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Winning the air war in Europe

Getting a quarter of a kill

I can't talk right now, gotta shoot!

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Clarence Anderson was interested in flying from a young age. Lindbergh [Annotator's note: American aviator Charles Lindbergh] was an inspiration to him. Anderson would go to the local airport to watch the planes. When he was about seven years old his father took him for a ride in a biplane. Another big influence for Anderson was going with his best friend Jack Stacker to an old World War 1 airfield to watch the old B-18 bombers on maneuvers. It was there that he and Jack met A.J., a Technical Sergeant working at the field. Anderson learned that he had to have two years of college to enter the aviation cadet program. He attended a junior college that offered an aeronautics class. After his first year Anderson enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and got his private pilot license flying Piper Cubs. It was a slow plane. When Anderson finally got into the air he recalls it being rather slow. When he took his first cross country flight it took 35 hours and was a very structured flight following a road. He could look down and see some cars going faster than he was flying. Anderson chose the Air Corps instead of the other branches because of the convenience.

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Clarence Anderson's friend Jack Stacker joined the Air Corps a year after him. Jack was a P-38 pilot and was killed on his fifth mission. When Anderson completed his combat tour he married Jack's widow. Anderson was at work when he learned of the Pearl Harbor attack. He and his friends had followed the war in Europe very intently. Reading about the Battle of Britain convinced him even more that he wanted to be a fighter pilot. Anderson believes that the reason the government created the Civilian Pilot Training Program is because they knew that war was imminent. Many people went to Canada to enlist before the US officially entered the war. Anderson remembers the air raid sirens going off while at work one night. They all left the building and went out into a wide open field. The month after the attack on Pearl Harbor Anderson turned 20 years old and volunteered for service. He volunteered on the 13th of January [Annotator's Note: 13 January 1942] and was sworn in and on his way to aviation cadet training six days later. When he went to take his physical he was given a Snyder Test. He was so excited that he failed the heart rate and blood pressure tests. His family doctor gave him a little white pill. He took the test again and passed.Anderson was authorized to drive to his first duty station which was in Arizona. He was still excited about volunteering. When he left his home he forgot his orders and had to go back to get them.

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Clarence Anderson felt for his wife having to see her husband and son both going off to war during the Vietnam War. Anderson took his preflight training in Arizona followed by primary training at Williams Field in Chandler, Arizona. He then went to San Diego to a civilian contract school. He lived in a motel while attending Ryan School of Aeronautics. There he flew the Ryan PT-22. From there he went to Bakersfield, California to Minter Field where he was taught by army instructors. There he flew the BT-13 and learned night, formation, and instrument flying. He then went to Luke Field where he flew the AT-6. On September 29, 1942 Anderson graduated and was able to land a fighter pilot assignment. His first duty assignment was at Hamilton Field in San Francisco. There he joined a replacement training squadron. He flew his first fighter there, the P-39.After being checked out in the plane he reported to his new station at the Oakland Municipal Airport. Anderson and 4 or 5 of his peers were chosen to go to Nevada to be the cadre for a new fighter group. Being assigned to this new group gave him an additional year of training before going into combat. After the group was declared combat ready they were sent to Camp Shanks [Annotator's Note: Near Orangetown, New York] where they boarded the Queen Elizabeth. There were about 15,000 men aboard the ship when they shipped out. Anderson was a captain at the time and was assigned to a suite with seventeen other officers.Anderson was informed at some point that his group would be transitioning to the new P-51 [Annotator's Note: American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft].

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Clarence Anderson describes how the P-51 Mustang [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] came to be. He explains the modifications that had to be made to that aircraft such as fitting it with a British engine. He also mentions the XP-75 which was supposed to be the plane to replace the P-51. Wright Field did not originally like the Mustang and had looked into replacing it but after testing the XP-75 it was dropped in favor of the P-51. When the Americans got to England they decided to bomb in daylight so they could use the Norden Bomb Sight. There were terrible losses. In late 1943 the bombers were heading deeper and deeper into Germany. The Luftwaffe shot down a lot of bombers. At about this time the first P-51s arrived. The first Mustangs were sent to the 9th Air Force. The 9th Air Force ended up lending many of their Mustangs to the 8th Air Force. Anderson's 357th Fighter Group was equipped with the P-51 B. The 357th was originally assigned to the 9th Air Force but was transferred to the 8th. When Anderson got to England there many P-38 and P-47 fighter groups in the 8th Air Force. The Mustang was so successful that when the war ended 14 of the 15 fighter groups in the 8th Air Force were equipped with P-51s. The 56th Fighter Group was the only group with P-47s. Anderson was assigned to take a Mustang to the Royal Air Force's gunnery school. That way he was able to get about 35 more hours of flying time than the others in his group. Anderson describes the P-39s he flew before getting the P-51.

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Clarene Anderson thought the P-39 was a cool airplane. With the engine mounted in the center of the plane there was room to put a cannon. They also had machine guns in the wings. It was not until Anderson flew the P-51 that he realized the short falls of the P-39. He is glad that he never had to fly combat in one. The men in Anderson's group were all young. He was 20 when he was commissioned and flew almost all of his combat missions at the age of 22. By the age of 27 guys were usually group commanders. They were the old men. Obie, William R. O'Brien, was one of the original flight leaders. The flight leaders were Anderson, O'brien, a guy named Hubbard from California, a guy named Devries, and Ed Hero. Hero became the the group's Operations Officer. The first group of pilots that joined the group included a flight officer named Chuck Yeager. Anderson believes that if a war is necessary, the way to do it is to have air groups that have trained as a unit. To be a true fighter pilot a man had to have good vision, not just good eyesight. As a kid Anderson was a hunter and was able to spot enemy planes out at a distance. Yeager was also able to do that. During one mission Anderson could see a group of B-17s [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers] way off in the distance. He could see very small sparkles around the bombers. When he got a little closer he realized that he was seeing German fighters attacking the formation. The P-51 was great to fly. It was really fast at all altitudes and had great range and endurance. It was the right plane at the right time for the job.

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Clarence Anderson feels that the P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] was a big factor in beating the Germans. When the P-51 was full of fuel it was unstable. Also, when in a high speed dive it could overstress the plane and the wings could come off. On the P-51-B there were some feed problems with the guns. The P-51-D had six guns that were mounted in line reducing the feed problem with the guns. The liquid cooled engine could be knocked out by one round through the radiator. The P-51 shot down more enemy fighters than any other aircraft during the war. Anderson states that historians claim that the spring of 1944 is when the Luftwaffe had it's back broken and that the P-51 is the reason. The 8th Air Force set escort tactics. The plan was to have the fighters fly formation with the bombers all the way through the mission. When Jimmy Doolittle [Annotator's Note: General James "Jimmy" Doolittle] took over, a new mission was instituted that had the fighter pilots pursue and destroy the enemy planes they came across. Anderson believes that the Germans did not have a large pool of replacement pilots to make up for their losses although they still had some very good pilots like Gunther Rall. The bombing raids had a lot to do with crushing the German air force but killing their pilots was the main thing. After a whole year of bombing the German aircraft industry was producing more planes than they had during the previous year. Anderson was very nervous on his first combat mission. In order to gain experience the flight leaders in Anderson's group were sent to the 354th to fly wing. The common theory was that if a pilot survived five missions his chances of survival went up significantly.

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Clarence Anderson's first mission was to Frankfurt,Germany. For the mission he was flying wingman for an experienced pilot. There was a lot of concern while flying over enemy territory. There were also a lot of feelings running through a pilot's head. Training helped but pilots still had to deal with the fear. On his first mission Anderson was determined not to get lost. Anderson's leader called out an enemy target and rolled in after it. When Anderson looked down he saw his first enemy fighter and it was an emotional sight. A call went out that there was an enemy on a Mustang's tail. There were 48 Mustangs there. Anderson should have called to his lead to tell him that there was nothing behind him but did not because he was new to combat and was only concerned with keeping up with the lead. When Anderson was diving to keep up with the lead he heard a clunk and thought he had been hit. It was just the sound of the supercharger kicking in. When Anderson pulled back up through the clouds there was not a plane in sight. He finally found his flight leader. The flight leader was angry because Anderson had possibly cost him a kill. The more missions flown the more confident the pilots get. After getting a kill or two, pilots really looked forward to going out. Once involved in a dogfight there is no time to be afraid. For Anderson's second mission his entire group went out with an experienced group leader who took them out on a patrol across France.

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Clarence Anderson went on a couple of patrols with an experienced pilot in the lead and was then sent out on his own. Pilots know if they were going to fly the next day and could make proper arrangements to not drink that night and get to bed a little early. In the morning the men were awoken by an orderly. They would sometimes get breakfast and sometimes just have a snack. They would then go to their briefing where they were told about the mission and what the flying conditions would be. After the briefing the flight would discuss what they were going to do. Some of the formations were large and contained 48 fighters. Anderson describes how the groups would take off and rendezvous with the bombers. The bombers would fly in straight lines which helped the fighters with navigation. The fighters would join the bombers and look for the tail markings on them so they could join up with their bombers. The fighters would have to fly in zigzag patterns so they could stay with the bombers. Some of the fighters stayed along side of the bombers and some flew out in different directions. The fighters would go out to intercept the German fighters. Sometimes the Germans put up 400 planes to attack the bomber formations. The average time for a mission was about four hours. At the end of the mission the planes would regroup and then return to their base. When they got back they would go to debriefing and discuss what happened. They would then go to the officers club to discuss the mission with the pilots who had just flown it. Sometimes the pilots would fly two missions a day. Anderson would fly whenever he could. He was the first pilot to complete his combat tour. He completed 300 hours between February and July [Annotator's Note: 1944]. It was 70 or 75 missions. In February Anderson got his first kill. He was returning from a mission to Berlin and leading seven or eight planes back home. Anderson looked out to see a lone B-17 with it's engines smoking.

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Clarence Anderson's group came across a straggling B-17 and decided to head out to escort it. While they were on their way a group of Me109s flew right up to Anderson's group enroute to the damaged B-17. Anderson was determined to get one of the enemy planes. Anderson started dogfighting with one of the enemy planes. He was trying to get in behind the German plane. Anderson managed to get a shot off at the enemy plane. The German pilot bailed out. Anderson noticed another Mustang next to him. It was Johnny England from the 362nd Fighter Squadron. England gave Anderson the ok sign. Anderson wondered if England, who England Air Force Base in Louisiana was named for, shot down the German plane. When Anderson got back to base he made a claim on the enemy fighter but asked that it be held until he found out if he had shot it down or if England had. He went to the officer's club to talk to England. When he entered the bar England ran up to him and told him that that was the best shot he had ever seen. Anderson ran to the phone and claimed his first kill. It was the first of 16 and a quarter in the air. The quarter of a kill was an He111. Anderson was going out on a long mission so he took every drop of gas he could. There is a process for managing the Mustang's fuel economy. Much of the fuel had to be burned off before the plane could fight effectively. Anderson joined up with a group of B-17s. Suddenly a flight of 4 Me109s flew through the B-17s and shot down two of them. The Me109s made a turn and came back at the bombers. Anderson did not want to fly through the B-17 formation because the gunners on the bombers would shoot at anything. Anderson was in a tight turn but had to hold forward pressure on the stick because of the amount of fuel aboard.

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Clarence Anderson had to fly differently than usual because of the amount of fuel he had aboard. All of the fighters dove down to the deck. One of the enemy planes got ahead of Anderson and pulled back up to make a head-on pass at Anderson. Anderson fired and tore the enemy plane up. The German pilot bailed out. Anderson's group got two of the four enemy fighters. Anderson got his group together. He noticed a dak spot moving below him. The dark spot was the shadow from an He 111. Anderson gave his wingmen a chance to shoot down an enemy plane. He had his group get into a practice gunnery pattern so they could all shoot. All of Anderson's men got good hits. The plane was severely damaged and made a bad crash landing. Two men made it out of the crashed plane. One of them made a dash across a field and the other just stood there looking up at Anderson's group. That's how he got a quarter of a kill. All dogfights were exciting and emotional. On 27 May Anderson was on a deep rain into southern Germany. It was a bright and clear day. Anderson's group was flying a criss-cross pattern above the bombers. A call went out that the bombers were being attacked in the front of the formation.

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While escorting bombers Clarence Anderson was leading his flight to the front of the bomber formation when he noticed a flight of German Me109s heading for them. The Me109s passed through Anderson's formation then made a turn to come back. Anderson knew they wanted to fight. Anderson identified the enemy planes as Me109-G fighters. It was the best German fighter against the best American fighter. The Me109s started heading back into Germany so Anderson gave chase. One of the enemy planes peeled off so Anderson sent two of his men after it and they shot it down. He managed to slip in behind one of the German fighters and fired a burst into it. The enemy plane flipped over and started flying upside down. Anderson hit him again and the plane went down. Anderson then went after another Me109. He pulled up to trade air speed for altitude and watched to see what the German pilot would do. The German pilot followed and went after Anderson's wingman. Anderson managed to get the German pilot to break off and come after him. Anderson and the German pilot got into a climbing and turning fight. The German plane stalled first and nosed down. Both aircraft went down then again went into a turning fight. When the German pilot pulled up Anderson got a good shot into the plane. The plane slowly rolled over and headed for the deck. Anderson followed so if the enemy plane leveled off he could hit it again. The plane flew straight into the deck. Anderson's flight shot down three of the four enemy planes.

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One of Clarence Anderson's men came across a German pilot shooting at men in parachutes. He shot the German down and when the enemy pilot bailed out he shot him. While escorting an armada of B-17 bombers Anderson looked down and saw a flight of three Me109s flying in a tight V formation. Anderson rolled and went down after the German planes. O'Brien was above Anderson and when he dropped his wing tanks they fell between Anderson and the German planes. Anderson went after the enemy flight leader. Anderson was about to fire when he got a call from the group commander, Tommy Hayes, asking Anderson where he was. Anderson held down his microphone and replied that he could not talk because he had to shoot. Everyone could hear Anderson's guns going off. That action made newspapers back in the United States. Anderson's men shot down all three Me109s but one of the Germans shot down a P-51. In early July, Anderson returned to the United States on a 30 day R and R [Annotator's Note: rest and relaxation or recuperation] leave, then returned to Europe for a second tour. It was strange for Anderson to be back in the United States. He volunteered for a second combat tour. When Anderson returned to combat he was flying a new P-51-D which had more guns and better visibility. Anderson did come across German Me262s [Annotators Note: Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighter aircraft]. When they were employed properly the only thing that could be done to fight them was to make head on passes at them. Anderson does not know if they would have made a difference in the air war if they had been used properly earlier in the war.

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[Annotators Note: Clarence Anderson served in the USAAF as a fighter pilot flying P-51 Mustangs with the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force in Euope.] The German Me262 had very poor endurance. When they were seen in the air there was no doubt that their base was near. There were also many more P-51s than there were Me 262s. Anderson believes that in a dogfight the Mustang would win. The Me262s did do a lot of damage to the bomber formations they attacked though. Anderson went after an Me262 while he was escorting a bomber formation. When he looked back to make sure no German planes had gotten behind him, he saw the entire 8th Air Force back there heading for that Me262. Anderson pulled up and away. On another occasion Anderson sighted an Me262 coming toward him at a 90 degree angle and about 8,000 feet below. When Anderson rolled over onto his back to dive down on the Me262, his engine quit because he had forgotten to switch fuel tanks. He got his engine started again and made a run on the German fighter. The German fighter was going so fast that it disappeared from right in front of him. Anderson believes that the best German fighter of the war was the Me262 even with its shortcomings. He never feared either Me109s or Fw190s and had no doubt that he could beat either of them. He never encountered a Ta152 or a long nosed Fw190. Anderson's best dogfights came against Me109s. After the invasion [Annotator's Note: the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944] Anderson saw a definite drop in German pilot experience. Chuck Yeager was shot down in March, was interned in Spain, was released, and made his way back to his squadron.

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When Clarence Anderson returned from R and R [Annotator's Note: rest and relaxation or recuperation] he was ordered to see a shrink and told that he did not have to go back into combat. During Anderson's second tour, he and Chuck Yeager became friends. Anderson was promoted to major and made Operations Officer and Yeager was a flight leader. In the fall, Anderson saw that they would complete their tours in January. Yeager told Anderson that it would be something if they were shot down on one of their last missions. Yeager came up with the idea to go on their last mission as alternates. Since Anderson was the Operations Officer, he made the flight schedules. If they went out as alternates and were not needed they could go on their own sight seeing tour of Germany. They could then return to base and count the flight as a mission. Anderson liked the idea and thought he could do it. In January there were many missions where no German fighters would be seen. There were also days when they would come across several hundred of them. On the 15 January 1945 Anderson and Yeager went out on their final mission. As planned they went as alternates. They were not needed so they peeled off and headed in the direction of Switzerland. After they were separated by a couple of hundred miles they could talk to each other without the group hearing them. At the time, Anderson was a 22 year old major. They decided that they would drop their wing tanks and the other would try to shoot them and light them on fire. When they finally returned to base, they were the last planes to return. Anderson saw a lot of people standing on his hard stand. When he pulled onto it his crew chief jumped up on his wing and told him that the group had shot down 57 German airplanes and asked how many he had gotten. Anderson and Yeager had missed the greatest air battle of all time. Anderson named his plane Old Crow after the Kentucky whiskey but he tells his non-drinking friends that he named it after the bird. His wife Ellie used to kid him because he did not name the plane after her. Anderson says that the pilots did a lot of drinking. During the war everyone smoked and drank. They were even issued whiskey after missions. Anderson drank but never smoked. The smoke bothered his eyes and he was concerned about his eyes. Anderson discusses Gunther Rall.

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Clarence Anderson feels that the P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] was a big factor in beating the Germans. When the P-51 was full of fuel it was unstable. Also, when in a high speed dive it could overstress the plane and the wings could come off. On the P-51-B there were some feed problems with the guns. The P-51-D had six guns that were mounted in line reducing the feed problem with the guns. The liquid cooled engine could be knocked out by one round through the radiator. The P-51 shot down more enemy fighters than any other aircraft during the war. Anderson states that historians claim that the spring of 1944 is when the Luftwaffe had it's back broken and that the P-51 is the reason. The 8th Air Force set escort tactics. The plan was to have the fighters fly formation with the bombers all the way through the mission. When Jimmy Doolittle [Annotator's Note: General James "Jimmy" Doolittle] took over, a new mission was instituted that had the fighter pilots pursue and destroy the enemy planes they came across. Anderson believes that the Germans did not have a large pool of replacement pilots to make up for their losses although they still had some very good pilots like Gunther Rall. The bombing raids had a lot to do with crushing the German air force but killing their pilots was the main thing. After a whole year of bombing the German aircraft industry was producing more planes than they had during the previous year. Anderson was very nervous on his first combat mission. In order to gain experience the flight leaders in Anderson's group were sent to the 354th to fly wing. The common theory was that if a pilot survived five missions his chances of survival went up significantly.

Annotation

Clarence Anderson had to fly differently than usual because of the amount of fuel he had aboard. All of the fighters dove down to the deck. One of the enemy planes got ahead of Anderson and pulled back up to make a head-on pass at Anderson. Anderson fired and tore the enemy plane up. The German pilot bailed out. Anderson's group got two of the four enemy fighters. Anderson got his group together. He noticed a dak spot moving below him. The dark spot was the shadow from an He 111. Anderson gave his wingmen a chance to shoot down an enemy plane. He had his group get into a practice gunnery pattern so they could all shoot. All of Anderson's men got good hits. The plane was severely damaged and made a bad crash landing. Two men made it out of the crashed plane. One of them made a dash across a field and the other just stood there looking up at Anderson's group. That's how he got a quarter of a kill. All dogfights were exciting and emotional. On 27 May Anderson was on a deep rain into southern Germany. It was a bright and clear day. Anderson's group was flying a criss-cross pattern above the bombers. A call went out that the bombers were being attacked in the front of the formation.

Annotation

One of Clarence Anderson's men came across a German pilot shooting at men in parachutes. He shot the German down and when the enemy pilot bailed out he shot him. While escorting an armada of B-17 bombers Anderson looked down and saw a flight of three Me109s flying in a tight V formation. Anderson rolled and went down after the German planes. O'Brien was above Anderson and when he dropped his wing tanks they fell between Anderson and the German planes. Anderson went after the enemy flight leader. Anderson was about to fire when he got a call from the group commander, Tommy Hayes, asking Anderson where he was. Anderson held down his microphone and replied that he could not talk because he had to shoot. Everyone could hear Anderson's guns going off. That action made newspapers back in the United States. Anderson's men shot down all three Me109s but one of the Germans shot down a P-51. In early July, Anderson returned to the United States on a 30 day R and R [Annotator's Note: rest and relaxation or recuperation] leave, then returned to Europe for a second tour. It was strange for Anderson to be back in the United States. He volunteered for a second combat tour. When Anderson returned to combat he was flying a new P-51-D which had more guns and better visibility. Anderson did come across German Me262s [Annotators Note: Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighter aircraft]. When they were employed properly the only thing that could be done to fight them was to make head on passes at them. Anderson does not know if they would have made a difference in the air war if they had been used properly earlier in the war.

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