My Account By Lt John W. (Jack) Dunn 362nd FS

At the risk of over doing it, I will take advantage of this opportunity to put down on paper for the first time, a bit of my personal experiences as they relate to Merle Olmsted's historical account. I was there.

Perhaps humorous, definitely not heroic, my experiences are very likely typical of a great many of us who were fortunate enough to be there at time, ready and eager to perform the mission. You have probably scanned the book to see where and if I am mentioned. I am not. 

I arrived in England in September of 1944 and returned a year later in September of 1945.

As far as Air Combat is concerned, I think the best way to express it is that basically when they were up, I was not! Or if they were up, I was escorting someone home, as on the date of December 24, 1944. I was Dollar Blue Two, flying Kirla's wing and was assigned to escort Chuck Weaver who had a rough engine, back to base 30 minutes or so before the group got into a big fight. Or I was screwing up as on the biggest day of them all January 14, 1945, when the 357th Fighter Group got a record 56.5 air victories. 

On that January 14th mission, I flew someone else's airplane, which had a record of aborting on its tow previous missions because of excessive fuel usage. I had a thing about never aborting and never did. I had not seen any enemy aircraft on so many previous missions, I thought we would not see any on January 14, so I very stupidly kept my fuselage tank full so I would have plenty of fuel and not have to abort when the squadron dropped it's external tanks. 

On that day, as on most days, I flew with my Flight Commander John Kirla on his wing. He had me convinced that we were going to become another Godfrey and Gentille team. George Behling was Element Leader with Jim Gassere on his wing flying number four position. Behling became a POW that day. Kirla got four victories and Gasser got two. On his first turn into the enemy aircraft Kirla lost me, his hot-shot wingman, who had snapped uncontrollably out of the action. You really can't fly the P-51 with full fuselage and make high G turns at altitude without snapping. The amount of fuel in the fuselage tank affected the center of gravity. After my snap and dive there seemed to be no one in sight except the enemy 109 working its way into firing range on my tail. This of course, with my attitude, gave me a sure victory. I felt I had him all to myself. Two snaps later, I was on the tree tops with full mixture, full throttle to burn that fuselage tank down. My 109 apparently had some positive feelings about me because he was still in the relative position. A flight of four P-51s dropped in on his tail in front of me and shot my victory from the skies.

There is more of interest to that day. I next proceeded to fly up to the bomber stream to see what I might do. Incidentally, there was smoke and debris all over the place on the ground from the many aircrafts that had gone in. On reaching the bomber stream and other wise being alone, my vision telescoped. Something was wrong. My oxygen supply somehow was decreased because of all the violent snaps or perhaps more likely I was suffering from hyperventilation. I don't know, but the next thing I do know, I was again at tree top level. I had passed out at 28000 feet and recovered in level flight at ground level. Lucky Boy!

At this point I picked up my average course for home and proceeded to fly out across the channel very much disgusted with myself. In route, I did a couple of rolls at a few hundred feet over the channel feeling that if the aircraft went in - so be it. I emptied my guns at various wave tops. Returning to Leiston-Saxmunden, our home base, where victory rolls were being performed, it seemed, by everyone else. ON the ground pictures were being taken of all those who had experienced victories. Jack Dunn did not participate.

Ten days or so later the group gathered in the Post Theater to see film form the great mission. In about the middle of the showing and after John Kirla's film showing him gloriously getting four positive victories and Jim Gasser two, here comes film heading "J Dunn, First Lt" I would have left if I could. Someone said "Hey it looks like he must be getting one in the clouds!" Next it was obvious that I was firing into the waves. So you see, all was not heroic, in fact at times very frustrating. 

John W. (Jack) Dunn

 

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