It is April of 1944, and the fighting over Europe is intense as the Allies pave the way for the upcoming invasion.
In the 355th Fighter Group, one man by the name of Ed McNeff would score his first kill.
Not As Planned
On the 24th of April, McNeff would take off for a standard escort mission over Germany. McNeff would be flying on the wing of Captain Reed Butler as they rendezvous with B-17 bombers before they bombed German airfields near Munich. However, things would not go as planned.
As the B-17s approached Augsburg, some B-17s became separated from the main group due to a mix-up in the planned formation groupings. They found themselves defenseless and alone – 5 kilometers behind the main group.
Picked Off By Fighters
After a few moments, they saw a group of Fw 190s and Bf-109s of JG26 and JG3 made up of seasoned German pilots. The Germans pounced on the lone group, quickly taking down three B-17s in just a few minutes. It didn’t take long for the B-17s to radio the 355th for help.
The Fighter Group’s Mustangs tore through the skies to get there as soon as possible. Upon arriving, they saw more than 50 German aircraft attacking the bombers.
They quickly jumped into action to defend the bombers, starting a dogfight that stretched from Augsburg all the way to Munich.
To The Rescue
“There were three Me-109s, and I pounced down on one, and then he broke (off from the group). Finally, I got into a good position at eight o’clock, and that was good enough.”
The 109 was initially hit hard, but the chase continued down to treetop level. You can watch Ed McNeff shoot down the 109 at the 5-minute mark of the video.
Ed opened fire at the 109, causing it to pull up and go out of frame. This would be his first official air-to-air victory of the war. Later on, this would be credited as half a kill – the other going to his leader Captain Butler.
With the German fighters scrambling to return to their bases, the Fighter Group set their sights on the German barges along the Rhine.
“After we were relieved from the escort mission, you’re allowed to go do what you could do. If you see anything moving, you strafe it.”
You can watch Ed McNeff’s gun footage of this at the 6:55 mark.
Following this, the P-51s would head home to England.
27 American B-17s were lost on this mission across all groups, with more than a hundred sustaining damage. Meanwhile, the Germans lost 20 fighters, with a handful of others damaged at the cost of four P-51s.