“Col. Howard, via his team, at as soon as involved the foe and also himself damaged a German ME. 110. As a result of this strike Col. Howard shed call via his group, and at once went back to the level of the bomber development. He then observed that the bombers were being heavily assaulted by opponent airplanes and also that no various other friendly fighters were at hand also. While Col. Howard could have actually waited to attempt to assemble his group prior to engaging the enemy, he made a decision instead to strike single-handed a development of more than 30 Gerguy airplanes. With utter disregard for his very own security he immediately pressed residence established strikes for some 30 minutes, in the time of which time he ruined 3 enemy airplanes and most likely ruined and also damaged others. Toward the finish of this engagement 3 of his guns went out of activity and also his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low.”

So read the citation for an award of the Congressional Medal of Honor for Col James H. Howard, USAAF, of the 35fourth Fighter Group, known as the Pioneer Mustang Group, for his action this particular day in aviation history, on January 11, 1944, near Oschersleben, Germany type of. Col. Howard’s feat that day was one of bravery and also extreme ability — surprisingly, it was not the initially time he involved such numbers on his own….

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USAAF Portrait of Col. James H. Howard.


From the muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers to Europe

Col. Howard did not begin his armed forces company in the Army Air Corps, however rather in the US Navy. He was a Naval fighter pilot, holding the rank of Ensign and also muzic-ivan.infoing the Grumman F3F-2 biairplane off the decks of the aircraft carrier, USS Enterpincrease. With Japan’s invasion of China, Howard wanted to acquire right into the fight versus the Axis powers. Therefore, he resigned from the US Navy to sign up with via Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group (AVG) — well-known famously as the “muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers”.

This wasn’t his first time in the Far East, yet. In fact, James Howard was a fluent speaker of Chinese. He had invested his childhood in China while his father offered on an exreadjust program as an eye surgeon. Having joined the muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers, he shipped out to Burma. It wasn’t long prior to he was muzic-ivan.infoing the P-40 Tomahawk in combat versus the Japanese.


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Enauthorize James Howard, US Naval fighter pilot on the USS Enterprise, c. 1939.


By the finish of his time in the AVG, he flew 56 goals and served as the squadron commander of the “Panda Bears” — the AVG’s 2nd Pursuit Squadron. He shot dvery own six Japanese aircraft and hence became an ace. In one engagement, saw by an additional American pilot, Howard had encountered perhaps 18 to 20 Japanese fighter planes. He had dove on them and involved the entire pressure alone — unsupported. The other Amerideserve to pilot witnessing the engagement could not engage and was heading residence — looking earlier, he didn’t mean Howard to endure. Instead, Howard twisted and turned with the gaggle of enemy planes, shooting once he might. It was an extraordinary feat — and one that might not be officially known by the US Army because the AVG (muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers) were a hired mercenary air force, not an main armed forces unit. At the time, months prior to the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, America was still a neutral country.


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muzic-ivan.infoing Tiger Ace, James Howard poses in front of the tail of an AVG Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk.


After America gone into the battle, the US Military stepped in and also disbanded the muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers. The pilots were offered an ultimatum — they could either join the US Army and muzic-ivan.info or they can be tried for fighting awide as mercenaries. James Howard accepted “the offer” and was assigned right into the US Military Air Corps and also provided the rank of captain. He was went back to the United States to aid develop a brand-new Fighter Group.

His assignment was to be a part of the 9th Air Force, and to assist develop the 35fourth Fighter Group (recognized as the Pioneer Mustang Group). The 354th FG was the first unit to be equipped with the revolutionary brand-new plane that was designed by North Amerideserve to Aviation on contract through the US Government. The aircraft was the P-51B Mustang. Therefore, the 35fourth FG took its name from the kind of aircraft that it would initially take into combat.

With such considerable combat experience, Captain Howard was shortly supported to the rank of Major. He became the new squadron commander of among the squadrons that consisted of the brand-new fighter group — the 35sixth Fighter Squadron of the 35fourth Fighter Group.

With training finiburned, the unit was shipped overseas to base out of Boxted Airfield in England. From tright here, it began muzic-ivan.infoing objectives versus Germale forces occupying France. With the deployment of various other Fighter Groups equipped through the P-51 Mustang for bomber escort as component of the 8th Air Force, the 35fourth FG was placed under the authority of the 8th Air Force, even if it stayed component of the 9th. The mission of the 8th Air Force involved escorting heavy bombers on objectives over lived in Europe.

Maj. Howard flew his P-51B Mustang (AJ-A) via his 6 kills noted on the side — each one a Japanese flag. He would certainly quickly include a row of kill markers for Luftwaffe aircraft. On the nose was painted a expression he had actually picked up while muzic-ivan.infoing through the muzic-ivan.infoing Tigers — “Ding Hao!” — fittingly, it approximately equates as “Top Good” or “The Best”.


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Arguably among the the majority of famous airplanes that fought in the European Theater, Col. James H. Howard’s North Amerihave the right to P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!”


The One Man Air Force

January 11, 1944, was a fateful day in Col. Howard’s career in combat. That morning, he took off from Boxted to lead the 354th FG on a bomber escort mission over Germany type of. The bombers struck Oschersleben and also Halberstadt, 2 cities that were around 100 miles southwest of Berlin. On the way to the tarobtain, the pinumerous 354th FG involved the Luftwaffe and also in the fray, Col. Howard downed an Me 110 twin-engine heavy fighter as it headed toward the bombers. Then, an Me 109 flew throughout his nose and also he damaged it prior to turning to watch an additional German fighter, an Fw 190, which he pursued. Moments later, he was stunned to view the Germale pilot sindicate bail out of the plane — without a swarm being fired. He damaged off and also climbed for altitude.

Looking approximately, he all of a sudden found himself alone in the skies. He was separated far from his group and also had actually lost his wingman in the fight. When planes muzic-ivan.info at hundreds of miles an hour, it doesn’t take yet seconds for them to muzic-ivan.info beyond visual selection from one an additional. As he took a course deeper in Germany towards the taracquire area, he spotted among the bomb teams coming off the taracquire. This was the 40first Bomb Group (Heavy), muzic-ivan.infoing B-17 muzic-ivan.infoing Fortresses. Howard can check out that it had taken damages from flak over the tarobtain. As well, it had weathered attacks from Luftwaffe fighter planes on the way in. Now, having actually dropped its bombs, the 401st BG was heading house — and also, as was expected on all such goals at the time, they knew that they would need to run the gauntlet of even more Luftwaffe fighter attacks as they flew ago toward England also.

Howard joined up through the bombers, muzic-ivan.infoing in gradually so that they can view that his airplane was an Amerihave the right to fighter. Experience had taught him that if you closed fast, the gunners that were in the B-17s could open up fire, not taking time to identify the cshedding plane as an Amerideserve to coming to assist.

Shortly afterward joining via the bomb group, Howard spotted roughly 30 Gerguy fighter planes ahead. They were orbiting creating up much ahead of the bombers. Clearly, the trap was being set. There was nopoint the bombers might do in such a huge and also slow-moving formation however muzic-ivan.info on straight toward the Luftwaffe planes as they formed up for a coordinated, terrible assault.

In similar encounters in the current past, other American bomb groups had actually been decimated. One instance was the 100th Bomb Group, which had actually been butchered by the Luftwaffe in the time of its mission to Munster. On that day, just one bomber returned house, the B-17 “Rosie’s Riveters”. As the aircraft commander, Lt. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal later renoted, “The Luftwaffe swept via our team and also shot dvery own eincredibly aircraft in the team other than our plane…. We had two severely wounded waist gunners, we had a rocket hole via the wing. Two engines were knocked out. And we saw the targain alone and also dropped our bombs…”.

A equivalent experience must have involved the 401st Bomb Group that day, except that Col. Howard was tright here, muzic-ivan.infoing alone in his P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!”


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The B-17G “Sad Sack” of the 612th Bomb Squadron, 40first Bomb Group after sliding to a sheight with damaged landing equipment at Deenethorpe (Station 128) on February 11,1944.


A Legendary Air Battle

The bomber crews watched in amazement as Col. Howard puburned the throttle forward and sped ahead alone toward the foe development. They assumed that it a hopeless gesture — one against possibly 40, but one that they known for its braextremely.

Col. Howard, however, didn’t watch it as a shed reason. Like many type of fighter pimany his generation, he didn’t shy amethod from combat. He knew as well that the Germans would be so many that anything he saw in the skies would be a target. For the Germans, but, he was a lone airplane, one that can easily become shed in the confusing mix of planes as they swirled about in the sky. Wright here he might shoot at everyone, they would certainly need to be certain that the plane they had actually in their gunsights wasn’t among their own.

Howard’s goal was to hit the opponent difficult and rapid. He planed on making diving passes with their formation to break them up into a disorganized gaggle. It wouldn’t be around shooting down as many as he might, however quite causing them to focus on him instead of the bombers. If he did it best, the Luftwaffe fighters could not acquire themselves organized and into a appropriate formation to strike the bombers en masse.

In his first pass, he blazed through the German formation and also hammered an Me 110 with his firearms. The plane broke away, damaged and also trailing smoke. Then he pulled roughly to pick one more target for a second pass. As he craned his head about to see the Germany kind of development, he might check out that they were scattered, each aircraft having turned ameans in different directions from his assault. Some of the Germans, yet, weren’t concentrated on recreating their pressure to tarobtain the bombers — they kbrand-new that if they did just that, he would simply come with them a 2nd time and also scatter them once aacquire. A few were already warm on his trail.

An Messerschmitt Bf 109 was coming in on Howard from behind. Making a wide revolve, he flew earlier past the bombers and engaged the 109 straight. It dove away in a revolve and also he reduced the corner. He dove down on it, hammering it via gunfire until it as well was trailing thick smoke.

Pulling earlier upward in a zoom climb from the rate of his dive, he encountered and drove off yet an additional Me 109. This time he was firing his weapons while in a tight, high-G turn. It turned ameans and also fled. Rather than give chase, Howard preserved his mission goals in mind. Instead he returned to the 401st Bomb Group, wright here he crisscrossed over the development, breaking off whenever adversary planes were developing approximately attack. Each time, he drove them amethod as they scattered in the challenge of his strike.


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An Me 110 strikes a flight of B-17G muzic-ivan.infoing Fortresses, c. 1944.


The following major threat he confronted came from a Junkers Ju 88. Such airplanes were frequently equipped via long array rockets. These were fired into formations of bombers from well outside of gun selection. It would certainly take a lot to shoot dvery own a Ju 88.

Col. Howard’s P-51, but, even if undamaged, experienced difficulties. All but among his very own machine firearms had jammed in the last strike as soon as he had actually fired from a tight, high-G revolve. This was a problem that the Pioneer Mustang Group ha watched before. The Group’s armorers were working difficult on a solution back at Boxted, but had yet to finish their job-related. Essentially, the weapons would certainly jam once the plane fired from pulling tight transforms because the ammunition in the feed chutes would lock up at the point that the feed chute curved into the side of the gun.

With however one gun continuing to be of the eight on his plane, and also with little ammunition left in any kind of case, Col. Howard recognized that he couldn’t probably shoot the bomber dvery own. However, he additionally knew that the Luftwaffe pilot didn’t recognize that. Hence, Col. Howard assaulted anymethod. He collection upon the Ju 88 as if it was his initially target of the day. The Germale pilot turned amethod and also Howard curved ago to muzic-ivan.info aobtain over the top of the bomb team.

He watched as the Ju 88 pilot curved back approximately and also began to line up aget to fire its rockets. Aget, Howard turned toward it for one more assault. Once aobtain, he drove it off, only to find it circling carefully ago at too much range. This happened a number of times and also in in between passes, Howard would muzic-ivan.info back and forth over the bombers and also break up Gerguy formations that were assembling to the sides and also ahead as the Luftwaffe aobtain and also again, all set its attack versus the bombers.

At some point, Col. Howard’s engagement with the Luftwaffe that day lasted 30 minutes. The bomber crews of the 40first BG later said that he had battled off “the entire Luftwaffe” single handed. Not among the 40first BG’s B-17s dropped that day to Gerguy fighters because of Col. Howard’s heroic activity. He had actually conserved countless lives.


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James H. Howard in the cockpit of his P-51B Mustang, “Ding Hao!” (AJ-A) — note the 6 Japanese and also six Nazi kills noted on the side of the fuselage.


Afterward

When Col. Howard went back to Boxted, one of the armorers in the fighter team, TSgt George Van Hare, jumped up on his wing. Seeing that the firearms had been fired, he waved to ask if he had actually swarm any type of dvery own. Col. Howard hosted up two fingers, then 3, shaking them as if to say, “possibly two or 3.” His gun electronic camera film would certainly be sent to the knowledge branch.

The police officers would officially credit him via four based upon the films. When the 40first Bomb Group landed, 16 of their crews reported the story of the lone P-51 pilot who had conserved the whole team. It took awhile for the 8th AF to recognize the pilot as Col. Howard, who was characteristically quiet and humble about the issue.

A Special Kind of Fighter Pilot

As Jack Ilfrey, another USAAF fighter pilot (8 victories WWII) once sassist, “Maybe one out of ten great fighter pilots will be one of the hunters.” James Howard was one of the hunters. He was a expert pilot and a deadly tactician. As well, he was a herbal leader.

For his braextremely that day close to Oschersleben, defending the 40first Bomb Group versus over 30 Luftwaffe fighter pilots for 30 minutes alone, Col. Howard would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The medal, the greatest award in the US Military, was pinned on by Gen. Spaatz himself. The award of the MoH to Col. Howard was the just such medal offered to a fighter pilot in the whole European Theater in World War II. For Col. Howard, that would certainly later on go on to lead the entire Pioneer Mustang Group, it was certainly deserved.

A popular quote from Col. Howard perfectly sums up his life as a fighter pilot. In a minute of self-reflection, he commented, “He who rides a tiger cannot dismount.” That was Col. Howard’s chosen profession, to ride a fighter aircraft and also muzic-ivan.info it in combat — even if it meant taking the greatest dangers.


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A arsenal of the aces of the 354th Fighter Group, 1945.

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One More Bit of Aviation History

The 35fourth Fighter Group is the top scoring fighter team of the ETO. Others make insurance claim that the 56th or 4th FGs of the 8th Air Force were actually the top scoring groups — but that is not quite correct. Those 2 groups were the optimal scorers in the 8th Air Force. As for the 354th FG, being component of the ninth Air Force intended that they simply didn’t have the exact same press coverage. What is more exciting is that the 354th FG scored so many kills in such a time structure — for some of its last year in the war, the 35fourth FG was assigned back into the 9th Air Force and strictly flew ground strike objectives. For a time, they were equipped with the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. Thus, they scored even more kills in a much shorter amount time than either the fourth or the 56th.

Today’s Aviation Trivia Question

How many type of aircraft did the fourth, 5sixth and also 354th Fighter Groups each destroy — both in the air and on the ground?