Mission#90 March 8, 1944 – Target: Berlin. The Loss of 1st Lt. John Zolner, 350th Fighter Squadron

Date: Mar 8, 44

Dispatched: 47 Aborts: 5

Mission: Penetration support to 3rd ATF, 180 B-24s

Field Order: 263 Target: Berlin

Time Up/Down: 11:22 hrs     14:40 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Rimerman

Claims Air: 05-01-02 Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 01-03

Landfall Ijmuiden 12:13 hrs, 21-27,000ft, with 2nd Div B-24s from  L/F to point approx 20 miles north of Brunswick where P-38s R/V’d and Group left bombers at 13:30 hrs. L/F out Ijmuiden 14:25 hrs altitudes from deck up to 20,000ft. Bomber formation very poor in units larger than Groups. NE of Dummer Lake 6+ Fw190s were attacked by the 352nd FS resulting in 3 destroyed and 2 damaged, engagements ranging from 28,000ft down to the deck. SE of Dummer Lake, Red Flight of the 350th FS engaged and destroyed long nosed Fw190. Vicinity of Hanover 1 Fw190 driven down to deck by White flight 350th FS and damaged. In this engagement Lt. Zolner’s A/C received a hit in main fuel tank by ground flak resulting in the loss of fuel. Lt. Zolner proceeded out on deck until out of fuel and forced to bail out approx. 10 miles west of Almelo, Holland. He was seen to land in a road. One pilot returning on deck strafed gun position on beach complete with personnel vicinity of Ijmuiden. One pilot returning early observed single B-17G with only star marking about 40 miles east of Orfordness flying 165 degrees. Pilot turned and followed B-17 which made L/F vicinity Ostend and continued inland. Flak encountered in several places along the route but not unusual. One B-24 with one engine on fire was escorted from vicinity Dummer Lake to middle of North Sea. Channel “A” good but Channel “C” marred by whistle. Lt. Garey, wingman for Lt Zolner (MIA), arrived home late from advanced airfield. He claims Lt. Zolner destroyed an Fw190 in the Hanover area when E/A was positioning itself for an attack on White Flight at 4,000ft. Coming out on deck, Lt. Garey strafed a locomotive in Germany. Lt Col. Rimerman of Group HQ participated.

Claims:

1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Robertson, 352nd FS

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Dustin, 352nd FS

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Knoble, 352nd FS

1 Fw190 (long nose) destroyed Lt. Hart, 350th FS

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Zolner, 350th FS

1 Fw190 damaged (shared) Lt Col. Rimerman and Lt. Stearns, 350th FS [later awarded to Rimerman as a probable].

1 Fw190 damaged Capt. Robertson, 352nd FS

1 Fw190 damaged Lt. Knoble, 352nd FS

1 Gun position, complete with personnel, strafed by Lt. Willits, 352nd FS

1 Loco damaged (in Germany) Lt. Garey, 350th FS

350th: Lt Col. Rimerman. T/U 11:16 hrs. T/D 14:40 hrs. Total flight time 03:24 hrs. L/F N Ijmuiden 12:11 hrs, 23,000ft. R/V B-24 before landfall 12:05 hrs, 23,000ft. Good. P-47, P-51. Fw190 – few Dummer Lake, Hanover, 13:28 hrs, 20,000ft. Left coast N Ijmuiden 14:08 hrs, 24,000ft. Meager, heavy accurate linger. Heavy, heavy accurate Hanover. R/T normal. Strato cumulus 4-5,000ft; Germany clear, coast 10/10.

Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Gp Ldr)
1st Lt Richard A. Stearns
1st Lt John Sullivan
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt John Zolner (Flt Ldr) LH-U* 42-8557
2nd Lt Abel H. Garey
1st Lt William F. Tanner
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Arthur C. Bergeron
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt William J. Price
1st Lt Charles O. Durant (351st)
2nd Lt Richard L. Bedford (351st Relay)

*[The code is assumed, however, Blick’s combat diary and his letters to me indicate Zolner was flying his aircraft that day. Zolner took his place when Blick was grounded due to a head cold].

The first victory of the day was for 1st Lt. Robert S Hart, flying Red Four in Lt Zolner’s flight, when he saw a lone Fw190 make a pass at his flight:

We had made R/V with the bombers and had worked our way up to the lead unit of B-24’s and crossed over to the left side of them. We were about half way between Dummer Lake and Steinhuder Lake at 24000 ft when a lone Fw190 made a pass at Lt Price, my element leader, and myself. He broke under us and we chased him but Lt Price could not drop his wing tank so we pulled back up.

While climbing back up abreast, the 190 tried to get on Lt Price’s tail. I called him to break and turned into the e/a myself. The 190 went straight for the deck but I easily closed on him and gave a short burst at about 300 yards. I noticed strikes and then closed to about 50 yards when he pulled up. Pieces flew off, the wheels dropped and he was going straight down in smoke when I broke off at about 6000 ft.

As it became time for the Squadron to leave the bombers, an Fw190 cam head-on to White flight. Although 1st Lt. Richard A Stearns was able to fire and observe strikes, Col Rimerman hit it first and was awarded the aircraft as a probable:

A Fw190 came along head on. We turned and passed each other going in opposite directions. He immediately dove and we followed from about 18000 ft to 6 or 8000 where I started to fire from about 4 or 500 yards. The Fw went on to the deck leading us over a couple of airfields and military installations in the Northern suburbs of Hanover. The Fw was taking violent evasive action and really wheeling and dealing in and around these buildings. I got a few strikes in the fuselage and wing roots before I ran out of ammunition.

The lead element of Red flight was in action again over Hanover. This time, separated from their second element, 1st Lt. John Zolner led an attack on an Fw190 trying to bounce Lt Col Rimerman and Lt Stearns as they attacked their aircraft. Zolner’s wing man, 2nd Lt. Abel H. Garey saw Zolner destroy the 190:

Lt. Zolner dove down on the E/A’s tail and gave him a long burst. I had to roll to the side to keep from running into pieces from the e/a. The e/a fell down to the right in a slide slipping position apparently out of control. I tried to see him hit the ground, but couldn’t, because we went on down to help Lt Col. Rimerman and Lt. Stearns who were running an e/a into his own field.

We came over the field and ran into heavy flak, both medium and light. Tracers were also used. I was jolted all over and when I pulled out, was over Jerry’s field. I zoomed up and the flak became so heavy so I dove to keep from getting hit. Each time I zoomed up, I found myself in the flak, so I dove for the deck informing Lt. Zolner I was no longer with him. Lt. Zolner then called Lt Col. Rimerman and told him that his gas tank was hit and he was going to bail out.

After breaking off combat, I came home on the deck. I tried to zoom up but the flak forced me back down. About 14.00 hrs I ran into a train and strafed the engine thoroughly.

1st Lt. Richard Stearns saw what happened to Lt Zolner:

I saw Lt. Zolner flying the Colonel’s right wing. He was streaming gas in a steady spray, so he called the Group leader and told him he had been hit and was bailing out.

Lt Col. Rimerman advised him to stay with the ship until he got out of Germany. We provided escort for him as far as Hellendoers, where at an altitude of about 7000 ft he slowly rolled the ship over and bailed out. He did not make a delayed jump.

Lt Col. Rimerman and I circled the spot until he landed in the trees along the highway from Almelo to Zwolle. We saw a small closed car stop at the spot, and two people were seen to get out. A man on a bicycle was also seen to approach the scene from the west. At this time Lt Col Rimerman and I headed for home.

[Rimerman’s instruction to remain with the aircraft until out of Germany proved wise counsel to Zolner. In the car was a Dutch Doctor who started the process of getting the downed pilot to Switzerland and back to the Group, then stationed at Raydon, by September 18, 1944].

351st: Major Christian. T/U 11:17 hrs. T/D 14:50 hrs. Total flight time 03:33 hrs. Penetration support. Ijmuiden at 13:13 hrs, altitude at 24,000ft. 2nd Division at landfall point 12:18 hrs, altitude 25,000ft. Close formation within Groups, although wings were strung out. P-38s, P-51s and other P-47s [seen]. East of Celle at 13:30 hrs, altitude 20,000ft. Remarks: From landfall on in numerous bombers seen aborting.

Major Shannon Christian (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-S
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump YJ-W
2nd Lt Cletus Peterson YJ-P
1st Lt Herman Herfurth (Flt Ldr) YJ-A
2nd Lt Robert C. Strobell YJ-F
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman (Flt Ldr) YJ-N
2nd Lt William J. Weaver YJ-H
1st Lt William J. Maguire YJ-M
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley YJ-R
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-V
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-J
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-P
2nd Lt Richard L. Bedford (350th Relay) YJ-L
2nd Lt Rupert M. Tumlin (Relay) YJ-V
1st Lt Charles O. Durant (350th) YJ-I

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 11:18hrs. T/D 14:40 hrs. Total flight time 03:22 hrs. Landfall in at 12:15 hrs over Egmond at 24-25,000ft. R/V with 2nd Air Div B-24s over middle of Zuider Zee at 12:20 hrs, 25,000ft. Bombers were early and in terrible formation; strung out and mixed B-24s and B-17s. Observed other 47s, 38s and 51s. 3 Fw190s bounced by our Squadron and during the attack several other 190s were encountered. This engagement resulted in 3 190s being destroyed and 2 190s damaged. These E/A were not attacking the bombers at this time. This engagement took place in the immediate vicinity of Dummer Lake at approx. 13:15 hrs at altitudes of 28,000ft to 0 ft. Left bombers at the time of engagement and did not rejoin them. Left enemy coast at 14:00 hrs. Flak encountered at several places along route but no unusual flak. Some flak did seem to originate from positions in open territory. Previous bombing results observed from Lembrach A/D at Dummer Lake. One town believed to be Loxten, Germany had been bombed sometime today and smoke was still coming from it. “A” Channel good. “C” Channel fair but could not contact Goldsmith3. Wakeford White#2 heard call “American Fighters – what is your position?” White#2 asked “Who are you, what is your call sign?” This was repeated by White#2 but the former did not answer. Route covered by 3/10 clouds, tops at 4,000ft. Horizontal visibility and vertical visibility good. Note: One Fort bellied in and burned just north of Lingen. One B-24 with one engine (right inboard) smoking was escorted from Dummer Lake to the middle of the North Sea. This A/C had the letter D within a white circle and the last three numbers were 497 and the letter N next to the star. Lt. Willits, returning home on the deck, damaged one gun position with personnel on beach between Ijmuiden and Egmond. Lt. Sperry, returning early, observed a B-17 by itself in mid-channel at 12,000ft heading toward the Belgium coast. This B-17 was flying a 160[?] degree course and passed in over Knocke at 12:10 hrs. This B-17 had star but no square or triangle. 1 Me109 had bellied in at Steinfeld A/D north of Dummer Lake. 3 P-47s [aborted] Lt. Sperry – wing tank connection broken. Lt. Callans – radio out. Lt. Kipfer – belly tank pressure tube broken. Claims 03-00-02 1 Fw190 destroyed Capt Robertson, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Dustin, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Knoble, 1 Fw190 damaged Capt Robertson, 1 Fw190 damaged Lt. Knoble, 1 gun position with personnel damaged Lt. Willits. Rounds fired: Robertson 1112, Dustin 598, Knoble 1963 and Willits 561. 1 P-47 Category AC, 1 P-47 Category A.

Major William B. Bailey (Sqdn Ldr) SX-U
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-F
1st Lt Leslie P. Cles SX-G
2nd Lt William S. Marchant SX-K
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Flt Ldr) SX-O
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison (DNTO) SX-R
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-M
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q
Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Flt Ldr) SX-S
2nd Lt Joeseph L. Knoble SX-P
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry SX-N
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V
Capt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr) SX-W
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-A
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
2nd Lt Harry H. Dustin SX-Z
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-I
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-Y

Northeast of Dummer Lake at about 13:15 hrs the Squadron encountered six + Fw190s. In the ensuing action, ranging from 28,000 ft to the deck, Blue and Yellow flight accounted for three destroyed and two damaged. Capt. Raynor Robertson led Blue flight down to 500 ft and was credited with one destroyed and one damaged:

Three Fw190s came in at 6 o’clock about 5000 ft above us. We turned into them climbing. We made two orbits to the right and by that time we were about 1000 feet below them. They then dove for the deck and we followed them down. I closed in to about 400 yards and took several short bursts. I saw strikes all over the e/a each time I fired. The e/a pulled up to about 500 feet and the pilot bailed out. At this time my wing man, Lt. Knoble shot one Fw190 off my tail. I saw the e/a that he had destroyed crash into the ground.

At that time there were four more Fw190s circling Steinfield airfield to land and I got on the tail of one and got one short burst, then my guns ceased to fire. I saw a few strikes on the fuselage of the e/a. Then my wing man, Lt. Knoble, closed in and took a short burst on another Fw190.

2nd Lt. Joseph L Knoble was also credited with an Fw190 destroyed and one damaged as Blue Flight caught the enemy coming in to land:

I stayed with Capt. Robertson, my leader, and the Captain got on a 190s tail and let him have it. He got many hits on the e/a and I saw the pilot bail out. I called this in to the Capt. and he called to hit the deck.

Nearing the ground we spotted an airfield with two 190s circling it. The Captain said ‘Lets get them!’ And moved on to the number one, I stayed to cover him.

I saw the Capt. get strikes on the e/a and damage it. At this time the number two Fw190 moved in on the Captain’s tail and I closed in on it to about 2 or 300 yards, 30 degrees deflection and fired. I observed many strikes on the left wing root and then the canopy flew off and the pilot bailed out.

Another 190 appeared on my tail so I turned around into him and was able to out-turn him in a very short turn. I got several strikes on this e/a but then the airfield began shooting flak at me. My ammunition was gone so I hit the deck and came home.

Yellow Flight, led by Capt. Forkin, spotted the same group of Fw190s near the bombers and joined the attack. Yellow Four, 1st Lt. Harry Dustin was able to destroy one of the Fw190s:

Lt. Willits broke down on the three Fw190s. We chased one around and he went up in a turn to the left. The Fw190 then broke right into Lt. Willits, and I fired while going straight up. He snapped to the left and headed for the deck. I followed him down still shooting, observing many pieces falling off. I broke off to the left in a climbing turn and saw a parachute below me. Looking further back I saw a plane going down trailing heavy black smoke. Heavy flak was around us, so we hit the deck and came home.

1st Lt. Gordon L. Willits, Yellow Three, was experiencing problems with his aircraft’s supercharger and was unable to catch the 190s:

I was unable to get as high as the rest of the flight due to supercharger trouble so stayed below the flight .Three grey Fw190s came toward the bombers from three o’clock and started to circle above us. When they saw that we were climbing toward them they broke towards the deck with my wing man, Lt. Dustin, myself and another (Blue) flight in pursuit. The 190s kept turning which made it easier to catch them. One of the e/a broke away from the others and headed west; the remaining two were chased north by Blue flight. The single e/a, on seeing us, turned and I got a short burst at him head on. I had a little altitude advantage and tried to get on his tail but he kept turning underneath me. My wing man got him at this point and the last I saw he was going straight down with several large pieces coming off which looked like parts of the tail. My wing man yelled that he was following him down so I covered him. He yelled that the pilot of the 190 bailed out but I did not see him. I looked back and saw a puff of smoke and several large burning pieces of an e/a that Lt. Knoble had shot down.

The flak was pretty bad so I called to hit the deck which we did. Another P-47 joined us and we came out line abreast on the deck. I passed over a gun position on the Dutch coast and several machine guns and some German soldiers in it. I turned around and took several bursts at it and observed many hits.

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