Army Gets in the Game against Goering
While Pacific-based U.S. Army Air Forces fighter pilots, running P-39s and P-40s, had already taken a few bites out of the assorted Japanese air forces at Pearl Harbor, the CBI, and over Guadalcanal, it wasn’t until eight months after the U.S. entered the war against the Germans that the Army could claim its first “kill” against the Luftwaffe.
Eighty years ago, the USAAF achieved its first Army Air Forces aerial victory in the European theater on 14 August 1942.
In August, the 27th Fighter Squadron began ferrying P-38 Lightnings to England as part of Operation BOLERO. While en route the squadron stopped in Iceland to refuel, rest, and prepare. During a mock dogfight between two 27 FS P-38s and a P-40 assigned to Iceland Base Command, an RAF Nomad tracked a German FW- 200 C-4 Condor, as the Luftwaffe aircrew flew around the perimeter of Iceland and near Reykjavik collecting information on weather and allied shipping.
P-40 pilot, 2d Lieutenant Joseph D.R. Shaffer, 33 FS assigned to Iceland, performing air defense of the island, first attacked the Condor, damaging one of the bomber’s engines. Soon after 2d Lieutenant Elza E. Shahan, 27 FS P-38 pilot, followed Lt Shaffer’s attack, hitting the bomb bay, causing the aircraft to explode and crash into the sea. For their actions that day, Lts Shaffer and Shahan earned the Silver Star and achieved the first active-duty shoot down of German aircraft in World War II.
As noted by Lockheed:
Within six months, as the P-38 showed its versatility in North Africa, a lone hysterical German pilot surrendered to soldiers at an Allied camp near Tunisia, pointing up to the sky and repeating one phrase—“der Gableschwanz Teufel”—over and over. Once the phrase was translated, U.S. officials realized the focus of the pilot’s madness. The P-38 had been given a new nickname: the “fork-tailed devil.”