P-51D/K Mustangs Over the Third Reich


Duncan and I pulled back up toward the bombers when we saw another formation of 20 to 30 Focke-Wulfs to our rear. Another P-51 joined up so there were three of us. We turned 180 degrees into them; it was all we could do. Pure chance had put us on the spot. We fired head-on, but got no hits. I popped ‘maneuvering flaps’ and again, with full power, did the tightest chandelle with all the ‘g’ force I could stand, probably about five or six. I fired at about 300 yards, getting strikes on the nearest 190 that was turning into me. He headed into me violently but evidently pulled too hard on the stick in the turn and did a couple of high speed snap rolls and wound up on his back with his auxiliary fuselage fuel tank perched upwards against the horizon. While he was poised there I hit him with another burst, pieces came off the ship and he began boiling smoke. He split-essed and headed for the deck. I followed until he hit the sod at a shallow angle, bounced in a shower of dirt and crashed; again, the pilot never left the ship. I was by myself now, Duncan and the other Mustang having left to take care of their own fortunes. That’s the way it was in a massive dogfight such as this; it quickly broke down into 40 or 50 private battlegrounds. I learned later that Duncan was busily engaged in the destruction of two FW 190s in another corner of the sky.
I climbed back up to 14,000 feet when two Me 109s with barber pole stripes on the spinners came by beneath me. The reason for the stripes was that we were up against Jagdgeschwader 300 of the Reich Defense Force located around Berlin. Neither one saw me as I dropped to their rear and fired at the closest one. They dropped partial flaps and broke violently away from my line of fire. I used my excess speed to haul back up and regain my altitude advantage. The two enemy ships pulled into a tight Lufbery circle but I stayed out of it. I made a fast head-on pass at their defensive circle but got no hits. The bore of the cannon mounted in the center of the 109 spinner looked as big as a laundry tub in the brief instant that we met. The leader broke out of the circle and headed for the deck. I dropped down to engage tail-end Charlie as he too headed for the deck in a nearly vertical dive. All of a sudden he pulled it up into a climb and chopped his power, losing nearly all his speed. This was the old sucker trap maneuver that would put me in front, and him behind, in a firing position. I kept my excessive speed and firewalled the Merlin and started firing, closing the range down to 40 or 50 yards. I was so close that the 109 virtually blocked my vision through the windshield. I was getting hits all over the fuselage and as I pulled up vertically over him, a maneuver that he could not have followed at his low speed, his engine coolant system blew. Over my left shoulder I could see that he went into a tumbling spiral, out of control. Again, undoubtedly, the pilot was hit. So ended the engagement for me: two Focke-Wulf 190s and one Me 109 destroyed; 1050 rounds of ammo fired. Our group destroyed 57½ enemy aircraft; that’s an Air Force record that still stands today”.1
Indeed, on that day the pilots of the 357th FG were credited with 55.5 victories in the air (one shared with Mustangs of the 20th FG) and one on the ground (the group was not credited with the victory scored by Lt. Col. William C. Clark of the 66th Fighter Wing HQ although he flew with the 357th FG during the operation). The unit’s own losses amounted to four aircraft and three pilots (all three were taken prisoner). In the afternoon, a teletype message arrived at Leiston, the 357th FG’s home base, from Gen. James Doolittle, the CO of the 8th AF. It read: “You have given the Hun the most humiliating beating he has ever taken in the air”.
By the end of the war the 357th FG, commonly known as the ‘Yoxford Boys’, had scored more air victories than any other Mustang outfit in Europe. In April 1945 Leonard Carson, promoted to the rank of Major, assumed command of the 362nd FS. His final score was 18.5 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed in the air and 3.5 on the ground.

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