Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers the Legend of Y-29 ~ Operation Bodenplatte (1/1/1945) - Jan. 1, 2004
Posted on 01/01/2004 2:20:50 AM PST by snippy_about_it
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Operation Bodenplatte ~ New Years Day 1945
January 1, 1945, The German Luftwaffe launches Operation Bodenplatte, a last desperate attempt to break loose the Ardennes Offensive that had been halted at Bastogne. Approximately 800 German fighters are sent to attack 15 allied forward air bases. At some bases the Luftwaffe attack is devastating, destroying aircraft and rendering airstrips useless. At other fields only a few fighters found their targets and damage was minimal. But at Asch the result was unlike anything the Luftwaffe had imagined.
The attack on the Asch airbase, known as Y-29, was a total disaster. When the 11th Jagdgeschwader reached Y-29 they found 8 Thunderbolts of the 390th Fighter Squad, 366 Fighter Group circling the field and 12 Mustangs of the 487th Fighter Squad, 352nd Fighter Group just taking off. The ensuing battle came to be know as the "Legend of Y-29". This battle was only one of many battles that took place on new years day 1945. But in no other battle did one unit distinguish itself so well from such a disadvantage. For their courage and performance in the face of overwhelming odds, the 487th earned the only Distinguished Unit Citation given to a fighter squadron in the Northwestern European Theater of Operation.
On January 1st, 1945 the airfield at Asch Belgium (known as Y-29) was the home of the 366th Fighter Group of the 9th Tactical Air Force and the 352nd Fighter Group temporarily on loan to the 9th from the 8th Air Force. The 352nd had been moved to Asch on December 23rd 1944 in response to the heavy activity of the Luftwaffe in support of the German Ardennes Offensive. The plan was for the 352nd's Mustangs to fly fighter sweeps to clear the enemy from the sky and provide top cover for the Thunderbolts attacking ground targets. These roles provided a bit of irony during the battle over Asch.
Asch airfield was a new and unpleasant experience for the pilots of the 352nd. Used to their home base in Bodney England, they were un-prepared for the primitive conditions at Asch. Tents heated by oil stoves provided the only shelter from the frigid Belgium winter and baths were taken either from a bucket or at a near by minors camp. A single tent served as the HQ, operations, briefing room, intelligence and supply.
Tragedy struck the 352nd on their second day at Asch, Christmas day 1944, when an American anti-aircraft battery inadvertently shot down Maj. George Preddy. Preddy was the 352nd's leading ace and commander of the 328th Fighter Squadron. While perusing a FW-190 at tree top-level Preddy was hit by the anti-aircraft battery when it opened fire on the 190. They undershot and Preddy's P51 was hit with 2 .50 cal rounds. Mortally wounded, Preddy crashed into an open field.
Maj. George Preddy
The group rebounded from the primitive conditions at Asch and the loss of George Preddy in action over Bonn on the 27th of December. The 352nd engaged a large formation of German fighters claiming 22 enemy aircraft while sustaining no losses. The 352nd was taking out its misfortunes on the German Luftwaffe! This was a trend that was to continue.
On December 31st 1945, the 352nd received its orders for the 1st day of the New Year. They were to provide escort for 8th Air Force Bombers on a mission to bomb targets near Berlin. Lt. Col John Meyer, commander of the 487th Fighter Squadron was disappointed with this assignment. He believed that the Germans may try to catch the allies still asleep and hung over from new years celebrations and requested that the 487th be allowed to fly a patrol early in the morning. Command reluctantly agreed on the condition that the 352nd be able to field a full group of 36 fighters for the escort mission.
The 366th also had received their orders for the New Year. The 391st was to leave early in the morning to attack German armor at Ondenval. Two flights of the 390th were also scheduled to take off slightly later in the morning with the same objective. Thus it was that 8 P47's of the 366th would be circling over Asch, and 12 P51's of the 487th would be on the flight line as the Luftwaffe approached.
The Luftwaffe units assigned to attack Asch were the I, II, & III Gruppen of Jagdgeschwader 11, Commanded by Oberstleutnant Gunther Specht, leader of the entire Geschwader. The 3 Gruppen of JG11 were stationed at Darmstadt-Griesheim, Gross-Ostheim and Zellhausen all southwest of Frankfort. 65 FW190's and Me109's of the three gruppen of JG11 took off from their respective bases just before 8:30am and formed up over Aschaffenburg, Joining with two Ju188 pathfinders and headed for Asch. Radio silence and low altitude were the order of the day.
So secret was Operation Bodenplatte that the Germans own ground forces were not notified of the large formations of German fighters that would be flying overhead. This resulted in at least one casualty for the JG11 as they were assaulted by friendly fire on their way to Asch. Credit must be given to the German pilots for not breaking radio silence to call off the ground fire. On the return trip several more JG11 and many other German fighters fell to friendly fire before the German guns could be called off.
As the JG11 approached Asch, 8 P47's of the 390th were just forming up over Asch to head out over the Ardennes in search of German armor. As the 390th finished forming up they spotted flak bursts over the Ophoven field. At this same moment Lt Col. John Meyer was just beginning to roll down the runway. He also saw the flak bursts and radioed the tower to inquire; the tower had nothing to report. Heading for Ophoven to investigate, the 390th was surprised to see a large formation of FW190's and Me109's approaching Asch from the northeast at 1500 ft.
The 8 P47's of the 390th jettisoned their bombs and external tanks and attacked, causing confusion among the German attackers and breaking up the formation. This turned out to be a key blow to the JG11, without which the mustangs of the 487th may not have so easily taken to the air. The 390th claimed 7 enemy aircraft in this attack taking a loss of only one.
Meanwhile Meyer was lifting off with the rest of the 487th behind him. As he rose from the runway he found himself faced with the oncoming JG11. With a full load of fuel in his fuselage tank, making low altitude maneuvering difficult, and gear still retracting he fired at an oncoming FW190 scoring hits and sending the enemy aircraft crashing into the field. Meyer went on to claim a second Fw190 before the battle was over.
The battle over Asch went on for 30 minutes. 11 pilots of the 487th claimed 23 victories while sustaining no losses, and just three aircraft damaged in the air. I will leave the adventures of each pilot to be told by them through their personal combat logs and memoirs.
The 390th and 487th defended the airbase at Asch so well that only one Mustang was damaged on the ground and no casualties were reported. The actions of the 487th in taking off under fire and performing so well at such a disadvantage earned the unit the only Distinguished Unit Citation given to a fighter squadron in the Northwestern European theater of operation.
The total estimated losses of the JG11 range from 24 to 40. Given the credited victories of the 487th (23), 390th (7), 391st (2), and ground gunners (7) along with at least one aircraft destroyed by friendly flak in route, the number of 40 seems to hold up. However, there was undoubtedly some double counting of victories claimed and some victories that were not confirmed. But more Important then the numbers was the loss of experienced Luftwaffe leaders and pilots. None of JG11's flight leaders returned from this mission.
An instant after rotating, Lt.Colonel John C. Meyer is seconds away from his first kill of New Years Day, 1945, as he readies for a head-on encounter with an incoming FW-190. Meyer, with his foresight and ability to anticipate the enemys next move, lead the 487th FS of the 352nd FG to a decisive victory over JG 11 at Asch, Belgium, that day. JG 11 was taking part in "Operation Bodenplatte". Which was a surprise attack by all available Luftwaffe fighter units against allied air bases on the European continent.
The 352nd FG was scheduled to fly a bomber escort mission on New Years Day. The night before, Lt. Colonel John C. Meyer asked for permission to fly a local patrol along the front before the escort mission to clear the air of any enemy planes that were in the vicinity. He was first denied his request, but was later granted permission. Twelve planes of the 487th FS were readied for the early morning mission. JC, leading the Squadron, took off into the first wave of enemy fighters. Despite the fact that the airfield was under attack all 12 blue nosed Mustangs made it off the ground safely. Meyer's hunch had paid off.
After scoring his first victory of the day in "Petie 3rd" HO-M, Meyer latched on to a second Focke Wulf fighter and chased it all the way to Leige before shooting it down. His performance in the "Legend of Y-29" battle earned him his third Distinguished Service Cross.
LOL! Remember "The Line Of Death"?
Cross this line and you die!
Ok. Cross this Line and you die
Ok. Cross THIS line and you die.
Our first assignment upon entering the Med was to demonstrate freedom of navigation by conducting a missile exercise inside the claimed territorial limits of Libya. Libya had claimed the entire Gulf of Sidra as their territory. This gave them a 200-mile territorial limit. If we did not challenge that claim, it would become international law. Our task force combined the USS Nimitz and the USS Forrestal task groups to conduct the exercise. Drones would be launched from a support ship within the missile test area and we were one of four missile ships that would be assigned to launch surface-to-air missiles loaded with telemetry instruments at the drones.
The first day of the exercise was August 18th and it was clear that the Libyans were going to do everything in their power to foil our plans. In addition, it seemed clear that the Libyan pilots were itching to find a U.S. carrier to attack. As the Libyans launched fighters from three airports, our task force would assign F-14s to cover them. Covering means to maintain a firing position on the contacts until they either shot at something or turned back to home. We had no authority to attack until we were fired upon. The F-14s were under the strict control of the E-2C (Hawkeyes) from the carrier. On board the Nimitz was the Sixth Fleet battle staff.
Needless to say the Libyans did not take kindly to having the pesky F-14s on their tail and so they would try to shake them with lots of high G-force air combat maneuvering techniques. Things were tense but no one lost their cool at least not on day one of the missilex. The next day, on almost the first run of the day, two of the Libyan pilots decided to shoot at the lead pilot of a flight of two F-14s from VF-41.
Bad idea #1 It was a head-on shot with a heat-seeking missile.
Bad idea #2 It just happened to be the VF-41 Squadron Commander.
Bad idea #3 This missile missed its mark but during the ensuing dog fight, AIM-9 missiles from the two F-14s downed both Libyan SU-22 Fitters.
No survivors were ever found. Immediately after the engagement, the F-14s were returning to the carrier and at that time received Permission to defend yourselves from the carrier.
From the time we were aware of the attack until its conclusion was about a minute. The Tactical Action Officer (TAO) in CIC was the Operations Officer LCDR Pilnick and I was the Ships Weapons Coordinator (SWC). After the engagement, the TAO leaned over to me and said, I guess we should go to GQ. So we did. It was an awesome thing to here general quarters without the This is a drill preamble. We struck the telemetry missiles below decks and loaded war shot birds on the rails. No more action took place. The Libyans continued to look for the carrier (this time with their fingers off the triggers). The F-14s continued to cover the Libyans (with no authority to shoot) and the missilex was successfully concluded. After the operation we detached from the task force and headed for the Black Sea.
Day ain't over yet Valin. ;-)
No, it wasn't 'joe' and it wasn't Johnny either.
Thanks Sam, you have all the good ideas.
Here's to our Troops protecting US!!
Here's to our troops!