Insult to Inury

80 Years Ago Today: The 6th of May, 1943, near Tunis, Algeria. 1st. Lt. Jerry Collinsworth, USAAF, thumbs his nose at the pilot of a German Luftwaffe Fw190 he just shot down. This was the fourth of six victories scored by Collinsworth, all were Fw190s, all achieved in his Spitfire.

Col. Jerry D. Collinsworth, born in 1919 in Dublin, Texas, was one of the few Americans to become an “ace” flying the British-made Supermarine Spitfire in World War II. Volunteering for the U.S. Army Air Corps in August 1941, by late 1942 he was a pilot in the 307th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Pursuit Group in Europe and North Africa, where he would log 125 sorties, first in P-39 Airacobras and then in Mk. V Spitfires.

Between February and July 1943, he shot down six Axis aircraft along with one probable and one damaged.

“As I said, I shot down one a month. A couple of them bailed out. I even went back and thumbed my nose at one of them,” noted Collinsworth in a 2002 interview.

In all, just nine USAAF fighter squadrons (2nd, 4th, 5th of the 52nd FG; 307th, 308th, 309th of the 31st FG, and 334th, 335th, 336th– formerly “Eagle Squadrons” Nos. 71, 121, 133 RAF– of the 4th FG) flew “Spits” during WWII. Meanwhile, five reccee squadrons (13th, 14th, 16th, 22nd, and 111th) utilized a handful of Spitfire PR.XI photo birds and the U.S. Navy’s Cruiser Scouting Squadron Seven (VCS-7) flew Spitfire VBs instead of their floatplanes off Normandy in June-July 1944.

A Spitfire of the 307th Fighter Squadron “Stingers” after an emergency landing on the beaches of Paestum, Italy. In the background, LST 359 is beached at shore. (Incidentally, the 307th still exists, flying the F-15E Strike Eagle from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina while the ship, USS LST-359 was sunk by torpedo attack, on 20 December 1944, by the German submarine U-870 in the eastern Atlantic.)

Finishing the war stateside as a flight instructor, Collinsworth later became certified on jets and flew F-94s, F-104s, and F-100s, retiring as a full bird in 1965.

Postwar, he served as a Professor of Aerospace Studies at Southern Methodist University in Texas and, passing in 2010, is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix, Section 18D, Site 1891.

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