Ed McNeff was a P-51 Mustang pilot in the 355th Fighter Group in 1944 and 1945. This video walks you through two particularly challenging missions with his wingmen, and a run with skilled German Ace, Heinz Bar.
355th Fighter Group
In March 1944, a couple of months before the Allied invasion of Normandy, Ed McNeff was a member of the 355th fighter group operating out of England.
Flying the P-51 Mustang, they were tasked to protect the B-17s and B-24s as escorts during their long-range bombing missions across Western Europe.
A Memorable Mission
As they linked up with the B-17s over France, the 355th escorted the bombers to their target in Germany. Once over this target, however, a group of German fighters. An intense dogfight began, and after Johnston, his wingman, chased a Me-109, he suddenly disappeared into the clouds.
Little did McNeff know, that one of the top German aces of the war hunting in these clouds. McNeff had now had to make a difficult choice to go back home without his wingman.
Finding a New Wingman
McNeff would soon have another wingman, the leading scorer of the 355th with six victories- Norm Olsen.
Their assignment was another escort mission in Germany was a group of B-24s were striking Brunswick. As they turned for home, they were ordered to attack anything of value on the ground. Unfortunately, it would lead to a devastating loss.
McNeff and Olsen went across the airfield. Olsen was about to make a third pass, a dangerous move.
“All the guns on the ground know where you are, what you’re doing. We’re going across, and the tracers coming up like this…”
When they headed home, McNeff looked over Olsen, who was kind of bobbing his head. Olsen’s plane then suddenly peels off, his plane turning a hundred seventy degrees before crashing his plane right in the middle of a town in Germany.
Olsen’s death would be a major loss for the 355th. But his decision to go in for repeated passes at the German airfield led to his unfortunate fate.
Some Good News
Later in the war, when they were closing down POW camps, McNeff found out that his previous wingman, Ben Johnson, survived.
He claims he had been hit by a German fighter, and forced to crash land his plane, striking a tree and becoming a POW.
Years later, historians would gain access to German records that would show that the German ace that shot him that day was no other than Heinz Bar. The German ace tallied more than 200 kills in the war and Johnston could have likely been the 186th.