Duelists

Robert Winks, 357th Fighter Group Ace achieved what most did not. Flying his P51D Mustang “Trusty Rusty”, he shot down a German Me262 jet. Nearing the end of the war, Germany produced a technical marvel, the first jet to enter combat. A beautiful airplane, it was capable of speeds over 100mph faster than its prop driven opponents. Needless to say, they were hard to catch! Luckily for the Allies, it was another case of too little too late and the Me262 was not enough to change the tide of the air war.

Here Robert describes the remarkable event:

“I was at 15,000 feet near Munich when I saw a plane doing slow rolls on the deck – it was an Me-262. He had been flying away from what I later learned was the Schöngau Airdrome. I dropped my wing gas tanks, and rolled over into an 80 degree dive with 5 degrees of diving flaps. He made a 180 degree turn and flew back toward me, just before I started my dive. I was diving at a point ahead of his aircraft, and I had to adjust my dive angle to about 60 degrees. I closed to within 500 yards above him, and scored multiple hits across, and on both sides of his canopy. It flamed at once, rolled over…and that is all I saw because I was going straight back to 15,000 feet of altitude. But, I had a problem. My engine was without power, it was wind milling! Ack Ack was coming up at me from all directions! The engine had no power!!!? I had dropped the wing auxiliary tanks (which I was using), without turning the gas selector switch onto the internal wing tanks! If I had a vapor-lock, which I probably had, my P-51 prop was turning so fast as a result of my near vertical dive, that it sucked it out and took-off for fifteen thousand feet of altitude, which we made back, toot-sweet!”

“Looking back, that fool mistake may have saved my life, that day! My engine was making no noise, on my way down! The Ack Ack crews didn’t notice me until after I hit the Me262, and that gave me time to get away from them.”

“Richard Peterson followed me down, but he never told me that he drew any Ack Ack! Immediately after I hit the Me262, Pete said, “Good shootin’!” to me on the RTA. Anyway, all is well that end’s well! Right?”

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Once local air superiority around the bomber formations was achieved, the P-51 Mustang pilots were able to go to the next step, storming Luftwaffe airfields and other ground targets and ambushing the German fighters at takeoff and landing.

This tactic was especially efficient against the Luftwaffe’s new “wonder weapons”, the new jet and rocket fighters. At high altitude and at full speed, the Mustang could not chase the much faster Me-262 jet fighters, so instead the Mustang pilots followed the German jets to their airfields where they shot them down as they descended at low speed for landing.

Over all, it was a classic example of a strategic campaign to achieve air superiority by destroying the enemy Air Force’s ground infrastructures and by massively engaging it in the air while doing so.

The most famous Mustang pilot and ace is Chuck Yeager. Yeager was the ultimate fighter pilot. As a young Mustang pilot he once downed five German fighters in one mission. He downed two much faster Me-262 jet fighters, escaped captivity after being shot down over occupied France, and when the war ended, it was still just the beginning of his amazing career. After the war Yeager became a test pilot, and in 1947 he earned his place in the history books as the first man who “broke the sound barrier” in the daring first supersonic flight.