My First Kills

by RAF_Yank

After D-Day we were assigned to one the first airfields set up in the Normandy area. We were very close to the beach and only a short distance from Omaha Beach where so many of our boys gave there lives. I participated in the D-Day invasion along with around 6000! other aircraft. My participation lasted about 30 minutes as our squadron came in and strafed and bombed troop concentrations. I always felt for our guys on the ground who had to slog there way up those beaches against murderous artillery, and machine gun fire. I went home to England that night and slept in clean sheets.

P-47D firing rockets in a ground attack

Once in Normandy we were assigned as primarly a fighter-bomber role. I have to admit to being a little jealous of the guys in escort roles like the famous 56th Fighter Group. Guys like Hub Zemke and Francis Gabreski racked up a lot of kills. We were faced with low level attacks against incredible flak. I rarely came back to base without holes in my plane. Our crew chiefs were very busy!!

A word about our ground crews...They were the best and the hardest working bunch of guys you can imagine. They worked around the clock to keep us flying. Without them doing the job that they did I would never have come home...

By late July I had flown almost 20 missions as a wingman in these ground attack roles. We rarely ever saw a German plane. If they saw us they usually ran. We had them outnumbered by this stage of the war. One morning we were called in for our morning briefing.....We were to escort a group of  B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on a raid fairly deep in to France against a major railway center. We had split duty that morning with one flight (4 planes) already assigned to support an infantry unit's advance. That left 8 planes to fly escort. Two of these had to be scrubbed because they were still being patched up from the weeks earlier battle damage.

B-25 Mitchell medium bomber

This left a group of six to escort the B-25's. We took off and climbed to about 8000 ft. And circled to meet them coming in from England. I was pretty excited about being able to do an escort mission. I thought we might finally be able to engage some German fighters.

My luck appeared poor when about thirty minutes into our mission my engine began to run rough. It was missing badly I was beginning to lose oil pressure. I would have to scratch and go home. Normally we would try to send a guy with someone who had to drop out but we were already short handed so I ended up on my own. I wasn't worried so much about the Germans fighter as I was having to crash land or bailout. I was behind German lines and I was not thrilled about the prospect of becoming a POW or bailing out of my crate.

Bailing out was a very chancy proposition. If you didn't get killed by hitting the tail or something else, you were never sure that your chute would open or what you would run in to on the ground. I would rather stay strapped to my big "Jug" as long as possible. Germans also had a tendency to shoot guys on the way down.

Note.....The allies were not squeaky clean about shooting guys in parachutes. I nor any of my squadron did that I know of. But if you got lucky enough to shoot down Adolf Galland or Gunther Rall, the last thing you wanted was to shoot him down one day and have him come back the next day and have him shoot you down!

Anyway...My engine started to run a little better and the temperature went down a bit, so I breathed a little easier. I was within 10-15 minutes of making it back to the coast. Then I descended down to about 4000' and came down through some low clouds. I was very suprised to find two ME-109's about 250 yards in front of me flying very close together. Before I had time to think much I lined up on the lead plane and opened up. Luck was still with me as my 8 50. caliber guns converged on his right wing roots. In a matter of a few seconds he exploded and careened out of control. His wingman never had a chance as he collided with huge chunks of his plane and his ball of flame. It was all I could do to avoid the mess of two wrecked and burning airplanes right in front of me.

ME 109

I wiped my eyes and they were both gone. I was flying along on the same heading like nothing ever happened. The whole thing had taken perhaps 15 seconds.

When I arrived back at my base my crew chief looked at me. I must have looked rather silly. He said " You are back early , everything ok?." I told him about the engine running rough and said "Oh by the way, I shot down two 109's about 15 miles from here." He said something like "And I'm the Queen of Sheba."

He checked my ammuniton and could see that no more than a 10 second burst had been fired. He looks at me a bit cross eyed and I said then we can check the gun cameras. They go to remove the film and guess what, the film had been loaded improperly or something and there was no record. By now I was steaming.

When the squadron came back I told the skipper. He just kind of a laughed. Without confirmation I would get no credit. I ended up looking at a map where it happened. I saw that our lines and the Germans were close together. I got permission to call up to the unit in the area and see if anyone had seen the engagement. I got lucky and a mechanized American unit was in the area. Some guys in a tank patrol had seen the whole thing. The wreckage nearly fell on them. This was how I got credit for my first two kills.

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