The 14th March saw the first operational use of the RAF’s latest weapon – the ‘Grand Slam’ deep penetration bomb. Another design by Barnes Wallis of ‘bouncing bomb’ fame, the bomb was designed to penetrate the ground before exploding with enough force to cause shock waves that would knock down nearby structures – targets that did not not necessarily have to be hit directly. The bomb produced a 70 foot deep 130 foot wide crater. It was also used against the thick concrete of the U-boat pens.
Elsewhere the near complete air superiority that was being achieved across Europe by the Allied air forces was dramatically demonstrated by the USAAF 325th Fighter Group based in Rimini, Italy. The Luftwaffe was now struggling not only with a lack of fuel but with a shortage of experienced pilots. Nevertheless the achievements of Lt. Gordon H. McDaniel, who became an “ace in a day” by downing five aircraft in one sortie, were exceptional:
A couple of days later Lt. McDaniel was interviewed by ABC News reporter Clete Roberts and gave this account:
There really wasn’t much to it. There we were cruising aloft at about 20,000 feet. We’d just begun to let down. I happened to look over the side and there … far below me … I spotted several planes. They were traveling west…
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.
The guy directly ahead of me had a big white “3” and a black cross on the side of his plane. Well that-was enough for me. Over the radio … I told the rest of the men to drop their gas tanks and get ready to hit ’em.
Then I opened fire on the Jerry nearest me. He just blew up …almost in my face. I ducked my head as parts of his plane scattered around my ship. He never knew what hit him.
The Jerries ahead still didn’t know we were there. I opened fire on the next one … one wing and part of his tail fell off and he spun out of sight.
Then the three remaining German planes started to dive toward the earth. I still don’t believe they knew we were in behind them.
I rode down on their tail … firing at the third German … his canopy popped off and I saw him jump … I don’t think he had a parachute.
I started firing at the fourth German … he blossomed with flame and started to smoke and burn. When he went into a spin … I concentrated on the fifth one.
I’m sure he knew I was after him. He dropped down to about 100 feet above the deck. He started to skid around a little … trying to evade me. But it was no use. I hit him … my wing man saw him spin in and burn.
It was then I discovered that there was only two of us against the five Germans. You see, two of my planes had to drop out of the fight because of trouble … That’s all there was to it…
For more on the story see Ace 1945.