|78th FIGHTER GROUP
BRIEF RESUME OF P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONS
EUROPEAN THEATRE OF OPERATIONS
April 13, 1943 to August 1, 1944
78th FIGHTER GROUP
BRIEF RESUME OF P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONS
EUROPEAN THEATRE OF OPERATIONS
April 13, 1943 to August 1, 1944
Compiled by: Stanley G Markusen 1st Lt., Air Corps Public Relations Officer
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. HlSTORICAL BACKGROUND 78th FIGHTER GROUP
2. HIGHLIGHTS OF P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONS
3. PICTURES OF GROUP COMMANDERS
4. P-47 FLYING OFFICER PERSONNEL - STATISTICS
5. P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONAL MISSION STATISTICS
6. P-47 AMMUNITION AND BOMBS EXPENDED
7. P-47 STATUS – FLYING TIME- GASOLINE CONSUMPTION
8. INDIVIDUAL AWARDS
9. P-47 COMBAT OPERTIONAL MISSIONS
10. MISSION MAP
11. P-47 FIRE-POWER
12. P-47 OFFENSISVE AND DEFENSIVE TACTICS
13. THE START OF A MISSION
HlSTORICAL BACKGROUND 78th FIGHTER GROUP
Arriving in England, November 30, 1942, the 78th fighter Group spent a few months in Goxhill. The group had mainly trained at
Hamilton field, in California, although one squadron, under(then) Major Eugene P. Roberts, was stationed at the Oakland airbase.
The group was trained in P-38 Lightnings in the states and came over to England with that aircraft.
All of the combat pilots who rated below flight leader were shipped to Africa in mid-January, leaving a nucleus of Lt. Colonel Peterson,
Lt. Colonel Dickman (group deputy commander), Major Roberts (squadron c.o.), Major Stone (squadron c. o.), and Major Dayhuff,
(squadron c.o.). Other veteran pilots were Captains Jesse Davis, James Cooper, Charley London, and Robert Eby (83rd Squadron);
Jack Oberhansly, Robert Adamina, and Leonard Marshall, (82nd Squadron); and Jack Irvin, Jack Price and Harold Stump, (84th
Squadron). Captain Ralph Himes was group operations officer for a short time, then was succeeded by Major John Calderbank.
The group started flying combat on April 13, 1943, when Colonel Arman Peterson led two different groups on sweeps over the former
“Buzzbomb” coast area around the Pas de Calais.
On that very first mission Lt. Colonel Joseph Dickman was a casualty. He was forced to bail out into the channel, and was picked up
by Air-Sea Rescue. He hurt his shoulder, was operated on later, and eventually went back to the United States. He now has
command of a training group on the eastern coast.
Colonel Dickman was not replaced as deputy commander.
The group went along for the next few weeks with very uneventful fighter sweeps over the coastal areas of France, Holland and
A terrific loss occurred on July 1, 1943, when the great Colonel Arman Peterson lost his life on a fighter sweep over the Hook of
Holland. The group got into a fair-sized battle, and destroyed four planes. Colonel Peterson became separated from his wing man
and apparently was either shot down or never pulled out of his dive. His grave has been reported to be somewhere in a small Dutch
For a few days the group was taken over by (then) Major Stone, commanding officer of the 83rd Fighter Squadron, the senior pilot
remaining after Colonel Peterson.
Fighter Command Headquarters shortly afterwards selected Lieutenant-colonel Melvin C. McNickle, who had been in a training
command position at Atcham, to take over the organization. Colonel McNickle’s stay was short, though not necessarily sweet.
Considerable resentment was felt and evidenced by the group of lying officers at the advent of the newcomer. However, just as he was
getting a firm hold and displaying qualities of fine leadership, Colonel McNickle was shot down during the historic mission to Haldern,
Germany. It was his fifth mission, and the group got into a terrific battle with 75 to 100 Focke-Wulf 190’s and Messerschmitt 109’s/
The group lost three men that day, the first time any American fighter group had ever penetrated German territory. But it destroyed 17 of
the Huns. It was the first time the Thunderbolt had used a belly-tank, and also the first time any pilot reported the strafing of a ground
After that the group was lead by Colonel Stone, who had been deputy under Colonel McNickle. The group never attained its great
promise, probably due to a combination of several reasons.
First of all, the loss of the great Colonel Peterson was insurmountable. He had been the inspiration and guiding light behind the
organization almost since its inception, and was the type of leader who comes once in a lifetime in any unit.
Then, after reeling from that blow, the next man who could have gone a long way to make up for that disastrous loss, Colonel McNickle,
was himself to become a German prisoner of war.
Colonel Stone, who had a great ability for maintaining harmony and spirit-de-corps chiefly among his squadron commanders and
leaders, was not able to measure up to his illustrious predecessor, Colonel Peterson.
Colonel Stone lacked the driving spirit which characterized the man from Flagstaff, Arizona. Then too, he lacked the “connections” so
vital in any success. Where Colonel Peterson could get almost anything he desired, within reason, from higher headquarters, Colonel
Stone, lacking the experience and “drive” could not. As a result, the other two operational groups, under more hard-bitten masters,
pulled very slowly away at first. Then, as months passed, the group settled down more and more, and never again showed the great
promise it had displayed under Colonel Peterson.
The group has been an excellent training organization. It has probably given pre-combat experience to more fighter groups than other
unit in the command. Colonel’s Mason, Christian, and Duncan, from the 352nd, the 357th, and the 353rd, respectively, have had
several of their men here receiving valuable pre-battle training provided by this group.
The 78th Fighter Group may, and surely should, go down in the Eighth Fighter Command histories as the best “training” group over
here, and also should be listed as just a fair operational unit.
Under the leadership of Colonel Frederic C. Gray, Jr., Abilene, Texas, since May of this year, the group has now destroyed a very
sizeable percentage of its assigned ground targets. The group may well go down as one of the best fighter-bomber and ground
strafing units over here, for since D-Day their tolls on communications, airdromes, and other vital ground targets has steadily bettered
from day to day.
The group has never seemed to have a great deal of just plain good luck when it came to airfighting. The 56th and 4th groups have
consistently shot down planes in areas the 78th just left, and of course the 4th group has had the benefit of using the longer-range
Mustang, and the 56th has had the advantage of being based nearer to the English coast and for months solely used a larger belly
This group was used as a double unit for several months in the winter. As such it worked extremely well, and did a very fine job of
protecting the bombers.
Notably, the group was not aggressive when it came to attacking enemy airplanes, but went along rather with the thought of protecting
the bomber formations. Some there were who were always ready to criticize Colonel Stone’s judgment on the “protection” part of
combat operations involving bomber escorts. They were wont to maintain that the group leaders were not overly “eager”. Some of that
criticism was very clearly warranted, but a lot of it was rather unfair, since orders from higher headquarters were to stay with the
bombers whenever possible.
The group has some colorful personalities – possibly just as many as some of the more impressive scoring groups. It had the first
“Ace” in Captain Charley London, the first man to lead the Theatre for months on end in Lt. Colonel Gene Roberts, the first fighter pilot
to attack a ground target in Major Quince L. Brown, Jr., and the first man to attack a German locomotive in Captain James W.
Wilkinson. It was also the first to escort bombers into Germany, and the first American unit ever to destroy ten planes on an offensive
The group, until losses started piling up because of ground strafing, has always maintained a splendid percentage of wins against
losses. Training accidents, fatal or otherwise, have been kept at a minimum. It has maintained among ground officers and pilots a
friendly relationship noted in this command.
On the part of the group’s ground crews, it has probably the best maintenance records in the command, and surely stands at the top in
administration and the overall general running of a fighter station.
The group has had more distinguished visitors, including both the press and noted civilians, then any like unit, an bids fair to hold that
Under the present aggressive leadership, the esprit-de-corps now prevalent in the flying personnel. The future holds limitless
possibilities. (In the C.B.I.?)
The group just recently had its two biggest days on record, and through the efforts of this and other groups, the Thunderbolt has
definitely proved to be the best all around fighter of the war in the European Theatre.
78th Fighter Group Army Air Force
Office of the Public Relations Officer
August 1, 1944
1. Enclosed is Historical background of the 78th Fighter Group.
2. a. Place and date of activation: Mitchell Field, New York, Jan. 26, 1942.
b. See enclosures.
c. Time and place of major movements:
From Mitchell Field to Baer Field, Indiana, January 30, 1942
From Baer Field to Muroc Dry Lake, Calif., April 30, 1942
From Muroc Dry Lake to Hamilton Field, Calif., May 10, 1942
From Hamilton Field to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, November 10, 1942
Embarked from Camp Kilmer, November 24, 1942.
Arrived at Greenock, Scotland on November 30, 1942.
Arrived at Goxhill, Lincolnshire, on December 1, 1942.
From Goxhill to Duxford, Cambridgeshire, on April 6, 1943.
Stationed at Duxford from April 6, 1943 to present date.
d. Date of change over in equipment: February 15, 1943 from P-38’s to the present equipment, P-47’s.
e. Significant and outstanding missions of the 78th fighter Group:
April 13, 1943 – First two missions – Sweep over Dunkirk, St. Omer, Calais areas. No E/A seen. Lt. Col. Joseph Dickman, group
flying executive officer, bailed out in the channel and was picked up by A.S.R. Two groups of 12 planes each, led by Colonel Arman
Peterson. Fighter Sweeps
April 15 – First Huns seen on third mission for group – dived away. Near Ostand and Bruges. Fighter Sweeps. First mission for
all three squadrons – 24 planes.
April 17 – Two squadrons of 16 planes each led by Colonel Peterson.
May 4 – First time for a full group of 16 planes per squadron, three squadrons. First Bomber Escort – Dungeness, Le Touguat, St.
Omer, Dunkirk, Cape Gris Nos, South Foreland, Left Bombers, after joining them at Kungenses, and swept rest of area. No E/A,
May 14 – Major Stone destroyed the Group’s first Hun, an FW 190. Two probably destroyed. Bomber escort over Antwerp. 20 plus
E/A – FW 190’s and ME 109’s over Antwerp. Three men lost from Group.
May 16 – Colonel Peterson scored his first victory, an ME 109, over the Flushing area on a Fighter Sweep.
May 29 – First bomber-escort mission, using an advance English base for re-fueling at Portreath. Covered St. Briette and Dinard –
where Allies presently are fighting. Escorted Fortresses.
July 1 – Colonel Peterson lost over Hook of Holland – Group destroyed four planes.
July 30 – First belly tank mission and first mission to Germany. First American offensive mission to destroy “double figures” of
enemy planes. Group getting seven ME 109’s and nine FW 190’s. Major Roberts destroyed three planes for a new record.
Captain London became the first American fighter “Ace” of this war, getting an ME 109 and a FW 190 for a total of five. The group
met 75 to 100 E/A. Captain Irvin reported ME 109’s and FW 190’s firing rocket projectiles against the bombers. Combat over
Maldern, Germany. E/A took little or no evasive action, evidently mistaking the Thunderbolts for FW 190’s. Lt. Quince L Brown shot
up a ground target for the first time by an American pilot on any known mission. He strafed a freight locomotive and gun position.
The group lost its Commander, Lt. Colonel Melvin McNickle, and two other pilots, one later evaded.
August 9 – One squadron, the 352nd, from the 353rd Fighter Group, flew with the 82nd and 84th squadrons on a fighter sweep
over Furness, Courtral, and Encoke.
September 27 – Second escort mission to Germany. Ten E/A destroyed over Emden, for no loss to the group.
October 24 – First escort to B-26, Marauders, at 15,000 feet. Two flights did ground strafing of soldiers and locomotives – coming
home on deck from Yvetet.
January 4, ’44 – Lt. J.W. Wilkinson got groups’ first locomotive near Dorsten, Germany. Lt. Martinez strafed an ME110 parked in a
dispersal area – first such claim for grounded planes for group. Lt. Scheibler made use of water injection to pull away from
German plane, an FW 190.
November 5, ’43 – First use of “A” and “B” groups – 24 planes each. “A” group escorted bombers 30 miles beyond Dutch Islands.
“B” group took bombers to Reppel, where it left to pick up 4th Air Task Force.
January 5, 1944 – Group lost its biggest toll up to this date – 5 planes and pilots, for two E/A/ claimed. Due to gas shortages
southwest of Rennes combat occurred. P-51’s reported seen for the first time.
January 14 – First area support mission to bombers. No E/A seen.
January 25 – First fighter bomber mission. Two groups of 36 planes each. Couldn’t bomb because of cloud conditions, returned
to base with bombs intact. No E/A/. Aim to bomb French airfield.
January 26 – First target and areas support under Type 16 Control. Control worked well, no E/A plotted.
January 31, 1944 – Second fighter bomber mission – “A” and “B” groups – 36 planes each. I.P. at Rackend – target Gilme-Eijen.
Dive bombing, attack from southwest to northeast. One group, “A”, attacked target and dropped 35 – 500 pound bombs. “B”
acted as top cover. Good results, hits on runways.
February 6 – First large scale ground strafing by group. First destroyed planes on ground – by Lt. J.W. Wilkinson (ME109) and Lt.
Pompetti (H.S.129). Also three dromes strafed – 15 HE 111’s strafed on ground, 1 JU 52, 3 locomotives, 1 flak tower, 1 tugboat.
February 13 – First bomber escort to Doball targets.
May 24 – First mission with P-38 Droopmouth – bombed Creil R.E. bridge, excellent results- 84 – 500 pound bombs.
May 25 – last mission as regular full sized double group, “A” & “B”.
June 6 – Invasion Day – Five separate missions flown – first led by Colonel Gray.
June 10 – Ten men lost – Biggest loss of personnel in one day – Nine MIA and one killed in mid-air collision over England. Eleven
planes lost. Four separate missions.
July 19 – largest toll of enemy planes destroyed on the ground – 20 in all. Freudenstadt airdrome, Germany.
August 15 – First bomber escort to R.A.F. heavy bombers. Hit airdrome in Holland. Accompanied 100 Lancasters to Soostanberg
and Deelan airdromes. First use of rocket projectiles, with poor results.
f. Other pertinent historical facts:
Missing – No Report
2nd Lt. R.A. Murray – 84 2nd Lt. Quenton Charlton – 83
F/O James C. Eastwood – 83 2nd Lt. Arthur S. Granger – 83
1st Lt. Major C. Leach – 83 1st. Lt. William F. Neal – 82
2nd Lt. Clifford B Hahn – 82 1st Lt. William S. Swanson -82
2nd Lt. Donald H Ludwig - 82 1st Lt. Grant M. Turley – 82
2nd Lt. Donald R Morsch - 82 2nd Lt. Albert B. Werder – 83
F/O Edward J. Downey - 83 2nd Lt. Harvey L. Ralcas – 82
2nd Lt. Calvin Webb 82 Capt. Charles W. Silsby - 84
F/O Joseph Mundy -84 2nd Lt. William H. Gange - 82
2nd Lt. Richard Steele – 82 2nd Lt. William S. Orvis, Jr. – 82
1st Lt. Harry H Just – 84 1st Lt. Vincent J. Massa – 83
1st Lt. James F. Casey – 84 Major Harold E. Stump – 84
2nd Lt. Daniel T. Loyd – 84 1st Lt. Herbert L. Baker – 82
1st Lt. Ross Orr – 84 2nd Lt. Benjamin H. Hodges – 82
1st Lt. William Newton III – 84 2nd Lt. Robert R. Mullins – 83
2nd Lt. Lester R. Ford – 84 Capt. Robert T. Lay – 84
1st Lt. Harold J. Morris – 82 2nd Lt. Willard J. Korsmeyer – 83
Capt. Charles H. Clark – 82 F/O Gene T. Cumming – 84
1st Lt. James T. Fitzgerald – 82 Lt. Col. Olin E. Gilbert – HQ
2nd Lt. John Lacy – 84 2nd Lt. W. J. Coss – 82
Capt. Charles M. Peal – 83
Prisoners of War Killed in Action * Presumed
Capt. Robert E. Adamina – 82 2nd Lt. O.K. Brown – 82
F/O S. R. Marinek – 83 Colonel Arman Peterson – HQ
2nd Lt. John S. Sandmier – 82 F/O R.E. Cormier – 83
F/O G.H. Brown – 84 1st Lt. Melvin d. Putnam – 83
2nd Lt. Donald M. Marshall – 84 1st Lt. George T. Hatman – 84
Lt. Col. Melvin F. McNickle – HQ 1st Lt. Walter Tonkin – 83*
2nd Lt. Wayne M. Dougherty – 84 F/O William H. Reese – 83*
2nd Lt. Kenneth Hindersinn – 83 2nd Lt. John C. Steinwedel – 82
2nd Lt. John H. Johnson – 83 2nd Lt. Richard S. Kuehner – 82*
2nd Lt. Donald C. Orr – 82 Capt. John C. Ramsay – 82*
1st Lt. Peter E. Pompetti – 84 Major Norman D. Munson – 82*
2nd Lt. John D. Motsenbocker – 83 2nd Lt. John J. Myler – 84*
1st. Lt. Daniel Hagarty – 82 1st Lt. Louis A Dicks, Jr. – 82*
Capt. Alvin M. Jucheim – 83 1st Lt. James F. Byers – 84
1st Lt. Everett W. Powell – 83 2nd Lt. Donald Jackson – 82
1st Lt. Harold H Rice, Jr. – 84 2nd Lt. Vernon T. Jones – 82
Capt. William F. Hunt – 84
1st Lt. Philip H. Hazelett
Evaded Capture Evaded Capture
Capt. Elmer E. McTaggart - 83 2nd Lt. Robert J. McIntosh – HQ
F/O Warren E. Graff – 82 2nd L. Lawrence H. Casey – 83
2nd Lt. Franklin B. Resseguie – 84 Major Donald McLeod – 83
2nd Lt. John Herrick – 82 2nd Lt. Anthony I Kosinski – 82
F/O Milton H Ramsay – 82 2nd Lt. Lonnie L. Moseley – 84
2nd Lt. Courtlyn W. Hotchkiss -83
78th Fighter Group pilots with 5 or more planes destroyed:
Lt. Colonel Eugene P. Roberts, 9 in air.
82nd Fighter Squadron
*Lt. Colonel Jack J. Oberhansly, 5 in air, 1 ½ on ground.
Captain James W. Wilkinson, 6 in air, 2 on ground.
1st Lt. Grant M Turley, 6 in air.
1st Lt. Warren M. Wesson, 4 in air, 2 on ground.
83rd Fighter Squadron
Captain Alvin M. Juchheim, 9 in air, 6 on ground.
Captain Charles P. London, 5 in air.
Captain Charles M. Peal, 2 in air, 8 on ground.
1st Lt. Paul C. Holden, 3 in air, 2 on ground.
84th Fighter Squadron
Major Jack C. Price, 5 in air.
*Major Quince L. Brown, 13 in air, 1 on ground
1st Lt. Peter E. Pompetti, 4 in air, 2 on ground
*2nd Lt. Charles E. Parmelee, 3 in air, 2 on ground
*----denotes man still with group.
g. Group record of victories and losses tabulated by the month:
April, 1943 0 April, 1943 0
May, 1943 3 air May, 1943 6
June, 1943 6 air June, 1943 2
July, 1943 24 air July, 1943 5
August, 1943 4 air August, 1943 0
September, 1943 10 air September, 1943 1
October, 1943 6 air October, 1943 1
November, 1943 4 air November, 1943 3
December, 1943 18 air December, 1943 1
January, 1944 15 air January, 1944 8
February, 1944 34 air, 2 ground February, 1944 6
March, 1944 9 air, 10 ground March, 1944 7
April, 1944 17 air, 33 ground April, 1944 6
May, 1944 24 air, 6 ground May, 1944 8
June, 1944 14 air, 1 ground June, 1944 15
July, 1944 11 air, 23 ground July, 1944 9
August, 1944 4 air, 24 ground August, 1944 12
Total 203 air, 99 ground 90
Colonel Frederic C. Gray, Jr.
Commanding Officer –
May 22, 1944 to present
Colonel James J. Stone, Jr.
Commanding Officer –
July 31, 1943 to May 22, 1944
Eight Fighter Command Headquarters
Lieutenant Colonel Melvin C. McNickle
Doland, South Dakota
July 4, 1943 to July 30, 1943
Prisoner of war
Colonel Arman Peterson
Commanding Officer –
May 3, 1942 to July 1, 1943
Killed in action
Below is a transcribed copy from the original document. The original is in such
bad shape that it would be unreadable if posted as is. I have tried to keep
formatting true to the original as much as possible. You may find some spelling
errors for place names such as cities as I just could not read the original. If you
spot an error please let me know so I can correct it.
REPRODUCTION OF THIS TRANSCRIBED COPY IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR
ANY COMMERCIAL OR WEBPAGE USE WITHOUT MY CONSENT
P-47 FLYING OFFICER PERSONNEL – STATISTICS
Total Flying Officers Assigned ---- 342
Total Pilots Completing Tours of Duty ---- 100
Pilots Transferred after CTD ---- 77
Pilots Transferred to Hospital ---- 5
Pilots Transferred (other) ---- 37
Pilots Assigned (returned) from Hospital ---- 1
Pilots Permanently Grounded ---- 2
Pilots Active who have CTD ---- 23
- - - - - - - - -
Pilots Missing in Action ---- 92 (not including those later classified KIA
Pilots Killed in Action ---- 16
Pilots Killed in Non-combat Flights ---- 9
- - - - - - - - - -
Group Commanders ---- 4
Deputy Group Commanders ---- 6
82nd Fighter Squadron ---- 7
83rd Fighter Squadron ---- 4
84th Fighter Squadron ---- 5
P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONAL MISSION STATISTICS
Fighter Sweeps over enemy Territory ----61
Bomber Escort Missions ---- 255
Fighter Bomber Missions ---- 60
Invasion Patrol ---- 2
Grand Total of all P-47 Missions ---- 378
Total Planes Dispatched on Combat Missions ---- 14,990
Early Returns ---- 1,033
Mechanical Failure ---- 341
Escort --------------------- 196
Oxygen System -------- 43
Other Causes ----------- 453
Total P-47 Sorties ----------- 14, 482
NOTE: THE ABOVE INFORMATION IS NOT 100% ACCURATE IN AS MUCH AS
NO RECORD WAS KEPT OF SAME DURING THE FIRST FOUR MONTHS OF
P-47 COMBAT SCORECARD
Total Enemy Aircraft Destroyed ---- 276
Total Enemy Aircraft Probably Destroyed ---- 24
Total Enemy Aircraft Damaged ---- 177
78th Fighter Group Losses ---- 77
P-47 AMMUNITION AND BOMBS EXPENDED
Combat Ammunition ---- 880,589 rds.
Non-combat (Practice) Ammunition ---- 459,447 rds.
Grand Total Combat and Non-combat Ammunition Expended ---- 1, 430, 036 rds.
- - - - - - -
Type No. on target No. Jett. No. Returned Total Wt. Expended
M-76 500 lb. Incend. 17 3 10,000
M-43 500 lb. G.F. 180 4 39 90,000
M-64 500 lb. G.F 574 35 48 354,500
M-1A1 120 lb. Frag. 57 4 1 7,320
M-30 100 lb. G.F. 266 27 27 29,300
M-81 260 lb. Frag. 183 1 20 47,840
M-57 250 lb. G.F. 1,012 140 103 288,000
Number of Practice Bombs Expended ---- 1,048
P-47 STATUS – FLYING TIME – GASOLINE CONSUMPTION
P-47 Aircraft Assigned For Entire Period ---- 271
Total P-47 Aircraft Missing in Action ---- 77
P-47 Crashes (Complete Loss) ---- 24
P-47 Aircraft Transferred Out ---- 169
Total Gasoline Consumed Both Operational
And Non-operational, (Imperial Gallons) ---- 6,325,997 gallons
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS ---- 3
SILVER STAR ---- 12
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS ---- 168
1st O.L.C. TO D.F.C. ---- 121
2nd O.L.C. TO D.F.C.. ---- 49
3rd O.L.C. TO D.F.C. ---- 11
4th O.L.C. TO D.F.C. ---- 3
TOTAL DFC AND O.L.C. THERETO ---- 352
AIR MEDAL ---- 265
1st O.L.C. TO AM ---- 247
2nd O.L.C. TO AM ---- 192
3rd O.L.C. TO AM ---- 179
4th O.L.C. TO AM ---- 20
5th O.L.C. TO AM ---- 21
6th O.L.C. TO AM ---- 2
7th O.L.C. TO AM ---- 1
TOTAL AIR MEDAL AND OAK LEAF CLUSTERS ---- 917
PURPLE HEART ---- 6
THE ABOVE LIST IS UP TO AND INCLUDING 11 SEPTEMBER, 1944.
P-47 COMBAT OPERATIONAL MISSIONS
P-47 Thunderbolt Fire Power
A twin engine Heinkel 111 sits parked beside the perimeter track on an airfield, “somewhere in Europe”….A powerful Thunderbolt
roars across the field, its eight fifty caliber machine guns singing a symphony of screaming, chattering lead…. The guns from the
most heavily armored American army fighter are loosing the most lethal spray of death the vaunted German Luftwaffe ever faces…
the bullets appear to be striking the leading edge of the right wing… but the only appear that way, for in reality they are converging
right onto the planes vulnerable gasoline tanks…
A terrific explosion rents the sky….bits and pieces fly through the air…. They even strike harmlessly against the attacking
Thunderbolt….the pilot flies through his closed canopy….he’s that low….a bright, indescribably fierce explosion has occurred…
.armor piercing bullets and incendiaries have spelled “finis” to another grounded Jerry plane….once safe from the searching eyes of
the Thunderbolt pilot, but no longer!
A white flame marks the funeral pyre of the Heinkel as the Thunderbolt pilot comes back to take pictures of the destruction caused by
his accurate ground gunnery….gunnery that has been taught him for months before he started his combat life with his fighter
group….among the targets the Thunderbolts hit with those deadly “fifties” are railway locomotives, parked planes, freight cars, flak
towers, buildings, tanks, trucks, buses, staff cars, launches, steamers, troops, barges, trailers, etc…. nothing on the ground or in the
air is over looked when those big, smooth barrels sing their song of hate….a song of hate against the so-called, “Master Race”…
now the hunted quarry of a thousand fighters every day in Western Europe.
P-47 OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE TACTICS
By Major Joseph Myers
Every top fighter plane has certain characteristics of flight in which it excels. Before entering combat with any particular fighter the
prospective pilot should analyze his plane and ascertain its strongest points and then compare these traits with similar traits of the
enemy plane or planes he is likely to encounter.
Experience has shown that the Thunderbolt can out dive anything the Germans can put up against it. The turn of a P-47 is very
good at high speed, but if kept in a prolonged turn, the speed drops off rapidly and the result is a mediocre tight turn.
Through the intelligent use of just these characteristics victory over the best Germans possess can be assured.
If you do get the German on the first bounce, do not follow him through more than 180 degrees of turn, use your speed advantage
and with full power on pull up into a climbing turn, reposition yourself and make another pass at him. Make certain he does not
work you into a horizontal turning contest, as this is one of his strong points.
If the situation should arise and you do find yourself across the circle from a Jerry, break the circle by pulling up into a climbing turn.
Always use full power and water injection during a flight of this sort.
The Thunderbolt has a good rate of roll but so does the German. Many pilots have tried to reverse their turn when a Jerry gets on
their tail. This maneuver simply sets up a perfect deflection shot for the fellow behind.
Over 90 percent of the pilots shot down didn’t know what hit them. Remember to always look around. Seeing the enemy is half the
P-47 OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE TACTICS
By Capt. Leonard P. Marshall
I have been asked to write something about fighter tactics, both offensive and defensive, used by the 78th Fighter Group. This
subject is somewhat difficult to discuss as our tactics are constantly changing. Changing to meet new tactics devised by the enemy,
and also changing as we devise new offensive tactics to use against him.
The 78th Fighter Group was one of the first P-47 groups to go into action. Our first combat mission was flown April 13, 1943. For
several months after that date our work was mostly fighter sweeps twenty to thirty miles into enemy occupied France, Belgium, and
Holland. We flew these sweeps at thirty to thirty five thousand feet. A far cry from our present work of searching for ground targets at
a few hundred feet!
However,, I think we can discuss offensive and defensive tactics as they have developed and modified since April, 1943. First let us
take the offensive. In the early stages of our career as an operational unit our whole objective was to stay above the enemy fighters
and attack with the advantage of speed and altitude. We were firmly convinced that the P-47 was only a good fighting machine
above twenty five thousand feet. But as time passed and we had more and more encounters with both the Me10 and the FW 190
we began to realize that our airplane was equal to, if not superior to them from the ground up. As a result we began to engage the
enemy at all altitudes, and our operational level moved downstairs.
Then on July 30, 1943 we first used external fuel tanks. With this extra fuel we began to push deeper and deeper inside Germany.
We daily grew bolder and more aggressive as the enemy grew more and more defensive. However, in time the German air force
was forced back into Germany and out of our reach. Then the Mustangs came in to their own, for with their added range they could
go to Berlin or Poland. Day after day we took the bombers to the absolute limit of our endurance, only to be relieved by the Mustangs
without our seeing a Hun. Then we would read the next day about huge air battles that raged after we had left and of the
tremendous number of enemy aircraft the Mustangs were destroying.
Eventually in the latter part of 1943 we began to attack ground targets. Airdromes and locomotives and flak towers. Mainly I believe
because we were tired of coming back to our base without firing our guns. At first only an occasional pilot would take his flight down
to strafe. And our first few briefed strafing missions were always voluntary for the pilots. But here again tactics changed. Now our
work is almost entirely strafing and bombing. We are really operating as a tactical group along with the Ninth Fighter Command.
In summary I can say that we have progressed from a timid, inexperienced fighter group making furtive stabs at the enemy occupied
Europe from above thirty thousand feet -----now we are aggressive and have no ear of the enemy at any altitude. We destroy the
Hun in the air, and if he refused to come up, we destroy his airplanes on the ground.
Now a brief word about defense. If you are attacked by the enemy fighters, there is only one thing to do ---- break! Turn into the
attack. I am firmly convinced that the best defense is in an aggressive offense. If the Hun knows you are willing to stay and fight, he
will usually run from you. An then you have turned a defensive tactic into an offensive one, and you will destroy the Hun instead of
letting him destroy you.
In closing, I realize this discussion has been much too brief to adequately cover the subject. But it is my idea of the way the group
has progressed in a year and a half of operations. In the future the 78th will undoubtedly change its tactics many times. Perhaps
the day will come when we will once again destroy enemy aircraft by the score in air to air fighting. Or perhaps we will continue our
low altitude work. Time alone can only definitely predict that.
THE START OF A MISSION
At Duxford, a huge, wide grassy field allows the Thunderbolts to take off inlines of four, eight, or even twelve planes abreast…..
The squat, cigar-shaped planes waddle along the turf at 15 to 20 miles an hour…. They taxi down toward the perimeter extension…
raise a cloud of dust if it hasn’t rained for sometime….”rev” their motors up, and slowly wheel down the runway….a few seconds
later they seem to pull themselves up by their bootstraps….elevation comes slowly….then they fly along straight and level pulling
trailing black smoke----after a while they’ve gotten enough altitude for the turn….and around the field they come slowly in gentle,
spiraling turns….most of the time it takes them a good ten minutes up above….several thousand feet from their starting point….then
they set out in tight formations of four planes abreast for the enemy coast….
Before that mission starts, a lot of work has been done….officers and men have labored long through the night on the
Thunderbolt….the un-heralded ground crews have checked the planes from nose to tail, from wing-tip to wing-tip….ever since the
“Form D” came in hours ago….intelligence officers woke the pilots….the combat men had breakfast….while gasoline trucks
whizzed up and down….filling last minute auxiliary belly tanks….armorers affixed their deadly bomb missiles….the machine guns
were checked, oiled, and loaded….the weather observers and forecasters labored over the complicated charts and telephoned
reports….the parachute shop issued last minute chutes….the control tower started to list down the airplane numbers and prepare
for any emergency….the station crash crew stood by, ready for all eventualities….and a thousand different men went about their
tasks….some of them were immediately connected with “combat operations”….some of them went about work in their offices…
warehouses….supply and orderly rooms….but all of the contributed, either directly or indirectly, in sending from 50 to 80
Thunderbolts hurtling from the greensward into typically grey English skies….on the way to strike again and again at the Nazi
“Fatherland”….in the battle for Western Europe….and civilization.