‘Ace in a Day’ as P-51 pilot downs five FW-190s

Lt. Gordon H. McDaniel is presented with an Ace by his commanding officer.

We were headed east.  We were in an area where anything could happen.  Over the radio … I told the rest of the men to hold their fire until we positively identified the planes below us.  You see, I thought they might be Russian planes.  I certainly didn’t want to get in a fight if they were.  So… we dropped in behind them.  They never knew we were there.  They were flying a pretty sloppy formation.  Sort of strung out in a long uneven line.  I closed up behind the last plane … about 150 feet from him.  There was no doubt about it … they were Jerry planes.


Mustang v Me 109 dogfight in the cloud over Germany

P-51K Mustang “Donna-Mite” of the 352nd Fighter Squadron assigned to Lt Leroy C Pletz coming in for a landing at RAF Raydon, Suffolk, England, UK, 1945

I had just turned the 434th around the backside of our box of bombers and was heading parallel to their course on the right side of the stream, when I spotted a gaggle of shadowy contrails sneaking along the top of that cirrus bank and headed in the direction of our bombers. I was about to turn to intercept them when the 435th flight sailed past just to my right. I wondered what in hell they were doing so close to the bombers. By all rights those enemy fighters (and that’s all they could have been) were their responsibility. I held my turn and watched the 435th go scurrying along out of sight. My God, a whole squadron, and it was obvious not one of them had spotted the enemy.


Two bogeys at dawn as Robin Olds opens score

A formation of Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters in their 'D-Day stripes'. One of hundreds of images in the iPad app 'Overlord'.

My P-38 leaped ahead as though kicked by a mule. The cutoff angle was good and I could see I would be coming in behind the bogeys in short order. I still didn’t have a positive ID, but every instinct told me they had to be German. Instinct is no good when you’re coming up behind a target with a 20mm and four .50 caliber guns armed and ready to shoot.


B-17 Bomber encounters Nazi rocket fighter Me 163

A B-17 Flying Fortress encounters heavy flak bursts over the target area.

I soon realized the situation was hopeless and told John to exit the top hatch. As I climbed out the top hatch, Bernie, half covered with water, called out my name. What a feeling! From the top hatch I could see that the B-17 was at about a forty-five degree angle to the sea and the wings were half covered with water. As I dove into the sea and started swimming towards the two dinghies, something touched my feet. Looking back I saw it had been the tip of the B-17’s rudder that had touched my feet and the aircraft disappeared from sight. Eight of us survived the ditching and Bernie went down with the B-17.


The Americans advance into Cherbourg

24 June 1944, the U.S. 79th Infantry Division while taking Fort du Roule near Cherbourg, had to storm the strong points. Here they blew the door of a bunker to clear the place.

A haze began to drift over Cherbourg towards the evening when the Americans advanced for their last run down to the sea. It had been as balanced and as decisive a break-through as any I have seen in this war – the power of the offensive machine against fixed positions. Coming up the the Regiment Command post one could feel the sense of expectancy and eagerness among the staff officers. The colonel said, “I think we are going to have better luck today”.


Luftwaffe fighters meet USAAF bomber attack

The P-47 Thunderbolt flew its first combat  mission--a sweep over Western Europe. Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a  low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness.  this aircraft from the 8th Air Force was lost in August 1944.

Evidently my opponents are old hands at the game. I turn and dive and climb and roll and loop and spin. I use the methanol emergency booster, and try to get away in my favourite “corkscrew climb”. In only a few seconds the bastards are right back on my tail. They keep on firing all the time. I do not know how they just miss me, but they do.