The Eight Air Force campaign against Berlin was relentless. On Wednesday the 8th of March, 623 Bombers with 274 fighter escorts attacked the Erkner ball-bearing plant in Berlin´s southern suburbs. The Luftwaffe responded by launching 282 fighters against the attackers. The scale of the german response was smaller than before because of the number of damage aircraft from the previous Berlin attack two days earlier.
However the USAAF reported fierce resistance in the air battles that followed and the US total losses were 40 Bombers and 34 fighters, resulting in severe human costs as the total US aircrews losses amounted to 382 MIA, 7 KIA and 16 WIA. The Jagdwaffe´s total losses this day was 42 fighters.
The USAAF filed as usual rather inflated claims; The bomb-gunners claimed to have shot down 63 enemy fighters, with another 36 fighters damage or probably destroyed. The P-38, P-47 and the P-51 fighter units committed claimed to have shot down 87 enemy fighters, with another 56 fighters damage or probably destroyed.
In fact the UAAAF total number of claims this day adds up close to the number of fighters the Germans had been send against them; 242 claims compared to the 282 fighters committed.
Anyway, one of the USAAF claims this day was legitimate, The Bf 109 G-6 that was flown by Hauptmann Klaus Meitusch.
Meitusch had been alerted and was dispatch at 10.00 up north to Rheine with his third Gruppe. The USAAF bomber´s course was a duplicate of that of the 6th, due east across Holland and northern Germany. With 49 fighters from JG 26 Mietusch took of from Rheine and rendezvoused with six other Jagdgruppen from JG 1 and JG 11 over Steinhuder Lake, west of Hannover. Here they succeeded for once in overwhelming the escorts and Meitusch claimed a B-17 from 381 st BG at 13.25 for his 60th abschuss.
Only a few fighters were available to take part in the attack on the withdrawing 4-engine bombers. One of the pilots that was able to take off for a second time with a refueled and rearmed fighter was Klaus Meitusch. Reaching the heavy Bomber stream, with a handfull of Messerschmitts three JG 26 pilots was able to make a beam attack on the bombers.
A flight of P-47s from the 352nd FG went after the Messerschmitts. Two got on the tail of Meitusch wingman. When Meitusch went to his aid, the leader of the P-47 flight was able to damage the german plane with a burst of fire at high deflection. Meitusch broke for the deck, and the the Thunderbolt pilot was able to close on him rapidly, firing at a distance of 90 meters, large pieces flew off of the 109, engulfed in flames, Meitusch jettisoned his canopy and jumped out. His chute opened immediately, and he landed safely, although with injuries severe enough to keep him in hospital for the new few weeks.
The 352nd FG pilot who shot Meitusch down was Capt. Virgil Meroney, one of the best fighter pilots to serve with this unit, in fact he is the group´s only P-47 ace, with a score than more double that of his closest rivals.
This is what
he wrote down in his encounter report:
This was Meroney´s eight kill, one more would follow on the 16th before he was shot down in April 1944, another flak victim.
Please note that according to the JG 26 loss list Meitusch machine this day was "Black 21" with the W.Nr. 163032, something that is not corresponding to Capt Meroneys detailed eye witness report. I have therefor chose to make this profile with an dubble chevron, a profile based on other machines from JG 26 during this time since no photos exist of this crate.