Mission#76 February 8, 1944 – Target: Frankfurt. Major Beckham’s 17th and 18th Victories. Four for the 352nd and one for the 350th Fighter Squadron

Date: Feb 8, 44

Dispatched: 38 Aborts: 2

Mission: General withdrawal support to 240 B-17’s (1st & 3rd Div)

Field Order: 237 Target: Frankfurt

Time Up/Down: 11:01 hrs     14:19 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Rimerman

Claims Air: 07-00-00Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

L/F over Blackenburg 11:40 hrs, 23,000ft. R/V two CWs as planned at 12:10 hrs. Bombers in good formation. Other two CWs far to the rear. Escorted bombers until 12:40 hrs, where two Groups of P-47s were seen coming in L/F Gravelines 13:18 hrs, 16,000ft. All other types of friendly fighters seen. Shortly after R/V two Me190s [109s?] attacking bombers. Destroyed, pilot bailed out. In the vicinity Arlon two Fw190s encountered, one destroyed. In the vicinity of St. Hubert 30 Fw190s flying in flights of 5, approaching from 3 o’clock on the bombers, were engaged by the 352nd. 4 destroyed, others disappeared. Major Beckham destroyed his second E/A in this area. Fw190 had belly tanks well fared to the fuselage giving overall appearance similar to P-47s. 2 B-17s seen going down west of Arlon, six chutes seen. One e/a seen shot down by bombers. E/A appeared to be aggressive and after split S ing would zoom up and position themselves to the rear of the fighters. Vicinity of Cambrai, 8 T/E E/A seen on airfield. The E/A strafed by Major Beckham who observed to his dismay that they were made of light fabric. Lt Col. Rimerman, 1st Lt. Herfurth and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.

Claims:

1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Dinse 350th

1 Me109 destroyed Major Beckham 351st

1 Fw190 destroyed Major Beckham 351st

1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Robertson 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Armstrong 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Callans 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Corrigan 352nd

350th: Lt Col Rimerman. T/U 11:01 hrs. T/D 13:50 hrs. Total flight time 02:49 hrs. L/F in Knocke, 11:40 hrs, 24,000ft. R/V 12:11 hrs, 26,500ft. Loose. P-38, P-47. Fw190, Me109 after R/V 15-16,000ft. Left bombers Nouzonville, 12:40 hrs, 20,000ft. Left coast Gravelines, 13:17 hrs, 15,000ft. No flak. R/T good. Barges at Calais.

Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Sqdn Ldr)
Col Henry R. Spicer (Observer*)
1st Lt William J. Price
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt Roland N. McKean (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller

*Col. Henry R. Spicer, then Executive Officer of the 66th Fighter Wing, flew Col Rimerman’s wing to observe and gain experience.

At 12.15 hrs, just after R/V, in the vicinity of Luxembourg Capt. Charles W. Dinse claimed an Fw190 destroyed:

I was leading Red flight in the lead Squadron when I spotted one lone Fw190 coming in on the lead flight from about 3 o’clock at the same altitude (about 25,000ft). My number 3 and 4 men (Blickenstaff and Hart) had to return early so I only had two ships.

I let the e/a continue into the flight ahead until he just about positioned himself to shoot – his action put him right in front of me about 250 to 300 yards. He made his mistake by coming in from down Sun, blocking me out of his vision. As soon as he put himself in a good position for me to shoot I opened up. Immediately after I opened fire I observed strikes on his right wing. He broke to the right and started a roll and then headed down continuing his roll. I believe that he made two or more rolls going down. I followed him through his rolls, rolling with him and firing all of the way. Just as we were about through the second roll I observed many strikes in the cockpit after which the e/a apparently went down out of control and went hell bent for the good earth. I last saw him as he disappeared under a cloud (about 2000ft), still gyrating, and going down.

351st: Major Beckham. T/U 11:03 hrs. T/D 14:13 hrs. Total flight time 03:10 hrs. Route: In at Knocke and out at Gravelines. Knocke at 11:42 hrs at 23,000ft. Unit and place unknown at 12:10 hrs at 26,000ft. Good close formation. P-38s, P-51 and P-47S. Me109 destroyed 4 minutes after R/V. Fw190 destroyed. Gravelines at 13:25 hrs. One B-17 attacked by one Me109 south of Liege. Tail section shot off. Four parachutes seen to open. Me109 destroyed by same B-17. Eight dummy E/A seen on airfield. One destroyed by Major Beckham. Two aborts – one belly tank and one engine trouble.

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-R
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-W
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-L 42-75676
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-H
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-B
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-M
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-H
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
2nd Lt William S. Marchant (Relay) YJ-N
The publicity machine of the Eighth Air Force made much of the "Ace Race" between Beckham and Bud Mahurin of the 56th Fighter Group. Here they meet in London February 6 after Beckham drew level with 16 victories on February 3, 1944.

The publicity machine of the Eighth Air Force made much of the “Ace Race” between Beckham and Bud Mahurin of the 56th Fighter Group. Here they meet in London February 6 after Beckham drew level with 16 victories on February 3, 1944.

Beckham claimed his 17th and 18th victory to become the leading ace in the ETO (he had tied with Bud Mahurin of the 56th on February 3, 1944) by shooting down a 109 and a 190:

As we rendezvoused with the leading two wings of bombers at 12.10 hrs, I saw two Me109’s flying parallel with us, about 1000 to 1500 feet above. We used full power climbing up and catching them. Went from about 26,000 to 29,000 feet in the climb. Fired several bursts. The Me109’s flipped over and dove almost straight down, using definite evasive manoeuvres on the way. I stayed about the same distance behind with throttle nearly closed and was unable to get any good shots going down. I pulled out with difficulty. A pilot was seen to bail out of one of the 109s by the other three members of my flight. Col. Rimerman and several others saw one of them crash into the ground.

We regained 25,000 feet of altitude and rejoined the bombers. Twenty plus Fw190’s were observed at three o’clock to the bombers. I chased two of them beneath a cloud in a left turn, picking the one on the inside of the turn. The one on the right pulled up and dived down in what I thought to be an attempt to get on my tail. Because of this, I fired a long burst at about two rings deflection and excessive range in an attempt to finish the job quickly and get into the clouds.

Was agreeably surprised to see strikes, continued firing as I closed. The Fw190 rolled onto his back at about a thousand feet altitude and dove. As I pulled up and to the right I saw him crash into the ground, making a large mass of flames. Went into a cloud right away. Don’t know if the other Fw190 tried to attack me or not.

On the way home, in the clouds, I saw through a break an airfield with eight or ten plus planes parked. I was able to line up three or four of these in a dive down Sun from about six thousand feet at about 400mph indicated. Encountered no return fire although a flak tower was just northeast of the field.

Was disappointed to see as I passed over the planes that they were dummies. They were models of He111s, Me110s and at least one Me109. Believe it almost impossible that we will ever see such tempting targets sitting close together, un-camouflaged, that are not Nazi tricks. Recommend that we confine our attacks on planes on the ground to those more definitely identifiable as the real McCoy.

Encountered no ground fire on the one hour five minute trip home, until reaching the enemy coast. I flew in clouds at four to six thousand feet. Light and heavy AA fire as I crossed out west of Calais was all behind me and mostly to the right.

 

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 11:02 hrs. T/D 14:05 hrs. Total flight time 03:03 hrs. Made landfall on course over Knocke at 11:42 hrs, 25,000ft. R/Vd with two combat wings of B-17s at approx intended R/V point at 12:10 hrs at 30,000ft. Bombers were in two combat wings and others were reported far behind these. Two Fortresses seen going down west of Arlon; one chute observed from the first B-17 and five from the second. Other fighters seen were P-38s and P-51s. One group of 47s seen coming in as we withdrew. Our Squadron observed three Me109s and thirty plus Fw190s in the St. Hubert area. E/A were flying at 20,000-28,000ft. These E/A were colored a light gray with red stripes around the fuselage. Some of these E/A had a brilliant red colored “V” laying on its side just ahead of the cross on the fuselage, the apex of the “V” pointing towards the engine. E/A were using belly tanks that were faired into the fuselage making them look like the 47. Our planes out turned and out climbed E/A but the E/A seemed to stay with them in a dive. Believed we left bombers near Revin at approx 12:40 hrs at an altitude of 23,000ft. Left coast over Mardyck at 13:18 hrs at 20,000ft. 8/10ths low cloud, base 5,000ft prevailed over the combat area. 1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Robertson, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Corrigan, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Callans and 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Amstrong. Rounds Fired: Juntilla 115, Corrigan 1256, Robertson 880, Armstrong 1748, Streit 740, Owens 104, Stiff 91 and Callans 480. 1 P-47 Cat A.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr) SX-R
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-Q
2nd Lt Clifford F. Armstrong SX-F
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty SX-A
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr) SX-X
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V 42-75445
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-N
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-Z
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-K
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-R?
2nd Lt Edison G. Stiff SX-W
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-J

 

Wakeford Red flight, led by 1st Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam, called in the bandits and requested cover while his flight attacked:

After R/V with the bombers, Roughman leader attacked two 109s and the group gave top cover. After this engagement I went on up to the right rear of the bombers. Wakeford Squadron was above and behind me and after sighting 5 e/a I called for help and a few seconds later started down to bounce. We pulled in behind the e/a and I pulled to the right to identify them. They proved to be 190’s but were hard to identify because of a faired belly tank, giving the appearance of a P47. I called the flight saying that they were 190s and to attack. I slid in behind the nearest plane and at about 125 yards pulled the trigger but my guns wouldn’t fire. My no 2 man, Lt. Callans, fired on the 190 on my right and hit him with a good burst, causing a large cloud of black smoke to come from it. This e/a may have blown up because as I pulled up and passed over him my aircraft was forced upward as if something had exploded under it. Five 190s were behind us and I pulled into them head on. They were light grey with red outlined crosses. They pulled in behind me and I used full power with boost to out-climb and out turn them. They were bounced by other flights from the Squadron. I climbed to 30,000ft and came out alone to the coast where I joined some of the Squadron and came home.

Although Lt. Gonnam was unable to make a claim he was able to confirm that of his wing man, 1st Lt Glen G. Callans:

About 10 minutes after R/V Red flight turned left and was approaching the bombers. Red leader called in five bogies approaching the bombers from the right side at bomber level. The bogies were identified as Fw190s and our flight started a bounce. I was on the leader’s wing and immediately said ‘I’ll take the one on the extreme right’. I pulled in to about 200 yards and about 10 degrees deflection and fired a short burst. After I fired the burst the 190 belched a large cloud of black smoke. He pulled up sharply and I fired two more bursts. At the top of his zoom he rolled over and started down. I followed firing two more bursts, closing rapidly to about 150 yards. The e/a used no evasive action going down. At this time I felt a shudder and looked back. Another Fw190 was firing at me at close range. I then made an aileron roll to the left and broke off the attack. I didn’t see the e/a I was striking after this. I continued down and pulled out below the clouds, the base of which was 5,000ft. I remained at this altitude and returned home.

Callans escaped with his Thunderbolt’s tail badly shot up by 20mm canon. The second element of the flight, led by 1st Lt William F. Streit was close behind:

There were five 190s flying below and at 4 o’clock to the bombers. Lt. Gonnam, my flight leader, called them in and asked for cover while we went down on them. On the way down I tried to fix my gunsight as it was very dim; in trying to fix it, it went out. We came in directly behind the e/a’s. I took the third one on the left as my flight leader and his wingman were on my right. I closed to about 350 yards and began firing. The e/a must have noticed me after my second burst because he split S’d and down he went. I moved over behind the next one and began firing on him. He rolled over and went down. We noticed a couple of bursts of white smoke in front of us which meant that there were a couple of e/a behind us. We did a big chandelle and got away from them. After levelling off I noticed a 190 on a P47s tail which we immediately moved in on and fired a burst on him and down he went in a split S. We didn’t follow him down as there were so many a/c in the vicinity and our flight was broken up.

Covering the fight were White and Blue flights. Leading White flight was Capt Raynor E. Robertson who was awarded an Fw190 destroyed:

Red flight sighted and attacked a flight of five Me109s. I was covering them when 15 or 20 more 190s came down on them. I bounced them with White and Blue flights. At that time I attacked one 190 that was on the tail of another P-47. I took one burst from 475 yards that struck the e/a on the bottom of the fuselage. On my second burst many strikes were observed on the canopy. On my third burst I saw many more strikes from wing tip to wing tip. At this time I had closed to around 375 or 350 yards.

The last I saw of the e/a he was spinning down at about 3000ft out of control. I believe it was impossible for him to pull out, so I made for home.

Flying the number three position in White flight was 1st Lt Clifford F. Armstrong, who was also able to destroy and Fw190:

We were just making R/V with the bombers at about 30,000ft when seven or eight 190s came in from about five o’clock to us. I called the flight and White 4 and myself immediately broke to the right. At that point I became separated from the rest of the flight. I was stooging around by myself at about 28000ft and at about five o’clock to the bombers when I saw two e/a make a pass through the bomber formation from the down Sun side. They made a wide left turn behind the formation and I dove behind them out of the Sun. I used water boost and gradually gained on them. I fired a very short burst from about 400 yards. I didn’t get any strikes at that time. I don’t think they saw me until I fired because when I fired the leader immediately broke to the right and down and the number 4 that I was after followed shortly taking violent evasive action. We started down in a steep dive from about 20000ft. I had closed up to about 300 yards and was firing a long burst. I observed strikes around the cockpit and the e/a immediately did a violent snap roll and continued down. I fired another long burst and got more strikes around the cockpit. I believe I hit the pilot as the e/a did not take any further evasive action and I last saw him disappear into a cloud at about 5 to 6000ft, going straight down. Judging from both the altitude and the attitude of the e/a when he disappeared into the clouds. I do not believe the pilot could have pulled out even if he had remained uninjured.

Armstrong’s wing man, 1st Lt Edison G. Stiff, saw seven Fw190s pass over head but they started down when he tried to climb up to them. Before following them down he saw another in the Sun, which turned into him. He fired from 800 yards and it snap rolled to the deck.

Wakeford Blue flight also gave cover to Red flight. Leading was Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla:

These 5 Me109s were being engaged by Red flight when 20 plus 190s bounced them from 4 o’clock to the bombers. I attacked this large gaggle of 190s and began to go around with one in my sights when I noticed one on my tail, firing at me. I broke into him and found I was alone among about 5 190s. I dove to about 10,000ft and joined Lt. Gonnam (Red Leader) with the 190 still following me. Both Lt. Gonnam and I used evasive action to keep them from us. Then a flight of P47s came down, forcing the 190s to go to the deck. Red leader and I then climbed to 28,000ft and proceeded home.

Juntilla’s wing man was 1st Lt. Donald J. Corrigan who was able to destroy an Fw190:

We were called on to help Red flight and we dove down. As we got there I picked out a Fw190 and fired. We went into a very steep dive and I followed as there were plenty of P47s in the area. I fired six or eight bursts from 12,000ft down to 5,000ft where he pulled out under the clouds. I only saw 2 or 3 strikes on the way down. I had trouble keeping my sights on him as dirt from the cockpit floor got in my eyes, and my ears were blocked causing much pain.

When he levelled out at about 3,000ft I started to go by him so I chopped the throttle and began to walk the rudders. He was to my right, almost abreast of me. He pulled into a tight left turn and dove slightly. I saw a piece come off which looked like a wing tip or a piece of the tail. About the same time he started a slow roll going down about 45 degrees. He made about three rolls and at this time we were right on the deck. His wing caught on the top of a tree which cart wheeled him along the ground into a hillside and he crashed. The plane was completely demolished but I did not see it burn. I then climbed up to 15,000ft to rejoin.

About 20 miles further on I spotted a slate grey 190 on top the clouds going in the same direction. I dove down on him and lined up behind him at about 500 yards. He wagged his wings so I held my fire. He made a slight turn to the left and I made sure of its identity and then made ready to fire. About this time he saw his mistake and rolled and split S’d. I fired a long burst as he rolled. I did not follow as my ammunition and gas were getting low.

Group ERTNS/Abort/Damaged:

42-75676 ABT excessive vibration YJ-L Capt. Byers flying.
42-75457 ABT broken glass elbow YJ-B* Lt. Burkett
42-75271 ERTN landing gear stuck SX-G** Unknown
42-75875 ERTN manifold pressure SX-M*** Unknown
42-75445 BD Cat A SX-V Lt. Callans flying.

*This aircraft later became YJ-A and was lost with Lt. Farley May 28, 1944. It cannot be YJ-A as no abort was recorded for that aircraft for this mission and aircraft 42-75850 carried that code until March 4, 1944.I have now confirmed the YJ-B as the other abort for the mission.

** The Control Tower Log at Metfield records SX-G buzzing the field at 11:10 hrs and landing safely at 11:23 hrs. It is not listed as flying the mission.

*** SX-M is not listed on the mission schedule for the day.

 

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