When a P-51 Chased a BF-109 Under the Eiffel Tower

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Flying a fighter plane through the Eiffel Tower only happens in the movies, right? Well, apparently not. This is the story of William Overstreet – the American pilot who flew his P-51B through the Eiffel Tower to chase a German Bf-109G.

A Daredevil At Heart

William “Bill” Overstreet Jr. enlisted in the US Army when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. He was picked for pilot training and would accumulate hours while flying the BT-13, T-6, and P-40s before being assigned to the 357th Fighter Group of the 363rd Squadron. Among his squadron mates was Chuck Yeager, famous for being the first pilot to break the sound barrier.

Bill was a daredevil; He would often surprise the farmers and sunbathers by doing loops around and over the Golden Gate Bridge during pilot training. 

Fighting In The War

Overstreet was assigned to the Ninth Air Force after he was declared combat-ready. Luckily for him, his group was also about to receive brand new P-51 Mustangs. 

Their group was highly recognized for their efforts in the war. During their bomber escort missions, the group destroyed twenty German fighters and strafed a large German airfield. 

Bill would routinely fly bomber escort missions into Germany, prompting him to name his beloved P-51 Mustang the “Berlin Express”.

Flying Through The Eiffel Tower

Overstreet and his group were on escort duty when they were approached by German fighters. The Germans tried to retreat, but a Bf-109 and Overstreet’s Berlin Express were already engaged in an intense dogfight.

The Bf-109 flew erratically, hoping to stave off the P-51’s unrelenting pursuit, with the help of anti-aircraft fire from below. However, Overstreet managed to land hits on the Bf-109’s engine and airframe, forcing the German pilot to do one last-ditch attempt to shake the Mustang.

Suddenly, the Bf-109 flew towards the Eiffel Tower and dove beneath, with the Berlin Express close behind it. Overstreet scored several more hits on the Bf-109 during the commotion, causing the aircraft to crash.

The brave daredevil somehow escaped German fire by ducking down over the closest river and following it until he was far away from Paris. The scene of him chasing and downing a German aircraft served as a morale booster for the French citizens and Resistance Fighters.

Rest Of The War

His close encounters didn’t stop there. On another bomber escort mission, Overstreet was hit by anti-aircraft artillery. He lost his oxygen supply and was semi-conscious for an hour and a half. Luckily, he was able to pilot his plane back to Leiston safely through muscle memory.

Overstreet continued to fly bomber escort and cargo escort missions for the remainder of the war. He would later fly eight missions during D-Day to support the Normandy Invasion.

Life After

William Overstreet taught military students in Florida after the war until he moved to Roanoke, Virginia to work for a CPA firm. He was awarded France’s highest military award, the Legion of Honour, at a ceremony held at the National D-Day Memorial on June 6, 2009. 

Unfortunately, Captain William Overstreet Jr. died in Roanoke, Virginia at the age of 92 on December 29, 2013.

May this legend rest in peace.