Not a blackpowder tale
So, when I was in the Old Dominion State attending The Company of Military Historians Conference in April, we visited the Smithsonian Aviation Museum near Dulles Airport. They had Enola Gay, the B-29 that help light up Hiroshima displayed there. There were numerous WW II fighter aircraft including a Focke Wolfe 190 fighter. Anyhow, they also had a book signing event. The book was, "Hell Hawks! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht" by Robert F. Door and Thomas D. Jones. It's about the three squadrons of the 365th Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force. Unlike the Eighth, which was a strategic air force, the Ninth was a tactical air force that supported the ground operations. At Normandy, the plastered the German convoys rushing to reinforce Rommel. During Operation Cobra, the blasted a way for Patton's army to break out and encircle the Germans. They bombed and strafed the retreating columns as they sought to escape the Falaise Gap and provided support when the Allies chased the Wehrmacht out of France. I bought a copy and started reading it recently.
If you remember Operation Bodenplatte, that was the German Luftwaffe's early morning strike in Dec. 1944 to destroy the AAF on the ground. About 850 fighters took off near dawn and streaked westward with orders to strafe the American fighters before they could even warm up their engines. An airforce was destroyed, but it wasn't the AAF. The Luftwaffe suffered 40% loss in aircraft. Worse, 234 irreplaceable fighter pilots had been killed, wounded or captured. General der Jagdfleiger Adolph Galland lamented that it was the death of the German fighter arm.
One German fighter pilot who didn't return was Oberfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) Stefan Kohl. When captured, Kohl believed that they had struck a devastating blow against the Americans. His belief was not without basis as the airfield was littered with burning P-47s. Cocky and self-assured, he jerked his thumb towards the wreckage and asked his American captors of the 386 Squadron that he just struck, "What do you think of that?" Unable to deny the destruction, Maj. Bob Brooking stomped out angrily without saying a word.
What Kohl didn't know was at that time of the war, American factories were producing more planes than we had pilots for. From the depots around Paris, fresh Thunderbolts were rushed to the front to replace all the destroyed or damaged planes. A few days later, the 386 was operational again. Brookings then fetched Kohl from his jail cell and pointing to the airfield asked Kohl, "What do you think of that?"
Kohl was stunned with what he saw. Rows of shiny, brand new Thunderbolts lined the field. Energetic crews were working on them and preparing them for their mission. Realizing that industrial capacity of America could not be matched by Germany, a humbled Kohl replied, "That is what is beating us."
The book is a good read. Check it out.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!