Local

April 18, 2014

Remembering 57th Fighter Group’s Palm Sunday Goose Shoot

Col. Arthur Salisbury, 57th Fighter Group commander, reads a telegram of congratulations from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall to pilots regarding April 18, 1943, Goose Shoot,“The Palm Sunday Massacre.”

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — April 18 marks an important day in the history of the 57th Wing and the U.S. Air Force.

In 1943, the 57th Fighter Group — now known as the 57th Operations Group at Nellis AFB — dealt a “fatal blow” to the German air force. The story of the unit’s achievement that day made headlines around the world, and became known as the Palm Sunday Goose Shoot.

The 57th FG, stationed at El Djem, Tunisia, in North Africa, had 46 P-40 Warhawk fighter aircraft flying routine missions over Cape Bon with 18 British single-seat Spitfire fighter aircraft flying top cover.

The group’s pilots could not believe what they saw, more than 100 JU-52 German transport planes, resembling a large migration of geese flying very low over the Mediterranean Sea. About 50 German Messerschmitt fighter aircraft escorted the transport planes filled with German troops. Capt. James G. Curl, mission commander told his pilots after deciding it wasn’t an enemy trick, “Juicy, juicy, juicy. Let’s get ‘em, boys.”

The P-40s, splitting in pairs, quickly dove on the enemy with guns raging.

They had to move rapidly as they were low on fuel during the late afternoon mission. The transport planes blew up in mid-air; others crashed into the water or beach in frantic efforts to escape.

Pilots later said they did not fear the Messerschmitts, as they knew those planes would have to ascend to get organized to fight; once they did that, the Spitfires would take them out.

As the British kept the German fighters occupied, the 57th FG had to dodge the falling enemy planes while continuing the attack on the transport planes and all the while keeping an eye on their fuel gages. Friendly fire also became a worry during the chaotic, tightly packed event.

The earth’s surface literally became a scene from hell, with both the land and sea catching fire. German troops jumped from falling planes and scrambled from the wrecked remains of transport planes.

The 57th FG destroyed 75 enemy aircraft before it had to return home with extremely low fuel. Eight American planes were missing, but two had landed safely in friendly territory during the battle.

The British had eliminated three Messerschmitts; the 57th FG enthusiastically gave thanks for their important role in allowing the Americans to concentrate on the transports.

Many interesting comments came from the pilots following the “massacre.”

Lt. McArthur Powers said “the attackers seemed almost to fight amongst themselves to get to the enemy,” and that he was afraid he was going to get left out.

Lt. R. J. Byrne commented, “I had a ringside seat for the whole show. All you could see were those big ships coming apart in the air, plunging into the sea and crashing in flames on the beach.”

Curl said the planes were so tightly packed that he missed the transport he had targeted, but hit the enemy plane flying just beyond it. He also saw one of his pilots take out two transports with one burst from his gun.

Three new aces returned to El Djem that evening, as their kills took their totals to seven: Powers of Inwood, N.Y.; Lt. Richard Duffey of Walled Lake, Mich.; and Capt. Roy Whitaker of Knoxville, Tenn. Praise came to the 57th FG in the field from many leaders, included a congratulatory note from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall.

Reporters lauded the achievement that day, with The Stars and Stripes calling it “the greatest single aerial engagement since the Battle of Britain, if not in all history.”

Three units of the 57th FG continued to distinguish themselves and are current members of today’s 57th Wing: the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons and the 66th Weapons Squadron.

Editor’s note: Information for this article found in The Fabulous Fifty-Seventh Fighter Group of World War II, edited by Wayne S. Dodds.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
police5

99th SFS honors fallen wingmen during National Police Week

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika Airmen assigned to the 99th Security Forces Squadron participate in a 10K memorial ruck march for National Police Week at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 13. The march was one of...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen

Dispelling remotely piloted aircraft myths

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III conducts an all-call with the men and women of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Ba...
 
 
Courtesy photo

Yokota aircrew recounts Nepal earthquake

Courtesy photo Members of the U.S. Air Force view the damage in Nepal firsthand following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that damaged many parts of the country. KATHMANDU, Nepal— We were tasked with taking an 11-man...
 

 
EOD6

IEDs, UXOs no problem for EOD

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jake Carter Senior Airman Kalin Fuller, 99th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal journeyman looks out from inside his bomb suit at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 13. Be...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

Maintenance shop saves $9 Million through innovative process

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis Curtis Klitzka, 547th Intelligence Squadron sheet metal painter, uses a drill to attach a roof to a golf cart at the Threat Training Facility Maintenance Shop on Nellis Air...
 
 
Golf2

Disabled veterans discover ‘Hope’ through golf program

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Participants in the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Hope Program practice their swing at the driving range on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 14. The PGA Ho...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin