Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Big Day


The “one big day” so long awaited by the 359th Fighter Group arrived 11 September (1944), 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 strategic plan of the Eighth Air Force was to push 75 bombers across Europe on the shuttle run to Russia, under cover of a heavy assault on oil plants of the Leipzig area. This was done, the 20th Group making the long escort ride to Russia, but the Luftwaffe, up in strength, knocked down at least 20 bombers in the other forces (the total loss was 52) and itself suffered losses of 17-23-44 to the bombers, 116-7-23 to the fighters and 42-0-43 on the ground.

The 359th got itself 35-4-19 of these totals, and was officially commended for it by General Griswold. There was combat from 1115 to 1205 and the days’ losses were five men.

There were several remarkable individual performances. Cyril Jones shot down four in the air over a landing field and also destroyed two more on the ground and damaged four others. Captain King got an aerial triple, Claude Crenshaw accounted for two in the air and another on the ground, Grant Perrin, Louis E. Barnett, George F. Baker Jr., and Gilbert Ralston all destroyed two in the air.

One of the four men NYR got separated from his own outfit, joined up with the 4th Group and was seen by them to shoot down an Me109 in the air before crashing to flak on a landing ground. He was identified only by his 359th green nosed airplane.

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Photo: Line up of P-51s starting with CS-H 44-14979 courtesy of Thomas P. Smith: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

Excerpts from the original monthly narrative History of the 359th Fighter Group for September 1944 dated 4 October 1944 and included in
Fogg in the Cockpit, were transcribed and 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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