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One such individual was Harding Zumwalt, who recalled; ‘On 11 February 1943 I reported to Eighth Air Force Combat Replacement Center 7 at Atcham airfield, in Shropshire, where we continued proficiency in Spitfires until transferring to Goxhill and the 83rd FS. There, I saw my first P-47, and it was quite impressive. The “Jug” weighed twice as much as the Spitfire and appeared large enough to house a couple of waist gunners in the rear. ’ The Eighth Air Force had sent a request to the RAF in January 1943 that it be allowed to base its fighter groups at established British fighter stations, since there was a shortage of bomber-sized airfields in East Anglia and a need to access the more elaborate communications facilities found at such sites when conducting fighter operations.

Roberts and Koontz came across a gaggle of Fw 190s; ‘Dead ahead of me was a single Fw 190, at the same level as Koontz and me, about 1000 to 1500 yards ahead. He was racing in the same direction as the bombers so he could get ahead of them, swing around in front and make a head-on pass. The bombers were most vulnerable from dead ahead. ’ Roberts dove slightly below the enemy fighter to avoid being spotted, then closed to around 400 yards, where he opened fire, hitting the German heavily with a three- to five-second burst.

The ruggedness of the Thunderbolt saved him when he then hit a second tree, the fighter staying intact long enough for McTaggart to pull up to 1500 ft and bail out. He successfully evaded capture, however, arriving back in the UK on 21 June. ‘Mac’ McTaggart had been gone for just five weeks – a USAAF record for escape, evasion and return prior to the D-Day invasion. On 15 May, the 78th FG flew to the coastal field at Horsham St Faith, in Norfolk, to refuel before setting off on a ‘Rodeo’ (the codename given for a mission composed of fighters only) off Amsterdam that saw flak down 2Lt Jack M Sandmeier of the 82nd FS – he was killed.

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