...this ME-109 pilot tried to evade, but there was no
escape. Again, I was not more than fifty yards - or maybe only fifty
feet - from him when I fired. I was something like twenty to fifty feet
away when he also blew up in midair. This airplane just disintegrated.
The battle was on. After I shot down two of the Me-109s,
two of the others tried to attack me head on. As I took snap shots at
these, and at other Me-109s that were pulling around in front of me, I
noticed that one Me-109 had climbed up to about 1000 to 2000 feet above
us and was just circling. Before I could go up to get him however, the
flak batteries at the airdrome open fired. They cut loose with
everything they had, firing at all of us, including the Me-109s. The
bursting flak filled the air with a huge cloud of smoke, so extreme that
it became necessary for me to fly on instruments when going through it,
which I did two or three times while looking for more enemy airplanes.
Suddenly I heard a screaming blood curdling voice come
over the intercom. It was Jack Ilfrey. "Robbie, I've been hit!" I did
not know if Jack meant he himself had been hit, or if his airplane had
been hit. I told him to get on the deck, which to us meant three feet
off the ground, and head back to our base at Youks-les-Bains. Jack flew
out of the cloud of bursting flak, and headed in the direction of Youks
with only one engine running. Jack's P-38 had been hit in the right
engine, and the propeller was feathered, but he had full power on the
left engine. I went down to escort him home, flying approximately 3 feet
off his right wingtip and matching his speed of about 275 miles per
hour. We were just 3 to 4 feet off the ground, with the propellers not
quite hitting the vegetation.
To us, flying low was not a bad risk. In fact, it was
the only maneuver in a case like this. Our being so low made it
difficult for an enemy fighter to come down and shoot at us because the
attacker would be in danger of running his own nose into the ground
while he was trying to get his sights on one of us. Flying low for Jack
Ilfrey and myself had never been a problem. We could strafe targets
accurately with our props clicking over only a few feet off the ground.
At that point in time, Jack Ilfrey was one of the Army Air Force's best
I was keeping my eye on the Me-109 that I had spotted
circling above the airdrome as Jack and I began our race toward home, I
glanced toward the German again, just in time to see him execute a
half-roll. He pulled his nose through, and, when he rolled out, he was
right on Jack's tail.
I wanted to get a deflection shot at the Me-109, which
was flying some 10 to 20 feet to my left. I ended up about 20 feet in
back of the Me-109. I wanted to shoot the pilot. I had the Me-109's nose
in my sight, but when I pressed the firing solenoid nothing happened.
I was out of ammunition.
I was helpless. I could see the German's bullets going
into Jack's airplane, peeling up the metal as they penetrated. I could
also see the German sitting in his Me-109. He looked around at me and
LAUGHED! I was so close that I could see his eyes were blue, he had
blondish hair, and he had a light complexion.
You do things in combat on the spur of the moment,
without thinking. You act instinctively. You don't wait, or concentrate,
or try and make up your mind. It is instilled in a combat pilot to act
automatically to save a comrade's life. In combat life you have a
devotion to comradeship that very few people ever achieve at any other
time in their lives. Anyway, it is impossible to think about the things
you are going to do in intense combat - you just do them.
What I did was start to ram the German airplane with my
left propeller. When the German saw me coming, he immediately turned to
the left. As he did, his tail hit my left wingtip. The collision
demolished the Me-109's tail assembly, the pilot lost control, and the
Me-109 dived into the ground.
I looked around, but there were no more Me-109s in the
air. As Jack and I continued on to Youks-les-Bains, I flew close
formation with him. After we landed, 268 bullet holes were counted in
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