Against the greatest odds........

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machine shop tom

Senior Airman
Apr 13, 2007
I was wondering about what your thoughts on what the fight against the greatest odds might be.

The few P-40's during the Pearl Harbor attack?

The (main) Ploesti raid?

FM-2's trying to sink the Yamato (with .50's) in the Battle Off Samar?

Maybe we could call it the Big Balls award?

Don't remeber exactly the date, Fighter Group or much else but I believe a lone P-51 defended a squadron of B-17s by himself and was awarded the CMH for it. Even though the Luftwaffe was on its heels, still not a tasty prospect by yourself.
How could .50cal fire sink Yamato? She'd do more damage to herself firing her own guns than 12.7mm fire would do to her.

njaco - are you stalking me?
Don't remeber exactly the date, Fighter Group or much else but I believe a lone P-51 defended a squadron of B-17s by himself and was awarded the CMH for it. Even though the Luftwaffe was on its heels, still not a tasty prospect by yourself.

That would be this engagement that you're thinking about.....

9th Air Force Ace and Medal of Honor Recipient
The Oeschersleben mission on 11 January, 1944

"Here is his own story of the fight in his own words:

Our group was assigned to provide target support for boxes of bombers. "A" squadron was sent to the forward box and I later discovered that this was where all the activity was centered, but at the time I was unable to do anything about it. I just had to use what fighters I had to the best advantage that I could. The bombers passed over the target and there we met our first attacks. Flights of Mustangs were dispatched to engage the attacking enemy aircraft and I began attacking with my flight. On the first encounter, which turned into a melee, my flight lost me, The newspapers headlined "I got lost and I got busy." Well, that wasn't quite accurate. Because, naturally, in a fight like that, you can get separated from the other fellows and that's what happened. But I just don't get lost and neither do our other pilots. When I regained bomber altitude, I discovered I was alone and in the vicinity of the forward boxes of bombers. There was one box of B17's in particular that seemed to be under pressed attack by six single and twin-engine enemy fighters. There were about twenty bombers in a very compact formation and the fighters were working individually.

The first plane I got was a two engine night fighter. I went down after him, gave him several squirts and watched him crash. He stood out very clearly, silhouetted against the snow that covered the ground. I guess we might have been over Magdeburg. Anyway we were over or nearly over some German town. I could follow that fellow down because with the snow on the ground like that you don't have to worry about miscalculating distance in figuring out the proximity of the earth. I wouldn't do that if the ground was just a brown blur, as it so frequently is if you can see it at all while you're fighting. Well, anyway this fellow went down in a cloud of black smoke and fire and hit the ground.

Shortly after I regained altitude an F-W came cruising along beneath me. He pulled up into the sun when he saw me. I gave him a squirt and I almost ran into his canopy when he threw it off to get out. I saw him bail out.

Then I circled, trying to join up with the other Mustangs. I saw a Messerschmitt 109 just underneath and a few hundred yards ahead of me. He saw me at the same time and chopped his throttle, hoping my speed would carry me on ahead of him. It's an old trick. He started scissoring underneath me but I cut my throttle and started scissoring at the same time. Then we went into a circle dogfight and it was a matter of who could maneuver best.

I dumped twenty-degree flaps and began cutting inside him, so he quit and went into a dive with me after him. I got on his tail and got in some long distance squirts from 300 or 400 yards. I got some strikes on him but I didn't see him hit the ground. I pulled up again and saw an ME-109 and a Mustang running along together. The P-51 saw me coming in from behind and he peeled off while the Messerschmitt started a slow circle. I don't remember whether I shot at him or not. Things happen so fast it's hard to remember in sequence when you get back. And by the way, I never did see thirty or forty of those planes all at once the way the bomber people tell it. I'd see one, give it a squirt, and go up again. There were an awful lot of them around; it was just a matter of shooting at them. But you can be sure I never stopped what I was doing to count them. In slang words, I just seen my duty and done it.

Back up, now, with the bombers, I saw a Messerschmitt 110. I shot at him and got strikes all over him. He flicked over on his back and I could see gas and smoke coming out white and black smoke. (Major Howard did not claim this ship as a "kill.") Bomber crews say they are sure this ship crashed but it could be that the fellow had some sort of smoke equipment to make it appear that he was damaged more than he was.

I climbed back up again with the box of bombers which seemed to need me most. And right away I saw another Messerschmitt tooling up for an attack on the Forts. They often slip in sideways, the way this one was doing. We were both pretty close to the bombers and I was close to him. I gave him a squirt and he headed straight down with black smoke pouring out.

Now I could see that each box of bombers was being harassed by attackers but the majority of them were out of range for me. I had to choose the most opportune target and dive on him before he was able to get within range of the bombers.

Each time I would climb back up to bomber level only to find another enemy aircraft lining up for an attack. I was quite busy in a constant merry-go-round of climbing and diving on attackers, sometimes not firing, my guns but presenting a good enough bluff for them to break off and dive away.

On the first encounters and combat all four guns fired. On the third I had two guns and on the fourth and fifth encounter only one gun. When I got down to one gun I was still engaged in this dive, attack and climb game for another two or three attacks. The enemy aircraft and I would estimate that there were about 100 plus attacking aircraft throughout all the boxes during this period-seemed reluctant to stay and fight and would dive out. The reason for no other friendly aircraft being in the vicinity or with me was that other squadrons had been sent off to deal with attackers, and as I say, it's hard to estimate the number of enemy aircraft present during the major portion of this running fight, but all boxes I could see had some activity around them.

We were supposed on this trip to be with the bombers for about an hour. We had already gone over that time. But I had been using my ammunition sparingly and with one gun working I climbed once more to the port side of the bomber formation. I saw an ME over on the starboard side getting into position for his dirty work and I just dived on him from where I was. I got strikes all over him with my one gun. He turned over on his back and skidded out. He thought he had lost me with the skid and he pulled out into a forty-five degree dive, I followed him down and kept on shooting."
"On the next trip up I saw a Dornier 217, I think it was coming alongside the big Friends, probably to throw rockets. I had to work fast but when I dived on him he just left and I never did fire a shot at him. I had to leave shortly thereafter, also. When I got home there wasn't anything more serious than a hole in my left wing. I don't know where I got it, or when.

If we had dispatched more fighters we could have bagged many more. There just weren't enough protection fighters to go around. But, using what we had on hand to good advantage, I believe we came out on top with an impressive score.

The Germans are good fighters. You really have to riddle them to bring 'em down, whereas a few hits on a Jap plane will finish it. The Japs aren't very good shots either, but they are more alert than the German pilots. The Japs flew different planes and the formations were different, so it is hard to compare the fight here with the fighting in the air out in the Pacific. This is the biggest air offensive center in the world here and it was on a small scale, remember, when we were fighting there with Chennault.

I'll tell you one thing, though. You have a better feeling flying over France and Germany in a single-engine plane than you have flying in Burma. You have the feeling you'll get better treatment here if you go down. Over there once you are shot down you are either lost or you fall into the hands of the Japanese. I have a personal hatred for every Jap that I don't feel for the Germans.

Now since Major Howard had only reported two planes shot down, and since on that date three other pilots had also shot down two each out of the total bag of fifteen Germans, there was quite a mystery as to the identity of the lone eagle. Intelligence officers were happy to inform the inquiring bomber crew men that up to date Mustang fliers in a typical, all-American group, had shot down forty-eight, riddled scores of "probables" and damaged many, many others, all with a loss of only six planes, only two of which were shot down. And, they added within this typical group there was one squadron, that one led by Maj. James Howard, which had shot down twenty-two, got seven "probables" and damaged ten more, without loss to themselves. "Just count up those percentages," they suggested.

For another week the bomber crews and officers kept talking and wondering and then finally the films were studied and the encounter reports were written and all of them read carefully and there could be no doubt about it. This seemed certain to be one of those rare instances when a flier's claims would be doubled or even tripled by the confirmation board. If, as seems likely, six victories will be officially recorded, it definitely will constitute a one-day phenomena for combat.

The men who fly with Major Howard know he has a special knack for the dogfight but despite all they know about his individual performances they tell you he is even more outstanding as an air commander. When the enemy is sighted he takes easy command of the situation and has a special genius for disposing his fighters to the best advantage, his deep, even tones coming over the radio in such a fashion as to instill the greatest confidence.

Therefore it seemed entirely logical when, one day over Germany, he saw ten jerries approaching and told off a doughty fighter, "Take your wing man and go get 'em!" Odds of five to one! But without giving the matter much thought the fighters told off realized the major was saving his strength for the fierce battle he expected over the target. That was strategy. You must never let the enemy intercept and engage too much of your strength before you are near the target area.

"When he flies into enemy territory and the Huns come up," said Lieut. Mike Rogers, of Newton, Mass., "he, always saves the biggest group of enemy fighters for his own fight."

He is direct in the air. In his dealings with his men on the ground they find him sincere, quietly sympathetic, not very communicative. He gets things done much of the time by indirection. The boys say they feel that may have come about because of his many years in the Orient. When he puts on wings he takes off his cloak of restraint.

So do the pilots who fly with him. They have developed into scientific daredevils. They fly closer to the enemy and do more of the supposedly unorthodox than any other bunch, and the others freely admit it. This spirit has swept the entire group, which is headed by a full colonel, only 27 years old, Kenneth R. Martin, also a Missourian who has to be shown. He's from Kansas City.

When I tried to congratulate Howard's fellow officers they showed me a batch of letters the major had received from Fortress bomber crews he'd protected that memorable day.

Col. Howard W. Bowman, commandant of a bomber station, wrote:

"In the full knowledge that words can not be found which will adequately express our feelings, I wish to convey on behalf of our group the heartfelt appreciation which we feel as a result of the unbelievable courage and heroism you displayed on the recent Oeschersleben mission. "Your unprecedented action in flying your P-51B alone and unaided into a swarm of German fighter planes estimated at between thirty and forty in an effort, to protect our Fortresses in the target area is a feat deserving of the highest commendation and praise. The fact that the odds were overwhelmingly against you and that you had no hope of receiving assistance in your unequal struggle did not deter you in your determination to engage the enemy. "As one officer put it, "It was a case of one lone American taking on the entire Luftwaffe." Members of our group were lavish in their descriptions of the way you shot down enemy planes and, in particular, spoke in glowing terms of the attempts made to protect the combat wing against enemy attacks. I personally feel that your exploits that day evidenced the spirit of team work which is the sina qua non of successful military operations. Let me assure you that should you ever have occasion to visit this station your welcome will be a warm one. There is not a man in our group who hasn't sung your praises . ."
That letter was forwarded to Major Howard at the same time Major General Jimmy Doolittle ordered that a recommendation for "a suitable award" be drawn up. The award was the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation which accompanied it spoke of Major Howard's "aggressiveness in combat and outstanding leadership as an aerial leader," a flier who inspired his men by personal example and indoctrinated them in a most successful combat technique."
How could .50cal fire sink Yamato? She'd do more damage to herself firing her own guns than 12.7mm fire would do to her.

njaco - are you stalking me?

During the Battle off Samar, the beleagured CVEs launched all aircraft to attack and harass the Japanese fleet to try to give the ships of Taffy 3 some relief.

From the book "The Little Giants" (Y'Blood):

"The fighter pilots (from the CVE White Plains) did what every other fighter pilot was doing that day--they strafed. As Lieutenant (jg) Solen N. Hales said later, "I couldn't find anything else to do, so I made some strafing runs on a battleship." However, as the squadron CO pointed out, "There are no confirmed reports of enemy battleships sinking as a result of these strafing attacks."

My dad was present during that battle as 40mm AA gunner on the Fanshaw Bay, CVE-70. He saw the Gambier Bay get sunk by Japanese gunfire.........

The air defence of Malta and Wake islands deserve honorable mention
what about the battles that were sent to destroy bridges in france. they got to get some credit
The Channel Dash
Operation Cerberus was the name given to the break-out during World War II of the Kriegsmarine's ships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and a number of smaller ships from Brest to their home bases in Germany via the English Channel.
Fighter Command was not expected to be the first to spot the German fleet in the Channel, and valuable time was lost reporting the sighting up the chain of command and on to the Royal Navy and Bomber Command. Uncoordinated attacks by motor boats and six Fleet Air Arm Fairey Swordfish torpedo biplanes failed to inflict any damage. However, the courage of the Swordfish crews, all of whom were shot down while pressing their attacks, was particularly noted by friend and foe alike. Ramsay later wrote: "In my opinion the gallant sortie of these six Swordfish aircraft constitutes one of the finest exhibitions of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty the war had ever witnessed", while Ciliax said: "The mothball attack of a handful of ancient planes, piloted by men whose bravery surpasses any other action by either side that day".

from Operation Cerberus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Whew, Too many good efforts to tell but the Marines going out to intercept the first raid on Midway. None of the Brewsters came back I believe. An attaboy.
how about the situation in which the Finnish AF found itself on June 9th 1944 when Soviet Union began its big offensive against Finns in Karelia Isthmus. SU had concentrated 1537 a/c to support this attack and FAF had in area 14 Bf 109G-2s, 16 Bf 109G-6s and 18 Brewster B-239s. Of course they could count also the support of the bombers of LeR 4 ( 28 Blenheims, 12 Ju 88A-4s, 5 Do-17Zs, 3 DB-3M, 3 DB-3F and 2 Pe-2s).


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