J Landers - Fighter Ace of Two Theatres, Three Tours.
Steve Richards takes a look at fighter ace John D. Landers
Landers a Fighter Ace in the Pacific and in Europe
Born in Oklahoma in 1920, John D. Landers could lay claim to some unusual aspects in his combat career. For example, he must rank among a very small number of pilots who made it to ‘acedom’ in both the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO) and European Theatre of Operations (ETO).
Landers delivers a new Curtiss P-40E fighter
Flying instructor back in the USA
Having completed his tour of operations, he took up the duties of a flying instructor back in the USA. This policy of operational tours and non-operational tours for rest purposes, was used by the RAF and USAAF but was a luxury that Japan and Germany could not afford.
Landers requests another tour
Landers requested a further combat tour and on 27th April 1944 was posted to the 8th Air Force England, where he joined the 55th Fighter Group at Wormingford Essex. This unit was flying the distinctive Lockheed P-38J Lightning, the twin-engined, twin-tailed escort fighter. Landers first victory in the ETO came a couple of months later.
Landers made commanding Oficer
The day before independence day he was made C.O. of the 38FS (Fighter Squadron) one of three component squadrons of the 55FG (fighter Group). Four days later saw his tally of victories rise by three. Landers’ unit was protecting a group of bombers over Germany, when an assortment of Luftwaffe fighters intercepted the raid. Landers led a flight of 4 Lightnings down on to twenty Messerschmitt Me410 ‘bomber-destroyers’. The engagement lasted 20 minutes and Landers’ score had reached 10.
The arrival of the latest North American P-51D Mustang
Before the month of July was over, the 55FG had exchanged its Lightnings for the latest North American P-51D Mustang and Landers named his mount ‘Big Beautiful Doll’. The aircraft bore the code letters CG-O.
Escort mission to cover B-17 bombers
Flight to Poland
Once airborne, Landers new Mustang was running rough. Not to be deterred, he radioed base to have another aircraft readied. He landed, swapped machines, took off and caught up with his comrades to resume leadership. The round trip of nearly 1,600 miles to Gdynia took 7.5 hours and was at that time a record for a fighter group based in England.
Big Beautiful Doll
On 11th October John D. Landers now a Lt. Colonel, moved to Leiston in Suffolk, to take command of the 357th FG also flying Mustangs, with that group’s distinctive red and yellow checkered noses. Once more he named his Mustang Big Beautiful Dolland during November destroyed a Messerschmitt 109. At the beginning of the following month with his second operational tour completed, Landers returned to the USA.
Landers at Duxford
Shooting down an Me262
On the 30th March Big Beautiful Doll shared in the destruction of the Luftwaffe’s best – the Messerschmitt Me262 jet. Shared victories were officially recognised by the USAAF and so Landers final score as an ‘ace’ reached 14.5. However Landers personal score displayed on the side of his aircraft shows some 36.5 victories. Aircraft destroyed on the ground by strafing attacks do not figure in ace’s totals, but such work was extremely hazardous, particularly at the closing stages of the war, when airfields available to the Germans were getting fewer and the ground defences were very effective.
Strafing enemy airfields
The war in Europe was over
Article kindly supplied by Steve Richards Author & Historian
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