This story is a joke on me. Mission: bomb airfield somewhere in the Hamburg-Bremen area. Weather: clear, high clouds. Bombing altitude: one of the lowest we ever flew-twelve thousand feet.
On this particular mission, I had a bombardier, and therefore, I had the duty of helping him locate the proper target for bombing. The trip to the initial point was uneventful. The only thing that was unusual was that we were low – twelve thousand feet. Our usual bombing altitude was from twenty-five thousand feet.
We hit the initial point and turned in on the target course. I was lying down on the right-hand side of bombardier, helping him pick up the target. Just before we got to the target, I looked down to my left at what we would call 11:00 o’clock - the nose of the airplane is 12:00 o’clock. Down and low at 11:00 o’clock I saw an airplane, which was unusual! Calling the pilot, I asked him if we were having P-38 fighters strafing ahead of us this day. He replied that he didn’t know. I called his attention to the airplane below us. He said he would watch it.
About the time that the bombs went away, I noticed all of these tracer bullets coming from my left across my nose to the right. Strange! I looked around to the right and very close, to my plane, was this Messerschmitt 262 jet. When I say that it was close, I mean that I could see the pilot looking at me. Somebody back in the back of my plane said, “Hey look at that airplane! It doesn’t have any propellers.” It sure didn’t, but it had a big black cross and a big black swastika on the tail. As quick as I could, I reached over and grabbed my fifty-caliber, machine gun. I put the sight on his tail, hit that trigger-nothing happened! I had forgotten...to load...the gun! About this time, all of the guns in our squadron opened up on him. They were knocking big pieces off of the plane. They shot his plastic bubble off. The last time I saw him, there was just this head sticking up in the wind. He rolled over to the right and went down. The men in the back of my plane said that he went into the ground.
NOTE: Tracer bullets have a compound that is applied to the base of the bullet. When the bullet is fired, the heat of the explosion ignites this compound, causing it to burn or glow. Normally, a bullet in flight cannot be seen, but with this light on the base of the bullet, it can be seen for a long distance.
We had been told that the Germans had several surprises awaiting us. They never told us exactly what they were, but we assumed that it was going to be an unusual plane. Nobody had seen these planes before and we were not prepared for what we saw. I’m not saying that we were the first that ever got jumped by a jet, but this was the first attack against the 305th bomb group to my knowledge.
We saw these jets on several occasions after this. They never attacked in groups. It was mostly single ship attacks. It appears that they did not have a very long range and could not stay aloft very long. Our fighters could not catch them. They could box them in until they ran out of gas, then maybe shoot them down as they were landing.
One afternoon we were coming out of Germany and up on my left were three P-51 Mustang fighters with blue noses. We were at twenty-five thousand feet and they must have been up around thirty thousand feet. We were coming back west and this Messerschmitt-262 jet made a head-on pass at us. He didn’t injure my plane. I don’t know whether anybody else got hurt or not, but he didn’t injure us. About the time he got within gun range of us, these P- 51's up on my left peeled off and were coming straight down, just like you’d take their tail and drop them. This jet had made the attack, had gone clear around our formation and had almost disappeared out of sight to our right, before the first P-51 cleared our nose. That will give you an idea of their speed. It was a very unusual airplane and I’m sure that if the Germans had developed that aircraft many years earlier, they would have almost devastated our bomber formations.
As I say, you never know what you’re going to see.