13–14 July 1944

The 13th saw only uneventful morning patrols over the Rhône Estuary and Golfe du Lion but on the morning of 14 July, Jagdgruppe 200 found itself fighting the US 8th Air Force when a force of 320 B-17s flew from England on Operation Cadillac, a Bastille Day supply drop to French insurgents on the Vercors Plateau.

Scrambling 21 Bf 109s in two groups, the Germans intercepted the American formation in the Valence – St. Rambert d’Albon – Romans-sur-Isère area and appear to have concentrated their fire on the 94th Bomb Group, the only USAAF unit to report any damage. The Gruppe initially claimed a Fortress shot down, two shot out of formation and one damaged; a Stirling probable (none was present and so this was in all likelihood a misidentified B-17); and a Mustang probable. Successes finally accredited were:

JGr. 200 claims

 

 

 

09.17

Lt. Heinz Moschke

2./JGr. 200

Stirling

Romans-sur-Isère

09.17

Ofw. Eduard Isken

2./JGr. 200

B-17

Valence

09.18

Ofw. Tchrer

2./JGr. 200

B-17

Valence (shot out of formation)

09.25

Ofw. Läbe

2./JGr. 200

B-17

Valence (shot out of formation)

In fact the 94th had eight aircraft with category A damage (repairable within 36 hours) and three category AC (repairable in over 36 hours). Some of these were hit by Flak or other causes while four were damaged by “fighter alone” and two by “fighter and other.” Two of the "Cadillac" bombers landed on strips in the Normandy beach head with their crews safe. The Mustang “probable” may have been that claimed by Uffz. Ohmert (again flying white 1) in the area Valence–Grenoble–Lyon: he noted it as “Acknowledged (eyewitnesses). 1 point” but there is no surviving victory credit. The 357th FG did however record one of its aircraft as damaged “Cat. AC.”

Led by their Deputy CO, Lt. Col. Thomas L. Hayes, 55 P-51s of the 357th FG had taken off from Leiston at 06.35 hrs., making rendezvous with the bombers south east of Vichy at 08.20. The last Wing of bombers was late over the target (at 09.30) and the 364th FS stayed behind to cover them. They were attacked by an estimated 10 Bf 109s and engaged in combats from 5,000 ft down to the deck.

Lieutnant Colonel Hayes:

“I was leading the escort with one squadron at the the time as I had dispatched the other two squadrons to cover the first bombers on their withdrawal. As our bombers, flying in three separate formations of 12 A/C each, came of their drop area, about 10–15 single engine, mostly Me 109s, came in low and attempted to attack the scattered bombers [sic] formations. We tried to break up attacks and in many cases could not press home attacks as we did not want to leave the bombers. Three Me 109s began an attack on 12 bombers from 6 o’ clock. On our bounce, they fired from extreme range and broke right. It was easy to turn with them. In 180 degrees of turn I caught the last Me 109. Opened up at about 300 yards; got good strikes; he burned and smoked. The pilot was coming out as I went by. The pilot bailed OK. Then I could not catch up with [the] other two. For the next 10 minutes we drove off other attacks but always lost them against the ground or turned back to bombers. They seemed only fair as pilots compared to the average run, but flying individually and in pairs or threes prevented our small force from making the best of it. None of the bombers were seen to go down. Two chutes were seen probably from the 4 planes shot down.

… Ammunition expended: 100 rounds.”

Capt. Mark H. Stepelton:

“I started out as GREENHOUSE Green Leader but due to radio failure I took Number Three position. Jut after the bombers had completed their run I saw two ships make a pass on the bombers so I broke off toward them with my wingman. When I approached the E/A we were attacked by about ten Me 109’s which kept on going past us so we again went after the Fw 190’s. I fired a burst at one and hit his right wing root which began to leave a large vapor trail. The E/A hit the deck and we gave chase and fired several times out of range so I finally closed on the tail of the E/A and gave him a long burst after which he crashed into the ground and rolled up into a ball of flame on the edge of a little town.

I claim one Fw 190 and pilot destroyed. Ammunition expended: 812 rounds.”

1/Lt. Howard E. Redd:

“After the bombers made their run they were attacked by two Fw 190’s whereupon Captain Stepelton and I broke out to pursue the E/A. at the instant we approached the E/A’s, 10 Me 109’s attacked us. we were forced to halt our pursuit momentarily, however the 10 Me 109’s turned away and we again pursued the two Fw 190’s. Captain Stepelton got many good hits, causing the E/A to catch on fire. Immediately afterward the E/A crashed near a small village and rolled up into a solid mass of flames. I confirm Captain Stepelton’s kill of 1 Fw 190 and its pilot.”

The attack on the rear of the American formation was also witnessed by members of the Vercors Maquis:

… German fighters, more effective than numerous, attacked one of the last Fortresses before coming to strafe us, forcing it to jettison its cargo prematurely.

The 364th’s claims were:

USAAF claims

 

 

 

c. 09.30

Lt. Col. Hayes

357th FG/364th FS

Bf 109

E. Valence

c. 09.30

Lt. Fredericks

357th FG/364th FS

Bf 109

E. Valence

c. 09.30

Lt. Finley

357th FG/364th FS

Bf 109

E. Valence

c. 09.30

Capt Stepelton

357th FG/364th FS

Fw 190

E. Valence

c. 09.30

Lt. Pfeiffer

357th FG/364th FS

Bf 109 dam.

E. Valence

continued on next page …

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