Time to Live and Let Live

by:  RAF_Yank

It was now late January of 1945 and the Germans were really on the run. The Germans were crumbling on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. With the Eighth Airforce blasting them by day and the RAF by night it was only a matter of time before the war would be over. Our group continued in its ground attack role. We supported the infantry units as best we could by bombing German armor, artillery positions, rail targets, troop concentrations and airfields.

We had been hearing about some of the new German ``Wonder" weapons. V-2 rockets, rocket planes and jet aircraft. After one mission into Germany we were on our way home. Flying along minding our own business when I heard`` Thump thump thump" came the sound of slow firing heavy cannons. As I swiveled around this swept wing plane came flashing through our flight. We were cruising about 295-300 miles per hour. This ME-262 was doing nearly twice our speed! He had crossed right in front of my wingman, and as they climbed he got off a quick burst into the right engine of the jet. You could see pieces of it flying off and it started to trail smoke. I was in my P-47M which was a faster than the D models. By the time I accelerated to get after him, he was long gone, damaged engine and all!

A week or so later we were sent to attack an airfield well into Germany.  We dodged flak batteries along the way and arrived at the field just in time to witness the take off of three German aircraft. It appeared the airfield was in process of being abandoned. The only other planes on the field appeared to be wrecks or those that were unserviceable My heart raced as air to air combat opportunities for us had been very slim of late. Two late model ME-109's were taking off ahead of an aging JU-52 transport plane. The guys in the lead flight headed after the escorts and I gave my wingman permission to join them. Those poor bastards flying those 109's never had much of a chance. It was like two sleeping rabbits getting pounced on by a pack of hungry wolves. There I was with a fat unarmed transport waiting for the slaughter. I hit him with my first burst when he was about 20 feet in the air. Machine gun poured in through the cockpit and wiped out the engine in the nose. I swung around for the next pass and he was amazingly still airborne. It was banking to the left as my next burst raked the fuselage and right engine. By the time I made my third pass it had smoke trailing along the side from the number one engine and from the right engine. It slowly started back down. It flared up at the end of the field and spun around onto the grass as I roared by. As I lined up on the stricken plane to give it the ``Coup de Grace" I saw men pouring out of the side door. For the most part these were guys in tee shirts and pants; some of them wounded, I saw very few in uniforms. With a couple bursts I could have killed them all, probably 30-40 guys. I took my finger off the switch and banked away.

After all I had seen over the last 10 months I couldn't do it. These guys were mostly workman and ground crews like the guys' back at the base. I would have felt like a murderer. It's always a fine line in war those distinctions. Four years before our Bomber Command tried to take the high road and only bomb strategic targets. Now we were bombing cites like Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin back into the Stone Age to try to break the morale of the German people. I'm not sure we ever did that. We simply overwhelmed them with superior forces on every front.

Without hesitation I headed our flight back home. My guys got both the 109's and I guy credit for a ground kill on the JU-52 (even though he was airborne at the start of the attack, it was difficult to tell from the gun camera films)

Compassion to hold fire? Or perhaps just becoming sick of the killing? I'm not sure to this day

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