Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 30, 1944

Excerpt from Fogg in the Cockpit, the Wartime Diary of Captain Howard Fogg:

Wednesday, August 30, 1944: Wretham
Lousy, grey, rainy morning. Released until noon. Briefing at 1300, took off at 1400. Escort B-17s to Kiel above weather. Moose Nose raised Hell on take off. I slammed on the brakes, stopped on the edge of the field. Got stuck in a rabbit hole taxiing back with brakes on fire. Nuts!! Now they’ll put in a new carburetor.

"Moose Nose" P-51D-5 CV-D 44-13762.
Photo courtesy of Ira J. “John” Bisher.
Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

 No action on the mission. They were out for four hours.
Olin Drake, the old bum, is okay and in an English hospital. He went down in France on June 10th.  Also Sansing of the 369th. Must have been picked up in the present drive into France.
Fixed up Hunter’s battle jacket. Never meant to fit him and is a bit big for me. I’ll pay Randy, who picked it up for Hunter. Billiards with Raines and Jeff (Geoffry) Darlington the S-2 RAF wing liaison guy. Swell evening.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The first Me 163 is conquered

16 August was a reasonably historic day, Colonel Murphy became the first Allied pilot to destroy one of the new and still-mysterious German liquid-rocket fighters, an Me 163. The Colonel damaged another, which Cyril Jones, his wingman, destroyed and Jimmy C. Shoffit, also of the 370th, engaged in a long and educational combat with a third, which was damaged. The story received a greater play in the world press than any other single story of an Eighth Air Force pilot.

Briefing on FO 518 was early, at 0630. Before rendezvous, tanks were dropped when the enemy struck at Erfurt, and Colonel Murphy left his briefed course to rendezvous early. In addition, Major Cranfill and Lieutenant Lux each shot down a more orthodox 109. There was considerable excitement in higher HQ at news of the first victory over the Me 163s, and some confusion on the station, since Colonel Murphy’s film had been sent to Honington to go up to Fighter Command by courier. The film was retrieved and flown to Command by Lieutenant Gilmore that night. Earlier in the afternoon, Colonel Swanson had his promised long talk with the 15 pilots who returned early from the mission.

Photo:  Colonel John B. Murphy of the 370th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Photo courtesy of Elsie Palicka, wife of Ed Palicka, 370th Fighter Squadron Photographer: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association


This excerpt was selected from transcriptions of the August 1944 original monthly narrative History of the 359th Fighter Group archived at HQ USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The complete document was 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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The 359th Fighter Group

During its 17 months of operation, members of the 359th Fighter Group, comprised of the 368th Fighter Squadron, the 369th Fighter Squadron, and the 370th Fighter Squadron, excelled at escort missions and at the very hazardous jobs of "killing" trains and destroying aircraft on the ground. Although often frustrated at the restrictions placed on pursuing enemy aircraft that endeavored to lure them away from protecting their "big friends," the bombers, the pilots of the 359th faithfully fulfilled the escort missions that comprised approximately 75 percent of their flights.

The 359th Fighter Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation as well as numerous battle ribbons, including:

• The Air Offensive Europe ribbon, for preparation for the invasion of Normandy

• The Normandy ribbon, for invasion support and subsequent break out of the beach head areas

• The Northern France ribbon, for support for the drive across France

• The Rhineland ribbon for supporting the airborne invasion of the Netherlands as well as the drive into the Rhine

• The Ardennes-Alsace ribbon for support during the Battle of the Bulge

• And the Central Europe Ribbon for supporting the final actions across Germany

There were 13,455 sorties flown by the pilots of the 359th. In addition to guarding the "heavies" they shot down 241 enemy aircraft, with an additional 33 probables and 69 damaged. Another 122 were destroyed on the ground plus 107 damaged. Almost 500 locomotives and 1,400 railway cars were destroyed or damaged. Other ground attacks supported troop movements and targeted infrastructure. To do all of this 1,000,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition was expended along with nearly 900 bombs of varying poundage.

The 359th Fighter Group lost 121 pilots.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Maj. Ray S. Wetmore

Maj. Ray S. Wetmore -- "X-Ray Eyes"
359th Fighter Group, 370th Fighter Squadron

Maj. Ray S. Wetmore, nicknamed "Smack" and known for his keen vision, amassed a total score of 24 destroyed air-ground combat, highest scoring Ace in the 359th Fighter Group and eighth best of all American pilots in the ETO. On VE-Day he was a 21-year-old major.

Flying with the 370th Fighter Squadron, in February and March 1944 Wetmore scored his first 4.25 victories flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Upon conversion to the P-51 Mustang the group ranged farther afield and Wetmore became a 20-year-old ace with a double victory on May 19, downing two Me-109s. By the end of May 1944 his tally was 8.25. At the end of 1944 he was a captain with nearly 15 kills, flying a Mustang named "Daddy's Girl."

After returning from leave in the U.S. to serve his second tour of duty, Wetmore continued to score from November 1944 to January 1945. During that time he downed 12 more enemy fighters including 4.5 FW-190s on January 14. His final victory was a rocket-powered Me-163 on March 15.

Postwar, Major Wetmore commanded the 59th Interceptor Squadron at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts. On February 14, 1951, Raymond took off from Los Angeles with an F-86 Sabre on a trip to Otis. On his final approach, his plane suddenly shot up skyward, and then turned towards the ground where it crashed. Ray was killed instantly. He reportedly said that he was having trouble slowing down his plane and ejecting from the plane. He was also reported to have said to the tower that, "I'm going to go up and bring it down in Wakeby Lake, so I don't hit any houses."

"Say goodbye to my wife and kids," were his final words.

Thursday, August 2, 2012 review of Fogg in the Cockpit

Fogg in the Cockpit,
Richard and Janet Fogg

Howard Fogg-Master Railroad Artist,
World War II Fighter Pilot

Howard Fogg is best known as a very successful railroad artist, but before that he served as a fighter pilot in the USAF, based in the UK and mainly providing fighter escorts for American bombers.

We start at the start of October 1943, with Fogg still in the United States. During the month his unit sailed across the Atlantic, and moved to their new base at WW, where they remained for the rest of Fogg's time with them. We end on 15 September 1944, one week before the end of his combat tour.

Each chapter begins with Fogg's diary entries for the month and ends with the official history as written by the Office of the Group Historian, giving us two points of view on events. The group historian's style is rather less formal than one might expect, so the two parts mesh rather well. Fogg begins as a novice pilot, but ended up in charge of a flight and also of training new pilots.

Fogg's experiences aren't quite what one might expect from reading many accounts of the fighting in this period. Many missions end without any German aircraft coming into sight, even when the Luftwaffe was still a strong force. Fogg mentions plenty of other combats, but not any of his own although he does talk about ground attacks. Mechanical problems also play a surprisingly large part in his life. We also get to see the pilot's eye view of a change in aircraft, from the P-47 that Fogg's unit entered combat with to the P-51 Mustang.

One also gets an insight into the glamour of life as a fighter boy when Fogg visited London and found himself in the company of Lawrence Olivier, Vivian Leigh and a number of other celebrities, after writing to Sid Field, another star of the day. His interest in trains also emerges from time to time, with notes on different engines striking an unusual note in a wartime memoir!

Rather amusingly Fogg soon gains the British obsession with the weather, reporting endless grey days and rain, even during the summer of 1944. There are a few good sunny days in there, but few and far apart. Thankfully his general impressions of Britain are still positive.

Fogg's last words were a list of the twenty six original members of his unit and their fates when he completed his tour. Seven were already back in the USA having completed their tour. One was an instructor, one at wing HQ. Four were POWs, three missing in action, four killed in action and two accidental deaths. Only four of the twenty six were still in combat having not yet completed their tour.

Fogg's diaries provide a fascinating window into the world of an American fighter pilot in Britain in 1944, and is of interest even if you aren't interested in Fogg the artist (those who are will be pleased with the inclusion of a section of colour plates of his paintings).


1 - October 1943: England at Last!
2 - November 1943: The Calm Before the Storm
3 - December 1943: Operational!
4 - January 1944: Oh, This English Weather!
5 - February 1944: The Bombing Intensifies
6 - March 1944: First Ground Attacks
7 - April 1944: The P-51s Arrive
8 - May 1944: The War Hits Home
9 - June 1944: Operation Overlord
10 - July 1944: Deep Into Germany
11 - August 1944: Winding Down
12 - September 1944: Changing of the Guard
13 - October 1944 through August 1945
Summary of Action: Captain Howard Fogg
Summary of Action: 359th Fighter Group
The Postwar Career of Howard Fogg
Political Sketches by Howard Fogg
Rough Sketches by Howard Fogg
Art by Howard Fogg (colour plates)

Author: Richard and Janet Fogg
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 376
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2011

Review posted on July 2012