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Aces Against Germany: The American Aces…

Aces Against Germany: The American Aces Speak

by Eric Hammel

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Prologue: The popular conception of the struggle in the air over Europe during World War II is of pairs and quartets of sleek fighters racing over the German heartland to protect contrailed streams of lumbering bombers, stretching beyond sight.
First Words: At 2140 hours on the evening of Saturday, October 23, 1942 - following nearly two years of costly, indeterminate warfare in the Western Desert - General Bernard Law Montgomery's British Eighth Army opened the great El Alamein offensive against General Erwin Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika with a ground attack supported by the fire of 1,000 artillery pieces.
I had a little altitude on the German, and I was gaining on him. The German got nervous and racked that Focke-Wulf into a tight left turn. Friend, I thought, you ain’t about to out-turn this Spitfire. I knew he couldn’t. I cut inside of him and fired. One of my 20mm cannon jammed and the other cannon, in the other wing, gave my Spitfire a see-saw action. I don’t know if I hit him or not, but he snapped over on his back. I thought if I passed over him, he’d do a split-S and come up behind me. I rocked the other way to keep him in sight. And then I saw him hit the ground and explode. He was doing about 350 or 375 miles per hour when he hit the ground. I was so scared that I’d forgotten we were only twenty or thirty feet above the ground. When he snapped, he rolled his airplane right into the ground. I don’t know if I even hit him, but it doesn’t really matter. The adrenalin was flowing through this twenty-three-year old. I had just seen my buddy hit the ground and explode a couple of minutes earlier. And now that German fellow had exploded and was on fire. I didn’t know where I was. I was still at full throttle, but I knew enough to turn in a westerly direction, because that’s where the Allies were – somewhere out there. At least I had to get away from German territory. I calmed down, l dropped down to about ten feet or so, and pulled the throttle, fuel mixture, and RPM back. All of a sudden, from my 10 o’clock to my 12 o’clock , I saw this airplane flying along at about 600 or 800 feet. There were clouds above me and I was in a light rain. I thought the other airplane looked like a Spitfire, that maybe it was Merlin Mitchell or Mitch’s wingman. But I didn’t say anything on the radio, and I stayed right where I was. By the time the other airplane got to my 12 o’clock, I was close enough to see a swastika on the tail. It was an Me-109. I thought I could stay down where I was and stay directly underneath him. I could advance the throttle, mixture, and RPM, pull up, and just let him slide right in front of me. He’d never know what hit him. And that’s what I proceeded to do – to start to do. As I turned underneath him and advanced the throttle, he still hadn’t seen me. I knew that by the time I pulled up to 500 feet I would be behind him and probably close enough not to miss. And that’s when a Britisher back in England saved my life. You can call it luck if you want. But I remembered this Britisher saying, “Chaps, remember this always: Where there’s one, there’s quite often two.” I didn’t look back; I just did a 180-degree turn, while I was still on the deck. As I got turned around, the German’s number two man passed right over me. Neither one of the Germans ever saw me. If I had pulled up on number one, number two would had had me as a beautiful sitting target. The adrenalin was flowing again. I headed west. I was going to fly west until I ran out of fuel or found an airfield. I came across Thelepte. We didn’t have it – Rommel had kicked us out – but I knew where I was. I picked up a northwesterly heading, flew back to Kalaa Djerda, and landed. Merlin Mitchell never made it back. He was shot down and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Germany.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671529072, Mass Market Paperback)

A collection of personal stories details the experiences of the U.S. Army Air Corps, from the major who waged America's highest-scoring air battle to a captain who took down a German fighter without firing a single shot.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:35 -0400)

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