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Crash of P-51 44-13818 MACR 12873

(1945)

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Mission 329, 55th Fighter Group

Limburg an der Lahn, Germany

The 55th Fighter Group was made up of three Fighter Squadrons. Two of those were the 38th Fighter Squadron with CG in triangle on the aircraft tail and the 343rd Fighter Squadron with CY in a square.  The 55th Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 159, Wormingford, England. Located about six miles north west of Colchester, England, Wormingford was built for heavy bombers with and 2,000 foot main runway and two intersecting runways of 1,400 feet each.  The facilities included two hangers, one on each side of the runway, fifty concrete hardstands and temporary housing for 2,900 personnel which was near the village of Fordham.  The airfield was surplus for the Eighth Air Force and was used as a fighter base.  In July 1944, the 55th converted to P-51 Mustangs and adopted yellow and green checkerboard nose markings for their aircraft.

 1st Lt. Samuel F. Anderson (O-390032) joined the 38th Fighter Squadron on 23 February 1945 and flew his second mission on 2 March 1945.  That day he piloted “Mah Ideel” P-51D 44-13818 which had markings of CG-B. Mission # 329 was to be a bomber escort to Lonnewitz, Germany.  The following eyewitness account is from 1st Lt. Carl E. Breathwit filed with Missing Air Crew Report No.12873.

 On 2 March 1945 I was leading Hellcat Blue flight, returning to base form a combat mission to eastern Germany.  Lt S.F. Anderson was my wingman and as we left the target area he signaled me that his radio was cutting out. I acknowledged his trouble and although he could transmit fairly well, he did not seem to be able to receive.  We were coming out of Germany on a heading of 285 degrees and at 13:00 hours I saw Lt. Anderson falter and drop behind.  I did a quick 180 degree turn and rejoined him as he said his engine had quit and he did not think it was going to start again and the he might have to bail out.  Our altitude was 13,000 feet when his engine failed and he started gliding down through the overcast, which was solid with tops at 11,000 feet, and base at 100 to 1,000 feet in spots.  I told him to hold a 285 degree heading while trying to start it up.  My number three man, F/O Totten and I let down immediately to the deck to search for him, the plane, a parachute, or any wreckage of the airplane.  All attempts at radio contact failed.  The ceiling was very poor, visibility very bad and there was very rough terrain at this location.  We searched for fifteen minutes but found nothing.  We called the group leader and then returned to base.  Our position at the time of Lt. Anderson’s engine failure was 50 miles inside the enemy lines near Limburg, Germany.

 From 13,000 feet, Lt. Anderson’s stricken P-51 could only glide approximately thirty-seven miles and he was some fifty miles inside Germany.  His only choice was to bail out, which he did.  He was captured, sent to Dulag Luft – Oberusal for interrogation and finally marched to Stalag Luft VIIA, Moosburg.  He was liberated by Patton’s Third Army on 29 April 1945 after spending about eight weeks as a prisoner-of-war.

The next day, 3 March 1945, several P-51s of the 343rd Fighter Squadron were sent on mission escort and free lance to the target area of Ruhland, Germany.  Two of their aircraft did not return to base.  Missing Air Crew Reports No. 12897 and 12898 were filed.

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Liberation from Stalag VIIa Moosburg:
29 Apr 1945 1

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