Fighters go all the way as USAAF attacks Bremen

Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on November 13, 1943.

Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on November 13, 1943.

The USAAF daylight bombing attacks on Germany continued to grow. The 8th Air Force had endured heavy losses during their ‘black fortnight’ in October, beginning with the Marienburg Raid. They were hitting the targets but the accompanying losses were unsustainable, especially on the second Schweinfurt raid on 14th October when they lost 26 per cent of the bombing aircraft.

On the 13th November they introduced a new tactic when they were accompanied on the 750 mile round trip to Bremen by P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. This was to be the key development in providing the protection that the bombers needed over targets in Germany, so far fighters had only accompanied bombers out or met them on the return journey. It was still early days for this tactic, which would not be wholly solved until until the arrival of the long range P-51 Mustang at the end of 1943.

This was the combat report of 1st Lt. Charles W. Dinse of the 350th Fighter Squadron:

Red 2 couldn’t keep up so I took my wing man back to give him protection. We couldn’t find Red 2 and by this time it was too late to catch up with the Squadron, so we turned back for home.

I saw some B17’s at approximately 27,500ft, with P-38 escort above. I saw 20 + Me109’s at about 25000ft, flying parallel to the course of the bombers, and 2 Fw190’s were below us and to the rear of the bombers at about 24000ft, positioning themselves for an attack on the bombers.

I bounced these with my wing man, pressing my attack on the second Fw190 to about 50 yards. I saw strikes on the right wing. The e/a had rocket guns and a belly tank. When I pulled up I was 3,000ft above my wing man, and saw that he had 5 Me109’s on his tail. I told him to break over the R/T, which he did, and then I dived through the Me109’s breaking up their formation.

I was flying in cloud to evade the attack of Me109’s. After getting in a large cumulus cloud, I split ‘S’d for the deck. On the route out I fired two long bursts at a lone locomotive, observing strikes in the vicinity of the locomotive.

and this was the combat report by his wingman 2nd Lt. John H. “Jack” Winder:

I noticed 20 plus e/a at 10 o’clock to us or 3,000ft above and about 5 to 6000 yards away. I reported these facts and as we started our attack we observed 3 Fw190’s heading for the bombers. We shifted our bounce to the Fw190’s and on the way down an Me109 got on my leaders tail. I turned into him and fired a short burst- e/a broke to the deck; no strikes seen.

A Me109 flew directly across my line of flight and I turned to get on his tail losing sight of my element leader. I was bounced by several e/a receiving shell fragments in my left shoulder. I broke for the deck but was unable to lose the e/a until I leveled out at 4,000ft and ducked into a cloud.

The e/a followed me for approximately 30 minutes until I finally lost them in a large cloud. When I finally broke through I was nearing the coast, north of the Zuider Zee. Between clouds I observed 2 Me109’s preparing to deliver an attack so I waited until they were almost within range and then turned into them. I fired a short burst from head on and they broke off the attack. I continued home without further incident.

Damage to Lt Winders aircraft. .

Damage to Lt Winders aircraft. LH-N (a/c 42-22475) “Kalamazoo Gal” was actually the aircraft of Lt Melvin Dawson who was from Kalamazoo, Michigan. He later flew a replacement LH-N “Kalamazoo Gal II” a/c 42-76294 (353rd FG Archive).

For an overview of Mission No 44 on 13th November 1943 by the 350th, 351st and 352nd Fighter Squadrons see 353rd Fighter Group, which has more photographs of the damage to Lt Winders aircraft and of him later receiving the Purple Heart. He recovered from his wounds and went on to fly two more tours of duty.

The escape report of Nicholas Mandell, whose B-24 was shot down on this mission, can be read at B-24.net. With the help of Dutch civilians and the escape organisation of the French he was was able to cross France, then walk over the Pyrenees to Spain, and make it back to England in May 1944.

P-47D-22RE 42-25969 8th AF / 361st FG / 376th FG flown by Capt. John D. Duncan.

P-47D-22RE 42-25969
8th AF / 361st FG / 376th FG
flown by Capt. John D. Duncan. At first the aircraft carried one drop tank under the belly, by 1944 it was adapted to carry one on each wing, further extending the range. There were other enhancements to the aircraft performance as the war continued.

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