The next known combat by the Gruppe was on 24 March when 57th FG ‘s P-47s flew armed reconnaissances of German lines of communication in the Rome-Orte-Orvieto area, strafing and damaging a locomotive and rolling stock and bombing a bridge. The 64th FS ran into I./JG 2 (reported as 10 Bf 109s and Fw 190s) and at 11.18 Rudolf Wirtgen ,shot one of them down Uffz. Walter Jürling accounting for another, a minute later. After this engagement, Lt. Towner was found to be missing, presumed shot down. In return, Lt. William F. Nuding claimed a Fw 190 shot down north of Rome and Lt. Robert B. Abercrombie another one damaged.

P-47s of the 79th FG's 85th FS were bounced by 12 Bf 109s, with a reported eight Fw 190s as top cover and Lt. Ward Pringle was lost, last being seen with two Bf 109s on his tail. Two more of the American fighters were damaged. The only Bf 109 victory claim against a P-47 that day came from III./JG 53 at 12.15 hours, so there is a perhaps a question mark over the Americans' identification of the top cover element as Fw 190s.

Scrambles and an escort

Unteroffizier Walter Sauder had not flown for nine days when he scrambled from Diavolo in his "3" at 09.03 hrs. on 27 March. This appears to have been uneventful for he was on the ground after 37 minutes, only to take off again two hours later, this time for a flight lasting twice as long.

His Flugbuch for the 29th records that he escorted at Rotte of Fw 190s on a one-hour reconnaissance sortie to Cassino from 14.20 hours. It is not easy to identify this operation from the surviving records of either side although 15 Focke-Wulfs of I./SG 4 took off for a shipping strike off Anzio at the same time, with III./JG 53 escorting. There had been an attack by I./SG 4 on the south eastern part of Cassino in the morning and Luftflotte 2 reported photographic coverage of the Cassino area during the day but details of that mission are lacking. Oberbefehlshaber Südwest summed up as follows:

Our ground attack aircraft attacked enemy positions in the Cassino area with good results, as well as shipping targets off Anzio harbour. Seven enemy aircraft were shot down four of them by Flak.

Bad weather severely curtailed flying on the 30th but Sauder recorded a mission from 10.55–12.15 hours to Cassino which included an inconclusive contact with Mustangs. This again is hard to tie up with the encounters recorded by the Allies during the day but these do include another possible operation by I./JG 2, an attack by 12 Fw 190s against B-25s of the 321st BG north east of Viterbo at 12.15 hours.

445th BS War Diary: Capt. Neumann led today’s raid which was to bomb Orvieto but due to poor visibility, the alternate target or target of opportunity had to be hit. Fighter attacks were encountered through the clouds and Sgts. York and Dillon claimed a FW 190 each.

448th BS War Diary: Mission 201 (246). At 10:03 24 planes off to bomb Orvieto RR bridge S (bomb bridge NW of Orte A-6234 as alternate) and dropped 48 x 1000 bombs at 12:00 from 10,500 feet. All down at Foggia at approximately 13:50. Escort P-40’s and P-47’s. No hits on bridge seen, bombs over, clouds obscured observation. Formation attacked by from 6-15 E/A in two main waves from coast. 6-8 ME-109’s sighted just at coast going in but did not attack. Near Viterbo 8 ME-109’s and 3 FW-190’s attacked but were not aggressive and were driven off by fighters. After bombs were dropped 6-9 ME-109’s came in from both 6 and 12 o’clock above and below but were not aggressive after first pass although they seemed experienced. They worked in teams of 2 or 3 usually from 6 o’clock with one coming in from above and doing split S and diving, others climbing and breaking from right to left. Reports of rockets being used and from 4 to 6 flak like bursts seen only smaller and with smoke. First element of first flight not attacked and E/A seem to know bombers field of fire. ME-109’s reported black with blue underneath. FW-190’s were grey. Claims 1 FW-190 destroyed claimed by both S/Sgt. James Dillon and Sgt. Howard Luton, tail gunner. One ME-109 probably destroyed. Confirmation of fighters destroying one FW-190.

The 79th FG was escorting the bombers and the Allies had no losses. One Fw 190 was claimed destroyed in that action while 15 minutes later some 20+ Bf 109s attacked the same formation.

NOTE: "The Cassino area" seems almost to be the default entry in Sauder's flight log, but many of the incidents concerned can be established from other sources as taking place elsewhere.

The I./JG 2's strength on the 31st was reported as 14 Focke-Wulfs and just four Messerschmitts.

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