Major Thomas Gates, who led the mission on the 18th, shot down a 109 and chased another which turned out to be a P-51, suspected of being Luftwaffe operated. Gates was an old timer, having graduated as an Army pilot in 1931, then becoming a CAA aircraft inspector until WWII caused his return to the army.
THE YOXFORD BOYS AND THE ARNHEM AFFAIR: THE 357TH FG IN OPERATION
By Merle C. Olmsted
Leiston Airdrome was awash with activity as the noon mealapproached. It was 18 September 1944, and many of the ground crews would miss the meal this day, as they had on many others. Fifty-two Mustangs of the 357th Group were snaking their way around the perimeter track, the aircraft of each squadron already in their proper takeoff order. The ground crews, scattered around the field on their hard stands, settled back to watch the takeoff, always an exciting spectacle. At 1224 hours, Major Thomas Gates and his wingman broke ground and launched the group on Mission No. 180. Operating under Field Order No. 578, the mission was area support sweep over Holland, and it would be an event-filled day for many of the pilots.
The operation in German-occupied Holland was code namedMarket-Garden, and it had begun the previous day, the 17th. The story of this momentous event has been told many times, the major work being Cornelius Ryan's "A Bridge Too Far." A short discussion is provided as background for the 357th's participation.
Market-Garden was a gamble from the beginning, requiringprecise timing of many events. The plan originated with Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who intended to capture the bridges across two canals and three rivers in Holland, outflank the Germans' Siegfried Line, and provide a springboard into the heart of Germany. Success would probably have ended the war before 1945.
Montgomery's plan included Operation Garden, the groundattack, and Market, the airborne portion. Two American and one British airborne divisions were committed, amounting to some 35,000 troops. Because over 3,000 transport and glider tug aircraft were required, the RAF and USAAF had to deliver the troops on two consecutive days using the available 1,750 aircraft. Bad luck, bad weather, and bad intelligence all played a large part in failure of the plan.
The U.S. 8th Air Force was heavily committed to theoperation with over 800 bombers, escorted by 600 fighters, attacking flak sites, airfields and other targets on the 17th. The four P-47 groups were assigned flak suppression along the routes to the drop zones, with good results. With 9th Air Force participation, there were thousands of Allied planes (Ryan says about 5,000).
German air opposition was puny, having little effect. Themass of Allied fighters kept German planes away except for a short period on D+4, when Luftwaffe fighters shot down 18 RAF transports.
The 357th had been present in the drop zones on the 17th,split into A Group led by John England, and B Group with Charles Yeager leading. Both patrolled the area for over two hours. England reported seeing three C-47s crash as the result of light flak. Both groups reported no e/a, and all P-51s returned to base.
By noon on the 18th, the situation round Arnhem was in anadvanced state of deterioration, and in a desperate attempt to salvage the situation, 8th AF provided 250 B-24s to drop supplies to the beleaguered troops from very low altitude.
As on the previous day, a vast number of Allied aircraftwere up. Besides the 250 B-24s, the British summary shows almost 1,300 aircraft dropping troops and supplies with almost 350 RAF fighters in support. The 8th AF P-47 groups were again engaged on flak suppression. However, in the intervening 24 hours, German flak had recovered and was much more effective. The 56th Group, which provided 39 Thunderbolts, lost 16--the worst day of the war for the "Wolfpack."
The 50 Mustangs (two had aborted) with the red and yellownoses were numerically insignificant among the mass of airplanes over Holland on the 18th. However, they were to play a role in an attempt to stave off disaster on the ground. Major Gates led his force into the area shortly after 1300 hours, at 13,000 feet, making landfall at Westhove, an ancient castle on Walcheren Island. "Tackline," the fighter controller, vectored the Mustangs neatly around the flak concentrations at Eindhoven, and they patrolled the southern area for two hours without contact. At 1505 hours, now at 16,000, Gates' force intercepted and dispersed some 60 Me-109s and FW-190s. The location was north of Maastricht on the Belgian border. Two P- 51s were lost in this melee, but claims of 26 e/a destroyed were made.
Tom Gates' encounter report describes how the action began:"I was leading Dryden on freelance patrol, under MEW (mircrowave early warning) control, over airborne drop zone. We arrived in area at 1320 hours. Tackline gave a number of vectors to intercept bogies. Three interceptions on Little Friends were made.
"After the last interception, which took us SW of DZ,Tackline advised nothing in view and we could patrol on our own. I dropped the group down to 13,000 and took up a course of 45 degrees back to the DZ. Over the DZ we saw a gaggle of 109s and 190s flying our reciprocal course to our right about 2,000 feet above. I turned the group right to intercept and called "Drop tanks," after clearing gliders underneath. By the time the tanks were off and climb started, the first gaggle of 190s was passing overhead and up into the sun. When it appeared that they would not turn and bounce us from out of the sun, I turned Dollar sqdn back head-on into the second bunch and the fight was on.
"The first bunch turned back but were intercepted by anothersqdn. I picked six 109s. They broke left, then sharp right. I got on one but he spun out under me. Another was in the turn so I latched onto him. He was most aggressive, and after much maneuvering he straightened out and I got a short burst which knocked some parts from his ship. The second burst set him on fire and the third burst finished him. He dived in from 500 feet. My wingman was still with me and we climbed back to 10,000 feet. We saw five 109s flying close formation with a flight of P-51s bouncing them. One 109 split-essed out and went to the deck in aileron turns. The others turned into the bounce.
"I took after the one on the deck and let him have a burstfrom about 1,000 yards but no strikes seen. When he came to an airdrome he made a turn. I closed enough to see American markings on the upper surfaces of both wings and it was a P-51 painted the same as the 109s. There were no group markings on the nose. When I saw it was a P-51, to avoid light flak from the field I widened the turn and the P-51 leveled out and headed SE at full throttle. There is no doubt that it was flown by a German pilot."
Lt. Jerome Jacobs was a relative newcomer to the group andthe 364th Squadron. He had arrived at Leiston in August as a replacement pilot. Nevertheless, he had already flown 15 missions prior to Market-Garden, and he was to fly all three missions from the 17th through the 19th. The first day (the 17th) he describes as a pleasant interlude from high-altitude escort. The next two days would be more hectic. Over 40 years later, Jacobs recalled the 18th:
"We were flying cover for the troop transports and gliders.It was a very impressive sight to see the large armada of aircraft towing one, two, or three gliders and stretching all the way from England to Holland. It was a very pleasant fall day and I was flying Colonel Graham's airplane. (P-51D 44-13388, B6-W, "Bodacious")
"Ground control gave us a course to follow that wouldintercept a large formation of unknown aircraft. In five or ten minutes we were in the middle of a large formation of Me-109s and FW-190s. I was flying wingman when my element leader caught up with a 109 and fired into it until its landing gear came down. Some flak began coming up and I saw the right wing come off my flight leader's aircraft. He bailed out and I saw his chute open.
"I was attacked by a 190 and we began to try to out-turneach other and after about two turns I was able to get a lead on him and gave him a quick burst. I could see hits on his cockpit and fuselage. He bailed out and I watched the 190 hit the ground. I turned off my gun switch and took some pictures of the wrecked airplane. As I cleared my tail I saw that a 109 was behind me and shooting. Instinctively I turned to the left and was able to get behind the 109 when he quit turning and headed south. I followed him and lined up my sight on his tail. I gave it a quick burst and saw smoke coming out of his engine. He slowed and I quickly overtook him. We were both at ground level and I saw him dodging some wires. I could not stay behind him unless I put my flaps and wheels down, and found myself flying formation with him. He was a young man about my age, and his ME looked brand new. Suddenly he tried to land wheels up in a field, but was going too fast. He bounced off the ground in a nose-high attitude, stalled, flipped over and his the ground. He slid along and plowed into a farmhouse, and everything blew up.
"I circled to get some pictures but the dust still hadn'tsettled after my second turnaround and I decided to get out of there and go home. On the way I stayed on the deck, worried about how much ammunition and fuel I had. I was heading north over some very attractive countryside, very satisfied with myself over my two victories when I saw two fighter planes headed toward me from the west. At first I couldn't decide whether to turn into them or make a run for it, as I wasn't certain about the ammunition aboard. However, at that moment one of the fighters lifted a wing and I could see a P-51 outline. I wiggled my wings and continued north, hopefully headed for England. Soon I saw the transports stretched across the horizon and followed them back home."
In Jacobs' narrative, he reports seeing flak shoot the wingoff his flight leader's aircraft. This was Captain Bernard Seitzinger, who bailed out. He had been flying a veteran P-51B with which he shot down a 109 before being hit himself. Jacobs filed a claim for Seitzinger's victory and the 364th Squadron intelligence section filed a claim. Seitzinger later returned safely from POW status.
Lt. Jerome Jacobs, 364th FS, who scored on both days and was himself shot down on the 19th, while flying veteran Mustang Pappy's Answer, 43-6813, C5-E
Lt Howard Moebius, who shot down a 190 on the 18th , and two 109s on the 19th before being shot down beginning an adventurous five months with the Dutch underground
On the 19th of September, 1st Lt. Howard Moebius was to addhis P-51 to the thousands of aircraft littering the soil and waters of Holland during WW II, and the subsequent events were the most memorable of his life. However, this was still 24 hours in the future as Moebius followed his flight leader, Lt. Robert Shaw, into combat on the 18th.
In the confusion of the dogfight, Moebius soon lost hisleader, managed to outrun a FW-190, and obtain numerous strikes on its cockpit. He recalls:
"My plane had greatly decreased its speed because of theviolent climbing and turning. I rolled out on the left wing of the 190 I had just shot. I was in very tight formation with him. I could see his cockpit burning and blood coming out of the pilot's mouth...it was a ghastly sight. Slowly his right wing came up, his ship nosed over and went into the ground. I looked around and could not see any more enemy in the area. I turned off my gun switch and made several passes at the wreckage with my camera on.
"I had just pulled up from my last pass when I looked overmy shoulder and saw the big hub of a 190 right on my tail. I threw my throttle wide open and again my engine balked. (Moebius' engine had given trouble on takeoff but he continued rather than risk censure for aborting.) I had to throttle back to about 30 inches of mercury, and knew that I could not climb or maneuver. I had heard that the 190 at slow speeds and tight turns to the right has a tendency to snap under. SO I put my ship into a right turn to the right with my wing not more than 100 feet off the ground and proceeded to go round and round. The 190 hung on my tail with his guns blazing, but could not pull up tight enough for the proper lead. Several farmers and their wives were running around on the ground below us. I don't know if they were frightened or were waving, or whether they realized a lot of lead was being thrown around. At one point I put my hand to my head, as any minute I expected a shell to come into the cockpit. I also did some fast praying! Finally I looked back and he was gone. I leveled off and slowly climbed to 10,000 feet."
Climbing slowly, Moebius reached Brussels at 30,000 and madeit home with no further problems. His crew chief worked all night to repair the sick engine in time for the mission on the 19th. For Moebius, it might have been better if he hadn't.
It was a successful day for Lt. Robert L. Smith of the 364thSquadron, who claimed two 109s destroyed. Though Smith fired all of his ammunition--some 1,260 rounds--he apparently hit neither 109. Now at treetop level, the two 109s made repeated passes at Smith but also missed each time. Smith ends his report with the laconic statement, "I drove both into the ground where they burned."
|Captain Harvey Mace, who destroyed an Me109 on the 18th after a long difficult combat. Mace flew two different P-51s during his combat tour, both named for his wife Helen.||Captain Harvey Mace's Sweet Helen II which he was flying during the big dogfight on the 18th. He completed his combat tour with this airplane, during which time it had several different paint jobs.|
Lt. Harvey Mace was one of the original pilots with the362nd Squadron, having joined during the P-39 days in California. He was, however, low in seniority, which is probably the reason he was fingered in March 1944, after 11 missions, for an instructor's job with a fighter training unit. Late in June he returned to the squadron and resumed his combat tour. By September he was a flight leader on the Arnhem missions. He wrote a fascinating account of his experiences on the 18th of September 1944:
"I was leading Dollar White Flight which was on the extremeleft of our squadron, which was on the extreme right of the group. While scanning the sky, I finally spotted one or two bogies high in the fringes of the sun. With full attention I was soon able to see more--a lot more. Although they were too high to identify, they were not flying like friendlies, so I reported them to the group leader. His response was something like, "Well, OK, we'll climb up and take a look," and turned the group to the left and started climbing. This maneuver put me dead last in the climb. Before long, with a change in positions I was able to make out the whole group of bogies. It's too difficult to count under these conditions, but looking at the size of our group of about 50 planes, I estimated about three times that many bogies, or around 150.
"Soon one fighter peeled off and came down on our angle,about 500 or so feet above us. As it got closer I was able to identify it as an Me-109. Whether its intent was to scout and see what we were, or bait in hopes of breaking us up I'll never know. I marveled at the discipline of our group at not breaking up. Only later at home was my pride somewhat deflated when in asking some of the rest of the squadron about it, no one seemed to have seen it!
"At any rate, the 109 made positive identification of thebig mass, as enemy fighters to me. The next thing that happened was two fighters came down head-on and firing--sort of at our group as a whole. This made retaliation an absolute necessity and someone near the lead took them on. In quick succession the Germans kept sending down small numbers at a time and those in the lead of our group were being engaged until finally the only ones left still climbing toward the main bunch (now down to about 100) were me and my wingman, Chuck Weaver. My element leader and his wingman were gone.
"At this point I was awestruck to note that the scene wasjust like the cover depictions of the big WW I air battles on such mags as 'Flying Aces,' etc. It was one big dogfight, fighters circling, twisting, going down in flames--the works.
"Soon it was my turn, one lone 109 dropped down in front ofme, out of range but weaving enticingly while two shooters dropped down above me. The plan, I'm sure, was for me to nose down after the one while the two shooters would get on our tail and finish us off. But I would not have any part of it,; my mind was still on the main bunch and I continued climbing. With this the bait weaved back and forth ever closer in what I'm sure he thought was a tempting manner. At the same time the two shooters were ever more attentive and somewhere along there I could no longer keep track of the main bunch. I started climbing straight at the two shooters, and from here on I never saw the main bunch again.
"Finally the bait 109 weaved so close that he was a threat.At this point I decided I could have to quickly drop my nose, shoot him down, and quickly resume the climb at the two shooters to keep them in check. I could no longer keep track of Chuck so had no idea what he was up to. The main dogfight had dissipated and they had all disappeared. I confidently dropped my nose when the bait was at a nice 90 degree deflection, fired a burst and quickly resumed the climb before the shots even got to him.
Well, it was a clean miss and all it did was arouse hiscompetitive spirit, and he broke into me in a vicious attack. All planning on my part was out the window. I countered and managed to gain the upper hand in the dogfight that followed. But between the wild maneuvering and the stupid gunsight I couldn't get a clean hit. (Like some other original 357th pilots, Mace did not like the new K-14 computing sight.)
"I was able, through it all, to keep an eye on the twoshooters above and where they seemed somewhat confused and tentative at first, they were beginning to act increasingly agitated and with my frustration at not being able to get a clean hit, I felt my situation was getting desperate. I finally decided to close on the guy and chew his tail off with my prop. "On the next pass and firing my guns, I closed to the point where a collision didn't look avoidable even if we both tried. As the impact drew near I ducked low to get behind the engine in case I bit off more than his tail. The moment passed and no collision. I couldn't believe it! When I raised up and cranked around to continue the pursuit, he was in his chute. I did not see any good hits and thought I just scared him out. Chuck Weaver told me later that he had stayed with me until near the end of the fight when he stalled and spun out. Upon his recovery, he pulled up in time to see the German bail out and fired a burst 'sort of in his direction.' I didn't hear that or repeat it, since shooting at parachutes was a no-no.
"I had lost Chuck by this time, and re-established my climbafter the two shooters who were still rocking back and forth watching me, but seemed unsure what to do. I kept scanning the sky to make sure I didn't get bounced, and on one scan I spotted two fighters closing fast on my tail--I was climbing hard at only about 170 indicated. I looked up again and the two shooters were gone, but I could not figure how they got so far behind me. Few, if any, airplanes can turn with a P-51 at 400 mph so I dropped my nose and poured on the coal hoping to get near that speed before they got me in range.
"Looking at them occasionally from the corner, I had to waitfor just the right time to break. Too soon and they cut you off and gotcha. Too late and they fire and gotcha anyway. Finally, after what seemed like hours (I'm sure it was only seconds) the moment arrived and I whipped around into a head-sagging maximum 360 degree turn. About halfway round, someone on the radio said
'Where'd he go, was he a 109?' I leveled out on the tail of two'51s which turned out to be two of our newer replacements. I answered, 'No, I'm not a 109 and since I'm on your tail you should be glad of that.'
"I had them join up and after a fast look around withnothing in sight, low on fuel and ammo, I headed them home." The only triple kill of the day was claimed by Lt. Gerald Tyler, leading Greenhouse White Flight, who shot down an FW-190 and two 109s. None of the pilots was seen to escape.
Captain Gerald Tyler's Little Duckfoot. Tyler was the highest scoring pilot of the two days, with three victories on the 18th and another on the 19th. This photo showing seven victory symbols, his total, was taken by a gunner of the 388th Bomb Group.
Captain Bernard Seitzinger has been mentioned as one of thetwo losses of the day, but who survived as a POW. As is often the case with those missing in action, some mystery surrounds the case of Lt. robert J. Fandray, also of the 364th. His wingman, Lt. Robert Winks, reported: "We broke up into several flights of 190s with our flight of four; I was No. 4 on Fandray's wing. I looked back and saw two 190s coming in on us at 8 o'clock. I waited until they were almost in range and called a break to the left. I made one orbit, lost Fandray but picked p two 190s. This occurred 10 miles NE Maastricht at 1510. After God and I ditched the two 190s and I was on my way home on the deck, I called Fandray on the R/T, contacting him at approximately 1530 and continued alone after his confirming that he was alright.
Luftwaffe reports give the time of Fandray's crash as 1615,reporting the P-51 marked C5-H as 98% destroyed and pilot dead. Thee is considerable confusion on the location, possibly brought about when the German reports were translated to English. One Luftwaffe report lists the crash at Rheinsberg, which is 48 miles north of Potsdam and 250 miles from where Fandray should have been. However, the likely location is Svelen, a village 35 miles SE of Arnhem. Robert Fandray was buried in the village cemetery. There is no clue in the U.S. or German reports as to the cause of his death.
Shortly after 1630 the Mustangs were back on theirhardstands and revetments at Leiston. The ground crews had begun the task of making them ready again. Tomorrow the group would again score heavily against the Luftwaffe, but the cost would be higher.
19 September, D+2, Operation Market-Garden
The Air Ministry summary for the 19th showed heavy Alliedair activity: 612 transports and glider tugs with swarms of fighters and bombers in support.
Takeoff for the 357th was again late in the day; 1415.Major Edwin Hiro, CO of the 363rd Squadron, was leading the mission, which was to complete his tour of combat. It was indeed to be Ed Hiro's last mission.
The operation report indicates three engagements, the firstat 1610 NE of Arnhem; a second combat an hour later near Ijsselstein, and finally, 15 minutes later, combat with 15 Me- 109s west of Arnhem. Although the report does not say so, it is apparent that the group had split up for greater coverage.
Captain Arval Roberson was leading Dollar (362nd) GreenFlight with Charlie Goss on his wing, in company with one other Dollar flight (eight P-51s, a section, or half a squadron). Roberson was an old-timer, being one of the original members of the 362nd, with four victories and one probable. He was to end his tour with 7-1-0. The desperate air battles over Holland this day were vividly different to Roberson from others he had fought.
"We had been maneuvering in the area south of the Zuider Zeefor a short time when the R/T became cluttered with transmissions that only occur when an engagement is in process. After a couple of requests by our leader, someone finally parted with the information as to their location. I don't know if they were just too busy or they didn't want to share the treasure. We rolled out, headed south.
"The first sight of the engagement left one of the strongestimpressions of my tour, for it was more like the dogfights that are depicted on artists' canvases and in movies of yesteryear. The scenarios for most of the encounters that I had, involved a stream of bombers being threatened by a gaggle of enemy fighters, who in turn were hit by small groups of escort fighters. The subsequent boiling mass of aircraft would soon spread all over the sky. Often a pilot firing on another aircraft, and/or a wingman covering the one who was firing, could not locate another plane of any kind when climbing back up from the deck or wherever contact had been broken. It is hard to visualize that at one moment there would be aircraft numbering in the hundreds ginning around and then minutes later the sky could be completely devoid of other aircraft.
"However, on this day, although the engagement was the sameboiling mass of aircraft, I'd estimate between 30 and 40, the weather was a barrier, containing them in one general area. It seemed as if the cloud cover came up from the deck like a wall on the east to about 20,000 feet where it shelved westward, almost solid, to the coastline. It had a purple to lavender coloring that is association with storm scenes and made the whole area sunless and fairly dim.
"It was the dimness that actually helped me get the firstglimpse of the action. Whenever caliber .50 ammo made contact with a solid object, a flash would emanate. In this dim light it was like a strobe and the large amount of flickering that was occurring could be seen like a fireworks display many miles away.
"We checked sights and armament switches and prepared todrop our wing tanks. As we neared the scene, I noticed my No. 4, Lt. Chuck Weaver, was having trouble getting rid of one tank so I veered slightly right to give him more time. I was observing the lead flight diving straight into the middle of that mess, getting strikes while I was ready to tell my No. 3 to take No. 4 away from the action when I saw his tank fall free. (No. 3 was Capt. Jim Kirla.) With this freedom I decided not to barge in with the others but to "street fight" on the outside edge and started to look for a target. I spotted an Me-109 under me going from left to right. I made a diving steep bank and led the gunsight ahead of his nose and fired. I don't think the aircraft I was flying had its guns boresighted in the normal box configuration, for they all seemed to come together on the cockpit. A bad of fire developed where the canopy had been, and I observed black smoke trailing the aircraft as it headed straight toward the ground. I did not see the pilot bail out.
"After checking that Goss was still with me, I looked aroundfor another target. In a matter of seconds I found another 109 that was pulling off an engagement and climbing in front of me. I fired a short burst and observed numerous strikes on his tail. I held fire, pulled more lead through his nose and opened up again. I saw hits on his cowling and the signs of what appeared to be a mixture of smoke and coolant. I kept firing and held this angle until he passed out of sight under my nose. At this time it was necessary to take measures to keep from stalling, which I did by a slight turn to the left (away from the direction the 109 was going) and pushed forward to level out. After gaining some airspeed I banked right to resume the chase. Although I did see a disabled aircraft and some chutes, I did not see my target so I regrouped to find another.
"The next aircraft spotted was another 109 to my left at 10o'clock in a steep turn to my left. As he was more in line for my wingman, I radioed for him to take him. Either there were transmission problems or too much interference, but Goss made no move toward the 109. I called again and when there was no indication I was getting through, I banked hard left and tried to pull through the Messerschmitt's flight path. We had gone almost 360 degrees around when I felt just a tad more and I would have enough lead to fire. I was so busy trying to get more turn out of my bird that I did not pay attention to a movement in my peripheral vision until I observed strikes all over the German aircraft. At this, I took time to observe a P-51 cutting across our circle and doing a good job of raking the 109. Our converging paths and my being on his belly side, forced me to take immediate evasive action by breaking right.
"When we had collected ourselves we started circling whilegaining some altitude. I guess this terminated the action, for all I remember seeing during this time was about six big fires and quite a few smoldering ones on the ground--all grouped in an area of maybe a four-mile radius. Seeing nothing else, we climbed out and picked our average course home.
"Arriving back at Leiston, I did a victory roll beforepeeling off for landing and then debriefed the ground crew, saying I got one destroyed and one probable. I then headed for squadron ops for the formal debriefing and the 'flying hands' scene that always took place. One of the first persons I saw was Goss, and I made some statement of certainly getting that one and started to ask if he had heard me tell him to take the 109 when he interrupted me: 'What do you mean, the one? You got the other, too!' He started something about shooting the tail off and the pilot bailed out. He, being above and behind, had witnessed all this while I was trying to regain flying speed with the 109 being underneath me.
"After debriefing, I biked back to the hardstand and toldthe crew chief, 'Stud' Lybarger, to hold on, pending confirmation there would be two kill markings to be painted on." One month later, Roberson's wingman, Charles Goss, was shot down by flak but evaded capture and returned to the UK.
In the combat the 362nd claimed 7-1-1 and lost Lt. JamesBlanchard. What happened to him is still not known. He was flying Dollar Red 4 on Ray Conlin, who reported that he did not see Blanchard after they broke into the big dogfight. Besides Roberson, five other pilots claimed doubles for the day, the group total being 19-1-1. However, this total did not include the claims of Greenhouse White Flight, which we will describe in detail.
The 364th Squadron had been the first to engage, 30 to 40minutes before the 362nd, claiming five victories while losing three P-51s and pilots. Captain Bryce McIntyre was leading Greenhouse White Flight but No. 3 aborted soon after takeoff, leaving Lts. Jerome Jacobs and Howard Moebius on McIntyre's wings. None would return from the mission. Overwhelmed by a mass of German fighters, White Flight would be wiped out but they more than evened the score and all survived.
Lt. Robert Winks later reported, "I was flying Red 4 at10,000 when we spotted bogies high at 3 o'clock. We immediately turned in pursuit, climbing and I observed the three ships (White Flight) far below and seemingly not closing on us. I watched intermittently until we crossed over a bank of clouds where I lost them. I last saw the flight 10 miles SE of Arnhem at 9,000, 1605 hours."
For some reason White Flight had become separated from therest of the squadron. In his encounter report filed much later, McIntyre does not comment on the reason but claims the destruction of an Me-109, which disintegrated, and an FW-190 which flew into the ground as he chased it on the deck. (The mission report says that repeated passes by SPITFIRES separated the flight from the others.)
Jerome Jacobs also filed a claim after his return fromprison camp, and later recalled 19 September: "I was scheduled for a 48-hour leave on September 19th, and I had a date with a beautiful girl in London. At about 6 a.m. I was awakened and asked to volunteer to fly the mission since one of the pilots was ill. Against my better judgment I dressed, being careful to wear my Class A uniform under my flying suit and reported for briefing.
"About 10 minutes into the mission our No. 3 man had toabort. Twenty minutes or so later we were vectored to bandits, and there were about 500 enemy fighters, the most we had seen since I had been in combat. the three of us quickly picked up three Me-109s; we were turning Lufberry circles in opposite directions. This went on for about three circles until the 109s broke off and we followed. My target turned into me and we faced each other head-on. I fired a long burst and his airplane exploded in front of me. I turned to watch the parts floating down and saw about 15 e/a going in the opposite direction. I called the squadron leader to get some help, but he told me to climb above the cloud to regroup before attacking again. The cloud layer was about 3,000 feet above. I checked my tail and saw 15 e/a now turned behind me.
"I felt that I was out of range and could make the clouds,when suddenly my airplane exploded. the cockpit was full of flames and there were no controls. My face was burnt and I was vaguely aware of what was happening. I bailed out as quickly as I could without even disconnecting my oxygen and other cords. As soon as I hit cool air my face felt a little better. Barely conscious, I thought I was in the clouds already and would wait for my emergence to pull the ripcord. I fell this way for some time before I began to regain my senses and decided to pull the cord. When I did, the chute jerked open and I hit the ground immediately.
"I got out of my chute and started to waddle toward hedgeswhen I saw blood all over me and decided to return for my first- aid kit which was attached to my parachute. It was then that I saw a dozen German soldiers pointing guns at me and motioning me to stop. I couldn't hear them because I hadn't cleared my ears after the long drop (I bailed out at about 19,000 feet).
"I was searched and brought to an army hospital in Emmerick,Germany. My face and left wrist were badly burned and I had wounds on the left knee and forehead. I was at the army hospital for five days until they evacuated, and I was taken into the interior of Germany to POW camp." As happened to many other 8 AF aircrew who made dates with English girls, Jerry Jacobs never kept his date with the beautiful Londoner.
The third man in the ill-fated flight, Lt. Howard Moebius,experienced much the same frantic dogfight against heavy odds before being shot down:
"On that day I had the misfortune of having our flightbecome separated from the group, and one of the wingmen had to abort. The three of us were flying at 10,000 when we were attacked by 35 or 40 German fighters. It all happened so fast I don't recall in which direction my flight leader or the other wingman went. I do know that I ended up with 12 to 14 Germans in a very tight circle. I knew that I was going to see more action than the day before. I opened fire as I closed on the tail of one ship and noticed parts of his plane come off. I did not see him bail out, and the airplane nosed over and dove for the ground. I tightened my turn and got behind a second ship and scored several hits. After a few more turns I got in tighter on him and was able to start his plane on fire.
"In the meantime two or three enemy ships stayed out of thecircle and were taking pot shots by making dives at me from head on and right angles. All of a sudden my left wing seemed to explode. The doors on the gun bays popped open and the wing was in flames. I had to decide whether I should roll over and dive for the ground with the possibility of putting out the fire, or whether it would get to the wing tank and explode. We were in a tight right turn and our speed had greatly reduced as we were also fighting for altitude. I pulled the handle that popped the canopy, unfastened my seat belt, and climbed out on the inside of the turn. As I jumped I debated how long I should wait to open my chute. I knew that we were between 16,000 and 20,000 feet, and it would take me considerable time to get down if I opened my chute immediately. I had heard that by opening my chute immediately it would give German search parties every opportunity to locate me before I reached the ground. Since there were airborne troops parachuting into the area, I am sure the Germans would not wait until I hit the ground to open fire. I hung on as long as I could. However, I was spinning so fast that I was afraid I would not be able to judge when I was at 1,500 feet.
Captain Hershel Pascoe's P-51D, 44-13714 Desert Rat. He scored one victory on the 18th. On 12 October, Pascoe was flying this airplane when the 363rd bounced 22 Me109s, claiming seven destroyed (four by Chuck Yeager). Pascoe was last seen in the vicinity of Steinhuder Lake. However, he returned after the war, having been a POW.
For a second it flashed into my mind that Chuck Yeager had saidsomething about opening your arms and that would slow your spin. I opened my arms and my rotation slowed down so I was in a very long 14,000 to 16,000-foot swan dive, and the rush of air was terrific. When I thought I was down to about 1,500 feet I pulled the cord. The little chute popped out, followed by the main, and then it seemed like I just sat in midair.
"It wasn't long before two planes were diving directly atme. It was hard for me to tell whether they were '51s or '190s. However, when they opened fire there was little doubt! I had heard how to dump air from the chute so I reached up, grabbed several shroud lines on one side and pulled my weight up on them. This buckled the chute and allowed me to come down faster. It also spoiled the run that the 109s were making, as their shots must have gone over. (I learned later that they did hit my chute two or three times.) Because I was so close to the ground they did not make a second pass.
"When I was about 50 feet off the ground I realized howrapidly I was descending. I tried to turn so I would be facing the direction toward which I was drifting and could see that I was going to land in a plowed field. The newly-lowed field cushioned my fall so I was able to get up immediately. I unfastened my chute, gathered it up, and ran for the edge of the field. However, my G-suit, which was very tight fitting, caused cramps in my legs before I had run 40 yards. I buried my chute and then crawled to a small vegetable garden. I lay for a moment below the leaves in a small rhubarb patch. After what seemed like hours but was probably a few minutes, the cramps left my legs. When I got up in a kneeling position and started to look around, I saw a small boy not more than 40 feet away, motioning for me to get down and pointing toward another field. There I saw a German soldier walking with his gun in the ready position, and I immediately lay down again. I crawled slowly to the edge of the garden where I found a very deep, narrow trench. It was not more than 18 inches wide but it was about three feet deep.
The first thing I did was take off my G-suit, which was quite anoperation in such tight quarters. I then lit a cigarette and decided I would just sit there until dark. I could hear a considerable amount of small arms firing in the distance, the heavier concussion of artillery, and intermittent machine gun fire.
"After dark I heard the whistling of the code letter V. Atfirst it did not quite register and I debated whether it was a German or someone who could aid me. Finally I risked sticking my head up and I saw a bout about 20 years old. He was softly saying, 'American pilot, I am your friend,' and he would whistle the letter V three times and repeat, "American pilot, I am your friend.' I decided that since I had my .45 pistol in my hand, I would risk going up to him. He was very calm and cheerful, and said that he would help me."
This was the beginning of five months with the Dutchunderground for Howard Moebius. They were months of living everywhere from ditches and shacks to fine country homes, numerous close encounters with German soldiers, artillery, and illness. Finally in February 1945 the Dutch and Belgian underground guided Moebius and two B-26 pilots down the Wahl river to link up with Canadian forces and freedom.
Cement Squadron was the last to arrive on the scene, mostencounter reports showing the time as 1720. Seven enemy aircraft were claimed by the 363rd, all 109s, with Lts. Richard Roper and Donald Pasaka claiming two each. It is of interest to note that three pilots expressed their pleasure with the new K-14 gunsight, Pasaka's comment being typical: "The K-14 sight is really perfect. In fact, it is hard to miss after you once get it on him. I hope all the planes are equipped with it soon."
|Major Ed Hiro, 363rd FS, mission leader on 19 Sept. and one of the unfortunate causalities on that date, which was to have completed his combat tour.||Edwin Hiro's P-51D, Horse's Itch, 44-13518, B6-D, which he was flying on the day of his death. Although the nose looks white in this photo, it is in fact, painted in the usual 357th FG red and yellow.|
One of the 109s was shot down by Major Edwin Hiro, themission leader, for his fifth victory. His encounter report was filed by his wingman, Flight Officer Johnnie Carter, as Hiro did not return. He was flying his P-51D named "Horse's Itch." As Hiro's wingman, Carter reported:
"At about 1720 we were flying at about 13,000 in a directionof south about 10 miles west of Arnhem, we saw about 10 enemy planes engaged in a fight with about 15 of our airplanes. We dropped our tanks and went into a diving turn to the left. I was on Major Hiro's wing when we entered the fight, but was forced to break up and slightly out to avoid hitting a ship coming head-on. Major Hiro made a sharp turn to the left and got on the tail of an enemy ship. There were so many planes in the Lufberry that I had to pull out and over to get back in position on Major Hiro's wing.
"About this time the plane that I thought was Major Hirobroke out and headed for the deck on the tail of a 109. I took out after him and tried to catch them. I followed them all the way to the deck and saw the 109 crash in flames. Major Hiro pulled up into a steep chandelle and got in with a bunch of other ships that were still milling around. Due to my being quite a ways behind and in poor visibility when I joined up with one of these ships, I had gotten the wrong ship. I broke off immediately and tried to find my position but there were so many in the area that I was unable to find Major Hiro.
"About this time I heard him call our flight and ask ourposition, and tried to give his own. There was so much talk on the radio that we could not get each other's position. About this time, recall was given and I thought my best bet was to stay with the ships in the area to come home. I joined one of the flights and returned to base. When I landed I found that Major Hiro had not returned."
Luftwaffe reports attached to Hiro's Missing Aircrew Reporttell us that a Mustang crashed at Ahaus (a village 38 miles west of Arnhem), shot down by a fighter. The pilot was dead and was buried in a Catholic cemetery, Vreden, grave No. 11.
Forty-one years later, almost to the day, this writer hearda postscript on the loss of Edwin Hiro and James Blanchard. During a conversation with 362nd Squadron pilot Ted Conlin, he gave me his memories:
"Jim Blanchard was my wingman that day and I think Capt.Williams was leading Dollar Squadron. When we arrived in the area we heard considerable chatter on the R/T, probably Major Hiro and his squadron. Just as we dropped our tanks we were bounced by 109s that came out of the sun and cloud cover. A 109 being chased by a '51 went across my nose, but the '51 had a 109 on his ass so I rolled into attach headed straight down. As I closed on the 109 I took cannon fire on my left side. I had to break off to handle my problem. It was that moment when my wingman, Blanchard, was shot down. I had thought at the time that Major Hiro was the P-51 and I tried to relocate him and Blanchard. After several minutes the enemy broke away and we returned to base. I then gave my account at debriefing and I am certain Major Hiro was the man in the middle of that attack."
By 1815, the remaining 51 Mustangs had returned, though notall at home base. Eight aircraft put down at Boxted, home of the 56th Fighter Group, and two at the 486th Bomb Group field at Sudbury.
Although the group flew area support over Holland severalmore times, there was no further contact with the Luftwaffe. During the two days of intense combat on the 18th and 19th, claims for the destruction of 50 Me-109s and FW-190s were turned in, plus a probable and two damaged. Seven Mustangs were lost with three pilots dead, three prisoners, and one evader. The Yoxford Boys' eventful participation in Operation Market-Garden was over.
Losses, 18 September
Captain Bernard Seitzinger, P-51B 42-106923, C5-0, POW.
Lt. Robert J. Fandray, P-51D 44-13543, CF-H, "Just Right," KIA.
Losses, 19 September
Major Edwin Hiro, P-51D 44-13518, B6-D, "Horses Itch," KIA.
Captain Bruce McIntyre, P-51D 44-14429, code unknown, POW.
Lt. James Blanchard, P-51D 44-13741, G4-O(?), "Buddy Boy," KIA.
Lt. Jerome Jacobs, P-51B 43-6813, C5-E, "Pappy's Answer," POW.
Lt. Howard Moebius, P-51D 44-13801, C5-M(?), evader.
This article first appeared in the Journal of the AmericanAviation Historical Society, Fall 1987.
Read German Pilot, Richard Franz's account of combat with the 357th at Arnhem.