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WORLD WAR TWO V-1 DOODLEBUG

BUZZ
J

ust a week after the Allied


landings in Normandy, the
Germans unleashed the
first of their long-feared secret
weapons against Britain. At 03:30
hours on June 13, 1944, ten V-1
flying-bombs were launched from
sites in northern France. Four
malfunctioned, but the remaining
six headed towards London.
The first V-1
struck

114 FLYPAST July 2016

ZZ-B harMB
vest
a railway bridge
in the suburb of
Bethnal Green, where
it killed six and injured
30. These were the first of almost
24,000 casualties caused by the
weapon codenamed Diver but
to the public they quickly became
known as the Doodlebug.
Countering this threat
immediately assumed the highest
priority and Air Defence of Great
Britain put its plans into
operation. (Fighter
Command had been
renamed as ADGB
in November
1943 but
reverted to
its previous
title in
October
1944.)
Along
the
coast

WHEN HITLER
UNLEASHED HIS
BARRAGE OF V-1s,
USAAF FIGHTERS
PLAYED THEIR PART
IN COUNTERING
THE FLYINGBOMB THREAT,
AS ANDREW
THOMAS
RECOUNTS

were batteries of guns firing


proximity-fused shells at the
Divers. To prevent own goals,
these were no go areas for Allied
fighters. RAF fighters operated
inland of the anti-aircraft artillery
zones, where there was also a
balloon barrage, and over the sea.
With a speed of around 400mph
(643km/h) at 2,000ft (609m),
intercepting a V-1 was to be no easy
task even for the newly introduced
Hawker Tempests.

Ace factor

Airfields in the south of England


were packed with RAF and US
Ninth Air Force combat aircraft
supporting the troops fighting in
Normandy, so chance encounters
with increasing numbers
of Doodlebugs were
inevitable.

TARGET

LONDON

Left

Hitler hoped the newly


introduced V-1 flying
bomb would help turn the
tide of war.
ISTOCK.COM

July 2016 FLYPAST 115

WORLD WAR TWO V-1 DOODLEBUG

Above

Major Richard Turners


P-51D 44-13561. US
NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Right

Lt Lewis H Powers (second


from right) of the 353rd
FS shot down two V-1s and
shared a third on June 17,
1944. USAF
Opposite
top right

Major Richard Turner, the


successful CO of the
356th FS. USAF
Opposite
bottom right

The first V-1 to fall to the


USAAF was shot down
by 1st Lt William Swede
Anderson of the
353rd FS. USAF

On the night of June 15, Captain


Dick Turner of the 354th Fighter
Groups (FGs) 356th Fighter
Squadron (FS) was on the receiving
end of the flying-bomb barrage. He
was tucked up in his bed at the units
Lashenden, Kent, base: We were
literally bounced from our sacks
amid thunderous reverberations
from nearby gun emplacements.
The gunners were shooting at V-1s
buzzing overhead towards London.
Turner was soon to confront the
pilotless menace in the air.
Two days later, around 20:00, Lt
William Y Swede Anderson of
the 356th FS was returning from a
mission over Normandy in P-51B
Mustang 43-6796 Sweeds Steed II
when he spotted a V-1 and promptly
shot it down. This was the first
kill by a USAAF unit of what the
Americans mostly called the buzzbomb. After landing, the excited
23-year-old asked: How many
Doodlebugs make an ace?
More successes for the 354th FG
followed that evening, as noted in
the groups war diary: Three of our
pilots (Lts Willie Anderson, Lewis
Powers and Carl Bickel) went up
to chase them. Powers took off first
at 18:45 and destroyed two buzz-

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He streaked over the field after a buzzbomb, caught it and exploded it right in
plain view of the boys who were working on
the planes below
bombs before landing at 23:30.
One of his victories was destroyed
over the field [Lashenden], creating
quite a thrill for the men and
making them dash for their foxholes.
He streaked over the field after a
buzz-bomb, caught it and exploded
it right in plain view of the boys who
were working on the planes below.

Having landed to rearm, Powers


took off again and downed another
before sharing a third with an
RAF Tempest. The following day
Powers was whisked up to London
to describe his feat on the radio.
His squadron-mate, Lt Bickel, also
bagged three Doodlebugs in P-51B
43-6453.

New pastime

Returning from an abortive divebombing sortie on June 18, Lt Bob


Young of the 355th FS spotted a
V-1: The craft passed five shiplengths to port, at 2,000ft. I gave
full throttle and slipped in behind,
opening fire at 200 yards. I saw
several hits on the tail and the
exhaust quit firing. I fired again
after climbing up behind it. After a
few more strikes the rear end burst
into flame. It sorta stalled out and
went into a steep spiral, exploding.
Major Richard E Turner, CO of
the 355th FS, patrolled along the
coast near Hastings looking for
V-1s, and at 21:00 he found one
near Dover: I sighted one below
and dived on it, pulling out behind,
but slightly out of range. I tried to
close the distance, but the missile
was just a little too fast.
I chased the infernal machine for
ten minutes, alternatively diving

LONDON

Getting in on the act that night


were P-47D Thunderbolts of the
362nd FG from nearby Headcorn.
Flying 42-26918, named Shirley
Jane III after his wife, 1st Lt Edwin
Bill Fisher of the 377th FS claimed
a hat-trick of V-1s.

TARGET

was expended and my gun barrels


had burnt out.
Soon I saw another one and
made a very steep dive to gain extra
overtaking speed. This bomb must
have been moving more slowly than
the first one, for I almost overran it
as I pulled out of my dive.
As I flew alongside the little
monster, I had a new idea. I knew they
were controlled by a gyro-guidance
brain, and perhaps this mechanism
could be upset without gunfire. I
carefully edged closer to it and placed
my wingtip about a foot under its tiny
fin. Rolling my plane suddenly neatly
flipped the V-1 upside-down, and it
promptly spun into the shallows of
the Channel near the English shore
where it blew a useless hole in the
water. Jubilant with my success, I
rushed back and hastened to tell the
other pilots of the new pastime that I
had discovered.

to gain speed, and pulling up


to lob long-range bursts at it.
Eventually one of my bullets
must have scored a chance hit
in the engine, for suddenly it
emitted a long streamer of yellow
flame and lost speed quickly. In
a curving dive, it plunged into
a vacant field below, where it
exploded harmlessly.
Encouraged by my success
I proceeded back to the
Channel area to pick up
another. I began to
wonder how I
was going
to get the
next V-1,
because
most of my
ammo

July 2016 FLYPAST 117

WORLD WAR TWO V-1 DOODLEBUG

TARGET
LONDON
Above right

Lt George Bickel
of the 353rd FS
claimed a V-1 on
June 17, 1944. USAF
Right

Captain Jim
Dalglish of the
381st FS. He had
previously served
with an Eagle
squadron, hence
the RAF wings on
his uniform. USAF

Damned if you do...

Former RAF Eagle pilot Captain


Jim Buck Dalglish was scrambled
from Staplehurst, Kent, on June
19. Flying a P-51B of the 363rd
FGs 381st FS he chalked up the
first of his three V-1s, and wrote:
I was vectored onto the rocket in
the Hastings area by [controller]
Snackbar. When I first saw him,
I was at 6,000ft and the rocket at
1,500ft. I dove past two Spitfires
and a Mustang, which were firing
at him, and closed on him, at
indicated [speed] about 450mph.
Started firing from about 1,000
yards but did not register hits
until at about 400. Scored hits at
both wing roots and he toppled
to the right and went down in a
descending turn, finally crashing in
a wooded area near Penshurst. There
was a lot of torque in his slipstream.
As Dalglish noted, co-ordination
continued to be a problem,
particularly with aircraft that
were not under ground controlled
interception (GCI) radar and were
freelancing.
On June 25, having been ordered
to orbit at Staplehurst, Dalglish
spotted a flying-bomb: No friendly
fighters present so I went into attack
from 5,000ft at 400mph and got
several good bursts on the Diver,
which made the column of flames
coming from its tail increase.
Overshot, but Diver was still on
course so I made a second attack,
which caused [it] to spin into the
ground and explode about 15 miles
south of the Thames. Headed

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southwest and picked up another


over Headcorn and went into attack
from 4,000ft at 350mph. Got several
good bursts in, which caused it to
loop twice and then hit the ground
and explode.
Unseasonable wet and windy
weather marked the end of June and
continued into July. This had little
impact on the pilotless Divers and
the first week of the new month saw
the assault reach its zenith. During
a seven-day period more than 800

were launched, and on the 2nd no


fewer than 161 were tracked crossing
the south coast.
With Ninth Air Force units moving
to mainland France in increasing
numbers, fewer V-1s were seen. On
July 7, Lt Jack Paynes P-47D of the
Woodchurch-based 412th FS, 373rd
FG, flew through the exploding
debris of the V-1 he had hit. As
he said somewhat philosophically
afterwards: Damned if you do,
damned if you dont!