23 August, 2008

Profile 26 - 13 as flown by Josef Priller

Josef Priller died in 1961 of an apparent heart attack. He was 45 years old - way before I was born.  From all that I've read about Priller, he would have made an excellent interview.  Jovial, puckish and sociable, Priller seemed to defy the Nazi illusion of obedient, marble-faced zealotry.   He ended WW2 with the claim to an astounding 1,307 combat missions and over 101 aerial victories.   The aircraft Priller flew was the excellent FW-190 - I drew the A8 variety without the belly bomb mount and A4 canopy. Your source may vary...
Nevertheless, the FW-190 was an outstanding fighter plane - fast, powerfully armed, rugged - and fortunately for me, EASY TO DRAW.  My grade school notebooks are jammed full of little doodles of this brutal plane.  Strictly from an aesthetic perspective, the FW is one of my favs.

One of my "fav" combat stories comes from JD Collinsworth (profile 24) and it involves him in the airplane shown versus an FW-190, over the desert of North Africa. Of course, the camouflage pattern of an North African FW-190 is more appropriate to the tans and browns of desert than Priller's Western European-based "13." Still, try to picture the legendary duel between Spitfire and FW-190 against Jerry's own words...

...the Fw 190 obviously had been coming up on me but was not quite within firing range until I was just barely past Woody. So, naturally he just "latched onto" Woody. This was the first we knew that they were anywhere around. Of course, the Germans were going faster than we were and so the man who shot Woody "zoomed up" to the base of the clouds trying to slow down And get behind me. I yelled "M-Es!" but they were really Fw 190s - the distinction didn't make any difference. Well, you can imagine my consternation! We had been attacked suddenly without prior warning. We didn't know where they came from, how many of them there were and we didn't have much time to try and figure it out. So, I hollered into the mike "Into the clouds!" even though I couldn't fly instruments. Mitchell came back immediately with "Hell no; I'm going to fight these S.O.B.s!"

In the meantime I had made a sharp turn to the right to try and get behind the fellow who had shot Woody down. He then broke left over me and at this time we were about parallel to one another although he was at 800 feet and I was down about 500. Just at this time I saw a Spitfire go into the clouds so I assumed that Mitchell had changed his mind and had decided my comments were appropriate.

So I pulled up and into the clouds although I could not fly instruments. I didn't plan to remain in them for long. As my Spit entered the clouds I took my feet off the rudder pedals and hands off the control column. I had entered the clouds while in a slight left bank. After only a few seconds, I managed to drop out of the clouds - thank goodness! Upon emerging the first thing I see is three aircraft down very near the ground in a very tight dogfight. I assumed it was Mitchell and two Fw 190s which, as it turned out, it was. In the meantime, the German pilot who had shot Woody down apparently had decided I was "gone" and had started down to the three ring dogfight.

Fortunately, when I came out of the clouds I was behind him about 500/800 feet. I immediately "shoved everything to the firewall" and headed down for him. I knew exactly when he saw me for black smoked poured out of the FW, and I knew he had gone to full throttle. But, since I had accelerated earlier than he and had 300/400 feet of altitude on him, I was gaining on him. He went to the 'deck" but that was only about 400 or 500 feet. I wanted to avenge Woody's death if possible so I left Mitchell and the other two FWs to their fight...

JD got his vengence by the way.