Feldwebel Werner Hensel's "Mosquito'' (Page 165)

Thanks to Christian Möller's discovery at the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv of the Luftwaffe’s “Morning Report West of 12.4.45” it has at last been possible to identify the aricraft shot down by Werner Hensel. the report refers to the events of the night 11/12 April and reads:

Italy... Own operations. NSG. 9: 6 Ju 87, 20.30-06.10, attack on artillery empacements in the region of the front without any special observations of effects. In aerial combat 1 Mosquito shot down. No losses. 1 Ju 88 carried out flash photography reconnaissance, Naples - Salerno.

While this report mentions no sorties by Fw 190s, it seems clear that it must refer to Werner Hensel’s combat — NSG 9’s air combat claims were not exactly numerous.

While no Mosquito was lost on the night of 11/12 April, a Black Widow (P-61B-6 NO, serial number 42-39515) of the USAAF’s 414th Night Fighter Squadron failed to return. An encounter with a P-61 explains the US "stars and bars" that Hensel saw on his adversary. The date is a week earlier than he remembered and his aircraft recognition was faulty but his victory was real.

"Frontdoor 50", the P-61 of 2nd Lts. Lael M. Cheely (pilot), Peter J. McGirr and Lucien M. Beam (radar observers) had left Pontedera at 20.56 hrs. on the 11th on an intruder/bombing mission to Ghedi aerodrome. They called in immediately they became airborne but were not heard from again, despite numerous calls from base.

If the P-61 lost on 11/12 April was Hensel's "Mosquito" then it seems probable that No. 256 Squadron's Mosquito JT/A (HK 508) of S/L G.M. Smith DFC and F/O H.J. Wilmer DFC, lost in the early hours of 19 April, was brought down by ground fire as was suspected at the time. Two American Mosquitoes lost on 22 April both took off around midday to operate against the Po crossings.

We do not know whether NSG 9's Maintenance Technical Sergeant examined the right wreck when sent to confirm Hensel's victory. Perhaps he mistook the remains of the P-61 for a Mosquito or perhaps a Mosquito which crashed in the right area is what he found.

Hensel had two Flugbücher logging 656 flights but they were torn up by the Americans who captured him at the war's end. A contemporary record of the times he was in the air would have helped enormously in resolving this whole issue.

In May 2014, I was contacted by Ellen Manzo, the niece of Peter J. McGirr. She writes that:

Peter was a bright, capable, likable, and humorous sort of young man. The story about Peter is quite sad. He flew in the Army Air Corps and had just taken a test and was being recruited for a top flight group in the Navy. My Grandparents convinced him to stay with the Army Air Corps for he only had six months left and they wanted to see him come home and finish his college education. From what I understand, they never forgave themselves for convincing their son to stay in the Army Air Corps.

My Mother indicated that my Uncle John, Peter's brother, another WWII veteran, visited the town in which Peter's plane went down. John McGirr learned that some Italian villagers pulled the crew out from the wreckage and buried them behind a church in their own graveyard. John met the Granddaughter of the man who pulled the crew out from the plane. She had a flight manual that came from the plane and gave it to my Uncle. Some number of years later following WWII, Peter's body was recovered and brought back to America.

Note: the Ghost Bombers account of the loss of Mosquito A-Apple refers to Wilmer both as a DFM (awarded to non-commissioned personnel) and a DFC (reserved for officers), a discrepancy overlooked by the author at the time. The wartime records of Both 600 and 256 Squadrons refer to a DFM. The RAF Air Historical Branch's letter to NB, quoted in the text, speaks of a DFC.

 

New sources: conversations between Hensel, Alfons Eck, Willy Ferling and NB during the NSG 9 Treffen in Bischofshofen, Austria, May 2002; Bundesarchiv information relayed by Christian Möller; response by “Ted” to a posting on the 12 O’Clock High website; Missing Air Crew Report 13803; emails from Ellen Manzo (reproduced with her permission), 28 May, 12 June and 2 July 2014.

 

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