Military history


To tell in full detail the stories of the hundreds of gunners en-gaged in Mission 115 who returned to their British bases for debriefing would obviously fill a large volume in itself. In addition to those men, moreover, there were some 480 gunners in the 60 heavy bombers lost on the mission. They can contribute nothing to this chapter, in which the typical work of a few gunners in only three groups, during a period of less than sixty seconds, will be selected as representative of the whole titanic struggle.

In the debriefing records of these three groups alone it was possible to find the details of eleven attacks on the bombers of those groups that took place within the single minute from 1515 to 1516 hours. I must emphasize, however, that unfortunately the gunner debriefing reports do not include the attacks of those fighters that stood off out of range of the Fortress guns and lobbed rockets into the bomber formations. Out of this time period of one minute in which we shall describe eleven attacks, it is estimated—on the basis of report times of rocket launchings into the Fortresses—that no less than forty to fifty German fighter attacks were taking place simultaneously.

An explanation is necessary here of the basis on which gunnery claims are made and evaluated. Beyond any doubt the ac-curate tabulation of German fighters destroyed in air battle was plagued by an overlapping of claims which tended to increase in almost geometrical progression with the number of bombers engaged. With dozens of gunners sometimes firing simultaneously at the same target, such duplication was inevitable. And then, how to establish accurately whether or not a fighter had definitely been destroyed? The German pilots had the trick, after firing a burst at a bomber, of flipping over on their backs and plunging straight down, black smoke pouring from their exhausts. Inexperienced gunners, in the heat of battle, could well mistake the flame and smoke from a fighter’s four or six cannon as battle damage inflicted by their own guns.

For a gunner to receive credit for an enemy plane as Destroyed, it must be witnessed descending completely enveloped in flames, and not merely with flames coming out of the cowling or a wing. A claim for Destroyed was granted when the airplane was seen to disintegrate in mid-air, or if the complete wing or tail assembly was shot away from it, but not if only parts were shot away; experience with our own planes made it all too obvious that an airplane could be shot almost to pieces, and still return safely.

If the fighter were single-engine, and the pilot bailed out, credit would be given for a DestroyedProbably Destroyed or Probable included those fighters of whose destruction there was no certainty, but which seemed so badly damaged, or so completely on fire, that it was unlikely they would survive. If any of the fighter’s parts were shot away, it would be listed as a Damaged. Bullets striking an enemy fighter with no sign of the foregoing would mean no claim.

In addition, an elaborate checking and cross-checking system to prevent duplication of claims was worked out. The time of the encounter, the type of enemy aircraft claimed destroyed, the method of destruction, the geographical location of the engagement, the altitude at which the combat took place-all these factors were entered on diagrams in such a way that a virtual three-dimensional reconstruction of the action was achieved.

For Mission 115 against Schweinfurt, the total claims came to 186 fighters Destroyed, 27 Probables, and 89 Damaged. We know today that these claims include duplications, and that the Germans more accurately lost somewhere about one hundred fighters—the exact number will never be known. Enemy records show total combat losses for the day, exclusive of those not attributable to Army Air Forces’ action, of 43 fighters destroyed in combat and 31 damaged. The problem is that the Germans did not employ a system similar to ours in evaluating their own losses. Their records would not support a gunner’s claim for a Destroyedif the pilot survived the destruction of a fighter. Germans who worked in command headquarters have related that often, when (for example) 26 fighters were destroyed and 19 pilots escaped with their lives, only seven planes would be listed as destroyed.

Time Hack—1515 hours to 1516 hours:

B-17 Number 250 flying low position of 548th Squadron, at 21,000 feet, part of 385th Group: Sergeant T, E, Cavanaugh in the right waist watched a Junkers Ju-88 closing from three o’clock level. Cavanaugh fired 40 rounds; at 400 yards the Ju-88 smoked heavily, and whirled crazily out of control. Two chutes came out.

As Cavanaugh fired at the Ju-88, another fighter came in dead astern, level. Sergeant W. N. Sweeney in tail-gunner position opened fire at 1,200 yards. Fighter wavered in mid-air, flipped over on its back and dropped quickly, trailing flames from the right engine. Cavanaugh was given a Destroyed, Sweeney a claim for Damaged.

B-17 Number 547 in number-three position of lead squadron, 549th, of the 385th Group at 22,500 feet: One Me-110 at tacked from eleven o’clock low. Sergeant A. R, Millican in second gun position behind top turret opened fire at 800 yards. Tracers struck the nose and the left wing. Left engine burst into flames, and the fighter whirled out of control. Man in left waist position watched the airplane hit the ground and explode. Millican was credited with a Destroyed.

B-17 Number 717 of 548th Squadron, 385th Group, flying position number six of high squadron at 23,000 feet: One Me-110 dived from ten-thirty o’clock. Lieutenant R. C. Howard, navigator, fired 65 rounds. Tracers seen to strike fuselage and wing. Fighter peeled off into a long glide. No claim.

B-17 Number 439 of 410th Squadron, 94th Group, flying twenty-five miles south of Schweinfurt: Me-109 came in fast from ten o’clock, swinging to seven o’clock, and passing out at two o’clock. Sergeant C. T. Troott tracked fighter, squeezed out 50 rounds, struck cockpit area heavily. Fighter exploded, disintegrated in mid-air. Troott received a Destroyed.

B-17 Number 3446, same squadron, same group: Sergeant F. F. Riordan tracked an Me-109 coming in at six o’clock high. Opened fire at range of 700 yards. At distance of 100 yards watched tracers hitting Me-109, saw pieces flying off. Bullets hit behind cockpit. Fighter slow-rolled and dived, trailing smoke. Airplane dived for 15,000 feet, then pulled out. Damaged.

B-17 Number 301 of 332d Squadron, same group: Ju-88 came in at six o’clock level. Sergeant E. E, Hunt fired at 150 yards with long burst into fighter. Cockpit canopy flew off suddenly and Ju-88 went into a steep dive, trailing flame and smoke. Plane did not pull out and crashed, exploding on impact. Destroyed.

B-17 Number 30444, same squadron, same group: Me-210 dived in from two o’clock high at lead group of formation, penetrated directly through mass of bombers, firing steadily.

Sergeant G. A. Elkin in top turret tracked and fired, then held fire because of B-17’s behind Me-210. Fighter banked steeply at four-thirty o’clock, and Elkin opened fire again. A long burst sprayed the length of the Messerschmitt, which plunged into a steep dive. No claim.

B-17 Number 264 of 348th Squadron, 303d Group, last plane in formation at 23,000 feet: An FW-190 passed to the rear of the high squadron about six hundred yards out. Sergeant H. H. Zeitner in ball turret fired when fighter reached six-thirty o’clock. At five-thirty o’clock the FW-190 whipped into a spin, then exploded. It tore to pieces in the air, the tail and rear of fuselage breaking off. Destroyed.

B-17 Number 930 of 300th Squadron, same group: Bomber was at 24,000 feet when Me-110 came in slightly low at six o’clock. Sergeant J. P. Deffinger in ball turret fired series of bursts at range of 800 yards. At 200 yards, boring in, the Me-110 burst into flames. Slid off on one wing, seemingly out of control and burning. Damaged.

B-17 Number 341 of 427th Squadron, same group, at 25,000 feet: Me-110 closed from dead astern, and at 300 yards fired a salvo of rockets. These exploded with violent force directly beneath the Fortress. At same time Sergeant R. R. Humphreys in tail turret was firing steadily, and scored bursts in both engines. Me-110 went down out of sight with left engine and wing on fire. Damaged.

Sixty seconds, eleven attacks noted by these gunners, an estimated forty to fifty attacks unlisted. In this same period crew reports show several B-17’s badly hit, of which at least two went down immediately afterward.

Strange things occur sometimes in battle, and even in the air war over Germany the American funny bone is apt to reveal itself under odd circumstances. The following incident did happen—literally—on Mission 115.

The opening series of attacks had passed, and there was a lull as fresh German fighters moved into position behind one group. They were still several thousand yards behind the Fortresses when a waist gunner, on his first mission and still in a state of nervous tension after the initial attacks, sighted the enemy planes. In a high-pitched voice that was barely controllable he shouted over the interphone of a “big bunch of many enemy fighters closing in! “

His pilot, thinking in terms of the clock system of identification, snapped back: “What time is it?”

To which the excited and vexed gunner screeched: “Jesus Christ, sir, NOW!

It is exceedingly regrettable that many of the gunner reports of the wild fighting over Germany were committed to the historical records in only the briefest of terms; and that it is virtually impossible today to recapture those grim but often stirring moments in the lofty amphitheater of German skies. While the action of the crew aboard B-17 Number 782, of the 306th Group’s 369th Squadron, may not be typical of all the gunners on this mission, it reflects accurately the caliber of the men who stood firm aboard their bombers and slugged it out with the best the Germans had to offer.

Fortress Number 782 was near the Initial Point at 23,000 feet when a yellow-nosed FW-190 raced in from seven-thirty low. Five minutes before this attack, Technical Sergeant Robert J. Conley at the left waist was thrown from his gun. An exploding 20-mm. cannon shell blew Conley’s left hand completely from his arm. Staff Sergeant B. H. Perlmutter at the right waist position immediately applied a tourniquet to

Conley’s forearm. As he finished tying the bandage the FW-190 swept in and opened fire. Conley shoved Perlmutter aside and struggled to his feet, grasping his machine gun with his right hand.

The German fighter was at the point-blank range of 150 yards, hurling a stream of cannon shells into the Fortress, when Conley braced himself and squeezed the trigger, holding it down. His accuracy was perfect: a long river of tracers blazed into the Focke-Wulf and seconds later the German airplane disappeared in a blinding explosion, hurling pieces of wreck-age in all directions.

Conley fainted, and fell heavily to the deck of the bomber. When he regained consciousness—during a bitter fight—the crew was astonished to see him crawl to his feet and fight his way back to his gun position. He grasped the weapon with his one hand, cursing with pain and his inability to maneuver the heavy gun in the slipstream, and fainted again.

In this chapter I have portrayed a single slice of one minute out of the total of 194 minutes of almost continuous air fighting. Now it is appropriate to select from these 194 minutes the case histories of five individual bombers, four from the 92d Group and one from the 94th, to illustrate better another page in this bloody saga of Mission 115.

This is a different sort of time hack. In the case of each bomber I have selected only the major firing engagements reported in detail by that Fortress’s gunners. Again it is necessary to emphasize that with each airplane, the gunners’ reports are but a segment of the encounters of that airplane from 1333 to 1647 hours, and do not include many of those times when mass formations of German fighters swarmed through the B-17’s with a single attack involving as many as 60 to 70 fighter airplanes. At such rimes, obviously, it was “every man for himself and to hell with reports.”

Neither is it possible to record the fighters which stood off out of range to launch their rocket salvos. And also absent are the gunner reports of snap shots flung out as fighters whipped by; when there were seemingly no results, these were stricken from the record.

Missing, too, must be the thunder of the battle itself, the hammering noises of guns and cannon and rockets, the explosions, the roar of motors, the singsong whine of shell cases, the thin metallic scream of the fighters....

The first airplane is B-17 Number 383, of the 332d Squadron, 94th Group (which lost six bombers on the raid):

1405 Hours: The B-17 was in the vicinity of Luxembourg at 22,000 feet, when Sergeant R. E. King in the tail turret called out an Me-109 while it was still high above and behind the bomber. The Messerschmitt dived well below the B-17, gaining great speed in the dive, and then hauled up into a swift, soaring climb to begin its attack. Tracking the fighter through the whole of the maneuver, King opened fire at 700 yards, leading the Me-109. He fired in short, continuous bursts, scoring hits repeatedly. At 400 yards range, riddled with bullets, the Me-109 rolled slowly over on its back, and then flipped suddenly out of control. It whirled down out of sight in a spiral. King received a Damaged.

1415 Hours: An Me-109 bored in from six o’clock high, firing steadily with its three heavy cannon and two guns. Sergeant W. P. Wetzel in the radio operator’s position (second dorsal) fired steadily at the steeply diving fighter. At a distance of 300 yards he watched his tracers meeting the entire frontal area of the Me-109, and hosed them into the engine and wing root areas. The airplane exploded in a brilliant flash. It was a complete disintegration, and the pieces showered out in all directions, several striking the B-17. Destroyed.

1417 Hours: The attacks of the two previous fighters had seriously crippled this bomber, and the B-17 was in critical danger. On a heading of 83° Magnetic, riddled with holes and with the number-four engine dead and the propeller feathered, the Fortress began to drop back from formation. One could almost feel the staring eyes of the German fighters as they clawed around to finish the kill. Sergeant N. P. Loupe in the ball turret called out an FW-190 far out and level with the bomber. The fighter dropped down suddenly, leveled off, and trailing smoke from its exhausts, raced at full speed under the ball turret. Loupe opened fire at 600 yards, tracking the FW-190 with high accuracy as it swept in and by. Suddenly the airplane emitted heavy smoke; the next instant a searing ball of flame enveloped the cockpit, and then swept the entire machine. It spiraled down, visible only as a fireball. Loupe was given a Destroyed.

Three minutes later the crippled B-17 was ten miles east of Luxembourg. The call was out, and four FW-190’s screamed in to finish what the other fighter had failed to do. Sergeant S. H. Rodeschin in the right waist opened fire at long range, and had barely squeezed the trigger when the lead Focke-Wulf exploded violently. Rodeschin was amazed; he had fired only four rounds from his gun. The bullets struck, apparently, a rocket beneath the FW-190’s wing, for the explosion ripped the entire wing free. The sudden stress of the tumble broke the fighter into pieces and it fell as wreckage. Rodeschin received a Destroyed. The B-17, in the meantime, was descending rapidly and down to 20,000 feet. The fighter attacks were to continue until below 8,000 feet.

1421 Hours: By now the Fortress was in a steep spiral, and nearly torn to pieces in the steady attacks. Several Me-109’s had joined the Focke-Wulfs in their firing runs, all queueing up as though they were on practice gunnery missions. An Me-109 came in fast from eight-thirty o’clock low, sticking grimly with the spiraling B-17. As it came within range of the left waist gun, Sergeant D. A. Nowlin fired at a range of 400 yards. It appeared that his tracers went into the Me-109’s gas tank. Suddenly the airplane exploded, was flung into a whirling spiral, completely out of control, and enveloped from nose to tail in flames. Destroyed.

That made, from 1405 to 1421 hours, four confirmed kills and one damaged. B-17 Number 383 was named Brennan’s Circus; we shall return in Chapter XVIII to this particular Fortress.

The second airplane is B-17 Number 301 of the 332 Squadron (same squadron as B-17 Number 383), 94th Group:

1431 Hours: The Fortress is twenty-five miles southwest of Wurzburg at 22,500 feet, when an Me-109 came in fast at six o’clock level. Sergeant E. E. Hunt in the tail fired at a range of 500 yards. Then he noticed two other Me-109’s behind the lead fighter, peeling off. The lead Me-109 closed in to point-blank range, then flashed directly beneath the tail, only several yards away. Without any serious damage showing, the pilot bailed out. Seconds later, reported the ball turret gunner, the fighter exploded. Destroyed.

1440 Hours: Nine minutes later, just before the bomber reached its turn at the Initial Point, a swarm of fighters struck the B-17. Hunt in the tail again opened up, firing at an Me-109 diving from five o’clock high. Hunt’s aim was accurate, and a shower of incendiaries bracketed the Me-109. The fighter at once burst into flames and the canopy flew off, but the expected body of the pilot failed to show. Hunt lost sight of the blazing Me-109 as he tracked and fired at another fighter; eight planes in all were attacking. Later, two fighters were seen to strike the ground and explode, but it was impossible to confirm Hunt’s target. He received a Damaged.

1431 Hours: This time the fighters were twin-engine, and a Ju-88 came in from four forty-five o’clock, very high, and diving steeply. Sergeant F. C. Mancuso in the top turret fired steadily, scoring hits in both engines. He and the other crewmen believed the pilot was also hit. The Ju-88 steepened the dive and never pulled out. Hunt in the tail watched the explosion as it crashed. Destroyed.

1440 Hours: At 20,500 feet, in the Bad Mergentheim area, Hunt got into the fray again. A Ju-88 slipped in close at six o’clock level, surprising the tail gunner, who was occupied firing at another fighter on a side attack. Hunt spotted the Ju-88 when it was barely 150 yards away, but closing slowly— a perfect target. The entire nose of the Ju-88 was blazing from its firing cannon when Hunt opened up. He scored direct hits into the cockpit. The canopy flew off, and the fighter plunged away in a dive, sheets of flame pouring from the cockpit. He never pulled out. Destroyed.

1525 Hours: Between the target and the Rally Point, at 22,500 feet, a Ju-88 came in firing rockets and cannon from eight o’clock level. Sergeant S. J. Maciolek in the left waist kept shooting steadily as the Ju-88 closed in, and suddenly whirled over on its back before flipping into a dive. As it dived, flames came back from both engines and completely enveloped the fighter. It crashed and exploded. Destroyed.

Score: Four destroyed and one damaged.

The third airplane is B-17 Number 439, 410th Squadron of the 94th Group:

1400 Hours: At 21,000 feet, thirty miles east of Eupen, an Me-109 came in from four-thirty o’clock, low, attacking the low squadron. Sergeant McCabe in the right waist fired a short burst. For a moment the Me-109 rolled out of the attack, and presented an excellent target. McCabe now squeezed out a long burst, covering the fighter from nose to tail. The Me-109 rolled rapidly onto its back and dived vertically. The ball turret gunner, Sergeant C. L. Burkhardt, watched the fighter hit the ground and explode. Destroyed.

1445 Hours: Sergeant L. Rand in the left waist position called out an Me-109 coming in slightly low at seven o’clock; the bomber was then at 22,000 feet, twenty miles west of Würzburg. At 1,000 yards Rand opened lire, with three bursts of 25 rounds each, and watched his tracers striking the engine. The pilot went over the side and his parachute opened at once. Brown in the tail confirmed the appearance of the chute. Destroyed.

1510 Hours: Fifteen miles southeast of Schweinfurt, at 21,000 feet, a twin-engine fighter approached from five o’clock high, closing slowly, and firing 20-mm. cannon in short, repeated bursts. Sergeant W. P. Brown in the tail fired several bursts, and then squeezed off a steady 60 rounds. Pieces of the large fighter came off, and he fell away, tumbling slowly. Smoke streamed back, and suddenly sheets of flame erupted from the tanks. The crew failed to get out, and the airplane tumbled all the way to the ground, where it exploded. Destroyed.

1517 Hours: An Me-109 closed in from a steep dive, pulling out, and firing steadily at the Fortress. As he swung into the ten o’clock position, Sergeant C. T. Troott in the top turret tracked but held his fire. The Me-109 raced in to come over from seven o’clock and banked steeply; at that moment Troott poured 50 rounds into the cockpit. The fighter spurted flames and, seconds later, reported the bombardier, exploded violently. Destroyed.

Score: Four destroyed.

The fourth airplane is B-17 Number 248, same squadron:

1425 Hours: The first attack came as the bomber approached the Initial Point at 22,000 feet. Two FW-190’s peeled off at two o’clock high, and Sergeant A. A. Ulrich in the top turret poured 100 rounds into the lead fighter. He opened fire at 800 yards and kept firing as the FW-190 rushed in to less than 50 yards’ distance. The FW-190 spurted flame, and then careened wildly over the bomber, scant feet away. By now the flames engulfed the Focke-Wulf from nose to tail. It raced by the Fortress, fell below, and exploded, sending pieces in all directions. No parachute was seen; the fighter passed so close that Ulrich said that the pilot seemed to be dead before his ship exploded. Destroyed.

1435 Hours: Near the Initial Point an Me-210 came in from six o’clock low, and 1,000 yards out he salvoed his four rockets. Sergeant C. T. Noulles in the ball turret started firing with short bursts, maintaining this fire as the Me-210 closed to 400 yards. The twin-engine fighter peeled off, came around again, firing its 20-mm. cannon. Noulles kept tracking and firing his steady bursts. After a long burst into the Me-210 the fighter blazed suddenly and, low at about four o’clock, erupted into a fireball, scattering pieces in all directions. Noulles had fired 300 rounds of armor-piercing bullets to score. Destroyed.

1506 Hours: Ulrich made his second kill just after the B-17 turned for home. Starting its run about fourteen hundred yards out, an Me-109 dived from seven o’clock high. At 700 yards Ulrich opened up with the twin guns of his top turret, squeezing out a long, continuous burst of 200 rounds. At a distance of 300 yards he stopped firing—more than satisfied with the results. The Me-109 had attempted to pull up suddenly while Ulrich’s tracers wreathed the airplane. He burst into flames; the nose came up, then fell again as the Me-109 whipped into a spin. Moments later it began to disintegrate, and literally shredded apart in mid-air. Destroyed.

1533 Hours: Now it was Sergeant B. Lewis’s time to score. Near Werback at 22,000 feet an Me-109 came in level at six o’clock. Lewis opened fire with his two tail guns at 600 yards, gunning the fighter with short bursts as it approached to 200 yards. After 75 rounds the Me-109 started smoking, and as it swept by the B-17, flames engulfed it. The Me-109 went into a steep dive and exploded. The crew confirmed that no chute appeared, and that after the explosion the fighter spun wildly, shedding pieces as it fell. Destroyed.

1538 Hours: Five minutes later an FW-190 with a belly tank came in slightly high at six o’clock. Lewis opened fire at 600 yards and maintained steady bursts. The fighter whipped in close and less than 20 yards away raced over the tail. Lewis saw flames streaming from the belly tank before the FW-190 passed out of his view. The top turret gunner watched the airplane fall off on one wing, burst completely into flame, and explode. He saw no chute. Lewis received a second Destroyed.

Score: Five destroyed.

The fifth airplane is B-17 Number 351Z, 407th Squadron, of the 92d Group. There are no specific times or locations of the attacks. The harried crew—which earned the awe of even their fellows—stated to the debriefing officers that “we were too god-damned busy to be worried about what time and where they hit us. There were fighters everywhere, and they never let go.” B-17 Number 351Z flew the lead squadron position on the right flank of the bomber box; Colonel Peaslee remembers this unit as being subject to “constant and fierce enemy air attacks.”

It is agreed by many veterans of the raid that 351Z was the outstanding performer in defending itself against the German fighters and exacting the heaviest toll of the enemy. This air-plane’s saga during Mission 115 is one of the most remarkable of all World War II. Some of the engagements are presented in the words of various crew members.

“A big gaggle of Ju-88s had rushed through the formation, going like hell and firing steadily at all the B-17’s in front of them. I don’t know how many fighters, at least 30 of them. Then a single Ju-88 closed in from five o’clock level. Sergeant D. M. Radney in the tail tracked him, and fired in short, steady bursts. The Junkers poured in his shells; his nose was lit up like a Christmas tree. At 500 yards Radney called out that the fighter’s port engine was aflame. The fighter closed to 200 yards, Radney still firing, when it broke away sharply. Fire licked back from the engine along the entire fuselage. Nobody saw it crash or the crew go out.” A disgruntled Radney received a Damaged claim for this one.

In another mass attack, this time by single-engine fighters, Sergeant J. W. Disher in the ball turret called out an FW-190 rushing upward from seven o’clock, and firing everything he had. Cannon shells exploded all over the belly of the Fortress as Disher fired several long bursts. Suddenly Disher was hit by fragments from a shell; he kept firing, and was rewarded with smoke trailing from the Focke-Wulf. It nosed over into a dive, and the smoke thickened to obscure the fighter. The pilot leaped clear. Disher received a Destroyed.

Another heavy attack was made by Ju-88’s blasting away with their grouped cannon. One fighter closed in at two o’clock to 300 yards, firing steadily. Sergeant B. L. Boutwell in the top turret fired a steady series of bursts as he tracked the Ju-88 in. The fighter dropped suddenly, and as it raced closely beneath the B-17, the ball turret gunner reported that both engines were burning. The dive steepened, and the co-pilot shouted back to Boutwell that the Junkers was a complete ball of flame. Two parachutes blossomed out, and Boutwell got a Destroyed.

Almost at the same moment as this attack, a Ju-88 came in slightly low at five o’clock. Radney in the tail fired at 500 yards, hosing a stream of tracers into the fighter as the range closed to 350 yards. Even as the B-17 shook badly from the exploding shells the tracers set the Ju-88’s entire right wing aflame. Then the left engine blossomed out in fire as the plane fell into a dive. No one saw the airplane crash, and there was no time to follow it in the dive to look for parachutes. Cannon shells burst with a series of roars around Radney, and he swung his guns immediately to meet another attack from a line of Ju-88’s. He received a Probable.

A newcomer to the attacks was a large Dornier Do-217 bomber which climbed at a shallow angle from four o’clock low, pumping very large cannon shells into the B-17. Disher in the ball turret fired three long bursts, scoring steadily. The big German airplane staggered in the air, and Radney in the tail called in as both engines flamed, and the Do-217 fell out of control. Nearly two miles below it exploded, and Disher had his second Destroyed.

The Dornier disappeared from sight, and then a swarm of Ju-88’s enveloped the Fortress in a cascade of exploding cannon shells. From his tail position Radney snapped out burst after burst at the Junkers, and frantically swung his guns to track an FW-190 which raced in from dead astern. Radney had the horrifying view of staring into the FW-190 from only 25 yards away, the wings and nose blazing with firing guns and cannon. Radney’s well-directed fire set the Focke-Wulf smoking heavily, but the German plane rushed in. A collision seemed imminent; at the last second the fighter swerved sharply to the left. There was no mistake about this one. Slightly below and 150 yards out a blinding explosion racked the FW-190, and then pieces fell in all directions. Radney received a Destroyed.

Lieutenant K. A. Pfleger, bombardier: “Two FW-190’s came in at one-thirty o’clock and I opened fire at 400 yards. I continued firing at the first ship to the limit of movement of the gun. The first FW-190 was seen by Hultquist in the right waist, going by out of control. It tumbled and crashed into another FW-190 which was coming in at five o’clock from above. Both ships exploded in flames when they crashed into each other.” At the debriefing they gave Pfleger credit for Two Destroyed.

Sergeant N. J. Barbato in the left waist: “A Ju-88 came in from above at seven o’clock. He dived on us, firing, and 1 caught him in my sights at 600 yards, and opened fire. His right engine suddenly flamed. He went out of sight at three o’clock; Hultquist saw him going down in flames in a steep dive. He struck the ground and exploded.” Destroyed.

Sergeant C. T. Hultquist in the right waist: “Me-109’s came in a bunch just below the right wing at two o’clock. I fired at the second ship. Right away a stream of smoke poured from underneath the engine. Radney in the tail saw him come out, smoking heavily. Then the airplane exploded into small pieces.” Destroyed.

The final attack came from the nose. Lieutenant P. L. Stebbins, the navigator, tracked a Ju-88 coming in level at one-thirty o’clock, firing steadily. Stebbins opened fire at 400 yards, squeezing out long bursts through the limit of arc of his gun. As the Ju-88 raced by the Fortress Boutwell in the top turret reported the fighter trailing heavy smoke from both engines. The Junkers dropped in a steepening dive and never recovered; Disher in the ball reported the crash and explosion. Destroyed.

B-17 Number 351Z was a busy airplane. Score: Nine destroyed, one probable, one damaged.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!