10 June, 2008

Profile 4 - THE HAWKEYE-OWAN flown by Dean Huston

In a nutshell, on January 1, 1945, the Luftwaffe made a massive raid on Allied forward airfields across the freshly occupied continent.   Some 800, maybe as many as 1,200 odd German fighters took off and made their way to more than a dozen bases in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.  Y-29 was one of those bases.

The whole affair is a fascinating story of desperation, bad leadership, quirky intuition, confidence and plain old luck - it's really worth checking out in depth.  But, the short of it is, 50-70 German planes attacked Y-29 as 12 airplanes of the 487th Fighter Squadron were idling in their planes, waiting for clearance to take off!

The moments that followed was a chaotic mess of hundreds of machine guns and cannon sprayed over the snowy Belgian countryside.  To those below, they had a ring-side seat to a real dogfight raging above their heads.  To the 487th,  just taking off, they started shooting before their landing gear were raised!

Amazingly, the Squadron shot down 24 airplanes without loss of any of their own...well, one, that is if you count losses due to friendly fire.  "One single bullet!" huffed pilot Dean Huston in disbelief, so many many years later.  "One single bullet hole through the engine!"   

Hundreds of guns, thousands and thousands of bullets flying around...and it's the single well-intentioned and poorly aimed one that does you in.  I'd huff too.