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

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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.

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