B24,  The Plane

That day on december 25th 1944 part 2

(article by David Pratt)
As many of us now know, The Battle of The Bulge was at its height on the 25/12/12 and the Allies believed the Luftwaffe were a spent force. To the Allies total surprise, the Luftwaffe launched a series of bombing raids on the ground forces on Christmas Day. To that end the Luftwaffe put up a significant fighter screen which again was very unusual at this stage of the war. The reality was, this was pretty much the whole of the Luftwaffe offensive and defensive forces on the Western front by this stage of the war. The raids were launched during the early hours and into the daytime with the fighter units working exceptionally hard to cover the bomber sorties. The action involving our aircraft from the 389th and the 467th Bomb Groups took place around midday from Luftwaffe records and it would appear the Luftwaffe fighters ‘got lucky’ or did they ?? Most of the 8th Fighter units were engaged covering aircraft in and around the Bitburg area of Germany at the time, their mission was to provide cover for the bomb groups hitting the targets in Germany and just over the Belgian border. The fighter groups were doing a great job of covering the bomb groups en route and over the target areas, the 467th and 389th had dropped their bombs and were on their respective return legs home. This was where the Luftwaffe fighter units of I/III Jagdgeschwader 3 and I Jagdgeschwader 1 got lucky. As the 389th and 467th broke away they ‘left’ the cover of the Mustangs and Thunderbolts that were covering them that day. JG1 and 3 had left their bomber force and were on their way back to Germany. In the case of JG1 they were operating out of a series of airfields in Germany and close to the Dutch border, in the case of JG3 it was Gutersloh, Germany. The two Jagdgeschwadern saw the US groups without fighter cover and pounced, using well tried ‘ambush’ techniques and literally flew through the formations without a single loss to their number. The first past was very successful and they re-formed and went through the groups again, the cannon and machine gun fire from the Fw190’s and Bf109’s must’ve been murderous. The claims from the Luftwaffe records were JG3, 1 B24 shot down and JG1, 6 B24’s shot down (actually 3 confirmed and two later crash landed) sadly the records were lost during fighting afterwards so I’ve had to put this information together from searching the units histories that were up that day. Having seen the damage they’d caused (4 B24’s going down/exploding, 2 with major damage falling out of formation and the remainder with varying damage) the Luftwaffe units knew the Allied fighters would appear in very short time and they headed for the ‘safety’ of their home airfields. The action appears to have lasted a matter of minutes but the explosions and smoke was seen by the 8th AAF fighters and they hit maximum boost to catch up with the offending Luftwaffe fighters. Within seconds of being the victors, the 8th fighter force shot down 9 aircraft from JG3 alone ( 1 Bf109 and 8 Fw190’s, 5 pilots killed, 2 POW’s) one of these pilots was GruppenKommandeur Hubert-York Weydenhammer, he’d been the commanding officer of JG3 for only 20 days and he crashed between Liege and St. Vith. I don’t have the exact number of JG 1’s losses that day due to the loss of their records, the information would suggest 3 aircraft were brought down but I cannot 100% confirm this. What I can say is that the Luftwaffe fighter arm lost a total of 46 fighters that day over Germany/Belgium and Holland supporting the Bulge fighting, these were significant losses and although the Luftwaffe were able to launch Operation Bodenplatte on 01/01/45 these really was the death knell of the German fighter arm, they simply could recover from these high losses. So, the action that day had been brutal all round, with terrible losses on both sides for differing reasons. There is one last piece of this ‘jigsaw’ I’d like to share with you. The 8th AAF fighter units didn’t lose a single fighter in this action to enemy fire but there may be a link to one of the tragedies of the 8th AAF’s air war that happened that day. Major George Preddy was leading White Flight from the 328th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter group, the famous ‘Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney’. The flight had been vectored to south of Liege due to enemy fighter activity and some low flying enemy aircraft making for Germany. It is highly likely that Major Preddy was going to provide support and to attack the German aircraft that had just attacked our aircraft. Southwest of Liege, Major Preddy spotted a low flying Fw190 and gave chase at tree top level followed by Lt James Gordon Cartree and Lt. Bouchier. As the three aircraft flew over some woods Lt. Cartree’s Mustang was hit by intense anti aircraft fire, on seeing this Major Preddy broke off his attack and peeled away upwards and to the left of Lt. Cartree. At approx.700ft altitude, halfway through this manoeuvre Major Preddy’s Mustang was hit, his canopy came off, his aircraft nosed down and he hit the ground, no chute was observed. Lt. Bouchier’s aircraft was also hit and he had to bail out, observing Major Preddy’s aircraft hit the ground as he came to earth. George Preddy was shot down by anti aircraft fire from the US Army 12th Anti Aircraft Group, when his body was found he’d been killed by 2 .50 calibre rounds from the 430th AA Battalion, he was the highest scoring Mustang ace of WW2 with 26.83 confirmed kills to his name, the last two of these kills had been two Bf109’s that very morning.

Bob has been researching the B-24 crashsite from june 2013 till november 2017. He runs a B&B in the hamlet of Grandmenil since 2008 and researches the events of the Battle of the Bulge. www.grandmenil.com www.battle-of-the-bulge.be