B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

Remembrances of the B-Dash-Crash & My Experiences with the 320th
by John (Jack) S. Harpster, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Some of the aircraft we encountered

 

  The Supermarine Spitfire

 

During many of our B-26 missions we were quite often fortunate to be accompanied for most of the route by British Spitfire fighters.  The Spits were a beautiful and reassuring sight when they showed up at the prescribed rendezvous. There was a squadron of them stationed just to the north of our base and this outfit often escorted us. Besides being a very graceful fighter, they had established an impressive victory ratio since and after the Battle of Britain starting back in 1940. This 360 plus mile per hour fighter was designed to counter the German ME-109 and later on was more than a match for the FW 190 which could not out turn, but only out dive the Spitfire. Powered by a wonderful Merlin engine it had several different types of guns ranging initially from the Browning machine gun up to a small cannon. As mentioned, some of these aircraft were stationed in Corsica and would meet us over the Mediterranean Sea and go as far inland with us as their fuel would allow.


  The Messerschmitt Me 262 Sturmvogel (Stormbird)

 

A threat that was now occasionally appearing in our theater of operations was that of the new German jet fighter called the ME-262. The range of this fighter was rather limited, but it could easily outperform the conventional fighters of the allies. On some of our missions we were briefed that we might expect to see an intercept of this new breed of fighter. I understand that, fortunately for us, Hitler himself for some reason put a slow down or hold on this program. The elite, hand picked, top of the line Luftwaffe pilots flew these fighters; the first such jet planes entering the combat scene. Development of jet fighter tactics so far was an unresolved challenge to the Germans. However, itís true that had the ME-262 program gone full scale, the Air War picture could very well have been a lot different. While flying P-47 fighter aircraft later on, I did see one German ME-262 in Northern Italy, but he was rapidly heading for home and well out of our range. During my B-26 tour, none of the ME-262s appeared in the sights of our gunners. (Continued)


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