11 August 1944

The Gruppe scrambled twice with 16 sorties in all, six of its Bf 109s making contact with Allied aircraft. Late that afternoon, eight P-47s of “White” and “Red" flights, 527th FS/86th FBG were sent to destroy a Seetakt shipping search radar near Marseille. They encountered very bad haze with an overcast at 10,000 ft, 500 ft thick and extending 5 miles inland. They had to get beneath this to attack but “White” leader, 2/Lt. James R. Whiting saw his wingman, 2/Lt. Arnold Landan continue above the layer as the other P-47s descended. Whiting called on Landan to rejoin but got no response. The formation made a 360º turn, taking them over Marseille itself and attracting heavy-calibre Flak which demanded evasive action before they could dive on the target from north north east. Whiting reported that:

“As ‘RED’ flight went into their dive, I noticed a P-47 spinning down, pouring out black smoke. It was directly under the flak from the islands. I went into my bombing dive and broke right … and saw a large spot on the water burning and pouring off large quantities of black smoke. This is approximately 6 miles [10 km.] south of Marseille … I did not hear from 2nd Lieut. Arnold Landan again although I tried to raise him …”

Described as a “likeable, eager, young Philadelphian”, Landan was on his first mission. Oberfeldwebel Eduard Isken however was not, having flown with JG 77 since 1940 on the Channel front, in North Africa and in Italy. With 2./JGr. 200 he had continued adding to his score and today claimed his 41st kill, a P-47 at 18.12 hours. It is easy to see in this encounter the risks run by a pilot new to combat when faced by a highly experienced adversary. Landan lost touch with his formation, immediately becoming more vulnerable and it seems likely that Isken was able to take advantage of the layer of overcast — and perhaps the distraction afforded by the Flak — to stalk and ambush him unseen.

12 August 1944

USAAF B-24s attacked gun positions around Marseille, Toulon and Sète while P-51s strafed radar installations and other coast-watching facilities to prepare the way for the imminent landings; JGr. 200 mounted 18 sorties in two scrambles. At 09.36 hours, the Gruppe sent up three aircraft of its 1. Staffel, two from the 2. and six of the 3. This activity was picked up by MAAF's Field Signals Units, which noted Luftwaffe reaction to bombing in the Toulon area from 09.55–10.36 as "… fighters engaged one formation and claimed a success at [10.31 local time]." The 454th BG saw a Bf 109 at Sète but there was no contact over that particular target. Eleven Spitfires of No. 232 Squadron RAF provided area cover for 48 B-25s of the 340th BG which were attacking targets between Toulon and Cannes, the Squadron's Operations Record Book reporting:

"A similar operation to the previous day but no attacks were made against the Radar Installations as ME109's endeavoured otherwise. In the resultant combats, 2 ME109's were destroyed one each by No. NZ413053 P/O A.V. Frewer and 1331773 W.O. E.A. McCann, the latter's score standing at one destroyed and 4 damaged.

Offsetting these successes, No. 328819V Lt. Geoffrey W. Dibb (SAAF) in Spitfire LF Mk. IX, MJ442 failed to return:

… from 10/11000' bombers were seen attacking enemy positions in the Hyères Islands and in the area of U.3250 [4 km. north of Draguignan]. At 1030 [local time] 12 ME 109's flying on 090° at 15000' in 3 boxes of 4 were seen in the Cap Bénat area. In the ensuing combat 2 ME109's were destroyed, one seen to fall into water in the Hyères roads and the second burst into flames in the air finally crashing to earth against a hillside in area of U.0030 [Brignoles]. No less than 6 other e/a were attacked but no positive damage was seen although cine-gun photographs may confirm expectations. The remaining e/a escaped [in] Westerly directions. At 1045 one of our a/c was hit presumed by e/a and Control reported position of Pilot [Lt. G.W. Dibb, SAAF] in sea … to which ASR services were being sent … One e/a was seen to have instead of Nazi markings reported on others of formation 2 dark stripes on mainplane tops from leading to trailing edges inboard of which were roundels (colour not specified)."

Pilot Officer Alan Frewer (Spitfire Mk. IX MJ818, "L") had taken off from Calanzana, Corsica at 09.45 hours, flying as Blue 3. The weather was good and there was no cloud:

Just after we had crossed the coast at 15000 feet I reported a reflection in the sky at 10 o'clock slightly above. Later this materialised into 12 plus and I recognised them as ME109's which flew east in front of us turning to the starboard in an endeavour to get on our section's tails. Accordingly I broke starboard into them turning a complete circle then climbing into the sun breaking into attacks. I then saw a single ME109 in a diving turn below us which my No. 2 and I pursued down to 0'. I closed to within 200 yards range giving a one second burst when at 60 [?] yds. I gave another burst of some 2 seconds. The enemy aircraft immediately burst into flames in the air and crashed into a hillside in the area of Brignoles North of Toulon. I claim one ME 109 destroyed.

Warrant Officer Edward McCann (MJ737, “T”):

I was detailed to fly as Green 3 on an area cover of the Toulon Cannes area for Mitchells bombing. As we crossed the coast at Cap Benat at 16000’, 12 aircraft were reported at 10 o’clock. They were coming towards us and were recognised as Me 109’s. The leading section of the enemy consisted of 4 aircraft, passed over Blue and Red Section and turned to attack them. I turned into them and gave the rear ME109 almost a full deflection shot of about 2 seconds at 200 yards but observed no strikes so I followed him round to about 30 degrees and at 250 yards range I opened fire again. Black smoke started to pour from the ME109 (this will be verified by Green 4). At this moment I had to break as I observed other iarcraft coming up behind Green 4 and myself but they turned out to be friendly. When I looked for the ME109 again it was going down with black smoke pouring from it and I watched it crash inot the sea just off the coast in the Hyères Roads. This will be verified by Green 2. This occurred at approx. 1030. I later attacked two more ME109’s but observed no results. I was handicapped in the that the 90 gallon tank would not jettison. I claim one Me 109 G destroyed.

Unteroffizier Kurt Kubeit (Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 166257, yellow 2) fell, according to Luftwaffe sources, near Carnoules, about 20 km. south east of Brignoles and was killed It therefore seems likely that he was shot down by Frewer but the Messerschmitt reported as crashing into the sea cannot be identified from German records. Two Spitfires were dispatched at midday to look for Lt. Dibb but without success; overall though, No. 232 Squadron's mission had been so successful that none of the B-25 units reported so much as a sighting of enemy aircraft.

The Germans made at least three reports on the day's actions, the first speaking of a Spitfire probably shot down and another damaged. Later this became one destroyed (by the 2. Staffel's Eduard Isken, for his 42nd victory) and one probable; ultimately however Isken and 3./JGr. 200's Ogefr. Horst Rippert were credited with a Spitfire each. These victories were timed at 10.30 and 10.31 hours, the latter coinciding precisely with the claim heard over the airwaves. Since no other Spitfires were in fact lost, it is likely that both men had got in shots at the 21 year-old Lt. Dibb (from Durban, South Africa).

Combat was renewed early in the evening, when 42 Thunderbolts of the 27th FBG attacking Miramas marshalling yard were engaged by six hostiles after leaving the target area (among them were three Bf 109s of 1./JGr. 200, scrambled at 18.05 hours).

USAAF claims

 

 

 

1/Lt. Theodore A. Gary

522nd FS

Fw 190

Istres

Squadron victory

522nd FS

Bf 109

Istres

[not stated]

522nd FS

Bf 109 dam.

Istres

Lt. Hendrickson

522nd FS

Bf 109 dam.

Istres

In this action, Eduard Isken was credited with a P-47 as were Fhr. Johannes Brandau and Fw. Herbert Guth. In fact, two of the Thunderbolts had been damaged and JGr. 200's casualties, both fatal, were Brandau (Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 441525, white 14) and Uffz. Martin Hermanitz (Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 165609, yellow 5). Wreckage from Hermanitz's aircraft has since been located by French investigators. The pilot himself is buried at the Cemetery at Dagneux.

In all, German claims for the day were: two Thunderbolts shot down; a Spitfire and three Thunderbolts probable; one Spitfire and a Thunderbolt damaged. In addition, a Thunderbolt and a Spitfire had been claimed shot down by the "emergency Flak" at a radar station.

continued on next page …

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