It is with great sadness that I have to start the year with a report that we have lost another Group veteran recently. Robert F. Hahn II writes that his father, Robert F. Hahn, passed away December 9, 2014 aged 93.
Bob Hahn joined the 351st Squadron in the autumn of 1944 and flew his first mission on November 10 of that year. Over the coming months he flew some 54 missions with his final operational flight made on April 19, 1945.
He claimed one Me109 destroyed in the air and four Ju88s destroyed and one Ju88 damaged on the ground. On April 7, 1945, flying wing to Capt. McGraw, he reported:
At about 12.40 hrs I was flying with Capt McGraw at 19000 ft when we saw two Me109s getting into position for an attack on the bombers from 6 o’clock high to the rear. They were coming from the right side of the bombers. We made a climbing turn to the right to cut them off. Capt McGraw told me to take the one on the left. I pulled up behind mine and opened fire. I observed strikes and the e/a started smoking. I then pulled off to stay with my leader and cover his tail. I saw mine slowly roll over and head straight down. At the same time, Capt McGraw’s target started into a spin and a wing broke off. No chutes appeared from either plane. His next claims, again as wing man to Capt. McGraw, came on the big strafing mission of April 16, 1945: I followed my leader, Capt McGraw, down on Kircham landing ground making my pass in a south westerly direction. On my first pass I put a few bursts into a Ju88 backed into the woods on the far side of the field. I pulled off and followed my leader around for a second pass. On this pass I poured lead into the Ju88 and observed it to burst into flames. As I pulled up over the flaming aircraft, I observed another of the same type just to the left of it. On my second pass this Ju88 also burst into flames. On these passes I observed numerous fires scattered all along the edge of the woods. The traffic pattern was then reversed. After making approximately eight passes on three t/e e/a, believed to be Ju88s, on the opposite side of the woods, these a/c failed to burn although I covered each with numerous strikes. When the Squadron left the field these three a/c had not been destroyed.
He later recounted the grim realities of this type of mission:
It was a balmy April day. Our Group recorded its biggest bag and I flew my first strafing mission. By tea time there were so many wrecked Nazis that it took a while to count up the victories. We knew a flak barrage protected Pocking airdrome and that expert camouflage concealed several hundred planes of all shapes and sizes. Our Squadron Commander said we should get at least two apiece. The flak was terrific, but we took care of it. The guns were not place to fire head on or down, so we flew under the flak and put some emplacements out of business by firing into them head on. I saw bodies of gunners tossed into the air by the impact of our bullets. There were Mustangs all over the place, making patterns from every possible angle. It reminded me of ground gunnery practice in the States. Because of the congestion, my flight moved out to an auxiliary field nearby. The planes, hidden with tree branches, were parked in the surrounding woods. I could barely see their noses protruding on the grassy landing strip. In a nearby field a farmer had abandoned his ploughing and was lying in a furrow, his arms wrapped around his head. Another Farmer was kind of fatalistic – he went right on working, hardly glancing up as we made our passes at the planes. Small arms fire opened up from adjacent barracks and a couple of Mustangs left the woods to work over the buildings until the enemy fire stopped. I followed my flight commander down, our propellers inches above the grass. We finally saw some pine covered Junkers which hadn’t been picked yet as targets. I pressed the trigger and as the first Junkers exploded I turned to another. I made pass after pass at them from every angle and one of them blew up, throwing debris sky high. Only one of my guns was working so I called it a day and headed home.
A Second Lieutenant while with the 351st Fighter Squadron, Bob Hahn remained in the USAF post WWII and retired as a Major in 1964. Bob was one of the first group veterans I got to know and it was always a pleasure to meet with this lively, animated man at reunions in Raydon and the United States. He will be sorely missed and this is posted with condolences to all his family and with thanks to his son Robert for communicating the sad news.