The scapegoat for allowing Charles Lindbergh to fly combat missions was Charlie. He didn't mind too much when he was sent home on leave as a punishment.
The Fighting MacDonalds
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| two Vals
one Zeke 52
27 / 2 / 2.5
New York, Feb. 8. — Charles Lindbergh, in the role of a civilian, flew 50 missions as a fighter pilot against the Japs, covering bombers and strafing targets, and—by teaching pilots how to conserve gas—made possible many of Uncle Sam's destructive long-distance raids against Indo-China and China.
The full story of Lindbergh's battle record, a long-guarded war secret, is told by Col. Charles MacDonald, who flew with him on many battle missions, in a signed article in the current issue of Collier’s. Only parts of the story, including the fact that Lindbergh once shot down a Jap, have been previously revealed.
"Lindbergh was Indefatigable," Col. MacDonald says in speaking of his missions from New Guinea. "He flew more missions than was normally expected of a regular combat pilot. He dive-bombed enemy positions, sank barges and patrolled our landing forces on Xumfoor Island. He was shot at by almost every anti-aircraft gun the Nips had in western New Guinea."
Lindbergh was in the Pacific as an aircraft observer for the United Aircraft Corp., manufacturers of the Navy's Vought-Corsair single-engine fighter, and, Col. MacDonald reveals, be made a major contribution to the war by adding 600 miles to the range of the twin-engined P-38 fighters.
The P-38 fighter pilots, on returning from each mission, made a regular check of their remaining gas supply, Col. MacDonald reports, and soon discovered that Lindbergh always had a much larger gas reserve. Lindbergh himself never commented on this, but the pilots began asking how he did it.
"He explained," Col. MacDonald reports, "that he always used as low revolutions per minute as he could and still stay in position in the flight, by using more 'boost,' or manifold pressure."
The pilots are said to have been skeptical, believing that Lindbergh was ruining his engines, but an inspection revealed that his engines were "in as good, if not better, condition than most of the others." The other pilots then began using the same method to conserve gas.
"Instead of the six and a half to seven hours which we figured we could stay in the air, it was now possible to stay up for nine hours," Col. MacDonald discloses. "The 'longer legs' meant safety for pilots who were lost and in bad weather; it meant they could go farther, have a better chance to find a spot clear enough to land safely.
Meant 600 Miles
"Translated into distances, the extra hours meant around 600 miles more range, and from the military standpoint it meant the bombers could hit targets three hundred miles farther out and still have their 'little friends' along. This was the greatest advantage. Lindbergh had, in effect, redesigned an airplane."
Col. MacDonald adds that this one Lindbergh contribution made possible, months later, "the long distance strikes against Balikpapan and Mindanao and still later the strikes against China and Indo- China from the Philippine Islands."
Col. MacDonald relates that he was playing checkers in his New Guinea "shack" in June, 1944, when Lindbergh walked in, saying that he had been sent by Brig. Gen. Donald R. Hutchinson, the task force commander. MacDonald thought that Lindbergh was "the usual type of visitor fresh from the states" and continued playing checkers.
Minutes later upon first realizing that Lindbergh was the Lone Eagle, he arranged to take him on an "antiboredom mission" the next day. "My God!" one of his fellow officers protested. "He shouldn't go on a combat mission. . . . He's at least 42 years old, and that's a lot too old for this kind of stuff."
15 Missions Previously
But Col. MacDonald later learned that Lindbergh's first combat missions, unlike his conquest of the Atlantic in 1927, had been unpublicized. Lindbergh himself had flown 15 missions before arriving in New Guinea. He flew a total of 50 before returning to the United States.
"I'd certainly like to see some Jap planes in the air," Lindbergh told Col. MacDonald a few days after his arrival. But it wasn’t until July, 28, 1944, that he had his first and only dog fight. He was leading an element of fighters escorting B-29s over Amboina, a little island off the southwest coast of Ceram in the Dutch East Indies.
Another element of the fighter squadron had met some Jap planes and, when Lindbergh finally located the fight, one pilot had just shouted over his radio, "This louse is making monkeys out of us," Col. MacDonald says. A Sonia pilot, using his amazing maneuverability was seen to be successfully eluding the attacks of the P-38s.
In a few seconds, Lindbergh and the Jap were flying head-on toward each other, with their guns spitting fire, Col. MacDonald reports. As Lindbergh pulled his plane over the Jap at the last possible moment, the Sonia rolled over mortally crippled and took a long dive into the sea.
Associated Press, SUNNY ISLES, Fla. 4 Nov. 1982 - The "Satan’s Angels" of World War II gave a cheer of remembrance this weekend for "the biggest sport in the world with the highest stakes."
The 475th Fighter Group flew in the days when life was fresh and war was for good causes. They trained quickly and were eager to serve. They respected their enemies. Their biggest complaint was about stingy beer and whiskey rations.
About 150 of the original 1,000 men from the group met here this weekend to remember those times. The 475th Fighter Group, made up mostly of college-age pilots, flew 24,701 sorties, 3,012 missions and shot down 551 Japanese planes while losing only 56 of the P-38s during two years of combat in the South Pacific.
There was glamour and sportsmanship in being a U.S. fighter pilot in World War II, said Maj. Gen. Frank Nichols, the first Commander of the group’s 431st squadron.
"In our day, it was like boxing — eyeball to eyeball. Man will always fight — for food, women and power," said Nichols, who shot down five Japanese plans and sank a 5,000-ton Japanese transport.
Asked to describe what it meant to be a fighter pilot, Col. Charles MacDonald said, "It's the biggest sport in the world with the highest stakes."
The favorite topic this weekend was the airplane they flew — a twin-engined fighter distinctive with twin tails and a cluster of devastating weaponry in its nose. To the U.S. Army Air Corps pilots who flew them, they were "Lightnings," but to the enemy they were the dreaded "Fork-tailed Devils."
"The P-38 made the difference," said MacDonald, the group's second commanding officer, who shot down 27 enemy aircraft in the war and retired in 1961 after 23 years of service.
Not only the times and the planes, but the men themselves were different back then, they said.
"After three months of training, we were ready to go. Today, it takes 1½ to 2 years to get a group ready," Nichols said.
Maj. Amos "Doc" Wainer, the group’s flight surgeon, said the men fought while suffering from "malaria, dysentery, rat tick fever and battle fatigue." But the major complaint the men remembered was a short ration of beer and whiskey. Each pilot received two ounces for each mission flown, Wainer said.
"Some of us would save it until we got a quarter and then drink it in one night," said Col. Perry J. Dahl, retired after 37 years with the military.
The men fondly recalled Maj. Thomas B. McGuire of the 431st Squadron. He shot down five Japanese planes on his first two contacts with the enemy. Within 16 months, he shot down 38 planes in air battles over New Guinea and the Philippines.
On Jan. 7, 1945, McGuire tried to make a hazardous maneuver with his P-38 to help a fellow pilot in danger. He crashed. He was 24.
The Ridgewood, N.J., hero received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously and McGuire AFB in his home state was named for him.
"He was a tiger," MacDonald said affectionately.
The Associated Press, SUNNY ISLES - Many have lost their hair, and what’s left on others is mostly gray. But the enthusiasm of youth was in their voices as "Satan's Angels" recalled their World War II exploits.
About 150 of the original 1,000 men who made up the three squadrons in the 475th assembled here over the weekend. Rainy weather failed to dampen their oceanside reunion, mainly spent reliving war adventures and renewing acquaintances.
The favorite topic was the airplane they flew — a twin-engined fighter distinctive with twin tails and a cluster of devastating weaponry in its nose.
"The P-38 made the difference," said Col. Charles MacDonald, the group's second commanding officer. Soft-spoken, he’d rather talk about his comrades and the "Lightnings" than the 27 enemy aircraft he shot down. Retired since 1961 after 23 years of service, MacDonald has found an affinity with sailing and now lives in Pass Christian, Miss.
"We had the best airplanes, well-trained men and great leadership," explained Maj. Gen. Frank Nichols, the first commander of the group’s 431st Squadron.
Retired in El Paso, Texas, he recalled the 475th was formed May 14, 1943, in Australia — the only group to be activated outside the United States.
The pilots who made up the 475th were very young.
"I was an ace (five planes shot down) by the time I was 20," said Col. Perry J. Dahl, now retired in Islamorada, Fla. He ended World War II with nine enemy planes to his credit and then flew two tours of duty in the Vietnam War.
"I was one of the old ones," laughed Col. Fred Champlin of Marietta, Ga., recalling he was 25 when he joined the group. He destroyed nine planes in that war, served in the Korean conflict and then flew F80s and F84s in Vietnam.
These Veteran pilots remember near-daily missions, with no limit to the number.
"I flew 283 missions," remembered Dahl. "There was no rotation in those days."
The P-38 was a good weapon to fight with. It had four .50-caliber guns that spit out 900 rounds per minute each and a 20-millimeter cannon.
"At 300 feet, those bullets hit within a six-foot circle," said Dahl proudly.
They praised the enemy pilots they faced while fighting over such places as Luzon, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, China and Indochina.
"Japanese pilots were well-trained, particularly their navy pilots," said Dahl. "They put the best in the Pacific theater and the Zero was a fast airplane."
Japanese aircraft always outnumbered the American planes.
"I remember many times when a group of 18 P-38s would run into 350 Zeros and they were always above us which was an advantage," said Dahl.
The basic tactic used by 475th pilots was "hit and run."
Maj. Amos “Doc” Wainer was the group's flight surgeon and remembers the conditions the men fought under.
"There was malaria, dysentery, rat tick fever and battle fatigue," recalled Wainer, a retired physician living in Philadelphia. He added that pilots of that era had no G-suits to protect them against gravitational strain, and that they sometimes blacked out.
--- American Aces ---
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