November 17, 2017

1942. American Fighter Squadrons Join the Fight Over Europe

Allied Air Raids Continue in Western Europe
B-17 Flying Fortress with the VIII Fighter Command features a decal of Donald Duck saying "Bottoms Up," 1942 (Photo by Margaret Bourke-White - source)
The Air Over English Channel Is Just Another Main Street to Young American Fliers

United Press Staff Correspondent

At an American Fighter Plane Base, England — (UP) The English Channel is "Main Street" for United States fighter squadrons. Dieppe is the corner drugstore and Calais is the hash-house, where the Germans dish up ack-ack.

After two weeks of action over the continent, these Americans, piloting Britain's best fighters, have become thoroughly familiar with their machines and enemy territory.

"We are making so many trips over the Channel that I am getting to know the place like Times Square, but I'll say the Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts are more dangerous than the midtown taxis," said Lt. Robert Lupton, New York.

Like Spitfires

British fliers term the Americans' performance, "top hole."

The Americans are highly pleased with their British Spitfires.

"I wouldn't trade mine for any two planes I know about in the United States to do the job we have been given," commented Lt. Ed Tharpe, Shreveport, La. "The Spitfires have everything and then some. They are a hell of a lot more maneuverable than our planes, and when you press the trigger button you get a kick like one from a Mississippi mule."

Maj. Harrison Thyng, Barnstead, N. H., said it was a good thing the American squadrons had Spitfires over Dieppe last week, because their maneuverability and firing power could not be overcome by the Focke-Wulf fighters.

They're Veterans Now

The Dieppe raid gave the American veterans' status, since it was the first time they were entirely on their own. All of the squadrons have made two operational flights and one made three.

One pilot who has attained local fame by wearing cowboy boots he bought while training at San Antonio, Tex., Lt. Bob Weismuler, Cincinnati, O., has a healthy respect for the Focke-Wulf's high diving speed. But he said the Spitfires "can take care of them."

The pilots have typically American enthusiasm but they have the seriousness and air of mature confidence which characterizes RAF youngsters. They seem considerably older than their average age of 23 years.

Lt. Ivor Williby, Des Moines, Ia., a middle-aged intelligence officer who questions the men after every operation, said they are "a new brand of pilots."

No Place for Sprees

"These boys have their fun, but there is none of this senseless drinking and debauchery," Williby, a World War veteran, said. "The man who goes out the night before he goes across the channel might not go anywhere again."

The Americans first used a fighting cock as their insignia, but Lt. Robert Rahn, Dayton, O., explained they changed over to an irate Donald Duck, brandishing a monkey wrench in one hand, because they could not find anyone who could paint the fancier cock on the planes.

The dispersal hut of the Americans, unlike those of their RAF comrades, so far is not decorated with pictures of slightly clad beauties. The only picture decorating the room is a photograph of Mrs. Jeanne Brown Cyrbowski, 22, Scranton, Pa., wife of Staff Sgt. Edward Cyrbowski.

But the Americans have an Airedale for a mascot, whom they dubbed "Monk Hunter," after Brig. Gen. Frank Hunter, chief of the USAAF Fighter Command.

"But for gosh sakes, don't tell the general," pleaded Capt. Lewis Zimlich of Louisville, Ky., "he might get mad."