Mission#63 January 7, 1944 – Target: Ludwigshafen. Three Fw190s destroyed by Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam, 352nd Fighter Squadron

Date: Jan 7, 44

Dispatched: 52 Aborts: 4

Mission: Withdrawal support to 2nd ATF (240 B-17’s, 1st Div & 60 B-24’s, 2nd Div).

Field Order: 215

Time Up/Down: 11:07 hrs 14:44 hrs Leader: Major Rimerman

Target: Ludwigshaven

Claims Air: 03-00-00 Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

Group set course south of field at 12,000ft. Flew course of 145 degrees. Overcast made check points unknown. R/V with bombers believed to be at Metz at 12:25 hrs, 24,000ft. Escorted boxes of B-24s who flew on course of 265 degrees which took Group far to the South of planned W/D route. Group leader gave order to W/D at 13:00 hrs in the vicinity of Orleans. Shortly after leaving bombers contrails from one U/I E/A seen at 35,000ft, possibly a spotter directing because it was shortly thereafter that bombers were attacked head on by 12 yellow nosed Fw190s and 4 Me109s. Group turned back to engage and in the resulting combat 3 Fw190s were destroyed by Lt. Gonnam. After dispersing E/A, Group leader gave order to leave. Out Fecamp at 13:40 hrs. However, due to extreme range escorting the bombers on this mission, many flights were split up and various courses taken in order to get to the nearest possible airdrome to refuel. On the way in one box of B-24S seen headed West in the approx vicinity of St. Hubert. Three large boxes of bombers headed northwest in the Amiens area seen as Group coming out. Some bombers had a Spitfire escort. Two bombers seen to go down from enemy attacks at 13:05 hrs at Orleans, one shortly after South of Chartres which broke into three pieces. Sic chutes seen. Two early returns and one spare escorted B-17 marked with a “J” in a triangle and letters YR-L, across the Channel, two engine were feathered and the third engine smoking. Meagre flak vicinity of Verdun and Paris. Usual R/T whine. Major Rimerman, Lt. Thistlethwaite and Lt. Herfurth from Group participated.

3 Fw190s destroyed Lt. Gonnam 352nd Fighter Squadron

350th: Major Rimerman. T/U 11:05 hrs. T/D 14:45 hrs. Total flight time 3:40 hrs. R/V made with bombers about 2-3 minutes late at Metz. The Squadron followed bombers south of Paris. Just after Group left bombers at 13:10 hrs, 12+ e/a came in to attack the bombers from head on. Lt. Tanner got into position to make head on attack at a flight of 4 black Me109s as they were coming up from a climbing head on attack at the bombers. He fired at the leader and #4 man in the e/a flight, opening fire at about 600 yards. No results were observed. No claim is made. As the bombers called that they were being attacked, Capt. Newhart, Blue flight leader, saw 12 yellow nosed Fw190s making head on attacks at the bombers, turning from above, diving and going under the bombers. Two B-24s went down as a result of these attacks. Capt. Newhart’s flight followed a flight of these Fw190s down after they had made an attack. The flight of Fw190s split apart. Capt. Newhart got within 1500 yards of the leader but could not close. He pulled up at 17,000ft. Action took place just west of Chartres at 13:15 hrs. Altitude of bombers was 21,000ft. Lt. Walsh, Blue 3, got on the tail of an Fw190 as Blue flight followed the flight of 4 Fw190s down after they had made their head on attack at the bombers. He fired a 2 second burst from 450 to 400 yards. The e/a was diving in a spiral. No results of the attack were observed. No claim is made. Lt. McKean observed one s/e, presumably e/a crash in vicinity of air battle. Lt. Lorance, spare, flew in land as far as his belly tank would carry him. After making a 180 degree turn, he sighted a B-17 with 2 starboard engines feathered. He and 2 other P-47s helped the B-17 across the Channel. Squadron L/F out: Le Harve at 13:40 hrs. Weather: Bombers were flying on edge of overcast which extended to the north. Course of bombers south of Paris had clear weather over straits of Dover. Flak: Light, inaccurate, flak vicinity of Metz. Lt. Hart landed at East Church. Lt. Latimer landed at Ludham.

Major Ben Rimerman (Gp Ldr)
Major Kruzel (361st FG)
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
2nd Lt Robert S. Hart
Capt Wilford F. Hurst (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Richard A. Stearns
2nd Lt William F. Tanner
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Sqdn Ldr)
Capt Bergman (361st FG)
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
2nd Lt John H. Winder
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
Lt Latimer (361st FG)
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
2nd Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt Tom Lorance (Spare)
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland (Spare)
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson (Spotter)

Lt. William Tanner submitted the following encounter report:

Slybird called to withdraw. My Flight was the last to leave the bombers; as we did, we saw about 20+ e/a pass under us going in to the bombers. I called my Group leader and told him of this, and then started to position myself for a bounce.

I saw 4 e/a make a pass from in front of the bombers and peeling up to our side. I called a bounce on three e/a and made a head on attack. We started our attack at 22000ft, pulling out at about 12000ft. I opened fire at approx 600 yards, giving two short bursts, and closing to about 300 yards. The e/a broke off combat by executing a half roll and split S ing down for the deck. I make no claim.

It was reported that Lt. Hart’s aircraft belly landed at East Church [no further information available at this time].

351st: Capt Lefebre. T/U 11:07 hrs T/D 14:35 hrs. Total flight time 3:28 hrs.  Route: Bombers picked up and escorted to the Paris area. Due to overcasts, ground check points were unobserved. Squadron took off from home base setting course over Orfordness due to low ceiling and cloud layers over base. Made landfall according to plan, but due to solid clouded layer exact location could not be determined. Proceeded on course to R/V point, believed to be South of planned course. R/V made at 12:27 hrs. Escorted bombers on a course of 240 degrees to point South of Paris, leaving them at 13:04 hrs. All fighters split up taking various courses home due to lack of fuel and the course bombers flew. White flight left enemy coast NE of Dieppe at 13:32 hrs, 18,000ft. Blue and Green flights out at Le Harve. Red flight out Le Crothby. Yellow flight out Cayeux. Just after leaving bombers call was heard over R/T that bombers were being attacked. After leaving bombers they were seen still heading SW. Three flights reported seeing three boxes of approximately 180 bombers heading NW in the Amiens area as they were coming out. Two other groups seen about halfway across Channel N of Dieppe. Two more boxes seen after setting course about halfway across Channel heading on about a 270 degree course. One pilot reported seeing smoking ruins around Paris. No E/A seen. R/T was exceptionably garbled, even through transmissions. This only seemed to occur around the Paris area. Capt D C Casto Jr and Capt C H Feller from the 375th FS, 361st FG participated in this mission.

Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-L
Capt C H Feller (361st FG) YJ-F
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump YJ-K
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
Capt Dayton C. Casto E2-E
1st Lt David C. Kenney YJ-D
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
Major Shannon Christian* (Flt Ldr) YJ-S
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-I
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-E
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman (Flt Ldr) YJ-N
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-W
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-Z
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-V
1st Lt William J. Maguire (Flt Ldr) YJ-M
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert YJ-U
1st Lt Francis N. King YJ-G
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley YJ-R
2nd Lt George F. Perpente (Spotter) YJ-H

*Major Christian from Wing.

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 11:13 hrs T/D 14:42 hrs. Total flight time 3:29 hrs. Squadron up Metfield. Climbed through overcast and set course about 5 minutes late. Proceeded on planned course, crossing enemy coast without drawing any flak. At R/V we picked up what we thought was our Task Force of bombers. R/V was made at 12:30 hrs near Metz. Bombers were flying a course taking us South of Paris. Near Orleans, France, the Group leader called to leave the bombers at 13:00 hrs. At 13:03 hrs we saw 12 E/A attacking the bombers so we went back to help. We believe these E/A were directed by a lone E/A spotter whose contrails we saw above us at about 35,000ft in this area. The fight took place in the Orleans area, during which Lt. Gonnam destroyed 3 Fw190s. We left the bombers the second time at 13:17. Landfall out was made at several places, the majority of our Squadron going out over Le Harve. 7 planes landed at our base, 14:42 hrs. Other planes down at forward bases (7 down Metfield 14:42, 1 down Bradwell Bay, 5 down Manston, 1 down Hurn, 1 down W Hamstead). Flak was meager, heavy accurate coming from airdrome at Verdun. Other meager, inaccurate flak from Le Harve. Two bombers observed to spin in; one near Fontaine-bleu, 8 chutes observed. The other near Chartres. No chutes observed. Two of our ships that returned early escorted a B-17 from Blankenburg to mid Channel. This 17 was marked J imposed on a triangle and the letters YB-L. Two of his engines were feathered but he seemed to be making it ok. Sky was overcast over English coast, Channel and northern France, base at 2,000 ft and tops at around 10,000-14,000ft. Area S of Paris was clear. Light persistent contrails above 27,000ft. R/T – A channel good; C channel fair. Course: Landfall, Namur, R/V Metz, leave bombers, landfall out.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr) SX-S
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-C
1st Lt James N. Poindexter SX-B
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr) SX-U
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-I
2nd Lt Victor L. Vogel (no credit) SX-O 42-22470
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr) SX-A 42-74728
Capt Smith (361st FG) SX-E 42-22466
1st Lt Leslie P. Cles SX-G
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-F
Capt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr) SX-W
Lt Duncan (361st FG) SX-Z 42-22762
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-Y
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-T

1st Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam used a mix of incendiary and armour piercing to shoot down three Fw190s and become an ace:

I was leading Wakeford Red flight with Lt Willits as my #2. When the Group left the bombers, Wakeford White  #3 (Poindexter) called in 15 bogies starting to attack the second box of bombers. We turned to attack them but were too far away. The e/a made a head on attack and knocked down one of the bombers, which had already shot down one e/a. A big fight had already started below and ahead of my flight and I noticed two 190’s make a right turn and head south. They tried to out climb us but we out zoomed them and I opened fire at about 373 yards. Hits were seen on both wings close to the fuselage and in the fuselage itself. Pieces from the tail flew off and the elevator came loose. This e/a spun down and crashed in a woods causing a large fire and smoke.

I closed on the second e/a and fired about two bursts. Strikes were seen in the left side of the engine and wing roots. This e/a rolled over and went straight down, burning and leaving a smoke trail. He crashed in the same woodland area about 3 miles from the first e/a.

I made a left hand turn and a Fw190 crossed in front of me. I turned inside him and fired, seeing strikes in the engine area. He straightened out and I closed, still firing. Lt Willits passed in front of the 190 almost head on, and the 190 did a half snap turn and tried to fire. I did a climbing stall turn and dropped in behind him firing again. He went down and I fired one more burst and saw my tracers behind him. I increased deflection and fired a short burst. The e/a did a slow half roll to the right and crashed near a small town. He crashed in a field, hitting it at a 45 degree angle and then slid into a wooded area where he burned up. I recovered about 6000ft and then called Lt Willits and asked if he had seen the e/a crash, which he had.

Climbing up we watched a bomber going down and counted eight chutes from it. The bomber crashed in an open field and burned. We then climbed to 23000ft and came home.

During the engagement I was firing an ammunition load of alternating 3 AP and 2 incendiaries. Upon firing I noticed much greater killing effect than a previous firing of 100% incendiary ammunition. Pieces flew from the e/a, the tail being shot off the first ship and fire starting on the other ships. I believe from experience with both types of ammunition that the loading of AP and I is much more effective.

Group Aborts/ERTN/Damaged:

42-22762 ABT   smoke in cockpit SX-Z Lt.   Duncan flying
42-74728 ERTN   escort 22466 SX-A Capt.   Hoey flying
42-22466 ABT   engine quit (crtd s/n) SX-E Capt.   Smith flying
42-22470 ERTN   couldn’t find Group SX-O Lt.   Vogel flying
42-75058 CRLoG   BD Cat B LH-? Lt.   Hart flying


Filed under Missions

2 responses to “Mission#63 January 7, 1944 – Target: Ludwigshafen. Three Fw190s destroyed by Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam, 352nd Fighter Squadron

  1. chenry@eaa.org

    Does anyone know if Lt. Cletus W. Peterson is still with us, or how to contact him.

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