By the beginning of 1945, it was clear that Germany would
lose the war. The American strategic bombing campaign was destroying
the Nazi war machine and had reduced the flow of supplies to the front
lines to a trickle. The German fighter pilots still flying had been
in combat for more than five years with scarcely a break.
Still, the beleagured Luftwaffe pilots continued to
intercept the massive bomber formations when they could. Though the
Air Force fighters could escort the heavies all the way to the target,
the German pilots could still on occaision concentrate enough strength
in one area to break through the American defenses and do serious
Robert Taylor's first edition of 2001 dramatically reconstructs
a typical aerial contest in January, 1945. P-51 Mustangs of the 357th
Fighter Group, escorting a heavy bomber raid deep in enemy territory,
have engaged a force of ME-109s. A massive dogfight has developed
high over the Rhine, drawing the interceptors away from the main bomber
force, a partial victory in itself. But the battle is by no means
As Captain Robert Foy of the 363rd Squadron engages
one of the ME-109's in a daring head-on pass, P-47 Thunderbolts of
the 56th Fighter Group climb to give support. From the right, more
than a dozen Luftwaffe fighters are joining the fray. The action is
painted as only Robert Taylor can, with a stunning cloudscape gving
depth and perspective to a classic World War II air combat scene.
Joining Robert in signing each print in this new edition
are four distinguished U.S. 8th Air Force fighter aces and three high
scoring Luftwaffe Aces who flew and fought in the skies over Europe
during World War II
C.E. "Bud" Anderson
"Bud" Anderson went to England with the 357th Fighter Group in 1943.
He soon got himself on the score sheet in a dogfight with a bunch
of ME-109s. On June 29, 1944, on a mission to Leipzig, his squadron
ran into a formation of FW-190s. In the ensuing battle, Anderson shot
down the leader and two others. After a short leave in the U.S., he
returned for a second tour, arriving just in time for the 357th's
big day on November 28. With the 353rd FG, they took on a huge formation
of some 200 enemy fighters; Anderson added three more to his score.
His final victory came in another fierce contest west of Berlin. He
finished the war with 16 aerial victories.
Ernest E. Bankey
After combat training, Ernest Bankey arrived in England for his first
tour with the 364th Fighter Group in February, 1944. On December 27,
during the Battle of the Bulge, his group ran into a large mass of
Luftwaffe fighters near Bonn, Germany. In the dogfighting melee that
followed, Bankey shot down 5 enemy aircraft and shared credit for
another. During two tours in England, he flew over 110 combat missions
and was credited with 11.5 aerial victories and 5 on the ground.
Col. Donald Cummings
Joining the USAAF in 1941, Don Cummings saw action in England, Africa
and Italy, taking part in the Battle of Anzio. Flying with the 12th
Air Force and later with the 8th in England, he flew there with the
55th Fighter Group out of Wormingford. Cummings flew a total of 150
combat missions. On February 25, 1945, he became one of only two fighter
aces to shoot down two ME-262 jet fighters on a single mission. He
served in occupied Germany after the war ended.
Walker "Bud" Mahurin
"Bud" Mahurin earned a reputation while flying with the 56th Fighter
Group as one of the USAAF's most colorful aces. In a 17-month period
of combat, he suffered one crash and bailed out three times, ending
up behind enemy lines, where he evaded with the aid of the French
Resistance and returned to England. With his score at 21 German aircraft,
he transferred to the Southwest Pacific Theater, where he added a
Japanese aircraft to his score. Mahurin commanded the 4th Fighter
Interceptor Group in the Korean War, adding 3.5 MIG-15s to his tally
before being shot down again, spending 16 months as a POW.
Currently the top living ace in the world with 275 aerial victories,
Gunthter Rall is a legend. Scoring his first air victory in the Battle
of Britain, he soon assumed command of 8/JG-52. After a transfer to
the Eastern Front, his score mounted until he was hospitalized by
a crash. Within months he was back, as Kommandeur of III/JG-52 gaining
the Wing's 500th victory. Later he was Kommandeur of II/JG-11 on the
Western Front, and in March 1945, led JG-300. He was awarded the Knight's
Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
Helmut Ruffler joined 9/JG-3 in february 1941 and soon proved himself
a masterful fighter pilot. His scores mounted quickly, and by the
end of 1942 his tally stood at 50 victories. Surviving being shot
down in June, 1943, he was posted as a flight instructor but was sent
back into battle, joining 4/JG-3 in defense of the Reich. In March,
1945, he was promoted to leader of 9/JG-51. Shot down 5 times during
the war, Ruffler flew over 690 missions and scored 98 victories.
Born in 1922, Hans Weik was one of the younger Luftwaffe aces who,
after comissioning was posted to Russia in the spring of 1943, flying
with Geschwaderstab JG-3. In the spring of 1944, he was promoted to
lead 10/JG-3, becoming one of the most respected Staffel commanders
in Germany. In the final weeks of the war, he transferred to Lechfeld
for training on the ME-262. Hans Weik flew over 100 missions and achieved
a total of 36 aerial victories, 24 of them in the west.