Thursday, September 15, 2011

The 359th Fighter Group, 11 September 1944

HEADQUARTERS 359TH FIGHTER GROUP
Office of the Group Historian
APO 637 US Army
4 October 1944

The 359th Fighter Group, September 1944


The “one big day” so long awaited by the 359th Fighter Group arrived 11 September, as the Group completed nine months of operational flying over Europe.

On that day the 359th destroyed 26 German aircraft in aerial combat, probably destroyed four, and damaged six, besides running up a score of 9-0-13 on the ground. That meant 35-4-19 for the day. Next afternoon, 12 September, the 359th scored another 10-0-3 in the air and 6-0-8 on the ground. The two-day total of 51-4-28 was one-third the total score compiled in the preceding nine months.

Ten men did not return from the missions on these two days, as a revivified Luftwaffe fought savagely against the joint Anglo-American attempt to make successful a final bombardment softening of the Reich for the ground assault.

The Germans fought only when the weather was right. The weather generally was execrable, so bad that it was a distinct achievement and a tribute to the ability of its pilots that the 359th could get up 22 times in the month, though one of these was a two-flight A/S Rescue affair.

On the 22 days on which missions were flown, 1,050 P-51s most of them now the model D, were airborne off the pockmarked, ragged turf at East Wretham, and 112 came back for a sortie total of 938, averaging 5:01 per mission. The total aircraft claim of 58-5-29 was opposed to 16 men listed as MIA as the month ended.

Though a slightly higher total had been scored in May, September generally was regarded as the most encouraging month in the 359th Group’s history. There were two reasons: the grand slam of the 11th, and the emergence of new leaders. Fourteen men returned to the Zone of the Interior during the month as the tour was twice reduced, first from 300 to 285 hours, then to 270 hours. And permission to send men home whenever replacements brought the strength above 121 made the tour even more pliable.

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This excerpt from Fogg in the Cockpit was selected from transcriptions of the original monthly narrative History of the 359th Fighter Group archived at HQ USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The complete documents were transcribed by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from reports filed from December 1943 through September 1945 by Maurice F. X. Donohue, 359th Fighter Group historian and combat intelligence officer.

Photo: Silhouettes of P-51s in flight. Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association, from records at HQ USAF Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

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