• Lightning And Thunderbolts Of The 367th

    FlightSim.Com Feature: History Of The 367th

    Lightning And Thunderbolts Of The 367th

    By Mad Max Merlin, FlightSim.Com Combat Flight Simulator Editor

    Celebrating the Centennial of Flight demands that we recognize the American and British air combat squadrons that did so much to help win World War II. You've all heard about the exploits of famous fighter pilots such as Ace-of-Aces, Major Richard Bong who was credited with 40 Japanese kills in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. Yet, the hot sweaty work of systematically destroying the Nazi war machine's ability to wreak havoc and holocaust on the people of Europe and stop Hitler from raining German atomic bombs on New York, fell to the men and women serving with the air units in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). One American unit that served with distinction is the subject of this profile--The 367th Fighter Group.

    The 367th entered combat late in the war and in a very short time became one of the most highly decorated USAAF units in the European Theatre during World War II. Serving with the Ninth Air Force in Europe from 1944-45, the 367th received two Presidential Unit Citations, two Belgium Army Order of the Day Citations and many letters of commendations.

    Read on to learn more about this unit's amazing achievements. Plus, you'll discover two fantastic add-on aircraft for CFS2 of the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-38 Lightning that carried them to victory.

    Those of you who miss flying missions over Europe in CFS are going to love returning to the intense action of the ETO in CFS3. Many of the missions you'll read about here are recreated in exciting detail in Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3, The Battle for Europe.

    Ace In-A-Day

    The 367th was home to many famous fighter aces including Captain Larry "Scrappy" Blumer. Assigned to the 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, Scrappy, nicknamed after his "Scrap Iron" P-38, became one of the few fighter pilots to become an "ace-in-a-day" when he shot down five FW-190s in 15 minutes of aerial combat on 25 August 1944. Read all about that white-knuckle experience later in this article. Scrappy rose to command the 393rd and destroyed another FW-190 before returning to the States in January 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with 22 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

    Der Gabelschwanz Teufel (The Fork-Tailed Devil)

    The 367th flew the powerful P-38J Lightning, which was called "The Fork-Tailed Devil" by their Luftwaffe opponents. Designed by Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, the Lightning was the first American twin-engine fighter. Introduced in 1937, it remained in production until 1945.

    The P-38's futuristic contour helped make it one of the war's best known aircraft. The Lightning was extensively used for photo reconnaissance, long range fighter escorts and low level close air support in both the European and Pacific theaters. Placement of the Lightning's four fifty caliber machine guns and 20 millimeter cannon along the pilot's line of sight at the front of the fuselage gave it a combat advantage. It was just one of the many aircraft features that enabled P-38 pilots to achieve one of the most impressive combat records of any fighter.

    In the Pacific, P-38 aces Richard Bong and Tommy McGuire racked up a total of 78 kills between them in their race to become Ace-of-Aces. It was a flight of P-38s from the 339th that ambushed and shot down the Japanese Betty bomber carrying the infamous Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Capt. Thomas Lanphier and Lt. Rex Barber were both credited with that kill.

    I searched our extensive file library at FlightSim.Com and discovered a magnificent P-38J from the Blue Arrow Design Team. Winner of the FlightSim.Com Developer's Award, this CFS2 Lockheed Lightning P-38J-25-LO features an accurate weapons loadout plus working 3D gauges, steerable landing gear, full moving parts, correct flap motion and night time textures . The visual model is optimized for high frame rate performance and it has a true CFS2 .air file, including boosted ailerons and dive flaps. Sounds are actual P-38 Lightning sounds including Doppler effect. To get this magnificent Lightning, download the file named BA_P38JA.ZIP.

    When you get your hands on CFS3, you'll find an excellent collection of P-38s among the 34 new aircraft Microsoft provides.

    The Little Brown Jug

    The 367th also flew Republic P-47D Thunderbolts which were affectionately known as "Little Brown Jugs", or just "Jugs" for short. The Thunderbolt was the largest and heaviest single-engine fighter of the war. A supercharged 18 cylinder 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine made the P-47 the most powerful American fighter of the era. Armed with up to eight machine guns and capable of being equipped with two bombs or ten rockets, the Thunderbolt was used in both theaters of the war. It was a highly versatile aircraft and used as a fighter, for low level attacks and close air support, as a high altitude interceptor and escort. It served with American, British, French and Soviet units.

    I found a best-of-breed Jug in our CFS2 download library that you'll definitely want to fly. The Republic P-47 N-25-RE, v1.2 depicts a version of the Thunderbolt was the last one to be manufactured in quantity. It was a specialized long-range P-47 built specifically for service in the Pacific theatre. To get this beautiful metallic aluminum finish Thunderbolt with gorgeous nose art, download the file named P47N2512.ZIP

    Microsoft has included several fabulous Thunderbolts in Combat Flight Simulator 3.

    History Of The 367th Fighter Group

    This history of the 367th is edited from an address given by Edwin S. Chickering, Group Commander - November 1944 - September 1945.

    Getting Started In California

    The 367th Fighter Group was activated at Hamilton Field, California on July 15, 1943. In December the three squadrons, the 392nd, 393rd and 394th were scattered to three different fields in the San Francisco Bay area. Dive bombing and gunnery training was carried out at Tonapah, Nevada. In January 1944 the 367th was beefed up with personnel from the 328th and 368th Fighter Groups. Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Young who had been commander of the 369th became commander of the 367th Fighter Group.

    Training continued into February at which time all overseas inspections were completed and the Group was declared ready to move to a combat zone. The build up had been costly--eight pilots had been killed in the P-39s used for training.

    Shipping Out To Europe

    The Group's journey to the European Theater began on March 8, 1944. A six day train trip across the country was followed by a week of final inspections and training at Camp Shanks, New York before boarding the British liner Duchess of Bedford in New York Harbor. The ship was soon renamed the Drunken Duchess by her passengers during the 11 day convoy trip across the North Atlantic.

    The Duchess docked at Greenock, Scotland on April 3rd and the Group was transported by train to its airfield at Stony Cross, England. Having trained on single engine aircraft the pilots had expected to find P-51 Mustangs, but were surprised to find 75 P-38 Lightnings sitting on the dispersal pads.

    The change from single engine to twin engine aircraft required considerable retraining. By early May the 367th was ready for combat. The first two combat missions were completed successfully and the 367th was at war.

    In The Heat Of Combat

    Fighter sweeps, bomber escorts and dive bombing missions were the order of the day for the Ninth Air Force units. The pilots were gaining respect and confidence in the P-38. Prodigious effort by the ground crews and support personnel kept aircraft combat readiness high. Unfortunately, the baptism of fire over Festung Europa resulted in seven pilot casualties.

    D-Day, June 6th, arrived and the Group flew nine missions in the next three days maintaining low aerial cover over the invasion troops. By mid June, the Contain Peninsula had been cut-off. The German ground forces had withdrawn into a perimeter defense of Cherbourg, a major port which had become extremely important to the allies due to the storm damage to the artificial port facilities on the invasion beaches. A three division attack ordered for June 22nd was to be preceded by a low level bombing and strafing attack by twelve Ninth Air Force fighter groups. The 367th was to be the last fighter group over this highly defended area and would be followed by a massive Ninth Bomber Command attack from medium altitude.

    The fighters were ordered to fly at low altitude from west to east through this five by 26 mile highly defended area. The 367th P-38s were "sitting ducks." Major Rodgers, leading the 392nd Squadron returned with only seven undamaged aircraft. Major Smith, the experienced Flying Tiger pilot leading the 393rd squadron was killed. Within two to three minutes after entering the area the 394th had lost five pilots. The mission was an unqualified disaster! Seven pilots were killed in action (KIA). All but 11 of the returning aircraft had extensive battle damage. The 367th was out of action for several days. During the 17 day period, including the operations in the Cherbourg area, the 367th had 14 pilots killed and one taken prisoner.

    Crossing The Channel

    The last week of July, the Group's forward echelon crossed the English Channel on Liberty ships and landed in France. The 392nd Fighter Squadron went to Carentain, the 393rd to Criqueville, and the 394th to St. Mere Eglise. Life in Normandy was quite different than the luxurious airbases in England. Pup tents, squad tents, fox holes, and plenty of C and K rations replaced the cozy English barracks and hot meals.

    With the break-out of the ground forces from the St. Lo area, close air support of Patton's Third Army became the order of the day. The Group's first big bag came with attacks on the German Seventh Army. The Germans were withdrawing eastward through the gap between Falaise and Argentan to prevent being surrounded. Five convoys and 100 Tiger tanks were destroyed on one day.

    Fierce, Unrelenting Air Battles

    A resurgence of Luftwaffe activity occurred in August and the 367th was thrown right smack in the middle of the fray. On August 22nd the Group was ordered to simultaneously attack three separate airfields in the Laon area.

    The 392nd Squadron, led by Major Rogers, dive-bombed and destroyed two hangars on one airfield but were jumped by twelve FW 190s. Major Rogers called the other squadrons for help. The 393rd was jumped by 18 ME 109s and FW 190s as they reformed from their dive bomb run. Lt Buchanan shot down one. Two Germans cornered Lt Awtrey and shot off his canopy. Without a canopy, Awtrey out maneuvered the two and riddled one of them. Lt Stanley Johnson called to report that he was bailing out of his aircraft that had been shot to pieces. Johnson's parachute was seen to open but he was never heard of again. After bombing its target, the 394th Squadron, led by Lt Pieper, turned to help the 392nd. His flight bounced four Germans but in turn was attacked by three others. One of the FW 190s shot out one of Lt Pieper's engines but was destroyed in turn by Pieper's wingman, Lt Lee. The fight continued with the 394th shooting down six additional aircraft including one destroyed by Lt Pieper flying with one engine feathered. In the mean time, the 392nd had taken care of itself, destroying five enemy aircraft without a loss. Victories were by Lieutenants Hartwig, Kines, O'Donnel, Diefendorf and Markley. Altogether the Group had destroyed 14 enemy aircraft for a loss of one.

    The Day The Sky Was On Fire

    Returning to the Laon area on August 25th, the 367th simultaneously attacked three Luftwaffe airfields at Clastres, Perone and Rossiers. The dive bombing attacks ignited one of the greatest fighter versus fighter air battles in U.S. history. It was unique in that most of the action took place in a relatively small area and from 3000 feet to ground level. There are still witnesses to this dramatic event who refer to it as the "The day the sky over I'Aisne was on fire."

    The fight started when Major Gardner, leading the 392nd Squadron, radioed the other two squadrons the location of thirty FW 190s that had just taken off. He led his flight on the initial attack and four FW 190s fell simultaneously. Before the cover flight could reach them, Major Gardner and the other three members of his flight were surrounded and shot down. Captain Mateson leading the cover flight shot down two, Lt Lezie damaged one and destroyed another. Lt Platt shot down another while Lt Tremblay hit the wing root and cockpit of another FW 190. After driving three 190s from the tail of a P-38, Lt Lemley had his right engine shot out, but was able to escape at tree top level. Lieutenants' Broniee and Conney were shot down and killed in action.

    The 15-Minute Ace

    With the 392nd and 393rd Squadrons joining the fight the odds were more even. Major Griffin leading the 392nd attacked from out of the sun and shot down one FW 190 and damaged another as did Lieutenants Livingston and Plotecia.

    Captain Larry "Scrappy" Blumer leading the 393rd and with Lt Awtrey on his wing destroyed five enemy aircraft. Scrappy became an ace on one mission in just 15 minutes of air combat.

    Lt Pacek flying his third combat mission shot down two and Lieutenants Dobrowolosk and Melvin Jones destroyed one each.

    Of the 50 enemy aircraft engaged, 25 were destroyed, one probably destroyed and 17 damaged. The 367th lost two pilots KIA. Four others bailed out over enemy held France. In the afternoon the 367th destroyed sixteen JU 52s while on a long range strafing mission to airfields in the Dijon-Bordeaux area. For its achievements on August 25th, the 367th Fighter Group received the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest possible award for a unit in combat.

    Advancing Through France

    By now the Allied forces were moving forward and it was time for the three squadrons to start leap-frogging to new bases; moving from bases in Normandy to LeMans, to St. Quentin and by late October to Juvincourt, north of Reims.

    Now the flying missions were predominantly interdiction to dive bomb and strafe trains, motor transport, bridges, marshaling yards and supply areas. The 367th also supported the airdrop of Nijmegen by escorting C-47s and destroying the flak positions. For successful combat activity that fall, the Group was awarded an Order of the Day Citation of the Belgium Army.

    The Luftwaffe Strikes Back

    The Luftwaffe, now operating from German soil, reacted vigorously to the Group's attacks. By October 20th, the Group was running low on combat-ready P-38s and was ordered to simultaneously attack three railroad bridges in the Duren area. Lieutenant Estabrook, leading seven P-38s, from the 394th squadron was jumped by sixteen FW 190s on his dive-bombing run. Three pilots failed to return, three returned badly damaged and Lt Bradford was killed in action. Lt Malone, leading the 392nd Squadron, was jumped by 25 FW 190s on his dive-bombing run. Lieutenants Malone and Mathisen bailed out of their badly damaged aircraft and were taken prisoner. Lt Andrews and the experienced and highly respected Deputy Group Commander, Lt Colonel Morris Crossen were killed. Major Carroll Joy, leading the 393rd Squadron, turned to help the other squadrons on completing his bomb run and found Lt Bowers of the 394th being attacked by seven FW 190s. He destroyed two and Lt Eldridge destroyed another. Altogether the 367th had destroyed ten enemy aircraft, but seven of its pilots failed to return, three having been killed in action.

    A Chest Full Of Medals

    During this time, pilots were being decorated with Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs) and Air Medals. Pilots were not the only ones receiving awards. Nine airmen received the Bronze Star. On November 9th, Colonel Young completed his tour and was succeeded by Colonel Edwin S. Chickering.

    Fighter Sweeps, Bomber Escorts, Dive Bombing And The Ardennes Offensive

    Cold weather was now approaching and the Group bedded down at Juvincourt, on an old German air base with more permanent facilities. Life settled into a routine with bad weather curtailing some of the flying activities and adding to their hazard.

    Missions from Juvincourt consisted mainly of fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, dive bombing and strafing of bridges and transport. Luftwaffe reaction continued. On November 19th Major Brooks destroyed three enemy aircraft while coming to the rescue of a P-47 under attack. Captain Blumer added another. Altogether the 393rd and the 394th Squadrons destroyed seven with no losses to themselves.

    The German Ardennes Offensive occurred as the holidays approached. A planned move to a field in Belgium was canceled. On the night of December 18th a Forward Air Control Team from the 393rd Squadron was sent to Bastogne to assist the 101st Airborne Division. The team consisted of an experienced flight commander, Captain James Parker, a radio operator, a driver and a radio equipped jeep. The team joined the 101st just an hour before the last road to Bastogne was cut. When the weather finally broke, Parker did a superb job of directing the flights of fighter aircraft that were reporting in to him. Bastogne was saved due to the guts and determination of the 101st Airborne Division, Captain Parker, and the Ninth Air Force fighter-bomber pilots.

    Bloody Christmas 1944

    On Christmas Eve the 367th, after escorting C-47s on a re-supply drop at Bastogne, conducted an armed reconnaissance of the Trier area. The 394th Squadron was jumped by FW 190s and a 40 minute air battle ensued. Lt Jessie DeFrance bailed out of his burning P-38 and was taken prisoner. Lt Baxter was killed and Lieutenants Croker and Mygatt were badly shot up but were able to return to base. The Group claimed eight destroyed and two probably destroyed and nine damaged. On Christmas Day, Lt Harry Curtis was killed while strafing half-tracks behind the Battle of the Bulge.

    Thunderbolts Go Into Action

    As the year 1945 commenced, and with a shortage of P-38s due to losses, a decision was made by headquarters to re-equip the Group with P-47 Thunderbolts. Transition commenced with pilots flying P-38s on combat missions and P-47s on training missions. On February 16th the 393rd Squadron flew the first combat missions in P-47s.

    As the war progressed, the P-47s were kept busy, in one instance maintaining a ten hour patrol over the Remagen Bridge. The untiring crew chiefs, armorers, sheet metal repairmen, cooks, intelligence personnel, weather officers, surgeons, clerks and staff were working as a well forged team. For a second time, the 367th was cited in a Belgium Army Order of the Day.

    Maximum Effort To Decapitate German Army High Command

    On March 19th, 1945 a top secret, maximum effort mission was scheduled to destroy a castle and complex near Bad Nauheim, Germany. That castle was home to the German Army Headquarters for the entire Western Front. It was the headquarters of Field Marshal Kesselring who had recently replaced Field Marshal Von Rundstedt. Hitler's Minister of War Production, Albert Speer, was also there.

    The attack was scheduled for 1330 hours, the time the senior staff and commanders were expected to be eating lunch. The initial attack was to be made at minimum altitude by Major Mathison leading sixteen P-47s of the 394th Fighter Squadron. Each aircraft was loaded with two 1000 pound bombs with delay fuses. Having difficulty navigating at low level due to unexpected haze, the 394th was not able to attack as scheduled. Fortunately, Major Mateson's difficulties did not alert the headquarters' defenses and Lt Diefendorf, leading sixteen P-47s loaded with 1000 pound bombs with .01 second nose fuses was able to surprise the headquarters by initiating his dive bomb attack from 7000 feet. While Lt Diefendorf's bombs made a direct hit on the castle, the German generals were able to escape into deep underground bunkers. General Kesselring did receive a scalp wound from a falling chandelier. The 394th made their attack as the 392nd completed theirs.

    The sixteen P-47s of the 393rd Squadron led by Major Slingerland were loaded with napalm to burn up anything remaining. The bombs and napalm reduced the military complex to ruins, causing many casualties and disrupting communications and the flow of intelligence at a critical time when the Allies were crossing the Rhein. For this successful undertaking the 367th Fighter Group was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Presidential Unit Citation.

    Crossing The Rhein Into The Heart Of Germany

    As Allied ground forces crossed the Rhein and forced their way deeper into Germany the 367th's interdiction mission accounted for the massive destruction of motor and rail transport, tanks and supplies. On April 10th the Group moved to an airfield on the northwest side of Frankfurt, Germany.

    The war was not yet over. Mid-April saw the Group destroy 70 enemy aircraft. Many missions were to furnish continuous air cover over the advancing U.S. armored divisions. The Commanding General of the 11th Armored Division, General Dager, flew into the 367th base to personally shake the hand of every pilot who had flown on a mission the day before that had saved his armored columns from disaster. The 367th had sent an entire German Panzer division into disorganized retreat, destroying many of their tanks.

    About this time General Weyland presented Group Personnel with two Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, five DFCs and 17 Bronze Stars. The unit's last combat mission was flown on May 8th. All hostilities ceased on May 9th V-E Day, exactly one year after the 367th Fighter Group became operational.

    An Amazing List Of Statistics In Just One Intense Year

    The 367th had participated in seven European Campaigns rolling up an impressive list of statistics. The pilots had flown 14,175 combat sorties destroying 432 enemy aircraft, probably destroying another 28 and damaging 344. They had destroyed or badly damaged 384 locomotives, 4672 motor vehicles and 8288 railroad cars. The important thing is not the statistics, but the effect these combat sorties had on the outcome of the war. The Group's bomber escorts, attacks on enemy airfields and destruction of enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat materially contributed to the gaining of air superiority over Europe. German forces could not move, except in darkness or adverse weather, without fearing devastating attacks from the air, while Allied forces moved about with impunity.

    The Group's attacks on bridges and enemy lines of communication materially prevented or delayed the German Army from moving troops and supplies to counteract the Allied advances. The 367th spearheaded the attacks by Allied ground units by acting as eyes to see what was out ahead of them and destroying opposing forces. And the Group struck at the very heart of the German Wehrmacht destroying the headquarters for Commander in Chief West at a critical stage during the Allied crossing the Rhein. The 367th Fighter Group contributed greatly to the defeat of Hitler's Germany.

    The accomplishments of the 367th, as in any armed conflict, is overshadowed by the inevitable casualties that occur. 92 brave airmen were lost. Some remain in final resting places on foreign soil and others, missing in action, are forever inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing in American Cemeteries overseas.

    In the Pentagon, as you go up the wide steps that lead to the offices of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, there is a large mural 20 or more feet wide showing a large force of B-17s and B-24s drawing contrails as they penetrate deep into enemy territory escorted by fighters. The inscription reads: "Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said I: Here am I, send me." When the country needed them the most the airmen of the 367th Fighter Group said, "Send me, send me."

    Max Merlin
    [email protected]

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