"ALL AMERICAN"


The closing days of January brought news both good and bad. The good news was the announcement that the German 6th Army at Stalingrad had surrendered with terrible losses. The bad news came from the weather office with the announcement that sand storms could be expected and another field would have to be found. The 301st Group which had already moved to Ain M’ilia, north and east of Biskra, found the change much to their liking. The following day, 1 February 1943, the weather cooperated and fifty Forts from the 97th and 301st were airborne for the dock area of Tunis. Enemy fighters were ready and one made a pass at the formation before the bombs were dropped. Turning from the target, Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, flying the "All American" spotted two fighters circling to attack once more. Glancing at the bomber formation smoke could be seen coming from four of them, while another struggled to maintain the formation.

All American.jpg (22801 bytes)

Still the two Messerschmitt 109s pointed for Major Coulter, piloting the lead ship of the formation. Guns were hammering and maybe the leader of the fighters had been struck by our bullets. As the pilot began a roll through the bomber formation it crashed into the lead Fort, ripping off a wing, causing it to crash. Three crewmembers survived, Alfred D. Blair, bombardier; Ralph Birk, navigator and Sergeant Knight, tail-gunner entered prison camp.

But this did not end the action. The enemy fighter careening crazily through the air crashed into the rear of the fuselage of the "All-American." The sudden jolt caused the fighter to break apart with pieces remaining in the Fortress. The left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator of the airplane were completely torn away. The vertical fin and rudder were damaged. The tail swayed in the breeze. One elevator cable continued to function and when the Fort neared the base a flare was fired to signal an emergency landing. An ambulance was waiting at the end of theAll American with pilot.jpg (21571 bytes) runway. 

When the airplane ground to a halt Lt. Bragg called from the cockpit window, "No business, Doc." for not a member of the crew had been injured. A Boeing engineer who inspected it stated that the airplane would not fly in such condition. When three sightseers crawled in to ascertain the damage the airplane broke in two. Later it was restored to action by the 50th Service Squadron.


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