Saturday, 10 April 2010

Ray Littge 352nd FG 'Miss Helen'

The main reason for this blog was simply to create a space where I could post a pic or two of my completed builds - my 'virtual model shelf'. I like to try and portray reasonably accurate representations of 'actual' aircraft in history, and while this might look like a 'Luftwaffe kit blog' I'm hoping to post some of my other builds here. My aviation enthusiasms range widely from French inter-war fighters to Predator drones over Afghanistan. I'm also hoping to post some armour stuff here too. I build kits for the sheer fun of it. No other aim. For example I have no intention of writing an opinionated critique of the new Airfix Sea Harrier or Spitfire IX (both of which look like great kits by the way - I've only built the Spit so far) or even of providing a long discourse on weathering techniques or similar modelling topics. While these subjects do interest me and I am always looking to learn and add a technique to my repertoire, I'll leave the descriptions of how to do that to all the 'experts' out there. So in between kits here's another of my Italeri P-51s in 1/72nd scale.

The famous 'Blue-nosers' -the Bodney-based 352nd FG - had been deployed to forward airfields at Asche and Chievres in Belgium during December 1944. The aircraft represented by my model, 44-72216, was assigned to Captain Raymond H Littge of the 487th FS as his personal aircraft and featured the 'bue nose', the squadron markings of a blue rudder and "HO" codes and the individual code letter " M " which was underlined as this was one of two aircraft with the same code letter. Littge's previous mount 44-11330 'E Pluribus Unum' is thought to have been written off in Belgium, so he named his new aircraft 'Miss Helen' after his girlfriend Helen Fischer, who he went on to marry after the war. Littge was no rookie pilot as evidenced by the kill markings on the canopy frame - he already had 10½ confirmed kills, one of which was a Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, and four other ground kills gained during strafing runs over German airfields. The exact number of missions flown by Littge in this aircraft is unknown, although he was at the controls of this machine on 17th April 1945.

On this date the 352nd FG were tasked with providing an escort for B17's launching a follow up attack upon the marshalling yards at Dresden in south east Germany.

At 11:15 hrs fifty two P-51s were taking off under the leadership of Col James D Mayden, commander of the 352nd FG. Lead by Lt Col W T Halton, the 487th FS contributed 18 aircraft to this large force. Capt Littge was leading 'Red Flight' flying in Miss Helen.

The 352nd joined the bombers at 20,000ft at 13:05 hrs, flying to the south of Fulda. The formation of bombers came under attack from Me 262s making their usual head-on passes, the P-51's also came under attack and one was left damaged. The Me 262 was more than a match for the P-51 and the Luftwaffe suffered no casualties. When reaching the Filders area, 24 fighters lead by Mayden left the B17's and swooped down to their briefed patrol areas to find enemy airfields. They came across the airfield at Plattling. Large numbers of aircraft were parked on the field including IV./JG 300 with their Me 109s. The first eight P-51s made a low pass to draw the flak, eight others including Littge's 'Red Flight', hit the flak positions, while the rest provided top cover. For half an hour each flight took it in turns to make passes over the airfield after a left-right traffic pattern had been established.

In all 66 aircraft were destroyed in these attacks and a further 24 were badly damaged. Six of the destroyed aircraft were claimed by Littge, four Bf109s and two Me262s. During the initial attack on the AA defenses, Miss HELEN was hit badly with the oil tank holed and almost emptied, the manifold pressure line and two electrical lines were also hit. In all Ray Littge made seven passes at various parked aircraft. For this action, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Although the 352nd were to fly four more missions, it is unknown whether Miss Helen flew on any of these since the aircraft required urgent repairs after the Plattling attacks.

Thanks to JSM

1 comment:

  1. You knew that the real bona-fide Miss Helen survived the war and is now flying out of England...?

    I think it's one of only two P-51s that are in their authentic WW2 markings.