P-38 victory, Elza Shaham

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Oreo, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    Every book I read about the P-38 mentions its first victory in the ETO as shooting down an Fw 200C near Iceland. The most specific sources list the pilot as Elza Shaham, and that he shared the victory with a P-40C, on August 14, 1942.

    However, several other sources report a P-38 "shooting down an Fw 200 within hours of the declaration of war", ie Dec. 8, 1941. One such source is American Warplanes of WWII edited by David Donald. Another is Bill Gunston's Combat Aircraft of World War II. Neither of these sources get more specific than that. It would seem, based on the more detailed evidence of other sources, from Einzo Angelucci's The American Fighter to multiple other sources including Wikipedia, that the Elza Shaham August 1942 report is accurate. For instance, what on earth would US Army P-38's have been doing in Iceland before the declaration of war? They were just marginally operational stateside, let alone on foreign soil. David Donald's book lists it as a P-38E, whereas others refer to it as a P-38F.

    So. What I want to know is, if this oft-repeated rumor is false, how did it get started? Who is responsible, and what is the legacy of this myth? To me this is almost as reprehensible as the myth (perpetuated, at least, by John Wayne) that the Flying Tigers were in routine combat with the Japanese before the US declaration of war.

    The other question is, what else can we learn about the P-38's, P-40's, and from one source I seem to remember, P-39's? that operated out of Iceland during the war? Many discussions of the P-40 mention how it was never used in the ETO (although it was indeed used in Italy, in the MTO) by the USAAF. I suppose you could say that Iceland wasn't really part of the ETO, but rather the ATO, or Atlantic Front. But what about these units, and their operational history? What more can we learn about them? :confused:
     
  2. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    #2 JoeB, Jul 14, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2012
    The 27th Fighter Squadron P-38's were only there in July and August 1942 on temporary duty before deploying to the UK. The 33rd Fighter Squadron was deployed to Iceland with P-40C's in August 1941, before the US entry into the war but after the UK turned over the defense of occupied Iceland to the US that July. So, there was no way P-38's intercepted an Fw-200 in December 1941, and actually there was no interception at all prior to the one August 14 1942.

    The USAAF official list of victory credits separates those in Iceland as theater 'ICE' rather than 'ETO'. There were as follows:

    August 14 1942: the official list by theater is missing Shaham's credit but it's given in the chronological list as 1/2 credit with the other 1/2 to 2Lt Joseph D Shaffer of the 33rd FS. Some apparently detailed accounts give the Shaffer's a/c as a P-40C, others as a P-39. The unit also received P-39D's before that date, though operated some P-40C's all the way to 1944(!) so neither can be altogether eliminated AFAIK. The P-38 version flown by Shaham is also variously reported. The enemy a/c was FW200C-4 Werke nr. 125, code F8+BB, of I./KG 40 which failed to return to its base in Norway.

    October 18 1942: Coincidently, Shaffer again was involved in one of these rare encounters, downing Ju-88D-5 Wnr 1726, code A6+EH, of 1.(F)/120, finishing it off by ramming. In this case all accounts I've seen say Shaffer was flying a P-39 (perhaps the confusion is P-40 first time, P-39 second time?).

    October 24 1942: 2Lts Michael J Ingelido and Thurman F Morrison of the 33rd were credited with a victory, though I don't know an account saying which type of a/c they flew (33rd by this time had P-40K's in addition to P-40C's and P-39D's). FW200C-4 Wnr 313 code F8+EK, on loan from I./KG 40 to 1.(F)/120, went missing near Iceland this day.

    April 24 1943: 1Lt Jame M McNulty Jr and 2Lt Harry R Stengle of 50th FS, a P-38 unit, shared a credit. Ju-88D-5 Wnr 430087 code A6+CH of 1.(F)/120 failed to return from a mission near Reykjavik.

    August 5, 1943: 1Lt's William E Bethea and Richard M Holly of 50th FS shared a victory. FW200C-4 Wnr.200 code F8+FL of I./KG 40 failed to return.

    Thus, the USAAF victory credits in the 'ICE' theater are 100% verified in opposing records, surely a distinction v any other theater. But fighter on lone recon/bomber actions typically had relatively high claim accuracy (though not 100%; as we know the very first P-38 credits, against a pair of Japanese Type 97, later 'Mavis', flying boats in the Aleutians Aug 4, are contradicted by the combat report of the Japanese unit involved which states that one a/c was slightly damaged in the tail, OTOH visibility was not good; anyway Shaham's victory was the first one for a P-38 verified in opposing accounts, not just first v the Germans).

    Joe
     
  3. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    Thank you, Joe, that is great stuff. It's hard to realize sometimes all the backwater actions that took place around the world. Also interesting that the US did indeed have forces on Iceland before the declaration. How could the US and Britain categorically decide the US was tasked with defending Iceland, when the US wasn't even in the war yet?
     
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