Otherwise I had to drop my Me into the Lake. I feared, the engines could fail each moment. There was another problem. I was over neutral territory, flying at a speed of 800-900km/h. My 262 could be mistaken for a V1 or V2 and be shot at by anti-aircraft guns. Ahead I saw the airfield of Dubendorf. At that time the landing strip was 800-900m long. This was too short. If I stopped the engines at the moment I was to touch down I had chance. Later the commander of the airfield told me, they thought a lost V1 or V2 was just coming. I feared Swiss antiaircraft guns would try to shoot me down. I climbed to 3000m and far away from the airfield I went down to 20m and flew over the airfield at full speed, so that the Swiss couldn't fire at me. I headed eastward, climbed vertically and made a turn of 180°. To make the Swiss realize there was an aircraft in the air, I lowered the undercarriage. When I slowed down to 260km/h 4 Swiss Morane fighters followed me and directed me to the landing strip. But I couldn't land the way they wanted me to do. I thought, they would open fire when I didn't do what they signaled me. In order to have a long runway I landed diagonally on the field. Like a madman I stepped on the brakes. About 30m in front of the American bomber-planes, that stood in the corner of the airfield, my Me 262 came to a stop."

(Author's note: Those were interned American bomber planes having made emergency landings in Switzerland.)

"A few cars came up to me among them a truck with a machine gun and 2 soldiers who elang to the gun because the ground was uneven. They signaled me to follow them and directed me to the tower where about 60-80 soldiers were waiting. One of the soldiers shouted a command where upon the others made a circle around the 262. I didn't know, what to do. I looked at pointed guns and waited, what would happen. I thought I would never again see my Me262. So I took my personal belongings and cleared the cockpit a little bit. In the meantime more and more people were coming up to see, what was going on. I stayed on the cockpit and waited for somebody to ask me to get out of my 262. But nobody did come. So I was waiting at lease for 5 minutes before I opened the cockpit and jumped to the ground. Now a captain came up to me, saluted and said to me "Come on, Mr. Courache." A big black car took us away, all the others followed."

Cadet Mutke was brought to the officers mess, they tried to make him drunken, to tell them his "secrets". Next day first lieutenant Locher continued the interrogation. It's understandable that Mutke gave a few false information's. Mutke was interned in the hotel "Frütsch" in Luzern after the procedure and the reason of his landing in Switzerland were cleared up. There were about 15-20 men interned at the same place. Later on for a short time he was brought to the hotel "Schweitzerhof", where he was to give advices to Swiss airforce personal to various matters. So he had to instruct the chief of the technical department Col. Högger how to fly the Me 262. Mutke urged Col. Högger not to fly the Me 262, because the runway was too short for a safe touch down. Col. Högger replied, he had flown all the confiscated aircrafts without a manual. The only long enough and firmed up runway for a Me 262 in Switzerland was in Bern. Therefore Col. Högger intended to bring the Me to Bern to test it there. The Swiss Parliament however didn't allow it, because Genf was near the French border and the Swiss authorities didn't want to risk a border violation with German aircraft. In Oct. 45 Mutke was transferred to Weesur at the lake Walensee. >From now on he was treated as an interned civilian. In Zürich and Bern the continued studying medicine for 2 1/2 years, which he began in Germany before his military service. In the following years he lived in Argentina and Bolivia, where he was employed by the Bolivian airlines and piloted D-3 Dakota planes. Later on Mutke returned to Germany. Now he lives in Germany and works as a gynecologist in Munich. He has a rank as a senior medical officer of the German Bundeswehr. The Me 262 was for the Swiss a desirable testing object. They found out, that in the fuel tanks were only 80 l fuel, enough for 3 minutes. After the Me had undergone various tests they placed it in a hangar. In 1957 the Me 262 was handed over to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, as a Contribution to the reconstruction of the aviation exhibition, that was destroyed during the war. For many years the Me 262 was shown with wrong colors. Not before 1984 the Me262 got the original colors of 1945, when the aviation exhibition was extended and located in a new hall.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:24 PM
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Mosquito/bristol baufighter sorties

http://www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk/sorties.html

Mosquito jet encounters

An Me262 Attack
Lts. Richard M. Kenny/Arnold V. Kuehn (NS712) left 13 January for a Bluestocking weather reconnaissance flight over Germany.

Kenny: At 1516 while south of Berlin at 30,000 feet, I turned west and then decided to make a 360 degree orbit to obtain a better visual inspection of the Berlin area. As I made the turn, we spotted two Me262s approximately 4 to 5 miles behind and below the Mosquito. There was a low cloud layer extending westward from the Hanover area. I could not outrun the jet aircraft, so I prepared to make a dash for the clouds.

Just before starting my dive, I made another turn for a quick check of the rear, and to my surprise, there was an Me262 on my tail with his four nose guns flashing. The jet was quickly closing in at 500 mph, so I immediately applied full throttle and dove for the cloud layer. During the steepest part of the dive, we had a true ground speed well over 450 mph. The jet continued following close behind, repeatedly firing.

I rolled the Mosquito on its back, as if going into a `split-ess', and instead of heading straight down, I rolled over off my back, then jinking, turning from one side to the other, and then climbing. I avoided flying straight or making any turns to prevent him from obtaining a deflection shot. The jet did not fire any tracer rounds during his alternate passes, closing in from four to five hundred yards before firing. The jet kept firing below me and the cannon shells were exploding far in front of the Mosquito, as if they were time-fused rounds.

The '262 made repeated attacks from all quarters but I evaded his every move by weaving and performing extremely violent `corkscrew turns'. The attack began at 30,000 feet and wound down to 12,000 feet before the jet broke off his pursuit, either because of ammunition shortage or low fuel. The encountered lasted from 1516 to 1525 hours with the jet continually on my tail firing at me.

The Me262 then pulled along side on my right at a distance. The Luftwaffe pilot waved his hand, then turned around and headed for the Berlin area. The second '262 never made a pass and always remained off to the side, several hundred yards away.

The cloud tops near Hanover were at 12,000 feet and I continued the flight to England flying just above the clouds. Watton was closed due to inclement weather so I landed at Bradwell Bay at 1745. The RAF crews servicing the Mosquito claimed the wrong type of spark plugs were installed in the engines! That is one mission I will never forget.




A second account of multiple encounters with Me262s
Lt. Richard Geary flew the 21 January mission to the Politz Oil Refinery at Stettin, Poland with Lt. Floyd Mann as navigator.

They had been on standby for this particular mission waiting for the weather to clear. The operations room had an enormous map that covered 25 feet or better of one wall. The missions for the day, the next day or when weather permitted, were represented by colored yarn. A different color for each mission was stretched from Watton to the target area. The yarn for the Politz mission went all the way from one end of the map to the other. Geary recalls aircrew members asking, 'Who the hell is going to fly that mission?'

It was a cold winter morning when an orderly awakened Geary at 0400. The weather had cleared and the mission proceeded as scheduled. Geary went to the flight line and then to the parachute room to meet his navigator Floyd Mann.

Watton was covered with a thin layer of snow as they took off at 0920 in NS569. Prior arrangements were made to rendezvous at 0925 with four P-51s from 20th FG at 18,000 feet over Cromer. They would provide escort to Stettin and return.

The Mosquito met the fighter escort as planned; but now heavily loaded with l,000 gallons of fuel, flew at a severe speed disadvantage. Geary attempted to maintain economical cruising speed but outpaced the P-51s and was forced to throttle-back to continue flying formation with them. The Mustangs had long-range drop tanks and were also fully loaded. Once involved with enemy action, they would jettison their tanks, and therefore, were attempting to conserve and obtain maximum range from their fuel supply. This exacerbated the problem. It was a very-long flight to the Polish border, and on three occasions Geary throttled-back and did not receive the mileage planned.

The formation started out on a tough and difficult daylight mission. They flew across the North Sea, around the Frisian Islands, past Heligoland and over the neck of Denmark. While flying near Kiel at 1048 they encountered heavy flak as predicated, accurate for their altitude of 25,000 feet but not direction. A P-51 piloted by Lt. C.L. Huey developed engine trouble and returned to base.

After crossing Denmark, the four-plane formation flew over the Baltic Sea to avoid further flak areas. The sky was clear blue with unlimited visibility for miles around. Geary could see the long sinuous outline of the Swedish coast to the North. One Mustang flew 50 yards off on each wing, and the third lagged 100 yards behind and slightly higher. The P-51 pilots were Lts. Einhaus, Reynolds and King.

The formation flew along the German coast line to the Elbe River then turned southward towards Stettin and the Politz Oil Refinery. A large number of enemy aircraft, possibly seventy, were observed to their left several miles away flying parallel to the American formation.

Richard Geary recalls the events: A young `eager-beaver' P-51 pilot with a southern drawl broke radio silence and blurted, `Are we going to jump them?'

The flight leader replied, `No. Our obligation is to look after Big Boy'.

The young pilot responded, `If they jump us, we can sure give them hell.'

This display of bravado in such a dangerous situation was comforting. I wondered if the Germans on the ground heard the conversation. If so, did they marvel that someone was `cocky' enough to take on seventy airplanes?

At 1135 the alerted enemy defensive positions fired flak at us like you wouldn't believe. Their pattern included barrage flak, normally reserved for bomber formations, as well as predicted flak. In barrage flak, the antiaircraft guns fired at one time in a pattern. In predicated flak, antiaircraft guns aimed at and specifically followed a flight.

The intense flak was accurate at 27,000 feet. I was diving and corkscrewing at close to 400 mph and the flight leader was yelling over the radio that the predicted flak was right on my tail. Bursts trailed me by 150 feet or less. I dropped from 27,000 to 24,000 feet before getting some relief.
As we approached the refinery complex through all this flak, I instructed Lt. Mann to enter the nose and use the bombsight to take the necessary photographs. He discovered that a portable oxygen bottle required to enter the nose for photography had not been provided.

To make the best of our situation, I attempted to take photographs myself. I turned on the intervalometer which automatically started taking photos at timed intervals, then attempted to lineup the Mosquito with the refinery. I intermittently dipped the nose to note my position in relation to the target until it disappeared from my sight.

Unfortunately, the pictures stopped at the door to the refinery. We did obtain coverage of Ganserin-Janonitz, northeast of Politz and they served some value as targets of opportunity.
I started to climb back up to altitude leaving behind the heavy flak that followed us. At 1150 the young Mustang pilot with the drawl shouted, `Look at the SOB climb'.

I looked out to my left side and saw this object streaking up from the ground. There it was, an Me262 climbing like a `bat out of hell'. This was the first jet I had seen.

The fighters maneuvered in position to protect me. They wanted to position themselves with one Mustang below, one behind and one above me. I did not like this situation and attempted to fly below all three P-51s, using them as a shield.

The Me262 appeared head-on and began orbiting to get on my tail. I did not make a run for it, but remained with the fighters so they would have a chance at the jet. I looked back and all I could see was a small dot coming up fast. As I straightened my head again, the flight leader yelled, `Break 28,' my call sign.

I immediately placed the Mosquito in a steep bank and almost on its back. The flight leader yelled again with an urgency in his voice as if within any second I was to be blown out of the sky. The tone of his voice excited my navigator who also yelled, `Break, Dick, break'.

I was doing close to 400 mph in a left-breaking dive, a customary maneuver. What else was there to do? I had no chance to look back. In a flurry of desperation, I slammed on opposite rudder and aileron. The Mosquito cartwheeled 180 degrees across the sky in the opposite direction. I don't know what kind of maneuver this was, and it is a miracle the aircraft did not disintegrate. God must have been on my side. I didn't even have my lap belt on.

Dust flew up from the floor, emergency maps came off the wall and loose material floated in the cockpit. The Me262 hurtled directly over me, seemingly a few feet from the cockpit canopy. There was just one big flash of silver chrome as the uncamouflaged jet shot by. He had me in his sights but my unexpected action put us on a collision course. Instead of shooting at me, the jet pilot had to use all his talents to avoid a midair collision. That both the German pilot and myself lived through the encounter, I credit to his reflexes.

I lost visual contact with the jet and Mustangs at that moment but remained in radio contact with the escort pilots. I leveled off, pushed the throttles wide-open and headed for home. After experiencing the superior speed of the jet, I questioned if I would make it back. All manner of options went through my mind. And then I realized I would never make it home with the throttles wide open.

I was now east of Berlin, flying northwest at 27,000 feet when some strange looking objects appeared in the distance ahead. I could see four-black specks leaving intermittent contrails as they climbed swiftly toward me. After surviving the first attack, I dreaded being part of any further engagement. I called the fighters and they assured me they would be along quickly. I didn't know how far back they were.

The four objects streaked closer and closer, head on--four Me262 fighters. They swiftly flew past on my right at a distance of perhaps 50 yards. I didn't make a break for I was almost certain one of them would have tailed me. Assuming they would transfer attention to the fighters, I radioed the Mustangs to warn them. They acknowledged my call and that was the last I heard from my fighter escort.

Germany was covered with snow and enveloped by an immense blue dome of clear sky overhead. The atmosphere was crystal clear and immaculate, and ours the only contrail in the sky. Such weather was unbelievable! Fortunately, a towering range of clouds appeared as we approached Belgium. Two-single contrails we assumed to be fighters, approached us but we lost them in the clouds.

Now low on fuel, Mann provided a course for the shortest safe distance across the North Sea to England. Geary, now at 24,000 feet and turned towards the Schelde Estuary area of Belgium to reach Allied lines for safety. He radioed a `May Day' and received a vector to Calais. The fuel gauges read almost empty but he maintained altitude crossing the English Channel to Cromer. Throttling back even further, he banked for Watton and landed at 1410 with less than five minutes fuel remaining. The mission lasted five hours and fifty minutes. Both men expressed appreciation to be safely home.

According to the 77 Squadron, 20th FG debriefing report, the Me262 combat engagements ensued from 1140 to 1200. One of four Me262s attacked the formation over Politz, where the Mustangs chased the attacker and engaged the others in a dog fight. Meanwhile, the Mosquito now heading west on a withdrawal course encountered another four Me262s and radioed a warning to the Mustangs.

Lowell Einhous, the P-51 escort flight leader recalls the second encounter: While climbing for altitude we encountered the other four '262s flying our type of formation at our approximate altitude. We clashed with the jets in several 360 degree turns, firing at them on several occasions. Apparently the firing was without effect, and the jets broke off the engagement. While returning home north of Berlin, a single Me262 flew parallel to us while four others flew further south but none attacked.

We experienced trouble maintaining speed with the Mosquito because of our drop tanks. The distance covered required that we carry extra fuel. The Mosquito pilot says the mission was five hours and fifty minutes. The P-51 escort was airborne considerably longer than that. We were also short of fuel because of our engagement with the (eight) Me262s and because of trying to stay with the Mosquito. Though we encountered (thirteen) '262s, we did not shoot anything down that day. We tried but to no avail. Even so, someone from Watton called later and congratulated us for a job well done and for the safe return of the Mosquito crew.

Derived from Norman Malayney's copyright manuscript on the 25th BG history.
Courtesy Norman Malayney, March 2004.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:49 PM
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The following passage is just one of many exciting extracts from the marvellous stories about 3 Squadron's people and their adventures contained in "YOU LIVE BUT ONCE", the classic autobiography of Wing Commander R.H. (Bobby) Gibbes, DSO, DFC and Bar.

This incident happened on 21 December 1942, 150 miles south of Cirte, while Bobby Gibbes was leading six Kittyhawks on a reconnaissance over Hun, an Italian aerodrome.



Sergeant "Stuka" Bee's aircraft was set on fire by the aerodrome defence gunfire and at the same time, Pilot Officer Rex Bayly called up to say that his motor had been hit and that he was carrying out a forced landing. As Sergeant Bee had a lot of speed from his dive and was flaming badly, I advised him to climb up and bail out instead of trying to belly land his aircraft at high speed. He mightn't have heard me, or perhaps was badly wounded or even dead, as his speed had not decreased when he hit the ground. His aircraft rolled up into a ball, an inferno of flames. He didn't have a chance.

I circled and watched the Italians, showing great courage, send out an ambulance in an attempt to save him, but the outcome was obvious. It was later confirmed that he had been killed.

In the meantime, Rex Bayly crash landed his aircraft nearly a mile from the aerodrome, and on coming to a stop, called up on his radio to say that he was O.K. His aircraft did not burn. I asked him what the area was like for a landing to pick him up, and ordered the other three aircraft to keep me covered and to stop any ground forces coming out after him. He told me that the area was impossible, and asked me to leave him, but I flew down to look for myself. I found a suitable area about 3 miles further out and advised Bayly that I was landing, and to get weaving out to me.

I was nervous about this landing, in case shrapnel might have damaged my tyres, as on my first run through the aerodrome, my initial burst set an aircraft on fire. I had then flown across the aerodrome and fired from low level and at close range at a Savoia 79. It must have been loaded with ammunition as it blew up, hurling debris 500 feet into the air. I was too close to it to do anything about avoiding the blast and flew straight through the centre of the explosion at nought feet. On passing through, my aircraft dropped its nose, despite pulling my stick back, and for a terrifying moment, I thought that my tail plane had been blown off. On clearing the concussion area, I regained control, missing the ground by a matter of only a few feet. Quite a number of small holes had been punched right through my wings from below, but my aircraft appeared to be quite serviceable.

I touched down rather carefully in order to check that my tyres had not been punctured, and then taxied by a devious route for about a mile or more until I was stopped from getting closer to Bayly by a deep wadi. Realizing that I would have a long wait, and being in a state of sheer funk, I proceeded to take off my belly tank to lighten the aircraft. The weight of the partially full tank created great difficulty, and I needed all my strength in pulling it from below the aircraft and dragging it clear. I was not sure that I would be able to find my way back to the area where I had landed, so I stepped out the maximum run into wind from my present position. In all, I had just 300 yards before the ground dipped away into a wadi. I tied my handkerchief onto a small camel's thorn bush to mark the point of aim, and the limit of my available take off-run, and then returned to my aircraft, CV-V, and waited.

My aircraft continued to circle overhead, carrying out an occasional dive towards the town in order to discourage any attempt to pick us up. After what seemed like an age, sitting within gun range of Hun, Bayly at last appeared, puffing, and sweating profusely. He still managed a smile and a greeting.

I tossed away my parachute and Bayly climbed into the cockpit. I climbed in after him and using him as my seat, I proceeded to start my motor. It was with great relief that we heard the engine fire, and opening my throttle beyond all normal limits, I stood on the brakes until I had obtained full power, and then released them, and, as we surged forward, I extended a little flap. My handkerchief rushed up at an alarming rate, and we had not reached flying speed as we passed over it and down the slope of the wadi. Hauling the stick back a small fraction, I managed to ease the aircraft into the air, but we hit the other side of the wadi with a terrific thud. We were flung back into the air, still not really flying, and to my horror, I saw my port wheel rolling back below the trailing edge of the wing, in the dust stream. The next ridge loomed up and it looked as if it was to be curtains for us, as I could never clear it. I deliberately dropped my starboard wing to take the bounce on my remaining wheel, and eased the stick back just enough to avoid flicking. To my great relief we cleared the ridge and were flying.

Retracting my undercart and the small amount of take off flap, we climbed up. I was shaking like a leaf and tried to talk to Bayly but noise would not permit. The remaining three aircraft formed up alongside me and we hared for home, praying the while that we would not be intercepted by enemy fighters, who should by now, have been alerted. Luck remained with us, and we didn't see any enemy aircraft.

On nearing Marble Arch, I asked Squadron Leader Watt to fly beneath my aircraft to confirm that I had really lost a wheel and had not imagined it. He confirmed that my wheel had gone, but that the starboard wheel and undercart appeared to be intact. I then had to make up my mind as to whether to carry out a belly landing, thus damaging my aircraft further, or to try to attempt a one wheel landing, which I thought I could do. We were at the time very short of aircraft and every machine counted.

The latter, of course, could be dangerous, so before making a final decision, I wrote a message on my map asking Bayly if he minded if I carried out a one wheel landing. He read my message and nodded his agreement.

Calling up our ground control, I asked them to have an ambulance standing by, and told them that I intended coming in cross wind with my port wing up wind. Control queried my decision but accepted it.

I made a landing on my starboard wheel, keeping my wing up with aileron and, as I lost speed, I turned the aircraft slowly to the left throwing the weight out. When I neared a complete wing stall, I kicked on hard port rudder and the aircraft turned further to port. Luck was with me and the aircraft remained balanced until it lost almost all speed. The port oleo leg suddenly touched the ground, and the machine completed a ground loop. The port flap was slightly damaged as was the wingtip. The propeller and the rest of the aircraft sustained no further damage. The port undercart was changed, the flap repaired, the holes patched up and the aircraft was flying again on the 27th of the month, only six days after Hun.

Every enemy aircraft on Hun was either destroyed or damaged. Six aircraft and one glider were burnt, and five other aircraft were badly damaged. The bag included two JU52s, two Savoia 795, one JU88, one Messerschmitt 110, one CR42, one HS126 and two gliders. I was later to be awarded the DSO and this operation was mentioned as having a bearing on the award.


From: Johnnie Johnson, "Wing Leader", 1956

In March 1943 Johnnie Johnson had taken over command of the Canadian Wing at Kenley (403 and 416 Squadrons) equipped with the then new Spitfire 9:

"Some three weeks passed and we had only flown together on two or three occasions. Once, well inside France, we saw a large gaggle of Focke-Wulfs in the far distance, but our petrol was running low and we had to return without firing a shot. My Canadians flew extremely well and their air discipline was excellent, better I thought than the average mixed squadron. But we wanted a full-blooded scrap with the Abbeville boys to weld the wing together. Our opportunity arrived on a Saturday afternoon in early April [1943].
We were having lunch when the Tannoy announced that the wing would come to readiness in one hour's time. I walked over to the ops. block to study the details so that I could brief the wing. It was only a small show, but far better than idling away the afternoon on the ground. Crow was to lead his squadron of Typhoons across the Channel at low level, dive-bomb the Abbeville airfield and then withdraw at a high rate of knots. Our job was to climb over France as the Typhoons came out and knock down any Messerschmitts or Focke-Wulfs flushed by the bombing. It was a simple little operation, just Crow's squadron and my wing. What really appealed to me was that we were operating in a free-lance role and were not confined to any particular area. The weather was perfect and we were to operate under the control of a new radar station in Kent which was rapidly acquiring a reputation for excellent long-distance controlling. It was a week-end, and there always seemed to be a stronger enemy reaction on Saturdays and Sundays than any other day.
I telephoned Squadron Leader Hunter, the senior controller of the new radar station, outlined my tactics and agreed that he would not break radio silence unless he had an enemy plot on his scopes.
Crossing the French coast just south of Le Touquet, I caught a glimpse of Crow's Typhoons well below and heading back towards England. Our superchargers cut in at 19,000 feet with
an unpleasant thump and die engines surged and we eased back our throttles. At 24,000 feet I levelled out and Bolton's squadron drew abreast of me in the finger-four formation. Ford's squadron were just beginning to make condensation trails and these could be seen from a great distance and would betray our position. But before I could call him he dropped his squadron a few hundred feet and the twelve conspicuous thin white banners ceased.
Hunter broke the silence:
"Greycap from Grass-seed.1 Twenty plus bandits climbing up inland. Steer 140."
"O.K., Grass-seed," I acknowledged. "Any height on the bandits?"
"Well below you, Greycap. They are approaching the coast and I'll try and bring you out of the sun. Continue on 140."
This was perfect teamwork between controller and wing leader. It was the first time we had worked with Hunter: he seemed to have something of Woodhall's ability to put his information across in a quiet, reassuring manner. The whole intricate mechanics of long-range radar interception seemed to be working perfectly. Suddenly I was brimming with confidence, for I knew that Hunter and I would pull this one off.
"Greycap. Bandits have crossed below you at 15,000 feet. Port on to 310. Buster."
"O.K., Grass-seed. Port on to 310," I replied.
"Greycap. Bandits now seven miles ahead. 5000 feet below. Gate."
I put the Spitfires into a shallow dive and scanned the area ahead. The sky seemed empty.
"Greycap. Another strong formation of bandits behind you. About five to eight miles. Exercise caution."
Here were the makings of a perfect shambles! We were almost on top of the first enemy formation with another gaggle not far behind. How far? Hunter had said between five and eight miles, but the radar was scanning at its maximum range and five miles could be one mile - or ten. Should I call the whole tiling off and set course for Dungeness now? The decision was mine. For a moment it seemed as if we were suspended and motionless in the high sky, with the Canadians clustered around me waiting for an order.
Then I saw our quarry. One bunk of twelve 190s just below us and a mile ahead, and a further ten 190s well out on the starboard side. It was too golden an opportunity to miss. Height, sun and surprise in our favour and I had to take a chance on how far behind the other enemy formation was.
"Greycap to wing. Twenty-plus Huns below from twelve to three o'clock. Syd, I'm taking the left-hand bunch. Come down and take the right-hand gaggle. Get in!"
I turned slightly to get directly behind the 190s and remembered to make the turn slow and easy so that our wingmen could keep well up. I put the nose down and had to fight back an instinct to slam die throttle wide open. We had to hit these brutes together.
My own 190 was flying on the extreme port side of the enemy formation. We came down on their tails in a long, slanting dive. Before I opened fire, I looked to the starboard, saw Bolton's boys fanning out alongside and Ford's arrowhead of Spitfires falling down on their prey about three miles away. The attack was coordinated, and my task of leading the wing was temporarily, suspended. Now it was up to the individual pilots to select their opponents and smack them down. I missed the 190 with my first short burst and steadied the gun platform with coarse stick and rudder. I fired again and hit him on the wing root and just behind the cockpit. The spot harmonization paid off and the cannon shells thudded into him in a deadly concentration of winking explosions. He started to burn, but before he fell on to his back I gave him another long burst. Then I broke away in a steep climbing turn and searched the sky behind. Still nothing there. Below me another 190 was falling in flames, and on the starboard a parachute had opened into full bloom. Hunter was still concerned for our safety:
"Greycap. Withdraw. Strong force of bandits approaching. Almost on top of you."
I spoke to the wing:
"All Greycap aircraft. Get out now! We won't re-form. And keep a sharp look-out behind!"
The pilots didn't need telling twice: we poured across the Channel at high speed in pairs and fours. My section was the first to land and when I climbed out of the cockpit I was met by a small posse of officers, for the good word that we had bounced the 190s soon spread. I lit a cigarette and counted the Spits as they joined the circuit over Kenley. Sixteen down, four on the circuit - twenty. A singleton - twenty-one. A long pause and a pair - twenty-three. One to come. It seemed very important that he should swing in over Caterham and land. But we had waited too long: he was either missing or at some other airfield.
The pilots walked into the briefing room still excited and full of the fight. We totted up the score with the Spies listening silently and ever ready to reduce a claim from a destroyed to a damaged or, if they had the chance, to nothing at all! The total came to six 190s destroyed for the loss of one of our pilots, who, we could only surmise, must have been clobbered by a 190 after our first attack.
I was delighted with our effort. The controlling had been superb and the Canadians had flown really well. I made out my report, called the radar station and thanked Hunter, and checked with our operations room for any news of our missing pilot. They had no information.
The next morning Syd Ford walked into my office. He laid a pair of blue Canada shoulder-flashes on my desk and said: "The boys would like you to wear these. After all, we're a Canadian wing and we've got to convert you. Better start this way."
"Thanks, Syd," I replied. "I'll get them sewn on today."
A simple gesture, but for me it had a deep significance. The flashes were sewn on and two years were to elapse before it was time to take them down. "
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:50 PM
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From: Johnny Johnson, "Wing Leader", 1956

"We had been in Normandy well over three weeks, but the German bastion at Caen still held firm and prevented our ground forces from breaking out into the open country south of the city. Our fighter-bombers and light bombers of the Second Tactical Air Force had attacked enemy strongpoints on the outskirts of Caen many times, but the well-disciplined, tough German troops continued to put up a most stubborn and effective resistance. Early in July it was decided, despite some stern opposition in high quarters, to reduce enemy ground opposition by saturating them with a heavy attack by Lancasters of Bomber Command. Would the fiasco of Cassino in Italy, when the bombing attacks had created impassable obstacles to our own advance, be repeated at Caen? Was not the condemnation to death of many innocent French civilians unnecessary and a basic contradiction of the very principles we fought for? Would not the heavy bombers be more suitably employed in their strategic role of reducing the industrial might of Germany? Despite the various military and moral considerations, and the conflict of opinion amongst our most experienced air commanders, the decision was made to attack Caen.

Late one fine July evening, as the sun dropped to the western horizon, the attack began. Although Spitfires provided a target-cover force for the hundreds of Lancasters and Halifaxes, our presence was un necessary, for the Luftwaffe did not react to the attack. As the bombers made their run-in from the sea, I positioned my Spitfire to the west of the town so that I could watch the progress of the attack from a down-sun position. Our own ground troops had been withdrawn to a line some distance from the target area so that they would be in little danger of bombs which fell short of the targets. We had been told that all the targets were contained in an area approximately two miles in length and just short of a mile in depth. But well before the smoke and debris from the first bombs which hung over Caen in the calm evening sky had obstructed the scene from our view, it was quite apparent that a number of bombs had fallen well outside the target area. As I watched the terrible destruction wrought on this French city I could not help but wonder whether we were using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We were all aware of the military necessity to break the enemy at Caen so that our ground troops could eventually deploy into open country. But we were not so sure that this object could only be achieved by the wholesale destruction of Caen and the death of a great number of its inhabitants. Some of the bombs were fused to explode up to six hours after the attack, so that there would not be too large a time-lag before the ground forces went in early the next morning. Flying low on the fringe of the attack, I distinctly saw a German tank thrown into the air, like a child's toy, and turning over and over before it fell to the ground.

Instead of turning to the north to set course for England after dropping its load, one of the Lancasters came down in a fairly steep dive towards the strongly defended enemy-held territory south of the city. I watched this manoeuvre in some amazement as the Lancaster would soon find itself a solitary target for the German flak. Perhaps the aircraft had had its controls shot away or damaged and could only fly in this fashion. But wait, the bomber has now levelled out and is still flying due south only a few feet above the main Caen-Falaise road. Amazed, I watch its antics. What the Hell is the pilot up to? I soon discover the object of the low-level flight. This road, which is one of the enemy's main supply routes, is packed here and there with stationary tanks, armoured cars and vehicles. As it sweeps down the road, both front and rear turrets of the bomber are in action and the gunners are firing long bursts into the enemy vehicles. There is a considerable amount of light flak, but the pilot obviously scorns this small stuff, since he is accustomed to a nightly barrage of heavy flak over the industrial cities of Germany. For him this affair is a bit of a lark, and like a schoolboy away from the vigilance of his prefect he is making the most of his freedom. Now the Lancaster carries out a slow wide turn to re-trace its flight northwards to Caen. Majestically, it ploughs along over the straight road with rear and front guns blazing away. Enemy drivers and crews abandon their vehicles as the Lancaster pounds along and dive for the shelter of the hedgerows. But what is this? Another Lancaster has appeared on the scene and is carrying out similar tactics. The first Lancaster is flying north. The second is steaming south. Both are over the centre of the highway and both avoid each other with a careful little swerve. Speechless, I watch the role of fighter-bomber being carried out, and most effectively, by the four-engined heavies. But now it is all over. The original glamour boy has climbed away to the north for his homeward journey and the second is pulling up from his strafing run. I fly alongside the Lancaster as it settles down for the flight back to Lincolnshire and wave to the gay adventurers inside. We have seen two bomber missions this evening which will never be recorded in any official log! Long after the war I discovered that the pilot of the first bomber was an ex-bricklayer from Scotland called 'Jock' Shaw. At the time of my story he was the proud captain of his own Lancaster, and was to win the D.F.C. and bar. Later he served as my adjutant.

Two days after the bomber attack, Caen was in British hands. We decided to drive there and see the results of the bombardment at close quarters. The streets were still choked with rubble and we had the greatest difficulty in manoeuvring the versatile jeep past blocks of stone and gaping craters. We had been told that the original plan to send an armoured column through Caen on the morning following the attack had to be abandoned. We could fully understand the-reason. Bulldozers struggled to clear the blocked roads, and we had to stop the jeep and continue our journey on foot. Here and there fires still raged: pathetic groups of silent French folk struggled with the debris in a forlorn attempt to find the bodies of some of their friends and relatives. A sickening stench of death pervaded, and the people to whom we spoke said that few Germans were killed as there were no enemy positions in the bombed area. We had seen the destruction wrought by the Luftwaffe on London, Sheffield, Coventry, Liverpool and Manchester; but those scenes paled when compared to the magnitude of this disaster. We thought that the French had been made to suffer without sufficient justification. We cut short our visit, made our way back to the nearby beach, where we lay in the sunshine and swam in the stained waters in an endeavour to forget the broken bodies, the shattered homes and the brooding despair which lay heavily on Caen."

________________________

"Breakthrough! Finally the beachhead burst at its seams, and the Americans broke through to the west, followed later by the British and Polish forces who were up against the main German armoured divisions at Caen.

What are one's remembered impressions of this history-making breakout? Hundreds of burning vehicles that we had strafed and set on fire in the famous Falaise gap? Red Crosses tied across lifeless German tanks? The group of arrogant German soldiers sitting outside on the farmhouse steps, playing cards as their trucks burnt? I stopped their game with a few hundred rounds of bullets, and their arrogance disappeared rapidly. Wildly waving peasant children welcoming the conquerors little knowing what it was all about?

Probably as pilots we saw more than most but what we did see wasn't very attractive. Then I met the man who will haunt me until my dying day.

Including ground-strafing, dive bombing and air-to-air fights, I had probably by now killed several hundred people, but from the air it was completely impersonal and made no mental impact. This man was different.

I was out on another "cannon test" which was the usual thinly veiled excuse to look for trouble. None of the aircraft in the air had the slightest smell of the Luftwaffe, so I confined my searchings to objects on the ground many miles behind the enemy front. Suddenly I saw him!

His motorbike had caused a small cloud of dust to arise, giving away his position. Like a kestrel hawk pouncing, I wheeled my Spitfire and streaked towards the ground.

By now my man had stopped on the corner of a hairpin bend, and as the range closed rapidly, I guessed he was studying a map. His military camouflaged bike and his grey-green uniform spelt him out as a despatch rider, and therefore a legitimate military target. As I placed the orange reflected dot of my gunsight on the centre of his body, he looked up straight at me, and knew the moment of truth had arrived.

As I stabbed the gun button he threw up his left arm as if to shield his face from the impact. I cursed him with all my soul for making such a pathetic human gesture, and loathed myself as I saw man and bike disappear in a torrent of bullets.

I returned straight to base and found it difficult to talk to anyone for several days.

I can still see his face and the raised arm."

Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, DSO, OBE, DFC and Bar, "Shot Down in Flames", Grub Street reprint 1999, pp.149-150.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:52 PM
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"WE began to carry out low-level flights over France. These
operations were known by the code name Rhubarb. The idea
was to take full advantage of low cloud and poor visibility and
slip sections of Spitfires across the coast and then let-down
below the cloud to search for opportunity targets, rolling-stock,
locomotives, aircraft on the ground, staff cars, enemy troops and
the like. They were usually arranged on a voluntary basis and a
few pilots seemed to prefer this type of individual, low-level work
to the clean, exhilarating team work of the dog-fight. But the
great majority of fighter pilots thought privately that the dividends
yielded by the numerous Rhubarb operations fell far short
of the cost in valuable aircraft and trained pilots.
First of all we had to contend with the weather. Usually the
cloud base was less than 1000 feet when we slipped our two
Spitfires into its concealing vapour. During the next few minutes
all our thoughts were concentrated on the likely height of the
cloud base over France. Our let-downs from the cloud were
usually made over reasonably flat countryside, but here and there
small hills rose a few hundred feet and presented serious hazards.
If we weren't in the clear when the altimeter recorded 500 feet,
then we climbed back into the cloud and called the show off.
So it was difficult to be cool and calculating when making our
let-downs on Rhubarb flights. Perhaps two of us had flown in
cloud, in tight formation, for a distance of fifty miles at 2000 feet.
Time to descend, for we are over the target area—or should be
if we have steered an accurate course and the wind hasn't changed.
We ease the throttle back and put the Spitfires into a gentle dive.
The engine note changes, but it seems strangely loud in the cloud
and the stick trembles in your hand. You flash a grin of encouragement
at your wingman who is only a few feet away, his
eyes and hands attuned to every movement of your Spitfire,
for if he loses you in this bumpy, swirling greyness there is
not enough height for him to make the difficult transition to
instrument flight. You ease her down slowly. Are we slightly
off course? Will the ground be higher than where we planned to
break out? And the flak? 600 feet on the altimeter and you
catch a sudden glimpse of a wet sombre landscape of
hedged fields and copses. Then you are at the bottom of a
sort of inverted bowl, whose translucent sides of falling rain
seem dangerously confining.
Then there was the light flak. Gibbs told us that once beyond
the heavily defended coastal belt we should be lightly opposed
from the ground, but it always seemed as if the enemy gunners
were ready and waiting. Airfields were always extremely well
defended and it was a dangerous business to try and make more
than one fast, low-level attack. Straight in and out was the only
method on these occasions.
The Germans prepared unpleasant counter-measures against
these low-level attacks. Here and there decoy targets were
established, and these sometimes took the form of stationary
locomotives heavily armoured and surrounded by numerous,
well-camouflaged light flak guns, arranged to provide a deadly
concentration of fire against air attack. Many pilots received the
shock of their lives when they streaked down upon what they
imagined to be a sitting duck.
Usually our Rhubarb efforts yielded little more than a staff car
(or was it a French civilian vehicle?) or some target ineffectively
sprayed with the puny bullets of our machine guns. Whenever
we went after bigger game on the airfields we took some bad
knocks, and our first losses were from such operations. The
engines of our Spitfires were cooled by a liquid called glycol,
which was held in a small tank just below the spinner. This
glycol tank and radiator were always exposed to ground fire,
and one machine-gun bullet through either meant that the
engine caught fire or seized up within a matter of minutes.
I loathed those Rhubarbs with a deep, dark hatred. Apart
from the flak, the hazards of making a let-down over unknown
territory and with no accurate knowledge of the cloud base
seemed far too great a risk for the damage we inflicted. During
the following three summers hundreds of fighter pilots were lost
on either small or mass Rhubarb operations. Towards the end of
1943, when I finished this tour of ops. and held an
appointment of some authority at 11 Group, my strong views
on this subject were given a sympathetic hearing and Rhubarbs
were discontinued over France, except on very special
occasions."

from: Johnny Johnson, "Wing Leader", 1956
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