"NOT MY TURN TO DIE"

BY JIM LAURIER

Autographed by Col. Robert S. Johnson - 28 victory ace.

L/E of 750. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Size:28" x 23"

Price: $95

— SOLD OUT —


On June 26,1943, Robert S. Johnson was one in a flight of sixteen P-47 Thunderbolts assigned to escort B-24 bombers to their target. Bob was the first to sight approximately sixteen Focke-Wulf 190's approaching his group from 5 o'clock high but was not able to get any response from his group when he tried to warn them over the radio. On a previous mission he had been the first to sight enemy fighters and broke formation to attack them, successfully breaking up the attack and claiming his first victory. However, he was severely chastised for this by the Wing Cmdr. and was told never to break formation again, no matter what. On this occasion he held his position and on the first pass of the enemy fighters six Thunderbolts were shot down, including Bob's ship "Half Pint".

His aircraft fell out of control for several thousand feet and was on fire. The fire extinguished itself and Bob regained control of the aircraft. He had not worn his goggles that day ( the only time he did this) and his eyes were soaked in hydraulic fluid making it difficult to see. He had two bullet fragments in his right leg. Another bullet had nicked his nose and shattered part of the wind screen. Bob tried to bail out but discovered that metal behind the cockpit had been splintered in such a way as to prevent the canopy from sliding back more than six inches. With a parachute on there was obviously not enough space to slip through to safety. The only option left was to try to fly the Thunderbolt home, or at least to friendly territory, if the aircraft could make it. Somewhere over France another Focke-Wulf 190 spotted Bob flying alone and made a firing pass at him. The Fw-190 had only 7.9mm ammo on board and although every round of it was fired into Bob's plane, the German was not able to finish the job. The German pilot then realized Johnson's rather defenseless position and decided to pull in close to inspect his would-be quarry. The German pulled his left wing in behind Bob's right wing so that the wingtips of each plane were but a few feet from touching each other's fuselage. From his close vantage point, the German calmly inspected Bob's plane from nose to tail and shook his head, not understanding how the P-47 could still fly so perfectly. Bob kept looking over at the German pilot. He was a good looking man with blue eyes. He was not a rookie. He projected confidence and had somewhat of an aristocratic air about him. Occasionally their gazes met. Bob could clearly see the German pilot and noticed he was wearing a light blue leather or suede flying jacket with a white scarf wrapped around his neck and tucked into the jacket. He had on a dark brown summer style flying helmet and his black shatter-proof goggles were pushed up above his forehead. In this manner the two men flew alongside each other for almost 30 minutes. When reaching the the English channel near Dieppe, France, The German pilot looked over at Bob one last time. He raised a black-gloved hand and saluted Bob, then peeled of to the right to head for his own base, presumably Abbeville, the home of JG26.

Bob flew on toward toward the English coastline, constantly in radio contact with a coastal air controller. He was low over the water now and thought he might have to ditch into the channel. Surprisingly, he was able to gain enough altitude to clear the cliffs and was vectored to the nearest airfield by the controller.

Bob declined, opting to fly to his own airfield. He landed safely, but his Thunderbolt had to be scrapped. It had over 210 holes in it,with at least twenty being deadly 20mm cannon rounds which had initially brought him down.

He walked into HQ for debriefing and a shot of bourbon just in time to hear a live radio interview on a German radio station that some officers had tuned in. It was the German pilot who had just flown with him! Although they did not get his name, Bob was sure from the interview that it was the same pilot from his description of events. The German mentioned Bob's identification letters on the side of the Thunderbolt. He thought that Bob must have crashed into the Channel due to his low altitude and the amount of damage to his aircraft. It is believed that the German pilot was Georg Peter Eder of JG2 who was ferrying a JG26 aircraft that day.